He knows he’s the “weird kid.” He knows he’s the goth-emo kid who sits in the back of all his classes carving dark drawings into the desks with broken pens, their ink clogged and blotted from years of digging into soft wood. He knows that people whisper about him behind his back.
Hey, look, it’s that Way kid. He’s so creepy. Did you hear what he did with that pig last year? There was blood everywhere.
In his defense, the pig was for an art project and blood is messy.
He knows he’s an outcast in his preppy school, filled with jocks and cheerleaders, freaks and geeks. He doesn’t even fit in with them, and he is perfectly okay with that. He doesn’t need their fucking approval anyway.
All he needs are his art supplies and his brother and he’ll be fine.
His sanctuary is the art room at the back of the school. The teacher, Mrs. James, lets him use it whenever he wants. She’s the only one at this fucking school who seems to understand him. Maybe it’s an artist thing, he thinks.
He spends most of his free time in the classroom, honing his sketching skills. Sometimes Mikey comes to visit him, bring him lunch, but the majority of the time, he’s alone. He likes being alone. He doesn’t have any fucking annoying kids asking what he’s drawing or why does it have horns.
He would live in the art room if he had the chance. But he doesn’t, and has to go to English and Math and Science class. He hates math and science with a fiery passion that burns deep within his heart. Maybe he likes English, but only a tiny bit.
He loves art, although he doesn’t like it when Mrs. James insists they teach the basic classes how to draw things or sculpt things. She says it’s all a part of advancing their education. He thinks she just likes to torture them.
He tolerates it, though, because letting Mrs. James drag him into Ceramics 101 is worth it to have the studio to himself all afternoon, even after school has closed.
Gerard may not be the best student, but when he focuses, he can do anything. He can draw the statue of David and almost shape his ass perfectly out of clay. He can draw millions of comic books and complete the dialogue. He makes Mikey into a superhero, complete with cape and the ability to fly.
He knows he’s weird and he doesn’t need people to remind him.
In art class, he sits at the third table from the door, the one next to the window. No one ever sits on his left, but on his right, this girl named Vicky T always takes that seat and spends most of the class drawing on her arms with black pens. She’s odd, but not as odd as Gerard. She at least has a boyfriend, although Gerard would personally rather be considered the freak outcast than date Gabriel Saporta, the weird fake-gangster kid from “the hood.”
Vicky’s okay, though. Gerard will admit that after much pressuring from Mikey and maybe a few drinks. There’s another kid at his table, though Gerard’s pretty sure he’s in the wrong class. Ryan Ross should be in advanced English classes, not Advanced Art. Though Gerard does like the way his crows have jagged black wings. He thinks about stealing that style for his next project.
“So Gabe said he was going to take me out to dinner,” Vicky says as she colors in an oddly-shaped umbrella on her upper arm.
“That’s nice,” Ryan mutters from across the table, doodling on his sketch pad.
Gerard says nothing, having no interest in any of their lives. He merely concentrates on his latest endeavor, a modern piece that by no means looks modern. He figures once he adds color to it, it’ll look even scarier. Perfect.
Vicky nods, twirling a piece of her dark hair around her finger. “I wonder where we’re going. I told him I don’t like Thai, so he better not take me to a Thai place.”
“I’m sure he won’t,” Ryan replies distractedly. Vicky rolls her eyes. They never listen to her.
Gerard ignores both of them. This is what art class usually is: Vicky talking, Ryan mumbling responses, and Gerard ignoring them. It isn’t a particularly strict class. Mrs. James is usually wandering around the students and hardly notices when they talk instead of work. As long as their projects get done on time, she’s happy.
“Oh, Gerard,” Mrs. James says as she reaches their table and Vicky at least pretends to be working on something other than decorating her skin. “That’s just lovely.”
Gerard merely grunts in response. He doesn’t like people complimenting his work.
“You know,” she says, sidling up to him and he can feel a favor coming on. “You’re such a good artist, and you know how to explain things so well. I have this student and he’s struggling.”
“Uh huh,” Gerard responds slowly, shooting Vicky a dark glance. She knows all about being recruited to help the ‘struggling student’. It was how she met Gabe. Unfortunately, Gabe never improved.
“Well, I know you’re busy with all your projects, but I’d love if you’d be able to give him little extra help.
“Come on, Gee,” Vicky whispers mischievously. “Give him a little help.”
Gerard vows to live up to his reputation and cut her throat later.
But Mrs. James is waiting for an answer and he can’t very well say no to the teacher who lets him hide away in her classroom for all hours of the afternoon.
“Sure,” he says through gritted teeth.
“Wonderful!” Mrs. James claps her hands together, all smiles and cheery energy. Gerard doesn’t know how she does it, nor does he want to. “I’ll tell Frank to meet you here this afternoon. Is that all right?”
“I guess,” Gerard mutters, not really agreeing with the words coming out of his mouth.
“Fantastic!” Mrs. James smiles at him then hustles off to answer one of the other kid’s questions.
Gerard grinds his teeth as he stares at his drawing, deciding it’s crap and tearing it off, crumpling it into a ball and throwing it across the table. It bounces the length of it, hitting Ryan in the chest before falling to the floor.
Ryan just looks at it. “You’re littering.”
Gerard’s only response is an artistic middle finger and Ryan rolls his eyes.
That afternoon, Gerard waits at the entrance to the art room, scowling impatiently as he checks his watch every five seconds. This Frank kid is late, and if he’s not there in five more minutes, Gerard is going to go find Mikey at the arcade and kick his ass at Space Invaders.
He’s just about to leave when this guy practically runs into him, despite the fact that he’s standing against a wall.
“Whoa, didn’t see you there,” the boy says and Gerard stares.
The guy is shorter than him but thicker, more muscles. He probably plays some sort of sport, Gerard thinks disdainfully. The jock type. The stupid ones.
“Are you Gerard?” the boy asks, looking Gerard up and down. Gerard feels a little like he’s under a microscope and scoffs.
“Yes. Are you Frank?”
“Yup.” Frank grins, turning to look into the art room and Gerard catches sight of a large scorpion tattoo on his neck.
His fingers itch to trace the lines of ink down Frank’s neck, but he forces them to his sides, suppressing his fascination with tattoos to the back of his mind as he tries to remember how much he hates helping other students in lower classes.
Frank looks back to Gerard, noticing him staring at his neck. He doesn’t say anything, though, just smiles. “So we should get started, right?”
“Yeah, uh, yeah,” Gerard mutters, tearing his eyes from the tattoo and pushing the door to the studio open.
Frank follows him in, looking around almost as though he’s never been in there before. Gerard just frowns and throws his bag down into a chair and slides into the next one. Frank hops onto the stool beside him, looking at him expectantly.
Gerard scowls and drops his gaze to the table. “So what are you having problems with?”
Frankie props his elbows on the table and glances around. “Well, I don’t come to class and I can’t draw worth shit, so…”
“So come to class and use copy paper,” Gerard snips quickly. “Are we done now?”
Frank tilts his head to the side, that same weird, or maybe normal, smile on his face. Gerard could never tell the difference between smiles.
“What about my art lesson?”
“You don’t need an art lesson, you need a good smack to the head,” Gerard mutters under his breath, rolling his eyes darkly. He hates that he couldn’t say no to Mrs. James.
Gerard glances up at Frank, who has a puzzled expression on his face. He sighs.
“Why don’t you show up to class and then ask me for a lesson if that doesn’t work?”
Frank pauses a minute. “I hear you don’t go to class all that often.”
Gerard stares. “I’m always here.”
“Exactly. Always here. Never in math or chemistry or English.”
Gerard glares. “That’s none of your fucking business.”
“I’m just saying. Why should I go to class when you don’t?”
“Because I’m not failing my classes,” Gerard points out acidly. It is true; a D isn’t technically failing, right? “And what the hell do you know anyway? I’ve never even seen you before.”
Frank pauses, smiling slightly. “I’ve seen you.”
This does nothing to make Gerard feel better. In fact, he feels even more creeped out by this. He frowns and grabs his bag, sliding off the stool.
“This lesson is over.”
Frank follows Gerard to the door, turning and pouting slightly as Gerard practically throws him out of the studio.
“So same time tomorrow?”
Gerard slams the door in his face.
“You will not believe what fucking Mrs. James did to me today!” Gerard’s storming around the basement while Mikey sits on the old couch watching a horror film.
“She corners me into tutoring this fucking idiot who doesn’t even bother coming to class! He’s such an asshole. That fucking jock. Who the fuck does he think he is? He’s such a fucking jerk and he’s expects me to teach him how to fucking draw!”
Mikey never turns from the television as the girl in the shower screams and the curtain is pulled back to reveal the masked killer.
“Why can’t you teach him?”
Gerard stares. “Haven’t you been listening, Mikey? He’s a fucking idiot! He thinks I’ll just do it!”
“You will, won’t you?”
“No!” Gerard exclaims. “He can go find himself another fucking tutor for all I care! Screw Mrs. James and her fucking goody-two shoes attitude like everything is sunshine and butterflies.”
He flops down on the couch in a huff, pushing Mikey’s legs up and settling himself back against the tearing upholstery. “She’s insane, that’s what she is. Stupid and fucking insane.”
Mikey still doesn’t glance at him. “But you’re going to do it.”
“I am not,” Gerard replies firmly. He crosses his arms childishly and sits back to watch the movie, not even flinching when the girl loses her head and it rolls across the floor.
“This is never going to work.”
“It’s totally going to work, Ray.”
Ray reclines in the old arm chair in Frank’s living room, giving his friend a skeptical look. “He doesn’t even like you. Hell, he doesn’t even know who you are. He’s probably never heard of you.”
“He will soon enough.”
Ray rolls his eyes. “You’re fucking crazy.”
Frank smirks. “If things go according to plan, I’ll be fucking Gerard.”
“Okay, ew!” Bob speaks up suddenly from his chair near the corner. He’s so far been trying to ignore the conversation but can’t help himself. “I don’t need that image, Frankie.”
Frank shrugs. “Then just hope everything goes right and I promise not to tell you any details.”
Bob just shakes his head and slinks further into the chair as though trying to disappear.
Ray rolls his eyes again. “It’s not going to work.”
“How are you going to win him over? Buy him a new razor blade? I heard he broke his last year after attempting suicide in Ms. White’s class.”
Frankie shrugs. “Maybe.”
Ray sighs. “He’s crazy, you know.”
“Well, you’re not exactly Captain Normal,” Frank points out, tugging on a curl from Ray’s wild hair.
Ray swats his hand away. “I don’t decapitate pigs and use their blood for a ‘self-portrait’.”
“I heard the pig was already dead.”
Ray just sighs and shakes his head. “Fine, but when this whole thing backfires, I’m fully prepared to say I told you so over and over again.”
“Fair enough.” Frank smiles and reaches for the remote, flipping on the television and settling in to watch a rerun of Friends.
Gerard hates Mrs. James. He hates her almost as much as he hates listening to the jocks on the bus talk about last week’s game and which cheerleaders they banged afterwards. He hates her more than white mice, and Gerard fucking hates white mice. They’re so creepy with their red eyes and skittering paws.
He hates that he can’t refuse to tutor this Frankie kid because saying no would mean losing his sanctuary and Mrs. James knows this and exploits it.
So the next afternoon, Gerard waits outside the art room, checking his watch every five seconds and hoping that Frank will be late again and he’ll be able to leave and say he thought he wasn’t coming.
To his disappointment and annoyance, Frank is right on time this time. Gerard scowls as Frank saunters up to him, that same stupid smile on his face.
He looks different, though. His dark hair falls messily in front of his eyes and he has a lip ring that he didn’t have the day before. Gerard frowns because it makes no sense. He hates himself when he thinks that with a little makeup and a hair cut, Frank would be really ho—no, he’s not going to finish that thought.
Instead, he huffs angrily and heads inside without a word to Frank. Frank follows quietly, taking the same seat as the day before and pulling out a brand new-looking sketch pad. Gerard can practically smell the fresh, un-inked paper.
Frank waits a moment, his tongue flicking out to play with his tongue ring idly. He hadn’t had time to put it in the day before because he’d just come from practice and his coach always forced him to take it out.
So Frank sits on his stool, watching Gerard, who’s carefully messing with his pencil rather than look at him.
“Are you going to tutor me?” he asks finally.
Gerard scowls. “I guess I have to.”
“Why do you have to?”
“Because fucking Mrs. James is an evil cunt and unfortunately knows the price of bribery.”
“She’s bribing you?” Frank asks curiously.
If possible, Gerard’s scowl deepens and his hatred of Mrs. James grows.
“No. Now, if you don’t mind, I want to get this over with.” He grabs the sketch book and pulls it to himself. Opening it, he finds a half-finished sketch on the first page and nothing after that. “Have you had this thing all year?”
Frank shrugs, coloring on his hand with his black pen.
“Then why the hell isn’t there anything in it?”
Another shrug. “I told you I suck at drawing.”
“You’re in an art class,” Gerard hisses. “Why did you take it if you suck at it?”
Gerard growls to himself and tosses the book back, pulling out his own and flipping to a clean page near the back. His own sketch book is well-worn, with the edges fraying and pages slowly tearing out.
He hates helping people. Why help them when they can help themselves? He sees no logic in it.
His hands are itching for a cigarette, but he contents himself by picking up his pencil and drawing a curved line from the top to the bottom.
“We’ll start with the basics then,” he says through gritted teeth. “If you’re not a complete idiot, we can stop this tutoring thing in a week.”
Frank shrugs and picks up his pencil, carving a line that looks more like a lightening bolt down the page.
Gerard watches him, his expression getting uglier the longer the line gets.
“Stop it!” he says, grabbing Frank’s hand and forcing him to stop.
Frank glances up at him, all doe-eyed and innocent looking. Gerard hates him for it.
“It’s not a fucking Picasso. It’s a curved line.”
“It’s hard,” Frank complains, trying again and not having much more success.
Gerard is gritting his teeth and reminding himself that it’s harder to hide the body than you think. Rubbing his forehead, he sighs loudly and takes Frank’s hand, guiding it down the page smoothly.
“It’s not that hard,” he says, trying to keep his voice calm and his hand from crushing Frank’s wrist.
Frank glances up at Gerard, a spark of something different in his eyes now. Gerard frowns and immediately drops his hand.
“Yeah, you can do it now,” he mutters, grabbing his own book and adding another curved line across the first.
Frank watches him for a second, then tries to copy Gerard. His line comes out choppy, but it’s better than nothing.
“What are we drawing?” Frank asks as he attempts to fix his line, having very little success.
“A portrait,” Gerard mutters back, measuring the eye distance from the lines he drew earlier. They’re to serve as a guide. Really, he doesn’t need them, but Frank does. Frank really does.
“I don’t know,” Gerard replies, annoyed. “You, me, whatever.”
“You want me to draw you?” Frank asks interestedly and Gerard scowls.
“I don’t care, just fucking draw something!”
There’s a moment of silence in which Frank watches Gerard closely before picking his pencil back up and attempting to draw a face on his paper.
Gerard tries his hardest to ignore the scratching of Frank’s pencil, and lets his hand shape Mikey’s face on his paper, tracing his dark hair around his ears and his innocent eyes staring up at him from the page.
Ten minutes later, Frank announces that he’s finished and Gerard looks up, an incredibly skeptical expression on his face. Frank holds up a childish portrait of what Gerard assumes is supposed to be him.
The Frank-drawing-Gerard has fluffy dark hair and bags under his eyes. He appears to be staring blankly out from the page and his eyes are too close together.
Gerard knows he’s not supposed to criticize amateurs, but he finds it hard to resist when his drawn self looks like a drug addict. He admits to smoking and drinking, but he’s not a fucking crack-head.
Instead of praising Frank, he glares. “You know, this is supposed to be serious. You’re fucking failing.”
Frank looks confused, glancing at his drawing. “It is serious.”
Gerard looks at him, realizing that Frank is really done and it’s not a joke. He frowns. How can he consider that a good drawing?
“I look like a crack-whore,” Gerard snaps instead.
Frank pauses, inspecting his drawing. “You just look tired. Too much partying or something, right?”
Gerard nearly snorts but stops himself. “Partying, right,” he mutters darkly, shading in Mikey’s hair on his paper.
“Who’s that?” Frank asks, leaning over to peer at Gerard’s paper.
Gerard scowls and pulls it away. He doesn’t like people looking over his shoulder at his work.
Gerard’s surprised and suspicious. “Yeah.”
Frank just nods, closing his notebook. “Well, I have to go. I’m supposed to be home by five.”
Gerard doesn’t even nod as Frank slides off the chair and smiles sweetly at him. “Thanks for helping. Tomorrow?”
Gerard’s brain screams at him to say no, that’s it’s not worth it! But instead, he finds his head nodding and Frank’s smile widening.
“Great.” Then Frank’s gone and Gerard is confused.
“His name’s Frank Iero.”
Gerard glares at Mikey on the couch and throws the sketch at him. “I drew this for you,” he growls.
Mikey picks up the paper as it hits his chest and falls into his lap. “Nice.”
“How do you know what his name is?” Gerard demands, ignoring Mikey.
“I asked around.”
“You asked around?” Gerard repeats. “Who the hell did you ask?”
Mikey shrugs, tucking the picture away. “Just people at school.”
“You talked to people at school?” Gerard sounds doubtful and sarcastic as he stares at Mikey.
Mikey shrugs again. “Yeah.”
Gerard can’t believe it. Mikey’s talking to people at school and he’s stuck tutoring some idiot on how to draw faces. What the hell has gone wrong with the world?
“He’s on the Lacrosse team. Apparently he’s good.”
“What the fuck do you know about Lacrosse?”
“And why are you asking around?”
“Just thought you’d like to know.”
“No, Mikey, I don’t want to fucking know. I don’t want to know anything about Frank or what he does.”
Mikey’s silent for a minute. “You might want to.”
“I don’t!” Gerard glares. “I don’t want to know anything. If he disappeared from my life, I couldn’t be happier.”
Mikey just sighs and looks at his picture again. “What did he draw?”
Gerard scowls as he sits down in the arm chair. “Me.”
“Was it any good?”
“Not at all.”
“Give him some time,” Mikey says quietly.
“He’s got a week before I kick him out.” Gerard scowls and glares at the television as Mikey changes to another horror movie.
“So how’s the tutoring going?”
Gerard doesn’t even qualify Vicky with a response, merely glowers at his sketch book, ignoring her question.
She doesn’t seem perturbed, merely continues with her decoration that’s covering most of her forearm. Gerard thinks she should just get it permanently attached and stop drawing things that will only wash off that same day.
“Gabe knows Frankie,” she comments instead, changing colors to a blue pen and shading in the dragon on her arm.
Gerard’s lip curls. Anyone Gabe knows can’t possibly be intelligent.
“So I should put him on the special bus to go home?”
Gerard rolls his eyes darkly and starts to hate art class.
Ryan’s across the table, not paying them any attention as he draws jagged crows in his sketch book. They look deranged to Gerard. He likes them.
“Seriously, Gerard.” Vicky’s talking to her arm, and Gerard’s still glaring at his paper. He doesn’t need anyone telling him he should be nice to Frank, the stupid jock who wouldn’t know how to draw a circle if his life depended on it. “Frankie’s sweet. He’s just trying to get help.”
“He can’t even draw a fucking curved line!” Gerard says angrily, scowling at the reprimand Mrs. James shouts at him from across the room. She can’t hear them talking, but she hears the curse words, he thinks bitterly.
“He’s artistically challenged,” Vicky says blithely as she paints in colors on her intricate dragon.
Gerard just glowers at her. “He’s a fucking idiot.”
Vicky rolls her eyes and gives him that stern look she uses on Gabe when he’s being stupid, which, in Gerard’s opinion, is all the fucking time. “You’re going to be nice to him, Gerard.”
Gerard stares at her, shocked and angry. “Who the fuck’s side are you on? Stay the hell out of my business, Vicky.”
Gerard hates Vicky. He really does. This is why he doesn’t have friends other than Mikey. This is why he doesn’t want any other friends. People are stupid.
Vicky just gives him a hard look. “You will.”
Gerard thinks that maybe next time he gets a hold of a razor blade, he’ll use it on Vicky instead.
“So is this any better?” Frank holds up a piece of paper where Gerard’s face, or some semblance of it anyway, is staring back at him, still looking dull and dead. The eyes have no sparkle and it makes Gerard cringe to look at.
Instead of responding with the annoyed snap he’d like to, he just grits his teeth and ignores the question, picking up his sketchbook and turning it so Frank can see clearly.
“Okay,” he tries to explain patiently, reminding himself that he has to do this if he wants his afternoons to himself for the rest of the year. “This line—” He points to the vertically curved line. “—is the middle of the face. And the one in the middle is where you’re going to position the eyes.”
Frank nods seriously, glancing at Gerard as he tries not to grumble under his breath about fucking jocks and their stupidity.
He’s not being more polite to Frank because of what Vicky said. Definitely not. He’s not afraid of her and he’s certainly not afraid of the faux-gangster that is her boyfriend. He has no idea what she sees in him.
Frank turns back his drawing, biting his lip as he traces the lines carefully. They’re a little smoother than they have been and Gerard’s relieved that he’s at least nearly mastered the art of line-drawing. Now if only they could progress to actual faces, he would be done.
Gerard knows that Frank will never be a good drawer. He’ll never be an artist. That’s not the point. If Frank was a good artist, he wouldn’t need the help. Gerard knows he can’t teach anyone to draw well. It’s a natural talent, and if someone doesn’t have it, well, they never will. Gerard knows this.
His job is to get Frank’s drawing at least up to a basic level of drawing shapes and turning in assignments.
“Okay,” Frank says slowly, showing Gerard the lines. “Better?” He smiles that same innocent smile that Gerard immediately questions. He doesn’t trust any of Frank’s facial expressions.
Gerard merely glares and mutters an “I suppose.”
Frank smiles again and sets the paper down, his pencil tapping against the pad as he chews on his lip ring thoughtfully, watching Gerard, who’s busy shading in another drawing he’s managed to practically complete in the hour he’s been sitting here with Frank.
“Why don’t you talk to anyone?” Frank asks suddenly and Gerard looks up from his drawing, scowling darkly.
“Mikey,” Frank says, watching Gerard carefully and gauging his reaction. He isn’t surprised when all he receives is a jerk of his shoulders and a grunt.
“How do you know Mikey anyway?” Gerard demands, pulling away from his drawing and glaring at Frank.
Frank just smiles, doodling on the corner of his paper. “I met him in the library.”
Gerard has to stop himself from bursting into laughter, and instead, manages just a disbelieving scoff. “The library?” he repeats skeptically, eyeing Frank, his eyes sliding over his muscles and the hint of another tattoo below his shirt sleeve. “What, did you get lost on the way to the field or something?”
Frank just looks at Gerard for a moment and then looks away, smiling almost to himself. “I don’t really think you’re one to judge,” he replies finally, pushing away his smile and glancing back at Gerard, who immediately scowls, knowing what’s coming.
It’s what everyone says, what everyone thinks. He’s the suicidal kid who slit his wrists in math class last year. The blood-stains are still there. He’s the weird emo one who no one talks to. He’s the introverted psycho who spends all his time up to his elbows in coal and chalk.
“I heard about this thing with a pig,” Frank hints after a minute of seeing Gerard’s face fall into a scowl so deep his face might stick that way.
“It was for a fucking art project,” he all but growls at Frank. He’s sick of explaining the fucking pig to everyone. He hadn’t killed the fucking thing! He’d just used the blood.
“So why does everyone think you performed some sort of dark ritual that involved drinking the blood?”
Gerard glares and pushes himself off the stool, shoving his drawing pad back in his bag as he goes.
“Maybe because everyone is too fucking wrapped up in their own version of what they want to think that they’re too fucking stupid to see what’s really going on!” he snaps finally as he wrenches his bag from the table and stalks away, leaving Frank sitting at the table, a thoughtful expression on his face.
“Dude, he fucking hates you.”
“No, he doesn’t.” Frank tosses the ball up and catches it as it comes falling back down. He’s lying on the couch and has been throwing the ball for the past ten minutes.
Ray sits on the arm chair, giving him a patronizing look. “He walked out on you. And I don’t blame him. You asked a pretty stupid question.”
Frank glances over. “So now you don’t think he’s crazy?”
Ray rolls his eyes. “I didn’t say that, but even a crazy person will get mad if you accuse them of being crazy.”
Frank sighs. “Hey, it did get him talking to me, even if it was mostly just cuss words.”
Ray just shakes his head. “Why are you even bothering? He’s so weird.”
Frank grins. “I bet you he’s not as weird as you think.”
Ray snorts. “Prove me wrong, be my guest.”
“Oh, I will,” Frank mutters, tossing the ball up again and catching it fluidly. “I will.”
A/N: To be continued...