Chapter 2

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Gerard stepped into Mr. Iero's office for the second time.

A book was in his lap. His eyes scanned the pages hungrily, and much like last time, he was so engrossed, he didn't notice Gerard's presence. It was an awkward few moments. Gerard didn't want to have to say anything to get his attention. He wasn't very good with words—even obvious ones, like "Hey, Mr. Iero. I know you love books, but you really should be doing your job right now."

The tattoos on his neck and hands were no longer visible. He'd put more effort into covering them today. Gerard wished he could see them, because yesterday, he'd sketched the perfect picture of Frank, only it lacked the tattoos it so desperately needed. Gerard knew it was a bit weird to draw someone without their knowledge, but Frank simply had a face that was meant to be drawn. With the perfectly narrow nose, those wide, alert eyes, and that hole under the lip—a lip piercing, perhaps? It was art in itself.

Frank was still submerged in the world of whatever book he was reading, so Gerard had no other choice than to loudly clear his throat.

Frank's head shot up. He immediately blushed, mumbling an abundance of apologies and slamming the book shut.

"I've got to start being more alert," Frank mumbled to himself as he sat up in his chair and cast a careful gaze on Gerard, who stood on the other side of Frank's desk. "I'm so sorry." He thought for a moment before speaking again. "How are you doing, Gerard? How has your morning gone?"

"Well," Gerard began, still standing. He paused to pick lint off his gray, worn sweatshirt. "I was pushed into a locker this morning. So, not the best, but not the worst, either. How about your morning?"

Frank's eyes widened. He held a hand up to pause. A hand, Gerard thought to himself, that was covered in tattoos he couldn't see. "Woah, woah, woah, let's backtrack. You were pushed into a locker?"

"Yes," Gerard said. His expression was violently neutral. He neither smiled nor frowned. "It happens quite often. Bert McCracken doesn't like me very much."

"We've got to tell somebody," Frank said. "Does Mr. Urie know about this?"

Gerard's face fell. His hands balled and unballed. "No, and no. Telling somebody would make things ten times worse. I'm telling you. Don't do that."

Me. Iero shook his head. "What do you mean? We've got to do something, Gerard. You're telling me you got pushed into a locker, for God's sake, and you don't want me to try and make it stop?"

"Nothing you could possibly do would ever make it stop," Gerard insisted, returning to his routine of pacing in a circle around the floor. "Unless you, like, killed him. And I don't want you to do that."

A heavy sigh escaped Frank's mouth. He sat back in his swivel chair. "Why'd you tell me this, then? Now I'll have this on my conscience all day. What if you get seriously hurt?" He paused. "This is just like last night, when you wanted to walk miles in the cold. Miles, for God's sake. Do you have a deathwish?"

Gerard laughed.

"I'm serious," Frank said. "You've got this pattern of self-destructive tendencies that I want to help you with." His hazel eyes widened a bit, and Gerard stared. With the perfect oil paints, Gerard could portray those eyes excellently on a canvas. Maybe he'd actually do it.

For the first time in Mr. Iero's office, Gerard took a seat. It was another black swivel chair, identical to the one Frank sat in. Very uncomfortable. Very stiff. Probably unused.

"Not all of the decisions I make are single-layered," Gerard began slowly, eyeing Frank all the while."There are reasons for the things I do, and not, like, because I want to hurt myself, because I don't. I'm mainly just trying to cater to my inner desires. I am not self-destructive."

"Are you sure?" Frank responded instantly, which irked Gerard a little. Gerard had taken a few moments to choose his words carefully, and it seemed Frank had simply rejected all of them. "What about... Bert McCrackle, is it? Why continue to let him bother you?"

Gerard didn't waste time correcting him. "I told you, having the principal go after him or something would just make him angrier. And besides, he doesn't bother me too much."

Frank looked baffled. He went a few moments without speaking, leaving Gerard to stare down at his hands until he got a response. Gerard almost regretted saying anything. It felt stupid, talking about Bert aloud to anyone besides Mikey.

"How doesn't he bother you that much?" Frank asked. "Bothering you—as you said—frequently?"

"Maybe you just kind of get used to it," Gerard said. He'd gone back to picking lint off his sweatshirt, with his shoulder-length hair hanging in his face. and his voice came out as a half-mumble. "And maybe.."

"Maybe..?"

Gerard blushed and looked off. "Maybe it's nice having someone to talk to." He knew Frank would think he was crazy, so he tried to back his case. "You know how my brother doesn't talk to me anymore? Bert is kind of all I have right now."

Frank was stunned into silence for the second time that hour. Gerard watched, red-faced, as Frank touched his lip-piercing hole and thought of something to say. With the growing silence, regret was quick to fill Gerard's body. Why did he speak, ever?

Truly, Gerard was a second away from getting up and walking out when Frank finally opened his mouth to speak.

"I know I'm just the school counselor, but you have me. You are welcome in my office anytime."

-
"Oh, my God. I am so sick of grading papers!" Jamia said. Jamia. Because during lunch, she'd barged into Frank's room, papers in hand, and plopped herself on Frank's desk. Frank made a half-attempt at listening to her as he read his book and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

"Glad I don't have that problem," Frank mumbled as he flipped a page and took a bite of his sandwich. When Jamia began on some long tangent about just how irritating grading was, Frank blocked her out and hoped that Gerard knew he meant it when he said, "You are welcome in my office anytime."

It was odd, but Frank felt like he could listen to Gerard speak for hours. He had such a mature, intelligent way of talking that was awfully rare among other people his age. What an interesting kid. A bit sad, how Gerard truly didn't have a friend in the world, but in a way, Frank almost felt like Gerard was too good for friends. A few other students had wandered into his office over the past two months, and none of them were anything like Gerard. Not that Gerard was perfect, like the second coming of Jesus or anything, but if Frank was seventeen, he knew he'd be comparing himself to Gerard.

The ringing of the period five bell snapped him back into reality. Jamia was reluctant to go. Before she left, she gathered up her papers, leaned over Frank's desk, and kissed him on the cheek.

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