Christmas sweaters, spare bagels, and taking it slow.
He sighed, biting down on his bottom lip and studying the branches above our heads. “I’m happy, too,” he said softly. “But for both our sakes, I really wish I wasn’t.”
“Why?” I asked, hurt. I felt his hand tighten against my back.
“Everything is different when I’m around you. You’re the only one I notice. Every word you say, everything you do, makes me want you. But...it’s not going to be easy if we’re together.” He closed his eyes and leaned his head back. “This is not a good place.”
“Really? Well, I guess we could go sit on the swings, if you want.”
He laughed. “No, what I meant was that Fair Haven is not a good place for two gay teenagers. Not everyone keeps an open mind, Frankie. And the trouble I could get you into, just for being with me...”
“I don’t care,” I said immediately. “I don’t give a flying fuck about what everybody else thinks, Gerard, and I don’t care about what happens to me. It’s not important. I’m not going to change who I am because I’m afraid. I’ll be with whoever I damn well please, and that’s you.”
He gave me a gorgeous grin. “I knew you’d say that.”
“You know me pretty well,” I laughed. “I’ve known you for a week, Gee.”
“Best week of my life,” he said seriously. I kissed his cheek, but he turned his head so it landed on his mouth. His hand pressed me close against him. “Fuck ‘em all,” he muttered, and I could tell he was smiling.
“With a cherry on top.”
He broke away from me and started laughing. “Come on, Frankenstein, let’s go sit on the grass. We’ve done every other clichéd date thing, we might as well go all out.”
“Frankenstein, I like that.”
He pulled me out of the shadow of the tree and walked in a big circle on the lawn, looking for the greenest patch of grass. “Found it,” he said triumphantly, sitting down with a contented sigh. I sank down next to him.
“I wonder if we should start calling Mikey ‘Mikezilla’,” I mused, rolling onto my back and looking up at the cloudy sky.
“I think he’d attack you.” He folded his arms behind his head.
“With his crazy blackbelt ninja moves.” I rolled my eyes. “Gee, you could’ve just sent him to school with a shotgun.”
“I’m pretty sure they don’t let you keep firearms in your locker. It’s better this way, Frankie, because no matter where he is, he’ll be safe. Everything he needs to take care of himself, it’s all in his head where no one can take it away from him.”
I looked over at him. “You’ve thought about this a lot, haven’t you?”
“I had to,” he said solemnly. “I mean, I’m not gonna be around forever, you know? I look out for him, I do my best, but someday I’ll be off to college, or art school in the city, and Mikes will have to fend for himself. He’s a sweet kid; he’s not like me. But it’s a cruel world out there.” He raised a hand and gestured at the line of trees across the lawn.
“Don’t I know it.” I shook my head. I didn’t want him to know all the bad things that had happened to me, years ago, before I’d learned to avoid trouble and keep my head down. But I didn’t know how long I was going to be able to hide the scars from him, and that worried me.
“You’re kind of a troublemaker, Frankie, getting into a fight on your first day and all.” He looked at me out of the corner of his eye. “It’s lucky for you that I go for bad boys, but I’m worried you’ll corrupt my youthful innocence.”
“Youthful, my ass,” I scoffed. Then I realized I didn’t really know. “You’re a senior, Gee. How old does that make you?”
“I didn’t skip grades because I was a genius, if that’s what you mean,” he smiled. “I’m seventeen. Eighteen in the spring.” He sighed. “Anyway, older than you, I’m afraid.”
“But not by much. And based on your behavior in class, you’re no genius, either.”
He gasped in mock outrage. “Have some respect for your elders!”
He pounced on me and started tickling every inch of exposed skin. I was laughing hysterically, begging him to stop, but he slid one leg up over my hip, supporting himself on his arms. “You really want me to stop?” he breathed, his face inches from mine. I pretended to think for half a second before pulling him down on top of me in a tangle of limbs. He gasped and I kissed him, rolling us over until he was sprawled on his back and I was lying on his chest. I could feel his lips working against mine; he ran his tongue over my bottom lip and I opened my mouth for him, feeling him eagerly exploring. Heat was rushing in the pit of my stomach as his hands clutched at my hips. He moaned my name. “God, Frankie…more…”
I ran my hand up his ribcage, stopping as the first drops of rain began to fall. We both lay there for a second, panting, until I thought to sit up and get off him so he could breathe.
“It’s raining,” I said idiotically. But I was glowing inside as he lay there trying to gather his thoughts, his hair messy around his white face.
“Ow.” He scrunched up his face as a big droplet hit him right in the eye, and sat up, shaking his fist and the skies. “Dammit, that must be acid rain.”
We looked at each other for a moment. He got up and offered me his hand, pulling me up easily.
“I’ll walk you home,” he said, “but Frankie boy, we’re gonna get absolutely soaked. Don’t be surprised if I show up on Monday with a raging case of the sniffles.”
“In that case, I’m gonna catch it for sure.” I grinned up at him, shaking my wet hair out of my eyes. “Let’s run.”
We sprinted all the way to my house, splashing through puddles and past rows of dark houses. We both got drenched by a passing car and cursed them out, laughing and holding onto each other for warmth. Gerard silently took off his jacket and passed it to me when my teeth started chattering. He doubled over with his hands on his knees in my front yard while I searched for the house key hidden under the doormat.
“Come in out of the rain,” I ordered as he stood there, looking up into the sky at the lightning. He followed me into the house and stopped at the door, kicking off his soggy shoes. I went into the kitchen and found a note taped to the coffee machine.
Mom knows me too well, I thought as I read.
“My mom’s out grocery shopping,” I said, sticking my head into the hallway. Gerard was still standing at the door. A puddle was forming around his feet.
“I don’t wanna drip water on the floor,” he said helplessly. I walked over to the hall closet, shoes squishing comically, and came back with a bunch of old towels.
“Here, let me.” I started drying him off. He ducked his head so I could gently run the towel through his soaking hair. His shirt stuck to him, and when he looked back at me, strands of inky hair were plastered to his face. His teeth were chattering. “Poor Gee,” I murmured, pausing to hang up his coat.
“I’m freezing,” he laughed. “I feel like a guysicle.”
I found him some blankets from upstairs and we watched TV until he was warm again. I made a fresh pot of coffee, laughing when he cradled his mug between his hands, savoring the warmth. In a little while he was fine, and I let him out the back door before my mom came home.
“Thanks, Frankenstein,” he said, wrapping his arms around himself. I’d lent him a gigantic fuzzy Christmas sweater – it was the warmest thing I could find, and he didn’t seem to mind the reindeer. It was sad, really, that Gerard was smoking hot even in something my grandma had knitted for me. “I’m sorry about the rain.”
“Because you alone are responsible for the rain,” I joked. “But really, I had fun.”
“Would you…would you maybe like to do this again, sometime?” He rocked backwards onto his heels, smiling shyly and flashing white teeth.
“Absolutely.” I grinned at the beautiful, black-haired boy. “Anytime.”
“So are we, like, boyfriends, then?” he asked brightly.
“I guess so.” I kissed him softly, felt him part his perfect lips. “Gerard?” I said as he turned to go.
“See you tomorrow.”
He blew me a kiss before he disappeared into the dusk.
When I got to school on Monday, he was leaning against the wall next to my locker, smoking a cigarette while he waited for me. He took a long drag, knocking the ashes to the floor before he saw me and his face broke into a grin.
“Hey,” he said, wrapping his arms around my neck and drawing me in close for a moment. His red plaid shirt smelled like him, a mix of peppermint and leather and laundry detergent. My arms wound their way around his waist, feeling the hard muscle of his back. His smile was contagious.
“Don’t Mondays suck?” he laughed. “There’s not enough coffee in the world.”
“Just think, after Monday, only four more days of school until the weekend,” I said sarcastically. We pulled away from each other, aware of the stares we were getting. Someone muttered something, but Gerard ignored them and put his arm around me.
“Frankie, you’re so skinny. Don’t you eat anything?” he said as I got my books out of my locker and we started walking down the hall.
“I do!” I laughed. “I just burn it all off by acting crazy all the time. I didn't know you smoked, though.”
“What can I say? I get a kick out of pissing people off.” He beamed at me.
Mikey was standing outside of our English class, talking to a pretty blond girl. She was smiling and nodding along with what he said. Gerard whistled meaningfully as she walked away, and Mikey turned bright red.
“Who was that?” His brother asked, reaching up and pushing his hair out of his eyes.
Mikey got even redder, if that was possible. “No one. My friend Casey. She’s in my French class, we’re doing a project together.”
“She’s cute,” Gerard said, nodding sagely. “I think you should ask her out.”
“Because you’re the best judge of whether or not girls are attractive.” Mikey raised his eyebrows.
Gee laughed. “Someone’s a little defensive.”
“I am not!”
“I think he likes her, Frank, don’t you?”
“We might need a second opinion. I mean, Mikey blushes whenever anyone talks to him, pretty girl or not.”
“Come on, Frank,” Mikey said. “We’re going to be late for class.”
“Not like that bothered you before,” I added unhelpfully. “See you at lunch, Gerard.”
“Later, Frankie.” He slapped my ass as I started into the classroom. I cursed under my breath as he walked away, laughing.
Mikey and I settled down in our usual desks, passing notes and playing hangman as the dull class dragged on. I didn’t ask him about Casey, but I was happy. What Gerard had said yesterday kept playing somewhere in the back of my head, that one day soon Mikey wouldn’t have his big brother to protect him. But I got what he meant, about Mikey being fragile. He was really a nice guy, but he looked like a victim, someone who wouldn’t be able to fight back. And that was dangerous.
It’s getting harder and harder to be just a normal kid these days.
I was good; I didn’t skip any classes, but I sat there feeling like my brain was going to melt. There’s only so many facts I can remember before they all start to get jumbled together and I end up thinking that Pearl Harbor happened in World War I and that Tesla was a zombie overlord. I’m not stupid, but talking sometimes just doesn’t make sense to me. That’s why I like music, because even when there are no words, certain notes and certain tones can tell you exactly what the person means, and what they think about when they play. It’s like music is a language all to itself, a language that anyone can understand.
When the lunch bell rang, my head was buzzing with random facts. I hurried outside. The sight of Gerard and the others lounging beneath the tree took everything else away. As I walked over to them, I focused on (it still gave me chills to think about it) my boyfriend, dressed in black and red and lying on his back to soak up the sun. He lifted his head, stole a drink from Mikey’s Gatorade bottle, and lay down again, his hair falling like a curtain over his face.
“Hi guys,” I said, settling down next to Gerard.
“Hi, Frankie boy.” He promptly put his head in my lap and started going through his bag.
“What are you looking for?” Ray asked after we’d all watched him for a moment.
“Sunglasses,” he muttered, voice muffled as he unzipped his backpack all the way and stuck his head inside.
“I stole them again,” Mikey said sheepishly. “They’re in my sock drawer.”
Gerard sighed and tossed his bag aside. “Damn you, Michael Way. Keep ‘em, I don’t want to put something that smells like your feet on my face, anyway.” He blinked up at me. “Hey, babe, could you move your head a little to the left? The sun’s right in my eyes.”
I complied, and he patted my cheek. “Good boy.”
Liza was sitting next to Ray, her pink hair glinting in the sunlight. She raised an eyebrow at me.
“Gerard and I are kind of going out,” I said, getting ready for the looks of horror on their faces. But Bob, Ray and Liza just smiled. They looked almost happy for us.
“Took you long enough,” Ray laughed. “I mean, Gee, you’ve known him for what, a week?”
I was still processing this unexpected acceptance, but Gerard nodded, pressing the back of his head against my crotch. I caught my breath, and he glanced up at me with an evil smile. “Seven days is an appropriate length of time to wait before asking someone out, Toro. I’ve seen enough episodes of Sex and the City to know that.”
“Six days,” Mikey said, “actually.”
Gerard nudged him gently with one foot. “Our little math genius.”
“You guys really don’t mind?” I asked, still not believing it. Up until now, being gay was something I had to hide from other people, some kind of shameful secret. People would shun me or beat me up if they knew, even the people I’d thought were my friends.
“It’s your life, man,” Bob said easily. I felt a big rush of affection. “I don’t blame you. We all know Gee could turn the straightest man gay.”
Gerard laughed. “Remember that time at the mall…?”
“Oh yeah.” Mikey grinned. “I still have nightmares.”
“S’no big deal, Franks,” Gerard murmured, gazing up at me and scooting closer.
Ray looked at the two of us, smiling. “If there’s one thing you learn from being an outcast, it’s that you should accept people for who they are, right? I mean, I have frizzy hair; I don’t deserve to be persecuted for it, I just want to live my life. There’s really no such thing as normal people, or a normal way for two people to love each other. But I know that all love is beautiful, and I think if we all could accept that, a lot of the problems in the world would go away.”
“Hear, hear.” Liza curled up in his arms and started feeding him a cookie.
“See?” Gerard grinned and rolled over onto his stomach. “These guys are all right. Now give me half your sandwich.”
“No way in hell,” I joked. “This morning you told me I was too skinny. How am I supposed to get fat if you keep eating all my food?”
“You can be fat with love.”
“He makes a fair point,” Mikey conceded, biting his lip to keep from laughing at Gee, who was trying to get into my school bag without me noticing. “Here, I packed an extra bagel for you.” He held it up and Gerard took it and lay down contentedly again, using my knee as a pillow.
“Like I said, a genius.”
I went over to the Ways' after school. Their parents were back at work in Newark, and Mikey had lured me with the promise of a Twilight Zone marathon and a fridge full of junk food. I called my mom just after school. Mikey had run far ahead and was waiting at the traffic light, but Gerard was walking next to me, staring so much I was sure he was going to trip.
“Hey, mom? I’m gonna go to my friend Mikey’s, I’ll probably be back pretty late.”
She laughed. “Frank, don’t sound so guilty! You’re making me feel like I’m the kid.”
“Is that okay, though?”
“Absolutely. I’m going to have to work late quite a bit, until I get promoted, and I feel terrible about leaving you home by yourself all the time. You’re a terrible cook, darling, and I always worry I’ll come home to find the kitchen in smithereens. As long as you stay away from drugs and don’t come home with any tattoos in weird places, I think it’s wonderful that you have friends. Have fun, all right? Call me when you’re coming home.”
“Thanks, mom,” I said gratefully, trying not to squeak as Gerard stuck his hand in the back pocket of my jeans and squeezed. “You’re the best.” I hung up before she could ask me what was wrong and pushed him up against a parked car, hooking my thumbs through his belt loops and tugging his hips firmly against mine as I kissed him.
“Eww,” Mikey yelled. “Guys, the light’s changing!”
Their house was starting to feel as familiar as mine. I slid off my shoes and headed to the kitchen for a snack without a second thought. When we sat around the kitchen table, we moved in unison. It felt good to just go over the day for a while, laugh over the stupid things that had happened. Gee told us a story about some idiot girl in his class who’d fallen off her chair. I played footsie with him, rubbing against his leg under the table and watching as he squirmed and his voice got all breathless. Some Oreos, a leftover pizza and a couple of cans of soda later, Mikey went to set up the TV for our marathon. Gerard was fiddling with the collar of his shirt, popping it up and then folding it down. He paused as an idea dawned on him.
“You know, I never showed you my room,” he said, practically purring. “Would you like to come downstairs?”
I smirked. “A little obvious, don’t you think?”
“Mikey won’t mind...not if we’re quiet...”
“I’d love to see your room.” I grinned.
He led me down the basement stairs and into a big, white-painted room with high slanting windows near the roof. The natural light spilled down onto the thousands of drawings that covered the walls floor-to-ceiling. I spotted more than a few of Mikey, and a couple that looked like me, amongst the jumble of smoky, twisted landscapes, cartoon panels, vampires and robots. There was a neatly made double bed in the corner, with a table and a lamp next to it. Gerard flopped down on his bed without bothering to turn on the lights, looking at me impatiently. His shirt had ridden up and he touched his ribs absently, tracing over his chest. I turned my back on him and kept looking at the pictures. Seeing everything he thought about, all together like this, was sort of like being in his head. There were dream landscapes in weird, lurid colors, and skeletons covered in tattoos. The carpet was littered with tubes of paint, drawing supplies, clothes and books, but his CD collection was arranged neatly on two bookshelves near the stairs.
“Frankie,” he said pleadingly. I turned back to him, deciding I’d tortured him long enough, and climbed onto the bed, straddling his hips and pushing him back into the pillows. He panted and arched up under me until I kissed him. He bit down on my lip and moaned quietly. I caught a string of expletives interspersed with my name, which made me smile. My fingers found the first few buttons of his shirt and started undoing them one by one; he sat up and took it off, holding still in the low light. He had the most beautiful creamy skin.
“Gee,” I whispered. “You’re stacked.”
He laughed. “Your turn.” I let him tug off my t-shirt and throw it aside. He leaned back, admiring me, eyes bright in the semi-darkness. I caught my breath as he traced his fingers over my arms and down my sides to cup my hipbones. He groaned. “As if I needed another reason to hate school.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s absolutely hellish to not be able to touch you anytime I want.” He smiled wistfully, running a hand through his messy jet-black hair. “If I could have my way, I’d just keep you at home with me all the time. We could dance around and make music together.”
“And do this.” I leaned in and kissed him gently, holding his face in my hands. His skin was so soft.
He lay down, staring at me with velvet-soft eyes, all warm and welcoming. “Come here, Frankie, and lie next to me.” I scooted over and curled up against his side, slinging my leg over his. With my cheek pressed against his chest, I could hear the sound of him breathing, the low thump of his heart. He stroked my back. I felt his breathing pause as he found the little round scar just under my shoulder blade.
“What is it?” he asked softly.
I cringed, hating how the tears still sprung to my eyes after all this time. “I don’t—”
“You can tell me,” he said in a very small voice. “I won’t tell anyone. Whatever it is, it’s okay.”
I tried to shrug it off. “When I was younger, I went to a school where these kids gave me a hard time for being gay. It got pretty bad, that was why I left. But they used to hold me down and put out their cigarettes on me.” He made a noise of sympathy. “I have more than one. I don’t like to show them to anyone. It kind of feels like proof that I’m a freak.”
“Jesus Christ, Frankie.” He shook his head as he looked down at me. “Don’t ever be ashamed to tell me something like that. I know you're a brave kid. I know who you are, I know what people can do. You’re beautiful to me. No one else is ever gonna hurt you because I will stop them.” He sighed, tightening his arms around me. Conviction burned in his voice. I pressed my face into his warm skin until I felt calm and safe again. “I’m gonna kill that Jason kid,” he vowed. “Him and all his friends.”
“I don’t think it’s going to fix anything.” It made me feel better to hear him say it, though. I tried to forget all the times I’d been hurt, but I’d lived with the scars for a long time. It was comforting to think that it didn’t have to be me against the world anymore. He shook his head slowly, his lips grazing my forehead.
“It couldn’t hurt to try. Those guys are just a few of the horrible people in the world, but if I could make sure they’d never hurt another kid like you, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”
“You’re a hero, Gee.”
“I’m not,” he laughed. “I've got scars of my own, Frank, and I'll be the first to admit it. I’m nobody’s leader, and I’m not the answer to any question I can think of. I’m just a kid with a knife and anger management issues.” He kissed my hair. “Let’s go upstairs.”
“You sure you don’t want to just...continue here?”
He rolled his eyes at me. “We've got all the time in the world,” he said. “And I get a little...intense, sometimes. If I ever go too fast, just tell me to stop and I will. Besides, poor old Mikes is probably wondering what the hell is going on down here.” He got up and made a little tour of the room to gather our clothes. He handed me my shirt and kissed the corner of my mouth tenderly. “Not that I wouldn’t love to have you all to myself, believe me.” His voice was all husky. “And I like your tattoos,” he added. I paused with my shirt halfway on, grinning. His hand darted out to touch the red lightning bolt just above my right hip, and I knew that despite the darkness, he’d seen the small black anchor on my side, just under my arm. “Very badass.”
“Don’t tell my mom,” I begged.
“No worries. I dyed my hair blond sophomore year and my mom flipped a shit. Your secret’s safe with me.”
His glowing hazel eyes met mine, and I knew he meant all the secrets I’d told him. I smiled.
When we went back upstairs, Mikey didn’t ask any questions, just turned the volume up and passed me the popcorn. Gerard grilled him about Casey as we watched, but he let up after Mikey admitted that he might, in fact, like her. We watched TV on the couch, the two brothers made another amazing dinner, and I started home around nine. Gee said goodbye regretfully and landed a big, sloppy wet kiss on my cheek before he went back inside. I called my mom as I walked through the dark streets. I was secretly glad to have something to do, because it was eerily quiet.
Fair Haven is fucking creepy.
By the time I reached home, the hair on the back of my neck was standing on end and I could see the shadows moving out of the corners of my eyes. I sprinted down the path and through the door, remembering all too well that Jason had said he wasn’t through with me yet.
After I closed and locked the door behind me, I heaved a sigh of relief. My mom was in the kitchen, baking something that smelled delicious. I watched her tuck a few strands of dark brown hair behind her ear as she bent to take a cake out of the oven.
“Hi, mom.” I smiled as she looked up.
“Welcome home, sweetheart.”
We watched a sappy romantic comedy while we ate dessert. I would’ve gotten sick of it and changed the channel, but the actor in it looked a little like Gerard, and I found myself sighing into my bowl of chocolate cake. I could still feel his warm touch on my skin, burning, but in a good way. It kept me warm as I lay there in bed, listening to rain beating on the roof. Eventually the noise lulled me to sleep.
You’ve all been so wonderful for reading/liking my deranged ramblings. There’s a lot more to come, don’t worry! I was stuck in bed all day, so this chapter’s a little longer than the rest…anyway, thank you all so much; if you’d like to rate, it would be mind-blowingly awesome if you’d rate the first chapter (I like the color green, don’t you?) instead of or in addition to the new chapters, so other people can find this fic! Can you believe there have been nearly 750 views already? I love you guys, hope you keep reading and commenting – comments make my heart explode with happiness (as well as motivating me to keep writing chapters at 4 in the morning). Next update should be out in a few days! Xo, b_b