Title: We've Got Forever Slipping Through Our Hands.
Summary: Gerard's skills as a baker turn out to be more practical than Frank thought. A Hunger Games fusion.
Warning: implied minor character deaths.
Author's Notes: I'm creating art for a Hunger Games crossover fic for bandombigbang & I loved it so much that I decided to dabble with THG myself. :D I haven't read beyond the first book though. :P Title take from Between Two Points by The Glitch Mob ft. Swan.
Cross-posted to AO3.
Disclaimer: I own no one. None of this happened.
Dawn was just breaking, early morning light filtering through the jagged opening and tinting the cave Frank and Gerard were huddled in with a faint blue glow. Gerard was still conked out at the moment, huddled up and shivering against Frank. He had spent the long night drifting in and out of consciousness, muttering incoherently about the dead tributes and his younger brother back home.
The other boy was rapidly growing feverish, his mumbling worsening as he slept. Frank bit his lip as Gerard huddled against him, his eyelashes fluttering open against Frank's neck.
"Frankie?" Gerard murmured, his voice raspy and low. Frank had to stifle a wince at the endearment. Keeping up this ruse of being some lovelorn teenager was taxing, especially when Gerard fell for it so thoroughly. But, as it turned out, millions of people across the country were eating it up too, sponsors included. So Frank sucked it up and wrapped an arm around Gerard’s sweaty form, his fingers dipping under the damp shirt. He was about to shush the other boy, urge him to go back to sleep when the tinny speakers boomed to life over the sound of the creek they were ankle deep in. When Gerard jumped at the explosion of sound, Frank curled his arm tighter around him before he could stop himself.
"Attention tributes!" the voice began. "The games are well underway and your numbers have diminished. Those of you left are hungry, ill, injured, or unarmed. In order to liven things up, at the cornucopia, each of you will find a vitally important item supplied by your respective sponsors, denoted by your district number. Tread carefully, tributes, and may the odds be ever in your favor."
The announcer's voice faded out, plunging the two into silence once more. Frank looked up to meet Gerard's hazy eyes.
"You need medicine, Gerard. You're getting worse by the hour."
"You’ll be killed, and then I'll die too. At least this way, you still have a chance at winning."
Frank scowled at the older boy, pulling away from him. "Well, thanks for the vote of confidence, asshole."
Gerard just looked back at him with sad eyes. "I just don't want you to be hurt on my account, especially when I can't even help you."
Frank's eyes softened. Less conscious of the cameras on him than he'd ever been before, Frank ran his dirty knuckles against the underside of Gerard's jaw. Gerard turned his head into the gentle touch, his eyes falling shut. His eyelids were garishly purple, the delicate veins especially visible.
"Please don't go," he begged.
"I'll be alright, Gee. Just sit tight."
Gerard said nothing but let Frank go when he leaned away. He stood up, grasping his bow and strapping his dwindling stash of arrows to his back. He pushed his dirty hair, now just brushing his shoulders, away from his face. He was about to clamber out of the cave when Gerard spoke. "Wait, come back."
"I promise I'll be okay, Gerard."
"No, not that," Gerard gestured at him to come back.
"Then what's the matter?"
Gerard pouted at him, making grabby hands at him.
With a put upon sigh, Frank rolled his eyes and sat back down in front of the other boy. Gerard jerkily sat upright and crawled closer to Frank. He swayed dizzily for a moment and Frank thought he was going to have to catch him before he collapsed, but Gerard quickly righted himself. Gerard just stared at him for a long moment and Frank was about to call him out on it before he was reaching a hand out to play with Frank’s wild hair.
"Hey! Hands off," Frank groused, slapping Gerard's hand away.
Gerard looked hurt for a moment. "Your hair is too long. Anyone could just grab a fistful and take you down. Here, turn around. And take this off." Gerard tugged on his quiver.
Shedding his pack and weapons, Frank turned around to face away from Gerard. For a tense moment, Gerard did nothing and Frank was ready to get up and go when Gerard's fingers ran over his scalp, his fingers tangling in the knotted hair. A shiver ran slowly down his spine and Frank had to bite down on his lip to keep back the sound crawling up his throat. Gerard worked his fingers gently through the gnarls, sending shocks of heat over Frank’s skin. Frank leaned back into Gerard’s touch as the older boy’s fingers parted his hair.
“It might be kind of ugly, I’m not really good at this,” Gerard said.
Frank hummed absently before answering. “Not like it really matters. As long as it’s not all over the place, I guess.”
Gerard hummed in answer. He began pleating Frank’s gross hair, the strands pulled taut against one another as Gerard carefully wove his hair back into some kind of braid starting high up on his scalp. Frank winced a few times as Gerard pulled his hair too hard or got his fingers stuck in the knots, but he manfully remained silent throughout the ordeal.
When Gerard was done, Frank reached back to run his fingers over his handiwork. The tail ended just above the base of his neck. The pleats felt surprisingly even and smooth, no rogue hairs prickling out from the confines of the braid. “What did you use to tie it off?” He asked, looking back at Gerard.
Gerard smiled wanly, rubbing at his red nose. His cheeks were bright despite his ashen pallor. “I just wrapped the end of a longer strand around it. Sorry about the knot, you may have to cut that out.”
Frank was surprised to hear himself laugh. “Yeah, tangled hair is gonna be the worst of my problems when we get out of here.”
Gerard’s smile grew. He reached out and ran a finger over the delicate shell of Frank’s ear, pushing away the shorter strands of hair that weren’t long enough to be pulled back. He didn’t see how Frank’s eyes widened minutely at the tender gesture.
“It’s called a fishtail, that braid.”
Frank nodded, turning back around, the words stuck in his throat.
“It’s the only one I know how to do because when Mikey was younger, I used to call him ‘little fish.’” Gerard grew quiet, the smile dropping from his face before he added, “I miss him.”
Frank didn’t know what to say to remove the forlorn expression on Gerard’s face, so he blurted the first thing to come into his brain. “Where’d you learn to braid? It’s kind of a girl thing.”
Gerard looked surprised for a moment before he retorted, “Says the guy with the braided hair.” Frank was about to apologize for offending him when Gerard chuckled. “But yeah, I used to make challahs at the bakery. You know, braided bread?”
“Oh yeah. You gave me one once.”
“Yeah? You should try my mom’s when you get out of this.”
And suddenly Frank was speechless again, his words choked away by the feelings he wouldn’t allow of the world that was watching them be privy to. They sat in silence for several minutes, the light beginning to grow stronger in the cave. Frank listened to the water beneath them, the sounds of the creek interspersed with Gerard’s wheezing breaths. He was getting worse.
“I need to go, Gee.”
Gerard pressed his feverish forehead against the top of Frank’s spine just where his braid ended. “You’ll be careful?”
Frank felt Gerard nod faintly against his neck. Frank twisted around to face Gerard before he tentatively leaned in to press a kiss to the corner of Gerard’s mouth. He smoothed a hand against Gerard’s jaw, now littered with patchy stubble, letting it run over his neck, his fingers tangling with Gerard’s lank hair as their breaths mingled together. Frank pulled away before Gerard could reciprocate the kiss, and he heard Gerard’s breath hitch weakly as their lips parted.
Pulling away and standing up in one smooth motion, Frank shouldered his weapons and pack before swiftly exiting their refuge without another word to Gerard. As he ran out in the wilderness, Frank could feel the braid sway against his neck with every step he took.