“You’re sure this is the right house?” Ray asked. He made like he was looking over his shoulder at Frank, but Frank knew that he was really meeting Mikey’s eyes in the half-gloom of the early dawn.
“There are definitely weres inside,” Mikey muttered.
“I don’t like this,” Gerard muttered. Gravel crunched beneath his feet when he shifted.
Frank sighed. They were a block away from Sean’s place, in sight of the house, which was shorter than Frank remembered it as being. But it was definitely the same street and the right neighbourhood. Even if Frank hadn’t had the piece of paper Sean had slipped to him with their exact address, he would have remembered.
“Guys, it’s fine,” Frank said. “Nobody knows that these guys exist. Not the government, not...whatever’s after us.”
“Whoever,” Gerard said.
“Sure, shut up,” Frank said. “Look, I know Sean, okay? He was telling the truth. He wasn’t sweating or trying to not make eye contact, and he wasn’t all steely like super-trained-at-lying-secret-agent-bad-g
“We believe you,” Ray said, glancing at Gerard. “It’s just, it could be a trap, Frank.”
“Well, our job is to help Supers, right?” Frank asked, looking at everyone in turn. He stopped on Gerard, whose jaw tightened. “There may or may not be an injured one in there. Mikey said there were four people in there and that they didn’t seem agitated, and that is fucking good enough for me, I dunno about you guys.”
Gerard glared when Frank wouldn’t break eye contact but he finally huffed out a breath. “Fine,” he said. “You and Professor Brainiac take the back. Me and Ray’ll go up front, in case there’s something up. Don’t,” he snapped, pointing at Frank, “you dare drop your fucking shield.”
“I won’t,” Frank said. “I swear. Cross my heart.”
“Yeah, you’d fucking better,” Gerard muttered. He jerked his head and he and Ray stole off through the shadows.
“Gee says give him five to set up,” Mikey muttered. He was inspecting his nails, all cool and calm on the surface, but Frank was pretty sure he was nervous underneath all that.
“Fuck you,” Mikey sighed. “I’m a fucking rock.”
“Stop breaking past my shield, dick,” Frank muttered. “You’re too hard to keep out.”
“You just gotta practice more,” Mikey said. “I mean, I can’t tell you if other telepaths won’t be able to break past your shields, but the only way you’ll know for sure you can keep everyone out is if you can stave off someone you have a blood bond with.”
“This is all your fault,” Frank sighed, kicking a pebble down the street. It bounced haphazardly in a pattern Frank couldn’t read.
Mikey snorted. “My fault? You agreed to it. Stop being a dick.”
“Whatever,” Frank muttered. He wanted to be mad, a bit, so he was going to go ahead and do that. He picked another pebble, squinted one eye up, and kicked the stone onto an invisible slip-slide of energy. The rock twirled and flew on the frictionless surface, going around in spirals when Frank twisted the path up into the air, keeping it in line by edging the path. The rock was losing momentum with the addition of gravity so he squinted and angled the stream so it would deposit the pebble into his palm. It was warm in his hand, like a little heart.
Mikey nodded. “Nice.”
Frank shrugged and tossed the pebble at Mikey, who sat still and let the rock hit him in the face. “I guess,” he said.
“Does the energy dissipate after you’ve put it out there?” Mikey asked.
“Sometimes,” Frank said. “I can break my connection to it, at least. When it’s a solid thing, you know? Like the fields.”
“And then they disappear or they’re just there, like, forever.”
“I have no fuckin’ clue,” Frank said.
“Anyway, we should play Hot Wheels sometime,” Mikey said. “You could probably make the best track ever.”
Frank snorted. “I think you mean I could totally make the best track in all of space time.”
“You gotta make one with, like, the things that make the cars go faster though, you know? So they can just run forever.”
Frank looked over. Mikey was staring off into the distance, eyes bright, like he was imagining what their track would look like. “Ray would like that,” Frank said. “Also: are you five.”
“Yes, and fuck you,” Mikey said, kicking out at Frank. “Hot Wheels are still cool. They’re like model cars, but they don’t have to sit on a shelf.”
“Yeah, they’re awesome,” Frank muttered.
“Shut up, you think so too.” Mikey rolled his eyes and then blinked surprisedly. “Gee says they’re ready.”
“Does he also say he’s sorry for being a pompous ass?” Frank asked.
“No,” Mikey said, leading the way. Frank followed, keeping an eye on their backs just in case: Gerard was being a jerk, but he had reason to suspect these guys, even if Frank knew Sean could be trusted. Mikey sniffed when they were at the back door and cracked the knuckles of his left hand before knocking sharply on the wood. “I hope you’re right about this, Frank.”
“I’m telling you,” Frank said. “He was just worried. He didn’t tell Ryan to kidnap me.”
“Yeah, but this Ryan sounds like a wild card,” Mikey said. “And he isn’t even in the house.”
“Sean?” Frank asked.
“No, Ryan,” Mikey muttered.
The door cracked open. “Who is it?” Frank heard, the voice slightly shaky but definitely Max’s.
“Fuckin’ Frank, who do you think?” Frank asked, edging past Mikey.
“Oh, Frank,” Max said. He pulled open the door, eyes bright. The smile fell off his face when he looked over Frank’s shoulder and caught sight of Mikey. “Uh. Who’s that?”
Mikey lifted up a hand, his face perfectly blank. “Mikey,” he said. “I’m the telepath.”
Max’s eyes widened. “Uh. I’m not supposed to let him in.”
“I can make you open the door,” Mikey said, inspecting his nails. “But I won’t. I’m mostly here to make sure Frank doesn’t get kidnapped again.” He sounded supremely bored.
“Oh,” Max said, voice small. “Right. Well, um. That’s probably okay then. Just don’t, like. Read our minds or, um. Make us do things.”
“Cross my heart,” Mikey said.
Liar, Frank thought.
Mikey flashed him a grin that showed all of his teeth and a ghostly double of Mikey appeared beside the original and raised its middle finger.
Yeah, fuck you too, Frank brain-muttered at him. “Our healer’s out front,” he said to Max. “Along with my nervous-about-life boss. He’s the one who looks like he hasn’t showered or slept for a week. Just go out onto the front steps with Mikey and say you’ve got coffee.”
“Do you have coffee?” Mikey asked, suddenly perking up.
Max narrowed his eyes and squinched up his mouth. “Yes?” he said.
“Ooh,” Mikey said. “Okay, let’s go out front now then, I want coffee.”
“Okay,” Max said, letting them into the kitchen. “Uh, Frank, just sit at the table I guess, if we’re having coffee. That’ll be good. Mikey?”
“Yes,” Mikey said as the two of them walked through to the hallway. “Nice to meet you, Max.”
“How did you --” Max muttered, and then the door swung closed behind them, and all was quiet.
Frank pulled out a chair and sat down. It probably wasn’t going to take them very long to get Gerard to come in. Max and Mikey would just talk to them and everything would be okay. It should only take them maybe a minute or two. Or maybe thirty seconds? How long had it been already?
Frank glanced at his watch.
He made a ball of energy and pushed it down the table. It moved, but didn’t really roll or make any sounds. Boring. He held out his palm and concentrated. Metal. Titanium (easiest to produce), with just enough weight to make it real. Perfectly round, smooth, and shiny. This time, when he dropped it on the table, it made a satisfying clink.
He felt the back door open and turned to see Ryan stepping in. “Frank?! What are you doing here?” he asked.
“I brought a healer,” Frank said. “For Tom.”
“Oh,” Ryan said. He cleared his throat. “You also brought a ball... that’s just an interesting fact.”
“Yes,” Frank said, watching with amusement as Ryan came over to the table. “ I didn’t bring the ball, I made it,” Frank said. He smiled when Ryan looked up at him, a puzzled expression on his face. “Watch.” He held out his open palm and waved it, concentrating on severing his ties to the ball. When he broke the last strand of energy, the ball blinked out of existence.
Ryan’s mouth fell open. “Woah.”
“Yeah,” Frank said.
“Cool,” Ryan said. “Um. I gotta go find Sean. It was great to see you again, Frank. That ball thing blew my fucking mind, by the way.”
Gerard burst into the room before Ryan could get to the door, hand raised and reaching eyebrows drawn together. “You,” he snarled. “That’s the one who took you?” he asked, shooting Frank a glare.
“Yes, that was me,” Ryan said, tilting his head to the side like an interested pup. “You stink.”
“I --” Gerard spluttered, blinking in surprise. “You-- shut up!” His face was scary now, full of venom and spite. He was breathing way too calmly when his reaching fingers started twitching.
“Gee,” Frank said, standing. He could feel the older man pulling energy from the room, could feel Mikey herding Ray and Max out, keeping the healer shielded with his body. The lights flickered and Ryan swayed on his feet, eyes fluttering.
“Gerard!” Frank shouted. “Leave him the fuck alone!”
The expression on Gerard’s face froze, and he glanced at Frank through the corner of his eye. “He hurt you,” Gerard said, voice darkly petulant.
Frank stepped in front of Ryan and threw a shield around him. Solid. Strong. Impenetrable. “Stop,” Frank said. “You try and pull any more energy and you’re gonna end up killing Mikey. And me, if all you want to do is get at Ryan.”
Gerard shook his head. “Back off, Frank. You’re not the boss.”
“And you’re not a killer,” Frank said. “Not without good reason. And helping his friend who also happens to be my friend? Not really your standard kind of evil guy.”
“They’re never what you think they’ll be,” Gerard muttered, but he drew back a little. Not enough: the lights flickered and the hum of electronics that were normally present in the kitchen area were whining to a halt. Frank had never seen Gerard’s eyes this dark, had never even heard of someone sucking the electricity from a room.
He stepped closer to Gerard, fighting against the part of his brain that was shouting at him to run far away as his energy drained quicker than he could put it out. He reached out, brushing a strand of hair behind Gerard’s ear. “You can’t protect me forever,” he said softly, trying to fight against the way Gerard wanted to suck his entire ocean dry. Sometimes it was enough for Gerard to take the clouds and rain, but other times when he tossed and turned through the night, Frank could feel the level of his water sinking down and down and down.
Gerard closed his eyes. “I know,” he muttered, leaning into the touch of Frank’s hand. “It fucking sucks. You don’t help, either, always getting into trouble like a grade A moron.”
Frank ran a finger over Gerard’s right eyebrow and traced the line of his cheek. “Your moron though, right?”
Gerard huffed out a breath but sucked his power all the way back in. The lights came back on, the fridge hummed, and he opened his eyes. “I’ll be outside,” he said, voice low. “Heal your friend and let’s get out of here.” He turned his head to the side and kissed Frank’s palm once, softly, before turning and stalking out of the room.
GO WITH HIM, Frank shouted with his brain, hoping Mikey was watching. He let the shield around Ryan drop and caught the dark man when he collapsed, lowering him to the ground.
The front door slammed shut. In the other room, Mikey said, “He’ll be fine.”
I don’t care, Frank thought, folding his arms across his chest. You don’t need to be in here anyway.
Dick.You owe me one, Frank Iero.
“Ray!” Frank called. “Let’s get to Tom, huh?”
“Oh my god, Ryan!” Max cried when he came into the room, hair wilder than Ray’s.
“Just sleeping,” Frank said, hands up to ward Max’s inevitable panic away. “Like Mikey said, he’ll be fine. I stopped...” He looked at Ray, whose eyes were warning. “Anyway. He’s gonna wake up soon, don’t worry. Just give him a cup of coffee, huh? And bring two more out to the danger brothers on your front porch, wouldya? It’ll endear them to you.”
Max nodded, eyes wide. Ray cleared his throat. “I hear there’s an infection I’m supposed to be looking after?”
“Follow me,” Frank said. He led the way, navigating down the hallway which was much darker this time. The sun was going to come up soon, and Frank was willing to bet that the westward window in the hall would brighten the entire apartment up like the fourth of July.
“Hey, are you...okay?” Ray asked, voice low as they walked down the hall. “I mean, back there. I’m just worried about you.”
“I’m fine,” Frank said, raising an eyebrow at Ray. “Why’re you just wondering now?”
Ray shrugged. “I always wonder with you. And Gee. And Mikey. You guys are important to me.”
“You’re a saint, Ray Toro,” Frank said, rapping his knuckles on Tom’s door.
Sean opened it, his face tinted with grey around the edges and eyes rimmed in red. “Frank,” he said, his shoulder slumping in relief. “I heard shouting...I didn’t think you would be back so soon. Come in, come in, fuck.”
Frank pointed his thumb at Ray as he slipped in. “Ray Toro,” he said. “Healer extraordinaire, worker of minor miracles.”
“Hey,” Ray said, shaking Sean’s hand when it was offered. “Sean, is it?” He had on his Bedside Manners face, which was open and kind, and not full of pity like some doctors Frank had met.
“Yes,” Sean said. His voice was rough, and Frank could see his clothes were rumpled.
“How about you show me what’s wrong,” Ray said, smiling at Sean. Sean nodded, and Ray brushed Frank’s shoulder with a hand as they passed him. “Get Gee in here,” he murmured in Frank’s ear.
“Right,” Frank said, thinking We need Gerard at Mikey. He wondered if he should grab a chair since he was probably going to have to lend Ray a whole lot of energy, but a better idea struck him the second after.
He held out a hand and thought of a tennis ball he’d had as a kid, with the bright yellow material covering the rubber of it, white and clean and just hollow enough to bounce really satisfyingly on the white concrete. It would have to be soft but firm, bouncy and squishy and just a little hint of green in the yellow. He filled the centre of it with a link to himself, something strong that would let Ray take from him like Gerard had when he’d unknowingly created a strong link to his own power in that titanium shield so long ago. He put in it the image of Ray grabbing his face and pushing his nose back where it belonged the second day they’d known each other.
“Hey, that’s pretty good,” he said. When he opened his eyes, there was the tennis ball, with the little nick in the white rubber he remembered putting there as a kid.
“Okay, I think I see the problem,” Ray said. “Frank, I need you here. Sean...if you could wait outside?”
“I’ll take him,” Frank said. When Ray looked up at him, brow furrowed, Frank tossed the ball at him. “Think fast, Toro.”
“What,” Ray said, but his reflexes were good and he caught the ball a foot in front of his face. “Frank, where’d you get this?”
“Made it.” Frank shrugged. “See if you don’t need to touch me to take power from me, huh? Call me in here if you need anything. Sean, come on.”
“But,” Sean said, looking from Tom to Ray.
“Trust me,” Frank said. “It’s painful to experience, getting hurt backwards. You don’t want to be here when that happens. Ray’s the best though, if anybody can do this procedure, it’s him.”
“You flatter me,” Ray muttered.
“Yup,” Frank said. He put a hand on Sean’s shoulder, and the taller man finally sighed and let Frank lead him out into the hall. “Now, you’re gonna argue at me later, but me and Ray and Max all agree that this is probably for the best.”
“What?” Sean asked, closing the door to Tom’s room. He looked around Frank and frowned. “Who are you?”
“Gerard,” Gerard said, sticking out a hand. “I’m Frank’s...his, uh.”
“You say it to random strangers and you can’t say it to Sean?” Frank shook his head. “Boyfriend, boss, debonair knight in shining armour.”
“Hardly,” Gerard scoffed, but there was a hint of a smile on his face.
“Nice to meet you,” Sean said, taking Gerard’s hand.
“I don’t want you to worry,” Gerard said, voice kind, as Sean swayed on his feet. He tugged on his hand, clearly trying to free it from Gerard’s grip, but Gerard just held on tight. “You need to get some rest so you can lead this Pack and fight off whatever enemies you’ve got.”
Sean’s eyes drifted shut and he collapsed into Gerard’s waiting arms. “Wow,” Max said, coming up behind them and taking Sean when Gerard offered the sleeping man up. “You guys should have been here a lot sooner. Sean never sleeps.”
“Bring Ray a cup of coffee,” Gerard said, still in super spy team leader mode. “And let him know that I’m pretty sure Sean’s got some kind of bug and he should wipe it out of his system before he leaves, if he can.”
“Yes sir,” Max said, carrying his leader off to the room he apparently shared with Tom. Huh. That’s how it was, then.
“I like him,” Gerard commented, as he and Frank walked back to the kitchen.
Frank raised an eyebrow and looked at the pink tip of Gerard’s nose. “You just like that he called you ‘sir’,” he said.
“I’m just saying, it would be nice if every once and a while, you all would show me some goddamned respect,” Gerard said.
“Mmhmm.” Frank stopped Gerard with a hand on his arm and stood on his tiptoes to speak into the other man’s ear. “You want me to call you sir?” he murmured.
“No, I --”
“Yeah you do,” Frank said, nipping at the lobe of Gerard’s ear. Gerard’s breath hitched in his chest. “You want to pin me down, probably on the floor, and you want me to call you sir when you fuck me, huh? Is that it?”
“W-...I,” Gerard said, swallowing hard when Frank nosed at the soft patch of skin behind his ear. “I m-mean, I don’t.”
“Would it be better if you tied me up?” Frank asked, moving his hand down from Gerard’s arm to play with the edge of his black shirt, which was peeking up to reveal the slightest sliver of white. “Hands to the headboard? Wanna lick my ink until I beg you for more?”
“You’re a menace,” Gerard choked, tugging away. When he whirled around to face Frank, Frank could see that his eyes were dark, so much darker and hungrier than they’d been when he’d wanted to hurt Ryan for hurting Frank. “Why the fuck would you do this here?”
Frank shrugged and rocked onto his toes to peck Gerard’s lips lightly. “Call it a preview.”
“Motherfucker,” Gerard muttered, closing his eyes for a second.
“Come on,” Frank said, walking away and grinning when Gerard scowled. Oh yeah, there was sex in Frank’s future for sure. “There’s coffee in the kitchen.”
Gerard wavered, obviously confused between lust and his constant desire for coffee, but he chose the latter, like he always did when he and Frank were in fairly public places.
(Starbucks didn’t count, it had a back room.)
“Right,” Gerard muttered, scrubbing a hand through his wild hair.
Mikey rolled his eyes when they came within sight of him. He was sitting in front of two very empty cups of coffee. Of course. “You guys are gross,” he said. “You always gotta do that where I’m in hearing range.”
“Mikeyway, bearer of my heart’s good will,” Frank said. “For that, I shall get you coffee.”
“You’d better,” Mikey grumbled. “Jackass.”
“He started it,” Gerard said, barely apologetic.
“Yeah, and you finished it,” Mikey muttered. “I don’t need to see that, no thanks. I like my friends dressed.”
“Unless your friend is Pete Wentz,” Frank said, scooping the cups off the table.
“Ugh,” Gerard muttered.
“Hey,” Mikey said. “Your boyfriend was the one who refused to wear pants on his birthday.”
“I maintain that as an American citizen, that is my birthday right,” Frank said. He poured the black liquid into the three cups and shuffled them over to the table. “Here you go, you ungrateful bastards.”
“Fuck you, our parents are married,” Mikey said.
“Oh, fuck you more,” Frank said.
“Nice,” Mikey said. “You’re a wordsmith.”
“Only by day,” Frank said.
“Yeah, by night you’re a pantsless asshole,” Mikey muttered, but his face was already relaxing in coffee bliss, so Frank was pretty sure he was forgiven.
He rubbed a finger over the scar in his palm and smiled at Gerard, who smiled back. Tom and Sean were going to be fine; Ray wouldn’t be pulling so much power from Frank if they weren’t. Max and Ryan would take care of them anyway. And they were all fine, and full of coffee, and moderately happy.
And Frank was probably going to get his dick sucked later.
“You had to ruin it,” Mikey muttered.
“Oh, you love me,” Frank said, giggling. Gerard shot him a look and nodded, and Frank hid his face in his cup.
He was pretty lucky for such a huge fuckup.