Coming out of the closet, hockey masks, and being home alone.
“Where are we going, Gee?” I panted as he pulled me across the quad.
“Somewhere we can be alone. We gotta talk,” he growled. After a dizzying run through the empty hallways, he pulled me into a janitor’s closet and released his vice-like grip on my hand. I flexed my fingers to make sure they still worked. He winced. “Sorry.”
I looked at him in the little amount of fluorescent light that came through the dusty glass of the door. His eyes were sad as he raked a hand through his hair, making it stand up in all directions. He watched the door like he thought someone was following us.
“Shh.” He pressed against the wall as someone walked by, then sank to the ground. I sat down across from him, our knees touching in the tiny space. He looked at me.
“You’re really worried, aren’t you?”
“It depends,” he said carefully, “on what the school does. I mean, if I got detention for something I didn’t do, I’d be pissed. We’ll really get our faces smashed in then. If they don’t do anything, we might get off easier.” From the look on his face, he didn’t have much hope, though. “God, I hate this.”
“It’s not Bob’s fault.”
His head snapped up. “Of course not. I’d have done the same thing. Well, maybe not,” he amended. “I don’t think I could ever pretend to be the guy that beat my boyfriend up.”
“S’no big deal,” I muttered. I was a crappy liar. “It was a while ago. We can take whatever’s coming.”
He touched my leg. The heat of his hand was soothing. “I’ll never let them hurt you,” he whispered, tracing slow circles against my knee. “Never again.”
“Don’t do anything stupid.”
“Stupid’s my middle name,” he laughed. “Besides, I can take a few punches, Frankie.”
“Not for me, you can’t.”
He sighed unhappily, but let it lie. Somewhere outside, the school bell rang and the hallway was filled with noise and echoing footsteps.
My attendance record is in the can, I thought numbly. But then again, what would I do with one of those stupid trophies, anyway?
Gerard was leaning back miserably against the wall. The muscles in his throat moved as he swallowed. He looked like he was planning something. I could tell he wasn’t going to stick to our agreement.
“Bonnie and Clyde,” I murmured, reaching out to grab his wrist. “Remember?”
His eyes met mine in the darkness. “I remember.”
“Jason’s not gonna start some kind of war; he’s got better things to do, like steal some freshman’s lunch money. I don’t even think he hates me that much, Gee. As long as I don’t do anything to bother him, he’ll let it go.” I sounded much surer than I actually felt. Inside, there was a voice in the back of my head that was screaming like a little girl. Because I couldn’t forget how that beating had felt, with blood gushing and getting in my eyes, not even with Gerard there to take the pain away.
“You’re right, we have to do this together. Bob and Ray and Mikey are in this too, now. And of course I wouldn’t do anything without talking to you. The odds are on our side that Jason won't care. But Frankie...what do you want to do if he does?”
“Easy,” I said, giving him my best fake smile. “We fight back. And god help whoever gets in our way.”
I let go of his wrist. He took my hand in both of his, bent his head and kissed my palm. I shivered at the feel of his warm lips on my skin. He grinned up at me.
“Hearing you talk strategy gets me all hot. You make it sound so simple.”
I held still, breathing hard as he covered the insides of my arms with kisses, climbing over me and burying his face against my chest. I clutched him to me. He looked up. I could feel his eyelashes brushing against my shirt. He let out a soft moan as my lips crashed into his. There was golden sunlight everywhere.
When we opened the door and came out into the hallway, Mikey and Ray were leaning against the wall. They looked us up and down, both biting back the same knowing smile.
“I could make so many closet-related jokes right now,” Ray said regretfully.
“But you won’t.” Gerard was shooting him the death glare.
“Right. I’ll just shut up and try not to dwell on the fact that you picked a janitor’s closet to hide in. If Jason’s seen as many B-movies as we have, that’s the first place he’s gonna look.”
Mikey fell in beside me as we walked down the hall. “Real classy, Frank. Love amongst the mops and industrial-sized paper towel rolls.”
“What can I say? I was conceived at a drive-thru.”
He stared at me for a second. By some miracle, I managed to keep a straight face. “You were?” He whispered in horror.
“Yes,” Gee drawled. “And I was born in a graveyard at midnight on Halloween. Come on, Mikey.”
The rest of the day was tense. Ray assured me that he would hear through the proverbial grapevine if anything happened with Jason, but apparently there was nothing to hear. No one bothered us.
Gerard didn’t say anything to the effect, but I could tell he didn’t want to leave me alone. I convinced him to let me go to Spanish with Bob. He waited outside the classroom the whole time, peeking in the window, smoking cigarette after cigarette and mouthing things that made me blush. I did my best to ignore him and take good notes so I wouldn’t flunk out of class. Bob turned a blind eye, too, but even he laughed when Gerard waved frantically until he got my attention and then pointed at his crotch.
“We all have different ways of coping with stress.” Bob rolled his eyes. “Call me if he starts ripping your clothes off with his teeth.”
I was a little disturbed my how much I liked the idea.
When Biology rolled around, our teacher announced we were watching a slideshow instead of having real class. Everyone else cheered; my heart practically shot out of my chest when Gerard leaned in much too close and whispered “lights off, baby” in my ear. Focusing on the slides was impossible with his hand planted firmly on my thigh.
“Wait till we get home,” I hissed as he tipped his head back and groaned.
“But I’m soooo bored.” He gave me a wide-eyed look and then let out a massive, jaw-cracking yawn.
“Just think—money for pizza, horror movies, not doing our homework. Real life.”
“Let’s drop out of school and just bum around.”
“Agreed.” I put my head down on the desk. It was quiet in the room, but a thousand thoughts were shooting through my brain at once.
We needed a plan. Even if nothing came of this particular incident, Jason wasn’t just going to forgive and forget. Something told me he wasn’t that kind of guy. And I could either live in fear of him for the rest of my time in Fair Haven, or I could do something about it.
“D’you think his mom named him after Jason from Friday the 13th?” Gerard asked. Apparently his thoughts had drifted in the same direction as mine. I managed to laugh despite the dread in the bottom of my stomach.
“You know, we should really ask him about it the next time we see him. Maybe wear a hockey mask and see what he says.”
He laughed. The light of the projector flickered over his face, throwing his eyes into shadow. “We’ll see. No point in getting worked up over nothing.”
I did my best to ignore the irony there. Turning this into a joke wouldn’t help. “Let’s just go home, Gee. I’m sick of being scared.”
“Me too,” he said wearily. “Me too.”
“Hey, if Jason is named after Jason from Friday the 13th, who is Mikey named after?”
“Michael Myers,” he said without skipping a beat. “From Halloween.”
Gee kissed me goodbye two blocks away from my house. “I’ve got some grocery shopping to do. Mikey told me last night that there’s only cocktail onions and cheese left in the fridge, and nothing on earth could turn that into dinner.”
I laced my fingers with his. “You’re such a good brother.”
He winked. “Make sure you tell him that.”
I walked the rest of the way home, gritting my teeth against the cold October wind that whistled right through my jean jacket. As I turned onto my street, I became aware of the fact that someone was following me. My footsteps had a second echo. I turned, but there was no one there. It was getting dark earlier and earlier these days, and shadows sloped over the pavement.
They should really chip in and get some streetlights in this neighborhood, I thought as I choked back my fear and started walking again. The footsteps were closer this time. I stopped after a few seconds and looked back. There was nothing. But I hadn’t been expecting to see anything anyway. I had goosebumps.
“Christ,” I muttered to myself. It was so hard to put one foot in front of the other, just make myself move without thinking.
You’re never going to get home at this rate.
And it was sad how badly I wanted Gerard there, to make the shadows fade away with his leather-jacket bravado.
You have to do this. Yes, I was aware that I was talking to myself a little too much. We all have different ways of coping with stress. Gerard isn’t going to always be around to hold your hand and call you brave. Suck it up, Frank A. Iero, and run home as fast as you can.
And that’s just what I did.
My lungs were burning as I raced through the front yard. I really needed to stop smoking and start going to Gym class. I had the door unlocked in a flash, cursing my fumbling fingers, and I dashed inside like there was a horde of zombies after me. I went from room to room, checking all the windows were locked and turning every light in the house on. Okay, maybe I was overreacting. Maybe it was just someone out walking their dog, or a jogger. But an invisible jogger, or one who bothered to hide and then slowly creep closer and closer? Plus, who jogs in freaking October, at night, in an industrial area of New Jersey with a high crime rate? You’d have to be suicidal.
I turned up the TV really loud, fixed myself a snack of popcorn and chocolate milk and sat there on the couch for a while, biting my nails down to the quick. It took a couple of Mythbusters reruns before I felt okay again. I still wished our new house had an alarm system.
My phone started blasting a Black Flag riff. I answered it.
“Gerard,” I sighed in relief. “Wait, I never gave you my number.”
He chuckled. “I got it from Mikey, who, by the way, is gonna score with that chick Casey tonight.”
“How do you know? Gee, you’re not doing anything creepy, are you?”
“No, he called me. Said they were working together on their French project, and she’d asked him to stay over at her place. And—get this—he told me not to wait up.”
I cracked up. “Seriously?”
“Seriously. Who knew he was such a Casanova? But I’m proud of the kid. He’s following in his brother’s footsteps.”
“Except for the liking boys part.”
“Riiiight.” He laughed softly. “Well, there’s still time. You mind if I come over, Frankie? I don’t know if I can face coming home to an empty house and cooking dinner for myself. Mostly ’cause Mikes is the one that can cook. I burn cereal. Would that be okay?”
“It would be awesome. My mom should be home in an hour or so.”
He whistled. “We don’t have much time, then. I’ll have to run.”
“Be careful,” I said, then instantly wished I hadn’t.
“I will be.” I could hear the question in his voice, but I just hung up and stared at the wall.
It was silly, but I was nervous, anticipating how everything would change when he walked through the door. He would hang up his jacket and ruffle a hand through his hair, calm and so confident. He was one of those people who just had an aura around them. When I lay awake at night, I could hear his voice chiming through my head.
I’m not going to let you feel ashamed of who you are. You’re my Frankie, and you’re too good for that.
The words always came with one of the crooked, charming smiles he reserved just for me.
I couldn’t help it. I wanted to be like him, to be so sure of myself and so at peace with who I was. I couldn’t help but think how much easier it would be to face the world if I was always ready for anything. But I was just myself, just Frank, trapped. It was no good pretending or trying to be anyone else.
I sat and waited patiently until I heard the familiar knock on the front door. Two quick blows, then a slight pause, then one more just for the hell of it. My heart lifted.
I answered the door with the most idiotic grin plastered to my face. He was standing there like some perfect marble statue. But a statue that breathed, and moved, and hugged me so tight I thought I might pass out.
“We’ve got...forty nine minutes,” he said, checking his watch. “How are you, Frankenstein? You ’re kinda pale. Verging on dead-looking."
I made a sour face at him. “Thanks. Come on in, I'll show you around.”
He waited patiently as I brought him a soda and walked from room to room. Our house wasn't that big, so the bottom floor was soon covered, and I led him up the stairs. I could feel him staring hungrily at my ass.
“This is my room,” I said pointlessly, opening the door and wincing at the crazy mess all over the floor. Gerard stepped carefully over a heap of clothes and scattered textbooks. He stopped in the exact middle of the room, surveying my half-made bed, light blue walls, untidy bookshelves and my gaping closet.
“I like it,” he said, setting down his soda on a precarious stack of guitar books. “It's got personality.”
“An excess of personality, maybe.”
“I especially like your bed,” he continued, the look on his face anything but innocent. “Mind if I try it out?”
Before I could stammer out a reply, he picked his way across the room and collapsed on my mattress, wiggling around and getting comfortable. His gray band t-shirt rode up, revealing his six-pack. He sighed and stared at the ceiling.
“So this is where you sleep at night,” he mused. “I wonder what you dream about.” He smiled. “Frankie, put some music on, it's too quiet.”
I picked out an album practically at random. I felt kind of fizzy and weak in the knees, but I still smiled as I popped the cd into the player and a Stooges song softly filled the room. Gerard sat up suddenly, his eyes glowing in instant recognition. He started singing along.
I froze completely. He had the most beautiful voice, haunting, hanging perfectly on each word. I'd known the arpeggiated guitar part since I first learned to play the guitar, but somehow his singing gave it a whole new meaning. It was like I finally understood what the song was really about.
“Gimme danger, little stranger,” he sang, a slow grin spreading across his face, “and I'll heal your disease.” He met my eyes. “Good choice, baby.”
For a few seconds, we just listened. He nodded his head along in time with the beat, letting his hair fall over his pale face. I could see the stars through the window behind him.
“Frankie, come here,” he whispered. I barely heard him over the music, but he held out his arms and I climbed into his lap, feeling my heart sputter to life as our lips met, softly, again and again.
Hi all! Oh, this is getting so exciting! I’ve got so much stuff to work in; I apologize for this chapter being so short, but I figured twelve pages in three days trumps fourteen pages in four or five days. Sorry to do this to you, but the next chapter should be out in a few days, and it will be a bit of a cliffhanger. Thought I’d warn you in advance, in case you want to wait till the second installment’s out. Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging for too long! The more reviews, the more motivated I’ll be to finish it and figure out what’s gonna happen ;) because it’s not like I know, or anything. I just wanted to let you know that in two weeks I’m going on a semester program and I’ll be living in Maine until the end of May. I’m gonna do my best to keep the updates flowing, but if progress is a little slow, just know that I haven’t given up on the story (Frerard forever!!!!) and I would NEVER give up on you wonderful kids or leave you hanging for like five months. I’ve got no school for ten days before, so I’ll try to leave you with some dynamite updates to keep you busy and hungry for more :) I love you guys, you put the sunshine in my day! Xo, b_b