A ride home, spending the night, and problems with central heating.
I slipped out of the school, not eager to meet up with Jason again. As I crossed the parking lot, I could see Mikey leaning against the perimeter wall. A dark figure detached itself from the crowd and came to stand next to him, arms folded. He ran a hand through his dark hair, shaking his head as it played in the breeze.
I bit my lip. We’d gone back to Biology, pleading a twenty-minute bathroom break, and sat listening to another dull lecture. It was impossible to pay attention with his warm leg pressed up against mine. His eyes had danced between me and his notebook as he drew another picture, tapping his foot impatiently until the school bell rang. He’d ruffled my hair and said a quick goodbye before sauntering off to his locker, leaving me feeling like I had sunstroke in mid-October.
Mikey waved at me. I walked over and joined the two brothers.
“Do you walk home?” Mikey asked as we passed through the gate and started down the street.
“Until my mom gets a car, yeah.”
“Your house is in the same direction as ours,” Gerard observed with a smirk. “I guess we’ll be walking together a lot.”
“I guess so,” I said cautiously, trying not to look too overjoyed. We turned the corner and came into a long street of houses that all looked the same. I definitely would’ve gotten lost if I was alone. Don't tell anyone, but I get lost in my local supermarket, let alone in suburbia.
“Gee, can I ride on your back?” Mikey asked pleadingly.
He stopped for a second, frowning. “Why?”
“Lazy, more like. No piggyback rides for you, Mikes, you’re getting too heavy.”
“My muscles are too big, I get it, I get it.”
We walked another block without saying much. Gerard paused at the intersection. Holding out a hand for Mikey to stop, he stepped in front of me and bent over slightly. “Hop up, Frankie,” he said, stifling a grin.
“I’m all right,” I protested.
“Yeah, right.” He rolled his eyes. “You got a faceful of Jason this morning, remember? C’mon, it’s the least I can do.”
Hesitantly, I locked my arms around his neck and climbed up onto his back. He held onto my legs, hitching them higher on his slim hips. I rode all the way home like that, listening to his steady breathing. After a while I rested my chin on his shoulder so I could see where we were going.
When Mikey wasn’t looking, he tilted his head and gently placed his cheek against mine. I tried really hard not to think about it, so hard that I barely noticed when we arrived at my house.
Gerard gave my legs one last squeeze before he carefully set me down.
“Nice place,” Mikey observed.
“Thanks,” I said automatically. “The roof leaks in the upstairs hallway, though.” I mentally slapped myself. I sounded like a goddamn plumber.
“Just let me know if you need any help with that,” Gerard told me. “I patch up our house all the time.”
“I will. Thanks for the ride, Gee.” I grinned as I tried out his new nickname.
“Anytime.” He winked, leaning forward on the balls of his feet so we were inches apart.
Mikey shot me a look. “Is there something in your eye?” he asked his brother.
“No,” Gerard replied, backing away with a rueful grin. “See you tomorrow, Frankie boy!” he yelled halfway down the street. I laughed as I walked into my house.
Four days passed. After lamenting the condition of my face, my mom was glad to hear I was making new friends. Well, friends of a sort. She’d finally gotten a job at the local newspaper, and was preoccupied with her drawings. I didn’t want her to worry about me, but there was more and more that I wasn’t able to tell her.
Like how Gerard hung around me all the time, that was a biggie. He laughed at my feeble jokes, and seemed eager to spend time with me. It was like he was actually grateful I was there.
He’d picked up the habit of walking me to and from all my classes. He insisted it was to protect me from bullies, and it was true that even the biggest, toughest-looking guys avoided him, but he seemed far more interested in putting the moves on me, so I remained unconvinced. He liked to walk with his hand tucked into my back pocket, or his arm slung affectionately around my shoulders. Not that I minded. I couldn’t get enough of him – he looked like a rock star, and he made me feel calmer than I had in months. I loved all the attention, though I didn’t know why he spent so much time staring at me or doing something stupid to make me notice him. He could do no wrong in my eyes.
During Biology, we sat in the back and talked. Sometimes he stole me away from the others at lunch and we sat behind the auditorium, where we could be alone. I mostly listened, because Gerard’s head was so full of ideas he could barely get them out. I loved hearing him talk about books and music with so much passion, his face so full of life. His eyes would light up as he tried to describe the bass line of his favorite song, or why he liked the ending of a book in which all the characters died. Even though he looked dangerous, everything meant something to him.
And Mikey and I got along famously. He understood me; I felt I could ask him questions without being judged. We loved the same video games. He was someone who dealt with the boredom of school as I did: by ignoring it entirely. The three of us were together constantly, always laughing and chattering.
So I wasn’t at all surprised when Mikey asked me to stay over at his house Friday night. Not even a little bit.
“I’d love to,” I said happily. He gave me a shy grin. “Can we stop by my house, so I can get my toothbrush and stuff?” I asked once we were out of school.
“God forbid you’d have to live a day without your stuff.” He rolled his eyes. “Your house is on the way to ours, don’t worry.”
I left a note taped to the fridge so my mom wouldn’t worry when she got home late again, threw some clean clothes and a toothbrush into my backpack, and walked to the Ways’. Mikey whistled the whole way over. It was like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders once we were out of school.
“When I’m there, I always have to be watching,” he said when I asked him about it. “I always have to be ready to defend myself from people. Not everyone knows Gee is my brother. I’ve been taking karate since I was five,” he explained, fiddling with the zipper of his jacket. “I’m not as good as he is, but he wouldn’t leave me completely defenseless. Gerard’s great, Frankie, but he’s not superhuman. He can’t be there all the time. Outside of school, I can let my guard down a little.” He smiled.
“You’re like some kind of crazy-ass sensei or something.”
“You think?” He looked worried.
“You’re more like a guru, anyway.”
The Ways’ house was a run-down gray two-story, four and a half blocks away from my new house. The picket fence was peeling and the grass looked wild.
“Neither of us likes mowing the lawn,” Mikey explained as dug in his pockets for the key to the front door. “We used to fight over who would do it, but now we just...don’t.”
Inside, though, the house was cozy and warmly lit. I stood in the kitchen as Mikey bustled around, making hot chocolate and laying out a plate of cookies.
“You’re worse than my mother,” I laughed. He glared at me over his shoulder.
“Watch it, Iero, or you’re washing the dishes tonight.”
“I’m a guest,” I protested.
“Gerard usually does it, but he’s out with Bob tonight. They're gonna go see some gross, R-rated horror flick.”
“I’d been meaning to ask where he disappeared to,” I muttered. My heart sank like a ton of bricks. I didn’t know why, but I’d been expecting him to be here. It was weird to not have him constantly close by, watching over me.
Stop being a baby. He has a life, you know.
Mikey grinned. “Well, now you know. Come on, I’ll give you the grand tour.” He gestured towards the stairs with one skinny arm. “These are the stairs,” he announced as we climbed up.
“Thanks for that. I thought the escalator was broken.”
“Laugh now, Frank, but this is Jersey. I think we have more strip malls than any other state.”
“Armpit of the world,” I muttered, and he laughed.
Upstairs there was a narrow hallway. Four doors opened onto it. “My room,” Mikey said, indicating the first door. “Closet, bathroom, mom and dad’s room.” He started back downstairs.
“Hang on,” I said as I followed him down, “where does Gerard sleep?”
“In a coffin, where else? Nah, I'm kidding. I knew you were going to ask.” He smirked. “His room is in the basement.”
“Aren’t basements kind of cold and creepy?”
He shrugged. “His room is nicer than mine. But cold, yes. This old house has lots of problems, and Gee has a nasty habit of using the maintenance money to throw parties.”
Downstairs I followed him from room to room. The den had a great big bay window with a windowseat, as well as a flatscreen and an overstuffed couch. There was a dining room, but Mikey explained they always ate at the table in the kitchen. He looked a little sad when he said it.
I knew it must be scary, living in a big house all by yourself. Hell, I couldn’t even make toast properly; I’d starve to death. And there would be no one to talk to. But he didn’t complain.
We lazed around, eating chocolate chip cookies and playing Halo, until Gerard got home around nine. Mikey was making dinner in the kitchen, and he’d banished me after an incident with the microwave and an errant fork, so I answered the door.
Gerard grinned down at me and ran a hand through his hair. “Hey, Franks.”
I melted like butter. “Uh-”
“My thoughts exactly.” He walked past me into the house. His pants were practically skintight. It was terrible of me to notice, but I couldn’t help it. He stripped off his jacket, kicked off his high-tops and went into the kitchen to help Mikey.
I leaned against the doorframe while the two of them worked together in perfect tandem, dicing vegetables and frying up a pan of garlic bread. Whenever one stopped to do something else, the other would stir the pasta to make sure it didn’t stick. It was times like these when I really hated being an only child.
“You don’t have a brother, Frankie boy, do you?” Gerard asked absently. “I saw a kid today who looked a lot like you. Scared him shitless when I jumped on him.”
“Nope,” I said, “all by my lonesome. I guess after my parents had me, they decided to just…stop.”
He laughed. “I wish that were the case with mine.”
“Hey!” Mikey slapped him with a spatula. “I deserve a little respect.”
“A little. Not much.”
I was laughing. They both looked over at me. “What?” they said at the same time, then scowled at each other.
Dinner was delicious. And it wasn’t just the way Gerard chewed his food, making eye contact as he ran his tongue over his pale lips. In the soft light, his eyelashes made little shadows on his cheeks. No, it was how safe I felt with them, like I’d known them my whole life. I knew they felt it, too. We were all joking and taking sips of coke, like the world was a friendly place and nothing could ever go wrong.
No time seemed to go by, but it was suddenly midnight. Mikey and I were sprawled on the couch as we finished Jaws. Gerard was sitting on the floor, using my knee as a pillow. Whenever he moved, his hair brushed the leg of my jeans, gleaming in the low light. It looked so soft. Mikey had dozed off, and I was nearly asleep as well. I remember Gerard turning to look at me, and I reached out to stroke his hair. He shut his eyes and sighed softly. After a moment he turned back, and I let go.
When the end credits were rolling, Mikey dashed upstairs to set up the air mattress. Gerard got to his feet, padded into the hall and opened the door down to his room. I watched him with sleepy eyes. He paused to blow me a slow-motion kiss before he shut the door. My heart hammered for a long time after he was gone.
What are you doing, Frank? I asked myself with a strange sense of desperation. But I was too tired to reason it all out, so I went upstairs.
As soon as my head hit the pillow, I was wide awake. I lay there restlessly for a long time, trying to think. Long after Mikey had said goodnight and flipped off the light, my mind wouldn’t stop. After a few hours, just when I’d begun to doze off, the door opened with a creak.
“Frank?” Gerard whispered. I froze. I knew it was him, even though my eyes were closed.
My heart thudded in my ears. “Yeah?”
I rolled over and he knelt down next to my bed. I caught my breath. He was wearing only boxers and a thin white t-shirt. His hair was tousled around his white face. The moonlight lit up his cheekbones and turned his eyes a glittering dark green.
“Can I sleep with you?” he asked softly. I sat up.
“The basement heater’s broken,” he said. “I’m fucking freezing my ass off.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Is it now?”
“You wanna go all the way down there and check? Frankie, it’s really broken.”
At this point, I was just playing devil’s advocate. There were shivers running down my spine. “Why not Mikey?”
He sighed. “Mikey thrashes around in his sleep like a fish out of water. Do you?”
“No, but I drool.”
He grinned hugely as he pushed aside the blankets and climbed into bed. “I’m cool with that.”
I lay there, feeling like every neuron in my brain was frying at high heat. “You know I was joking, right? I don’t drool.”
“I know that.” He snuggled closer, burying his face in my neck. I could feel the flat of his palm against my stomach, rubbing slow circles. “I can feel your heart beating,” he murmured.
I leaned my head back. “I can feel yours, too.”
“That’s how you know I’m not a vampire,” he said matter-of-factly.
I laughed. We were quiet for a while, listening to the sound of Mikey's quiet breathing. It felt like something inside my chest was about to crack and burst. I was so happy, I never wanted to get up again. But this whole situation was ridiculous. “Gee, what are we doing?”
“We’re spooning. Was that not clear?” He shifted slightly. I could feel the vibrations in his chest when he spoke. But he smiled, and I knew he got what I meant. “Frankie...does it even matter? Whatever this is,” he gestured between the two of us, “we’re along for the ride. I mean, I can’t stop thinking about your ass.” He laughed hopelessly. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that...I really like you.”
Mikey stirred, mumbled something obscene, and fell asleep again.
“I really like you too, Gerard.” I lay there for a minute, enjoying the feel of his warm, muscular body pressed so close to mine. His hand slowly made a fist in the fabric of my shirt.
“You’re the only kid I’ve met in a long time who isn’t afraid of me,” he said quietly.
“Why would I be afraid of you?” I asked, frowning.
“Oh, many reasons.” I could feel his lips against my neck. “I mean different things to different people. What do I mean to you, Frankie?”
“A lot,” I said truthfully. “I don’t know what yet, not exactly, but…a lot.”
“Hmm.” He sighed happily. “Goodnight, my darling Frankie.”
He kissed my neck gently. I drifted off to sleep.
R&R, my darlings! With luck I'll crank out another chapter tomorrow. xo, b_b