"Mom, no!" Frank cries out. "Fuck!"
He throws himself down onto the couch and crosses his arms. He's not above admitting he is pouting -- at eighteen, pouting! At his mother! And possibly whining.
But he can't help it. In this case it is entirely warranted.
His mom scowls at him. "Frank," she says sternly.
Apparently, she doesn't agree.
"This isn't fair!" Frank says. Which is to say, nothing in his life for the past five months has been fair and he's getting sick of it. Hell, it's been bad for longer than that and he's manned up, rolled with the punches (sometimes literally, school bullies can suck it) but this one just takes the fucking cake.
"Life's not fair, buddy," she says, reasonably.
"No shit," he mutters.
"Language," she says, a little irritably and she usually doesn't mind all that much but he supposes the talking back at her thing isn't helping.
"Mom," he says, and sighs deeply. "It’s senior year. I'm a senior. And school sucks as it is, except for my friends and my band, and now you want to move? To where my friends and band aren't? How is this a good plan?”
"I have a new job. A better job. You know that things are tough right now--”
He snorts. Things have always been tough, especially since the divorce; this stupid economic bullshit is just another log on the fire to everything else that sucks. It's not even the least of their worries, all things considered.
She keeps talking, as if she didn't hear him, as if he isn't sitting on their couch fuming so bad there's probably smoke coming out of his ears. Smoke, god, he could use a smoke--
"Frank," she says sharply, and he glances at her. "Are you even listening to me?"
"No. I don't want to hear this crap."
"All right, we're done talking about this right now," she says, crossing her arms. "When you've calmed down, and can act like the responsible adult you claim to be, then we'll continue.”
"Fine," he says, jumping up off the couch and clearing out of there as fast as he can. He goes to his room, stomping on each stair as he goes up as hard as he can, and slams the door. He grabs his guitar, turns up the dial, and just plays. He loses himself in the music, angry chords and sounds swelling all around him, and he thrashes about, head banging and jumping and making as much noise as he can.
After an hour, he's sweaty and tired and thirsty. All the anger has been played out, and he slumps down on the floor, clutching his guitar in his hands. His mother hasn't come up once to see him, not to tell him to be quieter and calm down or anything, like she used to sometimes. She's done it a lot less in the last few months, as if understanding he just needs this sometimes to help his control. He’s always been an energetic little shit, he knows that, but it’s different now and they’re both trying to deal with it.
Well, crap, she's a pretty awesome mom and he just acted like a giant asshole. Great.
He puts the guitar on its stand carefully, picks up a dirty shirt to wipe off his forehead and neck, scrubbing it through his hair, and throws it into his laundry basket to make sure he doesn’t end up wearing it before it’s washed. He quietly makes his way down the stairs and goes into the kitchen, where he sees her sitting at the table.
"Hello," she says, perfectly calm, while still looking at the paper she’s reading.
"Hi," he says. He sighs and shuffles on his feet. "Sorry, I -- yeah. Sorry."
She nods and puts the paper down, folds her hands neatly over it, and looks at him. "No other choices with this one, kiddo."
"Oh, come on," he protests. "I could stay with Shaun. His parents love me."
"They do, but I don't think it's fair to ask them to deal with your -- condition."
Condition. That's what she's taken to calling it. He doesn't suppose there's a much better way to say 'Your freaky werewolf disease thing you have now that you've been bit by some unknown other freaky werewolf person who left you with no explanations or answers.'
Other than her and his dad, no one knows about it. Frank supposes it is a lot to unload on anyone else, and they’ve all agreed to keep it a secret. There’s just no explaining this one, not even to his friends.
He offers weakly, "We don't have to tell them?" and she's shaking her head before he's even done. He's not surprised.
"And what are you going to do during the full moon? Just -- disappear on them?"
"I'll figure it out," Frank says. "I'll come visit you those days."
She sighs. "You really think I want to just leave you here? You'll be leaving next year for college--" he snorts, can't even help it, and as usual she ignores it because they don't need yet another fight, "and, well. I guess I'm being selfish. I'm your mom and I don't want to go without you."
"Ugh." He makes a face but he goes over and plants a kiss on her cheek. She smiles at him. "Fine, fine, pull out the mom thing on me. Talk about not fair."
"You're a good boy -- man!" she corrects when he makes another face at her. "A good man, Frankie. You'll be fine.”
"I don't know about that," he says grumpily. "A new school!"
"Only for a couple months, then you’ll be graduated," she says. "And you'll still talk to your friends, even if you don't see them every day. And you'll make new friends!" She sounds entirely too optimistic about that idea. He knows differently. High school doesn't work like that, especially for the last semester.
"Right, Mom," he says, rolling his eyes. "That'll happen."
"You never know unless you try," she says firmly. She picks up the paper. "I'm looking at a few houses on the weekend, you want to come?"
"Don't know," he says, and goes to take a Coke out of the fridge. "Maybe."
She sighs but doesn't push. "All right. We'll talk about it later. But try not to worry. Belleville will be great for us."
"Well, at least it's still Jersey," he concedes, but that's all the enthusiasm she's getting from him because he knows this is going to suck balls.
"Frank, no!" Shaun cries out. "Fuck!"
"I know, right?" Frank agrees emphatically. "Fucking sucks, man."
"You can't move," Shaun says. "School! The band! Me!"
Frank laughs but nods in agreement. "I know. These are all things I told Mom. She didn't agree it was enough."
"You can come stay with me," Shaun replies. "My parents love you, it'll be fine."
"Already suggested that one. It's a no-go."
"You're eighteen, you can do whatever you want."
"Yeah, but ... dude, she's my mom," Frank says, sighing.
Shaun's sigh echoes Frank's. "Okay, yeah, I hear that one."
Frank takes a last drag of his cigarette and pulls his jacket tighter around his neck. The late November wind is chilly and the last thing he needs is to get sick right before exams. He throws the butt down to the ground and stomps on it. "Come on, man, let's go."
They're just around the corner block from the school, out of sight from any nuns or priests or teachers that might see. Not that they can do anything about it, really, as they're smoking off school property, but they'll be looked down on and watched like hawks.
It’s when they’re at the school doors when Frank nearly falls over when someone slams into his shoulder. "Fuck," he says, looking around. He turns to see that jackass Derek smirking at him. That dude has been ragging on Frank since ninth grade. Frank scowls at him and says, "Piss off."
Derek just laughs. He doesn't usually try anything with Shaun there, but Shaun and Frank have different schedules, and Frank's is too much like Derek's. Derek probably arranged his to match up with Frank's as much as possible because he's that much of a douchnozzle. Frank's going to end up in a locker again.
"Fucker," Frank mutters under his breath.
"Don't let him get you down," Shaun says. And then he shrugs. "But, hey, at least he won't be at your new school? Silver lining."
Frank snorts. "Right. Because they don't have assholes bullies anywhere else."
They don't have time to talk about it any more because first bell rings and Frank needs to get to homeroom. They part ways, but Frank sits down next to Hambone and tells him what's going on. Hambone is a lot more angry about it, cursing and waving his around so much that the teacher has to tell him to cool it. Only it's really negative, like how the band is over and done with now, and how could Frank abandon them, and it's a dark cloud over Frank's mood, that's for fucking sure.
He'd been dealing with it all okay since that second talk with his mom, trying not to get too angry, but Hambone going off on it is itching at Frank's inside. He scowls and gets moody, and every little thing ends up annoying him, rational or not. He realises he is upset at his mom, angry for making him move and taking away the couple good things in his life, like his friends and the band they’re trying to get off the ground, and how the fuck are they supposed to do that when Frank's not there.
Plus, the moon -- well, it's a week away which isn't helping and Frank can already feel its pull starting to build up early. The way the animal, when it's angry and pissed-off, starts to come to the surface. Frank has to take deep breaths and try to calm himself at every turn of the day.
By lunch, he's riled beyond belief. He goes into the cafeteria to find Shaun, to bitch and complain about fucking life, man, everything sucks.
He finds Derek first.
Or, rather, Derek finds him.
Either way, it doesn't matter. Because Derek makes some comment, some smart remark, and pushes Frank. And Frank, he can't help it. He can't hold it in, the anger that's been building up during the day explodes and he is done with this jackass. He launches at him, all fists and fury, growling as he throws punches. Frank's so blinded by his rage that he doesn't even get what's going on until he's being held back by Shaun and he sees Derek sprawled on the floor, blood gushing from his nose.
Frank glances over and sees the one of the teachers barreling over. Frank groans and slumps down against Shaun's chest. He is fucked.
Frank's punishment for fighting at school and nearly getting expelled is that he has to go with his mom when she looks at houses for rent in Belleville and he has to pack up pretty much all their stuff. He knows he's lucky she's on his side, and sweet talked the principal to keep from kicking Frank out for fighting yet again, but that's probably only because she told him they were moving and Frank would be attending a new school next semester. So while Frank gets suspended for a couple days and that goes on his school record, he still gets to attend the last few days of classes and take his exams.
His mother's relieved when she hears that, though not pleased at all at his behaviour. He wishes he could be more sorry -- but, wait, no he doesn’t because Derek's a dick who's deserved this sort of shit for years. At least Frank's leaving that school with a bang.
Luckily they find a house with a decent enough basement, and it's really close to the school that accepted his late enrollment, and his mother is freakin' pleased as punch over all this. Frank can't drum up the excitement. Between packing, trying to hang out with his handful of friends and reassure his band he still wants to play, and half-assed studying for his stupid exams, he just doesn't give two craps about Belleville.
But then the next thing he knows, school's over for the semester, it's the middle of December, and he and his mom are loading up the van she rented and they're hauling all their boxes to the new house.
That's it, then. Life as Frank knows it has changed -- again -- and he's all alone in some town where he doesn't know anyone, doesn't know where anything is, and makes him feel pretty damned resentful. It blows, it all blows.
A couple mornings after they've moved in, and although Frank doesn't start classes again until the new year, his mom's woken him up early. His continued punishment is that he has to keep unpacking until they're all settled in. He never thought they owned that much stuff until it was all in boxes and had to be organised.
"Okay, sweetie," his mom says, "I'm out of here."
"Good luck," he says dutifully, though of course he means it. It's her first day at the new job. As far as he knows, she's being doing this same sort of stuff his entire life, but he supposes it's something to be nervous about. It's how he feels about starting a new school and he's been going for-fucking-ever too.
"Thanks," she says pleasantly. But then she points an aggressive finger in the air and raises an eyebrow at him. "Unpack."
He rolls his eyes. "I know, I know. What the hell else am I going to do?"
"Well, if you want a break, you could take a walk around," she suggests. "But only after you unpack."
"Yeah, great, walking around in winter, hurrah," he says, voice flat and devoid of any enthusiasm. It's her turn to roll her eyes as she pulls on her coat.
"Have a good day, hon," she says, patting his cheek when she slips past his chair.
"You too," he says. He finishes his cereal, puts the bowl in the sink, and glances around. He toes at a box at his feet but then sighs and puts it up on the counter and starts to unpack.
Frank tugs his scarf closer around his neck as he kicks a hard chunk of ice down the sidewalk. He’s lazily making his way back home after wandering around and trying to get used to the town. It’s that weird week between Christmas and New Year’s, when some stores are open but others aren’t, a lull between the holiday celebrations. He’s going to a party at Shaun’s for New Years but he’s not leaving for a couple more days and he’s bored out of his mind.
He'd really hoped the comic book store'd be open. What with moving and the holidays, the past couple weeks have been so crazy that he hadn't gotten to check it out yet. Now it's slowed to a snail's pace, and no such luck, of course it's closed. He’ll have to try another time, and there’s no point standing around in the snow and cold if nothing’s open. He decides to head home, maybe catch Shawn online or something to pass the time.
Frank’s just crossing the street a block from his house when some piece of shit car, rusting around the rims and blaring loud music, speeds around the corner and nearly runs Frank over. He scrambles back, but manages to catch himself before he falls, and flips the finger in the direction of the car and yells out, "Fuck you, man!"
The car brakes, slipping a bit on the icy road as it screeches to a halt.
Frank blinks, surprised to have been heard over the music (and maybe he wasn't, damn his finger-throwing impulses), and mutters, "Oh, shit."
He's shifting to run back down the sidewalk, away from the car even though that means away from his own house, when the door swings opens. Loud rock music fills the quiet residential street and Frank's hit with a smell so hard that it almost knocks him over, stumbling more than when he was nearly hit by a fucking car.
Wolf. Christ, he's smelling wolf.
It drifts to him on the light breeze but fills his nostrils just as intently as the pounding beat of music fills his ears. It's strong, pungent, yet familiar enough in an exciting way that curls through his blood.
Frank is conflicted, so fucking conflicted. Something in him, something that almost feels instinctive but also feels too new and unfamiliar, wants him to run towards it. To take comfort in something that is a part of him now, to finally feel like he belongs somewhere. It’s such a pull in him that he takes a step forward.
But then one combat boot hits the pavement as the dude starts getting out of the car, and Frank thinks, Fuck you, wolf, not this time, and he has no idea if he means himself or the guy but Frank has enough control that he spins around and gets the fuck out of there.
He dodges between yards and down alleys and makes every dog in the neighbourhood bark and howl as he flies past them, feet pounding the pavement where snow and ice have been cleared but slipping and sliding where it hasn’t. Still, he keeps upright and he's running faster and more agile than he ever could before his change, and without having an asthma attack, either.
It would feel freeing, almost, as if it's something he's just supposed to do, except for the part of him that keeps reminding himself that he isn't supposed to be the fucking prey and would he just turn around and face it already?
He just runs and runs, and part of him thinks, or maybe wishes, that he's being followed. He doesn't see why not, why that wolf couldn't be easily tracking him down. Hell, Frank is probably leaving his own trail of scent behind him, like breadcrumbs through the forest, and the dude could use his car to follow if he really wanted.
He doesn't, though. Frank finally stops, sits on a cold, damp bench in a park, and waits. Nobody comes. He tries not to feel too disappointed; after all, he's the one that ran.
Next time, he won't.
"Frank! Move it or you'll be late!"
"Coming, Mom! Jeez!" Frank bellows. Under his breath, safe from his mother hearing, he mutters, "Fuck," as he makes easy loops with his tie, and slides the knot into place. With three and a half years of Catholic school behind him, it's become so natural he could do it in his sleep.
Which he probably should have, since he pressed snooze on his alarm too many times, and maybe threw it across the room at one point, and is now running late.
"Coming!" He grabs his backpack off the floor, light flashing on the shiny surface of the small Black Flag and Batman pins pinned to the straps. He slings it over his shoulder and bounds down the hall of their new, tiny house.
"I can't believe you almost slept through your first morning of school," his mom says, shoving a plate of toast with peanut butter in his direction. "Good thing I didn't have to go into work early today."
It's true, but he just shrugs. "Meh," he muffles through his first bite. He doesn't even bother sitting down, just leans over the sink to make sure he doesn't mess up the front of his blue blazer, or Mom will have a fit since it’s the only one that they could afford right now. He does make a noise of protest when his mother starts removing the pins. "Mom!"
"Just for today, Frank," she says, setting them down on the counter. Frank stares at them mournfully. It's the little piece of him he's allowed at this kind of school. Or should be, anyway. "Just until you know it's okay, figure this school out. Boundaries and stuff."
"Fine," he mutters, a little bitterly. "But they're going back tomorrow if I see even one other person with some."
He tries eating as fast as he can. Not that he's in a hurry to start a new school, halfway through his senior year and doesn’t that just fucking suck balls -- but mostly he doesn’t want yet another lecture from his mother. He hopes the time crunch prevents it.
It doesn't, and he barely refrains from rolling his eyes when she starts in on him.
"Frank. This is a good opportunity. For both of us, all right? My new job, moving to this town, you getting away from trouble--”
“There’s trouble everywhere, Mom,” he says through his bite of toast. There’s no point in saying ‘it’s not my fault’ or ‘it always finds me’ because they both know that’s not entirely true.
“Try to stay clear of it for a change, will you?”
Frank just shrugs and steals her cup to take a sip of her coffee. There’s no point arguing with her again; they’ve been arguing about it for a month, and there’s nothing more he can say now about how moving and new jobs and different schools doesn’t actually change anything. It’s just moving the problem somewhere else. No matter how much he plays the ‘I’m eighteen now!’ card, she always trumps it with ‘while you’re under my roof....' and ‘I’m your mother.’ As difficult as it is, he accepts those things as fact, and he’d never go out of his way to hurt or defy her anyway.
“Sure, Mom,” he says to reassure her as she stares at him. “I’ll try, okay?”
“Good,” she says, pleased. “We’re lucky your other school let you finish up your exams, and that this new school accepted you despite your…”
“Problem child record?” Frank snarks lightly.
She sighs. "Frank--"
"Gotta go, Mom," he says. He turns to leave, but pauses as she puts a light hand on his shoulder. He glances back, not at all surprised to see her looking concerned.
"Just -- be good, Frank."
"I know," he says. "Keep under the radar, all that shit."
"Language," she scolds with absolutely no heat behind it.
He rolls his eyes but plants a quick kiss on her cheek before he leaves. She smiles fondly as she says goodbye.
He steps outside onto the front porch with its slanted steps and takes a deep breath. Time to face this stupid fucking life that's been turned upside down for the second time in under six months.
Frank bursts out of the side door of the school, a ball of restless energy as he quickly makes his way down the path. As soon as he's past the gates and onto the sidewalk, he starts tugging at his tie to loosen it, thankful to leave the strict Catholic school dress code behind.
Plus, it feels like it’s choking him in a slow, painful way. Every day, he tries to get away with it being looser and looser, before one of the nuns pointedly eyes him and tells him to fix it immediately. He hates it, more than he used to. It’s too confining, feels like a fucking leash, and by the end of the day, it puts him on edge like nothing else.
Well, except for the asshole fucks that seem to infest this school, anyway. They’re even worse. Frank can only grit his teeth and try to remain calm. He is so done with this high school bullshit and he just has to hold on a couple more months.
And this Friday afternoon, final bell gone and school let out for the day and the relief of the weekend sprawled out before him, Frank still can’t avoid them.
He makes his way past the bus stop every day; the school is close enough to home that he can walk but there are always a ton of kids milling around in the way. He's swerving around them when someone bumps into him and nearly sends him tumbling to the ground.
Frank barely holds back a growl, though he can feel it rumbling in the depths of his stomach. He glances sharply and sees that jerk who already seems to think the best way to pass any spare time is ragging on Frank for being the new guy.
“Watch it, short fry,” the guy -- Carl, Kurt, Colt, who the hell cares -- says, smirking at Frank like he thinks he’s the most original douche on the planet.
“You watch it,” Frank says, voice low and predatory. He’s barely reining it in, feeling the animal in him clawing to the surface, ready to tear something to shreds. It’s way too close to the moon for this shit.
“Yeah?” The guy says, pointing a finger hard into Frank’s chest. “What’re you going to do about it? Bite my ankles?”
Frank’s hands curl into tight fists. He’s ready for this, fucking needs it, use it as a way to burn off the excess energy that’s driving him insane. He wants it so bad that he doesn't even care if he gets hurt. He'll heal in a matter of a day, one good thing that's come out of this mess.
But then he hears his mother’s voice in his head, a warning -- stay off the radar, be responsible, keep control. Jesus, if he got caught fighting -- forget the school discipline, if his mother found out, he’d never hear the end of it.
It takes everything in Frank to uncurl his fists and take a step back.
“Yeah,” the dude says loudly, drawing even more attention to them, “that’s what I thought.” Dude just smirks at Frank, victorious glint in his eyes, and Frank can hear nearby laughter. Frank’s heart sinks when he realises this just got a million times worse, and now they’ll never leave him alone. It’s going to make it all that much harder to keep control.
Frank half expects to get a pounding anyway. He’s tense, ready to defend himself and fight back if necessary (at least then he gets his fight and his mom might be less angry if it wasn’t his fault), when there’s a voice that distracts them both. “Cal!” Frank glances over, sees a pretty blond girl with her too-short plaid skirt, waving over to them. To Cal.
“Lucky day,” Cal says to Frank. “But I’ll remember this.” And with that he’s gone, bright smile on his handsome face as he gets an armful of tits pressed up against his chest.
“Fuck,” Frank says to no one in particular, and turns away. He weaves his way through the thinning crowd of students, pulls his tie off completely and zips up his jacket, and tries to breathe.
"So, how was your first week of school?" his mom asks as Frank walks into the kitchen. He peers over her shoulder, looking into the pot on the stove. Vegetarian chili. Sweet.
He shrugs as he backs away and opens the fridge. "I don't know. Fine," he says vaguely, grabbing a Coke. He takes a seat on the stool in the corner of the kitchen to stay out of her way. "It was school."
"Oh, come on, there must be more to it than that. How about the other kids in school?" She looks over at him curiously, almost expectantly. He has no idea why, it's not like going to a new school gave him a popularity transplant or anything. In fact, it probably made it even worse.
"Fine," he lies. He decides not to mention Cal. He doesn’t need another lecture on not fighting.
"Talk to any of them? Make friends?"
"Sure," he says. "One guy in English class." It isn't a complete lie. He did talk to that one guy in English class -- okay, because they had to get into partners with the person they were sitting next to and discuss the poem they were forced to read, but still.
Her smile falls. "That's it?"
He snorts. "What did you expect?"
"Don't take that tone with me," she says. But then she shrugs and turns back to the chilli, adding more spice like she knows Frank likes. "I just thought that maybe you'd find someone you'd connect with or something."
"Nope, sorry. Maybe next week." He hops off his stool. "Think I'll go play guitar for a bit." It bothers him, that his band is on hold, but he still likes to get lost in playing and forget everything else, at least for a little while.
"Sure, honey. Should be half an hour or so." He's just about to leave the kitchen when she asks, "But can you get the garlic bread out of the freezer first?"
"You're closer to the fridge than me," he points out.
"Smartass," she says flatly. "I mean in the icebox downstairs."
His words come out harsh. "Can't you get it yourself?" He winces when she gives him a hard look. He hadn't meant to sound like that, but -- "No, really."
"No, really," she says, tone nearly matching his. Fuck, she would've let it go if he hadn't talked back that way. "It won't kill you to help make this meal you’re going to eat too."
Frank's stubborn. "I don't want to go down there."
"Oh for crying out loud -- I'm sure there's no spiders. Just go."
Frank shivers, but that's not what he meant. "No way."
"Frank, what is--"
Frank doesn't mean to do it, he really doesn't, but a force tears through him that he can't hold back. He slams his hand down on the counter, palm flat and filling the room with a loud smack. "I'm not going in the fucking basement!"
She jumps, startling at the sound and his yelling. He instantly regrets it, and the anger seeps out of him when he looks at her frightened eyes.
He looks at the floor, embarrassed and ashamed. Jesus Christ, he can keep himself from trying to pound the hell out of an asshole, but he yells at his mother over fucking bread. "I--" He swallows. "I hate it down there. That -- that thing is down there."
"Oh, Frank," she says, and it pangs him when he hears there is absolutely no anger, not even fear, but pity. He hates that. She reaches out to him, but he flinches back and her hands drop. Her voice is still soft, comforting, when she says, "I didn't think. I'm sorry. I'll--"
"No, I'll go," he says, feeling stupid for her apologising. Who’s afraid of a fucking basement, anyway? "It's fine." He walks away and towards the door before she says anything else or stops him.
When he reaches it, he takes a deep breath, reaches for it, and pulls the heavy soundproof door open.
He gets the fucking bread. And resolutely does not look at the very large cage in the corner.
A couple days later, he’s in the basement an entire night anyway, spending quality time with that cage for the first time in their new home.
The change hurts. It always hurts as his body twists and contorts; the human folds up, takes a deep step back inside while the wolf emerges and takes charge. But they aren’t two different entities -- either way, he’s still Frank. In the morning, he’ll remember, even if the animal take over completely during the moon despite the poking and prodding by his human self to stay somewhat behaved.
Frank would never want to cause anyone harm, never want to attack them and doesn’t think he would, but it's best to be locked up to make sure that doesn’t happen.
But Frank the wolf isn’t particularly pleased, especially with a new cage and surroundings he doesn’t know. He paces back and forth, tests the bars, rips at the blankets and howls at the moon he knows is there. In the morning, Frank will be glad his father was able to find the time and some money to wolf-proof the basement, and made quick work of it too.
The change back is just as painful, if not more so, though it doesn’t last long. When it’s done, Frank lies on the cold floor, all his joints and muscles throbbing with pain. His mother leaves him there; they’ve learned from past incidents that Frank is not good at accepting help until he’s ready for it. He’d much rather lie there and collect himself than have someone hovering and coddling him.
When he’s ready, he forces himself to his feet and unlocks the cage, grabs his housecoat and shrugs it on, and makes his way up the stairs. His mother hasn’t left for work yet and silently hands him a couple Tylenol and a glass of water.
“I called the school,” she says. She doesn’t lecture him about missing a day his second week of at a new school. She understands. He just nods and mutters a thanks, and drags his feet down the hall to his room.
He rests the remainder of the day.
Frank's on edge for the rest of the week. It always takes a couple days to calm down, to let the wolf settle back in and remain quiet for a few weeks. It’s hard, though, to not think about that other wolf he almost saw, to not wonder if he’d done the right thing by running. It feels even worse now, that he’s changed once and spent the moon all alone when he knows, just knows, there’s another out there like him.
He's left waiting, almost wanting, for the wolf to come and track him down. Frank walks through the town, leaving home earlier in the mornings to take longer meandering paths to school, and afterwards too, going everywhere that he can, trying to see if he can pick up the scent and leaving his own behind.
But nothing happens. Nothing really cheers him up. Not even playing guitare because when he stays in he feels like maybe missing something out there. He feels like he’s walking around in circles, but he’s restless and doesn’t know what to do with himself. He needs a distraction.
He goes down to the local comic book shop. It's as good a place as any, and he can't hold back the smile as soon as he walks in; it's like any other comic book shop he's been in, racks full of superheros and zombies and hell creatures in bright flashy colours, and as many boxes of collectible figurines sitting on shelves above that’ll fit. It's comforting, a little bit like home.
After awhile -- fuck, has he really been here for an hour? -- of browsing and trying to decide what to buy, the bell above the door jingles as it opens and it happens again.
The smell of wolf fills the store.
Frank glances at the other patrons nervously but they haven't noticed. Of course they haven't, they would've noticed him, right? But as the seconds tick by, Frank can smell it more and more.
It smells different. And stronger. As if there are --
"Shit," Frank says as he sees a couple of guys turn down his dreaded the little aisle.
There are two of them, and he knows they’re both wolves. And they're both looking at him, as if they know he is. Well, Christ, of course they know. If Frank can tell they are, then they can certainly notice him.
One is taller and very thin, lanky with knobby knees turned in and arms crossed loosely in front of him. He's wearing a knit hat and he pushes glasses up his nose with a long finger, face blank as he stares at Frank.
The first thing that Frank notices about the other is that there isn't anything overtly noticeable; greasy shaggy hair, all black clothes, right down to the worn leather jacket and the black boots. But then Frank looks at his face, straight into his hazel eyes, and it's like a punch to the gut, almost knocking the breath out of him. Not only is the dude fucking pretty but his smell crawls over Frank's skin, leaving him feeling shivery and warm at the same time. It fills Frank’s nose and moves down into his lungs, invading him inside and out.
He tries to shake it off, and blinks at them both, trying to focus. It helps a little.
The one with the stronger smell and the longer dark hair speaks first. "It's your scent all over town."
The one beside him snorts. "Nice, Gerard."
Gerard's gaze flickers to him for a second, and he looks like he wants to retort but instead he looks back at Frank, as if expecting an answer.
"Uh, yeah," Frank says, a little lost for words. "I'm ... new. To town, and to ..." He waves a hand in a vague gesture between the three of them.
Right, smooth one, Iero. Finally talking to other werewolves and that's what he has to say?
Gerard makes a face but it seems to be enough of an answer for him. They're both nodding but remain silent, and Frank has no idea what else to say. It's beginning to edge in on just the other side of awkward.
"I'm Frank," he offers, trying to muster up a smile.
"Mikey," the taller one says, "and this is my brother Gerard."
Brothers. That would explain why they smell so similar. Frank nods at them. "Nice to meet you." He cringes; he sounds so formal, but it's like he can't make himself loosen up around them. He wants to, God he wants to, but it's like they don't know what to make of him. He doesn't blame them, he has no idea what to make of them either.
"Right, so--," Frank starts.
"Bye," Gerard says, cutting Frank off. He turns away and wanders back down the aisle, as if trying to get away from Frank.
Frank stares after him. Is he fucking serious? Frank wants to chase after him, get up in his face and ask him what the hell his problem is, but surprisingly it feels like the wolf in him is holding him back, telling him to behave and encouraging Frank to be patient.
And, seriously, what is up with that?
He glances at Mikey, who still has the same look on his face, as unchanging as a statue. He waves a hand around. "Don't mind him, he's -- well, you know how it is.”
"Sure," Frank says, trying to keep the confusion out of his voice. He has no idea how it is at all. But he crooks his lips up in a small smile, hoping that maybe he could get Mikey on his side or at least not hate him straight out like his brother. He gets one back in return, just a twitch of lips, before Mikey turns to follow Gerard, leaving Frank standing alone again.
"Right," Frank mutters. He puts down his stack of comics and leaves the store without buying anything, mind racing and forming way too many questions.
"Why did you find a job here?”
They’re the first words out of Frank's mouth as soon as he gets into the house. He finds his mother reading a book in the living room. She glances up at him, assesses his angry look, and calmly puts the bookmark in and closes it, setting it down on her lap.
“Well, I found a job where I could,” she says.
He gives her a skeptical look. “Really? Seriously, Mom, really?”
She’s quiet for a moment and then asks neutrally, "Why do you ask?"
"Oh, I bet you know why!" Frank bursts out. He throws himself down onto the couch, but jumps up in an instant and starts pacing the length of the small room. "There are other -- others. Like me. Here. In Belleville."
Her eyebrows arch and she looks very interested, very intense. "I -- may have heard that."
"I knew it! Is that why we're here?" Frank asks, throwing his arms around. He has no idea if he should be angry, excited, or what. His stomach is an even more twisted bundle of nerves. "You didn't tell me!"
“I know. I’m sorry.” She sighs. "I wasn't sure -- no one knew for sure, there were rumours, so I thought if I tried here --"
"Where did you hear them?" Seriously, did his mom know of some Internet forum she could stalk or something? Because he sure hadn't been able to find anything he considered trustworthy or at all factual so how could his mom? She barely knows how to check email.
"Dad found stuff out," she says, shrugging. "I really have no idea how, or why, or --" She shakes her head. "He wouldn't say, just that it was the best lead he had. So I applied for a couple jobs in the area, and I was able to get one here, and the school accepted you. And. Well, we both hoped for you."
Frank's jaw drops. Fuck, was she serious? Was she fucking serious? "So in the middle of dealing with, you know, me and the whole change thing -- Why didn't you tell me? You could've told me I might run into some -- well. What the hell?"
"So you did, then?" she asks, not even scolding him for his language. "Did you talk to someone?"
"Not really," Frank says, and sits down on the couch. "The other day I ran from one before I even really saw him. Or her? I think it was a dude, though. And I just met two guys the comic book store. Sort of. They said hi and then, like, dismissed me. They didn’t seem to care I was there.”
"Three!" she exclaims, surprised.
"Yeah, three. But doesn't matter, I don't think we're meant to -- mingle. Or whatever." He flops over onto the couch, staring up mournfully at the ceiling. He has no idea, maybe that’s a thing about their kind that they couldn’t just -- be around each other? Oh, wait, except there were two of them. But it was okay for brothers? Fuck, he didn’t know. "This sucks."
"I'm sorry, Frankie," she says. "I should've said something, but. Well, we didn't want to get your hopes up, just in case there wasn't anyone here."
“So you moved us away from our home on the off chance that I might me others like me?”
She has the decency to look sheepish. “That’s why I looked. But, honestly, this job is much better than the old one. You know how I hated that place.”
He nods. She’s been saying for years she wished she could find another job. “I just wish you had told me. I should’ve had some sort of say.”
“I -- you’re right,” she says. “That’s -- that was a bad call on my part. I might be the mom but you're eighteen and -- I’m sorry. I just didn’t know how else to help you.” She sounds so concerned, and almost lost, and he’s struck again with how difficult this has been for them all and how much she’s tried to help him, even before this whole moving debacle.
The anger bleeds out of him; he knows his parents were just trying to look out for him. It’s almost sweet, in a way, that they tried to find him others of his kind. But all Frank feels is sort of sad, because apparently it didn’t matter anyway and now he’s away from the friends he does have.
"It's fine," he says blandly. "I'll just pretend none of it is happening."
"You can't do that and you know it. But give it some time. Maybe they just need to get to know you. I've warned you to be careful who to trust with this--" That's a blatant lie, she's basically told him to keep it secret, tell no one ever, not even Shaun, to keep him safe "-- so maybe they do the same thing."
He keeps staring at the ceiling thoughtfully. "Yeah, that might be it." Makes sense. Clearly some of those -- wolf beings -- have control and anger issues. It's what got to Frank into this situation, after all, since one of them bit the hell out of his leg and left him behind. And Frank himself was too, sometimes -- even though his dad says, quite fondly, that Frank was a stubborn, angry little pissant even before he got bit, so really, it could just be that Frank's an asshole and they just don’t want to get to know him.
And maybe all these wolves aren't the kind of dudes he wants to be friends with, anyway. Yeah.
He tries to convince himself of that, and pushes the million questions he has out of his mind anyway.
“Your job’s going good, right?” he asks instead.
She beams at him. “It is! Very much.” He can tell she’s telling the truth.
“Good,” he replies. “I’m glad.” And he truly is, happy that this move wasn’t a total bust for the both of them.
The smell hits him in the middle of a math test; faint, barely there, but clear enough that Frank knows. It's such a shock that his hand jerks, sending his calculator flying off his desk. He mumbles an apology at the teacher’s hard look and reaches down to pick it up; the smell has him so dizzy he almost falls right over into the aisle.
Wolf. Not just any wolf, but that first wolf. Not Gerard or Mikey but the one he ran from.
The one he will run to, once this stupid math test is done.
He barely makes it through class, and he knows this is one test he's going to bomb, but he doesn't even care. He just needs to get out. As soon as the bell rings, he's the first one up from his desk and out the door, following the smell where it gets stronger. He tries not to look too much like a freak as he hurries through the hallways, but he can't even help tilting his head so his nose up in the air. A couple of kids, including Cal, laugh at him when he’s so distracted that he turns a corner and walks right into a teacher, but he just shrugs it off and keeps going.
The scent leads him outside, around the back of the school to a garden shed. Standing there in green coveralls under a winter coat is a guy with scraggly long hair and a sharp smile, leaning casually against the brick of the building with an illegal cigarette between his lips and a snow shovel abandoned by his side. As if he’s been waiting for Frank.
Frank stops where he is; the reaction isn't nearly as strong as the first time, neither to go to the guy or to run away. He tilts his head to the side and looks at him.
"You," Frank says.
The guy smiles around his cigarette. "You. Have a name, kid?"
"Not a kid," Frank retorts instantly. This dude doesn’t look much older than him, though he’s clearly not a student. "I'm Frank."
"Hi." Frank glances back to the school. "You don't go here." It's not a question -- Frank would've noticed a lot sooner if Bert was hanging around. But he eyes up the coveralls. "Or ... you work here? Did you just start?” Frank's been here a couple weeks now; he knows he would’ve noticed the smell sooner.
“Just started this time round.” Bert nods to the shovel leaning up against the shed. "Odd job. Just for a few weeks. Did it last winter too."
"Ah. Cool. But you’re not from around here. Like. Raised here, I mean.” Frank can pick out a Jersey accent anywhere, and Bert doesn’t have one.
Bert chuckles. "Nah. Utah. Hang around sometimes. Heard it would be a good place to check out. Can't say it's always very welcoming, but …” Bert smiles. "There's something about Belleville that feels like home, you know."
Frank grins. He can't help it. He's talking to another werewolf. "Yeah. Yeah, I know what you mean. We moved here for, uh, reasons. I guess.”
Bert nods knowingly. "Hey, let's get out of here. You should meet the rest of my guys."
"Oh, I already did," Frank says. Bert just looks evenly at him, and Frank shuffles his feet. "I mean. Sorta."
"Jepha and Quinn? Really? Those fuckers should've told me."
Frank blinks at the unfamiliar names. "Um. No? I mean, no. Not them."
"Right," Bert answers. Frank thinks he knows that maybe Frank's talking about other wolves, but he doesn't push. He just says, "Well, you should meet them."
"Sure," Frank says, and watches as Bert throws his smoke down and ground his heel at the butt. "What, now?"
"Yeah, now. Snow’ll be here tomorrow. So will your school." Bert wrinkles his nose at that, like the word itself carries some awful odor.
Frank glances behind him at the school, and hears the second bell ring. Hell, he's already late. He can't make a habit of skipping -- he really wants to fucking graduate in a couple months -- but shit. He can't pass this up.
“Give me, like twenty seconds? I’ll sneak in to get my coat and stuff.”
“You might get caught.”
Frank shrugs. “I’ll chance it.”
Bert laughs, bright and approving. “I already like you, Frank.”
Frank can’t help but beam back at him.
The first time Frank meets Jepha, Jepha is as naked as the day he was born.
This happens only about twenty minutes after Frank meets Bert. Frank had grabbed his jacket and backpack from his locker and stealthily made his way out, and met Bert in the parking lot at the god awful rusted car of his. Though, he probably shouldn’t look down on it, because all Frank has is his feet and a bus pass.
Surprisingly, the car runs like a dream and is playing the Misfits as soon as it starts up, which Frank can't help but get excited about. As Bert weaves his way through town, heading to a poorer, rougher section, the two of them chat about music. Frank's pretty thrilled to hear that they like similar kinds and both like to go to shows, and Bert seems to know the scene and sounds impressed when Frank casually mentions that he plays guitar and is trying to start a band (even if he leaves out the part where it's not going anywhere right now), so that's awesome. It's not weird or uncomfortable, and after they park Frank happily follows Bert up the stairs of some run-down apartments.
But as soon as Bert opens the door, they're greeted by a very naked man, and Frank notices the strong smell of wolf everywhere.
"Bert!" the naked guy exclaims happily. His dark hair is wet and curling around his ears, so at least there’s an obvious explanation as to why he’s wandering around in no clothes. He puts his hands on his hips, completely unconscious by the way his limp dick is just hanging there for all to see. "You've brought a guest." The dude takes in a deep breath and grins wide. "Our kind of guest!"
"Jepha," Bert says, amused. As they step further into the apartment, Frank sees a living room with a ratty couch and another guy sitting on a chair that's reclined with the footstool part up.
"Quinn," Bert says as he gestures to the guy in the chair. "Guys, this is Frank."
"Fraaaank," Jepha says, looking him up and down. He steps closer and holds out a hand for Frank to shake. "Nice to meet you."
Frank takes his hand but blurts out, "You have tattoos!" There are tattoos all over Jepha, an entire arm sleeve and a chest piece, some around one leg.
"Yes!" Jepha exclaims right back at him, holding out his arm for Frank to see better. "You have any?"
"Nah," Frank says, shaking his head. "I really wanted one for my birthday, but I wasn't sure if ... I wasn't sure," he finishes lamely. Basically, he didn't know if the ink would be torn to shit once a month when he changed, and ruin the tattoos, so he didn't want to chance it. It was something he’d really resented giving up after he was bitten.
"No worries there, my man," Bert says. Frank glances over, sees that Bert's out of his winter coat and gloves, and yeah, there's a small tattoo on one hand and one around his wrist. "I say go for it."
Frank can't stop the smile on his face. He always wanted tattoos, already has a list of about ten he wants when he has the cash, and he'd been disappointed when he decided not to risk them. "Cool," Frank says to them. He pulls off his winter coat and hears a low whistle from Quinn.
"Aww, Catholic school boy," Quinn says, smirking slightly as he takes in Frank's uniform. "You know how to pick them, Bert. Picking up boys from work probably isn't the smartest thing, though."
"Quinn," Jepha says, frowning.
Frank just shrugs, unaffected. "Yeah, well, school's school. Makes my mom happy."
Quinn rolls his eyes and mumbles something that doesn’t sound all that pleasant. Before Frank can retort, Jepha’s hands go back on his hips and he tilts one to the side. “Quinn, stop being a dick or you might scare Frank away.”
Quinn laughs and points a Jepha’s crotch. “Speaking of dicks … yeah, I’m the one whose going to scare the kid.”
"I’m eighteen!" Frank says just as Jepha exclaims, "Everyone should get acquainted with my dick!" Frank can’t help but laugh at that.
Jepha just seems encouraged. He turns to Frank and shakes his hips a little, dick lightly slapping back and forth on his thighs. “You don’t mind, do you, Frank?”
“If you start windmilling that thing, I’m outta here,” Frank says dryly. “Because no one needs to see that shit.”
Jepha’s eyes go mischievous but his hips still, and hand slipping down his thigh. “And if I leave that out but do something else? Think we can have some fun?”
"Not that I mind dick, like, at all," Frank says casually, digging his nails into his palms as he comes out to strangers for the first time. He smirks and makes himself look Jepha up and down slowly "But believe it or not, I'm a commitment kind of guy and I just met you. You better motherfucking woo me first."
Much to Frank's relief, Jepha breaks out into laughter, loud and delighted. Even Bert and Quinn chuckle.
"Jepha's not the wooing type," Quinn says. Jepha gives an unconcerned shrug of confirmation.
"Well, damn," Frank says flatly. "Guess we'll just have to be bros."
"Bros!" Jepha cries out happily, and suddenly flings himself at Frank, naked limbs twined around Frank.
Frank laughs, sort of embarrassed, because there’s suddenly a naked man he doesn’t really know pressed up against him and that wasn't what he was expecting today at all. "Get off," he says jokingly, even though he's probably bright red, and shoves at Jepha.
"Jepha," Bert says. His voice is low and stern, so different than before. Jepha's playful struggles instantly cease. Bert adds in the same tone, "Leave Frank alone and go get dressed.”
It's awkward for a second, as Jepha stays still and there's some tension in the air. Frank doesn't move or say anything, because he's not entirely sure what's going on here and it wasn't that big of a deal. But then Jepha lets go of Frank and moves away, heading down the short hall. "Good idea!" he calls over his shoulder, and that's that.
"Come on, Frank," Bert says, his tone light again. "Wanna sit?"
"Sure," Frank says easily, trying to cut through the tension in the room. He flops down on the couch, makes himself comfortable.
"So, school huh?" Quinn says, lazily looking at Frank from where he's still sprawled out on the recliner.
"Yeah. A senior."
"Shitty," Quinn says.
Frank shrugs. "Yeah, well, almost done with it."
Jepha bounds back in the room in a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. He holds up a plastic bag of weed. "Hey, Frank," he says with a sly grin. "You smoke?"
"Fuck yes," Frank answers enthusiastically, and they all laugh at him. He just grins. "Ah, it’s been a couple weeks. Don't really know anyone here, you know?" He had smoked up with Shaun and Hambone at New Year’s, but that was the last time and he hadn't the chance to score any of his own since.
"Well, we'll change that for you, won't we?" Bert says.
"Guess so," Frank says, happily.
Quinn sits his recliner up and takes the bag as Jepha hands it to him.
"So it's just you, huh, Frank?" Jepha asks.
"Well, me and my mom."
"That's not what he means," Quinn says. "You're the one that ran from Bert, right?"
“Quinn,” Bert says warningly. Quinn doesn’t elaborate and focuses on rolling the joint in his hands.
"Uh, yeah," Frank says awkwardly. "I, um. Yeah. I'm not used to--" He trails off, and waves a hand around, trying to encompass everything that's before him: three wolves hanging out that are obviously tight and look out for each other.
"A lone wolf, then," Jepha says thoughtfully.
"Jepha," Bert says sharply, the same tone as before. Jepha's mouth snaps shut but he doesn't look happy about it. Bert turns to Frank, and claps his shoulder. "Look, we don't mean to be rude -- and Quinn and Jepha know better," he says, glaring at Jepha again. Jepha looks down, sheepish. Quinn just keeps preparing the joint. "But, like, there are rules. Sort of."
"Like Fight Club," Quinn says.
"Only for packs," Jepha adds.
"Fight Club ... for packs?" Frank is imagining them beating the crap out of each other, and while he gets that being a wolf makes him more feisty in an uncontrollable way than before, he doesn't particularly want to fight these guys. They all look pretty rough around the edges, like they could take on anybody.
Then he thinks about Gerard and Mikey for a second, and those dudes look as rough and tumble as kittens. He can’t imagine them fighting anyone. He almost smiles at the thought, but shakes it off to listen to Bert's explanation.
"Yeah. What's the first rule about Fight Club?"
"Never talk about Fight Club," Frank answers immediately.
"Exactly. Think of it like that for us, too. It's a preservation thing, I don't know, we're pretty bound to it," Bert says, shrugging. “It’s probably why you avoided me at first, cause you didn’t know me. We’re all about trying to survive, you know?”
"Yeah, but ... I'm just me," Frank says.
“Well, then you probably don’t have to shut your mouth if you don’t want, but you’d be an idiot if you didn’t,” Quinn says.
Frank’s already nodding. “Yeah. I mean. Only my mom and dad know but it was pretty hard to keep that secret. Other than that …” He shrugs. “What Jepha said.” He really was a lone wolf, and that sucks. His heart sinks a little and he prepares himself for bad news. "So does that mean I shouldn't be here?” It makes no sense, Bert invited him. He should’ve just left him alone if Frank wasn’t allowed to be there. Frank doesn’t want to be shrugged off again by more of his kind.
"Of course not, Frank," Jepha says immediately.
"We're all still people," Quinn says, and holds out the joint to Frank. "People who like to smoke up. First hit?"
"Fuck yes," Frank says gratefully, taking the joint while digging in his pocket for his lighter.
He can deal with not talking about wolves if that’s what’s necessary. It’s not like it doesn’t make sense, and it fits with his instincts anyway. He’s just grateful to have guys to hang out with, especially guys that have some awesome weed.
After the joints are gone and the air is filled with the sweet smell of pot mingled in with that of wolf, he settles back onto the couch, limbs feeling heavy. He’s content and relaxed, staring up at the ceiling. “You know,” he says slowly, “if this is like Fight Club, and you’re all really me, I’m going to be so fucking pissed.”
Bert barks out laughter. “Are you going to punch us in the face?”
“No,” Frank says seriously, “I’m not going to punch myself in the face. I’m not that stupid.”
“Good to know,” Quinn drawls, and Frank starts giggling and can’t stop.
Frank’s life becomes pretty routine after a couple of weeks, full and busy and even social in a way he wasn’t expected when they moved to Belleville. He goes to school and works on homework so he doesn’t flunk anything; his mom told him he doesn’t need to get a job as long as he keeps his grades up, so he lives up to his part of the bargain. He makes sure he still talks to Shaun and Hambone, promising them he’s still playing his guitar. He spends his spare time hanging out with Bert and his friends. He doesn’t sit around in his room feeling sorry for himself, so that’s awesome.
Frank catches Mikey and Gerard's scents around town once in awhile, but it's usually faint, a fading smell barely lingering on the air. It’s Mikey more often than not, and it’s possible there’s another one mixed in there, but Frank isn’t sure. It's either impossible to follow because it's been there for a while, or they somehow know how to mask it enough to not be followed. Frank doesn't know, but he wishes he did.
Frank does knows the rules now, and not a single one of his new friends has mentioned anything further to him having to do with wolves. When they get together at Bert, Quinn, and Jepha’s apartment, they just smoke up or drink and listen to music or watch movies or whatever. It's all the normal kind of stuff Frank did with his friends back home, which he’s grateful for, but now it’s frustrating because he knows there’s more and he doesn’t know how to get to it.
One night, he’s drunk enough that he can’t hold it back. It’s not his fault he gets chatty after a few shots and doesn’t know how to filter anything.
"Hey," Frank says from his spot he claimed on the recliner, "you guys meet others?"
He doesn't clarify, but they know what he means.
"Have you?" Quinn asks interestedly, mouth quirking up at the corner like he already knows.
"Very briefly," Frank hedges.
"How briefly?" Quinn asks.
Frank shrugs. "Met brothers once for about five seconds."
"Not brief enough," Bert practically growls, and Frank blinks in surprise at how harsh it sounds.
"He and Gerard don't get along anymore," Jepha clarifies.
Anymore? Frank thinks, but doesn't have time to voice it before Bert snorts.
"Understatement. Hey," Bert says, standing up, "let's go get something to eat." It sounds like the end of the conversation; though he hasn’t used that special tone yet, it doesn’t look like Jepha or Quinn are going to say anything else.
It only piques Frank’s interest but since he’s still happy enough to have friends to hang out with, werewolf or not, he doesn't bother pushing it.
There might be other ways to get some information, and as his mind often does, it drifts to Gerard. But he doesn’t bother bringing it up with Bert again.
Frank is alone the next time he runs into Gerard. He’s thankful for that. Frank just wants to try to talk to him, and he has the feeling that having Bert or one of the others around would not help his case.
Not that being by himself really helps his case either, apparently.
He's exiting the local gas station, still thrilled that he's able to buy his own smokes now even months after his eighteenth birthday. It's after school one Friday afternoon and he's heading home to change before going over to Bert's later.
He's opening the pack when a beat up old hatchabck car pulls up. He only notices it because, like that one day weeks ago with Bert's car, he can smell wolf as soon as the door opens.
Even without looking up, Frank knows it's Gerard. He looks anyway.
Gerard glaces at Frank uncertainly before turning away and heading towards the station. Other than that, he doesn't even give Frank another second of acknowledgement.
Something boils up in Frank's blood while he watches Gerard’s ass as he goes into the building. He wants to -- to just know what the fuck Gerard's problem is with Frank. Frank thinks he knows anyway, but man, this Gerard guy needs to tell him.
Frank sits on the hood of Gerard's car, finishing his smoke while he waits. He’s there so long that he ends up lighting a second one, and then finally Gerard emerges with nothing but a pack of smokes in hand. There's no way it was that busy in there, so the fucker was probably just waiting for Frank to leave and finally gave up when he didn’t. He doesn't seem very surprised to see Frank there, but he's certainly not happy.
"You're gonna have to move," Gerard says as he approaches his door. His smell washes over Frank and Frank can't help but take in a deep whiff of it. It’s close to the moon and everything seems sharper, more intense; something clenches in his stomach as he watches Gerard avidly, unable to tear his eyes off him. Gerard ignores Frank altogether, determinedly focused on the handle of his car.
Frank jumps off quickly, slides himself between Gerard and the door, stopping him. There's barely any room, Frank’s backpack squishing between his back and the door and Frank’s chest nearly brushing against Gerard’s. Frank suddenly wants to be pushed against back against the car and feel completely trapped between it and Gerard's body. He can't even stop the low rumble that tumbles out of him at the thought of it, and he feels nearly as shocked as Gerard looks. He can hear the sharp intake of breath Gerard takes.
Gerard frowns, looking momentarily confused, then takes a step back. "What are you doing?"
Frank grins cockily around his smoke. "What? You asked me to move. I did."
"Not there," Gerard says, and gestures with his hand. "Move again."
Frank takes a slow drag and then takes the cigarette out of his mouth, blowing smoke in Gerard’s face. "What is your problem?" Frank blurts out. “With me?” He frowns at himself -- why does he even care what Gerard thinks, when Gerard clearly wants nothing to do with him? But, fuck it, it's not like he has anything to lose. It’s like he can’t stop himself.
"You know what," Gerard says flatly.
"Is it because I'm a were--"
"Shut up," Gerard hisses, and looks around, paranoid. "You can't just --"
"Talk about it like that," Gerard whispers, "not out in the open."
"Fine," Frank says grumpily. He can't even stop the words falling out of his mouth when he says, "Let's go out for dinner sometime, then."
And, wait. So apparently Frank just asked this weird, paranoid, hot werewolf guy out. On a date. Right, then. That's. Well, he can deal with that.
Gerard looks surprised for a second. He says, as if it's torn out of him without meaning for it to be, "Dinner is out in the open too."
"Then we'll stay in."
There's a lovely pink tinge starting to creep up Gerard's cheeks and his smell becomes even stronger. It jolts through Frank's body and goes straight to his dick and, shit, he could totally be on board for staying in with Gerard, especially if he keeps looking back at Frank like that, a little shy but curious, eyes sweeping over him as if by their own volition.
Yeah. Yeah, he could definitely work with that. Frank bites his bottom lip and widens his eyes a little, looking up through the fringe of his dark hair. Gerard is completely still, as if hit by a stun-ray, but then jerks back as if jolted by electricity.
He frowns and looks angry. "You know we’re not supposed to -- what the fuck are you playing at, Frank?"
"You should move," Gerard says, more forcefully. "Just -- go back to Bert."
Frank blinks at him, surprised. He's never mentioned a fucking thing to Gerard about Bert. He didn't even know Bert the first time Frank met Gerard, not more than a smell on the wind. Shit, Frank and Gerard have barely said anything to each other ever, how could Gerard know Frank and Bert were friends?
"I never said--"
"I can smell him all over you." Gerard's small nose wrinkles in disgust, and he takes another step further away. What the hell, all Frank did was have a smoke with Bert at the lunch break out by the back shed.
Frank steps aside. "Bert and I--"
"Yeah, don't wanna know," Gerard says quickly, reaching out and opening his door. "Not my business. At all."
Frank frowns and watches Gerard's car pull away. He flicks his cigarette away, burned down unnoticed to the filter through all that. He hitches his backpack more securely on his back and lights yet another smoke to try to forget how stupidly sad he feels that Gerard is gone because that's just fucking nuts.
Later that night, Frank’s hanging out with Bert and the guys as planned and he can’t help but say, “So I talked to Gerard today.”
The other three glance over at him lazily, as if they’re not surprised. Christ, maybe they smelled Gerard on him just like he smelled Bert. Frank had made sure he changed – hell, he even showered too. (And had a shockingly good orgasm while jerking himself off to thoughts of dark hair framing a pretty face with hazel eyes and pink lips. He’d chalked it up to it being so close to the moon, which always made him hornier than usual, but he'd never fantasized so specifically about someone he knew before.)
But he hadn’t meant to mention it out loud, even though he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about it all night.
“Yeah?” Bert finally says. “What’d he say?”
“Not much,” Frank admits. He takes a toke of the bong, holds the smoke in his lungs as he hands it over to Quinn. After he lets it out slowly, he says, “Think he thinks we’re … something.”
They all laugh at that, Quinn so hard he starts to choke. Bert smiles at Frank and asks, “And do you think we’re something?”
“We’re friends,” Frank says. “Right?”
“Right,” Bert agrees easily.
Done with taking hits, Frank eases down to the floor, sprawls his body out and stares at the ceiling. He hums a little under his breath, but Bert interrupts it.
“Do you want to be friends with Gerard?” Bert asks.
Frank closes his eyes, and he can see himself down on his knees in front of Gerard, hands on pale soft skin and taking a hard, hot cock into his mouth.
“No,” Frank says, and thinks to himself, not friends, exactly. He rolls over onto his side and curls in on himself, hoping to hide the boner that’s threatening to pop up. His eyes are still closed, but he thinks he hears the slap of hands, like a high-five, ring through the room.
“Good,” Bert says quietly, but Frank hears him. Frank feels a little unsettled, but only for a second, then the high takes over and he doesn’t worry about it anymore that night.
Another moon approaches and Frank is almost hoping that one of the many werewolves he’s happened to meet in the past couple months mentions it. Asks him what he does, where he changes, where he keeps himself, anything.
None of them actually do, but it doesn’t surprise him. He doesn’t ask about them either.
He paces the cage a lot more than he used to, even throws his body against the bars, trying to get out. Of course, it doesn’t work, and it doesn’t make him feel any better. Especially in the morning when he changes back, and his body is mottled with forming bruises and some red scratches. He’s not worried, they’ll be gone soon, but they don't exactly feel good, either.
His mom frowns at him when she catches a glimpse at him, and he only shrugs. “It hates that cage,” he says. She squeezes his shoulder and hands him a glass of water, but neither of them say anything more. There really is nothing to say to that, but he rests his head against her shoulder in thanks and comfort. He’s glad to at least have someone there.
Frank’s drowning in projects and tests. It's like teachers are loading schoolwork on the seniors for the last semester so they don’t get lazy or complacent or something. After a couple weeks of not having a lot of free time, he manages to stop by the apartment for a few minutes. But it’s not too long before Frank glances at the clock and stands. "Shit, guys, gotta go."
"Aww, does Frankie have school tomorrow?" Bert mocks him. Quinn and Jepha, sprawled out together on the couch, both laugh.
"Come on, lay off," Frank says. They've taken to teasing the fuck out of him for going home early on school nights, working on homework and studying for tests, and listening to his mother, and all that. Mostly, Frank lets it slide, but he doesn't let it deter him. He is going to fucking graduate high school if it's the last thing he does and put this whole damned year behind him.
"Don't know why you put up with that bullshit," Quinn says. “Fuck school.”
Frank shrugs and picks up his discarded school blazer off the floor. "Makes my mom happy."
Bert snorts. "Fuck that, too."
"Yeah, well." Frank doesn't elaborate. He loves his mom and she’s been awesome.
"You should stay, Frank," Bert says suddenly. There's something in his tone, something not usually there, at least not when he speaks to Frank -- quiet, but strong and almost forceful.
Frank bristles and his skin crawls. The room has become eerily quiet; Quinn and Jepha are still, but looking intently at Bert. Frank looks at Bert too -- he's still sitting leaned up against the wall, but his gaze burns into Frank's.
Bert repeats, "Stay, Frank." It doesn't sound like a suggestion at all, which throws Frank off.
Frank snorts and grabs his backpack, slinging it over his shoulder. "Told you, can't." He doesn't know what it is, but right now, he can't stop himself from defying Bert -- which is a stupid thing to think, because it's not like Bert owns him. But whatever it is, Frank doesn't want to listen to him, doesn't want to do what Bert is telling him.
He makes it to the door and glances over his shoulder, they're all looking at him, heads tilted in a weird unison while they stare back. It's kinda creepy. Frank swallows and nods, "See you later," and gets out of there as fast as he can.
Frank isn’t proud of it, but he begins avoiding Bert, Quinn and Jepha. Not really easy, with Bert still working at the school, but he manages for a while. He isn't even sure why -- he likes them, he really does, even if they were acting a bit weird the other night. But he gets creeped out any time he thinks of it. He tells himself he just needs some space, even though it's something he didn't think he wanted at all when he’d first met them.
"You okay?" his mother asks the following Friday evening.
"Yep," Frank says.
“School okay this week?”
“Sure.” School is school, but he got all his homework done and got decent enough grades on the tests he got back and managed to avoid getting into a brawl with Cal yet another week. He really can’t complain on that front.
“And you’re okay?”
“Didn’t I just say?” He shoves another forkful of spaghetti into his mouth and stares at the television. He can feel her looking at him and he sighs. After swallowing, he says. "I'm fine. Just -- feel like staying in."
"You don't want to go out with your -- friends?" She stumbles over the word a little.
He glances over at this and sees her frowning. His mom only met Bert and the guys once, and he hadn't told her they were the werewolves he'd freaked out about, but she managed to guess. "It's in the eyes," she'd explained, after running into them outside a restaurant. And then she'd immediately disliked them, even though up til then she'd liked the idea of them.
He still has no idea what the hell she meant by that -- it's not like she forbade him from seeing them -- but now he's reluctant to admit that maybe she was right. He doesn't want to think that, but he's not sure it's a fit. He’s not sure he’s a fit. They’re a pack and he isn’t a part of that; he doesn’t feel like he’ll ever be.
Seriously. He might end up being a lone wolf forever. Maybe he just needs to accept that.
Lost in his own thoughts, it's her cough that draws his attention from them.
"You should get out," she says.
"I -- what?" Frank says, dumbfounded. "Are you kicking me out?”
She cuts him off with a roll of her eyes. "Don't be ridiculous," she says. She reaches for her purse on the floor next to her chair and starts digging around in it. "I mean socially. It’s depressing for me to see you all mopey again--"
"Gee thanks, Mom," he says dryly, but tries not to grin.
She ignores him and pulls out a folded up piece of bright yellow paper. She hands it over to him. "My co-worker’s son has a band? Or something? And they're playing an all-ages show tomorrow here in town." She pauses for a moment and looks at him, almost uncertain and maybe a bit shy. "You -- like that sort of thing, right?"
"Hell yeah I do," he agrees, looking at the flyer. He looks up at her and smirks. "You're not suggesting coming with me, are you?"
She makes a face and he laughs. But then, looking thoughtful, she adds, "Well, when it's you up there, you're not going to be able to keep me away."
"Mooooom," he says, but his face breaks into a big smile.
She smiles back. "Have fun, Frankie."
Despite the chill February air, Frank decides to walk down to the venue for the show. His mom offered a ride, and while he can deal going out on his own like a loser, he's not going to make it worse by getting dropped off in front of a bar by his mother. He declines with a kiss to the cheek and a promise to wear his hat and full-fingered gloves along with his puffy winter coat, and takes off for the evening.
He's all of two blocks from home when a familiar dying car sound pulls up behind him. He considers just ignoring it completely, or taking a sharp corner and booking it down the street, but maybe that's a bit excessive.
Plus, once it stops and the door opens, a thumping beat and the smell of wolf emerging, he's drawn to at least turn around and wave.
"Frankie!" Jepha jumps out the passenger side. Bert opens the driver's window and wiggles out, sitting on the door and looking at Frank over the top of the car. Quinn's still in the back seat.
"Hey, guys," Frank says, waving and shuffling a bit closer. "What's happening?"
"Was going to ask you that," Bert says, eyes intent on Frank's. "Haven't seen you around this week."
Frank shrugs. "Busy with stuff." He says stuff instead of school, hoping to avoid that round of teasing. They don't say anything about it.
"Well, come on," Jepha says. "Let's hang."
"I kinda got plans," Frank says, thumb pointing back over his shoulder. "Going to a show down at Hamilton’s." He pauses for a second and then adds, "Wanna come?"
Jepha opens his mouth, but it's Bert that says, "Nah," and Jepha's mouth snaps shut.
"Oh, come on," Frank says, echoing Jepha. "Just for a couple hours, then we'll go out."
"Not our territory," Bert says. Frank doesn't miss Jepha looking at him with surprise.
Frank frowns. "Whose--"
"You can probably guess," Bert says easily. "But, hey, you can go wherever you want, right? Not a bad thing."
Frank eases from one foot to the other, and shoves his hands in his jacket pockets, uncertain. Bert doesn’t sound like he minds much, but Frank’s not sure. Maybe he’s just trying to make up for being so weird the other night.
Jepha says, "You should go, Frank."
"Yeah, Frank, go," Bert adds, and there is nothing in his voice like the other day, nothing that makes Frank bristle at the sound. It's just an easy suggestion, and Frank can feel tension he didn't know he had slip from his shoulders.
"I'll come over in a couple hours," Frank offers, also trying to make some peace. "Cool?"
"Cool," Bert says with a smile, and slips back into the car.
"Later," Jepha says. Frank gives him a grin, nods goodbye in the direction of the car, and turns away. He's feeling much better about it all, about them even, and is actually looking forward to going over later.
But not nearly as much as going to the venue and, apparently, seeing who might be there.
The show turns out to be awesome.
Okay, so no, the first band is terrible, but they make a lot of noise and apparently have some die-hard fans. There's a mosh-pit in front of the stage and Frank can't stop himself from jumping in, throwing himself around with unbound energy. He throws about his limbs and elbows, and gets enough in return that he's going to get bruises but that's okay, they'll be gone in a day.
The last song of the set is particularly brutal in the pit; Frank gets a head to the nose, which starts to drip blood, and he ends up on the floor, ribs kicked as someone trips over him.
Frank just laughs. Fuck, he needed this.
When the song is over, he makes his way out of the crowd to find the bathroom and get some toilet paper for his nose and wash up. The second he's away from the crowd, away from their sweat and body odour, he smells it -- wolf.
Fuck, yes. He’s been hoping for that. There could only be one reason why Bert and the others wouldn’t come tonight.
Right away Frank spots Mikey leaning against the bar. His elbows are on the countertop and he's looking out at the crowd as if he's incredibly bored, but Frank knows that he sees Frank walking towards him.
Frank's so intent on Mikey, and distracted by all the other scents of the people in the bar, that he almost misses the smell of yet another unknown wolf until Frank is practically on top of him. He's standing next to Mikey, taller than him, with curly light brown hair.
Frank stops in front of them, wiping blood that's dripped onto his upper lip with the back of his hand. Now that he's here, he's not sure what to say or how he should act. Mikey's putting on an air similar to his brother’s, like he just wants to ignore Frank, but the other guy is looking at him curiously.
Well, you know what? Fuck it. Fuck all these crazy wolves in this town. Frank just wants to enjoy listening to music and being out. Frank gives them a big smile. "Hey!"
"Frank," Mikey says, betraying no emotion. He reaches over and plucks a napkin of the bar top and hands it to Frank.
Frank takes it with a wide grin and starts to wipe his face and the back of his hand. He looks at the other wolf next to Mikey. "Hi! I'm Frank."
"I, uh. Yeah." He glances sideways at Mikey, but then shrugs. "I'm Ray. Ray Toro.”
"Cool. Nice to meet you, Ray. So, good show, huh?"
Mikey snorts. "That's a word for it."
Frank just laughs and shrugs. "Well, the pit was awesome."
Ray smiles a bit, like he can't help it but is trying to hold back. "Looked like you were having fun."
"Dude, I haven't been to a show in ages." Frank shrugs and gives a grin. "Since, you know, I was changed--"
"What are you doing here, Frank?" Mikey interrupts him. Oh, right. Frank isn't supposed to mention that stuff in public. He doesn't know what it is about the brothers that just makes him want to talk about it; he's always been more cautious around Bert and the guys, but fuck, he can't keep his mouth shut around these other ones.
He realises they're both staring at him -- Mikey full of intent, and Ray just looks curious -- and waiting for an answer. Frank shrugs, and tries not to let it bother him. "Seeing a show. What are you doing here?"
"Working," Mikey answers, surprising Frank by actually replying. And Frank doesn't know what leaning against a bar looking bored and mocking a band has anything to do with work, but shit, Frank might not mind that. As long as he can jump into the pit.
"That's not what I meant," Mikey interrupts. "I mean, what are you doing here?"
Frank blinks. "That's the same thing you said before."
Mikey sighs and looks slightly annoyed. Ray, looking apologetic that he has to speak up, says, "It's just. You know. You're not supposed to be here."
Right, this is probably the thing Bert was talking about, not being able to come here. Frank bristles, because fuck that. "I can be wherever want."
Mikey and Ray exchange a look. "Actually, Frank, you can't--"
"Oh, fuck that," Frank spits out. "I don't know what it is with all you--"
"Would you shut up?" Mikey hisses. "Look, this isn't the place--"
"Oh right, not in public," Frank says, rolling his eyes. "What is with you and your brother -- hey," Frank says, "where is he, anyway?"
"Busy," Mikey says shortly.
"Though, he's not going to be that pleased to hear about this," Ray says, but it's to Mikey, which is actually really annoying because Frank is standing right there.
"About what? Seeing me?" Frank demands. Because that is messed up, and if Gerard has a problem with it, he can just come out and finally tell Frank why. And something better than smelling like Bert.
"That you were here."
"This is dumb," Frank says flatly. "I can be wherever I want."
"Actually, I don't disagree with you," Ray says, and receives a sharp glance from Mikey. Ray coughs and says, "You know, I have to go get ready." He turns to Frank directly, "Nice meeting you."
Frank snorts. "Yeah, right."
Ray gives him another small, apologetic smile but quickly takes his leave. Frank's gaze trails after him, but then he quickly turns back to Mikey.
"You can't make me leave."
Mikey sighs. "I know," he says, and it almost sounds tired. "I don't -- whatever. Stay. But I'm going to have to tell Gerard."
"Go right ahead," Frank says flatly. "Tell him I think this is all fucking stupid. Tell him, for me, tell him ‘Frank thinks you’re being a fucking moron, Gerard.’ Okay?"
Mikey actually smiles at that, and then struggles to hide it. "Will do," he promises. "Have fun, Frank. Next band has an awesome guitarist."
Frank smiles wide. "Oh, I will." He puts his crumpled napkin back on the counter, and bounds back, and tries to forget all about werewolf politics. It’s not hard, lost in the crowd, to try to pretend things are normal.
Frank learns that night that things aren’t normal because Ray Toro the werewolf can fucking shred it on guitar like nobody else he's ever seen. He’s got to have some sort of special werewolf guitar playing powers and what the hell Frank wants them too. He doesn’t join the pit, but stands off to the side and watches Ray with big eyes of awe and wants that.
He's disappointed after the show that he can't find Ray or Mikey again to say so.
He's more than a little surprised that it doesn't take very long for him to get the opportunity to do exactly that, actually.
After the show, he keeps his word and goes by Bert, Jepha, and Quinn's place. He has a few drinks and passes out there after letting his mom know he’s crashing at a 'friend's'. She only seems mildly annoyed -- he had previously promised to go church with her in the morning, but since he deals with the church all week at school it's hard to feel too horrible about it, and she's happy enough he's not moping around their house so she doesn't ream him out too much for it.
To make it up to her, when he's heading home the next late-morning, he stops in her new favourite restaurant to pick them up some lunch for when he gets home.
When he walks into the restaurant, he immediately notices them -- Mikey and Ray, and even Gerard, sitting at one of the booths.
They're all looking in his direction as soon as he walks in the door, but Mikey and Ray look away almost immediately. Only Gerard continues staring, and his nose looks wrinkled up like he's smelling something horrible -- oh. He's smelling Bert, whose scent is probably hanging off Frank because he crashed there.
Frank takes a deep breath, and walks to the front counter, placing an order. He stands to the side for a moment, tries to decide what to do, then internally rolls his eyes at himself.
He walks over to their booth. He can see Gerard's nose wrinkle up even more, and it would almost be cute if Frank didn't know it was because he was so offended by Frank and his friends.
Frank sits down on the edge of the bench Ray is also sitting down on; Ray looks surprised, but immediately slides over to give Frank a bit more room. Mikey and Gerard are sitting across from them, Mikey up against the window and Gerard right in front of Frank now.
"Morning," Frank says to the group. No one says anything back, so Frank just turns to Ray. "Dude, you disappeared last night before I could tell you how fucking awesome you are."
"Thanks," Ray immediately says, face lighting up but still looking a bit bashful, like he doesn't quite believe it.
"The rest of your band kinda sucks," Frank says, and it makes Mikey snort, "but you made the set.”
Ray's gone bright red now, but he looks pleased. "Thanks," he says again, like he doesn't know what else to say.
"Right?" Frank says to Mikey, trying to prompt conversation.
Mikey nods. "Yep, that's what I tell him."
"Why were you there for work?" Frank asks.
"I intern for a small record company," Mikey says with a shrug of his shoulder.
"Really?" Frank says excitedly. "Fuck, that's cool." He turns to Ray. "What do you do?"
"Work in a music store," Ray says. "And teach some guitar to kids."
"Shit, that's awesome," Frank says, and he really means it. These dudes have awesome jobs; he needs to find one even half as cool once he’s done school.
Ray shrugs but says happily, "Pays the bills."
"Fucking right," Frank says. He finally turns to Gerard, whose jaw is clenched tight. "Morning, Gerard. So, you should've seen your boy play last night--"
"I've seen him," Gerard says.
“Right,” Frank says, and doesn’t let himself be deterred. Without skipping a beat, he says, “And where do you work?”
Gerard’s quite so Mikey says, “He goes to school for art.”
Ray adds helpfully, “He draws the best comics.”
“Fucking a,” Frank says, because that really does sound awesome, even if Gerard’s being an antisocial bastard. “So, like, what kind of comics?”
Gerard still doesn’t answer. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, then opens them and looks directly at Frank. "What are you doing, Frank?"
Frank smirks. "Uh, it's called conversation?" Frank doesn't miss the little quirk of Mikey's lip, but he's quickly drawn back to Gerard's annoyed huff.
"No, I mean last night. Now. Being where you shouldn't be."
"I'm kinda getting sick of this," Frank snaps. "Like, seriously. Fuck you, I can go wherever I want."
"The thing is, Frank," Gerard says, like he's talking to a child, "you can't. We have an agreement and we're following the rules so you should be too."
"This is the most you've ever spoken to me," Frank points out, "so I have no idea what agreements you're talking about."
Gerard just stares at him, unblinking. "The ones that me and Bert have made--"
"Yeah, that's between you two," Frank says snottily, echoing Gerard from their past conversation. Two can play that game.
Gerard looks at Mikey and says, "This is typical Bert, you know? Why am I explaining? I shouldn’t have to. I’m not supposed to.”
Mikey shrugs and takes a sip of his coffee.
Gerard looks around the restaurant, and lowers his voice even though no one is listening to them. It’s Sunday morning, for crying out loud, sane people are still sleeping. Or else they’re in church. "Well, since you're in Bert's pack--"
"I'm not in his pack," Frank says bluntly and crosses his arms. “I’m not in any pack.”
All three of them stare at Frank like he's grown another head.
"Wait," Ray says, "I thought you were Bert's, you know--"
"Pack," Frank says, and Gerard shushes him. Frank rolls his eyes and says quieter, "Uh, yeah, no I'm not. Why’d you think that?"
Mikey and Ray both look at Gerard.
Gerard's sitting back in the booth, one hand curled around his cup of coffee, and he looks positively stunned.
"But -- you --" Gerard frowns and pushes some of his hair off his face. "What the fuck?"
"I think I should be saying that," Frank says, grumpily. "Seriously, why'd you think that?"
Gerard shrugs one shoulder and at least he looks a bit sheepish. "You said you were new--"
"I am," Frank interrupts. "To town, and being-- you know."
"Yeah," Gerard says in confused wonder. "They are too. Well. Sort of. Not as new as you, I guess, but I thought -- and you smell like--"
"I hang out with them," Frank says. "They're my friends."
Gerard makes another face, like he can't help it. "Why?"
"Because they fucking talk to me," Frank hisses at him, and at least Gerard has the decency to look abashed. "They're the only ones in this town who will."
Gerard blinks. "But, you're made. Like them." He sounds a little uncertain when he adds, "By one of them?"
Frank shakes his head. "Not by one of them. I met them after I was changed."
Ray makes a noise from beside him and Frank looks over at him. "That's just -- why aren't you with the one who did make you, then?"
"Well, if I knew who the fuck it was, maybe I would be," Frank says, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice. "Kinda a bite-and-run situation. I've been on my own the whole time. Well, until I met the guys, but I'm not really ..." He lets his voice trail off. "They're just friends. They didn't even tell me about this whole pack versus pack business you all have going on here.”
"Really?" Gerard asks.
“Yeah. I mean, I figured it out myself, but I thought they’re not supposed to,” Frank says, raising an eyebrow.
“We’re not,” Gerard agrees, “unless it’s, like. A pack thing.”
Frank shrugs. “Like I said, I’m not. So I can say whatever the fuck I want, right? But they haven’t told me shit.”
“So what do you know?” Mikey asks.
"Well, I know Bert doesn't like you," Frank says as he looks at Gerard, and Mikey and Ray snort while Gerard flips them the finger, "but I'm getting it's a mutual thing."
“It’s more complicated than that,” Gerard says with a huff, and takes a sip of his coffee. The table falls silent when he doesn’t elaborate and Frank sighs.
When no one says anything else, Frank offers, “I’ve been, you know, for about eight months.”
They all look surprised. "Really?" Ray asks. “That’s it?”
"Yeah, why?" Frank asks, sounding defensive even to his own ears. He knows he shouldn’t ask, but he blurts out, "How long have you been?"
There’s another silence and Frank scowls. This conversation is going to go nowhere if they don’t say anything. He’s about to get up to leave when he glances around. Out of the corner of his eye Frank sees Gerard nod but it’s Ray who says, "Well, forever. I mean, since we were born."
"What?" Frank's completely blown away by revelation. "I didn't even know that was a thing."
"Rare," Gerard says. "Very rare. Lines are almost gone, but." He shrugs. “There are some of us left.”
"Right," Frank says softly. "But some of us are -- made, and that's why you thought … Well. Okay." It kind of makes sense, in a way. He's not like these guys, he's not one of them. But he already knows that he's not one of the other pack either, because it just doesn’t feel like he fits. Not like Bert, Quinn, and Jepha do together, anyway. Not like Gerard, Mikey, and Ray do.
He really is a lone wolf. So, great. Just great.
Before he can ask anything else, the waitress comes over and puts two take out containers in front of him. "Here you are, love," she says. "Two veggie burgers to go."
"Thanks," Frank says, and watches her go. When he turns back, the others are still staring at him but not saying anything. "For me and my mom," he says, nodding at the containers. "She's been really great about, you know. Stuff."
"That's great, Frank," Gerard says. His voice sounds different than before, soft around the edges, like there's not a big defensive wall up.
Frank nods. "Right. I should go." His mom will be waiting for when she gets home from church, and he has I’m Sorry lunch for her. He stands up, but then he says, "So, this territorial shit. What does that mean for me?" Now that he at least sort of understands what’s going on, he doesn’t want to just disrespect everyone and their space. Hell, he probably shouldn’t even be in their town.
They all exchange looks and Gerard shrugs. "I don't know," he says slowly. "I mean -- you're not -- you can go whatever you want. I'm not going to tell you what to do." He looks at Mikey and Ray. "'Cause that's not cool, and you know I try not to be all, like, bossy and shit, except when it’s necessary.”
Ray smiles fondly, and Mikey rolls his eyes. "We know, Gerard," Ray says. "You're an awesome pack leader." Mikey elbows Gerard in the ribs, and Gerard beams at them both.
Frank suddenly feels like he's intruding, and longing courses through him. "So, right," he says, and clears his throat. “I guess I'll see you guys around."
"I hope so," Mikey speaks up, looking at Frank. "I mean, I could understand if you didn't want to hang, or whatever, since Gerard was such an asshole." Gerard makes a noise of protest and Ray doesn't even try to cover up his laughter. “But it’d probably be easier if, like, you knew us too, right?”
Frank’s surprised but he can't help but grin. "I don't know, I could probably get over it. If he doesn't keep it up."
"Shit," Mikey says, deadpan. "I can't make any promises to that."
"Hey!" Gerard says, elbowing Mikey back, "fuck you, jerk." But at least he’s not telling Mikey to stay away from Frank anymore.
Mikey just smiles, and he pulls out a cell phone. "Your number, Frank?" Frank tells and after it's programmed Mikey slips the phone back in his pocket. All he says is, "Cool."
"Cool," Frank echoes, and gives them all a smile. "See you later." There's a chorus of goodbyes and Frank makes his way out of the diner with a smile he can't seem to get rid of.
The following week, Mikey calls Frank and invites Frank for dinner with him and Ray. They’re going to a new pizza place that opened up in Belleville. There's no way that Frank's going to say no to pizza or getting to know new wolf friends, so he happily meets them there.
They're only there for, like, an hour and a half before Frank has to beg off to go and finish a stupid world history project, but it's still good. Frank has a good time and he learns the following things: Mikey's only a year older than him and got his intern job right out of high school, the lucky fucker. Ray and Gerard are the same age and went to school together. Mikey still lives at home, Gerard lives between his dorm and coming home on the weekends when he can, and Ray lives in a crap apartment in downtown Belleville.
"Why don't you two find a place together? Could probably find a decent one," Frank asks as he takes a bite of his slice. Damn, this place made good pizza.
Mikey shrugs. "It's nice to have access to a basement. Not that my mother would mind us just showing up, but you know."
"Yeah, keeps the noise down for the neighbours," Ray adds.
"Oh. Oh, yeah," Frank says, nodding. He totally gets that. He and his mom couldn't rent an apartment because god knows what kind of noises residents of the building would hear with the full moon.
Ray adds, "And so this way, I can come over any time and practice with Mikey and sometimes Gerard's there too so we all just kind of hang out."
Frank blinks. "Uh. Practice?" Holy shit, could they turn at will? Because they were born this way? That would be fucking awesome to have the power to turn either way, though he sincerely doubts he'd ever use it much, unless it was to stop the change.
"Yeah," Mikey says, raising an eyebrow. "Our band? What we're talking about."
Oh. Oh shit, right. Nothing wolf-like, they don't talk about that ... Wait, what? A band? "You play?" Frank asks, grinning.
Mikey pushes his glasses up his nose. "I'm learning bass--"
"You play bass," Ray interrupts. "Dude, you've learned and you're awesome."
Mikey doesn't really acknowledge that, though there's a small grin tugging at his lips. He says to Frank, "You already know that Ray--"
"Is fucking amazing? Yeah, I know," Frank says, grinning cheekily at him. He's amazed he keeps the question he's been wondering all along -- hey, is this a werewolf thing -- in. But he doesn't think it is, at least not for Frank because he's exactly the same as he was before. "Don't you have a band already?"
Ray's smiling but he shrugs. "I was sort of filling in? And, like, they aren't really serious about it, I don't think. Just play local gigs once in a while."
"Dude, they kind of suck," Frank says, almost sympathetically. Mikey laughs.
"Playing's playing, right?" Ray says, and doesn't at all sound offended.
"No shit," Frank says wistfully. He misses jamming with other guys so much.
Mikey tilts his head to the side, assessing Frank. "You play." It doesn't sound like a question at all, just like Mikey knows. Then again, Frank’s not all that subtle.
Frank smiles happily. "Fucking right, I do!"
"Drums?" Mikey asks, sounding a little hopeful.
"Nah, guitar," Frank says. Mikey looks a little disappointed at that, and Ray just knocks Mikey's shoulder with his. Frank figures they're short a drummer, and he suddenly wishes he could ... but, fuck man. He loves guitar, has ever since he's picked one up in junior high. He can’t help but tell them, "My friends back home, we're starting a band." But Frank frowns; actually, he hasn't heard from Shaun or Hambone for a while, and come to think of it, the last time he talked to either of them, it definitely wasn't about their music. Just comics and school and chicks and stuff.
Frank tries to smile over it, play it off as nothing. "Or, well. I mean, we haven't been able to play for a while, you know? Since I moved."
"Yeah, must be hard," Mikey says.
"You could play with us some time," Ray says. Mikey looks thoughtful.
"Sure, I can jam," Frank says, and tries not to sound too excited. If he didn't already know that Ray was such a nice guy, he'd probably be intimidated playing around him. Except that Frank knows how to hold his own too, so really, they could be pretty awesome together.
The topic changes from music, and they ask about Frank's school and he just makes a face and says it sucks. They seem sympathetic but happily move on, since talking about Batman verses Superman is way more exciting anyway.
By the time that they leave the pizza parlour and part ways, Frank's feeling pretty damn good, and even feels like he can call these guys friends, as new as it is. They're different than Bert and the others, but that's okay. Frank knows he could hang with these two (and maybe three, depending on how Gerard takes to Frank being around) just as easily.
Frank's starting to think that Belleville isn't nearly as bad as he originally thought.
Belleville sucks balls. Sweaty, dirty balls that weren't washed after three gym classes and a night in a mosh pit.
Frank feels very strongly on the matter.
Well, all right, maybe he should be a little fair. It wasn't Belleville as a whole, not now that he had friends. He parties with Bert and the guys, or hangs out in Mikey's basement, playing video games and jamming with Ray. That part was awesome.
No. School in Belleville sucks sweaty, dirty balls. Especially school with stupid guys named Cal who decide that the day of the full moon is the perfect day to try and harass Frank even more than he usually does.
Frank's been on edge all day, feeling like he's walking on pins and needles. He hates when full moons landed on weekdays, when he can't afford to miss too many days of school; his mom gives him a choice, and he'd much rather take the day after off to recuperate, since he’s barely functioning those days. So he grits his teeth and goes to class the day of the full moon, his skin prickling and his anger flaring, the wolf inside slowly starting to claw its way to the surface.
Maybe Cal senses it, can tell that this is the day that, were he to push too far, he'd get the exact reaction out of Frank he wants.
Well, not exact. Frank's been playing it reserved these past couple months, being the pacifist and avoiding fights just as his mom asked, so he wouldn't draw too much attention. Cal probably expects that Frank won't fight at all and that this will be an easy win for him.
Cal's a fucking moron, and gets a bloody nose to prove it.
Frank gets a bloody nose too, but he also gets hauled into the principal office and is handed a suspension for the rest of the week.
Well, fuck. He’s going to be in so much shit when he gets home.
Frank bursts out of the gas station, angrily ripping at the cellophane wrapped tight around his pack of smokes and rolling his eyes at the health warning on the side. Fuck that, who cares, he needs a fucking smoke now --
Frank stops short as he catches a familiar smell on the air, his eyes closing while he takes in a deep breath. It kicks right to Frank's stomach and god how he wants. Today might not be the best day to deal with this, to stop himself from just fucking humping Gerard's leg.
He opens his eyes and sees Gerard standing there, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot. It's not like the last time they ran into each other here, when Frank was desperate to talk to him and Gerard did his best to ignore him. Now, Gerard's looking right at Frank, hazel eyes sharp as they take him in.
Gerard frowns, but not in the same way as before. He looks ... concerned, almost. "Frank, are you all right?"
Frank's hand quickly comes up to his face, lightly pressing over the bruise he can feel blossoming there. He reflexively wipes the back of his hand under his nose, though he knows the school nurse checked him out and cleaned him up. Frank shrugs and drops his hand, opens the pack and takes out a smoke. "Yeah," he says, and shoves it into the corner of his mouth. "I'm fine."
Gerard's still frowning but he nods and holds out a lighter for Frank to use, igniting it so flame jumps up. Gerard stands so close and Frank swears he can feel heat radiating off him, and Frank has to hold himself back from trying to lean into it and just fucking bask. Instead, he moves only his head and just enough to light his smoke and pulls back, blowing the first stream out the side of his mouth. See? He can have some sort of self control even on the day of the full moon, he can. "Thanks."
"Sure, no problem. You're sure you're okay?"
Frank nods. "Yeah, just some asshole at school. Picked the wrong day to start shit with me." He scowls. "Got me suspended for a couple days, though, that fucker." He glances up at the sky. “At least I got out of school early today, I guess.”
Gerard's eyes rake over Frank; he's wearing a jean jacket, but it's a surprisingly nice spring day out so it's open, and his school blazer and tie are on display. "Yeah. Mikey said -- he said you were still in school."
"Yeah, it sucks." Frank bounces on his toes a little. "At least, high school does. Your school is probably rad -- speaking of, shouldn't you be there right now?" It was a weekday, and Mikey had said once, sort of off-hand, that Gerard only made it home on the weekends and only sometimes, when he could. And he was almost done school, like, completely, and was piled under final projects or some shit so he probably wouldn't be out much for a couple months.
Gerard nods. He glances around, as if someone might be listening but as far as Frank's concerned no one could really give a shit about two tiny guys having a smoke. "Just -- today is a day I need to come home, you know?"
And, oh, shit. Yeah. Of course, the moon. Probably not the best day ever to be hanging around in dorms, or around the city. Frank knows that there's nothing that's kept in the Way basement for them, not like Frank has. He has no idea what their pack does -- hell, he doesn't know what Bert's pack does either -- but he knows they aren't locked up in some fucking cage like Frank. He yearns to ask, to get some tips or something.
But he bites his tongue. The last thing he needs is to offend Gerard, or break some sort of code. He knows his friendship with Mikey and Ray is because Gerard seems to think that, now that he knows Frank isn't with a pack, it's okay to tolerate his presence or something. Frank isn't going to push it, not quite yet, not until he feels like it’s safe to, or he feels reckless enough.
Today is a reckless sort of day, he knows, the moon pulling on him to just let go and be wild. But he doesn't question anything -- he doesn't want words, anyway, he wants actions. It's like he can't stop himself from stepping forward, getting closer to Gerard like he wanted minutes before, and taking in a deep sniff. There's a regular guy smell there, something stale and a little unwashed, but it's more than that, something else mixed in it that makes Frank's mouth water and his cock stir.
Gerard freezes up then, though his face turns towards Frank's. They're so close, so fucking close. "Frank," Gerard says. His voice is low, and calm, as if anything more will startle Frank. But it just drags Frank in, and he licks lips. "Your fight."
Frank blinks at him, pulls away just a little and frowns. What?
"It's -- it's because of, well. The moon," Gerard says, his voice so quiet it's nearly a whisper. Frank barely hears it, but knows what Gerard is saying. Gerard meets his eyes. "Makes you a bit out of control, yeah?"
Frank snorts, and leans away as he takes a drag of his cigarette. If Gerard was trying to break a moment, it almost worked. Not enough, Frank still wants to get close, but talking about losing control only makes Frank want to try to keep it.
"What makes you think I'm not always up for a fight?" Frank says, blowing smoke at Gerard's face. He doesn't seem to care.
Gerard smiles. "I don't think I'd have trouble believing that," he says lightly. "But I know it's ... different today, isn't it?"
"I always feel so fucking, I don't know, antsy."
Gerard laughs a little. "Antsy? That's such a grandma word." He smiles, but almost seems sad too.
"Yeah, well, that's probably where I picked it up," Frank agrees. "Or from my mom."
"Maybe. Ever talk to her about it?"
"Not specifics. Like, about my--" He waves his hand, the end of his cigarette leaving a wispy pattern of smoke through the air.
"Restlessness?" Gerard supplies.
"Yep," Frank says. "Also, it'd be too weird to tell her about the other thing."
"Other thing?" Gerard asks, hesitantly curious, like it's ripped out of him but he knows he shouldn't be asking.
"Being horny as fuck," Frank says, almost casually, except for the way he eyes up Gerard.
Gerard sputters around the inhale of smoke he was taking, and Frank can't help but giggle. "Fucker," Gerard says, thumping his chest
"What?" Frank asks, adding another giggle. "Don't tell me you don't feel it, because that's not fucking fair."
Gerard stops short. His cheeks are red, and Frank desperately wants to know if it's because he was coughing or because of what Frank said. Either way, Frank can't help but smirk. When Gerard glances at him, Frank raises his eyebrows, waiting for an answer. Gerard shrugs a shoulder. "It's easier for us to control."
"Hmm," Frank says. Gerard didn't deny it, so he wonders just how much Frank's scent affects him. He takes a step closer, and Gerard looks up sharply. "Interesting."
"Frank," Gerard says. He frowns, and opens his mouth, but shuts it tight again. Something flickers across his face, but Frank doesn't know him well enough to read it. He wants to be able to. This time when Frank tries to take another step forward, Gerard takes one back. "We shouldn't."
"Be talking about it," Gerard says, as if it's the most obvious answer in the world. But he sounds on the defensive again, closed off like when Frank first met him.
That's not what Frank wants, not at all. Fuck, he really did let himself get out of control (well, not completely, but he was letting himself head that way).
"I think the point is not to talk," Frank says jokingly, but he takes a step back to show Gerard he's not going to get all crazy and jumps his bones, as much as Frank's dick is protesting to Frank about that.
Gerard relaxes a bit and glances up at the sky. "I gotta go," Gerard says. "Before it gets too late."
"Yeah. Me too." Frank nods. There's hours left in the day, before the night falls and the moon rises. But, still. He has to get home too, has to be yelled at by his mother, and then take a cool shower (or a hot one, probably, and thank god Gerard can't stop his horny as fuck fantasies), and then be locked up in that motherfucking cage for the night. Oh, joy.
"Okay. See you around, Frank," Gerard says.
"Uh, yeah, about that," Frank says. "Could you tell Mikey I'll let him know about Saturday?" Gerard just raises his eyebrows. Frank explains, "I'm supposed to hang with him Saturday." He touches the sensitive spot beneath his eye. "My mother might freak out and ground me for, I don't know, life or something. I'll let him know if I can make it."
"Sure, I'll tell him."
"Thanks. And, uh--" Frank isn't sure how to say be safe or don't get into any wolf trouble or please, fucking please, take me with you. He smiles awkwardly and says, "Have a good night."
Gerard smiles softly. "You too, Frank." He leaves Frank standing there as he goes into the gas station.
Frank sighs and starts walking home.
It's Saturday afternoon and the doorbell rings. Frank calls out to his mother to say he'll answer it, because really, he's bored out of his mind so why not? He's shocked as hell when he throws open the door and sees none other than Gerard standing there.
"Hey," Frank says, blinking. "What're you doing here?"
"Mikey told me where you lived," Gerard says immediately. "I'm not some creepy stalker or something. Also, hey. Hi."
"Hi," Frank says. He's about to say that he really wouldn't mind if Gerard decides he wants to be a creepy stalker if that means that Gerard is going to show up at his house, but then his mom walks up to the front door, hovering behind Frank.
"Frank, who's here?"
Frank holds open the door a bit more so that she can see Gerard. "A friend, Mom. This is Gerard."
"Hi, Mrs. Iero," Gerard says politely, messing up the pronunciation just a little but in a cute, endearing way. "I'm just here to see if Frank was available?"
Frank bites his lip at that; Gerard may be a twenty-two year old college student (Frank had asked Mikey about that) but he is fucking adorable. Gerard is awkward as fuck, a hand running through his messy, stringy hair as he shifts on his feet uncomfortably. Despite the fact he's in grubby jeans and a leather jacket, with some old school band printed on his black shirt, it almost sounds like he's seven years old and asking Frank's mom if Frank can come out to play.
She glances at Frank. "We talked about this."
"Yeah, I know," Frank sighs. They had a big argument about it, about his fight at school and him losing control and how it's her house so her rules, despite the fact that he's eighteen, god. He looks at Gerard glumly. "I'm grounded. Sorry, dude."
"I heard. From Mikey. Mikey's my brother," Gerard says to Frank's mom. She looks a little more impressed with that -- she's met Mikey briefly, had figured out he's a wolf too just like she had when she met Bert. She had said Mikey seemed nice and apparently got her Mama Bear’s approval; hopefully that goes for Gerard too.
Frank's mom nods. "I see. So if you know, why are you here?"
If Frank's heart wasn't beating so distractedly in his chest, he'd probably find it amusing to see Gerard squirm under his mom's gaze. But he'd been cooped up in this house for days and he really, really wants to be able to get out and see his friends or something. And he has no idea what the fuck Gerard was thinking, but he’s here for Frank, to somehow help Frank escape, and that’s awesome.
"I just -- well, I was just about to go meet Mikey, and our friend Ray -- have you met him? Awesome dude." Frank hides a grin again when his mom nods. Gerard smiles a little crooked smile and goes on. "Well, I'm meeting them for dinner and thought I'd see if Frank could come--"
"He's grounded," his mom says flatly.
"Right, no, I know. I saw him that day, I know he got into a fight and that's wrong -- I fully believe that's wrong," and he throws a glare at Frank to back up his claim, "but I also know that, you know." He gestures up to the sky meaningfully. "It can make you, uh, antsy.” Oh, god, smooth moves with the mom word and Frank has to bite back a laugh. Gerard keeps going, not skipping a beat, “Before and after, and sometimes being cooped up in the house really isn't the most helpful, so even if he just gets out for a couple of hours he'll probably be less of an asshole. Or!" He emphatically holds up a finger. "At least get him doing something active? Like, I don't know, clean the eavestroughs?"
Frank stares at him. "What the hell, Gerard?" he demands. "How are you being helpful at all right now? I think you should get the hell off our porch. Mom!" He turns to her, and for her part she's obviously trying not to laugh at him. "Tell him to get off our porch!"
"You know," she says slowly. "Our eavestroughs really could use a cleaning."
"Seems like a perfect Sunday afternoon chore, if you ask me. Something to do after church."
Frank groans. Shit, he has chores tomorrow. Ones that including climbing a ladder, mucking around in wet moldering leaves, and quite possibly falling to his death. After sitting through Sunday services.
But, wait. That's tomorrow.
"So," he says, trying for nonchalant. He sounds too excited, he knows, he can’t help it. "What does that mean for tonight?"
"It means you better be home by ten," she says.
"Mom! Eleven, come on."
"Ten, Frank, or you can start cleaning now--"
"Ten is awesome," Frank says, already moving to grab his coat from the hanger, and patting his pockets to make sure he has his wallet and smokes. Fuck it, he'll bum some off Gerard if he has to since he's the one that suddenly filled up Frank's Sunday full of fucking chores.
Then again, he did somehow get him out of the house on Saturday night so maybe it wasn't all that bad.
"Bye, Mom," Frank says quickly, pecking a quick kiss to her cheek, not even caring that Gerard is right there and seeing him be such a mama's boy. He brushes past her, and past Gerard, grabbing his wrist to drag him away from the house.
"Bye, Mrs. Iero," Gerard calls out.
"Bye, boys. Be good."
"Always!" Frank yells, and he swears he hears Gerard and his mom snort in response.
Once they're in Gerard's car, Frank turns to stare at him. "What the fuck, dude?"
Gerard looks like he's trying not to laugh. "What?"
"When the hell did you become all stealthy, mother-impressing, saviour of the grounded?"
Gerard laughs awkwardly. "I don't know, it was Mikey's idea. He said I should, like, mention something about, you know."
"Wolfy stuff," Frank says. Gerard shushes him, and Frank rolls his eyes. They're in the car, it's not like anyone can hear.
"Hey, it worked, didn't it?" Gerard says with a grin as he pulls out of Frank's driveway.
"Fuck yeah, it did," Frank says. His mom was totally sucked in and impressed by another wolf there to look out for Frank. He grabs Gerard’s smokes off the dash and shakes it in Gerard's direction and Gerard nods. Frank cracks the window open a little bit and lights one for each of them. "Although, fuck man, you busy tomorrow? Because I should make you help, you asswipe."
Gerard grins. "Sorry, man, I gotta head back to the city. No can do."
"Asshole," Frank says, but he grins back.
They walk into the diner and Ray and Mikey are already at a table. Ray's face lights up when he sees them, and as Frank slides into the booth next to Mikey, Mikey looks a little smug.
"Told you it'd work," Mikey says to Gerard.
"Yeah, yeah," Gerard says, waving his hand and turning over his coffee cup to signal the waitress he’d like some.
"It was awesome," Frank confirms seriously. "He totally won my mom over in all his dorky glory."
Gerard scowls at him, but Frank gives him a winning smile until one starts to tug at Gerard's mouth too. Gerard just rolls his eyes and smiles beatifically at the waitress when she brings over the pot of coffee.
After they order food, they launch into a carefully casual conversation. They don't talk about wolves, or the recent moon. The most Frank does is tell his story about that dickhead Cal, how he's been ragging on him since he started at that school and just picked the wrong day. All three of them nod sympathetically, and they each tell stories about how high school was horrible for them too. It makes Frank feel less alone, and like he wishes he'd gone to school with any one of these awesome motherfuckers because they could've been together while it sucked.
Mikey talks about work and bands, Ray tells a funny story about this ten year old rich kid who he teaches guitar to, and Gerard goes on and on about his final art project. Mikey and Ray have obviously heard it before, because their attentiveness only seems polite, but Frank can't stop staring at Gerard as he waves his hands around expressively, his face lighting up as he spews out his ideas and the reasons behind them. Frank hangs on to every word, and at one points says, "God, I want to see some of your art!" Gerard looks entirely pleased and nods, promising he'll show some to him someday.
Mikey just rolls his eyes, but it doesn’t cover up the fact that he’s obviously proud of his brother.
Frank's halfway through his meal when he spies a jukebox in the corner. "Holy shit!" he says happily, pointing at it. "Man, I'm totally going to pick some songs."
"It sucks," Mikey informs him.
Ray nods. "Seriously, there's maybe one song worth listening to."
"Maybe you guys just have crappy taste," Frank says. He doesn’t think so, though, these dudes know their awesome music. "How much is it?"
"Twenty-five cents a song," Gerard says. He slaps a quarter on the table. "Here, it's on me." The others laugh.
Frank scoops it up and jumps up, digging in his pocket for more change. No one follows him, but he's only at the jukebox for a minute before he returns. By the time he does, Pearl Jam's ‘Yellow Ledbetter’ is playing.
"Nice!" Ray says.
"Is this the one?"
Ray shakes his head. "No, actually. We should've given you fifty cents then we could've had two songs."
"Fuck you guys, you owe me money," Frank says, shoving a fry into his mouth. "I totally spent three dollars!"
They look at him in disbelief. "How?"
He just grins at them.
The waitress is pouring Gerard another cup of coffee when the song ends ... and then the same one starts up again. Gerard blinks for a second, and then bursts out into laughter. It's sudden, loud, and kind of honking like a duck, and it totally startles the waitress. It's the best sound that Frank has ever heard, and he decides he wants to try to make it happen as many times as possible.
"Sorry," Gerard wheezes at her, and Frank can't help but giggle as she walks away.
"What?" Mikey asks, glances between the two.
Gerard points to the ceiling -- to the music -- and grins at Frank. "You spent all three dollars on the same song, didn't you?"
"Yep!" Frank says cheerily. "You guys were right, their selection sucks balls."
"This song is going to play twelve times," Ray says, catching on.
"Well, at least it's a good one," Mikey puts in.
"The waitresses are going to hate us," Ray points out. "I like it here. And now they're going to hate us."
"Nah, just me," Frank says. He croons out a line, and just laughs when he gets shushed by all three of them.
They weren't wrong, though. By the time they're done and paying, the song is still playing. Frank gets a couple of glares from the restaurant staff as he waves goodbye at them. When they walk outside, both he and Gerard pause to light a smoke. Frank peers in the window and he notices the waitress stomp over to the jukebox and tries to pull it away from the wall, fumbling for the plug.
Frank points at it as it sputters back to life and is likely resetting itself -- and probably no longer programmed to Frank's playlist of one song. Frank starts to laugh so hard that he doubles over, and it takes him a minute before he can stand upright again.
Gerard is standing there, beaming at him like Frank’s the most ridiculous, amusing thing he's ever seen. "You're a menace, aren't you?"
Frank shrugs and laughs. "I'm fucking hilarious, is what I am."
Gerard rolls his eyes but doesn't object. "Come on, I'll drive you home."
"What? I still have an hour and a half before Mom sends out a search party!"
"Good impressions," Gerard says. "For both you and me. Plus, maybe you'll get out of chores tomorrow?"
"Doubtful. Remind me that next time you and I have to work out a rescue plan before you show up on my doorstep."
"A guy tries to do something nice and all it is is bitch, bitch, bitch," Gerard says, shaking his head. "See if I do anything for you again."
Frank pauses for a moment, looking right at Gerard's face. "No, seriously, Gee," Frank says, using the little nickname that he picked up on from Mikey and Ray. Gerard doesn't seem to mind, kind of looks pleased with it. "Thanks. For, you know. Coming by. Facing the warden."
"Hey, your mom seems really nice."
"Oh, she is," Frank agrees. "I'm just kidding, calling her that. You know how it is."
"Sure," Gerard says easily. "And, no problem. Really. Anything to listen to Pearl Jam twelve times in a row.”
There's a call from down the street. "You guys coming?" They look over and see Ray at his car, Mikey at the passenger side.
"I'm gonna drive Frank home," Gerard says before Frank can say yes. "I'll meet you there in a bit." They nod and get into the car, and Frank and Gerard get into Gerard's.
"What're you guys doing?" Frank says, suddenly envious that he might be missing a good night out.
Gerard shrugs. "I don't know, maybe play Magic or something."
"Never played," Frank says off-hand.
A hand flies up to Gerard's chest and he looks stricken. "You haven't?"
Frank laughs. "Uh ... sorry?"
"We'll just have to teach you," Gerard says determinedly, and turns on the car. He checks over his shoulder and pulls out into the road. "Everyone should know how to play Magic."
"Okay," Frank says happily, if it means he gets to hang out some more. "But, hey, no big parties or anything?"
"Not really my scene," Gerard says, sounding a bit awkward, and then shrugs. "You party a lot?"
Frank thinks on it -- thinks of his friends back home, and when he's hanging with Bert, Quinn, and Jepha. "Sometimes? I mean, just mostly a casual-hanging-with-my-friends sort of thing. But I've been to a few big blow outs, I guess."
"Oh." Gerard's lips purse as his eyes stayed focused on the road.
"Hey, I don't only party," Frank protests. "I hang out and jam, or read comic books and see movies and stuff. I like reading book books, too, a lot. I don't have to party. I just like to, when I'm with those friends." Frank frowns, and he knows he sounds defensive when he adds, "Why, is that a problem?"
"What? No! No, of course not," Gerard says. He sighs, and lets his shoulders relax. "It's just ... well, Magic probably isn't going to be all that exciting for you, that's all."
Frank doesn't think that's what Gerard means, or what his problem is, but he just shrugs. "Hey, it could be. Never know unless I try it, right?"
They’re quiet for a moment, and then Gerard starts to sing a line of Pearl Jam, as if he’s not even noticing he’s doing it.
Frank turns to stare. Gerard pulls to a stop sign, glances over, and goes silent.
Frank smiles, big and bright. “Dude, you can sing. How come you didn’t tell me that?”
“What? I don’t sing,” Gerard says, as if on automatic. And that’s the biggest crock of shit Frank’s heard from him yet, because he can, and it was gravelly and sexy and, fuck, Frank needs to hear more.
“Yes, you can! You just were.” Frank reaches over to the radio, scans through stations until he lands on something he’s happy with. He points to the radio. “Now, sing, motherfucker.”
Gerard bursts out laughing. “What makes you think I know this?”
“Fuck you, everyone knows Bon Jovi.”
“It’s not his best,” Gerard observes.
“This song has my name in it, clearly it’s awesome,” Frank says. “Now shut the fuck up and sing!”
Before Gerard can argue, Frank bursts out, singing along with Bon Jovi about life and doing it his own way. Gerard is quiet for all of three seconds, and then joins in, voice loud and perfect. Frank has to force back a happy smile so he can keep singing too.
Gerard pulls into Frank's driveway and puts the car in park. He reaches to turn the music down and ends up turning it off completely. Silence fills the car. Neither of them make a move.
"Hey, look, I wanted to apologise for the other day," Frank blurts out. He doesn’t even know why he says that, except that there was something in the back of his mind telling him to make sure Gerard was okay with him.
"For what?" Gerard asks. "You didn't do anything wrong. Well, fighting is sort of wrong, actually it’s really wrong and you shouldn’t let your anger take over, but you don't have to apologise to me for that. I understand it."
"No, I didn't mean -- I meant, how I was kind of creepy. At you." He flaps a hand around. "You know."
"Um." Gerard looks confused, like he really doesn't know.
Frank huffs and blurts out again, "The whole horny thing."
Frank stops and blinks, and thinks oh my fucking god becasue he just said that. He actually said that to Gerard like some stupid teenager and holy shit, that is embarassing. Frank wants to hit his head against the dashboard.
Gerard bursts out laughing as if he can't help himself, and then stop when he sees the look on Frank's face. Gerard turns bright red. "No, it's -- fine. I get it. The whole," he waves his hand up to the roof, to the sky, and nods, "thing. I get it."
But what if it wasn't just the moon, Frank wants to say. I don't act like that with anyone else. I don’t act like this with anyone else.
Gerard, though, obviously doesn't think that. Doesn't know. He says, "Plus, you're still a teenager." Frank knows Gerard doesn't mean anything bad by that, but it's like a punch to the gut. Frank's younger than Gerard's little brother, still in high school, of course he wouldn't take him seriously. Gerard adds with a smile, "It's pretty much your natural default anyway."
“I’m a guy,” Frank points out. “It’s the natural default for all of us.”
Gerard grins. “Okay, point.”
Frank tries to ignore the way his cheeks are heating up. "Right," he says easily. "Just -- thanks for being cool about it."
"No worries," Gerard says. "I'll talk to you later, okay?"
"Sure," Frank says, and he takes that as a sign that he's supposed to get out of the car. Which he is okay with; he needs to get out of here before he makes more of an ass of himself. "See you later, Gee."
Gerard smiles warmly. "Bye, Frankie."
One day after school, Frank pops by the music store where Ray works and instantly feels like a dick because it's seems like it's kind of a busy time for Ray. So Frank just strolls through the aisles, looking at gorgeous guitars and leafing through some sheet music. He picks out some, a couple songs he wants to learn and some blanks to start jotting down some ideas he's had, and goes up to the cash register.
Ray’s able to chat for a minute or two, but tells Frank he’s busy that weekend with work and band bractice, and Frank knows Mikey is working too.
Gerard isn’t coming home either. He and Frank been texting a bit during the week. Frank gets a stupid, stupid grin on his face every time he gets a message from Gerard, and his heart starts racing and fuck he is so fucked with this crush. It's probably best that Gerard is in the city right now, or Frank really wouldn't be able to control his horny teenaged tendencies, moon or not.
Frank waves goodbye to Ray after Ray promises to get back to him after the weekend, maybe set up a jam session for the next week. That's all well and good but god, his weekend is going to suck.
Though, he hasn't seen Bert and the guys for a while. He texted Jepha a couple times, but he’d said they’d been out of town. He pulls his phone out of his pocket to text Jepha now, see if they’re back, when he hears his name being called from across the street. The wind gusts and there's a familiar smell on it.
Frank looks up and grins wide, seeing Bert and Quinn standing by Bert's car. Frank waves and crosses the street.
"Hey, man," Frank says happily, waving his phone through the air. "I was just about to call you guys."
"Been a while, Frank," Bert says. And, shit, it has been. Bert hasn’t been at the school for a little while, and he’s been missing their smoke breaks. "You forget about us?"
"How could I ever forget you fuckers?" Frank says, with a grin. “Where the hell have you guys been?”
“Around,” Quinn says, “just not here. Where’ve you been?”
“Around,” Frank echos, “but here.”
Bert glances past Frank at the music store. "Yeah, guess you have been."
"I can smell it all over you," Quinn says, wrinkling his nose. "Sure you should be talking to us?"
Frank rolls his eyes. "Not this bullshit again. I already got a lecture from Gerard, and told him off for it. I am not in anyone's pack, okay?"
“Ugh,” Quinn says, "shut up, man."
"Jesus, fine," Frank says with a scowl.
"Frankie!" Frank turns around at hearing his name, and he sees Jepha come out of the mouth of a side alley, all smiles and open arms and happy to see Frank.
Jepha stops, though, when he sees Frank's face, and glances at Bert and Quinn. Jepha's nose wrinkles up and Frank sees Quinn's head tilt toward the music shop in an obvious gesture.
It's too much for Frank. "Oh, fuck you guys," he says. "They don't care if I hang out with you guys -- or if they do, they don't fucking rag on me about it because it's not up to them -- so don't you guys be dickbags about it either."
Frank crosses his arms, the bag from the music store hitting his hip as it dangles from his hand, and he glares at every single one of them. And the store for good measure.
"Well," Bert says mildly, like he hasn't a care in the world, "you stink of them."
Frank throws his hands up in the air. "Yeah, well, sometimes I stink of you. What of it?"
"You know what makes all stink go away?" Jepha says, stepping closer to Frank and throwing his arms around Frank's neck. It's awkward, because Frank is still closed off, but that doesn't seem to deter him.
"I already told you," Frank says flatly, "I'm not showering with you."
Jepha laughs, and nuzzles his nose against Frank's cheek. "Aww, Frankie, you wound me. But, no, I don't mean that." He pats his jacket pocket and whispers into Frank's ear. "But I just scored some good weed."
"Fuck yes," Frank says emphatically, uncrossing his arms and slipping one around Jepha's waist.
Bert grins. "Well, come on, let's get out of here." He glances at the music store with a smirk. "We're not supposed to be here anyway. Oops." He sounds completely unrepentant about that.
Frank lets Jepha shuffle him to the car, and as he's getting in, Frank glances at the store. He's pretty sure he sees Ray in the window, but Frank tries to squash down his feelings of guilt, because there's nothing to feel guilty about.
Frank's a little surprised when his phone rings Sunday night and the caller I.D. shows that it's Gerard. Frank hasn't heard from him all weekend -- since Frank ran into the guys outside the music store, actually, so Frank figured that Ray had told Gerard about it. Probably had to, or whatever, but Frank's not mad or anything. Just sort of disappointed, and sort of feeling like he's fucked up somehow.
He picks up the phone, trying to ignore the thudding of his heart, and chirps, "Hey, Gee!" God, he sounds like an idiot and he wants to stab himself in the thigh with a fork or something.
"Hey, Frank," Gerard says, and at least he doesn't sound pissed. He just sounds -- tired, actually.
"Hey. How's it going?"
"Okay, I guess."
"You sound -- you okay?"
"Yeah," Gerard says. "Just a long day, you know? I spent all day inking and now my eyes are all blurry."
"Tell me about it."
"Well," Gerard says slowly, "nothing looks like it's in focus, and every single colour of the world is blending into one super-colour."
Frank rolls his eyes and snorts. "Not your shitty eyesight, dude. I mean your work."
"Oh!" Gerard perks up. "Yeah, yeah, I can do that."
Frank spends five minutes listening to Gerard go on about his project, what he’s finished since he last talked to Frank about it, and what he plans to do next. Frank adds in a "hmm" and a "oh, cool" when he can, and even asks a question or two. Frank might not be up on his art and shit but Jesus, he could listen to Gerard talk about it all day.
By the time Gerard finally seems out of steam on the subject, he sounds really happy and relaxed.
"That's cool, Gee. You really love it, huh?"
"What, art? Yeah," Gerard says. "It helps with ..." He trails off.
"With what?" Frank prompts.
"Everything," Gerard says. He sounds so confident in that.
"You feel that way about anything?" Gerard asks.
"Music," Frank answers immediately. "I'd play music forever, if I could. Like, make a career out of it."
"You'll be able to," Gerard says, sounding just as confident in Frank as he had himself.
"Yeah. Yeah, maybe," Frank says, smiling. "I'm gonna try."
"Good. I wanna hear you play sometime."
"Sure," Frank says. "And I want to see your art."
Gerard pauses for a minute, then he says, "Well. That's kinda why I'm calling?"
"You want to show me some art?" Frank asks.
"No! Well, yes, but -- god," Gerard says, groaning. He laughs at himself and then says, "Um. I'm going to be home next weekend."
"Oh, cool," Frank says, and internally tells his pounding heart to just shut the hell up already. "So, you want to show me then?"
"Well, I mean. Wanna come over Saturday night? Or whatever, you're probably busy," Gerard says in a rush, "with, like, other friends or a boyfriend or other people or whatever."
Frank has to try not to laugh out loud or give a little victory cry over Gerard being babbly about Frank's dating life.
"Nah, I'm single, I mean free," Frank says, slapping his hand on his forehead. "I mean, yeah, I'll come over. We'll hang."
"I'll show you some of my art," Gerard says. He sounds pretty happy.
"I'll play you some guitar," Frank says. "And maybe you can teach me how to play Magic."
Gerard bursts out laughing, that stupid honking noise that Frank loves so much. "Yeah, okay. Unless you don't like it, then we won't."
"I'll give it a shot," Frank says honestly.
"Okay." They pause for a moment, and it's a little awkward but not in a bad way.
"I should let you go," Frank says. "Rest your crazy blurry eyes."
"Yeah. Okay. Night, Frank."
"Night, Gee. See you next week."
Frank clicks the call off, and flops down onto his bed. He can't stop smiling at the ceiling.
When Frank arrives at the Way place Saturday night, he is not expecting the party he finds. There are people hanging out on the porch, and one guy just waves him in when he asks if Gerard's around.
"Lurking somewhere, I'm sure!" the guys says, and he and his friend laugh. Not meanly, though, just knowingly.
Frank goes into the house and Mikey immediately appears at his side. "Hey, Frank," he says. "My parents are out of town. They never mind."
"Cool," Frank says, looking around. "I didn't realise -- shit, I didn't bring anything to drink." He knows Gerard says he's not a party guy, but there are people sitting around with beers or red solo cups in their hands.
"Here," Mikey says, handing him his beer, which is nearly full. Frank raises his eyebrows. "It's fine. Gerard will be fine with it."
"Um. Okay?" Frank doesn't really know what that means, but all right then. He takes a swig of the beer and makes his way towards the kitchen. He keeps an eye out for Gerard -- it's not that big a place, but it’s pretty packed with people -- but Ray intercepts him.
"Frank!" Ray cries out happily, throwing an arm around Frank’s shoulders. "Hey, I want to introduce you to some people."
Frank spends the next little while talking with Ray and some guys he knows. It's cool; a lot of them are in bands, and Frank carefully doesn't say anything about still being a senior in high school. He's a little afraid it's still obvious, but no one really seems to care. He slips into conversation easily and no one questions that he's there. He knows Mikey, and he knows Ray, and that seems to be enough for them.
He's halfway through his second beer, laughing at some joke Ray's making, when Frank's head automatically turns, somehow knowing that Gerard’s in the room now.
Frank catches Gerard's eye and grins happily. Gerard glances around, to the people Frank's talking, to the beer in his hand and then back up to Frank's face. He smiles, a little shy or something, but he doesn't look mad.
Frank excuses himself and goes across the kitchen. "You're here!"
"You're here," Gerard says, smiling.
"Ah, yeah. Sorry, man, got caught up talking to some people."
Gerard shakes his head. "No worries. I was just out back, having a smoke." It must've been a pretty long smoke, though, because Frank doesn't think Gerard's been inside for the half-hour he's been here.
"So, party, huh? You didn't say."
"I didn't know," Gerard says, shrugging. "Impromptu, I guess."
"That's cool," Frank says. He notices Gerard’s hands are empty. "Hey, let me grab you something--"
"No," Gerard says quickly. "I -- no, I'm fine."
"Um, okay," Frank says. He takes a deep swig of his beer to cover up the awkwardness.
"It's just … I don't drink," Gerard says. “Like, I’m sober now.”
Frank coughs on his sip and nearly backwashes it back down the bottle. "Shit, man," Frank stutters. "Why didn't you say something?" He quickly puts the beer down on the nearest surface.
Gerard looks more amused than offended, thank fuck. "You can, you know. It’s -- up to you."
"Oh, well. It's fine," Frank says, shrugging. "I didn't come here to party, you know." He takes a step closer to Gerard, nearly pressed up against him. "Weren't you going to show me some stuff or something?"
Gerard smiles, and then looks around the room. "Yeah. Yeah, I was. Come on."
As they make their way to the stairs, Gerard is stopped a couple times by people who obviously know him. There're jokes and stories about good old times, some "Oh, remember when..." and Gerard laughs it all off.
Then Bert's name is brought up and it's the only time that Gerard looks truly uncomfortable and cuts the person off, redirecting it. Frank’s a little surprised; he knew that Bert and Gerard must’ve been friends at one point, but it sounds like they were close and even got up to some wild, drunken stuff. He thinks about asking it, but Gerard doesn’t look like he’d be cool with it, so Frank tucks it away for a better time.
As soon as the door into his room is closed, Gerard leans against it, closes his eyes, and takes a deep breath.
"Hey," Frank says quietly, and Gerard looks at him. "You okay?"
Gerard nods. He says, fairly steadily, "It’s been over a year, and … well, it’s easier now but still hard, you know?”
"Oh," Frank says. He doesn't really know what to do with that -- does he say congratulations? That he's proud (because, even though he didn't know Gerard before, he gets that it's a pretty big thing)? Instead, he says, "So I guess that's why you don't party?"
“Yeah -- I mean, it’s totally fine if you do,” Gerard says quickly. “Mikey does and Ray does and that’s their choice, they don’t have to stop on my account. They kinda did, for a while, but to help me out? But I don’t expect them to, I can’t say that. I just -- drinking is one of those things I couldn’t control, it was controlling me. Life was hard and stupid and I thought it helped but it was really just fucking me up, and the people around me, and the pack and -- so I just don’t, anymore.”
It comes out in one fast whoosh of words, so fast Frank barely follows along, but it seems big, and important, and like Gerard really wants Frank to know, even if it is hard to say. Frank feels touched, and a little honoured, that it was shared with him. He just doesn’t know what to say back.
“I’m sorry that – well, that it was hard for you. But, I mean. It’s cool that you’re, like, taking care of it.” God, Frank sounds like an idiot, he knows he does, but Gerard doesn’t seem to mind.
“Thanks, Frank.” Gerard sounds appreciative but he doesn’t add anything, doesn’t tell Frank about what was so hard and stupid about life, and Frank doesn’t want to push or make Gerard feel any more uncomfortable.
“It’s been nine months since I’ve been changed,” Frank says instead. “And it was pretty horrible at first, when I didn’t know what the fuck was going on.”
Gerard looks at him, surprised. “Frank, you don’t have to -- you shouldn’t--”
Frank shrugs. “Why not? I don’t have anyone to talk to about this, why can’t it be you?” To fuck with the pack club rules or whatever the hell, Frank doesn’t have to live by them. Sure, he wouldn’t just tell anyone about it, but this is Gerard. And maybe Gerard isn’t going to talk wolf with him, at least not his side of things, but Frank doesn’t want to hold it in anymore. “You just told me stuff about you, isn’t that fair?”
Gerard purses his lips together and edges, “But you don’t have to.”
“I want to,” Frank says, and quickly goes on before Gerard could get some weird pack-guilt thing going on, “I just thought it was a dog, you know? A really big dog. I mean, I was pretty drunk at the time and didn’t realise, and I love dogs. That was a stupid move. Fuck, it hurt,” Frank says, rambling on now that he’s started. He’s waited months to share this with someone. “The dog -- wolf, I guess -- took off and left me. I don’t know what it was thinking -- if it picked me and meant to, why it ran off, if it was all a stupid accident. I think that’s what I’m the most mad at, you know? That I just don’t fucking know. And it hurt so bad that night and the next day, and for a couple weeks after, and I was really confused and sick. We figured it out, me and my mom but it was pretty much the worst month of my life.”
Frank stops, because he doesn’t know what else to say. His heart is pounding, but saying all that, it’s feels like the world lifted off Atlas’ shoulders. He's just so fucking relieved to have been able to tell someone.
“I’m sorry,” Gerard says, and he sounds so earnest.
Frank shrugs. “Not your fault. I’m better now. Like, still deal with stuff, but physically -- yeah, better than ever, once I got past that first month.”
“Good. That’s really good.”
There’s a moment of silence, a little awkward as they both fish around for the right words. Gerard blurts out, “I think you’re pretty brave, you know.”
Frank blinks at him. “Uh. What?”
Gerard shrugs. “Just, you know. Getting through it all on your own and stuff. I’ve never -- I’ve always had my family. Mikey. And Ray. It must’ve been …” He trails off, as if he can’t find the right words. Maybe he really can’t; his experience has been so different than Frank’s.
“Confusing? Terrifying as fuck?” Lonely, Frank thinks, but doesn’t say it out loud.
“It was. I mean, I had my mom around, but neither of us knew what to do, at first. Hell, we didn’t even know to expect it.”
He thinks back to his first change; how awful and painful, how unprepared he was, how quick his mom had been to lock herself in her room. Frank, as a new wolf, had prowled their little house alone, confused and angry, but he didn’t get out. After ripping a bunch of their furniture to shreds, even though he knew, just knew, he shouldn’t have done that, he’d finally curled up outside her door and waited for her, and for the day.
Frank continued, “I didn’t know -- I had no idea what was happening to me. But we figured it out, kinda. And that’s why we ended up in Belleville, I guess.”
Gerard gave a half-smile. “Found out some rumours, did you?”
“Apparently my dad did,” Frank affirms. He looks at Gerard curiously. “That happens a lot?”
“We get our share of out-of-towners.”
“But, hey, at least you’re a Jersey boy.”
“For life!” Frank replies enthusiastically.
Neither of them say anything else, they just smile at each other. Frank feels warm, and comfortable, like each other them telling a secret opened up some sort of door that had been in the way.
“Hey,” Frank says softly, “aren’t you going to show me some of your stuff?”
“Oh!” Gerard says, pushing himself off the closed bedroom door. He’s suddenly in a flurry around the room. “Of course, yeah. I mean, it’s not the stuff for school -- that’s in the group studio on campus -- but I definitely have some stuff.”
It’s a bit of an understatement, ‘some stuff’, because Gerard picks several sketchbooks off a pile on the desk and pulls out a large art portfolio hidden behind the dresser. Now that Frank’s attention isn’t solely on Gerard, he looks around and can see bits of art everywhere: tacked to the walls, scraps of paper tucked into books, sketch pads sticking out from under the bed, canvasses leaned carefully against the wall with the picture side in. Frank itches to go over there and sort through everything, be nosy and poke around, but he waits for Gerard to show him something he’s personally picked.
“I think -- well, you might like this,” Gerard says, holding up a canvas. “It’s really different than the usual stuff I do, but it’s -- personal, too.”
It’s a beautiful painting of the full moon, as if someone is standing on the ground and looking straight up. There are tree branches that cut across the moon, small leaves shadowing a pattern, and tree trunks frame the sides. The night sky practically shimmers around the moon, fading from silver to grey to blue to black, and there’s light cast against the branches.
Frank’s breath catches in his throat, and he can’t stop from reaching out and touching the canvas; it’s not nearly as rough as he thought it’d be, but the paint ripples under his fingertips.
He snatches his hand back quickly when he looks up meet Gerard’s eyes. “It’s fine,” Gerard says softly. “I don’t mind.”
Frank keeps his hands balled in fists at his sides. He tries to even his breathing; he doesn’t get to see the moon like that, not any more, and there’s an ache burning in his chest. He wants to, he wants to see that, be there under the moon and trees.
“Frank?” Gerard looks unsure, and he sets the painting down carefully on his bed. “Are you -- I’m sorry, that was -- god, I’m stupid, that was a dumb one to --“
When Gerard takes an uncertain step towards Frank, Frank does the only thing he can think to do -- he closes the space between them, slips a hand to the back of Gerard’s neck, and pulls him down for a kiss.
Gerard makes a surprised noise, but he doesn’t move away. Frank just holds him there, keeping steady, until Gerard relaxes into it, hand coming to grab Frank’s elbow, the other one settling lightly on Frank’s waist.
And it’s good, god it’s good, just what Frank’s wanted for months. It’s a little tentative at first, just brushing their lips against each other, but then Frank pushes up against Gerard. Gerard gasps, like he's surprised Frank wants to get close to him, feel their bodies pressed together. Frank licks at Gerard’s mouth then, coaxing it open and sucking on his bottom lip, and Gerard’s hand tightens on his elbow.
Gerard groans, but then he’s pulling back, letting go and stepping away from Frank.
“What the hell, Gee?” Frank asks, a little breathily. He tries to step forward but Gerard holds him out at arm's length. “Don’t tell me that you don’t want--“
“I shouldn’t,” Gerard says, sounding a little desperate, like he’s torn in two by saying it. “I promised myself I wouldn’t.”
“What the hell has all this been, then?” Frank asks, gesturing around. “Calling me, inviting me here, and shit. You kissed me back.“
“I know. I shouldn’t have.”
“But you did.”
“Friends, Frank. I want to get to know you, yes, but we can’t be -- we can’t do more than that.”
“Why?" Frank asks, trying to calm his voice down. It’s not really working. “You seeing someone else?” He probably is. Some college guy, someone he can see more often; the wolf in Frank growls and he can feel it rumbling in him.
“What?” Gerard looks startled. “No, no, I’m not. I actually thought that, uh, maybe you were--“
“I’m not,” Frank says immediately. “Whatever Ray thought he saw, it wasn’t that. I told you.”
“I know -- and you’re in high school!” Gerard exclaims suddenly. “And I’m really, really not. That’s just -- it isn’t right.”
“Dude, I think you missed it, but I’m eighteen. You wouldn’t be some old pervert, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
Gerard pauses for a moment. “You are?”
“Yes. Birthday’s in October. On Halloween, in fact.”
“No fucking way.” Gerard sounds impressed, like he forgot all about their kissing and their argument. “That’s awesome.”
“I know, right?”
“It fits you, actually.”
“Right. That whole monster thing.”
“No!” Gerard says instantly, his eyes wide and apologetic. “That’s not what I meant at all!”
Frank might’ve normally laughed at the look on Gerard’s face if Frank wasn’t so confused right now, and irritated that Gerard is, obviously, trying to brush him off. “Sure,” he says flatly.
“Ugh,” Gerard says, slapping his hand to his forehead. “I’m awful at this.”
“At what? Talking? Carrying on actual conversations? Dealing with guys kissing you?”
“Yes,” Gerard says miserably, “pretty much all that.”
“Well, now that we’ve established that you aren’t the biggest perv ever, what the fuck, what the hell is the problem?”
“But, it’s just -- you’re still in school.”
Gerard runs his hand through his hair again, and then tugs on his hoodie sleeve. He sighs and says, “I just don’t want to be, like, taking advantage.”
“Taking advantage,” Frank says slowly, “when I hit on you.”
“It’s not that I don’t -- I just don’t think it’s… appropriate.”
“What do we need to do for you to be okay with this? Wait six magical weeks until I’m not a student anymore? Until I’m just some eighteen year old that lives with his mom and doesn’t know what to do with his life?”
“You’re doing music,” Gerard says confidently, but easily reverts back to the why-we-can’t-kiss part of the conversation. “You’re still a good four years younger than me.“
“So fucking what?”
“You should be out there, like, hooking up with guys your own age!” Gerard says, flapping a hand around. “You’re young and hot--“
“You think I’m hot?” Frank interjects because he just can’t help himself, like the stupid idiot he is trying to hold on to something, anything, against Gerard’s flimsy excuses.
Gerard rolls his eyes. “You fucking know it, asshole, don’t pretend you don’t. You should be out there dating and playing the field or whatever.”
“Not my style, dude,” Frank says firmly. “Maybe I could be, but I don’t want to be. I just want to be with you.”
Gerard stares at him, as if stunned by that declaration, as if all the texting and hanging out and kissing wasn’t enough proof.
Frank can feel the anger starting to bubble up at him. It’s not like he’s been all that subtle, it’s not like Gerard can’t know, and it’s not like he could’ve been that far off on reading Gerard. He didn’t think he was, anyway. But maybe. “Seriously, Gerard, if you don’t like me, fine--“
“No!” Gerard exclaims and, okay then, ouch. That’s a kick to the balls. There must be something on Frank’s face, probably hurt from the ball-kicking, because Gerard’s putting up his hands and shaking his head. “No, no, don’t take that the wrong way -- it’s not that I -- fuck, Frank, we can’t do this!”
“Then give me one reason why!” Frank bursts out. “One good legitimate reason!”
“I don’t know, you yelling at me could be one,” Gerard says as he pulls a bitchy face.
Frank throws up his hands. “Fine,” Frank mumbles. “Just fucking fine, I’ll get out of your hair--“
“The wolf thing!” Gerard blurts out.
Frank pauses and looks at him. “What?”
“It kind of messes with, like, instincts and impulses and stuff,” Gerard tries to explain. “This is just -- it’s not because -- it’s not actually me you want. It’s, like. Different than that.”
Frank can’t believe he’s hearing this shit. “So what are you saying? I have no will of my own? I can’t think you’re hot and want to suck your dick just because I’m into you, you’re blaming the wolf problem?”
Gerard says weakly, “That could just be your wolf-side talking.”
“Oh,” Frank drawls sarcastically. “I get it. It’s just my wolf wanting to get it on with your wolf, hump like bunnies and become mates or something.”
“Fuck, don’t make jokes like that, that isn’t something to joke about,” Gerard says, frowning. “That stuff is actually really serious for us. It’s nothing to kid around about.”
“Okay, I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” he says shortly. “Look, Gerard, we’re not going to know unless we try--“
“Frank, no,” Gerard interrupts, agitated and upset now. “I can’t do this again, I’m not ready -- just believe me and stop being so damn difficult! I need -- space. Air. Damn, I need a smoke. I’m going outside,” he says as he steps around Frank.
“Fine,” Frank spits out, barely refraining from grabbing him, making him stay. “Run away, see if I care.” Except that he does, he cares a lot.
“I’m not,” Gerard says, and he doesn’t sound angry anymore. Just tired. “I just – need to think. Maybe you should too. And then we’ll talk, I promise we will, but when we’re ready. Okay?”
And with that, he’s gone.
Frank stands there, alone in Gerard’s room with his smell and the taste of the brief kiss he got. Frank flexes his fists, wants to punch the fucking wall or something, but he stops himself.
Instead, he goes to stand next to Gerard’s bed, and he looks at the painting that was so carefully placed down. He stares at the moon and the branches and he can feel his anger start to ebb, dwindle away down to nearly nothing.
“Okay,” Frank says, after he’s calm and has had a moment to put his thoughts in order. “Okay, then.”
Frank makes his way upstairs but before he gets outside to find Gerard, Mikey appears at his side again.
“You’re both being idiots, aren’t you?”
Frank snorts. “I guess so. Though I think he’s being the bigger one and I plan on telling him that.”
Mikey just looks at Frank. “He’s had a hard time, you know.”
“He told me,” Frank says, starting to feel a little guilty. He was a pretty big asshole down there, and Gerard didn’t deserve that. Well, not much. Doesn’t deserve to be on the end of Frank’s uncontrollable anger, anyway.
“No,” Mikey says. “I don’t think he did. Not everything. Give him time, though, okay?”
“All right, Mikeyway,” Frank says seriously. He knows how much Mikey cares for his brother, how weirdly close they are, and advice from Mikey is golden. Frank’s not going to ignore it. “I will.”
Mikey just gives him a little smile and then disappears again.
Frank goes outside. The spring weather is getting nicer during the day, but it’s still cool in the evening. He forgot to rescue his jacket from wherever he tossed it aside, and thinks about going back to get it. But then he spies Gerard sitting on railing at the end of the porch looking out at the street and smoking a cigarette, and he doesn’t want to leave, not yet. Frank’s ready and not going to pass this up.
“Hey,” Gerard says as Frank approaches without even looking at him. There’s no one else left out there, they’d be idiots to stand around in the cold.
“Hi,” Frank says. “I’m ready to talk.”
Gerard looks at him from the corner of his eyes. “Are you going to yell at me more?”
“No,” Frank says. “Promise, I’m calm.”
“Okay,” Gerard says. Then he sighs. “Look, I’m sorry, maybe this isn’t going to work--“
Frank cuts him off. “No, wait, your turn to listen to me, okay? Just let me say what I need to say.” Frank waits, and Gerard’s hesitant but he nods for him to continue. “I can deal with friends, I can. I want to. So, let’s just keep doing what we’ve been doing, okay? Well, minus tonight, I guess.”
“Okay,” Gerard says, but he sounds a bit sceptical.
“I swear,” Frank says, holding up his hands. “Next time I see you, I won’t kiss you or jump on you or try to hump your leg or anything.” Frank pauses for a second. “Though, that means I'll probably have to stay away from you at the moon.”
Gerard barks out a surprised laugh. “Probably a good idea.”
“And, look, I need to say this, because I have to. I want you to know exactly what I think. If you’re going to pretend there’s nothing here, fine, or you think it’s just the wolves, fine. And if you want to help me, and you want to be friends with me, that’s awesome. But I want you to accept that there could be something more, and that maybe we’re just going really, really slow, and I’m cool with that, I swear. And we’ll just have to see how it goes. Okay?”
Gerard looks at him, his face thoughtful. Frank wills himself to be patient, to wait for Gerard to answer. Frank’s starting to think that maybe he’s got that all wrong, that maybe his olive branch and his declaration will be shoved into the dirt and stepped all over, ground down under the heel of Gerard’s rejection.
Finally, Gerard nods. “Okay,” he says slowly. “I -- okay. Slow. We’ll see.”
Frank gives him a wide grin, and god, he needs to walk away, not from Gerard but from the possibility of completely fucking this up, now that there’s an understanding. “Okay, good. Cool. Now I’m going to go back inside now because I’m freezing my nuts off. No fucking way do I want that, and you still seem undecided, so it’s better for us both if I do what I can to save them, yeah?”
Frank can’t help but give a smug smirk at the look on Gerard’s face as he turns back to go inside, and he laughs when he hears Gerard mutter, “Such a little shit.” He sounds fond, though.
Frank goes back to the party, and despite everything, he feels good. He knows what he felt in that kiss, what he’s sure Gerard wants, even if he’s being weirdly shy about it. Frank’ll wait. Gerard’s worth it.
Frank's walking down the street toward the bus stop when he catches a whif of Bert, Quinn, and Jepha. He freezes, trying to locate them, but they're nearly upon him when he turns around and flips them the finger. They caught him upwind, god damn it.
“Fuckers,” he says with a grin. “You stalking me?”
“Never,” Bert says, and throws an arm around Frank’s shoulder. “What’s up, man?”
“Nothing much,” Frank says vaguely.
“What’re you doing tonight? Come out with us, Frankie,” Jepha says. He tugs on Frank’s arm, and Frank sees Bert’s car parked across the road.
“I can’t,” Frank says. “Got plans already.”
“Let me guess,” Quinn says dryly. “Some other stinky friends of yours?”
“It’s nice to know you’ll admit your shortcomings,” Frank says, laughing. “We all fucking stink.”
“You the least,” Bert says, sticking his nose right into the crook of Frank’s neck. “Like strawberries and sunshine.”
“Fuck off,” Frank says, trying to elbow him away. Bert only laughs, holds on tighter, and licks Frank’s neck. Jepha and Quinn laugh, and Frank jerks away, eyes wide. “You’re doing that on purpose!”
“That’s generally the point of necking, yep.”
Frank rolls his eyes. “I mean -- you’re doing it to drive him crazy, aren’t you?” They don’t even need to specify who Frank’s talking about, or where Frank’ll be going.
Bert shrugs. “Well, I’ve had to smell him on your jacket, it’s only fair.”
“You’re all children,” Frank mutters. “Besides, I’m hanging with Mikey and Ray, not him.”
Frank loves hanging out with Mikey and Ray, he does, but he kind of wishes Gerard would be there too. But it’s a weekday, and even though the moon’s in a couple days, he’s probably not home for it yet. Frank’s only once seen Gerard once since the party, and it was a little awkward but they made it through it, and they text all the time and sometimes chat on Skype. They still haven’t talked about them but Frank doesn’t mind. Even talking about, like, nothing in particular makes Frank feel stupidly warm and happy.
Bert’s arm tightens around Frank’s neck, as if he can sense what Frank’s thinking, what he’s feeling. He noses Frank’s cheek. “You fucking him yet?”
“Shut up, Bert,” Frank says, trying to shrug him off.
“Not for lack of trying, I bet,” Quinn adds.
Jepha shakes his head. “Come on, guys, leave him alone.”
“I’m just talking to my friend,” Bert says, shooting Jepha a look. Jepha doesn’t look pleased but leaves it be.
“Well, that’s just it,” Frank puts in. “We’re just friends, me and him. And them. All of them. I’m just friends with all of you. And that’s that. Nothing more, nothing less.” He gives Bert a hard look. “Got it?”
The other three are quiet for a moment, but then Bert nods. “Cool, Frankie.” He passes a look with Quinn and Jepha, both who nod, and Bert smiles wide. “We have this idea, then, if it’s not going to get you in trouble with the others.”
“I can do whatever I want,” Frank says. “I don’t answer to anyone.”
“Right you are,” Bert says, “so then it’s fine if you come out with us, right?”
“I told you, I’m busy.”
“No, not tonight. Friday night.”
“I -- what?” Frank’s stomach jumps. He knows exactly what Friday night is, knows the lunar cycle better than anything now.
“Friday night,” Bert repeats. “You know what I mean, don’t make me spell it out.”
“We figured you might like it better than being caged up in the basement,” Jepha says. Frank looks at him sharply but Jepha shrugs unapologetically. “We figured out that’s what you did, but didn’t want to bring it up. Because, dude, that’s fucking depressing.”
“Sorta,” Frank admits. He looks at Bert curiously. “What do you guys do?”
“And there’s the balls we’ve been waiting for,” Bert says with a laugh. “We drive out of town, to this patch of woods. It’s safe, no one bothers us, we don’t bother anyone else.”
Quinn snorts, but shrugs at Frank’s look. “You in? Or gotta check with Mommy and your boys first?”
“I can do what I want,” Frank repeats. Though, honestly, he isn’t sure what his mother will think of this, or Gerard and the guys. Still, it’s his decision and, shit, he wants this. He’s wanted this for months, since he first met Bert. “I’m in.”
“Cool,” Jepha says with a bright smile. “It’s a bit of a drive. Think you can cut out of class early?”
Frank nods, not even thinking through classes or tests or attendance issues. He wants this.
“We usually crash in the car for a nap before coming back to town,” Quinn says. “Fucking body, right?”
“No shit,” Frank says. Morning after is always brutal. “Works for me.”
“Awesome,” Bert says, finally letting go of Frank’s neck. “We’ll see you Friday afternoon, ok?”
“Cool,” Frank says happily. And he truly is happy, having something to look forward too, a bit of good with this whole werewolf thing. Finally.
“See you guys later, okay?” Frank says, turning to heading off to catch his bus.
“Yep, later,” Jepha says. “Oh hey, Frank?”
“Yeah?” He turns back to them but before he knows it, he’s playfully tackled, Bert in front and Jepha and Quinn to each side. There’s faces pressed against him, hair rubbing against his, and even a lick or two across his skin.
He bursts out laughing, struggling to get out of their hold. “Fuckers! What are you doing? Get off!”
They all let go of him at once and start to back away. “Say hello to the boys for us!” Bert says with a smirk.
“You guys are assholes,” Frank says, wiping his face with the back of his hand. He’s laughing, though, as he thinks about how he should turn around and go home, have a shower before going out. To make sure he really does smell like strawberries and sunshine to not piss anyone off. Nah, it’ll be fine.
“Hey guys!” Frank bounds down the stairs in the Way home.
“In Gerard’s room!” he hears Ray call out, even though Donna just told Frank Gerard wasn’t home. Frank’s not surprised.
He loves the Way home now, feeling comfortable in his place here. Donna gives him a kiss on the cheek and sends him down without even batting her heavily mascara eyelashes.
Frank goes into Gerard’s room and finds Mikey and Ray flipping through comics. As soon as he walks in, they both whip their heads around to stare at him. Their noses scrunch up almost identically, and it would almost be funny except he knows what their problem is.
Frank doesn’t even wait for them to say anything. He points back over his shoulder and says, “I’ll go wash up.”
“Good idea,” Mikey says blandly, and Frank gives him the middle finger.
He takes a quick minute in the bathroom downstairs, using the hand soap to scrub at his hands, neck and face. There’s not really anything he can do about his clothes, but he shrugs off his jacket. When he walks out of the bathroom, Mikey’s standing there and holding out a t-shirt.
Frank gives him a dubious look. “Seriously?”
“Gee’s coming home tonight,” Mikey replies.
“He is?” Frank tires not to sound so hopefully. Maybe some of his classes were cancelled, or done since it’s close to the end of the year, Frank’s not sure of the schedule. Or maybe since it was so close to the moon he wants to be with the rest of his pack. Yeah. That’s probably it.
“Yeah. He’d probably wouldn’t appreciate it if you--“ Mikey waves his hand around. “You know.”
“Fine,” Frank says, dropping his jacket to the floor and pulling off his t-shirt.
“Cool tattoo,” Mikey says, looking past Frank to the reflection in the mirror.
“Thanks!” Frank says. “Got it last month, me and a couple friends back home went.” He cranes his neck around to try to get a glimpse of grinning Jack-o-Lantern. “I totally can’t wait to get another one. I need to get a job first, though, ‘cause Mom refuses to give me money for them.” He pulls the black t-shirt over his head. It smells like Gerard and Frank smiles.
“Cool,” Mikey says, but he’s eyeing Frank’s jeans.
“What, my pants too? I have strict pants-on rules with your brother right now, and putting on a pair of his is not what I imagine when I think ‘getting-into-his-pants.’”
Mikey makes a face. “Ew. Fine, just go throw your stuff in the washer,” he says, pointing to a door off the rec room.
Frank rolls his eyes but complies, and then is finally allowed into Gerard’s room.
"Here," Mikey says, handing Frank a can of coke without looking up from the page of the comic he’s reading.
"Thanks, man.” Frank takes it and then plops down onto the floor beside Ray. He leans back against Gerard's bed and tries, for the love of God he tries, not to shove his face into the comforter and take in a deep breath. He succeeds, but only barely.
"What's the plan for tonight?" Frank asks.
Ray shrugs. "Wait for Gee. Should be here in a while.”
“Okay … so what’s the plan after that?”
“Maybe play video games. Or watch a movie or something. We’re staying low key."
"Cool," Frank says. He wishes they were doing something more, though, something to burn the energy that’s building up, just like it always does. If he thought of something in Belleville worth doing, he'd suggest it. But he’s a bit clueless on that front.
"I wish there was a show," Mikey says, as if reading his mind. "I'm restless tonight."
Frank looks at him skeptically. Mikey looks like the least restless person ever, unlike Frank, who can't stop fidgeting. It must be on the inside or something.
"Must be a show somewhere," Ray says. "We could ask Gerard when he gets here."
"Maybe," Mikey says. He doesn't sound too convinced, though. After a brief pause, Mikey adds, "You know what he'd say."
Ray sighs. "Yeah. It makes sense, though."
Frank blinks between the two of them. "Uh. What'd who say? And what?"
"Gerard. That we shouldn't go looking for trouble, especially right now," Mikey says, his voice pitched nearly perfect to what Gerard would sound like. Frank giggles. Mikey gives a smile and shrugs one shoulder. "Kind of sucks but guess he has a point.”
"Guess so," Frank says, tapping his fingers on the floor. He wonders if it's, like, a pack leader thing that Gerard pulled on them, giving them no real other choice other than to stay in and keep the wolf under control, or if it was just a suggestion.
Frank almost wants to see what he could do to push that, to find out for sure, to see if Gerard will try to get all pack leader on Frank's ass too. He doesn't even care if he does; hell, Frank wants it so bad he can almost taste it. Maybe he should push for it.
He's about to question more when they hear the bang of the front door, feel the slight shift to the house with someone moving around upstairs. They all grin at each other as there's pounding down the stairs and Gerard calls out, "What the hell are you fuckers doing in my room?"
But when he bursts in, backpack slung over his shoulder and a large art portfolio case in his hand, he's grinning at them.
"Waiting for you," Mikey says, unperturbed. "What the fuck do you think?"
"Hey, guys," Gerard says, slumping down his stuff. He smiles when he sees Frank. "Hey, Frankie."
"Hey," Frank says, giving a nod of his chin. Ray smiles knowingly and Mikey rolls his eyes, so Frank flips them both off.
Gerard doesn't see because he's throwing himself backwards onto his mattress, sighing happily. "Fuck, it's good to get out of the dorms."
"Don't like them?" Frank asks.
Gerard rolls over onto his side, face near where Frank's head is. "They're all right, but they're not home."
Frank nods. Yeah, he can get that.
"So what's the plan for tonight, Gee?" Ray asks.
"I don't know," Gerard answers. "Maybe we should just stay in, you know? Watch a movie or something.”
Frank says innocently, "And stay out of trouble?"
"Yeah!" Gerard says enthusiastically. Ray tries to hide a smile and even Mikey's lips quirk a bit. Gerard remains blissfully unaware and continues, "You know what it's like right now."
"Yep," Frank says, agreeing. "Crazy."
"Out of control," Mikey says, deadpanned.
Ray tilts his head and adds seriously, “Fucking wild.”
Gerard blinks at them, then pulls a decidedly bitchy face. "You fuckers are messing with me."
Frank giggles. "Yep!" He takes a sip of his coke. "Seriously, Gerard, I don't think we'd get into that much trouble leaving your basement. I know you like it here, but there's a great big wonderful world out there, just waiting for you."
"Oh, fuck you," Gerard says, shoving lightly at the back of Frank's head.
"Come on, let's do something!" Frank insists.
Ray sighs, long-suffering. "Better give it up, Frank. He's not going to cave."
"Fine," Frank says, dramatically throwing his head back. He cranes his head back to look at Gerard. "I get to pick the movie, then, fucker. I could be having a real night, you know."
"What, sitting around in Belleville?" Gerard's smiling, which looks creepy upside down, but there's hesitance there. "You could be doing that anywhere, so what's wrong doing it here with zombie movies?" The with us is unspoken but Frank hears it.
"Good point," Frank says, lest Gerard think Frank doesn't want to be hanging out with him. Which is not the case at all, and he makes a promise to himself to get Gerard out on the town again some other night that isn't two before the moon. “And, hey, I thought I got to pick the movie.”
“You do,” Mikey says, and shoves three DVDs in Frank’s direction. Frank laughs when he sees they’re all classic zombie ones, and pokes Dawn of the Dead with his toe. Mikey nods, approving the choice, and goes to put it in the player.
Frank pushes himself up off the floor and nearly sits on Gerard's face when he puts his ass on the mattress. "Move over," Frank says. "I totally get part of the bed, then."
Frank wonders if he’s maybe breaking through some of the boundaries he and Gerard have set up for themselves, but Gerard starts scooting over on the bed. "Sure," Gerard says warmly. “Hey, are you wearing my shirt?”
“Yep,” Frank says, moving around a couple pillows to make himself comfortable. He doesn’t want to explain why, so he doesn’t say anything else, and Gerard just makes a noise from the back of his throat. Frank tries to ignore it and not figure out what it means.
Frank settles in, leaning against the headboard, and Gerard's right beside him. Parts of their arms or legs brush and Frank gets a dizzyingly feeling straight to his head that he tries to ignore, and tries not to push into Gerard. Both Ray and Mikey are sprawled on the floor, the movie starting to play, and they're all staring intently at the screen.
A few scenes into the movie, Frank startles when Gerard leans into him, pushing his nose right into Frank's neck. Frank goes still. "Um. Gee?"
Gerard pulls back, blinking as if he's as shocked as Frank is, which can't be possible because he's the one who did it. "I, uh. It's just."
"Yeah?" Frank prompts. He stays still, trying not to scare Gerard away, when all he wants to do is pull him right back in.
"You smell -- nice!" he exclaims too loudly when Frank gives him a look.
Mikey coughs and turns up the volume.
Gerard sighs and leans his head back against the headboard, though he's tilted towards Frank a little. "I just -- it's nice."
"If you fucking say like strawberries and sunshine," Frank grumbles under his breath.
"What? No. More like--" Gerard does it again; he leans in, maybe not as close as before, but definitely trying to sniff Frank's neck. "--my shirt. But, also, citrus?"
"It’s the hand soap from your bathroom," Frank says.
“Oh. Oh, I didn’t know,” Gerard chuckles a little, close to Frank's ear, and it makes Frank's spine shiver. "I like it," Gerard says. He leans in even closer, nose by the back of Frank's ear. Frank very nearly whimpers as Gerard's breath fans against his sensitive skin, but thank god he holds it in. Barely.
Then Gerard pulls back quickly, as if stung. His nose wrinkles up. And -- oh, Oh, shit.
Frank sighs. "Don't, Gerard."
"I didn't say anything," Gerard says, but he's shifted away from Frank. Frank stares at him. "What?"
"You didn't have to.”
"It's not my fault."
"Well, it's not mine either. Not my fault you have a problem."
"I don't have a problem with you. And not them either, not really, it's just the way it is--"
At this point, both Ray and Mikey have started ignoring the movie, and they're looking at Frank and Gerard. Mikey even turns down the volume on the television.
Gerard sighs. "I didn't mean to make you mad, Frank. I'm not mad, okay?"
"Will you be mad if I go out with them on Friday night?"
The words are out of his mouth before he can stop them, before he can even realise what he's saying. He almost regrets it -- the way Gerard pulls back from him, the frown on his face, hurt, is almost more than Frank can bear. But, fuck, he may as well know. Who knows how much of a smell will be ingrained on Frank after something like that happens.
"Well?" Frank demands, the anger and energy of the impending turn boiling under his skin. God, this is not the right time for this.
"Well what?" Gerard asks. He's still frowning.
"Will you be mad?" Frank repeats.
Gerard opens his mouth, then closes it, and opens it again. He finally settles on, "Why?"
"It has nothing to do with you," Frank says. "If that's what you're wondering." He looks over at the others. "With any of you."
Ray looks down at the floor, as if abashed that Frank caught them eavesdropping on this fight. Which is just ridiculous because it's not like Frank's trying to hide it or anything.
Mikey looks calm. "Then what is it?"
Frank shrugs. "They asked, I said yes."
"And you want to? With them?" Gerard winces, as if he doesn't want to ask but he just can't help it.
"Yeah, I do," Frank says. It's the truth. He’d be happy to be going out with any of his friends.
"Oh." Gerard looks down at his hands.
"I'm sick of being locked up in a cage," Frank says. They all look at him, varying degrees of surprise on their faces. "Yeah, that's right. I protect the good citizens of the world from the big bad wolf and lock myself up." He knows he sounds angry, and bitter. He is, and he's a little tired of trying to hold it in.
"You --" Ray frowns. "A cage."
"Yep," Frank says shortly. "In my mom's basement. I've never been free before." He doesn't know if that's what it's called, exactly, but it's what it feels like it should be. Free, running, anything.
Gerard is quiet, but then finally says, "Well. I hope -- I hope you like it."
Frank looks at him skeptically. "Yeah?"
"Yes," Gerard says firmly. "It's -- there's nothing like it. It's what it -- you -- you know what I mean," he stumbles a bit. "Whatever, what the wolf is made for."
Frank nods. "That's what it feels like it should be," he says quietly.
"It is." Gerard sighs, and leans against Frank's shoulder. Since this is a closeness Gerard seems okay with, and Frank’s more than fine with it, Frank tips his head against Gerard's and echoes his sigh.
Ray and Mikey exchange a look, but then they both shrug. Mikey turns the volume back up, and they all start watching the movie again.
A few more minutes in, and Frank hears Gerard's voice, low and so very quiet. "Have fun, okay?" It sounds like he really means it, even though it's probably hard for him to say.
"And be safe."
Frank snorts, but he nods. "I will. Promise."
"Good, ‘cause -- yeah. Just be safe."
Frank feels all the remaining tension slip away from his shoulders, and he leans more comfortably into Gerard. "Okay. You too."
The first thing Frank thinks after he’s changed is: go go go, run run run. So he does, and he fucking loves it.
The whole day’s a bit weird, at first. The guys pick Frank up from school, and they drive for a couple hours out of town. The passing forests remind Frank of the party he and his friends had the summer before, in the old cabin in the woods that Shaun’s family owned. The place where, stumbling into the woods for a piss, he got bit by a fucking werewolf and his life changed forever.
But instead of being upset or worried, Frank gets more and more excited the more land he sees pass by. It’s freaking awesome.
They pull over to a little decrepit shed in the middle of nowhere, a place the others have obviously been before, and park the car inside. They shoot the shit for a while, and Frank’s whole body is thrumming with the upcoming change. It’s a comfort to see that the others act the same way; tense and on edge, but in an excited way.
Then the sun dips beneath the earth, leaving behind a dim dusk, but the moon's high enough to take over and the wolves emerge.
And that’s when it happens. Go go go, run run run. Frank can tell the others are following him -- paws thumping on the earth, smells drifting on the night air. They make noises too -- playful ones, trying to get him to stop, but he just pants happily and keeps up his pace. They easily catch up, and it’s like a game of tag through the trees. Frank feels alive, like he was meant to do this.
He has no real sense of where he’s going, doesn’t know these woods at all. Where they go to, miles and miles and miles maybe, he’s not sure. But the guys don’t let him get too far out of their sight and he feels comforted knowing there are others like him out there, who know him and who he knows and he carries on without a care in the world.
And then there it is. A smell fills his nose, not one he’s been around yet that night, but he knows it. It’s like it fills his whole body and the wolf goes nuts for it. It's familiar and comforting and what he wants, more than anything.
He howls up at the sky, at the moon that's hidden behind a cloudy blanket.
Then he takes off again, running. Not just for the sake of running, but for a purpose. He tracks it down, the scent that he wants.
He can hear the rest of the pack behind him, tumbling through the trees to keep up. He might not be used to running free as a wolf, but it's instinctual; he's fast, and determined, and is somehow out running them. No one can stop him.
He barks as he closes in on the smell. Through a thicket of trees, he sees the source -- three new wolves. No, not new, not exactly. But it's the first he's seen of them like this.
Frank would be able to pick out Gerard, Mikey, and Ray's smell anywhere now.
He can tell who is who right away through their familiar scents. Ray is a bigger wolf with reddish shaggy hair. Mikey is a slender one, light brown.
And Gerard is jet black, small and compact (though not as much as Frank) but lean and fit and perfect.
Frank barks happily and makes his way to them.
They're all still, for a moment. Gerard is out front with Mikey, and Ray is standing a few feet behind them. They don't move towards him, but wait patiently.
Frank barks again, playfully growls. When Gerard finally barks back at him, welcoming, Frank can't help but howl happily. He bounds toward them, excited and exuberant, and slides to a sloppy stop in front of Gerard. He headbutts Gerard's flank, and then nips at Mikey's ear, and pounces on Ray's back.
Ray easily shrugs Frank off, but Frank rolls into the dirt, panting happily. It's enough to coax Ray into playing with him, and they dodge around trees and try to pounce on each other. Gerard and Mikey sit nearby, avid eyes on them but very accepting of the whole thing.
Gerard starts growling. Ray immediately stops in spot, doesn't even pay attention while Frank gets a jaw full of his scruff. He easily pushes Frank away from him and goes to Gerard. The three of them close ranks as they stare into the thicket. Frank’s confused, doesn’t know what’s going on, and stays several feet away from them, waiting for an invitation or something that shows it’s okay for him to join them. It doesn’t come while they stare into the trees.
Frank smells the problem right before he sees it.
Bert, closely followed by Quinn and Jepha, come out of the trees, a tightly formed V. They walk around the others in a big circle, giving Gerard's pack a wide berth. But they come near Frank and nuzzle at him, give him licks to his jaw.
Gerard's growls are unmistakable.
Frank doesn't know what to do. He knows who he came out here with, who he should continue running with. But he knows who he wants to be with, their smell and presence like a siren to Frank's senses, luring him in and overtaking him.
He looks between the two Alphas and lets out a low, confused whine.
Gerard immediately steps towards Frank, but Bert does too so they all pause. Bert seems to be egging Gerard on, stepping again in Frank's direction but also closer to Gerard. Pushing his limits, seeing what he can do and what Gerard’s willing to put up with.
Gerard the wolf is scary. He's crouched low, eyes hard and wild, lip snarled over his sharp teeth.
And then Bert is mirroring his stance, and they're both growling. The rest of their packs obviously have their back, but as if on some sort of unspoken command, no one else moves. It's just Gerard and Bert, Bert and Gerard, staring each other down.
It happens so fast Frank doesn't realise it at first. He's not used to wolf fighting; maybe there was some sort of signal or sign that he missed. But Gerard and Bert are jumping towards each other, growls ripped from their throats, teeth bared.
Frank acts on instinct. He moves before he even thinks about it, just animalistic decision.
He jumps in front of Gerard just as Bert's strong jaw snaps shut.
Frank howls out in pain. God, it hurts, hurts so much. There’s a memory triggered, just feeling and sensation; he’s felt something like this before, but he was different then. Human. But he’s not now and it still hurts.
He can feel it when Bert lets go, his teeth pulling out of Frank's flesh. Frank falls down to the ground, paws out in front of him as his head lolls to the side.
Gerard crouches down next to him but still tense, like he’s ready to jump in a second. Bert mirrors the pose and Frank can smell a continuing fight on the air.
He doesn’t want that, not at all.
Frank yips quietly, but it’s enough for Gerard’s pointed ears to twitch, registering it. Frank struggles to his feet -- he will get between those two again if he has to, if it stops them from hurting each other. He staggers under his own weight a little, and Bert makes a minuscule movement towards him; Gerard growls and leaps, not at Bert but toward Frank. His fur brushes against Frank’s and he presses close, but his lip is still curled towards Bert.
Frank looks at Bert, bows his head, but leans up against Gerard, against his smell and his warm body.
Bert growls a little but tosses his head, a signal to the rest of his pack. They back out of the clearing slowly, not turning away from Gerard, Mikey, or Ray, sharp eyes alert and angry. But they leave, eventually, and Frank can feel the tension drain from Gerard’s body.
Gerard crowds closer to Frank, head butting him gently, until Frank gets the hint and lies down on his good side. Frank looks around and sees Mikey and Ray sitting like perfect statues, on guard, while Gerard leans over Frank and starts to lick at his shoulder.
Frank whimpers, body twitching, but lies still while Gerard cleans his wound with his rough, pink tongue. He finally leans back, sitting on his hunches next to Frank, and Frank licks his paw in thanks. Gerard makes a soft noise, but nudges at Frank again, and Mikey does too from the other side, until Frank is up on his feet.
It’s a slow walk through the trees, slivers of moonlight cast through the clouds against the ground. Mikey and Ray are ahead, probably on guard. It must be costing Gerard something to not be leading; then again, he doesn’t seem very anxious to leave Frank’s side so maybe it’s okay.
Finally they’re through the trees and they’re in a yard; there’s a small house -- cabin, really -- and a shed with the door open. Frank follows Mikey and Ray into the shed , and he’s followed by Gerard. Frank collapses to the dirt floor, which seems to be a perfectly acceptable thing to do, because next he knows the others are curled up right next to him, all around him, and he feels incredibly warm and welcome.
He dozes on and off, the sound of breathing filling the room. He can sense dawn approaching, the moon’s pull waning, and the pain in his shoulder that had subsided flares up once again. He gets to his feet, tries to back away from the others; he needs room for this, lots of room.
They all lift their heads, one after the other, staring him down. Gerard makes a noise, half bark, half huff, and Frank knows he’s telling him to stay still, to come back. Frank shakes out his coat, all his limbs trembling, but doesn’t return to them.
Pain rips through Frank’s body as he undergoes the change; it always hurts, but it’s worse this time, tremors rippling more viciously through him. It never takes long, though, and before he knows it he’s human again and curled up in a ball on the cold ground. He’s still shaking, and he grips his shoulder with one hand and tucks his head down to his chest.
“Frank,” Gerard says. Frank blinks up at him; he was so lost in his own change he didn’t even register the others. But he glances around and sees them crowd around, all looking concerned. They’re dirty and sweaty but look nothing like how Frank feels.
“How are you fuckers all okay?” Frank asks, voice cracking. Mikey snorts and Ray tries to give him an encouraging smile but mostly looks like a deer caught in headlights, like he doesn’t know what to say or do.
Gerard kneels down beside Frank. “It’s not as bad for us as for you, I think.” And that makes sense, those lucky bastards, they were born for this. “We’re still tired and sore and we aren’t injured so -- Frank!”
“He didn’t mean it,” Frank says immediately.
“Yeah, right,” Gerard mutters.
“He wouldn’t have hurt me,” Frank says stubbornly.
Mikey says, “No, not if you hadn’t jumped in the way, he wouldn’t have.”
“Frank, that wasn’t necessary,” Gerard says seriously. “I can take care of myself, and it was between me and him anyway.”
“No, the two of you were acting like I was a prize or something, you gigantic assholes.”
Gerard’s cheeks colour a little but he protests weakly, “We were not.”
Behind him, Ray and Mikey are nodding their heads, and Frank knows it’s not because they’re agreeing with Gerard but with Frank.
“Whatever. You have no room to be mad at me,” Frank says. “You’re the one that’s always going on about control and not fighting and all that shit. What the fuck was that?”
“I hate it,” he says quietly, “that I can’t control it when I’m like that. It’s the wolf.” He looks at Frank, eyes swimming with guilt. “And you got hurt because of it.”
“I’m fine, don’t -- it’s okay,” Frank says, sighing. The exhaustion of the night and the change is beginning to settle into his bones. “I’m the one who got in the way.”
He struggles to sit up. Fuck, he’s usually out for the count by now, just laying in a daze on his mom’s basement floor trying to gather strength. She leaves him alone until he’s ready because she knows he hates being helped or coddled, but Gerard knows no such thing. He reaches out and Frank can’t muster up the energy to stop him. Next he knows, he’s leaning up against Gerard -- against Gerard’s body and his bare skin because, Christ, they’re all as naked as the day they were born.
“S’cold,” Gerard says, nose buried in Frank’s hair. His arm tightens around Frank.
It’s not that. Frank wonders if Gerard knows it’s not that and is just sparing him the embarrassment. Instead, Frank says, “Yeah,” and presses closer.
“Here, Gee,” Mikey says. He’s got some clothes pulled on and he’s handing a set out to Gerard. “I’ll be right back, okay, Frank?”
Frank nods. Gerard pulls away from him a little so he can wiggle into some clothes, and in moments Mikey’s back in the shed with a blanket held out to Frank. “Quickest thing I could find,” Mikey explains, “I’ll find you some clothes after.”
Frank takes the blanket, wraps it around his shoulders with Gerard’s help. “Thanks,” he says quietly, and tries to push himself up off the ground. He nearly tumbles over and then Ray’s got a grip on his arm, holding him steady. “I can do it,” Frank says.
“Don’t be an ass,” Ray replies easily, and he gently manhandles Frank up and out of the shed.
It’s a bit of a blur, what happens next. They shuffle inside the house and Frank doesn’t have much of a chance to look before he gets herded towards a bed. He groans in relief as he sinks down.
“Let me check,” Gerard says, and he’s carefully pushing the blanket back from Frank’s shoulder. He looks at the wound and then nods. He has a wet cloth in his hand and is gently wiping away the dirt. “It’s healing fine. Should take a day or two to be completely gone.”
Frank nods. “Okay.” He rubs his face into the pillow and sighs. “Where are we?”
“My grandma’s property. Well, mine and Mikey’s now. She left it for us. Somewhere for us to …” He trails off.
“Be?” Frank supplies. “Just … be.”
Gerard smiles. “Yeah.”
“She was,” Gerard says softly.
“Huh,” Frank says. “I was wondering if there were any girl wolves.”
“Of course there are,” Gerard tells him. “Just right now, around here, there’s … well.”
“Lots of dudes.”
“Exactly. Hasn’t always been, won’t always be, I’m sure.”
“It’s cool, though,” Frank says. He’s feeling light-headed, groggy, like he doesn’t have control of his limbs or his mouth. “I like dudes.”
“I know,” Gerard says, sounding rather fond. Gerard pushes a bit of hair off of Frank’s forehead but then abruptly stands up straight. “So, uh, you should rest.”
“Ok,” Frank says, eyes already drooping. But they fly open when he hears Gerard start to shift away and his hand shoots out, grabbing Gerard’s wrist. “You’re staying, right? Don’t leave.”
“I’ll be in the house,” Gerard says, carefully unwrapping Frank’s fingers from his wrist. He smiles kindly. “You’re safe.”
“Yeah, but stay,” Frank says, tugging him down. “Stay here with me.”
Gerard pauses for a moment, but then nods. “I’ll be right back, all right?”
“’K,” Frank says, and lets him go.
Frank’s eyes are closed again before Gerard even leaves the room, and he tries to keep his exhaustion at bay but it overtakes him. He rolls over at one point and is awake just enough know that Gerard’s there. He makes a content noise and throws out an arm over Gerard, but quickly drifts off again.
When he wakes up again, he’s more conscious of what’s going on. He’s curled up, but his face is pressed into Gerard’s hip. He blinks his eyes up at Gerard, who’s leaning against the headboard and has a sketchpad on his lap, next to Frank’s head.
“Hey,” Frank croaks, leaning back a bit.
“Hey, sleepy,” Gerard says, smiling down at him. He looks tired too, dark circles under his eyes, but Frank knows that’s probably just the stress put on his body with a change. Gerard looks more with it than Frank ever feels the day after the moon.
“How long was I out?”
“A couple hours.”
“Christ.” Frank presses the heel of his hand against his eye, and rolls onto his back. “I always feel like I’ve been hit by a Mack truck. Probably look it too.”
“Nah,” Gerard says, but he’s looking concerned. “You’re okay, right? Feel any different than normal?”
Frank pauses a moment, takes an inventory. Aside from a little bit of extra soreness in his shoulder, everything is as always. He shakes his head. “Nope, pretty standard over here.”
“Okay. I just, you know. Don’t really know all the differences between … well.”
“Those born with it and the unlucky fucks that get bit?”
“Do you really think you’re unlucky?” Gerard immediately bites his lip and looks uncertain, and Frank knows he didn’t mean to ask that.
Frank shrugs. “I don’t know. It’s made some things in my life a hell of a lot worse.” He meets Gerard’s eyes, lets a sly smile tug at his lips. “But I guess it’s not all bad.”
“Good!” Gerard says quickly. But then he drops his eyes and shakes his head, as if to himself, as if to shake off some sort of behaviour. It’s not behaviour that Frank minds -- in fact, he wishes it was more.
Frank rolls back towards Gerard, wanting to press up against him. Gerard’s eyes trail from Frank’s hip, where the blanket has been pushed down, and then up over his arms and chest. When Frank’s face pushes into his side, Gerard startles, as if he wasn’t expecting it, and then scrambles out of bed.
“So!” Gerard says, too brightly. “We should probably be heading back.” He sounds a bit normal, and almost frazzled, when he adds, “Cause, shit, I have to head back to the city tonight.”
“Already?” That’s disappointing.
Gerard nods. “Assignment due Monday but I need access to the studio to finish.”
“Shit,” Frank exclaims, throwing himself back against the pillows and staring up at the ceiling. “I have a test and I’ve got to study and my bag is in their car -- and fuck! My phone!” He groans pitifully. “My mom is probably freaking out right now.”
“Here,” Gerard says, shoving his hand in his pocket and bringing out his own phone. “Give her a call. As for your bag,” he pauses and takes a deep breath, as if steeling himself, “we’ll figure that part out.”
Frank snorts. “I’ll figure it out when I’m in town. Like fuck I’m letting you near them.”
Gerard looks offended. “What do you think I’m going to do?”
“Hey, how does my shoulder look?” Frank asks, angling it towards Gerard. Gerard growls low in his throat, then looks incredibly surprised that he did. “Yeah,” Frank says dryly, “that’s what I thought.” Gerard at least has the decency to look abashed.
He quickly punches in the house number and his mom picks up on the first ring. Gerard tries to leave but Frank snaps his fingers, wanting to keep him in the room. Gerard just raises his eyebrows -- pack leaders probably aren’t used to that, but whatever, Frank can do what he wants. But Gerard doesn’t leave, which is good. It’s what Frank wants, always.
His mom reams him out for not texting her earlier, but then she also says that his ‘friends’ came by earlier.
“They dropped off my stuff?” Frank asks.
“Yes. Aren’t they -- aren’t you supposed to be with them? They said you were fine, in good hands, but--”
“I am fine, Mom,” Frank assures her. “It’s kind of a long story.” Frank sees Gerard with his eyes wide and shaking his head. “Okay, no, not really a long story,” Frank says easily before his mother can butt in. “I started out with them, ending up running into Gerard, and now I’m hanging out with him. And Mikey and Ray.”
His mother pauses for a moment. “Hanging out with them?”
“Um. Yeah. Hanging out with them. Well, mostly I’ve been conked out like usual but they’re here making sure I’m okay.” He figures she’d like to hear that part. “Look, anyway, I’m going to be home in … an hour?” Frank wagers, and Gerard points his thumb up in the air. “Hour and a half?” Gerard nods. “Yeah, hour and a half. It’s fine. I’m all good. No worries, okay?”
“Right, no worries,” his mom echoes but Frank knows she doesn’t believe that. Still, she lets him go with a parting, “All right, but we’re talking when you get home. Love you.”
“Love you too. Bye.” Frank hangs up and hands Gerard his phone. “Thanks.”
“No problem. So, um, don’t have to worry?”
“Backpack all returned. Hopefully she didn’t look in it because I bet my clothes are in there -- holy crap, I’m naked.” Frank thinks it’s fun to point that out as Gerard turns a lovely shade of bashful.
“Um, there,” Gerard says, pointing to a pile of clothes on a chair near the bed. “We found those, hopefully they fit all right.”
Frank shrugs. “Just driving home, right?”
“Then it’s fine.” He jumps out of bed, and Gerard looks startled, stares for a moment, and then quickly turns around.
“I’ll just, uh, let you get dressed.”
“Okay!” Frank says brightly, trying not to giggle. He doesn’t succeed.
“And you called me the gigantic asshole,” Gerard mutters as he leaves the room, and Frank laughs even harder.
Frank’s week is immensely crazy and he doesn’t know where it goes. It’s crammed with studying and working on a huge essay, and trying to get some sleep in there. Before he knows it, it’s Sunday night and he barely seen or heard from Gerard, Mikey, and Ray or Bert, Quinn, and Jepha, nothing more than a text or two seeing if he’s okay, if everything’s all right. He responds with a quick answer but doesn’t get into it. That’s a shitty thing to talk about over texting.
Then again, Frank hasn’t tried to contact them much either. He’s got to put this one last push on school, then it’s exams in a couple weeks, and then it is done for-fucking-ever.
Not to mention … he has no idea what to say to any of them, because he hasn’t had the time to sort out his head. He knows what went down with the moon, it all means something, he just doesn’t know what.
He’s extremely surprised when it turns out that it’s Bert, Quinn, and Jepha that spell it out for him.
He’s walking home from the corner store, needing some fresh air and a new pack of smokes, when Bert’s familiar beater pulls up beside the sidewalk.
“Hey, sexy,” Jepha yells out the open window, eyebrows wiggling at Frank in the most ridiculous way. “Wanna ride?”
Frank laughs, and is a little surprised when Bert parks the car and they all jump out. Frank gets a glimpse into the back seat and sees that it’s packed full of bags.
“What the fuck, man?” Frank says, frowning. “What’s going on?”
“We’re blowing this popsicle stand,” Jepha explains. He shrugs. “For a while, anyway.”
“Why? What the fuck for? Look -- I’m not mad, or whatever, about the other night.”
“You’re not mad?” Quinn says, laughing. “You’re the one that ditched us.”
“That’s not -- I didn’t mean--”
“Don’t sweat it, Frankie,” Bert says. “We’re not mad at you either.” He touches Frank’s arm, below where his wound was but clearly indicating that’s what he means. “You okay?”
“Told you man,” he says, shrugging it off, because Bert had sent him a text. “Of course, no worries. I know you didn’t mean it.”
“Really didn’t mean it, not to you,” Bert says.
“Great. So, you fuckers don’t have to leave. All’s good.”
“This town ain’t big enough for two packs. Hasn’t been for a while, and we know that. And we aren’t the Jersey boys,” Bert says, shrugging. “We can deal.”
“We’ve been scouting for a place for our own anyway,” Jepha adds. “Long before you stumbled into town with your cute little ass.”
“And, what, my cute little ass isn’t enough to make you stay?” Frank’s trying to keep it light, but he’s more than a little disappointed. Maybe not everyone got along perfectly, he gets that, that’s life, but these are his friends.
“So very tempting, Iero,” Jepha says, throwing an arm around Frank’s shoulders. “But we don’t want to cause you any problems with your pack.”
“I don’t have a pack,” Frank says automatically.
All three of the fuckers laugh at him.
“You’ve chosen it,” Bert says knowingly.
“No, I haven’t,” Frank says. He shrugs. “Or they haven’t chosen me. Whatever.”
“That’s a fucking lie if I ever heard one,” Quinn says, rolling his eyes. “Now fucking get over here, fucker, cause we’ve got to go.” He pulls Frank into hug, tightly squeezing him and lifting him off the ground, shaking him around. Normally Frank hates that shit, but he’ll let Quinn get away with it today.
He says his goodbye to Bert with a fistbump and a quick hug. Jepha squeezes Frank hard and lingering. “Awe, Frankie,” he says over dramatically. “Think of what we could’ve been.” He gives Frank’s cheek a playful smacking kiss, but before Frank knows it, they’re gone.
He watches Bert’s shit car drive down the road until it turns a corner and is completely out of sight. Frank walks home, mumbles a hello to his mother, and goes to his room. He flops down on his bed and stares up at the ceiling.
He lets the word roll around in his head, tries to figure out what it means, and what to do with it.
Frank and Gerard are talking on Skype one night, Frank done with homework and Gerard taking a break. Gerard is laughing as he tells a story about one of his classmate’s attempts to impress a professor by arriving at school in nothing but a banana hammock and covered in body paint. He looks so happy and joyful, and he’s really into telling the story.
When he takes a brief pause, Frank blurts out, "Go out on a date with me."
Um. That is really, really not what he meant to ask about. He was going to ask about the whole pack business, thought he finally built up the courage to approach it, but instead Gerard was being so Gerard. Frank’s done all he can to not push, to get to know him better and be a friend. But he can’t help it anymore, he wants like nothing ever before. So he used his courage to ask that instead. Still could be a win, hopefully.
Gerard looks stunned at the change of topic. "What?"
"Just one," Frank says. He tries not to lean in too close to the screen, make his face look huge and blurry. He sits as still as he can, though his leg is jittering under his desk. "Something that’s just you and me. And we'll see how it goes and if you still think it's going to be complicated, I'll leave you alone. Promise."
Gerard looks at him skeptically through the screen. "Really?"
"Well, probably not, I'll harass you into a second date, but we'll never know unless we try the first one, right?"
Gerard’s lips start to curl on the one side. "You never fucking give up, huh?"
"Not when it's worth it," Frank says. His stomach swoops when he sees Gerard try to suppress a smile but it comes out crookedly anyway. "Besides, I'm almost done being a fucking high school student, and you’re just about graduated from college, and we deserve some celebration, at the very least.”
"Hmm, you think so, do you?" Gerard pretends to think about it but then he sighs, relenting. "All right then, but this is on you. Everything. Planning it, paying for it, the whole works."
"My fucking pleasure," Frank says, rubbing his hands together in exaggerated glee. "This is going to be good. Be ready to be fucking wooed.”
"What the fuck have I got myself into?" Gerard says, deadpanned.
Frank grins, bright and sharp. "You'll just have to wait and see, now won't you?"
Gerard pauses awkwardly and then coughs. “I’ll, uh, well. I’ll be home by next weekend. That -- we could go out then?”
Frank winces. “Sorry, dude. I’m going out of town.”
“Oh, yeah?” Gerard asks, trying for casual and failing spectacularly.
“Don’t worry, it’s just back home.” He wonders if Gerard was thinking of him going to visit the other pack, but he doesn’t ask. No need to make this any more weird or awkward. “I’m crashing at my friend Shaun’s place, we’re having a party. Sort of a Happy Almost Graduation thing for me and my friends from there. Since, you know, we all went to school together for years.”
“Ah,” Gerard says, and he sounds relieved, almost. But he looks happy for Frank. “Sounds fun. Have a good time.”
“Thanks, I will,” Frank says. “But the weekend after that?”
It’s Gerard’s turn to wince. “Um. Well.” Frank can tell he’s glancing around, making sure no one is around, but that’s just dumb. Gerard is sitting in the quiet privacy of his dorm room so they can talk. “That’s the weekend of the moon.”
“Well, yeah,” Frank says. “But it’s not until Sunday. We can go out Friday or Saturday. I’ll be on my best behaviour.”
“Somehow I doubt that. Wasn’t your best behaviour supposed to be not even asking?”
Frank isn’t offended by that. He’s already got a yes. But he plays it up a bit, slapping a hand to his chest, throwing his head back. “Ow, how you wound me.” When he looks back at the screen, Gerard’s biting his lip and his eyes are wide. Frank has no idea if he can actually pull off a sexy smile, but he gives it his best shot. “Come on, Gee,” he says, voice low. “Come out with me.”
“Yeah,” Gerard breaths out, nodding slowly. “Yeah, okay. That weekend’s fine. It’s great.”
Frank’s smile softens. “Good. It’s a date.”
As soon as Gerard's car pulls into the driveway, Frank jumps up off the couch. Not that he had been sitting there watching with hawk eyes out the window or anything ... except, yeah, he totally had been.
"Okay, Mom," he says, voice pitched way too excitedly and coming out in a rush. He grabs his jacket from where it was slung over the back of the couch. "Bye, I'll see you later."
His mom is curled up on the chair reading a book. She barely looks up and says nonchalantly, "Okay, have fun."
He rolls his eyes when he sees the goofy smile she's doing a poor job of hiding. He is glad she's excited for him, though, because she let him bum some money off her, which is good because he'd been having a hard time coming up with date ideas without any. Lent him some money, yes, but unfortunately not the car. And also made him promise to pay it back when he starts his new job.
"I will, bye," he says again, and flies out the door.
Gerard is getting out of his car -- Frank had to ask him to drive, unless they wanted to take the loser cruiser around for their date. Which, actually, Frank does have an idea to incorporate the bus for another date, but he needs it to be summer so he's already planning that date down the road. For today, though, Gerard is driving and he doesn't seem to mind.
"Hey," Gerard says. He frowns at Frank. "I was going to come up to get you."
"Where Mom will be hovering around and maybe want to talk with you? No fucking way," Frank says, making a face as he makes his way down the drive. "Plus, you're not Kevin Bacon and I'm not your date with great legs and a small rack and we’re not going to an illegal dance. And this door is going to work," he says as he reaches the door handle of the car. “Well, probably.”
Gerard blinks at him. "I have no idea what you just said."
"Get in the car, Gee," Frank says fondly. "I'll explain on the way."
The confusion on Gerard's face breaks with a smile. "Okay!" he says happily.
Frank directs Gerard to drive them down to the mall, and they chat along the way. Gerard tells Frank about moving out of the dorms, and applications he’s been putting in for jobs. Frank tells Gerard about his own job interview at the gas station, and how he has to go for training shifts in the evenings after the weekend, and about the couple of papers he still has left to write. It’s all very normal and casual, but there’s an excited and nervous thrum running under Frank’s skin. He knows it has nothing to do with the upcoming moon, either.
After Gerard parks, they gets out of the car and Gerard turns to walk in the direction of the movie theatre.
"Hey," Frank says. He points to the opposite end of the mall. "This way."
Frank hasn't told Gerard what they're doing yet, and once he said the mall Gerard was content to keep back his questions, apparently assuming they were going to the theatre. There're a couple movies out that they’ve both mentioned wanting to see, so it makes sense, but that's not what Frank is planning.
Frank leads Gerard through the mall, evading his curious questions, and then stops in front of the place he intends to take them.
"Holy shit," Gerard says. His mouth drops open in surprise. "I didn't even know this existed."
"Just opened last month!" Frank says gleefully. "And who knows how long something like this is going to last, right? Should check it out while it's here."
Frank grabs Gerard's hand and drags him into the arcade.
The place has a new look to it, modern and remodeled. And there are newer arcade games there, like Dance, Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, Shining Force Cross and quite a few comic and action movie based ones, but there are also old school ones like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Star Wars. Not only that, there are air hockey tables, pinball machines, and even Whack-A-Mole and Skee Ball.
Frank marches happily up to the counter and gets them a bunch of tokens. "Here," Frank says, handing half to Gerard. "Where to first?"
"I don't know," Gerard says, looking around in wonder at all the shiny, blinking lights. His eyes dart to a machine that suddenly blares loud rock music. "That one," he says, though there's no way he could possibly even know what game it is. Frank laughs but tugs him along.
It's not quite a kid's place, it's not like they have tickets to redeem for prizes or anything, though there are quite a few teenagers hanging around. Gerard doesn't seem to care at all, doesn't even mention it, and Frank's grateful for that. He was a little nervous at first that maybe Gerard would think this place was too stupid or too young, but by the way his eyes are lit up and the grin on his face ... yeah, it's not a problem. Frank's instincts fucking rock.
They manage almost an hour out of their tokens, even though Gerard is pretty shit at most of it. Thank fuck for the continue options. They try out all different kinds of games, not just sticking it out on one to pass levels or get high scores. They do get hung up at Whack-A-Mole, though, and Frank loses because he's distracted and entirely too amused by the way Gerard's so focused and his tongue pokes out of the corner of his mouth.
Gerard absolutely refuses to get on Dance, Dance but laughs his ass off while Frank flails around and loses spectacularly to some thirteen-year-old girl who kicks his ass, so it's worth it.
"Okay, shit," Frank says after he's done the fifth song Gerard picked for him, each getting more and more ridiculous. "I need a break." He lifts up the bottom hem of his shirt to wipe at his forehead, and catches Gerard glancing away when Frank looks up. He tries very hard not to smirk.
There're a few tables in the back next to a little snack bar, so Frank gets a Coke and plunks his ass down.
"So, how're you doing after last weekend," Gerard asks him.
Frank sighs. "I'm fine."
They’d talked once this week, and Frank had been depressed as shit when he told Gerard about the conversation he'd had with Shaun and Hambone at the start of their party Saturday night. Their band was ... well, it wasn't going to happen anymore. Frank had been gone, everyone was moving on, college and jobs and other stuff happening. Frank had tried to be manly and suck it up, at least for that night, but he was disappointed and upset and got drunk as hell.
And then had a two-day hangover while trying to get over it. He left out that part when he told Gerard, but Gerard had still been really sympathetic.
"Thanks for rubbing it in, though," Frank says, but he keeps it light. He shrugs. "It sucks, but yeah. I'll get over it."
Gerard nods. "Plus, you know a bunch of musicians."
"Well, yeah, back home. They're all moving on," Frank says.
Gerard rolls his eyes. "No, idiot, I mean here."
Frank blinks at him, and then a smile slowly breaks over his face. "Holy shit, yes. We can start a band."
"Yeah, you and Ray sound awesome together. I mean, I haven't heard yet but Mikey says you do. And Mikey, of course, is awesome," he adds, shrugging, as if there's no other question about it. "You could totally be a band."
"And you, fucker!" Frank says happily.
"I -- what?"
It's Frank's turn to roll his eyes. "Singing, dude. You sing. Holy shit, we're gonna start a band."
"Wait, what, no, that's not what I mean," Gerard tries to protest. “You sing too!” Frank ignores him and pulls out his phone. He types a quick message to Mikey and Ray: we r a band now. g singin. xo f.. At the last second, he adds Gerard's number, and presses send.
Gerard pulls his phone out of his pocket, "Oh, fuck you, asshole," but they both get messages almost instantly. Ray's all, f'yeah we r!, and Mikey simply says, Yes.
Gerard groans. "You little shit."
"This calls for a celebration," Frank says happily, and stands up. "Come on, let's go beat shit up.”
Gerard's shaking his head, but grinning a little bit and follows Frank to find the right game for celebrating forming a band. Guitar Hero is much too obvious, but Street Fighter works.
They play until they run out of tokens, though they replenish their supply twice. When they’re all out, it’s not really even that late yet.
“This is where you help me decide,” Frank says, “what to do next.”
Gerard raises an eyebrow. “I thought this was all on you.”
“Well, I want you to have fun too,” Frank says. “I have a plan, just one with options.”
“I am,” Gerard says softly. He sounds uncertain, though, for just a second before he blinds Frank with one of his smiles. “Having fun, I mean. So, what’s up?”
“Well, we could go to a movie,” Frank points out. “But if you’re hungry we can go eat?” They’d shared some nachos between games, but it wasn’t a real dinner.
“Or we can eat at the movies,” Gerard says.
“Sure!” Frank says, though mentally he’s trying to calculate how much money he has left.
“My treat,” Gerard adds, as if reading his mind.
“What? No,” Frank protests. “We already agreed, I’m the one who’s supposed to be funding this date.”
“But I want to, it’s okay, you know I was just fucking with you,” Gerard says. “You get the tickets, I’ll buy us snacks. Deal?”
Frank’s a little reluctant, but he agrees. “Deal.”
The mall is starting to close down, but they’re able to cut their way across it instead of walking outside to get to the movie theatre. Halfway there, Gerard stops and points at the little offshoot corridor that leads to the bathrooms. “Dude, hold up. I gotta piss.”
“Sure,” Frank says. He follows Gerard down the hall, but waits by a bank of payphones as Gerard goes into the men’s room.
He thinks over their date, the way things are going. He grins to himself when he pictures the way Gerard was laughing at him dancing, and the bright smiles when Gerard did end up winning a game. Frank feels good right now, so fucking good. Confident. This is … this is going perfectly. This is exactly what him and Gerard need to move on, step it up.
A couple minutes later, Gerard comes out of the bathroom and gives Frank a warm grin. “Okay, let’s go.”
“Sure,” Frank says. “Hey, wait.” Gerard pauses for a moment, and then Frank does what he’s been thinking about since the party. He leans up and places a closed-mouth kiss at the corner of Gerard’s lips.
“Wait,” Gerard says quietly, his entire body still.
"You want this," Frank says. He tugs on the lapels of Gerard's leather jacket, pulling him closer, Frank’s head almost bumping his chin. Gerard tilts his face down a little and they’re nose-to-nose. Frank searches Gerard's eyes. "Don't tell me you don't want this."
"Frank ..." Gerard trails off. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.
"Don't leave me hanging, motherfucker," Frank says gently. He's not mad or pissed off, not yet. But he'll coax it out of Gerard if he has to. "At least explain it to me. Really explain, so I know."
"I just don’t know, okay?” Gerard says, shakily.
"Oh no you don't," Frank says, scowling. "You don't get to be like that. I don't mind pursuing you--"
"Shut up, fucker, I'm trying to woo you here. But you don't get to be a dick that leads me around by the balls." Gerard's looking at the ground now and Frank slips a hand behind his neck, trying to get Gerard to look him in the eye. "You said yes to tonight."
“I know.” Gerard sighs. "Fuck, I'm awful at this shit."
Frank smirks. "Obviously."
"Shut up, fucker," Gerard echoes. "I'm trying to explain to you here."
Frank waits quietly for twenty long, long seconds of Gerard staring at the wall behind Frank's head, then Frank makes a face. "Okay, fuck, before the zombie apocalypse would be fucking fantastic."
"I'm trying to figure out how to put it into words.”
“Jesus, must be serious if you don’t even know what to say.”
“Right? I mean, I've thought about it a lot, especially since the other day."
"When I was a savvy motherfucker who got you to agree to a date?"
"Yes, exactly," Gerard says seriously. "Nice moves, by the way."
"Mmm," Gerard hums absently. He glances around; the mall is nearly empty, aside from those who’ve been able to sneak through to get to the movie theatre, like they had. But they’re out of the way, and alone, and he needs to spit it out already. Gerard takes a deep breath. "The thing is, the thing is the, uh, wolf stuff--"
"Oh not again," Frank says with a groan
Gerard scowls. "You said you wanted me to explain, so will you just calm down for a fucking minute and let me try."
Frank opens his mouth and at Gerard's hard look shuts it. "I was just going to say sorry and okay!"
Frank's hand is still on the back of Gerard's neck, and they’re so lost in each other they both seem a bit surprised when it slips away. He takes a small step back, giving Gerard some space. It's like Gerard lets out a breath he didn't know he was holding in. Frank hopes a bit of space lets him focus and get the words out so that he can press right back in again.
“Okay,” Gerard says. “Look, I haven’t told you everything. I’ve wanted to, but you know there’s this set of, like, guidelines? But I think -- I think it’s okay to tell you now. Because … you know that, right?” Gerard is looking straight into Frank’s eyes.
Frank nods slowly. “Yeah, Gee. I know.” He reaches out, places a light hand on Gerard’s arm. “Please, just -- tell me.”
But, fuck, of course as soon as Gerard's mouth opens the two of them are rudely interrupted by a complete and total fucknut.
"Iero," Cal calls down the little corridor. It looks like he was heading to the bathroom but stopped short when he saw them. "What's this? Using the mall to pick up men? I hear there's a meeting place in the woods for little perverts like you, why aren't you there?"
"You have got to be shitting me." Frank growls under his breath and he's so mad he's seeing red. Gerard gives him a questioning look, and Frank says, “Cal.” Gerard nods; he’s heard the stories. Hell, he saw Frank the day Frank and Cal had their fight at school.
"Haven't seen you around, Frankie-boy. You’ve been dodging me. Afraid to finish our fight?”
"Never," Frank says, and takes a step forward. “Think you’ve been avoiding me so that your daddy doesn’t get mad.” Frank heard Cal’s got a lot riding on a college he wants to go to and his father threw a fit the last time Frank and Cal fought. Cal, miraculously, was smart enough to realise that suspensions or expulsions will fuck that up.
He’s been leaving Frank alone at school, but what the fuck ever, they’re not in school right now. If a fight is what this ass wants, Frank’s happy to play along.
Gerard's arm shoots out like a barrier between Frank and Cal. His other arm holds tight to Frank's waist. "No, don't." His voice is deep, demanding, so unlike what he usually sounds.
Frank's entire body freezes before he realises. He glances at Gerard but Gerard is staring down Cal. The look on Gerard's face -- it's fierce, terrifying, and he looks a little crazy. Frank wouldn't want to mess with him if he didn't know Gerard's awkward and pretty gentle, when he’s not a wolf. Hell, he does know that and still wouldn't want to mess with that look.
"You need to leave," Gerard says to Cal.
Cal looks a cross between amused and confused, but he isn't moving. Frank's fists clench and anger is starting to boil over; he pushes against Gerard's arm and takes a step forward.
"Frank," Gerard says sharply, but so quietly only Frank can hear. "I said no." Frank stops moving again.
Gerard turns a sharp look on Cal again. Gerard says, "Get the fuck away from us, unless you want to explain to everyone how two guys half your size beat the shit out of you."
Cal laughs. "As if you could."
"Yeah? You’ve fought Frank, I heard he gave you a bloody nose. You have no clue what I can do." Gerard bares his creepy pointy little teeth in a crazy smile. "You really want to try it out?"
It's only now that Cal actually looks nervous, looks like he's uncertain. He glances between the two of them. Frank may be pissed at Gerard for holding him back but he can play along and he glares hard at Cal, showing him just how much rage and anger is inside of him. Cal glances around, looks back into the main part of the mall, and shrugs. "I'm meeting my girl and like hell I'm going to mess up my clothes with your blood and ruin my date."
Frank laughs, short and high. "Right, that's it. That's exactly it, you pussy."
Beside him, Gerard groans. He hisses, "Shut up, Frank."
Frank doesn't feel the pull like he did before, when Gerard told him to stay put, but he clamps his mouth shut anyway.
Cal just smirks at them and gives them the finger. "See you boys around sometime. I won't forget this."
"Us either," Frank spits out, but Cal just shakes his head and walks away. Walks away, for fuck's sake, how the hell did Gerard pull that off?
As soon as he's gone, Gerard's shoulders slump and he pulls his arm back. He looks irritated. "What the fuck was that, Frank? We don't need to fight to prove anything."
"What the fuck was that?" Frank asks, the anger he felt for Cal still there and bubbling out. He pushes at Gerard's chest. Gerard looks stunned and stumbles back, lets Frank poke at his chest until he's up against the wall. "What the fuck are you trying to pull with me?"
"Frank, I can explain--"
"Then fucking start," Frank snaps. He goes to poke at Gerard's chest again but Gerard catches his wrist. Frank reacts by using his other hand but Gerard catches that one too and tugs Frank forward. They're chest to chest and Gerard is holding Frank's arms down to his sides.
Frank's chest is heaving, from the adrenaline of running into Cal and from the anger and the confusion of what happened. He scowls at Gerard. "What the fuck?"
Gerard breathes out one word. "Pack."
Frank's heart skips a beat and suddenly all the air drains from his lung. "I -- what?"
Gerard sighs. "You know, Frank. I know you do. That's why I wasn’t sure you and me doing this dating thing was a good idea. Because I felt -- I knew -- Frank, you're one of us now. Can't you tell?"
Of course he can. But it’s still hard to wrap his head around, especially now that it’s out there, out in the open. "I didn't -- I didn't think you wanted me. Like that. Like pack."
Gerard nods. "I do. We all do. It's -- it's unusual for us. To have someone who was made and not born, so I think we tried to resist it at first. Or, well, I did. Because it didn't work out before, having other wolves around.”
"With Bert and the others?"
Gerard nods. "We were friends when they first came to town, but that went wrong, and it was so hard to get over, it sucked so much.”
“What happened?” Frank asks. He’s wanted to know for so long.
Maybe because he’s pack now, technically, Gerard’s willing to say. The story comes tumbling out in one big rush of words, the way it does when Gerard gets worked up and just has to get it out. It’s okay, it’s not like Frank’s going to stop him now.
“Well, they were already a pack when they showed up here, but my grandma, she was our alpha. Then she died, and it passed on to me. I had a really hard time with it, because of her death, and my -- well, the way I was so fucked up. I was trying to deal with all this new pack stuff, and decided to get sober, and I missed her so fucking much. And me and Bert, we had become pretty close, pretty quick. But he’s alpha too, and we couldn’t get past that. Like, us personally but the wolf parts too. It’s just the way we are, built this way. The way it went down, Frankie, it was awful. For all of us, and then they didn’t leave. Wouldn’t leave, probably just to piss me off. Or maybe they thought of this as home now, I don’t know. But we had to exist in this town as rivals because our wolf parts wouldn’t let it be any other way. And maybe our human parts wouldn’t either. I don’t know. It was messy. It still is, but we came to an understanding, sort of.”
“All that territory shit,” Frank says.
Gerard nods. “So when you came along ... I thought you were new to their pack, and well, I didn't want us all to get hurt again. I didn't want to get hurt again. It was more my problem then Mikey or Ray’s. And you, you were so different, right from the start. You weren’t part of a pack, and you wouldn’t take any bullshit, not from any of us.”
“And now … I am, aren’t I? Part of a pack. Your pack.”
“Yes,” Gerard says. “You are. And that’s complicated.”
"Because you want me," Frank says. "Not as pack, but as me."
Gerard closes his eyes. "Maybe? Honestly, I don't know -- what if, what if what I'm feeling is just because of the pack thing. Like, the alpha in me knowing you should be with us, but it's not -- I want to fair to you, Frank, make sure it’s real. But I don’t -- I don’t know that it is. The moon, it’s fucking me up, I can’t tell, and this part of it, it’s all still so new to me. I’m sorry, Frank, I’m so fucking sorry.”
Jesus fuck, that hurts, unbelievably so. It's like an arrow through the gut. Frank’s heart sinks like a stone, and the anger whooshes out of him, replaced by an overpowering sadness.
It's all he can think to say. He feels raw and empty, even though he has a pack now. He thought that’s what he wanted all along, but now he knows it’s not. It’s not everything.
He pulls away from Gerard, and Gerard lets him go. Gerard looks so sad, so worried. Frank says dully, "Okay, then."
"No, Gerard, I get it. You think -- well," Frank says, trying to smile. He can feel how fake it is, how it falls flat, and Gerard sees right through it. "At least I know now. You've explained. I'll leave you alone about it.”
"No, Gerard, I just need to ... go. Be alone. Just go for a bit. Unless you're going to go all alpha on my ass and make me stay. You can do that now, can’t you? I felt it, with Cal. You stopped me.”
Gerard looks crushed. "I try not to do that, I swear. I just didn't see any benefit of us beating a guy up. There is none, violence is not the answer--"
"Yeah, now's not the time," Frank says, shoving his hands in his pockets. Because right now, he really wants to beat something up, beat everything up, even though he knows he won't because it would just upset his alpha. Fuck, he has an alpha. And a pack. He thought it would feel different, if that happened, but he never thought once it would be so painful.
"I need some space, okay? We'll talk soon. Um. Right?”
"Yes, of course. Let me give you a ride home, at least," Gerard says. He takes a step forward, reaches for Frank. Frank flinches back and Gerard's hand drops.
"I'm okay for now. I’ll catch the bus."
“Gerard, please.” Frank winces at how desperate it sounds.
"Okay, okay,” Gerard says, when he sees Frank is not kidding about this. He’s probably trying really hard not to pull out the alpha shit. Frank can’t decide if he’s disappointed he hasn’t or not. Gerard says softly, “Text me? Let me know you get home okay.”
“Sure,” Frank says, nodding. “Later.” Frank turns and walks away, blindly making his way through the mall and into the night air.
Sunday afternoon, Frank's in his room playing his guitar, loud and furiously, trying to deal with his pent up energy. He doesn't hear a knock, but there must've been one because suddenly he sees his mother standing in the open door of his room and she never walks in without invitation anymore.
He stops playing, waits until the final chord fades away. "Yeah?"
"There's someone here to see you," she says. "He's waiting at the front door."
"Is it Gerard?" Frank says, but he doesn't need to ask. It's the day of the full moon, their wolf halves are climbing to the surface, and he can easily smell him now.
She nods. "Yeah."
"I already texted him," Frank says. He hunches over his guitar, fingertips moving over the strings. Not to play, but it's soothing and familiar. "I'm not going."
"Frank," his mother says. "Maybe you should hear him out."
Frank shakes his head. Yeah, maybe he's being stupid about this, trying so hard to avoid Gerard since being rejected ... shit, okay, only two days ago, but the embarrassment hasn't faded away even a little. He had sent off a text in a fit of self-pity the night before, and ignored any of Gerard's responses.
He doesn't want to go out into the woods. He doesn't want to go out with his pack.
Only, he does. Of course he does. He just doesn't know how his wolf is going to react to everything. It's best if he stays away for now.
"I don't know what's going on," his mom says, "but I know something's wrong. And you were so happy, so excited."
"Well, I'm not anymore," Frank says shortly. "And I don't want to talk about it. Tell him to go away."
"You're an adult," she replies, just as short. "Tell him yourself."
She turns and leaves but he can hear her footsteps go into her own room rather than to the front door. He sighs and stands up, slipping the strap over his head, and puts his guitar down on his bed carefully. He takes a deep breath, runs his hands through his hair, and goes out to face the music.
Gerard takes a step toward him as soon as he sees Frank. Frank pauses in his tracks, keeping his distance, and crossing his arms over his chest. "What're you doing here?"
"I came to get you," Gerard says. "Come on, Mikey and Ray are waiting in the car."
"I already told you, I'm not going."
"Frank, don't be stupid," Gerard says, frowning.
"Yeah, thanks," Frank says snarkily. "Making my own decisions is stupid."
"Of course it’s not, but I don't understand why you won’t come."
"Yes, you do. You know." Frank shakes his head. "I need space. I need to be left alone. I don't want to deal with this right now."
"Well, welcome to adulthood," Gerard says snottily. "You have to deal with things."
"Yeah, guess you would know," Frank retorts.
Gerard's eyes flash angrily and his fists curl up at his sides. Frank wonders if he's going to let go of his control, let the moon and its pull take over early, grab Frank and drag him out of the car or fight him or whatever. Part of Frank wishes Gerard would try something, just to see what would happen. They're at a stubborn impasse for a moment, staring each other down.
Gerard lets go of the anger first, and sounds reasonable as he says, "You're part of the pack. And that means being together during the change. It'll help, it'll be easier on you, and us. Be as fucking angry at me as you want, but think about that."
Frank's already shaking his head. "Too soon, Gerard. It won't help anyone with me being out there tonight."
"What are you going to do instead, then?"
"I dealt with it before, I'll deal with it now. I’ll be fine.”
Gerard closes his eyes and sighs. "Frank, please--"
"No," he snaps. "Or is this the part where you make me? Because if you are, stop the fucking chit chat and fucking make me already."
The low blow works. The look on Gerard's face almost makes him give in, but his pride won't let him.
"Okay," Gerard says, softly. "Okay. I’m not going to make you, not if you really don’t want.” He pauses, as if waiting for Frank to admit he does want – but that’s the problem right there, Frank wants but not in the right way, so Frank doesn’t say anything. Gerard sighs and offers, “Have a good night, okay?"
"Yeah," Frank says. "You too."
Gerard gives him one more look, pleading and worried and so fucking sorry, but Frank remains a statue. He doesn't budge. Gerard turns to go and Frank holds himself back, stops himself from calling out. As soon as Gerard’s out the door and it shuts, Frank sinks to the floor, hunches over so his face is pressed into the carpet, and he bangs his fist against it a handful of times.
He turns his face up to see his mom there, looking down with such concern. She kneels down on the floor next to him, places a soothing hand on his back and rubs gently. It reminds him of when he was a kid, and he was always so sick, and she was always there.
"I'm such an idiot, Mom," he says to her, voice cracking.
"Well, sometimes, yes," she agrees. He can't help but snort into the floor. "But you're doing as you've always done -- figuring out your own way, making your own decisions."
"It sucks when others don't agree."
"Yeah, it does," she says. "But that's sort of life, you know?"
He nods, and then pushes himself up so he's sitting on his knees next to her. He can't help leaning against her, and she slips an arm around him.
"I hate this," he says into her shoulder.
"I know, baby," she replies, hand rubbing over his arm. "But you're doing so well, dealing with all this. I should've said that sooner. I know it's hard on you, but you're so brave."
"I feel like a big coward right now," he says.
She pulls away gently and gets to her feet, pulling him up too. "Everyone has off days," she says. "Come on, we have a enough time to watch a movie or two before the sun sets. Make an old lady happy and hang out with your mom."
"You're not old," he says instantly.
She grins. "And you're surprisingly sweet sometimes."
"Am not," he says. "For that, I'm making you watch a movie with explosions."
"I'm shocked," she says flatly, but smiles at him. It makes him feel a little bit better, at least.
It's the worst change Frank’s ever, ever been through.
The physical turning part, that's the same as always. But when he's a wolf -- the wolf is angry and confused. But it’s more than that, he’s desperate and longing.
He wants his pack.
He knows the pack is out there, somewhere, running under the moon without him. Frank the wolf paces the cage more restlessly than ever. He snarls and howls and bites at the metal bars keeping him away from his pack. He throws his body against them repeatedly, trying to find weaknesses, trying to find a way out.
Unlike other times, when he would give up after a while, he doesn't stop trying to get out, trying to get to his pack. He can't. He doesn't stop raging until the night is gone and the sun comes up.
The change back into human is more painful this time, Frank's entire body abused and sore.
He lays on the cement floor, panting heavily as he tries to gather strength, every little move sending sparks of pain through him. He lies there so long, is so exhausted and hurt, that he actually passes out before he makes it back upstairs.
He's woken by his mother's concern voice, and a tentative hand on his shoulder shaking him. Frank snarls in her direction, and she snatches her hand back, eyes wide. When he realises what he's done, he lets out a low, pitiful moan.
"Sorry," he gasps out. "I didn't mean to."
"Frank," she says, worried. "What happened?"
"It was angry," Frank says. He tugs the blanket she's draped over him tighter, and glances out the little window of the basement. "I was angry. At myself. I should've gone with them."
"Yes, well," she says, her voice steadier now. "Lessons learned."
He nods. "Yeah."
She reaches out a hand, but stops it mid-air. "Can I -- will you let me help you?" she asks. "You really should get into bed and rest."
"Okay," Frank says. His body feels worse than ever, and those stairs look way too steep to deal with on his own right now. He lets her help him up to his room, tuck him in, and he stays awake long enough to swallow the Tylenol and water she gets for him. And then he's out like a light.
The next time he wakes up, he's confused. He can smell Gerard, but when he looks around the room, it's empty. It makes him ache, inside and out. "Mom?" he calls out. "Mom!"
She appears at his door a few seconds later. "Hey, you. How're you feeling?"
"Oh, god," he says as he tries to roll over. "Awful. Fucking awful." She makes a sympathetic noise and sits on the edge of the bed. He looks at her and asks, "Is Gerard here?"
"He was, a little while ago. Just for a couple minutes. To see if you were all right."
"Oh," Frank says. He supposes that makes sense. It's probably the alpha in him, compelled to make sure his pack is okay. Yeah, it's probably only that. "What did you tell him?"
"That you had physically and emotionally beat yourself up."
"Mom!" he exclaims, looking at her in disbelief.
"I'm kidding, I'm kidding. I said you had a rough night and were sleeping it off. He said the bruises would heal quickly."
"He was in here?"
"Just for a minute. He was really worried," she says softly.
"It's his job," Frank says, because he can't let himself believe anything else.
"I don't think it's that," she says.
"It is. You don't understand."
"Oh, of course not, I'm just the mother," she says, rolling her eyes. He tries to scowl at her, but instead his mouth breaks into a large yawn. That puts her back into concerned-mom mode instantly. "Get some more sleep, okay? I'll make us some dinner in a while."
"Okay," he says sleepily. He's back asleep before she's even out the door.
Working part time at the local gas station isn't exactly Frank's dream job, but he needs to start somewhere. Now that he’s past exams and done school, he’s the new employee who wants to work as much as possible but who gets all the crap hours. Mainly, the graveyard and swing shifts. It’s going to be a bitch around full moons, but he’ll see what he can get away with.
It's just about the end of a late shift when the little bell above the door chimes. Frank looks up from the guitar magazine he's flipping through to see none other than Mikeyway.
"Hey, man," Frank says, giving him a nod. He hasn’t seen any of the guys in almost two weeks. He keeps blowing them off with texts about school and then work, all of which have been true, but he hasn’t gone out of his way to see them, either. He feels too stupid, too unsure, and doesn’t know how to hang out with them anymore.
Frank hops off his stool and leans on the counter as Mikey comes over. "What's up?"
Mikey shrugs. "Not much."
"Yeah." Mikey pauses and then rolls his eyes. "You're both being idiots. Again. Or still, whatever."
That’s Mikey, straight to the point. Still. "No idea what you're talking about, man," Frank says, deadpanned.
"Okay, right now it's just you being an idiot," Mikey says.
"Don't know what to tell you."
"Well, I promised myself I wouldn't get caught up in this but, honestly, you're both pretty dense so you leave me no other choice."
"I can't decide if I don't want to know what you're thinking, or if I really want to know what you're thinking."
"I already told you, I think you're both idiots."
Frank can’t help but laugh. "You leaving it there?"
"No," Mikey says, pushing his glasses up on his nose. "You guys haven't talked at all since the moon, have you?" Mikey seems less anxious about talking about this in public than Gerard always does, but then again, there’s no one in there right now so maybe he’s just not being dramatic about it like Gerard would.
"Nope," Frank says. He tries to keep it light, but it doesn't quite come out that way.
Mikey nods. He already knew the answer to that. "Well, I'll tell you what I told him -- I'm cool with it, as long as you're both happy. And I know Ray is too. And, also, never tell me about the sex." He makes a face.
Frank laughs but it comes out bitter. "Well, you don't have to worry there, that doesn't seem to be on the list of things your brother and I are going to end up doing." Sadly, Frank thinks with a sigh. “He doesn’t want me like that. We’ll figure out how to be friends, it’s just … weird, right now. That’s all. It’ll be fine.”
"Hmm," Mikey hums absently but doesn't elaborate. "So, you're pack." It doesn't come out like a question at all.
"Seems so. You cool with that?"
Mikey nods. "I knew it'd happen. Ever since that day at the diner when we knew you were -- well."
"A free agent?" Frank supplies with a smirk.
Mikey grins. "Yeah, that." His face turns a little more serious. "I was wondering when it would happen, though. I thought Gerard would, you know, claim you," he waves a hand, "or however it's done in the alpha world, I don't know. Guess it was all on you after all.”
“What?” Frank says, a little disbelieving laugh. “Don’t think so.”
"Sure it was. You had to accept it. You finally did. You let yourself be one of us."
Frank looks up, surprised. "I did?"
"Yeah," Mikey says. "Under the moon that night, you chose us. You're the one who said yes."
"Oh." Frank doesn't know what else to say; Mikey's right. He'd been confused and torn between the two packs; he knew right away he didn’t belong to Bert’s, but he considered himself friends with all of them. But, yes, that night he chose who he'd rather be with. It didn't mean he thought any less of Bert or Jepha or Quinn; he just knew where he belonged, finally. And Bert, Jepha and Quinn -- they had understood. And were still his friends, even if they were gone now.
“It really sucked without you there,” Mikey says, pulling Frank from his thoughts.
Frank knows exactly what Mikey means. He nods. “For me too. So much.”
“Don’t do that anymore, okay?”
“Okay, Mikeyway,” Frank agrees. “I won’t.”
"Good," Mikey says, and that seems to be the end of that. “You should come out tomorrow night. There's a show I have to go to for work, but you'd probably like them."
"Sorry, man, I can't," Frank says, shaking his head. "I have a shift and I need the hours."
Mikey looks around the little gas station, nose turned up. "We're going to have to find you something else."
"A job's a job," Frank says with a shrug.
"Yeah, but this job's not for you. You need something that's you."
Frank barks out laughter. "Yeah, I don't know what's for me."
"Yeah, well, we're pack now so we'll look after you," Mikey says. Frank gets a warm feeling in his stomach, and thinks that maybe everything will work out ok. “Besides, after we get our band going, you won’t need this.”
“You still want to do that?” Frank says, not even holding back on the hope in his voice.
“Of course,” Mikey says. Before Frank can say anything, he goes on, "Come over after work tomorrow, then."
"My shift is until, like, three am." Which is the stupidest fucking time ever, but whatever, he doesn’t question the schedule.
Mikey shrugs. "I'll still be awake. Come crash for a couple hours, we'll go for pancakes."
"Okay, fine." He wants to ask if Gerard is going to be there but he doesn't want Mikey to think he's doing it just in case he is; Mikey's his pack, his friend, and that's more than enough. It'd probably do him good to just hang out and chill for a bit, nothing else hanging over him.
"Cool. See you then." Mikey slips out the door just as some big biker dude looking for smokes comes in.
Frank is fucking exhausted. He's not really a fan of the night shift at all, even though he's a bit of a night owl. He's just rather be out with his friends or be at home sleeping rather than sitting in a gas station that really doesn't get all that much business other than the few stoners that come in for late-night munchies.
Still, he makes it through his shift and gets to the Way place by three-thirty. And that little fucker better be awake to let him in because if not then Frank is going to, like, get him back sometime. Real bad, too, and if his mind wasn't so cloudy he'd think of the revenge now. But he'll deal with it in the morning.
Thankfully, he doesn't have to deal with it at all. Mikey is awake and lets Frank in right away. "We're all down in the basement," Mikey says.
Of course they fucking are. Whether or not Gerard's there, it's the space they'd all rather be in to chill anyway.
Frank follows Mikey downstairs. He sees Ray right away, and he looks sweaty and rumpled and wide-eyed with adrenaline.
"Oh fuck," Frank says. "You played, didn't you? And I fucking missed it. That sucks."
"No sweat," Ray says with a shrug. "There'll be other shows."
Still, it's disappointing. Frank loves watching Ray play, and he should've been there to support him. He knows now, feels how wrong he was, to keep himself away from these guys. He’s not going to do it again.
Frank glances over and is surprised to see that Gerard is sitting on the edge of his bed, a Coke bottle in his hand. He's picking at the label nervously.
"Oh hey, Gerard," Frank says, trying to keep it as casual as possible. He sounds like a fucking moron, shit.
"Hey, Frankie," Gerard answers. "How's it going?"
"Not bad," Frank says with a shrug.
"New job treating you okay?"
"'S'all right," Frank says with a shrug. "Night shift fucking sucks, though."
"Yeah," Gerard says quietly.
"Idiots," Mikey says, not at all keeping it quiet. Ray snorts.
"Hey," Gerard says, "do you guys think you can give me and Frank a moment?"
"No," Mikey says. Gerard blinks at him. Mikey continues, "Frank's here to hang out with me, because I invited him, and leaving you alone with him is going to take a hell of a lot longer than a moment."
"Good point," Frank says, and sits down on the floor next to Ray. He ignores the incredulous look on Gerard's face and asks Mikey, "So what's the plan?"
"I really want to play Mario Kart," Mikey says decisively.
"You and your fucking Wii," Frank says, but he walks on his knees over to the console and picks up the controllers. "Give me Playstation any day."
"Playstation doesn't have Mario. And Mario is awesome," Mikey says.
"Another excellent point. You're on fire tonight," Frank says, passing one controller to Mikey and one to Ray. He holds one out to Gerard and tries really hard not to laugh at the put-out look on Gerard's face. "You playing?"
"You fuckers," Gerard says in wonder, but he takes the controller. "Is this the first step to mutiny?"
"Not mutinous," Mikey says, pointing his controller at the TV to get the menu going. "Just really want to play Mario Kart."
"You're doing this on fucking purpose," Gerard says grumpily, but he picks his player to race.
They play a few rounds of the game, making bets and wagers. They decide the first to win three cups is Ultimate Winner and they can stop. Frank has never seen Gerard play with such focus and determination, and when he wins his third cup, he lets out a loud whoop.
"Take that, motherfuckers," he crows. "Now, get the fuck out of my room."
They all go to stand, including Frank. "Not you!" Gerard says, scrambling off the bed and grabbing Frank's wrist. Frank only laughs, feeling comfortable and relaxed and, yeah, maybe this talk isn't going to go so bad. He can deal with whatever Gerard wants from him; this little round of Wii and hanging out showed him that, was able to break the ice. They’re friends, they’re pack, they can get through this.
Ray says goodnight and Mikey gives them both a look that says, Don't be idiots, then they're gone and Frank and Gerard are alone.
"Look, Gerard," Frank says. He may as well get this started, let Gerard know he's done giving him the silent treatment and he's okay with going on as being friends.
Only, Frank doesn't get to continue on more because next he knows, Gerard's launched himself at Frank and they're both tipped over onto the floor, Gerard on top of Frank.
Frank makes a noise of surprise, which quickly turns into a moan when Gerard presses his lips against Frank's. It's soft, but firm, and then there's just a little bit of tongue teasing at Frank's lips. Frank opens up and Gerard gently sucks on Frank's bottom lip. Frank moans from it, his hands sliding up under Gerard's shirt and running over bare skin.
Gerard pulls away but then he's planting kisses all over Frank's face; over his cheeks and his eyebrows and the end of his nose. It’s an assault Frank wasn’t expecting but, goddamn, he loves it. "I'm sorry," Gerard peppers between the kisses, "I'm so fucking sorry."
"For what?" Frank asks, but then he doesn't give Gerard a chance to answer as he captures his lips in a kiss again. They only break free when they need to catch some air.
Gerard pulls back and looks Frank directly in the eyes. "For ever making you think I didn't want you for you."
"It's okay," Frank says. He kneads the pads of his fingers into the soft skin of Gerard's hips. "I know you didn’t know, did you?"
Gerard shakes his head. He sighs, sounding so sorry. "I didn't. I guess I was a bit confused, but this past couple weeks, and not seeing you or talking to you--"
"I'm sorry too," Frank interrupts, "I wasn't trying to be an ass or anything, I just didn't know what to say to make it better, or less weird."
"It's okay, I totally get it. Guess we just both needed some time." He slumps over a bit, so that his side is against the floor, and Frank rolls with him so that they're lying face to face. "But I sorted it out."
"Yeah?" Frank asks, tucking in a hand so it rested against Gerard's neck. Gerard tilts his head to nuzzle against it. "And what'd you sort out?"
"It was partly a pack thing. I mean -- you belong with us. All of us, as a group. It's -- we feel complete, now. And -- you want to be with us, right?" Gerard asks, sounding just the tiniest bit uncertain.
"I do," Frank assures. He echoes what Mikey said, "I chose you that night, didn't I?"
"You did," Gerard confirms. "You're ours now, and we're all fucking okay with that.”
“Me too. And I won’t do that again,” Frank says. “Stay away, I mean.”
“Good,” Gerard replies, squeezing Frank a little. “That sucked.”
“It sure did.” Frank pauses for a moment, and then it’s his turn to be uncertain. “It’s not just a pack thing, though, is it?”
“No, fuck no,” Gerard says vehemently. “I swear, it is a you and me thing too. Not just pack. I want you.”
"Fuck, I want you too,” Frank says, which is probably the understatement of the year. “That first day in the comic book store -- fuck, I thought you were gorgeous. Wanted you right there. Almost jumped you on your car at the gas station too."
Gerard laughs, quietly, as he hides his face against Frank's hand. "Yeah, uh. Definitely a mutual feeling." He sighs. “I thought maybe it was just a wolf thing, you know? Because I didn’t know you but, God, I wanted you, like, right away.”
“Dude, humans totally get hit up with lust like that,” Frank says. “And we’re that too, you know. Humans. Lustful sex-crazed humans. Attraction and shit, right?”
"I know,” Gerard says affectionately. His hand is on Frank’s hip, moving in absentminded circles. “But I knew you were like us too, kind of, but when I thought you were with the other pack -- well, I didn't want some stupid star-crossed lovers thing, like seriously we're not some wolf version of Romeo and Juliet, I don’t care that Mikey says we’ve been acting like it.”
“Holy fuck, I’m Romeo. I’m totally the wooer.”
“You weren’t actually a Montague so no, you weren’t,” Gerard says, rolling his eyes. “I just said we weren’t them. We’re us, and you’re so fucking you.”
“What the fuck does that mean?” Frank tries to look indignant but he’s too fucking happy and can’t stop smiling.
“Just … you,” Gerard says, waving one of his hands around. “You play stupid music jokes on waitresses and got worried about drinking around me and promised to learn Magic and listen to me talk about art without rolling your eyes--“
“Well, that’s because you’re awesome,” Frank says. He can feel his cheeks heating up, a little embarrassed at what Gerard’s saying but mostly because it’s all fanfuckingtastic things about him, and all he’s got is awesome. All he can do is add, “And I love when you’re being you,” and hope Gerard gets it.
Gerard stops and he turns a soft smile to Frank. “See? Right there. You’re being you.”
“We’re being us.” Frank kisses the side of Gerard's mouth. He asks softly, "So we're really doing this, then?"
Gerard shivers, hands clenching at the back of Frank's hoodie. "Yeah. I mean, if you want."
"If I fucking want." Frank snorts. "I've been the one trying to get you on the same page here, buddy. Yes I fucking want."
"Well we're on the same fucking page now."
Frank pulls away. "Not exactly. You owe me a date."
"I owe you one?"
"I took you on the last one!"
"And you bailed on me!" Gerard's hand slips up dangerously close to Frank's armpit and Frank starts squirming. "I didn't even get to give you a good night kiss!"
"You didn't want one!" Frank says. It's the wrong thing to say because Gerard goes still. "Sorry, I didn't mean--"
"That's not true, though," Gerard says. "Maybe I was being an idiot--"
"I can hear Mikey's 'A-HA!' from here," Frank says dryly, but his chest feels like it’s going to explode as he looks at Gerard.
"But I still wanted one."
"Want one now?" Frank says, pressing his nose along side Gerard's, their lips just a hair away from each other.
"Fuck, yes." Gerard's breath fans against Frank's mouth.
"You can just take it," Frank says, voice so low but he knows Gerard hears. He rolls onto his back, and pulls Gerard on top of him. "Whenever you want."
Gerard groans. "Frank--"
Frank cuts him off with a kiss, sliding their lips together. Gerard makes a noise in the back of his throat, and tries to slip his hands under Frank's hoodie. He pulls away and sounds a bit breathless when he demands, "Off, off, off." He leans back and grabs for the bottom hem. Frank starts laughing and Gerard scowls. "Come on, fucker, help out here."
"Impatient," Frank says, but he sits up and pulls the hoodie along with his shirt over his head.
"You said whenever I want," Gerard mumbles, his hands running over Frank's chest. Frank's breath hitches when Gerard's thumb drags over a nipple.
"Yeah," Frank says, any part of him still wanting to tease completely gone now. He reaches for Gerard's shirt. "You too."
Gerard easily sheds himself of his top and leans down again to kiss Frank, bare chests pressed together. Frank sinks a hand into Gerard's shaggy hair, other hand slipping down to grab Gerard's ass. Gerard groans and his hips hitch, pressing down against Frank's crotch, making him moan.
"Shit, Gerard, fuck," Frank says. Gerard kisses him again, taking advantage of Frank's open mouth to slide his tongue in, and Frank sucks on it.
They finally break the kiss to pant against each other's mouths, but Gerard quickly moves down, lips trailing over Frank's jaw. Frank throws back his head when Gerard starts to kiss and suck his neck.
Damn it, Frank is hard, dick pressing up against the back of his fly. He rocks his hips, feels Gerard's erection against his thigh and god that's good, so so good. "Fuck, Gee," Frank moans when Gerard sucks on a tender spot behind his ear, "I'm going to come in my fucking shorts."
"Mmm," Gerard hums. He shifts so one hand is on the floor beside Frank's head but the other is roaming over Frank's chest. He tweaks at Frank's nipple, making him twitch. Gerard pulls back just enough to look down at Frank; his lips are swollen and shiny with spit. "How is that a bad thing?"
"Oh, it's not," Frank says, and he lifts his head just enough to nip at Gerard's collar bone. "But I'd much rather it be with you touching my dick."
That sets Gerard into motion so quickly, that Frank can't help but laugh at him. Gerard pauses just long enough to flip him off, but then his clever hands are unbuckling Frank's belt and zipping open his fly. And then one of those clever hands is in Frank's boxers and palming his dick.
Frank gasps and bucks, and Gerard smirks down at him. "That what you mean?"
"Fuck, Gerard," Frank says, voice low and gravelly. "Don't stop, don't fucking stop."
"Don't plan on it."
Frank actually doesn’t have a whole lot of experience with this. Kissing a bit, yeah, but not with hands other than with his own on his dick. And recently it’s been his own hand while thinking about Gerard. And now it is Gerard, and Frank’s so hard he’s probably going to come way too quick. Gerard doesn’t seem to mind, though, and is encouraging it all he can.
Gerard leans over and smatters kisses across Frank's chest. His lips return to that spot on Frank's neck, hand still moving and pumping his dick. His thumb swipes over the head, smearing pre-come and Frank shudders. "Close, Frankie, are you close?"
"Yes," Frank hisses, his hips lifting off the ground as he starts to fuck up into Gerard's hand. He grabs Gerard's hair and pulls a bit, making Gerard gasp, and the other hand grips his shoulder, blunt fingernails digging into skin. Heat pools in Frank’s belly and his balls draw up. His body goes rigid, tense for a moment, then lets go as his orgasm hits him.
Gerard strokes him though it, whispering obscene things in Frank's ear, leaving him gasping and wrung out. Frank's arms drop to the floor and he makes small content noises as Gerard kisses him softly.
Gerard pulls his sticky hand out of Frank's boxers. "Well," he says as he wipes his hand on his own pants, "looks like you came in your shorts anyways."
"You fucker," Frank curses as Gerard laughs at him. He's not overly concerned, though, and makes grabby hands at Gerard. Gerard leans back down, presses kisses against Frank's lips. They become quicker, desperate, as Gerard presses his hard-on against Frank's thigh again.
"My turn," Frank says.
"Don't you mean my turn?" Gerard asks. His eyes roll back as he presses down hard.
"No, my turn to help you," Frank says. He snakes a hand down between their bodies, presses his palm against Gerard, rubbing slowly. Gerard gasps and buries his face into Frank's neck. "I want to make you feel good too, fuck, Gerard, you were amazing, you are amazing, everything I thought and wanted and I want to do that for you too."
"Frank, fuck," Gerard says, pressing their cheeks together. He's breathing so hard, panting as Frank continues to rub him through his jeans.
“Tell me what you want,” Frank encourages.
Gerard presses his lips against Frank's cheek. "Kiss. I want to kiss you, fuck I could kiss you forever."
"Okay, okay," Frank says, pushing back on Gerard's shoulders, trying to get him to roll back. Gerard whines softly and clings to him even more. "Hey, no, it's okay," Frank says, coaxing him back. Gerard goes, and Frank makes quick work of his button and fly, hand going into his boxers much the same as he did for Frank. And, holy fuck, his hand is on another dude’s dick. On Gerard’s dick. "Oh, fuck," Frank groans, "you're so fucking hard for me." Gerard groans and writhes a bit, hands reaching out for Frank and pulling him in. "I'm here," Frank says, kissing along Gerard's jaw, "I'm here."
He kisses Gerard like he wants until Gerard is breathless and has to turn his head away to get some air. He doesn’t let Frank go far, though, hand pressing the back of his head to keep him close, lips brushing sloppy kisses on Frank’s cheek. It’s still Gerard babbling obscene things, right into Frank’s skin, about how good Frank is and how much he wants him. Frank just murmurs in agreement, his hand working quicker. Gerard’s body shudders and he comes, wet and warm in Frank's hand. Frank nuzzles his cheek, sucks at his jaw, and strokes him through it.
When Gerard's stopped trembling, Frank pulls his hand out and wipes it on Gerard's pants -- hey, they're already dirty with his come too. Gerard's arm goes around Frank's shoulders and pulls him down to his chest. Frank tucks his head under Gerard's chin, his hand moving absently over Gerard's belly, and they lie together trying to catch their breath.
Frank's exhausted and it's got to be close to five in the morning, if not past; he nearly falls asleep right on Gerard's chest, on the floor. Probably would've, too, if the bastard didn't shake him out of his doze.
"Come on, Frank," Gerard says. “Get up.”
"Mmmno," Frank says, rubbing his face against Gerard’s warm skin.
"What, you don't want to get on the bed with me?"
"I'm up," Frank says, and rolls off of Gerard. Gerard chuckles and gets up, tugging Frank off the floor, even though Frank's not even opening his eyes.
"Come on, get out of your clothes," Gerard says.
Frank pushes his jeans down, and makes a face as he pushes down his sticky boxers. Gerard makes a little noise and Frank cracks an eye open, catching Gerard checking him out. "Like what you see?" Frank slurs obnoxiously through a cloud of sleep.
Gerard rolls his eyes. "Oh, yeah, you're one sexy motherfucker right now."
"If I wasn't so tired I'd totally prove to you how much I am," Frank says, but then stumbles over to Gerard's bed.
Gerard says softly, "Oh, you really have."
The mattress dips as Gerard gets into bed too. Frank has to take a look because, hey, Gerard did first. And, hell yeah, he wants more of that. In the morning, when he can give it more attention, anyway.
He rolls over and Gerard curls up behind Frank, spooning him, arm around Frank's waist and pulling him close. Frank sighs happily, and links his fingers with Gerard's on his stomach. He's just about asleep but he hears Gerard's quiet, "Can't believe I get to do this now."
Frank squeezes Gerard's fingers and Gerard makes a surprised noise. Frank says, "Any time, always," but that's the last thing he remembers before he drifts to sleep.
Frank the wolf sits in the middle of the forest. He’s looking up at the full moon.
The moon looks beautiful. There are tree branches that cut across it, leaves shadowing a pattern, and the tree trunks look like they’re creating a frame. The sky is dark except for where it practically shimmers around the moon, fading from silver to grey to blue to black, and there’s light cast down against the branches.
Frank knows he’s seen this before, only different. It hadn’t been real when he saw it -- where he is now, that’s real. It’s the smell of approaching summer on the air, and the sound of rabbits and other critters skittering amongst the trees, the feel of the wind against his fur.
It’s the pack, his pack, bounding into the clearing and yipping at him, all happy and playful. Frank stops looking at the moon and joins them, darting amongst the trees and creating their own game of wolf tag. Together.
The change back is as painful as always, but this time Frank doesn’t crumple to the dirt in pain. There are strong arms -- Ray, Ray’s strong arms -- carefully holding him up. There’s Mikey, quickly helping Frank into a bathrobe before donning his own. And then there’s Gerard, gentle hands cupping Frank’s face, thumbs rubbing along his cheeks and lips pressing against his temple. “Hey, hey, Frankie,” he says softly, “it’s okay. You’re okay.” And Frank knows it will be, and that he is, because he doesn’t have to curl up in a ball on the ground just to drudge up the strength to move. They have him. His pack won’t let him fall.
It’s Frank, knowing exactly who he is and where he belongs, finally.