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Leading the Revolution (From my Bedroom)

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Dear Students

Today is the final day of exams, and the return of time to relax and enjoy yourselves. I am sure there may be more than a few post-exam celebrations over the next few days...

I like to see you enjoying yourselves at this time of year, you have deserved it for all your hard work. A few drinks are enjoyable, but can easily turn into a few too many! Remember, I DO NOT want to have to send for you for an early morning meeting in full academic dress.

Please take a few minutes to think about other people around you who may not want to enjoy your exuberant celebrations. This often leads to complaints. Below are some suggestions to help you consider ways to avoid an early morning disciplinary hearing...

**

1. Neighbours usually like to sleep at night, not listen to late night parties or other excursions - please be considerate, let your neighbours know if you are having a party, keep the noise level reasonable after midnight, wherever you are in college, and whichever college you might be in!

“Where are you going with those fireworks?”

“Bilvy! Billiam! Thrilliam! Light of my life and delight of my eyes!”

“Can I help you?” Bill stood in front of his door, legs akimbo, hands on hips.

“I was just about to come looking for you!” Gabe beamed and Bill took a step backwards. That smile should not have been anywhere near any of fireworks that Gabe was currently clutching.

“What do you want?”

Gabe’s beam never faltered. “Exams are over, we’ve passed, we’re free-”

“We don’t know that we’ve passed,” Bill corrected fretfully. “You might have done. I completely bombed my Post-War Fiction and Poetry exam and that’s gonna drag down my GPA, and I need at least 3.7 to make it into any post-grad degree worth getting and basically I’ve just-”

“Stop,” Gabe said wearily. “I’ve heard it. You’ve already told me. Quite a few times, actually. So, we need to distract you. And I have a great plan. Hold these.”

He stood up, shoving a roman candle and a couple of rockets into Bill’s hands. Bill stared at them.

“Your great plan is to tie me to a firework.”

Gabe gave him a disdainful look. “Don’t be silly, Billy.” Gabe paused and giggled. “Silly Billy.”

Bill looked at him closely. “Are you drunk?”

“No,” Gabe’s unwavering grin did nothing to dispel Bill’s fears. “Just high on life.”

“Oh God, that’s actually true, isn’t it?”

“Oh yeah. Ok. Here’s the plan. We’re gonna take these fireworks to a nice, open space. We’re gonna find a box of matches, and we’re gonna have our own firework display. And if that doesn’t distract you, then I will admit defeat.”

Bill sighed. “Couldn’t you just get me drunk like a normal friend? So we’re not messing around with anything life-threatening?”

Gabe rolled his eyes. “I’d happily get you wasted, but we both remember what happened last time.”

“Oh. Yeah. No.”

“I still maintain it wasn’t my idea.”

Bill scowled. “It’s always your idea.” He waved his fireworks pointedly. “And anyway, you’ve seen the list. I’m pretty sure fireworks are automatically included under ‘Do Not, Ever’.”

“Eh,” Gabe said airily, scooping up his shoes and a handful of Catherine wheels. “Lists are made to be broken.”

“That’s rules -“

“- and we’re not going to set them off on College grounds. Well,” he amended, “not our college grounds.”

“Oh?” Bill said suspiciously.

“No. We’re going to go up to the Collingwood soccer pitch and set them off there.”

“Even better,” Bill muttered and picked a stray sparkler up off the floor.

Gabe slid one arm round Bill’s shoulders and propelled them both out of the door. “Think of it this way. How long has it been since you last thought of your failure and impending doom?”

“About five minutes?”

“See? My plan is clearly working. C’mon.”

**

2. Keep your clothes ON in public...

Sometimes, it was hard being Nick Wheeler. Of course he was bound to admit that sometimes, it really wasn’t – he was at an awesome college, with awesome friends, his finals were over, and he was celebrating with his tall and gorgeous boyfriend. Unfortunately, his tall and gorgeous boyfriend occasionally had really bad ideas. This was one of them.

“C’mon, Nicky!” Tyson hollered, from about ten feet away. “Get your clothes off! Let’s see that beautiful body!”

Nick pulled a face and hop-skipped a little harder. He’d lost a flip-flop halfway down the road, and had sworn a vow to himself then and there that that was the biggest concession he would make towards nudity. He dragged a hand over his face and flailed a condemnatory finger at Chris. “This is your fault,” he accused. Chris, who was swinging wild and free and encouraging Tyson far too much, did not answer.

Mike gave him a sympathetic look. Firmly anti public nudity, Mike was steadily refusing to remove any part of his jeans-and-t-shirt ensemble.

Nick looked on him as a kindred spirit.

“Guys, c’mon,” he said, “I don’t wanna have to go and see the Dean in my last week.”

“But that’s what college is about!” Tyson said cheerfully. His shoes were long gone and he was now busily divesting himself of his socks.

“Oh God,” Nick murmured, and trailed after his mad friends as Chris made a break for Walmart.

Nick had already resigned himself to getting arrested, with friends like these. He’d just never thought it would be in a Walmart.

**

3. Be cautious when meeting new friends/exploring relationships – think about where (or with whom) you want to wake up in the morning...

The creepy guy was staring at him again, and not for the first time, Kevin regretted his decision to go out tonight. If it had been up to Kevin, he would have stayed in his room with a pizza, a DVD, and possibly a beer – but then Demi had given him the stink-eye and told him that Joe had called him boring.

Kevin reflected miserably that he should really stop rising to Joe’s challenges. Yes, he was boring, and after twenty one years, it was probably time he just embraced that – not embracing it led to sitting here in what they laughingly called the college ‘bar’ (Kevin was no expert, but he was pretty sure ‘dive’ would be more accurate), with Demi over the other side of the room, as normal, entertaining the slavish attentions of one of the jocks.

Kevin was left to himself and the mercies of the creepy guy who’d been turning up religiously (Kevin pardoned himself for the pun) to Christian Union for the past few weeks. He thought his name was Michael – he wasn’t sure.

“Hi,” said creepy Michael, and Kevin had to stop surreptitiously trying to inch his chair away from him.

“Hallo,” he said awkwardly, eyeing his opponent warily. Michael wasn’t normally the sort of person who talked to Kevin. Not in the bullshit high-school cliques-from-movies way – it was just that Kevin was Kevin (“boring”), and Creepy Michael was the kind of guy who thought nothing of a quick dose of wacky baccy behind the chapel. (Kevin was pretty sure they didn’t call it wacky baccy anymore. He’d have to ask Joe.)

Point was, he and creepy Michael didn’t really associate outside of CU. That was the way things were, and to be honest, Kevin was just fine with that.

However, his idiotic, well-bred mouth continued, without conscious volition, “how are you?”

Creepy Michael looked a little amused. “Fine, kid.” Kevin bristled a little. He was only a year or so younger than creepy Michael, at most. “How are you?”

“I’m OK. But I should go. I’ll see you-” Kevin stood then remembered that most of the college-specific societies stopped after exams were done, and CU wouldn’t be meeting again until the beginning of next year – without Kevin, and probably without Michael, creepy or otherwise. “Around?” he offered, and Creepy Michael offered him a broad grin.

“You want a drink?” he offered, instead of nodding and letting Kevin go as Kevin had expected him to.

Kevin stared for a moment, envisaging shots of absinthe downed in the inevitable squalor of this guy’s room – then he chastised himself for being unkind. Probably. Then, unbidden, Joe’s accusation of ‘boringness’ rose to the forefront of his mind and he scowled.

“C’mon,” Creepy Michael said, grinning persuasively, “it’s practically the end of the semester, we’ll probably never see each other again – what’s the worst that could happen?” The grin acquired an edge, and Kevin thought about actually answering the question. His mind, which was set to its default ‘worry’, had come up with at least a dozen scenarios by now, two of which involved the emergency room, and one of which involved the police. Then again... boring.

“OK,” he said decisively, pulling out his stool and sitting back down. “What’re you having?”

“This late, I normally stick to beer. You, though,” Creepy Michael pointed at him totally needlessly from a foot and a half away, “you should have something stronger. You got a bit of catching up to do, Jonas.”

“How do you know my name?” Kevin asked absently, staring fixedly at Michael for a couple of moments before voicing his revelation. “Wait. Hang on, you - you’re totally wasted, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Michael said, sounding alarmingly sober. “Yes, I am. And of course I know you! You’re Jonas!”

“That’s not actually my Christian name, you know?” Kevin said, and Michael’s eyes darted away. “You thought my name was Jonas Jonas, didn’t you?”

“It could happen!”

“No, it couldn’t!” Kevin accepted the drink without looking at it, and downed it in one go. Michael looked impressed. “What did you think my brother was called?” Michael looked distinctly shifty. “You thought he was called Jonas Jonas too, didn’t you? Lord in Heaven.” Another drink appeared in front of him, and he sipped it a little more cautiously this time. The alcohol burnt his tongue. “No, by the way. He’s Joe, and I’m Kevin. But he calls me Skippy, because he’s a dick like that.”

Creepy Michael looked a little taken aback. “Nice language, Christian boy.”

Kevin shrugged. “Joe deserves it.”

“Well, be fair,” Michael said, smiling lopsidedly, “I was close with him. Joe Jonas is practically Jonas Jonas. So, now I know your name – Skippy,” he added with a wicked grin. Kevin groaned. Tarnation, “I think we ought to get to know each other a little better before we all go our sordid separate ways. Have another drink.”

“I haven’t finished this one yet,” Kevin said uncertainly.

“I’m getting one, I’ll get one for you whilst I’m at it.”

“Are you trying to get me drunk?” Kevin asked, beginning to edge his chair away again.

“Well, you see, Skippy,” Michael said, “that depends on one very important question.”

“What’s that?” Kevin said warily.

“There are some very interesting rumours going round about you, Skippy, and I’m wondering if they’re true.”

Kevin sighed. “Not this again. Why is everyone so concerned anyway?”

“Because you are young and hot and possibly a virgin. And that’s a turn on for some people.”

“Like you?” Kevin asked acidly, and then wondered where he’d found the courage. He remembered when he looked at the brimming glass of – something – in front of him.

“Nah, I’m a take-‘em-as-I-find-‘em sorta guy. Why, Jonas, are you confirming or denying?”

“Look, Michael-”

“Mike. Call me Mike. Only my grandma calls me Michael.”

“Fine, Mike.” Kevin took a deep breath. “I don’t think that that is any of your business, and it’s certainly not something I have to discuss with you or anyone else.”

Mike patted his knee. “Nice speech, Skippy,” he said approvingly. “But – to be honest, I don’t care. I was pretty much only asking to find out how much you value that vaunted potential purity, and whether or not, if I get you drunk enough, you’ll sleep with me.”

There was a brief, aghast silence, and Mike looked temporarily wrong-footed. Finally, Kevin spoke. “I thought there’d be a lot more bullshit than that,” he said, and Mike took a deep breath.

“Nah, I’m a law student. I deal with cold, hard facts. So, you got an answer for me?”

“Being a lawyer, I’d have thought cold, hard facts were the last thing you deal with,” Kevin replied tartly. Mike raised his glass in a mocking toast.

“Touché.”

Kevin smiled and then looked thoughtful. “Well,” he said, his tone revelatory, “I think I like the direct approach. Fine. Get me another one of these,” he picked up his glass, a little liquid sloshing over the edge, “and we’ll talk. Oh! Before that,” Mike turned back to him, eyebrow raised. “If you’re going to get anywhere with me – and I’m not saying you will! – you have got to stop calling me Skippy.”

Mike gave him a long approving look. “Deal.”

**

4. DO NOT intimidate anyone, or be a nuisance, harass or be violent to anyone, especially members of staff, porters, university security etc...

They weren’t breaking any laws. And that was what Gerard would earnestly protest in the Dean’s office the next morning.

It was just that Walmart had no soul and Gerard Way, on behalf of his boyfriend, was going to be part of the frontline dedicated to educating the masses on this point.

“One does not simply walk into Walmart,” Frank was cheerily informing a passerby, “there is an evil there which does not sleep. Have a nice day!” The woman scurried away, after casting terrified glances at Bob, Gerard’s eyeliner and Frank’s lip-ring. “Wait! Are you sure you wouldn’t like a leaflet?”

“No luck?” Gerard asked, sidling over to Frank and also trying not to stare at his lip-ring – though for entirely different reasons.

“It’s like they don’t care, man,” Frank pulled a face. “Wal-Mart is crap on like, eighteen different levels, and they just don’t care.”

“I know, man. I know,” Gerard patted his shoulder and tried not to let his hand linger too long. They had work to do. This vendetta was Frank’s baby – ever since he’d done a brief stint at working for Wal-Mart and found out that it wasn’t just him who wasn’t covered by their health-care plan – they didn’t actually have a health-care plan at all, despite their tax breaks and the billions of dollars they earned annually. “We’ll bring the assholes down one store at a time.”

Exams were over, and they’d all rocked up to help. Technically - technically - they weren’t doing anything wrong. They weren’t on Wal-Mart property, they weren’t defacing Wal-Mart property, and they weren’t disturbing the peace. And if Mikey occasionally pulled his shadow-ninja act and wafted into the parking lot to slap a few dozen of their ‘Why Wal-Mart Is Shit’ leaflets onto a few cars, well, that wasn’t actually wrong.

Keeping Frank under control was the key to success in this mission. Ray had had to confiscate his megaphone three times.

Wal-Mart means death to small businesses!” Frank had climbed on top of the wall and was waving his arms frantically.

“Frankie, get down!” Gerard hissed.

“Why?” Frank looked down at him, eyebrow raised.

“Because that wall is Wal-Mart property,” Bob explained patiently, “and you could get fined. Arrested, even.”

“You’ve gotta stick it to The Man, Bryar.” Frank gestured at Bob with his megaphone.

Bob raised an eyebrow. “I’ll stick it to him good and proper on public ground.”

“Oooh, kinky,” Frank lisped, cocking his hip.

“Now, Frank,” Gerard stepped in, “that’s stereotyping.”

Frank ignored him. “Wal-Mart kills babies!” he yelled through his megaphone.

“And that’s defamation,” Ray said, with unimpeachable calm.

They were interrupted by Mikey, slouching out through the gates, hands empty and stuffed into his pockets.

“Was your mission successful, Mikeyway?” Frank demanded. All he really needed, Gerard reflected, was a Napoleon hat.

Mikey ignored him and plopped himself down next to Gerard. “All good?” Gerard asked, and Mikey nodded.

“But I made a few of the leaflets into paper aeroplanes and threw them through the automatic doors, and we might have to go in a minute, because one of them hit a security guard in the face.”

“That’s right, Mikeyway!” Generalissimo said from the wall. “Stick it to The Man!”

“Aren’t the security guards some of Wal-Mart’s most exploited victims?” Mikey asked. “Underpaid, no health-care, crappy quality of life-”

“Not enough sunlight,” agreed Ray.

Frank was momentarily stumped, but rallied admirably. “But until they realise that, they are agents of the enemy, and we can take them, guys! They have no fire in their blood, no passion behind their actions, and we can take them!”

“I really don’t think we can,” Gerard said, stuck in the novel position of ‘voice of reason’. “You’re, like, four foot tall, my muscles are like cooked pasta, Mikes is a stick and Ray’s a pacifist. That leaves Bob.”

Frank fixed Bob with eyes bright with the light of fanaticism. “I have faith in you, Bryar.”

“My mother will be so proud. Frank, we’re not fighting the Wal-Mart security. I intend my college career to end with a whimper, and if there are any bangs, they will not be here, and they will not be with you guys watching.”

Gerard briefly considered whether that was objectification or not, then decided to let it go. Bob had had a hard day.

“Guys?” Ray said, “I see blue lights. I think we should move it along. Frank, let’s find you some richer pickings, OK?”

“To the centre of town!” Frank agreed dramatically, and hopped on Bob’s back.

**

5. DO NOT cause mayhem of any kind in any other College (or ours) even if you are provoked!

This was Pete’s big day. This was the day he would woo Patrick, and it would work. He hefted his boombox higher onto his shoulder, grabbed his rose, and set off.

He ignored all the stares (and there were a few – perhaps the doublet and breeches had been a mistake) with the ease of long years of practice. All his thoughts were on his Love. There was no way Patrick could resist this.

Unfortunately, he realised when he arrived at Patrick’s college that knowing his amour’s room number wasn’t the same as knowing which window was his, and this led to a good half-hour wandering around the quad trying to look nonchalant in full Elizabethan dress. In the end, Pete had had to call Bill and resort to some serious bribery. Bill was set for alcohol for the rest of the week, and Pete was broke.

It would be worth it when his Love was his and his alone.

Pete stationed himself under his paramour’s window and lobbed a handful of gravel at it. Half a dozen people stuck their heads out of their windows after his gravel had unfortunately scattered, demanding to know what the hell he was doing, but none of them were his beloved. He yelled back a brusque apology and chose his next stone more carefully.

He hefted it briefly, then threw, and his aim was true. He winced as the window shattered with the delicate tinkle of glass.

Seconds later, the broken window was thrown open, and Patrick’s beloved, angry face appeared. “What the fuck, Pete?” his dulcet tones rang out across the quad.

Pete felt a thrill of joy. “You knew it was me?” he asked, and Patrick frowned.

“Of course I knew it was you,” he said. “Who else would throw a rock through a window at eleven at night?”

Pete reflected that, as ever, his courtship was not going well. Then he frowned as a new thought struck him. “I can pay for that,” he said quickly, and tried not to think how he was going to balance that with Bill’s pay-off.

Patrick’s scowl deepened. “Damn right you’re paying for it,” he snapped, and Pete hurried to distract him.

“What’re you doing in on Finals night, anyway?” he asked. “I mean, I’m glad you are, but – you know – it’s the best night of the year, man!”

“I’m not a finalist, and I’m not,” Patrick added pointedly, “a post-grad research student with an apparently infinite amount of time on my hands which I can spend following round perfectly innocent second years.” Pete winced, both at the accusation and at the thought of just how much time he had ‘wasted’ following Patrick around; his work had definitely been suffering. “I’ve still got classes, you know, and a performance tomorrow. This is pretty much my last chance to pack.”

Pete brightened perceptibly. “A performance? Can I come? I could cheer really loudly and then bathe your fevered brow with lavender water afterwards.”

“You’re not bathing my fevered anything,” Patrick said repressively. “Anyway, what are you wearing?”

Pete noticed that that was not a refusal, and his heart swelled. “I am your troubadour!” he cried, sweeping into a low bow, then grabbing the boombox as it threatened to slide off his shoulder. The rose whacked him in the eye.

“You have a boombox,” Patrick pointed out.

“Well, yes,” Pete said defensively. “My college string quartet was busy and they’re using the only lute in this whole goddamn town in a production of The Crucible.”

Patrick looked momentarily taken aback. “The Crucible?” He repeated. “Where the fuck is a lute going to come in in that light-hearted romp through musical history?”

“I know, right?” Pete agreed, grinning at him. Patrick felt a treacherous, dangerous pang of fondness for the horse-faced loon. That fondness disappeared swiftly when Pete set down his boombox, spread his arms wide and cried, “now, let me serenade you, my darling, with proof of the most tender love I bear you!”

Patrick could hear more than one person shouting for Pete to shut up and flushed to his hairline. Things only deteriorated when Pete clicked ‘play’, and Cee Lo Green’s ‘Fuck You’ rang out clear and strong through the quad – Pete hurriedly clicked it off. “Sorry,” he said, bending over to fiddle with it. “Wrong side of the tape.”

When he stood up again, Ewan McGregor was stridently insisting that his gift was his song. “Moulin Rouge?” Patrick said, the fondness making a comeback. “Seriously?”

But over the sound of Patrick being allowed to tell everyone about the song Pete had brought him (as thought they didn’t already know), he heard a gruff, “excuse me, sir.”

Pete cast a panicked glance up at Patrick, and chucked the rose at him. It fell spectacularly short of the mark. “Patrick! Look for my coming tomorrow!” he paused very briefly, then sniggered, clearly catching the innuendo in his own words. Then he bolted, security guards in bright yellow hot on his heels.

“Sir – sir, we need to see some ID,” one of the called. “Are you a member of this college?”

“You’ll never take me alive!” Pete said shrilly – and still Ewan McGregor sang on, requiring Patrick’s permission to tell the world how wonderful life was. The irony was painful.

“Wait,” Patrick called down, and was ignored as Pete was cornered by the fountain, clinging to it manfully as security tugged at his legs. “Wait, he’s with me. I’m coming down!”

Pete made another sound which, in any other situation, would probably have been yet another ‘Patrick!’, but lived only briefly in this one as a squawk as security forcibly detached him from the fountain.

When Patrick reached the quad, it was deserted.

**

6. DO NOT steal shop signs, traffic cones, or any other public/personal property...

Vicky-T wanted a stop sign.

Well, of course she did.

Ryland heaved a put-upon sigh and started after Alex. Vicky-T was not to be disobeyed. Next to her, Machiavelli couldn’t have run a lemonade stall – she was brilliant, she was beautiful, and she was organised. Back in first year, none of them had stood a chance. Unfortunately, whilst this normally benefited all three of her minions (Ryland had long ago realised that for the moment, he was a mere minion in her eyes, but he could totally turn that around), it sometimes led to situations like this – running through the night, trying not to trip over his assortment of road signs, evading capture by both the campus security (mere amateurs), and the actual police. Unfortunately, both sets of law-enforcers were out in force tonight. Everyone was wary of finals nights.

Ryland knew, however, that he had to do this. If he ever wanted to have a quiet drink with Vicky-T, and possibly form a romantic alliance, he had to follow her instructions.

“Which one are we getting her?” He called after his partners-in-crime. Nate was already clutching a road works sign, though Ryland suspected that was a personal trophy rather than danegeld for their overlord. Overlady. Boss.

“Walton Street is deserted this time of night,” Alex decided, leaning on his ‘approaching roundabout’ sign. “We’ll try there first.”

“And if not?”

“We improvise,” Nate said, and as one, they turned into the night.

At least, they would have done, had Tyson Ritter not swerved into Ryland’s path and left a giant smear of glitter down Ryland’s arm.

“Hey, man,” Tyson said, words slurring alarmingly. Ryland glanced at Nick for help. “How’s it going?”

Nick, who was hopping up and down, attempting to keep hold of Tyson, balance a beer and bat Tyson’s hands away from his fly all at the same time, was no help. “Hey, Ryland,” he said distractedly.

“Hey, Wheeler. How’s it hanging?” Ryland glanced at Chris and averted his eyes. “Don’t have to ask how it’s hanging with you, man, I can see perfectly.”

“Tyson wants to flow as wild and as free as Chris.” This came from Kennerty, who was wearing all of his clothes and a look of deep resentment. “It’s been a long night.”

“All I wanted to do,” Ritter said grandly, “was to steal a shopping cart. And now look at all the new and exciting opportunities which have been opened up to me!”

Nick, who was holding onto Tyson’s wrists with a grip of steel, sighed. “Yeah, Ty. Like a public indecency charge.”

Tyson looked briefly intrigued. “Nicky, can I have one of those?” he asked, batting his eyelashes.

“It’s looking likely, sweetness,” Nick agreed dryly.

“Um, I don’t want to draw too much attention to this,” Ryland said delicately, “but – where did all the glitter come from?” Alex and Nate had come to join him, staring interestedly and clutching various road signs.

Nick grimaced. “I don’t know, but when I find the asshole who gave it to him, I’m going to kill them.” It was only when Wheeler turned round that Ryland noticed that he had a large, glittery handprint on one buttock.

Mike Kennerty looked at them speculatively. “If you’re collecting road signs,” he said, “Seventh and Luxembourg are closed at the moment. And there’s a school down there.”

“Sweet,” Alex said, and took off.

“Why are you collecting road signs?” Nick asked. Ryland leaned against his ‘Stop: Children Crossing’ sign, and affected nonchalance.

“Well, you see,” he started, only to be interrupted by Nate.

“He wants into Vicky-T’s panties,” he said bluntly.

“Thanks, dude,” Ryland said sarcastically.

“A worthy goal, my friend!” Tyson said expansively. “If I were not already in my darling Nicky’s pants,” Darling Nicky looked distinctly put-upon and muttered something which sounded a lot like ‘I just wish you’d stay inside your own’, “I would steal anything he wanted to be so!”

“I don’t want any road signs, Ty.”

Tyson looked bewildered. “Who said anything about road signs? I thought we were talking about sex.”

Nick sighed, and Chris stepped in to save the day. “I’m bored,” he announced, and wandered off.

Mike Kennerty made apologetic gestures. “I have to follow him,” he said, “or he’ll flash another policeman.”

“Another?” Ryland said nervously, but Kennerty was long gone, and Wheeler and Ritter were following after. Tyson was skipping.

Ryland put them out of his mind and headed for Seventh, where he was met with an unexpected barrier. Unlike all the other road signs they’d liberated, stop signs were cemented down.

It was as he tugged fruitlessly at the stop sign with Nate, that he came to a sudden, shuddering realisation. Road signs weren’t a game. Road signs were there for a reason, to stop people crashing or driving in to kids or – any other myriad potential disaster. And, more to the point, Vicky-T hadn’t responded to any of his advances thus far, no matter how slavishly he followed her orders.

For the greater good, it was time to stop.

“Guys!” he said expansively – he had considered putting it to them carefully and rationally, but in the end his dramatic side won out. “Guys, we have to put these signs back!” he flung his arms out.

Nate looked at him. “You’re making the Jesus Christ Superstar arms again.”

Ryland let his arms fall back to his sides rather limply. “Whatever,” he said, battling embarrassment. “It doesn’t matter. These signs have to go back, or we’re gonna cause actual accidents, and - and stuff.”

Nate and Alex stared at him for a moment, then looked at each other, then turned back to him. “What about Vicky-T?”

“What about her?” Ryland said.

“Well,” Alex said frankly, “she scares me.”

“I’ll deal with Vicky-T,” Ryland said, with perhaps more bravery than sense. “C’mon, we have road signs to put back.”

It was as they slotted the final ‘approaching roundabout’ sign back into place that their plans fell apart. There were footsteps behind them, a pause, and then, ominously: “good evening, gentlemen.”

Fuck, Ryland thought, and turned. “Officer,” he said pleasantly, trying very hard not to look at Nate, who was clutching an incriminating traffic cone like a protection charm. “How can we help you?”

**

7. DO NOT bring the College into Disrepute!

“Will someone please sleep with this boy!” Spencer yelled, and Ryan rolled his eyes just that tiny bit harder. Brendon was staring out at the crowd with hopeful eyes, and Spencer turned back to him with a shrug. “Don’t think it’s gonna work, dude.”

“It has to work, Spence,” Brendon informed him. “I am not going into my second year a – a virgin.” The last word was a mortified whisper.

“Oh, come on, it’s not the end of the world-” Spencer started, and Brendon cut him off.

“It is. Everyone says that college is when you stop being the band freak no-one will go out with and suddenly become really attractive to hot guys who want to sex you up. If I go home like this, it’s proof I’m doomed to die alone. Plus, Pete will mock me-”

“Oh please, Pete’s been on a dry spell for months. Ever since he saw Patrick,” Spencer muttered. “I don’t believe this, it’s not even as though you’re completely horrible to look at. There’s got to be someone.”

Ryan coughed meaningfully, but Spencer just glared at him, and Brendon couldn’t yet decipher their fifteen years of best-friend-speak. “Thanks,” he said, instead, aiming for sarcasm. “I think I could be a really good lay!”

“A really good fumbling, inexperienced lay,” Ryan said dryly, tiring of the day’s proceedings, before snapping “go away!” at someone who gave him an experimental grope. “He’s the one advertising his wares.”

“So how much is he?” a stranger asked, pointing at Ryan. “I’d pay to get under those scarves.”

“Not me!” Ryan squawked again. “Him! He’s the one wearing the sign!”
`
“You made him a sign?” Jon asked, emerging out from behind the bar on his break. “Awww... looking good, B!”

The sign was about a foot high, pink, sparkly, and read: PLEASE SLEEP* WITH ME (*as in ‘have sex’ not as in ‘snuggles’. Though snuggles are also welcome.). Brendon was clutching it like a drowning man clutches a raft.

He was also pouting. “I don’t get it. I have the sign. Why are they all going for Ryan?”

“Maybe I just look approachable?” Ryan said, with palpable smugness.

Brendon snorted. On a good day, Ryan was about as approachable as a cactus; it had taken a whole semester for Brendon to work up the courage to so much as talk to him, and that didn’t count the further five weeks he’d spent with a tongue-tied crush on the guy. Then he’d actually talked to him, and the crush had faded quite fast. Ryan’s bitchiness was not conducive to romantic feeling. “No,” he corrected sweetly. “What you look is easy.”

Ryan rolled his eyes again. Brendon began to worry that he might strain them.

“Hello! People!” Spencer was working the crowd again. “Completely legal young man available for totally free, no strings attached sex! Right here, right now-”

“Dude, I’m not doing it right here, or right now.”

“How about that guy?” Jon asked, pointing at a small, elfin guy in the crowd wearing an enormous stripey scarf and a dopey grin. “He looks sweet.”

“No,” Spencer said automatically.

“Why not?” Brendon asked.

“He’s too short,” Spencer said. “And he looks like a stoner. Who knows what he could give you?”

“Height is no object,” Jon pointed out. “Bden’s practically pocket sized.”

“Oh, this, from you?” Brendon returned without heat. “And who said you get to veto who I sleep with, Spence? I’m going to go and sleep with that guy right now.”

The guy clearly heard him, because he looked briefly worried and vanished into the crowd.

“Aw, don’t worry, B,” Jon said, patting his arm. “He clearly wasn’t worth it.”

“We’ll find someone much better suited to you,” Ryan agreed. Brendon waited for the inevitable sarcastic add-on, but it never came.

“Wait, were you just – supportive?” he asked.

“I can be supportive!” Ryan said indignantly. “I am awesome at being supportive.”

Brendon decided the better part of valour was discretion and turned away. Ryan was lying; what he was best at was sarcasm and occasional flashes of biting insight. Or, more regularly, just biting. (Brendon had this on good authority: Pete and Ryan had been a Thing for a while. Ryan had so much sex that Brendon really didn’t think it was asking too much for him to share it around a little.)

“Oh, what about him? He looks perfect!”

“He’s five feet taller than you and he’s wearing a biker jacket,” Spencer said acidly. “I’m taking this one out myself.”

“Yeah, just like you took out all the other applicants,” Ryan muttered, and Spencer kicked him.

“Fine,” Brendon capitulated with a huff. “What about that guy?”

“No,” all three of them said, and Brendon pouted. “That’s Frank Iero,” Jon explained, more calmly. “He could fuck you up, man.”

“Isn’t that kind of what we’re going for?” Brendon asked.

“Not that kind of ‘fuck you up’, moron,” Ryan said, and Brendon heaved a relieved sigh. He and Ryan were clearly back on familiar ground again.

“And if he didn’t, Gerard Way would talk to his brother and then Mikeyway would make sure no one ever spoke to you again, and then you’d never get laid,” Jon added.

Gerard paused in front of Brendon and his sign, and looked at him with eyes full of compassion. “Hang in there, man,” he said. “It gets better.”

“Could you help me out of here, then?” Brendon asked, and Gerard paused. For a long moment, he looked at him consideringly and Brendon looked consideringly back. Then:

“No,” said both Frank and Spencer in perfect tandem.

Gerard had the decency to look faintly disappointed. “Sorry, dude,” he said, as Frank latched onto his hand with a grip of steel. “You’ll find someone!” For some reason, he looked over at Spencer. Did everyone know that Spencer was vetting his potential bed-partners?

Life sucked sometimes.

Frank dragged Gerard backwards and safely out of Brendon’s reach, shooting Brendon a grin that contained more teeth than was strictly comforting. “C’mon, guys! We have to go spread the word some more!”

“Frank,” Mikey said, in a rare display of emotion, “we’ve been spreading the word for four hours. I wanna go have some fun.”

Frank looked as though he might protest, then Gerard muttered something in his ear, and the fight went out of him. With a sigh, he handed his megaphone over to Spencer, who accepted as an honour. “Use it well, man. Good luck! I’m gonna go defile my boyfriend. Again.”

Instead of moving, however, he drew Gerard into the filthiest, most pointed kiss Brendon had ever seen. When he pulled back, Gerard looked dazed and Frank threw Brendon a triumphant grin. “So long, motherfuckers!” He disappeared into the crowd, dragging Gerard behind him.

Spencer caught Brendon looking speculatively at Ray, and frowned. “Definitely not,” he said sternly. “He’d break you in two.”

Ray looked mortified. “I have a girlfriend!” he squeaked, and scuttled away.

“Brave woman,” commented Ryan. “Brave, big woman.”

“Everyone is doing the defiling but me,” Brendon said grouchily. “Even Gerard Way, and he’s weird!”

“I don’t really think you can throw stones in the weird stakes, Bren,” Ryan pointed out, without the habitual edge to his voice.

“Guess not,” Brendon shrugged moodily. “But,” he turned to Spencer, “if I’m so weird, why are you so keen to scare off every single applicant? I don’t think I need the help!”

“Yeah, Spence,” Ryan echoed with a grin, “Why are you so keen to scare off every single applicant?”

“It’s almost as if you don’t want to help Brendon achieve his goal,” Jon joined in innocently.

“Don’t you have work to do?” Spencer snapped, and shot Ryan a look which promised death. “And we’re calling them applicants now, are we?” he asked, then noticed the widening of Ryan’s eyes as he looked over Spencer’s shoulder. “Oh fuck, it’s the fuzz, isn’t it?”

“Hello, boys. What’s going on here?” The cop looked deceptively genial.

“We’re just trying to get our friend here laid, officer,” Jon said mildly and Spencer facepalmed.

“I can see that,” the guy said, eyeing Brendon’s sign. “I think you all had better come with me.”

**

Bill bitched at Gabe the entire way back from Collingwood. To be fair, Gabe thought it had gone pretty well. Neither of them had died, for one, the Collingwood pitches were still in one piece (barring a couple of very minor craters), and all they had sacrificed was-

“My eyebrows,” Bill snapped. “My graduation is in two weeks, and my mom will be there, and do you know what she’ll see? An eyebrowless wonder with a terrible GPA!”

“Your GPA will not be terrible,” Gabe said soothingly, but Bill would have none of it.

“I’ll still be an eyebrowless freak,” he pointed out bitterly.

“I lost my eyebrows too!”

“You’re post-grad, no one cares about you!” Bill snapped.

“Well, wasn’t it fun? I thought you were having fun!” Certainly, the words ‘GPA’, ‘exam’, ‘post-war fiction and poetry’, and ‘doom’ had not been mentioned for the last couple of hours.

Bill looked as though he would like to refute this accusation, but couldn’t. “Fine,” he said, after a brief, conflicted pause. “It was fun.”

Gabe grinned. “You see? It was a great idea. We’re not drunk, we’re not high, we’re not having ill-advised sex-”

“That was one time!” Bill said quickly. “And it wasn’t my idea!”

“Well, it wasn’t mine either, so how did it happen?”

“Osmosis,” Bill said firmly, and Gabe knew a closed subject when he saw one.

“Next time, all we have to remember is not to put the Catherine Wheels next to the rockets.”

Bill nodded fervently. “Oh, yeah. But, y’know, they’ll be able to fill in those holes in no time.”

Gabe shared a conspiratorial grin with him. “Pity about the tree, though.”

“Oh, yeah.”

Unfortunately, as Gabe said this, they walked through the college gates and were stopped by a porter. “William Beckett and Gabriel Saporta?”

“Yeah?” They said as one, turning guilty eyes on him.

The porter handed them each an envelope with their names printed neatly on the front. “There’s been a report. The Dean wants to see you tomorrow morning, first thing.” He paused. “Full academic dress.”

He left them there, and Bill sighed. “That is not going to help my GPA.”

Gabe sighed. “And we were doing so well. Hey, we’ve only got like, four hours before we have to go and see the Dean. Wanna order pizza and go watch Moulin Rouge in the common room?”

Bill would have glared at him had it been possible. Instead he said: “will it make my eyebrows grow back?”

“No... but it will make you feel all warm and mushy inside?” Gabe said temptingly. “And it will make you cry at the end. You don’t need eyebrows for crying.”

Bill paused. “Fine. But you’re buying the pizza.”

**

When they got to the common room, pizzas in hand, they found it had already been taken over by the group of kids from D-Stairs. Bill nodded at Ryan, who he knew from his Restoration Lit. seminar, then his eyes were caught by the sign the Urie kid had round his neck.

Instinctively, he put his hand out to stop Gabe. “No,” he said firmly. “No, you don’t.”

“But Bill, he’s asking nicely and everything!” Gabe protested.

“He’s tiny, you’d break him, and you’d get back-ache doing it,” Bill pointed out in a tone of iron reason. “And then he’d cry all next semester when you didn’t call him next morning.”

Brendon stared at them. “I’m right here, you know. You can’t just talk about me like I’m not here!”

Bill gave him a pitying look. “Urie, while you’re wearing that sign, I can say what I like about you with impunity.”

Spencer moved in front of them, hands on hips, drawing himself up to his full, not especially impressive height. What he lacked in height, however, he made up for with the sheer force of his bitchface. “No, you can’t,” he said, and Gabe grinned.

“Ah, SuperSmith to the rescue,” he said. “Spencer, your hips may be awesome, but they are, I’m afraid, definitely lying in this case.”

Bill glanced at him. “Did – did you just make a Shakira reference?”

“You bet I did, Bilvy.”

Bill opened his mouth to say something, closed it again and turned back to Spencer. “Spencer, make him take off the sign, for the love of Christ. It’s giving me a headache just looking at it.”

“He won’t do it,” Ryan said lazily from his armchair. He mainly looked bored, but Bill knew the D-Stairs boys a little, and was well aware that that was just his default setting. “He thinks maybe someone from college will be insane enough to go for him.”

Gabe shrugged. “Hey, man, I offered-”

“No,” Spencer snapped, before Bill could so much as open his mouth.

Gabe frowned at him. “To be honest, I kinda thought you’d be dealing with our Brendon’s libido by now, Smith,” he said. “Is he wearing you out, or something?”

There was a long, awkward silence, and then, incriminatingly, Spencer flushed. Brendon fixed him with wide, betrayed eyes. “What? Spence?”

Bill glared at Gabe. “Now look what you’ve done,” he muttered, and Gabe had the decency to look a little ashamed.

“It’s not like I knew,” he muttered rebelliously, and Bill heaved a sigh, turning away from him to watch the unfolding scene between Spencer and Brendon with no little interest.

“-want to make things awkward!” Spencer was arguing, though he was definitely on the defensive, and that never won any battles. Not, Bill suspected, that this was a battle Spencer was all that interested in winning.

“I thought we were friends!” Brendon cried, going for the emotional blackmail route. Bill knew it well.

“We are!” Spencer countered. “Which would just make everything weird, wouldn’t it? I mean, do you want to sleep with Ryan?”

“Unlike everyone else we’ve come across today,” Brendon said, with surprising dryness, “no. And that was a low blow, Spencer Smith!”

Spencer looked decently ashamed. “Sorry,” he muttered. “I just – you were cute, and into Ryan-”

“Wait, what?” Ryan exclaimed, and Brendon glared at him.

“I’m not actually an idiot, I got in here, didn’t I? You just made me nervous! For, like, most of first year!”

“That was you flirting!?” Ryan said, wide-eyed. “Fuck me, it’s no wonder you’re a virgin.”

Gabe perked up. “Seriously? Little Urie, I would be-”

No,” Spencer and Bill said, the same iron thread in both of their voices.

Brendon was still staring at Spencer. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me, Spence,” he said, his voice wobbling a little. Bill had to take his hat off to the kid – it was a seriously good performance he was putting in there.

"I wanted to!" Spencer sounded wretched. "But you were into Ryan-"

"I still think that's fucking weird, by the way," Ryan interpolated, and was ignored.

"And then it was vacation, and when we came back, you were all 'aren't FRIENDS great', 'isn't it nice to have FRIENDS', 'I just love having FRIENDS', and you clearly didn't want me, so I wasn't going to-"

"I said all that because I had a crush on you!" Brendon burst out, very red. Spencer stared at him, apparently lost for words. "I had a crush on you and I didn't want you to know, so I was - I was misdirecting, Spencer!"

"You - you did?" Spencer said, then frowned. "B, if this is some ploy to get me to sleep with you-"

Brendon waved a hand impatiently, and Bill glanced at Gabe who was watching just as avidly as he was. It felt nice not to be alone in his voyeuristic interest. "Yes, I did," Brendon was saying. "I - I do, and no, it's not to get you to sleep with me! God, Spence!"

Spencer had the grace to flush. "Well, you've been throwing yourself at everyone all night, and you never so much as glanced at me until now," he pointed out defensively.

"Yeah, because I didn't think jumping you was the way to get rid of my crush," Brendon pointed out. "And you didn't exactly make a move yourself. You knew I was going to be easy."

"Which was why I didn't want to make a move," Spencer said, and Brendon sighed.

"You are ridiculous, Spencer Smith," he said, and instead of prolonging the argument further, reached out and yanked Spencer in for a kiss.

For a moment, the common room was deadly silent, watching Brendon and Spencer kiss (rather inexperienced, sure, but the enthusiasm made up for that), and then:

"Oh, fucking finally," Ryan sighed. "Jesus, if I had to watch those two fidget round each other for any longer, I was going to throw up."

"Classy as always, Ross," Bill said, and flopped into the chair next to him. Gabe perched on the arm of Bill's chair and rested a hand absently on Bill's shoulder.

Spencer flipped them all off and went back to kissing Brendon. Then, after a couple of seconds, he pulled back. "Could you take the sign off now?" he asked hopefully. "It's digging into me."

In the brief respite caused by Brendon disentangling himself from the sign, Gabe took the opportunity to lay out his and Bill's plan for the rest of the night. "Pizza, anyone?"

"We're going to watch Moulin Rouge," Bill added. "If we watch it in the dark, Bden and Spence can neck, and we won't have to see it."

"That," Ryan said fervently, "sounds like a great plan."

There was a mass-exodus from the common room then as everyone searched for chairs, food and more alcohol, leaving only Bill and Gabe behind in contemplative silence. Gabe frowned, fidgeting a little on the arm of the chair.

"Who the fuck says 'neck' anymore, Beckett? At least have the decency to pretend you aren't a sixty-year old woman."

"It's a perfectly valid verb," Bill said peaceably, a far-off look in his eye. "Young love."

"They'll get over it." Gabe stood up and flapped the wings of his gown before settling back down and leaning an arm on Bill's head for balance.

"You're such a cheery person," Bill said dryly. "No wonder I feel so light and happy when I'm around you."

"But you do, though," Gabe pointed out. Bill snorted, grinning.

"Yeah, well. I have no eyebrows and it's your fault."

"Get Greta to draw them on in eyeliner."

"Yeah." Bill paused. "So. We're done. Next week, it's all over and we go our separate ways."

"Mmm."

"To be honest, I'm surprised we made it this far."

"I'm surprised either one of us is still alive," agreed Gabe. "Thought you might have knifed me by now."

"I have a high tolerance for idiocy," Bill told him. "But, hey. Thanks. For tonight. For taking my mind off things. And for, like, being there in general. Putting up with my histrionic ways -"

Gabe groaned. "No. No, no, no. Bilvy, it's Final's Night. I am not going to spend it weeping on your shoulder." He tipped himself off the arm of the chair and into Bill's lap. "Platonic snuggling I can deal with."

Bill rolled his eyes, smiling. "You suck."

"True." Gabe frowned and headed to the door to look down the corridor. "Hey! Any of you lazy fuckers feel like getting a move on? We've got three hours to kill and I want to spend at least two of them admiring Nicole Kidman's various assets!"

Something floated back about Gabe being more interested in Bill's assets, and Gabe laughed back at the shouter, and came back to the armchair, settling himself comfortably in Bill's lap.

Bill settled his arms round Gabe automatically, but he had that look on his face which said he was overthinking shit. "You ever think-?" he said, then trailed off.

"Do I ever think what?" Gabe asked lazily, though he knew perfectly well what Bill was about to ask.

"We - us-" For a long moment, they looked at each other, and Bill swallowed. And then Gabe started to laugh. "Fucker," Bill snapped, but he was starting to smile. "I was baring my heart here."

"No, Bilvy," Gabe leant forward and kissed Bill's nose. "You were baring your bi-curiosity. But I can say without a shadow of a doubt that, lascivious advances on Brendon’s virtue and ill-advised fumbling with you aside, I'm straight."

"Even though," Ryan said, re-entering with a large bottle of soda under one arm, and a truly enormous bag of chips in the other hand, "pretty much the whole campus thinks you're dating."

"The whole campus is close-minded," Gabe retorted.

"It is kind of what you get for going everywhere hand in hand and kissing each other goodbye," Ryan said peaceably, and Gabe grinned as Bill sighed.

"Gabe was a limpet in another incarnation," Bill said, infinitely long-suffering.

"Amen," Gabe intoned solemnly. Ryan rolled his eyes and went to drag a beanbag in front of the TV.

"You’re worse than Brendon and Spencer, and that’s going to be unbearable."

"Yeah, Ross," Nate, Alex and Ryland sloped in, looking gloomy. "They're going to be all happy and shit. How dare they."

Ryan looked at them with interest. "What happened to you?"

Ryland ignored him. "Have you guys got to see the Dean, too? 'Cause if I have and you haven't, that's just wrong. Nice eyebrows, Bill."

"What about Gabe's eyebrows?" Bill squawked indignantly.

Ryland shrugged. "I dunno. Yours are just more noticeable, I guess."

"Why d'you have to see the Dean?" Ryan asked, dumping a load of cushions on top of his beanbag and looking at it critically.

"Cops got us," Alex said, hopping up on the counter. "Turns out they don't like it when you remove public property."

"Road signs? Again?" Gabe knew Vicky-T's ways of old.

Nate nodded. "It was fun until they gave us a written caution. Where is Victoria, anyway? No way she spent Final's Night in her room."

"I saw her a couple of hours ago in town," Ryan emerged from the junk closet, clutching a blanket and a jacket covered in cigarette burns.

Ryland sighed. "Always the way."

"With that attitude," Gabe said, stretching lazily and looping an arm around Bill's shoulders, "you'll never get your lady fair."

"I'm starting to think I don't want her," Ryland said gloomily. None of them believed him.

"Worst part of it is," Alex interjected, "we only got caught putting them back."

Bill frowned and glanced at Ryland. "You put them back?"

"Flirting with road signs is ridiculous," Ryland said, with as much dignity as he could muster.

"Well, yes," Bill agreed, "but that hasn't stopped you before."

"Either I'm a minion or an equal," Ryland said seriously. "And collecting road signs is the act of a minion. Refusing to do it because it's ridiculous is the act of an equal."

"It's only taken him three years to work that out," Gabe said. "I'm so proud."

"So, I'm guessing you're seeing the Dean because of whatever happened to your eyebrows?" Ryland asked Bill, ignoring Gabe entirely.

"Fireworks," Bill said gloomily.

"Are we not allowed fireworks now?" Nate asked, making himself comfortable on the sofa that Ryan had abandoned in favour of the beanbag.

"Not on Collingwood ground. We did some damage to one of their pitches."

"And the tree," Gabe reminded him.

"And there was a small incident with a tree."

"What's wrong with the tree?" Alex wanted to know.

"It's not there anymore."

"Ah."

"Yeah."

There were a few moments of contemplative silence. "We're going to see the Dean too," Ryan said finally, rather thoughtfully. He was wearing the burnt jacket, which he clearly thought would give him a rakish air, though combined with the moth-eaten blanket, he looked more homeless than anything else.

"What're you in for?" Ryland wanted to know. Gabe, who had guessed, started to grin.

"We got picked up by the police for solicitation," Ryan said, pulling the blanket more securely round him.

Ryland blinked. "I - see. Why?"

"Brendon wanted to lose his virginity," Ryan explained.

"I thought Spencer-"

"How," Brendon demanded, coming in with Spencer in tow, "did literally everyone know about this but me?"

"It's because you're not very bright," Ryan told him kindly.

"I never liked you," Brendon retorted, but he and Spencer squeezed onto the sofa with Alex, right behind Ryan, and Brendon gave the lie to his own words by helpfully adjusting Ryan's page boy cap to a jauntier angle. "Nice jacket, by the way."

Ryan accepted the compliment as his due as Brendon leant over and snatched a bottle of something off the low table in front of the sofa. "Did we order pizza yet?"

"Shit, no," Gabe said, and Bill handed him his phone. "Who wants what?"

"I want," Pete said mournfully, coming into the room in a rather battered doublet and hose which had rucked up on one side and left rather too little to the imagination, "my True Love and not to have to see the Dean in the morning."

"I don't think they do that as a pizza topping," Gabe said carefully, even as Bill squawked, “Jesus, Pete! I will put a bell on you, don’t think I won’t!”

Pete ignored both of them, stomping over to Ryan's beanbag and sitting on the floor next to Ryan. Ryan surveyed him silently before turning his attention back to the blank TV.

"Are you still stalking that dude from Curie?" Alex asked, pouring an entire box of popcorn kernels into a bowl and shoving them into the microwave.

Pete scowled. "Fuck off. I'm not stalking him."

"You followed him back home his first night," Gabe pointed out.

"And watched him through the window," Bill agreed.

"With binoculars -"

"- and you found out when his birthday was -"

"- and hung streamers round his door -"

" - and you've been to every one of his recitals -"

"All right, you fuckers, all right," Pete snapped. "Maybe I do have a bit of a thing..."

"There's ‘having a thing' and then there's ‘a restraining order’," Alex said, sighing happily as the microwave made popping noises and the smell of popcorn filled the air.

"Whatever," Pete grabbed a cushion and propped it under his head. "It's over, now. One more week and I'll be gone and he'll find someone who likes Bach, or something."

There was a rather subdued silence. Then Ryan leaned forward, laid a hand on Pete's shoulder and said in tones of comfort, "Drama Department's gonna make you pay for those, you know.”

"Nah, they won't," Pete said confidently. "They don't know that I took them."

"Oh, Pete, I think we can pretty much guarantee that they do now."

"So what're you seeing the Dean for, anyway?” Ryland asked. “Beyond theft from the Drama Department, which I promise not to mention, by the way.”

Pete scowled, ignoring Ryland’s kind gesture. "Someone reported me for 'creating a disturbance' up at Curie. Bastards."

Bill frowned. "What were you doing?" he wanted to know, and Pete shrugged.

"Serenading my love," he said, with rather less conviction than any of them had ever heard him talk about Patrick before.

"Oh dear," Bill said. "Is this like the time you tried to make a romantic gesture for Ryan and ended up setting his dorm room curtains on fire?"

"Candlelight is sexy!"

"And so are firemen, but not when they're giving you a stern talking to about fire safety," Ryan said, but his hand was still on Pete's shoulder, so he'd probably forgiven him.

"And it's nothing like that," Pete said. "Though I did break his window by accident."

"Oh god," Bill said, but subsided when Gabe treated the room at large to a glare.

"What does everyone want on their pizzas?" he asked again, an edge to his voice.

"Hawaiian!" Brendon said instantly, taking another swig from the bottle he’d misappropriated, and Ryan gagged.

"I don't know how you can eat that stuff," he said and Spencer squeezed Brendon's hand.

"Original and best, yeah?" he said and Brendon beamed at him.

"Spence, you hate pineapple, and fuck no, Hawaiian is not the original. Pizza is Italian, you're telling me they made it with pineapple to start with?"

"Ryan," Gabe said in a long-suffering voice, "tell me what you want on your pizza, and then you can argue this to your heart's content."

"Pepperoni," Ryan told him, and turned back to Spencer. Spencer, who was ignoring him in favour of grinning inanely at Brendon, hand still in his. Ryan subsided into his beanbag to sulk.

Slowly, people started to trickle back into the common room, all at various levels of inebriation, and settled themselves down around the TV. The popping sound from the microwave was getting louder.

"Quick question," said Nate. "Who here actually owns a copy of Moulin Rouge?"

There was a puzzled silence, broken only by a loud bang from the microwave.

Bill sighed. "Fine, fine. I think Gerard Way has it. I'll see if he's around." He shoved Gabe up and off his lap and walked out of the room, his academic gown flapping behind him like wings.

"Look at him, all grown up," Gabe said fondly, stealing Bill's chair.

"Guys, is it meant to do that?" Alex was peering worriedly at the microwave, which had started to emit smoke.

Everyone was distracted by a series of loud crashes from the corridor, followed by a someone singing Gilbert and Sullivan falsetto. Brendon disentangled himself from Spencer to peer around the door, before scuttling back to the sofa.

"Oh man," he giggled. "It's the guys from A-Block."

"Yeah?"

"They seem to have lost something important."

Nick Wheeler and Mike Kennerty emerged from round the corner, staggering a little as they hauled Tyson Ritter along by the arms.

Tyson had lost a shirt and his shoes and gained a truly staggering amount of glitter. He was also singing, at the top of his voice.

"If he was a cat, we could throw water on him," Ryan muttered, and Pete shrugged.

"Why wait for the animal transformation?" he asked, and went over to the small sink in the common room's kitchenette.

"Pete," Nick Wheeler said, shoving Tyson down in a chair and glaring at Pete, "if you pour water over him, I will burn your eyes out with my flat-irons, just you see if I don't."

"It might shut him up," Pete said weakly, pouring the glass of water down the drain all the same.

"It would just get him demanding to be taken for a midnight swim," Mike prophesied.

"Wheeler, I don't care how you do it," Gabe said, as Tyson burst into yet another chorus of 'I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts', having abandoned ‘I am the very model of a modern major general’ as ‘too wordy’, "just shut him the hell up." If only because Brendon was looking worryingly close to joining in. Since they sat down, Brendon had been hitting the peach schnapps hard, presumably in preparation for his Deflowering.

"Tyson," Nick said ineffectually. "Tyson!" Tyson glanced at him, and subsided.

"Thank you," Gabe said sincerely. "We just ordered pizza, want to get in on it?"

Nick and Mike gave him piteously grateful looks and grabbed the menu he held out to them. Tyson was muttering something, and Ryland, in his role of Chief Inquisitor, decided to take the plunge.

"You guys going to see the Dean tomorrow as well?"

Nick nodded. "Yeah. It's not even his fault," he jerked a thumb at Tyson. "He's actually within the public decency laws. But Chris flashed a policeman."

Ryland nodded; he vaguely remembered something about that. "And where is Gaylor?"

"The police were finding him some clothes when we left. They said they'd drop him off with his warning when they'd found something for him." Nick's sympathy for his naturalist friend had clearly waned over the course of the evening, and he went back to perusing the menu instead.

There was a moment's silence for their fallen comrade, and then: "a-HA!" Bill had returned triumphant, along with most of the C-stairs boys; Gerard and Frank were looking rumpled and sheepish. Surprisingly, so were Mikey and Bob, though Bob, as usual, looked mainly stoic rather than sheepish. Ray had the air of a man who had spent longer apologising for his friends than any man should be expected to; it was an air he was currently sharing with both Nick and Mikey Kennerty. "I have it!"

Bill brandished the DVD, and Gabe grinned as he passed it over to Ryan to shove into the DVD player. When Bill plunked himself back down in his lap, Gabe allowed himself to cuddle. Just for a quick moment. "And you brought me a Mikeyway, too. You're my bestest friend, Bill."

"I thought I was your best friend?" Pete said, betrayed. Gabe shrugged.

"You were, but Bill has more immediate access to my balls right now."

"Nick has access to my balls," Tyson piped up, to absolutely no one's surprise. Nick was sat in Tyson's lap, as Bill was in Gabe's, but there was more than a suggestion that he was actively holding Tyson down, rather than being affectionate.

"Tyson," Nick said, with rather strained patience, "shut up."

Tyson subsided once more.

Everyone settled down as the credits started to roll. Dawn light was filtering through the curtains. Alex opened the door of the microwave and made an inarticulate sound of alarm half a ton of charred popcorn rolled out and onto the floor.

"So, what are you in -" Nate began and was immediately shushed viciously. "What are you in for? You have to see the Dean, too?" he tried again in a whisper.

Bob, momentarily moved out of his state of resigned stoicism, looked annoyed. "Yeah. Frank has a really strong moral compass. And he tends to bite when provoked."

"We received a formal complaint," explained Ray, ambling over to help Suarez dig popcorn out of the microwave. "The cops said they'd let it go this time, but the college people weren't so happy."

“And what happened to you, Iero?” Gabe asked, and Frank shrugged.

“Gerard,” he said, casting a smug look at Gerard, who flushed an uncomfortable shade of red.

Gabe sighed. “I was talking about your clothes.” Frank gave him a look which announced louder than words that he had been too, and Gabe resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “The paint, Frank.”

“This woman poured a pot of Dulux over him when he wouldn’t shut up,” Bob said with no little satisfaction. From his tone, he wished he’d thought of it first.

“Bob,” Bill asked carefully – he’d always been rather in awe of Bob, “are you holding Mikey’s hand?”

Bob glanced down, apparently surprised. “Oh. Yes, I am.”

Mikey, as usual, betrayed not so much as a flicker of embarrassment. “Are we watching this movie or not?”

“Some of us,” Ryan’s voice issued from out of his blanket cocoon, “have been trying to for a while now.”

The C-Stairs boys slotted themselves into what was left by way of space in the common room, often on top of one another, and silence reigned for nearly a full half hour, long enough for Ewan McGregor to start singing Elton John at Nicole Kidman. Beside Ryan on the floor, Pete was cringing just a little. The room was silent, except for the quiet and ignorable sounds of various people taking advantage of the darkness to make out.

And then Brendon moaned.

“Spencer, get your hand out of there!” Ryan squalled, eyes tightly shut.

“Sorry.”

Silence once more, broken only by muffled but good-natured giggling at Brendon and Spencer’s expense.

Just as everyone was starting to settle down again, the door slammed open, to loudly voiced protests.

Patrick paid attention to none of them. “Do you guys know where Pete is?” he demanded, and Pete’s head snapped round, eyes ridiculously hopeful.

“Patty-cakes?” he said, and Patrick scowled.

“Don’t call me that, fucker,” he said, but only the deaf would have missed the reluctant affection in his voice.

“Were you looking for me?” Pete asked, suitably chastened.

“Yes.” Patrick picked his way through the common room, now almost uncomfortably full, and flumped down next to Pete. “You left your boombox. It’s outside.”

“Do you want me to pick it up now?” Pete asked, with a surprising lack of innuendo or exuberance.

Patrick bit his lip. Bill, watching interestedly, noticed that his cheeks were visibly red even in the poor light from the now-ignored TV. “I just sat down,” he said irrelevantly. He was picking at one of his nails absently, and Pete tensed next to him, shooting him a glance.

“You – you could stay? And watch, if you like? We have pizza arriving soon.”

Patrick’s flush didn’t recede. “I think I’d like that.”

Pete turned back to the TV, but turned to Patrick with a sudden, startled noise after less than a minute. Bill, looking at them, noticed that Patrick’s hand was now in Pete’s.

“Looks like Pete won the war of attrition,” Gabe whispered in Bill’s ear, and Bill grinned down at him, pressing a kiss to Gabe’s cheek before turning back to the screen.

**

They managed to get over halfway through the film before the next interruption. Mike Carden rocked up with the virgin Jonas and the pizza guy in tow, and the mess of paying the pizza guy and claiming pizzas almost allowed the two of them to get away with their ridiculous hand-holding.

It helped that Mike was busily stealing a slice from everyone’s pizza, because he didn’t have his own, and that distracted everyone handily for a few minutes, until he sat back down next to his Jonas, and Tyson rumbled them. Tyson had apparently sobered up a little, enough to be observant while still drunk enough to be tactless. “How long have you two been a thing?” he asked. “Seriously, until tonight, I knew, like, every couple in this fucking college, and now...” he trailed off, catching sight of Mike Carden’s death glare. “What’d I say?” he asked Nick, bewildered, but his question was lost in the outpouring of noise caused by his unwitting revelation.

“Mikey Carden!” Bill exclaimed, bounding up from Gabe’s lap. “My God, you finally grew a pair and did it! How much do I owe you?”

That was everything Mike had been dreading. “No,” he said quickly, turning to Kevin, who was staring. “No, it’s not what it sounds like, I didn’t – I mean, it wasn’t a bet, I mean, not like that-”

“I have never heard you babble before,” Bill said with avid interest.

Mike ignored him. “Don’t listen to him, it was-”

“I think,” Kevin said, with some deliberation, “that I’m going to go outside now.”

“No, wait-” Mike said desperately, but Kevin gave him a resigned smile and had somehow managed to pick his way out of the common room before Mike could formulate an end to his sentence, let alone a plan of attack. Which, given that the room was overflowing with people, was clearly evidence of freakish ninja powers.

There was a horrible, deathly silence in the common room, totally different to the earlier comfortable quiet. In the background, with horrible irony, Ewan McGregor was informing Nicole Kidman that he would love her until the end of time. Mike was glaring murderously at Bill, who looked a little white.

Then Gabe leant forwards and helped himself to another slice of his pizza. “What’re you waiting for?” he asked Mike. “Go!”

Mike went.

**

The air outside had a cool, early-morning feeling to it, which was a relief after the stuffy common room, but the sight of Kevin apparently waiting for him was a bigger shock than the sudden chill.

“Oh, good,” Kevin said. “I was beginning to think you weren’t going to come.”

Mike didn’t even know where to start, with the result that his opening sally was more garbled and less persuasive than he would have liked. “Kevin, I – you were – and it wasn’t – and why did you leave?”

Kevin offered him a small smile. “Because I didn’t think you’d want to try and explain it in front of everyone.”

“You couldn’t have said ‘why don’t we discuss this outside’?” Mike asked.

Kevin shrugged. “Even if you didn’t sleep with me for a bet-”

“I didn’t,” Mike said quickly.

“You still bet money on being able to sleep with me. S’payback.” He was a little flushed, and Mike had a definite suspicion that payback was not something nice young Jonases indulged in often.

When they did though, they were damn good at it, he admitted ruefully. “I didn’t sleep with you for a bet,” he repeated, just so they were clear on that point. “And the bet wasn’t even about sleeping with you. Bill had some stupid thing about being totally sure I wouldn’t actually get the courage to speak to you before we graduated, and I – let him bet me twenty bucks I’d manage it.”

“Wouldn’t manage to talk to me?” Kevin frowned, confused. “But you were all – I mean, you’re terrifying and cool, and you hang out with that lot.” He jerked his thumb at the closed common room door. “The only reason I have friends is because the guys in Christian Union feel like they have to hang out with me so they can call themselves good Christians. I’m like their charity undertaking. That and my brothers, and that’s not much different, to be honest.”

Mike cracked a smile. “You think people don’t like you when they do.” At Kevin’s surprised, faintly challenging look, he shrugged. “What? I did my homework. And like I said, I was kind of interested in you for a while, but the Christian thing kind of made me think I’d get shot down.”

“It’s perfectly possible to be gay and Christian,” Kevin said hotly, and Mike nodded.

“If I doubted it, you’re living proof,” he said dryly. “But before I started coming to Christian Union, I was mostly just watching you. A lot. Not in a creepy way!” he added quickly, and Kevin didn’t disabuse him of the notion, though Mike’s staring had been creeping him out for a while. “Just – in a kind of ‘I’m interested in you’ way.”

Mike’s stare, which Kevin had noticed several times across the crowded college dining room, hadn’t conveyed that at all. Mike’s stare had mostly conveyed the impression that he wanted to kill Kevin and keep his head in a freezer. Kevin carefully didn’t mention that. “But why didn’t you say anything?” he repeated instead. “You were all suave and confident in the bar, you couldn’t do that earlier?”

Mike shifted awkwardly. “I was also shit-faced in the bar,” he pointed out awkwardly.

Kevin flushed suddenly. “Um. Yeah, about that...”

“What is it?” Mike asked, trying not to feel too many misgivings.

“What did we actually do?” Kevin asked. “I mean, was there actual penetrative sex involved? ‘Cause I kind of can’t really remember in all that much detail.” He was bright red by the time he finished speaking, and Mike fought back a grin so Kevin wouldn’t think he was laughing at him.

“I really hope that you’d remember it if we had sex,” he said simply. “No, there was no ‘penetrative sex’, and if you keep calling it that, there probably never will be. Least sexy term ever, dude.”

“Oh.” Kevin didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed, though he liked the hint that they’d have other chances at this. “So what did we do?”

“Would you like me to point out on the doll where I touched you?” Mike teased, and Kevin shot him a Look. “Relax, Skippy, we only made out a bit before we kind of blacked out.”

Kevin, who’d woken shirtless and with suspiciously undone jeans in Mike’s bed half an hour earlier, did his best to hide his disappointment a little. “So, twenty bucks, huh.” Mike looked sheepish. “Feel like you got your money’s worth?”

Mike shifted again, the instinct to play it down warring against the desire to tell the truth. “Well, I’d like winning twenty bucks not to be the best about tonight,” he said, which was about the best balance he could hit between feigned indifference and the desire to claim that nothing would be worth anything if he couldn’t see Kevin again, which was the kind of language that belonged firmly in bad rom-coms.

Kevin bit his lip. “Way I see it,” he said, talking rather quickly, “half of that twenty bucks is mine.” Mike raised an eyebrow at him, and Kevin steamrollered on. “So maybe you could take me out to coffee tomorrow – or later today, or actually tomorrow, I don’t care, before graduation – with my half of the twenty bucks you won.”

Mike started to smile, the awkward, too-big lopsided smile he knew made him look crazed. “That sounds – like a really good idea,” he said, the grin giving the lie to his understatement.

“Can we go back in now?” Kevin asked. “The film was just getting to a really good bit-” but he was broken off by Mike’s sudden kiss.

Mike pulled back and grinned at him. “Let’s go back in.”

He took Kevin’s hand, and pulled him back in to the stuffy common room.

**

The party, such as it was, finally broke up at about eight that morning, when most of the room went off to scramble into academic dress in preparation to go and see the Dean, leaving Bill, Gabe, Mike and Kevin alone in the common room. Kevin was mostly asleep, leaning against Mike, who would have denied having his arm around him to his last breath. Gabe, whose arms were firmly around Bill’s waist, smirked at Mike and refused to answer him when he demanded to know just what Gabe thought he was grinning at.

“Finally made a move, then,” Bill said redundantly, and Mike gave him a weak glare.

“Obviously,” he said caustically. “Not that you helped.”

Bill had the grace to look a little ashamed. “Sorry,” he said contritely. “I didn’t mean to screw things up for you.”

“As it happens,” Mike said carefully, shifting a little so that Kevin was resting more comfortably against him, “you didn’t. But jesus, Bill, what made you think announcing that we had a bet was going to help?”

Bill shrugged. “I didn’t exactly think things through.”

“That much is obvious,” Mike said, but let it drop. “So what about you two? Are you finally going steady yet?”

Bill looked awkward, but Gabe just laughed. “Carden, Bilvy and me’re never going to ‘go steady’. And you know it.”

“Can’t bring him to make an honest man of you, Bill?” Mike asked, but his deadpan face gave him away more than the biggest grin could have done, and Bill just huffed at him.

“Your payback is lame,” he told him with dignity.

“Whatever,” Mike dismissed him easily. “So when do you two have to go and see the Dean?”

“First thing,” Bill said gloomily. “And then I’m going to bed. And when I wake up, I’m going to make Gabe buy me the biggest cup of coffee in the world,” Gabe made an indignant sound, but Bill steamrollered on, “and then I’m going to pack and practise drawing eyebrows on with eyeliner.”

Mike chuckled, careful not to jostle Kevin. “Dream big, Bill.”

Bill watched him and Kevin for a long moment, and nodded. “Yeah,” he said, a little quieter than Mike had been expecting. “Dream big.”

Gabe let the silence drag on for a few seconds, letting Bill’s words gain the weight he’d clearly wanted them to have, then cleared his throat. “Well, while you two dreamers are at it, I’m going to go and change my pants, I have pizza sauce on these ones,” he said cheerfully, with a remarkable lack of respect for the dignity of the moment. “Bill, coming?”

“What? Oh. Um.” Bill flushed a little and nodded. “Yeah, sorry. I was miles away.”

“You were dreaming big,” Gabe told him kindly, and shoved him off his lap. “C’mon, Bilvy, come and fuel the rumours about us by getting me out of my pants.”

“I never want to see you out of your pants again!” Bill said firmly, but followed Gabe out the common room with only one last backward look at Mike and Kevin. “I’m really glad I didn’t screw it up for you,” he said once more, and let the door shut behind him.

**

Ryland had changed into his formal academic wear with a growing sense of injustice. It wasn’t fair. He could hear his mother telling him that life wasn’t fair, but that didn’t help. This was all Vicky-T’s fault, he was sure, and when he saw her again, he was going to tell her so.

When he reconvened with Nate and Alex in the quad outside C-Stairs, he found them already deep in conversation with her, and he clearly caught the words “his decision... said he’d... and then the police...”

“Victoria,” he said striding up to them and paying no attention to Alex or Nate. “You’re looking particularly hungover today.”

Vicky-T raised an eyebrow at him. “I don’t think I’m sober enough to be hungover yet,” she said sweetly, without slurring so much as half a word.

It took the wind out of Ryland’s sails anyway. “Oh. You know we’re going to the Dean’s office, right?”

“Nate was just telling me,” she bestowed a warm smile on Nate, then turned back to Ryland. “Sorry,” she said, not sounding at all sorry, “I didn’t think you’d get caught.”

Ryland bristled a little. “Road signs are a ridiculous target anyway,” he told her, and she shrugged.

“It was a passing thought,” she said simply. If it had been a passing thought, it was a recurring one, Ryland knew. He’d heard the stories. “Sorry you have to go to the Dean’s office, though.”

“It was your idea,” he pointed out, and she nodded.

“But I wasn’t the one doing it,” she pointed out, in a tone of utmost reason. “I didn’t know you’d do it.”

Ryland lost all patience. “You can be such a bitch sometimes,” he said, then wished he hadn’t said it.

Vicky-T was certainly looking a little shocked. “What?” she said.

Ryland sighed. “Sorry, that was rude.” Most of the time, it seemed like she always had the power to make him say exactly the wrong thing. There was a reason he was still a minion after three years of undergrad study.

Vicky-T paused for a long moment. “When do you have to be in the Dean’s office, anyway?” she asked, the tone of her voice ever so slightly different.

“Ten minutes,” Nate said, glancing between them quickly.

She nodded. “Wait here.”

When she reappeared five minutes later, she was carrying her gown.

**

It was a motley group which assembled itself outside the Dean’s office at ten to nine. Tyson was clearly only half-sober and had been shoved haphazardly into a shirt and a pair of dress pants, and Nick and Mike were looking increasingly put-upon as the minutes ticked by. There was still no sign of Chris.

Gabe and Bill looked strangely immaculate, and Gabe was leaning against the wall in a way which made him look more like a bored model than a reprobate student. He was muttering to Bill under his breath, and despite all his best attempts not to hear what they were saying, Ryland overheard parts of a conversation which seemed mostly to do with GPAs and the upcoming graduation ceremony.

He was pretty sure he didn’t want to know.

The D-stairs boys were looking as odd as they ever did – Spencer and Brendon both looked suspiciously rumpled, and Ryan’s gown made him look even more of an urchin than ever. He was wearing it over a truly horrible paisley shirt and a brown corduroy vest which clashed quite spectacularly with the black of his gown – which in turn, hung off him, a la scarecrow. Jon Walker, solid in his bar uniform worn under his gown, was smiling at Brendon and Spencer indulgently and saying nothing.

The C-stairs boys were perhaps the worst put-together of the bunch, which was no mean feat in a group which included a half-wasted Tyson Ritter. Gerard’s overriding feature was his look of worried guilt, which would do them absolutely no favours in the Dean’s office, though it was likely that Frank’s pugnacious scowl would hurt their chances more. Mike and Bob looked, as ever, stoic and unbothered, while Ray was hovering, hair everywhere, wearing the look of a man who wasn’t sure whether to apologise or explain first. None of their gowns fit quite right. Gerard’s was too tight, Mikey’s too big and Ray’s had got tangled up in his legs and had rucked up at the back. Frank’s was half-off one shoulder and had clearly been dragged through something unpleasant at some point during the year; since tradition said the gown couldn’t be washed until you graduated, it had stained the back an ominous, sickly yellow.

And then there was Pete, who had Patrick with him and looked beatifically happy, in a horse-faced kind of way. Patrick was, of course, in casual clothes, hat jammed on the back of his head, and was glaring at anyone who so much as glanced at them – which was probably due to the way he was holding Pete’s hand. Ryland had never seen anyone hold hands defiantly, but clearly there was more to Patrick than met the eye.

And finally, Vicky-T, her gown at least six inches longer than her skirt, her face set in a look of seraphic innocence; Nate, rumpled but correct, and Alex, rumbled and disinterested. Ryland didn’t even want to think what sort of picture he presented, but he was pretty sure he wasn’t at all out of place in this rag-tag group.

And then: “Mr Beckett? Mr. Saporta? Come with me, please.”

**

“So.” The Dean said briskly. “You have inflicted considerable damage on Collingwood’s sport pitches, and destroyed a particularly fine Dutch elm. Am I correct?”

“Yes,” Gabe said simply, and Bill, simpler still, nodded.

“At what point in the night did this seem like a good – Mr. Beckett, may I just say, if you could stop smirking, we would all be so much happier.”

“I wouldn’t be, ma’am. I wouldn’t be smiling anymore.”

“That, Mr. Beckett, is not a smile. That is a smirk. It bears no resemblance to a smile of honest merriment. In fact, nothing about you at this moment is particularly honest, and I hope that in a few more moments, nothing about you will be particularly merry, either. Now, the Collingwood sports pitches.”

**

“Mr. Ritter, I perfectly understand that it might be fun to,” she coughed, “‘flow free’, but it is usually preferable to do so in the privacy of your own room and within the public decency laws.”

“Well, you see, ma’am-”

“No, thank you, Mr. Ritter, I’d rather not hear any more of your garbled explanations. Mr. Wheeler, Mr. Kennerty, can you tell me why you decided to go along with this ridiculous behaviour?”

Nick shifted, torn between protecting Tyson and vindicating himself. As always, Tyson won. “We didn’t exactly go along with it, ma’am – we were fully dressed all the time.” Seeing a dangerous glint in her eye, he hurried on. “Me ‘n’ Mike were keeping him within the public decency laws. And the police said he was, so.”

“Such a shame you couldn’t exert such a beneficial influence over Mr. Gaylor.”

**

“Mr. Iero, I understand your concerns about Walmart’s lack of social conscience-”

“Do you?” Frank asked, and Gerard bit his lip. “’Cos, I’m not trying to be rude, but you’d be the first member of the establishment who did.”

“-but,” she continued repressively, “I can’t help but feel that your original form of protest – that is,” she glanced down at the piece of paper in front of her, “a peaceful protest outside Walmart’s private ground, would have been a better use of your time. Rather than biting a security guard. At what point in the night did that become your first and most viable option?”

“They were repressing me,” Frank said pointedly, and the Dean sighed.

“Messrs Way, do you have anything to add? Mr. Bryar, Mr. Toro?”

A single glance was exchanged. A single negative was offered.

“Very well.”

**

“Mr. Wentz.” There was a definite note of tiredness in the Dean’s voice, and Pete felt a treacherous twinge of sympathy for the woman. “I feel we have gone over this topic so many times in the last year that you will be able to give yourself my speech without much input from me. Shall we just say that if you continue to make a nuisance of yourself at Curie, I will be forced to have you banned from their college, and given your persistence in this matter, I’m sure that is the last thing you want. Have you considered simply asking this young man out for coffee?”

**

“Miss Asher. I have to say, I’m surprised to see you here.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Vicky-T was standing bolt upright, her expression still one of put-upon innocence. “You see, it was my idea.”

“Your idea?” The Dean asked. She actually sounded a little faint.

“My idea,” Vicky-T nodded. “They would never have done it if it wasn’t for me. And d’you remember the incident with the goldfishes in the Science Site pond? That was me too. And that thing with the tablecloths for formal? Me too. And-”

“I see,” the Dean interrupted. “Perhaps – perhaps you had better all sit down.”

**

“So, gentlemen.” The Dean eyed them with a look of practised weariness. “Could you please tell me, in your own words, just at what point you decided it would be a good idea to offer the sexual services of your friend here?”

“It wasn’t sexual services,” Spencer said firmly. “Bden wanted to – I mean, he – he didn’t want to-” Faced with trying to tell the Dean of their college that Brendon had wanted to lose his virginity, Spencer found himself unequal to the task and subsided.

Jon, who had joined them as soon as he got off his shift at the bar, stepped up to the plate. “Brendon just wanted to end this year as a man, rather than a boy. Ma’am,” he added, quickly, to cover Brendon’s moan of humiliation.

“I suspect he could have done that without your help,” the Dean said, eyeing Brendon. “I understand that there is a great deal of sexual pressure put on the youth of today,” Brendon gave a small, horrified whimper, “but this is not the way to respond to it, gentlemen. Nor is the loss of virginity,” Brendon was struck silent with horror, “in anyway indicative of increased masculinity. Besides,” she frowned slightly, “I do make it my business to be aware of what is going on in my college, and I thought you, Mr. Smith-”

“OK, seriously, time-out!” Brendon said. “Everyone knew. Everyone knew, Spence!”

Ignored by all four of her pupils, the Dean allowed herself a smile.

**

When Ryland, Nate, Alex and Vicky-T left the Dean’s office, swapping places with the D-stairs boys, Nate was the first to turn to Vicky-T.

“That,” he said fervently, “was awesome. We didn’t even get a note on our files!”

Vicky-T wasn’t above looking slightly smug. “There comes a time when every mastermind has to take credit for their work,” she said modestly.

Ryland struggled with himself for a long moment and grit his teeth. “I’m not a minion,” he said quickly, which hadn’t been at all what he meant to say. Vicky-T gave him a look of surprise. “I’m not a minion and I think, perhaps, we should have a drink together some time. Or something. We could even plot something dastardly, if you want.”

Vicky-T paused for a long moment. “I’m not sure that I-” she started, and Ryland interrupted.

“Because I’ve gone along with all your insane schemes and you’ve never so much as glanced at me, and if you don’t want me, or whatever, that’s fine, that’s totally fine, and I haven’t been hanging around you just for that reason-”

“Not just,” muttered Alex, the traitor.

“-and you shouldn’t feel pressured, or whatever, but – yeah. We should get a drink. If you want.”

Vicky-T gave him a long, considering look. “Friday, at seven. Wear a suit, take me someplace nice, and we’ll go Dutch.”

With that, she turned on her impressively spiked heel and was gone.

**

Everyone else was waiting for the D-stairs boys when they got out, busily exchanging stories of how their interview went.

“She knew,” Brendon wailed, half to the general group and half at Spencer. “How did even she know?!”

Spencer, guilt-ridden, shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know, Bden-”

But further explanations and apologies were overridden by the arrival of a golf-buggy.

Attached to the golf-buggy were Chiz, Siska and the Butcher, all grinning and all in various stages of undress. Siska was handcuffed to the golf-buggy by one wrist, and his gown had been draped over that shoulder; Butcher was naked under his gown except for the tiniest pair of short-shorts, and Chiz was wearing the beatific smile of the extremely drunk.

For a long moment, there was silence. Then, tentatively: “What’re you guys in for?” Bill asked.

Butcher looked up at him, squinting into the early morning sun, and grinned. “Oh, man. We did everything.”

And finally, I would like to impress upon you that this list should not be used as a means of gaining a trophy!

**

In the college photo for that year, the Banfield students were all stood together, expressions sober and restrained, neatly dressed in suits and ties and, in Vicky-T’s case, a smart, knee-length black dress. There was no indication that they could have wreaked havoc on their town and their Dean in one short night – except that maybe, Mike Carden and Kevin Jonas were stood a little too close together, and Brendon Urie’s smile was ridiculous in its size.

But it didn’t matter. They knew. Half the university experience was supposed to be the memories, anyway.