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By the Book

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The sign read:

For Teachers!
Please join us on Thursday
In room 214 at 2:45pm
For our very first meeting!
Bring your favorite book!

Gerard studied it for any traces of irony, but could come up with none.

"New guy, English teacher," Greta said, coming up behind him.

"No shit." Gerard shook his head and whipped out his phone. "I gotta tell Mikey, he'll get a kick out of it," he told her as he sent the text. "Hilarious."

"You haven't met him yet?" Greta asked when he flopped down on the couch.

Gerard shook his head. "Haven't been around. Why?"

Greta just gave him a look. He had the feeling that if they'd been living in the 60's, she'd have taken a healthy drag of a stylishly long cigarette.


Gerard didn't have a lot of use for the teachers' lounge in the first half of the week, too busy in the arts and music wing to take a breath. Despite it having such a heavy, awesome name, the wing was more like an afterthought, with all the creative juices of the school shoved into the same four walls and called "The Artistic Wing."

The department wasn't very well funded, which meant that in addition to being the senior art teacher, Gerard was also the choir director and jazz band director. He still had no idea how he wound up doing all three despite knowing how to play one or two chords on one or two instruments, but at least he got dental.


He absolutely was not going to waste his time on a fiasco that was obviously never going to take off, but curiosity got the best of him, as did Greta's prodding. She was one of the few teachers in the school who didn't have to run home as soon as the bell rang, so she wheedled him into going by using the power of her doe eyes.

They went to room 214 at the appointed time.

Gerard wasn't sure what to expect from the new English teacher, even though Greta's meaningful stare had suggested everything from a retired college professor attempting to win back his youth through the systematic slaughter of literary classics to somebody Gerard could really identify with, such as a World of Warcraft geek just recently emerged from his mother's basement. Likelier, however, was that he would walk through the doorway to find an empty room with a middle-aged, gone-to-seed dude wearing khakis, glasses, and a pocket protector, a pile of books next to him and no one to share them with. Not that Gerard didn't care for middle-aged geeks, knowing he was headed that way sooner or later, nor did he lack the proper appreciation for a pile of books and having no one to share them with. He hadn't been a virgin until college for nothing.

Whatever he'd been expecting, however, the guy setting up chairs in a circle certainly wasn't it.

Glasses – check. Khakis – check. Tie, button-up shirt – check, check.

But he wasn't middle-aged, and he definitely didn't look like a geek. And he was also motherfucking tattooed, holy crap.

"Shit," Gerard breathed, and he jumped as Greta poked him in the side.

"This is why we're here," she mumbled. "Hi, it's Mr. Iero, right?" she added in a chirpy voice.

Gerard let her lead as he counted up the ways in which Mr. Iero was not at all a geek who had just emerged from his mother's basement. In fact, if he had emerged from anywhere, it was from under the rubble of Gerard's teenaged fantasies, and oh, man, was that a great place to emerge from.

"Hi!" Mr. Iero turned towards them and immediately extended his hand first to Greta, who might have done a tiny curtsy, and then to Gerard, looking him directly in the eye. He had really pretty eyes. "Good to meet you, Mr.-"

"Way!" Gerard said, extending his hand automatically and just as automatically staring at the guy's tattooed knuckles. Were those letters? How the fuck did you even get this job was at the tip of his tongue, but he held himself in check. "Mr. Way, I'm the, uh, arts – coordinator – person. Good to meet you, Mr. Iero."

"Frank," Mr. Iero said, like he was shrugging off a disguise, and Gerard managed to drop his hand, finally.

"Cool. Gerard," he answered and bit his lip. This wasn't going well, a part of his brain hinted at him. Frank continued smiling. Gerard ran his hand through his hair and turned to Greta in desperation. He could not believe she hadn't warned him.

"I'm Greta! Let's get this party started," she said, dropped into the nearest chair.

"Oh!" Frank turned hopefully toward the open doorway. "Do you know if anyone else might be, you know…coming, or…"

Gerard sighed and carefully sat down on a chair a foot away from him, preparing to, apparently, break this dude's heart. "Well –"

"Um, excuse me, is this the book club?"

All three of them whipped around to see a young woman carefully walk through the doorway, clutching some kind of tome to her chest.

"Yes! I'm Frank Iero, the new English teacher!"

Gerard watched with a small amount of unwarranted jealousy as Frank extended his hand towards her. It looked practiced, palm straight and ready to meet you.

"I'm Kathy, uhm. I'm a sub here? I saw the sign, so –"

"Awesome!" Frank made an expansive gesture. "Please sit, join us!"

Kathy sat, book still clutched to her chest. So did Frank. A moment passed.

"So –" Frank started.

"I don't know if anybody else will come, honestly," Greta interrupted him, looking apologetic. "It's just that, you know, most people either have student clubs they're advising or, like, kids and stuff." She shrugged. Gerard bit his cuticles. Sure, he'd come because he wanted to see how just fast this thing would flop, but now he was honestly disappointed for the guy.

Frank sagged. "Oh, shit, that's – I mean, uh. Yeah, I didn't think of that," he breathed out and scratched his short-cropped hair.

"But we're here!" Gerard piped up out of absolutely nowhere and ignored Greta's pointed look in his direction. "So, you know. We can, like. Do this thing. Until 3:30, anyway, then I've got choir practice."

Some things he had expected to stop saying after high school. Gerard felt himself going slightly red.

"Cool," Frank smiled and reached behind his chair, emerging with a battered-looking copy of The Book Thief. Huh. "Oh! Should we, uh, introduce ourselves or something? Before starting?"

Gerard gave him a blank look along with Greta and Kathy.

Frank actually rolled his eyes at them. "I mean, like, say what you do here, something about yourself, you know?" Gerard felt himself starting to grin. "Here, I'll start. I'm Frank Iero, and I'm currently teaching tenth grade advanced English."

"You took over for Ms. Claret, huh?" Greta asked.

Gerard missed Chantal. He supposed maternity leave was important and all that, but did it have to also involve moving to a different state altogether? And not coming back?

"Yeah. Actually, we had a friend in common, which is how I heard about this job." And, presumably, got it despite all odds, Gerard supplied in his head. "And I really love reading," he added, his eyes looking so deadly earnest that Gerard had to look away. Maybe he'd grown just a little too cynical in his years teaching high school, though not, perhaps, over the teaching aspects.

He felt everybody watching him. "What?"

"Tell us about yourself, Gee," Greta smirked.

"Oh! Uh, well, I'm the art teacher," he began looking at nobody in particular, feeling like it was his first day at a new school. A new, weird, and microscopic school. "And the choir instructor. And I also lead the jazz band."

"Wow, sweet," Frank beamed at him. "How long have you been here?" He looked, well, actually interested, so Gerard addressed himself directly to Frank.

"Six years now, give or take some sub work beforehand."

"Wow." Frank sounded and looked genuinely impressed. Gerard had to admit that he really enjoyed having impressed this very, very earnest and very, very attractive new kid on the block. "This is my first full-time gig teaching, actually. I subbed for three years before I came here."

Everybody winced in sympathy.

"Well, I'm Greta Salpeter, and I teach ninth grade Social Studies and AP American history," Greta smiled. "I've been here for two years, and I taught in Chicago before that."

"Cool," Frank smiled. He looked so impossibly young, and Gerard already felt sorry for him. How was he ever going to handle tenth graders if he was almost a foot shorter than them? Not that Gerard ever even threatened to tower over anyone, but this guy looked like a punk kid and acted like an idealistic one. He was gonna get eaten alive by all sides, Gerard just knew.

"I'm Kathy, and I'm subbing for AP Bio," Kathy offered after a brief pause. Then she sighed.

The laughter she got in response was one of deepest understanding.


"Your favorite book. Really?" Greta could really grill when she wanted to. No wonder her students were actively scared of her.

"Well, okay," Frank conceded. "Of the moment. I do kind of go through phases."

"Why, though?"

Gerard watched the interaction with interest, tuning in and out of it, mostly distracted by the white noise of Frank's features. Gerard had been at this school for a while, and there have been a few men he'd had tiny crushes on. Most of them really involved a latent daddy kink he'd rather not explore further if he could help it, which was why they were crushes and passed quickly.

Greta was stunning, and Chantal had had an amazing rack, and both of them had even posed for Gerard, outside of school, but those were more platonic crushes, really.

Frank Iero, new English teacher, was motherfucking hot as hell. When his tattooed hands (tattooed with words, Gerard just could not get past this) moved while he talked Greta's ear off about a singularly fascinating and unique portrayal of Nazi Germany from the point of view of the one thing nobody could escape no matter how hard they tried, Gerard couldn't stop staring. Frank was just – pretty. Really pretty, with an animated face that never looked bored, or if it did, it didn't for long. And none of the other teachers had ever filled out their khakis quite like that.

"What do you think, Gerard?"


Gerard almost bit off his thumb as he straightened up and attempted to look like he hadn't just been eyeing Frank like he was breakfast, despite all appearances to the contrary.

"I think that, uh –" What did he think, again? "You know, this book was definitely an interesting perspective on life and war and death and all that, but my favorite part was actually the way the author analyzed the importance of reading and writing through action and reaction." He paused. "If that makes any sense."

There. He tapped his knees while Greta and Kathy sent him somewhat surprised looks (Greta knew him well enough to know he had been paying zero attention) while Frank flat-out beamed at him. "Yes! Oh man, I found that aspect of it fascinating. And, I mean, all literary pretensions aside, how much did you love her dad?"

"Oh, I loved him," Gerard agreed immediately, settling more firmly into his chair. "He was just, I don't know – when a book is that hard to read, you just really want someone to love so you can get through it, you know?"

"Totally," Frank nodded, still beaming. Gerard beamed back. Oh man, this could only spell trouble. He bit his lip and looked away.

Thank God more people hadn't shown up for book club. And thank God Mikey had forced him to read The Book Thief.


"Hey, Mr. Way!" Gerard turned around and spotted Brendon jogging up to him, looking winded.

"Hey, what's up?" he asked, getting jarred by students from all sides.

"Nothing!" Brendon beamed. "I was just on my way to Physics and saw you – you're never in this part of the school. What's up? You in trouble?" he grinned.

Gerard could already tell which of his protégés were going to make it big, and Brendon Urie was on a fast track to everywhere. Gerard saw it as his personal mission to keep taking him down just a notch so the kid wouldn't blow away from the size of his own ego. It never seemed to work, though.

He rolled his eyes. "Yes, Brendon, I've been fired. I'm picking up my meager belongings."

Brendon's grin dropped off. "No way – you're fucking with me, right?"

"Don't say fucking," Gerard replied automatically, then relented. "No, I'm not in trouble. I work here, am I not allowed in the teachers' lounge?" he asked just as they rounded the corner. He put his hand on the door knob. Brendon shook his head and the grin was firmly back on.

"Scared me!"

"You're gonna be late to Physics," Gerard called after him before opening the door and sliding into the relative quiet of the lounge.

Not that Brendon didn't have a point. It was Monday and he should have been re-working the score to Porgy and Bess in the piano room while it was unoccupied, and yet here he was, hanging out in the teacher's lounge like he had nothing better to do.

It was empty and for a minute he just stood there amidst the tables and old worn couches, wondering if maybe he should have at least brought some art to critique. Isn't that what teachers mostly did in the lounge? Dash their students' hopes and dreams?

The bell rang at that moment and Gerard strode determinedly over to the coffee maker. At least he could do this.

The door opened just as the ancient Mr. Coffee sputtered to life. He turned around. "Oh! Hey, uh – hi, Frank."

Well, this was what he had been hoping for, right? Gerard thought in a panic as Frank closed the door behind him and gave him a smile of recognition.

"Hey, Gerard! Taking a break?"

Gerard reminded himself that Frank, at least, would have no idea that it was unusual for Gerard to be here right now, and shrugged, pointing to the coffee maker. "Needed this."

"Ah." Frank grinned and flopped down easily onto the couch. His khakis somehow made a nice contrast to the dingy brown of the 70's décor. "If there's any left over after you're done, I'll take some. I only had a coke this morning."

"Oh man, how are you even awake?" Gerard asked, trying to decide whether to keep his vigil by the Mr. Coffee or casually introduce his body to Frank via cozy couch companionship. He chose to keep his vigil, for now.

Frank grinned and sighed. "Sheer will power. Kids are exhausting, huh?"

Gerard snorted before he could stop himself. "No shit."

Frank rubbed his eyes and Gerard watched as he tilted his head up against the back of the couch, exposing his throat. The smallest peek of color betrayed more ink under his clothes. Gerard almost whimpered out loud.

"H-how are you liking it so far, though?" he ventured before turning around and fumbling to fill his paper cup with coffee.

"Oh man, it's fucking crazy. Wait, I can swear in here, right?"

Gerard huffed out a laugh, dumping sweetener into the cup. "If you couldn't, I'd have been fired a long fucking time ago."

"Oh, good. Because, fuck." There was a pause during which Gerard methodically stirred the creamer in and listened to the sounds of Frank squirming on the couch. "It's hard, you know? Especially coming in midway through the year, but it's, I don't know. They're pretty great kids, really. You know. Overall."

Gerard turned from surprise. "Really?"

Somehow, even though he was pretty fucking protective of his own baby artists and musicians, he'd come to expect all the other faculty to stomp into the lounge and bitch about how it's a thankless fucking job because these motherfuckers are only interested in blowing each other on school buses and running down the hallways like they're a herd of elephants. At least, something of the sort, although he was pretty sure that very tirade had come out of Ms. Drummond's mouth one sunny afternoon.

"Oh, yeah!" Frank looked almost surprised at Gerard's reaction. Oh, right. He was really new. Gerard propped himself up against the bookshelves and took a sip of his coffee. "You don't like it here?" Frank asked in a curious tone, like he'd just figured it out.

Gerard collected his thoughts before answering. "I love teaching." That part was true. "I love it. I guess the kids I teach are either really into it all, you know, art, music, whatever, or – you know."

"Just there to pass?"

"Right, and they don't really bother me." Lies. "But, like. The, the –" He searched for words, because it'd been a while since he'd honestly thought about it. He'd been living it for years, trying to make sense of this and that and keeping himself afloat with the Brendons and Spencers and Tennessees of the world. "The system is fucked up."

Frank just tilted his head, like he was waiting for more, eyes shrewd. Gerard sighed and, without thinking about it, walked the two steps to the couch before carefully lowering himself onto it without spilling his shitty coffee. He opened his mouth to maybe try and make a decent point before things got really derailed, when the door opened and the Earth Science teacher everybody, sadly including the teachers, called Mr. Fart came in.

Poor Bart, he was old-school enough that wearing a bowtie to class every day was not an ironic statement on him. It was part of the uniform. Gerard often imagined him striding between desks, slapping students' wrists with a metal ruler.

"Mr. Way," Fart nodded tightly, then squinted at Frank, who shot up off the couch so quickly, Gerard barely saved his coffee, and caught Fart's hand in a strong shake.

"Mr. Iero, new English teacher."

"Ah," Fart said, shaking Frank's hand hard enough that Gerard winced on his behalf. It was like a shake-off contest. "Mr. Bart, Earth Science. Welcome to the fold, Mr. Iero."

Pompous bastard. Gerard really did have a lot of affection for him.

"Thank you, sir," Frank grinned and Gerard decided this was as good a chance as any to slink back into the arts wing from whence he'd come. He had a class to prepare for, anyway.

He swung up off the couch and backed up towards the door, coffee in hand. "All right, well, uh, see you around, F-Frank, Mr. Bart."

Frank looked kind of surprised right before Gerard shut the door on them, but Gerard just made himself walk through the hallways and only allowed one palm-on-face moment when he was out of sight of anyone at all.

Oh God, he was such a freak.


Due to the unavailability
Of room 214 this Thursday
The teachers' book club is
Going to meet at
Cecelia's Café at 2:50!
Hope to see you there!


"Shouldn't we choose a book to discuss now?" Greta asked and slurped her coffee.

"Well, you were supposed to, like, bring your favorite books last time, too, and only Kathy did that," Frank countered.

Kathy grinned over her mug. Gerard felt like mumbling "know-it-all" under his breath, but he actually really liked her, as it turned out.

"So, what's the plan, then?"

If Gerard knew Greta – and he did – she wasn't going to relent until she got her answer. Bullying people into giving her information was basically how she held her classes in check and got her students to cough up better than average work on a regular basis.

Frank sighed dramatically and leaned back in his chair, hands playing with his own mug of coffee. Gerard felt transported back about a decade, around the time Mikey had tried to get a metal-lovers-unite club started, only it involved less coffee, more illegal substances, and less daylight. Sadly, it was just about as successful.

"Let's agree on a book now, and see if we can finish it in, like, two weeks."

Gerard smirked. "Homework sucks, huh?"

Frank rubbed his eyes and laughed. "I might have been a little optimistic about the timeframes involved here."

Greta propped her chin up on her hand. "Are they a handful?" she asked sympathetically. "Or are you just that asshole teacher who gives a ton of work because you think you're the only one whose class matters?"

Frank looked like he was about to give back as good as he got, so Gerard intervened quickly, "She is that asshole teacher, by the way. Just fyi."

Greta grinned. "Yep. High-five." Gerard indulged her.

"Are you?" Frank asked, turning to Gerard across the table. Gerard had to somehow learn not to get butterflies in his stomach every time Frank looked at him, or it was going to be a hell of a year.

"Well, I kind of started out that way, but, you know, then I'd never have a life, ever. Between the art projects and the band and choir practices, I basically wouldn't sleep." Once, Mikey actually had to drive over and kick him out the door because he'd overslept and the school had called his emergency contact. Talk about embarrassing.

Certainly, trying to go for college-level art homework had been no fun for anybody involved in his first year of teaching.

"I have no life," Greta supplied. "But I'm also a glutton for punishment."

Both were a lie, but Gerard had already come to terms with her quiet genius and ability to multitask a long time ago.

"According to student gossip, I'm the Anti-Christ," Kathy offered and held her coffee up in a toast.


Everybody clinked coffee mugs. Gerard chanced a glance in Frank's direction. At some point, Frank had rolled up his sleeves and Gerard had to bite his tongue to keep from getting hard right there like he was one of his own students with binders in front of their crotch. Tattoos fucking everywhere - disconnected images that sent Gerard's head spinning. He thought he'd spied a Black Flag tattoo somewhere in there and tore his gaze away until he was watching Frank's face.

"All right, if nobody supplies a book to read in the next five minutes, we're reading Moby Dick," Frank announced.

Suggestions came flying the next second.


Gerard's morning had sucked. Almost half of his ninth grade art class dramatically didn't show up, while the other half were half-asleep at their desks.

"What the hell happened?" he asked, dropping all pretense of professional language.

Someone's hand flew up and flopped back down immediately. "PSATs were yesterday," mumbled the owner of the floppy hand.

"And everyone's parents let them skip their first class?" Gerard asked, incredulous.

"Well, uh, it is art, Mr. Way," someone mumbled softly.

Gerard made them draw their own hands in ten different styles and was on a tear ever since. Even Urie was too scared to talk back about chord progressions during third period.

He needed coffee, and he needed it right now, or his sixth period sophomores were going to pay for sins of their descendants.

A familiar voice in an otherwise quiet hallway brought him up short. He looked for the source of it and found that the door to 116 was cracked slightly. He looked behind him, just to make sure, and crept up to peer through the half-window, trying not to think too hard about what, exactly, he was doing.

Frank was in a dark shirt, a grey tie, and black slacks. He was laughing at something. Gerard went completely still and tried to appear invisible.

"Anybody else got an opinion on Ethan Frome's character progression? Yes, Jeannie."

"What character progression, Mr. Iero?"

Frank chortled. "Explain yourself," he ordered, leaning against his desk. Gerard tried not to stare at the obvious way his slacks bunched at the crotch. Oh, and he was wearing Docs. Of course he was.

"Well, it's just – this book has no progression. Everyone's unhappy, shi- things happen, everyone's even more unhappy, the end. I didn't find a moral here at all," she answered.

"Well," Frank said, mouth pursing in thought. "The moral is there. It just may not be the moral you, as a modern person with a certain set of principles, would find helpful, maybe."

The class made a disparaging noise all as one. Gerard held his breath.

"I guess I just don't like the moral," the girl named Jeannie said, shrugging.

"That's fair enough," Frank agreed and picked up a piece of chalk, tossing it in the air a few times. "But let's talk about why you're all in such vehement disagreement with poor Ms. Wharton. Here, I'll start."

Gerard watched as Frank turned towards the board and wrote 1 – Ambiguous ending in bold writing. "Right? Or do you disagree?"

Hands flew up. Gerard shrank into the shadows and slowly made his way to the teacher's lounge.


"I don't even know why I'm telling you this," Gerard said, sinking back into his pillows. He'd been half-watching the Twilight Zone marathon on TV when Mikey had called.

"Because you want to get into his pants," Mikey told him on the other end of the line.

"Ugh, no," Gerard protested, despite knowing better. But. "It's just – I don't know, he was just so competent, you know? Like, I've seen Fart teaching once and fucking nobody was paying attention to that shit, you know?"

"Fart teaches about rocks. And you don't want to get into his pants." Mikey paused. "You don't, right? It's cool, you can tell me."

Gerard hung up on him.

"Okay, so as I was saying," he said as soon as Mikey called back. "He's just, apparently, a really good teacher. That's all."

"Gee," Mikey sighed. "He sounds like a really great teacher, fine. And you have a boner for him."

Gerard threw his free hand up in frustration. "I don't! I really don't!"

"Yes, you do."

"I am just saying it was just really impressive, okay?"

Mikey was silent.


"Just admit it."

"What is wrong with you, seriously?"

"I just want you to admit it because you are wasting my time right now," Mikey intoned in a manner of someone who was completely disengaged from the conversation. He was probably playing Words With Friends at the same time.

Gerard dug his heels in. Literally, because his bed was soft and it felt good. "No."

The line went dead.

"Fine, I do," he said as soon as Mikey picked up again. "What now? I don't even know if he swings that way."

"Go to sleep, Gee. Maybe you'll dream about fucking him." Gerard could practically hear Mikey's smirk.

"You are literally the least helpful human being alive."

"Love you, Gee."

"Love you, too, asshole."

They both hung up.


"Look, I realize this book was about the speed at which I could operate considering it's midterms season, but I cannot believe I just read this crap for you guys," Greta declared as she dropped into a chair next to Gerard. "I threw it against the wall when I finished, it was that shitty."

"What, you're not gonna go for the sequel?" Gerard asked, ducking out of the way of Greta's wrath just in time.

"I can't believe I read it, either," Gerard admitted once Greta settled down. They were camped out in the former Social Studies office, which was now a catch-all for faculty meetings overflow. It was small and contained three chairs on wheels and a folding chair. Greta had claimed the folding chair.

"Come on, it's a modern classic," Frank said, watching them earnestly. "If you hadn't read Twilight, I'd have been judging you."

Even Kathy gave him an incredulous stare. "I thought we agreed we were only reading it out of morbid curiosity?" she asked in a dubious voice.

Frank looked like they'd kicked his puppy. "You guys seriously didn't like it?"

Gerard's brain and dick fought each other for control. His heart nearly broke. "Did – did you?"

"Yeah, I even – wait, hang on." He paused and bent over to fish something out of his backpack.

Gerard waited with bated breath. Jesus, what the fuck was happening.

Maybe it was a good thing. Maybe he needed to find out now that Frank was a giant weirdo with a taste for awful fiction about damsels in distress and fake vampires.

When Frank sat back up again, he was holding something that looked suspiciously like t-shirts. "I thought we could each pick one," he told them. "What do you guys think?"

He held up both shirts. My Team Sparkles, proclaimed the first one. My Team Is Cuddly, insisted the other.

"I got them on Etsy," Frank explained and beamed at them. "Greta, which one do you want?"

Greta recoiled. Abruptly, Gerard's brain and dick stopped fighting. He narrowed his eyes. "You are so fucking with us."

There was a pause. Then Frank doubled over, practically cackling into the wadded t-shirts in his lap over the sounds of their defamations of his character.

"Oh my God," he howled. "Oh my God, your faces. I cannot believe you even fucking read that shit, seriously." Still laughing, he straightened back up and wiped his eyes. "Oh, oh, that was classic."

"You are such an asshole," Gerard informed him, kicking the wheel on Frank's chair closest to him. "That was fucking low." His belly protested, though. In fact, all of him was kind of seizing up with a rush of something that he really, really shouldn't have been feeling, and he tamped it down as best he could.

"Did you seriously spend money on those?" Greta asked, snatching the "Sparkly" t-shirt from Frank's lap. Gerard kind of wanted to grab it from her. If anybody was going to be wearing a vampire t-shirt, it was going to be him.

"Yep," Frank confirmed, shit-eating grin in place. "My own hard-earned ten bucks. Totally worth it, by the way," he added, throwing the Cuddly one at Gerard. Gerard grabbed it, scowling.

"Trade you?" he asked Greta, then caught Frank's amused eye. "Vampires over werewolves," he explained.

"Ugh, they're not even real werewolves, they're shape-shifters," Kathy muttered in disgust. Oh, yeah. Gerard really liked Kathy. "And what the hell is up with all these girls wanting to be like Bella?" She pushed her glasses from where they'd slipped down her nose. "She was pointless!"

Gerard saw Frank lean his chin on his hand and smile. "Yeah, Bella sucked. You don't need an English degree to see that shit. What else?"


"No, see, I don't think it was the prose that was the problem," Gerard insisted, chair squeaking underneath him. "I think the whole thing was a mess."

"I agree, but I also think that if her writing had been better, some pitfalls might have been avoided," Frank countered. He'd rolled his sleeves up again, which got Gerard going all at once, so he was really happy to let his brain do the talking this time, ignoring every other signal his body was sending him.

"I don't know, it's just – some things can't be saved, even with pretty words, and I love pretty words," Gerard argued.

"Ugh, it's not pretty words, it's the fact that she, as a writer, is very weak." Frank leaned in even closer, tattooed hands grasping the air as he spoke. "If she was an actual good writer, she would have figured out that the plot made no sense, there was never any tension, and character isn't built on a few one-dimensional characteristics. That's what I mean about good writing."

"Okay, I will grant you that," Gerard conceded. "It's still a shitty concept, though."

"No shit," Frank smirked.

"Uh, yeah, so, I gotta go," Greta piped up from somewhere near Gerard. "It's time to – yeah, I'm going."

"Yep!" Kathy's chair skidded out from under her as she shot up off the chair. "I gotta babysit for my sister's kid, anyway. And I still have to finish grading."

Greta grabbed her purse, popped a lollipop into her mouth, and waved. "See you, guys!"

Before Gerard could blink, both were gone. He looked back at Frank. A moment passed in which they watched each other awkwardly, then Frank scratched his neck, breaking eye contact. Gerard's palms sweated against the chair. They both laughed at the same time.

Oh, God.

"Also, Bella was just a shitty heroine altogether," Frank offered, and Gerard grasped at the straw.

"I know!" He threw up his hands. "She had no other purpose but to be the love interest who fell down a lot. Seriously, where did this Meyers even come from?"

Frank giggled, his face kind of bright. Gerard bit his lip.

"Why did you become a teacher?" he asked before he could stop himself. Frank shot him a surprised look, then shrugged.

"I hated school. Like, seriously, saw no point in it whatsoever."

Gerard hadn't been expecting that from the dude who'd started his own book club the first week at his new job. "Seriously?" But you look so adorably dorky in glasses, he didn't add.

Frank pursed his mouth and grinned. "Oh yeah. I was all about music and – well, other shit." He waved his tattooed hand around as if in illustration.

"We don't need no education?" Gerard asked, trying not to smirk.

"Pretty much!" Frank agreed easily. "Yeah. But I still got good grades, I don't know, it was just this thing I had to do. It wasn't a choice, you know?" There went that tiny shrug again.

"But you still hated it?"

"Oh, fuck yeah." And the hazy giggle.

Gerard nodded. He'd actually liked school, despite all evidence to the contrary. At least, well. Some of the learning parts. "So, what happened?"

"Huge cliché, actually," Frank sighed and scratched his neck again. "I had this teacher?"

"Ah," Gerard nodded, wheeling a little closer. "The old ‘inspirational older person' trope."

"Well, kind of? He was a huge dick, actually," Frank said. He leaned back and in his chair and it squeaked in the humming quiet of the office. Gerard hadn't noticed the sun go down, but yeah, there it was, giving its last wink on the horizon, the sky darkening in its wake between the blinds. Neither one of them bothered to turn the lights on. "Like, we all hated him, he was fucking awful. He'd, like, I don't know, demean us, make us feel dumb just for walking through the door, that kind of thing."

"He sounds like a dick," Gerard agreed.

"Right. Well, I had this girl in my class. She was really fucking smart, I mean, one in a million. You know that one kid who goes to Harvard from your class, and everybody looks at them like they're scum of the earth and also the future because they're basically untouchable?"

Gerard nodded. George Gigliotti from his senior year. He was probably a CEO of something or other at this point, or a politician. Or in the Peace Corps. George had been a weird dude.

"So, this asshole drove her to the point of hospitalization, is what happened," Frank said, his voice going kind of quiet. "Like, really bad."

Gerard blinked. "Are you serious?" When Frank nodded, he muttered, "Damn."

"Yeah. And, I don't know. After that, something changed." Frank paused. "She got better, by the way, and wound up going to Oxford – I think to get as far away from Jersey as she could," Frank assured him. Gerard hadn't realized that he'd been that concerned for the girl, but apparently, it still showed on his face.

"Uhm, good," he said weakly.

Frank looked away and screwed up his face. As if just now noticing the darkness, he slipped his glasses off his face and with practiced movements tucked them safely into his bag as he talked. "It's weird, like. I went to college and still didn't quite know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to do something, just to prove that asshole wrong, you know?" He patted his bag closed. "And, I guess, to prove to myself that teaching clearly meant something."

Gerard was mesmerized. His own story seemed somehow a lot more prosaic in comparison. "Yeah?" he prodded.

"Yeah, and that's about it. Well, I helped teach an English course at one point, and that more or less solidified it, really." He paused and grinned in a way that Gerard realized was self-conscious. "And then I got my degree, the end."

Gerard laughed and swung himself around in the chair until he could prop his feet up on Greta's abandoned seat. "That's a pretty good story. There's even a villain and a damsel in distress." He paused. "You could have written Twilight, you know."

Frank threw back his head as he laughed. "Fuck you, I would never. Anyway, my werewolves would be actual werewolves, thank you very much, and not these pansies who cry."

"Oh, touché," Gerard grinned. "My vampires don't sparkle," he added gravely.

"You should put that on a t-shirt."

"Maybe I will."

They grinned at each other in the dark.

"What about you?" Frank asked, voice quieter now. "Art? Music? That's pretty cool."

Gerard tapped his knee as he thought. "It sounds pretty cool, right? I don't know. I just kind of – would you believe me if I said I'd just gravitated towards it?"


"I'd gone to school for art, and I'd been fucking around with music my whole life, really, doing – uh, this or that." In tights. Like a champ. "The teaching… I guess I thought I'd make a living of it while doing my own thing on the side."

"Your own thing?" Frank asked, head tilting in question. Kind of like a puppy, Gerard thought. He squirmed in his chair.

"Yeah, you know… Art. Drawing. That kind of thing." He really didn't want to elaborate.

"So, how is that working out?" Frank smirked and Gerard threw the Cuddly t-shirt in his direction.

"Screw you, I have time." Sometimes. "Sometimes. To do shit." Occasionally.

"Yeah, right. You're the arts department, dude. How does that even happen?"

Gerard didn't catch up with the question fast enough, because he'd been too caught up in Frank calling him dude, which his mind and body translated to maybe we'll fuck sometime and it'll be awesome. "Hmm?"

"I mean," Frank straightened up and looked almost serious all of a sudden. Gerard made himself focus on his face and not the way his button-up strained at his shoulders in the dim light. He had really nice, broad shoulders. "You're the one who does, you know, everything to do with anything creative, I mean, is it – I don't know, what – ugh." Frank broke off and screwed up his face. "Sorry, this isn't coming out right."

"Is it hard?" Gerard asked for him, and Frank just nodded. Gerard leaned back and looked at the ceiling for a while, searching for the right words, maybe. "Yeah. I mean. It's – a shitload of responsibility, you know? We're just – not funded. Like, barely at all." He glanced at Frank quickly, then looked away. "It's fucking ridiculous, and every year when the budget talks roll around, I beat my head against the wall of the superintendent's office, but it's like trying to get water from a stone, you know?"

Year after year, he's forced to make students buy their own sheet music because there's not enough to go around. Their own pencils, paints, paper. Miraculously, they keep coming back for more.

"You'd think, in Jersey…" Frank said softly.

"I know," Gerard replied, the fight gone out of him. "And it's hard. It's really fucking hard to keep their – their creative juices going, sometimes. Besides, not all of them are into it? And that fucking sucks, too." Woo, boy, he was approaching petulant territory again. But he was on a roll. He hadn't even dare bitch about this to anyone but Mikey in years. "I get tired, you know?" he sighed and dropped his feet to the ground. Frank was quiet. "I see so much shit happen to these kids, and there's – not a whole lot I can do. They come to me, and we talk if I've got time, but –" But, he wasn't talking about the money anymore, was he. "But we only see them for so many hours a day, you know?"

Frank, still quiet, nodded.

"Yeah, so… It's kind of a shitty job, huh?" Gerard smiled and rubbed his eyes. "Sometimes I wonder if it's worth it at all."

"Yeah, the dental is shit," Frank grinned and clasped his hands together. "But you keep coming back, though, right? I mean, you said you'd been here for six years."

Gerard nodded.

"So, there's gotta be a reason for that," Frank shrugged, like it was the easiest answer in the world.

"Yeah," Gerard murmured. "That's true."

They were quiet for a while. Gerard studied the fold of fabric at the crook of Frank's elbow, the shadows mixing like charcoal in the dimness. The sun was well and truly down now, the streetlights replacing its glow.

"I guess we better, uh," Frank broke the silence and gestured towards the door. The whites of his palms flashed in contrast to the inked skin on the surface. "Kind of late, I guess."

Gerard felt like a teenager again, disappointed and on edge all at once. But he wasn't a teenager anymore, so he nodded and pushed off the chair. Right. "Yeah, I guess they're gonna wanna clean this place or something…"

They both looked around. It didn't look like any surface in this office had had any contact with a cleaning agent in possibly a decade. The trash bin was overflowing with paper.

"Yeah, probably not," he admitted sheepishly and bent down to grab his bag. "Oh, should we, uh –" He gestured to Greta's discarded copy of Twilight on the floor.

Frank giggled. "Nah, let it fester in here. It's gonna be in an excavation dig in about a decade, I bet. It should be part of the forgotten past." He slung his backpack over his shoulder. Jesus, he was adorable, Gerard thought. It just wasn't fair.

"I don't know if I want it to ever be re-discovered," Gerard said into the ether. "But I guess we can do our part in losing it from the present, at least."

Frank's laughter echoed against the hallway walls. It couldn't have been that late, but the wing felt completely deserted. Even the halogen lamps felt dimmer somehow. The "Choose Your Prom Theme Before It's Too Late!" posters hung alongside the smaller, less colorful "Chess Club Members: Remember To Meet Your Match!" flyers. Once again, Gerard thought about the strangeness of being back somewhere he couldn't wait to leave. Thank God this wasn't his high school, at least.

And he always did have his arts wing to escape to.

They walked in companionable silence, down the empty hallways, through the courtyard, and out into the lot. The wind was chilly and Gerard shivered, pulling his scarf tighter around his neck. Frank was close enough to his side that he kept some of the wind from hitting Gerard. It was nice.

"I'm over there," he nodded towards the end of the lot, pausing for a moment. "I'll, uhm. I'll see you – tomorrow, maybe, I guess," he mumbled into his scarf before turning to face Frank.

"Huh?" Frank's face was really close. Gerard's eyes watered a bit from the gusts of cold air, and he felt really, really stupid, just staring at Frank like that, but he was waiting for Frank to say something else. "Oh, right," Frank added and didn't move away.

Gerard's heart gave an abrupt kick and he held his breath.

"Uh, right, okay," Frank repeated and took a step back. "I'm actually here, so –"

Gerard could never have repeated the sequence of thought or movement that forced him to do what he did, but by the time he'd grabbed the front of Frank's jacket and pulled him close, Frank's mouth was open and hot and sliding against his own.

Gerard made an aborted noise in his throat but the rest of the breath was lost in the kiss. Oh God, oh God, oh God, what was he – how had he – he touched his tongue to Frank's and moaned again.

His brain had kicked in much too late. He felt the cold shock of Frank's hands skating over his cheekbones and then his scalp stung from where Frank's fingers had latched on.

Gerard pulled him in bodily and hated the fucking layers in between them, coats, shirts, pants, their bags – everything, absolutely everything was in the fucking way, but – but they were kissing, hot breath and soft tongues and Jesus, it was happening. He was kissing Frank, fucking – grabbing him and feeling him up as much as he could with his hands numb and fumbling from the cold. He couldn't grab hold of everything he wanted, but he had Frank in his arms, and he was kissing him hard and hot and Frank was right there with him.

"Fuck," he broke off and blinked once until Frank's face was no longer swimming in his vision but steady, and watching him back with huge eyes. "Oh, thank fucking God," he mumbled and kissed Frank again, wanting to bend him back with the force of it, God, get a hold of yourself, his brain commanded.

"No shit, oh fuck," Frank panted, breaking off the kiss again. "Oh, fuck me, this is fucking good," he said before bringing Gerard in for another kiss, and then another, until Gerard's back hit something solid - a car, oh God, please don't be Principal Strauss's, fuck fuck fuck - and Frank, hard in his pants, ground up against him.

"Nggh!" Gerard managed to tighten his hands against Frank's shoulders and still him long enough to pull away. "Please tell me that's your car," he breathed.

"It's my car," Frank confirmed, panting. "You should get in my car."

Gerard almost did, he was so close, with Frank's hands now roving over his thighs, Jesus, except – "School property. We're still, ngh, technically on – ah – school property and – cops, and –"

"Fuck," Frank breathed and dropped his head against Gerard's shoulder. His hand stilled about an inch away from Gerard's hard dick. Gerard's head spun. He could no longer feel the wind at all.

"I can't – we – I'm half an hour away," Frank whined – he whined - and moved his hand ever so slightly to his left. Gerard gasped.

"I'm five. I'm literally a five minute drive from here. We could – I mean, if you wanted – you could –"

Frank's heat abruptly left him. "I'll follow you. Just don't blow any reds," Frank told him and pushed Gerard out of the way until he could open the door. "I'll drive up to your car."

There were a lot of words being said. Gerard blinked. His brain appeared to be offline. "You'll drive up – wait, you'll – right, okay." Right. Okay. He swiveled on his heel and tried jogging to his car. It didn't work. He hobbled, led by his dick, and got his keys out at the same time. It took a while. His hands kept slipping.

Frank's headlights followed him through two sets of lights, a set of lefts and rights, and Gerard kept his eyes on the road as much as he could with one hand on the wheel, the other pressing down on his dick. Jesus.


He hoped to hell that Frank wouldn't change his mind before he got to Gerard's.

Gerard's. His laundry was everywhere. Fuck. He was fairly sure his canvas had been left uncovered, and his kitchen smelled like week-old milk.

He glanced at the mirror. Still there.



He was doing this. They were doing this.

Gerard groaned and hit his head on the wheel when he hit a red. It was the longest red in the history of traffic lights.


Frank's tires practically squealed into Gerard's driveway and Gerard forgot to turn his lights off until the car reminded him, loudly. "Fuck."

Frank was already waiting at the door by the time he got his shit together and managed to lock the car and not forget his bag inside. He only slammed his knee in the door a little bit.

Gerard avoided Frank's eye as much as he could while fumbling with his keys, because he had a goal, and that goal was on the other side of the door. They practically ran inside.


"Oh fuck, thank God," Frank groaned as they hit the wall. "Take off your coat," he commanded and a shiver ran the length of Gerard's spine like a snake. A really hot and sexy snake that was ordering him to, oh right, take off his clothes.

"You too," Gerard panted and almost ripped the slider off Frank's zipper. "Not that I'm not loving the parka," he noted. "But it needs to come off now."

Frank slapped his hands away and tugged on Gerard's buttons. "Yes, this – interesting, uh, military-type overcoat thing is really getting me hot," he mumbled right before actually ripping the bottom button off Gerard's favorite coat.

The coat hit the floor. "Motherfucker," Gerard breathed, grabbing Frank by the waist and hauling him up until his legs wrapped around Gerard's hips. Gerard almost came in his pants when Frank licked the shell of his ear and bit it.


They fell on the living room floor.

"Fuck, are you okay –"

"I'm fine, I'm fine, just –"

Frank grunted as his hands flew to Gerard's fly, and Jesus, it was happening so fucking fast, Gerard couldn't even think. He wasn't about to stop, though.

"Wait, wait, hang on –"

He grabbed Frank's hands and pinned them to the floor. "I'll do it," he breathed before leaning down and kissing him again. Frank tasted so damn good, hot and smoky - fuck yes, thank god - and he was a really fucking good kisser. He was a moaner, too, and Gerard felt the vibrations of the noises hit him right in the gut. Fuck.

He undid his fly and untucked his shirt as best he could, probably losing a few buttons along the way. "You, too," he panted and got there before Frank even managed to reach for his own pants. "Oh fuck, finally," Gerard muttered, and Frank giggled underneath him, high-pitched and breathy. It was dim in Gerard's house, but he could feel the flush coming off of Frank's skin even if he couldn't see it for himself. It was driving him crazy. "I'm serious," he panted as he worked on Frank's fly. "You've been driving me fucking crazy." The last part came out almost involuntarily, and so low, he almost hoped Frank hadn't heard it.

"Fuck, yeah," Frank breathed and tilted his head back just as Gerard found his dick through his briefs. "Mmm, fuck, you too, oh God." Gerard felt the first gathering of sweat all down his back, across his skull. Jesus Christ, he'd been in the middle of the driest of dry spells, and suddenly, he was fulfilling what felt like a lifelong fantasy. Frank was every guy he'd ever wanted and somehow could never get.

Gerard dropped his head to Frank's chest and slid down until a few tugs released Frank's dick completely. "Gonna blow you," he mumbled and barely heard Frank's gasp above him.

Now that his eyes had adjusted to the dark, he saw. Shit, the tattoos. Tattoos everywhere he revealed skin, tattoos right above Frank's dick, oh Jesus. He let his tongue trace them, just for a minute, just for a second, tasting Frank's skin for the first time. He ran his fingers over the designs that he couldn't quite make out in the dark and slipped his tongue out again until he was tasting the spot just next to Frank's dick, and then sliding up it, hard and smooth and tasting like trapped heat.

Fuck. Oh, fuck, he was losing his shit. He felt Frank's hands tighten in his hair, gripping it hard enough to hurt. He wanted to make this last, maybe to tease him, but that was his brain talking, and his every instinct overrode the commands, tongue sliding out, mouth opening wide, wider, until he slipped his lips over the head, the taste overtaking every other sense he possessed.

Frank was so hot when he swore, and so fucking hot when he pumped his dick into Gerard's mouth, like he couldn't stop himself, and Gerard opened his mouth as wide as it would go, let it fucking happen, because Jesus, it was the hottest fucking thing to happen to him in possibly years. He was losing breath, his eyes watered. If he could, he'd have been moaning, but all of his energy was going into making Frank come with his mouth, giving him everything he could.

Frank moaned, though. Frank was loud, his voice pitching high and ragged and his hands roamed over Gerard's hair, his skull, gripping whatever they could find en route. Gerard was shaking. He didn't know how long it had been, he had no idea how much longer he would last, and then Frank gripped his hair and pulled him off. Gerard had time to blink and realize just how bruised his lips felt, now that they were surrounding nothing but air, when Frank's dick twitched against his chin and Frank came, his voice breaking around a groan so deep, it reverberated through Gerard's skin.

Gerard managed to lower his mouth fast enough to catch the last of it on his tongue, come slipping down over his lips and chin. Mmmm, fuck yeah. Shit.

He saw Frank's hand slip down until it lifted his chin and when Gerard looked up, Frank was watching him with huge, blown eyes. "Fucking hell, man," Frank said, his voice hoarse and breaking. "Jesus Christ."

Gerard felt the flutter of flattery warm his tingling fingers and lowered his eyes. Yeah. He still had it.

Frank hauled him up until their noses lined up, then kissed him, eyes still open. "I'm not sure I can remember my name right now," he whispered. "But I think I owe you."

Gerard huffed out a laugh and kissed him again, Frank's come still on his lips and tongue. "Mmm. I'll take it," he whispered and ground down against Frank's thigh. Frank's naked thigh, and Gerard's dick wasn't even out yet. "What're you offering?" he asked in between trying to get his pants down while still hovering over Frank.

"Here, I got it." Frank grunted and slithered under Gerard until he reversed their positions and Gerard wound up on his back, blinking up at the ceiling.

"Smooth," he panted.

Frank shrugged and lowered his eyelashes, looking almost shy. "I have my moments." His next moment was snapping off Gerard's underwear in under three seconds, which was impressive, especially considering how long it generally took Gerard to get himself in there every morning.

"Hey, careful," he managed.

"I wouldn't harm the goods," Frank replied and lowered himself until he was nose to dick with Gerard. "Fuck, you are hung," he whispered, sending Gerard down a delicious spiral of pleasure. "Mmm, yeah."

Gerard held his breath as Frank slipped out his tongue and licked Gerard's dick bottom to top. Gerard's hips twitched. "I really wanna blow you," Frank murmured, breath ghosting over Gerard's cock in a shiver. "But I kind of want to jack you, too." He curled a hand over Gerard and buried his nose in the crook of Gerard's thigh before giving it a light nip.

Gerard couldn't even talk, but he hoped that the signal of "whatever you want, just do it now" translated through him carding his fingers through Frank's cropped hair and scratching.

"Please," he finally managed through the haze.

Frank fucking kissed him as he jerked him off, hot kisses that barely even counted as such, but got Gerard off like nothing else. He whined and thrashed and felt like he was going to break into a million fucking pieces on his dirty living room carpet with Frank stealing all his breath.

"Yeah, fuck, yeah, that's it," Frank whispered in his ear, "So fucking hot, mmm, God, your dick - so hard - fuck."

Gerard shuddered, his hands scratching the rug until he could feel his fingers burning with it. Fuck, fuck, fuck –

"Fuck –"

"Yeah, c'mon, yeah –"

"Fuck -"

Frank pumped him harder, faster, his tongue licking over Gerard's neck, dipping down and biting his collar bone. Gerard grabbed his head, groaned, and whited out, coming. He shuddered, gasping, feet sliding on the rug, going boneless the next moment.

"Oh fuck," he managed before relaxing his hand and letting Frank slowly slide his slick hand off Gerard's dick. He swam in nowhere land for a while, feeling his own heart beating against Frank's ear, his hand feeling kind of numb on his belly.




Frank had landed awkwardly on his side, and Gerard managed to sneak his arm up underneath to haul Frank back up so they were face to face. He could feel his come smearing across Frank's hip. "That was skilled," he whispered.

Frank grinned and lowered his chin until it was digging into Gerard's chest. "Never underestimate the uncomplicated pleasure of a really good handjob," he replied, breath fanning over Gerard's skin.

"Oh God, you are so an English teacher," Gerard groaned, letting his head fall back.

"Yep!" Frank sounded completely satisfied. Gerard shut his eyes and let the scene replay in his head, just for one indulgent moment, in case something were to happen to snatch it all away. For that one moment, he was content.

"So, can we get some nudity up in here?" Frank asked and smacked Gerard's hip. "I've been dying to see how all the parts connect to all the other parts."

"What?" Gerard asked, baffled.

"I wanna see you naked," Frank said like he was explaining something to a slow child.

Oh. "Me, first," Gerard breathed fervently, and elbowed and kneed them up and finally into his bed.


He hadn't been kidding. He had been desperate to see Frank naked, out of his teacher clothes, in complete and glorious detail.

"Is the light strictly necessary?" Frank asked, indicating the artist's lamp clipped to Gerard's headboard that Gerard had adjusted to light Frank better, but Gerard didn't even bother answering. He was too busy dragging Frank's socks off his feet.

There. Complete and glorious detail. Jesus Christ. Frank was fucking gorgeous, and Gerard didn't even attempt to be cool about twisting Frank's body around so he could finally, finally, see all the ink his body had to offer.

Frank's two skins – the one he'd been born with, the one he'd chosen to wear. His chest was covered with a thick necklace spelling out words Gerard couldn't make out with his gaze running everywhere, a spider web sprawling beneath it. Was that a bomb? Damn, Frank was hiding a dark side underneath there somewhere.

Gerard grinned and licked his way down his belly, then over Frank's hips. Birds. Gorgeous, beautiful birds accentuating gorgeous, beautiful hips. "Jesus, you are covered," he breathed.

Frank huffed out a breath beneath him – maybe a laugh, maybe something else.

Gerard couldn't figure it out. Frank was hard again.

He spread his tattooed legs and settled himself between them.

Frank hummed above him.


"So, school…"

Gerard froze, his body suddenly a lot less limp with the afterglow. Oh God, here it came, the "so, this was fun, but –" conversation.

"I guess we shouldn't really flaunt this, huh?" Frank said, a gentle hand landing on Gerard's belly.

Oh, thank God, there was the afterglow again. "Yeah," he said as casually as he could. "I don't think it'd, like…get us fired, but you know how it is –"

"Gossip," Frank offered, nosing his way into the crook of Gerard's neck.

"Exactly," Gerard breathed out. Yeah. Exactly.

Fuck it. They still had an hour before they had to get up.

He rolled them over.


"What the hell happened to you?" Greta asked when she came into the teachers' lounge to find Gerard bent over the desk, cup of coffee steaming into his face. "You look like death, Gee."

Gerard couldn't really answer. He was so tired, he wasn't sure what was real anymore. Not that he was unhappy about it.

"Okay," Greta said easily and Gerard heard her make her way over to the Mr. Coffee. Uhm. "Ugh, you're a dick, you drank all of it?"

He finally turned to her and shrugged. "Necessary. Sorry."

"Ugh." She strode over and flopped onto the couch. "Oh man, I do love it when the senior faculty are all in their meeting," she said looking around her, coffee forgotten.

"Mmm," Gerard managed.

"Okay, what the hell is –"

The door swung open and Gerard could feel his heart stop and restart in the same moment. A little voice inside him said yay! like he was a teenaged girl.

Frank, wearing Gerard's shirt, gave him a grin and then caught sight of Greta. His face didn't exactly change expression, but it grew somehow more polite.

"Oh, I see," Greta noted and gave Gerard a pointed look, then turned back to Frank. "If you're responsible for his state, you owe me coffee."

Gerard made an apologetic face at Frank. If Gerard was ever bad at anything, it was definitely schooling his face. Frank shrugged and reached for his back pocket.

"Here, will that just about cover it?" he asked, taking out a bill, and winked. Gerard rolled his eyes.

Greta snatched up the ten and settled back into the couch. "Ten bucks, huh? Good going, man," she told Gerard. "Thanks, Frank. This means the next round of Coffee Book Club is totally on you."

Gerard was sure that Frank was going for a comeback when the door opened again and Fart descended.

"Mr. Bart!" Greta exclaimed. "Shouldn't you be at the senior faculty meeting?"

Fart's eyebrows rose to his hairline and he quietly shut the door behind him. "Can't stand the fucking things. Is there any coffee left?"

Gerard caught Frank's eye and grinned. "Sorry, Mr. Bart," he said. "But how do you feel about meeting us for coffee next Thursday? We're discussing some books."

Bart made a considering face, looking between the three of them. "Well, that sounds like a genuine invitation." He adjusted his bow tie. "I'll think about it."

Gerard smiled and drank his coffee.

It was almost the weekend, and he'd seen Frank naked.

Life was grand.