Patrick Stump was never late.
This was very intentional. He hated the feeling of being stressed, the feeling of dread that came with running late, the eyes that followed you when you finally made your way into the classroom, silently judging, silently coming up with reasons, most of them unflattering, for your lateness. So he arrived at his Sociology seminar, SOC 203: Social Interaction, fifteen minutes early. He was the first one there.
He sighed. At least he could choose his seat, he supposed. Patrick had long theorized that placement in the classroom was essential to learning success. He deliberated for a minute, weighing the pros and cons of each seat, before selecting one that was sufficiently far enough from the teacher that he could occasionally goof off in class but close enough that he would be able to see the professor and the board. His eyes weren’t exactly the best.
After he’d settled into his chair and neatly arranged his belongings around him, the door burst open and two boys walked in. One of them had his arms crossed tightly over his chest and was scowling. The other was slumped over slightly, his long, black hair falling in his eyes. The angry-looking one muttered, “I really don’t see why we’ve got to get to class ten minutes early.”
“It’s your first year!” the black-haired boy responded, sounding positively scandalized at the implication that the other boy should show up any later. “You’ve got to make a good impression, Mikey. It’s an investment in your future.”
“There’s no one here to make an impression on,” Mikey said flatly.
“That’s not true!” the black-haired boy said. He looked over and spotted Patrick at the table. Patrick’s first impulse was to flee, but the two weird boys were blocking his path to the exit. He resigned himself to his fate; despite his reservations, he would have to engage in conversation with these two boys. He offered the black-haired boy a half-smile as the boy chirped, “Hi! I’m Gerard Way. I’ve heard this is a really interesting class.”
Patrick briefly wondered if Gerard Way only spoke in exclamation points. He nodded. “Yeah, I’ve heard that too. I’m Patrick.”
“Mikey,” Mikey said, not looking at him. Mikey wasn’t big on using class as a social space, Patrick assumed. That was fine. Patrick wasn’t big on that either. He was mostly here to learn.
The door opened again, and this time the first thing Patrick noticed about the newcomer was his massive head of curls. The guy positively beamed as he walked into the room. “I’m not the first one here for once,” he said brightly.
Patrick had never been in a class where everyone interacted before class began. Then again, he had chosen a class called Social Interaction, so he supposed that was to be expected. “I like to show up early, but I guess I was a little bit too early today,” Patrick said.
“Cool,” the boy with the wild hair said. “I’m Ray.”
“Patrick,” Patrick said.
“I’m Gerard, and, um, this is Mikey,” Gerard said, grinning at Ray. “I feel like a good portion of today is just going to be introducing ourselves.”
“That’s the worst part of syllabus week,” Ray said, nodding.
“Shit, I haven’t come up with any fun facts,” Patrick said automatically, cringing when he realized he’d spoken aloud. Ray and Gerard didn’t seem perturbed, though. Instead, Gerard nodded sagely.
“There’s not much interesting about me,” Gerard said.
Mikey snickered from his place on Gerard’s left. “You played Peter Pan in elementary school.”
Gerard shoved Mikey. “That is private information, Mikey.” Patrick found himself wondering what the relationship between the two of them was - perhaps childhood friends, but they seemed even closer, almost like brothers. He supposed it was possible, but he wasn’t sure he would want to take a class with either of his siblings.
He was interrupted from his thoughts by the sound of the door creaking open again. Two boys walked in this time, though they didn’t seem to know each other. One was wearing a scarf and was dressed like he was the protagonist in a gay romance novel. The other looked like he wanted to hide himself away from the world in an oversized hoodie and jeans. Patrick could relate to that feeling.
“Hi!” Ray greeted them brightly, almost like he was the professor or TA or something, though Patrick was pretty sure he’d seen him around campus and he was just a lowly student like the rest of them. “I’m Ray.”
“Tyler,” the hoodie wearing guy said, sitting down in a chair near the end of the table like he was trying to hide.
“I’m Ryan,” said the scarf-wearing boy, throwing his leather bag down on a chair to claim it. “Honestly, I’m really hoping this class is as easy as everyone says it is.”
“I heard it was life-changing,” Gerard said reverently. Patrick wanted to snicker; he was feeling pretty skeptical about that claim. Thankfully, Mikey snickered enough for the both of them. Gerard scowled and smacked him on the shoulder.
“You wouldn’t think a sociology class would be, but I’ve heard the same,” Ray said. “It’s like a cult or some shit. All my friends who took the class weren’t allowed to tell us what they did in class. But they all said it was an amazing class and I wouldn’t regret taking it, so well, here I am.”
Patrick hadn’t heard that. Then again, he wasn’t very popular, so he didn’t have any friends who had taken the class. He was taking the class because it worked with his schedule and satisfied his social sciences requirement, but suddenly he felt as though he had gotten in way too far over his head. He wasn’t looking for a life-changing experience. He was just looking to graduate.
The door opened, and a somewhat short man filed in, followed by a group of nine people - six of them guys, and only one girl. One of them, a guy with a constant small smile on his face and a head of curls that almost rivaled Ray’s, sat down on one side of Patrick. The other side was left empty, and Patrick was starting to wonder if he had the plague or something. The chair beside Gerard was left open, too, but Patrick suspected that was because Gerard looked a little like he hadn’t showered in a few days.
The man raised an eyebrow at them, then gestured at the clock. “It’s 1:25. Class is supposed to start now. We’re still missing three people, though. That’s kind of weird. Usually people are on time to this class, especially on the first day. Anyways, I’m sure my reputation precedes me, but I’m Professor Armstrong. Welcome to Social Interactions. I’ll try to tone down my personality for this first day, but just you wait.” He grinned wickedly. “Now, I don’t believe in syllabuses or syllabi or what the fuck ever they’re called — you’ll have to excuse my cursing, sorry, I’ve got a filthy ass mouth, it’s a wonder I haven’t been fired yet. I prefer to talk. 90% of what this class consists of is talking, which is why it’s called fucking Social Interactions — “
The door swung open, interrupting his speech, and three sheepish looking boys stumbled in. Two were incredibly short, and all three were wearing guyliner, which made Patrick snicker. The one in front, who had straightened jet black hair and looked like he’d just stumbled off the cover of Alternative Press Emo Edition into the classroom, said, “Sorry we’re late. Or at least, sorry I’m late. I don’t know these guys. But they’re probably sorry too.”
“I’m calling bullshit that you don’t know each other,” one of the boys who had walked in with the professor, who had a very nice mustache and beard set, said. “You look like a boy band. If you really don’t know each other, it was meant to be.” The short boy in the back with what looked like a billion tattoos flipped him off.
The professor just laughed. “Have a seat.” The three boys scrambled to the open seats, one of which was next to Patrick. The guy who’d spoken to the professor ended up beside Patrick, and he met Patrick’s wide eyes and whispered, “I heard this class would be heavenly, but I never thought I’d meet an actual angel.”
God, just do me a favor and kill me, Patrick prayed silently.
Frank really wasn’t the best with times, he’d come to realize. For some reason he’d thought his 1:25 class was at 1:45 so he’d been chilling, but then he’d happened to glance at his schedule and realized he had five minutes to get to class and he’d completely freaked out. He’d grabbed his backpack and darted out the door. Scheduling was one of his least favorite parts about college, he decided, but it was necessary if he was going to graduate and make everyone proud or what the fuck ever. Then, once he got to class five minutes late, he’d had to walk in with two guys who were also wearing guyliner, which made it look like they’d all planned it and showed up together, even though he’d never fucking met them in his life. He was so annoyed he wanted to punch a wall. And it was the only the first day of class.
He sat down beside some guy who looked like he hadn’t showered in a few days, which was kind of gross, but the guy was staring at his tattoos with unadulterated admiration like Frank hadn’t seen in ages, which was kind of amazing. Frank’s tattoos were his pride and glory. He could talk about them all day if someone asked. He hoped the greasy guy next to him would ask.
Oh, yes, he was supposed to be paying attention. It was very important that Frank pass this class, his mother had emphasized about a billion times, because he needed to keep his GPA up at least enough to keep his scholarship if he wanted to graduate from college. And even though it was fucking boring as shit, Frank really did want to graduate from college. He zoned back in.
“Look around you,” Professor Armstrong (Frank had taken the liberty of looking him up before class started) was saying. “You probably don’t know anyone. You’re all perfect strangers right now.”
The guy beside him looked puzzled. “Mikey’s my brother.” The guy on his other side - Mikey, Frank guessed - nodded.
“We have siblings in this class this year? That’s a first,” Professor Armstrong mused. “Anyone else have any connections in this class?”
A guy with a huge head of crazy ass curls raised his hand. “Brendon’s on my hall.”
“Ray Toro! I knew I recognized that badass hair.” One of the guys he’d walked in with, presumably Brendon, grinned over at Ray.
“Anyone else?” Professor Armstrong asked.
Frank glanced around the classroom, but he found that somehow, he genuinely did not know anyone. A whole year of school had passed, and yet he could still somehow wind up in a room of perfect strangers. It was somehow both terrifying and rad as hell. He shook his head, and looking around, he saw everyone else was shaking their heads too.
“Great,” Professor Armstrong said. “We should do introductions then. I would suggest that all of you listen very closely, because over the next few months, these people are going to become your best friends and your worst enemies.”
Glancing around, Frank saw that the greasy guy beside him was looking very concerned. On his other side, a girl was looking supremely unimpressed. Frank appreciated the unadulterated punk vibe he got from her. He wondered if any of these people would actually become his friends As he zoned back in, he found the first guy was already introducing himself.
“Name’s Jon Walker,” the guy said. “I’m from Illinois. I’m a sophomore. Majoring in Anthropology. Um. Yeah.” He nodded and glanced over at the guy beside him, who Frank was sure was like 20 feet tall. Or maybe Frank was just incredibly short. Probably both.
“Dallon Weekes,” the gentle giant said. “I’m a senior from Salt Lake City, Utah, and my major is Psychology.”
Ray was next. He grinned brightly and said, “Hi! I’m Ray Toro, I’m a senior as well majoring in Film, and I’m from New Jersey.”
“No shit,” Frank said, and it took him a minute to realize that he’d spoken out loud and everyone was staring at him. His face heated up. “I’m from Jersey too,” he said quickly. “We can talk about it later.”
Ray laughed. The guy beside Ray started talking, introducing himself as Joe from Ohio or some shit, but Frank was too lost in his own thoughts to notice until the guy after Joe said, “Hi, I’m Patrick Stump from Illinois. I’m a junior and I’m majoring in Music.”
The guy on Patrick’s other side said, “Oh my god, Patty, me too!” with a kind of familiarity that made it seem like they’d known each other forever, though from the beginning of the class Frank knew that no one in the class knew each other besides the two brothers, really. Patrick did not seem amused; he shot the guy a scowl as the guy continued talking, and Frank almost snorted. The guy said, “I’m Pete Wentz, I’m from Illinois just like Patty here, and I’m a senior. Even though it might not seem like it, cause I’m short as fuck. Ha.” Frank could relate to that, at least.
Next was a girl named Sarah who was a sophomore, Hayley who was a freshman, Ryan who was a junior, and Brendon, who, as a Theater major, made a huge show out of his introduction like it was a monologue or some shit. The kid who was hiding in his hoodie introduced himself as Tyler, an undecided freshman, and then it came to the guy beside him’s brother.
“I’m Mikey Way, “ Mikey said. “I’m a freshman, I don’t know how I managed to get into this class but I’m happy about it, and I haven’t declared my major yet.”
The older Way grinned over at his brother and then said, “Hi, I’m Mikey’s brother Gerard. Uh, Gerard Way. I’m a senior, majoring in art, and I’m from New Jersey as well. Uh, Mikey is too. I guess he forgot to say that.” Mikey rolled his eyes at Gerard, but Frank grinned, feeling a strange sort of connection to Gerard. First the tattoo admiration, now a shared affinity to New Jersey? He had a feeling they’d get along well. Maybe too well.
“I’m Frank Iero,” he said, realizing it was his turn. “I’m also from Jersey. I’m a sophomore, majoring in Law, I think, but I keep changing my mind every couple of weeks, because fuck the system.” He grinned, and he felt Gerard smiling back at him. Fuck, he thought to himself very eloquently. He hadn’t come into this class expecting to make any friends. Apparently fate had other plans. It wasn’t like he could not be friends with someone from Jersey who liked his tattoos and was kind of dorky but kind of attractive. That just wasn’t fair.
The last few people introduced themselves - Lindsey or something, Spencer, Andy - and then the Professor started talking about social learning and how they’d all followed the example of Jon, who had gone first, but Frank was too busy thinking. And tapping his fingers on his leg to the beat of a song only he could hear.
At least it was a happy one this time.
Ryan was already regretting his decision to take this class a little bit. Sure, the class was called Social Interactions, and maybe this was a little bit his own fault, but come on, he didn’t expect the class to be based 100% on Social Interactions, which he wasn’t any fucking good at. That was why he’d chosen to be an English major. He could hole up in his room and just write for days and be a hermit if he wanted to. He didn’t have to interact with all the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed people in this room.
“I hope you all were listening, because your first graded assignment is to name all the people in this room,” Professor Armstrong said. There was a collective gasp in the room, and he laughed. “By next class, and I’ll give you the roster to study in the meantime. Chill out, everyone.” That was going to be a challenge, Ryan realized. He’d paid attention only sporadically, and he could name only a few people in the classroom. Brandon, the guy beside him. That guy with a lot of tattoos - Frank, maybe? Spencer, who he thought might live in his dorm. Dillon, who was crazy tall. Peter Pan or some shit. God. He had a lot of studying to do.
The professor kept going. “I know you all know we don’t have tests in this class, which is probably the reason you took this class.” A low chuckle in the room. He was right, Ryan thought, but Ryan wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing it. “You will still have assignments, though. For example, short weekly papers.” A groan, now. Professor Armstrong laughed. “I know it sounds awful. But all it is, you just have to talk to someone in this class outside of class, have a real conversation, and no, Gerard and Mikey, you can’t talk to each other.” Gerard and Mikey, Ryan thought, looking at the brothers. He could remember that. Then it hit him that he’d have to have a conversation with one of these weirdos at least once a week outside of class. Gross, he thought, and it wasn’t like any of them would want to talk to him anyways. He’d never thought once in his two years here that the first class he failed would be a fucking Sociology class. “Then, after you talk to someone, you write a short reflection about it. That’s it. Got it?”
There were a lot of nods and a lot of mumbled ‘yeses’. Ryan didn’t move, which was entirely the wrong move, because Professor Armstrong noticed and said, “Ryan?”
“Oh, uh, that’s fine,” Ryan said quickly, feeling more than a little annoyed at having been called out.
“Good,” the professor said. “Now, I’ll get more into the other assignments later, but it’s nothing you really have to worry about besides participation and attendance. This is a class called Social Interaction, so of course you have to interact. You have to participate. A good portion of your grade is based on this. Attendance, I obviously understand if you have a real good reason to miss - you’re sick, someone dies, you know. But you should not be skipping class or it will negatively affect your grade. Clear?”
Everyone nodded. Ryan was sure to nod along this time. He wasn’t very fond of having a portion of his grade be based on participation, but whatever, it was a seminar class and he probably should have figured as much. He’d bullshit some stuff in class and get out with an A. Or, at least, he hoped he would.
“Finally, before we move on to our activity, a word of caution. This classroom can get very heated very fast. I’ve had quite a few students get involved romantically. I’ve had quite a few students have break ups, feuds, fights. Whatever your biases are, whatever happens outside of class - you’re to leave that outside of class. Got it?”
Ryan’s eyebrows shot up. This class just got more bizarre by the second, he thought, and he’d just wanted the stupid social sciences credit. He wasn’t looking to get romantically involved or have some dramatic ass breakup or get into a blood feud with anyone in this class. He just wanted a good grade and to get out. He had enough friends already. He realized that everyone else was nodding around, and he frantically nodded along, hoping that he wouldn’t get called on again.
“Good,” Professor Armstrong said, and Ryan’s body sagged in relief. “Now, we’re gonna play a game I’m sure you’ve all played before. Never Have I Ever.” Ryan sighed again. God, there was a lot of shit he hadn’t done, but it was mostly stuff he would prefer not to share with this room of strangers. He could imagine the judgment and the pity he would get if he confessed he was a virgin. That would only double if they knew he was gay.
On the professor’s instructions, they all held up ten fingers. They were instructed to introduce themselves again before saying their thing, which was a relief for Ryan, who definitely could use a refresher on the people in this class. This time, they started with a guy named Andy who was sitting on the other end.
“Uh,” Andy said, looking like he was deep in thought before he burst out with a, “Never have I ever been a girl.”
The three girls in the class groaned, and Frank with the tattoos pretty much cackled, which earned him a glare from a good portion of the classroom. One of the girls said, “Is that even legal?” to which the professor just shrugged and said, “The games must go on.”
Spencer was next. “Never have I ever been drunk off my ass,” he said. The whole room groaned, including Ryan, and most of the people put one of their fingers down. “Bullshit,” said Tall-Dillon-in-front-of-Spencer, to which Spencer said, “I come from a sheltered background. I’ll get there.”
One of the girls, who ended up being named Lindsey, said, “Never have I ever made out with a girl.”
“Bullshit,” came from some other corner of the room again, but Lindsey just rolled her eyes and smirked. Ryan hoped that no one noticed that he hadn’t put his finger down. Then again, a surprising number of the guys hadn't put their fingers down either. Ryan wondered if that meant what he thought it meant.
Next came tattooed Frank, who had one of his legs jiggling and his fingers tapping a rhythm on his thigh as he said, “Never have I ever left the country.”
A few more people put fingers down, and Frank didn’t really look too happy with the fact that he’d never left the country, which Ryan could understand. He hadn’t really left the country either. He stared at his nine fingers with a sense of regret as one of the brothers, whose name was Gerard, said, “Never have I ever killed an animal.”
“Do spiders count?” Frank asked from beside him.
“Yes,” Gerard said, sounding scandalized. “Spiders are animals, too.” He looked all the more scandalized as everyone in the room but him put a finger down.
“Sorry,” Frank said with a shrug. “But fuck spiders, man.”
“Amen,” someone chimed in from across the room.
“You eat meat,” Mikey muttered from beside Gerard. Gerard glared at him. Ryan tried not to laugh.
Mikey said he’d never been on a boat, and Josh (who had bright hair and a nice smile) said he’d never played guitar (which, surprisingly, got a lot of people out). Tyler (the sulky kid in the corner) said he’d never done drugs, to which Peter said loudly, “Dude, there’s a professor in the room.”
Professor Armstrong laughed. “I’m not going to turn you in for smoking some weed, Pete.” Pete, Ryan thought, and then was very impressed at how quickly the professor learned names. He’d had a lot of practice, Ryan figured. “This is an activity for you to get to know each other. I’ll close my eyes during this round if you want. But nothing you say goes outside of this room.”
Ryan sighed and put a finger down. Weed was his vice. It was often the only thing that helped him make sense of a nonsensical world. The guy beside him, Brandon, said, “Hi, my name is Brendon.” Whoops, Ryan thought, although it was a weird name, in his defense. “And I’ve never… I’ve never been to a concert.”
Everyone in the room stared at Brendon like he was crazy and put down a finger. Brendon just shrugged and muttered something like “I grew up with strict parents and haven’t had a chance to yet”, which made Ryan a little sad. It was Ryan’s turn, though, and he hadn’t really thought of anything, so he blurted out, “I’m Ryan, and I’ve never used Facebook.” Which was true. But also really weird, he was sure.
After Ryan went, only one girl had to go before the girl beside her, Sarah, got out. Professor Armstrong grinned, said “I hope you learned a lot about each other today. Remember: study the roster and talk to one person and write a reflection on it, okay? See you all here next week” and then dismissed them. Ryan started packing up his stuff when he heard, "Hey, Ryan."
He glanced up to see Brendon-not-Brandon standing beside him, biting his lip. “I was wondering if you wanted to talk sometime for the class assignment? If not, it’s totally fine, I just…”
“I’ll be fine, thanks,” Ryan said curtly.
Brendon made an expression like a puppy that had just been kicked. Ryan felt kind of bad as the boy just nodded mutely, turned, and walked away, and so he called, “Wait. Brendon. I’m sorry. I’m just… not the most social person. But I definitely do need someone to talk to. I can give you my number?”
“Great,” Brendon said, beaming from ear to ear. “Now, I do have rehearsals a good part of the week, and I’m in this club that meets on Tuesdays, but I’m sure we can arrange a time. I’ll, uh, what the fuck, I should stop rambling. I'll just text you."
"Got it," Ryan said, feeling a little bit amused as Brendon grabbed his things and flounced away. Maybe this class wouldn't be the end of his life.