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Ethici Strix

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About 3 weeks after the thing with the guy holding a gun to his head, Gerard's mom hears about it and makes him quit his job in the comic book store. It sucks, like obviously Gerard doesn't want to get shot or anything but he's fifteen, part time jobs are fucking hard to get, and he needs money for smokes and vodka and shit like that.

He trails around the stores in what his mom calls the "good" part of town and just ends up feeling like Julia Roberts on Rodeo Drive before Richard Gere came and made everything better with lots of money. He kicks an empty soda can down an alley next to a snooty bookstore who claimed that he didn't have any relevant experience. Comic books are fucking books! He kicks at the can again, but he kind of misses and catches his shoe on the ground or something and he feels his big toe tear a hole into his sock.

"Fuck." Gerard heaves out a huge sigh. It's getting dark, he's out of cigarettes and now his toe is being strangled. "Fucking assholes with guns."

There's a doorway just a little into the alley that he figures he can sit in and try and sort out his sock. It's the fucking good part of town. The alleys are clean enough.

Of course, once he manages to get his sock fixed (he puts it on upside down, which feels weird but no more strangled toes) he also manages to break his shoelace when he puts his shoe back on.

"Fuck, fuck, fucker, fucking, fucked." He thuds his head back into the door behind him. He really fucking wishes he had a smoke right now.

The door opens and Gerard has to flail like an upturned turtle so he doesn't fall backwards,

"Hello?" Gerard can hear the voice behind him trying not to laugh. "Can I help you?"

"Uuh. Umm." Fuck. Gerard thought this door was, like, a fire exit or something, not that someone would answer it. "Sorry..?" Maybe if he doesn't turn around the voice will shut the door again and Gerard can, like, hop away.

Gerard can feel someone really close behind him, warm at his back.

"Oh! You broke your shoelace, man that sucks!" The presence behind him moves away again and Gerard tries to move his shoulders back down from around his ears.

"I think I've got some spare, if you want?" The voice says and Gerard is going to have to turn around or he's pretty sure Elena is going to materialise out of thin air and slap him for his bad manners.

"Uhh." Gerard starts to stand up, but his foot's gone to sleep and the doorstep he's sitting on is really low, so he basically just ends up flailing around and nearly falling on his face.

The only reason he doesn't fall on his face is because this guy...this really fucking pretty guy with the most amazing eyebrows Gerard has ever seen, is somehow right in front of him and holding him up.

"Woah there cowboy!" The pretty guy, like, sniffs Gerard. "You.. Haven't been drinking,.." The guy sniffs again. "At least not today, have you?"

Gerard scowls. Mikey had stolen the last of Gerards vodka yesterday, drunk, like, three fifths of it and barfed everywhere. Then he had knocked the bottle over and spilled the rest of it all over the carpet. Mikey can be such a little asshole.

"Ohhhh!" The guy puts his hands up in mock surrender. "I'm, not, like, implying anything. I just wanted to know if you were, like, capable of walking."

Gerard can feel himself flush, so far he's knocked on this guy's door, made incoherent noises at him and nearly fallen over. It's not like, his worst social encounter, but it's not exactly sparkling, either. "I'm fine." Gerard coughs. This is fucking excruciating. "I just , my, uhh , shoe, you know?"

"Sure." The guy smiles and sticks out his hand. " Hi, I'm Frank, do you want to come in?"

Gerard remembers to rub his hand off on his jeans before he shakes Frank's. He's totally winning at life.

 

Frank's place is... awesomely weird. It's a huge space, all open plan with lots of warm wood and fabric, and fuckton of accent lighting, but it kind feels like Gerard's basement. It takes him a moment, but then he works it out. "Wow.You don't have any windows."

Frank laughs and raises an eyebrow at Gerard. "Ehh, true. It's cool space though, and I kinda don't really miss them?"

Gerard smiles, awkwardly. He's such a fuck up. "Oh, no, man, it's a fucking awesome space, I just, I didn't know you were allowed to live somewhere without windows, that's all. My mom made such a big deal of the two that are in my basement."

"You live in a basement?"

"Uh. Yeah." Gerard scratches at the back of his neck. "I, uh, needed the space for my art projects and stuff?"

"Cool. I love art. Have a seat." Frank gestures at a big squashy purple velvet couch. "I'll see if I can scare up those laces for you."

The couch is super fucking comfy, and Frank's place cosy and Gerard can't help but relax into the cushions.

 

"Hey." There's a gentle whisper in Gerard's ear and a hand on his shoulder. "Come on, you look delicious but you're way too young."

"Mmnhph?" Gerard is fifteen he's old en....what? Where the fuck is he and what's he too young for? He blinks his eyes open and quickly wishes he hadn't. He's in a stranger's, Frank's, house. He's come in, sat down, and fallen asleep. What the actual fuck.

Frank is sitting next to him, smiling. "Hey sleeping beauty, You're like a cat, huh?"

Gerard tries to sit up a bit more, even though the soft cushions are half swallowing him. "Sorry, Uh..."

"Don't worry, my aura takes people like that sometimes. You'll get used to it." Frank holds out a pack of shoelaces. "Here you go."

Aura? What the actual fuck. Gerard feels kind of fuzzy still, and wonders if maybe Frank has a carbon monoxide leak or something in his place. "Uh, thanks." He grabs the laces and starts threading them into his shoe. It's really fucking hard with the shoe still on his foot, it's really far away and the couch is comfortable but not really designed for leaning forwards, but he's sure as shit not waving his toes and upside down sock at Frank. Nope.

"So, what were you doing in my neighborhood anyways?" Frank asks

Gerard sighs. "Trying to get a job. Just, like Saturdays or after school, but that snooty bookstore said my experience at the Comic Book store didn't count?"

"What the fuck?" Frank sounds genuinely aggrieved. "Assholes."

"I know, right?" Gerard has a whole spiel about elitists in the bookworld, but he's learned to try and not preach at people he's only just met. He gets his shoe tied up and stands up. "I should uh, go. Thanks, Frank."

Frank smiles at him and walks him over to the door. "Take care of yourself Gerard, Be seeing you."

 

Gerard's half way home before it occurs to him that he never told Frank his name.

 

It doesn't take Gerard long to forget about his weird evening at Frank's, beyond wondering how long carbon monoxide takes to get out of your system. He still hasn't found a job even though he goes into every store in a four hundred mile radius of his house, and he's running low on art supplies as well as everything else - Elena's kind of a soft touch for paint and pencils and the good paper but even she has her limits - and he's mooching 'round the basement one Saturday morning, trying to gather some motivation to go and see if anywhere is hiring now that wasn't last week, when his mom yells down the stairs that he's wanted on the phone.

It takes Gerard a minute to figure out what the woman on the phone is saying, but eventually he remembers the store that she's calling from. It's the snooty fucking bookstore, offering him a Saturday job. Good hours and really fucking good money, too. They want him to start, like immediately.

Gerard has no clue what he's gonna wear. He figures that maybe ripped jeans and a superhero shirt aren't quite what they're looking for, but he doesn't have a lot of other choices. He ends up in his funeral suit pants and white button down with his converse. He's not entirely sure that the store has called the right person, but he's going at least try turning up and working.

The work is easy - sure customers still ask stupid questions about books with blue covers, but the store is really nice and there's always a pot of the good coffee on, and he gets to sit down when he's on the register or pricing up the new books. His mom drops him off and collects him, too, because his shift works right in with hers.It's perfect. Of course the one day it's not perfect it the day that it's raining and his mom is going out straight from work and can't give him a ride home. The bus stop isn't too far from the store, but still... He turns the other way coming out of the store than usual and finds himself in Frank's alley again.

"Shit." Gerard still hasn't returned Frank's laces... he's still using one of them, and that's so fucking rude. He's got five minutes 'til his bus, or,, like, half an hour 'til the next one, so... he dashes across the road to the hardware and everything else store over from the bookshop. Maybe they'll have laces.

They do have shoelaces - Gerard's pretty sure they're the same ones that Frank gave him, and he picks up a carbon monoxide detector, too. It's cheap and it seems like a good idea.

Even though he runs (he can run, thank you. He's still not bought any smokes since his last pay from the Comic Book store, so his lungs are in fucking excellent condition) he's still like a drowned rat by the time he's knocking on Frank's door. There's no number and no mailbox, and it's still super weird, but maybe there's another door into, like, a lobby or something.

Frank opens the door pretty quickly, thankfully. The rain is beginning to drip off of Gerard's chin.

"Hey Gerard." Frank smiles at him. "You look kinda... wet?"

Gerard snorts. "Yeah." He proffers the bag from the hardware store. "I, uh, brought, you....Uuh."

Frank takes the bag and motions Gerard to follow him inside. "Laces, cool, and what....oh. A Carbon Monoxide detector?" he looks quizzically at Gerard.

"Yeah, I uhh." Gerard tries not to drip on any of Frank's rugs. "I don't usually just fall asleep like I did? I thought maybe... just in case?" He shifts a little from foot to foot. It was kind of a stupid idea.

Frank laughs, a bright, happy sound and his whole face lights up. "Oh, Gee, that's such a sweet thing to think of. It's not poison, though. Um. I... " Frank bites his bottom lip into his mouth. "It was my, uhh, aura."

Frank's looking at Gerard really intensely, like he's waiting to see how Gerard reacts. "Aura?" Gerard thinks Frank is kinda cool, and really fucking pretty, but he's not sure about any kind of aura. That sounds a bit new-agey.

"I. I'm a vampire, Gerard."

"Really?" Gerard has read about vampires. Like, not Anne Rice French dudes or anything, but, like, real ones who need some kind of protein that's in blood to help with their sun allergies. He doesn't know what an aura has to do with that, though.

"Yeah. You... Know something about my people..?"

"Uhm... I read about the sun allergy and the blood protein and something about prof...for...?" If Frank is a real life vampire then that's the coolest thing Gerard's ever heard.

"Porphyria... I don't have that, but I guess the sun allergy thing is as good an explanation as anything else. I don't take blood, either, not from people who don't consent....although sometimes my aura makes that a bit..blurry."

"You want to drink my blood?" Gerard doesn't know if that's totally cool. It sounds kind of...needle-y.

"Holy shit, nope." Frank puts his hands up in front of him as if he wants to push Gerard away. "You are waaaaaaaaaay too young to consent to that. And anyway, we've only just met, really, you're still too susceptible to my aura, you've gotta be suggestible as fuck right now."

Gerard is not too young, thank you very much. "I'm..."

"Fifteen. Yeah, I know. I can see surface thoughts, too. At least until I know you well enough to tune them out. I'm, like, five hundred years older than you. Just... I'm right about this, and even if I'm not, the law says I am, so..."

"You're over five hundred years old?" Gerard is a little overwhelmed. Frank looks, maybe, twenty five.

"Yeah. And I still get carded in bars. Sucks to be me, right?"

"Um." He might be overwhelmed, but Gerard's still pretty sure that being a vampire's cool.

Frank snorts. "Yeah, it's cool, but there are some downsides... like the sun thing? I don't like to just...um...take blood, and that means that I'm mostly stuck in the dark, and it sucks that it takes so long to know if someone really wants to be a friend or whatever, or if it's just my aura."

Gerard can't help but giggle. "Oh, my, God. You're an ethical vampire."

Frank huffs and pouts at Gerard. "So..?"

"No, no, no, no, that's kind of cool too..." Gerard's still kind of laughing. "It's just... unexpected, that's all."

"Hmph." Frank sits down on his magic couch and crosses his arms. "Just see if I influence anyone into giving you a job ever again."

Gerard laughs. "That was you? Wow, I guess that makes a bit more sense... Mrs. Clark seemed super fucking confused when I didn't suck at, like, shelving books and running the register."

"Well. She's an anti-comic book bigot, she deserved it." Frank looks unrepentant.

Gerard may never stop laughing. "So... ethical, unless you think someone's a dick?"

"It's still better than just eating people off of the street." Frank's trying to look aggrieved, Gerard thinks, but he can't keep a straight face either.

"Yeah, sure..."

"It IS."

"Yeah."

Frank sighs. "Mortals. Do you want a pizza?"

Gerard can still hear the rain, slightly, against the door. "Yeah, pizza sounds great."