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have you heard the news that you're dead, in the leaves, tired
Part One | Index

***

The next morning, for the first time in years, Gerard actually woke up on his own. No alarm or mother screeching, just the morning sun, hanging at the perfect angle to flood his room. He suddenly jerked up in bed, out of a spider dream of bloated black widows, tangled in hot damp sheets. For a moment he blinked in the light, and had no idea where he was, where he’d woken up. Then he got to realize all over again that he was trapped in fucking Vermont, that he had to walk to school, that Mikey wasn’t in the next room and that Gabe and Pete weren’t in any of his classes. That his day was stretching hopelessly long in front of him.

“Fuuuuuck,” he groaned into his pillow, and made a valiant effort to go back to sleep. Useless. He opened one eye and glared hatefully at the giant bay window. First thing tonight, he was getting a bucket of black paint and covering that shit up.

He finally just staggered downstairs and prodded the coffee maker for a while until it looked like it was working, then stood zombie-like, watching the pot slowly fill. He really didn’t want to deal with high school bullshit today. He wasn’t eager to stage a repeat of yesterday’s morning encounter. Either he could go in really early and hide out somewhere Ted couldn’t find him, or he could go in really late and skitter into Geometry at the last minute.

Fuck. Geometry. He collected his coffee and settled down at the table with his homework assignment, graphing sine waves and adding tiny demon snowboarders to the slopes. He wished more math involved drawing shit. They’d already covered this twice back in Belleview, so he finished the assignment pretty quickly, and then there was nothing to do but finish off the pot of Folgers and glare balefully out the window at the sunny street.

Before he left—just late enough to miss the first bell by a minute or two, he hoped—he looked in the mirror for a while. A long greenish bruise was forming along his lower jaw where Ted had slammed him into the truck, and the corner of his mouth had scabbed over, dark red and scaly. How attractive. He hesitated a moment before pulling out his Sephora coal-black eye pencil and ringing his eyes, thicker today. Never let them see you’re scared, right?

Outside, the wind had finally died down and the sky was perfectly clear, that kind of cloud-free bright blue that only came during the fall. The streets were almost totally empty; a distant car puttered across an intersection two blocks down and disappeared, but other than that no one was out. Next door he could see some lady peering out of her curtains at him and making cursory window-cleaning gestures with a checkered cloth as she stared, like that wasn’t totally creepy. Gerard did a little finger wave at her and the curtains swirled shut immediately.

“Weeeird fucking town,” Gerard muttered to himself, and kept walking.

There was still a sizable population of students milling around in the parking lot when he got there, but no sign of Sikowski or his deluded minions. His truck was still there as an antler-bedecked reminder, though. Gerard was sorely tempted to deface it. Maybe spit on it or something. People keyed cars, right? It might be better to come late one morning and cover it with pink bows and gay pride stickers. The downside of that was the fact that the culprit would be fairly obvious, and then Ted would beat the shit out of him.

Mrs. Hall was thrilled to see him. Apparently the homework was actually due Thursday, and so he’d inadvertently done it early. Because he needed to look like that much more of a geek. Ted was predictably dickish about it, but the guy next to him, Letter Jacket #2, Isaac Barrows, or something, was genuinely scowling at Gerard and muttering about him being a fucking show-off. Whatever.

Luckily Ted wasn’t sitting next to Gerard and couldn’t harass him as directly as he had the day before, but Gerard still had to spend the period listening to him snickering about god knew what. The fact that girls had breasts, probably. He’d run into Ted enthusiastically making out with some chick before class, and that seemed to be featuring prominently in the conversation. Gerard didn’t want to know what Ted had gotten up to last night. Even Geometry was better than listening to that.

Gerard scuttled out of class soon as Mrs. Hall dismissed them, narrowly avoiding collision with the short squat ball player, the one with, seriously, a face that looked like an Easter Island monolith. He could have sworn the dude fucking growled at him. Before he could adequately compose a response—the people here were fucking rabid, he knew it—Ray emerged from the stairwell and immediately made a bee-line towards Gerard. Gerard stared at him. Ray was still smiling, huge and irrepressible. The contrast in attitudes was mind-boggling.

“Gerard, hey! What’s up, man, how was your first day?”

“Um, kinda shitty,” Gerard said apologetically, hiking his bag up on his shoulder. Ray’s his smile faltered a bit, and then he seemed to shake himself, perking back up.

“Yeah, well,” Ray said, grinning again—it was only 9:30, Gerard thought, squinting at Ray. He really had to find out where Ray got his crack-laced coffee, and then steal it for his own. “It is school. It’ll get better, dude, first days always suck.”

“Maybe,” Gerard said doubtfully, but regardless of Ray’s eerie amounts of energy, he was glad the guy was there, because he’d gotten totally turned around and would never have found his way to the English room in time on his own. Maybe Ray was, like, a psychic vampire, Gerard mused, stealing energy from the general populace. People who smiled before noon could not possibly be human. It was a fact. Although Ray seemed way too perky for a vampire.

They reached room 207 and lounged against the taupe wall, waiting for the bell to ring. “We’ve got about five minutes before class starts,” Ray said, running a hand over his head and apparently trying to smooth down his hair, which, to be frank, was a lost cause. “Do you know anything about Byron, because I totally forgot to do the reading last night. I was messing around with a friend and we got this really sweet guitar and drum thing worked out on GarageBand, but it was like two before I got to bed, you know?”

“Byron is awesome,” Gerard gushed before he could stop himself, and then figured, what the hell. Ray seemed pretty nerdy anyway, so he let himself ramble on about Childe Harold and Don Juan and the gobs of sex Byron had probably had with Percy and Mary Shelley, how’d they’d written their own versions of German ghost stories in the midst of their wild orgies.

“But, uh. Carew probably won’t care about most of that,” Gerard said, raising his voice as the bell rang. “Just talk about Byronic heroes being the precursor to the modern anti-hero, and you’re good, probably.”

“Damn,” Ray said, raising an eyebrow. He’d actually seemed interested in the whole thing, which was unexpected. Gerard was sort of used to people tuning him out when he rambled.

Ray steered them over to the far right side of the classroom and sort of pushed Gerard at the front row. Normally Gerard would have objected—he was definitely more a back-corner-of-the-room sorta guy, but he saw what Ray was doing when he put a notebook down on the desk to Gerard’s left and then took the desk behind Gerard for himself, forming a sort of protective barricade between Gerard and the rest of the class.

When Ray saw Gerard looking at the notebook he nodded, grinning. “Savin’ a place for Bob. Bob’s good people, you’ll like him.” Gerard was more worried about Bob liking him, but he was still touched that Ray was at least trying to seclude him from the class assholes. He’d probably still be harassed, but it was nice of Ray to try. Deluded, but nice.

Other students were filtering into the room now, and Gerard kept his eyes on his desk. Someone with the initials RT guitared BB. Interesting. Then he heard Ray Toro’s squeaky voice, “Sorry, guys, seat’s taken.”

Gerard glanced up and to his shock saw one of the assholes from yesterday receding resentfully as a tallish blonde walked up and took the seat next to Gerard. He handed Ray back his notebook and nodded briefly to Gerard.

“You must be Gerard. Toro told me about you,” the guy said placidly, an amused glint in his eyes. “I’m Bob Bryar. You should join the band.”

“But I can’t play anything!” Gerard responded automatically, just as Ray said, “Hey, Gerard, tell Bob about the Byronic hero! Bob, he’s totally an English genius, check it out.”

Gerard was saved from replying by Mr. Carew strolling to the front of the classroom and squinting out at all the students, slapping a ruler against his pants. He looked startlingly like a drill sergeant for a fifty-year old man in a red Hawaiian shirt. Gerard slumped low in his chair and shook his bangs into his eyes, trying to look invisible as Carew started firing out random questions to the class.

“We should have sat in the back!” Gerard hissed at Ray as they left the class an hour later. “Then Carew wouldn’t notice when I gave you the answers.”

Ray shook his head at Gerard. “Nah, that’s asking for trouble, dude. Sikowski’d freak out if we took his seats. Gotta run to French, see you guys at lunch!” And then Ray was wandering off through the hall, hair towering over the crowd of students.

“C’mon,” Bob said, giving Gerard a small grin, and then stared blankly and terrifyingly at one of the smaller jocks that had just slammed his shoulder hard into Gerard’s side. The jock sort of squeaked and scurried off. Gerard was in awe. And in love. He totally got why Ray guitared Bob. “I’m in your History class,” Bob continued, setting off down the hallway, Gerard following gratefully in his wake. “You know as much about the French-Indian War as you do about Gothic romance?”

Gerard scowled. “I hate American history,” he grumbled. “European history is so much better. They have castles, and druids, and fucking knights in shining armor, you know?” The only part of US history that was worthwhile involved Blondie and Doc Holliday, and unfortunately most classes tended to ignore the Sergio Leone and Tombstone aspects.

“Cool,” Bob said. “I always take a nap in this class anyway.”

Yesterday, Ted had spent the whole of U.S. History taking advantage of the teacher’s tendency to read directly from her lecture notes (seriously, Gerard thought it’d take an act of Congress or nuclear war for Mrs. Gist to look up) to jostle Gerard’s desk every three seconds and whisper nastily and throw things in Gerard’s hair. But Bob Bryar was apparently goon-repellant, because even though Bob did, as promised, fall asleep ten minutes into the lecture, the jocks only threw like three spitballs and mainly stayed quiet.

Gerard used the time to color all his fingernails black with a sharpie and to work on his Mikey Way: Unicorn Warrior cartoon. He’d gotten up to the point where Mikey had entered the space station lair of Steve the Solar Bonobo when the bell rang for the end of class. Bob stretched and looked down at Gerard’s notebook.

“Pretty sweet,” Bob commented. “Is that monkey on fire?”

“No, he is fire,” Gerard explained as he started cramming his stuff back into the bag. “He’s a solar flare brought to life by the wishes of his captive brethren back on Earth, subjected to animal testing and cruel commercial acting.”

“Chimps do sorta get short shrift,” Bob agreed. “C’mon, the cafeteria’ll run out of fries if we’re late.”

Yesterday Gerard had refrained from going to lunch and instead hid in the library, flipping through his September copy of Fangoria and furtively drinking the Diet Coke he’d brought from home. The cafeteria of any high school was always a wretched hive of scum and villainy, best to avoid if at all possible. Today, though, Bob just inexorably steered him through the room, totally unconcerned by the glaring eyes from the letter-jackets-only table and the people whispering as they passed. No one bothered them. It was awesome. Bob was a total Jedi.

Gerard wasn’t actually that hungry, though, and the food all looked sort of foul, but by that time Ray had joined up with them in the line and begun prattling about healthy diets and vitamins, so Gerard rolled his eyes and grabbed a greenish orange to go with his bottle of diet coke. While he wasn’t looking, a plate of antique, pre-WWII spaghetti snuck onto his tray. Gerard looked at Ray. Ray widened his eyes and shrugged, all, What? Plate of spaghetti? I don’t see any plate of spaghetti.

Bob shook his head. “It’s easier to humor him, Way. Go with it. And seriously, get the fries.”

Ray leaned over Gerard’s shoulder and said airily, “Yeah, it’s easier to humor him, Gerard. Just go with it, get the fries.”

A brief scuffle broke out, so Gerard sighed and in the interests of keeping the peace, grabbed a little checkered boat of the french fries. He really wasn’t hungry, but he figured he could just give them to Bob later.

The cafeteria was dank and dark, with a low ceiling and flickering fluorescent lights, and also filled with sneering faces. Gerard had been looking around for Frank all day, but he didn’t see anyone short and hyper and covered with tattoos in here, so he wasn’t too bothered when Ray and Bob headed outside to go eat lunch next to the band room.

Gerard squinted in the sun as they exited the cafeteria. Fuck, he was actually enjoying the fresh air. Much more time in this town and he’d probably turn into some obsessed nature lover and go hiking and climb mountains and shit. And then he’d fall off the mountains and die. He felt a vague resignation to this series of events.

There was a giant maple tree next to the band room, and the picnic tables beneath it were strewn with bright red leaves and those little helicopter seeds. A few kids were loitering around, some sitting on the tree’s roots and balancing their lunch trays on their knees, others eating at the rickety wooden picnic tables.

“Don’t worry,” Ray said, completely misinterpreting Gerard’s nervousness. “When it rains we have these beach umbrellas that we found in the band storage room, and we rig them to the tables. It works pretty well until it gets cold—then we usually invade the library.”

“You eat out here when it rains?” Gerard replied, horrified. Oh god, he was probably going to be eating grubs and acorns before the week was out. “Why does the band room have beach umbrellas? The beach is like a hundred miles from here.”

“For the rain,” Bob said mildly, and set his tray down on the warped wooden table. “Hey Patrick, Worm. This is Gerard.”

A diminutive guy wearing a trucker hat and a blank expression looked up from the sheets of music he was scribbling on and mumbled hello before turning back to his paper, the brim of his hat hiding his eyes.

“Hey,” the bigger guy said, toying with his bottle of orange juice and smiling. He had some killer tattoos, Gerard noticed. Maybe he knew Frank. “I’m Worm, French horn. Patrick plays everything; drums, sax, guitar. You’re the new senior, right? You play anything?”

“Yeah, I’m a senior,” Gerard said and sat down at the far edge of the table next to Ray. Ray and Bob were both leaning over across the table and poking at Patrick’s sheet music, debating whether the staccato in the third measure was too much. “And, no, I don’t play anything. Besides, like, the kazoo. But, um. Sometimes I sing?”

This was an exaggeration. Gerard sang in the shower, and to Mikey, and in seventh and eighth grade he’d been the lead tenor for the chorus group, but in high school he’d abandoned extracurricular activities in favor of drawing comics in the basement. All the guys perked up, though, and Gerard realized he may have made a tactical error as they leaned towards him, eyes eager.

“Oh, yeah? Patrick sings too, he’s phenomenal. Too bad we don’t have chorus here,” Worm said over Patrick’s denials. “Mr. Curtis is thinking of adding a vocals section to the band, though, you should definitely audition if he does.”

Gerard frowned and poked at the helicopter seed that had landed on the arm of his hoodie, picked it up and watched it twirl off in the light breeze to land in a drift of leaves near Bob’s foot. “Uh, maybe,” he said, avoiding eye contact. “I dunno.”

“How do you like Glen Fell?” Patrick interjected with an expression of solidarity, cutting off an enthusiastic-looking Ray who’d already started to rattle something about try-outs and practice sessions. “I know it’s pretty small.”

Gerard pondered how to respond to this blatant understatement.

“Really fucking small, you mean,” Bob said, snorting and stealing one of Gerard’s fries. Gerard gloated a little at the success of his plan. Now he just had to stealthily slip his spaghetti, noodle by disgusting noodle, under the table. Ray would never notice. He’d cover up the evidence with dead leaves.

“It is a little smaller than I’m used to,” Gerard admitted, twirling the rubbery spaghetti with his fork. “I keep thinking the townspeople are gonna come up and ask me to join their lottery and, like, fucking stone me to death in the town square or something.”

Just as he was freaking out that that had maybe, just maybe, been a little bit insensitive, Patrick snorted into his chocolate milk.

“Yeah,” Patrick said, looking up at Gerard and smiling crookedly, “We’ve definitely got that wholesome Norman Rockwell creepiness going on. Just wait ‘til you see the corn mazes. About fifteen of them pop up around Halloween.”

Ray, who was diligently cutting his spaghetti into manageable portions and chewing carefully, swallowed and nodded earnestly. “Yeah, man, I got lost in one of those mazes when I was six. Scarred for life, man. I can’t even eat creamed corn now.”

“And,” Worm said conspiratorially, “he totally had to be excused from class when we were watching Children of the Corn during English last Halloween.”

Ray tossed one of his fries at Worm’s head, scowling. “It’s fucking creepy, dude. Little kids and corn will never not be creepy.”

Gerard secretly agreed with Ray. Little kids were totally sinister, and there was no way in hell he was ever going into a cornfield without a giant mirror on a stick, or a gun, or someone else to climb on top of. He wondered if Frank liked the corn mazes, if he went to the local ‘Halloween Extravaganza.’ There were black and orange posters for it all throughout town, some already ragged and flapping in the breeze, promising hay rides, a haunted house run by the local baseball team—Gerard could safely say that he’d be sitting that one out—and, this was the best part: a greased pole with a Grand Prize for whoever could climb to the top of it. Norman Rockwell had nothing on this shit.

Bob was nodding along. “Ray’s just traumatized because he had to teach the Laughlins’ kids the mandolin that weekend.”

“Ohhhhh,” Patrick said in understanding, grinning. “The WASPs in training. Gotcha. Probably they have nothing to do with devil-worship, though. The kids seem sweet.”

Ray muttered into his coke bottle, scowling darkly.

“Anyway, besides the occasional escape attempt by McEwan’s cattle, there’s really nothing that exciting about the townfolk, promise. No serial killers or Satanists or anything,” Patrick continued, eyes back on the musical notation in front of him, frowning thoughtfully.

Bob stole another fry from Gerard. “Well, there was Mary Jenkins. She shot her husband, right?”

Worm rolled his eyes expressively as Gerard perked up. “In the twenties,” Worm said pointedly.

“Yeah,” Bob admitted. “Still. Happened here. And there were those two girls in, what, 1980? They had that suicide pact and both jumped of the Pequannock Bridge and drowned. That was pretty fucking creepy. Oh, that that one kid who disappeared before I moved here. You knew him, right, Toro?”

“Yeah,” Ray said, putting his fork down and resting his hand on his chin. “Yeah, he took guitar lessons from my mom when I was a kid. He always stayed late to jam with me, gave me these great CDs. Bowie, Black Flag, the Clash. God, I thought that guy totally wrote the book on cool, you know?”

“And this guy disappeared?” Gerard said, fascinated. The suicide girls were cool enough, but this had the unmistakable and irresistible allure of an unsolved mystery. It wasn’t a vampire cult or alien abductions and mysterious crop circles, but he still felt vaguely validated. The town was clearly a font of evil.

“Yeah, he missed school one day and just never showed up again,” Ray said, shredding a napkin and frowning. “It was a big deal. There were searches with dogs and police and everything. He had all these music scholarships, there was no way he’d have run away, and he was gonna graduate that spring. It’s fucking sad, you know?”

Patrick was nodding, shoving his sheet music into his bookbag and picking up his tray. “I remember that. It really was a big deal. I mean, I didn’t know what was going on or anything, I was only six, but my parents were part of the search party and I had to stay with Mrs. Jules every night for like two weeks. Brussels sprouts for dinner each night.”

“So this guy just vanished without a trace?” Gerard asked, covering the remains of his lunch subtly with a paper napkin and standing up as the rest of the band guys prepared to go.

“Yeah,” Ray said quietly. “Just, suddenly. Gone. Hey, Gerard, did you actually even eat anything? Here, at least eat my roll, jeez, your blood sugar must be hell by now.”

Bob groaned and hit Ray in the back of the head. “Seriously, ignore him,” he told Gerard. “His dad’s a nutritionist at the Trumbull Center—he was warped at a young age.”

They were all heading back into the cafeteria to dump off their trays when one of the younger band girls, who’d been looming around their table all throughout lunch, cornered Patrick by the milk dispenser. Ray and Bob were grinning to each other and Patrick was blushing furiously. Gerard fell back a little, feeling abruptly like an outsider all over again. He was just searching his pockets for his phone to send Mikey a text when the raised voices at the other end of the cafeteria caught his attention.

There was some commotion in the hall in front of the cafeteria. A few kids seemed nervous, but most of the bystanders just looked amused. For once, no one was paying much attention to Gerard—all focus was on this skinny little kid Gerard had seen near the band room earlier. He was wearing what Gerard could only assume was an un-ironic red bandana, cowboy style around his neck, which was sort of awesome. Currently he was staring at the ground, cheeks red and jaw clenched, as he mechanically gathered up his spilled notebooks and papers. He was clearly a freshman—there was no way he was more than thirteen—and as Gerard watched, Ted, jeering, dropped a can of soda next to the kid, soaking most of the books.

“What the fuck,” Gerard said, outraged.

It’s not like he didn’t know he was being a moron, somewhere in the back of his brain, but it took a backseat to the rising indignation. He stalked past Ted, who did a double-take, and crouched down amid the soggy papers. The crowd of students around them made a collective noise, a drawn out ohhhh that was the universal signal for ‘crazy shit’s about to go down.’

Gerard hated people.

“You okay?” he asked the kid, who promptly glared at him, blushed, and looked away. Actually, he seemed younger than thirteen. Maybe twelve, Christ. Gerard ignored Ted, who was saying something generic about faggots and cocksucking. “Here, let me help.”

The papers were running with ink, clinging to the sticky floor, and Gerard manfully resisted the urge to try reading them—it was clearly some sort of poetry or lyrics, which probably explained why the local Heteronormative Gender Roles Patrol was after him. He was so sick of this fucking backwards, repressed town, and he’d been here two days. God, this poor kid had probably been here years. Gerard couldn’t even imagine.

He finally got most of the mess off the linoleum and handed it to the kid, who muttered thank you, never meeting Gerard’s eyes, and peeled off through the crowd at top speed. It was actually sort of impressive, the way he seamlessly melted into the throng of people and disappeared.

Gerard sat back on his heels. He could literally feel Ted’s eyes on his back. He’d always thought that was just an expression, but his skin was literally crawling with the knowledge that Ted was staring at him. Then he actually did feel something: Ted’s giant smelly fucking foot on his shoulder, shoving him over so that he just barely caught himself with his hands before falling into the puddle of inky soda. He scrambled to his feet and wondered if he could maybe emulate that kid and disappear somehow. He caught sight of Ray at the back of the crowd, and he was staring at Gerard with wide eyes and trying to say something, not that Gerard could fucking hear him. Even his hair looked upset.

“You done with your little fuckbuddy, now? Should have known you fags would stick together,” Ted sneered.

Gerard glared at Ted from under his bangs and fumed. Fucking asshole. He tried to edge past Ted towards freedom, but Ted caught him by the elbow, and apparently swinging baseball bats was good conditioning for squeezing the fuck out of someone’s arm. Gerard tried to twist loose and Ted tightened his grip.

“What the fuck’s your problem?” Gerard gritted out. “What the fuck did that kid ever do to you?”

“I don’t know who the fuck you think you are, princess,” Ted drawled, right up in Gerard’s face, close enough that his breath was gross and moist on Gerard’s cheek. Gerard recoiled backwards, wrenching free of Ted’s grip. Over Ted’s shoulder, he saw one of the teachers, the gym coach, maybe, look their way, smirk, and then deliberately turn around and keep walking. Fantastic.

“You really can’t take a hint, can you?” Isaac drawled from behind him. “Most people would have by now.”

“You don’t understand how things work around here,” Ted said, still entirely too close for comfort. “Go back to the city and take it up the ass there, fag, we don’t need that shit here. Take your pansy ass little brother, too. Hear he don’t breathe so good? Too fucking bad.”

Distantly Gerard could see Ray and Bob fighting their way through the crowd towards him, but they seemed very far away.

“You shut the fuck up about my brother,” he said, chest tight. His blood felt strange and fizzy, like it’d been replaced with carbonated water, or helium, or carbonic acid.

“Oh, who fucking cares,” Ted said, rocking back on his heels and grinning at Gerard, obviously pleased with the reaction he was getting. “Nobody cares if some loser kid dies. Except you, maybe. What, you gonna miss him sucking your cock?”

“You fucker,” Gerard said, fists clenching. He was just about to launch himself and, and—and do something, he didn’t know what, exactly. Pound in Ted’s fucking face, maybe, but Bob suddenly appeared out of nowhere and grabbed him by the arm, hauling backwards. Ray was in front of them, saying something high and defiant, and the crowd was finally breaking up and dispersing. Gerard couldn’t stop shaking. Bob kept pushing him down the hall, looking over his shoulder now and then.

“You okay?” Bob said quietly.

“That fucker,” Gerard said. It was hard to breathe. Little black spots were dancing in front of his eyes. “Who the fuck do they think they fucking are, the Gestapo? Fuck! And where were the fucking teachers? They were totally fucking around with that kid, it’s not fucking right.”

“C’mon, some nice soothing biology will help calm you down, dude,” Bob said, then sighed and pulled Gerard into a stairwell that was mostly empty—they were already late for class. “Look, you gotta be careful with those guys. Their fucking families own this town. It sucks.”

“That doesn’t mean they can just push little kids around and act like they’re the fucking second coming of the Hitler Youth!” Gerard seethed, and strongly considered punching the wall.

Bob looked at Gerard for a moment, and then said, “Yeah. I know. Want to skip class and go play Resident Evil 4?”

Yes,” Gerard said fervently, then registered what Bob had said. It was enough to shock him out of his rage, slightly, that Bob, who seemed seriously cool, actually wanted to hang out with him outside of school. He’d been surprised enough that Frank seemed to like him, and now… Gerard never made friends this easily. He couldn’t decide whether to chalk that up to Glen Fell being weird as hell, or what.

“I mean, yes, but I can’t,” he amended hesitantly. “I told Ray I’d be his partner in biology today. We could see if he wants to skip too, I guess?”

“I can text him, but I’ll tell you right now he’s not gonna. Fucker takes being a responsible student way too seriously.”

Bob stuck his hands in his pockets and grinned at Gerard, and, okay, Gerard felt like maybe he was calming down a little. His legs had stopped shaking, anyway. Bob was good at being quiet, which helped. They shared a cigarette, and Gerard got his phone out to text Mikey. Sometime during the bandana-kid fiasco, Mikey had sent him a picture of what had to be his lunch, some discolored pasta and vegetables, with the caption save me. Another text came while Gerard and Bob were finally heading towards class, taking a roundabout route that avoided the attendance office. Gerard wasn’t too worried about being late for Biology – Mrs. Strobel didn’t care much about tardiness, or anything, it seemed like. He hoped Bob wouldn’t get in trouble though.

srsly bring poptarts ill owe you and petes sendin a pic of hs dck 2 hs entire fonebk bware. God, Pete was such an asshole. Gerard grinned at the phone and Bob raised an eyebrow.

“My brother,” he explained, and decided to leave the explanation about Pete’s exhibitionist tendencies out of it. Then Bob peeled off for Calculus, leaving Gerard to make his way down the hallway, keeping a wary eye out for Ted or one of his friends. Ray was waiting for him in the Biology room, shaking his head.

“I can’t believe you did that!” he exclaimed, dragging Gerard over to his station in the far right corner. “But that was totally awesome; they’ve been giving Ryan a hard time all year. The other band kids try to look out for him, but they can’t be there all the time, you know? And you have to be careful with those guys.”

Gerard stared at the dead frog in front of him, a sad twisted little amphibian corpse, waiting to be torn apart, and felt angry all over again.

“What the fuck ever, those assholes don’t scare me,” he said. He flipped open his notebook and started scrawling down the teacher’s brief, incoherent instructions, pen pushing down too hard and ripping tiny holes in the paper as he wrote.

“I mean, they can’t just fucking do whatever the fuck they want,” he hissed at Ray after the teacher had stopped talking and retreated behind her desk. “It’s not like they’re fucking gods.”

“Not gods, but, like, royalty, I dunno,” Ray said, looking alarmed. “Their families are a big deal in this town. Just, seriously, you have to be careful, okay? That’s all I’m saying.”

Gerard scowled. “Yeah, yeah,” he said, and remembered the look on Ted’s face when he said that shit about Mikey, as though he had any idea what it was like, how fucking awful it was to know his brother was sick and not to be able to do anything about it. His pencil snapped against the paper and he jumped, startled. “Fuck,” he said, and tried to calm himself down. He guessed it was time to get started on the frog, anyway. “Pass me the scalpel?”

Ray looked at him sideways. “No offense, dude, but no.”

Gerard cracked a smile. “Sorry, I’m being kind of an asshole, I guess.”

“Nah,” Ray said. “I totally get why you’re mad. I just don’t know that I want you holding sharp objects right now, you know?”

Gerard supposed that was fair.

“I just made it like fifty times worse for myself, didn’t I,” he said reluctantly, and poked the frog with his tweezers as Ray sliced open its belly. It oozed formaldehyde. Delightful. Still, even if Gerard had just antagonized Ted and his asshole friends again, he didn’t regret it. He knew what it was like to be picked on.

“Um,” Ray said, sticking out his tongue as he tried to make a straight cut. “Look, you just need to stick with us. Safety in numbers. Fuck, I just cut open the stomach, that is seriously gross. Ugh. But yeah, you should meet us by the band room after school, we were gonna meet up at my place and play Guitar Hero after practice, if you want to come.”

“I suck at Guitar Hero,” Gerard said, which came out a little brusquer than he meant it to. Fuck. “Plus I was supposed to meet someone after school. But, uh, thanks. Hey, do you have the lab book? I never picked one up.”

“Yep, and all the notes from the last month, I can make you copies tomorrow in the front office,” Ray said, nudging his own book over with gross, froggy hands. Gerard wrinkled his nose and took the notes gingerly. “So lemme give you my address and you can stop by my house later, if you want. It’s totally easy to get to, just head down Main Street, cross the bridge, and turn left at Maple.”

It was nice of Ray to ask, Gerard thought, staring at their dead frog. He still felt awkward and weird about showing up at Ray’s house, though—he hated interacting with other peoples’ parents; they always looked at him funny and acted like he was going to steal the silver, just because he wore black eyeliner and dyed his hair. Ray seemed pretty awesome, but maybe he was just sorry for him, the poor outcast new kid with the busted lip. Plus, Gerard had promised to meet up with Frank, who he hadn’t seen yet today at all. He frowned. He’d sort of thought Frank would stand out.

Ray accidentally flipped the dead frog over and got formaldehyde everywhere before Gerard could work himself up to asking obliquely about whether he knew any hot tattooed punk kids and if they might be currently, um, dating anyone.

Instead they spent the rest of the period trying to soak the crap up and stuff the stomach back in the frog’s abdominal cavity. It was depressingly clear that they were both going to fail the class, but at least Ray was pretty funny, and a total dork, too. Maybe he and Bob really did want to hang out.

For having just spent an hour staring at a dead frog, Gerard felt strangely better about the whole day.

So, naturally, when he was getting out of his last class, fucking Ted had to come out of fucking nowhere and grab Gerard’s bookbag. It happened so quickly it barely registered, but his bag was gone, and Ted had a stupid shit-eating grin all over his stupid, asshole face as he took off down the hall. Gerard gaped after him for a moment before realizing, fuck, that fucker actually took his bag, what the fuck. He almost lost Ted in the seething exodus of students; Ted passed through the hall effortlessly, but for Gerard it was fucking impenetrable, a wall of arms and torsos and condescending faces.

He finally caught up with him in the parking lot. Ted was smirking, leaning against the dumpster. His hands were empty and Gerard’s bag was nowhere to be seen. Gerard hated Ted so much. Fuck gay pride stickers on his truck, Gerard was going to make up some I LIKE SUCKING GOATS AND LITTLE BOYS stickers and put them on Ted’s face.

“Have fun with that, assclown,” Ted said cheerfully, slapping Gerard on the back. “Fuck with me again, and you’ll get worse.” He winked and stuck his hands in his pockets, sauntering off. Gerard hated him. There were still tons of people in the parking lot, so it wasn’t like Gerard could just go dumpster diving and be done with it. All he needed to cement himself in the lowest caste of the high school hierarchy—if he hadn’t already—would be to rummage around in the garbage in front of the entire school. Although it’d still probably be a more enjoyable experience than actually going to class here. Motherfucker.

He fumbled for his cell phone and checked the time. He supposed while he was waiting for the parking lot to empty, he could go meet with Frank. For all Frank’s bizarre social skills, he was at least friendly, and seemed to genuinely like Gerard’s company. It wasn’t like Gerard was exactly the poster child for normal himself, anyway. He’d just go hang out with Frank, explore some ruins, and if he wound up as a skin suit for a tiny, hot serial killer, well. It was better than going to this fucking school.

Frank was hovering at the edge of the woods, and when he spotted Gerard he beamed and waved enthusiastically.

“You came back!” he whooped, and he sounded fucking esctatic. Gerard smiled helplessly at him, and when Frank launched himself into an attack hug, Gerard was strangely okay with it. Frank let go almost immediately, but still stayed close, nose to nose, so that Gerard was staring down into his eyes and counting his freckles and could tell that Frank smelled strangely musty and sweet and smoky, which made him feel a like a creeper. He took a step backward and laughed awkwardly, trying to cover up the fact that he’d been sniffing Frank’s hair.

“Fuck, I was afraid I’d weirded you out yesterday and you wouldn’t come back,” Frank said, and Gerard bit his lip.

“Well,” he admitted. “I’m pretty fucking weird myself, so. Maybe we can, uh, be weird together?”

He decided against mentioning the serial killer theory, which was good, because Frank looked fucking delighted. He was rocking back and forth on his heels, hands shoved in his pockets, the grin on his face so wide it had to be painful.

“I knew you couldn’t resist me,” he smirked, eyes sparkling. “I’m fucking charming. Who wants to hang out with normal assholes anyway, right?”

He bumped shoulders with Gerard happily, and then started wandering deeper into the forest, tugging a bemused Gerard along by the sleeve. To be honest, Gerard was mainly charmed by the fact that there was someone in the world more socially awkward than he was.

“Seriously, I am so fucking glad you came back, this is going to be awesome,” Frank said, immediately proving the opposite to be true when he dragged Gerard through a patch of leaves, which looked innocent and beautiful and serene on the surface, jagged-edged red maples and round yellow birches, but turned out to have cold water and mud and probably fucking leeches lurking beneath. Frank totally ignored Gerard’s yelling and attempts to escape to higher ground, just plowing straight through until Gerard’s shoes were totally gross and soaked clear through to his skin.

“What the fuck, let me go!” Gerard moaned, trying to yank his sleeve free of Frank’s surprisingly stubborn grip. “Fuck, I can walk by myself, fucker. Let go. Augh, oh my god, this is disgusting.”

“Pfft,” Frank scoffed. “I saw you yesterday. You walked right into a thorn bush. You clearly need a keeper.”

“You dragged me into a mud puddle, asshole!”

“Oh, fuck,” Frank said, looking behind them at the patch of muddy, rucked-up leaves. “So I did. Whoops!” He looked totally unrepentant, because he was clearly a sadistic prick. He’d started giggling, this ridiculous high-pitched laugh that Gerard totally didn’t find cute at all. “Guess I’ll have to start paying better attention to where I’m walking, with you here. Since you’re such a delicate princess and all, I mean.”

Gerard tried to glare at him, but then Frank cunningly distracted him by complimenting the sharpie-black of his fingernails, taking Gerard’s hand and peering at it, and then Gerard was busy fighting a blush and explaining how fucking boring history class was, and what a shitty day he’d had and how he couldn’t believe he was living in a town where people put antlers on their cars, what the fuck was that? Frank commiserated, and went off on a complementary tangent on how hunting was such bullshit, and people should be more aware of what they ate, and how more people should be vegan, or at least go organic.

“There needs to be a new superhero, for, like animal rights or something,” Frank said earnestly. “They could join up with the Justice League.”

“Fuck yeah,” Gerard said, already scrolling through a mental flipbook of superhero designs. “We totally need an eco-terrorist superhero, that’d be badass. Nothing like Captain Planet, that’s too way fucking lame and cutesy. I don’t know, someone fucking edgy and sort of insane, a total outsider.”

“Like Rorschach?” Frank asked, looking at Gerard and grinning, his lip ring catching the autumn light and his eyes wide and sparkling, and okay, if Frank was a sociopathic killer, Gerard wasn’t entirely sure he cared.

“Dude,” he squealed. “Watchmen is the best thing ever.”

“Can’t fuck with Alan Moore,” Frank agreed. “Man, have you read From Hell? Fucking amazing, right?” Then he spent an eternity laughing and pointing at Gerard, who was stuck in a fucking thornbush, again, because he’d gotten too distracted staring at Frank in delight to watch where he was going. Which was, needless to say, hugely embarrassing. Ugh.

He had no idea where the fuck they were going, actually. They’d left the path at some point and were just threading their way through the trees. The temperature in the forest must drop a lot as it got later in the day, or maybe the weather was changing, because the afternoon-warm air had become downright fucking chilly.

Frank kept bumping shoulders with him and shooting him a conspiratorial look of glee and sometimes their hands brushed, and oh God, Gerard was fourteen. Thirteen, maybe.

“So, uh,” Gerard said, after he’d ripped himself free of another bush—after some reflection, he thought the new holes in his hoodie were sort of aesthetically pleasing, at least—“You actually know where we’re going, right? We’re not lost and wandering in circles?”

“I find your lack of faith disturbing,” Frank intoned menacingly, and then did a fucking awesome Darth Vader wheeze. Gerard couldn’t stop giggling. He suspected he might actually be gazing at Frank adoringly. But, c’mon, Star Wars reference! No nerd in the world would blame him. “By which I mean, fuck yeah, I know where I’m going,” Frank said. “C’mon, this way.”

“Hey, where are we going, by the way?” Gerard asked, and Frank was doing some sort of ridiculous soft-shoe through the fallen leaves, singing the chorus to Skulls, like he was deliberately trying to hit every single one of Gerard’s kinks in one conversation. He glanced back at Gerard over his shoulder and shrugged, crinkling his nose.

“Figured we could go look at the old mill? It’s pretty sweet, from, like, the 1700s. But no rush, it’s fucking nice out. Gotta soak up the last of the sun before winter starts beating the shit out of us, you know.”

This was not actually a sentiment Gerard was familiar with. Gerard was not generally a fan of the sun, per se, but Frank was looking at him hopefully and fuck, Gerard could already tell this was going to be a problem.

“Okay,” he said gamely, and hoped to God it was too cold for there to be ticks out. “Lay on, MacDuff.”

“Anyone ever told you you’re fucking bizarre?” Frank asked, kicking at a pile of leaves to make sure nothing unpleasantly moist lurked beneath before motioning Gerard forward.

“I’m fucking charming,” Gerard quipped, and then had to fight a blush when Frank beamed at him and said, “You totally are. I am charmed as fuck.”

Half an hour or so later, they wandered past a dilapidated stone house and Gerard halted mid-sentence, abandoning their fierce debate on whether or not the Sandman graphic novels should be adapted to film (Frank a definite yes, Gerard an emphatic no) to stare at it. There had been dilapidated houses in Jersey, sure, and old ruined factories with broken glass windows, but this was different. This was another scale entirely.

The house was barely identifiable, trees growing throughout, the front wall a crumbling pile of rubble, the chimney barely standing. Ruins, real ruins, how fucking cool. He had to admit Vermont had atmosphere, if nothing else. He dug in his pockets and found a couple receipts big enough to sketch on.

“Hey, Frank, you got a pen?” he asked. “This fucker at school took my bag earlier. Fucking assholes. At least he didn’t shove me around this time, I guess.”

Frank shook his head and scowled. “Someone shoved you around?”

“Well, yeah,” Gerard said, and fingered the cut on his lip, mildly embarrassed. He bet people never picked on Frank. Frank was hardcore, even if he was basically a midget. Frank looked like he could fuck shit up, if he wanted. Gerard mainly glared at people and made kissy faces, and then got punched and had his bag thrown into garbage. “’S no big deal, though,” Gerard added airily, and shoved his hands in his pockets, fiddling with loose change and his lighter. “Those fuckers don’t scare me.”

When he looked back up Frank was suddenly right in front of him, inches from his face. Gerard drew in a quick, startled breath and then Frank was grabbing Gerard’s shoulder, the line of his mouth hard. “You should be scared, Gee. You need to watch yourself around guys like that,” he said intently. “People out here can be vicious close-minded pigfuckers. Stay out of their way.”

“I didn’t exactly go up and kick them in the shins or anything,” Gerard said, taken aback and, really, sort of insulted. He knew all about close-minded fuckers, he didn’t go seek them out—well. He sort of maybe had provoked them, a little, but they’d provoked him first. Anyway, Gerard had had worse back home, before Mikey tricked him into being friends with Pete Wentz, and before Gabe Saporta had adopted him.

The point was, Gerard could take a bunch of high school jocks flexing their hetero muscles for a few months, especially if he had someone awesome and strange like Frank to hang out with in the meantime. But Frank looked intense, like he did think it was a big deal. Gerard wasn’t really interested in reliving the experience, though, or being lectured on it, even if the lecture was well-meaning, or driven by righteous fury or whatever. Time to change the subject.

“Um,” he said diffidently, searching his pockets for his Marlboros. “Sure, yeah. Whatever, I’ll be careful. Stay out of their way, all that. ’Nother cigarette?”

Another second or so passed with Frank still staring at him, hand tight on Gerard’s shoulder, before he sort of shook himself, face clearing.

“Hell yeah, if you’re offering. I never pass up a free smoke.”

They started walking again, winding around past the collapsed walls and what looked like an old, mossy well. Gerard eyed Frank a little warily, but he’d totally calmed down, was all bright and bubbly again, all traces of the intense emotion he’d just been showing completely wiped away. Which was kind of weird. But he guessed living in Glen Fell would do that to you.

Gerard had always thought woods were supposed to be quiet, but there were a thousand tiny noises filling the spaces in their conversation: distant birds, something crackling through the undergrowth, the wind in the trees. The woods here were thicker, and the moldering leaves blanketed the forest floor in deep drifts. Gerard couldn’t believe he’d actually let Frank lead him off the path, now that he thought about it—he couldn’t follow the most basic directions on a street map and now he was in the middle of the woods somewhere, watching Frank. He barely knew Frank—how sure was he that Frank hadn’t gotten them blitheringly lost?

Frank had bopped a few more yards ahead, like a punk will-o’-the-wisp, before he looked back and realized that no, Gerard had actually stopped and wasn’t merely temporarily delayed by vegetation.

“Alright, Gee?” he called, a strange note in his voice, bangs over his eyes.

“Yeah,” Gerard replied slowly, and ran a hand through his hair, trying not to freak out. Frank probably knew where they were going. “Just, you know. Smoker’s lung. Movement, bleah,” He shrugged. “Uh. So. Is it much farther, the mill or whatever?”

Frank bounded back—like Tigger, Gerard thought inanely, and pictured Frank in Halloween colors, which would be an awesome portrait, he’d have to get out his good markers when he got home. And okay, Frank either must be freezing or he just had no concept of personal space, because he was hovering about two inches from Gerard’s nose. No one did that, got close to him like that, except his Mom and Mikey and sometimes Pete, because Pete was like an attack monkey of inappropriate hugging.

“’S not far at all,” Frank said happily and ruffled Gerard’s hair, leaning in even closer, what the fuck. Gerard stared at Frank’s neck, at the inky black scorpion crawling towards the line of his jaw, and had a sudden blinding urge to lean over and scrape his teeth over Frank’s skin. “Plus, I have a surprise for you. I’m pretty sure you’ll totally love it—it’s fucking awesome.”

“How awesome, on a scale of Spiderman to Rob Zombie?” Ten points for his voice not shaking, and twelve zillion points for not freaking out and running away. He needed to get home soon, seriously. Home, where there were lights and heating and coffee and cold showers.

“Rob Zombie dueling Batman levels of awesome. It’s creepy cool. Don’t punk out on me now, Gee, c’mon! We can take a break if you really have to be a pussy about it, though. Do you need a break?” Frank said, completely oblivious to Gerard’s inner struggles. “It’ll be dark soon, I think, but I can get you back to the school, if you’re worried. The dark doesn’t bother me.”

Gerard huffed shakily and scuffed a toe against the forest floor as he weighed his options. The ground here was deep with leaves and fallen branches, and smelled rich and earthy when he overturned it with his shoe. “Like a fresh grave,” he said to himself absently, in his best Cryptkeeper voice, and then shook himself. Okay, being weird in public again. This town was totally warping his brain. “Man, I gotta get out of here,” he said ruefully.

Frank frowned abruptly and stepped back, shoving his hands in his pockets.

“Or, we can go back now, if you want. ‘S okay.”

Gerard blinked. It obviously wasn’t okay. Frank was looking away from Gerard, scowling, his shoulders slumped. He looked almost… disappointed, like Gerard had let him down somehow.

“Huh?” Gerard said intelligently, and Frank shrugged.

“If you wanna go, we can go.”

“Oh!” Gerard said. “No, that’s not—that’s not what I meant. I don’t want to miss out on your, uh, super cool creepy surprise, honest. It sounds amazing. But I probably should get going eventually. I have to be home in time to visit Mikey, you know?” Frank eyed him, looking hopeful, eyes big and that damned dimple coming back into play on his face.

And okay, Frank liked Alan Moore and played guitar and loved punk and the Misfits and his favorite movie was the The Devil’s Rejects, and Gerard didn’t have a crush or anything, okay. But Frank was pretty damned awesome, even if he did have some mood swing issues. Gerard was pretty moody himself.

On the other hand, it was fucking cold, and getting colder, and even though he liked Frank, really, they’d had only met yesterday. Gerard was never like this with strangers. It was awesome, but also weird.

Frank was almost all in shadow now; it was getting pretty late. They’d been out here wandering for hours, just talking, which was weird all on its own. And then the significance of the shadows hit him, because he was a fucking moron and hadn’t even thought about what time it was. Holy fuck. Fuck, he had to be home, like, an hour ago.

“Shit! Shit shit shit! Frank, what time is it?” he asked, frantic. Frank stopped looking pissy and mournful, and started staring at Gerard as though he had live lobsters crawling out of his ears, like Ralphie from A Christmas Story. Possibly because Gerard had grabbed two handfuls of his own hair and was pacing in frantic, tiny circles. He was so screwed.

“Dude,” Frank said in a hushed voice as Gerard nearly tripped over a giant rock, fucking nature, with all the fucking rocks, and trees, and sunsets. Frank had an unwillingly fascinated look on his face, like he thought Gerard might start speaking in tongues at any second. “I think it’s almost six? I dunno. Are you okay?”

“Fuck, my mom’s gonna flip. Mikey’s gonna flip. I’m going to miss visiting hours, I can’t fucking—I’m such an asshole.”

“Ohhh,” Frank said. “Oh, man, it’s okay, Gee. Don’t worry, it’s not far. We’ll take a short cut. Uh. Calm down. Breathe?”

Gerard tried to glare at him, but he was too busy freaking out with guilt and self-loathing for it to really take. It was only Mikey’s second day here, and Gerard was already letting him down. Fuck.

Frank started herding Gerard back the way they’d come, which, now that he looked at it, was a pretty clear trail of skid marks in the dirt and broken branches and crushed bushes. Crushed bushes filled with thorns, he thought darkly, rubbing at an angry scratch on his wrist. Frank’s hand had wandered back onto Gerard’s sleeve and all of his energy was going towards not leaning into Frank.

It wasn’t that it freaked Gerard out, exactly, to be out in the woods at night—it was actually pretty fucking cool, in a novel sort of way. He totally dug the creepy scuttling sounds in the underbrush and the looming darkness, though it did up his chances of tripping on shit. Just, this wasn’t exactly Gerard’s realm of expertise. He kept close to Frank, who looked totally serene in the dim light. Hopefully that meant they weren’t lost beyond all hope or knowledge.

“Fuck,” Frank said, breaking the silence between them as he hauled Gerard back onto the main path, thank God. “I’ll just show you the graveyard another time, if you still want.” Gerard stared at him, forgetting for a moment how fucking late he was.

“Seriously?” he said, and okay, maybe his voice went all high-pitched with glee. But seriously, a graveyard. How awesomely Halloween was that? “An abandoned graveyard! That’s so cool, is it, like, in the woods? How’d you find it?”

Frank shot him a tiny, delighted smile, like maybe he’d thought Gerard wouldn’t think a ruined graveyard from the 1700s in the middle of a forest was cool. Which was clearly ridiculous. Gerard was tempted to go tearing off with Frank into the woods right now. It sounded just like a fucking movie set.

“I’ve been exploring out here for a while,” Frank told him, smile audible in his voice, which had the effect of making Gerard beam in response, and then they just smiled at each other for a moment before Frank visibly shook himself and reminded Gerard they had to keep going.

As they walked, Frank adopted a story-telling voice, launching into the story of how Glen Fell had been a little mill town, how it had gotten abandoned and overgrown by the forest when the river shifted, rebuilt three miles away years later. Apparently you could still see parts of the graveyard—old broken marble angels and mossy tombstones, and walk through some of the houses that were still standing.

It took a while for Gerard to remember (re-remember) that he was late, because fuck, it was like walking through a campfire tale, with Frank narrating, grinning evilly and cackling at how Gerard jumped when he ran a cold finger along the back of his neck. Gerard tried to focus on how much of a dick Frank was, instead of on how Frank’s fingers hooked into his belt loops, tugging his jeans low as he walked to show a flat stomach with dark words edging above the hemline. He wasn’t sure how much success he had, to be honest. He’d definitely figured out the word ‘Destroy’ was involved by the time they’d reached the forest’s edge.

Gerard continuing onward a few halting steps into the field, before craning his head and looking back at Frank, who’d stopped for some reason, hands in his pockets.

“Aren’t you coming?” Gerard asked, confused.

Frank shook his head. “No,” he said. “I’m… I’m just, going to hang out here for a while longer. Got shit to do. You know the way, though, right?”

Gerard rolled his eyes. Like the fucking high school wasn’t right fucking behind him, he wasn’t that inept.

“Just checking.” Frank grinned a little, and then looked down at his feet. “Fucking blows you have to leave already.”

Gerard had to go, like yesterday, but Frank looked so oddly wistful he couldn’t bring himself to just brush the guy off and sprint for home.

“Well, you could, I don’t know, come by my place, if you want? Tomorrow, I mean,” He had a brief moment of insanity where he almost invited Frank to come to the hospital with him and his mom, but luckily he managed to bite his tongue on that before it escaped.

“Nahh,” Frank said, still not meeting Gerard’s eyes. “Thanks, though. But, um. You could come back here, and we could hike the rest of the way? I was sort of taking you the long way around today. Didn’t realize you had a time limit.”

Gerard was about to disagree vehemently—he was covered in thorns and scratches and mud. It wasn’t fair, Frank seemed basically unscathed and he’d stepped in just as many mud puddles and through as many brambles as Gerard. Unfortunately, Gerard was fucking late and didn’t have time to debate how much the forest sucked donkey balls. He also had a sneaking suspicion that Frank might have been taking him through the thorniest, muddiest patches on purpose, because Frank was an asshole like that. But Gerard would let it go, because he was the bigger person, and also because it was obnoxiously endearing, somehow.

“Sure,” he sighed. “You still have to show me the graveyard, right?” A smile flickered on Frank’s face, and Gerard wavered. He wanted to stay, he realized incredulously. He wanted to stay in the treacherous forest, which as night had fallen had gotten even more deadly and unnerving. The forest here had thinned and purpling sky showed between the branches, and Frank looked otherworldly standing there, pale against the darkness.

Gerard’s fingers twitched. “I’ll bring my sketchbook next time,” he said, and that got a real grin out of Frank at last.

“Oh man, I’d love to see you sketch, Gee. That’d be fucking sweet,” Frank said earnestly and sort of hugged himself and peered out from under his bangs. “You sure you can’t stay longer?”

Gerard flailed mentally for a moment. He had to go, his Mom was going to leave without him.

“Yeah,” he said, and spun on his heel resolutely. “See you tomorrow, Frank!” he called over his shoulder, and jogged off, stopping now and then to pound his chest, because wow, he was out of shape. By the time he’d gotten to the house, his Mom already in the car and glaring at him from the driver’s seat, it was full darkness.

Weird. He hoped Frank had a flashlight out there, in the woods. Doing whatever the fuck it was he was doing. Maybe he’d lost something?

Whatever. He’d ask tomorrow at school.

***

PART THREE

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
neon_footprint
Jun. 30th, 2010 10:41 am (UTC)
Ryan ♥

Charmed as fuck. Attack money of inappropriate hugging.

YOU ARE A GODDAMNED GENIUS!

I am also about to use a phrase that I though had no place in my vocabulary: I agree with Gerard. Sandman should emphatically not, in any possible world, be made into a film. RARGH!
novembersmith
Jul. 1st, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
AHAHA, I think you go too far, but YAAAAY. I'm so delighted you are enjoying it! And watch out, that phrase may slip into your everyday vocabulary BEFORE YOU KNOW IT. TO WIT, CHECK THESE QUOTES:

HE IS SUCH AN AMAZING DWEEB, UGH.
neon_footprint
Jul. 2nd, 2010 08:59 am (UTC)
FUCK ME.

I kind of *am* Gerard Way. In a more serious than I would like way. Time to give this man another chance, I think.
novembersmith
Jul. 2nd, 2010 09:13 am (UTC)
HE IS SERIOUSLY AMAZING. He's a fucking inspiration, he really is, and I respect him so much. Dork, earnestflailface, ridiculous, brilliant, brave, genius. I love him.
neon_footprint
Jul. 2nd, 2010 09:43 am (UTC)
He and I have done some remarkably similar things.

I'm beginning to wonder whether that was one of the reasons I couldn't get on with him when he first hit the scene. You know, I saw the things I'd done wrong, and flinched? It's a thought.
x_dark_siren_x
Jul. 19th, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC)
UGH.

Despite the douchebags, I kind of wish I'd gone to this school. And I am head over heels for Gerard *____* and Frank! Every time he worries Gerard isn't coming back, or when Gerard mentions leaving - especially because I think I maybe have an inkling - my heart breaks.

I am so, so glad I waited to read this till after my holidays, so I have something to get me through the rest of my empty summer break. ♥
novembersmith
Jul. 20th, 2010 06:08 pm (UTC)
*beams at you* Ahaha, yeah, it's the high school from hell in some ways, but there are definitely perks! I'm so glad you like Gerard! I AM A BIT SMITTEN WITH HIM MYSELF. He's such a joy to write! And oh, poor Frankie. *pets him*

I'm so glad you're enjoying it, and thank you for the lovely comment! *twirls you*
clarityhiding
Jul. 20th, 2010 03:11 pm (UTC)
Don't go expecting comments on every part, because I can assure you that it just isn't going to happen, but.

Omg, RYAN. I so literally squeed and cooed aloud as soon as the bandanna was mentioned. I, um, maybe have a weakness for faily!cowboy!Ryan. *shifty eyes* BUT WAIT THIS IS TRAGIC!! Ryan is in Glen Fell and Brendon is in Jersey and and and and woe. :(

Also, awww, Frank. Beat to death by high school bullies in your prime! OR SO I SUPPOSE. *is curious and anxious now but must leave for work! D: *
novembersmith
Jul. 20th, 2010 06:09 pm (UTC)
LOL, heh, I will attempt not to be too spoiled! ♥

RYAAAN. His ridiculous cowboy phase was definitely my favorite. *pets him* And heh, I am glad that there is ~suspense! I hope you like the remaining parts! *G*i
yawdrareg
Nov. 22nd, 2010 02:00 am (UTC)
hi there, me again... the late reader! loving this fic, and really loving that i don't have to wait to read installments! :D frank is the best ghost! i mean, i'm assuming he's one... ya?! ;) clueless geeway is my favorite, like he just doesn't ever get it LOL he's so cute! can't wait to keep going!
novembersmith
Dec. 1st, 2010 02:18 am (UTC)
Ahaha, well, I'm the late responder! And really, you're never too late to read! I'm so glad you're enjoying this! Oh man, poor Frank!ghost with his oblivious!Gee. *G*
turlough
Nov. 27th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
I've just started re-reading this - felt in need of something non-Killjoy for a change :-) - and I'd forgotten how much I love your Gerard. He's so fabulous! Of course he gushes over Byron! (And RT guitaring BB will never stop being adorable!!)
novembersmith
Dec. 1st, 2010 02:19 am (UTC)
*twirls you* You are the loveliest! And heh, oh, GERARD. I sometimes miss writing from this Gerard's POV, no lie. <<<333
topsofyourlungs
Feb. 5th, 2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
this fic is perfect i cannot stress that enough this is literally my favortie *Cries*
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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