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A State Of Orange

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The beginning of the end comes when his dad shouts his name from the ground floor. Not that Frank knows it at the time. He just scowls, logs out of his MMORPG, and shouts back ‘what’ without closing the browser. If there’s something they need to get into then it’s better he’s not distracted, he worked too long to power up his shaman to let thirty seconds of his dad asking him where the scratch on the car came from to enable someone sneaking up and slaughtering him. If it’s just ‘do the fucking dishes’, he can log back in without having to spend five minutes waiting for the disc to reload.

It’s neither. It’s “come downstairs, family meeting!”

Frank tromps down the stairs, hands in his pockets. Something is going down. There has to be something wrong, no question about it. The Ieros are not the kind of family that have group meetings. Frank can’t even remember the last time one happened. Maybe in fifth grade when Jessica Kinde convinced him because he was a halfling it was her right to feed on him. For sure nothing more recent, he’d remember it.

When he walks into the living room Frank’s already raised suspicions hit the ceiling. They’re holding hands. Maybe Dad has hemophilia.

“What’s going on?”

“We have to talk to you about something,” his dad starts.

“Yeah, no shit. What?” Padding whatever it is probably won’t make it better, so Mom might as well just tell him. Whatever it is, she’ll tell him. It’s not a control thing, even though she’s a vamp and Dad isn’t. His father is just no good at conflict. Frank would bet anything Dad’s the one that reached for a hand as he came down the stairs.

“I know you’re not going to be happy, but I want you to promise you’re not gong to do anything stupid.”

That cannot possibly mean anything good. While he considers any past reactions he’s ever had equal to the news or event preceding them, not acting stupid, the fact that she’s saying it means there’s something to get supposedly stupid about. Frank crosses his arms and waits.

“We’re moving, Frank. To New Jersey.”

“I don’t wanna go,” he replies immediately.

“It’s not a choice Frank.”

“But I don’t.” So maybe it’s not the best argument. He can hardly be expected to be working on all cylinders.

“We don’t care. We’re going and it’s not a choice.” It’s her ‘tough shit’ voice, the one he should know better than to battle against.

She’s got her tone, he’s got his. “How did this even happen!” His tone involves a lot more volume.

“At the last company briefing, my boss revealed we’re expanding again, and asked who would be willing to transfer. I volunteered.”

Frank could maybe understand if she had a prophetic dream of the apocalypse, if she wanted to be out of Virginia when the car sized hail started plummeting down. But to fucking ask to leave when any of the hundred employees could have done it? It’s a betrayal. “What the hell! Why!”

Her voice is even. She always fights his frustration and rage with vocal cement; planed flat, cold, hard. “Because outside of this house your father and my husband is considered my meal plan. I’ve done this for fifteen years, I’m done with it.”

She did that on purpose. She made it personal, so any kind of argument he’d have would be reduced to ‘don’t you love your dad?’ and it makes him want to punch both of them in the fucking face. Never mind that it would hurt his dad, never mind that his mom would barely notice, never mind that he probably actually never would. He wants to, and he can’t, so he stands and storms out of the house.

He runs. He runs because it’s not fair, because he has no fucking control and nothing he will say will make it fair. Frank’s not running with intent, but when he takes a second to curl into himself and pant and notice his surroundings he’s at the corner of Rior Street and Farstone Bay. He only thinks about it a second before turning and running down Farstone. The sidewalk he stops at is broken, each square at least three pieces, but Frank’s been visiting for a decade. He doesn’t need to look down to know where it’s safe to step, and where his sneaker will catch and he’ll faceplant.

When Mike opens the door he lunges. Mike doesn’t ask questions, just goes with it. He clamps both hands on Frank’s ass. Mike’s strong even for a vampire, Frank doesn’t hesitate for a second before bringing his legs up to curl around his back. Mike’s got him.

“My sister is upstairs. Do you wanna go to my room or just do it here?”

Frank did not come to Mike’s so he could be forced to make decisions. Instead of saying anything he bites down just under Mike’s earlobe. He’s got control of himself, his fangs stay retracted, but Mike groans like he put them in an inch deep.

“Fine. Legs down.”

It’s an order, but Frank follows it. At least with his friends if people are telling him what to do it’s something he wants to do.

Once he’s standing on his own two feet Mike pushes Frank away and with one hand on his shoulder turns him until he’s facing the stairs. Mike shoves him forward until his face hits the thick mahogany spindles, a hand on the small of his back keeping him forced in position. Mike holds him for a count of ten breaths, a odd thing to base action off of considering neither of them need to breathe. The breathing and the wait both help to get Frank focused. It’s not something he always needs, and when he doesn’t he’s got James or Matt or Mattie. But nights like these, where everything is heaving at him and he can’t stop moving out under the pressure, Mike makes him be still.

When Mike finally moves his hands it’s to rip the back of Frank’s belt apart. Frank liked that belt, but he doesn’t complain, doesn’t say a word. No longer cinched, his jeans are easily tugged down his thighs.

The foyer is silent, only the faintest of noises coming from the T.V. in the living room down the hall. He can hear the rustle of fabric, and then a packet being ripped open. A second later there are two fingers pushing into his ass. The lube is lukewarm, the packet must have been sitting in Mike’s pocket a while.

It’s as much prep as he gets. He doesn’t want more, not tonight. It’s a few strokes of his fingers stretching inside him, and then Mike’s pulling them out and replacing them with his cock. Frank grabs on to the railing as Mike fucks him fast, face sweaty against a varnished spindle. He’s a halfling so the wood doesn’t splinter, but his hands are turning white from the pressure. “Fucking know you love this. Like my cock best.” Frank groans. It’s not like it’s not true.

“Always want you.” It’s not like he’s in love - and good thing he isn’t, since he’s leaving forever. But there’s a truth to it, and it’s the kind of thing that will goad Mike on.

Mike takes care of shit after they’ve both come. He pulls Frank’s ruined belt from the loops and tosses it in the garbage, then goes upstairs. He comes down with a new belt and a box of tissues, and helps Frank clean the jizz off his stomach and shirt and stairs. Then he leads him to the living room at the back of the house and disappears for three minutes. He’s got a mug in both hands when he sits down. Mike takes a sip of his immediately, but the blood is still steaming and Frank likes his more body temp so he puts his mug on the coffee table.

“So why did you pick me?”

“Your house was closest.” Frank can say it because he knows Mike knows it’s not true.

“Sure. And I had to fuck the emotion away this time because...”

“We’re fucking moving and they didn’t even ask!” It bursts out of him, but he doesn’t feel as full of rage as he did when he was running.

“That sucks.”

“Yeah, it really fucking does.”

“When?”

“I dunno. I sort of ran out of the house before they said too many details.”

Mike pauses for a second, and then inhales so he can sigh. “Well, lemme know, man.”

***

There’s not much of a group gathered around when they leave. Frank probably shouldn’t have expected it, should have realised wanting a goodbye party was only getting his hopes up. When you live on average two centuries, friendships that last less than a decade aren’t much to blog about. Still it sucks, only having Mike and James to wave at out the window as the car slowly picks up speed. And it’s not like even they will email him after he’s gone. Frank’s value system is different than everyone he knows, thanks to his father’s influence. Nostalgia isn’t a big thing for vampires.

It takes about an hour and a half to drive through Virginia. Frank keeps his headphones on, and purposely spins up the volume each time either of them try to talk to him. They can make him go, they can’t make him be happy about it. He’s not going to listen to any bullshit attempted consolation. He’s not even going to look at them, if he can help it.

That’s why he almost misses it. They’re driving through a small town. Frank’s not about to ask, but the map app he has tracking their journey says Diggum. The population can’t be more than four thousand, or at least Frank guesses. He’s not a census, but they appear to only have one main street. It should be his first clue, but all he can think about is how his new school won’t have a Mike or a James. The second is when Dad suddenly reaches to his feet to grab a helmet, complete with eye visor. Frank doesn’t really pick up on that either, though to be fair he doesn’t have much time. One minute they’re driving, the next jagged bits of glass are going everywhere.

A windshield can be made of necroglass or laminated safety glass. It can’t be made of both, the compositions are incompatible. For most people, the convenience of being able to drive at any time is a lot more relevant than the possibility of a car crash pushing in a piece of glass at the exact right angle to stake you. Besides, statistics show if a vampire gets into a car crash they’re eleven times more likely to die of sun exposure than accidental staking. As long as Frank’s been around, the family cars have had necroglass, and if he can ever afford his own car it’s what he’ll request.

Few shards make it to the back seat. Frank isn’t really worrying about the possibility of being pierced anyway. There is a guy in the front seat trying to pry off Dad’s seatbelt. Frank’s not a wuss when it comes to violence in eating scenes in movies, but this is his father. His ‘no’ is probably closer to a scream than a manly bellow. He grabs for his own seat belt, no real plan besides launching himself into the front. By the time it’s unclipped Mom is staking the man. A cloud of ash settles over everything and Frank starts to cough as his mom drops the stake back into the cup holder.

It takes Frank a minute to add up actions and come up with the truth. “You know this was going to happen!”

“Don’t sound so betrayed Frankie. We lived in a big city. We used the prison system to our advantage, we were never at a loss for food. Smaller towns don’t get murderers and rapists shipped in. They get hungry, and they smelled human. They might have even given you a go, once they were done with him.”

Dad adds “if it makes you feel better, the yellow state we have to pass through isn’t going to be much fun either.”

Frank wants to know how the fuck that’s supposed to make him feel better, but doesn’t want to be angry at his dad, who was just nearly eaten. Except for he fucking does, and he fucking is, because this wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t decided to move. In the end he just puts his headphones back on.

They stop at the next hotel in a decent sized city. It wasn’t in the original plan -at least not from what he knows, but then he wasn’t informed of his dad’s role in an imminent buffet either- but they have no choice now. They can’t keep driving without necroglass. The manager promises to set them up with a twenty-four hour car service, and commends Frank and Mrs Iero on having their own meal plan. Frank scowls and refuses to acknowledge the dick again.

Unfortunately being too pissed off at his parents to want to talk to them, and being too pissed off at the manager to ask for suggestions of town attractions leaves Frank with pretty much nothing to do. He’s so bored he goes to bed early and sleeps through half the night. The problem is he’s not really sleep deprived, and that has him waking up around dawn, sleep schedule totally fucked for the next day. His parents aren’t even asleep in the next bed. Thank fuck for small miracles, they’re not fucking, just talking. Frank scowls, grabs a hoodie and his iPod and leaves the hotel room.

He only gets as far as the lobby. As a halfling he could go outside during the day if he wanted to. It would take about eight hours of sunlight to kill him, so short of being tied to a flagpole for a school day, he’d be fine. The blisters don’t even start to crop up for about fifteen minutes, more than long enough for a cigarette or four. But there’s nothing out there that interests him. Being stuck here is the cruelest of purgatories. He just wants to get to Jersey and figure out how to deal with life in a Mixed state.

A tracklist into waiting, a woman comes down the hallway. Unlike him, she’s not in pyjama pants and a toothpaste stained hoodie. She’s actually completely dressed, knee length skirt and a blouse, hair pulled into a bun. Since it’s the middle of the day Frank could almost think she’s a human, but she gives off a proper predatory air that his dad completely lacks. She’s moving with focus, and for a lack of anything better Frank follows her.

They end up at a tiny room. There’s a coffee maker and a microwave, and a fridge with a few packets of blood, all O+. Continental breakfast, apparently. “Seriously, they don’t even have doughnuts?”

Her face is wrinkled in disgust when she turns to look at him. “They probably don’t get enough halflings to make it worth their while. And it’s not like the walking meals are paying customers.”

Frank decides this woman would be better off not talking. Gender doesn’t matter, it’s not like he wants all women to shut up. He actually wants anyone that talks shit about humans to shut up. Still she’s company, and his parents won’t be ready to leave for hours. He leans to the side, on his tiptoes, to bite her the nape of her neck. The noise she makes it a downright growl. It makes Frank grin and get hard at the same instant.

***

Frank’s only been asleep a few minutes when he’s shaken awake. Or at least that’s how he feels. When he manages to crack an eye open in the direction of the alarm clock it’s actually been four hours. “Go away.”

“It’s time to get up for school.”

With monumental effort, Frank opens an eye to check again. It still says eight am. “You’re sending me to a human school?”

“Don’t be stupid, it’s Mixed. Full features for any vampire or halfling. Necroglass, full range of blood types in the cafeteria. I’ll drive you, at least this week. Once I get a job it may or may not work.”

Frank doesn’t understand vampires that want to work or go to school during the day. Even with all the safeguards to prevent accidental but immediate death, it’s just not the natural circadian rhythm for vampires. Just like everything else in the last week though, it’s apparently not his choice.

Dad pats him on the head before he leaves. Frank scowls at the world for a minute or five before forcing himself to get up for breakfast. One of the nice things about this house is it’s all one floor. He’s done a header down the staircase back at home more than once when he’s exhausted or drunk or stoned. Heading to the kitchen here means walking into the wall a few times, but no cartwheeling down a flight of stairs. Still, he’d fall down stairs every day of his life if he could go back home.

The drive is silent. Frank doesn’t have much to say after being woken up at the best of times, and he’s still not pleased with the shitty decision making of his parents. He scrapes his tongue against the bits of bloody toast that remain on his teeth and considers brushing his teeth before leaving the house tomorrow. Not that he really cares about first impressions. If someone really doesn’t want to be his friend because he’s got blood breath, they’d probably be a crap friend anyway.

Eventually he can see the school out his window. Broadfoot doesn’t look much different than the one in Richmond. Jett Clement didn’t have any windows. This one has a few, probably to placate the humans. And it’s morning, which means he can actually see the brick colour. Three years at Jett and he can only guess what the shade was. It comes with being a halfling, he has the night vision of a human.

“Have a good day,” his dad says, coming to a stop. Easy for him to say. He’s not a halfling going to a school with humans. Frank’s not a bigot, it’s hard to think humans are vermin when the person that cooks you meals and read you stories as a kid is human. But some of his friends were. It’s the default attitude in Richmond, probably all of Virginia. And while at least he’s not a halfling going to a pure human school, it would be just naive to think all humans will accept him.

Things are pretty much as Frank expected, in that they suck. The classes suck, the students suck, the bloodbags in the cafeteria taste like they've been sitting there a week. To top it off, between fourth and fifth period he meets his first bully. Part of him had hoped it was a vampire tendency, thanks to being predatory. It was a stupid hope, when you remember that the humans he drunk every day at home were murderers and assaulters.

“A Swirled Lines shirt? You have got to be kidding me Adam.” The bigger guys throws a shoulder over the skinny guy’s shoulder, but everyone in the hall can see it’s not a friendly move. “I knew you were fucked up. But I didn’t know it was that bad. Listening to that blood sucking faggot? Now what does that make you?”

Frank doesn’t like bullies. Maybe it’s not his place to step in, but no one else is doing shit so it’ll have to be him. “Dunno. Know it makes you a whiny little bitch.”

He’s able to get two hits in before the asshole’s friends join in. It’s hard to combat six guys at once. James could probably do it, James and Mike together could take down an army. Frank alone isn’t doing extremely well. It only breaks up when a teacher comes through and gives all seven of them detention.

Afternoon classes continue to suck, culminating in Frank’s least favourite. Gym class sucks intensely. At Jett he was the lone halfling in an all vampire school. Here gym seems to be segregated, and he’s in an all human class. Frank would be relieved he doesn’t have to match weigh room stats with guys double his strength, except it means they consider him as weak as a human. When he misses four baskets in a row, he considers the administration might have a point.

Frank doesn’t particularly want to shower after class. At Jett he had to out of courtesy for sensitive senses; he sweats, his friends don’t. Here, if the short-shorts wearing man is to be believed, hygiene is a part of what they mark you on. Frank’s not failing and repeating phys. ed. because he won’t shower. So he gets it done as quickly as he can. If he was showering with a friend or at a bathhouse life would be great, right now Frank just wants to be dressed. Tomorrow he’ll bring his own soap so he smells like citrus or oatmeal instead of mold.

When he steps out of the stall and all his clothes are gone he’s hardly even surprised. One of the jocks from the hall was in his class. It’s entirely possible Frank’s shit is stashed in one of the lockers, the vast majority of which don’t even have locks. Unfortunately there’s no time to open each one. He has detention, and according to the student handbook his mom went over, skipping or arriving late to detention means a two day suspension. Not exactly the way to start a new school.

Luckily -the word drips with contempt in his head- there’s a lost and found box. There’s a shirt his size with the school logo on it that barely smells. There are also shorts with snaps up the side, no wonder someone lost them. Frank slides them on and tries not to think about what his balls are rubbing against. At least they left his backpack and shoes.

Aside from detention being, well, detention, it’s really not that bad. Ten or fifteen kids are sitting in desks scattered around the room. No one even lifts their head when he walks in, never mind mocks him for his borrowed clothes. The problem that comes next is when he leaves after the demanded hour and there are no cars in front of the school. If his dad ever was waiting, he’s long gone now. Though it’s unlikely, Frank hopes he wasn’t at all. If he was waiting and Frank didn’t show they’ll expect to hear a reason. If he can sneak inside the house without anyone inquiring on the other hand, he won’t have to say shit. His bruises will be healed by morning.

Without his dad, Frank can see two options for getting home. He can call home and beg one of them to pick him up. It goes against his not wanting to talk policy, but has the benefits of not frying in the sun. Or he can suck it up, deal with the pain, and not get bitched at for things that aren’t even his fault.

Frank jams his hand into his pocket, presses his fingers against the plastic of his cell, then sighs and pulls out his hand. He’s not in the goddamn mood for a lecture.

Walking sucks. Walking sucks with the intensity normally only known to supernovas and prostitutes. His skin is slowly turning black and it fucking hurts and it fucking smells. The emergency shelters at the end of the street mock him with their sun sheildingness. But if he waits in one he'll have to wait until six fucking thirty for the sun to go down. Fuck those assholes, he's going home and drinking. His skin will be better by the morning. Bullies aren't gonna make him miss after school cartoons. If Mixed states even have after school cartoons. If there aren’t there will be hell to pay. He will fucking bomb the network with a hundred megaton nuke.

Without any other choice, Frank's walking and swearing with each step and goddamn it he really hates this smell. It’s a good thing they moved in the fall. Dad has told him about barbecues and smelling that will no doubt bring all sorts of shitty flashbacks.

He’s only a couple of blocks away from the school when some kid walks up behind him. “You want my hoodie?”

The answer should be yes. A quick glance behind him proves it's even a Freddy Kreuger hoodie, nothing embarrassing. But Frank grates out ‘what do you want?’ because who the fuck is this kid, and why does he give a shit? Everyone else has been a dick. He doesn't want to believe in stereotypes, but eight hours of experience have taught him humans are all dicks. Even the bullied kid he rescued didn’t as much as thank him.

“Uh. To give you my hoodie?”

“You have spare pants too?”

He’s being sarcastic. The guy answers him sincerely. “No. Wish I did.”

Frank scowls. Fuck charity. They’re not looking at each other, the kid is still walking behind him. But somehow he senses the expression because his voice turns more insistent. “Just fucking take it. But drop it off in Mr Ellison's class tomorrow because my brother will punch me in the face if it's lost forever.”

Frank turns around to tell the guy to fuck off as he hears the zipper whir. The guy's wearing sunglasses, his hair is all over his face, and under the zip up he's got a long sleeved shirt. Clearly he's another halfling, so the kindness makes sense. It makes it easier to take the hoodie. The guy turns the other way at the light before Frank can ask who the hell he is.

***

Frank considers keeping it. It’s a cool hoodie. It would be compensation for the Ribcage merch shirt he’s never gonna get back. If he does though, it’s really just passing on the theft. Random guy was nice when he didn’t have to be. Fucking him over would be shitty karma. So after he gets inside he goes to the office. The secretary has poorly caked makeup on his neck bites. Frank wonders if that’s a thing here, if humans are supposed to be ashamed of being bitten. It’s probably not okay to ask though.

“Uh. Where’s Mr Ellison’s room?”

“The art room is on the first floor, take the left hall and go down to one seventeen. Though you should be able to find it without numbers, the hallway is covered in framed artwork.”

It figures the nice halfling is an art kid. Frank hitches his backpack more comfortably on his shoulders and starts the walk there. The secretary is right, by the time he’s halfway down the walls are covered in different drawings and paintings. He wonders which ones belong to his halfling, then reminds himself that’s creepy and no one is his. He doesn’t even know the guy’s name yet.

His guy. Fuck. The guy isn’t in first period. Or if he is, he doesn’t come to class early. There’s a handful of students already at their stools, and of course Mr Ellison is at his desk. He’s got a braided beard, it’s kind of epic. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to give a flying fuck about Frank’s existence. He asks if he’s new to Broadfoot and first period, Frank has to tell him he’s not in his class. He asks if he’s planning on taking it as an extra curricular and Frank has to admit that he’s not an artist. At that he ceases to exist, Frank can practically see the guy’s eyes glaze over. So he just drops the hoodie on his pastel covered desk and leaves.

Morning classes still suck.

Before he gets to experience the suckage that is the cafeteria food Frank has to go to his locker. They’re all in banks, a group of twenty or so broken up by a classroom door, then another group. A bank down from his yesterday’s bully douchebag is also at his locker. Frank’s not about to hide, but he takes a second to mentally cross his fingers that he’s not seen. Life would be easier if he wasn’t noticed.

When the fucking douchebag slams him into his locker it becomes pretty clear that Frank’s made an enemy. It barely hurts but that’s not the point. “You realise I’m a vampire and I could drain you in seconds, right?”

He sneers. “You realise you’d go to jail, right? They won’t care if you get sunburnt.” Frank fucking hates when assholes are right. His state treats prisoners exceptionally shittily in retrospect, hunting them for food and sport. A Mixed state probably wouldn’t do the same thing, but whatever they do will be bad. “So eat metal, halfsize.”

It’s another shove into the locker and the guy cackles before walking off. Frank doesn’t even know his fucking name to curse him out. It seems unfair, he should at least be able to think Jesse/Dustin/Anthony is a jerkoff. Fuck he hates this bullshit. He punches his locker a few times. It doesn’t crumple like it would have for his friends, but it dents a bit.

A vamp kid approaches him. At least Frank’s pretty sure, long sleeves in fall and sunglasses are a give away. “You know, it's not because you're a vampire. Jersey's integrated pretty good. Not like Michigan where they claim Mixed status but they have vamp schools and human schools.”

Frank crosses his arms. “Really.”

The guy nods. “Yeah. It's cause you're a loser.”

Great, so now even weird looking crosses between stoner and chess geek think he’s a target. “Fucking thanks for that consolation.”

“Whatever though, right? Losers have more fun. I read comic books. I fucking love comic books. You think quarterback can even look at an Uncanny X-Men without getting shit?” Frank is maybe willing to give this french pirate vampire a point.

“I’ve got some with me if you want to read and avoid the caf. You can’t eat in the library though. Bite sized bits of human food are easy to smuggle, drinking a blood bag is impossible.”

Frank shrugs. Humans need to eat more often than halflings, and halflings more often than vampires. Vampires just like to feed frequently. “Let’s go.”

It’s after a half hour of reading and snarking that Frank decides to give the guy his friendship litmus test. Friends need to be compatible for sex, for when the urges are up. According to Dad a lot of humans won’t understand that, or even the inherently bisexual thing. It’s possible being raised around humans has corrupted the guy. Frank needs to make sure it hasn’t.

“Want a blowjob? Well, I probably shouldn’t do it here. But we could find a bathroom?”

The guy plucks the comic out of his hand. “I can show you.”

Thanks to his father’s warning speech to not grope the first hot person that interested him, Frank had been worried about the possibility that no one in Jersey liked orgasms. It’s a theory proven wrong. The guy is interested enough that he’s pushing Frank to his knees before the stall door is even locked. Not that Frank minds the impatience. It’s been four days since he’s had sex, one of the longest times he’s gone without. French Pirate’s cock feels good in his mouth. Needed, like water for a human in the desert, or an emergency shelter for a vampire in the same predicament.

Frank keeps his fangs in as he’s going to town. Not every guy likes a bloody blow. They can talk about it later, whenever kinks and that sort of stuff comes up. For now it’s safer to keep it simple. That the guy keeps his too in reinforces Frank’s beliefs. Time enough for fluid exchange later.

By the time French Pirate is done, the end of lunch bell is ringing. They part ways and Frank heads off to go suffer through afternoon classes. After the last is over he pulls his hood up and slides sunglasses on, and waits outside. He wants to see if he can run into the Krueger guy again.

It takes an hour, but he does. Thankfully there’s an awning, otherwise Frank’d be crispy. He’s not even blistered. Still, if he does this tomorrow he’ll probably stay in the library until it’s around four thirty.

“Hey,” he calls out as the guy starts walking down the sidewalk in the distance. It’s the exit nearest the art class, the guy probably does the extra-curricular thing. “I’m Frank!”

The guy waits until Frank runs across the lawn to introduce himself, hand running through his greasy black hair. “Uh. Hi? I’m Gerard. I got it back, you don’t have to worry or anything, I-”

“Yeah, I gave it to the art teacher first thing. It’s a really great hoodie, I almost didn’t give it back. I love that movie.”

Gerard looks first startled, then excited by his enthusiasm. Gerard’s definitely exceeds it when he starts talking though. “The thing I love the most about Freddy is the makeup. I mean the kill you in your dreams thing is interesting, but the makeup is really cool.”

“That’s the kind of thing I want to do in college.” They’re walking slowly now, so they can look at each other. Frank can feel the skin on his hands and face starting to itch and Gerard’s surely having the same problem, but he doesn’t suggest moving faster. He wants this conversation.

“Horror makeup?”

Gerard’s look is hard to decipher, Frank hopes he’s not some gender rigid asshat. That would ruin the whole on the verge of friendship thing they have going. “Hell yeah! You can get really creative. I have a bunch of horror movies that have this great look, they’re all from the same production company. I dunno if you would have seen them though. It’s a vamp only company, I’m not sure they ship to Mixed states. Everything that team makes looks great. I’d love to work with them, but they don’t accept halflings.”

“That’s douchy.”

“Yeah, I guess. But they’re still good movies, with kick ass costuming. You wanna come watch?”

It’s a quick walk to his house. Frank kicks off his shoes and leads Gerard to his room, not concerned about how much noise he’s making. It’s only four pm, Mom won’t be up for hours yet. It’s her fault that he’s not working in her time zone any longer, so it’s too fucking bad if she wakes up.

Gerard seems to fall into a state of shock upon entering his room.“Where is everything?”

“What do you mean?”

“What do you mean what do I mean? Where’s everything? There are no action figures, or posters, or colour or black or books or movies or paints or anything. Anywhere!”

“Oh. Yeah, I haven’t decorated yet.”

“I know you're a vampire, but are you a fucking robot too? How can you stand this? You want to be a make up artist, you were wearing purple shoes, I know you’re creative.”

Frank grins at the mention of the shoes. He’s got some great memories associated with those things, thank fuck the bully’s friend didn’t snatch them with his band shirt and jeans.

“You know what? This weekend we’re going to have a painting party. I'll bring my brother and my friends, and we'll make your room livable.”

Even though he's known Gerard for about half an hour Frank decides to go with it and let him invite his friends over. Gerard seems like the kind of guy that it's easier to just let them do shit than argue with it.

“I'm seriously tempted to draw on the walls just to tide you over.”

“Uh. I wouldn’t be against it, but I don't have any markers.”

“What? How can a person not own markers?”

“I dunno. You came from art club, use yours.”

“I’m not using coptics on a wall!”

“Relax, living in whiteness for three days won't kill me.”

“It will kill your soul! But we don’t really have any other choice for now, so you’ll have to close your eyes and imagine.”

Frank laughs. Gerard is a fucking crackhead. It’s awesome.

***

The rest of the week happens the same way. He goes to class because he has to, and by Friday he’s figured out what classes he can sneak in print offs of ebooks so he can read. He gets shoved around by Anderson Lee because apparently he has to, and by Friday Frank is about ready to tear him apart, jail or not. He reads comics and has sex with comic book guy -who either has multiple french pirate shirts or anti-laundry morals- because there has to be some joy in his life, and by Friday still hasn’t remembered to ask the guy his name. And he walks partially home with Gerard each day, because Gerard is his, even if he doesn’t know it yet.

Saturday mid-day the doorbell rings. Frank’s dozing, a week of following a human schedule making him awake at noon but not particularly interested in getting up. Dad is at work though, and even if Mom wasn’t in the middle of a deep sleep, she would get burned just opening the door. Besides, it pretty much has to be Gerard and company. Their neighbours don’t seem to give a shit one way or the other about their presence, they certainly wouldn’t go as far as to knock on their door. Still, Frank’s not entirely sure what to expect when he hurries to the front door, shucking on a pair of jeans on the way. Gerard, of course, but who else? Maybe there will be fifteen or twenty people, the entire art club. Gerard’s pretty awesome, he deserves to be popular.

It’s Gerard and two guys. One of the guys has a huge bulge at the zipper of his jeans and Frank thinks for a second about dropping to his knees before he mentally shakes his head. Time for that when hot guys aren’t standing on the step in the sun. The other guy is pretty decent looking too, though the hoodie he’s wearing is multiple sizes too big and goes almost down to his knees. He must be human though, his face isn’t shielded from the sun like Gerard’s.

“Hey. I’m Frank.”

“Sorry,” Gerard says by means of introduction. “My stupid brother got really fucked up with Pete and Joe last night-”

“Really fucked,” Big Dick mutters and Viking sniggers. Gerard ignores them.

“And apparently the smell of paint will make him vomit everywhere. Copiously. But this is Ray and Bob.”

Ray -Frank will do his best to call him that out loud, but ‘big dick’ is still a title relevant to his interests- smiles and Frank finds himself wanting to smile back. It’s a contagious smile. “Can you show me where we’re going? They’re cutting off my circulation like a bastard.”

Frank looks at the four cans of paint in each hand and starts walking to his bedroom. He calls over his shoulder, “how much do I owe you?”

“Not much, they’re all off-tints. And if we don’t use one I’ll just save it.”

It’s good of Gerard to say, because he has no idea what the hell he would do with five cans of paint. He opens his door and silently says goodbye to his pristine white walls. If Frank goes by Gerard’s wardrobe, in a matter of hours he’ll have four black walls.

“You don’t have a coffin.”

Frank can’t really tell if that’s a question or a statement but either way he doesn’t want to answer him. If he gets mad at Gerard’s best friend, Gerard might not want to be around him anymore. That would suck, epically. Luckily Ray does it for him.

“Jesus fucking Christ Bob." Ray turns to Frank. “Don’t mind him, he’s new too. Came in the summer, but this summer. He’s from Chicago.”

Illinois is a yellow state, so that makes sense. Frank finds it hard to trust people from yellow states, considering when they were crossing the border into Maryland the toll booth woman threw holy water on everyone in the car before letting them drive through. But he’s going to have to give it a go, for Gerard’s sake.

“I guess I should have asked before. What’s your favourite colour?”

Frank had been under the impression that Gerard would do whatever he wanted to do. It seems a bit late to ask now, when Ray’s already settling the cans onto the carpet with a muffled thud. “Green. I don’t hate anything, except maybe brown, but green’s the best.”

Ray grins and again Frank finds himself grinning back. It’s impossible not to. Ray could probably suck two cocks at once, mouth accommodating as well as beautiful. “ICI Paints had two greens and an aqua. I guess fate intervened.”

“Let’s crack that shit open!”

Bob shakes his head. “First we need to move all the shit into the middle of the room and cover it with a ratty sheet.”

Gerard waves his arm impatiently. “You get on that.”

“And while I’m moving shit for a guy I don’t know, what are you doing?” Bob says it with an air of someone that knew full well coming over meant being delegated mover.

Sure enough, Gerard answers with “I’ll be over here ideaing.”

He’s in the middle of painting out the first yellow narwhal in a green sea when Frank notices. Gerard’s hard. For a second he thinks it might be a trick of shadows, but then Gerard turns to re-dunk his brush in the can and it’s impossible to mistake it for anything else. Gerard apparently senses Frank’s staring, he looks down to track his gaze. His face turns a bit red. “Sometimes when I get really into what I’m doing. Well. Uh. Can we not talk about my awkward random boners?”

That plan might be okay for Bob and Ray, but Frank is a halfling raised in a red state. He has vampire sensibilities. Their moral code is his moral code, and their moral code says sexual interest leads to sexual performance. So he takes the few steps forward and grabs Gerard. Ray and Bob are the ones staring now. Frank’s not entirely sure why. He’s not doing much, his hand isn’t even down his underwear.

Cupping his dick might not be much, but it’s enough for a teenager. Gerard groans instead of pushing him away. If he did Frank would have asked if he meant it before stopping -some vamps like the struggle-, but he doesn’t so Frank just tightens his grip a bit.

“You joking?”

“No? You two wanna join?” Frank hasn’t had a foursome in a few months, it would be nice to give it a go. Especially if Ray’s fucking him with his huge dick or sucking him with his huge mouth.

“We’re gonna go get some Slurpees.”

“Or McDonalds.”

“Or mow your lawn.”

“Something.” That’s Bob’s last word before they rush out. Well, all the more for him then. Bob and Ray are cool, and more cocks and cunts are always better than less, but Gerard’s enough to satisfy him.

***

Monday morning Frank comes into Broadfoot to see a guy leaning against his locker. Frank crosses his arms instinctively though he doesn’t stop walking forward. He’s not a coward. Still, if whatever is about to happen is bad, Frank is just going to stop going near his locker. He can start carrying around all his shit at all times. Even humans can manage a full backpack.

The guy shakes his long black hair out of his face when Frank stops a few feet away, or at least attempts to. It all settles back down in greasy lanks over his cheeks. “Did you fuck around with Gerard Way?”

“I assume? I don’t know his last name but Gerard isn’t exactly Jason or Chris. Why?”

Scraggy guy shrugs. “Gerard’s my boyfriend.”

Something in Frank’s soul starts snarling or spitting. The next time he sees Ray or Bob he’s going to ask if they do the same possessive thing around their crushes, or if it’s a vamp thing.

“I’ve got one question. I had more but now I’m pretty sure that you didn’t know he was dating me so I don’t have to ask why you’re fucking with me.” The sentence ends with a snarl. Frank’s fangs slide down a fraction against the perceived threat before he regains control and thinks them back into his gums. Fights can be heady experiences, but he doesn’t want to be suspended or expelled. He likes comic book guy, and Ray and Bob seem decent even if Bob is ignorant, and Gerard is his, and he can’t be around any of them if he gets expelled.

“What’s that?” he replies instead.

“Did you bite him.”

“I didn't even stick my hand down his pants. Like he came, not gonna lie. But there was nothing intimate. I could have been a shrubbery for as much interaction as there was.”

“Fuck him or have him fuck you, whatever. Fill every fucking orifice with his come, I don’t care. But drink from him and I'll strand you on the roof, and you'll either burn up or have to jump off and break both your legs.”

“No blood. Got it.” It rankles a bit to think he’s sharing Gerard, but sharing is better than some bullshit about giving him up or fighting for him.

***

They’re reading, as per usual. Mikey’s got the newest edition of New Avengers, Frank’s got an old Age of Apocalypse. It’s impossible to keep XMen canon straight, but as long as you go into it not expecting things to make sense, or be related to each other at all, most of the offshoots are pretty interesting.

Frank’s only a few pages into the issue when Gerard of all people storms into the library. Rather than say hi to him though, he turns straight to the left side of the couch. “Mikey, I put that in my backpack because I was going to smuggle it into American history class! What the hell?”

Mikey doesn’t look up from his comic, just rattles off his explanation. Not that it explains everything for Frank. “A, you're almost failing American history. B, I needed it for gym, I forgot to bring a change again.”

“You mean you decided you didn’t feel like running laps!”

“Those phrases are synonyms.”

“It’s the newest issue of New Avengers, that I bought with my money, so I don’t know why you think you get to read it first.”

‘If you were that concerned about first dibs, you should have read it when you bought it last night. It’s a well known rule that after twelve hours it’s anyone’s game, right Frank?”

“I’ve never actually bought comic books?” And he probably wouldn’t get in the middle of this, even if he had.

“Fucking assholey thief little brothers.”

“Right, because you’ve never read my issues.”

“After you get first read, Mikey. There’s a difference!”

That’s when it hits Frank he’s fucking brothers. It’s pretty cool, at home none of his friends or acquaintances had siblings. The realisation settles over his lap, and makes him want a threesome. He doesn’t ask though. He’s known Gerard a week, and that’s long enough to know angry sex wouldn’t work for him. Mikey doesn’t seem to have moods in which handjobs or blowjobs aren’t wanted, which Frank can appreciate, but Gerard needs to be willing for it to be a threesome. Besides, there’s the fact of Mikey and Gerard not knowing about each other yet. He’ll tell them as soon as he can make sure they know it’s normal for vampires to have multiple partners. Gerard should already know, at least, thanks to Bert.

“I’m gonna get Mom to make you mow the lawn when we get home.”

Frank’s eyebrow raise into his hairline. It seems really harsh just for comics. He knows Mikey likes them, and apparently Gerard does too, but still. “You’re giving him a death sentence over a comic book?”

“What?”

“I like reading them too, but that seems harsh.” If Frank had a brother he’d probably never try to kill him, even when emotions got high.

“Nothing is too harsh for comic book usurpers. But, uh,”

Mikey finishes for Gerard. “We still have no idea what you mean.”

Frank’s never seen a vamp so stupid. It’s enough to make him wonder if living in an orange state is dangerous for vampires and halflings. It cannot possibly be safe to forget your nature. “If Mikey has to mow the lawn he’ll die.”

“I agree.” He pauses. “Uh, why though?”

“The sun will burn you to charcoal?” Seriously, how does he have to explain this?

“Uh, no? I might get a sunburn, but only vampires crisp in the sun.”

Frank thinks back to all their conversations. Mikey never actually said he was, even though the clues are obvious. He better ask. “Wait, you’re not a vampire?”

“No, he’s not.”

“Then who did your mom cheat on your dad with? Do you know him?” As the silence lengthens he realises it’s maybe a sensitive topic. At home when strangers asked if his mom really fucked her meal plan, Frank would have to brawl in the name of his parents’ honour. “Sorry. You don’t have to say.”

“Our mom never cheated.”

Really, that’s pretty naive. He knows he’s being a jerk, but he doesn’t like being lied to, so he presses. “The stork doesn’t just deliver a halfling to human parents.”

Mikey shakes his head, finger tucked into the spine of his -or Gerard’s, apparently- comic book. “Dude, he’s full human too.”

It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not like Frank monitors them 24/7. Sitting inside their rooms and watching them sleep would be creepy. But as far as he can see they’re always in hoodies, Mikey doesn’t eat, Gerard covers every inch he can before he goes outside, and they have decent sex drives. “Not even a quarter? Like a grandparent?”

“Nope, sorry.”

“Trust me, we think it sucks too. As soon as we actually like the way we look we’ll find a papa or a mama. No sense in changing now when I’m fat and he’s zitty.”

Frank looks them over. The assessment is hardly fair. Gerard’s not fat, he doesn’t have three chins or moobs. And Mikey’s skin isn’t that bad, no worse than the average teenager.

“Bert wouldn’t do it anyway. He’s a dick.”

“He’s not a dick. He’s gonna be forever sixteen, and he doesn’t want to cause that for others. Plus he’s not the parental type. That’s not being a dick.”

“Okay, so he’s not a dick for that. He’s still a dick, and you know it.”

“I gotta get back to Ray and Bob. Gimme my comic.” Gerard thrusts a hand out. Mikey’s response is to snort. “Fine. I’ll be back at the end of lunch. Read quickly.”

Frank nods his goodbye, and waits until he’s out of the library to turn to Mikey and ask. “Why don’t you eat with them? Do you think they’re dicks too?” Frank doesn’t. The longer they hung out with him two days ago, the more he liked them. But maybe Mikey knows a different side of them.

“No, it’s not that. The inside of my head can get pretty loud. There are always people. In classes, and the guys come over most nights. But there aren’t a lot of people in the library.” Mikey finishes with a shrug. It’s still not a lot of an explanation, but it’s enough for Frank. He doesn’t like his people easily understandable anyway. He’s never thought of himself as particularly quiet, but if he’s not an intrusion for Mikey he’s happy to be on the same couch with him each lunch hour. He can always talk to Gerard and Ray and Bob online.

***

Frank’s about to light a cigarette when a hand comes down on his shoulder. He jolts, almost setting his bangs on fire. The flame flickers out in the slight breeze and Frank turns his torso to look behind himself. It’s Mikey. Mikey’s got a green hood pulled over his hair, glasses the only thing sticking out. Even knowing the truth, he still looks like a halfling to Frank.

“What are you doing?”

“Waiting for Gerard. We walk home together.” He’s still got a while yet, and the library would be safer, but you can’t smoke indoors at Broadfoot.

“I didn’t know you lived by us.”

Frank shrugs. He doesn’t actually know where Gerard and Mikey live. When Gerard turns in one direction and he turns in the other he doesn’t backtrack to follow. He’s not a stalker. “Close enough.”

“You won’t char?”

“No.”

“Cool. I’m waiting for Bob,” he explains without provocation. “He’s posing for the art club. Before you get excited, no nudes. Just him picking up crates and shit so they can sketch muscles or whatever. He’s coming over after, you should too.”

There’s no reason not to, so he does. It’s a bit of a wait but eventually Gerard and Bob come out together, and he follows in line behind them. They don’t make condescending efforts to include him in the conversation, and Frank doesn’t talk as much as he might have at home -maybe because no one is discussing sex or meals- but it’s still a friendly vibe. At least until they stop in front of a house about ten blocks away from Frank’s.

Gerard unlocks the door and the three of them pile in, taking up the entire landing as they slide off their shoes. Frank’s waiting for one of them to move when Gerard turns to him and says “come in.”

“Fuck you!”

“What?” Gerard seems gobsmacked. He’s lucky he’s not Franksmacked.

“You heard me, fucking asshole.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Is this a you came from a red state thing?”

That they don’t even know how it’s offensive makes it that much worse. “Inviting me in like I’m some bullshit mythological creature. Like I don’t fucking exist.”

“Okay, definitely a red state thing. I’m guessing no one invites anyone inside in Richmond?”

“Yeah. And no one turns into fucking bats either, does that come as a shock too?”

“Don’t be a dick. We didn’t know. If there’s anything else we do that offends you, feel free to bitch loudly.” Mikey rolls his eyes and walks further inside the house. Frank considers storming off. Anyone at home would, if not for the insult than because storming off is what vampires do. But the truth is Gerard and Mikey and Bob and Ray are the most likely candidates for best friends. He doesn’t want to ruin that now over one ignorant remark.

As soon as Frank moves past the foyer of the Way house he understands why Gerard was stricken dumb by the emptiness of his room. The Way house is like four homes worth of stuff in one house. There’s stuff everywhere. It’s cluttered on every flat surface, and on shelves mounted in between mismatched paintings and pictures of Mikey and Gerard when they were young. There are three adults in a living room off the kitchen, but only Bob pauses to say hello, both brothers clatter down a wooden set of stairs.

The tiny basement is half a rec room, with three doors lining one wall. One is half open and a khaki green toilet is visible. A constant rumbling comes from the left, the bass noise of a washer or dryer. Frank doesn’t have a chance to guess the third. The couch is a three seater, but there are four of them and the only other seating is a rocking chair. Frank dives at the same instant that Bob does, leaving Gerard to sit on the carpet.

It’s a nice evening, though towards the end Frank can see what Mikey meant yesterday. When Bob’s mom shows up to pick him up, she ends up coming in and having dessert with everyone else. Maybe twenty minutes later some kid with another weird G name comes in and he and Bob’s mom talk about salads for at least a quarter of an hour. When he thinks about trying to cram Gerard’s boyfriend or Mikey’s other friends in the house Frank nearly gets claustrophobic.

Eventually everyone else leaves or heads to bed. Even Mikey and Gerard go to theirs for a minute, although it’s just to change into the comfort of worn t-shirts and pyjama pants. When they offer him, he agrees. Comfort is always a good thing. After comparing both pairs, Frank takes Gerard’s as the lesser of two evils. They’re looser, but Mikey’s are about three feet too long. He changes in their room, not because he’s modest in any form, just because he wants to spy.

The first thing Frank thinks when he enters the Way bedroom -besides how much stuff they own too, hoarding must be genetic- is how difficult a threesome would be. They share a bedroom, the only siblings Frank’s ever known to do so. Both beds are singles, and there’s not a square inch of visible carpet on the floor, never mind enough room for all of them to be down together. But it’s probably a good thing, a deterrent from asking. His dad’s pretty much certain that if they find out he’s with both, he’ll suddenly be with neither. It seems stupid to him, another case of human morals being weird, but he really doesn’t want to lose either of them.

They watch two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents before Gerard starts yawning. Ten minutes into the first he stands, wiping the back of his hand over his mouth. “I gotta crash. Frank, you gonna go home now?”

“I’ll sleep over. My mom’s been at work for hours so she won’t notice and my dad will be happy I’m making friends.”

“K. I’ll make your bed, then I’m sleeping.”

Their process of cleaning up is interesting. Mikey deftly plucks the comics off the floor and puts them in a neat stack on one of the dressers before he starts kicking the remaining debris under both beds. Gerard joins in the kicking for a minute before wandering away. The way the rest of the evening has gone, Frank half expects to find him in half an hour, three quarters done a drawing. Instead he comes back with a pile of blankets higher than his head in his arms.

“We don’t have any sleeping bags. We’re not really the camping type.” His voice is muffled by the blankets, but loud enough that Frank can understand. Rather than drop them all at once, he stands as Mikey untangles one and a time and begins to make a nest. Frank smiles. In their own way, they’re really sort of domestic.

“You tired? Or you wanna watch more Hitchcock?”

Frank isn’t actually that tired, it takes more than two weeks to get a vampire’s body clock in a different time zone. However, he would like being in Gerard’s room with the door closed. “I think I’m gonna try to sleep.”

Mikey shrugs at him and leaves, flicking the light off as he does. Frank lets Gerard get into his bed first, it’ll lower the probability of being stepped on in the dark. Only when the springs stop squeaking does Frank pull back the top layer of blankets and lay down. The nest is surprisingly comfortable, and he’ll easily be able to sleep later. For now though, all he wants is to devise a foolproof strategy. He doesn’t have long, Gerard’s obviously near sleep. In the end he goes with what’s simple. He sits up and sneaks his hand under Gerard’s blankets to put a hand on his thigh. This time there’s no Ray or Bob to distract.

Gerard just asks. “So you want to have sex then? Move over.”

Frank only has an instant to shift before Gerard is rolling himself off the bed and landing with a ‘oomph’ beside him. It doesn’t even stretch the elastic of his loose pyjamas when Gerard pushes a hand down them. Frank hurries to return the favour. It’s still not as much as he’d like, but if it’s as far as Gerard will go he’ll take it.

“If you bite me I’m not biting you back,” Gerard whispers. Frank imagines he looks serious, though with their noses touching it’s impossible to tell.

“Uh, duh?” It should go without saying. “You couldn’t even, you don’t have fangs.”

“Bert cuts somewhere so I can drink. I’m getting sick of it though.”

“So not with me then.” Frank made his promise to Bert, he won’t betray that.

It’s the last thing they say, after they just grip at each other and work their own rhythms. Gerard doesn’t kiss him, and Frank doesn’t start anything. Breathing each other’s exhalations is almost the same anyway. He wants to bite him, he wants Gerard to be his, but he can’t cross that line.

After they’re done they wipe their hands off on one of the fleece blankets and toss it to the side. Gerard smiles at him and kisses his cheek before standing and falling into his own bed. He falls asleep pretty much immediately, Frank can hear his breathing pattern slow. Frank’s not as lucky. He might not be able sense things as well as Mattie could back home, but he still can. Gerard’s strong heartbeat when he’s trying to rest is disconcerting. Frank’s not sure he can sleep with the accompaniment, at least not until the exhaustion weighs out the distraction. So after breathing in tune with him for a long enough time to officially be a creeper, he quietly stands and leaves the room.

Mikey’s watching a movie with his headphones plugged in. As Frank sits beside him he tugs on the cords going to the buds and lets them fall to his neck. His finger is still working the trackpad to make the movie stop when he asks “you wanna fuck?”

Hell yes is Frank’s first answer, but what comes out of his moth is somehow edited into something more sympathetic. “I thought you didn’t.”

“I only fuck one person at a time. Consider it my personal mantra of the ethical slut.”

“I haven’t read that.” If it’s even a book. Frank thinks it is though, Mikey’s side of the room and the shared middle had a bunch of books scattered around.

“Yeah, I don’t think a red state worries about that kind of thing.”

Frank could have the red Vs orange state conversation. If Bob was still here they could even get some yellow laws and opinions into the debate. But he’d really rather have the ‘who’s cock, who’s ass’ conversation. The first time might not require working out Mikey’s headspace, but he won’t do it again if he felt pressured into it, and Frank doesn’t really want to be that asshole anyway. Rape isn’t unknown in red states, but there are better ways to show power, and most don’t do it through sexual activity.

“But you’re done with whoever?”

“It just took Pete and Joe a few circlejerks they didn’t want the third body.” Frank’s not sure he could imagine a situation where a third body wouldn’t spice things up, but each to their own. Or, if he’s going on with cliched phrases, more for him.

“You said fuck you? I don’t care either way but you seemed specific.”

“If you don’t care then yeah, I’d rather. Been a while since I bottomed.”

Mikey puts his laptop on the middle cushion, then stands and move around the side of the couch. The main piece of furniture in the room is smack in the middle, facing the T.V. that’s mounted on the wall. It must be a hazard when you’re drunk and prone to walking into things, but for now it’s helpful. Mikey loosens the drawstring on his Southpark pants, which is enough to make them drop to the carpet. Taking a step to the side frees him of them, letting him spread his legs and brace himself against the couch’s corduroy back. Tall, thin, and hard, he’s fucking beautiful.

A bit less than two weeks in a new city isn’t enough time to figure out where to buy all the brands the Ieros liked, or even their equivalents. Mom still can’t find a decent source for anemic blood, which is delightfully sour, and there are half a dozen different shampoos in the shower they’re trying out. But some things are important. Frank ran out of the remnants of the box of individual packets of lube before he even started at Broadfoot, he had to find a place to get more. Thankfully after the nearest sex shop kicked him out for being underage Googling around informed him the vampire needs store in the mall had no such age restrictions, only the ability to drop fangs and show you belonged inside.

It’s thanks to the Vamp Essentials -creative name, really- that Frank is able to go to where his backpack is leaning against the stairs and pull a packet out of the front pocket instead of Mikey having to sneak into the bedroom and fumble around his nightstand. There’s a packet in his jeans too, but those are in a heap in their room.

“You said it’s been a while so I’m gonna do the whole fingering thing, okay?” Frank doesn’t wait for an answer. He just tears at the slit in the package so it leaks onto his fingers and tosses it to the carpet when it’s contents are expunged. It starts to drip so he curls one hand around himself and the other against Mikey’s crack. It would suck if it dried to stickiness before he got a chance to put it to use.

Mikey gasps, but he arches backward trying to get more. Frank wants to give him that. He adds a third finger.

“This is great,” he mutters a minute later. It’s true, not just because it’s been a while since he’s fucked someone. Having sex with Mikey specifically is good. Better than it would be with a random person from class.

“Yeah.” It’s not a moan, but it should be. Frank picks up the pace until Mikey is repeating it over and over again, quickly, like he’s hyperventilating. He can hear all the air leave his lungs each H. Frank wants to eat the sound from his lips.

Bert didn’t say anything about Mikey. If Frank had to guess, he’d probably say the dislike was mutual. Vampires are too emotional to do anything but loathe anyone who as much as raises an eyebrow at them. Still, Frank doesn’t bite down when he comes. Mikey knows he’s a halfling. If he wanted it, he’d ask.

Mikey uses a sock to wipe his come off the back of the couch. Frank feels bad for a moment about not catching it, but Mikey seems to have things under control.

“You wanna watch Nailface, or you wanna try to sleep again?”

“I’ve never heard of it.”

Mikey shoots him an astonished look. “Okay, you definitely have to stay up then. And I’ll print off a list of human producer movies and you tell me if you’ve seen any of them. We’ll fix your horror education by the end of the school year. I promise.”

Frank grins and throws himself over the back of the couch, narrowly avoiding crunching the laptop. He can stay up until dawn, if it’s for horror movies.

***

Friday morning Bert is at his locker again. Frank doesn’t know what that’s about, but his concern takes a back seat when Anderson Lee spots him and glares. The jock takes a menacing few steps towards him and Frank curls his hands into fists as he waits. He won’t make the first move, and he won’t drain him of blood, but he can at least defend himself.

Luckily- or at least it seems that way for a moment- Bert intervenes. Anderson makes it about five feet towards him before Bert shoves him with full vampire strength and he flies down the hall before crumpling when he hits a bank of lockers. Only when Anderson is dispatched and Bert is still glaring does it occur to Frank that there’s no reason for Bert to give a shit if a jock beats him up. Considering how well he knows vampire nature, it’s pretty clear Bert just didn’t want another person to interrupt his confrontation. Frank braces himself for a brawl, knowing he’s about to get his ass handed to him. Mike or James would be great right about now.

The hallway is silent, or at least Frank’s instincts have moved past catching idle conversation. It’s maybe not the smartest thing but Frank’s never been a wimp, or a especially planned out thinker. He breaks the stillness with a ‘hi’.

“Gerard broke up with me last night.” Bert’s moving full speed down the hallway at him. In an instant he’s face to face. “Why.” Bert is taller than him, but no taller than Gerard, and there’s not a single muscle on his frame. That doesn’t make him less frightening.

“I dunno.” It’s not like he told Gerard to break up with his boyfriend.

“I know you didn’t bite him. What did you do?”

“I don’t know.” He and Gerard haven’t even had sex since Tuesday. It’s highly fucking unlikely that Gerard broke up with Bert due to his own sexual prowess.

“It’s what he didn’t.”

It’s Mikey’s voice. Frank doesn’t turn to check, he can’t afford to. In an unmatched fight like this, every instant he has to react is the moment that might save him from being disemboweled. There’s only so much his healing can take care of, as a halfling some things can kill him before he can fix them. That’s the problem entirely. He’s a halfling and he’s gonna get hurt, at the very least. Mikey could easily die, depending on how enraged Bert gets. Even thinking it makes Frank’s fangs drop. “Mikey, go away.”

Mikey speaks again, clearly ignoring Frank and the danger of goading a pissed off vamp. “Gerard hates fishnet bars, and that’s all you do. You, Quinn, Jepha and Dan go to a fishnet bar before you take him to the car to fuck. Six nights a week.”

“He likes that.”

Frank finds Bert’s perplexed tone and look sort of sad. Mikey doesn’t have the same sympathy. He says coldly “no, he really doesn’t.”

“What’s a fishnet bar?”

“Humans that get off on it get put in these bondage net things that are chained to the ceiling above a round table. Vampires chill and drink as interests them. Or in Gerard’s case, cuts the human and sucks from the wound. It’s all consensual, but it’s not very interesting.”

“I dunno. Sounds kinda awesome. We didn’t have that at home, it was all either free range hunting or meal plans.”

He can practically feel Mikey’s glare heating the back of his head. Mikey’s probably got a point. This isn’t about him. Of course he thinks it’s good, blood is natural for him. There’s no nutritional value in it for Gerard.

“How do you know?”

Mikey snorts. “He told me.” The word come out sounding a lot like duh.

Bert frowns. Frank braces himself, prepared to give Mikey an extra thirty seconds to run. It won’t be enough to save himself, but there’s always hope. Instead Bert turns and stalks off.

Frank calms for all of two seconds. Then he realises what that means. “We need to find Gerard and tell him to hide. Would he have his phone on him right now?”

Mikey shakes his head. “He’s not gonna go after him Sappelstien style.”

“Look, I know a lot about vampires and-”

“I know Bert. They’ve been together almost two years. He’s gonna go see Quinn and Jepha and Dan, and they’re going to blow off school for a few days. It’ll-” the five minute warning bell goes off, cutting him off for a second. When it stops, Mikey continues. “It’ll be fine. Bert wouldn’t hurt him, he’s just fucking blind to shit sometimes. Go to class.”

The incident doesn’t so much fade from his mind as other things climb on top of the attention span hierarchy. The pop quiz in geography takes his mind off anything except soil conditions, which, unfortunately he doesn’t remember much about. At the end of the period Frank’s pretty certain he bombed the whole thing. Multiple choice leaves a seventy five percent chance of being wrong. Thankfully Mom and Dad don’t care about individual assignment failure, only overall passing of courses. Next class is chemistry. Balancing chemical equations is like math with possible hypothetical horrible death. It’s distracting.

It’s not until lunch that Frank remembers Gerard’s life has fallen apart, and even then it takes a visual prompt. Mikey is standing outside the library, loose backpack straps letting the bag hang low on his ass. Frank knows the backpack has to have beautiful, stunning comics in it, but when Frank walks forward arms outstretched parodying a zombie going for brains, Mikey shakes his head.

“We’re going to the caf today. Gerard’s gonna be nuts.”

Honestly, Frank would like to see Gerard going nuts. Any human, really. Compared to Richmond everyone’s been so calm and sedate he’d almost think they were stationary. He always got shit for being emotionless, but everyone here is drywall compared to hm. On the other hand, the cafeteria doesn’t really mesh with Mikey using lunch for breathing room. “You sure? It’ll be noisy.”

“Gerard needs me.”

And that’s that, apparently.

Frank follows Mikey through the labyrinth of tables. He hasn’t been in here since the first day of school, and looking around he’s pretty happy for it. It’s hard to blame Mikey for hiding with comics, when comics are so much better than the people arm wrestling over ketchup packets at the table he’s passing.

For someone that never lunches with his friends, Mikey knows exactly where they are. It’s probably a homing beacon thing, like how Gerard knew he’d be in the library. Mikey’s sliding onto the bench before Frank even spots Ray’s hair pulled into the hood of a sweatshirt. He sits across from Bob and listens in. It’s clearly mid-conversation, Ray telling Gerard he can’t make Bert’s decisions for him.

Mikey whispers an explanation for the sweater to Frank -apparently Ray pulls on his hair when he’s aggravated, and talking Gerard off a ledge is frustrating as hell- before speaking over them loudly. “What happened?”

Ray rolls his eyes and tugs on the cotton cords of his hoodie as Bob studiously eats his pita. Mikey keeps looking and after an odd hiccupy-wail Gerard bursts into arm waving motion. “Bert and Quinn dropped out!”

“And of course it’s all Gerard’s fault,” Ray tosses in.

“It is! I broke up with him.”

“Most people don’t move out of state when they break up.” Ray answers. Bob takes another bite of his pita.

“Out of the state?”

He answers miserably “They’re gonna take their band to Virginia. They’re good, but they could have been good here. If it wasn’t for me.”

Frank looks at Mikey and Ray and decides to join in the conversation. It’s not like he can make things worse. “Gerard Way, are you a groupie? Because I know guitar, if it’ll get you out of your jeans and into your bed.”

“What?”

“Sex makes everything better. In Richmond after every long stint of monogamy there was a ‘congratulations on being free’ orgy.”

“Yeah, we don’t really do orgies here.”

“I don’t want sex, I want to find Bert and apologise.”

“You do not need to apologise for not wanting to drink other people’s blood.”

Frank thinks his next statement is actually a lot more helpful. Or at least better suited to the delicate sensibilities of humans. “You can’t find him anyway. If you try to go into Virginia you’re literally volunteering as a meal plan.”

“That mean what it sounds like it means??”

Bob doesn’t look like he’s joking so Frank explains without being sarcastic. “You know how you have arranged marriages?”

“Well, I don’t think North America does.”

“But you get the concept, right? Well, our state has arranged meal plans. I think most red states do. You commit yourself to a single human and take the vast majority of your meals from them, but it’s your responsibility to take care of all their needs. It’s why we left, actually. My mom and dad met and fell in love, but that’s not okay in red states.

“Why didn’t your mom just turn him? I don’t understand.”

“It’s none of your damn business,” Frank answers, trying to keep the calm that this state is smothered with. It’s not even his business, really, never mind Bob’s.

“Okay, so let’s recap. Not your fault, Bert makes his own life choices, can’t go find him because everyone in Virginia will eat you. Anything else you’d like to say?”

“I’m gonna miss him.” It’s not histrionic, it’s low and sad. Frank lifts his leg and rubs his foot against Gerard’s knee as Ray pulls him in for a hug.

***

Eating popcorn during movies is a tradition Frank’s dad taught him. His mom couldn’t join in, of course, she would have hurled all over the movie theatre. Not that Frank saw many movies in theatres. With friends it was easier to download, and going to a theatre with his parents would have made a scene. His dad wasn’t specifically banned from the theatre, but bringing meal plans to entertainment events was considered rude. All the sneers would have made Mom start a fight. So they watched movies at home, he and his dad with buttered popcorn, his mom with a heated mug of common O.

This theatre has a halfling option; blood topping. It looks like synthetic blood to Frank, thicker like it’s half clotted, and more red than it should be. It’s not the first blood flavoured product he’s found grocery shopping in Jersey, which is pretty awesome. Blood ice cream is delicious, there are two cartons in the freezer now. After Ray warns him that Mikey is a snack thief Frank pays the extra quarter for the topping. One nice thing about human friends; they’re not going to try to snag a sip from your lunch bag.

“Where do you like to sit Frank?”

“Dunno. Where ever.” Frank’s not like James, who races up and down the aisle until he can find the seat that gives him the perfect view. As long as he can see the whole screen he doesn’t care. Since they’re the only five in the theatre, he doesn’t really have to worry about sitting behind some six foot fucker.

“I’m not being anal about it, it’s legitly important. Ask Gerard.”

He chimes in after Bob without actually being asked. “It’s true. Seating is a production.”

“Mikey texts the whole movie so whoever feels the least likely to be distracted by glowing screens sits beside him. Gerard likes to talk. Over the dialogue.” Judging by Ray’s frown, that’s not acceptable movie behaviour. “So he gets either the most capable of tuning him out, or the most interested in sharing opinions. Sometimes we have to sit in different rows. So where do you wanna sit?”

“I’ll go a few rows up, with Mikey.” That way he’s got some privacy. If Bob and Ray’s reactions last weekend were anything to go by, he’ll need it.

Frank has full intentions of initiating eventually mutual handjobs as soon as it’s convenient. Basically as soon as he’s finished his popcorn and Mikey is done his Milk Duds. No reason to waste concession food, not when it’s so fucking expensive. The problem is that the opening scene is a man being held spread eagle by branches as leaves start cramming themselves into his open screaming mouth. After a drawn out scene of struggling and suffering he suffocates and the opening credits of Opplethorpe start to roll. Frank can’t look away from the screen. He didn’t have the chance to Google the series before they left the Way house, and the guys refused to tell him what it was about, just that the full day marathon was well worth the thirty bucks. With a surname sounding title it’s probably not a pissed off Mother Nature, but it seems a bit outdoorsy for a possession. He can’t jerk Mikey off, he needs to watch for clues as to what’s going on.

There’s a half an hour intermission between the first and second film. Frank doesn’t use that for sex either. Instead he takes a leak, and then pesters the guys for information about Amanda, and why exactly did Robin take off halfway through the movie and is he going to be in the sequel. They tell him exactly nothing, and then the lights dim. Frank races a few rows away, head slightly raised to look at the screen instead of at his feet, even though the aisle is steep. Nagging or not, he doesn’t actually want Gerard to spoil anything by blabbing to him.

By Saturday evening his head is full of gore and horror. He gets off the bus a stop before the guys so he only has to walk three minutes instead of twenty. His dick considers it a wasted night, but his imagination is happy. And according to Gerard there are two left in the series. It’s good enough.

***

He hears the footsteps before he sees anything. The couch in the library is against the side of the circulation desk, a sort of awkward placement for scoping out everything, and on top of that Mikey has the outer cushion. Frank strains to see anyway. It’s not often people stomp and crash their way into the library, if only because Mr Zylack would probably bar their entrance. He’s a vampire that takes the sanctity of his library very seriously. When the steps get closer allowing him to see it’s Gerard storming towards them he tightens the pinch of his fingers. Gerard can take this comic back over his entirely dead, much colder body.

But he doesn’t swear at either of them for reading filched comics. Instead he bursts out “Ray’s missing!”

“What?” Mikey says it in the tone of someone that’s put up with a lot of panic. Knowing Gerard, he isn’t much surprised Mikey’s got that persona handy.

“He’s missing. He hasn’t been to class. He’s not answering texts, or calls. And Roohi Thind said there was no activity in the house this morning! Bob is asking the principal if she knows anything, like maybe he’s in the hospital and didn’t tell us because it was appendicitis and he would have died if they hadn’t rushed off immediately.”

“Why Bob?”

“He’s less prone to-”

“Hysterics?” Frank suggests, not unkindly. Hysterical people make him feel comfortably at home, especially when it’s not an enraged hysteria and he doesn’t have to worry about his life and limbs.

“Enthusiasm.”

The rest of lunch is spent with Gerard. For a good ten minutes he paces in front of Gerard, as Mr Zylack’s glares get more and more jagged. Then, likely milliseconds before Zylack decides to kicks him out Bob comes in and sits on one of the plastic chairs at the table nearest the couch. Gerard sits opposite him, and Frank and Mikey know well enough to relocate rather than shout across the gap.

“She doesn’t know where he is.”

“Or she won’t tell us! Uh, you.”

“I’m pretty sure she was telling the truth, Gee. She has a shit poker face.” Bob says it with full confidence. It makes Frank wonder how often Bob’s been in the principal’s office, and what possibly for. He doesn’t seem like a hell raiser.

Frank’s not a horrible friend. He logs on to Yahoo as soon as he gets home and messages Ray. When there’s no answer he waits a few minutes and types something new. He ends up attempting to start a conversation every twenty minutes until he goes to bed. Only a few are interesting links, most are variations of hey and back yet, but unlike Mattie, Ray doesn’t seem to need to be entertained. For the short time Frank’s been talking to Ray he’s been good at replying quickly. If he’s not answering it’s probably because he’s away from the computer, not because there’s something more interesting in another tab.

***

If anything, the next day is worse. By second period everyone is talking about it. Ray Toro is in a readjustment facility. It’s hardly the first time in Broadfoot history. Hell, it’s not even the first this calender year. That doesn’t mean it’s not interesting to talk about. Frank doesn’t think Ray will be worse off for the sudden change, merely different. Still, it’ll take everyone used to his old style of being a bit to adjust.

Frank’s fully expecting to be accosted at lunch by a frantic Gerard. When he passes through the library doors without Mikey waiting grimly he considers himself off the hook. His assurance of another lunch hour of quiet and comics is shattered when he sees two guys sitting with Mikey. He doesn’t know either of them, but it’s obvious they know Mikey.

One thing that can be said for them is they have manners. The teenager with the curly hair nudges the one with the bangs when he sees Frank. Without discussing it, the one with the bangs sits on the curly haired guy’s lap, leaving the end seat free. Bangs pats the cushion. “siddown, we’ll only be a minute.”

Frank shrugs to himself and sits. They’re both warm against him, halflings at least. Probably human, if the long sleeve test has any accuracy at all.

“Come on Mikey. Are you honestly gonna say you feel in any way educatable right now?”

Curly hair adds, “are you gonna go to any classes this afternoon?”

“No, you’re not. We fucking know you, dude. We know you’re not. So if you’re not going to classes, you might as well not go to classes outside of the school, right? I’m pretty sure the theatre you like is playing Transformers.”

The last Bangs says as a lure, and Frank’s pretty unsurprised to see that it works. “We should go get Gerard too.”

“And Bob, yeah, sure. Might as well. What about you?”

Frank shrugs again. Might as well go, if everyone else is going. It’s not like anything he’ll be learning this afternoon is life or death.

They end up in Bangs’s -or at it turns out, Pete’s- van. It’s a good thing he has one, considering there’s six of them. It’s not necroglass, so he’s obviously human. Still, Frank’s not too worried about it. There’s a roll of duct tape in Pete’s glove compartment. Pete tosses it into the backseat and he and Bob take five minutes to tape everyone’s hoodies over the big side windows. Frank might have to crouch if they’re driving directly into the sun, but it’s a lot better than nothing.

Once he knows Bangs is Pete he takes another, harder look at him. He can see Mikey and Pete and Curly -who is obviously Joe- clearly in his mind, jerking off together. Frank wonders what the dynamics in bed are, especially now that Mikey isn’t around. Pete looks like he’d just take it all and moan for more. But Mikey said that they’re not interested in threesomes, so whatever. He can respect that and not ask to join in for an evening.

From Frank’s best guess, he’d say they’re about halfway to the theatre when Gerard bursts into speech. “Look, I’m just gonna ask! There’s a elephant the size of a mack truck in the room, so I’m just gonna ask.”

Frank wasn’t aware that there was something obvious and unsaid, so it can’t be as obvious as Gerard thinks. Still if there’s something it would explain why Gerard is scowling at him. “What?”

“Why did you turn Ray?”

The fuck kind of question is that? “I didn’t. I’ve never turned anyone. They didn’t even have humans where I’m from, just thralls and meal plans.”

“So? You’ve had sex with both of us,” Mikey points out. Frank’s not entirely sure what he’s pointing out, all his brainpower is going into trying to figure out when Mikey and Gerard found out about each other, and how.

Instead of a brilliant and unarguable denial, all that comes out is a weak “what?”

“Yeah, we know.”

Gerard seems scandalised at the idea that Frank might think they don’t. “We’re brothers, of course we told each other. But the point is, if you can fuck us both and we still like you enough to be your friend, you can fuck Ray and make him worship you enough that he wants the bite.”

“I didn’t!”

“We just wanna know why. He never really seemed that into the idea, not like me and Mikey wanting it some day. Did he change his mind? Or does he have something terminal and he told you first? Please tell us there’s a reason. That he agreed to it and it wasn’t just you doing it.”

“Fuck you guys! I wouldn’t!” Mikey and Gerard and Bob are just staring at him, waiting for a confession. He can almost take it from Bob, he’s from a yellow state, he’s been raised to think poorly of vampires and halflings. But from Mikey and Gerard? He’s had sex with them. How can they think he’d neck-rape Ray? “Screw this. I’m going home.”

“Where do you live? We can drop you off,” Pete asks calmly. Whatever this ambush was, Pete doesn’t seem to be a part of it.

“Fuck that. I’m not spending another minute with people that think I attacked Ray and turned him against his will! I’d rather char! I’m walking home. Now.” He tugs his hood up and pulls the cuffs of his sleeves as far down his fingers as he can.

Pete attempts to defuse the situation. “So you’re pissed at them, they’re pissed at you. Why does that mean you have to kill yourself?”

“I’m not. I’m gonna walk home just fucking dandily.”

Joe pitches in “Frank, I don’t-”

“Stop the car, Pete.”

Pete sighs, but does as he’s told. Frank considers spitting in their faces as he climbs out, but in the end he doesn’t. Let them enjoy their movie and their bigoted assumptions, they can all go to hell enjoying themselves. He crashes the van door closed and moves quickly to the side of the road as the vehicle takes off.

The walk home is long. It’s not even one yet, the sun is still high in the sky, scorching puddles, metal, and halflings everywhere. His eyes are protected by sunglasses and most of the side of his skin is protected by thin fleece or denim. The coverings work for their fifteen minutes and then his skin starts to blister. Protruding bits first; his nose, his fingertips. Then the rest of the expanse, sun working it’s way through Frank’s clothes to make his body regret daring to combat it’s natural enemy. The only thing that can help him now is getting indoors.

His stubbornness keeps him going for a time. Frank’s a halfling. If he’s not dead then he can keep walking. His vampire genes will heal it soon enough. But it gets worse and worse. It’s the longest Frank’s ever been out in unfiltered, unshaded sun. With each step he can hear his feet crunching in his shoes. It hurts more than anything has ever hurt. Only the idea of a cool bath and more pot than he can smoke makes him take another step.

When the pain makes him bend in the middle of the street to vomit dark brown -a combination of blood and only slightly digested hamburger from Pete’s fast food run- Frank decides it’s enough. He heads for the nearest emergency blackout shelter and collapses into the beautiful darkness. Part of his hand sheers off in chunky ash when he twists the doorknob shut. He doesn’t scream, just reminds himself he’s a halfling and it’ll grow back. He sits on the concrete. He screams then, pressure of cold concrete agonising against his charred thighs. Sunset should be just after seven, he can go home then.

***

Both parents look at him when someone rings the doorbell. Spending a weekend in with his parents has proven ridiculously boring. Next weekend he has to do something, even if it’s volunteer at a donation bank or animal shelter. Frank cannot handle another fifty odd hours indoors, playing his MMORPG and watching them love each other. It’s a sad state of events when being his parents’ bitch and going to answer the door is the most excitement he’s had in two days.

It’s not a salesperson he can mock, or a religious person he can draw into debate for kicks. It’s just Ray Toro, looking nearly identical to his past self. Only a slight difference in expression makes it clear that he’s no longer Ray Toro-human, he’s Ray Toro-predator. Not that he wears it well. Frank’s hardly surprised when he runs his fingers through his hair and asks if he can come in.

Frank sighs. He doesn’t need this right now, life is aggravating enough already. If Ray has that kind of question he should still be at the facility. “You don’t need to ask because that myth is fucking bullshit. Vampires don’t need to ask.”

“No. Polite people need to ask. Can I fucking come in.”

Frank doesn’t answer, just steps aside so Ray can come in. He doesn’t bother to introduce Ray to his parents, they just go to his room. Ray’s a few steps ahead of him, and by the time Frank’s crashing onto one end of his bed Ray’s cross legged on the other side, picking up a half eaten Hershey’s Blood Bites megabar from the nightstand. Frank sighs and snatches it out of his hand.

“Really? That stingy? I woulda owed you.”

“You can’t eat that shit.”

“Blood filled chocolate seems pretty fucking good right now.”

Jesus, what a noob. “You’re full vamp. You can’t eat any human food, it’ll make you yak. I like my room better when it doesn’t smell like puke. There’s no way they didn’t tell you this. And the fucking stupid door thing too. Did you not listen to anything they told you there?”

“Dude, I was pretty fucking distracted! What with being a fucking vampire and all!” He’s clenching his fingers into fists hard enough that Frank can smell blood welling in the tiny crescents. It’s interesting to see Ray with vampire levels of emotion. He’d rather see exuberantly happy Ray though, and that’s not gonna happen until he knows who he is.

“That’s what they were trying to talk to you about. I really think you need to go back to the readjustment place and actually listen to the shit they tell you.”

“No, it’s cool. I’ll figure it out,” he says, calm, like he wasn’t self mutilating seconds ago.

Frank sighs and mentally assigns himself the role of mentor. It’s probably a little better than Bob’s schlepper role for Gerard, at least his is likely to end. Not that he cares about Bob or Gerard anymore. They haven’t talked to him for a week. The last contact was Bob asking him on Yahoo if he survived walking home. Sending him a goatse link got Frank’s thoughts across, at least in his opinion.

“You know what? Let’s go to the car.” The television is muted, which is a very unsubtle way of his parents eavesdropping. They don’t need the silence, his mom could listen and repeat it all to his dad. Frank levers himself off the bed and heads for the kitchen, taking the keys off the hook as he passes by.

The one defect of the house is that they have a carport rather than an attached garage. It’s just a matter of time until his parents get one built. For now though, Frank just walks down the sidewalk, toes instinctively curling against the cold cement squares. He presses the unlock button twice so it gets all the doors, not just the driver’s, and sits in the back seat. Ray looks at him a seconds before circling the car.

“You have seatbelts.”

“Duh?”

It doesn’t seem to be as obvious to Ray. “But you can’t be hurt.”

Vamp myth one thousand and five; you are now indestructible. “We can heal if we break a bone bouncing around the seats, yeah. But if we launch out a window during the day? Dead in minutes. Kept tight against the seat with the belt there’s a slightly higher chance the sun won’t hit. Besides, my dad’s human, remember?”

“Right. Yeah, I guess. Any other fascinating tidbits?”

Might as well match sarcasm with attitude. Frank slides his hand over to Ray’s dick. It takes him all of an instant to get hard. “This is the best part of being a vampire. Fucking is awesome, everyone young and old alike likes it. And vampires fuck all the time.”

“Can I fuck you?”

For some reason Gerard and Mikey flash through his head. Frank doesn’t know why. If they wouldn’t want a threesome they really wouldn’t want a foursome. Plus there’s the whole part about them not talking to him anymore. “Sure.”

There’s lubricant in the glove compartment. Frank isn’t surprised to see it when he stretches over the armrest to get it, he just tries his best to not think about what especially kinky act his mom might need it for and is happy the corresponding toy isn’t laying beside it. Ray’s hand on his ass pins him and keeps him from toppling into the front. Frank would be grateful, except Ray’s fingers are pressing against the seam of his pyjama pants, trying to finger him through the fabric. It’s impatient, and distracting, and hot as hell. As soon as he’s got the phallic container in hand he thrusts his hips back to press harder against the fingers.

The elastic makes it easy for his ass to be bared, and Frank wastes no time in stretching his arm back to blindly pass Ray the lube. Ray is overeager, barely taking the time to get his ass slick before thrusting in. Frank doesn’t mind, he’s used to that kind of fucking from guys back in Richmond. He takes a breath, reminds himself his body can get used to anything, and waits until the pain transmutes to pleasure.

It doesn’t take long, the process helped along when Ray bites down. It’s shitty placement, Frank can tell the skin will rip when he pulls out, but it doesn’t matter when Ray is drawing blood from him. He groans at the sensation for minutes before the voice nagging him to be a mentor can be heard over the mental ‘oh fuck’ mantra. “Ask before you bite. Not everyone wants it.”

Ray has enough remnants of himself under the vampiric need to pull his fangs out and ask in an almost worried tone “but you do?”

“Fuck yes.”

Ray doesn’t bother to answer, just starts thrusting again at an even faster pace. The velvety upholstery is a tease to the skin rubbing against it where his shirt is lifted up, luxurious and soft. Frank clenches onto the fronts of the seats, knowing it’ll provide no relief from the feelings building up in his gut.

“Harder!”

Mercifully, Ray obliges. He pulls his fangs out a second time, Frank can feel the blood pooling around the torn skin. It’s better that he does though. If Ray’s teeth were on his back when he starts bucking enough to repeatedly shove Frank’s face into the cupholders his fangs would carve valleys into him. As it is Frank just has to worry about his own not chipping against the plastic mold.

Frank comes first, by a few seconds. It smears between the armrest and his stomach and he’s only just beginning to think about clean up when Ray’s bloody fingernails curl into ribcage and a rush of warmth enters him.

“Can you drive?” He’s pretty sure there are old yellowed napkins in the glove compartment.

“Can I go through the motions? Yes. Do I have a licence? No.”

“Just so you know, as a vampire you wouldn’t care. You’d be caught in the moment.”

“Okay. Lemme pull out and we’ll go for a drive.”

***

“Frank, you can’t come in. And before you start I mean that in a fuck off way, not a I’m oppressing a mythical creature way.”

Gerard sound cranky, and from what Frank can see through the basement window his eyes are closed. Frank attempts to suppress the part of him that finds that adorable. Gerard pretty clearly made his opinion on him known last week. This is an effort to clear his name, not get back together with Gerard or Mikey.

He adjusts his crouch on the grass, hitching his pyjamas up his shins until they’re bunched at the knees. He’d rather not get his pants soaked with dew, they’re already a bit comey. “Too bad. Ray’s here and he’s gonna tell you all about how I didn’t turn him.”

“Wait. Ray?”

“No shit you didn’t. It was my dumb ass brother.” His tone isn’t disgust, it’s barely even aggravation. Frank thinks you’d really have to love someone to not hate them for turning you against your will.

Gerard presses his face to the screen, trying to see beyond Frank to the source of the voice. “Holy shit, Ray? Mikey! Ray!”

What comes next is a series of thuds. Frank can’t see much of the room through the window a few inches above the grass, even squatting he’s got a bad angle. But it’s easy to guess what the progression is; Mikey tossing down a video game controller, Mikey stumbling against the wall in his rush, the door getting caught on some of their clutter. And finally, as Gerard’s face drops out of sight and Mikey’s replaces it, pushing your older brother off a chair.

“Frank, move your damn knees. Ray?”

It’s easier to see more of Mikey, unlike Gerard he’s not standing on his tiptoes to look out. Mikey looks good, hair still sprayed into the same place it was on Friday. Frank wonders if Mikey’s showered since then, wonders why he’s surprised at the lack of hygiene, then reminds himself he’s not sleeping with or friends with Mikey anymore and it doesn’t matter. He awkwardly sidesteps, giving Ray the space to kneel.

As Ray says hello, there’s a flurry of sound from the Way bedroom. First another thud with a distinct crunch. Gerard’s head appears beside Mikey’s, which obviously means he smacked down a chair from somewhere without looking what he was putting it on. This is followed with Bob grumbling “what the fuck, Gerard?”

“Bob, say hello to Ray. He’s standing outside the window, he can probably hear you, it’s on speaker.”

Bob does not say hello. Instead he screams “what the fuck happened!” Frank snorts. Ray wasn’t a vampire, then he was. The process seems pretty basic to him.

“Basically Lou got turned without his consent. He was freaking out, so he didn’t report it, or turn himself in to the readjustment facility. But then he got hungry enough that he went after me and Armando. Manny’s still in, but they thought I was adjusting well, so-”

“Bullshit. You didn’t even know you couldn’t eat chocolate.”

“So they let me go home,” Ray finishes.

“So Frank had nothing to do with it?” Frank stares at Gerard, hurt for the hundredth time this week. That’s what Ray just said, Gerard must not believe him if he’s questioning it already.

“Fucking no, man. The last time I saw him was last Saturday, during the Opplethorpe marathon. You really thought he did it?”

Mikey breaks first. “Sorry, Frank.” Gerard and Bob chime in with the same a second later. Frank doesn’t tell them it’s okay. It isn’t.

***

Sleep is impossible. It would be difficult enough if he was just laying in the silent darkness, thinking about shit, but his room is neither dark nor quiet. Every few minutes his cell phone rings with a call or a text, and the screen lights up, casting a glow up to the ceiling. It switches between Gerard, Mikey, and Bob, with the occasional ringtone that stands for Ray. Frank doesn’t answer those either. He wouldn’t put it past them to be sharing their phones. He doesn’t want to answer Ray only to be bombarded by Gerard.

He’s still awake -and the texts are still coming- when his dad opens the door to wake him up for the day. That in itself is a shitty event. Dad’s got entirely the wrong impression of last night, he starts going on about how he doesn’t care what drug he and his buddy did last night, he’s going to school, even if he’s still tripping balls. Frank’s miserable enough that even hearing his father use the phrase ‘tripping balls’ doesn’t make him smirk. He leaves his phone on his dresser.

Mikey and Gerard are waiting by his locker. Using every last ounce of vampiric ability, Frank turns and runs in the other direction, hoping they don’t see him. He automatically heads to the smoking doors to inhale the stress away. Through the necroglass he can see a black hoodie and a blond buzz cut standing in the shade. It might not be Bob, but there’s a high enough chance that he doesn’t risk it. Frank ends up hiding in the bathroom nearest his first period class for ten minutes, until the last possible instant he can before he’s late and will get a detention.

They don’t share his classes, the first piece of good luck in the situation. The biggest problem is going to be finding a place spend lunch. Last week he sat in the cafeteria with his headphones on and his back to Gerard and Bob because the library was Mikey’s first, but that didn’t mean he had to watch Gerard and Bob be happy without him. It’s clear mutual avoidance is no longer on the agenda. Until he decides he wants to see them, he’ll have to actively hide. And right now Frank really doesn’t want to see them. If he does, he’ll accept their apology, and they don’t deserve that. They accused him of some combination of raping and murdering Ray. It shouldn’t be something you can just apologise for.

There’s no doubt that one of them will patrol the smoking doors, considering all three smoke. Frank would like to inhale some sweet beautiful nicotine, but he doesn’t need it. Nowhere else outside is safe. There are few shady corners, and those few are occupied by halfling cliques. Frank doesn’t want to be friends with people just because they’re a certain type. The library is still Mikey’s, and the cafeteria is too obvious. In the end he spends the whole time in the same stall he used before first period.

As he’s walking to fourth period he literally walks into Ray. It seems a bit soon for him to be back, but Frank’s not his fucking mother. Ray opens his mouth to say something, maybe something about earlier this morning. Knowing him, probably. Frank heads him off at the pass with an observation. “You’re hard.”

“No shit.”

Frank remembers telling him about having awesome sex, a minute or two before they had awesome sex. Clearly the lesson didn’t take, as Ray frowned when he pointed it out, and replied like he’d been sucking rat blood. Frank takes pity on him and jumps into mentor role again. “Go jerk off in the bathroom. Then at lunch tomorrow look at who’s eating a bloodbag and make friends. You’re not ditching Bob and Gerard and Mikey and the rest of your friends, you’re just finding someone that’ll say yes when you text them about sex.”

Ray nods, rubbing the heel of his hand over his dick absentmindedly. “They’re your friends too.”

“Ray, go jerk off now.” Frank understands siding with the people you’ve known forever, even if they’re in the wrong. And to be fair, Ray seemed horrified at the Ways thinking he did it. That doesn’t mean he wants to hear Ray make patchy attempts at keeping their friendship together.

It’s not until Ray leaves that Frank realises he’s implied he isn’t available for texting for sex. He walks a few steps in the direction Ray went before coming to a stop. He doesn’t want to have sex with Ray. What the hell is wrong with him? A sneaking suspicion floats in the back of his head but he does his best to ignore it. He can’t think himself into mad spirals, he needs to talk this out with someone. It can’t be Ray because as a vampire he’ll never again know what not wanting to fuck is like, and it can’t be the Ways because this is all their goddamn fault. It leaves Frank with few options, and only one he even remotely likes.

The bell rings for class and the afternoon announcements go on. Instead of standing to listen like expected, or dashing to class to avoid being marked late, Frank races off to the office. Over the prerecorded crackle of the principal he shouts “you need to page Bob Bryar!”

The secretary raises an artfully plucked eyebrow. It’s beyond obvious that she has no intention of paging anyone, or in fact doing anything more than putting the occasional call through to Wembuo and playing spider solitaire on her old school computer. Normally Frank would congratulate that kind of person on their healthy avoidance of work, and one day wishes to have a nine to five that he does an hour or two of work at. But right now he needs Bob.

Frank drops his fangs. “I need to talk to him!”

“That’s considered an act of aggression.”

Oh, shit. Still, he needs them out to make the point. “I’m not mad, I’m not going to hurt him. I’m just freaking out. I need Bob. You need to get him. Please.”

Evidently she isn’t used to hysterical vampires having manners. With a subtle movement of her eyebrows she presses the button that allows her to speak through the PA system and requests Bob.

When he shows up, moving slowly from only having an hour or two of sleep, Frank thanks the woman and intercepts him. “I need to talk to you.”

“Since when? We’ve been trying to talk to you for half a fucking day, Iero.”

“This isn’t about that. Well it is, kinda. But not really. It’s about my broken junk!”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m a bit brain dead. I haven’t slept.”

Frank’s not in the mood for feeling sorry for Bob. He didn’t sleep either, and he’s not bitching at everyone. “My junk,” he repeats, this time gesturing. “I think it’s broken. I don’t want to have sex with people!”

“Why are you talking to me? I am the least qualified person to have this conversation with. Go talk to Mikey or Gerard about your weird polygamy, or Ray about your vampire stamina.”

“But it’s monogamy! I had sex last night with Ray and I barely enjoyed it! And I didn’t have it at all ten minutes ago, when he wanted to!”

“No, seriously. This is not my fucking conversation. You need to go do this with Mikey and Gerard. They’re in the library, they’ve been skipping the whole morning.” Bob raises a hand and points in the direction of the library.

Frank grabs the extended limb and shakes it. “You’re not listening. I had a chance to have fun sex with a friend. And I passed it up. Because I was thinking about my drama with Mikey and Gerard. I am a vampire, or at least half a one. That shit does not happen to vampires. Some guy could be balls deep in me when the zombie apocalypse happened, and as long as no green skinned fucker bit off my dick I wouldn’t care. I passed up sex for, like, fucking longing. Bob, I think I love the assholes!”

Bob sighs, uses his free hand to rub his face. “Again, this is shit you should be telling them. Not me. You’re not in love with me, are you?”

“No. I haven’t even had sex with you.” And now he might not ever, since his brain and dick have apparently combined to cockblock him.

“You go to the library. I’m going back to class.” Bob wrenches out of Frank’s hold and starts walking in the direction he came. Frank probably could have held him in place, but maybe he has a point.

Mikey and Gerard don’t look much worse for having stayed up all night to text him. Mikey’s hair is a shade darker from not washing it, Gerard’s wearing the same shirt he wore to bed. Their pale skin makes the bags under their eyes stand out more than the same would on a normally tanned human. But it’s easy to look past all of that. Or at least it is for Frank, which is probably more proof.

“Oh, Frank. Thank fuck. I-”

“We-” Mikey interrupts.

Frank talks over both of them. “I was really hurt, and really really pissed. I don’t know if I can explain the equivalent. It’s kinda like me asking you if you had fun cutting out your mom’s eye and fucking the hole. Like, some stuff is just fucked up, and non-consensual turning is one of them. I’m not gonna say no vampires do it, but humans have serial killers too.”

“We get that now. We Googled. I talked to this vampire I know, Nate, he lives in my friend’s basement. He explained how fucked up that was. We really want to apologise.”

“Seriously, Frank. We’re-”

“Okay, but the thing is the reason I was avoiding you is because I knew I’d accept your apology as soon as I heard it. And I do, I’m not saying I don’t, even though it was fucked up on your part. But I was way less mad at Bob than you guys, and way less sad. And it took me until like fifteen minutes ago to figure out why.”

“Thanks for accepting the apology. Even though you technically didn’t hear it yet. We are-”

For the second time, Frank has to cut off Gerard. “That’s not the point. My point is I was overly hurt, maybe, because it was you two. I like you both. A lot. I like you to the point that I only want to have sex with both of you. Do you want to be my boyfriends again?”

Gerard tugs on a hoodie sleeve. “What, both of us?”

“Oh, come on Gee. It was working fine before. And it’s not like Bert wasn’t doing Quinn and Jepha and a handful of others. It’s how they work, like biologically.”

Frank blushes, maybe, a bit, as he says his next bit. “I love you guys, I think. And I can guarantee this monogamy thing is entirely new for me. I’ve never only had sex with two people since I started having sex. Do you guys love me?”

“Yeah.” Mikey’s blushing a bit too. It makes Frank want to drink the blood out of his cheeks. He doesn’t say that out loud though. It’s not the kind of thing most humans want to hear.

“I do. I just don’t want to get caught in the exact same shit I just got out of. You can understand that, right?”

Frank doesn’t want to bash Bert. From the little he knows, the guy was pretty cool, if the stereotypical vampire entirely in tune with his nature. But he doesn’t want to be lumped in with him either. “I don’t drink from live people, Gerard. And I can go out in the sun, I’m probably in it more than you are. And most of all, I’ll listen when you say you don’t want to do something. So can we just try this? Have shit like it was before? I really missed you guys.”

Gerard’s answer is to stand up and kiss him. Frank’s really missed the smell of unwashed Way, both variations. Gerard always has a twinge of paint, Mikey has an undercurrent of a half a bottle of Axe to mask his funk. It’s still present as Gerard backs off and Mikey uses his blunt human teeth to suck a hickey onto his neck.

When Mikey finally lets go of his skin -Frank mourning his healing abilities for the first time because the mark’s not going to last more than five minutes- they both sit back on the couch. Frank looks at the bit of space between them and then grabs the closest plastic chair so he can sit facing them. “Okay, cool. So you guys kiss now?”

Mikey shakes his head. “No.”

“No threesome then.”

“Really no, Frank,” Gerard answers, reaching over Mikey to grab an unopened Doom Patrol. It shows how much they cared, that they brought a stack large enough that they could skip the whole day and only got a few pages in.

Oh well. He tried. He’s got either of them whenever he wants, and they’re pretty codependant. That’s enough for him.