Gerard stayed in his room for the majority of the morning. Ray almost considered bursting through the door and knocking him unconscious just to change the bandages on his arms, because he wouldn't let anyone near him. He didn't yell for his friends to go away or threaten them with some form of violence. The cold, still silence from within was enough warning.
Mikey knocked on the door around ten, but still there was no answer. He reached for the door handle, but it moved of its own accord. He found himself looking into Gerard's tired face.
"...Could you move?" the black-haired teen murmured lazily. Mikey realized he was standing in the way and hastily stepped aside. Gerard stumbled past him, feet dragging on the floor as he slowly made his way downstairs. His younger brother hesitantly looked into the room, seeing no new blood, only several scattered and crumpled pieces of paper. He sighed silently. Gerard had only been drawing. That was a good sign.
Mikey heard a crash and several yells come from downstairs. He quickly made his way down the flight of steps, flying past his brother, and followed the yelling to the kitchen.
"Frank, you know you're not allowed near the stove," said Ray in annoyance. Frank was trying to contain his laughter.
"What happened?" Mikey asked breathlessly.
"Frank tried to make pancakes," Alicia said with a sigh. "He almost caught your house on fire."
"Mikey, who is that?" Mikey saw his brother standing a few feet away from him. The usual dark look had returned to his eyes.
"Alicia Simmons," said the girl, walking over to him with a kind smile. He continued to glare at her.
"What are you doing here?" Gerard asked menacingly. The words were sharp and biting, but Alicia didn't seem to notice. Mikey started to say something, but before he could do so, the girl spoke again.
"I'm his girlfriend," she said nonchalantly. Gerard's eyes narrowed as he switched his gaze to his brother. For a second Mikey thought he was going to hurt the girl, but instead he turned away and walked back up the stairs. The yelling and laughter between Frank and Ray had since gone silent.
"Wow," said Frank in numb shock. Alicia turned back to face him.
"What?" she asked. Frank just blinked a few times, then shook his head and unfroze.
"You just stood up to Gerard."
Bob stared at the board with glazed eyes. He couldn't seem to focus on anything at all. Every time he tried to think, his thoughts drifted back to Mikey. True, Gerard was okay. But if he had reverted to his old ways, Mikey could be in danger.
By the time the lunch bell rang, he couldn't take the suspense any longer. He slipped out the door when the rest of the school had swarmed to the lunchroom, and briskly walked down the street toward the Way house.
Ray had just finished scraping the last of the pancake batter off the ceiling when the doorbell rang. He looked out the window, but he couldn't see who it was.
"I'll get it," Gerard said in a barely audible voice. He seemed to appear out of the shadows surrounding the doorway, as if he had become one of them himself. His dark form fluidly moved toward the door and opened it, letting bright sunlight flood the area around him and dissolve the shadows away. He recoiled slightly from the light's intensity and blinked a few times to see who it was.
"Bob?" he asked in a low voice. Bob nodded.
"I came to see if you were okay," he said uneasily, growing uncomfortable under Gerard's hazel-eyed gaze. The older teen stepped aside and let him walk by, eager to close the door before the sunlight blinded him.
"Where's Mikey?" the eighth grader asked. Gerard pointed him towards the living room and immediately walked the other direction. Bob shrugged and hesitantly walked into the room, approaching the sofa. He smiled softly at what he saw.
Mikey's arms were wrapped around a sleeping Alicia. He looked like he was about to lose consciousness as well. Bob decided not to disturb them, so he left and went into the kitchen, finding Ray climbing down from a ladder.
"Do I even want to know?" the eighth grader asked, startling the older teen.
"Probably not, but I'll tell you anyway. Frank plus pancakes equals me cleaning the results off the ceiling," Ray said with a smirk. Bob laughed.
"You look tired," he said upon seeing Ray yawn.
"I think all of us are," said Frank, entering the room holding a sandwich. It was the only food he could make without being forcefully thrown out of the room. "Especially Mikey. He just crashed."
"How much have I missed?" asked a raspy voice from the other side of the wall separating the kitchen from the dining room. Its owner seemed to be speaking to himself. "How could I not have noticed?"
Frank, Ray, and Bob exchanged glances. It was Gerard. He sounded like he had been crying.
"My brother has a girlfriend... How could I not have seen that? It's like I...I don't even exist anymore..." They heard him choke on his words, almost like he was sobbing. "I need to stop, but I just can't..." A black blur suddenly went flying past them and out the front door. Frank tried to go after him, but Ray held him back.
"He needs to be alone for a while. Get his mind sorted out. He'll only run away further if we follow him."
"I don't trust him, Ray," said Frank, shaking his head. "He's gonna do something bad. Something he's gonna regret. I can feel it."
"Should we tell Mikey?" asked Bob. "He's gonna panic when he finds out." Ray shook his head.
"Gerard will come back if we wait for a while," he said with certainty. "He just needs some time alone." Frank seemed frozen and unsure of what to do, but he finally retreated to the living room to watch TV, careful not to wake Mikey and Alicia. Ray followed him while Bob walked over to the front windows, glancing up at the sky. Lead gray clouds were starting to roll in and block out the sun, and he could see trees moving from the wind that was beginning to blow.
Bob had not lived in New Jersey very long. But he had seen his share of harsh storms in Chicago, especially ones where rain and wind seemed to come out of nowhere. Whenever one hit, everyone raced inside for safety as the raindrops and lightning tore through the sky. Going outside in a storm like that would be suicide.
This was going to be one of those storms. He knew it.
He opened the door.