an embarrassment of scarves (shoemaster) wrote,

I Was Your Silver Lining 1/6 by shoemaster and theopteryx, Frank/Gerard, AU, NC-17

Title: I Was Your Silver Lining
Author: shoemaster & theopteryx
Pairing: Frank/Gerard
Rating: NC-17
Length: ~52,000
Summary: "So what do you do?" "I wait." "You wait? Like, what, tables?" "I wait for you." Werewolves, Gypsy magic, soul mates, reincarnation and Gerard being a creeper.
Warnings: Character death, violence, underage sex.
Notes: HUGE HUGE HUGE thanks to bexless who we threw this at in its commentfic glory and sent it back so we could add another 20,000 words. To strobelighted who got to fix all of the places where we broke grammar. To both of them, especially, for dealing with our crazy. To those who cheered us on when this was just "lolwerewolves" <333

Title borrowed from Rilo Kiley, cut text from Company of Thieves.

Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

Story Art at theopteryx


The whole street is dark when Gerard returns home. No one is awake to see him drop the heavy old carpetbag on the porch and dig out his keys. He's relieved to finally be back on familiar grounds, but wouldn't go so far as to say he's glad to be home.

The stairs creak as he climbs up them and a cloud of dust flies up when he drops onto the bed. He sighs and kicks off his shoes. The house is silent around him, stifled, seemingly uninterested in the fact that he's returned to disturb the quiet. He flicks at a tiny spider that crawls through a knot in the headboard and then shuffles underneath the musty sheets, his jeans still on.

Gerard lies back and waits, waits for sleep, but he isn't sure whether or not he should hope for dreams.

"I think - I think she might know."

"Don't be so paranoid, Gee."

"I saw her looking at us."

"Well if I wasn't doing this, what was there to see?"


Gerard wakes up far earlier than necessary, but his bladder is full and his stomach is empty. So is the fridge, but he knows there should be a loaf of bread and some coffee beans in the freezer, and that's enough to lever him out of bed.

The water from the kitchen faucet sputters a little when he turns it on but still tastes fine, if a little metallic. He methodically rinses out his old cracked coffee mug and uses it to fill up the coffee maker, carefully measuring up to the line and then staring at it sleepily as it gurgles away. He should clean the house today. Wipe everything down. There's still sheets over most of the furniture and he's pretty sure he saw some of the eaves in the back crumbling. He should probably get to them before too long - the coffee gurgles, then slows, and he pours himself a steaming cup and frowns into it. Milk, he should turn on the fridge and get milk, too. And sugar.

He'll go to the store later. For now, lack of additives won't prevent him from enjoying this cup, or the next. He breathes it in and stares out the window; they've painted the house across the street, and the fence has finally been fixed down the block, so maybe the Wilson’s dog Zeke won't get out anymore.

There's a small group of kids dressed in uniforms, some with backpacks as big as they are. Gerard hums into his coffee, curious to see what the Academy lets their students get away with as far as dress code violations. Frankly, he's surprised that the tallest one hasn't been forced to cut his hair. The little one still has his tie wrapped around his wrist and-

Gerard's mug falls from his hand.

***

"Dude, no, you'll have to come with me when I go check out guitars. There's this seriously sweet Gibson that I think I can convince my parents to swing for me for Christmas," Ray says, reshouldering his heavy backpack as they make their way down the street.

"Sure, man. Tomorrow? I promised my mom I'd help her with some shit after school."

"Yeah, yeah, no problem. You ready for Wilson's exam later? If I see another fact about the sinking of the Spanish Armada I'm going to puke."

Frank sighs and twists his tie tighter around his hand. "Fucking tell me about it, man. I stayed up till -" There's a loud noise, then, from the other side of the street and they all freeze on the spot. There's a guy standing on the front steps of his house, barefoot but dressed in old jeans and a half-buttoned shirt.

"Holy shit," Bob says.

"Yeah," Ray agrees.

"What? I thought you guys said no one lived in that house," Frank says glancing between his friends and the weird guy on the porch.

"No, he was gone," Ray corrects.

"He just does that sometimes."

"You also said he was like Boo Radley or whatever, that he hardly ever came outside or talked to the neighbors," Frank hisses at them. He can feel the hairs on the back of his neck standing up.

"He doesn't!" Ray insists.

"How about we keep going?" Bob suggests.

"Yeah, okay." Frank tears his eyes away from the guy. He thought he'd be like a cranky old man. Like Ed Asner or something, or that guy on Everybody Loves Raymond, not like, twenty-five with muppet hair. Weird.

***

Frank doesn’t know him. Frank doesn’t know him. Gerard can’t move. He stands on the porch and watches them half-run down the street and his feet are freezing but he can’t even feel it, can’t feel anything except the rolling wave of sickness inside. There’s still a screaming part of him telling him to run after Frank, stop him, stop him from going away, but that look on Frank’s face told him everything he needed to know. Frank doesn’t know him.

That's not how it's supposed to be, this can't be right. How can Frank not know him, not remember him? Gerard has been waiting and now he's found him and....Frank looked young, but still so obviously Frank and Gerard had always figured that all he'd have to do is wait, and he'd find Frank again and Frank would know and they could pick up where they left off.

But now he's just as alone as he was when he went to bed last night, just with one less coffee cup.

The cold finally seeping into his bones is the only thing that snaps him out of it and sends him stumbling backwards towards the front door. He should go inside. Wipe down the counters. Plug in the fridge. The Academy gets out when, two o'clock? Three? Frank will come back this way. Gerard can wait.

A few hours is nothing, in the scheme of things.

***

"I think I passed, but it wasn't pretty," Frank sighs. He kicks at a rock by the edge of the path so it goes tripping into the grass.

"That's all that matters," Bob offers.

"Yeah, you tell that to my mom, dude. At least she can't ground me preemptively, so at least I'll have til Monday?" Frank would have preferred his bright side be a little brighter.

"Oh shit, the hermit is outside again," Ray says, jerking his head casually to the other side of the street. It would be much more subtle if his hair didn't magnify every move of his head.

"Do you think he went inside at all?" Bob asks.

"He has shoes on," Frank says, trying to see as much as possible without it looking like he's staring.

The hermit, though, doesn't seem to care about being caught staring because he's not even trying to pretend to be doing anything else.

They speed up their steps as they pass by but Frank can’t help but dart a look to the side. The second they make eye contact Frank feels a cold chill of something pinch at his heart. Jesus, the guy’s not staring at them, he’s staring at Frank. Frank jerks forward and hurries to keep up with Bob and Ray, keeping his eyes to the pavement the entire time.

*
“Are you sure you don’t want to come with me? There’s going to be a lot of free food and I think Renee is going to be there helping her aunt,” his mom says as she moves quickly through the kitchen. “Have you seen the plastic utensils?”

“They’re already in the bag,” Frank says, twirling a little on the barstool. “And I’m good, I’m just going to chill here. I’m kind of tired.”

“Stayed up late studying for that test? How did that go?” she asks, pausing in her packing to look up at Frank.

Frank hooks his feet around the rungs of the stool. “Uhm, I think it went okay.”

Okay-okay or okay?”

“…Okay-okay.”

His mom sighs. “Frank, if you need a tutor to catch up, you just need to let me know, okay? I know that last hospital visit really set you back –“

“I’m fine, ma. You’re going to be late,” Frank says, ducking his head a little.

His mom pushes the strap of the bag over her shoulder and comes around to wrap Frank up in a hug and press a kiss to the top of his head. “Alright, I’m out. There’s money for you to get a movie or something on the island. Don’t stay out late and call me if you need anything, alright? I shouldn’t be back too late but the church number is still on the fridge.”

Frank doesn't hug back exactly, but he leans in and rests his head on her shoulder until she pulls away. "Have fun, ma."

He putzes around for a few minutes after his mom leaves and makes himself a grilled cheese sandwich on the stove. If he doesn't get any of the new releases, Frank might be able to get two movies with the money his mom left. He tosses the last of the crust into his mouth and grabs his hoodie off the chair before heading out the door.

Frank pauses once he's around the block to stop and light up a cigarette. He inhales slowly and chances a look up at creepy hermit's house. There's a single light on up in one of the top rooms but other than that it looks exactly the same as it has since Frank and his mom moved into the neighborhood a few years ago, busted eaves and warped porch and all. Weird. He shoves his lighter back in his jeans pocket and heads back towards the video store a couple of blocks over.

He grinds the butt of his cigarette into the stripmall's sidewalk before heading into the store. The last thing he needs is to run into Mrs. Bryar, or worse, Mrs. Toro while he's smoking. It's pretty crowded inside, since it's a Friday and all, but Frank ducks through the lines of people at the new releases wall and heads straight to the horror section. He and Bob had watched Evil Dead last Saturday; maybe Frank could grab Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. Someone else is in the aisle though, blocking Frank's access to the beginning of the alphabet.

"Hey dude, can I?" Frank asks, gesturing at the tiny bit of free space.

The guy stands up, but he doesn't move. He's just staring at Frank. For the third time that day.

Frank's getting a little creeped out by Hermit Guy. Okay, he's getting hugely creeped out by Hermit Guy. Does he even know how to blink? He tries not to show it, though, and just silently shuffles past him the best he can without making eye contact. Jesus. He's still staring at him. He grabs the DVDs off the shelf and moves to scoot quickly down the aisle when –

"Do you like horror movies?” the guy asks, taking an almost abortive step towards Frank. He’s clutching an old VHS rental to his chest. It’s a weirdly dramatic move but the guy doesn’t even seem to notice.

“Uh. Yeah,” Frank says, turning back towards him slightly.

“Have you – have you seen those before?” The guy says, darting a look down to the DVDs in Frank’s hands.

Frank shifts slightly from foot to foot. “Not yet. I finally saw the first one last week.”

“They’re excellent.”

Excellent. Who the fuck says ‘excellent’ about a Bruce Campbell movie?
“So, uh,” Frank asks, “what are you getting?”

The guy shrugs. “I wanted to get Dog Soldiers, but they don't have it.”

Frank furrowed his brow, “They don't? Dude, it's like, right there.”

“I know, but they only have it on DVD.”

“Oh.” Frank didn't know there were people that didn't answer to grandma or grandpa that only had a VHS any more. “Uh, maybe try Ginger Snaps? Or The Howling?”

“Have you seen them?” Hermit Guy asks, with a weirdly hopeful look in his eyes.

“Yeah, they're pretty cool. There are about five thousand Howling movies, so it might be a good series to start if you haven't seen them before.”

“Yes, well. I will – uhm, be sure to do that, then,” Hermit Guy says, and then sort of flushes and stares at the wall of movies.

He’s much less intimidating when he’s not staring directly at Frank. Frank sort of feels bad for him, suddenly. He obviously doesn’t get out much.

“Okay, well, yeah. I’m gonna go. But I’ll see you around, or something,” he says, moving away from Hermit Guy and towards the front of the store.

“Bye, Frank,” he says quietly, still staring at the rack of faded horror tapes.

Frank gives him a little nod before scooting in the line to check out. It’s not until hours later, curled up on the couch watching Ash rev up his chainsaw, that he realizes that he never told Hermit Guy his name.

*

When Frank wakes up the next morning things seem muted, groggy. Fuck. He pushes up from the bed to breathe deeply and he can feel it, there, inside his chest. He’s going to get sick again. Fuck. Every fucking time he gets over something, something else comes around to knock him on his ass.

He groans and flops back down on the bed, but all he gets out of it is a resounding cough.
*

“Mom?” he calls out as he slowly walks down the stairs. No answer. “Ma?”

She’s out, apparently. There’s a note on the kitchen table (lunch with friends) but the house is cold, like she’s been gone a long time. He pops bread in the toaster while he meanders back through the house to his mom’s bathroom where the meds are. Might as well cut it off while it’s still early.

Two Tylenol, one Mucinex and the biggest glass of orange juice he can stand later, Frank crawls back into bed. He can't really sleep more, between the coughing and the fact that he'd already slept for eleven hours, so he grabs a few comic books from under his bed. His whole head is fuzzy, between the cold and the pills, so Hellboy and Abe Sapien are blurry on the page and the speech bubbles seem like more effort than Frank has to spend.

He must fall asleep at some point because when he wakes his mom is creeping into his room with some Gatorade and crackers. "Hey," he says, before his body convulses in another coughing fit.

She sits down on the bed, moving Frank's comic books out of the way and opening the bottle of Gatorade. Frank takes it from her as soon as he's sure he won't choke on it, and tries not to notice the worried press of her lips as she rests the back of her hand against his forehead. "Have you taken anything yet?"

Frank nods. "Yeah, but I could probably take more Tylenol soon."

"Sure, honey. How about food, do you want some soup?"

"Soup'd be good." Frank nods, trying to smile for his mom.

His mom disappears down the hallway towards the kitchen again and Frank shifts in his bed, unable to find a position that doesn’t seem to close off his chest. He fucking hates how they’ve got this down to a routine by now. Other kids don’t have to have this shit down to a routine by now. But he hasn’t died yet, so he guesses he should be thankful.

***
It’s been four days since Gerard’s seen Frank. Four days. He hasn’t come out of his house and Gerard should know, since he’s been boring holes into it with his eyeballs ever since he figured out which one was his. Not unless he figured out a new way to get to school that doesn’t involve leaving his house.

Gerard sips at his cold coffee and blanches a little. Oh right. It’s from the pot from last night. He swirls it around in the cup slightly before sipping again. He presses his face closer to the front window, barely peeking out around the curtains. Where could he be?

Finally, after a few more cups of cold, bitter coffee, there’s movement from Frank’s house. Gerard clutches at the drapes and shirks back out of view as someone comes out of the front door. It’s – it’s not Frank. It must be his mom. She looks about a mom’s age. Tired, too. Gerard knows the look.

Something's Wrong. Something's wrong with Frank, because that's the only reason his mother would be looking like that, and Frank would hole up where Gerard can't see him. It's killing Gerard, not to be able to see Frank. It hasn't even been a week since Gerard first saw Frank again, and already he's become dependent on seeing him even for a few minutes a day.

Gerard nearly wears a hole in the carpet pacing back and forth. There's nothing he can do about whatever's wrong, whatever is making Frank's mom chain smoke on the front porch. When she gets in the car and disappears down the street, Gerard considers going over to the house and trying to look in on Frank himself.

He frantically walks back and forth between the kitchen and front window, trying to figure out what the fuck to do. Finally, Gerard snaps. He can’t let Frank disappear into that house. He’s going to find him. He thunks the coffee cup down on the table with a determined motion and goes to grab his coat from the front closet.

He’s halfway across the street to Frank’s house when he sees Frank’s mom’s car round around the block. He considers making a break for it, hitting the front door full speed, darting in, finding Frank, whisking him away – but his stomach drops in fear and he stumbles a little and keeps walking, cutting the corner by Frank’s house so it looks like he was planning to pass on by all along.

By the time he’s made it around the corner he’s gripping so tightly at the inside of his pockets he’s sure he’s made new holes.

He loiters behind a tree, watching as she lifts bags from the backseat. He could offer to help, that might get him inside, but he's wary of approaching her, even if - no maybe especially if - he could see Frank. Instead, he stays out of sight and tries to see through the semi-opaque bags to their contents. He can barely see sports drinks and an impressive collection of over the counter medications wedged in between basic items like food.

With that, Gerard can deduce what is keeping Frank locked away out of sight. It's just a bug of some kind. He's just sick. It's nothing like the flu that hit after the Great War, the one that knocked out half the eastern seaboard, or so it had felt some days. Now, Frank can take half of the pills in the pharmacy and be back on his feet in no time.

Gerard hopes it's no time. The past four days have felt almost as long as the past four decades.

***

By the sixth day Frank can roll out of bed without wanting to curl up in a little ball on the floor and vomit. Progress. His mom’s back at work and he’s well stocked with Gatorade and soup and the huge stack of homework Ray came by and dropped off that he has to make up. And also he’s pretty well stocked with being bored out of his fucking mind. There are only so many times he can watch daytime TV without wanting to brain himself, and that passed about eleven sick spells ago.

Around one o'clock he hears the mailbox slam shut; it's a little early, but Frank's looking for any sort of distraction from trig, even if he has to work up the energy to walk all the way out to the front curb. His old house had a mail slot; all he'd have to do was get to the front door. Frank does actually remember to grab his coat before heading outside. His mom would be so proud.

Of course, halfway down the walkway he gets a little light-headed. It figures, since this is the furthest he's walked in one go in almost a week, so he speed shuffles to the mailbox and leans on it for a minute or two before opening it up.

There are no letters inside, just a wrinkly brown package. He pulls it out and turns it over a few times in his hands. It’s weird, old paper, like the kind you’d get from a butcher instead of a mailroom. His name and address are scrawled on the front in a messy, looping scrawl, and when he rubs his thumb over it the black stains his thumb.

There’s no return address on it and Frank knows he should probably be worried about mail bombs or anthrax or something but nobody ever sends him shit in the mail so he rips it open right there by the mailbox.

It’s a scarf. He lets it dangle from his hands, and it’s so long that it almost brushes the concrete of the sidewalk even when folded in half. It’s made of some dark kind of wool, worn thin, and there are intricate little stitches woven in delicate designs around the edges and through the seams. He shakes it out a little in his hands to see if a note or letter or something falls out but there’s nothing, just the scarf. He presses it against his face and inhales. It smells weird, and familiar, like something his grandma would keep in the attic of her house. Maybe it is from his grandma. She’s always fretting that he’s not dressing warm enough.

The wind picks up then, pushing leaves down the sidewalk, so Frank winds the scarf around his neck so it won't hit the ground and makes his way back into the house. There's a bowl of soup with his name on it, and more homework to make up.

***

Gerard barely has time to get back to his house before he hears the door slam down the street, and when he looks back, there's Frank, walking out to the mailbox. Every muscle in his body seems to relax at the exact same time, and he sags against the porch railing. It's all he can do to stay put when he sees Frank start to weave a bit. Why didn't he put it on the porch? Whose brilliant idea was it to make Frank walk all the way down to the curb?

The self berating stops when Frank opens the package and actually holds the scarf, and Gerard gets a sharp pang right under his ribcage when he sees Frank lift it to his face. He can't help but remember Frank's smile when Gerard gave it to him the first time.

Gerard tugs nervously at the scarf in his hands. God, what is he doing, Frank’s going to hate it, this is so silly, he should just –

Frank steps out of the store and half-skips down the steps. Gerard considers pulling back into the darkness of the alley but Frank sees him, then, and smiles wide. So much for that.

“Hey, Gerard!” he says as he walks up. His cheeks are bright red from the cold and his hair is whipped all around his face. Gerard’s stomach aches.

He blinks away from Frank’s face and stares back at the fabric in his hands. “Hi, Frank. I, uhm, I was in the shop on my way back from holiday and I saw this, and –"

“Did you get me a present?” Frank says, the corners of his mouth pulled into a tight smile.

“It just, uhm, reminded me of you, and you said you lost your other scarf when you were riding last month, so,” Gerard stumbles a bit. “I thought you might like another one.”

“You shouldn’t have.”

“But I did.”

“And I’m glad.” Frank holds his hand out, palm up, and Gerard manages to stop clutching at the scarf long enough to jerk his hands out towards him and drop it into his hand. The long scarf spills over his palm and half of it drops to the dirt of the ground before he manages to use his other hand to gather it to his chest.

“Oh, no, I’m sorry-“ Gerard says, embarrassed again by his own clumsy movements. Frank doesn’t seem to mind, though, just dusts it off and wraps it around his neck and face, tucking the long ends into his coat. His mouth is covered, but Gerard can see the top of his smile as he looks at Gerard.

Gerard’s pretty sure even his fingers feel warm, then, no matter how cold the wind blows.



***

Frank finally makes it back to school on Monday, and some sick, twisted part of him is actually kind of happy about it. There's only so much time he can spend by himself without going crazy.

"Hey, look who's back from the dead!" Ray cries, as Frank joins him and Bob on the sidewalk.

"I was only mostly dead," Frank says, bumping Ray with his backpack.

"At least you got a pass on the hospital this time," Bob says, nodding.

Frank lets his friends fill him in on what he missed as they walk to school, content to have people other than the TV and his mother.

In biology, Mr. Howard gives him a look like he's evaluating whether or not Frank was actually sick this past week or if Frank and his ma hightailed it down to Disneyworld. Frank pulls out his stack of homework and drops it on the corner of Howard's desk before slinking over to his lab table.

"Hey Frank, finally feeling better?"

Frank looks up, and Jenny Stevens is leaning across the lab table she shares with Sean McKenly. "Yeah, just, you know. The usual."

"If you need any notes from last week, I kept mine pretty neat if you want to copy them."

"Thanks, but I think I got most of them from Ray. He's got Howard third period."

"Well, if you want to compare, just let me know," she nudges her green notebook with her elbow and tucks a piece of black hair behind her ear.

"I will," Frank says, "thanks."

The bell rings then, and the last few students duck into the room.

"I like your scarf, by the way, very vintage," Jenny says before leaning back in her seat.

Biology is all blah blah enzymes blah blah reactions, but Frank manages to stay awake, if only because he feels like he's been asleep for the past week. It's a good thing, too, because Howard seems to feel the need to call on him all class period, as if he has a week's worth of missed questions to make up for.

Frank's ready to dash out the door once the bell rings, but Jenny calls after him again. "Hey, you live down on Harrison, right?"

"Uh, yeah," Frank nods.

"I'm staying with my dad this week. Mom's got some work conference in Dallas and he's over on Cherry," Jenny explains.

"Cool," Frank says. "Shorter walk than usual?"

"Yeah, um, maybe I'll see you on my way home," she smiles then, one side of her mouth lifting higher than the other and Frank finally clues in.

"Yeah! I mean, totally, you should walk with me, Ray and Bob. We'll get you home safe."

Her smile evens out then, and Frank's foot feels all jittery. "Cool, well, I'll see you later."

***

Frank’s been walking some girl home all week. She’s small and pretty and has embroidered patches tacked all over her backpack, and she and Frank both shoot each other these looks when the other one isn’t watching. Gerard sees them, though. They make him feel sick. How is this even happening?

He paces from one end of the house to the other, picks up his abandoned coffee cup from its place on the counter and then abruptly slams it back down again before going to look back out the front window. They should be coming any minute now. Every day they walk home together and Frank walks with her past his house and then returns back and half-skips up the front steps of his house. They could just be friends, though. Frank’s friendly. Just because –

Frank and the girl come around the corner and they’re holding hands and Frank’s got his side all pressed up against hers, and she’s smiling. Oh, oh no.

Before he even realizes what he’s doing he’s halfway down the front steps and hopping the curb to cross over to their side of the street.

“Wait!” he says, louder than he probably should. “Stop!”

Oh god, what is he doing. Frank's looking at him and he looks nervous, and he's shielding that girl, the one that's been making him laugh all week, like Gerard would hurt her or something.

"What, dude?" Frank asks, standing up taller, pushing his shoulders back.

"You can't, uh. You shouldn't." Gerard wants to yell and rally at him, You're not supposed to be with her. That isn't how it's supposed to go. He wants to explain it all, the moon, Frank's mother, the gypsy. But he can't, not on the street, not with the girl watching them.

"Can't what?" Frank asks, even as the girl is pulling on Frank's hand, trying to lead him away from Gerard.

"Uh, if you liked Army of Darkness, you should get Bubba Ho-tep next time." It sounds stupid to Gerard, so he can't imagine what the two of them are thinking right now.

Frank shifts a little, but his guard isn't completely down. "Uh, okay. Thanks."

And then Frank and that girl are walking away from him, and Frank has his arm around her shoulder.

Gerard stumbles back up the steps to his house and slams the door behind him. This isn’t how it’s supposed to go. He half-staggers into the kitchen, desperate for something to distract him, but nothing comes to mind. This isn’t how it’s supposed to go.

”Such a sad face on such a young man,” she tutts, lifting her cigarette to her mouth and sucking on it with stained, pinched lips. “I’ve never seen such sorrow in such young eyes.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Gerard glances to where Agatha and Henry are looking at the baubles hanging from the tent wall and chattering to each other.

“Of course you do. I can help you, you know.”

“I doubt that.”

She clucks again and grins, flashing crooked teeth. “You doubt a lot of things. But I know, I know what you don’t doubt, I know you don’t – you didn’t – doubt him, how he felt, the things he said –“

He makes a move to leave then, unwilling to listen to her. She shoots out a hand and grabs his arm, though, yanking him back and scattering ash from the cigarette still pinched between her two fingers.

“Hey, you –“

“He’ll come back to you, boy, he will. He’ll be back. You just have to
wait,” she says, almost hushed.

He can feel the ash of her cigarette fleck off and burn the back of his hand, but he can’t move away, can’t look away from her eyes.


Gerard stands in his kitchen and runs his forefinger over the tiny, minuscule scar on the back of his hand. It’s barely anything now, except a spot of shine. But he remembers the burn.

He picks up the coffee cup from the counter and squeezes it in his hands, like if he presses it hard enough it’ll alleviate the weight in his chest clamping around his heart. It doesn’t, just cracks under the pressure, and he slams the broken pieces into the sink with a cry. This isn’t how it’s supposed to go.

***

Frank can't believe it. He and Jenny are totally making out on her dad's couch and he's almost touched her boob like, three times and they haven't even been on an actual date yet. He owes weird Hermit Guy a fruit basket or something because adrenaline is an amazing thing. He didn't even have a chance to pop a breath mint and Jenny's just so soft and her hair smells really good.

Jenny breaks the kiss and sits up suddenly. "Oh shit, I think I hear my dad's car."

Frank blinks at her, his head still kind of spinning from the sudden shift away from awesome making out. "Huh?"

"You should probably go," Jenny says as she leans down to kiss him again. "I'll see you in class Monday, right?"

"Yes, definitely," Frank nods, grabbing his blazer off the arm of the sofa.

"Tommy Johnson is having a party next weekend, I think we should go," she says as she pushes him out the side door.

"Okay," Frank agrees, turning around so he can kiss her one last time. "And, uh - my birthday is next week, on Wednesday, and you should come over. Or - you know, whatever. Uhm. 'Night, Jenny."

She grins at him. "That sounds great. Goodnight, Frankie."

*

“Dude, okay, I see that shit-eating grin on your face. You and Jenny?” Ray asks the next morning on their way to school. “I know there’s a reason you’ve been ditching us to walk her home.”

“Yeah, man, sorry about that – but yeah. We totally made out yesterday.”

“You’re a regular Romeo,” Bob drawls.

“Shut up, okay, it was totally romantic – creepy Hermit Guy came busting out of his house yesterday and practically chased us down so he could talk to me about horror movies. Freaky as shit but I totally protected her.”

“Protected her, huh? From what? His terrible taste in movies?”

“Ha ha, laugh all you want, but I got an invite to Johnson’s party next weekend.”

“Up at his mom’s place? I hear his step-dad owns some huge-ass mansion or something up there in the woods outside of town.”

“Yeah, I think that’s the one. It’s going to be awesome,” Frank says, practically skipping. Maybe he can protect Jenny from a bug or something and get to touch her boob.

“I thought you hated Tommy Johnson,” Bob says, “because he’s a huge stuck-up prick. And the outdoors. And most of the people in our grade.”

“Yeah, well, I like Jenny,” Frank half-mumbles. “So I don’t care about the other stuff.”

Ray just laughs at him. "Typical, dude."

"I also invited her over for my birthday, you know, movies and shit."

"If you two start making out during Land of the Dead I'm leaving," Bob states. "I don't care if it's your birthday or not."

The week passes quickly. Frank switches seats with his lab partner so he can sit a little closer to Jenny, and they switch off hanging out with each other's friends at lunch. Basically, it's the best week ever, especially when they get a chance to kiss by the lockers between classes. Ray and Bob egg him on a little, making fun of him, but whatever, Bob was the same way with Karen Wasserman back in freshman year, and Ray's been asking questions about Jenny's friend Natalie.

His birthday rolls around the next week and it kind of sucks that it's in the middle of the week and he has to go to school, but his mom makes him waffles with a candle in them and even though he groans and rolls his eyes it's pretty awesome. Jenny grabs his hand after lunch and drags him into the school's back alley for a thorough make-out session against the bricks and that's really awesome.

They break away for a second and Jenny smiles and tugs on his tie. Frank can't stop staring at her mouth. She's got a really awesome mouth.

"Happy birthday, Frankie," she says. Best birthday ever.

"You coming over tonight? It's just going to be me and Ray and Bob and some gory horror movies, but it should be kind of fun," he says, running his fingers over her waist.

"Yeah, definitely. What time?"

"Like six? Seven? We're getting pizza from Bianci's too."

"Okay," she says, and smiles and bites her lip.

"Okay. I'll see you then?"

She nods and the bell rings and they have to part to go to separate classes. He can barely concentrate in his next class. Not that he ever really cared about Advanced Trig before, but it needs to be that night now.

He's a little freaked about Jenny meeting his mom but it turns out pretty awesome - Jenny shows up about ten minutes before Ray and Bob and his mom actually manages to not be embarrassing and doesn't do anything like ruffle his hair or bring out naked baby pictures or anything. The pizza's awesome and has extra veggies and Ray seems to be wavering on selling Frank his old busted-up electric guitar.

They all end up curling up on the sofas and overstuffed chairs (except for his mom; she sneaks a smile at Jenny before she kisses his forehead and then goes to read in her bedroom) and watching awesome slasher movies. Jenny curls up against his side and runs her fingers along his forearm and even though Bob rolls his eyes at them Frank doesn't even care. It's the best birthday ever.

Afterward, when Ray and Bob have already left and it's just him and Jenny on the porch with the moths beating around the front light, he kisses her good-bye and it feels great.

"Hey, so, thanks for coming over," he says, pulling back. "I know it was kind of lame to come hang out with my mom, or whatever - "

"You kidding? Your mom's awesome. Thanks for inviting me over," she says, smiling. "Besides, Tommy's big party is this weekend and it'll be kind of like a blowout for you, too. Or you can just pretend like it is since he's kind of a dick."

Frank smiles. "Yeah, he kind of is."

They kiss again before she hop-skips down the steps and down the street. Frank watches until she disappears around the corner towards her dad's house and sighs. The porch light over at Hermit Guy's house is off but something seems to shudder by the window, like a small movement or a reflection on the glass. Frank freezes, waiting to see it again, but there's nothing. He slips back inside, flipping the porch light off behind him. Awesome birthday.

*

"So yeah, Tommy Johnson got the new Call of Duty game for Xbox and a bunch of us are just going to go over and hang out," Frank says to his mom. It's a good thing he's facing the sink and scrubbing the plates so she can't notice how he's especially fidgety.

“Mmhm, alright. That’s Tommy, Eloise Johnson’s son? Is she going to be there?” His mom says, idly flipping through the newspaper’s coupon section. He can hear her gently ripping out pieces over his shoulder.

“Uh, I think so. If not his step-dad definitely will,” Frank says. He pretty much doubts that there are going to be any parents within a two-mile radius of the party but the less she frets, the better.

“Okay then. Just make sure you call me if you’re going to be really late.”

“Yeah, ma, no problem.” He smiles to himself and stacks more dishes in the drying rack.

His phone beeps then and when he checks his texts, there's one from Jenny. "Ride's here, bye Ma."

Frank grabs his hoodie and presses a kiss to his mom's cheek as he heads out the door.

"Have fun, Frankie!"

Jenny's car is idling out front, the light from the moon reflecting off the silver hood. Frank wonders if he could pull one of those slide across the hood of the car moves, but he doesn't want to kill himself before they even get to the party, so he walks around it to the passenger door.

"Hey," he says, slipping inside and pressing a quick kiss to her cheek.

"Hey," she says, pulling away from the curb. "Tonight's gonna be totally awesome."

"Awesome."

The party is only kind of awesome. Frank really likes the beer, but he only knows a few other people there beside Jenny, and she gets pulled away by some of her friends and Frank's left standing awkwardly by the cooler until Jason from his lit class says, "Hey, dude, we're gonna try my new pipe outside, wanna come with?"

Frank looks around to see if he sees Jenny, but ends up shrugging. "Sure."

He half-stumbles down the steps (apparently he really liked the beer) and follows the guys over to the edge of the woods. One of the other guys, Dan-or-Stan-or-something, is already packing Jason’s pipe by the time he walks up and flops to the ground next to him. There's another guy he sort of knows from gym class named Steve next to him, working on a beer.

"Shit, dude, my lighter’s out. You got one?" Jason says, flicking the Bic ineffectually.

"Nah, mine’s back in the house. Hold on, I’ll go –"

"It’s cool, man, I got one," Frank says, fumbling in his pocket for his pack of cigarettes. He opens the crumbled packaging and pulls out the lighter, tossing it over.

Dan-or-Stan-or-something gives him a nod and tests the lighter before starting to light up. Frank kicks back the rest of his beer and crumples the thin metal a little in his hands while he waits.

It’s been a while since Frank’s gotten high (he’s pretty broke most of the time and Bob gave it up, so he’s been relying on Ray’s good graces, and he’s about as broke as Frank is) so he chokes a bit the first time it comes around. A couple more rounds, though, and he’s half-slouched back on the ground feeling pretty awesome. He just feels so good all over.

Frank's willingness to keep holding himself up fades quickly and he ends up lying back, staring up at the sky. "The moon's so big."

"Harvest moon," Steve says, knowingly.

"I wish it always looked this big," Frank says. "It's dark out, but it isn't actually dark out. No moon sucks."

"Earth didn't always have a moon," Jason says, taking another hit off the pipe. "The science dudes think that some meteor hit Earth and a big piece flew off and became the moon."

"Huh." Frank vaguely remembers hearing something like that before. "Do you think Earth misses it? Like in that book, with the circle and the piece it was missing?"

"It was like a billion years ago, dude."

"Whatever," Frank shrugs, and reaches for the pipe.

"Dude, dude, did you hear that?" Steve asks, sitting up suddenly.

"Nope."

Frank lowers the pipe and exhales as quietly as he can so he can listen, too. And then he hears it, in the distance. There's a lone, low howl.

"Holy shit, dude, was that a wolf?" Dan-or-Stan asks, blinking at the woods.

"Nah, man, it's probably a coyote."

"Maybe it's a mountain lion," Steve slurrs.

"Mountain lions don't howl, shithead -" Jason says, rolling his eyes.

"How would you know, man, you ever meet a mountain lion?"

"No, have you?"

"No, but I wanna -"

"Everybody be quiet," Frank snaps. It's hard to hear anything with the noises of the party still filtering from the house behind them. The woods in front of them just look so fucking dark, though, and silent, like the world just ends on the other side of the trees. Like they'd swallow you whole. You'd probably step right through and fall off into the void like the edge of a map, like the old explorers and their flat Earth.

"Dude, Frank, where're you - where're you going?" Jason says.

Frank blinks and realizes he's already on his feet and halfway between the group and the tree line. "I wanna check it out."

Steve giggles and goes back to packing the bowl with the edge of the lighter. "You're crazy, man, fuckin' Dances With Mountain Lions -"

"It's not a fucking mountain lion, Jesus."

"You're gonna get fucking rabies or something," Jason says even as he gets up and follows after Frank.

"You can't get rabies from looking!" Frank insists.

It's a lot darker once they're actually in the trees with the half bare branches blocking out the moonlight. They can't even really hear the wolf anymore, but Frank still wants to see if he can find it.

The trees thin out a little, and Jason keeps looking over his shoulder to make sure they can find their way back. Something snaps on the other side of the small clearing and Frank jumps. Jason sounds like he's choking on his own breath."I thought all the wolves were in Canada."

The wolf is all black, or nearly so, and his fur is long and slightly matted, and he's staring at Frank and Jason. "It's a puppy!" Frank cries gleefully.

Jason just makes some strangled noise behind him, but whatever, Frank doesn't care at this point. He takes a step towards it and the thing freezes.

"That is not a fucking puppy, you idiot," Jason hisses. "We need to fucking go."

Whatever. Jason's just jealous because the wolf puppy thing obviously likes him. He really is fucking Dances With Wolf Puppy Things. Frank giggles. This is awesome. He takes another step towards it but stumbles on a tree root and ends up toppling to his knees. He giggles again. When he looks up the animal is closer to him now, only a few feet away.

"It's okay, I'm okay," he tells it, brushing off his dirty palms on his jeans. "I'm okay." It is obviously very concerned. He doesn't want it to worry.

The creature takes a few more steps towards him, slowly, its torso barely moving and its feet barely making a sound on the damp grass. It's inching closer, and closer, its eyes never leaving Frank's face. Frank smiles. It's so friendly. Frank always wanted a puppy but they don't really have the money right now but maybe he could just take it home and -

There's a squelching sound of shoes on mud as Jason takes off running towards the house. "Fuck you, man, seriously, fuck this-" and then he's gone into the woods.

Frank sighs. When he turns back around the puppy is like right there. Inches away. What did his dad always say about animals? You gotta let 'em know how you smell, right? Let them get used to you?

He raises his hand slowly (a little wobbly, but not too bad, or maybe the rest of him is too wobbly) and holds it a few inches away from the creature's face. The thing stops, pauses, and sniffs at him a little. They are totally gonna be friends. Frank raises his hand to pet the puppy's head but the thing just barrels into him, pressing its face into his chest until Frank topples backwards from the force. Damn, it's fucking strong.

Frank just laughs again.

“You’re a big puppy, aren’t you?”

The puppy just rubs his snout against Frank’s chest, so Frank figures he’s in the clear to scratch behind his ears and smush them down a bit. “You’re a good boy, huh?” Frank says.

That gets a soft “wuf” in reply and Frank can’t stop grinning.

“Do you want to play?” Frank asks and immediately the wolf is sitting back on Frank’s legs. He’s really heavy. “You have to get off my legs, first.”

He complies immediately.

“Man, if I could get a dog as good as you, Mom would have to let us keep you,” Frank says, pushing up onto his feet.

He’s never actually had a dog, and therefore has had very limited experience playing with one, but Frank’s always wanted to, and the wolf is bouncing on his paws in front of him, so they fall into a natural rhythm of play and chase that seems instinctive to both of them.

Frank rolls and pitches and the wolf thing follows, snapping at his heels and shoving its head into his side whenever he stops. He can't stop laughing, this is so awesome -

"Frank!" someone cries from the darkness of the woods. "Frank!"

Frank jerks in surprise and overbalances, falling to the ground mid-tumble. The wolf yelps and there's a sharp pain on his forearm and he hisses, rolling over to glance at it. He's bleeding. Fuck.

The pup is staring at him again, frozen to the spot. Staring at his arm.

"Aw, no, pup, it's okay, you didn't mean it -" he starts, rolling over to try and get to his feet again. "It's -"

"Frank!" The voices are closer now and he can hear footsteps. When he turns back the wolf is gone and he's alone in the clearing. He's weirdly disappointed.

"Frank, you crazy fuck!" Jason yells, finally tromping through the trees with a flashlight. A second later Jenny comes out of the darkness as well, her dark hair plastered to her pale face.

"Oh my God, are you okay?" she asks, running up to him.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," he says, wiping his palms on his jeans. He feels stupid, now, looking at her worried face. She clutches at his arm a little.

"You're bleeding! Jesus. Jason told me about the thing, the wolf or whatever, did it attack you?"

"No, no, it was an accident -"

"An accident! Wolves don't just accidentally bite people, we need to get you back to the house, Johnson's family has got to have some first aid shit in a bathroom somewhere."

She links her hand in his and tugs him away back towards the house, but he can't help but dart a glance back to the clearing right before it disappears back into the darkness of the woods.

*

Gerard stumbles back into the house shortly after sunrise. He's exhausted and the stairs just seem like more effort than they're worth, even if his bed is up there. Instead, he staggers into the living room and falls onto the sofa, letting the familiar cushion and upholstery catch him. He's asleep again in a matter of minutes.

He wakes up again hours later. Gerard can't remember the last time he had a morning after like this, one that leaves him so drained. There's an omnipresent feeling of guilt - he did something he shouldn't have. He knows that the moment he wakes up, but it takes a minute for the vague memories to come back.

"Fuck," Gerard groans into the pillow. "Fuck fuck fuck."

He wouldn't have bitten Frank if those kids hadn't distracted Frank, and what was he even doing in the woods in the middle of the night? Gerard chose that area because there's usually no one around, or at least not anyone who wants to play with a wolf.

But once he'd smelled Frank, once he'd seen him, Gerard couldn't just leave. He had a hard enough time doing so as a human, and when he was changed he had even less control over his impulses. He certainly hadn't been expecting Frank to start playing with him. It was the most fun Gerard had had in years -- since Agatha moved out west, after Alicia passed just months after Mikey.

And that's why Gerard feels so guilty. Part of him is glad that Frank is like him again, that maybe Gerard won't have to be alone any longer, even if for only one day a month.

God, he's such a monster. Frank's obviously having a wonderful life with his wonderful girlfriend and wonderful friends, and apparently Gerard's only purpose is to drag him back down again. But he has to. They've always been stuck together, their lines crossed and tangled. Maybe this is how it's supposed to go.

He groans and rolls off the sofa, stumbling a little and knocking into the ottoman. He's been doing this fucking forever and it still feels like every joint in his body has been slammed with a brick. He stumbles into the kitchen and hits the coffee maker button before easing himself into one of the kitchen chairs, his head down on his folded arms.

He wants to go over to Frank's place right now and see him, smell him, see how he's doing. Maybe it wasn't enough. Maybe the bite wasn't enough, it wasn't that deep, maybe he wasn't infected, maybe he was, and again Gerard's stomach swoops at the possibilities of either.

***

When Frank finally rolls out of bed the next morning he feels like death warmed over. Death warmed over and then reheated in a microwave in tinfoil and then fucking freezer burned and roasted in the sun. He barely manages to get to the bathroom down the hall and get the lid of the toilet seat up before he's down on his knees, puking. Jesus, he didn't even fucking drink that much last night. Well, a little, but not this much.

His limbs feel kind of shaky and his eyeballs feel like they're rattling around in his skull and he swears he can feel the blood moving under his skin, like that time he had to go to the doctor and they hooked him up to that machine, like for plasma or something, and they took all the blood out and then put the blood and saline shit back in and it was cold and he could feel it, even though the nurse said it wouldn't last that long and he didn't believe her because it was the weirdest thing he'd ever felt in his life.

He wipes his mouth with the back of his hands and pulls himself to his feet, leaning heavily against the bathroom counter and glancing at the mirror. Fucking hell, he looks insane. His pupils are blown wide and his face is flushed and there's sweat staining the neck of his t-shirt.

"Frank?" His mom calls from the bottom of the stairs.

Frank hurriedly flushes the toilet and splashes water on his face before peeking out from around the doorframe. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. "Yeah?" He calls back.

"How was your night?" She asks, starting to come up the stairs. Oh god, Frank's still dressed in the same clothes he was last night and he smells like beer and pot and -

He shirks back behind the door and closes it so there's only a few inches before it's closed. "I'm not dressed, ma."

He can hear her pause. "Oh, alright then. You about to hop in the shower?"

"Yeah, yeah."

"I'm about to make breakfast. You want some pancakes or French toast?"

"Pancakes."

"Pancakes it is. I picked up another shift at work today so I have to go after lunch, but you'll be okay? You need a ride anywhere?"

"No, ma, I'm okay. I'm pretty tired. I'll probably just sleep."

"Okay then," she says, turning and walking back down the stairs.

Frank heaves out a breath and closes the door all the way, pressing his forehead to the wood.

*

When Monday comes, Frank is waiting on the steps for Ray and Bob to arrive. He wants to tell them about the party, and he couldn’t do so satisfactorily over text, and he didn’t want to risk his mom overhearing anything incriminating.

“Someone's up early,” Bob says, shuffling up the walk.

“Just couldn't wait to see your smiling face, Bryar,” Frank says, hopping down from the top step.

“No lasting pain from Friday?" Ray asks.

"Naw." Frank shrugs. "I mean, I got bit-"

"I didn't think Jenny was the type," Bob says as they head up the block.

"By a wolf, jackass."

"Bullshit."

"Dude, what the fuck ever, I wouldn’t lie about that shit."

"Yes you would. What about that time you flipped your bike and told us you fucked up your face when you got into a fist fight at the bar – "

"Okay, that’s –"

"You look like you’re fourteen, dude, like hell you were ever in a bar – "

"Okay! Okay, okay, but this time it’s totally true. Big fucking wolf, man, it was insane."

"Uh-huh."

"It bit me, too, but just a little. Jenny helped me patch it up," Frank says, rolling up his sleeve a little to show them the bandage. The cut had actually healed up surprisingly fast but he was keeping it on until he saw Jenny again. She did a good job and he wanted to make sure she knew he was grateful.

Part 2
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