when the bells all ring, and the horns all blow

11:30 PM

It was insane, how quickly a year had gone by. What was equally insane was how much had happened, how much had changed. Not all of it was good, there had been a lot of headaches and conflicts and pain. A lot of change, but there was always one constant. From the first day of the year, to the last, Frank had been there. It was hard not to feel overly emotional about it, it was an overwhelming thing to acknowledge. To put it simply; Mathis had come to accept he wouldn't ever find someone like Frank, and when he least expected it, he had. Call it destiny, call it soul mates, whatever it was, he was grateful for it.

So, he'd planned something possibly more elaborate than what he should have. He'd told Frank not worry about making plans for the anniversary, that he had everything covered. What Frank knew, was that they were going to go into the city for a nice dinner, then go out to the city center and watch the ball drop. Honestly, that would have been enough as it was, they didn't need anything spectacular. And yet... here they were.

They had gone to the dinner, had a nice time, a few drinks. It was on the way into the square that Mathis began to enact his true plans. When the GPS told him to take a left, he took a right, down a street that would bring them a block away from where the Ball Drop was meant to happen. He would stay quiet as he reached up and turned off the map before it started trying to re-direct. He knew where he was heading, thank you. All the while, he maintained a placid face, eyes on the road ahead as it lit up red from tail lights of cars pulling to a stop at an intersection.



Outfit with a proper jacket too

Perhaps it was borderline mushy, but Frank felt a lift in his stomach of giddiness and anticipation as the evening that rang into their anniversary was here. There was no way to expect that they would’ve been a thing in the first place and to then blink and realize it had been a year was something that was hard to comprehend. But they were here and Mathis had planned the evening which Frank had let him have full reigns of. Today would reveal that the plans were to have a nice dinner and it’d be topped off with the ball drop later, only fitting considering. It was all an all, a cozy plan.

Fully enjoying the dinner, eventually they moved to the second part of the night with enough time to find a place to see surely. As they got closer to the square and eventually the task of finding parking, Mathis made an unexpected right turn even as the GPS said otherwise. Opening his mouth in a small inhale, he looked over to notice the directions all together being turned off. As they came to a rolling stop at the light, he couldn’t help himself. ”Are you looking for better parking this way?” Or had Mathis made a wrong turn on accident and were they about to turn around?

Expectedly, Frank brought it up. Mathis would look to him with casually raised brows, gaze fleeting, “Mm? Oh, I know a place.” He assured him with a nod, and turned his eyes back to the road as the light turned green.

If Frank didn’t question further then and there, Mathis wouldn’t say another word. It would be a few minutes before he was slowing down near the entrance to a parking garage. Blinker on, a few moments, then he turned in. Parking was free, so he started up the various ramps, passing by multiple empty stretches of spaces as he went.

A singular nod with an expressed ‘ah’ and he quieted, satisfied with the answer. Any place that got them out of the immediate stalled roads after the big event would be welcomed.

As they went by several blocks, eventually they were making into a parking garage. That’d work more than fine and it was good to see that parking fees wasn’t a thing to deal with. A few rows filled, but as they went up further and Mathis continued to pass up open spaces, Frank couldn’t help but be a bit confused, his face reflecting it. It wasn’t like he drove a giant truck or anything and they’d passed more than a few good places, even ones by the elevator.

”What’s wrong with the ones you just passed,” Frank questioned, not understanding. They theoretically should’ve already been parked and heading towards the stairs if Mathis had used one of the many back there. And yet, he was still going?

Aware now that this was starting to feel strange, Mathis made an effort to keep a smile from his lips. Alas, one look at Frank broke that, though he kept it pressed close and shielding his teeth. "Not close enough." He said simply, head shaking. Eyes forward once more, he made the final turn onto the ramp that took them to the top level of the parking garage.

The was sky vast and inky above them, stars blotted out by the city's lights. There were no other cars up here, but a Reserved sign was placed in front of one parking spot that faced the wall that extended past the height of the garage. There was a door on that exterior wall, which would lead into the stairwell of the finance building that the garage was serviced to. Mathis moved to pull into that spot, and unceremoniously unbuckled, and make to get out of the car. "Come on," He'd beckon.

Mathis briefly looked at him, giving a smile and explanation that wasn’t satisfying. Not yet? Confusion etched in every facet of his face, but he sat back. Something was up and he merely hummed in acceptance of the answer.

Finally at the very top, it seemed a reserved space was calling to them because Mathis was taking it as his own parking area. There was no reason to use it, no reason to be up this high by any means, and so it seemed their plan to see the ball drop in the square was being changed or revised in someway for something different if he were to guess.

As the car turned off, Frank unbuckled as well and let out a small breath through a smile at the prompt, maneuvering to get out of the seat and standing. Closing the door, he’d make to follow wherever his date walked. ”What’s up your sleeves, Mathis,” he questioned with a mock accusatory tone, bumping his hip against him lightly.

Really, he was grateful that Frank was going along with this. It had a lot of steps, literally, so it was easier if he didn't question it too much. At the accusation, Mathis flashed Frank an impish smile, and moved to wrap an arm around his waist as they headed toward the exterior door. As expected, it was unlocked, and opened in onto a concrete landing of a quiet stairwell. Switchback stairs lead downward, and two sets led up. Mathis maneuvered them to go up, grip firm and casually anchoring Frank so that he was sure he was coming along. "Almost there, hold on and you will see." He assured.

The two flights went easily, and eventually they were before door that clearly read "ROOF ACCESS". Mathis stepped forward and pushed against the metal bar, opening the door onto the cool night air. If someone strained to hear, the sounds of the city square a block or so away were audible. Cars, music, people. The gathering for the ball drop. That all provided background noise, however, to the sight that lay before them. Across the flat rooftop, near enough to the edge that the city would be visible were you to sit there, was a cozy palette made of cot mattresses draped in soft sheets and fuzzy blankets, piled with pillows of all sizes. Some were recognizable from Mathis' old house, some were new. All around were "candles", all fake and batter powered because of the breeze that buffeted the rooftop. It pushed against the blankets, but a single weighted one laid over top of the others kept everything from being blown away.

Mathis lingeredto let Frank take it in, looking to him and not his handiwork with an eager smile.

A no good grin with an arm around his waist was all the answer Frank got. Mirroring the action as they approached a door, it swung open without difficulty leading into stairs. Understandably, he began to automatically head towards the flight going down, but the grip on him was prompt enough to have that redirected. Reassurance that if he just held out that all would revealed had him grinning with teeth. ”Patience, right,” Frank would say, more or less answering his question with a light self chastise as feet took them up. Their steps echoed in the empty well, a self made countdown towards whatever was in store above. A door greeted them that opened to the roof.

Letting the hold drop, he followed through the doorway with anticipation and curiosity that all had him slowing his own gait. Cold wind swept past and the din of the city below was sharp and crisp to ears in occasional sweeps, but what struck him immediately was the sight of flickering candles around a palette of cozy bedding some feet away.

Nothing could’ve had him expecting this and Frank stopped all together as the door closed behind with a clicking weight, his face an expression of quickly dawning surprise. “You did all this,” he questioned with awe, looking from the sight towards Mathis with delight, continuing forward once more, though with more pep in his step. It was out of total left field. He’d never before had someone do something like this.

That look right there as worth it. It was all a lot, probably too much, but it was worth it to see his face. Mathis would meet the gaze with a grin, and chuckle as he oogled the sight like a child on Christmas morning. "Yes... well, I had help from a client that owns the building." He met a lot of different kinds of people in his business, from mothers looking for a hobby, older women reliving something they did once upon a time, executives that appreciated fine art. The owner of this building was one of those, but he'd come to be something of a friend. Enough of one to call in a favor... for a discount on one of his pieces. It was worth it.

Mathis followed Frank to the bedding, and the closer they got, more of the city scape was revealed. Specifically, they had a clear view of the megatron that was affixed to the tall building before which the ball was suspended. They weren't quite close enough to see the actual ball and the crowd, but they could clearly see the live video of it. They would see the count down, then the ball when it actually dropped. For now it just displayed overhead shots of the gathering crowd. Best of all, they would have a front row seat to the following firework show.

"Too much?" He questioned after a moment.

A breathy laugh escaped that ended in a hum at the answer, cheeks hurting some. Help had been given, sure, but nonetheless he’d done it for them and had to have had the thought and intention behind it all. Taking in the setup closer now and then the view of the square with its giant screen, it was easy to see how everything had been thought out. Every action had had him thinking of them and that was very touching in and of itself.

Too much? Frank turned back to Mathis trying to capture him in an arm. ”No, its perfect. Thank you so much for this amazing surprise.” If he had him in his grip, Frank would try to lift him up an inch or so to shake as he squeezed him in a hug.

It was still too much. But it was perfect, to Frank, so it was a success in his book. The hug encouraged a laugh, or really it forced it from the squeeze. He would let himself be jostled around for a few moments, wrapping his arms securely around Frank's shoulders. "Of course, Franco." Eventually, he pulled away to offer a quick peck to his lips, then sought to be freed. If he was, he would pad toward the palette, and kick off his shoes before going into a graceless flop onto the pillowy setup. From his back, he extended his hands out in a silent beckon for Frank to follow.

Mathis rolled with it, the laugh always something he enjoyed hearing. A quick kiss and Frank let him back to the earth again, opening his arms so he could move freely again despite a large part of him that included fur wanting to just hold forever.

Following, he pushed on the heel of each shoe as they were taken off and put to the side. The fall into the mattress from Mathis elicited a laugh from deep in his belly before taking in the aftermath. Hands were put up as if to summon him and Frank shook his head, a grin a steady presence. One kneeled leg on the mattress first, he then moved the rest of his body on with a oof of breath before shuffling to sit next to Mathis, legs out and socked toes curling in the cold. ”Best seat in the house by far.” It was comfy, an immediate observation that was easily expected from the looks and he reached over to grab at one of the blankets. Pulling it closer, he popped it in the air over them before allowing it to billow back down, covering some of Mathis’ face. "With a good view."

You were supposed to also flop, Frank :(. It was alright, he still would move his hands to tug him eagerly closer. The best seat, probably, was something a bit higher up and not hindered by a small railing wall, but he knew what Frank meant. Snuggling closer, he watched the blanket flutter in the chilly air, and grinned stupidly when it covered over his face. A hand reached up to pull it further up, "Oh, yes, cover me up and the view will be nicer." He agreed.

The blanket was pulled further up and he chuckled at the comment being made as his face was covered. ”There, perfect.” All in agreement then. With that, he’d plop the rest of the way down, free side’s arm out, and sigh dramatically.

Hurtful. Mathis heard Frank settle beside, and he would look his direction, though still shrouded completely in the blanket now. Slightly muffled, he'd pout out, "But now I can't see you." :(.

The saddest of all words came out and Frank puffed out a laugh, rolling to the side as he flipped the blanket over his own head.

”How's this,” Frank inquired while looking towards him, making it so he leaned forwards as if to give a kiss, but arms came out to give a ticklish grab to Mathis’ sides before anything could land on a cheek or lips.


Better! From an outside view, it was pretty silly, two grown men tucked fully under a blanket. But inside was warm and intimate, and he found his face felt hot. He'd lean into the kiss that didn't come, and yelped out his protest at the fingers in his ribs, batting at Frank's arms as he rolled away. With him, he took the blanket and uncovered Frank, then grabbed to push it from his own face. "Aha! Compromise." He proclaimed with a chuckle.

Mathis obviously hadn’t been expecting anything of the sort as hands made the quick hold without an impasse. Immediately, it caused him to start and as the yelp pierced his ears, Frank couldn’t keep from cracking out a deep warm laugh, relenting to the batting before Mathis rolled away with the blanket. Retaliation was cold as Frank was left partially exposed to the air, partly a refreshing buffet after the moment of stuffy warmth.

Not far behind, Mathis’ face poked out and he let out a breath to try to stem the chuckles coming out. A good compromise, indeed. “Even better.” Much better, truly, since he could see his face. Grabbing at the blanket still on his own person, he moved it up and around some so the cold air wasn’t nipping before scooching close again.

Very good. He nestled in, warm and feeling sort of like he could melt into a pile of goo. Happy, thoughtless, just enjoying the moment. Taking time to reflect on where they'd been a year ago, busting their asses on ice, then kissing for the first time in the crowd. He preferred this, just them, alone. Not that he didn't like other people, he just liked Frank more.

Eventually, there was an uptick of the volume from the square below, and Mathis would move to unravel from the little pile they'd settle into so that he could per at the screen. Two minutes 'til midnight. The screen had switched to a giant countdown clock. "What do you want for next year?" Mathis would ask while they waited.

Muted sounds from below and the wind whipping by were their companions, but otherwise it was quiet. Soaking in every second of this warm interaction, he watched the night sky hold the the buildings as they waited for the countdown to start. This really was a nice way to spend New Year’s Eve, something small and yet very big.

Noting the change in volume, he watched Mathis sit up. Gaze following his back and how he looked silhouetted with the city’s lights, it was the question that had Frank finally taking a breath and sitting up too. The question was reminiscent of the one Mathis had asked him last year, a query that had a hidden bubbly answer that’d been confirmed on that same night. However, the other part of wanting to work in a hospital again hadn’t happened and the distance had given him some insight. It was probably for the best even though it hurt.

This year though? “Hmm,” he looked at what they could make of the display as it started the countdown. “To be better at, uh, were things and happier all around.” He was happy-ish now, but there was always room for improvement, especially where being a were was concerned, a still too easy pitfall. Frank’s gaze would come back to Mathis’ shyly. ”And I know this is cheesy." Frank let out a huff of a laugh before he resigned to keep going. "I want to know you even better.” They'd made a whole year and yet he felt like there was still so much to talk about.

Better at Were things, and yet he'd come so far already. Still, there was room to grow and learn, and he was happy that he at least was willing to learn. No denying or reluctance. It was healthy. As for his general happiness, Mathis liked to think he had a hand in that endeavor. He hadn't ever truly doubted if he made him happy or not. It was pretty clear, if you asked him. It was the same both ways, as well.

The addition was something that pulled his smile down just a fraction. It wasn't like he'd been keeping things from Frank, but it was true there was a lot still left in the past, not buried, but more or less ignored. Things they had yet to speak about, things that hadn't really been important. A year in, and they were still learning about one another. It didn't seem like a bad thing to Mathis. Living with one another was likely to teach them a great deal about one another as it was. But, well, it also read to him like a request for something, maybe. An ask for deeper, more sensitive things to come to light at one point or another. It was a heavy thing to want from someone, and took a trust that went beyond just liking to spend time together and being regularly intimate. Mathis found pleasure in that he didn't have much hesitation in committing to that.

A hand extended out to grab at Frank's, picking it up to hold between both of his. "Mm, well, I'm an open book. I think I'd like the same of you." He liked the idea of it. Knowing every part of him. "The good and the easy to love. The bad and the not so easy, but still worth it." They had an entire year for it, and even beyond that.

"Also, I think I want to learn how fishing works. I think I'd like it." He tacked on, not entirely serious, but feeling like he needed something to garner a laugh.

Frank watched as his hand was taken between two of Mathis’, the warmth surrounding it comfortably with an undercurrent of buzzing in fingertips. Wrapping them around one of the palms, Frank couldn’t help but let out a soft affirming rumble with a nod at just how deep Mathis was thinking into it, exhaling satisfyingly at someone wanting to know him in that depth too. That’s what he’d asked for of Mathis hadn’t it? And it made sense to do so vice versa. Just this was taking it all under a magnifying glass, really honing in on the questions such a thing could present. There were parts Mathis equally didn’t know of him, so much still hidden under layers as he was sure it was the same back. It was a big goal to try to dig into, but if there was a will there’d be opportunity. What was found might not be something to have polished and shown around, but it was there and something closer to the core of themselves. Perhaps, he just wasn’t used to such care being given back, but the chance to learn of each other more in further openness was liked greatly and not easily let go of.

The addition of fishing though in all its difference in weight of topic had him letting out a warm chuckle that had steam buffeting out from the cold air, while leaning into his side more. ”I bet you would. I might know someone who could help you with that.” Maybe Severin would be able to offer some lessons even though the jaguar itself was quite sure of itself in teaching, offering images of clawed paws capturing catfish and bass after waiting in the shadowed pools.

There was a sudden swell of coordinated sounds as mirrored panels began to rotate causing him to look towards the screen, a minute left finally being ticked away.

It was a warm moment, one of those ones he wanted to take a moving picture of and remember. Another for the books, something to look fondly back on when times were not so bright. As for who Frank knew that could help with fishing, Mathis was quick to assume it was a play on the cat. Mathis may have made some joke about having not met with that particular fellow in a long while, but there was the uptick of energy from the square, so his attention was drawn from the topic entirely. A minute left. Fifty five, fifty four, fifty three...

Mathis shifted to roll up and onto his feet, stepping to the side of the palette and tugging on the hand in his grasp to coax Frank to follow. "Maybe we can see it better at the edge." He suggested, and lead Frank over across the rooftop, heading toward the edge of the building that was barricaded by an iron railing. When they reached it, he would wrap an arm around Frank's waist, both for warmth and just because he liked him close. They could, in fact, see things better from here. A clear view of the screen, and even a bit of the square in which the ball was situated. The angle didn't lend itself to see the ball itself, but they could see some of the crowd. Thirty, twenty nine, twenty eight... A smile lifted his cheeks as the crowd erupted into a chorus of counting, all joining in to count down the last thirty seconds of the year. Mathis didn't count, since there was little point in it, but he felt the excitement nevertheless.

Ten, nine, eight, seven six, the screen shifted so that the last five seconds were reflected in the corner of the screen, which was mostly taken up by the image of the ball now. Five, four, three two. The crowd erupted in cheers as Auld Lang Syne began to boom over speakers, and the ball made its flashy descent. Grinning, Mathis turned to Frank, and with a soaring of his heart at how different this felt to exactly a year ago in this very moment, leaned in for a kiss.

It was like change in noise had summoned Mathis as suddenly he was up and off the mattress, bringing Frank along with him and away from the warm cocoon they’d made. As the freezing air bit into them on the edge, it was worth it as the view was definitely easier to take in from here. People were moving all around, glitter glinting in the light, and the screen had nothing in its way.

Looking around brought with it a huge smile on Frank’s part, truly feeling on top of the world here while the celebrations had him all but fidgeting from foot to foot in anticipation. As Mathis wrapped an arm around him, he did likewise, squeezing, feeling loved, extremely elated to ring in the occasion with such company.

As the crowd began the countdown in sync, he did so as well though a whisper at first before a crescendo into a normal leveled voice once he’d noticed Mathis’ quietness. Looking over with a wide smile, cheeks hurting from the cold and expression, Frank bent his knees at each number, getting louder, hoping to have him join in someway even if it was with a slight movement.

”Ten, nine, eight, sevennn, six, five,” a glance to the change of the screen before right back at finding Mathis’ face, ”four, three, two, one!”

A boom of a clock tower as the ball span with the eruption of cheers and song found Frank in a much different position than last time. There weren’t any hurried responses or second guesses to an action he wanted to do so very much. No need for a quick excuse that fell apart under any kind of scrutiny. No, there was just do while knowing it was equally wanted. Turning all the way to hold Mathis with both arms in a warm embrace, he met the kiss with sureness and a soaring chest. And then another one as the first bangs and crackles of fireworks went off, illuminating the sky. “Happy New Year,” he sighed contently after finally pulling away, eyes crinkling, feeling like he might burst. ”I love you.”

Frank was, truly, a giant dork. But it was something he loved about him, so he did play along, letting him jostle him as the countdown went. All movement stopped with the kiss, a pause in time in which he felt entirely too happy. It was hard not to smile through the kiss, and when he pulled away with flushed cheeks, he felt like his lips would get stuck in the grin that was forcing them up.

"Happy New year, Franco." He responded, squeezing him firmly, "I love you, too." So, so, impossibly much. That was something he was more sure about than any aspect of his life. What a feeling.

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