The Dark Knight: Bully Edition
Halloween. The freaks' holiday; the day when disguised mischief was not only permitted, but actively encouraged. The day when grudges could be settled, havoc could be wrought, and all in the name of some good law-abiding pagans several hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately, this Halloween had Jimmy more worried than elated, so he'd found holiday spirit challenging to muster.
"Hey, Jimmy," Petey said upon inviting himself into Jimmy's room. "Where's your costume?"
"Don't have one," Jimmy answered. His closet was already full of ridiculous outfits.
"What? But it's Halloween," Petey protested.
"You don't have a costume," he pointed out.
"Sure I do, I'm a vampire," Petey explained, and Jimmy stared at him as if he were expecting a decent costume to materialise around him, which it did not. He looked exactly the same, except for the fact that he might have been dusted down with glitter, because he looked kind of sparkly.
"Fine, you're a vampire," Jimmy relented. "Have you seen Gary?" he asked, and noticed Petey's expression drop.
"What? No," he murmured like he was trying to bleed the words out of a stone. "Why would I?"
"Well you see him more than I do," commented Jimmy. Since Gary had been returned to Bullworth in just about as many pieces as he left it in, he'd kept as far as he could from Jimmy at all times, offering nothing but angry silence and stabbing looks if Jimmy attempted to make contact.
"It's not like I'm his best friend or anything," Petey countered.
"He doesn't have any friends," Jimmy decreed. "So you're the best that he's got." That Gary didn't actively and vehemently hate Petey was better than most people in Bullworth managed. "Anyway, I wasn't asking you what colour his underpants were, I just wanted to know if you knew where he was."
"I wouldn't know that!" yelped Petey in outrage, and Jimmy just sighed. Sometimes Petey being a prude was a real hindrance. "Why're so bothered about him anyway?" he murmured a moment later.
"Why? Why?" Jimmy echoed scathingly. "It's Halloween, Petey. Do you remember what he did last year? Only this time he's even more pissed off at the world, and instead of Mr. Burton, he's gonna be targeting yours truly."
"So you think he's going to do something?"
"No, I reckon he'll sit in his room all night like a good little nut-job," Jimmy growled, and saw the flinch dart across Petey's features; he forgot sometimes that Petey wasn't the same as everyone else at Bullworth – that his feelings could actually be hurt. "Do you at least know what his costume is?"
"I don't know anything, Jimmy," Petey apologised. "I haven't seen him for a few days."
"Days? Don't you have classes with him?"
"Sure, but he hasn't been there."
"What?" Jimmy spat unpleasantly. "Didn't anyone notice?" It could be nothing, or it could be a sign that things were worse than Jimmy was already pessimistically predicting.
"Maybe," Petey shrugged.
"You're head boy, Petey, aren't you meant to know shit like this?" said Jimmy sourly, and Petey gave him another apologetic look.
"No one's said anything to me about it – him," he confessed. "Sorry."
"Fine," Jimmy huffed, swinging his feet down to the floor and getting up. He had black pants on already, and pulled out a black sweater – camouflage would be useful if he was going to be tracking down Gary. He was a slippery character at the best of times.
"What are you doing? Where are you going?" Petey chattered like a nagging wife.
"I'm going to have a look around," Jimmy explained begrudgingly. "Check everything's all right."
"Oh, okay... do you need any help?" Petey inquired, and Jimmy looked him up and down.
"From a sparkly vampire? I think I'll manage," he said acerbically, stuffing his pockets with firecrackers and pellets for his slingshot – he'd travel light, but armed. "If you find anything, let me know," he offered as a parting shot, striding past Petey as he made his way outside.
Gary had been waiting for this since he'd been dumped back at Bullworth, once more the bottom of the pack. This was what he'd thought of when he got ignored, talked about, or even bullied by some of the more daring idiots that made up the school's student body. He'd taken refuge in the observatory to prepare, which had been abandoned by the nerds since Jimmy made a mess of it. Sitting on a crate by dim light, squinting into a piece of broken mirror, he put on the final touches.
It didn't matter if it was messy, messy was good. He'd had to burgle a lot of girls' lockers before he found enough makeup, which had been time-consuming and boring. White for the face, clumsy black spread over his eyes – he wondered why females tolerated this junk – and then the red; blood red, carving a happy grin all the way up his face. So he was smiling even when he was scowling, even when he couldn't hold back the surging, scalding anger.
He peered at himself through the piece of broken looking-glass, and found the effect pleasing.
"Hey," he murmured to his reflection, which continued to mimic him insultingly. "Why so serious?"
Jimmy set out to inspect all the campus buildings and see if he couldn't catch a word with each of the clique leaders. As long as they all had their heads, nothing could go too far astray. When he went to the parking lot, though, he found the bullies sitting in separate corners, most of them huddled into balls.
"Uh, guys?" he called out; normally this was the bullies' moment. "Guys?" No one answered him, so he made his way cautiously towards the school bus, finding Russell sat inside it with his knees drawn up to his chest. "Russell? You all right?"
"Scared, Jimmy," came a two-word answer.
"Scared? What are you scared of?" Even cars were afraid of Russell.
"He's coming," Russell answered in two concise words again.
"Who is?" Jimmy asked, though at the back of the mind he already had an answer.
"Everyone is." Russell was starting to get stuck in a loop.
"Everyone? How can everyone be coming to get you?" Jimmy pointed out in a way he felt was reasonable.
"Everyone!" Russell burst, breaking the cycle. "Teachers and rich kids and nerds and jocks and Russell's parents and doctors and policemen and-"
"Whoah, whoah, slow down," Jimmy urged, waving his hands in front of Russell like he was trying to pacify a bull. After sticking to short answers for too long, Russell's words had all exploded out on top of one another.
"They're coming," he said again, drawing his knees up. "So Russell is hiding."
"Hiding? From everyone? In here?" Jimmy surmised, and Russell just hugged his knees to his chest. "You know what, fine," Jimmy muttered. Russell hiding in a beat-up school bus wasn't doing anyone any harm.
He moved onto the auto-shop, which was also suspiciously deserted, and had made it through the first garage before he heard even a footstep. In fact, he heard a whole bunch of them.
"Raaaaaah!" came a fierce scream, and Jimmy leapt to the side, pressing his back against the wall as a few greasers ran at him, dressed up as what looked uncannily like the cast of the Wizard of Oz.
"JESUS!" Jimmy bellowed, and thankfully they stopped.
"Oh it's you, Jimmy," the Lion murmured.
"Of course it's him, doofus, he's not even wearing a costume," the Tin Man scolded.
"Shut up both of yous!" the Scarecrow yelled over them. "Look, Jimmy, we got a problem. Someone's comin' for us."
"You too?" Jimmy bit. "Who's coming for you? And don't say everyone," he interjected.
"Everyone? Whaddya talking about, that's stupid," the Scarecrow dismissed. "The nerds ain't comin' for us. Everyone else, though."
"What?" Jimmy snapped.
"Think about it, Jim," the Tin Man rushed. "It's Halloween, all the teachers and prefects are off-duty. There ain't no laws here tonight."
"There's no laws in this place anyway," Jimmy pointed out.
"You don't get it!" the Lion butted in. "There's no one to stop them going too far this time. This is their chance to get rid of us for good."
"Whose chance?" Jimmy demanded.
"The preps, the Jocks, even the Bullies," the Tin Man hissed like he was revealing a secret. "Hell, those Townies too. They can crush us, Jimmy."
"Who says they're gonna? And for your information, the Bullies are hiding out in the parking lot afraid of their own shadows," Jimmy added crossly.
"They're gonna band together to get us," the Scarecrow explained fearfully. "No one can stop them."
"I can stop them," Jimmy snapped. "I stopped you all once before."
"That's what you think, Jimmy... that's what he said you'd say..." the Tin Man murmured.
"Who said?" Jimmy snarled, getting fed up of asking the same questions over and over.
"He did," the Lion mumbled. "He's gonna let it happen... and you know why?"
"If you're talking about Gary, you need to tell me where you saw him and what he's been saying," Jimmy instructed. "I thought you guys were better than listening to his crazy bullshit."
"... Do you know how he got that scar?" questioned the Lion in a small, paranoid whisper.
"What?" Jimmy said crudely. "What the fuck are you talking about, man?"
"It was a greaser," answered the Lion, who Jimmy was beginning to think was Vance, but really, he couldn't be sure. "A greaser did it to him when he first arrived at Bullworth. He was in the auto-shop, working on a bike, and the guys started pushing him around-"
"What guys? When-"
"Then he got cut by the frame as he fell," continued the Lion, as if Jimmy hadn't even spoken. "Nearly lost his eye... that's why he's gonna get us, Jimmy. That's why they're all coming to get us."
"Okay, forget this. Where's Jonny?" Jimmy demanded; he knew things were getting out of hand when he wanted to talk to Jonny Vincent as the voice of reason.
"We can't tell you," the Tin Man informed him. "He's hiding, so's when they come for us he can launch a surprise attack." That sounded kind of suspicious, even to Jimmy.
"Are you sure he ain't hiding so it's you they beat up first?" he questioned, and for a moment all their faces went blank.
"Hey! That's a good point!" the Scarecrow bellowed. "C'mon guys, new plan!" They charged off, leaving Jimmy behind without any more answers than he's started out with. He heaved a sigh and rubbed a hand across his face. The auto-shop was eerily quiet, and then a high-pitched giggle cut the air out of nowhere. Jimmy spun around but saw nothing, no one; it'd put chills up his spine and he didn't like it. He was walking out towards the fountain when he heard it again, almost leaping out of his skin. When he turned to look this time, he saw someone in a torn dress. Then he heard the moan. He'd heard that moan before.
"Kirsty?" Jimmy called out, and the girl span a half turn, facing him.
"Oh hey, Jimmy." She was in what looked like a ripped-up prom dress, but really, Jimmy was more concerned with who she'd had against the wall. He had to look a good three times before he believed his eyes.
Petey looked guilty, like a cat caught ripping up good furniture.
"Uhhh... hey, Jimmy," he mumbled. "Everything okay?"
"Okay? Okay? How'd you... I mean... wh-... never mind," he sighed. He didn't know how Petey had pulled it off, but fair play to him. "Look, if you see Gary, send him my way."
"Sure, Jimmy," Petey responded, and then as Jimmy carried on walking, putting his back to them, he heard the giggle again and a number of noises he would later have to erase from his memory.
He headed for Harrington House next, noticing that the whole school campus was unusually, suspiciously quiet. He was barely within ten metres of Harrington House when something whizzed past his ear in a bad way. The next pellet hit him in the shoulder.
"Ow!" he barked, slamming a hand to the spot and hunching over. "What's the big idea?"
"Go away!" came a shout from one of the second-floor windows. "Just leave us alone!"
"It's Jimmy!" he called back. "Your boss, remember?"
"Hopkins? Hopkins?" There were some noises of argument, then the front door opened a crack. "Quickly," a voice hushed, and Jimmy walked up.
"What's going on, Chad?" he demanded.
"It's the day of revolution," he whispered urgently, and then pushed the door open a little more. "Get inside, damn you!" Jimmy suppressed a groan and stepped inside, noticing Chad secure no less than five bolts over the door once he shut it after him.
"Don't tell me you guys are all spooked too," he said disapprovingly, and Bif stepped out from behind a sculpture where he'd been very poorly concealed.
"The day has come, Jimmy," he announced dramatically. "The day that-"
"Don't tell me," Jimmy interrupted. "Everyone is going to come and get you."
"Yes! How did you know? Who've you been talking to? If you're a spy for-"
"All right, calm down!" Jimmy snapped. "No one's getting anyone tonight."
"So you say, but who's going to stop them?" challenged Tad vindictively. "We're lawless, Hopkins, lawless! Even you can't stand up to the entirety of the proletariat."
"I don't need to stand up to the prole-whateveritis," Jimmy bounced back. "I just need to stand up to Gary."
"Gary? Smith? Oh no, no, no, no," Tad rushed. "He is not coming back here. You are not leading him to us, Hopkins!"
"Leading him to- wh- oh fuck this," Jimmy grunted. "What did he do now? Where's Derby?"
"Derby doesn't want to see anyone," Bif cut in aloofly.
"Well, I don't want to lose my temper," Jimmy threatened, "so let's see if we can work something out." They stared one another out for a while, and eventually the preps backed down. They didn't need reminding of their place again.
"Very well, you may be our only hope," Bif conceded theatrically. "This way." He led Jimmy up through Harrington house, and pulled aside an expensive drape to reveal a door to a panic room. A mahogany-walled, leather-padded study of a panic room, but a panic room all the same.
Inside it, in a chair with his back to the door, sat Derby, watching a fake fire flicker – presumably a real fire would require a chimney, and a panic room would just be a really dark study if it had any access to the outside.
"It's Jimmy," Bif announced, and there was a non-committal grunt from the armchair, then a hand reached out and beckoned.
"Come," he ordered, and Jimmy paced forward with distinct irritation. Derby was slumped into his armchair cradling a crystal flask of whiskey like his firstborn child.
"Hopkins," he murmured. "Whers our great protector now?"
"What? Jeesh," Jimmy hissed when the stench of whiskey hit him. "Are you drunk?"
"Only a lil," Derby slurred. Aside from the intoxication, he already looked rough.
"What happened to you?"
"Shhh," he whispered. "Bif, leave us."
"Now." Bif turned with desolation to leave them alone.
"Okay, so now are you gonna tell me what the hell's going on?" Jimmy demanded, arms crossed over his chest as Derby tried to pour himself another drink with swaying hands.
"D'you know why our system works, Hopkins?" Derby began rhetorically. "Capitalism, repres'on of the masses... it works, James, because they never realise what they can do if they work together. If they all went after the elite... empires would tipple. Topple," he corrected himself hazily.
"You're talking like a crazy person," Jimmy informed him.
"Was Nicholas the Second crazy?" Derby spat.
"The last Tsar of Rus- never mind," he murmured, shutting his eyes and holding a hand out towards the fake warmth of the fire. "He thought they would never overturn him, that the workers wouldn't wise up. He was wrong, he underestimated the Bolsheviks. Underestimated Lenin."
"I didn't come here for a history lesson." Jimmy was becoming more and more irritated by Derby's drunken rambling.
"The proles, Hopkins! The proles," he burst. "All they need is a spark. One... little... spark..."
"I don't know what you're talking about, but it sounds to me like you've been listening to Gary again," Jimmy decided, and Derby shuddered.
"Ugh," he grunted, tightening his grip on the bottle. "That name... he... he..." Derby paused and took in a deep breath. "Do you know how he got that scar, Hopkins?"
"This again?" Jimmy snapped. "Sure I do, he-"
"It was us," Derby muttered, and Jimmy stopped himself.
"We did it to him, many years ago," Derby narrated. "Once we'd considered Smith a suitable candidate for Harrington House. He was almost initiated. Then... during the hazing... something went wrong... there was an accident."
"Look Derby, I heard from the-"
"And when he was bleeding, almost blinded, we just laughed as he lay there in agony," Derby continued like he was reciting the tale under possession. "And now he'll make sure we don't laugh any more..."
"Derby, whatever Gary said to you..."
"I don't want to talk about it!" he rushed.
"You just did."
"I don't want to talk about it now," he amended, and poured another shaky drink. "Where's your kingdom now, Hopkins? Your so-called peace? There's nothing, nothing to stop them rising up. We're in anarchy..." he murmured fearfully, "and in anarchy, the elite are the first to go."
"Okay, you know what? Forget this," Jimmy shot. "I don't need you guys to help me, I just need to find Gary."
"Gone? Gone where?"
"To rally them. To bring down revolution upon our heads."
"Right, right, okay," Jimmy muttered crossly. "Don't help me. Fine. not like I ever did anything for you before. Hey Bif!" he yelled, banging on the door. "Let me out!" A sound of metal sliding over metal hummed through the wall, and the panel opened. "I'm done here," Jimmy snapped, barging past Bif and heading for the door. He'd go to the gym. The jocks at least wouldn't be scared into hiding from imaginary enemies.
After putting the finishing touches on their Halloween costumes, Ted and his boys would be ready to go and wreak some good old fashioned terror. With Jimmy demanding that they stop causing meaningless damage and picking on the undeserving, Ted felt that for at least one night they could go back to the old ways. Jocks on top.
He perfected his zombie-footballer outfit in the changing room, and then headed up to the gym, only to find it full.
"What're you guys waiting for?" he questioned irately. "You're just milling around like a bunch'a girls."
"The doors are locked, Ted," someone answered bemusedly. "From the outside."
"Whaddya mean?" he retorted. "You're saying we're locked in?"
"I guess..." came an uninformed murmur.
"Why's it so dark?" Kirby questioned. "I can't see anything." Someone fumbled for the lights, but all that sounded was empty clicking.
"They've been cut."
"Like fat little piggies in a slaughterhouse," a morbid, teasing voice rang out.
"Who was that?" Ted snapped, turning and looking around; reverting straight to anger at a disruption in his night. "I'm gonna pound you!" Then there was a laugh. A long, maniacal laugh that sounded like a cross between a punch-and-judy cackle and a scream.
"Is that your solution to everything?" the disembodied voice replied, and the echoes in the hall made it impossible to work out where it was coming from. It sounded like it was coming from everywhere.
"Come and show yourself!" Bo shouted, and was answered with a giggle.
"I'll show you something... tell you what I'll do, I'll show you guys a trick," the voice answered playfully, and then the lights blasted on with blinding brightness. At the top of the seats, with his arms spread wide like a performer taking a bow, twiddling his fingers in some kind of deranged jazz-hands, stood Gary Smith. Probably. It was hard to tell underneath the plastered-on makeup; his eyes ugly and dark like holes in a skull, hair lank and green. Where the hell he got his hands on a purple suit was beyond understanding.
"Smith! We're gonna get you!" Damon bellowed, charging up the steps, but then Gary clapped his gloved hands together heavily, and the lights shut out again, leaving them blinded.
There was a scream and a thump, then another soft clap. The lights blasted on again, leaving the jocks blurry-eyed and squinting. Gary stood half-way up the steps, arms thrown out once more. Damon was nowhere to be seen.
"Where'd he go?" Ted exclaimed, looking around but seeing nothing, not a sign. Damon wasn't exactly small, either, but it was as if he'd vanished into thin air.
"Ta-dahhh!" Gary cheered, taking bows, his hair falling forward and flinging back. "I'd bring him back, but I haven't learned that part of the trick yet, sorry."
"What'd you do with him, punk?" Ted yelled.
"Now, now," he tutted. "If I told you then it wouldn't be magic any more."
"He's gone crazy, man," Kirby murmured from a few paces behind Ted. Anger rose up in his throat like bile.
"Doesn't matter if he's crazy, he'll get beat just the same!" Ted snarled, and then with a wave of his arm sent everyone running at Gary.
"Oh, oh, oh," he chuckled, and then everyone stopped like their shoes had been melded to the floor, as the light caught off a long, double-edged blade. Gary twirled the knife around his fingers like a plaything, and then started to laugh.
"Look at all of you!" he cackled, laughing again with the same unnerving ebbs, like waves drawn in by the tide. "Not so tough now, are ya? Big strong jocks are still made of flesh and blood." He grinned, teeth showing, and the violent red extensions up his cheeks made the effect even more unsettling.
"Easy, man," Ted said coolly, backing away.
"No, no, Ted, don't run," Gary scolded, hopping down the steps. "Running just makes me want to chase you."
"Whaddya want?" he blurted, and Gary's eyes lit up, wide and white within the dark black sockets.
"What do I want? Ohhh, now that is the question, isn't it?" he purred. "Let me tell you a story, meatheads. A story about how I ended up like this." He reached up to his forehead and stuck the point of his knife against the tip of his scar, not cutting into the skin but keeping there like he just might be insane enough to rip it open again. "Do you wanna know how I got this scar?" he murmured sinisterly, a tone that rose up like gas out of hell. "I wasn't always like this," he tangented, dropping the knife from his face, keeping it knotted in his hand like an extension of his bones.
"I used to like sports, once," he said slowly, chewing over the words like so many un-swallowed pills. "I wasn't bad, either. Maybe I coulda made the team, that pipsqueak certainly did," he added with a glance at Kirby.
"Shuddup, Kirby," Ted instructed over him.
"But this was a loooong time ago," Gary continued. "You probably don't remember. So maybe I didn't suck at football, maybe I would've played, but there was something wrong. Yes, something quite wrong with me – I didn't fit, wasn't right for the team. So that was a problem, wasn't it?" He touched a gloved finger to the end of the knife, then drew it back with a sudden jerk. "Something had to be done to put me in my place. I'm playing one day, and someone forgets to take their watch off – how unfortunate," he tittered. "I get tackled, and clumsy me, somehow I get caught in the face with it. One little wristwatch rips a gash down my face like my head was about to split open, made a terrible mess."
The jocks were all looking around at one another accusingly, each sure that someone else had been responsible. They'd roughed plenty of kids out of the team before – ones who wouldn't or couldn't hold up their reputation.
"Look, I'm sure it was an accident," Ted offered guiltily.
"Too bad, so sad," Gary sing-songed. "The time for apologies flew away, Teddy. But I'm not here to get even."
"Oh, no," he chuckled. "I'm here to show everyone else that it can be done. See, I'm just a nobody, nothin' special – though maybe a little crazy," he added, flashing a wild, demented grin over Ted's head. "Imagine it," he murmured hypnotically. "Every kid you bullied, every guy you shoved into a trash can, threw firecrackers at, laughed and called names. Imagine every student you ever wronged realising that your reign isn't infallible, that it doesn't take much to scare you shitless. They realise that if they all come for you, no matter how many protein shakes you drink you won't be able to hold them off. Someone's going to get through. Power in the mob," he elaborated tortuously, "and they're going to realise it."
"How?" Ted snapped.
"How? How?" Gary parodied in a low, droning voice. "Because I told them, that's how."
"I explained it, just like I'm explaining to you now," he said through a grin that looked like it could hurt. "Now, I'm not saying you should hide in here like rats," he glowered, "but if you do decide to go out... stay in groups. Probably of three or four."
"He's lying," someone murmured from the back, and Gary cast his eyes up.
"Oh good!" he cheered. "Original thought. Well done, boys! No, please do challenge me – I'll even bet on it. It's no fun if you listen to me and stay in here. What I want to see," he seethed, "is all of you go out there and get your comeuppance. In fact, I'm only telling you because I want to see the look on your faces when you realise I was right."
"Is he serious or not?" Bo said quietly, and Ted really, honestly couldn't tell.
"They wouldn't get away with it," Ted insisted.
"Oh? You think?" Gary challenged. "Who's gonna stop them? Prefects? No, they aren't here. Nor are your precious teachers. Who's gonna stop everyone you ever picked on thrashing you twice for every time you beat them?"
"Not even Jimmy will intervene for you," Gary remarked. "He'd probably say it was fair, after what you did to the kids at this school for so long." It was insane, but it made sense, and Ted was progressively more worried."
"Well! We can't stand here all day chewing the fat about whether I'm right," Gary exclaimed suddenly. "Let's go see for ourselves! Come along!" he jeered, bouncing down the steps and heading towards the door. Before he could reach it though, a fierce banging started up on it, and Gary leapt back with exaggerated movements, like he'd been electrified.
"Oh dear, better not use that exit," he remarked cheekily, and then wove through the jocks, stuck still like statues, and headed for the underpass. A few seconds later Ted turned to go after him, charging past a pile of football pads he didn't remember being there before, and into the pool. It was empty.
"Get the door!" he yelled to Bo, who ran up and slammed into the doors, but they didn't budge.
"Where's he gone?" Kirby yelled, and they swarmed around the room, but no one found a trace he'd even been there at all – they didn't even find Damon. "This is weird," he reported back to Ted fearfully.
"I don't like it," Bo added, and then the door he was leaning against shook with a ear-splitting bang.
"AHH!" several of them yelled at once, scattering like bugs.
"Guys!" Ted yelled. "Just calm down!"
"Hello?" came a shout through the door. "Who the fuck is in there?"
"Who is it?" Ted called back.
"The motherfucking tooth fairy," came the response, then a moment of confusing silence. "It's Jimmy."
"Oh, Jimmy!" Ted sighed. If they could persuade Jimmy to back them up, things might not go to hell. "C'mon in, you gotta-"
"I can't come in if you pansy-ass motherfuckers have the doors locked," Jimmy bit.
"We locked the doors? We didn't lock anything, they're bolted fro the outside."
"Uhh, no they ain't," Jimmy answered, rattling the door again. "Fine, whatever. Just get Damon to ram them open," he instructed.
"I heard you," Jimmy snapped. "I just wanted you to explain what the hell that's supposed to mean."
"Smith made him disappear!" Ted insisted, and there was a long silence.
"What the fuck are you talking about?" Jimmy pronounced eventually. "Gary made Damon disappear?"
"... Don't tell me that you think the whole school is out to get you as well," Jimmy suggested.
"Yes! Well, maybe," Ted replied urgently. "You have to back us up, Jimmy, if things take a turn for the worse-"
"I don't believe this," Jimmy muttered, leaning back on the doors. Gary was one step ahead of him wherever he went. "Where'd he go?" he asked with a new bout of determination.
"Don't say he disappeared. People don't disappear," Jimmy growled.
"Damon's probably knocked out somewhere and you're all too thick to find him!" Jimmy yelled, his patience wearing thin. "Gary got in somehow, so he got out again. I want to know how."
"He's gone mad, Jimmy," Kirby called through the door. "Totally wacko. He thinks he's the-"
"Okay, you know what," Jimmy interjected. "Whatever. You guys wanna stay locked in there like a bunch of scared girls, be my guest."
"We can't get out!" a voice of protest called up. "Really! There's something wrong with the doors."
"Then figure it out," Jimmy retorted unkindly. "I've got bigger fish to fry." He set off towards the football field, smashing a jack-o-lantern on the way out of spite. The observatory was still abandoned, but the door was open, which it hadn't last time Jimmy'd passed through. He poked his head through the door.
"Gary?" He called out crossly, hearing nothing but echo. "You there?" He heard a distant laugh, and flipped to look out along the pass. He'd hit up everyone except the nerds now, so perhaps that was the last place left for Gary too. Jimmy started to run, thinking he saw a figure ahead of him several times, but writing it off to his eyes playing tricks on him. He leapt over the wall into the library forecourt breathing hard, and stopped for a minute to catch his breath before he burst inside.
"Jimmy!" came a cry as soon as he paced inside. "Help us!" The nerds were all in medieval dress, clinging together like penguins behind the librarian's desk. On top of one of the benches, he saw him. Heavy, black boots, a crumpled purple suit, green shirt, and his face; painted like the Joker, white, black and red.
"Jimmy!" Gary echoed with a mocking whine. "So good of you to join us at last."
"You're finished, Gary," he muttered.
"Me? Finished?" he queried, and then laughed with the same shrill dementia as Jimmy remembered. "I'm just getting started. I was here to complete the set, but of course, the nerds already know everyone hates them," he narrated, casting a glance at the huddle behind the desk. He kicked a light off the desk and it shattered, eliciting a few wails from the group.
"Gary!" Jimmy bellowed.
"I don't have to tell them that as soon as the rules that protect them are gone, every thug and bully in the school is going to come after each and every one of the rat bastards," he carried on gleefully. "They can work it out, because they're so smart."
"We didn't mean it!" Earnest cried from the pack.
"Forgive us! Forgive us!" Melvin added, and Algie could just be heard crying.
"Didn't mean what?" Jimmy shot suspiciously, and Gary flashed him a delighted look.
"I was telling them a story, Jimmy," he purred. "A story about how I got this scar."
"Oh no you don't," Jimmy cut in. "I've heard about-"
"We're sorry!" the nerds shrieked again. "It was an accident! An accident!"
"Your accident had repercussions, nerdlings," Gary glowered. "One little lab experiment gone awry, and now you get what's coming to you. But you already knew that, didn't you?" he threatened, and then jumped backwards, landing on the floor behind the desk with a thump. The nerds made a frightened noise, and then before Jimmy could get to him Gary picked up a foot and kicked over the table he'd been on, right at Jimmy, and the chattering turned to screams.
"Oh hell!" Jimmy snarled, running for Gary and trying to scramble over the fallen table, as Gary shrieked with laughter and ran. He wove all the way around the library, then bounded up onto the desks and leapt across the room, bolting for the door with Jimmy hot on his trail. They burst outdoors, Gary moving faster than Jimmy remembered him being, and led him all the way to the gates. Jimmy caught up just before they could get past them, tackling Gary to the floor by the waist and rolling until he had his back shoved to the ground. He didn't stop to question or negotiate, just punched him across the jaw; Gary laughed.
"You never fail to disappoint, Jimmy," he snorted, his mouth filling with blood as Jimmy bust up his lip, which only added to the state of his face. "Beat first, ask questions later." Jimmy was about to carry on doing just that, when another giggle and breathy moan distracted him. Gary seemed taken by it too, and they looked in unison over at the gates. Two figures embracing silhouetted against one of the pillars, and if Jimmy wasn't much mistaken, he'd heard that moan before too.
"Well that ruined the moment," Gary remarked caustically, and glanced up at Jimmy with what appeared to be irritation, although it was hard to tell through the makeup.
It then seemed to occur to them both that although Jimmy had been very reasonably trying to beat the shit out of him, now he was straddled over Gary's stomach while two people made out nearby, which made it kinda weird instead.
"Ohmygawd! A stalker!" an aloof, high-pitched voice cried out.
"Pinky?" Jimmy queried, staying on top of Gary because he didn't want to let him get away again, but not being happy about it. Pinky was still dressed as a princess – though a different dress from last year – and as she turned to face them a shy figure tried to slip out of view. Problem was, Jimmy had seem him doing it earlier today. "Petey?" he accused, and the figure shuddered.
"Uh... hey guys," he mumbled, and Jimmy had to laugh when he saw the face Gary pulled.
"Petey? Femme-boy?" he exclaimed, and then with a sudden surge of force shoved Jimmy away from him and scrambled to his feet. "I... I..." he babbled for a moment, throwing in an indecent amount of drama. "Did you drug her? Did you drug yourself?"
"Shut up, Gary," Petey said with quiet resolution, and Jimmy happened to notice Pinky was still clinging to his hand.
"You're not even-" Gary trailed off, lost for words.
"What happened to Kirsty?" Jimmy asked, and Gary gave him an even more flabbergasted look.
"Kirsty? Don't tell me you were making out with her too?" Pinky cried, and Petey let go of her hand before it got ripped off.
"Uh, see... it was kinda like-" he started hopelessly, but then Pinky slapped him and stormed away. "Well thanks, Jimmy," he muttered resentfully.
"Hey, you play the field and you might get tackled," Jimmy retorted without guile, then remembered a second later that Gary was there, and what they'd been in the middle of. Just as he lunged for him, Gary sprung forwards, throwing his arms out at Petey and whirling the two of them around. Jimmy was about to get involved and separate the pair, but then he saw the blade, and heard Petey gasp.
"You know what, femme-boy, you disgust me, but you'll have to do," Gary slurred hatefully, pressing the flat of the blade against Petey's cheek. "Now stop squirming," he hissed, grabbing Petey's face with his other hand and holding it in place.
"Whoah, whoah, Gary," Jimmy started. "Easy."
"You know, Petey, it was a situation a little like this," Gary murmured with a distant, disturbed voice, pacing backwards until they were fully past the gates.
"Wh-what was?" Petey replied shakily.
"How I got my scar," he purred into Petey's ear, his mouth almost on it. Then his eyes bolted to Jimmy's face, black inside of black, almost demonic. "How I really got it."
"I heard so many stories tonight I don't believe a thing that comes out of your mouth any more," Jimmy growled, and Gary grinned – or bared his teeth more like, creasing the curls of red further up his face.
"See, Petey," he started with a low, husky drone, "my father... he likes a drink." Hands still clutched Petey's face tightly, the blade still pressed against his cheek, Gary held him tight and close. "The problem is, it makes him violent," he hissed, and slowly, gradually, drew the flat of the knife further up Petey's face, up to his cheekbone, close to the corner of his eye. "A bit like Jimmy here," he added, and Jimmy scowled, but didn't move. If something happened to Petey because of him, he'd never forgive himself.
"Just let him go," he said quietly, and Gary gave him a look of filth.
"I haven't finished the story," he replied, and then Petey gave a shiver, so Gary's fingers seized tight. "Don't fidget!" he snapped, and Petey made a choking sound. "Fidgeting is bad, Petey," he lectured, "because I'll tell you what happened. My father was drunk and violent one night, and me – little old me, worked up on fear and righteousness – told him to back off. And do you know what happened?" he queried, slipping the words past Petey like a syrup.
"Well he got angry. So he gets his knife from his drawer – just like this one. In fact, you know, I think it might be this one – and then he grabs me just like this, Petey, and puts the blade to my face. He wants to scare me. Teach me a lesson. Because that's what happens, Petey. The tough guys push around the weak ones. Isn't that right, Jimmy?" he added with a loathing glance.
"If you hurt him I swear to god you'll rot in Happy Volts until you're dead," Jimmy uttered, barely holding back the fury, restrained only by knowledge that Gary could hurt Petey faster than Jimmy could stop him.
"You see? He threatened me too," Gary soothed, like he was whispering a bedtime story to a loved one. "He said son, if you know what's good for you-" then silence fell like someone had put mute on him.
"What?" Petey queried.
"Hm?" Gary hummed brightly.
"If you know what's good for you, what?" Petey pressed urgently.
"Oh... I don't know what he said," Gary answered, delighted Petey had played for the bait. "Because do you know what I did, Petey? I struggled. I tried to get away. Dad hadn't really been meaning to hurt me, he just wanted to frighten me. Only I struggled, and his hand slipped. Silly me. Oh you won't believe how it hurt," he snarled through his teeth, pressing down as if to imply Petey might very soon.
"It ain't true, Petey," Jimmy told him. "He's been spinning this story different to everyone he meets."
"Would I lie to you? Petey, I wouldn't lie to you," he insisted, face pressed against the side of Petey's head, mouth almost touching his ear. "You're different. I promise."
"O-okay Gary, I believe you," Petey breathed, and Gary grinned.
"Gooood," he rewarded with a low, intense murmur. "So, do you want to know what he said?"
"What? I mean, who?" Petey replied dutifully.
"My father. When he cut me."
"He said it was my fault. That I shouldn't have struggled." His hands readjusted, but Petey didn't move so much as a hair.
"Gary, just let go of him," Jimmy said. "Petey's not done a thing to you."
"You're right, Jimmy," Gary conceded. "Poor femme-boy hasn't done a thing to deserve this, has he? Aren't you a hero, standing up for the little damsel in distress. Not quite a white knight, though," he commented. "More like a Dark Knight."
"Sure, you're the Joker an' I'm Batman," Jimmy said wryly, his mouth dry. "So let go of him and we'll fight it out."
"It doesn't work that way, Jimmyboy," Gary replied vindictively. "If I do that then you win. I don't want you to win. Only..." he trailed off, and his eyes darted around, like he was seeing something in the air they didn't, "only I don't think I can win, can I? No matter what I do, you're going to come after me."
"Damn right," Jimmy glowered. "Every time."
"Aren't we the destined ones," Gary parodied. "Doomed to battle until one of us is dead."
"You know you aren't really the Joker, right?" Jimmy asked him, and Gary laughed wildly.
"Ohohoh!" he chortled, keeping his knife close to Petey's face. "If only, friend. If only. I might have a little more fun around here otherwise. No, you all keep me caged up, drug me like an animal to keep me in line, watch me like a murderer. Can you imagine what hell it is? Like being crippled... or maimed," he murmured in Petey's ear suggestively, and Jimmy took a step forward out of instinct. "Ah ah ah," he scolded. "Back you go, Jimmy. No one interrupts now. My mind's made up."
"Gary, don't do this," Petey pleaded. "Please."
"You don't know what I'm going to do," he answered smarmily.
"It doesn't matter," he replied. "Just... don't."
"Hmm, what a persuasive argument you make," he accoladed, and then blinked his eyes heavily a few times. "Wait, are you wearing glitter, femme-boy?" he said with disgust.
"He's a vampire, apparently," Jimmy supplied. Gary looked puzzled for a minute, and then turned back to the topic at hand.
"Right, well... it was fun while it lasted, but you know, this just isn't working out for me," Gary continued apathetically. "I can't take any more of it. One last shout, I thought..."
"Before what," Petey said quietly, but garnered no response. "Before what, Gary?" he asked again, a worry in his tone that didn't come from self-presevation. He didn't panic because he felt Gary relax before Jimmy saw him move, so Petey had expected to be pushed away, though he still stumbled forwards.
"Before I take care of it, femme-boy," Gary answered him, pacing backward into the road. Jimmy caught Petey, grabbing at his face like a fussing parent.
"I'm fine," Petey rushed. "Stop him, Jimmy."
"Stop him what?" Jimmy started, and then saw the look in Gary's eye. It was like drinking mercury, sliding all the way down his throat and sitting poisonously in the pit of his stomach.
"No sense fighting until death do us part, Jimmy, I couldn't tolerate you that long," Gary cried out, throwing his arms wide. "No, I think I'll call the result now," he settled, and as Jimmy sprinted at him, he whipped in an arm and drove the tip of the knife right between his ribs. Petey screamed, and then as Jimmy grabbed hold of Gary, he froze. He was standing there, straight as a poker, a knife in his chest and smiling like an idiot, as if he were playing the world's funniest joke and only he knew about it.
"Wait a minute," Jimmy muttered, and heard Petey retching behind him. He took hold of Gary's wrist and pulled it back. Out slid the blade.
Of the knife's handle.
It was a fucking joke.
Gary didn't just start to laugh, it was like his body might rip apart from all the opposing forces at work in it. He dropped the prop and grabbed his stomach, doubling over and gasping desperately for breath as he screamed with laughter, letting it tear from him as if the sound had been building up in his chest for hours, days, even. He laughed so hard he almost choked. He eventually managed to straighten up a little, tears running from his eyes, streaking dirty trails of black like oil-spills down his cheeks, and then Jimmy's fist connected with his face with force he'd never felt before.
He went flying, falling right onto his back as Jimmy punched him with a sledgehammer of a whack.
"You fucking BASTARD!" he bellowed, going straight after Gary and grabbing him by the collar of his shirt, hauling him back up and punching him again.
"Hey, hey, Jimmy," Petey rushed, staggering over – still not sure if he wanted to laugh, cry or throw up – and tried to hold back his arm. "Don't kill him now."
"He fucking deserves it," Jimmy snarled, and then turned his irritation on Petey for a moment. "You didn't realise it was a fake?"
"I'm sorry!" Petey squeaked. "It felt real. It was dark, I was scared."
"Oh, your faces," Gary moaned, almost orgasmically. "Your faces."
"Shut the fuck up," Jimmy growled, tensing his fist, but seeing a look from Petey that suggested he'd have to go through him to hit Gary again.
"It's touching to know that you care, really, it is," Gary jeered. "Makes everything I do to ruin your lives worthwhile."
"I shoulda known," Jimmy muttered. Gary was too much of an egomaniac to really be suicidal. "I shoulda fucking known."
"Yes, but you're using hindsight and forgetting the fact that you're thick as a fucking plank," Gary derided, and Jimmy raised his arm again, only to get it caught by Petey.
"Seriously, Jimmy," he urged.
"Petey, you haven't seen what he's done around this place," Jimmy protested, ripping himself out of Petey's restraint but holding back from hitting Gary.
"Oh, yes, too busy doing unspeakable things to girls, you perv," Gary remarked with revulsion. "Would you like the tour, femme-boy? To celebrate coming out as a lesbian once and for all?"
"Shut up, Gary," Petey murmured.
"I thought you cared about me a moment ago," he retorted viciously. "Is that not the case? Oh poor, confused little Petey. Don't know whether you like me or hate me or-"
"There's something wrong with you, Gary," he muttered resentfully. "Normal people don't do this."
"Who wants to be normal?" he cried out. "I'd take the fucking knife over it. Normal, eugh," he spat the word like poison from his mouth, pushing himself up on his hands and shuddering like the very mention of it had given him a shiver. "Is that a no on the tour then?"
"You've gotta be kidding," Petey dismissed.
"Kidding? No, no no no no," he chattered. "You haven't seen the best part yet."
"The best part? This wasn't the best part?" Jimmy said disbelievingly, and Gary gave him a jackal of a look; hungry and ready for blood.
"Wouldn't you like to know?" he tempted darkly.
"I don't know, and I don't wanna know," Petey insisted. "Whatever you've got going, keep it to yourself, Gary, you... you jerk!" he concluded crossly, and then turned and walked away. It'd taken a while, but his anger had finally caught up with him. Being forced to confront the fact that he did care whether Gary lived or died by his faking the transition was quite a shock; not to mention the understandable fury that Gary had manipulated both of them like that just to prove that they cared.
"Ooh, someone's blueballing," Gary taunted after him, and Petey just held up a hand and flipped him off. "My, sassy little thing," he added, laughing again with mere recollection of what he'd accomplished.
"So, what's the best part?" Jimmy demanded, and Gary looked up with him, his expression caught somewhere between a scowl and grin.
"Why should I tell you?" he threw back. "All you'll do is stop me."
"Yeah, but doesn't the bad guy always tell the hero his plans?" Jimmy pointed out.
"We're not actually in a comic book, Jimmy," he snarked. "You hang around with the nerds too much."
"Oh yeah? Well if you don't show me, no one else is gonna see," Jimmy argued, and deep down, he knew Gary was too much of a showoff to resist. If it was a choice between presenting his masterpiece, or throwing it away and fighting Jimmy all the way back to the dorms – where he'd would waste time and effort trying to contain Gary – it was a no-brainer.
"Fine," he muttered, getting to his feet, pushing green hair back, then patting down his rumpled suit. "Walk with me, James."
They strolled up towards the main building side by side in an inhospitable, ugly silence.
"So, why'd you do it this time?" Jimmy asked eventually.
"Why do I do anything, moron?" he retorted. "To see if I can."
"So you scared the crap out of all the cliques just for shits and giggles," Jimmy paraphrased.
"Ohhh, Jimmy. I'm not done yet," he lectured. "Last time, I made them think that they could rule the school. That was a good one," he reminisced, "but I'd never repeat myself."
"So you scared'em instead? Made them think everyone else was out to get them?"
"Spot on, Jimmy," Gary commended sarcastically. "Reminded them how fragile their little system is. The only thing that holds us together is a belief that there's a system in place," he elaborated. "It isn't real, it has no physical presence. Prefects and teachers reinforce the rules, but if everyone had to be punished, do you think it'd work?"
"I guess not," Jimmy answered cautiously.
"Of course not!" he burst. "They make examples out of people like you and me, prosecute for small crimes, make it seem like the system is there, just to make everyone believe in it."
"So what're you saying?" Jimmy challenged. "That it's all in our heads?"
"Exactly! My god, it was almost as if you had a real thought there for a minute, Jimmy."
"Shut up," he snapped back.
"Not before I finish," Gary insisted. "It is in our heads, all of it, the whole pathetic machine. And as long as everyone believes in it, it works. As long as we all think the same thing, it functions."
"Which is where you come in," Jimmy accused, and Gary flashed him a devilish look.
"Exactly," he commended. "I don't do anything, Jimmy. Never have. I just take that little belief of theirs and warp it. They do the rest for me. Well, most of the time," he amended, beckoning Jimmy further. Out of curiosity, as well as preferring to have his eye on Gary than let him run loose, Jimmy followed.
"Sometimes," he continued anew, as he led the way down to Harrington House, which was boarded up like a fort. "Sometimes they need a little push." He reached into his pocket and drew out a stone, small and smooth – Jimmy just looked at it for a second, then Gary turned and hurled it up at Harrington House. It tapped against the window and bounced off unimpressively, rattling to the ground again not too far from them.
"What was that meant to be?" said Jimmy sarcastically, but then he heard a noise from within. A panicked jabbering, that grew louder and louder, until individual yells and screams could be heard. "Oh you're kidding," Jimmy groaned, and Gary grinned, which was an eerie sight at the best of times.
"Sit back and watch it implode, Jimmy," he announced proudly, crossing his arms, bunching up the front of the suit. "Introduce a little anarchy into the system, and the card house collapses."
"Should I do something about that?" Jimmy asked himself as much as he asked Gary, and he quirked his head to one side, watching Jimmy with an interested expression.
"I don't know, should you?" he taunted. "They're all too scared to go out and start trouble. That's the beauty of this one." Jimmy had to admit it was a tidy job; every clique was convinced that all the others were out to get them, and as a result the school was a ghost town. Even the non-clique students seemed to have spooked, or at least kept their distance. Gary hadn't even done anything to them, but they were a silent, sensitive presence. They detected danger in the air and knew how to disappear.
"I can't believe it," Jimmy muttered. "Every last one of'em." The power of the herd was terrifying sometimes.
"Thank you, Jimmy," he purred. "It does make me feel good to see my work admired."
"You're still insane," Jimmy replied stubbornly.
"Yes, but we knew that already, didn't we?" he remarked smoothly. "So the thing is, Jimmy," he started. "Is that now there's a whole abandoned school, and no one to mess with it. Not to mention," he added dirtily, "no witnesses."
"You've got something in mind," Jimmy stated, because it didn't need to be a question.
"Of course I have." His voice was velvet, the ultimate silver-tongue.
"I thought you were coming after me tonight," Jimmy accused.
"Maybe I am. Maybe this is just working up to it," Gary answered vaguely. "There's only one way to find out."
"Don't you want me gone?"
"Gone?" he laughed, rich and loud. "Why would I want that? If you were gone, Jimmy, I'd have to start again from the bottom."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I'm not explaining everything for you," he condescended, "we'll be here forever. I'm doing you a favour, and making this mind-bogglingly simple, Jimmy. Are you in, or are you out?"
Jimmy considered it carefully, which was more than he considered most things. He didn't have a choice with Gary – if he acted without thinking he'd get burned. On one hand, he'd assumed Gary hated his guts, but he appeared to be offering a truce – or temporary cooperation, at least. That was good. On the other hand, it was entirely likely Gary was just setting him up. However, Jimmy was never one to walk away from a risk.
"Fine," he answered shortly. "What've you got in mind?" Gary had the ability to smile at people in a way that convinced them no one else had ever brought such approval out of him, and even if Jimmy recognised it for what he was, he couldn't deny being suckered in for a moment.
"This way," he coaxed cryptically, leading Jimmy to the door into the basement.
"Oh no, you're not getting me like that again," Jimmy insisted the moment he saw Gary start down the steps.
"Relax," he hissed, lips twisting back like a snarling animal. "I'm just picking up a bag." He disappeared through the door and came out a moment later with a heavy tool bag, which he'd obviously prepared in advance.
"What's in there?"
"Behave and I might show you," Gary sneered, striding onward and waving Jimmy along behind him. He paced up to the front door of the main building, then dumped the bag. Tugging down the zip, he picked up a strange gun-like contraption and handed it to Jimmy.
"What the fuck's this?" he asked, holding it up and squeezing the trigger. It was loaded with a long white tube, and a thick, pasty gunk came out of the nozzle.
"It's a caulking gun, moron," he scathed. "Considering you'll be lucky to work on a building site, I'd get used to seeing things like it."
"D'you want my help or not?" Jimmy snapped, and Gary huffed, pulling out a matching gun and pumped the trigger a few times.
"Shut up and seal the door," he instructed, reaching up to point the tip of the gun at the top edge of the double doors and then pulling the trigger. Jimmy copied on the other door, making sure that he jammed the end right into the cracks so whatever the hell was in the cartridges got all the way into the joints.
"How long does this shit take to dry?" Jimmy asked as he did the bottom of the door, and then the lock for good measure.
"By morning it'll be set," Gary answered, talking for once without flair or drama – as if he were actually serious and concentrating. He glanced over Jimmy's work and found it satisfactory. "Come on, we've got lots more doors," he urged, grabbing the bag again and setting off. They made quick work of all the doors on the main building, and then Gary shot him a grin and headed for the library.
"Aren't the nerds still in there?" Jimmy asked as Gary strode up.
"That's why you should be quiet," he hushed, treading lightly and making a silencing gesture. He got out a large tube of quick-dry glue and handed it to Jimmy, who stood still for about ten seconds before deciding that a prank was a prank, and he'd rather help Gary play some relatively harmless ones than let him get up to something nasty on his own. It was also pretty funny.
He glued the door, then saw Gary holding up a roll of what Jimmy could only guess was wallpaper, but with a brick-wall design on it. Beckoning his aid with a finger, Jimmy helped Gary stick the paper all the way along the outside of the doorframe, lining the sheets up perfectly.
"Is this what you did to the gym?" Jimmy asked when they were safely away, but Gary strode on without revealing anything. "Fine," Jimmy muttered, "don't tell me."
"Why would I tell you anything beyond what you need to know?" he spat with a fierce hatred, whirling around to square off with him.
"Cool it," Jimmy snapped back, and Gary looked like he was very much considering swinging the bag as hard as he could at Jimmy's head.
"Come on," he hissed dismissively, "we still have Harrington House and the auto-shop." Jimmy chose not to argue and just went after him; not fighting with Gary was a hell of a lot easier than fighting with him, so if Jimmy could find a way to maintain them not fighting – and better yet had some kind of assurance that Gary wasn't out to destroy him the moment he let his guard down, he'd sleep a lot easier at night. Until tonight, he hadn't spoken a word to Jimmy since their big confrontation, which Jimmy had taken as a bad sign, but perhaps he'd just needed time to cool off. Jimmy hoped that was the case, but didn't get his aspirations up all the same.
Gary had a solution to seal up almost every door in on campus, right down to jamming the padlocks on the garage doors in the auto-shop. It was a neat job, and if Jimmy hadn't resolved not to give Gary any compliments, because he didn't deserve them or a more inflated ego, he would've said something to that effect. It was more elegant than getting Mr. Burton to jump in dog shit, and with the state of the student mind, everyone would accuse everyone else, leaving them in the clear. School tomorrow would be entertaining, at least.
"Hey, where're you going?" Jimmy questioned as Gary made a beeline for the dorms.
"Girls' dorm, idiot. We're not finished yet."
"Oh come on, that's too much," Jimmy replied. "Don't pick on the girls, man."
"Don't be a chauvinist, Jimmy. The girls at this school are tougher than you are." Maybe he had a point, Jimmy considered. They were a mean lot when they wanted to be, and if you ever saw them cat-fight you'd know they were no delicate flowers. "They can handle a little Hallow's eve prank." Gary was already standing on top of the bank that led through to the girls' dorm, and held a hand down to Jimmy.
At first he just looked at it, considering the gesture; then he slapped his own hand into Gary's and held him by the wrist, letting Gary boost him up but fully expecting to be let go of half way through – playing a childish, stupid joke, just because he could. Gary didn't though, and if anything that was more unsettling. Gary being nice when he ought to be nasty was worrying, and he probably knew it. It was probably part of the game.
Just trying to think through all the bluffs and double-bluffs was giving Jimmy a headache, so he was grateful that this was the last thing left they could seal up, because his bed and a cold press over his eyes was incredibly appealing right now.
"Oh not again," Gary said with disgust as they both saw to figures clutched together against the side wall in a passionate embrace.
"Wait a minute, isn't that Mandy?" Jimmy thought out loud, and at the mention of her name the girl span around; she was dressed as some kind of sexy witch, and looking very sheepish against the wall was – of course – Petey. "Again, Petey?" Jimmy yelled, while Gary's mouth just hung open. "Seriously, this is getting ridiculous."
"I can explain," Petey rushed, and then turned to Mandy. "Uhh, see you later," he said bashfully, and without warning Mandy threw her arms around his neck and kissed him one last time.
"Eugh," Gary groaned, giving an exaggerated shudder.
"Bye, Edward!" Mandy said dotingly, and then slipped back through the side door.
"Did... did she just call you Edward?" Jimmy posed.
"Um, kinda," Petey answered. "All the girls keep doing it... they just... really like sparkly vampires."
"My mind is blown," Jimmy claimed, putting a hand to his forehead. What had taken him weeks of sweet-talking and outrageous favours had been achieved by Petey with a sprinkling of glitter. Emasculated wasn't even the word for it.
"Well, femme-boy," Gary murmured viscerally, dropping off the ledge and advancing on Petey threateningly. "Do you know what happens to dirty little boys who can't keep it in their pants?"
"Uh, Jimmy, Jimmy," Petey called out with rising alarm.
"No, Jimmy's a shameless nymphomaniac, there's a difference," Gary lectured. "He's not going to help you, you're on his turf." But before he could take another step, he was held back by the scruff of his jacket.
"Turns out he is gonna help you," Jimmy remarked coolly. "Because he doesn't think of the girls as turf, an' who they wanna make out with is their business."
"Let go of me!" Gary snarled, thrashing around and trying to get out of Jimmy's grip. Jimmy just held him face-first against the wall and let him flail for a while.
"I'm gonna get to bed, it's past curfew," Petey said uncomfortably, getting away from Gary as fast as he could without outright running. When Gary wanted to be nasty, he'd never find a better victim than Petey, and they all knew it.
"Okay, Gary," Jimmy announced as Petey slipped out of view. "Settle down."
"Let go of me!" he snarled again, and Jimmy released him this time. He picked himself up off the wall, scraped back his hair and straightened out his jacket again; by now half the makeup was rubbed off his face, but if anything it just made him look even more demented. "C'mon, let's finish this," he said lowly, grabbing one of the caulking guns from his back and making quick work of the side-door. Jimmy got his own and then went to the front, giving it a sealant and wallpaper treatment before calling it a night.
"Are you happy now?" Jimmy questioned, and Gary glowered at him.
"Of course not," he retorted. "When am I ever happy, moron?"
"Sounds like something you should talk to your therapist about insteada me," he snapped. "Come on, it's getting late." He turned to head across to their dorm, but the moment he had his back turned Gary spoke.
"Hey, Jimmy," he said with a soft, seductive tone. "Do you want to know?"
"How I actually got my scar."
"No I don't," Jimmy said with blunt force.
"Exactly," he responded velvetly. "You don't care, you don't want to know. That's why I'll tell you the truth."
"Anything you say that starts with 'this is the truth' is just a bigger lie than everything else," Jimmy accused, stopping and turning back around to face him. He was perched on the bottom step of the stairway, knees up by his side, face resting on a closed fist.
"Is it? I tell you so many lies, how would you know if I slipped in the truth?" he put to Jimmy. "I could tell you the honest-to-god truth and you wouldn't believe it. How great would that be?"
"Oh, it'd be a wild fucking time," Jimmy said caustically. "Get up, let's go."
"It was a snowball fight," he said plainly. "Someone threw a one that wasn't all snow, if you get my drift. A nice sharp rock – got me all the way down here," he narrated, trailing a fingertip delicately down the line that he seemed to care about a whole lot more than Jimmy did.
"Well that sucks, my condolences to you," Jimmy retorted without any slight pretence of sympathy.
"No need, you should've seen the state I left him in," he answered with another grin, flashing his teeth through smeared, ugly makeup. "So, what do you think?"
"About what?" Jimmy was getting real fed up of Gary's questions and games, but at the same time he couldn't quite walk away.
"Do you think that's the truth?"
"I don't think you understand," Jimmy explained cruelly, "I don't give a fuck, Gary. I really don't. I wouldn't be surprised if you did it yourself just so you could mess with people."
"What do you think I am, some kind of psycho?" Gary shot with a well-crafted play of indignation.
"Yeah, that's exactly what I think you are," Jimmy confirmed, and then held out his hand to Gary. "Now get up, and let's go." Gary looked at his hand in much the same way Jimmy had looked at his, because it was no meaningless gesture. It certainly didn't say they were going to be friends, and it didn't even say they would stop being enemies.
What it did say, though, was that if Gary helped him, he'd help Gary back. That they could live without the need for total war – that cooperation was a possibility, however unlikely and small. So when Gary took it and let Jimmy tug him up to his feet, it was relief he felt more than anything. Not that he would admit it.
"G'nite, Gary," Jimmy offered as they made it to the dorm.
"Rot in hell, Hopkins," he snapped back. "We're not friends."
"Yeah, I'll see you in the morning too," Jimmy replied smugly, and Gary's infuriated scowl was his last pleasure before he shut his door and collapsed into bed.
When he woke up in the morning, though, he discovered that his door had been caulked shut overnight. Fucking Gary, he thought to himself as he climbed out the window, he should've seen it coming.