Title: august & everything after
Author: Telis (theaerosolkid)
Pairing: Frank/Gerard, Jon/Spencer, Brendon/Ryan, and minor Mikey/Alicia
Word Count: 27,395
Disclaimer: Fake, fake, fake.
Summary: A year in the life: teaching at a private Catholic high school.
Notes: Yeah, okay, you're going to need to suspend a lot of disbelief for this one. That being said, thanks to notshybutsly and adellyna for the beta, and insunshine for the encouragement. For kthxrawr in the nightmare_xmas fic exchange.
Ryan Ross sort of had this thought that going back to school in fucking August might be different when you're a teacher instead of a student, but it's still the same old, same old. Sometimes he wonders how he ended up teaching at the same school he hated, but he guesses that St. Catherine's is just always going to be there. He teaches AP Literature to the seniors and Honours English to the freshmen.
Spencer Smith and Ryan went to St. Catherine's together. They're still friends, and they both teach there now, too: Spencer teaches AP Calculus and Calculus, as well as Honors Algebra I. They both spend most of their time making sure that the incoming freshmen don't have a terrible first year.
The first day of school is always kind of interesting, in a horrifically boring way. It's only freshman and sophomores, and a half-day to boot. Mostly the kids run from class to class and try to figure their schedules out while the teachers speak in soothing voices about the upcoming school year. Uniform regulations are rehashed, even though all the teachers know that the shirts are going to be un-tucked any day now and won't be tucked back in until next August. It's an uphill fight but Mr. McLynn, the principal, is fierce about uniforms.
On the very first day, Spencer tells the freshmen in his first-period Honors Algebra class that it's going to kick their asses if they get lazy. Ryan does the opposite with his first-period Honors freshman class: he does his best not to scare them with the reading list, which is substantial, to say the least, says that if it's too rough they can just drop down to regular English.
Ryan likes helping the drama club out. The theatre teacher, Brendon Urie, is full of energy and is entirely sincere when he says that high school theatre can save lives. For years and years, St. Catherine's didn't have a Stagecraft class, so all the techies just took theatre and stumbled through the performance units, and all the actors stumbled though the technical theatre units, until Brendon convinced McLynn to let him create a Stagecraft class. "They don't have to be theatre geeks," Brendon had argued. "It's like wood shop and metal shop, but practical. They can see the impact of their work, you know?" This is the first year that St. Catherine's is going to have a proper Stagecraft class, and there's not a single faculty member as anxious about it as Ryan. The class means a lot to Brendon, and to the kids.
Every time the drama club does a play or a monologue night or something, Brendon has Ryan go over the scripts with the kids to make sure that they're really getting all the meaning that they possibly can out of it. This takes forever, especially when they do Shakespeare, because Brendon's a total stickler for Shakespeare. He and Ryan have all sorts of fights about the Deeper Meaning of it all. The fights are usually pretty good-natured and frequently end up with blowjobs in the theatre's storage room.
The fall play is almost always something light-hearted and goofy, to get students into the mood for the school year, distract them from their loss of freedom. Usually it's Neil Simon or something equally easy to do. "You Can't Take It With You," Brendon announces to his zero-period Advanced Theatre class on the third day of school. It's the first full day of the year; the second day is when the juniors and seniors join, and it's still just a half-day. "We're going to start off with You Can't Take It With You. It's a great play, you guys are going to have fun with it."
The best part about the play is that it calls for a fireworks sequence (McLynn's already queasy, Christ), so they get to involve the science department, which Brendon absolutely adores. He loves getting everyone involved with plays, though he wasn't so eager to hunt people down before Ryan started inserting himself into productions. That kind of opened the floodgates. Now, rehearsals are open affairs, where anyone can come and watch, and everyone's welcome to do so. Tech sign-ups are officially during casting week for each play, but while they usually start out with the same dedicated five techies each play, by the end they've got fifteen or more. Brendon doesn't mind, because sometimes the kids come back for acting or more tech work or even just as audience members. Sometimes they don't, and that's fine, too.
Brendon usually isn't on very good terms with the school's office staff because he lets the kids run every aspect of the drama club, even the financial stuff, so their records are sort of haphazard and he almost never has all his students' permission forms for staying late and getting other rides in on time. For this, the office staff send their aides up every single period to bug him for the paperwork he's missing.
"They're targeting me, Ryan. I am a marked man," he says woefully during his free period, waiting around in Ryan's room.
"You're trying to hide from the office staff?" Ryan asks, letting his students chatter even though the bell rang fifteen minutes ago. He rationalizes his leniency by reminding himself that they're seniors. They've worked hard for three years, so they can have a little leeway this early in the year.
"Well, yeah. They send the littlest ones, with the big eyes," Brendon explains. "It sucks telling them that I don't have their paperwork. But seriously, they couldn't need it yet, right? I mean. It's not even September."
"William works in mysterious ways," Ryan says before rapping his knuckles against his podium, trying in vain to restore order.
William Beckett, the secretary, does indeed work in mysterious ways. Lazy ones, too: he usually foists the boring jobs of answering the phone and calling the parents of absent students onto his office aides and spends most of his time in the break room trying to make something palatable out of the disgusting instant coffee. After lunch, when it's pretty much guaranteed that even on the third day of school, nobody's going to be calling and his presence isn't needed at all, he goes up to the gym and watches Gabe Saporta's P.E. class from the sidelines. Gabe's an insane teacher, who doesn't believe in coddling the athletically disinclined from exercise, and eschews the conventional wisdom that games like dodgeball crush kids' spirits and help mini-mobs of angry teenagers single out and abuse unpopular students. He encourages bloodthirsty co-ed play and refuses to let anyone sit out unless they're gushing blood ("Gushing, Siska, I said gushing, that's not even spurting, grab a bandage from first-aid and get back in there!") or there are bones sticking out. Plural. McLynn forced him to revise this policy to include the inability to stand up due to a limb being twisted in ways God didn't intend, and Gabe grudgingly adheres to this.
"Go get 'em!" William yells at nobody in particular. "Jesus, Gabe, second week of school and you're already on dodgeball. Nice."
"Murderball next week," Gabe says breezily. "No idea how to play it yet, I think it involves wheelchairs and Koosh balls."
"Not exactly," William says, but settles onto the gym floor next to Gabe and catches a ball that comes sailing at his head. "What the fuck was that, you little asshole?"
The kid in question sticks her tongue out at William and squeals like a pig when William launches the ball at her and it smacks her squarely on the forehead. "Ow!! Heyyy, no headsies!"
"No headsies," Gabe mimics. "This is high school, you goober, either get him back or give up defeat!"
So of course fifth-period P.E. on day five devolves into a rousing game of Let's Beat the Shit Out of the Staff. Coaches Maja Ivarsson and Travis McCoy join in, and shanghai the most viciously effective players into trying out for various athletic teams.
Since it's only day five, Gerard Way doesn't have much to do. He's head counselor, which means that he's also the advisor for college admissions, which is in and of itself a terrifying job in a school as academically competitive as St. Catherine's. He also heads up the Peer Counseling program, and teaches a zero-period class that you're allowed to take if you have a full year of Psychology under your belt, qualifying you to work as a Peer Counselor.
Gerard uses these days to set up THE COLLEGE ROOM (it's always referred to in all-caps), a one-room display of every college banner ever. It hosts every form, pamphlet, website listing, and reference book you could possibly want. It's horrifically intimidating to the underclassmen, but juniors and seniors practically live in there, trying to suss out a viable plan for the rest of their lives. Gerard tries to make it as inviting and easy to navigate as he possibly can.
All in all, August is a weird month. There's only a week and a half of school and it's more everyone getting to know each other than anything else. There's a general sense of settling down, settling in, and it's kind of nice.
Gerard's main concern right now -- at this very moment -- is avoiding his responsibility as a chaperon. All the teachers are required to chaperon a certain number of dances, and Gerard absolutely hates it.
Tonight's dance is the second-worst of the whole year, just behind the dreaded Prom Night. It's the First Chance Dance, and it features all four grades acting like complete idiots with an enthusiasm that is to be either admired or feared. Or both. The intoxication level rises impressively and steadily, despite the fact that students' bags and pockets are searched. Gerard has come to regard it as a sort of universal constant: it is a high school function, therefore somehow mind-altering substances will find their way into the bodies of the students.
The teachers don't bother regulating what kind of dancing goes on, because there's just no point in trying, but it still makes him sort of queasy to watch fourteen-year-old girls grinding that way. There's a strict dress code, which absolutely nobody takes seriously. Most of his night is spent writing up out-of-uniform notices for students who change their outfits after getting into the dance. Gerard's lucky; his brother Mikey will usually volunteer to work as an extra chaperon and hang out with him during dances. They take turns standing guard while the other one sneaks a quick smoke break.
"You're not setting a very good example right now," Frank Iero says, breathing smoke into Gerard's face. Frank's a new teacher; Gerard's not quite comfortable around him yet, he can't talk about how good he is at teaching the various single-semester Religion courses he has. When students or parents have asked him about Mr. Iero in the last few weeks, he felt guilty about not being able to say anything constructive. Gerard's not really thinking about the questions and his uncharacteristic lack of answers, though, not when he can see the barest edge of Frank's tattoos at his sleeves.
"Look who's talking," Gerard says, "You should invest in some longer shirts. I can see your tattoos." Frank shrugs.
"Not a big deal, on a sliding scale." Mikey pokes his head round the corner.
"My turn," he says mildly. Gerard nods and stubs out his cigarette on the brick wall, flicks the butt into a nearby planter.
"See you in a bit," Frank calls as Gerard takes a fortifying breath of late-summer air and heads back out to the amphitheatre. On his way out, he notices that the door to Brendon's classroom is slightly open, and he can see a crack of light. He rolls his eyes and bangs on the door as he enters, expecting to see a pair of gleefully fumbling students. Instead, he's greeted by the sight of Brendon sheepishly rising from his knees while Ryan hastily zips up his jeans.
"Hey there, Gee," Brendon says, smiling winningly. Gerard sighs.
"The students are managing to behave," he says, exasperated. Ryan shrugs.
"We're not on duty tonight," he says, as though that excuses anything.
"We sort of forgot about the dance," Brendon admits. "We were working on some of the warm-ups for tomorrow's rehearsal. But, no, they're not gonna involve -- yeah. Um."
Gerard shakes his head, frustrated. "Oh my God."
"Sorry?" Ryan offers up, halfheartedly.
"Lock the door next time," Gerard says in an odd, strangled tone of voice. Brendon smirks as he walks Gerard out, and locks the door behind him.
It's not the last blowjob Gerard ends up interrupting that night. Between the illicit groping in the corners and the rapidly changing wardrobes, he runs out of paper on his detention write-up pad. He's nice enough to write down other offenses, though; something like clandestine sex during the second week of class at a school function (outdoors, no less, who the hell did they think they were fooling?) could get a kid expelled. Gerard remembers what it was like, and doesn't begrudge them their experimentation or anything. It's healthy. He has never understood any adults who thought that sex was something you magically had a right to once you graduated college. How the hell were you supposed to learn about it if you waited until you were too old to have any kind of boldness left in you? He just doesn't want to see it.
Clean-up duty the next morning is handled by the community service club, which has some ridiculous cutesy acronym name that stands for something Ryan can never remember. It's mostly crazy overachiever students, the ones who are applying to, casually, "the Ivys". The requirements for the service club are sort of insane. Ryan regards it as a highly evolved suicide pact -- given how many hours of homework and other extracurriculars the students already have, adding thirty minimum hours of community service a semester is sort of like begging for stress. Then again, a fair number of the students seem to actually thrive on their hectic schedules. It takes all types, he supposes.
Ryan doesn't remember it that way -- he stuck with the advanced English courses, and took whatever else he could manage. He was always grouped with the smart kids, but never got obsessive about school. His grades were solid enough to get him into a good college and his financial situation was bad enough to get him a full ride to the school he wanted. Easy as anything.
Clean-up goes by a lot faster the morning after the dance because Brendon and Ryan happen to be on campus for an all-day rehearsal that has the ill fortune to start in early in the day. Half the kids are immediately sent away on a caffeine run and the other half are ordered to help with the clean-up while the teachers sit around and laze in the early morning Nevada sun, before it gets to be scorching hot.
When the students get back with the coffee, they're short three iced lattes and they don't have the strawberry water Ryan wanted.
"Blame the freshman," a sophomore breezily as she chews on a straw. Brendon sends her a pointed look, and she flushes, shrugs.
There's this unutterably adorable thing that happens to the sophomores in the first few months of school. They boss the freshman about with surprising ineptitude, seemingly in retaliation against the solid nine months they spent resting at the absolute bottom of the school's food chain. Mostly it's just token bullying, throwing their weight around because they think they have weight to throw around. The juniors and seniors are usually content to step aside and wryly observe, talk in lofty tones about how tough it is, trying to adjust to high school as a sad little immature underclassman. It's all in good fun, though, and if Brendon were a sociologist he'd probably find it absolutely fascinating.
As it is, he's a theatre teacher and he thinks it's endearing and wishes that there were some sort of play or something that captured that strange dynamic. He can't write for shit, but he thinks he could do an amazing job at directing something like that. If it existed.
"Don't even think about it," Ryan says lazily, eyes closed against the sun.
"Think of what," Brendon says, like he's following the lines in a script. It's comfortable, right now, this conversation, because they've had it every year for four years now.
"I'm not writing a scene about the sophomores and the freshman."
"And the juniors and the seniors," Brendon says cheerfully.
"Not happening," Ryan says.
Students sitting on the other side of the amphitheatre sorting soda bottles from cans eye them appraisingly.
"Totally fucking," one of the juniors says with a toss of her head.
"That's gross," says a boy sitting next to her.
"It's awesome," one of the freshmen says dreamily, closing her eyes and leaning back onto the grass. "Oh my God, they are both so hot."
"Ew," the boy says succinctly.
"I wanna catch them at it," the junior says.
"And then join," the freshman says.
"I don't understand girls," the boy says with a shudder.
"Clean-up, clean-up, clean-up," Brendon calls at the kids. "Cleaning now, gossip later, okay?"
"Do you think they heard us?" the freshman hisses while she scrambles to her feet.
"Shut up," the boy says, and hands her a half-empty Gatorade bottle. It smells kind of like vodka.
Clean-up goes reasonably well, all things considered, and the community service kids end up staying at the school after it was all picked up to hang around the theatre and help reset the lights.
"They're all f- um, messed up," Brendon complains. "Hey, Chris. Chris Faller. Go get Jon and bring him in here for some help. I can't let students play with the light panels, those things are expensive."
"Jon?" the student in question asks, confused.
"Gardener," Ryan clarifies. "Go around to the shed by the gym, he should be there."
Jon Walker is the gardener, and he works Wednesdays through Sundays, for reasons passing understanding. He's good friends with Spencer, since his shed is right around the corner from Spencer's classroom. He's only been at St. Catherine's for two years, but he's settling into a routine just as much as the rest of the staff.
When he strides into the theatre, easy and casual, the students fall silent and mutter to each other. Brendon tilts his head at Jon, apologetically, and Jon climbs up on the ladder to wrap his hands around the number seven light.
"Yeah, it's just -- we need it to hit higher on the upstage wall, yeah, like that, try to -- yeah, thanks," Brendon says, while Ryan stands off to the side, looking amused.
"Hey," Ryan says to one of the techies, listlessly sorting through the costume rack. She glances up. "You should get onstage, so we can get a point of reference."
They spend the next couple of hours adjusting the lights, which really should only take about forty-five minutes, at most, but the lights are ridiculously expensive and Brendon lives in mortal fear of one of them getting irrevocably messed up.
"I think it's good," Jon says. He's re-centered each light, and absolutely nothing has been accomplished in terms of rehearsal.
"Yeah, I guess," Brendon says with a sigh. "God, we need new lights."
"Oh, is that all you need?" Jon asks. Ryan snickers.
"Well, okay, not nice," Brendon says, and Jon grins.
The kids go home shortly after that -- all they've achieved throughout the day is sorting through the costume room, which means less organization and more trying on funny wigs. Ryan thinks it's cute, but Brendon's getting stressed out, even though there's plenty of time. Every high school theatre production is a last-minute affair, and it never gets any easier to deal with the stress. It just gets more routine.
While Brendon doesn't handle the stress of plays well, he handles the stress of Back to School Night with ridiculous ease. Spencer's a different story. There's nothing he hates more than having to deal with parents. It's a silly exercise -- parents come to the school for an evening, follow their child's schedules to meet with each teacher. The teachers are all instructed to neaten their classrooms and put on a chipper face. It's a pain in the ass, because frequently parents linger for what feels like forever, pestering the teachers. Back to School is definitely the stupidest thing about each new school year.
"No, but really, how many kids only hate math because their parents made such a big deal out of it?" Spencer argues.
"How many kids hate math because it's fucking boring?" Ryan counters.
"Math isn't stupid, it's universal," Spencer says. "And yet completely without pointless debate. A times b plus c equals a times b plus a times c. Politicize that."
Brendon rolls his eyes, and swishes the remainder of his Coke around the bottom of the bottle. "You so did not come up with that by yourself."
"Webcomic logic," Spencer admits. "And yet it holds true."
"Whatever you say," Brendon says, and stands up.
"Come on, we need to get home. Gotta get dressed up," Ryan says.
Spencer groans. "Don't remind me."
"Remember to look fabulous," Brendon calls out as Ryan drags him out the door. Spencer sighs, and when he looks up, he sees Jon leaning against the door frame.
"Oh, hey," he says.
"Hi," Jon says. "Tonight's Back to School?"
"Yes," Spencer says sourly. Jon chuckles.
"I'm lucky I don't have to deal with parents," he says.
"Yeah, well," Spencer says, and loses his train of thought.
"Here, I'll walk you to your car," Jon offers.
"How long are you here for?" Spencer asks, grabbing his briefcase. He doesn't bother to shut his computer off, he'll be back in a few hours and invariably parents will be asking for grades already. It's easier to just leave the damn thing on.
"Probably till late," Jon says. "My shed's a fucking mess. Whoever they hired for summer work was a lazy asshole, I need to get it cleaned up."
"I'm going to have such a headache after tonight," Spencer grouses as they reach his car.
"Caffeine's good for headaches," Jon says. "We could go get some coffee afterwards."
Spencer glances at him while he shuffles through his key ring. "Yes, because coffee at nine-thirty is a good idea when we both have work at seven the next day."
"Food, then," Jon says easily.
"Yeah, okay," Spencer says after a pause.
"Meet you by my shed," Jon says, and salutes briefly before heading back across the parking lot.
"Okay," Spencer yells.
"I'll even shower!" Jon shouts.
"How nice," Spencer says to himself.
The thing with his friendship with Jon is. Well.
It is, appropriately enough, a lot like a high school friendship: they see each other in the halls and bitch about the administration and uniforms and the students, and maybe they hang out a bit during lunch if they happen to bump into each other, but that's it, really. This dinner thing is kind of suspect, but Spencer sort of decides to quash his weirdo anxieties. If it ends up that they have nothing to talk about, then he'll say he has some grading to do, and bail out early. No harm, no foul; Spencer's a math teacher. There's always grading for him to do.
Spencer may hate Back to School night, but Gerard absolutely loves it.
Parents don't usually want to talk to guidance counselors this early in the school year, and if they do, it's only about college, and it's easy enough for him to tell the parents that he has a rule about not talking about anything college or standardized test related until the last week of September. He gets a lot of funny looks, but he's been doing this job long enough. He knows how to make it work.
Gerard drifts from classroom to classroom, helps point the confused parents in the right direction. It's kind of interesting, really, trying to see which parents he can match up with their kids just by appearance.
He ends up outside Frank's classroom after some aimless walking, hangs just outside the door so he can listen in without being seen.
"This is a really important class," Frank is saying. "We're not actually going to be talking about what your kids should be believing. The whole point of this class is to talk about what your kids actually believe, their own individual systems of right and wrong. The most important part of their grade is this presentation they're going to do. They'll pick an issue that's important to them, and they'll get up and talk to us about it. They'll teach about half a class's length, and tell us everything they think is important about this issue. It's worth about forty percent of the grade. The final exam is ten percent, and the rest is made up of pop quizzes to test the reading," he finishes
Gerard shakes his head in approval. Frank's got it down pat. Answer questions before they can be asked, that's always the way to go with parents.
"That's a lot of reading," one parent speaks up.
"Well, this is a junior-level class," Frank says. "So, yeah, it's a lot of reading, but it's an important class in an important year, and I think you'll find that it sounds a lot worse than it actually is."
When the bell rings and the parents gather up purses and briefcases, start heading to the next class, Gerard pokes his head in.
Frank glances to the side, and his face lights up when he sees Gerard. "Oh, hey," he says brightly.
"Hey," Gerard says. "You're doing really well."
"Yeah," Gerard says. "I like the sound of that project, actually."
"Thanks," Frank says, looking pleased. "I had to do something pretty similar in high school, and it was the only time my classmates all did their own homework without bitching."
"Well, it's a solid idea," Gerard says. "Anyway. Good luck."
"One down, five to go," Frank agrees.
Gerard waves farewell, then heads across the hall to check in on Spencer.
"Hanging in there?" he asks.
"Fuck you too, Way," Spencer says irritably.
Gerard clicks his tongue.
"Sorry," Spencer says. "But, seriously. Do these people have no manners? What the hell would compel you to ask a professional why they're teaching a worthless subject? Jesus. Obviously I don't think it's worthless, dickwad, I have a master's."
"Calm down," Gerard soothes.
Spencer sighs and stretches his neck. "Yeah, I'll be fine, sorry."
"Sure," Gerard says. "Only four more, you've got a free period this year, right?"
"Thank God," Spencer mutters, and straightens when parents start trickling in.
"That's my cue," Gerard says, and heads down to his office to spin around in his chair a bit.
Spencer calms down a bit as the night progresses, probably helped by the decreasing number of idiot parents asking rude questions.
"I try to apply math to the real world," he says reasonably. "But it's kind of rough when there's so much material to get through. Most of the grade is from homework, so even if your kid's got test anxiety, they can still make it out of here with a solid C+."
Of course, when he says that to each group of parents, there's a smaller sub-group who profess an actual dire need for their devil spawn to get an A, no matter whether they actually absorbed the material or not. Typical.
"No extra credit," he says firmly, and that's the death knell for his parental-based popularity. The kids are okay with it, because he tries to understand their limits and all that, but the parents don't typically give a crap whether or not their kids can actually work out a quadratic equation, so long as they have that shining A on their report card to get them into daddy's alma mater.
All in all, it's stressful, but not so much as it could have been, and this is how Spencer comforts himself when it's all over. He trudges to Jon's shed with tension still in his shoulders.
"Hey," Jon says, looking up from his laptop when Spencer strolls in. "You survived."
"I had hope for something nice in the aftermath," Spencer tells him.
"Glad to be of service," Jon says.
"Food now, conversation later," Spencer says, and they head to the local Mexican restaurant for enchiladas and sort of end up staying until closing.
October is still blistering in Nevada. Ryan's classes run out of synonyms for "hot" for their daily journal entries.
"This weather is ridiculous," Frank says to Ryan while they're sitting in the teachers' lounge, waiting for Brendon to stop clogging up all the Xerox machines for his sophomore Intro to Theatre class.
Ryan shrugs. "It's not that bad. Only a few weeks left."
"Fucking ridiculous," Frank says again. "I mean, Jesus, it's ninety-five out today."
"Last Halloween it was almost a hundred," Brendon offers.
"I'm from Jersey, man, this is insane," Frank says with a shake of his head.
"How'd you end up teaching in Nevada?" Ryan asks, a little bemused.
"I was tired of freezing," Frank admits. Ryan laughs.
"I grew up just outside of Vegas, so, this heat is kind of normal," Ryan says. "You get used to it. We'll be in the seventies by November."
"Yeah, I hope so," Frank says.
"Hey, Ryan, it's doing that thing," Brendon says disconsolately from his place at the newest Xerox machine.
"I don't -- Brendon, I have no idea -- "
"Never mind, it's working." Brendon scoops up the last of his copies, then bends to kiss Ryan's cheek. "Wish me luck, I'm passing out assignments to the juniors today." He kicks the door open on his way out, singing as he goes.
The bell rings, and Frank curses. "I didn't get my copies done."
"Here," Ryan says. "What do you need? I can bring them up to your classroom for you, it's my free period."
"Oh, man, thanks so much," Frank says, and hands him a worksheet. "Pretty simple, just this one, I need thirty-nine copies, I have no clue why I didn't do it earlier. I don't need them 'til the end of the period, so don't bother hurrying."
"Not a problem," Ryan says with a smile, and Frank scurries up to the north building for his classroom.
While Ryan's babysitting the machine to make sure it behaves like it should, Gerard sticks his head in and makes a gesture at Ryan.
"I have no idea what that means," Ryan tells him.
"Frank," Gerard says impatiently.
"No, I'm Ryan. I teach English," Ryan says slowly.
"Stop being a smartass. I mean, Frank. Where is he?"
"Teaching," Ryan says. "Seriously, are you okay?"
Gerard lets loose an explosive breath. "Yeah, sure."
"Have a seat," Ryan gestures.
Gerard slams his forehead against the table's surface and Ryan waits patiently for him to start speaking.
"I need a roommate," Gerard says to the table. "My brother's getting married and, for some ridiculous reason, is moving in with his fiancée now. I can't afford our apartment on my own, and I really don't want to move. Like, at all."
"Okay," Ryan says.
"He's leaving, you know, whenever," Gerard says, sounding frustrated.
"Why were you thinking Frank?" Ryan asks.
"I know he's just crashing at his friend's place for now, and I need a roommate," Gerard says.
"You should probably calm down," Ryan says.
"I am so fucked if he says no," Gerard says. "I totally don't have time to find a new place. Not with work and all."
"It'll be fine," Ryan says.
"Sure," Gerard sighs. "Can I go back to high school? I'll even do my homework this time."
"No you won't," Ryan says.
"Probably not," Gerard concedes.
"See you later," Ryan says. "Want me to tell Frank to come see you at lunch?"
"Yeah, thanks," Gerard says.
When Frank heads into his office at lunchtime, he can't help but be a bit nervous. Gerard's been like the rest of the staff so far, welcoming and gracious, but it still feels kind of like an evaluation each time they speak. Frank didn't really get along with the guidance staff at his old high school.
"Hey, you wanted to see me?" Frank asks.
"Yeah," Gerard says, closing a folder. "Have a seat." Frank sits across his desk, feeling absurdly like a student all over again. It probably doesn't help that he's about as tall as most of the students. This is how they see him, he thinks. The students, this is how they see Gerard, with that same authoritative set to his shoulders.
"What's up?" Frank asks.
"Okay, so. There's no easy way to ask this," Gerard starts. He sighs, and Frank braces for the worst. "I need a roommate. My brother's moving out, like, any day now, and I really can't afford my apartment on my own."
"Oh," Frank says.
"You don't have to if you don't want to," Gerard says quickly. "I mean, no pressure."
"No, it's cool," Frank says.
"I mean -- "
"No," Frank says, "Um. How about I come see the place, is that cool?"
"Sure," Gerard says right away.
"Is after school today good?" Frank asks.
"Well, I have to do that evaluation thing with McLynn," Gerard says. Frank tenses up again, all nerves. "No, it's -- it's not teachers, it's a student evaluation. We have some kids on probation from last year and we have to look through progress reports, see how they're doing."
"Oh, okay," Frank says. "So. Well, tomorrow, I can't."
"Do you mind if my brother just shows you the place?" Gerard asks. "I mean, you've met him before, at the dance last month."
"Yeah, okay," Frank says. "Here's my number, you can text me the address and I'll look it up. I'm giving a test next period, I'll have some time."
"Great," Gerard says, sounding and looking utterly relieved.
Frank ends up taking the apartment. Mikey's ready to move out any day, and Frank's pretty much ready to leave his friend Bob's couch as of yesterday, so Frank just packs all his stuff into his car and follows Gerard to the apartment after school the following day.
"I told you that you were being stupid," Ryan says to Gerard the next morning. Gerard rolls his eyes.
Preliminary student evaluations don't expel anyone -- just put them into piles of "maybe" and "okay, you're safe". Report cards come out a week before Halloween, and right before they do, the counseling department meets up with McLynn and the vice principal, Bob Bryar. There are stacks of paper and little charts and Gerard absolutely hates it.
Still, it kind of goes with the job: he's supposed to stay on top of who's handling the pressure and who isn't, and sometimes that means he has to cut some kids. Which sucks. It's made easier by the fact that the scholarship kids rarely manage to get themselves put on probation. Most of the kids who get kicked out are the ones who are from families with too much money to help their kids grow up or do anything in school. When they get kicked out of St. Catherine's, they inevitably end up at another overpriced private school, where they'll either sink or swim.
The first year Gerard taught at St. Catherine's, he tried to keep track of all the kids, no matter where they ended up. He gave up on that pretty quickly, but he still thinks frequently about the students who get kicked out -- or, more commonly, "asked to leave".
There are the girls who get pregnant, which gets them kicked out no matter what they do. It sucks, and Gerard doesn't agree with it, but there are certain prejudices that come with working at a Catholic school, and a Puritanical attitude towards sex happens to be one of them. Most girls are smart enough to take care of it on their own, and while each year Gerard has his suspicions, he figures that calling them out would do more harm than good. The other reason he doesn't point them out is that the boys who knock them up never get into trouble, and he figures if he's going to punish a student for something that takes two participants to accomplish, it's unfair to only punish one of them. All or nothing.
There are the kids who get into drugs, both male and female, and the kids who end up self-injuring or, worst of all, the semi-annual suicide attempts. They've not had a successful suicide yet, at least not in the years Gerard's been at the school, but it's still a chilling occurrence. It happens too often and is covered up even more so.
"How's Iero settling in?" McLynn asks when the meeting proper is done, snapping Gerard out of his reverie.
"Fine," Gerard says. "We're living together now."
McLynn raises his eyebrows. "Well, that was quick."
"Don't be an asshole. He's just my roommate. Mikey moved out. He and Alicia are getting married." Gerard says sharply.
"Mazel tov," McLynn says dryly.
"I'll pass that along," Gerard says.
"Right, right. So, that kills it for students, yeah?"
"Thank fucking God," Gerard says.
"Have a weekend," McLynn says. Gerard practically runs.
McLynn glances up when Gabe knocks at the door. "Well, shit."
"Nothing terrifying," Gabe says soothingly.
"I doubt that," McLynn says, but he lets Gabe speak.
"Just sticking my head in to tell you that I'm not going to chaperon tonight, all right? Walker's filling in for me."
Every home football game is immediately followed by an informal mini-dance, which of course requires a faculty presence to maintain some semblance of order.
"Any reason Walker's not telling me this?" McLynn asks.
"He's parked up by the north building," Gabe says. "It's cool if he takes over for me, right? He's still a staff member."
"This time it's okay," McLynn allows.
"He's going with Spencer," Gabe says.
"Well, just tell Zack, then," McLynn says.
To further the impression that the school is for high-class types, McLynn hired security guards about seven years ago. The first and current head security guard is Zack, the students' favourite. He goes to the theatre events and watches most of the home games and even some of the away games, if they're not too far. He never allows the students to let him in for free, and usually just stands in the back and grins the whole time, even through the tragedies. He gets to know the couple hundred kids' names and faces and remembers them from year to year, keeps track of the few families that still have a traditional Catholic outlook on the number-of-children question. He likes to support the students, and on Halloween, he tells them to be careful when they go trick-or-treating.
"There are a lot of sickos out there," he advises. "Stay in groups, and don't eat any candy until you check it over, make sure that it hasn't been opened." When the older students tell him that they have parties to go to, he shrugs, "Don't drink anything you didn't mix or pour yourself. Stay in groups. Assign a driver, and if it's you, don't drink. At all." Some of the girls ask for hugs on occasions like this, and Zack kind of shrugs and says that he can't. "Rules, man. I don't make 'em, I just play by 'em."
Which isn't strictly true. Zack's got his own nebulously defined system of morality, and the biggest part of it is don't take advantage. Of anyone. He broke this rule exactly once or rather a lot more than that, depending on how you look at it.
When Brendon first came to St. Catherine's to teach, it was pretty clear that something was wrong. He had a sort of look that Zack recognized from a TV documentary he'd watched once, talking about how the Amish shunned their people who broke commandments and refused to repent. There was a sort of willful defiance to his stance, the way he stood up as tall as he could, tempered by the skittish cant to his hips. Zack watched him quietly from the back of the gym when the first Mass was held in the fall, watched the way he mouthed along to the Scripture but seemed unfamiliar with the confusing stand-up-sit-down-kneel pattern of the Catholic Mass.
He was quiet and withdrawn, except for when he was working. Zack watched him with the students, watched him throw his whole being into getting them interested in Miller, flinging copies of All My Sons haphazardly. After one late practice, Zack sat down in the back of the theatre and watched Brendon clean up discarded scripts and chewed-off pencils.
"Hi," he said hesitantly. "I'm Brendon Urie."
"Zack," he said. "How'd you end up teaching here?"
It was an extraordinarily direct way to figure things out, but Zack had no other idea of how he should be going about it. There was something -- something there, something intangible and yet monumentally significant.
"Total accident of fate," Brendon said after a long pause. He dropped the stack of Samuel French manuscripts onto a tiny downstage end table, adjusted his glasses, didn't meet Zack's eyes.
"Happy or otherwise?" Zack asked.
Brendon bit his lip. "Don't know yet."
It went like that for a few weeks, and each time Zack saw Brendon all he wanted to do was -- something. Something to shake him, to fix him, to make him smile or stand up straighter or stop chewing at the inside of his cheek all the time. It was kind of obvious that something was wrong with Brendon; he was too cautious, too quiet; the way he held himself, thrumming with energy unspent.
It was easy to ignore all the other things Zack could have done to make things better: he could have talked to McLynn, could have talked to one of the priests, could have just talked to Brendon himself, but what is impossible to ignore is the way that more than wanting to fix Brendon, he really just wanted Brendon.
So they stayed the same, half-obvious conversations, until closing night of the first play found Brendon arguing with someone in hushed tones on the pay phone around the corner from his classroom.
Zack waited a polite distance until Brendon slammed the phone down. The school was absolutely deserted. It was just the two of them.
If you asked him now, there is no way Zack could tell you how he ended up fucking Brendon into the hard wood of the stage, leaving scrapes and bruises on the pale skin of his back. Brendon arched up into it, all needful cries and shuddering gasps with fingers scrabbling at Zack's shoulders. Zack held him down and thrust in hard, rocking their hips together and pushing Brendon farther, farther than any human should have to bend.
You could make an argument that neither one was taking advantage of the other for the entire school year and for the sticky summer that followed it. And after the first time, it probably wasn't. Brendon sought Zack out as much as it was the other way around. They didn't go on dates, they didn't do boyfriend things, but Brendon moved from his shitty one-room apartment to Zack's condo, piece by piece, in a gradual fashion and when Christmas rolled around neither one went home to their families. Zack had a pretty clear idea of what had happened by then and understood why Brendon had stopped trying to call home.
That first time, though: Zack knows that nothing would've happened if it hadn't been for how vulnerable Brendon had been that night; this feeling of guilt is made all the worse by the later knowledge that he was Brendon's first. In a way, he thinks bitterly, sometimes, it sort of suited them, that the first time Brendon did anything that intimate with anyone, it was rough and quick and hidden and a little painful.
The next fall, Ryan started teaching at St. Catherine's and it was pretty clear to anyone paying attention where that was headed, so Zack did the only thing he really could have, and stepped neatly aside, let Brendon and Ryan collide and come together. When he sits in on the All Souls' Day mass, his mind can't help but turn towards thoughts of penance and forgiveness and sins -- he thinks of how innocent Brendon had been, with legs wrapped round Zack's hips, the way he'd held on tightly even when he wasn't touching Zack at all, and he can't stop from thinking that maybe he should have just nodded at Brendon, shook his hand when they met and then walked away.
Because there's a way that the priests around here talk about innocence, and even though Zack knows it doesn't exactly apply in this instance, he still intervened, he still changed Brendon inexorably. Zack's gotten this idea that innocence is one of those things that should just be left alone, lost passively as all things human must be, and that somehow he did wrong by Brendon.
He feels guilty, sometimes, when he allows himself to think of it, and when he leaves the gym to head back down to the school's entrance he jerks his head to clear it, tries to leave behind the stupid idea of God punishing him by delivering Ryan to Brendon. It's hard to shake, though; these priests, they get under your skin.
Mostly, though, he's just glad that he and Brendon have remained good friends and while he'll never be close with Ryan, they understand each other. I am what came before, you are what will stick around 'til the end. It's that simple, and Zack likes his job too much to give it up anyway.
He shakes the hands of the girls who ask for hugs and carries Brendon up the stairs when he asks, even though he really isn't supposed to.