It was a spring afternoon in 1958, approaching the end of the school year. Spencer Smith adjourned the Math Club meeting--his last meeting as vice president. Next year, he would take the prestigious title of president, although he had been acting as president all year anyway because President Blackinton had been too busy with drama rehearsals to perform his duties. Spencer didn’t mind, because from what he saw, Blackinton had been elected more for his charisma (a rare and awe-inspiring trait among Math Club members) than his mathematical skills--a grave miscarriage of the electoral system, to Spencer’s way of thinking. But Blackinton was graduating--not even as Salutatorian, merely the top 5% of his class--and now Spencer was in control. It would be a great addition to his college applications, and with that happy thought swelling his chest, he walked home, doing his best to wear his book bag in a somewhat dignified way (hateful thing, his father had promised him a briefcase for next year, but until then it was a knapsack).
He set out his homework on his desk to work on after dinner (half of Pride and Prejudice, a lab report for Biology, and a chapter for math), and headed downstairs to kiss his mother--on the cheek, so she wouldn’t have to reapply her lipstick before father got home--and have a cookie, maybe, as an after school snack. Halfway through his second snicker doodle, the doorbell chimed.
“Get that, will you, dear?” His mother waved distractedly from the coupon section she was clipping--Buy One Ham, Get One Free! (Feed The Family and Then Some!). He only rolled his eyes a little bit on his way down the hall, but he composed his face into a neutrally pleasant expression before opening the door. A fact he was thankful for, considering that he opened the door to a bright light and a camera in his face.
“Congratulations!” A woman who looked an awful lot like photos of his grandmother--from before the war, when she was young--with dark hair and bright red lips smiled at him. It looked big and bright but her eyes were tight at the corners. “Out of all the devoted members of Frankie’s Sweethearts, you’re the lucky winner of our One Last Kiss competition. You’re a very lucky girl, Spencer, what do you have to say?” She held the long, thin microphone out to him.
Spencer considered for a long moment, regarding the camera on its thick swivel base and the blond man behind it, the muscled man behind him, guiding the thick cable, broad shoulders tense. He pursed his lips a little and cocked his hip, and leaned down to speak directly into the microphone. “I’m not a girl.”
“Fuck. Of all the. God fucking damn it.” The man had black hair that Spencer was willing to bet had once been effortlessly styled (with the help of a ton of Brylcream) into the most fashionable of ‘dos. At the moment though, it was a mess. Sweat, time, and stress had his hair flopping all over, and his fairly round cheeks were flushed a blotchy red. He’d half undone his tie once he entered, and flung his suit jacket over the back of the sofa. “Fuck. I.” He turned and looked at Spencer suddenly, and the angry red flush turned a little bit pink. “Sorry, kid.”
“It’s fine,” Spencer said. He didn’t swear so much himself--young professionals, his father always told him, knew how to use their words--but he was secretly a little bit thrilled. Because even though he wasn’t, in fact, a girl, he was a member of the fan club, Frankie’s Sweethearts. His desk, as previously mentioned stacked neatly with homework, was gazed down upon by dozens of magazine clippings, as not previously mentioned. Frankie smiling, Frankie crooning, Frankie combing his hair into a heart-smashingly, stomach-flutteringly perfectly bad D.A. Collected from teen magazines he coerced girls to buy for him at the drugstore and then hid under his bed, posters and exclusive photos sent to him through the fan club--they all came to live on his wall, spread in a neat web around his prize: the autographed photo of Frankie on his motorcycle he got in September of 1956, a commemoration of his one year anniversary in the fan club. He knew he was a little out of place in the Sweethearts, but, he always told himself, it wasn’t as though he could be the only boy in the fan club. The lack of a blank for gender on the form (Send it in with a stamp and two kisses, one for Frankie and one to save), he told himself, was just because that didn’t matter. Not because no one ever thought that a boy would join.
Apparently that was the case however, because in a few minutes, it seemed very likely Spencer would have a man pass out purely from stress in his living room. Not that he would complain, necessarily; he was a devoted fan, and he knew Gerard Way--Frankie’s manager, best friend, and discoverer. Not to mention co-founder of Frankie’s label, Way Down Records--when he saw him. There were quite possibly a few shots of Gerard on his wall as well, mostly with his arm slung around Frankie’s shoulder, or watching Frankie from the side of a stage.
Right now, though, Gerard Way was in his living room and looking piteously at him. “Are you sure you aren’t a girl?”
Spencer nodded. “I’m sure.”
“And you don’t have a sister? There aren’t any girls named Spencer Smith living in this town?” Spencer shook his head. Gerard looked like he might be sick.
“I’m sorry,” Spencer offered, his heart sinking a little. This should have been thrilling, the kind of thing he could tell all his friends about the next day at school, but in that moment, he felt tiny. Wrong. Disappointing. Gerard shook his head and ran a hand through his hair, making it even worse than before.
“Not your fault, we.” He laughed, hollow and squawky. “After all that industry research trying to figure out how to get Frankie to appeal to the boys, well. Guess we’d already done it and didn’t even know. Good on you, kid.”
Spencer blushed. “So, are you going to pick a new winner?”
Gerard glared moodily at the decorative plates on top of the mantle, shoving his hand into one of the pockets of his pants. “We already announced it. Real hassle to have everybody pack up and go home. Frank’ll be here in a couple hours, he’s already on the train.”
“Frankie,” Spencer bit his lip, eyes going a little wide. “Frankie is coming here?”
Gerard looked sideways over at him. Spencer felt a little burn of embarrassment at Gerard’s smirk. “It would be pretty hard for him to kiss you if he was somewhere else, wouldn’t it?”
“Kiss me,” Spencer repeated dully. He had known about the One Last Kiss competition, of course he had, he read the Sweetheart’s newsletter religiously, but it was one of those things that he didn’t dwell on. After all, the odds of someone from his town being picked, out of every club member in every town in the entire country were slim to none--he was the (vice) president of Math Club, he could work out the statistics. And he was a boy, as all the Way Down staff--who had headed back to the hotel, the man in charge of the wires elbowing the cameraman and laughing uproariously--had been shocked to discover. It wasn’t like boys kissed other boys, not like Frankie Iero kissed boys.
“That was the plan,” Gerard sighed. “But.” He turned to regard Spencer, gaze moving over him in a slow foot-to-hair sweep that made him feel very strange. “I don’t know, maybe it could work.”
“I’m not a girl,” Spencer said.
Gerard looked heavenwards. “So I hear.”
“I don’t look like a girl,” Spencer insisted, but to this, Gerard just cocked his head and made a thoughtful humming noise under his breath. Spencer looked down at himself. Maybe he was built a little bit softer than other boys his age, and his hair was starting to brush down over his ears since his barber closed up shop, and his features were fairly delicate. But he was not a girl, and it wasn’t like anyone would think so.
Gerard nodded. “I can work with this.”
Spencer had imagined that the Frankie Iero would blaze into town with a flurry of media frenzy, and that gorgeous devilish smile. Gerard let him tag along to the train station when Frankie’s train was set to arrive, and even bought him a candy bar at the snack cart--he felt kind of like a little kid then, especially when the woman selling snacks gave him a sweet smile, but it was a good candy bar--to eat while they sat on a bench at the right station stop.
The train finally pulled in twenty-three minutes past schedule, Spencer knew because Gerard kept a running and curse-filled commentary while he checked his watch obsessively from fifteen minutes before seven to when the hiss of air let them know the train was arriving.
In the file of businessmen rushing home mixed with other travelers, Spencer was sure Frankie would stick out like a beacon. But though he watched the line of people with diligently wide eyes, he didn’t see him until Gerard said “God, there you are.”
Spencer looked up, but there was no leather jacket, or skin-tight white T-shirt, or lady killing smirk. Just a guy--a short guy--with dark hair flopping in his eyes, who looked about dead on his feet. Gerard wrapped an arm around his shoulder and brushed the hair out of his eyes with a quick motion that suggested habit. Once Spencer could see his face, yeah, it was definitely Frankie--that gorgeous bone structure that smiled at him from above his desk all night and day.
“Fucking hate trains,” Frankie mumbled, pushing his cheek against Gerard’s shoulder.
“I know.” Gerard sighed. “It’s been a pretty crazy day.”
Frankie just nuzzled closer and said, “Fucking trains.” Gerard shot an exasperated look to Spencer over his head, which was surreal to say the least. These were men Spencer had seen in magazines, and even on the Ed Sullivan Show, and now they were walking next to him in his own home town.
“This is Spencer.” Spencer started and looked over at Gerard. He hadn’t been expecting that, but Frankie tilted his head where it rested on Gerard’s shoulder to look over at Spencer through sleep-bleared eyes.
“That’s pretty short hair.”
Spencer was overdue for a cut, really. He reached up to touch his hair self-consciously. “Is it?”
Frankie blinked at him, then looked back up at Gerard. “Interesting voice for a dolly.”
“She’s not--I mean.” Gerard fumbled for a second until he finally settled on, “He’s a boy.”
“Oh.” Frankie frowned at Gerard for a moment, before everything clicked into place in his mind and he turned to stare at Spencer. “Christ.”
Spencer paused long enough to be ogled in full, then shook his head. “I don’t know why it’s that big of a deal. I mean, I can’t be. There are other boys in the fan club, right?”
Gerard coughed delicately into his hand. Spencer glared, and Gerard quailed a little. “Of course. There…must be. A few. Probably.”
Frankie scoffed. “All my fans are screaming teenage girls, buddy. They like my face, no one gives a shit about my music.”
Why can’t you like both? was what Spencer wanted to say, but he knew that was probably a bad idea, so he just looked at his shoes. “I like it.”
He thought he might get laughed at again, but Frankie smiled--honest to goodness smiled at him, and he knew this memory was going to brighten a good deal of nights to come. “No shit? Thanks, kid.”
Spencer muttered “no problem,” turning pink from his cheeks up to the tips of his ears.
Gerard was looking at his wall, the web of Frankie grinning, pouting, laughing, scowling down at them. Spencer felt acutely embarrassed, pink already from the kiss. Gerard laughed suddenly, and reached up to tap the autographed photo that was the jewel of Spencer’s collection.
“That was me.”
Spencer stepped closer, peering up at the photo that he already knew he‘d stared at for what must have been hours. It was certainly not a photo of Gerard. “What?”
“I signed this.” Gerard grinned to himself. Spencer took another step closer, reached up to trace his fingers over the ‘xoxoF’ that he’d always imagined to be personal, inscribed with real appreciation for a devoted fan. Gerard glanced over at him at last and clapped his hands against his thighs.
“Now, see, this is what I’m talking about.”
Spencer had never tried on one of his mother’s skirts, no matter what Frank implied with a snort before wandering off, probably to drink all the orange juice straight out of the carton and stub his cigarettes out in one of Spencer’s mother’s apple cinnamon muffins. Spencer wished he could be down in the kitchen too now, trying to control Frankie while filing away every mental image carefully for when all this excitement was over and he had to go back to Math Club and photo postcards. Not here, when Gerard took a step forward and smoothed his hands down over Spencer’s hips and thighs.
Well, smoothed his hands over the red wool skirt Gerard stole from Mrs. Smith’s closet and Spencer somehow shimmied into.
“I look ridiculous,” Spencer scowled, but Gerard actually made an appraising face.
“Your hips look good.”
Spencer peered more closely at his reflection, and his scowl deepened. “My hips look giant. I’m all hips.”
“Yeah, well, girls tend to be like that.”
“A girl, yeah, yeah, good to know. You look enough like one that it’ll pass on television.”
“He’s going to kiss me on television?” Spencer squeaked. Gerard patted his shoulder.
“I know, getting a kiss from your idol, it must be hard for you.”
“He’s a man,” Spencer said, staring at Gerard, who didn’t seem at all properly impressed with the gravity of the situation. “And I’m. I’m not a girl.”
“It’s not so strange,” Gerard said, more quietly, and with a tiny quirked smile that made Spencer’s stomach lurch.
“You mean?” Gerard just kept smiling and Spencer swallowed. “I thought, Lindsey?” There had been rumors for ages that Gerard’s loyal secretary was loyal out of a deep passion for something besides Way Down Records. Gerard shook his head. “Oh.”
He’d heard about this, been told about Kinsey’s reports although he wasn’t allowed to actually read them, of course. But it was still strange, to stand in his bedroom and look at a man who--
“Are you nervous?” Gerard asked. Spencer swallowed again. “To kiss Frank, on television, in front of everybody?”
Spencer nodded. Gerard stepped closer and cupped his cheek. “Would you like to try it, just once? So you won’t be surprised?”
Spencer thought for a moment. He nodded again. Gerard smiled, and leaned in to press a soft kiss to his lips.
It was even faster than when Spencer had kissed Brenda at the end of Prom--and her parents were wildly protective--and a good deal sweeter. Gerard was pulling away before Spencer could get past Oh, I’m being kissed or Oh, I’m kissing a man and actually return the kiss. He blinked at Gerard, who was still smiling. “That’s it. Quick and easy, it’ll be done before you know it.”
“Okay,” Spencer said. He wondered if Gerard kissed Frankie, not like that, but hard and long and wet, like he’d seen couples doing behind the gym. He thought that maybe that would be a nice thing. If Frankie had a chance to kiss back, that was.
The strangest thing about the whole ordeal wasn’t being dressed up like a girl for television, or kissing Frankie Iero, or even Gerard blowing him a kiss afterwards. The strangest thing was how easy it all was.
Kissing Frankie was different from kissing Gerard. It was longer, and he dipped Spencer back. It must have looked like a true movie star kiss, and the press of his lips was firm but…empty. It was a mouth meeting a mouth, and nothing more. Frankie’s eyelashes were even more impressive up close, he had to admit.
They left on the next train, but not before Gerard kissed his cheek and Frankie leaned in closed, brushed their lips together and said, “Next one’s for you, kid, promise.” They boarded, and no one else could see that their hands brushed together and the way they pressed into each other without touching, because no one else was looking.
Spencer didn’t know what Frankie meant. After summer, he started his term as Math Club president. When some freshman suggested poker nights as a club activity, an idea Spencer had always scoffed at and mercilessly tore down, he shrugged and said it would be on the agenda of ideas to discuss. He stayed a member of Frankie’s Sweethearts, and he never said a word when fan letters published in the newsletter demanded to know more about that girl who had won the One Last Kiss competition. He didn’t even want to, not really. The memory was enough, something that he could think about when he was cold or empty--not the kiss that was on television, that wasn’t real, wasn’t anything worth doing. But when Gerard kissed him in his bedroom, when they both kissed him at the station, when Frankie whispered to him. Those were memories worth having.
He didn’t know what it meant, not until he opened the month’s newsletter to see an Exclusive Interview with Frankie about his new record.
I was thinking about a person a lot while I was singing for this one. Someone special. You know who you are, baby, and this one’s for you.
The interview closed, of course, with a stock photo of Frankie winking, lipstick marks all over his face, and some speculation about who this special lady might be--a starlet, a girl from his hometown.
Spencer folded the newsletter up and slipped it under his pillow.