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Uptight Downtown

Chapter Text

The New York Times
Fertile Heir to Iero Empire to Marry Howard Protégée

 

“Oh, Frankie, it’s gorgeous. You are a lucky, lucky bastard. I wish my mother would find me a match that would buy me rock that huge!”

 

Frank beams down at his ring, the huge diamond glinting in the low light of the bar him and his best friend Jamia are currently sat in. Every tiny movement he makes with his left hand sends shards of light dancing over Jamia’s delicate features and her envious eyes. Unused to the weight on his hand, he lifts his martini glass to his lips, and revels in the envy of the fertiles scattered around the bar.

 

He is a lucky, lucky boy, and he knows it. He smiles up at Jamia, and sighs happily.

 

“I know – I’m so excited! Father says the wedding is going to be huge, and that the papers will just eat it up – ”

 

“Which they’d do anyway, Frankie, your family is one of the largest in fucking New York, and you’re their only child and you’re late getting married” Jamia interrupts matter-of-factly, waving her hand towards the bartender once. He leaps forward, and hurries to refill their glasses; a martini for Frank, and a long island iced tea for Jamia.

 

Frank smiles at Jamia’s statement, knowing the truth behind her words. His family is one of the largest, and most powerful, families in New York City. The political clout of his father coupled with the socialite upbringing of his mother makes their entire family a regular staple in the papers, and with that comes the luxury of huge diamond rings from suitors and the constant attention of barmen at extravagant bars.

 

There’s a sudden flurry of people at the entrance of the bar, accompanied with the flash of camera bulbs that highlights the arrival of Frank and Jamia’s peers. Dubbed the “Fertile Pack” in the papers, the gaggle of fertiles’ that swarm the bar are the fertile children of New York’s richest; spoiled brats that think the city is their playground.

 

When they catch sight of Frank at the bar, they rush over, and start to grab at his hand and exclaim excitedly.

 

“Frankie!”

 

“Let’s see the ring!”

 

“You’ve got to have me as a packmaid at your wedding!”

 

Frank lights up at the topic of his upcoming wedding, his cheeks flushing as his friends continue to exclaim over his ring and fiancé. Questions ring in his ears, until one from a delicate fertile from the Stumph family, Patrick, asks the all-important one.

 

“So, how did he propose?”

 

All at once, every one of the fertiles’ clustered by the bar turn once again to Frank. Their eyes are lit up, waiting for what they are sure will be a deeply romantic and extravagant story. Frank looks down at his ring and smiles to himself. On seeing his expression, Patrick, Jamia and the rest of the fertiles begin to jab him for the details.

 

“Okay, okay!” Frank finally gives in to his friends teasing taunts, “I’ll tell you, Jesus!”

 

He leans back in his seat, running the index finger of his left hand around the rim of his empty martini glass, treating all of his expectant friends to another flash of his magnificent ring.

 

“Frankie, I swear to fucking god, if you don’t tell us the story this second, you won’t have a ring finger to wear that rock on!”

 

At the frankly threatening look in Jamia’s eyes, Frank swallows and glances around his friends – who all look as impatient as Jamia. He grins up at them all.

 

“Right, okay. So, my father had called me into his office last week, and told me that a match had been made for me, but that I of course had the option to turn this suitor down,” he started.

 

“Like you’ve turned down every last dom who has tried to wed and bed you” interjected Hayley, another member of the Pack, the only child of the William’s family.

 

“Yes, thanks Hayley. Do you want to hear the story or not?!” Jamia hissed. Frank waited for them to be finished before he tilted his head to the side and smiled smugly up at Hayley.

 

“Yeah, Hayley, do you want to hear the story or not?” At this, the rest of the Pack glares at Hayley, before tripping over their words to beg Frank to continue with his story. Basking in the attention, Frank waits until they sound desperate enough before he opens his mouth again, relishing the way that his friends fall silent at the sight.

 

“Before I was so rudely interrupted… I was told I had the option to turn his suitor down, but I was also told that they were really running out of options for me to be – how did you put it, Hayley? – ah, yes, wed and bed. So, I agreed to take this suitor as my new dom, and mother and father were most pleased.”

 

Frank pauses for effect, looking at the softly lit faces of his friends.

 

“I met him for the first time in Central Park, where I had been accompanied by my mother, and he had a wonderful horse and carriage waiting for me and a rider dressed in his house colours. He helped me up onto the carriage and kissed me on the cheek before taking me on a tour of Central Park. After a while of this, where we conversed about the most important thing – me – he took me to his home.”

 

“And?” Jamia demanded impatiently.

 

“And there, he had rose petals strewn about the floor, there was a concert violinist serenading me and champagne in a glass with diamonds at the bottom. And he led me through the foyer, handing me the champagne as he did so, and we went into his back garden.”

 

Frank smiles to himself at the memory.

 

“And there, under a huge canopy of flowers, he took my hand and looked right into my eyes. He got down on one knee, and… asked me the question.”

 

“Like he thought you were going to say no after you’d told your parents you’d take him on as your suitor!”

 

Frank’s smile dissolves from his face as he scans the faces in the gaggle surrounding him, trying to find who ruined his story with that barbed comment. Unable to pinpoint which of his posse it was, he let it go, and picks up his sadly empty glass and waves it at the bartender.

 

Frank lets himself settle back into his good mood as he downs another martini. He’s overrun with compliments, lighting up at the continued attention of his friends, how his parents are planning the wedding as they speak, how excited he is for the wedding and all the attention it’ll bring to their families, how glorious it is that he’ll soon be mated and wed and bred. The light-hearted chatter lingers on the topic of Frank’s wedding for a good half hour, as it’s the most current news any of the Pack has to talk about. The bartender is called over more and more frequently to the lavish group, as demands for more cocktails; champagne and wine become louder and more slurred.

 

Eventually, a fertile by the name of Andy suggests that they continue their celebrations back at his family’s suite at the nearby Pavilion Hotel, and not in full sight of the inhabitants of the bar and the lingering paparazzi.

 

*

 

Frank wakes up the next morning on a plush sofa. His head is pounding beyond belief and he feels woozy. He struggles to push himself into a sitting position, cursing his weakened limbs. He finally heaves himself up and sits properly on the sofa and glances around the room.

 

There’s bottles everywhere, half of them still full and tipped on their sides, dripping liquor onto the wool carpet. There’s fertiles everywhere, passed out on the floor, on the bed, on the sideboards.

 

Frank notes, not without relief, that there are no doms present.

 

He doesn’t need the scandal, to be honest. If there were doms at the impromptu party they’d had here last night, Frank’s upcoming marriage might be smeared in the papers. They could have branded Frank a slut, a cock hungry hussy that had no respect for his brand new fiancé, or his family. Doms in a room full of unbred and unaccompanied fertiles just spelt trouble. As far as the doms were concerned, fertiles were prey. Unaccompanied fertiles could, worse case scenario, raped by a dom and then end up married to them to avoid scandal of an unwedded fertile bearing children.

 

Frank shudders at the thought. He’s deeply glad that, no matter how drunk they got, they somehow had enough common sense in their drunken brains to not invite doms.

 

Movement out of the corner of his eye catches Frank’s attention, and he looks over to see Jamia begin to stir from her position slumped on the carpet.

 

“Jam. Jam!” he hisses at her, watching her sleepily lift her head towards the noise. She begins to droop again though, and Frank carefully gets up onto his feet. He picks his way across the room to his best friend, and pokes her gently in the side with his shoe. She bats impatiently at him, and tries to roll away.

 

Frank rolls his eyes, and pokes at her again. When she still refuses to respond, he crouches down next to her and begins to exclaim in her ear. After a while, she’s unable to ignore him any longer. She wakes up properly and lifts her head.

Upon realising where she is, Jamia scrambles up off of the floor, and clutches onto Frank’s arm. She hoists him up with her, and she stares at him with absolute fright in her eyes.

 

“Frankie, there isn’t any –”

 

“No, there isn’t any doms here. We’re safe Jam, calm down.” Upon hearing this, Jamia sags in relief. Frank smiles down at her, and begins to steer them and their hangovers out of the room.

 

*

 

They end up at Frank’s apartment, drinking espresso from tiny cups and gingerly attempting to eat the vegetarian breakfast that Frank’s chef, Peter, has made them. The papers are delivered to the building and both Frank and Jamia pore over them as they pour themselves more coffee.

 

There’s been a recent flare up in the gang activity in the Bronx, where doms fight each other – rather needlessly, as far as Frank and Jamia are concerned – over territory and wealth and access to fertiles. The most interesting part of the papers for the two fertiles surrounded by wealth and comfort is the society pages, where families of a similar echelon to the Iero’s and the Nestor’s fight for column inches. In their minds, this was a much more worthy fight.

 

This morning, the Iero’s have the most, as the engagement was announced only yesterday. Frank’s parents planned this expertly, knowing there were no upcoming events in the socialite’s diary for another couple of days, making sure that the engagement remained the focal point of conversation in the media. The next event that all the families were expected to attend was the Governor’s Ball in a few days time, and this meant that Jepha could show Frank off on his arm, giving the Iero’s even more space in the papers.

 

After finishing their breakfast, Jamia and Frank wander into the opulent living room. They plop themselves down on the luxurious brown leather sofa, Jamia immediately curling up and laying her head on the armrest, whilst Frank wriggled around until he was comfortable.

 

 

“Turn the TV on for me, Frankie,” Jamia said around her huge yawn.

 

“You do it, I don’t want to move ever again,”

 

Both fertiles stare at each other, either end of the huge sofa, before shifting their gaze to the television remote that was sitting on the coffee table – out of either of their reach. Jamia begins to jab at Frank with her fucking pointy toes, and Frank bats his hands at her every time she comes near him. Soon, the both of them are engaging in the laziest fight; Jamia trying to kick at Frank as he tries to fend of her sleepy attacks with swatting motions. After a few minutes of this, Frank grabs a hold of both of Jamia’s feet and ending the ridiculous fight.

 

“Fucking fine, you loser, I’ll put the TV on” Frank pouts as Jamia cackles. He grabs the remote and the TV lights up. Images of preparation for the Governor’s Ball flicker across the screen, with the blonde newscaster blandly intoning over the upcoming event.

 

Both Jamia and Frank fall asleep to the sound.

 

*

 

Frank adores having suits tailored for him. For an event as prominent as the Governor’s Ball and with the spotlight currently shining on his engagement, Frank’s mother insisted on having a brand new suit made for him. After all, it would be social suicide to appear in something that the press had seen before.

 

He winces as the tailor nicks him with a pin, before rolling his eyes as his mother reprimands the tailor for doing so. The suit, it’s been decided, is going to be a deep green – “all the better to bring out your eyes, dear” – with a black waistcoat underneath and a white shirt. As is the current fashion with fertiles, he won’t be wearing any kind of necktie and the top buttons of the shirt will be undone so that everyone can see his purity in the form of his unmarked neck.

 

Frank’s equal parts excited and nervous for the ball. All his friends and various acquaintances will be there, but it’ll also be the first time he’ll spend any actual time with his betrothed. The proposal was over in a couple of hours – horse carriage ride and all – and the fertile hopes that the dom he’s going to marry won’t be dull, self absorbed or rude. Like all fertiles, all Frank wants is to be swept off his feet and be loved and cherished by his dom forever. But he also knows the reputation of the doms in his kind of social circle.

 

They’re all obsessed with their businesses, and their money. But if he wants to carry on living as luxuriously as he’s used to, Frank knows that marrying a dom as powerful as Jeph is the only way to go.

 

And yet. There’s another side to doms with that much money and power, and Frank knows it can be dark.

 

He’s seen the bruises that wrap around the throat of other fertiles married to highly prolific doms, the way they flinch whenever their dom is nearby. He’s heard ghost stories of fertiles wed and bed simply for the heirs, whilst the dom carries out affair after affair and leaves the fertile to languish alone in their homes.

 

He knows there are downsides to waiting so long to marry, and that is that his father has less time and less inclination to observe each dom that came forward with a proposal to ensure that they would look after his fertile child.

 

The tailor clearing his throat brings him abruptly out of his thoughts.

 

“All done! If you’d like to return in approximately 2 days, I’ll have the suit ready and we’ll have a final fitting before the ball itself! If that’s alright with you, madam?”

 

Frank’s mother inclines her head graciously.

 

“Come, Frank, we have lots to arrange over the next couple of days”.

 

*

 

Frank slips the dark green jacket over his toned shoulders, and examines himself in the mirror. His eye’s trip over his dark messy hair, his large hazel eyes, colourful tattoo’s and pale skin. He knows that he’s the epitome of fertile beauty; small, slight, with large eyes and pale skin – perfect for marking. The suit he’s wearing enhances all of this and Frank knows the photographers will absolutely lap up his appearance.

 

A large exhale of air from the doorway behind him tells him that his fiancé agrees. Frank turns indulgently towards his betrothed; revelling in the lustful gaze the dom lavishes him with.

 

“My god, Frank” Jepha breathes, “you’re gorgeous. How on earth are you mine?”

 

Frank tilts his head back, considering the dom, letting a smirk curl at the corners of his mouth at the same time.

 

“Not yours just yet, darling.”

 

“Technicalities” Jepha says, growling. The dom steps into the room, and reaches his hand out to caress Frank’s smooth cheek. He loves the feel of his fertile’s soft flesh. He runs his thumb over Frank’s lips and shudders when Frank darts his tongue out and sucks the tip of Jepha’s thumb into his mouth.

 

Frank is pushed up against the large mirror that he had previously been admiring himself in, and then Jepha’s kissing him, not asking, just taking, and Frank feels a thrill run through him as his dom’s hands slide purposely down his sides and settle at his waist. His own arms come up to cup Jepha’s shoulders and clutch the dark suit jacket he’s wearing. Jepha growls in approval, pushing his thigh between Frank’s legs as he does so.

 

Frank only pushes him away when Jepha begins to nose down his throat, and comes dangerously close to biting him.

 

“No! Je-”

 

Jepha pushes back into the hollow of Frank’s throat, causing Frank to shove him.

 

“I said no!”

 

“Frank, babe, come on. We’re going to be married in a few weeks, and everyone knows you’re already mine. Biting you just makes it official,”

 

“I don’t know whether you remember or not, but we are going to be in front of thousands of cameras in just a couple of hours! I’m not having my reputation marred by anyone, future husband or not – do you know what society thinks of fertiles that wear bite marks on their throats before they’re married?!”

 

Jepha is quietly whining under his breath but Frank pushes on.

 

“Do you?!”

 

Jepha looks up, sighing.

 

“No, babe, I don’t. What does society think of fertiles that wear bite marks on their throats before they’re married?”

 

Frank narrows his eyes at the sarcasm in his dom’s response. “They think they’re sluts and whores and that they’re not worth a fucking damn, that’s what. And the backlash is even worse if the fertile is commonly in the fucking papers, like I am, Jeph! Betrothed or fucking not, you are not fucking going anywhere near my fucking neck until the night of our fucking wedding!” Frank’s voice is escalating, becoming near hysterical.

 

Jepha’s demeanour changes. His voice becomes soothing and he gently puts a hand on his fertile’s arm, which Frank bats away with barely restrained violence.

 

“Babe. Babe.”

 

Frank continues to bat Jepha’s attempts to soothe him away; glaring out of the window with tears in his eyes.

 

“Frank. Frankie, babe, I’m sorry. Alright? I didn’t know it meant that much to you.”

 

“Well, you should have fucking asked” Frank says in retort. “Before you went for my neck,”

 

A knock on the mahogany doors to Frank’s suite interrupts the argument.

 

“Sirs? Mr and Mrs Frank Iero the Second request your presence downstairs in exactly five minutes” the fertile at the doors bows to Jepha first, then Frank.

 

“Thank you” Jepha replies, and the fertile is dismissed. He takes a handkerchief out of his pocket and offers it to Frank, who snatches it up and dabs at his eyes with it.

 

“Does this mean I’m forgiven?”

 

Frank sniffles into the hanky for a moment. The he straightens up, stiffly hands the handkerchief back, and tosses his hair.

 

“No. But we don’t have the time to fight about it now, and I refuse to have red eyes in front of the paparazzi. Let’s go.”

 

With that, Frank sweeps out of the room, leaving Jepha to lock the suite behind him.

Chapter Text

Jepha finds Frank standing at the top of the stairs. The light coming from downstairs catches the fertile’s features in a hazy way, making him look ethereal. At the sound of his Dom approaching him, Frank turns and gives Jepha a tight smile.

 

“I’m keeping up appearances,” the fertile says “I refuse to let my parents know we were fighting upstairs, understand?”

 

The Dom inclines his head and offers his arm to his betrothed. Frank hesitates for a spilt second before gingerly taking the proffered arm, holding Jepha closely and pasting a convincing smile on his face.

 

Just before Frank takes the first step, Jepha holds him back. “I’m sorry about earlier, Frankie, you know that right?”

 

“I think it’s best we leave this conversation for now, Jeph. We’ve got people to impress downstairs. Most importantly, we have to represent our parents.”

 

The Dom sighs at his fiancé’s dismissal but leads Frank down the enormous staircase to the waiting bustle of the people downstairs. The party doesn’t start for another hour, but a gaggle of the oldest families in town have gathered here in the hotel to enjoy a few drinks before the event itself.

 

The lobby is heaving. Full of glamorous fertiles adorned in rich colours and furs and glittering jewels, interspersed with doms gathered in packs idly chatting about business and family bonds. Fertiles rush by in giggling groups, their laughter shrill in the lavish lobby, skirts and suits and champagne swirling around and behind them. The entire assembly is lit by the warm yellow glow from the chandeliers that hang over the heads of the people gathered there. The crystals glitter in the light, throwing small rainbows of light that the fertile children are fascinated with, chasing them and laughing with delight when an adult steps into such a rainbow.

 

Waiters cut effortlessly through the crowd dispatching glasses of champagne and hors d’oeuvres to the chattering guests. The crowd is occasionally illuminated by the white flash from the cameras outside; signifying that a person if interest has arrived, or that someone has stepped too close to the windows and can be seen from the outside.

 

Frank’s hand tightens on Jepha’s elbow as they continue to descend down the stairs. When they come into view of the party below, the chatter doesn’t silence per say, but a majority of the guests take an interest in the newest couple in their world.

 

When they reach the bottom of the staircase, a smattering of applause can be heard from the crowd. Frank ducks his head and feels his cheeks heat up. To give the crowd what they want, he looks up at his Dom adoringly, and Jepha follows suit, tracing over Frank’s cheekbone the same way he did earlier. The reminder of their argument nearly makes Frank flinch but he remembers that they’re in front of a massive crowd of their friends, family and peers, and that their every move is being scrutinised by the unforgiving crowd.

 

If he shows any kind of discomfort with his fiancé, he knows someone in the crowd will make a tidy profit selling that information to a gossip magazine. And the last thing Frank needs is a headline about how he doesn’t want to get married. He knows that refusing to marry for so long has put him under massive scrutiny from the press before, and he knows they’ll be desperate to “prove” the he still wants to remain single, and is just marrying to fall into line with his parent’s wishes.

 

So he stares up at Jeph for a moment longer, before the Dom guides him over to their parents, who look satisfied at the display on the stairs. The chatter of the party returns to a normal level as they wander out of the spotlight, although Frank can feel the odd lingering look on his back as he slides into conversation about the latest gang violence in the city.

 

“I mean, it’s ridiculous! These people need to be locked up and have the key to their cells thrown away!” Frank’s mother, Linda Iero, exclaims. Frank’s mother is a small, elegant fertile, with glittering rubies around her long and slender throat, and a large opal ring on her left ring finger. Her dark, shiny hair – that Frank inherited – is up in sleek chignon, and her dark eyes flash in the dim lighting of the lobby.

 

“We know, darling. That’s why Commissioner Dewees is personally investigating these… criminals.” Frank Iero the Second says smoothly, wrapping his hand around his mate’s waist. Linda doesn’t look soothed, but she relaxes minutely into the arms of her Dom.

 

“Why, has the violence got worse?” Frank says, head tipping slightly to the side.

 

“Worse?!” Linda laughs bitterly, tipping her head back as she does so. “Frankie, my darling, they had a… gang tiff on the Stumph estate!”

 

Frank and Jepha’s eyes widen at the mention of the Stumphs, who are close family friends of both the Iero and the Howard families.

 

“Were any of them harmed?!”

 

“No, Jeph, they were thankfully residing in their apartments in uptown Manhattan that night, as they were hosting a dinner party for the mayor and several other high ranking officials in New York,” Frank Snr responds.

 

A waiter finally wanders over to the group, and offers Frank and Jepha a glass of champagne each. The pair smiles quietly at one another, Jepha inclining his head towards his fertile before both Dom and fertile take an indulgent sip from their glasses. Frank’s parents look approvingly on at the subtle show of affection between their child and his betrothed. Jepha links his arm back through Frank’s and the pair excuse themselves from Frank’s parents to go and circulate through the lobby.

 

They’ve barely taken five steps before one of Jepha’s good friends, Robert, collides into the pair. He’s stinking drunk, one clammy hand clutched around a flute of champagne and the other blindly grasping Jepha’s shoulder like he hadn’t seen the Dom in an age.

 

Frank looks distastefully at the inebriated Dom clutching onto his betrothed but Jepha’s face lights up when he realised who is hanging onto him with such a death grip.

 

“Bert, my man! How have you been!”

 

Frank’s face further falls into a sour expression as it becomes apparently clear that Bert is unable to respond in his current state. Jepha’s face doesn’t falter, although he lets go of Frank – Frank’s expression further sours – and swings one of his arms around the drunken Bert. He flashes Frank an apologetic look and leads Bert off towards the washroom.

 

Frank raises an eyebrow at his Dom leaving him so quickly, but regains himself and catches the eye of a nearby waiter and holds his glass up. The waiter glides over and refills his glass. Frank smiles distractedly in thanks. The fertile looks around the room, hoping to see someone he recognises; to his relief he spots Jamia and Patrick Stumph leaning against the cocktail bar and wanders over.

 

His two friends are in the middle of eyeing all the eye candy in the room, and see him approaching. Jamia cranes her neck – no doubt looking for Frank’s intended husband – and raises an eyebrow when she realises that Frank’s alone. Frank rolls his eyes at his best friend in an attempt to covey his annoyance at arriving by the bar without his Dom.

 

Jamia barely has time to open her mouth before Frank interrupts her.

 

“He had to go and see to a… friend,”

 

Patrick nods; as if this was the only conclusion he had come to about Frank’s lone appearance. Jamia on the other hand, raises her other eyebrow and gives Frank a deeply sceptical look.

 

“Really, now? What was so urgent that he had to take off and leave you on tonight, of all nights?”

 

“Honestly, I don’t know.” Frank chews on his lip reflectively for a moment, “his very drunk friend came over to him and he lit up like a fucking Christmas tree, and then it was oh so urgent that he go and help him,”

 

Jamia’s eyebrows stay raised. Patrick now looks mildly surprised.

 

“I know! I know! Of all the times, he had to pick a night where the press and everyone else is going to be swarming all over the pair of us, he had to go and fuck off. Doesn’t he give a damn how this is going to look in tomorrow’s papers?”

 

Jamia lays a calming hand on Frank’s trembling arm. She catches Patrick’s eye and nods towards the bar. Patrick smoothly turns around and orders a martini from the bar staff before he presses it into Frank’s hand. Frank looks up at the pair gratefully, and sips at his drink, wishing like hell he could just down it and order another. But he’s aware of the eyes that are lingering on him from time to time and knows that he absolutely must act like Jepha not being by his side is normal, like they agreed on it. If Jepha’s not going to give half a damn about their reputation tonight, then Frank will have to pick up the slack.

 

He’s going to ensure that their image is going to remain as polished as possible. He’s not going to show up their parents, and he’s going to make sure that he looks as in love as he can do, without his partner by his side.

 

So, whilst Jamia and Patrick pick up the thread of their conversation from before, Frank ducks his head and lets a soft smile play around the corner of his lips as he looks down at his gorgeous ring. The ring is a constant reminder of why he’s going to keep their image together. Frank’s got too much to lose if their engagement falls through. He’ll lose the respect he and his family have garnered, he’ll lose his darling imagine in the media and he’ll lose the idolatry that he craves from lesser families and the public.

 

And he won’t let that happen. Not because of Jepha’s lack of propriety.

 

As he looks up towards the crowded party again, two things strike him. The first is a feeling of a strong arm snaking around his waist. The other is the loud chiming from the grandfather clock at the top of the staircase, signifying that the Governor’s Ball is starting. The families present start to gather themselves together, scooping up small children and collecting finding other family members in the crowd, readying themselves to leave the lobby of the hotel.

 

He turns towards Jeph, smiling beatifically, whilst hissing through his teeth.

 

“Where the hell were you?!”

 

Jepha smiles calmly back at him, whilst answering without moving his lips.

 

“Had to make sure that Bert was okay.”

 

“Did you have to do it tonight? Everyone is watching us at this party, and then suddenly I was unaccompanied for half of it, and you were nowhere to be found!”

 

Jepha nods at one of the nearby couples that surround them, before ducking his head next to Frank’s ear. To any outsiders, it looks like the couple are whispering sweet nothings to one another, not having a very quiet argument. Frank fought to keep his expression docile and sweet looking.

 

“I’m sorry if I ruined your perfect fucking evening, Frankie. But some things do take fucking precedence over your image bullshit.”

 

Frank grits his teeth; smile beginning to look strained. And goes in for low blow.

 

“The way you’re going on about your drunken deadbeat of a friend, you could have sworn that he’d given you a fucking blowjob in the washroom,”

 

Jepha goes red. He opens his mouth to retort, but at that moment, the Iero and Howard parents descend upon them. There’s a flurry of kisses on cheeks and delighted introductions from both sides of the family, with the Howard parents cooing over Frank.

 

Frank feels a small flash of satisfaction at the look at irritation on Jepha’s face, but continues to beam at his fiancé’s parents, taking the arm of Jepha’s fertile mother. He steers him towards the car, half listening to Jepha’s mother, Graham, chatter on about how lovely of a boy he is. Frank fights a smug smile at his mother in law’s praise. The more that Jepha’s parents love him, the more concrete their imminent marriage becomes – it also fields any rumours that the two may not love one another. Bitter parents in law are the worst gossips to the wrong people, so getting them on side early on is important to Frank.

 

He can feel his parent’s pride radiating off them at his little display, and Frank’s satisfaction increases ten fold. They’re approaching the discreet exit of the hotel now, where there will be a car waiting for them. It’s been arranged that the couple and their parents will take the same car to the Governor’s Ball and that he and Jepha will last the exit the car, for maximum impact. The six of them – Linda and Frank Iero Snr, Graham and Jepha’s father, Slyvia Howard and themselves – are herded out of the lobby and down a quietly plush corridor towards the lift that will take them down to the garages.

 

Once in the bustling garages, they locate their chauffeur and are escorted over towards the large, black SUV waiting for them. Frank, still holding Graham’s arm, gestures towards the open door of the car, offering to let the other fertile go first.

 

“Such a polite boy! Linda, you should be proud your son –he’s simply enchanting!”

 

“Thank you, Graham, but in truth he was easy to raise – he’s been this polite since he was born!”

 

Frank then helps his mother into car, before Jepha gives him his hand hand delicately, and Frank enters the vehicle. Linda and Graham have their heads tipped together, murmuring quietly about design plans for the wedding as Frank settles himself into his seat.

 

Jepha is next to enter the car, and sits himself down next to Frank and slides his hand over his fertile’s knee. Frank glances briefly at him and squeezes the dom’s hand before looking back out the window at all the other cars preparing to leave for the ball.

 

The car door slams, breaking Frank out of his thoughts. He smiles at Jepha again, and leans back in his seat as the car begins to pull out of the hotel’s garage. The older dom’s are having a lighthearted conversation about Mayor Toro, whilst both Jepha and Frank’s mother continue their converation about decoration’s for the wedding; arguing with dignity about the pros and cons of dark maroon at wedding.

 

Frank and Jepha sit in silence, the fight from earlier sitting uncomfortably in the space between the two of them. Jepha’s hand is still on Frank’s knee and Frank’s squirming on the inside, desperately wishing he could just rip it off. He continues to look out of the window at the streets rushing by, determined not to give Jepha an in to a conversation.

 

It’s been raining, the streets glitter with puddles and the city lights reflecting off them, taxis and pedestrians all weaving together in a kaleidoscope of colour and noise – cars honking and people yelling at each other on the street. Frank loses himself in the world outside the window for the few short moments before their arrival at the Governor’s Ball.

 

The car slows down, and then turns down the street towards the entrance of the ball. It stops for a second, before inching forward – there’s a line of cars ahead of them with various families in them all readying themselves to preen in front of the paparazzi just like the Iero’s and Howard’s are preparing themselves for the same thing.

 

The car door opens, and a young fertile wearing a headset and carrying a clipboard sticks her head in. The noise of cameras clicking and reporters shouting fills the small space.

 

“Names, please?”

 

“Frank Iero and his fertile wife Linda, and his fertile son, Frank Iero Jnr,” Frank Snr announces. Sylvia Howard solemnly tells the organiser the same thing, and the fertile with the headset nods and ticks them off the list on the clipboards before thanking them and wishing them a good evening.

 

Silence fills the car after the organiser closes the door again. No one moves for a moment and then Linda starts to fuss over Frank’s hair, Frank Snr lights a large cigar, and Graham plucks a small hand mirror out of his clutch bag and gives his appearance a quick look over. The car begins to roll forward again.

 

“Sirs, madams, you’ll be exited the vehicle in approximately thirty seconds,” the driver intones.

 

“Thank you, Gilbert”, says Frank Snr, as Linda begins talking slightly frantically to Jepha and Frank.

 

“Now, boys, you’ll be exiting the car last, and we want a nice, romantic exit for the cameras. Jepha, you’ll be getting out before Frankie, and then offering your hand to help him down, at which point Frank will kiss you in thanks.”

 

Graham is nodding along with Linda’s monologue, before adding; “we want you boys to nice and cuddly all the way up the red carpet. Talk to the reporters about thrilled you are to be engaged, Frankie, gush about your ring, Jepha, talk about how beautiful Frankie is, tonight and always!”

 

“Exactly! Smile lots, linger on the red carpet, talk to as many reporters and pose for as many pictures as you can, before they chivvy you along and inside. This is your big night, and half of the press out there has been waiting for your arrival all night!”

 

Linda continues, with Graham still nodding along. He looks a little bit like a noddy dog, Frank thinks to himself, smiling.

 

The car stops.

 

There’s a pause, and then the door swings open again. Light blares into the car, illuminating all those inside in an odd half-light. Frank barely notices that his parent ad Jepha’s parents have vacated the car until Jepha touches his arm, making him jump.

 

“Ready, Frankie?”

 

Frank looks up at the glittering world outside of the car doors, grips Jepha’s hand and nods. Image is everything, he repeats to himself mentally. Nothing else matters besides their presentation tonight.

 

They need to be flawless. Frank needs to be flawless.

 

The fertile pastes a winning smile on his face as Jepha lets go of his hand and steps out of the car, turning back to give Frank his hand again.

 

So Frank holds on to his dom, and lets him help him out of the car, into the full glare of the paparazzi, and the world.