A terrible confession, heartwarming reunions, and a brief foray into the underworld.
“Gerard...we need to talk.”
I stood in front of him where he was sprawled across my bed, idly scanning a copy of Rolling Stone. He sat up, a look of confusion registering on his lovely face, and moved to sit on the edge of the bed, staring up at me. I had to will myself to stay strong and find out the truth. I hadn’t slept a wink last night after the phone call. I’d lain there in his arms, scared to breathe because I didn’t want to know either way. I couldn’t even be mad at him for lying to me all this time, because he had every right to.
“What’s wrong, Frankie?” he asked softly, eyes wide. “Did I do something? Are you mad at me?”
“No, I’m not.” I felt uncomfortable standing there, my arms folded across my chest. Every breath made my ribs ache, and I wished for one of the pain pills I’d optimistically put away in the bathroom cabinet. “I have to ask you something, Gee, and I really need you to be honest with me. Where are your parents? They don’t really work in Newark, do they? Where are they? What happened to them?”
He took a deep, shaky breath, opened his mouth to explain.
“Wait, don’t say anything. The only reason I ask is because I...I did something bad last night. You were sleeping, and I answered your phone because I didn’t want it to wake you up." I bit back a sob. "Gee, it was a lady calling to say Mikey’s missed so much school they might take him away from you. She said you were his only remaining family, and all this other stuff...” I broke off, cursing under my breath as my eyes welled up with tears. “I don’t wanna lose him. I just wanna know the truth.”
“Frankie.” He rubbed the back of his neck absently. There was a long pause. “Well, for starters, I’m sorry I lied to you. When we first moved here, Mikey and I agreed we wouldn’t tell anyone what happened, so we could fit in. I didn’t want him to feel like a freak, or have the other kids give him a hard time just because our parents are dead.” I felt a pang of sadness. I’d never even known them, but surely the people who’d brought Gerard into the world must have been nice. He looked up at me somberly, flickering his eyes over my face. “They were killed just over two years ago, some random car accident on a rainy night. It was a hit-and-run; they never caught the guy that did it. It was all a blur after that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mikes more depressed. There was nothing I could do; I just watched as he retreated into himself. I was so overwhelmed — suddenly we had a social worker who visited our house all the time, evaluating me to see if I was fit to watch over my own brother—” he laughed humorlessly, his face twisted with emotion like his skin was about to break. “As if anyone in the world could be more invested in his well-being. I had to sell our house because of the memories, because we couldn’t walk down the stairs without remembering, and the ghosts...” But he shook that thought off. “I wanted us to go somewhere with no connection to our family, nothing from the past that would keep us up at night. My mother came from a wealthy family, and our parents left us enough money to buy a house. I had an investor do something with the rest of the trust fund, but the interest isn’t much, just enough to live off of. It was a shock, suddenly being responsible for every part of Mikey’s life, letting him depend on me for everything. He’s gotten so much better since he met you. But he’s so messed up...Sorry,” he whispered, because he’d begun to cry too. “I’m not trying to make you feel bad.”
I sat down beside him and wrapped my arms around his shoulders, pulling him close, still trying to believe he’d been shouldering this burden the whole time I’d known him, without saying a word. He buried his face in the crook of my neck. I felt his warm breath through the fabric of my shirt. “You’ve done so well, Gee,” I told him, rubbing his back. “You’re so strong and brave. Nobody could’ve done better. If you ever need help, or anything...”
He nodded. “Thanks. I — it was hard, lying to you. I didn’t know how long I could hold out.” He sighed. “This wasn’t how I pictured my life. I don’t mind taking care of my brother, not at all, but sometimes it feels like there’s this...weight on me, and sometimes I’m selfish and I wonder why I never got a childhood, never got to grow up normal. I keep trying to figure out what I did wrong, even though the world doesn’t work that way. Good people die all the time. I guess I’m still a kid, at heart.” He looked up at me like he’d just realized something important. “Frankie, you’re the most grown-up person I know.”
I snorted unbecomingly because the thought was so ludicrous. “I don’t feel so grown-up, Gee.”
He grinned, but didn’t disagree. “Grown-ups like candy, too.”
We went back to his house before my mom woke up. My head was spinning from lack of sleep, black spots popping in my field of vision whenever I moved, but I knew we had to face school today or I’d go crazy from not doing anything. The entire time I was in the hospital, I’d yearned for something to take my mind off what had happened to me. Those blank, clinical white walls had made me itch for my guitar and cds, for books and toys and even schoolwork. I wanted to sit in my English class and draw dragons in my notebook and listen anonymously to the uninteresting words that floated in the still air. I sure as hell did not want to lie around in bed, slowly atrophying of boredom while Gerard brought me juice and watched the X-Files; I was worried the truth would begin to sink in through my helium-high relief. I was the victim of a savage beating, bruised and broken. Fresh scars had been laid on me, much worse than the constellation of cigarette burns on my back, and they might never heal. The only way I could keep this from taking me over was by ignoring it completely. I was sick of getting hurt; the way my bones felt like crunched glass after, the way it made me see myself — tattered and ugly. I had to make the better choice and get over this thing before it destroyed me.
Gerard didn’t respond well to my newfound zeal for learning, but he just sighed and tightened his grip on his travel coffee mug. Mikey was sitting in his pajamas on the living room floor, eating toaster waffles and shooting whipped cream directly into his mouth. MTV blared in the background. He hadn't seen me since he'd dropped Gerard off at the hospital. I approached him cautiously, like I would a wild animal.
“Hey, Mikes,” I smiled. He looked up and brushed his hair impatiently out of his eyes. A wide grin split his face.
“FRANKIE!!!” He hurled himself across the room in a jumble of limbs and wrapped me in a skinny-armed hug. I could feel his collarbone digging into my cheek, but he seemed to genuinely cheer up when he saw me safe and (relatively) intact. My ribs gave a painful twinge, but I wasn’t about to clue him in to the extent of my injuries. Gerard got a strange look in his eyes and gently peeled his brother off me so he could hug him in turn.
“How are you, little man?” he asked teasingly, mussing the younger Way’s light-brown hair.
Mikey scowled. “All right, I guess. I don’t think you’ll be able to call me little for much longer, Gee; I’m almost taller than you.”
“I’ll get inserts in my shoes,” Gerard said gravely. “You’ll never take me alive.”
Mikey didn’t seem enthused by the prospect of going to school, but I watched as his older brother cheerfully strong-armed him out the door fifteen minutes later. It was just long enough for me to brush my teeth and slide into some of Gerard’s clean clothes, arranging the fabric carefully around my injured shoulder.
“Easy there,” he said, gently supporting me as I stumbled. “Don’t get frustrated if it takes you a while to do things. You’re alive, and that’s all that matters.” And he gave me that angelic smile as he kissed me on the mouth.
I could see the desperation in both sets of dark hazel eyes as we walked down the familiar streets towards Fair Haven High. Gerard hid it better, but I could tell losing Mikey would break something inside him. Mikey trembled at the thought of confronting a world that refused to accept him. I’d been there; I put my arm around his shoulders, glad I’d caved and let Gerard carry my backpack. I couldn’t tell if they moved slowly for my benefit, or because neither of them was eager to get to our destination, but either way it grated on my nerves.
“I’m not about to let you mope around all day,” I said suddenly. Gerard stared at me in consternation, clearly in the middle of an unrelated, morbid thought. Mikey’s head snapped up.
“Who, me?” Gee purred, raising one eyebrow. “Or did you mean Mr. Desperately-in-need-of-Zoloft over there?”
“Both of you are giving me the creeps.” I put my hands on my hips, struggling for authority. I was abruptly aware of my height, or lack thereof. I barely came up to Gerard’s perfect nose. “Look around, everything is nice! The sun is out, the birds are singing—”
“No they’re not,” they both said flatly. I ignored them.
“—And it only kinda smells like dog pee. We’re on our way to school, where we’re gonna kick some ass because we’re awesome. Mikey, you’ll tell me jokes and fold paper airplanes that do flips, and Gerard, you'll act grouchy and smoke cigarettes till lunchtime when your coffee kicks in. We don’t have to learn anything, just party and kill time. Things could be so much worse than they are today. And I’ll get to see Bob, and Ray, and Liza, and hear about Matt! And—”
“Enough!” Gerard commanded, laughter in his voice as he put his hand firmly over my mouth. I licked his fingers, and Mikey rolled his eyes as his brother let out a breathy sigh.
“You’re in a freakishly good mood, Frankie,” he murmured. “Did you finally say yes to hard drugs?”
“I’m just high on life.” That made them laugh. “After the hospital, this feels like heaven.”
It was already 8:30 when Mikey and I shoved open the doors to the squat English building and wandered aimlessly down the echoing hall.
“I barely remember what room it’s in,” he confided, biting his lip guiltily. A wall was breaking down inside him, and I watched it play out on his face. I pointed wordlessly to the right door, watched his huge eyes widen even further in panic. “Don’t make me do this,” he whispered fervently. “I can’t, Frankie, I can’t—”
“Bullshit,” I said fiercely. “Have some faith in yourself, Mikes, or it’s stupid to think other people will. You’re going to walk into that class like you own the place. You know why? Because nothing bad can happen to you, not while me n’ Gerard are around. So why not have some fun, live a little? Don’t be ashamed to be yourself. I promise you’ll be okay.”
He nodded resolutely. “Thank you, Frank. If you see Gee before I do, tell him I’ll be good from now on. I’ll go to class, talk to people I don’t know, maybe even do some homework. I know I can’t hide forever.”
I ruffled his hair and we walked into our English class together. The teacher barely looked up, but the other kids stared at my battered face with either horror or amusement. I walked to the back with my head held high and took my usual seat. Mikey slid in quietly next to me. The class continued; I realized we were discussing a new book that I didn’t have, threw my hands up and started doodling on a scrap of receipt paper. The silence grew comfortable as people stopped watching us. When Mikey whispered, the sound faded into the rustle of pages and the droning voice of the teacher.
“It’s funny — I should be more afraid than ever, because you they hurt you so bad and nobody could stop it, but I’m not. I don’t wanna live my life dreading everything, scared of everybody. I want to be brave, like you and Gerard.” He smiled. “Don’t say I said that, it’s too corny. But I mean it all the same.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I just grinned at him and held up my drawing: a unicorn with a Mohawk and a Misfits logo on its ass.
Mikey let out a giggle. “Self-portrait?”
The rest of the day passed like normal — pleasantly, even. It started raining gently midway through Chemistry, driving everyone inside. I was reunited with Bob and a very tearful, joyous Ray at lunch. He insisted on feeding me half of his peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich because he thought I looked ‘positively manorexic’, and Bob took to poking at my bruises and asking how much they hurt, but I was glad the others didn’t really say anything about Jason or the predicament we were in. I could sit back and listen to the same friendly bantering, talk when I wanted to, and look out at all the other people eating in the crowded cafeteria.
Cheerleaders shared tic-tacs and sticks of celery at one table, while two nerdy-looking kids at the table next to them had a physics textbook open, discussing quantum mechanics as they ate, and the pyros were lighting pieces of bread on fire near the windows.
It blew me away how many of them I’d never spoken to, because I’d figured they were mean or boring or just plain stupid. I was probably wrong about most of them, and I resolved to be more extroverted from now on. So what if it earned me a few punches? It was nothing I couldn’t handle at this point, and I just might make a new friend. I loved Gee and Mikey and Ray and Bob and Liza, but sometimes I wondered whether they were really disliked by everyone, or if they just hung out together so much they seemed unwelcoming, a close-knit stronghold of black clothes and cutthroat attitudes.
“We do it to survive,” Gerard said in an undertone, reading my mind like usual. “Trust me, this place will tear you apart if you’re on your own.”
The conversation carried on around us. I caught a flash of Ray threatening to strangle Mikey with a pair of gym socks out of the corner of my eye. Gerard’s face was set in the resolute mask he showed to the rest of the world. But I saw the little cracks that went on underneath, and I began to wonder if, just maybe, he might be wrong about this.
“How’s your memory of last night?” Liza asked her boyfriend with a grin, tugging us both back to the present. Although I hadn’t been paying attention, I’d gathered something about a wild party at the quarterback’s mansion.
Ray pursed his lips. “A little fuzzy and a lot naked.”
“At one point you found a vacuum cleaner and told me you were going to beat the shit out of me with it. That was pretty funny.” Bob’s gruff, infectious laugh rang out. Even Gerard couldn’t suppress a chuckle, although from the way he was bouncing his knee, I knew he was desperate for a smoke.
“Oh yeah?” Ray demanded, his voice rising. “What’d you do, find some weird chick with a unibrow fetish?”
“Swigged half a bottle of Pepto and went to bed.” Bob shrugged. “If you spiked my beer, I’ll be making a visit to your house tonight.”
Ray shook his bushy hair, holding up his hands in supplication. “Must’ve been Melanie. You know, that weird ginger girl who’s really, really...really...into you.”
“Ah, Melanie Bowersox.” Mikey nodded knowingly. We all turned to look at him. “She was my partner for a Physics lab. It was a nightmare; I had to endure her staring awkwardly into my eyes for three hours while I tried to calculate the velocity of a ball rolling down a chute.”
“So many ball-related jokes spring to mind...” Liza said wistfully.
“Frankie, we’ve got Math with her,” Mikey said, trying to get me to remember. I shook my head.
“Sorry. It might be the head trauma talking, but I have no idea who she is.”
Ray’s mouth dropped open. “You mean she never tries to hit on you?”
“Nope. Never. I guess it’s lucky girls don’t find me attractive.”
“Ah,” Gerard said huskily, tapping his lips with a finger. “I know why. If it wasn’t for the tattoos, you’d look about twelve. Melanie may be awkward as fuck, but that girl ain’t no pedophile.”
The entire table cracked up so loud that people started staring. I gave them all friendly waves.
When school ended, Gerard arranged for Ray to drive Mikey home. The two of us and Bob took a walk through the seedy part of town, past vacant lots and burned-out crack dens. Neither of them would tell me where we were going. Garbage littered the streets and it was drizzling. Gerard carried me on his back when I started wheezing — the meds I’d taken this morning were wearing off, and my bones were starting to feel tired. I wanted to act as normally as possible while I got better, but I realized I had to be careful not to overtax myself; that would make the process even slower. I sighed in frustration. Gerard mistook it as a noise of exhaustion and leaned his head back, pressing cool, rain-damp hair against my cheek.
“I’ll make you a grilled cheese when we get home,” he whispered. “It won’t be long now. I’m sorry I brought you along, but I thought you’d like to see my underworld contacts for yourself. Curious little bastard.”
“That’s my middle name,” I quipped.
“Really? I thought it was Frank Danger Iero.” He winked.
“What, I can’t have two? My parents were indecisive. Or maybe it’s a nickname: Frank ‘Curious Little Bastard’ Danger Iero.”
“Iero-Way. Come on, you gotta have that awkward hyphenation.”
My heart skipped a beat or five. He turned his head to glance over at Bob, but I could’ve sworn I saw the ghost of a smirk twist his lips.
We have a future together, no matter what happens now. I was kind of pleased by it, but the thought made me nervous. I couldn’t imagine sustaining so much love for such a long time; it wasn’t like I had anything to compare it to. My mom and dad had never been in love. She was much too young and pretty for me to have been anything but an accident. Sure, they’d probably been close at one point, but all I’d ever seen in her eyes was fear. And I was so scared I’d look at Gerard like that one day.
“We’re here,” he announced softly, setting me down. His voice was ragged in the cold air. Darkness had fallen, and I hadn’t been paying attention to our surroundings, but we stood in the glow of one cracked streetlight facing a perfectly normal two-story house. Condemned shells of buildings crowded around it, but the lawn was neat and bordered by a tall picket fence. A tall figure detached itself from the shadows and strode towards us, boots clicking on the sidewalk.
“Who are you?” it demanded roughly. I caught a flicker of bright metal in the darkness. Gerard remained completely at ease, not budging an inch, but his face showed the faintest signs of irritation.
“Calm down, Paolo,” he growled. “It’s me. Jesus.”
That trademark smirk. “Ciao.”
“Ciao, bella.” The man laughed and stepped into the pool of orange light, graceful as a cat. He was tall, young and tanned, with a straight Roman nose and sleek black hair cut in a careless mop. In other words, he was gorgeous. Gerard cast an amused look between the stranger and me, like he was sitting back to watch. Paolo’s dark eyes locked onto mine, and a slow grin spread over his face. “Chi è questo?”
“This is Frankie,” Gee said evenly, laying one arm around my shoulders. “Il mio ragazzo.” His tone left no room for argument; Paolo seemed to understand. “His English isn’t very good,” he said to me under his breath, “but he gets around like you wouldn’t believe.”
I cocked an eyebrow. “I don’t doubt it. But I didn’t know you spoke Italian.”
“My grandmother was from Italy,” he murmured back. “She died when I was twelve, but I picked up enough to get by. I take it in school, in case I ever commit a murder and need to flee to Sicily. Paolo, you know Bob. We’re here to see Matt.”
He grinned. “You always are. Come in, come in, benvenuto.”
As we went through the gate and crossed the immaculate lawn, I became aware of other shapes in the darkness. There were lots of men milling about just inside the walls; I could tell by the glow of cigarettes against the night, the shuffle of feet and whispers in several different languages.
“Bodyguards,” Gerard whispered in my ear. "Don’t worry, they’re not half as good as Bob.”
I glanced at the blonde boy who walked two steps behind us. He gave me a reassuring half-smile.
“You’re safe, Frankie. If anyone lays a hand on you, I’ll fucking incapacitate them.”
The inside of the house was laid out similarly to mine, with a long hallway and a kitchen off to one side, a living room to the other, but the scale was massive. Expensive art hung on the walls, and the rugs looked oriental and intricate. Gerard kept his hand firmly in my back pocket as I caught sight of a gun lying casually on the hall table along with some car keys and spare change.
“The others told you about Matt, right? Well, none of them have seen him in person for months now. He’s made quite a business out of drug-smuggling. I never would have guessed he’d turn out to be such an entrepreneur, but people surprise you. Matt deals directly with the Jersey mafia, and a lot of the kids raised in those families join his gang, The Falcons. They run a tight shift, and they’re all pretty clean — the cardinal rule of dealing is to never touch the stuff yourself. Good guys, most of them. I’d hang around here more often if it were socially acceptable.” His eyes gleamed in the light, and I could see exactly why he was drawn to this place. There was the sense that something mysterious was happening behind these walls, and everyone who passed us was well-dressed and clearly very busy. There was power in the air, but Gerard matched it easily in the way he held his shoulders, the proud incline of his inky head. His gaze was cool, like he saw the world through fathomless green glass.
Paolo led the way down another carpeted hallway — I realized the house was far bigger than it looked from outside — and stopped outside a plain wood door at the very end.
“—our quota for next week, sir? The shipment for New York isn’t ready yet, the van got tied up at customs—”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll get on the phone and solve everything.”
Paolo raised his fist and knocked hesitantly.
“Come in,” said a low voice. The door opened, and I came face-to-face with a boy almost as short as me. He was ghostly pale, with sky-blue eyes and long, spiky black hair. His wrists were covered in studded bracelets that didn’t quite hide the track marks. Lean muscle moved under his ragged t-shirt and black leather pants, and tattoos spiraled up his arms to his neck. I got the impression of someone who tried hard to hide their past and didn’t quite succeed. He wasn’t just another angst-laden Goth kid, not by a long shot. But he looked almost normal as he cracked a smile at my bruised face.
“Padrone,” Paolo said reverently. The boy dismissed him with a wave of his hand before turning to us and fixing his full attention on me. His eyes were disconcertingly intense, all blue with no variation in color; I felt like I was under a microscope, and shrank back against Gerard’s solid body.
“Damn,” he drawled, sounding remarkably like my boyfriend. “I’d hit that in a heartbeat. Except it looks like someone else got there first.”
“That’s why we’re here,” Bob said softly, but the boy didn’t look away.
“You must be Frank,” he murmured. His voice was hoarse, but somehow friendly. He stuck out his hand for me to shake. “I’m Matt. Gerard speaks very highly of you.” The humorous tilt of his eyebrows suggested something more. He gazed at me for a minute more before snapping out of it. “But I’m being rude, and you must be tired. Make yourselves at home.”
Matt beckoned us into what I realized must be his office, leaning up against his desk and pouring drinks into crystal glasses. He and Gerard kept up a steady stream of conversation, but Bob was silent (even for Bob), shuffling his feet on the Persian carpet and just staring at the boy who used to be his friend. I watched the two bantering back and forth, and I could see exactly why they were still drawn to each other — both of them had that charisma, that effortless charm. Dark and slick and dangerous, magnetic. Each word held weight, an almost manic intensity. They made the plain white room look like a scene from a movie. And yet there was no denying their relationship was weird. Matt slapped Gerard’s ass; Gerard threatened to cut all his coke with bleach; they wrestled playfully and seemed to touch each other more than most friends would. Actually, a lot more, I couldn't help thinking as Gerard forced his fingers into his friend's mouth to feel his lip ring.
I guess that’s what you get when you put two twisted individuals together.
“You like my operation, Frank?” Matt asked, taking a sip of bourbon. I followed out of courtesy, letting the bitter taste wash over me without flinching. “I put it together out of nothing, after I got out of rehab. Got in touch with my old dealers, learned Italian online. I used to think that line they feed you, about having the willpower to change your life, was utter bullshit. But I achieved something worthwhile, I think; a business that runs like a well-oiled machine. I Falchi, the Falcons.”
“It seems like a lot of fun,” I replied honestly. I knew there were downsides, of course — running from the cops, doing time in jail and dealing with cokeheads couldn’t be a walk in the park — but from what I’d seen so far, it seemed like an interesting lifestyle.
“We have our good times,” he chuckled. “It’s hard work, but it’s honest work, and it’s an interesting way to make a living. College was never really for me, you know. I don’t need a diploma that says I’m intelligent, and anyway, I hear it’s just like high school all over again. I’m making half a million a year, just dealing with La Cosa Nostra and our friends across the border.”
“You’re also the youngest man on the FBI’s most wanted list,” Gerard added worriedly. “There’s a price on your head; you can’t go outside without bodyguards; you could die tomorrow in a raid by a rival gang. The fear must eat you alive.”
“I’m an adrenaline junkie,” he said, smiling. “The more stress in my life, the more pressure all around me, the more I thrive. I kicked hard drugs, but I still get off on the rush of doing something I know I might die for. There’s so much money, Gerard, so many girls and guys — it’s not perfect, but for now, it’ll do. Especially when I can grant favors to some old friends, huh? Whatever you need, it’s yours. I’m only sorry you have to ask.”
“The gracious host, as always,” Bob said. Matt directed his laser-bright eyes towards him instead. He tipped his head to the side, as if genuinely puzzled.
“I know I haven’t talked to you guys in a while, Bobby. But I did what I had to; it wasn’t my choice. I didn’t want you to see me all coked up and shaking, and I didn’t want you to visit until I had something I was proud of to show you.” He smoothed his hands over the legs of his pants, glancing up at Gerard. There was respect in his eyes, surprisingly. “What can do I to show you I still care?”
“Talk to Liza,” Bob said flatly. “She’s the only one who still gives a damn about your well-being. And you tossed her away like she meant nothing; the one kid who would love you no matter how bad you fucked up. You owe me nothing, but you owe her a lot.” He bit his lip when he’d spoken his piece.
Matt was silent for a moment. “What about you, Gerard? I know you have some affairs to settle with a certain delinquent. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t need my help.” A trace of bitterness crept into his voice. “You never want me anymore.”
“Jason Bateman,” Gerard said, enunciating every syllable carefully. I watched a muscle tighten in his jaw, but he was almost pleading. “He put my boy in the hospital, Matt, nearly killed him. And for what reason? He was brave enough to stand up for himself on his first day at a new school and refuse to let people call him a faggot? This is the third time he’s been attacked; I don’t know why, but Jason has some kind of psycho death warrant out on Frank. I have a reputation to uphold. You don’t just do that and get away with it.”
Matt shrugged languidly. “What’s the problem, then? You take a tour of his house in the dead of night with a switchblade, fix his mother’s mistake eighteen years too late.”
“You think I haven’t thought about it?” Gerard let out a short, mirthless laugh. “Hell, I fucking dream about the look I’m gonna see on his face when I kill him. The problem is, half the school’s hangin’ on his every word. Things were different when you were there; now, he owns the place. I could kill him myself, but I’d be on the run for the rest of my life, and why would it even matter when another thick-headed neo-Nazi's just gonna fill his place? I need a change, Matty, and a big one at that. And one person alone can never make a change. I don’t care if I have to be the one they all bow down to, I will not allow my friends to get hurt.”
“Amen, sister.” Matt laughed. “That fool Brandon was the reason I started cutting class. Every step of the way, it was them, and I was just too weak to say no. I’d do anything to get revenge on them for that, spread the joy around a little.”
“Good.” Gerard nibbled on his full lower lip. “I don’t need anything just yet, I just wanted to be sure there would be guys around in the event of an uprising. It’s no good organizing a revolution with no soldiers. What I really need—”
“—is guards,” Matt finished for him. “I’d say two full-time for your house, in case you and Michael go out separately, or someone breaks in. Ray and...and Liza live in an okay part of town, we already have night watchmen posted there. Bob, you still have that elaborate alarm system?”
“I’m safe,” he said evasively.
“Fair enough. Does that sound okay? I assume you’re living at La Casa de Way for the moment, Frank?” He blinked rapidly, transfixing me once again with that unsettling stare. There was something about those eyes, dead, like a shark’s. Or more that there was something deeply messed up behind them. He was gorgeous, but scary, like Gerard without the few soft spots I’d come to love about him.
“I—I think so,” I stammered. “But can I make a special request?”
“Can you get someone to watch over my mom? Please? Linda Iero, she’s thirty-six, black hair, blue eyes. I can give you our address. I just worry when she comes home late from work and stays in the house alone.”
To my surprise, he nodded understandingly. “Of course. I’ll put my best man on it. I loved my mother, and my dad too, before he kicked me out. I know how important it is that they’re safe, no matter how much danger you’re in.” His eyes grew sympathetic, boring into mine. There was something so basic about him, that made you just want to get sucked in and communicate, share some kind of bond. “Frankie, you have my word no harm will come to her.”
Matt walked us out through the confusing corridors of his palatial home. When we reached the door, he wrapped me in an unexpected hug. I squeaked as his strong biceps tightened around my chest.
“You shouldn’t hold him like that,” Bob said, irritated. “You’ll crush his ribs.”
“Thanks, grandpa.” Matt rolled his eyes as he released me. Truthfully, I hadn’t minded; he smelled like lemon, clean and biting. “The kid’s tougher than he looks, you know. Jason's already used him as a punching bag; one hug isn’t going to break him. Is it, Frankie?”
Gerard stepped easily between us and embraced his friend before I could answer. “Goodbye, Matt,” he whispered, pressing a less-than chaste kiss to the other boy’s cheek. “I’ll keep an eye out for you.”
He muttered something in return. It sounded like “Don’t forget the good times.” We emerged into the sharp night, the grass under our feet crackling with frost. My ribs were throbbing, my back ached and each bruise felt like it was welling up with blood. “My men will be out on the streets,” Matt called after us. “They’ll be the damn fine foreigners.” A cheer went up from the dark figures pacing the lawn.
Gerard popped up the collar of his leather jacket against the cold. “Come on, baby, you’re asleep on your feet. I’ll carry you home.”
As he walked me down the street, I looked over my shoulder and saw two shadows separate from the darkness and fall into step half a block behind us. But this time, the strangers were comforting, not monstrous.
Hi! Sorry this took me so long. Fact of the matter is my life is fucking crazy right now and I wasn’t working on this over break and now I have So. Much. Work. but I’ll do my best to update consistently at least once every two weeks (realistically, that’s all I can promise until the end of January). I like to be proud of what I put out there for other people to read, and sometimes I just don’t have any ideas. Sorry if you’re not riveted by my complicated schedule ;) I think this story’s drawing to a close...I’ve been planning four more (epic) chapters, and then I’ll start work on something else, which you’ll hopefully enjoy. For this chapter, I like “Popular” by Nada Surf. That’s a fantastic song if you haven’t heard it. And “Baby’s Arms” by Kurt Vile, which kind of captures this relationship perfectly from Gerard’s point of view. The words go ‘There has been but one true love/In my baby’s arms/I get sick of just about everyone/And I hide in my baby’s arms’. Take my word for it, it’s pretty. Do any of you actually go off and listen to these? I wonder...Hopefully you’ll be so happy about this chapter you’ll R&R the hell out of it, which is all I ever ask. Stay thirsty, my friends. Xo b_b