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The Aftermath of the Infamous Imposter

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"Call me when you get to Boston, dog. I want to hear everything," Alpha stuck his hands in his pockets and smirked at his best friend. Livingston was decked out in the colours of Harvard, ready to start another part of his life. They'd had their ups and downs, they'd eaten their way through a lot of pie, they'd survived the Frankie issue; dogs for life.

"You know I will, dog," Livingston grinned and smacked Alpha on his shoulder. A black BMW pulled up to the curb and stopped. "This is my ride."

The door shut and the car drove off, taking with it Alpha's closest friend, brother and peace keeper. Despite Alpha's sure intelligence, he hadn't applied himself properly towards his final exams. It was a stupid move on his part, and he knew it. Either way he had to face the consequences of his actions; in school and in what he was about to do.

 

Alpha's phone buzzed in his pocket as he made his way through the familiar streets surrounding Alabaster. It was late, and the stars were drowned out by the light pollution in the town. Large neon signs were set up to attract customers into their dwelling, but all that Alpha wanted to do was walk in the opposite direction.

Alpha hesitantly looked at the message. 'I'm here. Booth to the right.' Slipping his phone back in his pocket, he turned the corner and approached the ice-cream parlour on the high street, hands in his pockets, straight standing posture, head held high. It was all an illusion of prowess, of course. The one person he was going to see was the last person he'd ever wanted to see again, but as the Basset's President he had a certain responsibility. The door bell rang out loudly in Alpha's ears as he entered the dimly lit, 1950's diner styled ice-cream parlour. The top of her head caught his eye immediately, and he prepared himself for the shitstorm that approached him.

Alpha slid into the booth opposite her. It was impossible for him not to look directly at her; after all he'd been the one that started their first conversation; he'd been ogling, obviously. It was true that she was beautiful, in that subdued, evil genius kind of way. Her long hair flowed over her shoulders elegantly and the way she held herself was always strong, dominating. Alpha knew she was trouble from the first moment he'd seen her, but no one, not even him, had seen what was coming.

Frankie sat with her hands in her lap and her back straight, directly facing Alpha. If they'd been in a different setting it would have looked as if she were interviewing him for an office job. Her eyes pierced through him with such ease that it was frightening, but Alpha wouldn't allow himself to look away, no matter how much it annoyed him that she could penetrate through his exterior that easily. Frankie coughed and shifted her weight, bringing her hands up to rest on the table top. "So-,"

"You know why I'm here. Let's get this over with already, bunny-rabbit," Alpha interrupted, glaring at Frankie, his eyes washing over her features, her neck, the way her fingers curled.

"Now that's not very nice, is it? You could at least ask me how my summer's been," Frankie smiled slyly, but reached round and grabbed something from her back pocket. The package was worn and tattered, about the size of a small notebook. Alpha reached out confidently and picked up the package, tossing it around in his grasp.

"Great," He went to stand up and leave.

"Wait-," Frankie demanded. Her imperative attitude had grown over the summer, along with her intelligence, probably. Alpha stopped where he was on the edge of the booth. "Don't you want to know why he even gave it back to me? After I confessed?" Alpha knew her, he knew her game, and her ways. This wasn't typical Frankie. In fact, this was a trick, or a tease, or a cry for help. Frankie wasn't one to question what people thought, he knew her active status in Alabaster's feminist and societal politics groups, and of course debate club. But this was different; Frankie was trying and failing to cling onto that legacy of last year, that thrill of disguise, of lying to the secret society on campus.

She had to be the smartest person in the room. She had to be the mysterious girl in the red dress.

Alpha couldn't help but smile. He turned his body round and leaned across the table, closing the gap between the two of them. "You've lost your touch, Banks," Alpha peered into her soul in an attempt to divulge her secrets, but got stuck in front of her thick shell. He backed away from her, the smile still on his lips, and got up once more. Alpha turned towards the door and took a step, but stopped when he was in line with her, still sitting in the booth. "I've outgrown your games, Frankie." Alpha whispered. "We all have."

 

"Did you go to counselling today?" Zada asked down the phone. Frankie lay on her bed, twiddling her thumbs, the phone pressed under her ear.

"Yes. Doctor Dolittle and I had a great discussion," Frankie spoke, uninterested.

"Why do you even call him that?" Zada tusked, annoyed at her younger sister. Frankie had been told to go to counselling by her after she was found out, her criminal status around Alabaster becoming concrete. Anyone who messes with the dogs is immediately dropped, made out to be non-existent; the whole ordeal was stuck in Frankie's head and wouldn't give her a break.

"It seems to me that everyone around here thinks I'm an animal, so why not my therapist?" Frankie sighed, just waiting for her sister's response. Zada breathed on the other side of the line and Frankie closed her eyes.

"You need to get those stupid dogs out of your head. What were they? Beagles?"

"Bassets," She kept her eyes closed.

"Stop thinking about what Dad said," Frankie opened her eyes.

"Okay,"

"Don't overthink things," Zada listed.

"Okay,"

"Stay away from Alpha," Frankie winced.

"Okay."

"I love you, Frances."

Frankie hung up the phone and bundled under her duvet. It was just like Zada to call her after something big, even though she didn't know. Sure, she knew about Alpha, but she used to hang out with him when she was at Alabaster, and Matthew. She knew his character. Alpha was the only aspect Frankie could talk to Zada about; she'd told her sister about him after he'd texted her to get the Disreputable History back. Frankie could have kept it, but what would be the point in that? She'd already lost the battle.

And she'd made a copy for herself, anyway.

But that was beside the point; keeping the History would mean keeping in touch with the Bassett's. And Frankie had learned to stay away from them, even if she didn't want to give up the idea of being part of something so secretive and elite. Every bone in her body craved to go back to last year and relive all the meaningful plans she'd created, all the devious ways she'd tricked the dogs, even the Alpha dog himself.

Frankie smothered her face with her pillow; she needed to stop living in the past. Or it would consume her entirely.

 

Trish grabbed Frankie's hand as they sat down in the chapel for the first assembly back. Junior year was ahead of them; it was time to knuckle down and get it done. Despite using her to get Artie's keys to infiltrate places around Alabaster, and for the general shitty-friend she'd been, Trish had stuck around. It's true that the students and faculty at Alabaster hadn't taken well to her small 'pranks', and in her one-to-one with the Headmaster was told that it 'gave the school a bad name' and 'made a mockery out of the board of Governors'. During that time Frankie simply remembered back to the Library Lady, and how fetching the portrait of the man sitting in front to her looked with a bright pink brassiere.

"Welcome back everyone..." And so it began. Another year at Alabaster. It brought struggles and trouble with it, things that Frankie was all too familiar with nowadays. But Doctor Dolittle had told her to think of situations in a more positive light to relieve stress. So to Frankie, this was simply another year of not being a bunny-rabbit.

Alpha sat at the back with the other seniors, which now included Dean. To some teachers it came as no surprise that Alpha had failed a lot of his finals, but to the dogs? It was unheard of. He was their fearless leader, the smartest one of them all. Though he'd got caught up in keeping up appearances; Alpha wouldn't disagree if someone believed he'd done something amazing, even if he hadn't. That was his downfall.

Complex as he was, Alpha had one weakness; power. He hated being wrong, he hated being thought of as inferior, he hated not being able to deliver. People expected things from him, whether that's smarts, plans for unforgettable pranks or his reputation as a complete ladies man. Frankie had learned to stop expecting things from people. She expected Matthew to understand her thoughts and feelings and what she wanted. She expected Trish to leave her. She expected Alpha to never talk to her again.

She was wrong, about them all.

 

After the assembly, Porter Welsh approached Alpha. He'd grown over summer, in height and hierarchy. His status as the top scorer in sophomore finals was a prominent one, though Alpha couldn't help but laugh at the extra credit he'd earned by infiltrating the Basset's.

"Hey, Alpha." Porter smiled politely and stuck his hands in his pockets, awkward silence filling the space around them. Alpha mimicked his movements.

"Hello, traitor," Alpha smiled smugly. Porter had sold out the Basset's, sent by the Headmaster to gain extra credit in a class he was failing. How pathetic, to send a student to keep tabs on a group of boys fulfilling the history that created part of Alabaster's legacy.

"I expected that from you," Porter sighed and laughed under his breath.

"Great, give yourself a pat on the back," Alpha retorted. He wasn't going to go easy on this kid after what he'd done.

"You know I may be a traitor, but not about everything. I didn't give away the name or anything, or the guys involved," As soon as he'd said it he wished he'd retracted it. It sounded like what he did was justified, and to Alpha it would never be.

"If you came here to make me forgive you then you are barking up the wrong fucking tree entirely, Welsh."

"Well that's good, because I'm not here to beg for your forgiveness," Porter spoke matter-of-factly, shifting his weight hesitantly. Alpha crossed his arms and looked at him, disgusted. "I'm here about Frankie." Alpha could have slapped him right there for bringing her up in front of him. He'd been trying to repress the fact that he'd seen her again to get back the History; it was embarrassing. The dogs would definitely look down at him.

Alpha couldn't ignore the fact that his heart had jolted at the mention of her name. Since he first met her, she'd been unforgettable. Her actions from last year tipped the scale, and now she was on his mind 24/7, despite his constant attempts to forget about her completely. It was impossible. He still suspected her, he was still suspicious of what she was thinking, what she might be plotting. It was clear that she'd suffered more after being found out, and that's not including the colossal burn all the way up her left arm. She even wore long sleeves in direct sunlight.

Alpha breathed through his nose and calmed his adrenaline filled body. He waited for Porter to continue, staring blank faced at him in annoyance.

"Or, well, more specifically you and Frankie." Alpha's eyes widened. Porter couldn't have seen them at the ice-cream parlour that night, could he? It was late, and the other side of town, two days before the first day back. He couldn't have witnessed it. "I'm worried for your well-being,"

Alpha tried to stop himself laughing out loud, but the breath got hitched in his throat and he erupted into loud giggles, a few tears forming in his eyes. "You're telling me you came here to check up on me? To see if I was alright? To see if she was getting to me?" Alpha choked back more tears and exhaled, hands on hips squeezing into his ribs. "God, Porter. As if I'd fucking talk to you about anything," Alpha wiped his eyes and his face changed from carefree back to disgusted.

"Yeah, and believe me I totally get that," Porter looked down, then to the left, back towards the entrance of the chapel. "But even after all this time I still think about her," Alpha followed Porter's eye line, and there she was.

 

Frankie stood with Trish, riffling through her bag for her schedule. "I don't know," Frankie said, emerging with a folded piece of paper. "Is it not too short?" Frankie stroked her hair and looked towards Trish for reassurance. The day after Zada's call, she'd gone to the hairdressers and cut her hair to an inch below her ears. She hadn't had her hair that short in years.

"No, it honestly suits you so much. It's gorgeous," Trish smiled and looked around at the crowds coming out of the chapel. "Hey, isn't that Porter?" Frankie looked to where Trish was pointing. She ceased to breathe. "I didn't recognise him, he looks so different," Trish turned away.

Alessandro Tesorieri caught eyes with Frankie, but didn't move. They both stared at each other for what felt like years.

 

Porter sighed. "It can't just be me," He turned away from Alpha. "There's just something about her that I can't figure out," He walked away, leaving Alpha and Frankie frozen in last year.

Alpha turned away after five minutes and immediately began speed walking to his dorm room. Porter was right.

There was something about her that invaded your brain so that it revolved around her. Alpha was sure she'd become a legend, the legend of Frances Landau-Banks. Lies and deception followed her wherever she went. Boys drooled and fell to the floor when she walked past. A devious mastermind disguised as a bunny-rabbit. And no matter how hard he tried he couldn't forget her. He couldn't stay away from her.

In his free, Alpha opened up his laptop and sat on his email for ten minutes before finally typing in her fake email address.

< alessandrotesorieri@gmail.com
> thealphadog@gmail.com

Banks,

It seems I'm still suspicious. I need proof of your promises.

Front Porch this evening?

- A

After he sent it, he regretted it. What about Livingston? The dogs?

Shutting his laptop and internally hating himself, Alpha wished that he'd never hit on her on that boardwalk in the first place.

This was the beginning of the end for him.

Chapter Text

Frankie paced her room, distracted. This had to be a prank, right? The President just acting his duty, surly? It was ironic, she'd gone from the master behind the prank to the victim of it; all within the space of one thrown bowl from Matthew Livingston. How was she even supposed to reply to this?

< alessandrotesorieri@gmail.com
> thealphadog@gmail.com

Banks,

It seems I'm still suspicious. I need proof of your promises.

Front Porch this evening?

- A

"What are you planning, Alpha?" Frankie muttered under her breath, pulling out her desk chair and sitting rigidly, her head full of unanswered questions and suspicions. Was it bad that she wanted to say yes? Frankie decided that, yes, it was bad. She'd promised Zada she'd steer clear of him, she'd promised herself to stay away. It simply cemented her crappy ability to keep up a promise.

Frankie checked the time; it was 4 o'clock, the start of seventh period. All classes finished by 5 o'clock. That meant she probably had about three hours to figure out what to reply, and if she were going, three hours to get ready for anything Alpha was going to throw at her. She didn't know the true extent of Alpha's Bassett abilities; well, he hadn't had the chance to show them with her around. This was his chance to prove himself worthy of the Presidency that all his dogs believed he was. I mean, it couldn't be anything else, could it?

< thealphadog@gmail.com
> alessandrotesorieri@gmail.com

Alessandro,

Meet at 7pm. Get the table near the bird bath.

Do I need to bring my armour?

- Frankie

She sent the email and held her breathe until she felt quite faint. Trish bombarded through the door like a truck, her face bright red and hair tussled. She breathed heavily and stomped her feet, like a bull ready to charge. Frankie jumped up as fast as she could, which ended up being a bit slow considering her dizziness. "God, Trish. What happened to you?"

"That stupid blonde haired, 'California surfer' looking, scumbag," Trish dropped her bag and herself onto her bed. Frankie planted her self at the foot and shuffled forward, flicking Trish's hair off of her heated face.

"Alpha?" Frankie questioned.

"Yeah, Alpha, or whatever they call him," Trish sighed, closing her eyes and breathing through her nose. "I don't know who did it, but it was his group for sure,"

"What did they do, Trish? Did they harass you or something?" If Alpha had so much of laid a finger on Trish, he wouldn't have been able to escape Frankie's wrath. Was he honestly targeting her own friends now? Was he seriously trying to turn her into a bigger loner, making her out to be the most unapproachable person that Alabaster had ever homed? God, he was seriously pathetic; more pathetic than Frankie had first thought. This was so much more than that fucking frozen custard.

"No, not me. Artie. They stole his set of keys in plain sight and denied they'd done it. Alpha said something smart and, well, you know me when it comes to Artie. Let's just say I got, really, really mad," Trish raised her hands and started fanning her face to cool herself down. Frankie leaned against the wall and took in her words carefully, different scenarios flashed through her head.

1) Alpha was plotting a large 'welcome back' prank, using all his dogs as assistants. They'd make their way around the school and set traps in every classroom, office and faculty used space. Perhaps the Basset's would come back in style by marking their territory. 2) Basset initiations. Sure, it should traditionally be jumping into the pond naked, but Alpha has never been one for tradition. Frankie made up countless scenarios, each one seeming less likely than the other, but she honestly didn't know why Alpha would need those keys.

And she wanted to know.

God, she wanted to know. If she didn't find out that evening then she would find out in other ways.

"Can't Artie report them?" Frankie pressed on, trying to gage the information.

"You know Artie, he doesn't like conflict. He kept trying to tell me to calm down," Trish got up from her bed and stretched, tying her mop of hair in a small ponytail. "Besides, he doesn't want to piss off Alpha. Everyone knows what happened last year," she looked warily at Frankie and put on a small smile. Frankie delivered one back. "I'm going to take a shower and get the stench of utter hatred off of me," Frankie chuckled to herself and shuffled off of Trish's bed back to her desk, her fingers tapping the wood impatiently.

The door to the bathroom clicked and Frankie got up her email account once more. There was a reply from Alpha already;

< alessandrotesorieri@gmail.com
> thealphadog@gmail.com

You think I'm going to try something? That's cute. You know I'm a gentleman, Banks.

They'll be a pink lemonade waiting on your side of the table.

- A

Frankie furrowed her eyebrows at his reply; he was totally flirting, wasn't he? Was this part of his prank?

One minute Alpha never wanted to talk to her, and the next he's hitting on her again? Maybe having Livingston around wouldn't have been so bad, he would have kept Alpha in check around her. He wouldn't have met up with her to get the Disreputable History back in the the first place. She tread carefully while writing back to him, not wanting to be seen as gullible or naive.

< thealphadog@gmail.com
> alessandrotesorieri@gmail.com

I prefer root beer.

Oh, and I heard about Artie and Trish. Mess with them again and things may go wrong for you, Alpha.

I mean it. They're my friends. Enough.

Frankie sent the email and logged off, knowing that Alpha would probably not reply to that blatant threat, but she didn't care; she'd made her point clear. Frankie waited for Trish to get out of the bathroom and decided to shower, too. Preparations were in order for the evening; Frankie had to be ready.

 

Alpha got the table by the bird bath and placed Frankie's root beer down opposite him. The Front Porch was unusually quiet for the first day back; usually students would hang out there in the evening and play pool in the lower room. Maybe something else had grabbed their attention. Alpha had tried his best to plan the evening out. They'd talk, Frankie would automatically suspect something was up with him, and maybe something was under the surface.

Alpha couldn't shake his craving to know what she was thinking, what went on inside her head. Her pranks, her planning; it was amazing what she'd achieved last year. Psychopathic and crazy, but amazing. Making their meeting so out in the open was more of an attempt to remind Alpha to stay away from her; meeting somewhere private and secluded again would make everything too real again, which is not what he wanted.

Or was it?

Was it possible that Alpha missed the events of last year? Missed the thrill of finding the History, the chase after the culprit that stole his identity, the capture and the reveal; Alpha felt a pang of nostalgia that cut straight through his chest. He missed Livingston. He missed their adventures. He missed Frankie.

Alpha sat, his head resting on his hand, completely zoned out in the memories of last year. Frankie sat down in front of him, slowly. His eyes focused and she came into view; the sun shone behind her and silhouetted her figure. Her short hair looked wispy in the low light and Alpha thought it suited her; made her look less thin. He raised his head up and smiled at her across the table, her face coming into light. She curled her hands around the root beer and popped the top, taking a sip.

"Obedient, aren't you. Are you turning over a new leaf?" She chuckled at her own joke and placed her hands on the table top. Alpha thought back to two days before at the ice-cream parlour. She'd changed over summer. She'd truly grown into her devious mind; her strong opinions and smug, intelligent voice shone through and made her appear different. Alpha tried to shake the only word he knew of how to describe her out of his head; desirable.

"Perhaps I am," Alpha snatched the drink from her grasp and took a slow sip, taking his time to survey the bottle in his hands. "Or not." Frankie frowned at him, her eyes searching for something on his face.

"What's this about, Alpha? What's with this sudden decision to 'make up and be kind of acquaintances again'?" She looked serious, and Alpha knew she wasn't going to leave without an answer.

He scoured his mind for an answer which didn't give away his utter fascination with Frankie; his complete interest and craving to be around her again; his desire to plot Basset Hound plans with her; to get a glimpse of the ideas she had in her mind, sitting on a shelf and barred from the world after being caught. They sat in silence, each participant surveying the other for an answer as to why they were sat opposite each other once more, talking about a situation that needed to stay in the past.

Frankie looked at him with the same curiosity and hurt from the second time they'd ever met. Alpha could accept that being a Basset, or the girlfriend of someone keeping secrets from her would be extremely difficult to comprehend. In her mind, Frankie did everything she could to make sure her and Livingston stayed together somehow. It wasn't her fault that their group was so elite; and for the first time since Alpha had joined Alabaster he knew; he had excluded her; he had been possessive over Livingston; in a way, he had caused everything to happen.

There it was; his weakness. Power over person. Possession over kindness. Was that really what the Bassett's stood for?

Frankie's question circulated his mind and Alpha found himself stuck between the Basset's or the truth. She took another sip of root beer and waited patiently as Alpha thought. As they sat together, a group of three guys approached the entrance. They all looked big; sporty; and were so incredibly sweaty and red that they looked like they could have been lying in the midday Australian sun all day. They donned their normal clothes; no sports uniform.

"God, did you see Jameson? He was dancing like a nutter," The middle boy chuckled, spraying sweat over his friends who didn't seem to care very much.

"Yeah I did, I was squished between that red-head and the blonde. Think I have a chance with them, aye?" All the boys laughed and raised their eyebrows. They each bought a large bottle of cola and one of the boys went to the restroom. Alpha glanced at the two boys waiting for their friend. They weren't seniors, but didn't look young enough to be freshmen.

"Do you know those guys?" Alpha whispered at Frankie. She stopped fiddling with the root beer cap and looked at the two boys.

"Yeah, they're both in my calc," Frankie furrowed her eyebrows at the sweat seeping through both boys' t-shirts. "Why are they so..."

"Gross? I don't know," Alpha surveyed the boys once more, his eyes searching for any signs of what they could have been doing.

Sweat; it implied physical activity, but a lot of it in a crowd of people for them to have sweat that much. It was truly music festival worthy sweat that they were producing. Cola; a refreshing drink to give them more energy, or a mixer for alcoholic spirits. Dancing; girls; Alpha came to one conclusion. He turned to Frankie frantically.

"Did you get anything weird in your mail today? Like a letter? Or an invitation?" Alpha searched her surprised gaze for an answer. Frankie thought for a moment, before a devious smile came to light on her face.

"You don't think-,"

"That someone's throwing a party? Yeah, yeah I do," Alpha grinned just as wide and the two of them thought exactly the same thing; it was time to gatecrash.

 

Frankie and Alpha skulked by the edge of the forest that lead to the golf course neighbouring Alabaster. How surreal, being in the same place they'd been a year before, at the same time. Deja vu was becoming a common feeling for Frankie; and it scared her to think that she actually enjoyed it. Alpha squinted into the darkness while Frankie covered him, looking out for anyone walking close by.

"They definitely went this way," Frankie turned back towards him and caught his eye. They smiled in unison. Frankie rolled up her sleeves in the darkness.

"Let's go investigate then," She moved swiftly past Alpha and into the forest, the excitement of another mysterious adventure taking hold of them both and refusing to let go. Alpha followed, staying close to the silhouette that was Frankie Landau-Banks, ex-girlfriend of his best friend Matthew Livingston and renowned infamous imposter of the Order of the Bassett Hounds, Debate Club chairman and eater of overly strong garlic bread twists. She was brilliant in every way. And she was right in front of Alpha, invested in the same thing they've always been invested in.

And she was off limits to him. Off limits to everyone in the Order, now. Just like him to want the same thing he can never have.

Emerging from the trees, they saw the sight; a group of fifty or so people congregated on the ninth hole of the golf course. Kegs stood in the middle, with boys and girls both pouring their own drinks; bottles of vodka were being passed round, and the three lads that had bought cola were filling the remaining space in each of the vodka filled cups; speakers had been set up and a dance floor had been created by twenty or so of the guests jumping and colliding with each other to the left. Alpha knew this type of shindig well and the scene filled him with adrenaline. But who had organised it? And why didn't he know about it?

Frankie and Alpha decided to approach the party head on, or in Frankie's words 'create a commotion'. Alpha was in his element. His strides were intimidating and his hands comfortably in his pockets, his head held high and his jaw strong. This was his turf, and Frankie gazed upon him with admiration. Alpha stopped in front of the beer keg and smiled at all the guests, a few of which had stopped what they were doing and were simply staring at the both of them; Frankie recognised some of their faces, and a lot of them were the Basset's she has seen from last year. Her stomach dropped, as did Alpha's.

Alpha swallowed and held back his hurt. "Ladies and Gentlemen! I come baring questions; such as, what the fuck do you think you're doing?" The music stopped playing, and all the dogs stood up, one of them walking forward, a beer in his hand. It was Dean, ex-boyfriend of Star the annoying baby, Alpha's friend and newly turned Vice President of the Order.

"Dean? Mind explaining this to me, dog?" His voiced was raspy and you could tell Alpha was holding back an explosion of rage. He looked like a true Alpha, but why were some of the dogs giggling to themselves at the unhappiness of their leader?

"Not at all," Dean's honey-toned voice spoke, and shivers went down Frankie's spine. Dean etched closer to Alpha, their noses almost touching, conflict fast approaching. "You always told me I was a good member, remember? Well, I went finally above and beyond your expectations, Alpha. You're looking at the new appointed President of the Basset Hounds."

The air was still with the cold-cast cloud that had appeared over Alpha's head. All that Frankie could do was watch in horror as Dean gathered the dogs together in front of him. It was the pack against one. The party members held their breath.

"You've been overthrown, Alpha. You're out."

Chapter Text

"Callum?" Alpha looked towards another fellow Basset. Callum looked down at his shoes at the sound of his name. Dean kept his gaze on Alpha, knowing that the other Basset's were aware of this change in authority.

Alpha racked his mind for words to say, but found nothing. Dean had converted them all onto his side, completely, leaving Alpha in the dirt to fend for himself; like a true pack of wolves. If you'd ask anyone, they'd never believe that Alessandro would be overthrown; he was a king, someone that others looked up to, or were intimidated by. That was no more. Frankie grabbed his arm gently and dragged him away from the golf course, eyes straight forward, minds full of questions.

How had Alpha, the true leader, been kicked off the throne in the blink of an eye?
How had Dean, a newly turned senior and former apprentice of the Alpha dog, managed to convince every single dog to praise him instead?

These questions raced through Frankie's mind as she walked Alpha back to his dorm room, feeling a strange sense of deja vu towards the whole situation. For she, as the fake Alpha, knew how it felt to be overthrown; cast out; alone. They reached Alpha's dorm room and Frankie stood patiently, waiting for him to say something, anything. Alpha simply opened the door and skulked inside silently, unable to comprehend what had just happened, unable to understand why Dean would do this to him, unable to find the right emotions to convey what he thought.

"Alpha-," before Frankie could get a word out, Alpha had shut his door on her, leaving her alone in the corridor of the boys dorm.

 

Trish and Frankie walked into the cafeteria together on the Thursday after last weeks fiasco. Alessandro Tesorieri had appeared in lessons since, but had not been seen elsewhere around campus or off site. It had been almost a week, yet he still stayed confined to his dorm room, doing whatever an overthrown leader would do. "You know you can tell me if something is wrong, right? I'm your roommate, Frankie." Trish began, picking at her salad.

"I know, thank you. But nothing's wrong. I'm just tired," Frankie replied, trying to seem as if nothing was on her mind. She was glad she had Trish; a true friend through thick and thin. But for the first time since she was caught, she wanted someone else;

Matthew Livingston.
The Matthew Livingston; her ex-boyfriend and exceedingly intelligent, peaceful and beautiful boy. Alpha's best friend who had gone on to better and brighter things while he stayed, stuck in place for another year of his life.

"You've got that weird look in your eye, Frankie." Trish stared at her, brows furrowed.

"I have stuff to sort out, Trish. I'll text you later," and with that, Frankie rushed out of the cafeteria and headed for her dorm room.

Zada Landau-Banks breathed down the phone line. "If you're 100% sure, then go for it. You have good intuition, Frankie."

"But what about Alpha? Can you even imagine what he's feeling like? He may take it as me pitying him,"

"Well, don't you?" Frankie thought for a moment. Did she pity Alpha enough to contact the one person on earth that honestly never wanted to hear from her again? Or was it something else?

Frankie took a breath. "No. I don't pity him," she tapped her thigh and leaned her head back against the wall. "I empathise with him."

"Then you know what to do." Frankie could sense her sister's smile on the line and took comfort in her words. "I love you, Frances."

Frankie let her short hair fall in natural waves and refrained from wearing any make-up; the day was hot and she didn't need the added stress of sweating off her foundation. Besides, she didn't want to appear like she'd planned her outfit (which she had done) or thought out what she was going to say (which she, also, had done). She wore a casual jeans and shirt combo, her small purse hung nicely on her shoulder. She surveyed herself in the mirror and thought she looked nice, but older. It had been almost six months since she'd last seen Matthew, or even spoken to him, or even seen him.

And now she had arranged to meet him. To help Alpha.

Compared to her interactions of last year, she'd performed a complete 'U' turn; willingly. How odd.

She took a longer route to the coffee shop on the high street, walking around the parks that surrounded Alabaster and the suburbs. Leaves were just beginning to change colour, ready for their travels to the ground below for homeowners to wrack off of their lawns. The humidity would have been unbearable if it weren't for the slight breeze that caressed Frankie's skin and left her with pleasant goosebumps.

They'd agreed to meet at noon; it was five past. Matthew Livingston was late. And Frankie knew it was on purpose. She knew because she'd had the same thought to arrive after the set time and leave him sat at the table guessing where she was, nervousness circulating through his body, uncomfortableness surging through his bones. But despite her actions, she wasn't cruel. And Matthew didn't deserve her treating him that way after agreeing to meet in the first place.

The door creaked open and in he walked. Frankie looked down at her coffee, stirring the spoon clumsily and messing up the froth, her heart beat increasing by the second, her neck starting to prick as he sat himself down next to her; the chair scraped nosily across the floor and filled the air with static.

Matthew Livingston looked different. He'd changed his glasses lenses to retro turtle shell, which made him appear more (Frankie didn't want to think indie, but she did) angular. His shoulders had broadened out even more, and it looked like he'd been working out; he'd lost weight around his torso. The only thing that had remained the same about him was his hair, and his resting expression which made him look like he was constantly in deep thought. There was another new aspect; a brand new Superman shirt hung on his frame.

He was nineteen now; she was sixteen. They were truly worlds away from each other; how had Frankie not noticed sooner?

Matthew coughed, and placed his hands on the table. "Hey," He spoke in a raspy tone and coughed once more. Frankie looked up at his face; sweat was brimmed around his face, giving the illusion that he were a polished marble statue. She would have believed it if he'd been painted in white all over. But the reality was that Matthew Livingston was nervous; truly nervous to see her and speak to her again.

"Hello, stranger," Frankie spoke, smiling after her little joke. It seemed to put both of them at ease, and Matthew reclined more comfortably in his chair.

"It must be pretty serious then," He began, pushing his glasses further onto his nose with his middle finger. "If you had to contact me, I mean."

Frankie leant forward and looked deep into Matthew's eyes, trying to communicate the severity of recent events. Her eyebrows furrowed, and she tucked her hair behind her ear. "You knew more than anyone the attitude Alpha and I had towards to each other. I wouldn't be asking you if it wasn't this bad, because it is." Matthew glued his eyes on hers, flicking from right to left in interest and understanding.

"Tell me what's happened then. From the start."

Alpha's phone rang. He let it ring.

It rang once more and he turned his head in annoyance, but let it ring.

The shrill ring sounded once more, and Alpha jumped up with rage and picked up the phone on the second ring. "What is it?"

"Hey, dog," Livingston hesitated down the phone. "You okay?"

"Jeez, Matthew. I'm sorry, dog," Alpha slumped on his bed, his hand holding his head. "There's just, a lot going on."

"Yeah, about that-," Livingston began, but stopped as someone whispered to him on the other line. They murmured, thinking that Alpha couldn't hear, but a voice cut through the static; Frankie Landau-Banks.

"A-are? Are you with Banks?" Alpha whispered and the line grew silent. The phone scuffed and Alpha was getting to the end of his tether. He gets overthrown and now, Matthew and Frankie have met up with each other? Without him?

"Alpha. Get off your depressed ass and come to Yuno's coffee shop, right now," Frankie demanded down the phone, her voice sharp and strong. Alpha was seething, teeth grinding, fists clenched, seething.

"You listen here, Banks. What the fuck are you-," The phone went dead. She'd hung up on him.

Alpha sat in silence, trying to calm himself down, before slipping on his jacket calmly and leaving his room, heading for Yuno's.

Frankie gave Matthew back his phone and slumped in her chair; they sat in silence, Matthew comprehending something to say about how she'd just spoken to his friend, as if she had some sort of authority over him. When he thought back to last year and the way they acted around each other, something did seem off to Livingston. After Frankie brought up the fact that they might have met, Alpha immediately shrugged it off; no joke, no sparky banter from the Alpha dog. Could they actually have met each other before Matthew had met Frankie?

"How can you talk to him like that?" Matthew blurted out, struggling to control the questions racing through his mind from pouring out of his mouth.

"How can I talk to anyone, Matthew? If I can't be the least bit authoritative?" Frankie chuckled to herself. She'd really grown into her skin. Apart from the burn on her arm that she still chose to ignore and act like it wasn't there, etched on her very body. For the first time since outing her, Matthew felt bad. How much shit had she had to deal with for wanting to be a Basset? For trying to figure out why he was keeping secrets from her? Even he'd been paranoid about Porter; he couldn't imagine how she could have felt.

Matthew scratched his head. Frankie Landau-Banks was a marvel.

How had he not realised this when they were going out? They'd never have the intimacy that they had before; that was obvious. But Matthew found that, during their time apart, he'd actually missed her. Her presence, her smell, the aura she gave out when she was speaking about something passionate to her, the way she held herself upright, despite her built up reputation around the school.

"Guess I was the one that needed to grow up," Matthew muttered under his breath.

"Hmm?" Frankie furrowed her brows, searching his eyes for something.

"Er, want another drink? Coffee?" Livingston shuffled through his pockets for his wallet as the door to Yuno's opened.

"I'd love one," Alpha slid a chair across the floor and dropped himself into it, hood up, hands in pockets; he looked...

Defeated.
Useless.
Alone.

Frankie and Matthew glanced at each other warily at the sight of their Alpha, as a way to further confirm that yeah; it was that bad. Matthew got up and ordered the drinks; Frankie glanced hesitantly at Alpha, trying to portray her emotions onto him, trying to show him she knew what it felt like, but Alpha didn't look up, didn't move his body apart from the soothing up and down motion of his breathing; she'd never seen him this immobile.

Matthew sat back down with their tray of drinks, glancing at Alpha in almost exactly to same way as Frankie; except his was a pitying stare.

"Frankie told me everything, dog. I don't know why Dean would do this," Matthew tapped his coffee mug, trying to find the right words to make his best friend feel better.

"Did he ever show signs of, I don't know, wanting to be President last year?" Frankie asked gently. Alpha hunched even more forward in an aggressive manner.

"You mean you weren't spying on us enough to notice any change in his behaviour?" It was sarcasm. But nevertheless, Alpha's words tore through Frankie like a steak knife. She took a sharp breath in and flicked her eyes towards Matthew quickly.

"Come on, dog. We're just trying to help-,"

"Yeah, well don't bother. I don't need pity from the only two people on this earth that know me best. Pity is what you get from your mom when you scrape your knee skateboarding, or when you get dumped, not when you get overthrown from the one placement that was actually going well for you." Alessandro Tesorieri pushed up from his chair suddenly and made for the door.

"You have the History," Frankie spoke calmly. Alpha stopped in his tracks, the door half way open. Matthew's shocked face looked from Frankie to Alpha and back again; like a tennis match. Frankie stretched her arms and cracked her knuckles deviously as Alpha quickly returned to his seat, as if nothing had happened.

"What are you suggesting, Banks?" he whispered; his breathing erratic and deep; his expression devoid.

"You don't need me to explain, do you, Alessandro?" she smirked playfully at him as Livingston watched their interaction. It was so obvious; they'd met before Frankie had met Matthew.

"I could use an explanation," Matthew chimed in, his shoulders hunched. "Since when did you have the History, dog?"

"Gosh, Matthew. You're so slow," Frankie butted in. "Alpha asked me for it back and I obliged, like a good little puppy dog." Frankie was now in her element; it was both amazing and terrifying to witness. You could see the cogs working in her brain, thinking up another important-message-portraying prank, or figuring out her next smart retort; it made Matthew jealous that he'd never been a good Basset. Ideas for mischievous plans didn't come to him naturally; his brain was more suited to editorial aspects, to recognising a ground-breaking article from a mile away, not entertaining, campus mind games. "So," she hunched herself closer to Alpha, the desire to create a mess in her eyes. "What's our next step?"

"Figuring out why Dean did it," Matthew interrupted. "We need to know the cause."

"I know why," Alpha bounced his leg restlessly. "After everyone found out Frankie had been pretending to be me, they immediately pegged me as a failure. You know how the pack feels about a weakling. It was, kinda, a matter of time. That's why I got the History back," He breathed in and out, self-hatred emanating from his very being. "I was going to gain inspiration for something, something so much bigger and better than what Banks had thought of. But I wasn't fast enough."

"What about the Artie's keys?" Frankie questioned. "The ones the dogs stole the other day."

"I had nothing to do with that. Must admit your email was slightly accusatory in my direction," He raised an eyebrow, the hint of a laugh on his lips for a second.

"That means they're planning something of their own," Matthew shut his eyes in thought. All three of them were hunched over the table, their faces so close they could feel each others breath. Perhaps some kind of telepathy would kick in, if they kept themselves in those positions, perhaps a plan would arise quicker. But to Alpha there was only one option on the cards; and it wasn't something he was proud to admit.

Yet, it was something he was dying to see up close and personal, something he was willing to kill for to be a part of.

Livingston sensed his best friend's thoughts, and found that they were the ones circulating his own mind; they'd probably be Frankie's thoughts too.

Alpha took another deep breath in and shot up from his hunched position, triggering the other two to copy. Without warning, Alpha grabbed Frankie's hands in his, eyes glued onto hers in desperation and admiration, trying to cling onto the only dignity he had left at that current time. Frankie's shocked face soon dissipated into a smug smile; she knew what was up.

"Frankie Landau-Banks, you crazy ass, psycho bitch, who also doubles as one of the most intelligent people I have ever met," Matthew sat uncomfortably as Alpha slipped his soul onto the table, but found that he agreed with everything his friend was saying. "I am literally begging, like, literally, I'm supplicating you right now."

"Will you devise the most precise, spectacularly indescribable, utterly mind-boggling, beautiful plan of 'get Alpha back on his thrown', with no survivors?"

Frankie smiled. "I thought you'd never ask."

Chapter Text

"You didn't fly all the way from Boston just for this, did you?" Alpha asked Livingston, a smirk on his lips.

Matthew chuckled. "Oh, you so know I would have done, dog," Alpha had missed his friend, his best friend, and now here he was again. "My mom insists I come back the last weekend of each month so I, quote, 'don't forget about them'." Alpha laughed to himself, remembering the memory of spending the summer holidays one year with Livingston's family and having his mother baby both of them beyond the realm of personal space. It dawned on Alpha - had it really already been a month since the start of the semester?

"Time flies by." Alpha whispered to himself, and Matthew nodded in agreement. It was odd to think that Matthew didn't attend Alabaster anymore, that they now belonged to different worlds; a world where Alpha was closer to Frankie. Alpha cringed suddenly, "Oh, God,"

"What, dog? You okay?"

"It just dawned on me that I subjected people to three plus weeks of moping around before you showed up." Alpha internally slapped himself. Even if he wasn't the President anymore, that didn't mean he shouldn't act like one.

Frankie sat back down in her seat, a fresh coffee in her hand and a plate of three cookies in the other. "Yes, and it wasn't particularly pretty to witness." Frankie giggled to herself, her eyes locking onto Alpha's in a way that said 'it wasn't your fault'. Alpha looked away, embarrassed slightly at the fact that Frankie was still over two years younger than him, but equal in, if not more, intelligence and wit as himself. When it came to maturity; she won by a landslide. When it came to understanding; she was God. Alpha inhaled deeply and stretched in his chair; his mind ready to conjure up a plan to blow the Basset's out of the water and back into their cages.

"So, where do we begin?" impatience spread across Alpha's body like wildfire. Frankie surveyed him and proceeded to take a very slow sip of her coffee, then dipping her finger into the froth and licking it off her finger; excruciatingly slowly. "Banks." Alpha spoke again, and her eyes twitched in their sockets.

"First, we eat a cookie each," Alpha's jaw could have dropped open at her annoying relaxed tone. "Then, we get to business."

In a split second, Alpha scoffed all three cookies down his gullet, choking loudly, until they were quietly asked to leave Yuno's by the barista. "You're beyond me, Alessandro." Frankie huffed, fast walking down the sidewalk back to school. Matthew gawked as Alpha accepted her name choice for him, but kept up their pace until they reached the street corner rounding to Alabaster.

"Hey, guys. This is where I jump off the walking bus," Livingston yelled slightly, his face flushed with confusion, alongside the thought that he'd been somewhat third-wheeling the group. Alpha turned and gleamed at his friend, an appreciative and nostalgic look in his eyes. "Keep me in the loop, okay. I'm never too far away." The two dogs embraced and Frankie watched as they did the typical 'slap on the back' boy hug.

"Love you, dog." Alpha added. They separated.

"Not as much as you love cherry pie."

Matthew glanced up towards Frankie Landau-Banks, his heart racing in his chest. Frankie strolled forward, an awkward but happy expression on her face. They stood opposite each other, flicking their eyes back and forth over their bodies and remembering the time they'd shared, without the pressure of being in the Basset's anymore. Matthew stuck his hand out and Frankie took it in her own, wrapping her fingers around his palm gently but firmly. "It was nice to see you again." he spoke suddenly, making Frankie blush violently in surprise. Their hands unlatched and Livingston retreated back, headed for his family home the other side of town.

Alpha and Livingston slapped hands once more in goodbye as Matthew turned back towards Frankie and her neon red face. "And hey, Frankie?" She looked up, not sure how else to come across nonchalant or un-phased. "It's nice to see you wearing short sleeves again. I was starting to think you had a secret robotic arm." He smiled as Frankie frantically looked towards her left arm, not realising that she'd put on a tee instead of her usual choice; Livingston had managed to snake his way back into her head even before they'd seen each other again; her burn had never crossed her mind.

When she looked up, he was gone. Alpha stood in front of her, his eyes plastered on her scar. It was a pale red and looked bumpy in texture, swirls of skin glinted at different angles and Alpha imagined what it must have been like to make her way through the library and to the nurses office while experiencing that agony and not distressing anyone. Frankie's blush subsided and she followed Alpha's eye movements as they trailed back up to her face and down to the scar again.

Slowly, Frankie grabbed Alpha's wrist and guided his hand onto her forearm, placing it on the middle of her scar. Alpha's eyes never left hers, not even when his fingers traced the edge of the burn and back round again as the sun began setting over the Alabaster suburbs.

A breeze brought them back to reality, and Alpha retracted his hand from her body quickly, mentally kicking himself, but also understanding Frankie's emotions in that moment;

Acceptance.

The past is in the past. No more dwelling on old Basset Hound problems, or misunderstood relationships. This was in the now, and Alpha was with Frankie and together they would win back his thrown; win back his status; win back his life.

The Monday after Livingston's visit, Alpha sat alone in the cafeteria, away from his usual table in the corner. He glanced over to Dean and his ex-dogs; how had he not noticed the change in Dean's attitude? Was the guy really that authoritative and manipulative that he could get past Alpha himself?

"I suppose him and Frankie have that in common," Alpha thought to himself as he flipped through the psychology text book in front of him, none of the words seeming to seep into his mind and stick there.

"Hey," startled, Alpha flicked his head up and was face to face with Porter Welsch once more. "Can I sit?"

"No." Alpha spoke, blank faced and rigid, his body fighting against his hatred for the junior. Nevertheless, Porter sat. He sat and stared as Alpha tried to get back to reading his text book, he stared even when Alpha texted on his phone, though of course Porter didn't know he was messaging Frankie for back up.

"Look, I heard about what happened," Alpha stopped typing and was silent and still. "Even though I wasn't a true member, I know that's a dick move to pull." Alpha glanced upwards and saw Porter's sympathetic expression. It made him want to throw up, or punch a wall, or burst into tears. Now he was getting pity from Porter; who would be next to look down at him? They sat in silence for the remaining minutes of lunch until the bell rang. The boys packed their stuff, Alpha being sure to get out of there the fastest, before Porter could - "If you need to, I don't know, talk? Then I guess I'm always-" Without warning, his body seething, Alpha grabbed Porter by his collar, like an elementary school bully would hold it's victim.

"If you know what's good for you, you'll stay the fuck out of it," Alpha's breathing slowed and his anger subsided. Pushing away Porter, he spotted Frankie at the cafeteria entrance, a disgruntled look on her face; or was it disgust? With, perhaps, an underlying element of amusement? In the future, Alpha would smile to himself at the fact he almost beat up Frankie Landau-Banks' ex-boyfriend who cheated on her, but at that moment, he simply flipped his bag over his shoulder and left the Alabaster cafeteria in a huff; the one and only Frances Landau-Banks trailing behind him with annoyed eyes.

"Do you have a free now?" Alpha asked, hands in pockets. Frankie and he had walked the boundary of Alabaster prep in silence for no apparent reason, other than the fact that Alpha wanted to get on with his revenge plot.

"No, I'm just fucking about with you for no reason," Frankie crossed her arms and sighed, storming ahead of Alpha; so much that he had to jog to catch up.

"OK, what did I do this time?" Alpha smirked and jumped in front of her, causing her to bombard into his chest. She looked up, red-faced with a mixture of embarrassment and anger. All Alpha thought about was how cute she looked riled up.

"Alpha, how do I put this plainly?" Frankie stopped, her face severe. Alpha's own smirk dropped from his face and he slouched, not so much feeling up to messing around anymore. Frankie shuffled on her spot uncomfortably. "You're not doing yourself any favours, you know, by doing that to Porter in the public eye, especially when the dogs are sitting ten feet away from you." Alpha squinted. Was she really concerned about his image this much? "They already know how you took the fact that Dean overthrew you. Do you really think almost beating up Porter, the guy who almost sold out the Basset's completely, is something they'd find intimidating?"

Alpha leaned against the wall in thought as Frankie laid out her thoughts. He glanced towards her as if to say, 'what the hell?'.

Frankie grunted in frustration. "No! It's not intimidating, Alpha! It's downright pathetic!" She smacked her face in her hands before wandering along the path again, her hands peeling her hair away from her red face.

"Jeez, sorry then." Alpha's annoyance shone through in his tone and he wondered why Frankie was going to such lengths about his situation with Porter. "You- you don't, still like him do you?"

Silence. A breeze. And Frankie Landau-Banks approaching the end of her tether; those could have been the last things that Alpha ever experienced before the end of his very eventful life. But instead, he experienced them all before Frankie proceeded to shove him into the wall of the boys dormitory and fast walk to the girls, anger radiating from her body and the sense that if anyone got too close they'd be consumed by her utter resentment for the Alpha dog. Alpha watched her as she left and wished he'd done something different in the cafeteria, despite how much he wanted to hit Porter in his perfect jaw. The guy was about three inches taller than Alpha himself, but that wouldn't have stopped him from throwing the first punch.

Alpha thought back to last year, before everything happened. It had all been something fun, a joke, a boys club; something that he had taken seriously, compared with his other dogs. Besides Dean, Alpha knew that the other members weren't as dedicated to what they were part of; to them it was nothing more than a weekly meet up where they got to drink beer, eat chips, chat about girls and plot pranks - everything high school should be like. But to Alpha, it was so much more. It was his ticket into divulging what he was truly good at, to gaining the trust of his friends indefinitely, to making memories with Livingston before they grew up.

Frankie had told Alpha about her father, Frank, and how he reminisced about Alabaster constantly, about his glory days. At the start of school, that's exactly what the goal was for Alpha - having those fond memories, being a part of something even after he'd left the premises of Alabaster. But now?

He wasn't so sure.

I mean, it's only high school, isn't it.

Alpha breathed against the brick wall of the boys dorms, fighting the urge to punch the red brick work. In one movement, he was up and headed for his dormitory, his mind circulating a plan to, at least, fix one thing in his life right now.

 

Frankie opened her door forcefully, not caring if Trish was inside to witness her destructive mood. It slammed shut behind her, and she dropped her bag to the floor, bringing her hands back up to her face once more. Pacing usually worked when she needed calming down, but this time it simply riled her up more. She resorted to what every teenage girl did in the movies; she flung herself on her bed, smothering herself with her pillow, and screamed. She screamed so hard that her throat hurt, that he insides coiled around each other, praying for the strain release.

Thankfully, Trish wasn't there, and when Frankie had expelled all her apparent pent up emotions, she stayed lying on her bed. How could Alpha possibly think that she still liked Porter? The guy who cheated on her, the guy who she singlehandedly witnessed cheating on her with Bess with her scummy red hair and big boobs. Screw Bess's big boobs; screw boys' obsession with big boobs. "They're just sacks of fucking fat!" Frankie yelled to her ceiling before glancing down at her own pair. One was bigger than the other, like most girls boobs; not that boys' would even notice in the heat of the moment. At that moment, Frankie vowed to herself that she would never marry someone who didn't notice the fact that one of her boobs was bigger than the other, because if she was going to love someone who was partly into her just for her body, then they would have to be into the whole shebang; unbalanced breasts and all.

As a feminist, it bothered Frankie that she defined Bess as having big boobs. But at the end of the day, Bess really did have big boobs, and she also made out with her boyfriend, so fuck Bess.

 

"Do you ever, I don't know, think about the future?" Frankie rambled down the phone to Zada. Her session with Doctor Dolittle that week had been an explorative journey into what Frankie wanted her later life to consist of, and was cut short when Frankie had to "expel her bladder, indefinitely"; or Frankie speak for, "we're not discussing this today, asshole!".

Zada hummed in response. "I mean, yeah. I have Johnny, but I don't know if I really want to, like, settle yet."

Frankie sighed and thought of a response. "But then again," Zada started up. "Maybe I do want to settle but I'm too in denial about growing older. I mean, I'm twenty. That's like..." words popped up in Frankie's mind about what being twenty years old could mean; adventurous; exciting; one year away from drinking legally. "Old."

"Old?" Frankie chuckled at her sister's retort. "It's not like you to care about growing up, Zada."

"God, I don't know. Maybe there's something wrong with me,"

"Maybe you're hormonal from all the new relationship sex you and Johnny are having," Zada tusked down the phone.

"Shut it, Frances. Besides, he's a Christian." Frankie draped her arm over her face and curled up.

"God, Zada! A femimist, atheist, independent woman, seeing a Christian man who's making her hormonal!" Frankie laughed to herself at her melodramatic scene.

"I know, right. I'm the ultimate hypocrite," The sisters' laughed together for a minute. It reminded Frankie of Christmas 2013 in her house, after all the family had left and her and Zada were the last ones standing. They dared each other to eat a mince pie whole without dropping any crumbs or choking, but alas, they both failed; the giggles proving to ultimately be too much for them. "But, seriously, Frankie,"

Frankie was plunged back to reality. "The future shouldn't be a scary thing. I'm just making it out to be that way. You're beyond intelligent, you could do anything you set your mind to, whether that's academic..." Frankie waited patiently while Zada found her words.

"Or human, I guess."

Frankie heard her sister's words loud and clear; she was talking about boys, but in the most subtle of ways. Alpha bringing up Porter had made her angry because she still didn't want to admit that Porter had cheated on her. Despite the fact that she acted like she didn't care, having been with someone for eight months to have that happen crushed her heart before she even knew what that experience would feel like.

Having a crushed heart didn't necessarily mean that it was unfixable, it just needed to be ironed out again.

Having Matthew break up with her and spend four months ignoring her; that didn't so much as crush her heart but her soul. The soul is not so easily fixed. Though her meeting with Matthew the previous weekend proved successful, in the least, to perhaps give her the confidence to open up once again. Properly this time, no secret Basset missions, no trying to gain the upper hand with Alpha, no complexities.

"I love you, Frances."

"I love you too, Zada."

Frankie hung up the phone and lay flat on her bed, staring at her exceptionally boring ceiling. She hadn't seen or spoken to Alpha since two days before, when she'd shoved him against the boys dormitory wall. Having Alpha around made one thing clear; he drove her mental. But yet, his company, his snarky, boyishness personality; it made her happy. It made her think less about the future while also being less afraid of what would happen in the beyond. It was like a look into the past while experiencing another ten years onto her life. It was like buying a frozen custard and eating it whole.

 

"OK, here's the plan," Frankie slapped her tray down opposite Alpha in the cafeteria. "Well, at least the beginnings of one."

Alpha gulped down the food in his mouth and breathed excitedly. "Why didn't you call me, we could have come up with something together-,"

"No, no. This bit is simply the first domino, and it's for me to get involved." Alpha raised an eyebrow as Frankie stood up once more, dropping her bag to the floor and starting to take off her Alabaster jumper, exposing the burn all the way down her left arm. Alpha stared, dumbfounded at what the hell she was planning. He memorised how it had felt to feel her burn, and followed the curve of her elbow all the way to her hands; they were shaking.

Frankie's short hair moved through the air like smoke as she looked around the cafeteria and took in all the faces staring at her; staring at her arm. But she raised her head high, and started towards the table of the dogs.

"Shit, Frankie! What the-," Alpha whispered after her, but didn't get up from his seat; he didn't want to mess up her plan.

Frankie approached the table that used to be a part of her, making sure to sashay her hips and tuck her hair behind her ear. She kicked herself for having to resort to this method of display, but come on, the dogs loved a she wolf, especially when they knew what Frankie had done the previous year. She hated to admit it, but it almost made her out to be more intimidating than Alessandro himself; she was untouchable; she was quick fire; she was untraceable.

The dogs all turned around in unison, seeing the enemy approach, though of course they simply stared; not caring why she was approaching, at least for the brief moment while she was sexy walking. Frankie got to the table and seductively took a fry off Callum's plate, chewing it while she stared at each boy in turn. There were some new faces; freshman and sophomores that she'd never seen before. New recruits.

Then, there was Dean.

He was muscular and sporty; your typical student athlete, besides his intelligence. Frankie knew Dean fairly well from when she used to sit with him, even before she was going out with Matthew. You could say they used to be, somewhat, friends. But obviously, that was all different now. He looked up and his brunette hair shuffled out of his eye line; his jaw clenched for a split second, before he sat up straight and donned a grim smile. "Frankie! What a surprise to see you here. Hasn't it been a while," he leant on his elbows and hunched forward, eyes plastered on hers.

"Yeah, been a few hasn't it. I trust you're well?" Frankie put on her best honey-toned voice and smiled sweetly; her eyes glinted with deviousness and one freshman boy gulped before returning his mouth to wide open in awe.

"I'm always sunny," Dean smiled and Frankie saw the cogs of his brain click into action. It almost disgusted her how much he'd changed; he was completely power hungry, and obviously loving being the President. "How's the arm?"

Frankie frowned and pursed her lips; this was what she wanted him to bring up. The point of showing the burn; it proved what she'd been through, and it also showed how she didn't care what she'd had to deal with, that she'd survived the Basset's once and would easily survive them again. "Perfect actually. How's your new found position?"

Dean was the one to frown now. Frankie knew the dogs weren't allowed to talk Basset business in the cafeteria or any public place on campus. Dean knew that Frankie was knowledgable on everything the dogs did, had done and, perhaps, would do. Who knew that her paper on the Panopticon would come in handy? The one all-seeing eye that the inmates of Panopticon prison couldn't see themselves, so wouldn't know whether they were being overseen or not; the perfect plan for a self-running institution.

She saw herself plant that seed in Dean, and she saw herself watering it with every breath he took. Everything he did, he'd be paranoid that she would be watching. Part one of her plan was very much in motion; all it needed now were its other dominos to follow.

Dean inhaled and nodded, looking down at his hands, before returning his grim gaze onto her again. "Perfect. Actually." Dean tilted his head and Frankie smiled sweetly, patting Callum on his shoulder, which caused Callum to look away suddenly, his face reddening considerably from her presence. If you're wondering, Frankie had always wanted to be seen as the intelligent by seductive character in front of the dogs; it's what she knew worked on boys like the Basset's. It reminded her of Elizabeth, Alpha's ex-girlfriend. She'd left for college the same way Livingston had and Alpha had to say goodbye, though Frankie didn't think he truly liked her enough to try long-distance. The Alpha dog was She Wolf-less.

"That's great!" Frankie tucked her hair behind her ear again, taking another fry from Callum's plate, who now had his hands over his mouth; his eyes watching the movement of her hand precisely. "God, aren't these fries so tasty?" Frankie indulged in the food and took another opportunity to purse her lips in Dean's direction. Then, in one swoop she moved her body away from the table, making sure her skirt fluttered in the breeze.

"Oh, ha, whoops!" She pattered down her skirt gleefully and faked her embarrassment. Half of the dogs looked down at the table. "Oh, and one last thing," Her final move; she grabbed Callum with both hands on his shoulders and stared directly at Dean. He reciprocated her gaze. "Artie really needs his keys back, it would be so nice if you could oblige."

Check. Dean gulped and raised his head up high, not removing his eyes from hers. Now he knew that Frankie knew they had the keys; she knew they were plotting something. Dean's outer shield had fallen and he was up the creek without a paddle, finally.

 

Frankie left the table and waltzed back up to Alpha, her face dropping entirely.

"Who are you and what have you done with Frankie Landau-Banks?" Alpha smirked as she approached. He held her bag in one hand and her jumper in the other, his bag on his shoulder. Frankie took her bag, but left her jumper, once again unaware of the fact her burn was on show.

"She's right here and she's ready to throw up from what she just turned into. Let's go before she actually does." Frankie fast walked out of the cafeteria, Alpha trailing behind her. He took one glance over to the dogs table and caught eyes with Dean; a split second decision made Alpha wave and smile at his ex-dog. The last thing he saw that day was a look of fury all over Dean's face.

 

The two ex-dogs made their way back to Frankie's dorm, Alpha savouring what he'd just witnessed. Frankie Landau-Banks was amazing. Evidently, she was also a seductive tease who held a nasty bite. She was also an alpha dog. The more Alpha hung out with Frankie, the more he realised he hadn't even touched the surface of who she was or what she was fully capable of. Frankie opened the door to her room and Alpha followed, clicking it shut.

Frankie slumped her bed, taking off her shoes. She bundled up on her bed and rolled herself up in her duvet like a five year old. Chuckling to himself, Alpha planted himself the foot of her bed and leaned against the wall. "So, what now?" he felt strangely content, and took in his surroundings. Frankie's side of the room consisted of an overflowing bookshelf, her school desk and laptop, which was home to an array of cacti in different coloured plant pots and various art supplies, a framed photo of Frankie and Zada sat on her bedside table.

"I don't know. I die?" Frankie opened her eyes and looked at Alpha's reaction to her statement. He furrowed his brows in amusement.

"Well, what a shame that would be. I was just beginning to like this different side to you," He winked playfully at her and Frankie cringed so much that she shoved her entire head under the duvet, grunting and laughing at the same time.

"You're beyond me, Alpha." Her muffled voice sounded from under the blanket.

"As you've so lovingly mentioned before." Alpha giggled to himself and crossed his legs on Frankie's bed, waiting for her to come out of her cave. "But seriously, what now?" Alpha prompted, his impatient and playful attitude appearing once more.

Frankie breathed out and appeared from her duvet fort once more, crossing her legs in the same position as Alpha and grabbing a stack of paper from the bottom drawer of her bedside table. She began rifling through the papers, which were heavily highlighted and annotated in her own writing. Alpha caught a glance and his mouth dropped open. "Is that the History?"

Frankie kept her eyes on the pages. "Yep," Alpha leant forward to gain a closer look; it really was the History, all of it, photocopied. Frankie bloody copied the Disreputable History of the Basset Hounds. "Now, Mr Tesorieri, we divulge the secrets of the History, and attempt to perform the most legendary prank that Alabaster has ever seen."

Alpha looked Frankie up and down, taking in her brilliance and trying not to drool from his open mouth. After his initial shock subsided, he found himself grinning, imagining what it'll be like when they finally succeed; imagining what it'll be like to see more of Frankie in her element; what it'll be like to actually get to know her more. Frankie turned and they locked eyes, both smiling.

"You're beyond me too, Frankie."