Gerard knows he owes this to Frank, and even more so to his brother, but it’s still hard to even think about it, and the awareness that Mikey will not be so ready to forgive, like Frank is, still dries the words in his throat and he stalls again, faced with the evidence of his guilt, with the reality that there is nothing more selfish than being in love.
“His name was Nate.”
It takes some time for Gerard to realise that he has finally said his name, and immediately it’s like there is something less heavy sitting on his chest, so he says it again, softer this time, turning to look at Frank. “Nate. Nate Ruess.”
Frank shifts on the sofa and lies on his side, hands cushioned under his cheek in an unconscious position of vulnerability. He doesn’t miss the fact that Gerard has used the past tense to talk about this Nate-guy, the same way he doesn’t miss the finality in Gerard’s words, the way his tone speaks of an unredeemable past.
There is nothing that Frank can really say, so he just waits, because, just like Mikey, albeit on a different level, he has lost Gerard for the good part of ten years, and he has no idea who Gerard was during this time, what kind of person he had become away from Spirit Lake. The only difference between himself and Mikey, the only reason why Frank doesn’t resent Gerard, like Mikey does, it’s because Frank had never had Gerard in the first place.
“We met at Rutgers. I was a sophomore, he was just a freshman. Fucking skinny kid all the way from Phoenix; a mop of dirty blond hair and the smile of summer’s sunshine. I don’t think it took me more than five minutes to fall in love with him.”
Frank waits for the usual pang of jealousy, like when Gerard had asked him about Brandon, but it doesn’t come. In its place, what he can feel is some sort of screwed up elation, because Gerard is opening up to him, filling up the gap left by the last ten years. Even if it’s to tell him about someone that cannot, and will not be replaced, not only by Frank, but by anyone else.
“He must have been someone fucking special.”
Gerard rubs at the frayed ends of sleep still hanging from his lashes and his eyes are a mossy garden, dark and damp. “He was. To me. To me he was very special.” Gerard’s voice is quiet, blanketed by the hours sliding towards dawn, insulated by years of grief.
Frank waits the silence out, his eyes trained in Gerard’s face, sleep forgotten.
It’s slow going; like rummaging in a box filled with photographs and mementos, and every little thing brings out more memories, more images, and the ghost of long lost days. Gerard stops when he finds something particularly significant, tells Frank stories of how they used to scam the cafeteria ladies and pay just for one meal when there was five of them eating. He tells him about cramming for exams, watching bands in someone basement, and driving across three states to go and see Sonic Youth. He tells him about almost getting a tattoo on his ass and being arrested for being caught peeing in Washington Square Park.
Every story is another piece of the puzzle, another slide to fit inside the movie of Gerard’s last ten years. Frank saves all the memories for himself, storing away every feeling in the hope that one day he will be able to put them away forever and forget about how much he had loved Gerard, and how little he had known him.
“Nate was in a band, like ninety percent of the students in fucking New Jersey. It’s like part of the curriculum or something, I kid you not. We were in a band together and we sucked absolute hardcore. I loved it. All of it. Being paid in beer, sleeping on some creepy fucker’s floor, living off of ramen and cereals. We were happy. I thought that I had finally found my place away from Spirit Lake. I thought I was never going to come back. Just how Mikey had told me to. Only I didn’t know that Mikey had not meant it. I didn’t know that I was going to come back, and it was going to be an admission of guilt, an escape from my memories.”
Frank lets Gerard talk, he lets him find words to tie up thoughts and feelings that Gerard had been carrying around for ten years, and maybe it’s because he is a coward and he hasn’t gotten the guts to tell what he feels, what he has been feeling for most of his adult life. Or maybe it’s because he knows that Gerard needs to be listened to and not talked over. Maybe it’s both. Whatever it is, Frank’s silence allows Gerard to talk, really talk for the first time in a long, long time.
“After I graduated and moved to Buffalo for my internship, I commuted to Jersey every weekend to see him. It’s then that I finally got my licence. Me, Gerard Way. Son of a mechanic, brother of a car aficionado, the one who had always hated cars with a passion, there I was taking my test and buying a used car with more miles on the clock than a fucking Boeing seven four seven. I told myself that if that wasn’t love, I didn’t know what else it could have been.”
The house cricks with a heavy sigh when the central heating kicks on again, pipes grumbling somewhere in the basement. Dawn has broken with a glint of metallic grey, snow still falling steadily. Butter grumbles from the upstairs landing, but doesn’t come down, waiting for his master to wake up and letting him out.
“Gee?” Frank twists around and grabs an old afghan Gerard’s nana had knitted ages ago, he slides off the couch and sits besides Gerard, draping the blanket over their shoulders.
“What happened, Gee?”
Gerard had not realised how cold he really was until Frank wraps the blanket around him, he shivers then, pressing closer to Frank’s body, tucking the blanket around them.
“Nate- he died three years ago. A stupid car accident. A drunken kid jumped a red light and ploughed straight into him. He died instantly, that’s what the police told me. I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye to him. I think last thing I told him before he left the artment that morning, was something about a cat with piles. Or something like that.”
Frank’s small huff of laughter dies the moment he realises what he has done, but Gerard looks at him and there a small smile on his face too. “I know, right? What the fuck? Only in fucking New York you get house pets with piles.”
They both laugh then, but it’s brittle, watered down, like a cheap beer in a dive bar; like confessions of pain at five in the morning. Bitter and fragile.
“What did he look like?”
Frank kind of hates that he apparently has no brain to mouth filter, and he is about to tell Gerard that it doesn’t matter, when Gerard takes out his wallet and pulls out an old picture from beneath his library card. The photo has been folded and unfolded several times, and the edges are frayed and faded, with time and a clear labour of love and pain.
The guy on the picture is wearing the worst combination of clothes Frank has ever seen, and Frank is not exactly a fashionista himself.
“I’m pretty sure he was colour-blind, no way would someone sane have worn orange and violet at the same time, right?” Gerard says, a look of fond melancholia in his eyes, like the reflected echo of a pain he has learned to endure, if not forget.
“He had style though. Terrible, colour-blind style.” Frank says, his natural kindness tempering the small joke.
“That he did, Frank. That he did. I think you would have liked him, he had a weird, twisted sense of humour, and he smoked more than you do. Honest. “
Frank is not exactly sure that he would have liked him, but he is man enough not to mention it and he just hands the picture back to Gerard.
“Coming back. Being my friend. Telling me your story.” He rubs at his stubbly chin and adds. “Not freaking out about my not so secret pining.”
Frank means it, all of it, and, even if it hurts and it will keep hurting for a while, he knows that he will make it through; he will find a way to live with the enormity of loving Gerard Way, and not being loved back.
He hugs Gerard under the blanket, feeling the bond they share tightening up with the circle of Gerard’s arms around his shoulders.
It doesn’t last long and Frank pulls away quickly; he rubs his hands on his jeans and makes a move to stand up, trying to find the strength to leave. “I better go. I heard the snowplough passing by the main road and I should be able to drive back into town. You- you should try to sleep a little and later talk to your brother, K? He is a fucking moron with a huge chip on his bony shoulder, but he fucking loves you. An awful lot.”
Gerard follows him to the front door, hands Frank his jacket and scarf, and hugs him one last time before watching him walk through the snowy driveway to his pick-up.
Butter shuffles beside him then, shaking his shaggy fur with a sleepy shiver and then he bounds outside to take care of business. Gerard watches the red pick up drive slowly until it disappear on the main road, he calls Butter back in, and waits for Mikey to wake up.
After the night of revelations, as Gerard likes to call it in his head, talking to Mikey is a little bit anti-climatic. Mikey knows already about Nate, and the fact that he also feels guilty about bringing it up, allows Gerard to skip another trip down a very painful memory lane.
At the same time though, as well as anti-climatic, talking to Mikey is also much less productive than talking to Frank. Gerard has yet to find the right words to ask for forgiveness for ten years spent away, not only from his home town, but from his home, from his brother, and his family.
Mikey is quiet in his fury, pushing it down with a practiced ease that makes Gerard wonder how long his brother has been keeping everything bottled up inside.
Breakfast is a silent affair, Gerard has been awake for over twenty-four hours, and Mikey may have just done the same thing if the dark circles under his eyes are something to go by.
“Mikey, about last night – “
Mikey pours his coffee into a thermos and twists the top closed with maybe a little bit too much force than necessary, but his voice is his usual, low monotone.
“I’ve gotta go, Gee. I’m late as it is. Can we talk another time?” He grabs his jacket from the hook by the door and turns to look at Gerard with the same hazy, warm eyes Gerard had known all his life. “I’m sorry I- I talked about Nate. That’s your business, not mine and certainly not Frank‘s.”
Gerard wants to hug his brother more than he has ever wanted to in all his life, because, even now, even with the quiet fury of abandonment, even with some of his righteous anger still boiling under the surface, Mikey is still loyal to him. Mikey still has his back.
“I told Frank. It felt right, like it was the right time to tell that story. And I know that it was unfair to him, especially because of his feelings for me, but he understood. He did. Like you did when I rang you that day after the accident. Like you always do. I wish I could say the same about myself, Mikes.”
Mikey doesn’t say a word, but hugs his brother quickly, one hand still holding onto the door’s handle, the other holding onto Gerard’s jumper, fingers pulling at the fabric. “Talk to you later, bro.” And it’s not forgiveness yet, but there is a promise in Mikey’s words, and Gerard hangs on to it, waiting for it the same way Spirit Lake waits for spring.
One comes earlier than the other and one morning Gerard wakes up and there is no snow on the ground and the apple tree in his back garden is a timid, but glorious display of green and white flowers.
It’s the season for new rabbits and lambs, and Gerard spend many hours at the Stumph farm, vaccinating the new stock, Patrick trailing behind him with a note book and a determined look in his eyes. “I’m gonna be a vet, like ye are, doc. Promise.”
Gerard believes him, he just hopes the family will have enough money for him to make his dream come true, but in the mean time he teaches Patrick all that he can, and the young kid is an eager and fast learner.
After that one visit to Gerard’s surgery, Brandon and Spencer have struck up a friendship, and Gerard has come to expect to see Brandon around, especially on a Friday night, waiting for Spencer to finish, talking fast about plans and things to do.
Brandon is still polite, still unable to call Gerard by his name unless Gerard asks him to, but there is also a new light in his eyes, something that speaks of a re-discovery of joy, of expectations and hopes, and it’s something that makes Gerard happy, makes it easier for him to look at Brandon and not just see Nate, not just see the same excitable energy, the same passionate joy, but to see the real man behind it, to see the real Brandon and not just the memory of a ghost.
It’s another Friday night, April singing with swallows and mockingbirds, the soft snuffling of two litters of puppies slowly drifting off to sleep, when Brandon appears through the door, eyes bright, pale skin flushed with some kind of excitement.
“Good evening, Dr- Gerard. How are you?”
“I’m very well, Brandon. Thank you. Spence is checking on the kennels, he should be back shortly. Do you want to go and see him?”
“No, no. I’ll wait here. It’s okay.” Brandon sits on one of the bright, plastic chairs dotted around the reception area, but he doesn’t seem able to stay still for more than five seconds.
Gerard fights hard not to think about Nate when Brandon is around, but when Brandon gets like this, it’s almost impossible for Gerard to separate the memory from the present of this young, beautiful man standing in front of him.
“What’s going on, Brandon?” Brandon looks slightly surprised at Gerard’s direct question, as if he had no idea that he was acting a little strange and also because he really does not think that Gerard even notices him when he is around. But when Gerard looks at him and smiles, it’s like turning a key into a lock and Brandon all but beams.
“Dr. Way, I mean… Gerard. I am going to a concert tonight!” Brandon all but whispers, as if divulging the secret too loudly would cost him the happiness that is about to come. Brandon scratches the back of his head and tries not to smile too widely, but it’s a lost cause, and Gerard finds himself smiling back.
“That’s great, Brandon. Who are you seeing?”
Brandon shakes his head, his smile still one hundred watts of pure happiness. “No idea. Don’t care though. I’ve never been to a real concert before. I mean, I did see the Church choir at Christmas, and some lady playing the piano back in Pocatello, but this is a real concert. They play rock music and all. Real rock music. You must have seen lots of concerts when you were back East right? New York and all. I bet you’ve seen lots. Do you think I’m dumb? You must think I’m dumb.”
Gerard doesn’t think Brandon is dumb, Gerard thinks Brandon is lovely, naïve and young and absolutely lovely. He doesn’t tell him though; he just sits down and pats the chair beside him. “I don’t think you’re dumb, Brandon. And yes, I’ve been to a lot of gigs.”
Brandon’s look turns into one of awed admiration, and he leans closer. “Yes, gigs. That’s what Spence called it, true. We’re going with Brendon, he will drive because he has a bigger car, and mom – well, can you keep a secret? “Brandon doesn’t wait for answer, either because he trusts Gerard implicitly, or because he cannot keep the secret any longer. “Mama doesn’t know we’re going too see a gig, you see, it’s not something she’d be happy about. There’s going to be alcohol there, and rock music is not exactly approved by our congregation. But I love music, and I won’t drink, and it’s with my friends. So, please say you’ll keep my secret?”
“I’ll keep your secret, Brandon.”
Brandon throws his arms around Gerard, hugging him hard, his smile still warm on Gerard’s neck. Gerard hugs him back briefly, a guilty kind of joy beating in his pulse.
Spencer comes back carrying a small backpack and his usual look of detached politeness, but stops dead in his tracks when he sees Brandon hugging Gerard. Brandon stands up so quickly Gerard has barely the time to realise what is happening, and then Brandon is hugging Spencer too, still unable to control his excitement.
“Spence, Gerard won’t tell anything to ma’. I had to tell him, I mean I almost blurted it out today in work, but I didn’t. Because mom would have known then, but Gerard will keep our secret and we’re ok. Don’t worry.”
Spencer seems slightly amused by Brandon’s own brand of very talkative happiness and he just shakes his head and addresses Gerard directly. “Gerard, thank you for covering up for blabber mouth, there. I am not sure who’s worse, him or Brendon. Between the two of them I’m surprised I haven’t lost it yet.”
Spencer may sound like a bitch to anyone else, but Gerard knows better than that. Spencer is the kid who cries every time they give away a new puppy, he is the kid who knows everyone by their first name and he is always ready to help, from the old ladies at the Missionary Church, to dorky Mormon boys with too many responsibilities and too little joy. So it’s not a surprise when he politely asks Gerard if he wants to go with them, the surprise comes when Gerard says yes.
The gig is in a small club two towns over; the place is filled with an eclectic bunch of people, mostly Brandon’s age, all wearing their emotions in vibrant displays of ratty clothes and well-rehearsed, bored looks. Brandon is the odd one out, jumping and singing along to songs he has never heard, his happiness like a small beacon in the tiny room.
Gerard, the only one legally allowed to drink, spends most of the time at the bar, watching life unfold through the dark hours of the night. He watches Brandon dance, the lights hitting his white shirt and making it glow in the dark; he watches Spencer finally get his wish, kissing Brendon by the speakers, his bright, bright eyes blinking close the moment Brendon’s lips touch his own. Gerard watches the lives of these three young men, and for once there is no regret in his heart, no regret for what he has lost. No regret for what never was, only joy, even if by proxy.
They are alive and he can breathe it all in.
Maybe it’s not much, but for a moment, it’s enough.
He drives them back home, Brendon and Spencer still twined in the back of his SUV, politeness thrown away in favour of making out. Brandon throws furtive glances at the back seat and giggles under his breath, high on music and happiness and freedom. He sings all the way back to Spirit Lake.
It doesn’t take long for the news that the youngest of the Urie’s family is seeing Spencer Smith to spread like wildfire in the small community; gossip flourishes like a well-kept garden, and Spencer comes to work looking more and more miserable each day, while Brendon is not seen anywhere, not even in church. Gerard watches the events unfolding with a sense of impotent rage slowly building inside him, until the day when some good-doer woman from the Daughters of the American Revolution brings her poodle in for a trim and refuses to deal with Spencer on the account of his abominable behaviour and life-style choice, when he finally reaches boiling point.
“Mrs. Velindre, you have no right to talk to my employee that way. Spencer is here to help you, not to be insulted. If you continue with this kind of language I will have no choice but to ask you to leave.”
Unaccustomed to being contradicted, Mrs. Velindre beats a hasty retreat, not before muttering something about the fact that she had never trusted Gerard, and she will make a point to tell everybody the appalling manner in which she was treated.
Spencer’s look is a mix of gratitude and embarrassment, he has his hands fisted tight over the desk, and the soft line of his chin is shaking just a bit.
“You didn’t have to do that, Gerard. She’ll tell everybody, she told mom as soon as she heard about Brendon and I.”
Gerard sits on the edge of Spencer’s desk and watches the sun bathing the street and the sky a metallic golden colour in the early afternoon light, he stretches; the line of his back straining with tiredness. “I’m not concerned about her, Spencer. I worry about you and Brendon. Is the situation at home any better?”
Spencer is not really the talkative type, but the situation is clearly eating away at him, because he bites viciously at his bottom lip and keeps his eyes on the desk, but tells Gerard everything that has been going on since that infamous night. He tells him about being stupidly happy, being so happy that him and Brendon had gotten careless and had ended up kissing goodbye behind the Old West Hardware’s store while it was still light out, only to be caught in flagrante by Mrs. Grant, who, obviously, thought that the charitable thing to do was to go to Brendon’s mom to tell her that her boy was being violated by one of the of the Smith's kids. He tells Gerard about Mrs. Urie coming to his house and shouting at Spencer’s mom, telling her that she should have been ashamed to have a son like Spencer.
“And you know what? I think she is ashamed, Gerard. She hasn’t said anything about it since Brendon’s mom came over. And that was two weeks ago. I cannot get hold of Brendon in any way and my own mother thinks I am a disgrace. I don’t understand why you came back to this shit-hole; it makes no sense to me. You used to live in New York, why come back?”
Gerard wishes, not only for Spencer’s sake, he had an answer to that, but he doesn’t. All he can do is be there for Spencer and, maybe, find a way to smooth things over. He is clearly aware that this is not a matter of little consequence in a small community such as Spirit Lake, especially because Brendon is a Mormon, but he cannot just sit and do nothing, not when someone he has come to care for is being mistreated for having fallen in love.
”You want to save the world, Gee. The whole wide, stinking world. And even if you know you’re going to fail, you are still going to try.”
Nate was right all along, he will still try.
Things, like always, have to get worst before they get better, and Gerard’s life and the lives of the people he loves, are no exception.
Three weeks after Mrs. Velindre’s visit to the surgery, Gerard is now as much an outcast as Spencer, or Brendon, and all on the account that, clearly, his queer disposition, and the time he has spent East, have been a terrible influence on those two poor boys.
His surgery has been deserted ever since, and if it wasn’t for all the work he does with the farms nearby, Gerard would have close and fire Spencer as well. The only people who still speak to him are his brother, Brandon and Frank.
“Well… “Frank pushes another glass of whiskey across the polished bar and hands over change to another customer. “At least now they’re not going to invite you for tea and try to get you to marry one of their daughters, right?”
Gerard laughs, his hand holding onto the shot glass with slightly trembling fingers.
“Yeah, Frank. Small miracles.” He downs the shot with a bitter grimace and taps the bar for another one, anger rasping the words down his throat.
“It just doesn’t make sense you know? Fuck, the whole town knows you’re gay, but they don’t give a shit and still come here to drink and play darts and listen to your shitty bands. Then those two kids dare to fall in love and it’s like Capulet and Montague? It’s just fucked up.”
Frank doesn’t show any sign at being upset for being called a fag, but he refuses to give another shot to Gerard, handing him a glass of water instead. “You’ve been away too long, Gee. Those folks… they don’t care about me. I was a waste of space when I was in high school, and my dad was a big lush, they were expecting me to fuck up. As long as I don’t go around “corrupting” the young, and as long as I serve them alcohol they won’t give a shit. But those two kids? Brendon was supposed to go into the Mormon mission next year, and Spencer was going to be the first of the Smiths’ to graduate from college. To their families, what has happened is worst than anything they could think of. It’s fucked up, but it’s how things are around here. You know it, Gee. They aren’t bad people; they’re just set in their ways. And this thing between them is freaking them out because, well- you told me once. Falling in love is the biggest, scariest thing ever. Remember?”
Gerard takes a good look at Frank then, at the way his eyes are bloodshot and tired, but still beautiful, olive green and kind, eyes that he has known for so long, eyes that still look at him as if he was the best thing in the whole wide world.
He looks at Frank and sees the little lines around his mouth, the fine ones criss-crossing the skin around his eyes, the long frown line between his brows, and can read the last ten years in bold letters. Frank has never hidden who he was, but it has not been easy, it has not come without a price, and the price is a big one. It’s being alone, it’s being left with a broken heart for not having had the courage to tell Gerard when they were younger, it’s to believe that he is good enough to be tolerated but not accepted by the rest of his town, by the people he grew up with.
“Frank...“ Gerard grabs Frank’s wrist and pulls him clean across the bar. “Frank… you’re the biggest fag I know. You really keep track of all the shit I say? That’s gay.” Gerard releases him and Frank wants to be angry, he really does, but Gerard’s stupid, gorgeous face will always make him smile, will always make him feel that stupid thrill in the pit of his stomach, no matter what.
“Fuck off, Way. You’re one to talk. If you were any gayer you’d be on holiday on ice.”
“Jesus, are already playing who’s gayer? How drunk are you guys?” Mikey slides on the stool beside Gerard’s and orders two vodkas and coke.
“Your brother is fucking wasted; I’m working, so no booze for me, asswipe. It’s just that your brother is so fucking gay, Tom Cruise has called twice to see if they can meet up. And since when do you drink vodka?”
Frank is about to make another joke about being a fruit when Jamia walks to the bar and sits beside Mikey.
Gerard raises an eyebrow to Frank, and there is a silent communication between the two of them until Frank seems to finally catch on and blurt out: “She has big jugs, I was right!”
Jamia just laughs then, her eyes twinkling behind the cat-like frames of her glasses.
“And you must be Frank, nice to meet you.”
Frank extends his hand and his eye line, again, falls down to her impressive bosom.
“Jesus, Frank. Way to be obvious. And I thought you only liked cock.”
Frank shakes his head as if to clear his thoughts from a breasts-induced haze, and smiles at Jamia and Mikey, still unrepentant. “Well, they’re rather magnificent. I’m a homo, but I can appreciate.”
“Well then, thank you. So, in virtue of my magnificent boobs, first round is on the house, right?”
Jamia and Frank get along like a house on fire and, for the first time in the past month, Gerard manages to have a good night, simply enjoying the company of people who don’t care if he is gay, a vet, or just the same guy they have grown up with.
It’s towards the end of the evening, and both Gerard and Mikey are outside smoking, the night air already hot with the promise of summer. Mikey bums one of Gerard’s last cigarettes and lights it against the dying cherry of his last one; he takes a deep breath and exhales a series of perfect rings.
“I’ve never managed to learn how to do that.” Gerard says quietly, one lonesome car rumbling down the end of the road.
Mikey takes another puff and proceeds to show off a little more before flicking the ash on the floor, and turning to look at his brother.
“You okay, Gee? I know this shit is getting to you.”
Gerard could lie, but Mikey can read him like the proverbial open book, and Gerard has had a little too much to drink to be anything but honest.
“I’m fine, I’ll be okay. Folks around here will always need a vet, but those two kids- Fuck, Mikey. They haven’t done anything wrong and they’re treated like they have committed some hideous crime. It’s just not fair, you know? And it’s not fair that Frank is… is what he is, and people around here barely tolerate him. It makes me want to punch someone.”
Mikey may have cultivated a lot of resentment towards Gerard, even hated him on some occasions, but in moments like this one, with the moon over the ribbon of asphalt that cuts through the main street, with Gerard’s face tired and open, Mikey knows that the love he has for his brother was never in question, because Gerard is this impossibly idealistic person, this man with a heart way too big not only for Spirit Lake, but the whole world. And in the same exact moment Mikey knows that, whatever reason Gerard had for leaving him, whether it was love, fear, or ever selfishness, Mikey will forgive him. Mikey has forgiven him already, because the bond that stretches between them will always bring one of them back to the other.
Mikey takes a deep breath and lets the noose of resentment slip loser from around his heart.
He puts a hand on Gerard’s shoulder and squeezes the tense muscle there, his bony fingers digging into the threadbare fabric of Gerard’s t-shirt.
“You’ll lose, Gee. You punch like a girl.”
Gerard barks out a loud laughter, and leans against his brother, the door behind them opens bringing out a couple of stumbling guys and a short burst of music, of something that sounds like “Don’t stop believing”, and Mikey tilts his head towards it , then says;
“Gee, Frank’s playing your song.”
“I doubt it was him. Frank hates Journey. Misguidedly so, because Journey is awesome. Obviously.”
Mikey stubs the last of his cigarette under the heel of his boot and shakes his head, a greasy curtain of dirty blond hair falling over his glasses.
“Gee, you really have no idea how much that idiot fucking loves you. You really don’t.”
If Gerard has learned anything coming back to Spirit Lake is that he really was, and is, unaware of the depth of not only his feelings, but the feelings of those around him, and he doesn’t question Mikey’s statement, because Frank may have been reluctant to tell Gerard about his feelings, but he was never able to hide them behind his face, his eyes, and the blatant affirmation in his actions towards Gerard.
“I think I’m beginning to see it, Mikes.”
Mikey looks at his brother with a mix of curiosity and suspicion, and he is about to ask Gerard what he had meant by that, but they’re stopped by someone yelling Gerard’s name. They both turn to look across the street and spot Brandon riding his bicycle, waving and hollering.
“What the fuck?”
Gerard is the first one to cross the street as Brandon comes to a halt so suddenly he almost catapults himself off the bike. Gerard puts both his hands on the handle-bars to steady the bike, and Brandon starts talking a mile a minute.
“Gerard, sorry. I’m sorry about this, but I didn’t really know who else to call. I called your house and the surgery and Mikey and then I thought you may be here, and here you are. And I need your help, and I know you don’t know me too well, and I shouldn’t ask, because it’s rude but- but….”
Gerard has the presence of spirit to actually stop Brandon before he gives himself a heart attack. He tells him calmly to take a breath and then makes Brandon step down the bike. Mikey, who has been watching the scene unfold, grabs the bike and the three of them start walking back towards the White Horse.
“Come on, kiddo. Let’s get inside and you can tell us all about it.”
Brandon hesitates a moment in front of the White Horse, but he walks inside anyway, after all, he has already gone to a club, drank coffee (and beer) and he has been thinking about what Spencer and Brendon have been doing in ways that will guarantee him a place in hell anyway, walking into another bar to help his friends won’t make much of a difference.
Frank and Jamia are in the middle of a heated conversation about the merits of Black Flag versus The Germs when Gerard sits Brandon on a stool and asks for a glass of water.
Frank looks at Brandon for a moment, but doesn’t question his presence in the bar, he just hands him the water and asks, not unkindly. “Brandon, you okay?”
Brandon downs the glass of water in two gulps while trying to figure out how to talk in front of all these people. He had hoped to find Gerard and just talk to him, but it’s clear now that it is not going to happen, but he still has to help his friends and he will be damned if he is not going to try his best.
“No, I’m not – I mean I am, but I am not, Mr. Iero…” Frank laughs at Brandon’s polite shyness and slaps him lightly on the arm, trying to make him relax a little.
“Relax kiddo. I’m Frank. I’ll never be Mr. Iero… Now, take a deep breath and tell us what’s wrong. Did someone hurt you?”
Brandon doesn’t look relaxed, he looks almost petrified and Jamia, who has already dealt with him at the garage, smiles at him kindly and glares at Frank. “Let the kid talk, Frank.”
If Brandon wasn’t in the state he is, he would be offended by the fact that everybody keeps calling him kid, but right now he has no time for this kind of petty problem. He takes a deep breath and finally blurts out the story of how Spencer had tried to go and talk to Brendon’s parents to ask them to please forgive him, and to forgive Brendon because it was all Spencer’s fault, only to be kicked out unceremoniously, and be told to never show his face again or Brendon’s dad would use his shotgun against him.
Frank wants to smile at the thought of old Mr. Urie’s using his shotgun for anything but elk’s hunting, but Gerard shoots him a warning look, and Frank keeps silent, waiting for Brandon to continue.
“And then- after they chucked Spencer out- then Brendon went upstairs and came down with a big bag and started yelling at his parents! I mean… I was waiting in the car, but he yelled at his mom! Brendon never yells, ever, not even when my sisters use him like a pony. It was real ugly, and he said to his folks that he was going to leave and they were never going to see him again and that he hated them. But I know it’s a lie, ‘cause Brendon loves him mom and dad very much and he was crying in the car after. “
All the laughter has gone from Frank’s eyes and the look he exchanges with Gerard is a worried one. He slaps his hand hard on the bar and hollers:”Ok, folks! Time to go home. We’re closing early tonight.” There is some grumbling and some loud protests, but most of the guys still in the bar are too drunk to put up a real fight, and the bar clears up pretty quickly after that. Once Frank has locked the front door, he walks back to the little cluster of people by the bar, and he is informed that Spencer and Brendon have decided to leave town as soon as morning comes. Apparently Spencer had some money saved and they are going to take the greyhound as far as his money will take them.
Brandon is still talking, apologising for intruding and for asking their help when both Gerard and Frank stop him. Frank grabs the key of his truck and Gerard takes Brandon’s hand. “Don’t worry, Brandon. We’re going to help, okay? Everything will be fine. “
Frank asks Mikey and Jamia to lock up and grabs his jacket before walking towards the back. “Come on, let’s go and get the lovebirds. Jesus, my life has turned into a James Dean’s movie.”
Gerard smiles at Brandon as he watches the line of Frank’s shoulder disappearing out in the dark of the parking lot. “Don’t worry, Brandon. Frank fucking loves James Dean.”
Spencer and Brendon are in one the ratty rooms at Super Eight motel; they are both still awake, their minds reeling with thoughts of freedom and abject fear. Spirit Lake is all they know, and Brendon has just turned eighteen and he hasn’t even finished high school yet, he has no idea what he wants to do with his life, all he knows is that he wants to be with Spencer, but he is still scared shitless at leaving town, leaving his family and friends, and he is pretty sure that Spencer feels exactly the same way.
When they hear a knock at the door they both jump and look at one another, fearful but defiant.
“Spencer? It’s Gerard, let us in.”
Spencer looks at Brendon silently asking if it’s okay to open the door, and then Brendon asks. “Who’s with you? Because if our parents are there I am not- we are not coming out.”
Frank rolls his eyes then, rubbing at his chin, wondering when his life has turned into some sort of teen drama. “Kids, I think you have already come out, the whole town knows about it. Just open the fucking door; it’s just Gee, Brandon and I.”
When Spencer opens the door he is holding onto Brendon’s hand with some sort of protective fierceness, something that makes Gerard’s heart beat rapidly for a moment, remembering how it is to feel that way for the first time.
“If you’re here to take us home, you can forget it.” Spencer looks determined, but his voice is brittle and shaky, lined with fear.
Franks sits on the bed and looks at the two of them shaking his head. “We ain’t gonna make you do anything you don’t wanna. You’re both over eighteen and you can do whatever you want, but this middle of the night escape? It’s lame. And you both know it. Where the fuck are you gonna go? Tell them, Gee.”
Gerard has been watching them by the door, Brandon standing, looking guilty, by his side. Spencer is shooting death glares at the two of them, but there is also a relived spark of hope in his bright blue eyes. “Spencer, Brandon was worried, that’s why he came to see me. And he did the right thing. Frank’s right, where are you going to go? I understand you want to live your lives, but you don’t have to decide in one night, you can plan this; you can sort your lives out before fucking everything up. “
Spencer has always been the practical one, and he is aware that Gerard and Frank are right, but it doesn’t make his situation any easier. He has no home to go to and neither has Brendon, and they are not going to let their parent separate them.
“What do you suggest we do, Gerard? We have no place to stay here, and the whole town thinks I’ve corrupted Brendon and that you’ve been encouraging us all along. We have no choice but leave.”
Brendon nods in agreement, hands still held tight in Spencer’s. They both look so much younger than they already are and Gerard just wants to hug them both, but he knows he has to be practical here, so he just sits on the bed beside Frank, and they both look at one another already knowing what the plan is, already knowing that they have committed themselves to help Spencer and Brendon regardless of the consequences.
“You do have another choice if you wish to accept it.” Gerard watches the two hopeful faces, and continues, knowing, for the first time with absolute certainty, that he did the right thing by coming back, even if it was just to help two scared kids.
Spencer looks dubious but Brendon asks what the option is, already holding onto a hope that they can stay, that they can survive falling in love for the first time.
“Well Spencer, you still have your job of course, and you can keep going to business class as well, and get your diploma like you were planning to do. And Brendon can finish high school and then decide what to do with his life.”
Brendon shakes his head then, the curve of his generous mouth shaped into sadness. “I need to find a job, I don’t have any money.”
“You can work for me.” Frank chimes in. “I need someone to clean the toilets, wipe the tables, and sort my shit out when I am busy. You can’t serve at the bar because you aren’t twenty-one yet, but you can earn your keep if you want it. And still go to school and get your diploma. Cone on, kid. You got what? Two months? You can do it.”
The spark of hope lights up again in Brendon’s eyes, and he turns to look at Spencer to see what he thinks of it all, hoping to see the same desire to stay that Brandon feels in his own heart.
Spencer wants it as much as Brendon does, but there is still the problem of where they’re going to live, because even with their two jobs there is no way they can afford anything decent in town.
“You can come and live with me. I’ve got a spare room and you can rent it. It makes sense. And I can drive Brendon to school and you can come to the surgery with me.”
“No offence, Gee, but your house is too small for three people.”
Every person in the room turns to look at Mikey standing by the door with Jamia.
She closes the door behind them and sits by the small desk near the window. “Sorry to barge in, guys. But we thought that you maybe needed another pair of super good-looking adults to help out.”
Brandon all but beams at Jamia, having developed an instant fondness for her sassy character and kind smile. She tugs at Mikey’s shirt sleeve and the two exchanges a conspiratorial look. “Mikey here thought that maybe you two could come and live with him. His house is bigger and closer to town, and it would be easier for Brendon to go to school and Gee can always come and pick Spencer up because it’s real close to the surgery too.”
Mikey nods in agreement and adds: “We can sort out rent and bills, and you two will have enough time to decide what to do with your lives, and maybe, in time, your folks will come around, and you don’t have to go all teen drama on us, okay?”
Spencer looks slightly ruffled by the slight sarcasm in Mikey’s words, but he knows a good deal when it sees one and, after looking at Brendon and being met with one of Brendon’s huge, blinding smiles, he nods and walks over to Mikey to shake his hand.
“Thank you. Very much.”
“You’re welcome, kiddo. We’re all about sorting the world one little gay dude at the time, right? We’re still working on Frank, but we’re hopeful.”
Frank throws one of the ratty pillows at Mikey’s head and Brandon’s laughter, for the first time since they arrived, rings clear in the small, crowded room.
Frank looks at him in mock hurt and tackles him on the floor, making the rest of the party laugh.
“Order, children.” Gerard pulls Frank off of Brandon while they are both still laughing, and Frank twists in his arms until he can plant a small kiss to Gerard’s cheek and whispers in his ear. “You’ve done a real good thing here, Way.”
Mikey whistles and Jamia slaps his arm. “Jesus, it’s like I’m running with the little rascals. Come on, Spencer? Brendon? Pick up your staff; I think it’s time to leave this place before I start scratching from flea bites.”
Mikey and Jamia drive Spencer and Brendon home, while Frank takes care of Brandon and Gerard. It’s almost one in the morning when they get to the Flower’s cottage and the light in the kitchen is still on, Brandon’s mom silhouetted against the light.
“Are you going to be okay, Brandon?” Brandon jumps off the truck and smiles big at the two of them. “Yes. Yes, I think everything is going to be just fine.”
Brandon runs inside and Frank turns the truck around to drive off and says: “Front for the liberation of little gay dudes: one, prejudice-filled old town: nil. We rock.”
Gerard turns the radio on, and starts singing along at the top of his lungs.