Frank wakes up with a headache for the sixth morning in a row. He grumbles and drags himself into his shitty kitchen for coffee, trying not to think about how many weeks it's been since he last changed.
It's not hard to figure out, though. He ran out of his last stash a week before he moved to this station. He's been here for seven weeks now, so it's pushing two months. His hands shake a little when he lifts the cup to his lips.
Work is gonna be awful. He thinks about just calling in sick, but he's still new enough that he's terrified they'll fire him. It was a miracle they hired him at all, considering what he is. He knew things were slightly better here, had heard rumors, but he still can't quite believe it.
They still know he's a werewolf, it's right there in his records, and even though it's confidential—and he believes that they won't share it with the staff, because no one has given him looks yet—he's still waiting for... something. There's no way this can last, but he'll take it as long as it does.
He'll get through this day on painkillers and he'll take some cold meds to knock him out when he gets home. It's worked, so far. His muscles always hurt after work and he feels like his body is close to vibrating apart, but the meds help and he sleeps through the night and wakes up mostly good to go.
Frank leans against the kitchen counter for a bit, tries to regulate his breathing. He sighs and drags a hand over his face.
Today is gonna suck. At least he's used to it by now.
"Hey, Frank!" Frank startles and almost spills his tea, but it's just Brendon from the drama department. "Do you have a second?"
Brendon's beaming at him, and Frank nods and takes a sip from his cup. He somehow made it through the morning and now he's in his class room, waiting for lunch break to end.
"I thought we could discuss the Spring Star musical at some point. Like, I know it isn't till the end of the year, but I figured we should get started with it. I actually had an idea about changing the story a bit? Anyway, we should talk to the kids, maybe start setting up practice times, co-ordinate stuff, figure out when to hold the auditions, all that."
"Oh," Frank says, a bit taken aback. It's difficult to concentrate on what Brendon is saying on a good day; it's even worse when his head feels full of lead. "Uh, sure?" He had expected Brendon to go to Dallon for help with this. After all, Frank hasn't been here for as long as either of them.
Brendon beams some more and bounces on his toes. Frank doesn't really know how to take to it.
"I thought maybe we could meet somewhere?" Brendon asks. "Actually, maybe you could come over, I have all the stuff at home and it'd be easier to talk there. I'll cook and everything, it'll be fun."
"I don't know," Frank says, hesitant. He hasn't had that much contact with Brendon even though they both teach music, but he's already learned it's pretty hard to say no to him. The idea of going somewhere after work today makes him feel even more anxious and tired than he already is. "I don't feel so hot."
Brendon's face falls, and he looks abruptly concerned. "Aw, man," he says. "Yeah, I think there might be a virus going around or something, you should—"
"No, I—I can still make it," Frank says. He kind of wants to take himself by the shoulders and yell what are you doing?, but he knows Brendon won't give up on the idea, and without any pills in sight he's just gonna get more sick. He's not feeling as lousy as he usually is by now, so he might as well ride that as long as he can. He'll take a couple of painkillers from the school's medcenter, it'll be fine.
"Are you sure?" Brendon asks, still sounding concerned. "I mean, I'd love to show you the plans, but if you're sick—"
"Nah." Frank shakes his head. "I can swing by, it's fine. You don't have to cook or anything, I probably won't stay for too long, but I can come."
Frank can't help it, he feels flattered that Brendon would come to him with this. He knows Brendon's been here for almost two years now and everyone loves him. The annual spring musical is a pretty big deal. If Frank helps out with that, then it could boost his chances here. Maybe he can even get paid for the over hours or something.
"Okay," Brendon says, back to cheerful. "I'll come get you after your last class, okay?"
"Sure," Frank says. "Yeah."
He rests his head in his hands after Brendon has left and sighs. Fuck his fucking life.
Brendon's place is small and cozy, and it smells. It hits Frank like a wall as he steps into the flat, and he almost jerks back.
Brendon drops his bag to the floor and bounces into the kitchen, calling back, "Want a drink?"
Frank closes his eyes and tries not to breathe too deep. Brendon's place reeks. It's the scent of food coming in from the kitchen and the dirty laundry sitting in the washroom—it's not like Frank's own place is that clean, but he usually tries to go over it at least once a week, and at least it's familiar. But it's also that smell that lingers around Brendon sometimes, the one that Frank has caught a whiff of and found himself strangely drawn to, but it's even stronger now, so much stronger, and it's mixing with everything else and confusing Frank's senses.
"Frank?" Brendon calls from the kitchen. "Water or juice or—"
"Water," Frank says, raising his voice. "Water's fine." He swallows heavily and switches to breathing through his mouth, which helps just a bit.
He looks around the spacious living room. It seems big for just one person, and if Frank concentrates hard enough he thinks he can make out the smells of three different people—Brendon, then the weird smell, and someone else.
"So do you live here alone?" Frank asks when Brendon returns and hands him a glass of water.
"Nah," Brendon says. "With my best friend Spencer. We only moved here like six months ago, it's awesome. It's a lot more space than we used to have so my boyfriend comes by pretty often. Oh, and it's close to this really cool bar."
Frank blinks, and takes a sip of water. Brendon's still smiling at him. Frank shrugs uncomfortably.
"Cool," he says. He can feel his body already fighting the painkillers he took earlier. The moments where he actually gets some relief are getting shorter and shorter. "Maybe we should get started."
"Oh, yeah," Brendon says. "Sure. Uh, I'll go grab my stuff, you take the couch. Relax." He beams at Frank and gestures at it.
Frank sits down slowly, trying to keep his breaths even and not too deep. He can feel his skin starting to get tighter, and he curses at himself. Why the fuck did he even agree to this?
The wolf inside is nervous, agitated at being in an unfamiliar place. He doesn't feel safe.
Frank doesn't feel safe. It feels like he's on someone else's territory, and he's sick and he's vulnerable and the door is locked and who the fuck knows how Brendon will react to him being so visibly out of it. He feels like he's gonna throw up, and he tries to take a deep breath, but that just makes all the smells crowd in again, and he realizes his whole body is shaking.
He gets up, he has to go. The glass in his hand drops to the floor. He barely hears it shatter, but he does hear Brendon calling out his name. That's when his legs give out.
"Fuck," Frank groans as his knees hit the floor. Fuck, fuck, fuck, this is not good, he has to go, he has to get up and go now.
"Frank!" Brendon says. He's in the room now, moving closer to Frank. "Frank, fuck, are you okay?"
Frank wants to laugh. Is Brendon fucking blind? "Stay back," he pants out instead.
"I—what?" Brendon stops a couple of feet away from Frank, obviously confused. "Frank, should I call for help?" Brendon's already moving toward the phone, not waiting for an answer.
"No," Frank chokes out. "Wait, no."
"Frank," Brendon says. "Come on, man, you're really sick. You need help."
"There's no point," Frank says, leans forward and rests his head against the floor.
Even here, where things are technically considered to be better, there isn't anything the doctors could or would do to help him. And even if there was, he couldn't afford it.
"What do you mean?" Brendon asks. "What the fuck do you mean there's no point? Frank, what's going on?"
Frank vaguely realizes that Brendon sounds scared, terrified even. He doesn't know how to reassure him, but a part of him wants to, even when he's practically writhing on the floor in pain. Brendon has no idea what's happening. Frank can't tell him, he can't, it's not like he can just spell it out for him, but—
"I need to change," Frank gasps out, because that's all he can think of to say. "I—fuck. I need—" He groans as pain pierces his head.
There's a brief silence and then Brendon blurts out, "Oh my god, you're a werewolf?"
Frank freezes—or, well, his muscles are spasming so hard that it's kind of impossible, but his mind goes blank for a second, and then the real panic creeps in.
A part of him didn't think that Brendon would figure it out. He looks up at Brendon's shocked face. Fuck.
Brendon just gapes at him at first. Frank's vision swims, but he tries to hold eye contact, tries not to look away. He doesn't know what to do. "You," Brendon says. "Oh fuck, man, when's the last time you changed?"
Brendon steps closer to him then, and Frank has a brief second to feel astonished at the fact that Brendon knows and he's still there in the room and coming closer. Then Brendon takes hold of his arms and tries to lift him up. Together they stumble into a mostly standing position and then Brendon gently drops him on the couch.
"Here," Brendon says. "Just... Just lay back, okay. I'll get you another glass. Yeah."
"Wait," Frank says, grabbing onto Brendon's arm. "Could you get me some Advil or something, please." He figures if Brendon hasn't kicked him out yet, maybe he can ask for this.
"Of course, yeah," Brendon says. "Just hold on."
Frank pulls his knees up to his chest, and it hurts, but the instinct to curl up is just too strong. He's shivering so hard his teeth are knocking together, sweat's pouring down his back, soaking his shirt.
It's a bad spell, but he knows it'll pass—it generally does. Usually Frank sweats through it when he's half-asleep in bed at night—that's when it hits the hardest—but he obviously pushed himself too far today. And now he's stuck here. Fuck, why the fuck is he here? Why did he come here, he shouldn't be here, he—
"Okay," Brendon says, and Frank didn't even hear him come back in, what the fuck. "Okay, just take these and drink."
He hands Frank the pills and Frank swallows them immediately. Then Brendon holds the cup out for Frank and Frank reaches out with his hand, but Brendon shakes his head and sits down next to him on the couch. "Here, let me." And then he's holding the glass right in front of Frank's mouth and Frank doesn't even think about it, he just drinks. He gulps down the water, then pulls back again. He shouldn't—Brendon shouldn't be so close. Frank hasn't even known him for that long, and he's at Brendon's apartment and the door's probably locked and the wolf inside him can't get out, can't.
"Whoa," Brendon says. "Okay, it's—it's fine, Frank. Just tell me the last time you changed."
Frank shakes his head. "What?" he asks, then groans as another sharp pain pierces through his head.
"You said you needed to change," Brendon tells him, and how does he sound so calm all of a sudden? Frank digs his fingers into his thighs, tries to breathe. Brendon has refilled the glass and hands it to Frank this time. His hands are a beat more steady this time around, and he downs the water fast. "How long has it been?" Brendon asks. "When did you last change?"
"About two months ago," Frank says. He clutches the glass in his hand, and Brendon reaches for it.
"Dude, ease up, you'll break it," Brendon says, and takes the glass from Frank. Frank breathes out and presses his hand into a fist, fingernails digging into his palm.
"Okay," Brendon says and stands up. "Okay. So it's been a while and you're all—okay, um. Can't you just, like, force it?"
"What?" Frank asks. He doesn't get what Brendon's talking about. His head feels like it's ready to explode, and he might whimper, he can't even tell anymore. The painkillers should work. They never work for as long as they technically should, but they usually kick in fast, he just needs to wait it out.
"You know, like. I know you need pills to change, usually, but if you really need to, can't you just do it?"
"Don't you think I would have by now?" Frank bites out. Brendon's pacing the living room, biting on his fingernails. It's making Frank even dizzier, which he didn't think was possible.
"Well, I don't know!" Brendon exclaims. "I just thought—"
"You thought wrong," Frank says. Sure, he's heard rumors of some people just... just fucking shifting when they needed to, but he's never believed them. If it were true, then no one would need the pills and they wouldn't be so fucking expensive and impossible to get. It just doesn't make sense.
Frank did consider the rumors the first time he heard them, just briefly, but the wolves in the stories had been changed on Earth anyway, had followed the Moon, so it wouldn't matter even if it was true.
"Okay!" Brendon says. "Okay, shit, okay. Sorry, I just—fuck."
Frank shakes his head. It doesn't matter. He's still amazed that Brendon hasn't thrown him out by now, to be honest.
Then Brendon goes and shocks him to his fucking core.
"Look," Brendon says. "I have some pills. That could, uh, help. With your, um, problem."
"What?" Frank's brain is reeling. Brendon what?
"I have pills," Brendon says. "Like, the kind you'd use for changing? And, uh, the ones that keep you calm during it?"
Frank fights against the urge to sink back into the couch, to hide, to flee. Brendon's... what?
"You're not a werewolf," he says. Surely he'd be able to—he'd know if Brendon was like him. But that smell—
"No," Brendon says, holding up his hands. "Oh, man, no, it's my boyfriend, I—"
"Your—" Frank presses his forehead against his knees and groans. He can feel the painkillers slowly working through his system, finally, but it won't last long at all this time, he can tell. He needs—
"Frank? Do you—I'll go get them, okay."
"Wait," Frank says as Brendon turns to go. "Just. Hold on a second."
Brendon freezes obligingly and Frank concentrates on relaxing his body, breathing slowly. He's feeling better, and it won't last and he needs to get out of here and go back to what little he can call home, but. Fuck.
"Do you really have them?" Frank asks. Maybe Brendon's a dealer. But. His boyfriend, he said.
"What—oh, yeah," Brendon says. "CH-Wer and Rel-X, right?"
Frank slowly lifts his head. Brendon has Rel-X, what the fuck. That's, like, impossible to get, he's only heard of it.
He doesn't think Brendon's lying to him. He doesn't think Brendon's even capable of lying.
"How much?" he asks. He doesn't have a lot, but he thinks he can scrap something together. Maybe pay Brendon back later.
"Um, I'll check," Brendon says. "Wait here, okay." He heads towards the bathroom and Frank buries his face in his hands. Shivers are running up and down his body and Brendon's whole apartment still smells, it's fucking disgusting, and Frank wants to run, but. Brendon has pills.
Brendon's back soon enough and when Frank raises his head he finds himself looking at four pills on Brendon's palm.
"I only had two left of each, but—these are it, right? You can—you can take them and you'll be fine. Right?" He sounds really nervous, and Frank glances up at him.
Brendon bites his lip. "I—look, don't worry about it."
"How much?" Frank repeats.
"Don't worry about it now," Brendon says. "We'll figure something out later, okay. Just take them."
Frank digs his fingers into his thighs and stares at the pills. His head's pounding and he can't even think straight, but Brendon's offering them to him and telling him not to worry, and for some stupid reason Frank believes him.
"Okay," he says. "Fine. I—thank you."
"No problem," Brendon says. Now that's something Frank can't believe. He doubts even Brendon does. But he lets it go for now.
Brendon puts the pills into a small case and hands it to Frank. Frank almost snatches it from him, but tells himself to slow down, take a deep breath. He stands up, looks around the room. His eyes fall on the shattered pieces of glass on the floor.
"I'm sorry about the cup," he says. He needs to go. Now. Before Brendon changes his mind, before—
"Oh, it's fine," Brendon says. "Uh. Happens. Are you, like, not dying anymore?"
Frank snorts. "The painkillers kicked in. They don't last for long, though." He's still shaky on his feet, but his mind has cleared. He has pills. He can breathe, the headache has pulled back a little, enough that he can stand without collapsing. He needs to go. "I should—"
"Look, Frank," Brendon interrupts him. The tone of his voice makes Frank look up. "If you don't have a way to get the pills—"
"I do," Frank says immediately. He suspected it was coming. From the moment Brendon offered them to him; no, from the moment he told him not to worry about the cost. He was ready.
"Oh." Brendon blinks at him, eyes wide and surprised.
"Yeah. I was—I was in a bit of a tight spot, new job and apartment but no, I—I'm good." He clutches the case in his hand a bit tighter.
"Okay," Brendon says, and he's smiling again. Maybe just a bit tentative. "That's good. I was just worried."
Frank's body goes tense. His sore muscles protest and he almost groans out loud. He needs to get out of here. "I'm fine," he says. "But I should probably go. I'm sorry, I kind of screwed up your plans."
"Oh, hey, no," Brendon says. "We can try again later this week, yeah?"
"Um," Frank says. "Yeah, sure." He's not overly fond of the thought, but Brendon's been way nicer than he probably should have been, under the circumstances, and Frank's definitely grateful for that so it's the least he can do. The least he can do at the moment, anyway, before he gets the money to pay Brendon back.
Brendon smiles at him, and reaches out a hand to touch his forearm. Frank flinches back.
Brendon's face falls. "I'm sorry."
Frank shakes his head—fuck, such a bad idea—and briefly closes his eyes as his vision swims. "It's fine, don't worry."
He opens his eyes to Brendon's worried face. "So, get home safe, okay?" Brendon says.
Frank nods. "Right. Yeah, I—thanks."
He gropes behind his back for the doorknob and is out of the apartment before Brendon can say anything else.
The ride back to his place is awful. The Transport is packed full and it smells terrible. Frank pulls his knees up to his chest and tries to curl up as much as he can in his seat. He's almost certain he's gonna hurl, and he can't stop shivering.
By the time he gets home his hands are shaking so hard it's difficult to get the door open. The one thing keeping him mostly calm is the small capsule in his jacket pocket.
He drops his bag and leans back against the door once he's inside. His head's pounding and it seems like all the muscles in his body are screaming at him, but he has the pills, he has them.
He goes into the kitchen and gets a glass of water. Then he just stands there, staring down at the pills in his hand. He's never used Rel-X before, but he's heard it hardly ever fails or wears off before the person turns back.
Frank can't risk it. He goes into the small bedroom and digs out the chains he brought with him from ZP-01. He's sure they'll hold him, but he hasn't figured out yet where to attach them. It didn't seem important with no pills in sight. Eventually he decides on the legs at the head of the bed. The bed itself isn't exactly the heaviest, but it will have to do. For a moment he's reminded of the sturdy bath they used to have, and he wishes he had one like that here—he could attach the chains to the feet. Out of nowhere he wishes he was back home with his mom.
His mom's on a faraway station now, though, too far for him to get to. He wonders if she even got the note about him moving. He hopes she did. Besides, he'd be terrified to actually change with her there, so it doesn't even fucking matter. He pulls his bedside table away from the bed and pushes it against the wall opposite him. Then he strips quickly, stuffing his clothes in the little dresser in the corner of the room. He winds the chain around the legs of the bed and fastens the collar with shaking hands. He takes a Rel-X pill. He's tempted to take both of them, just to be sure, but he talks himself out of it. He swallows it dry and shudders. Immediately his brain fills with fog, his body slowing down. He quickly fumbles for the CH-Wer and downs it as well.
Frank presses his eyes closed and curls up on the floor right near the bed. He tries to relax his muscles, tries to welcome the change, but it's been so long and even though the wolf inside is excited—thrilled, even—Frank himself is terrified. Hopefully it won't hurt as much as it did last time, hopefully the chains will hold, hopefully—
He passes out as the transformation starts.
Frank veers in and out of consciousness during the night. Each time he comes to, his limbs feel heavy and his brain is slow and confused. He wants to get up, he wants to run, but he can't move. The wolf lets out a soft whine. He passes out again before he panics.
The wolf is disappointed—trapped, trapped, need to move, need to—but Frank's chained to his bed, his brain fuzzy and movements slow thanks to the Rel-X, and he's not out there, hurting anyone. Finally the wolf settles down as well.
Frank wakes slowly in the morning, his head muggy and all the muscles in his body screaming at him. He blinks his eyes open and discovers that the collar is still around his neck and the bed is still intact. He seems to have also pulled down the blanket from the bed at some point and awkwardly curled up in it.
It takes a while for his clumsy fingers to get the lock on the collar open, and when he finally succeeds he feels tired out just from that. It wasn't like this the last time he changed. He was on edge and anxious, but not this exhausted. Then again, last time he spent most of the night running around the apartment building and came close to ripping apart the night watchman, so.
He pulls the blanket tighter around himself and trudges into the kitchen. As he's waiting for his coffee to finish brewing he realizes that even though he doesn't remember most of the night, he was more aware of himself, of Frank, than he ever recalls being during the change. It might be that the Rel-X also kept the wolf from taking him over completely, but it's not like he'd know. These things might originally come with fucking instructions and in fancy bottles, but they get passed around in indistinguishable capsules, if you're even that lucky.
Frank groans when he remembers where he got the pills this time. Fuck. How on Earth is he gonna pay Brendon back for them? He realizes that even though he'd thought about it yesterday he'd never considered the consequences of accepting the drugs. He had needed them, the wolf had wanted them, he'd taken them. Fuck.
He glances at the clock next to the tiny fridge and groans again. His body's sore and shaky, and he wants nothing more than to go and curl up in bed, but he has a class he needs to teach at nine in the fucking morning and if he doesn't get going soon he's gonna be late.
Dragging himself out of bed feels like the hardest thing he's ever done, but it isn't, he knows it isn't. And there's a part of him that feels elated at that. He changed. He's gonna be okay for at least a month, and he has pills for the next change as well.
He just needs to figure out a way to pay Brendon back.
When Frank gets to work he considers, just for a moment, trying to avoid Brendon. Just for today, at least, but then he sighs and goes to find Brendon before his first class begins.
Brendon's in the teacher lounge, chatting to Greta, and Frank doesn't want to interrupt, but then Brendon looks up and notices him hovering by the door. "Frank, hey. Are you—um."
"Hey," Frank says, and nods his head toward the door. Brendon follows him outside into the hallway, looking curious and hesitant.
"Are you—did they help?" Brendon asks. Frank nods jerkily and takes a deep breath.
"Yeah, they—thanks," he says, then lowers his voice. "But, uh, listen, I can't really pay you back right now, but I was thinking maybe I could, like, pay you back in parts, or something, okay? If that's okay."
Brendon's making a face and Frank opens his mouth again to offer to, like, fucking pay him back with an interest as long as he can do it in small parts, or whatever, anything, but then Brendon says, "You really don't have to worry about that."
Frank frowns at that, feeling slightly pissed off. The fuck does Brendon mean, how can Frank not worry about this, but Brendon adds quickly, "I mean, you can pay me back when you have all the money, okay? You don't have to hurry or anything, it's fine. I know you wouldn't, like, just not pay or something."
Frank bites his lip. "Fuck, man, are you sure? I really—"
Brendon nods, fast. "Yeah, totally," he says. "But hey, so when are we gonna get try to get together to discuss the show again?"
"Uh," Frank says, momentarily thrown by the change of topic. "I... have time this afternoon?"
Brendon nods again and smiles. "Great, well, I'll come by later then, okay." The bell rings at that moment and Brendon's off, heading towards his classroom. Frank watches him go, feeling out of sorts and vaguely frustrated.
They do meet up later that day and Frank spends most of the time waiting for Brendon to change his mind, but it doesn't happen. Brendon's weird, though, or at least weirder than usual, more twitchy, and when they finally pack up and say goodbye Frank knows the other shoe is probably gonna drop soon.
It's two weeks later when Frank finally feels like he can breathe easier. Brendon hasn't changed his mind and no one has started treating Frank any differently, so he thinks it's safe to say Brendon hasn't told anyone. He still has time before the next change, he has the pills for it, he's making good money, and he'll definitely be able to pay Brendon back soon.
He's feeling pretty fucking spectacular after loading this week's pay onto his credit. It's Friday, so he figures he can take a break, go out to the Ravenkroft. He hasn't been there since his first night on the station, but he remembers that the drinks were cheap and the music pretty decent.
He swings by the apartment, fixes himself a sandwich and takes off for the club. The weather's cold, the wind cutting, but luckily the Transport runs way smoother here than back on ZP-01 and most of the cars are usually warm. Frank leans against the window and stares out at the station—the way the artificial sun is slowly going down, painting everything in a weird orange glow like an old light bulb. They haven't managed to get it right, the way the late afternoon sun really looked back on Earth, but they tried, and that's more than can be said about a lot of other stations. Frank sighs and closes his eyes against the sight.
Soon he's standing in line for the bar and close to vibrating out of his skin. He's feeling good about the night in general, but first he needs a fucking drink. The line is hardly moving and Frank considers just finding another place, somewhere that's less crowded, when he hears a familiar voice call his name.
He turns around and sees Brendon waving at him from one of the booths. Frank can see the giant grin on his face even from here.
Frank waves back, hesitant. He's mostly been trying to avoid Brendon in school until he can finally pay him back. Frank looks to the side, trying to figure out how to get away, but he's too late. Brendon's already moving towards him. Frank swallows and wishes he had a glass to cling on to.
"Hey," Brendon says. "I didn't think I'd see you here."
"Yeah," Frank says, glumly. "Listen, about the mo—"
"D'you wanna join us?" Brendon interrupts him. "Come on, I'll introduce you."
He's bouncing on his toes, looking eager. Frank runs a hand over his neck, then shrugs. "Sure." He'll say hi to Brendon's friends, then excuse himself, go get a drink and disappear into the crowd. It'll be fine.
"Awesome," Brendon says, grinning. Frank follows him to the booth. There are three guys there—two of them chatting with each other. One of them has a pretty sweet beard, but the other one has him beat with a fucking epic fro. The third guy is watching Frank and Brendon approach, his eyes hidden by the shadows the club lights cast, and suddenly Brendon remembers what Brendon said. "No, it's my boyfriend." Werewolf.
The smell reaches Frank then, the one that hangs around Brendon and was in the apartment. It's so much stronger here, even among all these people and other scents. He should have known.
He hasn't met any werewolves since he got turned and he's almost shocked at his reaction. The wolf wants to run, run, avoid conflict, but Frank's body is frozen.
"Hey, guys, meet Frank," Brendon says, and reaches out to squeeze his shoulder. Frank flinches.
The werewolf is staring at him, Frank can tell, and he doesn't know what to do. The other guys turn to look at him as well and Frank gets another whiff of the smell, similar, but—fuck. The guy with the fro. Frank feels the panic starting to rise. He can't deal with two werewolves, he's fucking outnumbered.
"Frank?" Brendon asks. "Dude, you okay?"
The guy with the beard speaks up. "Way to fucking spook the guy, Bren."
"What?" Brendon asks. "I didn't do anything."
Frank tries to control his breathing. "I should—" He cuts off when the fro-dude stands up. Frank starts to shrink back almost automatically, but something inside him rebels. Sure, it's two to one, but he can still fight if needed. He presses his hands into fists.
"Hey," the guy says and smiles at him, open and wide. Frank blinks, confused. He's still ready to bolt as soon as the guy steps closer. He doesn't, though, just keeps talking. "I'm Ray. You work with Brendon, right? Seriously, you should join us."
He's essentially towering over Frank, but strangely it doesn't feel like it anymore. His smile seems almost too wide to be genuine, but his eyes are warm. Frank feels his breathing slowly return to normal.
"Here, you should sit next to Spencer," Ray says. He pushes Brendon into the booth next to the other werewolf, whose name Frank still doesn't know, but he's almost certain that's Brendon's boyfriend. He tries to remember if Brendon ever mentioned his name at school or anything, but comes up blank.
Ray himself sits down next to Brendon, leaving a spot open next to the guy with the beard—Spencer. Frank shifts a little on his feet, still unsure, but they're all staring at him expectantly so he sits down as well. He's right across Ray, but that's—that's okay. Frank can't smell threat coming from him.
"Hey, man," Spencer says next to him and offers his hand. "Spencer."
"Uh, Frank," says Frank, and shakes his hand. "You're Brendon's roommate, right?"
"Yeah," Spencer says.
"And best friend," Brendon says. "I totally told him that. I did, right, Frank?"
Frank furrows his brow. "Uh."
Brendon's boyfriend snorts, and Frank cuts his eyes to him. Brendon's leaning against his side and the guy has a small smile on his face. He notices Frank looking and nods at him.
"Hey, I'm Mikey," he says. His voice surprises Frank, deeper than he expected. Then again, Ray's voice was unexpected as well—way higher than one would think from looking at him.
Frank still curses Brendon for dumping this on him from out of the blue, but he can tell that neither of them are hostile. Mikey in particular seems kind of shy and quiet. "And you're Brendon's boyfriend, right?" Frank asks.
Mikey blinks, surprised. "Yeah," he says. "How'd you know?"
Frank looks pointedly at the way Brendon's curled into Mikey's side, and Mikey smiles. Spencer snorts, and that drives Frank to say, "Plus, I can smell you all over him."
Mikey blinks and Brendon chokes on his drink, but both Spencer and Ray start laughing. Frank grins a little as well.
Mikey quirks one side of his mouth up. "Now why are you smelling my boyfriend?"
It doesn't sound threatening, but Frank's instinct still kicks in. He doesn't realize he's shrunk back against the back of the booth before Mikey frowns and says, "Hey, I was just joking."
Frank clears his throat awkwardly. Brendon's smiling at him, eyes twinkling, and Frank makes a face at him. "I hate to tell you this, dude, but your boyfriend reeks."
Mikey laughs then, and his laugh is way weirder than Spencer's or Ray's. It relaxes Frank a bit.
"Hey," Brendon protests.
"Dude, you know it's true," Spencer says. Brendon frowns, and then they're off, arguing about who does the laundry and who showers more often and whatever the fuck.
Frank twists his fingers together and wishes he had a drink. The guys seem fun, and he doesn't feel completely awkward, but he's still on alert. He didn't plan on making new acquaintances tonight. Mostly he wanted a drink and a place that wasn't his ratty little apartment. He drums his fingers on the table, then coughs, says, "Listen, it was good to meet you, but I should—"
Brendon turns to look at him. "Aw, come on, you're not leaving already?"
Frank shrugs, vaguely uncomfortable. Brendon looks actually disappointed, it's weird.
"Yeah, I just want a drink and then I think I'm off," he says. "But really, it was great to meet you."
"You too," Ray says, sounding sincere, and Mikey and Spencer echo the sentiment.
They seem a little confused by him leaving so soon, but what the fuck ever. Frank throws a little wave at Brendon, nods at the others and turns toward the bar.
The crowd has finally cleared up and Frank waves up the bartender. He orders a drink and is leaning on the bar, waiting, when someone takes the spot next to him.
Frank cuts his eyes to the side. It's a guy with a pale face and dark, longish hair. He glances over at Frank and gives him a little smile.
A breeze comes from somewhere—the open door or maybe just the air conditioning—and for the third time that night Frank's senses are invaded by that smell. The scent that now so clearly says, werewolf. What are the fucking odds.
"Hi," the guy says, smiling a bit wider. He pushes is hair back behind his ear and sidles closer. Just a little, not enough to be overbearing or threatening.
Frank nods at him, wary. Or rather, he's trying to be wary, but his lips can't help quirking up to give the guy a smile. It probably comes out looking a bit manic, but the guy doesn't seem to mind.
His scent seems different from Ray and Mikey's, like there's almost something sweet about it. Something pulling Frank in. Maybe it's just that the guy is kinda cute.
"You're new here," the guy says.
Frank tilts his head a little to the side. "Actually, I've been here before."
"Oh," the guy says, his eyes going wide. "I thought—well, I've never seen you, but. I mean, it's a big club, I guess, and we don't come here every weekend or anything."
Frank raises his eyebrows as the guy rambles. It's pretty fucking endearing. He chuckles. "I've only been here once. And I'm pretty sure it was, like, a Tuesday."
"Oh," the guy says. "Um, okay then. Uh. Can I buy you a drink?"
The bartender finally arrives with Frank's order, almost like he was waiting for the right moment, and the guy scrunches up his nose.
Frank snorts, and because he doesn't sense threat or danger, and because Ray and Mikey were cool about him, and because the guy is pretty fucking cute, he reaches forward and offers his hand. "Frank."
"Oh!" the guy says again, and smiles. "Gerard." He takes Frank's hand and gives it a funny little shake.
"So," Frank says. "You're here alone?"
"Oh, no," Gerard says. Frank blinks. "I mean," Gerard clarifies. "I'm here to hang with my brother and our friends. You should join us." Oh.
Frank looks down and taps his fingers against his glass. "I don't know," he says. The thing is, he kind of wants to keep talking to Gerard. It's obvious now that the werewolves on the station are not immediately hostile towards one another or anything and he feels like he can mostly relax on that front. But he doesn't know how he feels about having to face even more new people tonight.
"Come on," Gerard says. "They're all really nice guys, I swear."
He inclines his head toward the booths and starts walking slowly, looking back to make sure Frank's following. Frank sighs and grabs his drink.
He honestly doesn't know how he didn't see it coming when Gerard leads him back to the booth Frank just left.
The guys seem pretty surprised, but then Brendon shouts out, "Gee, you found Frank!"
Frank glances at Gerard and sees him furrowing his brow, though he's still smiling. "Uh."
"Brendon's coworker," Mikey says easily, but his eyebrows are doing something weird and complicated.
"Brendon's—oh," Gerard says. "Oh, hey, so you guys know each other. That's so cool." He smiles at Frank and it seems just a little strained. Frank narrows his eyes. Fuck. Fuck, of course Brendon told his boyfriend what happened. Frank didn't even think of it before, too focused on not freaking the fuck out over being thrown into a group with two unfamiliar werewolves.
He feels just a bit pathetic about it, but whatever, it is what it is. At least he didn't tell Brendon that he doesn't even have access to pills. They probably just think he couldn't afford them at the time. Frank stands up a little straighter, and gives Gerard a challenging look.
Gerard just furrows his brow, though, then looks back at the others.
"Sit down," Brendon urges them. "Again." He throws a smirk at Frank.
Frank rolls his eyes, but then Gerard is crowding closer to him and Frank realizes that Gerard wants Frank to sit next to Spencer. Frank doesn't like the idea of being surrounded on both sides, but he tells himself that at this point he's just being ridiculous and sits down. Gerard follows him into the booth.
"So, Frank," Ray says. "You left in such a hurry before. I was wondering, where are you from?"
Frank contemplates whether it'd be worse to tell them he came here from ZP-01 or reveal where he's originally from. He decides the safest option is probably, "Uh, well. I grew up on Earth."
He can feel Gerard go tense by his side, and then Mikey says, surprised, "Us too. Me and Gee and Ray."
Frank glances at Gerard and sees him looking back, brow furrowed, like he's considering something. It sets Frank's teeth on edge. He looks back at Mikey. "Yeah?" he asks.
Mikey nods slowly. "Yeah, we're from New Jersey."
Frank breathes in shakily. "Me too."
He can't remember the last time he met someone from Earth. Then again, no one likes admitting it, or, even if they do, no one talks about it at length. If you're from Earth there's a good chance you're in space now because of the Wars. People still don't really talk about the Wars.
"Wait," Brendon says. "You're from the same area and you never met?"
Mikey shifts his attention from Frank to Brendon. "It's not that strange, it was a pretty large state. Even if we were from nearby towns..." He shrugs. "There were a lot of people in Jersey."
"Oh," Brendon says. "Yeah, I'm from PO-9. It seemed like everyone knew each other there." His voice takes on a different quality, almost nostalgic, but not quite. Frank notices Mikey put a hand around Brendon's waist.
He looks back at Gerard. "So, uh, how long have you guys been here?"
"Right after the Wars," Gerard says. "We, me and Mikey, were the youngest of our pack and they—well, the ones who were left—sent us off as soon as they could."
Frank nods. A lot of kids got sent off then, as soon as space travel was more or less safe again and the people who had been hesitant before realized that maybe it would actually be less dangerous on the stations. They couldn't have been very old; Frank himself got sent off a year after the Wars and he was only seventeen then. His mom couldn't afford to send him off sooner.
If Mikey and Gerard and Ray got sent to DD-05 then their families must have been pretty well off, though. Frank got sent to ZP-01. It hadn't been so bad back then, but now... Well. People had good reasons not to say they were from there.
Gerard had also mentioned a pack—meaning that he and Mikey were already wolves back on Earth. Possibly even born wolves. Frank remembers hearing stories when he was younger, stories that there were monsters in space. Another reason why people were hesitant about the stations. They didn't mean the werewolves, not then—werewolves were an earth myth, not a part of all the aliens and weird creatures that people came up with.
"Man, looks like all those stories about space being filled with monsters were true," he muses. He doesn't expect the shocked silence that follows. Fuck, he—fuck.
"What?" Gerard asks, sounding shocked. "You—what, you think we're monsters?"
"No," Frank says quickly. "No, of course not, I—"
Gerard's frowning at him, his eyebrows drawn together. "It's what you said."
"Fuck, I wasn't talking about you," Frank says, getting agitated. He can feel the other guys' attention focused solely on him, but no one else speaks up. They're letting Gerard handle it.
"You were talking about werewolves," Gerard says. "You were talking about being a fucking werewolf, that means you were talking about me and my brother and—"
"No," Frank cuts him off. "I was talking about myself. It has nothing to do with you guys. Of course I don't think you're monsters." He finally tears his eyes away from Gerard, looks at the rest of the table. Mikey's frowning at him, and so's Ray, but they also seem... concerned. Brendon just looks shocked, his eyes wide. When Frank looks at Spencer the guy just shrugs, as if saying, "Hey, this isn't about me," but his eyes aren't as warm as they were before.
Gerard makes an indignant noise. "If you say that you're a monster because you're a werewolf—"
"Gee," Mikey cuts him off. He's looking straight at Frank, eyes calculative. "He didn't mean it like that."
Frank wants to argue, because how the fuck does Mikey know what he's thinking, but that'd probably be counterproductive.
"I didn't—I didn't phrase that very well," Frank says. "I—but seriously, I definitely don't think you're—shit, I'm sorry."
Ray shakes his head. "It's okay, man. We all know it's not the easiest life to live. Don't worry about it, okay."
"Yeah," Gerard says, and Frank turns to him. "I'm sorry, I sort of overreacted."
Frank runs a hand over his face, and sighs. "No, it's—sorry, I'm. I'm just tired, I should probably go." When he raises his eyes again, Gerard is still frowning at him, but he doesn't look mad any more.
"Well, it was nice to meet you," Gerard says, and gets up to let Frank out of the booth.
"Yeah," Frank says. "Yeah, you too." He pushes himself up, looks at Brendon. "See you at work?"
"Yup," Brendon says, and smiles at him.
Gerard's hovering close to the booth, so Frank has to brush past him as he leaves. He's not looking at him, but he feels Gerard touch his forearm, tentative. "Frank."
Frank glances back at him.
"I hope we'll meet again," Gerard says, and gives him a little smile.
It's something Frank didn't expect to hear. He tries not to let his surprise show. A part of him is hoping he'll never run into these guys again, if only to avoid other awkward misunderstandings like this, but something still makes him smile. Say, "Me too," and mean it.
It's a few days later when Frank figures he has enough money to spare right now to at least pay Brendon back for half of the pills. Even though Brendon hasn't brought it up again Frank feels he should at least do this much, to show he hasn't forgotten.
When he goes to give Brendon the money, though, Brendon protests, makes some crappy excuse and actually runs off. Frank stares at his retreating back, irritated. The fuck is his problem?
He tries again during lunch break, effectively corners Brendon near his classroom.
"Brendon, man, what the fuck," he starts, but Brendon pulls him into the empty classroom and blurts out, "I won't take it."
Frank stares at him, shocked. "Why the fuck not?"
"Because," Brendon says, his lips tight and expression set, "It was an emergency."
Frank waves his arms. "So the fuck what? You can't just—"
"Frank," Brendon says, and he sounds resolute. "Dude, I'm not taking your money, okay. You don't owe me anything."
Frank breathes out harshly. "I'm not some sort of charity case," he says.
Brendon gapes at him a little. "Of course not," he says. "I'm not—it was an emergency. And I figured, like, you'll be better off using that money for new pills, but. Come on, Frank, that's not it at all. Just. You, like, needed them to live or whatever—"
Frank rolls his eyes. "It's not like that."
"Well," Brendon says. "Well, anyway, just. Just forget it, okay. I wanted to tell you sooner, actually, I'm sorry I made you think you owed me. Please, can we forget about it?"
Frank sighs and rubs a hand over his face. "Fuck, fine," he says. "Okay." He doesn't feel good about it, but it's not like he can force Brendon to take the money.
"Great," Brendon says emphatically. "Awesome, well, I'm gonna head home now, so—"
"Oh, you're already done for the day?" Frank asks, feeling just a little jealous.
Brendon squints at him. "We all are," he says. "It's the Second Star Day tomorrow, remember? Half day. But hey, so, I'm so glad we resolved this. But I gotta run, Spencer's waiting for me."
Frank totally forgot they were getting off early that day. He decides to actually do something with his free time, to go out somewhere, maybe to the mall near Aster square. He heard from one of his students that there was a cool vintage-type music shop there and he's been meaning to check it out for a while.
The mall is big and crowded, and it makes him just the slightest bit uneasy, but he locates the shop fast enough. When he walks into it he just stops and stares. It's amazing.
There are racks of CDs and fucking records on the wall. It's large enough to easily move around in without feeling like you're about to knock something over and yet small enough to feel cozy.
He seems to be the only customer there at the moment, and there's no one behind the counter. For a minute it feels like he has stepped into some other universe where he's safe and alone and can just quietly exist inside this bubble, just for a while.
Frank slowly moves further into the shop and starts exploring. He hasn't seen a CD since he was little and his father would let him rummage around in his old case of music equipment.
"Frank," someone says, and Frank startles so hard he almost drops the CD he's holding. He manages to hang on to it, but his heart's beating fast, and he can't fucking believe that someone just sneaked up on him like this. He raises his head and inhales sharply. It's Mikey.
He's staring at Frank, eyes wide, obviously surprised by Frank's reaction. "I didn't mean to scare you," he says, slowly.
Frank shakes his head. "Fine, it's fine," he says. "I just didn't hear you come in." He puts the CD back into the rack, crosses his arms over his chest. He realizes a beat too late how defensive that looks, but oh well.
Mikey just smiles at him, though. "Yeah, I get that a lot."
Frank raises his eyebrows. "Slightly more worrisome in case you're like us, though."
Mikey shrugs. "I think you're excused." He nods to the CD rack. "Find anything you like?"
"Um," Frank says. "Nah, I think I'm still looking. Well, I doubt I'll actually buy anything, it's kind of expensive. Really cool, though."
"Yeah," Mikey says. "We mostly get browsers, but when we do get an order then it's usually pretty large. It's weird."
Frank furrows his brow at Mikey. "You—"
"Oh, I work here," Mikey says. Frank widens his eyes in surprise.
"That's—that's really cool, man," he says.
"Yeah," Mikey says and gives him a bright smile. "It's pretty awesome."
Frank blinks a little. He hadn't realized Mikey's face could transform so completely from the passive or thoughtful stare to... this.
"Cool," Frank says again. "Uh." He has no idea what else to say. Should he bring up Brendon? Or ask Mikey how he's doing? He's never been that good at small talk, but he never used to be this unsure around people. It fucking sucks.
He wrings his hands together, then untwists his fingers again and runs a hand over his neck. It's a nervous tick, and he barely even notices it, but Mikey tilts his head and asks, "Are you changing soon?"
His voice is loud and clear, and there are two other customers in the shop now, and Frank just stares at him, aghast.
"What?" he asks, his voice strained.
Mikey furrows his brow. "I—sorry, I just assumed—"
Frank shakes his head and glances over at the customers. They don't seem to be paying attention, but he can't believe Mikey would just go ahead and fucking say it. When he looks back he can see that Mikey had followed his gaze.
He meets Frank's eyes and says, "I'm sorry, but. It's okay, they're not gonna assume anything just from me asking you—uh. What I said." He seems slightly uncomfortable, but also worried, his eyebrows drawn together.
Frank sighs. "I should—I'm gonna go."
"No, wait," Mikey says. "You haven't even seen most of the store. We just got a shipment of some new CDs, and Ray's guitars came in, too."
"Ray?" Frank asks, confused.
"He owns the store," Mikey says.
Frank widens his eyes. "Oh." When he concentrates he think he can pick out Ray's scent. "Huh."
"You should come check it out," Mikey says.
Frank still feels like he should just get out of here. It's obvious that Mikey doesn't get it. Maybe Frank doesn't even want him to. It still feels weird how nonchalant Mikey seems, talking about what they are in public. It's not like he actually said it out loud, though, and Frank wants to see the CDs and the guitars especially, so he lets himself be mollified.
"Yeah, okay," he says, and Mikey smiles and starts to head towards the door that Frank assumes leads to the back of the store.
"Shouldn't you—what about the customers?" Frank asks as he follows.
"Oh," Mikey says, and looks back at the store. "Um. They'll be fine."
Mikey leads him into the back of the store where Ray's opening a bunch of boxes. Ray looks up, and he doesn't seem at all surprised to see Frank.
"Hey," Ray says cheerfully.
"Uh, hi," Frank says. He knows Mikey asked him to come with, but he still can't keep from saying, "Sorry if I'm, like, interrupting or—"
"Oh, it's fine," Ray says. "We smelled you when you came in. I sent Mikey over to say hi."
Mikey rolls his eyes. "I was gonna go over anyway."
"Right," Frank says, utterly confused. "Um."
"You work as a music teacher, right?" Ray asks.
Ray nods and turns back to the boxes. Frank expects him to elaborate or explain, but he doesn't. These guys are fucking weird.
"Um, hello?" someone from the store calls out. Ray gives Mikey a pointed look and Mikey sighs.
"Fine," Mikey says.
"Hey, you're the one who told me I was smothering the customers," Ray says, but he's smiling.
Mikey grumbles something about how he didn't mean it like that, but heads out into the store.
Frank stands around, unsure whether he should leave or not, but Ray inclines his head towards another box. "Help me out with this?"
"I—sure," Frank says and steps forward to help Ray cut the box open. "This is really old-fashioned, man," he can't help but comment. He didn't know people even wrapped anything in boxes like this.
"Yeah." Ray chuckles. "As is this." He reaches into the box and carefully pulls out an old Epiphone.
Frank's mouth drops open. "Holy shit."
"Right," Ray says, beaming. "It's amazing, isn't it? Do you play?"
"I—" Frank says. He can't tear his eyes away from the guitar. "Yeah, man. I used to mess around in bands and such, before. But I still play."
"Cool," Ray says. "I've been playing since I was a kid, but it's so weird. After I got turned it's like—it's different, you know? The sound, the rhythm, it's like. Clearer. Like I can't really explain it, or at least, Mikey and Gerard don't exactly get it, but—"
"No," Frank says. "I mean—yeah, I get what you mean."
"Oh," Ray says, surprised. "I guess I—I assumed you were born, not turned."
"Nope," Frank says, trying to keep his voice light. "I—I was turned in space."
"Yeah, me too," Ray says. He's looking at Frank, eyes warm and friendly. "So you could hear the difference, too?"
Frank nods, grateful that Ray doesn't seem to want to ask for details. "Yeah, totally. I mean, obviously everything sounded a bit different, but yeah."
Ray grins. "So what kind of music are you into?"
By the time they've both finished going through their favorite bands and albums, Mikey wanders back in and starts offering his own opinions in between texting someone on his phone. Frank is holding Ray's new Epiphone, showing him what new progressions he came up with the other day in school.
"That was pretty good, man," Ray says, smiling.
Frank beams. "Thanks."
"I should probably put it away now, though," Ray says, sounding apologetic, "and get back to these boxes."
"Oh, right." Frank hands the guitar back, a little wistfully, and looks at Mikey. "No more customers?"
Mikey looks up at him. "Oh, we closed like twenty minutes ago."
"Shit," Frank says. "Is it that late? What time is it?"
"Almost nine, I think," Mikey says.
"Shit, I gotta get going," Frank says.
"Oh, you can hang out for longer," Ray says. "If you want to? We could go out somewhere?"
"Yeah," Mikey says. "I think Brendon's doing something tonight, but I can text Gee. He hasn't been out in ages."
"Is he still working on that project?" Ray asks.
"He got stuck on it," Mikey says. "So he's working on something else, but you know how he gets. Brendon said he has something to offer him, though, so hopefully that'll get him out of the house."
Frank's slowly moving backwards toward the door, feeling supremely awkward. It seems like they've either forgotten he's there or forgotten that he doesn't really know them, know Mikey's brother, Gee—Gerard, that was the name.
"So how about it?" Ray asks, looking at Frank. Frank freezes.
"Um. I have to prepare for tomorrow's classes," he says, which isn't exactly a lie, even though he could swing it and get away with it—he only has the upperclassmen tomorrow so he'll probably just spend the classes running through the songs they're considering choosing for the musical.
"Oh, okay," Ray says. "Well, we'll see you around, right?"
"Y-yeah," Frank says. "Sure."
As he leaves the shop he realizes that he actually meant that.
Frank's locking the door of the music room after his last class one day when he sees a familiar figure in the hallway.
At first he can't figure out who it is and why he knows them even though he can only see the guy's back as he walks away, but as he inhales deeply it hits him. Gerard.
For a minute he's so confused about what Gerard could be doing here he's just standing there while the door declares itself locked. Then he's off and hurrying after Gerard, catching up just as he's about to round a corner.
Gerard turns around, fast, and Frank almost bumps into him.
"Shit, sorry," Frank says.
Gerard's brow is furrowed, and he looks confused, but then his face clears. "Frank! What are you doing here?"
Frank raises his eyebrows, feels a smile tugging at his lips. "I work here?"
"Oh," Gerard says. "Oh. Wait, I totally knew that."
Frank tilts his head, brows still raised.
"I did!" Gerard says. "I totally did, I even thought about looking you up, but, uh."
Frank can't help it, he grins. "What the fuck are you doing here?" he asks lightly.
"Oh, I'm taking over from Mr Everett for a while. Art, you know."
"Really?" Frank asks. "Wow, I didn't know you taught." He finds it weird that that hadn't come up when Frank and Brendon were talking about their jobs at the club.
Gerard just grins, though. "Yeah, I don't? Well. I do, but mostly I just—well, I went to school for it, so sometimes I help the principal out when he needs it."
"Oh, so you know Patrick?" Frank asks.
Gerard nods. "Yeah, actually, I sort of helped Brendon get the job here. Well, I mean, I recommended him, but he totally got the job himself, uh."
Frank snorts. Gerard's tugging on his hair now, shifting on his feet. "'S okay, I get what you mean," Frank says. He kind of wants to tease Gerard, but the urge to know more about him wins. "So do you, like, do art yourself, or?"
"Yeah," Gerard nods eagerly. "Painting, mostly, but sometimes sculpture, too. And sketching, like, sometimes I'll work on this comic book? But that's more of a sideline thing."
"Wow." Frank whistles. "That's awesome, man. So that's like your job?" Gerard nods again. "That's so cool," Frank says.
Gerard shrugs and looks down. Frank thinks he can see the slightest hint of a blush on Gerard's cheeks.
"Anyway," Gerard says, looking up again, his gaze fixing on Frank. "How long have you been teaching here? We never went into details at the club, did we?"
"A couple of months," Frank says. "So, not a long time."
"Do you like it?" Gerard asks.
"Yeah, man," Frank says, "It's great. Like, this is one of the best jobs I've had. I always wanted to do something with music, and now I can, so. It's great."
Gerard nods at him, smiling. "That's great," he says softly. "Well, uh, I should go now. I'm supposed to be meeting Mikey soon."
"Oh, right, yeah," Frank says. "Sorry if I kept you."
"No, it's fine," Gerard says quickly. "It was great to see you again."
"Yeah, totally," Frank says, and Gerard smiles again.
"And hey," Gerard says. "Now I can definitely say that we'll see each other again." He grins wider, and Frank can't help but smile back.
It's a week after Frank should have changed when he finally gives in and decides to get it over with as soon as he can—either that night or the night after. He wants to wait longer, he really fucking does, but his body's already freaking out hard-core and he's afraid someone will notice. He's afraid Gerard will notice and will figure out what it means.
He hadn't expected to see Gerard as often as he has since that first day, but it seems like they run into each other in the hallways almost every day and sometimes in the teacher's lounge as well—as often as Frank ever goes there, at least. He's been going there more than he used to, though, because hey, getting to know his fellow teachers is important for creating a good workplace environment. He actually has gotten to know people better, or at least become more comfortable with chatting to them. He's allowed to lie to himself about his real motivations.
When Gerard's not in the teacher's lounge he's in his classroom—the art room, he calls it—and Frank's been there as well. Gerard invited him to check out some of the students' works and Frank was delighted to see that Gerard had some of his own stuff up there as well. Gerard's stuff was fucking awesome. Moody and weird, but with bright, vibrant colors—Frank loved it.
Frank's been trying to avoid Gerard after he hit the month-marker from his last change, though, paranoid that Gerard could somehow tell that he hadn't changed and wasn't planning on it for a while because then he'd be out of pills again.
In the end he has to give into it, though, because he just can't keep avoiding Gerard forever, and it's not just Gerard, it's Brendon, too, because he's sure Brendon knows the signs of a twitchy need-to-change werewolf by now so he's pretty much fucked. He feels the beginning of a cold, too, and changing usually helped with that, at least back on ZP-01, so there's no point in waiting any longer.
It's a Monday night when he grabs his chain and collar—even though Rel-X worked the last time, he still feels safer when he knows he's done as much as he can to make sure he won't get out—and downs the pills. The change hits him fast and he barely has enough time to wonder whether it will ever get easier, better somehow, before he's out.
Usually Frank's better from any sickness that tries to creep past his werewolf immune system by the morning after the change, but on Tuesday he wakes up with a sore throat and a thick head. "Oh, fuck no," he groans and drags himself out of bed. He's almost fine that day in school, just a bit off, but when he gets home he has a fever and he's starting to get a cough. It won't last long, he knows, he's gotten sick way less often after he was turned and it's never lasted more than a week, but it still takes him out for a couple of days.
The next morning he has to admit that he'd be absolutely no use at work and calls in sick. Besides, he might get the kids sick. This is the first job Frank's had where he doesn't feel guilty about not going in because he's ill. At least he's not spreading the germs around. Patrick seems to agree with him and assures him that he has enough sick days to afford to stay home.
Frank thinks he'd get sick even less often if he was living on a warmer station—seriously, whose idea was it to make sure this place had all four seasons—but, well. Things are going well here. He never thinks about how he can't afford to leave or live somewhere else, or how not all the stations are as accepting of him as DD-05 has been so far. When he's sick he burrows under the covers and dreams of late summer afternoons in Jersey.
He's good enough to go back in after two days. He feels a bit dizzy when he has to get up fast, but mostly he's doing well. He's putting away the instruments after the second-year's lesson, when there's a knock on the open door.
It's Gerard, hovering in the doorway. Frank smiles. "Hey."
"I heard you were sick," Gerard says.
Frank blinks. "Uh, just a bit. I'm fine now, though."
"Good." Gerard smiles, walks up to Frank and presents him with a cup from Starbucks.
Frank furrows his brow, looks up at Gerard. "Uh?"
"The coffee from the machines here sucks," Gerard says, shrugging.
"I—thanks," Frank says and takes the cup. He lifts it to his lips and notices how Gerard's eyes are tracking the movement. He lowers it again. "Um."
"Go on," Gerard says.
"You're staring at me," Frank points out.
"Duh," Gerard says. "I want to know if you like it."
"I could just tell you," Frank says.
"'S not the same," Gerard says. "Come on, drink it."
Frank rolls his eyes and lifts the cup to his lips again, takes a sip. His eyes close almost involuntarily—it's fucking good coffee.
"Yes," Gerard says, sounding triumphant. Frank opens his eyes and finds Gerard beaming at him. "I knew you'd love it."
Frank licks his lips. "It's delicious."
Gerard grins wider. His eyes crinkle at the corners. It looks like he's staring at Frank's mouth. Frank swallows and quickly takes another sip.
"Right," Gerard says. "Uh, well, I'm glad you liked it."
Frank nods, a corner of his mouth rising in a smile. "Thanks, again."
"It's no problem," Gerard hand-waves. "Uh, you're welcome. Oh, uh, I think I'm late for—well, I should go."
"Uh, right," Frank says. Gerard makes eye contact with him, briefly, and smiles before leaving Frank's classroom.
Frank watches him go and takes another sip of coffee. Weird.
Frank's out of pills again. He's staring at the empty capsule that Brendon gave him, which is fucking ridiculous, because it's empty and it has been for a long time. He thinks he should be fucking used to it by now, but it's like the two doses Brendon gave him made him feel like it would be fine, like he could easily get more. His body got used to it as well, but now he's fucking out and he has no idea how to get more.
Well, that's a blatant lie, Frank has to admit, but every time he thinks about going up to the guys and just flat-out telling them that hey, he might need help with getting the pills, something deep inside him rebels. Some fucked up notion that he has to do this on his own, that he got lucky with Brendon that one time. Fuck, it's not even that he doesn't want to ask for help—though that definitely doesn't sit well with him either. It's just that feeling that he doesn't deserve to be helped. That he shouldn't be. Why should someone help him turn into a monster?
When he considers these things after the few times he's changed recently—pushing away the memory of that very first time—he knows that he's mostly being stupid. He knows he needs to change, that it's necessary for his body, so he does what he needs to and getting to take Rel-X with them definitely helped. And even so, he still has the collar and the chains. He won't be a danger to anyone, won't get out.
But there's still that voice at the back of his head, telling him that it'd be better if he didn't change at all.
His last change was more than a month ago, now. He's at the stage that comes before the headaches and body spasms. He'll probably hit that part soon, but for now he's twitchy and nervous and it's like he can't stay still for five fucking seconds.
His apartment's too fucking small. He paces from the living room to the kitchen and back again. Seeing the chords spread out on the living room table—the songs for the musical—makes him want to pick up a guitar and pound something out, fast and heavy. That just reminds him of how he had to fucking pawn his guitar back at ZP-01 and how he hasn't asked to borrow one from the school yet because he's only been there for a few months and they'd probably say no anyway. He can't even put aside some money to buy a new one because he has to save it for the possibility that he'll get the chance to buy some pills, and for any other medical expenses he might have to pay and, oh, yeah, he needs to fucking eat.
Frank feels the growl rising in his chest and he almost lets it out, but he knows one of his neighbors currently has their grandkids over, he saw them in the corridor when he got home from work, and he doesn't want to scare them. Or, well, they might think it was cool or something, but his neighbor wouldn't be happy and the last thing Frank needs is for someone to come and ask him why the fuck he's growling like a fucking werewolf and get thrown out.
Instead, he grabs his coat and sets out for the Black Dragon. He needs music, he needs someplace loud, and he needs a fucking drink.
He can't stop twitching on his way there, thrumming his fingers against the seat in front of him, tapping his foot. He probably gets a few nasty looks from the fellow passengers, but he doesn't give a shit. He just hopes no one gets in his fucking way.
The minute he's back out on the street, stepping off the Transport at the stop closest to the bar, he gets the worst urge to run, run, run, but he pushes it down. It's not him, it's the wolf, and taking off running would be completely pointless and ridiculous, no matter how bad the wolf wants it.
He goes to the bar instead, shivering, twitchy. He'll grab a drink, maybe that will quiet the wolf. It doesn't always work, sometimes alcohol just makes it worse, but sometimes he gets it just right and it's finally quiet in his head. Lonely, but quiet. At least he's used to lonely.
He's brought out of his stupor for a moment when he realizes that Mikey's at the bar. Frank's a little surprised to realize that a part of him is genuinely happy to see him. At least Mikey must know what pre-change jitters feel like—even though in Frank's case they're not really pre-anything. He finds himself distracted by wondering whether Mikey and Gerard actually have ever felt them. The way it works for werewolves originally from Earth is still a gray area for him. He wonders if he should ask sometime, if it'd be polite. He's definitely curious and he wants to know what Mikey—or rather Gerard—would have to say about it.
Frank focuses back on Mikey and notices that he's not alone, but with some dude in a bright, flashy jacket, who is even taller than Mikey. The dude is talking to some guy, gesticulating, putting his hands up. The other guy's big, strong and bulky, and seems pissed off.
Frank frowns and starts moving toward the bar, picking up his pace when Burly Guy steps even closer to Flashy Jacket and Mikey. Mikey has a glass in his hand and he doesn't seem to be actively putting himself in front of the guy's way, but it doesn't look good. The other guys are clearly arguing about something, and then Mikey says something, his face turning into a snarl, and the big guy steps forward and fucking pushes him against the bar, hard.
Frank growls. He's almost there, and he takes the last few steps faster, barreling right into the asshole. He's bigger than Frank, of course, and probably stronger, but Frank knows how to fight. He gets out a few punches, manages to elbow the guy in the stomach hard enough to get him to bend over. There's a part of his brain telling him that security's coming and he should ease off, but it feels so fucking good to let out all that fucked up energy inside him. He feels almost calm about it, his mind strangely clear.
That changes when the guy surprises him, and punches him square in the face.
The next thing he registers is the cold, wet pavement under his back. There's someone kneeling over him, a hand on his shoulder and the other supporting his head. Before he can even at least consider pushing them away—his head's pounding and he doubts he could put up a fight right now—a familiar smell invades his nostrils. Mikey.
"Frank?" Mikey asks. "Frank, come on." He starts shaking him, then, and Frank groans and opens his eyes.
"Stop," he slurs.
Mikey sighs and sits back on his legs, pulling Frank into a sitting position as well. "What the fuck, Frank?"
Frank runs a shaky hand over his face, and looks around. They're in an alley behind the club, it seems. He looks at Mikey then, properly this time, running his eyes all over him. He looks fine. A bit freaked out, but fine. Frank grins up at him, a little manic. Fuck, his head is killing him.
"You're okay," he says. Mikey blinks at him.
"I—yeah, I'm fine. Frank—"
The back door of the club opens then and the guy who was in the club with Mikey rushes out.
"Fuck," he says, drawing out the word. "Man, that was impressive. I had to sweet-talk the manager into not calling the cops. You okay, Mikey? Who the fuck is this guy?"
He's loud, louder than Mikey, and he's a stranger, and his voice is cutting right through Frank's head and Frank feels like punching him in the face. If he was currently up for punching anybody.
"I'm fine, Gabe," Mikey says, and lets the dude pull him to his feet.
Frank stares up at them, blinking, and wonders if it's just that he's on the ground or if they both really are that fucking tall. He thinks it might be raining, but his brain's all fuzzy and it feels like the nerves in his skin aren't connected to his brain. If they are, they're only giving out pain signals.
"Here, come on," Mikey says and reaches down, tries to pull him his feet. For a second Frank feels like he's gonna puke, but it fades quickly. He's still dizzy, though, and after a moment his knees buckle. Mikey quickly catches him by the waist and Frank wants to protest, but he doubts it would do much.
"Need a hand?" Gabe asks, and Frank blinks up at him, frowns.
"Help me get him to Brendon's," Mikey says, and Frank really wants to protest at that, but he'd also like to have a place to lie down right now and at least he's been to Brendon's before. It's not like he can get anywhere on his own at this point—his fucking legs won't even carry him.
"Who the fuck are you?" he asks Gabe.
"I'm Gabe." Gabe beams at him.
Frank wants to point out how that much is obvious and also doesn't tell him much, but he's so fucking tired and it takes all his concentration to keep his legs moving.
"I'm Mikey's best friend," Gabe adds. "Aren't I?"
"That's Gerard," Frank says, because really. Mikey laughs, unexpected and loud, and Frank groans at the noise, but a small part of him feels oddly warm.
"I'm wounded," says Gabe. "But I can't really argue with that. What I want to know is who the fuck are you?"
Frank takes a shallow breath and prepares to answer, but Mikey beats him to it.
"This is Frank," he says. "A friend. He works with Brendon at the school."
"Oh, well, a friend of Mikeyway's and Brendon's," Gabe says, and wiggles his eyebrows.
"Let's just go," Mikey says, sounding worried.
Brendon's place isn't far, but Frank's still dead on his feet by the time it takes them to reach it. His head's all fuzzy and he only vaguely registers Gabe leaving and Brendon opening the door and helping Mikey drag Frank in.
They drop him on the couch. It's blissfully still under him so he pulls up his legs and curls up. He'll just rest for a little bit and then be on his way. It's cool. Brendon won't be too mad, hopefully.
"Frank?" Mikey asks, and Frank reluctantly opens his eyes. "How long has it been?"
For a moment Frank's not sure what Mikey's talking about, but then his thoughts focus. "About five weeks," he says.
Mikey's crouching in front of the couch, and his eyes are big and worried. "Fuck. Okay, so—okay." He gets up and Frank tries to follow his movement with his eyes, but it just makes him dizzier. He closes his eyes again.
The next thing he's aware of is a hand on his shoulder, shaking him. He didn't realize he'd fallen asleep. "Fuck," he says. "Sorry, I'll get out of your way." He tries to push himself up, but he's shaky and leaning on his arm is really not working.
"Easy," says Mikey, and helps him sit up, supporting his elbow. "Here, take this."
Frank stares at the pill on Mikey's palm.
"What?" he asks weakly. It's Rel-X and why would Mikey give him that, he's pretty out of it already, unless— "No," he says. "I'm not—what. No."
"Frank," Mikey says, furrowing his brow. "It's okay. You can change here, it's fine."
"No," Frank says, louder, and tries to pull back, away from Mikey. He hasn't—he can't. "No. No, just—I'll go home and change there, okay. I—I have pills there."
He sees Mikey and Brendon exchange a look, but he can't read it and he doesn't care, he can't worry about what they think right now.
"I'm just—I'm just gonna go," he says, and tries to push himself off the couch, past Mikey. His fucking limbs won't co-operate, though, and he almost keels over before Mikey catches him.
"Come on, Frank," Brendon says. "Dude, you're in no state to go home right now."
Frank shakes his head. "I'm fine." It's almost automatic by now.
"Hey," Mikey says. "You can change here and stay for the night, okay. I mean—Brendon's fine with it. And it's always better to change with others around."
Frank barks out a laugh at that. It makes his head throb even worse, and he leans forward, forehead against his knees.
"Frank," Mikey says, quietly. "What do you think's gonna happen?"
Frank shakes his head again. He can't—he can't think about that. His head's a mess: he knows he shouldn't change with Brendon and Mikey here, can't, but the wolf wants him to, wants it now, and doesn't mind that people are around. It's strange, though. Usually the wolf wants to change alone, just like Frank, doesn't even question it. Right now, it's eager to be free.
"You've taken Rel-X before, right?" Mikey asks. "And it's worked for you? It will keep you calm, you know that. You won't attack us or anything, if that's what you're worried about."
"And if you do, Mikey can change and protect me," Brendon says.
Frank finally looks up at that, and sees Brendon beaming. He's ridiculous. "You know that the pills don't work instantly, right?" he asks slowly.
Brendon rolls his eyes. "Not like that," he says. "He'll change without them."
"That's not how it works," Mikey says, sounding just a bit exasperated.
"No one changes without the pills," Frank says.
"Um," Mikey says. Brendon glances at him, then gives Frank a pointed look. "I once did?"
Frank gapes at him. "Bullshit."
"Come on, dude, I told you about this," Brendon says.
"Well I didn't fucking believe you," Frank exclaims.
Mikey sighs. "Well, it happened. Considering I used to change without pills all the time when I was a kid."
"But then you had the Moon controlling you," Frank argues. "You can't just change, you're not some fucking shapeshifter." He's gone from mostly out of it and exhausted to pissed off. If Mikey can just change, then why does he even need the pills? More importantly, it's fucking unfair that he can obviously afford them and get them when he doesn't even need them.
"It only happened once," Mikey says. He seems to sense Frank's hostility, but, instead of pulling back and snapping at him, his tone takes on a soothing air. "Gee thought it was because for some reason my body really needed it. Since we were born wolves, well, that's why it could happen. It's not unheard of, apparently."
"Those are just rumors," says Frank. "It's not—no one thinks those stories are true."
"Except it totally happened, dude," Brendon says. Frank wants to snap at him, tell Brendon that this doesn't concern him, but Brendon didn't have to open the door for him, yet he did. "It's actually why we met," Brendon adds, and Frank pauses, looks from Brendon to Mikey.
Mikey sighs again, but he also catches Brendon's hand in his and squeezes briefly. "Not actually the point right now," he says. "And it hasn't happened since and it hasn't happened to Gee or Ray. Not when we ran out of supplies because Pete's contact fucking disappeared, and not even when Ray held off changing for almost two months in the beginning." He's looking right at Frank when he says that, and Frank swallows hard, lowers his eyes. He gets what Mikey's telling him.
"Fine," he says. "Okay. You changed without pills, I'm sorry for being an asshole. I—thanks for getting me out of there." He looks up at Mikey when he says that. "I didn't say before. Thanks."
Mikey frowns. "Dude," he says. "I should thank you. You totally came to my rescue. I mean, it was a bit stupid, but still appreciated." He grins then, and Frank huffs. He feels the exhaustion creep back in, and now he's shaking from both adrenaline as well as his body being stupid. Still, his head seems to have cleared a bit, so he moves to get up again. Maybe he'll make it home before he passes out or something.
"Uh, Frank?" Brendon asks. "Come on, man, where the fuck are you going?"
"Look," Frank says, stepping past Brendon and Mikey and heading towards the door. "I really appreciate it. Like, really, all of it. But I'm—"
It doesn't take long before his legs give out and he's falling. He manages to catch himself on the doorknob, and fuck, he was not this dizzy a minute ago, what the fuck? He's so tired of his body betraying him like this.
He groans, and leans his head against the door, tries to just breathe. He's really, properly shaking now, his muscles spasming. He bites his lip, trying not to cry out when the pain in his head spikes.
"Frank," Mikey says, and gently places a hand on his shoulder, turns him around. "Here." He's holding out both of the pills now, and Brendon's suddenly standing on Frank's other side, a glass of water in his hand. "Go on," Mikey says. "It's okay, you'll be fine."
Frank lifts his hand, but it's shaking so badly, he can't, he—
Brendon slips an arm around his waist, and Mikey lets go of his shoulder to separate the pills on his palm, feeds them to Frank one at a time. Frank doesn't think about protesting. They'll help, he knows they will. Not just the drugs themselves, but Mikey and Brendon as well. He'll allow it, this once.
He barely registers Mikey and Brendon helping him out of his clothes, and before he knows it, his muscles are tensing, cramps running all through his body, and he's changing.
The first thing the wolf becomes aware of is that it's not shackled down. There's no collar around its neck, no chains holding it. The second thing is the fact that it's not alone. The wolf growls—low and unsure, but then Frank remembers. It's Mikey and Brendon, and they're not a threat.
He looks around the room—the wolf focuses on the apartment door, but Frank knows it's locked and he doesn't—he's fine here, for now. He sees Mikey and Brendon sitting on the couch, and starts trotting towards them, curious. That's when the scent hits him. It's new and different, but Frank feels like he's smelled it before, that if he could concentrate really hard he could remember it.
The wolf darts forward. It smells so good. He realizes it's coming from Mikey and focuses on him, eager to get more of it, he wants it, wishes it was all over him. Mikey smiles at him, raises a hand. Normally it would make Frank stop, but it's Mikey, Mikey's okay, and that smell.
But something's wrong. It's like the closer he gets the farther away the smell gets, replaced by the smell of what Frank knows as Mikey. Frank whines, but it won't come back.
Mikey chuckles, and says, "Yeah, I thought that's how it was."
"What?" Frank hears Brendon ask dimly, but if Mikey answers him, Frank doesn't register it. The smell's almost disappeared now, but there's—
Mikey reaches forward, his hand slowly nearing Frank's muzzle and all the hair on Frank's body rises up, because there's another scent, and it's wrong, wrong, wrong.
"Mikey?" Brendon asks, and Mikey's frowning, confused and unsure, and his hand reeks.
The smell brings back a memory, and then Frank realizes, it's—it's the guy, the guy who tried to hurt Mikey, he was gonna hurt Mikey, but Mikey's fine, he's fine, he's fine.
"Hey," Mikey says. "Frank. Frank, it's okay."
"What's going on?" Brendon asks.
"I don't know," Mikey says. "He doesn't seem mad at me—oh. Oh. Okay, I'm just gonna—I'm gonna go wash my hands, okay, Frank?" He gets up slowly, and heads toward the bathroom. Frank follows him, hackles still raised.
Mikey stays in the bathroom for a while, but when he comes out he presents his hands to Frank, and it's gone, the smell is gone. Frank yelps happily and licks Mikey's palm once, twice.
"Yeah," Mikey says. "See, it's okay. You don't have to worry."
Frank huffs and sits down on his haunches. He's feeling a bit dizzy now, and he thinks about just curling up and resting for a bit. The wolf's unsure, though—is he really safe here?
Mikey raises his hand, a bit hesitant, then touches the back of Frank's neck. It should feel bad, threatening and wrong, but Frank finds that he doesn't mind. He lets out a small, appreciative whine and Mikey digs his fingers in a little, then runs the hand down Frank's side.
"You can rest now," he says, and Frank whines again. "It's been a long night, hasn't it? But it's okay now, you can sleep."
It has been a long night, and Frank's so, so tired. He wants nothing more right now than to just curl up and fall asleep. And maybe he can. Frank's not completely sure about that, but the wolf trusts Mikey, at least this much, and the wolf is tired, too.
"It's okay," Mikey says, and Frank lies down. He curls up, tail over his nose, and shuts his eyes. He's tired, tired, tired, and then he's asleep.
Frank wakes up on the floor, shivering. He slowly pushes himself up on his palms and groans at the way his whole body feels like it wants to collapse in on itself.
He looks around the room and his gaze stops at the couch. Brendon and Mikey are curled up, pressed close together. Mikey's hand is resting on Brendon's waist and his nose is buried in Brendon's hair. Frank swallows and looks away.
There's a blanket right next to him, and he pulls it around his shoulders, slowly gets to his feet. He desperately wants to just fall to bed and sleep, but he has an early class this morning. He curses himself for not thinking about that when he decided to go out last night.
The clock on the living room wall says it's a little after six in the morning, so if he hurries he can still swing by his place before going to work. His clothes are laid out on a chair and he slowly puts them on, trying not to groan too loud at the way the muscles pull tight in his back.
Frank looks back at the couch, where Brendon and Mikey are still fast asleep. Then he looks toward the kitchen. Surely Brendon won't mind him getting a cup of coffee. Especially if he makes enough for them as well, for whenever they deign to wake up.
He's gently extracting the cup from the coffee-maker when he hears the front door of apartment open. It can't be Mikey or Brendon since they're both still asleep, and Frank's trying to come up with some excuse to him being here when Spencer walks into the kitchen.
Spencer stops for a moment, furrows his brow at Frank. "Hi?"
"Uh, hey," Frank says. "I made coffee?"
He holds the cup out for Spencer, even though the thought of giving it away pains him.
"Okay," Spencer says.
"I—I ran into Mikey in a bar, and it got pretty late and I crashed here?" Frank's still holding the cup at Spencer, and Spencer motions for him to drink it. Frank gratefully takes a sip.
"Okay," Spencer says again. "I mean, you didn't need to explain, but okay. Brendon and Mikey are still asleep?"
Frank nods. "Yeah, they're on the couch." He watches Spencer move to the fridge and grab a bottle of juice. He's not sure if he should leave immediately or if that would just be even more awkward. But he hasn't even finished his coffee yet, and Spencer said he didn't have to explain.
"So where are you coming from?" he asks.
"I was at my girlfriend's, but I need to change before heading to work," Spencer says.
Frank nods. "Well, I should go," he says.
"You don't have to," Spencer says.
Frank shakes his head. "No, I mean—I have an early class."
"Oh," Spencer says. "Well, yeah, in that case. It was nice to see you again, though."
"You too," Frank nods, and starts to move towards the door.
"Frank," Spencer calls out. "You know, you're welcome here any time."
Frank looks back at Spencer, and smiles. "Thanks," he says, and he hopes Spencer hears how truly he means it.
Frank's packing up after his last class—thankfully the early start meant that he was done right after lunch—when Gerard peaks in through the door.
"Hey," Frank says, surprised.
Gerard shuffles his feet. "Can we talk?"
Frank swallows heavily. "Um, sure."
Gerard nods and steps into the room, comes to sit down near Frank's desk. Frank sinks down on the chair next to him.
"Mikey told me about what happened," Gerard says. Frank looks down and twists his hands together. He doesn't know which part Gerard's talking about: the change itself or—or did they figure out that he doesn't actually have the pills, because why else would he push himself this far, or—or the smell, Gerard's smell, and how Frank acted—
"You protected him," Gerard says, and Frank looks up, surprised. "At the club," Gerard explains. "With the guy?" Frank must look as confused as he feels if Gerard's breaking it down into small sentences.
"Uh," Frank says. "I—yeah."
"I wanted to say thank you," Gerard says.
"You don't have to—" Frank starts.
"You didn't have to help him," Gerard points out. Frank shakes his head. He knows he didn't, not exactly. He can't explain the protectiveness he felt at the sight of some dude threatening Mikey. The thought of him being hurt—of any of them, Ray as well, and—and Gerard. It sets his teeth on edge. He pushes the thoughts away. He can't think about them like that, he barely knows them. He was merely looking for a fight that night, that's all.
"Why did you?" Gerard asks, and Frank frowns, pretends he doesn't understand.
"Help him, why did you?"
Frank shrugs. "He's Brendon's boyfriend."
Gerard raises his eyebrows. "Really? That's it?"
Frank looks away, uncomfortable.
"You haven't really been around other werewolves much, have you?"
Frank frowns. "What does that have to do with it?"
Gerard has his head tilted, and his looking at Frank, intent. "It's normal to want to look after your own."
Frank swallows heavily. They're not—he doesn't understand why Gerard is saying this.
Gerard looks away from him then, staring off into the distance. "You know, I still worry about him when he goes out," he says. "It's silly, I guess, it's not like this place is that dangerous. I'm getting better at it, though. Not the worrying, but, like, after the Wars, after we came here... I didn't even want to let him out of my sight."
Frank fidgets on the chair. He doesn't know what to say.
"Anyway." Gerard shakes his head. "Thanks."
Frank nods jerkily. "Okay."
"Uh," Gerard says, and Frank squeezes his hands into fists. "Mikey also told me about you changing. At Brendon's."
"Yeah," Frank says. "I—yeah, I guess I had kind of left a—I hadn't changed in a while and they offered..."
They had offered to help, Frank thinks. Like Gerard said. It's normal to look after your own. Frank hasn't been able to figure out why they would do that, but maybe... maybe it was that.
And he himself had stuck his neck out for Mikey, but. He hadn't even thought twice about it. And a part of him isn't sure if he'd have reacted any differently if Mikey hadn't been a werewolf.
He isn't really sure of what Gerard said about wolves being protective of one another, though. That isn't the experience he has had. Even though Gerard was right and he hasn't been around werewolves much. When they were in human form, at least.
"So are you protective of Ray, too?" Frank asks abruptly.
Gerard furrows his brow, obviously thrown by the change of subject. "Of course," he says.
"Because he's a werewolf?" Frank presses. "Because he's one of your own?"
"No," Gerard says. "Because he's one of my best friends. Oh. Oh, Frank, I just meant. It's just that our protective impulses are stronger. Not that we're protective of every other wolf we meet."
Frank nods, satisfied. He knows he didn't help Mikey out of some fucked up sense of obligation, no matter how much easier it would be to admit that instead of admitting that he's somehow come to care about these guys.
And maybe they didn't help him just because they felt like they had to.
Frank sighs and runs a hand over his face. "So, hey," he says. "Let's get this clear."
Gerard leans a little closer. "Yeah?"
"Mikey and Brendon. They helped me with the change because they wanted to, not because they felt like they had to."
"Of course," Gerard says. "Frank—"
"And I helped Mikey because I wanted to," Frank finishes. "So. You can thank me, but you really don't have to."
Gerard tilts his head. "Thought it was because he was Brendon's boyfriend," he says gently.
Frank huffs. "Yeah, yeah," he says. "Maybe I sort of like you guys."
Gerard smiles and flutters his eyelashes. "Aw, really?"
Frank squints at him, working to keep his face serious. "Just a little bit."
Gerard beams then, that bright grin that lights up his whole face and makes him look a bit manic. Frank swallows heavily.
"We'll take it," Gerard says, and Frank snorts.
He's feeling just a bit unsettled. What if Mikey did tell Gerard how Frank had acted during the change? Surely Mikey himself figured it out, at least some of it.
"Right," he says. "Well, I should—"
"Frank," Gerard says, suddenly sounding like he desperately wants to get this out. "I—"
"Yeah?" Frank asks.
Gerard takes a deep breath and says. "You should—I know you're new, but you should really adapt a, uh, a pattern or routine. For the changes."
"Oh," Frank says. He swallows and looks away. "Yeah, I—yeah."
After Gerard leaves, Frank sighs and buries his face in his hands. There was a small part of him that wished that Gerard would bring up the pills. Frank's never been much for sharing things about his life with others, not even before ZP-01 and being turned, but—maybe he should come clean to the guys about this.
He's sure Mikey's already guessed something's up, and if that's the case, then he's definitely talked to Gerard about it, and probably Ray, too, and—Frank wants to tell them. It's new and it's kind of really fucking scary, but he wants them to know.
It's a couple of days later when Frank finally works up the courage to talk to Gerard. He looks up Gerard's schedule on the system and discovers that he has the hour after lunch break off.
He wanders over to the art room as lunch break starts and finds Gerard sitting on his desk, drawing and occasionally stopping to take bites of his sandwich. He looks up, surprised, when Frank stops in front of him.
"Hey," Gerard says. "I didn't hear you come in. Are—Frank?"
"I—" Frank starts. "I wanted to talk to you about something."
"Yeah," Gerard says. "Of course, what is it? Are you okay?" He sounds awfully concerned. Frank wonders what his face must look like. He shakes his head.
"I'm fine, I just—uh. Can we sit or something?"
"Oh," Gerard says. "Yeah, here." He jumps down from the desk, pushes his chair toward Frank and runs to get another one for himself. "Are you sure you're okay?" he asks again when they're sitting down, Frank in Gerard's big, comfy chair and Gerard on a stool.
Frank nods. "It's not a big—well, it kind of is. It's nothing bad, I just. Fuck." He runs a hand over his face. "Okay, I'm just gonna tell you."
Gerard leans closer, eyes wide and expression encouraging.
"I don't have pills," Frank says. "I don't have a way to get them, and if I did I couldn't really afford them. I didn't want you guys to know."
Gerard looks down, briefly, and Frank holds his breath. When Gerard looks back up, he seems pained, his face screwed up and eyes sad.
"We knew," he says. Frank breathes in deeply. "I mean, we figured that was the case, and I wanted to ask you about it, I—but we decided that we shouldn't, like, impose. That it was your business, but. I really wanted to, Frank."
Frank quickly shakes his head. "No, it's—it's good that you didn't. I mean, fuck, a part of me still can't believe that I'm even telling you now." He laughs self-depreciatively. "I. I wanted to ask if..." He trails off, sighs. "Maybe you could introduce me to whoever you get your pills from? I couldn't pay for them upfront, but maybe I could, like—"
"Of course," Gerard says. "Yeah, of course. The guys are cool, they'll understand. Don't worry, we'll totally set you up."
Frank nods, grateful. He's relieved about how surprisingly easy it was in the end to just come out and tell Gerard.
"Thanks," he says. "Seriously, thank you."
"It's not a problem," Gerard says. "Like I said, I wanted to talk to you about it a while ago."
"Right," Frank says. "Okay. So, I should go—"
"Frank," Gerard says, and Frank freezes, looks at him. "I—there's something else I've been meaning to talk to you about."
"Yeah?" Frank asks, confused. Gerard's leaning in again, and wow, fuck, his face is so close. For a second Frank thinks he could just lean forward, just a bit, and they'd be kissing.
During the previous couple of days he thought that he'd gotten over the way Gerard's scent had affected him during the change at Brendon's, that it hadn't been any long-lasting thing. But now with Gerard right here he knows that he was lying to himself. It doesn't matter, though. He can push it down again.
"We've been thinking," Gerard says, and Frank realizes he'd been leaning forward in his chair. He sinks back down. "Me and the guys thought that maybe you'd like to join us when we're changing."
Frank blinks, surprised. "For the change?" he asks. "Really?"
"Yeah," Gerard says happily. "What do you think? No one should have to change alone, you know. And we thought maybe you'd like to give it a go."
"I—can I think about it for a bit?"
Gerard's smile falters a little, but he nods then, back to "very earnest Gerard" again. "Yeah, of course," he says. "Take your time."
Frank's distracted during his next class—confused and unsure. There's a strong part of him that wants to accept Gerard's invitation, but he can't help but question the intent behind it. Why would they ask him to join? Is it just because he doesn't have a pack? But then again Gerard didn't mention anything about him joining the pack. Is it just pity after Frank told him that he doesn't have access to pills?
But Gerard said he was going to put him in touch with someone regardless. So maybe it's just Gerard being nice. Maybe it's just that they actually want him to be there. Maybe it'll be worth it to go out on a limb, this time, and try to trust the guys.
He goes and finds Gerard right after his class, before he has the chance to change his mind.
"I'll—yeah," he says when he locates Gerard.
Gerard smiles at him, wide, his eyes crinkling. "Really? You'll join us for the next change?"
"Yeah," Frank says, smiling back. "Uh, I can, like, pay for the pills myself, of course."
Gerard nods. "Yeah, of course. Don't worry about paying us back right away, though, okay? We'll work it out."
"Right," Frank says, and thinks, please don't let it just be pity.
With the way Gerard's smiling at him, Frank finds it easier to believe that it's more than that.
On the day the of the change, Gerard finds Frank in the teacher's lounge.
"Hey," Gerard says, smiling. He's carrying a cup of coffee and a sketchbook and there's a charcoal streak on his cheek. Frank smiles back helplessly. "Man, you're still drinking that?" Gerard points at the coffee cup with the school's logo on it in Frank's hand.
Frank shrugs. "It's not every day I get someone bringing me coffee," he says, teasing. "Sometimes you just gotta make do."
Gerard squints at him. "No one should ever settle for sub-par coffee," he says.
"I completely agree." Frank purses his lips. "But now, I gotta support my school, don't I?"
Gerard shakes his head. "Not at the expense of good coffee."
Frank would point out exactly how fucking expensive Gerard's fancy coffee is, but he doesn't feel like acting like a dick right now, even if it would simply be stating a fact. Gerard is smiling at him, good-humouredly, so Frank simply shrugs in response.
"It's not that bad," he says.
"Oh, now I know you're lying," Gerard says. Frank chuckles.
The door opens then and two teachers walk in. Frank thinks they're from the history department. Gerard greets them both, and they nod at him in turn. They move toward the small kitchen area, and Gerard slides a little closer to Frank near the bookshelves.
He leans in and lowers his voice. "Hey, I know we said eight, but. Do you wanna come over a bit earlier? To get a feel for the place?"
Frank's a bit surprised that Gerard would offer something like that, but then he wonders if maybe Gerard understands the nervousness he feels, changing in an unfamiliar place.
"Yeah, that'd be cool," he says, grateful.
"Okay," Gerard says, and smiles. "Actually, I was thinking maybe you could come right after work, so we can go together?"
Frank shrugs, then nods. "Yeah, sure."
Gerard nods as well, still smiling. "I get off at five, I have a double class. I mean, if you'd have to wait, then—"
"No," Frank interrupts him. "That's fine, I'm done at around the same time."
"Okay," Gerard says as the bell sounds. "I'll come find you later then."
He reaches out and brushes a hand against Frank's forearm, brief. Frank tries not to shiver. The first bell rings.
"See you," Frank says, and turns to head for the door. He consciously makes an effort to not walk too fast. The hair on his arm is standing up, and his heart's beating loud and he wants to stay here and chat with Gerard and have him smile at him, but—it's just. Gerard's just very compelling. That's it, Frank tells himself. That's all it is.
Frank's last class ends a little early when they, surprisingly, get through the pieces at top speed and the kids finally convince him that since it's Friday he can surely let them out early.
Usually Frank would smirk and tell them that if they think they've learned the piece well enough then why don't they play it for him on their backs with their eyes closed. He's feeling anxious about the night, though, so he lets them go.
He messes around on the guitar for a bit, but he's too twitchy and on edge to really get anywhere, so he eventually gives up on torturing the poor guitar.
Frank grabs his bag, locks the door and sets out to find Gerard. He figures Gerard must still be at the art room, so that's what he heads for.
The double doors are open when he gets there, but Frank can hear Gerard giving instructions, so class must not be over yet. He stops a bit before the doors, but he can't resist creeping closer and peeking in.
The room is still filled with students working on their paintings. The whole place has an air of excitement to it, and as Frank's glance travels up to the front of the room he can see why.
Gerard's down on his hands and knees on the platform and in front of him is a dog, its front paws stretched, butt up and tail wagging.
The dog is small, more like a puppy, a mix of dark brown and white with floppy ears and curly fur. Its eyes are intent on Gerard, and it looks happy and excited.
"Now remember," Gerard says. "The tail should be portrayed to be in motion."
A quick glance at the drawings of the students close to him show mostly finished sketches of just the dog, but a few have included Gerard as well. Frank wonders how long he's been there on the platform, entertaining the puppy to keep it in position.
He only realizes how wide he's grinning when his cheeks start hurting. Gerard looks ridiculous. Well, mostly. Frank realizes he can't help but focus on Gerard's ass in those tight jeans as he wiggles around on the platform. It's ridiculous and somehow completely hot at the same time.
The sound of the bell going off floats in through the open doors. Frank hadn't even noticed when he stepped through the doors and further into the room.
"Mr. Way," one of the guys closer to the door calls. "The bell."
"What?" Gerard asks, and looks up from having a stare-off with the dog. "Oh. Uh, okay. Finish your sketches at home. Next time we're going back to our previous project."
The students start packing up their stuff, and Gerard starts to climb down from the platform. Frank feels a bit awkward, but they did agree on meeting up, so he walks up to the front.
Gerard has taken the puppy into his arms and is scratching it behind the ears. He looks up, surprised. "Frank." He beams and Frank can't help but smiling back.
Frank looks pointedly at the puppy. "Are you switching over to animal models?"
Gerard laughs. "Chloe's little sister brought Peggy here along for show and tell. She wanted to be excused so she could go take her back home, but I figured, you know. Why not take the opportunity?"
Frank smiles and hesitantly reaches out a hand towards the little critter.
"Do you want to hold her?" Gerard asks. A small, dark-haired girl walks up to them then.
Gerard directs his smile at her and says, "Thanks so much for letting us do this, Chloe."
Chloe smiles and shrugs. "No problem, Mr. Way. I think Peggy liked the attention."
"Yeah," Gerard says happily. "I was just giving her to Frank to hold, she's so cute."
Frank looks at Chloe, tilts his head in question. "Is that okay?"
"Sure," Chloe says, and Gerard hands Peggy over. Frank hasn't held a dog in a long while—way too long. He's thought about getting one, but before money was tight and he didn't have time or the means to look after a pet. Now, on top of that, he's worried about how a dog would take to a werewolf.
Little Peggy seems to have no such qualms, though. She wriggles happily in Frank's arms, and Frank runs a hand over her soft fur, scratches her back and behind her ear.
"She's adorable," he says, and Peggy licks at his hand, as if in agreement.
Frank looks up and sees Gerard smiling at him, grin wide and eyes warm. Frank swallows and looks back at Peggy.
"I should go now," Chloe says. "I need to catch the next Transport."
"Oh, of course," Gerard says and Frank hands Peggy back to Chloe. She gathers her up close and smiles at both of them before leaving. Gerard turns to Frank.
"I didn't expect you to—well, I thought I was gonna come and find you," Gerard says. "Sorry, I'll just clean this up real quick."
"Yeah, my class ended a bit early. I don't mind waiting, though."
Gerard's already gathering stuff up. Frank leans against Gerard's desk and watches him bend down to pick up a couple of pencils.
Frank swallows and clears his throat. "Need any help?"
"Nah, I'm good," Gerard says, and throws a quick smile over his shoulder. "This won't take long."
Gerard moves quickly through the room, muttering to himself and gathering supplies. He keeps running his fingers through his hair, and at one point he scratches his cheek with a pencil. Frank bites his lip against the smile he knows is threatening to encompass his whole face.
"Okay," Gerard says finally, and grabs his bag. "I think that's it. I don't actually clean up after every day, but, uh—Frank? Do I—do I have something on my face?"
Frank blinks rapidly and wills himself not to actually fucking blush over just being caught staring. "Uh, yeah. You—there's a smudge on your cheek," he says, glad for the excuse.
"Oh," Gerard says, and lifts his hand to rub against the wrong cheek.
"No, the other—" Frank raises his hand without thinking and strokes his thumb against Gerard's cheek, gently rubbing at the smudge. He stops when he realizes what he's doing and pulls away. "There. Uh, are we going?"
Gerard just blinks at him for a moment, but then he smiles. "Right, yeah. Let's go."
The Transport is pretty full, but Gerard manages to find them a spot. Gerard's house is at the far end of the station, so it's at least thirty minutes to their stop.
Gerard gets his sketchbook out during the ride, and leans comfortably against the wall. Frank tries not to stare at him too noticeably, but it's hard, with the way Gerard taps his pencil against his mouth, chews on it before he remembers what he's doing. Frank's so fucked.
They have to walk for a bit to actually reach Gerard's place from the stop, and Frank's glad Gerard asked him to come with, because he doesn't think he would have found the place by himself.
"It's not on the maps," Gerard says as they shuffle up to the front door. The house is hidden behind a screen forest. "I mean, it is, for all intents and purposes, but not really for the public to find."
Frank doesn't even want to think about how much a place like this would cost. He knew Gerard and Mikey were rich, but it's different to actually see it. He shakes his head and steps after Gerard into the house. The door slides closed after them.
It's not as big as he had imagined, but it's comfortable and cozy and still spacious enough to easily fit Gerard and Mikey and any possible guests. He likes it on the spot. It's a weird feeling, considering usually he's wary in new places, but there's something about it.
Maybe it's the quiet air it has, or the paintings on the wall that he suspects are Gerard's work, or the old-fashioned library Gerard points out to him. Frank's not overly nostalgic for books, but he likes the way Gerard and Ray and Mikey have still held on to stuff from Earth—Gerard with this, Ray with his shop.
But maybe the main reason that Frank feels comfortable here is the smells—the scent of their pack: Mikey and Ray, and, most of all, Gerard.
"It's really nice," Frank says, looking around the living room.
"Thanks," Gerard says, and smiles. "Come on, I'll show you the basement."
The basement is bright and spacious. There are mattresses with blankets and pillows on the edges of the room, but the middle is an open space. The floor's wooden and scratched up, but it seems good to run on.
"We thought about maybe designing it into a dirt floor, so it'd be even more like a forest, but it was a little hard to manage. Maybe one day, though." Gerard's messing with the panel next to the door, brightening the lights, then dimming them again.
"Do you need it colder or warmer?" Gerard asks. "Mikey usually runs pretty cold, even as a wolf, so we've got it a bit higher than the normal temperature would be."
"I—" Frank says. "I don't—" He's looking around the room, at the vast space that smells like Gerard and Mikey and Ray and wolf and thinks about how he's going to change here, along with others, and he feels a little light-headed.
Gerard must sense his anxiety, because he's next to him in a flash, not touching him, but calmly saying, "It's okay. Hey, it's okay, just breathe."
Frank takes a deep breath and then shakes his head. "Shit, sorry, I didn't mean to freak out on you."
"It's fine," Gerard says. "You know..." He trails off, and Frank looks up at him. "You don't have to do this. I mean, we'd love to have you, but you can still go back home."
"No," Frank says, and is surprised to realize he means it. "No, I want to. Really. It—it meant a lot that you'd invite me, honestly."
A frown crosses Gerard's face, but then he smiles tentatively, and Frank can tell that he doesn't get it. It's okay, though, he didn't really expect him to.
"Wanna go back up?" Gerard asks. Frank nods gratefully.
"Do you want anything to eat?" Gerard asks once they're back in the kitchen. "Mikey and Ray get off at seven, so we still have time. I think Mikey was gonna stop by Brendon's, too."
Frank shrugs. "Yeah, sure. Uh, something light?" His stomach has been bothering him on and off for most of the day. It's just nerves, he knows, but it still fucking sucks, and even though he's hungry, he doesn't want to risk it.
"A sandwich then," Gerard says. "And orange juice?"
"Sounds great," Frank says. He can't remember the last time he had orange juice. Most stuff you could find in the stores nowadays was all made of blue or green stars, or the product from the new fruit station that had cropped up a year ago.
Gerard seems to be aware of what he's thinking because he beams at him as he fills their glasses with the juice. "They still import it," he says. "Not to all the stores, but, well, we have connections."
Frank raises his eyebrows. "Pills for werewolves and orange juice. You just love living on the edge, don't you?"
Gerard snorts and starts laughing, as if it's surprised out of him. He's making this high wheezing sound and Frank can't help but screw up his eyes and join in.
He's almost done with his sandwich, leaning against the kitchen island, when Gerard clears his throat. He seems nervous.
"So you never said where you were turned," Gerard says. Frank looks at him, wary. He should have known it was coming—he did, but he had hoped—he doesn't know what he had hoped. Of course they were gonna want to know.
"Ray mentioned something to me the other day," Gerard says. "That you weren't turned on Earth?"
Frank shakes his head, breathes in deeply. Might as well get it over with. "I was on ZP-01. At the time."
"Oh," Gerard says. Frank can see his eyes widen, and holds his breath. "Okay." He doesn't say anything else for a while. Frank thinks about breaking the silence, but—he needs to know what Gerard thinks, if that's all he's gonna say or if—if. The sandwich feels like lead in his stomach.
"Okay," Gerard says, again. "You—I. Thanks for—you don't have to tell me about it. But thanks for, like, well. Telling me. I mean, I wouldn't have asked if I had known—"
"Gerard," Frank interrupts him gently. "It's okay. Don't worry about it."
Gerard nods jerkily. "I—so, is there anything you want to know about us, or..."
"Why do you change as a pack?" Frank asks, gratefully changing the subject. "I mean, I'd get it if you were all out together, but..."
Gerard looks thoughtful. "We didn't always. I mean, we did on Earth, me and Mikey and our family. But after we came here, well. At first we changed without Rel-X, locked in the basement. It was kind of... Well, it sucked."
Frank frowns. "But you still change there?"
"Oh," Gerard says. "Oh, no, that was at our old place. The basement was smaller, the house was closer to the middle of the station. Anyway, it was too small, and we were really irritable and angry all the time, because we were so used to running around the woods. It. Wasn't good."
Frank tilts his head in concern. "Did—"
"Oh, we didn't hurt each other or anything," Gerard hurries to say. "It was just tense. And then we found Rel-X and from there we just slept through the change. It didn't really feel safe, though, so we stopped changing together. So we could watch over each other."
Frank swallows heavily, reminded of Gerard saying how he still worries about Mikey. He can't imagine what it must have been like for them after the Wars. At least Frank had to only look after himself.
"After Ray got turned we knew we had to figure something out, though, a better solution. So we bought this house," Gerard says, looking around the room. "Remodeled the basement, and now we change together."
There's more he's not saying, Frank can tell, about how Ray got turned especially, but Frank doesn't want to push. Besides, there's something else that he's only just realizing, and it's making him breathe faster, more shallow.
"Wait, you—you still take Rel-X, right?"
Gerard purses his lips. "We do," he says slowly. "But a very low dose, just a quarter of the usual. It keeps us from completely tearing the place apart, but it's a lot nicer to be actually aware of what's going on, you know. Especially now that we all have each other."
Frank's nodding along, but he can feel panic growing inside of him. He's only taken Rel-X twice, but he dreamed of it ever since he got turned, and he's not completely sure if he can go without it.
"But you don't have to!" Gerard says, clearly noticing how Frank's breathing is speeding up. "You can totally take the whole dose, it's fine. We won't mind or anything."
Frank shakes his head. "Just—the last time I changed without them..."
"It's okay," Gerard says. "You don't have to decide right now. And really, you can just sleep through it, we'll keep you safe."
Frank would point out that that's not the part he's worried about, but he has a feeling Gerard wouldn't understand that either.
He sighs instead. "I'll think about it. Tell me more about changing together? How is it?"
Gerard smiles. "It's great. It's not as good as running around in a forest, of course, but we still have quite enough space to play and chase each other. It was really nice to get back to that. I mean, I can't say that I'm glad this happened to Ray, but it is what it is. We made it work, and it brought some good things with it as well."
Frank nods. It sounds really nice. He's curious about how Ray got turned, but it's not really something you ask about. It wouldn't be fair, either. Not only because he's asking Gerard and not Ray, but also because he isn't prepared to tell them about himself.
"You want to ask something," Gerard says. Frank starts to shake his head, but Gerard goes on: "It's okay. I would be curious, too."
"It's nothing," Frank says. "I was just wondering about Ray, but it's none of my business."
Gerard tilts his head. "I can't speak for Ray," he says. "But I can tell you the basics. It's pretty simple. He got sick. I turned him."
Frank meets Gerard's eyes, shocked. "You?"
Gerard shrugs, but Frank can see the tension in the lines of his face. "It saved his life," he says simply.
His voice sounds calm and matter-of-fact, but Frank can tell he doesn't want to discuss this further.
"Okay," Frank says, trying to wrap his head around this. Gerard has turned someone.
Gerard's watching him, as if he's considering something. Frank doesn't know what to say.
"Do you wanna watch a movie before the guys get here?" Gerard asks abruptly.
Frank nods; it'll give him a chance to digest all he's heard and figure out what he wants to do during the change. He remembers Gerard's words: "You can still go back home." Frank has no desire to.
They end up watching Ghostbusters. Throughout it Gerard keeps pointing out stuff to him and making random comments. He doesn't seem to mind that Frank's not really paying attention.
Mikey and Ray arrive when they're three quarters into the movie. They greet Frank warmly, and Frank again feels a bit more sure of his decision to come here.
None of them are interested in having dinner, so they just quickly grab some sandwiches—"The pills will take better this way," Ray says when Frank says that he doesn't feel like he can eat anything at the moment—and then head into the basement.
"Okay," Gerard says once they're all standing in the room and the door has closed behind them.
"Sorry," Frank says, interrupting, and everyone turns towards him. "I didn't ask before, the door—"
"Locks both sides," Gerard says. "Don't worry, we won't get out."
"What if—" Frank starts. He can feel the anxiety build inside him; he thought he'd gotten past it, but now that they're all here and ready it's back, like something clawing at his stomach. He tries to keep his voice even. "What if something goes wrong? What if we can't open it from the inside after, for whatever reason?"
"Brendon has the password," Mikey says. "And Christa. If they don't hear anything from us tomorrow morning they'll come looking."
"Christa?" Frank asks.
"My girlfriend," Ray says.
Frank nods, clasps his hands behind his back. It sounds safe, but. He doesn't know what it is, he changed on his own with just a collar around his neck and a chain holding him back, but here he wants to be reassured.
"But what if something goes wrong with the change itself? What if we're—they're both humans, they can't—it's dangerous."
"Well, there are cameras," Mikey says. "That they can check before coming in. And they can call Pete if they need to."
"Pete?" Frank asks. "Wait, cameras?"
"Did you not tell him any of this?" Mikey asks, turning to Gerard. "What did you do all day?"
Gerard, curiously, looks down as if embarrassed and mumbles something about forgetting. Frank doesn't have time to concern himself with it, though.
"Who's Pete and why are there cameras?"
"Pete's a friend," Mikey says. "He has his own pack."
"Okay," Frank says. "So he can—yeah. And the cameras?"
"They only get activated after the change," Ray says. "And they don't actually record anything, it's just, well, surveillance. In case we need it for something like what you described."
Gerard steps forward and places a hand on Frank's shoulder. "We really have thought of everything, Frank," he says.
His hand is warm and gentle on Frank's shoulder, his eyes earnest. Frank nods, slowly. "Okay."
Gerard smiles at him, then steps back and rubs his hands together. "Okay, so. The pills are in the closet right next to the door—"
"Where they always are," Mikey says. Gerard frowns at him.
"That's not—ugh. Just go get them. Ray, lock the door. Frank, have you decided if you're taking the full dosage of Rel-X?"
Frank fidgets on the spot while Ray and Mikey follow Gerard's orders. "I—I'm gonna take a quarter," he says. He figures that much will still keep him at least relatively calm. He's a bit worried about how he might react to three other wolves, but the night with Mikey and Brendon went well so maybe it'll be fine. The important thing is that he can't get out into the streets. And he's realizing he doesn't want to sleep through this.
"We ready?" Ray asks as him and Mikey join them again. Gerard looks at Frank. Frank can see it in his eyes, clear as day: "You can still change your mind. But we'd love to have you here."
Frank swallows and nods.
"Yes," Gerard says. "We're ready."
Mikey hands them all a small dose of Rel-X. Frank downs it quickly. He barely feels it hit him; he's just a bit less nervous than he was before, but he can't even tell if that's because of the drug or just the guys.
It isn't till the others start pulling off their shirts that Frank remembers oh, yeah, none of them want their clothes to rip. Somehow he had managed to forget about this part. He quickly pulls his shirt over his head. He tries not to stare at Gerard's bare torso, his soft belly. Fuck.
Frank averts his eyes and instead focuses on taking off his jeans, his socks.
Ray gathers up all their clothes and settles them in a compartment in the wall.
"Okay," Gerard says as Mikey hands out the pills. "You can take your, uh, underwear off after you've taken Rel-X and store it with your clothes." It's obvious he's just saying this for Frank's benefit, but he's not looking at him and it's like he's addressing all of them. "Uh. Have fun. And be nice to each other."
Gerard looks at all of them in turn, then, and swallows his pill. Frank and the others follow.
Frank's barely aware of dragging off his briefs and throwing them into the compartment. He breathes in once, twice, and then he's changing.
He's so much more aware of it this time, the pain, the muscles in his body locking, his bones rearranging themselves. He thinks he screams, but he's not sure, and then it's over.
There are three other wolves in the room.
His first instinct is to lower himself to the floor, make himself as small as he can possibly be. He won't show them his belly, he won't, but he can show them that he's not a threat, no, no, and then their smell reaches him, registers in his brain, and he remembers.
Gerard, and Mikey, and Ray, and they're friendly, they're not a threat, not at all. The wolf remembers Mikey clearly, remembers him in human form, but still Mikey, still looking after Frank.
Ray's not so familiar, but Frank fills in the blanks there, the bright smile and reassuring tone of voice, how welcoming Ray is, always.
And then Gerard steps forward, breaking out of the group.
Gerard's bigger than Frank is, his fur darker, and he smells amazing.
Frank yips happily and pushes his nose against the side of Gerard's muzzle.
It's Gerard, it's Gerard, it's Gerard, and Frank wants to get that smell all over himself, wants Gerard all over him, everywhere.
Gerard pushes against his side, noses his neck, nips at his ear. Frank gets the sudden urge to just fall to the ground, roll over onto his back.
Alpha, his brain tells him. Alpha-alpha-alpha. Gerard's in charge here. He's in charge of the others; they're not coming closer, not when Gerard's currently with Frank, but he's also in charge with Frank. Frank's sure of it. The wolf's sure of it.
There's something else, though, there's that urge to tease him, to match him, to get him to give Frank all of his attention.
Frank doesn't lie down on the ground. He pushes his snout against Gerard's again, licks the side of it, quick, then turns and bounds off. He hears Gerard yelp behind him, and he knows Gerard's following him.
The basement's small, too small to get away, but Frank doesn't want to anyway. He stops and lets Gerard barrel into him, throwing him down to the ground.
Gerard's growling, but Frank can tell he's not really mad. Still, Frank turns his head and bares his neck. Gerard sniffs at it, then noses it, encouraging, and pulls back to let Frank get up.
Frank hesitates for a moment before running off again—this time heading for Ray and Mikey. The two of them are just sitting in the middle of the room, watching Frank and Gerard, and Frank wants them to play, too. He runs right into Mikey, pushing his head against Mikey's side. Ray growls in warning, but Frank thinks that's ridiculous. He wouldn't hurt Mikey.
Mikey shakes Frank off, though, turns to stare right at him. His eyes might look a bit different, but they're still unmistakably his. The look in them is exasperated, fond. He bumps his snout against Frank's, then pointedly looks over at where Gerard is hanging back, watching them.
Frank pushes against Mikey's side, brief, stops by Ray and noses at him as well. He thinks Ray'd be rolling his eyes if he could. Frank yelps happily, and runs back to Gerard.
They spend most of the night like that: playfully nipping at each other, taking turns chasing each other. Frank tries to include Ray and Mikey as well, and he succeeds, mostly, but he keeps turning back to Gerard and leaving them to play among themselves.
It's just that Gerard smells so good, and he's so responsive and seems so happy to run around with Frank, like he's so happy that Frank's there.
At one point when Frank catches up to Gerard, Gerard doesn't nip at him, or yelp, or press close. He lies down instead, panting, and Frank realizes suddenly how exhausted he is. Frank looks over at Ray and Mikey and sees that they have lain down as well, close to the mattresses on the side of the room.
Frank looks back at Gerard. They're in the middle of the basement and one small part of Frank's brain is thinking that maybe he should go and claim a spot near a mattress so it'll be easier to just roll onto it when morning comes and the pills wear off.
He lies down next to Gerard instead, curls up close, and falls asleep.
Frank wakes up to someone draping a blanket over him. He clutches onto it immediately and burrows himself in it.
"Hey," someone says, and Frank slowly blinks his eyes open. It's Gerard, with a blanket around his own shoulders, tired eyes and mussed-up hair. He has a hand on Frank's shoulder. Frank smiles.
"Come on," Gerard says. "Let's get you somewhere more comfortable."
"'M good here," Frank mumbles.
"Yeah," Gerard says. "But I bet you'd be even better on a mattress. Come on." He goes to help Frank sit up. Frank's head feels heavy, and his muscles are sore, like every time after a change. He just wants to lie back down and go back to sleep, but Gerard seems to have other ideas. Frank grumbles and lets Gerard pull him up.
"Come on, just a few steps," Gerard says. Frank closes his eyes again and leans on Gerard. He doesn't know if he's allowed, but he feels like he is, so whatever.
He's mostly asleep again when Gerard's lowering him down onto something soft and warm and blissfully still.
"Thanks," Frank whispers as Gerard tucks the blanket around him. He's asleep before he hears Gerard's response.
Someone gently shakes him awake again after what feels like mere minutes. Frank grumbles and curls up more before blinking his eyes open. It's Ray, this time.
"Hey," he says, smiling. "We're gonna get some coffee and maybe breakfast. We didn't want to wake you, but, well. We didn't really want to leave you here alone either."
Frank sighs and pushes himself up to a sitting position. "That's fine," he says, runs a hand over his face. "What time is it?"
"Not sure," Ray says. "Um, your clothes are here. Just come into the kitchen, okay? Mikey and Gerard are already there."
"Oh," Frank says, feeling a weird pang of disappointment that he can't figure out. "Um, yeah, sure. Be there in a sec."
"Okay," Ray says. "Just close the door, we'll lock it later." He stands up, then looks back down at Frank. "Hey. This was really fun."
"Yeah," Frank says, smiling up at him. "It really fucking was, wasn't it?"
Ray grins. "Okay, well, don't be too long or Mikey and Gerard will drink all the coffee. Like, seriously."
Frank snorts. "Noted."
He gets dressed fast—fuck, he should have planned ahead and brought a shirt and another pair of underwear with him, this is pretty gross—and reaches the kitchen just as Gerard's pouring a cup of coffee.
"I hope that's for me," Frank says. Gerard's head shoots up, fast, but surprisingly he doesn't spill a drop. Magic. Gerard probably has coffee magic, or something. Frank realizes he's feeling a little loopy, but oh well, he'll sleep it off later. The coffee will help.
"Um, yes?" Gerard says, and pushes the coffee towards Frank. "Totally for you. Not at all my fourth cup."
Frank grins at him and takes a large sip. Gerard's looking just a bit twitchy, but he smiles back at Frank easily.
"Yes, we're all still alive," Mikey says, and Frank looks over where he's leaning against the fridge. He's on the phone, and Frank figures he must be talking to Brendon. Ray's standing near the stove, staring at it like he's expecting it to reveal to him all its secrets.
"Cooking?" Frank asks. He's not particularly hungry, never is after the change.
Ray shrugs. "I want something, but I don't know what. Fucking after-change cravings."
"Sucks," Frank says, and turns to Gerard. "So, how long can I, uh, stay here for?"
Gerard blinks in surprise. "Oh, as—as long as you want. I mean, we're not gonna kick you out, Frankie."
Frank ducks his head, and stares at his coffee cup. He wants to ask Gerard about last night, how it seemed like his smell was everywhere, how Frank couldn't get enough of it, of him, of having Gerard's attention all for himself. He wants to ask if Gerard felt the same, because that's what it felt like. He thinks Gerard did.
But he still has to check and he certainly can't do it with Mikey and Ray in the room. He thinks he can wait. He takes a sip of his coffee.
"So," Frank asks, looking up at the guys. "What do you usually do after a change?"
"Sleep," Mikey says. He's stopped talking to Brendon and is now holding his coffee cup with both hands, looking like he'd fall over if he wasn't leaning against something.
"Eat," Ray says.
"Drink a lot of fucking coffee," Gerard says, and smiles.
Frank grins at him. He's still not sure if this was a one-time thing or not, but he could get used to this.
Gerard stops by his classroom on Monday morning, right before second period.
"Mr. Iero," one of the third class kids who's there early says. "There's someone waiting at the door."
Frank's busy flipping through the sheet music he needs for this class, so he says, "Yeah, Zach? What does he looks like?"
"He has red hair," Zach says, awe in his voice.
"It's the art teacher," Kate says.
Frank pauses and turns toward the door. Sure enough, it's Gerard, hovering near the doorway. His hair's a fiery red.
"Hey," Frank says, stepping outside. "You—whoa, that's really bright."
Gerard's hand goes to his hair, and he smiles. "Uh, yeah. Do you like it? I mean—"
"It looks great," Frank says, grinning.
"Right," Gerard says, and looks down, biting his lip. "Uh. Listen, I kind of want to talk to you about something. Can you swing by later when you're not busy? Like lunch time?"
"Yeah," Frank says. "Sure, yeah."
Gerard nods. "Okay, well. I'll see you later then." It seems like he wants to say something else, but then the bell goes off. Gerard gives him another small smile and turns to go. Frank watches him walk away for a bit, before he shakes his head and goes back inside.
Later, when lunch break finally comes around, Frank finds Gerard in his art room. "Hey," he says, smiling.
"Frank," Gerard says. He gets up from his chair and comes to stand in front of his desk. "Uh, hey."
"You wanted to talk about something?" Frank asks, walking closer and stopping right in front of Gerard.
"Yeah," Gerard says. "Uh, it's about the change." His hand goes to his hair again and Frank grins.
"Do you mean the change or do you have something important to tell me about your hair decisions?"
Gerard laughs like it's startled out of him, loud and honking. "The former," he says. "This—I just felt like it."
Frank nods. "It looks good," he says again. It looks different, like Gerard's more—more something. Frank thought he looked great with the dark hair, but this makes him somehow brighter, even harder to look away from.
Gerard's smiling at him, and Frank wants to touch him, wants to kiss him, fuck him. He wants. And so he leans forward and presses his mouth against Gerard's.
He doesn't expect Gerard to push him away.
Gerard's hands are on Frank's shoulders, and their lips are no longer touching, and it takes Frank a second to actually comprehend what's happening.
"What?" Frank asks, and looks up, looks at Gerard. "I—oh."
"Frank," Gerard says, and he sounds wretched. "We—I can't."
Frank goes to pull back, embarrassed, but Gerard's hold on his shoulders is strong.
"Frankie," Gerard says.
"It's okay." Frank shakes his hands off, turns his head away. "I guess I—I shouldn't have. Sorry." His face is burning, he's fucking mortified. But besides that he can feel anger deep inside: he's mad at himself for assuming, and he's mad at Gerard for being so fucking... fucking all over Frank during the change and after, and being so nice and—
"It's not that I—I wouldn't be opposed," Gerard says, and finally lets go of Frank's shoulders. "I just—I don't think we should. It wouldn't be right."
"What?" Frank asks. He can hear his voice shake. What the fuck is Gerard talking about?
"I want you to join our pack," Gerard says.
Something deep inside Frank leaps at the thought—pack, pack, pack—and he feels warm and safe for a moment, but when he looks up Gerard is looking at him, and his eyes are concerned and sad. Now it makes sense.
Frank steps back. "I don't want your pity," he says, voice rough even to his own ears.
"No," Gerard says, eyes going wide and shocked. "Frank, that's not what it's like at all, just—"
Frank balls his hands into fists. "Then what is it like, huh?"
"You ask me to come change with you after I tell you that I don't have a way to get pills and now you want me to join you? How is it not pity?"
"You're being stupid," Gerard says, and crosses his arms.
Frank opens his mouth, indignant, but Gerard cuts him off.
"It's not like that, okay," he says. "It's not about that at all, I swear. Just let me fucking explain."
Frank breathes out roughly, gives a jerk with his head. "Go ahead."
Gerard sighs and uncrosses his arms, runs a hand over his face. "It—it felt good, right?" he asks. "That night, you changing with us. It felt right. Didn't you feel that?"
"Yes," Frank says, confused. He doesn't understand, if Gerard felt that as well, then why—
Gerard carries on, though. "That's what it's about," he says. "You fitting in with us. I've been meaning to ask you for a while. But we agreed to go slow, try out changing together at first."
"Like a trial run," Frank says, frowning.
Gerard shrugs. "Sort of. But Frank—I knew I wanted you to join the day Mikey came home and told me that you'd stood up for him, almost torn that guy apart. That's—we're all protective of each other, that's what pack is, and you hadn't even known him for that long. And then he said how you'd been going without pills—"
Frank's frown deepens and Gerard tries to hastily move on.
"But it wasn't about that! Really, we just—I thought we had our pack, me and Mikey and Ray, and I thought that was going to be it. But we all really care about you, Frank. We want you to join.
"And yeah, it'd probably make getting the pills easier for you, but we were going to set you up with Pete anyway, regardless of that, and if you don't want to join then we're obviously still gonna do that. That's not gonna change." He breathes out, visibly irritated, and shakes his head. "But trust me, if this was about just taking on a charity case, we'd have a way bigger pack."
Frank runs his hands over his face. He admits that he might have jumped to conclusions a bit fast—he actually doubts that the guys would ever ask him to join just because they felt sorry for him. Maybe in the very beginning, but surely not now, not after Frank feels he can actually call these people his friends and truly mean it. But just, the look on Gerard's face.
Still, if Gerard says that that's not the case then, well. Frank will believe him. Somehow, Frank had come to trust him. He came to Gerard's classroom to talk to him, because Gerard asked him, and even though things went so differently from how he had thought, he can't blame Gerard for that.
There's some sick part of him that wants to hear Gerard say it.
"So," Frank says. "So, you want me in the pack, but you just don't want... me."
"Frank," Gerard says, voice quiet and sad. Frank raises his head and looks at him, defiant. "I just—I just don't think it'd be a good idea," Gerard finishes.
Frank feels all the fight go out of him. He's disappointed, sure, and a part of him feels humiliated, but mostly he's just tired, now. He's tired of this.
"Please just think about it," Gerard says. "Don't—this is—we all want you to join. At least consider it, okay?"
"Yeah," Frank says, and sighs. "Yeah, okay. I'll—I'll see you around."
He can tell that Gerard wants to say something else, but the bell's going off and Frank's gonna be late. He leaves without looking back.
Frank's in his kitchen that night, making dinner for himself when he finally has time to properly think about Gerard's offer. If he had a pack, then maybe they'd all share their pills and he'd never have to go without. The thought alone makes him sick. No matter what Gerard said, that would be pity, that's something Frank doesn't want, can't accept. He's still going to pay for them; he'll figure something out.
A part of him doesn't know how he can be around Gerard, especially when they're changing, and not do something, but Frank pushes that part down.
If he really allows himself to consider it, to picture it, then... he wants it. He feels comfortable with all of them. A lot more comfortable than he thought possible. He thinks it could work. He wants it to work, he wants to try, and Gerard said—
"Fuck," Frank sighs, and buries his head in his hands. Gerard had said that it had felt right, changing together, and it did, but. Changing with Gerard, specifically—it was like everything had slotted into place. Like Frank was meant to be there, with Mikey and Ray, and Gerard as his alpha, as his—
But apparently Gerard hadn't felt the same.
Frank takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. Gerard still wants him to join them, they all do. And Frank doesn't want to say no to them. He can just—he'll ignore that part of him that craves for Gerard, and it'll work out. Frank can make this work. It's about fucking time something works out for him, he feels.
Frank goes by Gerard's classroom as lunch break is about to end. Gerard's leaning on his desk, staring down at it intently. Frank would usually go over and ask what he's working on.
He stops right near the doors. "I'll join," he says. Gerard's head shoots up; he opens his mouth to say something. "When's the next change?" Frank interrupts him. "Exactly a month from the last one?"
"Yeah, the 14th," Gerard says. "Frank—"
"Did you change your mind?" Frank asks, and Gerard furrows his brow.
"No, of course not."
Frank nods. "Okay. I'll see you around then."
He leaves just as the bell rings.
Two days before they have a change planned Frank wakes up hard. That alone isn't really anything of note, but when he jerks himself off, slow and lazy, still half-asleep, and realizes after he comes that he's still hard... Well. It definitely wakes him up completely.
He can't pretend he hasn't noticed how lately, along with getting twitchy and agitated before the change, he's also gotten hornier. It's like there's an itch under his skin, and his body no longer just wants to change, it just fucking wants, pure and simple. He wants.
He doesn't have to wonder for long about what it means.
Frank jerks himself off again, quick and desperate, and he couldn't stop himself from thinking about Gerard even if he wanted to.
Gerard's—fuck, his everything. His eyes, his hunched shoulders, his belly, his mouth, even his stupid tiny teeth and his crazy smile. He wants it all, he wants that to be his, just for him, and he knows that that's possessive and possibly fucked up, but he just can't help it.
He hasn't been avoiding Gerard, not specifically. He doesn't run the other way when they meet in the halls or leave when Gerard stops by the teacher lounge or anything dramatic like that. It's just a bit strained.
They talked about the upcoming change the other day, set up a time for Frank to go over. It just didn't feel the same, not anymore.
Frank sighs and goes to get dressed. His skin is sensitive as fuck and even the way his cardigan feels against his wrists is driving him crazy. His underwear drags against his cock and he bites his lip. He only has two classes today, back to back. He'll get through this.
The day is awful. He's really fucking horny for the entire day—the slightest thing sets him off. His skin feels like it's on fire, it hurts, not a deep pain, but irritating nonetheless and it fucking sucks. He snaps at a student in class, too harsh, and then feels even worse.
By the time he gets home, he's ready to crawl out of his skin and he's so hard it hurts. He jerks off quickly, leaning against the wall next to the bathroom door, then heads straight for the shower.
He's letting the cool water wash over him—it feels so fucking good against his tender skin—when he realizes he's hard, again. Fucking werewolf biology. He jerks off again, but this time it barely takes the edge off, and he's still hard, even after coming.
He tries again, with the same result, then slumps against the wall and hits his fists against the tiles. Fucking hell, what the fuck? He can't stay in the shower forever, though, he's already wasted too much water, so he cleans himself up and dries off. Even the soft towel makes his nerve endings feel like they're on fire.
Frank considers jerking off again, but it won't help, he knows it won't. Instead he thinks about whether Gerard has ever felt like this before a change, imagines Gerard jerking off alone in his room, quick and desperate; his hair falling in front of his face, sweaty and gross; the sounds he would make, the way he'd smell—
Frank's out the door before he even registers making the decision.
The ride to Gerard's takes forever, and for a minute Frank is terrified that he won't be able to find the house, but then he's there, banging on the door. He thinks he should probably try the doorbell or something, but that's when the door opens and fuck, it's Gerard.
"Frank?" Gerard blinks at him, confused. "The change is tomorrow night, not—"
Frank steps forward and cuts him off with a kiss. Gerard makes a confused sound, but his hands come up immediately and he's grasping Frank's jacket and kissing him back, and fuck, it's so good.
They stumble through the doorway. Frank's trying to reach back with his leg to kick the door shut, but he keeps missing.
"What are you—" Gerard pulls away for a brief moment, just a moment, and then he's pressing kisses against Frank's mouth, and murmuring, "It's a sliding door." Oh. "Was that supposed to be your signature move?" Gerard teases, but his hands are steady on Frank's waist, fingers digging in.
"Shut up," Frank mumbles, his hands twisting into Gerard's t-shirt. He barely registers Gerard pull one of his hands away from Frank's waist and reach out towards something, but then there's a soft hissing sound right behind him and Gerard slams him against the door.
Frank groans, loud, too loud, but fuck, he wants it so bad. And now he has Gerard here, up against him, surrounding him, his scent everywhere, and it's so good.
Frank wants more.
He pushes against Gerard, hands on his chest, and Gerard takes a step back. "Frank—"
Frank leans forward to kiss him, then spins them around and pushes Gerard against the door instead. "Let me," he says and drops down to his knees.
"Wha—oh, fuck, yes," Gerard says, and thumps his head against the door.
Frank's fingers are clumsy at first, fumbling with the zipper, but finally he has Gerard's jeans open, and fuck, Gerard isn't wearing anything underneath. He tugs Gerard's jeans down—they won't go much further than his thighs because they're so fucking tight, but it's not like it matters right now.
Gerard's cock is right there, hard and curling against his belly, and Frank's pretty much drooling for it, he wants it so fucking bad. Gerard's making these encouraging noises and twisting his hand in Frank's hair—not too rough, just right for now. Frank knows he's gonna want rough in just a moment, the itch still hasn't gone away, the need. But there's a moment of stillness and Frank's brain slows down enough that he can just breathe. And then he leans in and presses his face against Gerard's pubes, lets Gerard's smell overwhelm him.
"Fuck," Gerard gasps above him. "Fuck, come on, Frankie," and his urgency is setting Frank off again.
"Yeah," Frank says roughly, and drags his mouth up, bites Gerard's soft belly. He pulls back then, and leans in again, this time going for Gerard's cock. He takes as much of it as he can. Fuck, Gerard's big, and his cock feels amazing in Frank's mouth. He can feel Gerard pulling his hair, hears him say something, but it's like he's under water, can't focus on anything properly. He's so hard himself he's aching with it, but he doesn't even care.
Gerard tugs on his hair, then, roughly, and Frank groans around Gerard's dick.
"Fuck, Frankie, wanna fuck your mouth," Gerard gasps, and Frank groans again, presses his fingernails into Gerard's hip and hopes Gerard will understand just how down he is with that plan.
Gerard gets it, because he digs his fingers deeper into Frank's hair and starts fucking Frank's mouth. Frank lets him, he thinks right now he'd let Gerard do anything to him, and clings on to Gerard's thighs.
It doesn't take long at all before Gerard's coming and he holds Frank there, doesn't let him pull away—not that Frank wants to—and makes him take it. Frank swallows it all and pulls off, his eyes closed and breathing heavy. He wants to lean in again, wants to press his face against Gerard's belly and stay there, wants to smell him while he still has the taste of Gerard in his mouth, but then Gerard pulls him up and kisses him and yeah, okay, that will work, too.
Gerard kisses him slow and intense, and if every nerve on Frank's body wasn't already on fire, that would certainly do it. Frank's cock is straining against the zipper of his jeans, and he desperately wants to get off right now, but he also wants more. So he pulls away from the kiss and presses his face against Gerard's neck, mumbles, "Gee, want you to fuck me."
"Yes," Gerard says. "Fuck yes." His hands are around Frank's waist, thumbs pressing against the birds on Frank's belly. "Bedroom," he whispers into Frank's ear and Frank groans out loud. Fuck.
They stumble up the stairs and into Gerard's bedroom and Frank has a moment to register how utterly Gerard's the room feels before Gerard is pushing him down on the bed and kissing his way down Frank's neck. Then Gerard starts tugging on the collar of Frank's shirt, dragging it down, and Frank remembers as if through a haze that hey, he actually really likes this shirt, so he reaches up and grabs Gerard's arms.
"Gee, wait, wait."
Gerard groans, but he pulls back a little and Frank tries to quickly get his shirt off. Somehow he gets his hands fucking tangled in it and then he hears it ripping anyway as Gerard pulls at it.
Then Gerard touches him, hand on his bare chest, and Frank can't help the sound he makes at that. He doesn't know why it's different, but it fucking feels different, and then Gerard leans down to kiss him again and his whole body presses against Frank and he's wearing a shirt, why the fuck is Gerard still wearing a shirt.
"Gee, come on," Frank says, tugging at Gerard's shirt. Gerard pushes himself up and together they get the shirt off and fuck yeah, now it's skin on skin, Gerard's body hot against him and Frank doesn't want him to pull away, ever.
Gerard's kissing his neck again and his fingers are digging into Frank's forearms and Frank fucking loves it, loves how it feels like Gerard is, like, marking him, but Frank's about to fucking come in his pants and he wants Gerard to fuck him.
"Pants," Frank grunts and trails his hands down to the waist of Gerard's jeans. He'd pulled them up again after Frank had blown him, and Frank tugs at them, hoping Gerard will get the idea.
"Fuck, right, right," Gerard says, and his voice sounds throaty and raw, but then he's fucking getting up and jumping off the bed. Frank makes a sound of protest. There's only one small light on in the bedroom—Gerard must have flicked it on when they came in, Frank hadn't even noticed—but Frank can make Gerard out clearly, as he's jumping up and down, trying to get his jeans off. It should look ridiculous, Frank knows, but it's Gerard, so it also looks ridiculously hot, as always.
Gerard finally has his jeans off then, and he's back on the bed, kissing Frank and working on his fly. He pulls down the zipper and tugs the pants down and Frank groans as his cock is released. It turns into a gasp as Gerard leans down and takes Frank in his mouth. Frank comes almost immediately, but Gerard doesn't even comment on it, just swallows and then kisses his way up Frank's stomach, his chest.
"Frank?" he asks, kissing his neck, scraping his teeth against it. Fuck, Frank really needs him to fuck him. He digs his nails into Gerard's back, not too hard, hopefully, but just enough to leave marks. Gerard whines and bites Frank's shoulder.
"Come on," Frank says. "Come on, Gee, fuck me."
"Yeah," Gerard says, and pulls away to help Frank get his pants off.
"Fuck, why are you still wearing boots," Gerard grumbles, trying to tug them off.
"I don't fucking know," Frank groans. "Fuck, just leave them."
"No, I—there," Gerard says, triumphant, and Frank's boots thump to the floor. Gerard drags his pants all the way off as well and then he's climbing back up and pressing his body against Frank, and kissing him.
"Do you have—" Frank tries to ask, but Gerard muffles him with kisses.
"Shh," he says. "Let me." His hands are roaming over Frank's arms, his chest, fingertips dragging over his nipples. Then he's pressing in where he bit Frank in the shoulder and Frank gasps and digs his toes into the covers.
Gerard leans over to get something from the bedside table, and Frank has no idea how it hits him that hard, but suddenly Gerard's scent is completely overwhelming him. It's like Gerard is all around him, and the bite mark on his shoulder is throbbing and Frank can't get enough.
He realizes that Gerard's talking, murmuring soft words, and then Gerard's pressing a finger against his hole, slick with lube, and slowly slipping it in. Frank keens, and Gerard says, "Yeah, yeah, that's it. Gonna make it good for you."
He adds a second finger and a third and Frank's writhing against the bed, because it's better than fucking good, and he needs more. "Gee," he gasps, and Gerard pulls his fingers out and no, no, that's not—
But fuck, then Gerard's sinking into him, fast, his hips slamming against Frank's and fuck, fuck, fuck, yes, that's—fuck.
Gerard's fucking him in earnest now, and his face is buried in Frank's neck and Frank doesn't even know what to fucking do with that, doesn't know how to react to Gerard murmuring "mine" into Frank's skin barely loud enough to be heard, but he knows he doesn't want it to end.
Frank's hands are scrambling over Gerard's back, pulling Gerard even closer, and Frank's voice sounds raw even to himself when he says, "Yours," but Gerard tenses for a second and then he's coming, fingers digging into Frank's hips.
Gerard stays draped over Frank for a moment before he pulls out, and Frank can't help but groan.
"Shh," Gerard murmurs, and then he's kissing Frank again—the tattoo on his chest, his collarbone.
Gerard wraps his hand around Frank's cock and smashes his lips against Frank's, and Frank's coming, spilling onto both their bellies. He feels utterly spent after that, and finally like he isn't gonna get hard again in, like, five fucking seconds. He feels calm. Gerard is breathing slowly, little puffs of air against Frank's cheek and Frank tilts his head towards him and is asleep almost in an instant.
Frank blinks awake, feeling gross and sweaty. Gerard's draped alongside his back, giving off a fuck-ton of heat, and there's dried come on Frank's stomach. Gerard's wheezing softly, his breath hot against Frank's neck and then he shifts a bit in his sleep and Frank realizes he's hard, cock digging into Frank's lower back. Frank really wants to blow him.
He twists around and tries to awkwardly slither down over the still-damp covers under them—he has no idea how they managed to fall asleep like this. Gerard makes a soft noise, but he doesn't wake up and then Frank's leaning in and licking a stripe over his belly. He breathes in deep—Gerard fucking stinks, of sweat and come and this scent that's just Gerard and totally drives Frank out of his head—and takes Gerard into his mouth.
Gerard gasps softly, and reaches down to dig his fingers into Frank's hair. Frank moans and presses a hand against Gerard's hip as he takes him deeper.
Frank's hard himself and just this side of desperate for it, but he doesn't even care right now. Well, he cares a bit, but not enough to do anything about it, not with the way Gerard sounds, so close to coming. It's different, though, softer somehow; they're both less on edge—just woken up and more relaxed.
After coming, Gerard pulls Frank up into a kiss, hot and filthy, and Frank can tell he's chasing the taste of himself as he licks inside Frank's mouth.
Frank can't help moaning and jerking his hips forward and finally Gerard reaches down and wraps his hand around Frank's cock. He works Frank quickly, pressing kisses to his neck, his ear, his lips as his thumb strokes over the head of Frank's cock.
Afterward Frank grumbles enough that Gerard goes and gets a washcloth to clean him off.
"You're the cleanest werewolf I've ever met," Gerard says as he rubs the cloth over Frank's stomach, then presses his cheek against it.
Frank rolls his eyes. "Whatever." He feels too fucked out to come up with a clever retort.
Gerard hums against Frank's belly, then leans his chin on it and looks up at him, eyes focusing. Frank's breath catches in his throat. He's about to reach out to touch Gerard's cheek, maybe push his hair away from his eyes, when Gerard presses his fingers into Frank's thighs and says, "Breakfast."
Frank's stomach rumbles at that and Gerard laughs and pushes himself up and off the bed. "Come on," he says, and offers Frank a hand.
That's how Frank ends up in Gerard's kitchen, wearing one of Gerard's shirts and a pair of Gerard's underwear, pressed against the kitchen counter, making out with Gerard like they're fucking teenagers.
Gerard's coffee is going cold, and he'd only taken one sip before discarding it to kiss Frank instead, so Frank's feeling pretty fucking excellent right now. He actually rates higher than coffee—mostly. He'd do a fistpump if he wasn't kind of busy right now.
Gerard whines, a high, desperate sound, and pulls away from Frank's mouth to bite at the spot where Frank's shoulder meets his neck. That's when Mikey walks in.
"Uh," Frank says, but it probably comes out more as a moan and Gerard pays it no attention.
Mikey's standing at the kitchen door, blinking. His eyes meet Frank's, briefly, and then he shrugs and walks away. Okay then.
"Gee, your brother was just here," Frank tries to say, but Gerard sucks at the bite mark and brings their hips even closer together and Frank trails off mid-sentence. Never fucking mind.
"Fuck," Gerard groans, and noses against Frank's neck. "Fuck breakfast. I want to fuck you again."
"That," Frank says, "is a fucking excellent idea."
Frank wakes up to someone knocking at the door. He's not sure what time it is, and he's not sure he cares. Gerard's still asleep behind him, pressed close, his hand resting on Frank's belly—protective, possessive. Frank doesn't want to move.
"Gerard," Mikey yells. "Fuck, don't make me come in there."
Frank feels Gerard stirring behind him, but he doesn't pull away. "What?" Gerard mumbles.
"I think Mikey's at the door," Frank says, and turns around, knees pressed against Gerard's. Gerard is blinking, looking soft and sleepy. Frank smiles.
"Gerard," Mikey yells. "Ray's here and if you don't get out here then we're gonna change without you."
Gerard's eyes widen at that, and he looks towards the door. "You can't," he yells. Frank rolls his eyes.
"Come on," Frank says. "Up, before Mikey has to come in and get us."
The door opens then, and they both turn towards it. Mikey's hanging onto the knob, his other hand over his eyes. "Get dressed. Come downstairs," he says. "We'll be waiting in the basement."
Frank snickers, and Mikey points towards him, his eyes closed. "I heard that."
Gerard nudges Frank. "Okay, Mikes," he says. "We'll be down in a minute, okay."
Mikey breathes out deeply and pulls the door closed.
"So, uh," Frank says. "I totally forgot that we were gonna change tonight." When Gerard doesn't say anything he looks over at him. Gerard's looking at him, biting his lip.
He looks like he wants to say something, but instead he pushes himself up and kisses Frank, soft and slow.
There's a pounding against the door; Gerard pulls back and groans.
"Fuck, we better go," he says.
"Yeah," Frank says, and swallows heavily.
Mikey and Ray both refrain from commenting on their appearance, but Frank's acutely aware of how he's wearing Gerard's shirt—inside out, because they accidentally got come stains on it—and has a huge bitemark low on his neck and smaller bites and bruises probably all over his body. He fucking loves it.
They don't talk much before the change, take off their clothes and fold them in silence, but it's not a calm, companionable silence.
Gerard sticks close to Frank as they take their pills, as his body shifts and changes.
The second they've turned Gerard is on him, pressing him down to the ground. Frank struggles a bit, enough to get Gerard to back off, and then he turns and bares his belly.
Gerard yelps, and Frank can tell it's approval and delight. Then Gerard's nudging him to stand up and Frank obliges, steps forward and presses his muzzle against Gerard's neck.
Gerard smells so right and all Frank can think is yours-yours-yours. Then he nips at Gerard's neck and takes off at a run.
They spend most of the night like that, chasing each other, teasing each other. Gerard stops to go and check on Mikey and Ray at some points, and Frank goes to bother them as well, because he can feel it, deep inside—pack, they're pack now. But then Gerard's back again, and they carry on. Frank's surprised by how much Gerard lets him get away with—he nips at Gerard's ankles, pushes him to the ground, but all the while he knows that it's Gerard who's in charge, and it's good.
Gerard lies down next to him when Frank grows tired, and Frank turns towards him, breathes him in. He falls asleep fast.
Frank wakes before the others. He's lying on a mattress, he realizes, with Gerard behind him, his body pressed against Frank.
Frank takes a deep, slow breath. It's early, he can tell. He can't remember changing back, but it doesn't matter right now. He's not sure what he should do here. He wants to just stay here, with Gerard, maybe find them a blanket or something, but now, after the change, early in the morning, he's not sure where he stands anymore.
He's pulling away before he's even made the decision to leave. He can't—he shouldn't stay. What if Gerard doesn't want him here?
Frank's slowly creeping towards his clothes when he hears Gerard make a low noise.
"Frank?" Gerard asks, sounding confused. "Where are you going?"
Frank stops and turns around. "I—"
"Stay." It's not an order. Not right now. Frank walks back to the mattress.
Gerard hums sleepily. He's smiling. "Yeah, and go get us some coffee."
Mikey groans in agreement from where he's curled up nearby.
Frank chuckles. "I can't do both at the same time, you know."
"Coffee first, then," Gerard says.
Frank leans over Gerard and presses a kiss to his mouth.
Even after coffee they end up sleeping most of the day away and Frank has to leave while Gerard is still sleep-confused because he needs to prepare for the tests he's scheduled for tomorrow's classes. He hates the idea of tests in music, but even though Patrick agrees with him, they still can't swing by the whole year without at least some and Frank, being the total genius he is, managed to schedule them for the Monday after a change.
Strangely, he's not too bothered by it. He finds it's hard to find anything even slightly annoying, which is ridiculous, but he can't help it, he's just happy. Content, in this calm way, because fuck if that weekend didn't go fucking splendidly. He thinks about how Gerard would react to Frank's use of the word "splendid" and has to press his hands to his face so the other passengers on the Transport won't get frightened by his stupid grin. Fucking ridiculous.
It's not till he gets home that he starts to feel a bit apprehensive again about the whole thing. Well, not the whole thing, mostly just the part where he went over and practically jumped Gerard. Sure, it's not like Gerard seemed to mind, but. What if he's going to think it was just because of the change, just because Frank was horny, and not because Frank was also scared and confused and only sure of the fact that he wanted Gerard, needed him? And then he's hit with a worse thought. What if Gerard was only into it because of the change?
Surely that can't be it. It can't. That isn't Gerard, or even if it is, then the change alone wouldn't make Gerard say all those things or look at Frank the way he had or fucking snuggle up to him, safe and warm.
Fuck, he can't think about that right now. He puts down his tea, grabs his datapad and tries to concentrate on the tests he needs to put together for tomorrow. He stares at the datapad and groans, dropping his head down to the desk. He'll just go and talk to Gerard first thing tomorrow so he'll know where they stand. Right.
Frank doesn't have any time to talk to Gerard the next day. He manages to run into him in the hallway, and Gerard smiles at him, bright and warm, and something in Frank's belly twists pleasantly, but then the bell's going off and Gerard bites his lip and rushes off with nothing more than a quick "Bye, Frankie." Frank sighs and heads to his own classroom.
By the time Frank's classes end, Gerard has left the school. Frank checks the art room and the lounge area and eventually he caves and checks the security monitors, the ones teachers check out from when they leave for the night. Frank always finds it a bit creepy and too controlling, but at least it's only meant for the staff and not the students.
He thinks about just sucking it up and calling Gerard, but instead he checks out as well and gets on the Transport that will take him to the mall.
Mikey's behind the counter when Frank strolls into the music shop and he looks up and smiles. "Hey, dude."
Frank gives him a tired smile. "Hey."
Mikey's brow furrows. "You okay?"
Frank sighs, but before he gets a chance to answer Ray comes in from the back. "Frank!" he says, and pulls Frank into a brief yet enthusiastic hug. "Hey, what's up? Great change this weekend, right?"
The shop is empty aside from them, Frank knows, but his first reaction is still to—well, he thinks he should flinch, and he figures he won't ever be as comfortable as Ray and Mikey are with just mentioning it like that, but it's just a passing thought and so he merely nods at Ray. "Yeah, it was."
"You sound tired, man," Ray says.
Frank shrugs. "Just a long day."
Mikey squints at him. "Spill."
"What?" Ray asks. "Wha—oh, hi, can I help you?" Frank raises his eyebrows at the way Ray immediately corners two potential customers who have just walked in.
He looks over at Mikey who just shrugs. "I told him he's probably just scaring them off, but—"
"He really loves this place," Frank finishes. Even though some people will probably be put off by that there are bound to be those who will be pleased to talk music with Ray. Frank can't imagine anyone being able to resist the smile on Ray's face.
When he turns Mikey is looking at Ray as well, exasperated yet fond. Fuck, Frank really loves these guys.
Mikey looks at him then, squinting. "Don't change the subject," he says. "What's up?"
Frank rolls his eyes and sighs. "Just—the weekend was, like, great—"
Mikey shuts his eyes and Frank quickly moves on.
"But I—Gerard said—fuck, I don't know." He feels a bit weird, talking about this with Gerard's brother, but then again, who the fuck knows Gerard better than Mikey.
Mikey's squinting at Frank again, but he just nods. "Just say it, dude."
"I don't..." Frank shakes his head, then steels himself. "Did he tell you about, uh. That I—well, he told me that we couldn't, like, be together, but then this whole weekend happened, and fuck, okay, I have no idea what's going on now. And I barely saw him at work today, and just—what if he's, like, avoiding me now? I just—" He can't help but cringe at the way he's sounding, but Mikey's just nodding along with him and fuck it, he just needs to know what's going on.
"You know I love my brother," Mikey says, voice serious.
"Uh, yes?" Frank raises his eyebrows.
Mikey nods, as if pleased. "But he can be really stupid sometimes," he says.
Frank furrows his brow. "I—"
"He gets stuck in his head and he can't see what's in front of him anymore," Mikey says. "You just have to shake him out of it."
"Okay," Frank says, slowly. "So I should just. Go and find him, and, uh. Shake him out of... it."
"Oh," Mikey says. "No, I already did that. You should go talk to him, though. He's in the art store on fourth floor."
Frank flaps his hands. "Mikey."
Mikey just smirks at him. "Go on. I promise you can still, uh, shake him." Mikey has his eyes screwed shut by the time he finishes the sentence, and Frank's laughing gleefully.
"What?" Ray asks when he stops by the front of the store. "Frank, did you break him?"
"I didn't do anything," Frank manages to get out between giggles. It isn't even that funny, but the elation he feels is kind of ridiculous.
"Ugh," Mikey says, and finally opens his eyes to shoot him a dirty look. "Just go."
Frank can't fucking help it, he steps forward and hugs Mikey. He's not sure which one of them is more surprised by it.
"At some point, one of you will tell me what's going on," Ray says, sounding as if he's half given up on that dream already.
Mikey rolls his eyes, but he's smiling and looking pleased with himself, and Frank giggles again.
"Mikey'll do it," he says. "I have another Way brother to find."
Gerard's at the painting section, down on his knees, rummaging through the holographic paints.
Frank leans against the row of shelves next to him. "Hey."
Gerard startles and almost hits his head on the shelf above him. "Frank! What are you—"
"Hey," Frank says again, quietly. "Mikey told me I'd find you here."
"Oh," Gerard says. He's still down on the ground, clutching a vial in his hands. "Um."
"Can we go somewhere and talk?" Frank asks.
"Yes," Gerard says immediately. "Yes, just—uh." He quickly thrusts the vial back onto the shelf and starts to push himself to his feet. Frank extends a hand to help pull him up. It brings Gerard closer to him than he expected, but Gerard just smiles, small and happy. "I wanted to talk to you in school today," he says. "But—"
"Yeah," Frank says and bites his lip. "Come on, let's go somewhere."
"To the gardens," Gerard says, and leads them out of the store.
The gardens are essentially balconies filled with flowers and small bushes and some even with trees. Frank hasn't been to them much, but he sees the appeal when Gerard leads him through a row of blue star trees into a secluded corner near the edge where they can lean against the railing and look out at the station, still surrounded by the greenery.
"So," Frank says, and Gerard holds up a hand.
"Wait, I—let me."
Frank waits, watches as Gerard brings his hand to his mouth, bites at his cuticles. He always does that when he's nervous; Frank hadn't realized he'd actually taken note of it. He thinks about reaching out and taking Gerard's hand, tugging it away from his mouth, but then Gerard starts talking.
"So," Gerard says. "Mikey told me that I might have been a bit foolish."
Frank raises his eyebrow. "Foolish?"
"That... maybe was not the word he used," Gerard hedges. "I—I just thought..."
"Yeah?" Frank says, and nods. "You thought what?" That may come out a little harsh, and Frank notices Gerard flinch, but fuck it, he just—he needs to hear Gerard's explanation.
"I thought it wouldn't be good for the pack if we got together," Gerard says. "And pack always comes first. But then I realized—well, Mikey made me realize it's not that unusual, being in a pack with your mate. I guess it's something our parents didn't really get the chance to tell us about, but if you look up old stories..."
He trails off, and looks at Frank, hesitant.
"Mate?" Frank asks.
"I—" Gerard blushes, and looks down. He's actually biting his lip, chewing on it, and Frank steps forward, runs his thumb over it. He meets Gerard's eyes. Gerard looks nervous, hesitant.
Frank beams at him. "Yeah. That's what this is."
Gerard smiles back at him and leans down to kiss him. It's slow and gentle, none of the urgency from the night before, and it makes Frank feel warm all over.
"I just—" Gerard mumbles against Frank's lips, and pulls back a little. Frank lets him, because Gerard obviously wants to explain, wants to make Frank understand, and Frank wants that as well. "I thought it'd be too selfish, you know, to have a mate in the pack."
"Selfish?" Frank asks.
Gerard runs a hand through his head. They're still standing so close, Frank could just close that brief distance and kiss him again and Gee wouldn't push him away, he wouldn't, because he wants Frank too. Frank realizes he's probably smiling really dopily, but he doesn't care. He doesn't kiss him either, though, because Gerard looks unsure and Frank wants to know what he's thinking. "Selfish how?"
Gerard looks down at their hands; Frank's holding Gerard's right hand in his and his left is curling around Gerard's waist, because he can, he can do that.
"It's just a very possessive type of relationship," he says.
"What," Frank says. "And the rest of the pack isn't?"
Gerard works on his bottom lip, and fuck, he's gonna have to speak faster because Frank doubts he can hold out much longer. "Pack is about family," Gerard stresses.
Frank swallows hard. "I—I know. You guys... I think you could be my family."
Gerard leans forward then, quickly, and hugs Frank close.
"Motherfucker, let me finish," Frank grumbles, but he buries his nose in Gerard's neck just the same, breathes him in.
"Right," Gerard says and pulls back after clinging for a bit. "What were you saying?"
He's still holding on to Frank's shoulders, and he's smiling sweetly, small and quiet.
"I just meant... Aren't you possessive of your pack? You especially?"
"Yeah," Gerard says. "Yeah, of course I am."
"Well," Frank says. "Then I don't understand how it's much different?"
Gerard blows out a breath. "You—Frankie, I just. I just want you to be all mine."
"Well, yeah," Frank says, smiling. "Mate," he points out.
Gerard shakes his head. "But I can share Mikey and Ray with Brendon and Christa, but I can't even think about sharing you with anyone."
Frank chuckles. "Well, yeah," he says. "Mate."
Gerard huffs, but he's smiling.
"Look, I just mean," Frank says. "It's a bit more intense, yeah, but it's still something inherent in pack. There's nothing wrong with that, especially because I feel exactly the same about you."
"You do?" Gerard asks, giving him this little shy smile, and it's so ridiculous Frank has to lean forward and kiss it.
"Yeah," he says when he pulls back. "And beside, don't you think that having a mate outside of a pack would be worse for the pack because your attention is divided?"
Gerard grumbles. "Mikey might have mentioned something like that, too."
"See," Frank says. "We know what we're talking about."
"But—but Mikey and Ray do," Gerard hedges.
"Weirdos," Frank says, and has to laugh at Gerard's indignant expression. "So wait, were you planning on having a mate outside the pack?" The thought of Gerard with someone else makes him want to punch things, but. He's not completely sure how this mate thing works, he just knows that when Gerard says it, when Gerard's here, near Frank, it feels right, and maybe that's what it is. And he doesn't know if they can choose their mates, but if they can, then—Gerard chose him.
But what was Gerard going to do if Frank had stopped himself from coming over, if Mikey hadn't talked some sense into Gerard?
"No," Gerard says. "No, I—I mean, maybe, but we all wanted you in the pack so that couldn't have worked."
"Oh," Frank says happily, because Gerard isn't—he's not even considering it being anyone else than Frank. Frank presses himself close and kisses him again, enthusiastic and happy and trying to show Gerard that he gets it, he does, he feels it too.
Frank sighs and rests his head on Gerard's shoulder. "I'm really glad Mikey shook you," he mumbles into Gerard's neck.
Gerard laughs. "He shook me?"
Frank nods, presses his forehead against Gerard's cheek, kisses his jaw.
"Yeah," Gerard says. "Yeah, okay." Frank smiles and closes his eyes. Gerard gets it.
For the next couple of weeks Frank feels like if he can't see Gerard as often as possible he'll do something really fucking dramatic, like, die or some shit. He'd think it was crazy, but it seems like Gerard feels the same.
Frank knows they're acting like teenagers, all over each other all the time, but he just does not care. At all. Not even when Mikey and Brendon take up commenting on it and snickering at any chance they get—Brendon admittedly more than Mikey.
Frank doesn't care as long as he gets to see Gerard every day, to kiss him and fuck him and know that he's Frank's and Frank is Gerard's. Frank thinking mineminemine as Gerard whispers the same against his neck, his lips, thrusting into Frank. It sounds so motherfucking sappy, even to himself, but—Frank likes knowing that someone cares enough about him to want him that much, wants Frank to be his. Mate.
So his life is pretty good, it's great actually—he manages to swing more classes at school on top of everything, and starts tutoring a girl from sixth grade, Lucy, in guitar. She's really enthusiastic and fun to teach, and her parents are well off and pay Frank generously, so it's a pretty great deal all around.
Of course then Frank manages to get sick. He toughs it out for a little while, but eventually has to take a couple of days off. Most of those he spends sleeping, occasionally waking to a call from Gerard or a text from Mikey or Ray. By the afternoon of the second day he's sure he can go back to work tomorrow.
He wakes up that evening to someone softly calling his name. He groans and blinks his eyes open. Gerard's right next to him on the bed.
"Jesus." Frank startles fully into consciousness. "What the fuck, Gee?"
Gerard smiles at him. "Hey, Frankie."
Frank just gapes at him. "What are you doing here? Wait, no, how did you get in here? How do you even know where I live?"
"I—" Gerard bites his lip. "I had Brendon help me look up your address and Mikey hack through your security lock?"
Frank keeps opening his mouth but no words seem to be escaping. "What?" he finally chokes out.
"I wanted to check on you, to see how you were doing," Gerard says, his eyes big and worried.
"Well, I was clearly sleeping," Frank huffs. He's not that annoyed, though. In fact there's a large part of him that feels warm, happy that Gerard would just come over. And have Mikey break into his apartment. It's probably fucked up. "I'm fine," he says. "I'm totally better already."
"I know," Gerard says happily. "Your breathing's almost clear."
Frank sighs. "Is Mikey still here?"
"Nah," Gerard says. "He had to leave for work. Besides, that was like hours ago."
Of course Gerard has been here for hours. Frank buries his face into his pillow, then flips over onto his back. "I was going to give you the code," he mumbles. "But—"
It's the first time Gerard's been at his apartment. Frank had thought about asking him over sometimes, but they were so used to going to Gerard's and he'd felt just a tad awkward over the whole thing. He figures it's a moot point now.
"It's nice," Gerard says, and Frank snorts.
"It's small and drafty and gets cold during the storms. Which, like, I still don't get why they want to give us storms out of all the possible weather out there."
Gerard hums in agreement, but doesn't otherwise comment. "So," he says. "This is where you changed?"
Frank bites his lip and looks over at him. He can't read Gerard's face. "Yeah," he says. "Um, the bed's pretty sturdy, you know. I thought it would hold me in case Rel-X didn't take or something, so, I, uh. Wrapped the chains around the legs."
Gerard looks at him then, shock evident on his face. "Frankie," he says, but Frank shakes his head.
"Don't. It's—it's what I had to do, okay?"
Gerard bites his lip and nods. He scoots a little closer to Frank on the bed, hesitant, and Frank sighs, moves his head to rest on Gerard's chest. They lie like that for a little while, Gerard running his hand through Frank's hair—it's getting so long, he should really cut it at some point—and occasionally pressing kisses to it. Frank's drifting when Gerard speaks up again.
"What was it like?" Gerard asks. "On ZP-01?"
Fuck. Trust Gerard to just drop a bombshell like that. Frank laughs mirthlessly. "You really want to know?"
Gerard shrugs. "If you want to talk about it..."
"No," Frank frowns. "No, that's bullshit, why would I want to talk about it? But—but I guess I can tell you. So you'll know."
"Okay," Gerard says, quietly. "Okay, Frankie."
Frank waits a beat, trying to figure out where to start, then turns his face up to Gerard. "You've heard the stories, right?" he asks. "Werewolves running around on the streets every night, nobody doing a thing about it?"
"Yeah," Gerard says, and squeezes him.
"It's true," Frank says. "I know some people think they're exaggerations, but that's what it's like." He sighs, and struggles to sit up. He'd love to just close his eyes and whisper all his secrets into Gerard's skin, hide them there, but he can't.
Frank pulls his knees up to his chest and wraps his arms around them.
"It wasn't always that bad there," he says. "Like, it was fine when I got sent there. It wasn't like this place, of course, but it was fine, for a while. And then the station lost a lot of money, a lot of people lost their jobs. And the reveal happened, you know, that whole "hey, werewolves walk among you" thing, and I guess... It was easy to get tickets to get into the station. People who didn't have anywhere else to go could at least afford to go there."
Gerard looks thoughtful. "I thought it was—that there weren't any laws against werewolves?"
"No, there were," Frank says. "Well, not exactly, but there weren't any laws to protect us either."
"But the people coming over after the reveal, they must have realized—"
"They probably did," Frank nods. "I mean, anyone would guess that you're gonna have a bunch of werewolves streaming in who can't afford to live on other stations or get to other stations, but they needed the money from the people coming in."
Gerard nods and bites his lip. "Okay, yeah," he says. "So when did you—I mean."
Frank tightens the arms he has wrapped around his legs. "About eight or nine months ago," he says. "I was working at a pub. It was crappy, but still a job, you know. But one night I missed the last Transport back to my place."
"They don't run all night?" Gerard asks quietly.
Frank shakes his head. "The station can't afford it. I thought it wouldn't be that bad, you know, I'd been out on the streets before with some dudes from work after we'd gone out to clubs." He shrugs. "My place wasn't even that far, but..." He glances over at Gerard. Gerard looks sad, but it doesn't make Frank want to lash out. He knows Gerard doesn't mean to pity him.
"You got attacked," Gerard whispers. "I—I mean, I knew it must have been something like that. That it probably wasn't an accident or—but—fuck."
Frank snorts. "Yeah," he echoes. "Fuck."
"How did—what happened then?" Gerard asks. "How did you even survive?" He's reaching out towards Frank, as if to reassure himself he's still there.
Frank shrugs. "I don't really remember. I—I heard it come, but next thing I knew I was down on the ground. It got me in the leg. I woke up in the hospital."
He doesn't talk about how he heard the howl from far away, how he tried to run; he was so close, and then the wolf was there, ripping into him, and Frank was sure he was going to die, and it hurt so bad, and a part of him knew that it wouldn't matter whether he lived or not, because life as a werewolf on ZP-01... He didn't pass out for a while, and the wolf was still at him, and then when he finally lost consciousness and woke up in the hospital, confused and in pain, he wasn't sure if he was glad or not. He doesn't tell Gerard that, can't.
"The wounds healed fast, didn't they?" Gerard asks.
Frank nods. "At least I didn't have to pay for painkillers for long. My pay covered most of it, and then I just needed to get pills to change. I held out for a while, but then a—a friend, I guess, he hooked me up with someone." Matt had been great about it, actually. Frank had never considered him to be a close friend, but he'd still helped Frank out.
"And the first time you changed?" Gerard asks.
Frank shudders violently. "I—I can't—"
"Hey, shh," Gerard says, and immediately hauls him into a hug. "It's fine, you don't have to tell me."
Frank nods gratefully, clinging to Gerard. There's not much to tell. He got out. He fought other wolves in the streets. He thought he was gonna—Frank breathes out shakily.
"I got kicked out of the apartment after that," he says, still leaning against Gerard. "Kept my job for a while, but then I lost that, too, and I knew I had to get out of there. No one would hire me again. I took the last of my pills and left the station after a week."
He holds his breath and waits for it.
"But," Gerard says. "How could you afford the ticket? ZP-01 is ways away from DD-05. It must have cost... Well, a lot. And if it got on your record that you're a werewolf, do they even—"
"No," Frank says, and pulls back from Gerard. "They don't allow us to get on a travel shutter. Unless you, like, buy your way onto them."
"I snuck on board a cargo ship heading this way."
"But," Gerard says. "But those have no human passengers; they have no facilities, nothing."
Frank shrugs, looks down at his hands. "It was only two days." Two days locked in a fucking metal can, nothing to even eat, but he'd made it, he'd survived, because he knew he was heading somewhere better.
Gerard clutches his shoulders, hard. "Fuck," he says. "How did you—how did they not find you?"
"They did," Frank says, and looks at Gerard. "I was hardly the first one to try that, and of course I couldn't get out before they opened it for unloading. But they didn't send me back. They knew where I came from and they said that they wouldn't send me back."
That was when he realized that maybe, just maybe, things really could go better here.
"Oh," Gerard says, and pulls him close again. They don't speak for a while, just lie in bed together. Frank's head feels a little woozy, and his throat is raw from both the cough and the talking, but he feels content.
"Do you want some tea?" Gerard speaks up.
"Yeah," Frank murmurs. "Sure."
Gerard kisses his forehead before gently pulling away from Frank and getting up.
"I'll just be a minute," he whispers and Frank smiles.
That night Frank dreams that he's back at ZP-01 and there's no way out, no way off the station. But when he wakes up, gasping, Gerard is still there, fast asleep next to him, his hand resting on Frank's hip, and Frank remembers. Oh.
He's safe now.
Frank and Brendon are in Frank's classroom, going through the song Brendon decided to include in the spring musical at the last minute, when, for some reason, Frank finds himself saying, "So, I never said thank you."
Brendon looks up at him and frowns. "For what?"
Frank blinks for a second and then realizes, no, he's actually doing this. He looks at Brendon.
"For introducing me to the guys," he says.
Brendon raises his eyebrows, obviously surprised.
Frank shrugs. "I don't know, I kind of hated you for it back then, but, like, if you hadn't..."
"Dude, you don't have to thank me for that," Brendon says.
Frank shrugs again, feeling awkward, and looks down. He shouldn't have fucking said anything, but he's been thinking about it a lot lately. He wanted Brendon to know.
He's taken by surprise when Brendon bounces up from his chair and pulls Frank into a hug. He probably should have seen it coming, though.
It's a couple of hours later and Brendon has already left when Gerard pops into the classroom and says, "Pack meeting tonight."
"Huh?" Frank asks, looking up from his guitar.
"Mikey has something he wants to discuss with us, so we're gonna meet up at our place," Gerard explains. "You don't have anything tonight, right? I thought you didn't, I hope I didn't forget anything."
Frank shrugs. "Nope, I'm free. What, uh. What is it about?"
"Nothing bad," Gerard says, and smiles reassuringly. "Promise. He just has a suggestion and, well, we should probably consider it all together."
"Okay," Frank says. He still feels a bit unsure. Gerard said they had meetings like this sometimes, but this is Frank's first. But he trusts Gerard, and he trusts Mikey and Ray.
In the beginning, he sometimes thought that they might suddenly decide to kick him out. He was pretty sure that they wouldn't, but sometimes it would crop up in his nightmares. He's come to understand that that's not what pack is and that it will never happen. It really is family, he knows it now, and he thinks it's stronger than a blood bond could be.
Frank looks back down at his guitar, thinking about maybe taking it with him to the meeting to show Ray this new chord progression he came up with. He should run through it again, but then he senses Gerard stepping closer, coming to stand behind Frank.
Gerard's hands settle on his shoulders, and he leans down, kisses Frank's neck. Frank sighs and tilts his head to the side, allowing Gerard better access. Gerard noses at his ear, slowly sinks his teeth into Frank's neck.
"Fucker," Frank gasps out. "Don't bite my scorpion."
"'M not," Gerard mumbles. His hands are traveling down Frank's shoulders; coming to rest on his sides.
"I'm busy," Frank says, even as his eyes close. "I—fuck." Gerard's kissing the bite mark now, soft lips trailing over Frank's skin. He doesn't answer Frank.
"Gee," Frank tries to grumble, but it probably comes out more like a sigh. Fuck. "Fuck, just come here and kiss me for real."
"Can't," Gerard says. "Your guitar's in the way. You're busy."
"Ugh, hold on."
Gerard steps back a little and Frank pulls the guitar strap over his head, sets the guitar down on the desk next to him. He turns with the chair and makes grabby hands at Gerard. Gerard's beaming at him, and he immediately settles down on Frank's lap, kissing him properly, enthusiastic and happy.
"The bell's gonna go off soon," Frank mumbles against Gerard's lips.
"Focus, Frank," Gerard whispers. His left hand is clutching Frank's jacket as his working his other hand under Frank's shirt. "Fuck, you wear too many layers."
"It's only two," Frank argues. "You know, it gets cold in space."
Gerard dissolves into giggles then, buries his face into Frank's neck, his whole body shaking. "Oh god," he wheezes. "Love you so much, Frankie."
Frank swallows, tugs Gerard back up so he can kiss him again. "Yeah," he says. "Yeah."
"So, what's this about?" Frank asks, sipping his coffee, and then setting it down on the table.
They're all sitting around Gerard and Mikey's living room. Frank's on the couch next to Gerard while Mikey and Ray have taken the armchairs. Frank was nervous before, twitchy, but he calmed down as soon as they'd arrived. His pack seems to have that effect on him.
Mikey leans forward in his chair. "Actually, Brendon gave me this idea. You guys have heard about the new forest station, right?"
They all nod. The forest station showed up only recently, but a lot of people have been traveling over there. You could rent an area of the station and pretty much do whatever you want. People have gone camping, adventuring; some have just gone over for a picnic under the trees—actual trees. Frank heard two colleagues talking in the teacher's lounge about going over for hunting. He'd made a mental note to never be even slightly friendly towards them.
"We should go and check it out," Mikey says. "During the next change."
Frank tenses a little and shoots a glance at Gerard. Gerard's looking right at him, face open and excited.
"We could change in a forest again," Gerard whispers reverently. "We wouldn't have to take Rel-X, we could just—be free."
Frank doesn't get it, not really, but he knows how much both Gerard and Mikey have missed running wild during the changes. He might not know the extent of it, but he knows that it means a lot to them, that connection to their childhood, their family.
But—but Gerard knows how Frank feels about being out in the open during a change, he knows the whole story, or at least enough, so why—
"I'm not really sure about this," Ray says, and Frank turns to him, surprised and just a bit grateful. "I just—I'm not saying I'm completely against the idea, but. I haven't changed outside, not once, and never without Rel-X." He looks at Frank and raises his eyebrows in question.
Frank quickly shakes his head. "I don't," he says. "I don't know if I can do this."
He can see the way Mikey's face falls, and fuck, he doesn't even want to look at Gerard. He'd be willing to try, for them, he would. But the fear curling in his belly, the way he's sure his hands would be shaking if he wasn't currently digging his fingers into his thighs—he doesn't even know how to begin to consider it.
"Hey," Gerard says, and Frank looks at him then, has to. Gerard doesn't look sad, or even disappointed, though. "Hey," he says again and curls a hand around Frank's shoulders. "It won't be like that." He sounds calm, reassuring.
Frank shakes his head again. "You can't know that."
"I can," Gerard says, and squeezes his shoulder. He looks up at the room, at Ray and Mikey as well, then back at Frank. "It won't be like all those times, okay," he says. "You won't be alone, Frank. Running with a pack is so much different."
Frank looks away from him, turns to Ray instead. "Ray?" he asks.
Ray shrugs, but his expression is worried. "I don't know, man," he says. "I mean, I'm willing to try it, but—"
"Our area of the forest would be totally shut off from the rest," Mikey says. "It would be just trees. I mean, we could ask for animals, but I don't think any of us really—"
Frank digs his fingers even harder into his thighs; Gerard says, "No."
Mikey nods. "And Gerard is right," he says. "It's different with a pack."
Frank breathes out, crosses his arms. "How would you know if you've never changed without one?" He doesn't mean to sound so accusing, but they're all talking about it like they—like they know.
Mikey frowns. "I—" He looks at Gerard, and his face clears. He looks back at Frank. "Remember when I told you that I once changed without the pills?"
"Yeah?" Frank asks, furrowing his brow.
"I was outside, then," Mikey says. "Coming home from a club. I just—I changed, and I was out on the streets, and I hadn't taken Rel-X. I hadn't taken anything."
Frank doesn't know what to say. He only vaguely remembers Mikey telling him about the shifting, but—he doesn't— "I—"
Mikey shakes his head. "But you're right, actually. In a way. I—I was scared, fuck, scared shitless, but I knew that I wasn't really alone. It was terrifying, and my brain was freaking out, not used to changing without the pills, but I knew that Gerard was out there, and that's what I was heading for."
Frank looks over at Gerard then. He's looking at Mikey, his eyes soft. He still has a hand on Frank's shoulder.
"So it's not the same," Mikey says, and Frank turns back to him, catches his eye. "But it is different when you have a pack."
"Frank," Gerard says. "This won't be that different from us changing in the basement. There'll be more space, yeah, but our doses of Rel-X are so small. It doesn't make that much of a difference, you know that."
Frank sighs, and finally leans into Gerard. Gerard wraps his arm around him. "I know," he says. "I just—the thought of being out like that, no control—"
"But that's what pack is for," Gerard says. "We keep each other in check, and we look after each other. You feel it every time we change together, right? That works on a larger territory too."
Frank wants to believe that, and on a level, he does, just because of the fact that he believes Gerard, but—but what's the harm in trying, though. If it'll just be the four of them, then—well, Frank knows that he won't hurt any of the guys, ever, so he doesn't have to worry about that. And if Mikey changed without any pills, yet still was only focused on finding his way home, to Gerard, then—
"If you really don't want to," Gerard says, quietly, "then we won't do this. I'm sorry if—"
Frank shakes his head. He—he can do this. He can try, for them, and because they're trying so hard to reassure him and are still willing to not go through with something Frank knows they really want. But— "Ray?" he asks.
Ray nods at him, serious. "I'm gonna need to talk to Christa, but I'm willing to try it. But only if you're okay with it."
Sometimes Ray's totally Frank's favorite. Frank smiles at him, grateful.
"Well," he says. "I guess we're doing this, then."
Gerard lets out a happy little noise and pulls him into a proper hug.
"You're a terrible leader," Frank grumbles. "Aren't you supposed to be impartial?"
"Nope," Gerard says cheerfully, still holding him.
"And you had Mikey convince me," Frank adds. "Had him do all your dirty work."
"That's how it works," Gerard says. "Actually, with Mikey, that's a given."
Frank frowns and looks at Mikey.
Mikey shrugs. "He's my big brother."
Ray snorts and Frank raises his eyebrows.
"And now that extends to all of you," Gerard says.
"...Ew," Mikey says as Frank bursts out laughing. Ray has a hand thrown over his eyes.
"What?" Gerard asks, confused. "Wha—I didn't mean it like that." He goes to pull back from Frank, but Frank holds on to his arm, leans his forehead on it, still cackling. "Fuck you," Gerard says.
"Oh god," Ray says, and they're all laughing by then.
Frank leans against Gerard, his head on Gerard's chest; thinks, Yes. This definitely feels right.
Frank's standing on the door of the cabin-slash-barn, looking out at the forest. It's huge. He knows it's only a small part of the entire station, but it's huge. It seems endless—like it'd be easy to get lost in it, to lose yourself.
He thinks back to the flight over. He hadn't exactly told anyone beforehand that it was possible he might freak out during it. He hadn't been a fan of traveling by aircraft even before the whole escaping ZP-01 thing.
The guys all reacted quickly to the panicked hyperventilating that took even Frank himself by surprise. Gerard pressed close immediately, clutching at his shoulders, and Frank realized that Gerard probably hadn't forgotten, probably knew the score a bit better than the others; knew why exactly Frank was shaking and couldn't fucking breathe.
Mikey and Ray didn't hesitate either, though, crowding in close; Mikey on his other side, Ray in front of him with his hands on Frank's knees. Their smell filled his senses—them, just them, pack—and they were surrounding him completely, keeping him safe.
It took a little bit, but it brought him back, calmed him down. He spent the rest of the ride slumped against Gerard, Gerard's hand over his shoulders, holding him close.
"Hey." Gerard steps close behind him, his hands settling on Frank's waist. "You ready?"
Frank takes a deep breath. "Yeah."
Gerard briefly rests his chin on Frank's shoulder, then steps back, pulling Frank with him.
Mikey and Ray are waiting for them in the middle of the room. Frank nods at them both, and they smile.
"Okay," Gerard says, and there's excitement in his voice. Frank breathes in and tries to let that wash over him, let Gerard's enthusiasm pull him in as well, the way it usually does. "It's time."
They undress quickly, storing their clothes in the cabinets provided by the station, and gather in a circle to swallow the pills. They huddle in close for the brief seconds before the change hits, then step away—but never too far from each other.
Frank falls down to the ground as his body spasms, and he thinks it might hurt worse than usual, because he doesn't have Rel-X to tie him down, but then it's already over.
The wolf is in a large room, and his mind is clear and sharp, and he wants to press himself down to the ground, to make himself as small as he can, because he hasn't been here before and the only other option he sees is running, and the wolf wants it, wants it, but Frank is scared.
And then he remembers—packpackpack, he's not alone. And he's not just the wolf, never just the wolf, but Frank thought that without Rel-X it would take him over again, consume him, control him, but it hasn't. He's still here.
Frank looks at Gerard, and Mikey and Ray. They're excited, he can tell, but they're waiting for him. He lets out a short growl, accepting, assuring, and Gerard bounces close to him, pushes his snout against Frank's neck before bounding towards the doors. They follow him outside, Mikey and Ray bumping against him as well, brief, there.
Gerard has stopped in front of the cabin, in the small clearing around the building. The forest is all around them and suddenly Frank wants to go, go go go the wolf says. There are no people around, no one that Frank can hurt, no animals either—except... birds. He hears birds. It sounds and smells like a forest, like back on Earth, like home. Gerard howls, encouraging, and Frank feels it, deep in his bones. Home.
Frank takes a deep breath and runs. His pack isn't far behind.