Written for bandom365
Gerard and Mikey centric.
Word count: 2957
Thanks go to mkstrnanny and sperrywink who checked this over and gave great comments. I've changed things since then, so any mistakes are mine and mine alone.
A winter afternoon and the setting sun is creating shadows that stretch across the sidewalk, spindle thin, creeping like jet black fingers against the ground. Mikey’s book is open on the floor, and there are highlighters piled next to it, their tops removed and scattered around. He nibbles at his nails, streaked in pink and yellow and green, teeth nipping against ragged skin as he waits.
Hand pressed against the window, Mikey looks along the street, at his watch, bends and picks up his book. He finds his page, but the words make no sense, meaning slipping out of his grasp. He gives up, snapping his book shut, setting it to one side.
He can hear the sound of the radio from the kitchen. The smell of ground beef as his mom cooks dinner, and Mikey should be kicking his heels against the sofa as he watches TV. Instead he carefully caps all his pens, stretching out time.
He’s putting away the last pen, shoving his book in his bag when Gerard appears. He’s following the wavering pattern of shadows that line the street, tracing them with his feet. Mikey watches him walk. The way Gerard’s hair falls into his eyes, the way he concentrates, eyes narrowed and smile small as he looks down. Mikey looks down too, but all he can see is the sidewalk, blank and grey, and he blinks when Gerard jumps from the last shadow across to the front door. He opens it, steps inside and says, “hi.”
“Hi,” Mikey says, and reaches out, steadying Gerard when he sways.
Gerard tilts his head to one side. “You’ve done your nails.” He reaches out and wraps his hand around Mikey’s forearm, then pulls until Mikey holds out his hand, his fingers splayed. “It’s missing something,” Gerard says, and he’s digging in his bag, finally pulling out a Sharpie. Pulling off the cap with his teeth, he steadies Mikey’s hand with his own, colouring with careful strokes until Mikey’s middle finger nail is black.
“Much better.” Gerard smiles, squeezing Mikey’s hand, then he lets go and hurries away, the cap still held between his teeth.
Mikey watches him go, then looks down, bottom lip nipped between his teeth as he remembers the feel of Gerard’s hand against his own.
Mikey flexes his hands, wincing a little at the dull ache. He’s been practicing almost constantly and his hands bear the evidence, hours spent curling his fingers into the correct positions on the bass, resulting in brand new calluses and reddened skin.
He thinks he’s improving, but he wants to do better. He has to do better because he’s dropped everything for this, but more importantly, the others – Gerard – could pull ahead, and Mikey can’t be left behind.
Gerard’s smiling as he enters the room, energy a tangible thing as he gathers his belongings, his bag, a bottle of water from the fridge. He’s a whirling ball of movement, and Mikey’s the eye of the storm, standing still, his hip pressed against the kitchen table.
“We need to get going.” Gerard nods slightly, his eyes shining as he grabs an apple out of the bowl. He grips it in his hand, nails pressing into the green skin and Mikey can see the tension hidden under the false façade.
It’s a tension that’s seen, recorded, ignored because this brittle cheer is better than the days when Gerard gives in, hiding away from the world. Those days are the worst. When Mikey feels like drowning himself, but still remains as Gerard’s support.
A car horn sounds, and Gerard hurries to the window, pulling aside the curtains to look outside. It has to be Matt, and Mikey tries not to be jealous when Gerard waves and smiles wide, before turning and bringing the apple to his mouth, biting hard. Mikey watches, transfixed as juice spills, trickling over Gerard’s lip and onto his chin.
“You want?” Gerard asks, and holds out the apple, the exposed flesh glistening.
Mikey takes it, automatically fitting his nails into the grooves left behind. He takes a bite, chewing as Gerard looks back, and says, “come on.”
Mikey staggers as he tilts back his head, draining the last of his beer. He’s masking the nerves that sour his stomach and cause his fingers to tremble when they’re not pushed against his thigh or wrapped around a glass.
Eyes half-closed, Mikey takes a step forward, and his foot keeps going, down down down, and it feels like he’s walking on a floor that rocks beneath his feet. Nausea rears, and he gulps, studiously not looking at the spinning walls and misbehaving floor.
“We are going to be great,” Gerard says suddenly, the alcohol giving him confidence at last. Mikey grabs onto that confidence, trying to make it his own. It works; mostly. When he’s focussed on Gerard, it’s easier to forget they’re about to perform, that they’re putting themselves out there, the band they believe in so totally exposed and on display.
“We should go,” Gerard says, and his glass clinks against the other empties as he places it on the table. He takes a step forward then, cheeks flushed, his eyes wide and glazed, and Mikey can see himself reflected in Gerard’s gaze. His own glasses and shadowed cheekbones and he stares back at himself until Gerard suddenly reaches out and pulls him close.
Mikey eases into the embrace, tucks his chin against the crook of Gerard’s neck, sweat and vodka and the taint of fear, so obviously Gerard, and Mikey closes his eyes and breathes.
“We’re going to be fantastic.” Voice soft, Gerard rests his hand against the small of Mikey’s back. “We’re going to make a difference.”
The words tickle past Mikey’s ear, making him shiver, his heart thumping even faster, then Gerard is pulling back and his hands are on Mikey’s shoulders, grip painfully tight.
“Let’s do this.” Gerard smiles and leans in, pressing a kiss against Mikey’s cheek, hot and wet and over within seconds.
Gerard turns then, stumbling toward the door leaving Mikey standing still, his fingers resting against his cheek.
It’s hot. The heavy heat that presses against his skin and makes him sweat. Mikey’s got his forehead pressed against the window and his nose bumps against the glass as the bus keeps going to God knows where. He doesn’t even know anymore, excitement leeched away by hours of travel on a highway that just keeps on going.
Behind him he hears someone snore, and when he looks around, leaving a smear of sweat against the grimy glass, he sees Frank has arranged himself along the seats, his head on Matt’s lap and his feet pressed against the window. Mikey’s envious, sleep is eluding him and Ray’s holding onto the only magazine they thought to bring.
“Look, it’s Captain Wonderbone and his able assistant Madame X.” Gerard says suddenly. He slides along the seats and crowds into Mikey’s space, pressing them together even closer as he leans in and points at the car that’s travelling in the next lane. “They live in a two story den of deviousness and have a rocket car in the garage.”
Mikey remembers this childhood game and he willingly plays along, mimicking the way Gerard sees the ordinary and makes it more. “She can shoot fire from her fingers, and he can jump buildings with one leap.”
“Yeah,” Gerard says, smiling wide and his eyes are shining as Captain Wonderbone drinks from a silver travel mug. “That’s a special potion that keeps his superpowers alive. If he doesn’t take it he’ll shrivel up and die, nothing but ash and bones.”
“Madame X won’t let him die though, she’s been in love with Captain Wonderbone for years and even though he doesn’t notice, she’ll still infuse him with her fire. She saves his life.”
Gerard shifts, his thigh pressing hard against Mikey’s, his arm resting along the back of the seat, and their faces are inches apart as he nods. “She’d die bringing him back, but he wouldn’t let her. He’d use his rod of power.”
“Rod of power?” Mikey laughs and Gerard is grinning too, his mouth stretched wide. “Do I even want to know?”
“Everyone wants to know about the rod of power,” Gerard says, and he turns his head so his mouth is close to Mikey’s ear, his words stage whisper soft. “It’s a special thing.”
“I’m sure it is,” Mikey agrees, tone serious despite the heat that burns through his body, which is only enhanced when Gerard giggles and rests his head so it’s against Mikey’s own.
“In the truck, look, it’s Magenta Sparklepoof!”
Gerard points, and Mikey looks, the ordinary looking driver morphing into something different in front of his eyes.
Mikey eases into the bathroom, stepping carefully over Gerard’s bare feet, dirty soles and bony white ankles, and reaches for a plastic cup. He wipes the inside with the dry edge of his t-shirt before filling it with cool water and sits on the edge of the tub, the plastic shower curtain clammy against his arm as he waits. It takes a while for Gerard to stop retching and Mikey counts the tiles on the floor, looks at the wallpaper that peels from one corner, the curling blue strips exposing the damp plaster beneath. Finally Gerard stills, cheek against the toilet seat, his hair stuck in limp tendrils against his face. Mikey reaches out, hands over the cup and flushes, his fingers brushing across Gerard’s face.
“Thanks,” Gerard says, and his hand shakes as he takes the water and slumps back against the wall. He’s curled up small, clothes stained and face pale, stripped back and raw. Mikey appreciates the honesty even as a part of him wishes Gerard would perform for him too. Show him the man that can cope with the world, and not this broken shell.
Despite knowing how hypercritical it is, it makes Mikey’s want to grab hold of Gerard and say stop. Tell him to slow down, ease off, do anything except follow the path he’s walking now. Mikey doesn’t; because how can he say anything when he was just as bad? Worse even. Still, he’s afraid.
“Have the others gone?” Gerard sips at the water and looks up, exhausted and spent.
Mikey twists the plastic curtain between his fingers, feeling the slick remains of old soap and steam. “Not yet, but Brian said soon.”
Gerard nods and takes another drink, then sighs as he rubs at his eyes. “My bag’s on the bed, can you get me a shirt?” He pulls at his own t-shirt, stained and soaked through and Mikey looks past Gerard’s face, focuses on the wall.
“Sure,” Mikey says softly, pushing past quick silver thoughts of maybe and is this the time to say no? He lets the door swing shut and kneels on the floor, bag in front of him as he rummages through a tangle of dirty underwear and clothes. When he finds a shirt, he brings it to his nose, sniffs to check wearabilty, drawing out time until the sounds from the bathroom end. When they do he pushes himself to his feet, the shirt scrunched in his hand.
When he walks back in the bathroom, Gerard is hunched over the sink, head bowed as he splashes water on his face. The plastic cup is on the shelf under the mirror, nestled against the wrapped bars of cheap motel soap. There’s some kind of amber liquid in the bottom and Mikey knows if he looks around he’ll see a hastily hidden bottle. He doesn’t look, just leans against the wall, hip pushed forward as Gerard abruptly pulls his t-shirt over his head.
His back is lean muscle, the bumps of his spine prominent as he bends forward, shoulder blades shifting under pale skin. Mikey swallows and lowers his eyes, his heart galloping as he pushes himself up, his hands itching with the urge to touch.
“I’ll tell them you’re coming.” Mikey glances at Gerard, and finds he’s looking right back.
Gerard half smiles, a valiant try. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Mikey says, and doesn’t ask what for.
Mikey runs off stage, the roar of the crowd ringing in his ears. They’re shouting for more, but the show’s done now, the last song sung, and he smiles as he hands over his bass and makes his way backstage. It’s quieter there, the crowd noise muffled and he runs his hand over his forehead and then wipes his damp palm against his thighs.
“Mikey.” Pete’s standing in the wings, and he’s smiling, wide and genuine. He steps forward then, pulling Mikey into a quick one armed hug, body held away from Mikey’s sodden clothes. “You were great. You all were.”
Bob nods a reply and Frank acknowledges the compliment with a mock punch to Pete’s arm in combination with a killer smile. Ray doesn’t do anything at all, just keeps shaking his head, droplets flying outwards, landing on those standing nearby.
“I thought we could go practice chords,” Pete says, and his foot is turned on its side, scuffled against the ground, his attention totally on Mikey as he waits for a reply.
“Chords, right.” Bob snorts and points his drum sticks at Pete. “Is that what the cool kids are calling it these days?”
Pete beams, the smile lighting up his face as he bumps his elbow against Mikey’s shoulder. “Chords, hot nasty sex, it’s all the same.”
Gerard coughs and holds up his hand, “Hello, big brother here.”
“Like he doesn’t tell you everything anyway.” Ray says, looking up through the tangled froth of his hair.
“Well yeah, but it’s different when Pete says it. It sounds unclean then.”
Bob raises an eyebrow. “Unlike when we have to sit and listen to you two discuss Mikey’s sex life over the breakfast table.”
“Well, yeah,” Gerard says, as if the difference is a given.
“Erm, we’re going,” Mikey says, about to walk away, because Pete’s wrapped close, his head on Mikey’s shoulder and he smells clean and fresh and it’s been hours since they were last alone.
They take a step away, but Gerard reaches out, grabbing for Mikey’s hand.
“Hold on.” He looks around significantly and the others take the hint and leave, even Pete after a last questioning look, but Mikey just shrugs his shoulders, because he hasn’t got a clue what Gerard wants at all.
“Does he make you happy?”
Mikey wants to laugh, because of course Gerard wants a brotherly heart-to-heart now, weeks after he started hanging with Pete, and at the back of a stage. It’s just something he would do. “I like him,” Mikey says, looking back as Gerard narrows his eyes. “He’s good, what I need right now.”
“Good, because if he hurts you….”
“You’ll kill him with a pen between the eyes, or get Bob to do it anyway.”
“You know it.” Gerard snarls, attempting to look fierce with his smudged make up and hair lank around his face. He steps forward then, snarl slipping away as he touches his forehead to Mikey’s, so they staring into each other’s eyes. “Be careful, okay?”
Mikey breathes in deep and says, “I will.”
It’s the worst time of his life. Panic and fear and fighting to breathe.
Mikey shakes as he stumbles toward the front door, but Gerard’s there, holding on like always. Steadying, his words soft, a constant stream of comfort as he grips Mikey’s hand, holding tight as the car pulls close. It stops, and Mikey follows Gerard onto the drive, shivering as the feel of the wind against his skin.
“I’ll see you soon, promise.” Gerard brushes a kiss against Mikey’s cheek, holding onto his hand until Mikey is inside the car. He lets go, their fingers sliding apart as Gerard takes a reluctant step back. Mikey pulls shut the door then, huddled in on himself and looking everywhere but out of the window, knowing he can’t cope with them watching him leave.
Nerves strike as Mikey waits stage right. It’s been months and he’d thought he was ready, but he isn’t sure now. He can hear the audience yell, the sound of the band –his band – playing like their lives depend on perfecting each song.
He wants to pace, but stands in place, fingers moving against his thighs until suddenly it’s time. It’s too soon, too fast and Mikey’s stomach is churning, but he’s already moving forward. He hears Gerard announce a special guest, the roar of the crowd when they realise who’s stepped on the stage. Camera flashes and lights and Mikey knows this is it, he’s ready to come home.
Taking his bass, his fingers slip instinctively into place, the strings old friends as they launch into I’m Not Okay.
He plays like it means everything, and in this moment it does. As Frank and Ray whirl past, welcoming him back with hands against his back and smiles, as Bob winks and Gerard comes close, singing and actions conveying his joy.
The song finishes, and Mikey knows he has to leave, but only for now. He’ll be back, he knows that for certain, and he’s smiling as Gerard comes over to escort him from the stage.
“You okay,” Gerard asks, slipping behind the risers and Mikey knows he’ll stay until he’s sure, show schedule be damned.
It’s the truth, at least for now, and Gerard obviously sees that, because he smiles and pulls Mikey close, his mouth pressed against Mikey’s neck as they take this quiet moment in the middle of the show.
“I love you,” Gerard says softly, and Mikey smiles, because that he knows.