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All The Wicked Shadows

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All The Wicked Shadows art by cheerfortyranny

Frank has a car, but Mikey has an iPhone full of the coolest shit ever recorded—everything from 80's Jersey punk to 00's British Invasion, and even this bizarre Icelandic folk that somehow totally works. So Frank lets Mikey pick the music every Friday afternoon when he drives them from their office in Wayne into SoHo, or Brooklyn, or Queens, or wherever the latest unsigned wonder is performing.

Today's playlist is some edgy chick group out of East L.A. with retro guitar riffs and husky vocals. Frank can't help tapping his fingers as he pulls off the interstate and takes the service road north of Alpine. It's a couple miles of lousy, cracked asphalt, studded with rotting leaves and gravel and pitted with teeth-chattering potholes. He peers up through the windshield at the reds and yellows of the leaves and looks past Mikey's bored face as they pass the sign for a Boy Scout camp, closed for the season.

Mikey bounces with the next pothole. His thumb skids on his screen, and the playlist skips to a rough punk number Frank sort of recognizes.

"Damn it," Mikey mutters. He's been sour the whole drive, but his glare is only directed at his phone.

Frank signals out of habit, even though he's never seen another car out here, and pulls into the driveway at the end of the road. The Palisades Home for Senior Care comes into view at the next break in the trees, its two stories shutter-closed and quiet. Frank cuts across the white lines of the parking lot and backs his Toyota up behind the old, rusted-out dumpsters next to the side door. Mikey is sliding out of his seat even before Frank has the car off, and Frank pops the trunk release and climbs out, too.

The Palisades Home has a nice little property—red oak, hickory, and beech trees marching right up to the parking lot, the highway sounds blocked out. It's a welcome break from the crowded suburbs they came from and the crowded clubs they're going to. Frank pulls out a cigarette and leans against the car, ignoring Mikey as he lifts the donation boxes out of Frank's trunk and carries them one by one into the building.

Frank had offered to help the first two times they came out here, but Mikey had waved him off, claiming sole responsibility. He'd been weird about the boxes and even weirder when Frank asked what charity he was donating to and what was in them. So Frank had dropped it; everybody has their secrets, and he didn't know Mikey well enough to pry. Now Frank knows Mikey too well to pry—knows that he has hard limits that make him clam up. Anyway, he figures he's helping enough by driving Mikey on this 45-minute detour once a week. The thank-you beers that Mikey charges to the corporate account say he agrees.

Mikey comes back out for the sixth time, wearing his first smile of the day, and slams the trunk shut. "What do you want to listen to?" he offers generously.

Frank takes one last drag, tosses his cigarette toward the small, sodden pile he's accumulated over the last few months, and says on a cloud of smoke, "Black Sabbath."

 

~

 

Frank has no clue how he still has a car, considering all the sketchy neighborhoods they park in. Tonight really pushed his luck—Cypress Hills is about the worst area they've been to—but as they shove out the door of the club and start walking up the street, Frank can already see his car right where he left it.

Mikey's phone rings, and Frank hums along to the tinny Misfits ringtone even after it cuts off. "Yeah, Gee," Mikey says, and Frank's eyebrows go up. "No problem," he says. "It was great seeing you, too."

Mikey rarely talks about his brother; that's another of his hard limits. He never mentions seeing him or visiting him, and he seems to only let details slip by accident. Frank doesn't know when Gerard comes to visit, what's going on in his life, or even what he looks like. He figures he lives somewhere in New York, though; that's where all the big comic book writers live, right?

Frank walks a little faster, giving Mikey some privacy for his phone call. He hears Mikey say, exasperated, "Well if you'd tell me what you want next time, I can get it for you! Fuck, what do you want, a catalog?"

Frank keeps humming the chorus of Die Die My Darling while he checks that he still has four tires.

 

~

 

Mikey's the best A&R guy the label's ever had—at least that's what their boss says every time he begs Mikey to go scout some new band in L.A.

Mikey won't leave New Jersey, though.

He makes up the lamest excuses; he's scared of flying, and then he's scared of train travel. He's superstitious about changing time-zones. He's allergic to smog. By October, he's used up every credible excuse to avoid the trip and started on the obvious-bullshit ones. And then Mitch upgrades the tickets to first class and throws in some extra vacation days to sweeten the deal.

Mikey looks torn, staring at the tickets on his desk as Frank leans on the edge and sips a cup of coffee.

"Dude, just go," Frank says.

"I can't," Mikey says, anguished.

"Why the hell not?" Frank demands. He gets that this is one of those topics Mikey doesn't want to discuss, but it's getting ridiculous. He's Mikey's friend; if Mikey has shit going on, he should just spit it out.

"I've got…." Mikey pokes at the tickets. "I've got that delivery to make. You know."

"Is that all?" Frank snorts. He bites back the nagging question on his lips, the request for details about Mikey's charitable obligations. "I can drop it off for you."

Mikey stares at him. "You would?"

Frank ignores his incredulity. "Sure. Why not?"

Mikey opens his mouth, and Frank thinks yes, finally, an explanation, but, "Cool. That's really nice of you," Mikey says instead, and picks at a hole in his jeans. "Thanks, Frank."

He shrugs it off. "Whatever. It's no problem."

But Mikey stares at him for the rest of the day.

 

~

 

Mikey flies out on Wednesday morning, leaving Frank with the keys to Mikey's garage and an earnest squeeze of his shoulder. Frank assures Mikey he won't forget to make the delivery and even promises not to peek inside the boxes.

It was the wrong joke to make, because Mikey looks at him all suspicious and borderline unfriendly, and Frank has to cross his heart and swear he was only kidding.

When he gets to Mikey's place on Thursday night, he isn't surprised to find the cardboard boxes sealed with what looks like an entire roll of duct tape. "You are one weird fucker," Frank mutters, and starts loading his car with the two-ton boxes. Jeez, he is definitely glad Mikey never let him help before.

The drive out to the Palisades Home is different at night. For one, the traffic's a lot lighter, which is why Frank is doing this now instead of on his first Friday night off in months. (If Mitch has so little faith in Frank's ability to use the corporate card responsibly, then maybe he shouldn't send Frank's quote-unquote fiscally responsible coworker to fucking Los Angeles.) The service road is a lot more dangerous in the dark; Frank can't see the potholes fifteen feet ahead of him, let alone the branches overhead, and he keeps thinking he sees deer moving just beyond the range of his headlights.

He hopes to see a light on when he gets there, somebody he could report the delivery to and ask what kind of charity it is, but the place looks completely dead—the parking lot as empty as ever, and the doors and windows still closed. Frank backs in and turns off the engine, leaving the parking lights on so the building is lit by the red glow of his tail lights. He unzips his hoodie and gets to work, pulling open the side door (unlocked just like Mikey had promised) and fumbling for a light switch.

He's never looked inside before, but it seems he wasn't missing much. Once the overhead fluorescents come on, he finds a filthy, institutional-grade kitchen. Garbage blankets the floor, rat droppings litter the counters, and black and red graffiti covers most of the cabinets. The mystery of Mikey's charity thickens, and Frank scowls.

From the outside the building still looks respectable. Frank had guessed it wasn't a nursing home anymore, but he'd assumed there were a few offices still in use, repurposed for whatever charity Mikey was so devoted to. But judging by the kitchen, it's pretty obvious nobody uses this place anymore—no one besides Mikey and whoever picks up his "donations." This had better not be a drug deal, Frank thinks. Or more likely, knowing Mikey, a bootlegging ring.

He heads back to the car, pulls out the first box, and carries it to the one moderately-clean patch of linoleum just inside the door, where the yellow overheads and red tail lights turn the floor a greasy orange. There are seven boxes, including a long IKEA box that claims to contain a drafting table—some assembly required. From the weight alone, Frank believes the label.

He wipes his brow when he's done and then pauses, his hand extended toward the light switch.

There's an open door on the far side of the kitchen that leads off into the nursing home, and Frank could swear he saw something move in the shadow of the hallway. He didn't, though. It was nothing; just a flash of light off one of the dulled-chrome knobs on a drawer or cabinet. But the low spike of adrenaline, the prickle up his legs…he can't resist the possibility, has to savor it for just a minute. He stands perfectly still in the safe, brightly-lit kitchen and keeps his head turned so he can catch whatever it was out of the corner of his eye the next time it moves.

There's no movement, but he definitely hears something—a soft scrape-thump coming from beyond that open door, and then, an achingly tense moment later, a faint boom that shakes the air and startles the breath out of Frank's lungs. That might have been a door slamming. It might have been….

Skin crawling and mind racing, he looks from the dark hallway to the exterior door—the parking lot, his car with the key in the ignition…. He knows—knows—that this is not a rational dilemma, but his horror-movie–junkie brain can't help itself. Every night he climbed down into his parents' dark basement, making himself walk slowly, resisting the yowling instinct to run even though he could feel the eyes on him, the monster's breath on the back of his neck, the darkness reaching out to catch him…. Those were just the warm up to this feeling: the dread balling up in his chest, the rush of adrenaline to his legs, his whole nervous system primed to turn and run.

How can he possibly resist this invitation?

He spares a last glance over his shoulder for the safety of his car, for escape, and slips between the counters.

At the hall door he darts his head out, scanning the corridor. It's wide and empty, white-wash faded to a dull grey in the first few feet of light. Beyond that, the shadows set in—a rich, heavy darkness with darker pools that hint at doorways. There are no windows to let in the moonlight, no glowing red exit signs to betray how long the hallway is. Frank works his jaw, savoring the building clutch of fear, and then steps into the hallway.

He takes a moment to let his eyes adjust to the darkness and his body adjust to the tension, centering his breathing until he comes down a few notches. He can make out at least a dozen doorways ahead of him, any of which could be the one that slammed. He hesitates, not wanting to break the spell so soon, but his rational mind is still in control. He finds the light switch and flicks it on.

Four fluorescent overheads kick in at uneven intervals down the hall, two flickering fitfully, threatening to burn out like the others, but there's more than enough light to see the green double doors at the end of the hall and everything in between. Frank starts walking, covering the twenty paces to the first door, labeled with a nutritionist's placard. He tries to peer through the glass pane, but all he can see is his own reflection. When he tries the knob, it's locked. The harsh metal thunk as he releases it echoes down the hall, and Frank tenses before he moves again, stepping quietly as though there could be someone around to catch him trespassing.

The rooms are all labeled with doctors' names, and Frank spares them each a glance as he passes, blinking away images of mad scientists in white coats, scalpels raised high. He's halfway down the hall, directly under one of the flickering lights, when he hears something other than his footsteps and the crackling bulbs.

It starts with a single, muffled thud and then another a second later. There's a pause and then another few thuds. Frank turns slowly, eyeing the open kitchen door behind him, the closed doors he's already passed, and the double doors ahead of him, their glass panes showing only darkness beyond. The unpredictable thuds start and stop, but a single word circles in Frank's head:

Footsteps.

He puts his back to a wall and can't help holding his breath as the sounds grow louder, steps coming closer, and then the flickering bulb above him cuts out completely with one thud and stutters back to life on the next, like something just stepped over its power source and over Frank's grave.

He gasps, the sweet burn of oxygen hitting his lungs like the first morning cigarette. His mind is racing so fast he can barely think beyond the intoxicating thought of something up there, upstairs. He backs toward the green doors with his eyes glued to the ceiling, tracing the path of those shambling, halting steps as long as he can hear them. The sounds fade away, and Frank takes another step back and nearly shrieks as he whirls to confront whatever just moved to his right.

He sees his reflection in a door pane and clutches at his throat to choke down the laughter. He looked like one of those scared-shitless photos they try to sell tourists at the end of Belleville's Haunted Hayride. Thank god Mikey wasn't here to see that, he thinks to himself…and then wonders just how deep Mikey's strayed inside the building. He thinks of all those afternoons he spent killing time in the parking lot while Mikey disappeared inside, and is surprised by a low snarl of jealousy.

His attention refocused, Frank pulls himself together and starts looking for a staircase. He finds it at the end of the hall, a closed door marked with the universal symbol for stairs. For a single moment he hesitates, torn between taking the stairs and investigating those mysterious double doors. But a loud bang from overhead sends him ducking into the stairwell, his lungs straining with silent gasps like he's hiding from something…

…in the pitch black.

He clings to the door handle with one hand and gropes for a light switch with the other, his eyes wide open even though the stairwell is blacker than a blindfold and more suffocating than ducking under the covers in the middle of the night. He finds the switch and flicks it up. And then down. And up and down. A small bubble of something builds in his chest. It feels like panic, until he opens his mouth and a laugh escapes.

He lets it build—the giddy anticipation of so many movie blackouts. Bracing himself to face a horde of slavering ghouls, he digs his lighter out of his pocket and flicks it on to see…an empty stairwell. He laughs again, under his breath, and holds the flame higher, watching the shadows jump and dance, the winding rails sliding like cage bars around him. The itch of claustrophobia buzzes at the base of his skull, warning him that he's trapped, that he won't be able to get out, but he pushes it back and pushes himself away from the door to climb the stairs one cautious step at a time.

They're solid steel and concrete—no creaks or loose boards; the moment would be anticlimactic if Frank's eyes weren't already seeking out the door at the top. The lighter is a comforting warmth in his grip, the ceiling coming into view as the ground floor transforms into a black pit below, and Frank's steps slow as he reaches the top.

He slips out into a wide, unlit corridor that stretches to the left and right. The footsteps had headed toward the right, so Frank follows their path. He's gone a dozen steps when his flame wavers dangerously, nearly extinguished by the chill wind that presses against his back. Frank glances over his shoulder at the yawning blackness that's crept up behind him, unable to see where the draft came from, if there's a cracked window at the end of the hall or something.

When his flame stabilizes, he realizes with something like pride that he hadn't even thought to check for a light switch up here.

Too late to turn back, he lies to himself, and moves ahead.

This hallway is different from the one downstairs; the doors are all wider, solid wood without window panes. He thinks about trying one of the door knobs, imagines himself walking into a patient's bedroom, finding a human shape on the bed and pulling away the sheet to reveal a corpse writhing with maggots. Frank's skin crawls deliciously, but he doesn't dwell on it; there's something fluttering on the walls up ahead, like a cloud of moths just at the edge of his light, and Frank slides closer to a wall and narrows his eyes as he approaches.

Papers are stuck to the wall, ragged scraps and whole pages, napkins and notebook sheets. There must be hundreds, just in the few feet his lighter reaches. He leans closer to examine them, and his eyes go wide.

Black shapes cover the pages, seeming to crawl along the wall with the fitful drafts. Inhuman shapes, claws and tentacles and grisly, contorted figures, scribbled in black and grey and spattered with bright red drops of…Frank isn't going to think blood. There are words, too, scrawled in a manic, indecipherable hand, and Frank can only think that this is the work of a deranged mind. This collection of ghoulish symbols and silhouettes, the slashes of red that seem to drip down the pages—

He can't look away.

Every instinct in his body is telling him not to stare, not to look hard enough to fit the pieces together. Frank knows these rules—knows not to stare into a dark mirror, not to look for his own reflection or something else's, not to call into the abyss and wait for his echo to return—but the way the wall moves, it's impossible to pull back—

A low rumble catches his ear, and Frank looks up. He can just see the end of the hall now, but it seems too far away for his little flame to reach. Frank backs away from the wall, finds a safe middle-ground between the wall-to-wall scribbles, and hesitates a moment before closing the lighter.

The hall goes dark, but not completely. He squints and blinks a few times, letting his eyes dilate until he can see a yellow glow at the end of the corridor, coming from one of the last rooms. The draft kicks up again, a cool hand against his neck urging him forward. It sets the pages fluttering behind him, dry shuffling sounds that prey on his nerves and have him imagining unspeakable things following him. So he takes one step toward the light and then another, keeping his eyes away from the drawings.

He finds the source of the light, the last door on the right, propped open a few inches. He puts his eye up to the crack and peers in, trying to spy what's inside. From the few feet he can see, it's a high-ceilinged room, the walls covered with more bits of paper. He listens for a lung-aching moment, waiting to hear anything—creepy music box plinking, children's laughter, that weird growling sound again—but there's nothing.

He should leave.

The thought crosses his mind once, clear and dead certain, and Frank orders his brain to shut up. There is no way he's walking away without opening this door. He can practically taste the adrenaline on his tongue, his hand shaking as he touches the door with his fingertips and eases it carefully, carefully open. He stares at his hand and waits for something to happen, for something to leap out and bite it off, but there is only the silence, so he pushes the door a few inches further and steps inside.

He barely contains his gasp.

It's a large space, the walls covered from floor to ceiling with paper. Mounds of loose pages are piled in the corners like nests. If not for the yellow light from the lone halogen lamp pointed at the ceiling, he would swear he's been thrown into a black and white horror movie. Something classic, like The Wolfman, or neo-Japanese—because there's a lone figure standing in the middle of the room, its back to Frank as it stares at one of the walls. Frank gulps, willing his frozen legs to retreat; there is an actual person in the building, and what the fuck has he gotten himself into?

Frank hasn't made a sound yet, he's almost certain. His heart is pounding to beat the band, but he's barely even inhaled when the man turns abruptly and sees him. And Frank has no doubt that this is the guy responsible for the deranged scribbling outside. He's a mess, pale with sunken eyes, stringy hair hanging to his shoulders, twitching fingers stained dark.

Frank blinks and then gasps as the door slams shut, the man suddenly looming right in front of him faster than humanly possible. Frank backs into the corner, paper crinkling under his shoulders, panting hard as the guy leans in. He's a little taller than Frank, a little broader, and this close the guy smells rank, like cigarettes, like the same clothes for a week straight, and some indefinable scent of decay. Frank can see red ringing bloodshot eyes. What kind of shit is this guy on? Real fear grips his throat; he went looking for a mystery and found a strung-out homeless guy, and there's nobody to help him.

The guy is fixated on Frank. His fingers pluck at the front of Frank's hoodie, but Frank doesn't dare look away from those eyes, because they're kind of…glowing. Maybe it's the crazy shadows from the lamp, but they've got Frank locked in place, too scared to control his breathing. He can hear the catch in his throat, little half-whines in each exhalation he couldn't cut off if he tried.

The guy steps even closer, his gaze sliding down to Frank's throat like he's tracking the source of Frank's whimpers, and he's leaning down, making weird sniffing sounds, and fuck, fuck, Frank is about to get his throat ripped out by some mute psycho squatter, and only Mikey knows where he is—

And then a ringtone starts playing.

Crazy-guy turns his back, walks over to a big steel desk, and picks up a phone. He cuts off the tinny strains of American Psycho and snarls, "What, Mikey?"

Frank tries to stop his legs from shaking. He's light-headed, a little dizzy from hyperventilating, and he turns and presses his cheek to the wall as he tries to get a grip. His breath stirs a scrap of paper right in front of him, and he focuses on that, making out the figure of a little girl with pigtails being menaced by some hulking shape with fangs and dripping red claws. He shudders and closes his eyes.

And hears Mikey's voice, loud on speakerphone, saying, "Fuck you too, Gee!"

And…Frank knows that name. Mikey's enigmatic brother, the comic book writer. The guy who won a SCREAM award last year for that horror series….

Frank looks again at the wall, at the pages on pages of monsters and victims, sketches, doodles, line-drawings and shadings, character designs. "Oh shit," he says, only it comes out with a breathless giggle.

He looks over, and Gerard Way is standing next to the desk, his arms crossed as he stares at Frank. It's a suspicious look, like he's wondering who the fuck Frank is, and what he's doing in his…home? Office?

Mikey's voice is still spilling from the phone on the desk. "—so a friend's gonna bring your stuff tomorrow."

"A friend," Gerard repeats flatly.

"Yeah. He doesn't know about you, so you can just ignore him."

Something that might be a smile quirks Gerard's lips. "And what if he comes looking for me?"

Frank can hear Mikey's eye-roll. "He won't. Look, Gee, I want you to leave him alone. Don't be a dick—"

"I'll be good," Gerard says.

Frank isn't sure how, but he knows Gerard is lying.

"Okay," Mikey huffs. "Okay. I'll be home next week. Are the pages going well?"

"They're going fine, Mikes. I gotta go; I'm in the middle of something."

It's disconcerting, being stared at while Gerard talks about him. Knowing Gerard is trying to get his brother off the phone so he can deal with Frank's invasion of privacy. Frank tries not to squirm.

Mikey sounds annoyed at the dismissal, but he finally hangs up, leaving all of Gerard's attention focused squarely on Frank.

"You're Mikey's brother," Frank says.

"You're Frank," Gerard purrs, and Frank hadn't heard Mikey say his name, but there's no point denying it. Frank nods. "You're a day early, Frank."

There's something about Gerard's voice that goes right to Frank's gut—the same way Gerard's last issue had left him twisted up with dread for a whole night. Frank shivers and covers it with a shrug. "This was a better time for me," he says, and then remembers his manners. "I'm sorry. I didn't know anyone was here. I didn't mean to invade your…" he gestures to the room, and the whole building while he's at it, "…space."

Gerard nods, accepting the apology. "It's cool, as long as you brought me more cigarettes."

Oh, he wants…. Frank digs out his Marlboro pack and holds it out, but Gerard laughs, a surprisingly normal sound.

"No, in the boxes. You brought my delivery, right?"

Frank's eyebrows fly up. "If that's what's in those boxes, you should think about cutting back, man," he says, and Gerard laughs again. While he has the pack in hand, Frank shakes out a cigarette for himself and lights it with the still-warm lighter. He blinks away the smoke and finds Gerard a step closer, watching his mouth.

"They're not all cigarettes," Gerard says, and the fingers of his right hand are rubbing together like they're itching to hold his own smoke. "A guy's gotta eat, you know?"

"I guess getting pizza delivered out here isn't really an option."

"Not from anywhere good, and sure as fuck not from Belleville," Gerard agrees, and Frank grins. Mikey's brother seems like he might be an okay guy. Weird as fuck, but Frank had figured that out a long time ago just from his comics.

"So you're, like, living out here?"

"It beats paying rent in Manhattan. And my parents' basement."

Frank nods, because yeah, if he was still living with his parents at 25, he'd go bonkers. "This place is fucking creepy," he offers. He has a suspicion that was a selling point for Gerard. Assuming there was an actual sale.

"Thanks," Gerard says, sounding pleased; Frank guessed right. "It's pretty inspiring. Plus, no one ever comes out here, so I can be…private."

Frank heads over to the desk to ash his cigarette and then stares up at the nearest wall. Now that he knows what the disturbing images are, he's fascinated. It's a different art style from the published series; Gerard had hired a top artist to do the panels for the comics. But there are elements in common, in the rough, shifting lines of a clawed hand, a spine arched in terror. Frank's inner fanboy wants to pull out his phone and sneak a few photos of the raw sketches.

He has to shove that instinct down hard, along with the urge to babble praise and admiration. He limits himself to: "Your stuff's intense, man. You gave me nightmares with that last one."

"You've read my comics," Gerard says, and Frank glances over his shoulder to find Gerard right behind him.

He can't help the way his breath quickens. He knows he wasn't invited here, knows he should be apologizing and making a quick departure, but he doesn't actually want to. Not when the walls are covered in storylines he hasn't read yet, and Gerard is staring at him as if Frank is more fascinating than all those stories combined.

"So you didn't know I was up here?"

"Nah. Mikey never said why he kept coming out here. But he's taking care of you?"

Gerard smiles, the expression cagey. "He brings me what I need," Gerard says, and then asks, "Is that why you were snooping around?"

He doesn't sound angry, so Frank admits, "Yeah. I, uh…I liked the feel of the place. I just wanted to look around for a bit."

Gerard cocks his head to the side, considering Frank for a long moment. "Do you like to be scared, Frank?"

Frank snorts. If this is flirting, it's the worst line he's ever heard. Which makes sense, coming from a guy who's squatting in an abandoned nursing home. If he were at one of those too-crowded clubs, it would be hilarious, or pathetic, but he's not—he's here, in a spooky-ass house with the most interesting guy he's talked to in months. Hell, Frank would even call Gerard attractive if it weren't for that smell and his certainty that Gerard hasn't showered this week.

Gerard takes a sudden step forward into Frank's space, and Frank takes a step back before he thinks. Gerard smiles again, not nearly as friendly as a moment ago, and takes another step. Frank can't stop the prickle that runs up his spine, the inexplicable shiver of fear. Gerard's expression has transformed into something predatory, like the look he'd worn when he'd pinned Frank by the door.

"You do," Gerard says, following Frank's slow retreat all the way up to the wall. "You love it."

Frank shoves his bangs out of his face, takes a shaky drag off his cigarette, and flicks ash on a clear patch of floor. "Sure," he says on a puff of smoke. "Who doesn't? S'why I read your stuff."

Gerard's eyes light up—seriously, that weird glow is back. Frank glances over at the lamp, wondering how it's doing that trick, and then jumps when fingers close around his throat.

"Woah," he says, staring up at Gerard. His pulse is jack hammering for real now; the guy feels strong. But he looks excited, like Frank is the hottest thing he's ever seen, and a flush of answering heat runs over Frank's skin. "You," he starts, and has to clear his throat when Gerard presses his body up against Frank's. "You promised Mikey you'd be good," he says, trying to keep his tone light.

Gerard doesn't react to his words; he just keeps Frank trapped against the wall, breathing hard. Frank blinks when the light shifts, Gerard's eyes getting brighter and the room behind him getting darker, like the shadows are shifting, growing. He can't look away from Gerard's face, even though part of him wants to with an increasingly desperate nervousness. Because he's suddenly certain that Gerard's face is about to change, transform into something terrible, and his instincts are screaming at him not to watch. The papers around him rustle with quiet laughter, and Frank swallows hard, bracing himself for whatever's about to happen.

Gerard opens his mouth and…oh shit. Frank's knees nearly buckle.

What the fuck is up with his teeth?

Gerard smirks, and his hand slides around to the back of Frank's neck. "Do you want to run?" Gerard whispers, squeezing Frank's neck tight. "Want me to chase you? Hunt you down, catch you…."

Frank whimpers, his hips jerking helplessly at the images, adrenaline fizzing in his blood. A hard press of Gerard's thumb tilts Frank's head to the side, and Frank flashes to how crazy-fast Gerard moved before, his glowing eyes, the walls crawling with nightmares and spatters of blood, footsteps following him through the halls, and teeth ripping his throat out—

"I just need a taste," Gerard says, and ducks down and bites.

Frank wails.

It hurts, the quick stab of teeth, hot breath, sharp nails digging into the back of his neck, and Gerard's hip pushing hard against Frank's cock, perfect pressure. Frank's getting hard even as a cold feeling spreads through his limbs, his fingers going numb where they're gripping Gerard's dirty t-shirt, and he closes his eyes as the shadows drink him down.

 

~

 

A low-hanging branch scrapes the roof of his car, and Frank startles, his grip tightening on the steering wheel. He can barely keep his eyes open as he drives over potholes and clumps of wet leaves. He's freezing cold, but there's a slow buzzing in his veins and the copper taste of his own blood warm in his mouth.

The sky is grey with imminent dawn, and Frank blinks as he takes it in, tries to process. He doesn't know where the last six hours went, how he got back to his car, or whose Misfits CD is playing on his stereo. But there are a few scraps of memory, snapshots of the night he can remember when his eyes drift shut: Gerard's lips on his; Gerard's hands on his body; Gerard's voice saying….

Frank can't drive with his eyes closed, no matter how badly he wants to. He turns the music up louder, hoping that will help, but his eyelids are heavy, and it's so dim in the shadows. There's something Gerard said, his mouth wet on Frank's ear, and Frank can feel the words brushing his skin if he concentrates hard enough. If he closes his eyes to listen.

Come back tomorrow night.

Frank shivers.