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"I've heard they're sending him home." Brendon is lying on the couch with his legs slung over the end, his head turned to watch TV. His foot is bouncing in time with the commercial jingle.

"You shouldn't believe everything you hear," Frank says, even though Gerard has already told him that, yeah, the school is sending Pete home for the rest of the semester, if not for the rest of the year. But even though he didn't know Pete that well, he still feels an urge to try and quash the rumors that are bound to start.

Brendon twists around to look at Frank, who's sitting in the arm chair. They're the only ones in the common room, although the rest of the guys in the dorm are bound to be down here pretty soon for the dorm meeting. Except for Mikey, of course, who's spending the night in the Health Center, even though he's perfectly fine. The administration just thinks that Pete's issues are contagious or something, so they're locking his roommate away to stop the spread. Frank assumes that the big meeting with a school nurse in their dorm tonight is about the same thing--the school trying to cover its ass and make sure that no other boys in Cork Tree want to off themselves. Like they can make up for missing every single fucking sign with Pete by hosting group counseling for his dorm.

"Well, he's not here, and Jon told me that he's not in the Health Center, either," Brendon is saying. "So maybe they've *already* sent him home."

It's likely. Why would they give him a chance to say goodbye to his friends before making him pack his bags?

"Come on, the administrators here aren't, like, crazy villains," Gerard had said when Frank had bitched about how they were just trying to cover the whole thing up, brush Pete under the rug so that he wouldn't stain their precious school image. "It's not like that, why do you always have to believe the worst of the school?"

Frank knows that Gerard mostly agrees with Frank about the fucked up ways things are run here, but he feels like since he's a prefect he has to at least make a show of not thinking the authorities are out to make their lives miserable. Frank thinks it's kind of bullshit.

Brendon is still talking, not put off by Frank not answering his last question. "You don't think they've pulled Mikey away is because--" Brendon frowns. "I mean, you know that he and Pete were. Well." Brendon's eyes are wide and he licks his lips. "Maybe the school came down harder on them because of that."

"No," Frank says sharply. "No, I don't think it has anything to do with them being gay."

He meets Brendon's eyes for a beat, and then Brendon looks down and away, relieved. "Yeah," he says. "Yeah, you're probably right." He looks up again, giving Frank a small smile and one of those looks that makes Frank feel both hot and grateful, but also uncomfortable, because Brendon's looking at him like he never knew that something as awesome as Frank could happen to him. Brendon's only two years younger than him, a Lower, but he still makes Frank feel like a dirty old man because of what they're doing together.

Brendon makes a motion like he wants to get up off the couch and come over to Frank, but then Bill and Joe enter the room, bitching loudly about their english professor, and Brendon settles down again. He looks disappointed, and Frank flashes him a grin before bitching at Joe to get out of the way because he's blocking the TV.

"So, dorm meeting tonight?" Bill says, his voice so over-the-top casual that Frank knows he's as tense as any of them.

"Yeah," Frank says. "But the prefects are having their little mini-meeting with the house counselors first, so it's starting late."

They all nod, accepting this--Frank usually knows more about what's going on in the dorm than the other guys because of his roommate being a prefect. Eric never does, but that's because Disashi actually follows the rules and doesn't talk about confidential prefect stuff, whereas Gerard spills everything to Frank.

The O.C. is on, and Bill and Joe and Brendon get into a conversation about the lesbian plotline as Frank drops his head back and stares up at the ceiling, wondering where Pete is and what he's thinking right now--what he was thinking *last night* when he took all those pills. Frank can feel Brendon's eyes on him, but he doesn't look back.

***

Frank keeps his mouth shut until the meeting has broken up, until all of the boys had left, going back to their rooms and muttering to each other. Brendon had tried to catch Frank's eye before heading back to his floor, but Frank knows that if he visits Brendon now he'll just be pissed off and ranting and probably get Brendon upset, too. So he just keeps his head down and follows Gerard back to their room, pushing the door firmly shut behind him and turning around to lean against it before he says anything.

"Those motherfuckers. Pete is already on a plane back to Chicago."

Gerard clenches his hands in his hair. "What *else* could they have done, Frank? They're just trying to get him out of a stressful environment, which school *obviously* was for him."

"Because separating him from all his friends is so relaxing? He didn't even get to say goodbye, not even to Patrick or Mikey!" Frank bangs his heel back against the door, his fists clenching. He had really, really wanted to punch that stupid counselor, with all her speeches about getting help and talking to someone and noticing the signs of depression in others, as if any of them had had a fucking *clue* what was wrong with Pete before last night. As if they were actually getting him help now instead of just whisking him away and trying to pretend that they're totally capable and on top of things.

"It sucks," Gerard says unhappily. "It really fucking blows, and no one's handling it well, but like. All they can do is try."

Frank pushes away from the door and paces around their room. "And this is after Bert and Gabe both being on probation," he mutters. "There's something about this dorm, man, it fucking feels like they're out to get us sometimes."

"Oh come on, man, your freaking conspiracy theory--"

"Oh, you mean it's just a *coincidence* that all of the scholarship kids and bad students and weirdoes end up in the same dorm, and it just so happens to be the shittiest one on campus?" Frank snaps.

"Give me a break, you *chose* to transfer here this year," Gerard snaps back. Which is true--Frank had been randomly assigned to Crane when he got here as a Lower, the dorm in the middle of campus that was in great shape, close to everything, and just so happened to house most of the jocks, best students, and richest boys on campus. He's a thousand times happier to be rooming with Gerard in a building that creaks and shudders at night and gives off random bad smells sometimes and is at least a fifteen minute walk from all of his classes. He fits here.

"It just seems like shit always happens to us first," he says after a while, and Gerard ducks his head in acknowledgment. Frank knows how Gerard feels about the boys under his care, how protective he gets. Gerard spent the whole afternoon in the Health Center with Mikey, and he looks more worn than Frank has ever seen him.

Frank doesn't know exactly how to give comfort. He puts a hand on Gerard's shoulder, lets his palm press against Gerard's neck. "I'm going to go see what Brendon's up to," he says. "Try not to beat yourself up about it, man. No one blames you or Disashi or Quinn at *all.*"

Gerard looks like he wants to argue, but then he just pulls Frank into a quick hug, fucking up his hair as he lets him go and smiling. "Be back by inside curfew," he says, mock-serious, and Frank snorts. Not having to give a shit about inside curfew is one of the better things about being best friends with a prefect.

Frank knocks on Brendon's door and opens it before he hears "come in"--of course it's open, it's Brendon. Brendon who is sitting at his computer with his headphones off, and he pushes them down and bounces up grinning as soon as he hears Frank enter.

"Hey, man!" he says, happy enthusiasm that once again makes Frank feel like a pedophile as Brendon brushes past him to pull his door shut and lock it. Brendon managed to land one of the only single rooms in the building, even though he's just a Lower, which is awesome because it means Frank never, ever has to have gay sex while wondering if Gerard is listening through the wall between their two mini-rooms.

"Hey," Frank says, planting his hands on Brendon's cheeks and pulling him into a kiss. Brendon relaxes against him, catching Frank's wrists and hands and bringing them down between them. He presses closer and pushes his tongue into Frank's mouth, his enthusiasm easily translating into the physical. Frank walks backwards to the bed, and they've done this often enough that he doesn't stumble on anything on the floor on the way and falls back onto the dorm mattress when the bed hits the backs of his knees.

Brendon climbs on top of him, kissing tiny pecks down Frank's cheek, jaw and neck and tugging Frank's t-shirt up. His thigh presses in between Frank's legs and Frank groans, trying to keep it quiet and mostly failing. Brendon huffs out a breathy laugh when Frank pulls him roughly down so that their hips are grinding together.

"You're impatient," Brendon says, and Frank rolls his eyes.

"Like you can talk, ADD Boy," he says, but he *is* impatient and he's already reaching for Brendon's belt buckle.

***

Frank's a senior, so he and Brendon don't have any classes together, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays Frank's ceramics class gets out the same time as Brendon's art basics course in the same building, so they usually end up walking to Commons together for lunch. But the next day when Frank wanders over to Brendon's classroom, Spencer is already there. He and Brendon are speaking close together with their heads bent low, and after a second Spencer takes a step back, shaking his head and turning around, walking away. He looks kind of upset.

"What's up?" Frank says, nodding in Spencer's direction when Brendon notices him.

"Spencer's trying to figure out where to stay during Thanksgiving break," Brendon says, looking almost as bummed as Spencer. "His folks don't really have--he can't fly all the way back to Vegas for the whole break, and they have that stupid rule about how you can't stay on campus for that week and a half."

Frank feels a twinge of guilt. He knows he has it lucky: New Jersey is close enough that he can easily go home for Thanksgiving break and even three-day weekends, and it's mostly the same with any kids that live in the northeast. Anyone who lives on the west coast can fly home for breaks if their parents are loaded enough, of course, but most west coast kids have to find places to stay on the east coast for Thanksgiving break.

"That rule is retarded," Frank says. Brendon doesn't have to worry about it, he's staying with Frank and his parents, and Ryan can't afford to go all the way back to Vegas either, but he has an aunt or something in Boston that he's staying with. Frank makes a note to mention Spencer to Gerard--maybe Gerard can help Spencer make arrangements or something.

"It's just so unfair to anyone who doesn't live close," Brendon says, hitching his backpack up higher on his shoulders and avoiding Frank's eyes. "Don't get me wrong, man, I'm looking forward to a week and a half of vacation with you, it's just. Everyone's talking all excited about seeing their families and home again, and Spencer and Ryan and I...."

"I know, dude. It's fucking lame." He wishes he could fly Brendon back to his parents and brothers and sisters, along with Spencer and Ryan because he just doesn't want Brendon to look glum the way he looks right now. But that's too sappy to say, so Frank just bumps Brendon's elbow with his own. "Hey, you want to meet up later behind the chapel?"

The glumness disappears. "Definitely! After my piano lesson?"

He gives Frank that goofy grin and Frank grins back, tugging Brendon's arm and pulling him away from the classroom. "Sure. Lunch now though, I need that watery stuff they claim is coffee if I'm gonna make it through double Spanish today."

***

They've barely even had a chance to miss Pete's presence in the dorm before Bert and Joe get caught smoking up in the park by the soccer fields later that week. Bert had cocaine with him, so he's automatically expelled, but Joe is expelled, too, even though it was only pot and so he *should* have gotten one strike before getting kicked out.

Frank hears the news from Siska as soon as he gets back to the dorm from the graphics lab, and when he gets to his room Patrick is already there. Mikey is, too--he's been sleeping on a cot on Gerard's floor for the whole week, and one look at Patrick's face tells Frank that he's going to be spending the night, too. Patrick had been Pete's best friend, and Frank is pretty sure Joe and Patrick have been roommates since they were both freshmen.

"Fuck," Frank says, dropping his backpack to the floor. "So Sisky had it right?"

"Bert and Joe are out," Gerard says. He's got his hand on Patrick's shoulder, offering manly support.

"It just doesn't make sense," Patrick says, his voice hoarse. "Everyone knows that the first time you get caught with pot it's just probation, it's only the harder drugs you get immediately kicked out for. So why is Joe gone?"

Mikey is sitting on the floor with his legs bent, hugging his knees to his chest and resting his cheek on his arm. Gerard rubs Patrick's shoulder, his lips pressed together tightly. No one answers Patrick, but they all know that after what happened to Pete in this same dorm, the school officials just want to look like they're on top of things, like they know what they're doing with the Cork Tree boys.

Frank sits next to Gerard on the couch as a knock comes on their door, and Travis and Disashi come in. Travis looks shaken, and Frank remembers that he's on probation from *his* first pot strike.

"I can't believe they were doing it on campus," Travis says as they sit on the floor. "Man, everyone knows it's safer to go to the graveyard in town. Of course they got caught, fuck."

"Shut up," Patrick says, sudden anger in his voice. Travis looks surprised, then abashed.

"I didn't mean--dude, I'm just bummed out that they're gone," he says, reaching out with his foot to nudge Patrick's pant leg. Patrick makes an 'mm' noise and leans closer to Gerard, his shoulders hunched.

"Has anyone told Quinn yet?" Frank asks. He's actually surprised that Quinn wasn't with Bert and Joe to get caught--Bert and Quinn do fucking everything together.

"Quinn is at a disciplinary hearing," Disashi says, frowning. "They found out that he's been covering up for Bert, keeping him out of trouble, and then it came out that he's covered up for Jepha's drinking, too."

Which is bad fucking news for Quinn, considering he's a prefect. Frank makes a mental note to never let Gerard cover anything for him, ever.

"I can't fucking believe this," Patrick explodes. "First fucking Pete---" Mikey winces. "--and now *this,* seriously, what the fuck is up with this fall?"

"We're kind of dropping like flies, yeah," Disashi says. he's sitting with his legs crossed and his hands in his lap, and he looks calmer than anyone else in the room, but Frank can see the tension in the line of his shoulders and the way he's picking at a loose thread at the ankle of his jeans.

Frank wonders if Brendon has heard yet. It's Brendon's very first semester at the school, and three boys in his dorm have been kicked out in a week.

"We've got a prefects meeting in fifteen minutes," Disashi says to Gerard, sounding reluctant. "With the House Dean, not just our dorm counselors."

"Fuck." Gerard shifts around on the couch, looking pissed. "I don't want to hear whatever the fuck he has to say." Frank knows that Bert and Gerard had been really tight last year, even if they had drifted apart since the beginning of this fall.

"You think I do? We've still got to go, man." Disashi sighs and rubs at his elbow. "Maybe they'll tell us what the results of Quinn's hearing are."

"Yeah, right. You know they'll keep us in the dark until they absolutely can't anymore." Frank hasn't ever heard Gerard talk about being a prefect with his voice so bitter. Frank notices his hand clenching on Patrick's shoulder, and Gerard takes his hand away, rubbing both palms on his knees.

"Fuck this school, man," Travis says with feeling. Mikey nods emphatically, and Patrick just looks sad.

***

Frank feels terrible about Bert and Joe leaving, but the absence that he can't stop thinking about is Pete's. Frank knows that the school environment for anyone who isn't freakishly gifted at academics can be pretty hellish: the school's publicity people boast about how they have college-quality courses in a high school as if that's a good thing, as if struggling through college level amounts of coursework with *none* of the freedoms and perks of college isn't bound to drive any teenager nuts.

But Pete didn't seem like the type to get that worked up or stressed out over his classes. Frank didn't know him that well, but he never claimed to pull all-nighters to study or passed up opportunities to party because of homework or stressed over less-than-awesome grades. Frank has heard from Mikey that he skipped class plenty of times, and Frank can't picture anyone who would take too many pills over grades doing that.

Frank knew Pete could be kind of a drama magnet (there was that incident with Morgan and those lyrics last year, plus that fight he got into with Fucking Flowers), but he never thought Pete was that messed up, not more so than the rest of them.

Maybe it was just the chemicals in his brain acting up. Maybe he missed his family too much. Maybe he just couldn't face the thought of one more Monday at this hell hole of a school. Frank has no idea, but it freaks him the fuck out to think that one of his friends, a dude he saw almost every day, could just--

And Pete is still alive, of course, he didn't even take *that* many pills, it was clearly one of those cry-for-help things, but what if it wasn't? As far as the impact on Frank's day-to-day life, he might as well have succeeded--either way, he's just not here anymore, and it's weird. Creepy. Uncomfortable.

Frank feels like an insensitive bitch that someone he knew almost killed themselves and it makes him feel "uncomfortable," but there it is. He only heard Mikey describe what happened once, how it was three in the morning Sunday night and Pete had woken Mikey by sitting straight up in his bed across the room, announcing loudly that he needed to go to the hospital. Mikey said that Pete had been weirdly calm about the whole thing, describing exactly what he'd taken and how long ago to Mikey before he passed out.

Frank's not going to ask Mikey about that night again, but he's pretty sure Mikey talks about it to Gerard. Frank doesn't talk to Gerard about it, he just lies down on the floor on his stomach while Gerard is studying in the living room outside both their bedrooms and squints at him, peering at Gerard until Gerard finally glances up and snaps, "What?"

"Nothing," Frank says, shrugging, but really he's thinking that Gerard has always seemed way more fucked up than anyone else in the dorm, definitely more than Pete, for as long as Frank has known him: he gets scarier when he drinks than anyone else Frank knows, pot makes him cry, Frank knows he has nightmares, and he seems okay most of the time *now,* but there were long stretches of time last year when Frank wouldn't see Gerard for weeks because he would be either out of the dorm, freaking out in the woods somewhere, or in Mikey's room.

Frank doesn't really know what signs to look for. He watches Gerard study and do his homework and draw, and then he goes down a floor to Brendon's room and kisses Brendon until both their lips are red and swollen instead of saying anything. Brendon doesn't worry him in the same way; Brendon wears all his joy and all his sadness right out in the open, for anyone (for Frank) to see.

One Thursday night, Brendon comes in his pants while Frank rubs against him, and Frank laughs while Brendon curses and flips him off, and then leans halfway out the window to smoke without setting off any alarms while Brendon changes his pants. Frank wants to be cool about it, but this is the first time they've gotten to the point of either of them coming--really, it's the first time Frank has made any boy come, period.

He smokes and bends over so that he's practically folded in half over the window ledge. It's cold as fuck out there, but it's kind of a nice contrast to the stuffy room.

"Don't fall out," Brendon says, sounding actually worried, and Frank feels a hand on the small of his back, steadying him.

Frank clamps the cigarette between his lips and straightens. "I'm not going to plummet to my death, especially since you're only on the second floor."

Brendon sticks his tongue out. "It would still suck if you fell, man."

Frank stubs his cigarette out on Brendon's windowsill. "Sure would," he says, and kisses Brendon, sucking Brendon's bottom lip into his mouth. Brendon responds by sticking his hand down Frank's pants, and Frank jumps.

"*Uh,*" Frank says smartly as he feels Brendon's fingers wrap around his dick. "Brendon--"

"Hey, man, you got me off, and I want to--you know, with my mouth," Brendon babbles, then turns red. Frank almost swallows his tongue.

"Yeah, yes, *definitely,*" Frank says, and he doesn't worry about sounding too eager because Brendon is a guy--he'll understand. Sure enough, Brendon laughs. Then he lets go of Frank's dick to push him over to the bed, and Frank flops down on it gratefully as Brendon gets up on it, too, kneeling carefully between Frank's spread legs. His fingers are slow and precise as he undoes Frank's fly and pulls his jeans down, then pulls Frank's hardening dick out of the flap in his boxers.

Frank pushes up on his elbows to see better, grinning wide when Brendon gives him a nervous look. "I've, um, never done this before, so you know," Brendon says, color high on his cheeks.

"Relax, dude, I'm not grading you or anything," Frank says, and Brendon gives him a funny little giggle before scooting back and bending over, holding Frank's cock in one hand and giving the head an experimental hard suck.

It takes a little while for Brendon to figure out how to suck and lick the right way, and Frank lies there and tries not to buck up or grab Brendon's hair or anything else rude. He's panting and everything in him feels tight, but when Brendon gets a good rhythm up, oh. Oh fucking shit, it's good it's so good and wow, Brendon is really enthusiastic, like he's *driven* to give Frank the best possible blowjob he can, his brow furrowing in concentration.

Frank doesn't last long, and barely remembers to warn Brendon and pull him up and off. He strokes himself a couple times to finish off, and realizes belatedly that he's just come all over his boxers and shirt, and Gerard is really going to give him hell if he comes back to their room like this.

"Hm, that was messy," Brendon says, almost thoughtfully, as if this is something to study. Frank opens his mouth to retort, but is distracted by the way Brendon drags the back of his hand over his mouth, wiping away shininess.

"I don't think I have any pants that will fit you," Brendon says. "But I can lend you a towel if you want to just go straight to the showers."

"Sounds good," Frank says, although he finds that he's reluctant to leave Brendon's bed. Even if the plastic mattress is even shittier than the ones in Frank and Gerard's room--Frank can feel loose springs poking into his lower back.

He really does need to go, unfortunately. He still has fucking homework for fucking Spanish, and he can't just skip the class this time--the house counselors and the dean are beginning to notice how many classes he's 'slept through'. He pushes himself up to a sitting position and wriggles the rest of the way out of his pants and boxers, removing his shirt as well. It's kind of nice, the way Brendon is obviously watching and ogling.

"Catch you tomorrow sometime?" Frank says as he wraps the towel around his waist. Brendon smiles and nods and waves goodbye at Frank as he leaves.

***

That weekend Gerard drags Frank to see the play that Gabe is directing and starring in. Gerard is way more of a drama geek than Frank is, but Gerard insists that they go to support their dorm-mates, "especially in these trying times." Mikey comes, too, and it's pretty good; or at least, it makes Mikey laugh and smile a lot, and that's pretty good in Frank's book.

Afterwards, they hang around to congratulate Gabe and Vicky, Gabe's leading lady and the only reason Frank passed Calculus last year. He hasn't really seen her much since that class ended, but she grins when she sees Frank and they all hang out chatting as people mill around and leave the theater. Bob and Ray are there, too, the stage techs for the show, and Ray leaves early to go meet his girlfriend, but Bob stays and they all end up wandering over to Bob's dorm, Santi. Santi is notorious for its basement, which features a pool table with deeply suspicious stains and the rattiest couches Frank has ever seen, and which is awesome to hang out in because the smoke detector down there is broken, and because the house counselors never give a shit who goes down there or when. Some of the more annoying underclassmen call it the Santi Sexing Studio, alliteration which makes Frank want to punch them all in the mouth.

Gabe is the one who brought a pipe and dime bag, of course, and Frank inhales eagerly and defiantly, some part of him almost hoping to be caught. It's ten times more stupid to do it in here under the noses of the house counselors than to do it in the woods on campus, and if Joe and Bert are out than maybe he should be, too.

Gerard takes one hit but passes up the next round with a smile and a "no, thank you," and Mikey doesn't smoke at all, saying that it makes him cough too much. Frank is fascinated by the way Vicky's cheeks hollow out when she sucks the smoke out, and then he finds himself wishing that Brendon were here.

Frank hasn't been with many people that made him wish they were with him at all times, that mad him *miss* their presence when they were apart. And it's not like he spends every minute not spent with Brendon moping around and missing him, but. Sometimes Frank just feels kind of sad that, aside from when they're in the dorm, Frank and Brendon have totally different social circles and no classes together. Frank hangs out with seniors and uppers that are friends with Mikey, and Brendon hangs out with really just Ryan and Spencer, as far as Frank can tell. It makes Frank feel like he doesn't know Brendon that well, sometimes, and like Brendon doesn't know him that well--like there are just these big gaps in their knowledge of each other that can't be filled.

The weed is making him feel maudlin and sort of, kind of epic. Frank looks around at the group and settles on Bob, who's looking at Frank and smirking a little like he knows exactly what sappy thoughts are running through Frank's mind. Frank sticks out his tongue and flips him off, and Bob returns the gesture before taking the pipe that's passed to him. Frank stares at the way Bob's cheeks hollow out, too.

***

Two weeks before Thanksgiving break, Brendon tells Frank that Spencer still doesn't have a place to stay for break--"But don't tell anyone, okay, he would be so pissed if he knew I told you about it"--and Frank tells Gerard and asks him if he could maybe talk to Spencer about it--"Just, um, don't tell him that you heard it from me."

When Gerard comes back from talking to Spencer, he's got this narrow-eyed, thin-lipped determined expression on his face, and he gets on the phone with his parents and shuts the door to his room.

Frank can still hear phrases and snatches of conversation through the wall, though: "--look, he's a great kid, he'll be a fine guest--" "--if it were me or Mikey, wouldn't you want someone else's parents to be generous?" "--only a week--" "--what Thanksgiving tradition, we don't have--"

Gerard comes out of his room looking triumphant, and announces that Spencer is going to stay with the Ways over Thanksgiving. As soon as he says it, though, he looks nervous, like he hadn't really thought about inviting a Lower he only vaguely knows into his home for the whole break.

"Spencer's cool," Frank reassures him. "You guys are gonna have a good time together, really. He's a funny guy."

"Yeah, no, you're right," Gerard says, running a hand through his hair. "I'm just glad I could help him out."

"Yeah," Frank says. "Man, it really is fucking stupid that you can't stay on campus over break. I mean, geez, would they just like, throw him out onto the streets if he couldn't find anywhere to stay?"

"Don't be ridiculous, of course they wouldn't," Gerard says with an eye-roll, but Frank knows that he doesn't know what happens to kids that can't find a place to stay, either.

Mikey looks ambivalent, but he shrugs and accepts it when Gerard tells him. Spencer starts looking a little more upbeat around the dorm, and Brendon confronts Frank with his hands on his hips.

"You told Gerard about Spencer, right?"

"Um," Frank says, scratching at the back of his neck. "Yeah, I did."

Brendon narrows his eyes and it's like a puppy being mad at you. "I told you not to tell anyone! You betrayed my confidence! And Spencer's confidence!"

"And found Spencer a place to stay over break," Frank points out. Brendon scowls.

"That's not the point--although, thank you. But I mean. I told you not to tell!"

"And I did anyway," Frank says, shrugging. "Sorry, I guess? I thought it would be better if I told Gerard and hey, I was totally right." He grins and reaches out, tugs on Brendon's wrist. Brendon gives, sighing huffily right before Frank kisses him so that Frank gets a puff of Brendon's air in his mouth.

***

"Do you ever think about what happened to Pete?" Frank asks Saturday morning, when they're sitting together on the dorm steps. "Like, do you ever wonder why."

Brendon looks at him, a little surprised--this isn't the stuff they usually talk about. "Sure," he says slowly. "Sometimes. Um, more when it first happened." He winces a little. "Everything's so busy here that it already feels like way long ago. I mean, I feel bad for saying that, but it sort of... slips my mind."

Frank nods. It's true, life at school moves so fast that you can look up one day and realize that it's been almost three weeks since your friend tried to die and that you've gotten totally used to only one dude living in Mikey's room. It gets hard to focus on something like that when autumn is rushing busily past you.

"I wonder if it was really just being here that was stressing him out, if he's all magically better now that he's back home," Frank says. He doesn't know why he's talking to Brendon about this--doesn't know why he's talking about it at all, really, considering he still doesn't know what to say.

"Does Mikey still talk to him?" Brendon is pushing at some rock lodged in the dirt with his toe, disturbing the morning frost on the ground.

"Yeah, they're on the phone all the time. They probably talk online, too, I think."

"That must be really hard," Brendon says. "When your boyfriend does that, when you have to deal with that."

He says the word 'boyfriend' so casually that Frank knows he's actually been working up to saying it, weighing in his mind the potential consequences of saying it. Frank has only ever been someone's boyfriend once, Jamia's for most of freshman year, but they broke it off when he transferred here.

The thought of being someone's boyfriend again--of being a *guy's* boyfriend--is maybe a little bit freaky, a little strange. But if Frank thinks about it, about how much he likes just sitting with Brendon in the cold morning and hardly talking at all, about how much he's actually really looking forward to spending a week and a half in Jersey with Brendon and introducing his parents and his grandpa and his uncles to him, about how Brendon arched his back and got *really* excited and encouraging when Frank pushed just one finger inside him during a blowjob last night, well. It's not that freaky.

"Yeah, it has been really hard on him," Frank says. "You're not allowed to get kicked out for any reason, okay? Because that would be really hard on me."

Brendon's smile breaks out easy and open, and he leans his shoulder against Frank. "I'll do my best, but I don't know, I can't promise anything. I'm a rebel, man, a total wild child."

Brendon is mormon and sheltered and the first time he'd seen Frank take out a pack of cigarettes, he'd looked horrified and asked Frank if he knew that those things give you lung cancer. Frank grins back at him.

***

"No," Frank says.

"*Dude,*" Gerard says. "You're, like, the only eligible senior in the dorm. If you don't take it then *Gabe* is going to be the new prefect."

The discipline committee had not expelled Quinn from school, but they had revoked his prefect status, which meant that Cork Tree needed a new prefect. The seniors left in the dorm were Travis, Gabe, Eric and Frank; Travis was on probation for drugs use and Eric on probation for sleeping through too many classes, so they were ineligible.

"Gabe would be an awesome prefect," Frank says. "He has his whole noble mission of corrupting as many underclassmen as he can this year before he graduates! Prefect-hood would totally help him accomplish his goals!"

If looks could kill, Frank would be nothing more than a scorch mark on their bedroom floor. "I think you've maybe missed the point of being a prefect *just* slightly," Gerard says acidly. "The point is to help the younger guys in the dorm get through the year as smoothly as possible, not to do the opposite."

"I've missed the point, so clearly I'd be a bad prefect and shouldn't have the job, then."

"You're such an asshole!" Gerard says. "You'd be so much better at it than Gabe, man, the Lowers already worship you."

Frank blushes. He hasn't told Gerard about Brendon yet, which he feels guilty about even though he hasn't told anyone else yet, either. But Gerard's probably noticed the amount of time Frank has spent hanging out with a new Lower that Frank hadn't looked twice at before last month.

"I'm busy enough already this term," Frank retorts. "I don't need any more stressful duties in my life on top of classes and college apps."

Gerard scrubs a hand through his hair. "Frank, come on--"

"Dude. No, okay? Just no. Gabe will do fine, you and Disashi are upstanding enough to balance out whatever influence he puts in."

"Whatever. Fine." Gerard gives him one last scowl before dramatically turning on his heel and storming out of their room, presumably to go talk to Gabe.

Frank really doesn't feel too guilty. He's kind of looking forward to what the dorm becomes under Gabe's prefect reign.