Pairing: Mikey/Frank, but mostly it's group friendship.
Summary: A bit of h/c, a bit of Gerard story telling. 3676 words.
Notes: For castalie, because it's her birthday today and she's one of my most favourite people ever. Happy birthday, sis!
Thank you to themoononastick and ephemera_pop for beta duties. Any mistakes are mine and mine alone.
Mikey curls up, the bedcovers tucked up tight against his chin. He’s beyond tired now, nerves stretched taut, and he presses his fingers against his eyelids, feels the heat against his skin.
He hates feeling so sick -- his chest is aching, each breath is an effort, and he folds in on himself trying to suppress a cough. His eyes water with the attempt because it hurts and he’s spluttering against his hand when Gerard slips into the room and sits on the bed.
“Here,” Gerard says, and slips his arm around Mikey’s back, lifts him up a little and holds out a glass.
Mikey takes it and gulps down warm water sweetened with honey. He grimaces at the taste and then relaxes as the mixture soothes his throat and eases the urge to cough, for now anyway. As much as he’d like to believe it's a cure, he knows this is only a momentary reprieve.
“Better?” Gerard asks, and he presses the back of his hand against Mikey’s forehead, like he actually knows what he’s doing and not just touching for comfort 's sake.
Mikey shrugs slightly and settles back onto his pile of pillows. They’re warm against his cheek and he can’t get comfortable at all. He just wants to feel well, or to sleep. Anything but be stuck in this hyper-awareness of stolen air and an aching body.
“Gerard,” Mikey says, eyes closed, carefully not looking at Gerard at all, because Mikey’s an adult and this is something they left behind years before. Still, right now. Mikey needs to be anywhere but here. “Tell me a story.”
There’s no reply at first, and Mikey keeps his eyes closed, picturing how Gerard will be chewing on his bottom lip, his imagination flaring as he decides on a story to tell. Mikey waits, forces in air, exhales it out, and eventually Gerard shifts on the bed, rests his hand on Mikey’s side.
If you dive into a cloud you’ll find a place called Between. It’s always misty there, with clammy tendrils slipping against your face and burrowing through your clothes. That's why the citizens of Between wear masks and damp-proof clothes that tighten around their wrists and ankles, guarding against the fog that can slip down an unwary throat, stealing away breath and leaving people gasping for air.
His own throat tightening in sympathy, Mikey opens his eyes and looks at Gerard. “Not helping here.”
Gently, Gerard pokes Mikey in the arm. “If you’d stop interrupting….”
“Okay, fine.” Listlessly, Mikey waves his hand and settles down to listen once more.
One night, when the stars shone high overhead and the wind made the clouds scurry through the sky, a boy set off to walk his cat. The cat had pink fur that trailed across the misty ground and bright green eyes that gleamed in the dark. A black string encircled its neck and the boy held the other end in his hand, gripping tight as he listened to the music that swirled around their heads. For in this world music is a physical thing, songs are wisps of colour that mingle with the mist. Swirls of red and blue and yellow and green, all shimmering, pulsing, reacting to those that walked close.
Lost in this world of music, the boy had left his mask at home, had no awareness of the darkening mist that flowed around his feet, swirling around his ankles. Instead, all he saw was the music that surrounded him. How it was muted, pale grey with streaks of red.
Too late, he became aware of the danger when a damp chill slipped up his legs, over his wrists, and the cat hissed and backed away as the tendrils of mist grasped and clung, streaming into the boy’s mouth as he fell to his knees, his mouth open and eyes wide.
It was then the Foggy Phantom appeared. It was said he was a legend, but when he strode through the mist, a nozzle held in one hand, his lips pulled back in a snarl, the boy knew he was real.
“A leaf blower,” Mikey says, and looks levelly back at a puzzled Gerard. “I’m just saying, the Foggy Phantom probably reversed the flow of a leaf blower so it would suck in the fog.”
Gerard frowns. “I guess, but it’s better than that, he’s got a backpack covered in blinking lights and a tube that flickers with flames.”
“Like a ghostbuster.” Mikey cough-laughs when he imagines Gerard in a jumpsuit, his hair dripping with slime.
“Better than a ghostbuster, the Foggy Phantom fights actual evil, not stuff made of candy.”
“Marshmallows,” Mikey says, and peers at Gerard through half-shut eyes. “It was made of marshmallows; that’s not really candy. If it were a Skittles man, yeah, but….”
“Are you going to let me finish?” Gerard presses his fingers against Mikey’s lips, a brief touch and if Mikey was feeling well he’d snap his teeth. As it is, he just nods and says, “go on.”
The boy pressed his hand against his mouth as his cat hissed and snarled. They watched as the tendrils of fog shifted in the air, slick cold against the boy’s face, his hands. He shivered and remembered tales of shrunken lungs, bodies found frozen with fear, their mouths bloody and expressions one of terror.
The boy could understand that, as he gasped for air through his fingers. The Foggy Phantom raced forward, his dark hair flowing, his expression one of determination, the flaming tube held tightly in his hand. A figure of splendour, a rumour made real.
He was magnificent, and the boy watched as the fog twisted and leapt, encircling the Foggy Phantom until he was nothing but a vague dark shape that spun and pranced, flames burning bright as he slashed the tube through the air.
All the boy could do was watch, gasping for breath as the mist crept down his throat, grasped his lungs and squeezed. He fell forward, hands against the soft ground, and his cat screeched, its mouth open and back curled, claws scratching at the air.
It was too late, the Foggy Phantom had his own battle, and the boy felt light-headed, black spots swimming in front of his eyes.
“I’m kinda a pussy in this.” Mikey blinks, presses his hand against his own mouth, feeling his breath against his fingers.
“If you could breathe you’d be fighting,” Gerard says earnestly. “There’s not much you can do when cold clammy fingers of mist are sliding down your throat and tightening around your lungs, filling them until there’s no air left at all.”
His own chest burning, Mikey coughs, his eyes screwed shut as Gerard rubs awkward circles against his back. Finally, after drinking from the glass Gerard passes over, Mikey collapses back against his pillows, says, hoarsely. “Anyway, he needs to have more faith. The Foggy Phantom will save him, he always does.”
Gerard smiles slightly, says, “yeah.”
With a last swish of the tube, the Foggy Phantom began to suck in the fog that surrounded him. It billowed in protest, misty fingers reaching out, grasping, but the Phantom stood firm, laughing, his hair swirling around his head as he held his arms aloft, the fiery tube pulling in the fog and transferring it to the pack on his back.
'Hold on!' he yelled, and leapt toward the boy. He carefully pressed the tip of the tube against the boy’s lips and the fog was drawn away with a high-pitched whine.
Gasping, the boy felt heat against his mouth, cold in his throat, and he gagged at the sensation, collapsing forward, the Foggy Phantom catching him in his arms.
“I swear to god, if I’m carried away in the Phantom’s arms I’ll….” Mikey hesitates, scowling at Gerard. “I’ll get Frank to hide your coffee.”
“The hero always gets to carry the damsel away,” Gerard protests, and looks away, the hair falling over his face doing nothing to hide the curve of his smile at all.
“I am not a damsel in distress.”
“I don’t know, you’re looking kind of weak and feeble right now.” Gerard laughs when Mikey knees him against his hip, the impact softened by the layers of blankets. “Okay, no carrying away.”
'It’s not safe here. You need to come with me', the Foggy Phantom said, and he helped the boy to his feet, holding him by the elbow, in a very manly way, until the boy was standing steady.
'I should?' the boy asked, and he looked at his cat who looked right back at him before slowly nodding its head. 'Where to?'
'Five clouds over and one to the west.' The Phantom sheathed the tube and began to walk, the air around him stained red and black and blue. Immediately the boy followed, moving to the Phantom’s side so that their songs merged – soft sounds and loud, joining, amplifying, becoming more.
'How do we get there?' the boy asked, because as much as he’d longed to, he’d never left his own cloud.
'You’ll see', the Phantom said, and he kept walking until they reached the edge of the cloud. They moved close and looked down at the earth, a place where only the most desperate ever attempted to go, sitting on the edge of Between and letting themselves drop so far below.
There were no colours down there, no swirling mist and the boy took a step back away from the edge.
“So I was happy to live in a cloud filled with evil lung eating fog?” Mikey says. “I’m a moron.”
“There’s music there too,” Gerard says. “All around, so you can hear it at times. Music is part of life in Between.”
“Yeah.” Mikey nods, imagines being surrounded by music at all times. “That would be cool. Still, I think we need to get off that cloud.”
“I agree, a cloud’s no place to be.”
Mikey looks up when he hears Frank. He’s standing in the doorway, holding a bottle of water, a pillow held against his chest. When he comes into the room he smiles at Mikey then looks at Gerard.
“Is he still delirious?”
“I’m right here,” Mikey points out, indignant. “And no, I’m not. Gerard’s telling me a story. We’re standing on the edge of a cloud right now. Well, a boy and the Foggy Phantom are.”
“Right,” Frank says, drawing out the word. “I’ve brought you a new pillow, lift up.”
Slowly, Mikey pushes himself up on one arm, and lets Frank fuss with the pillows so the new one is at the top. Lowering himself down, Mikey enjoys the feel of the cool cotton against his over-heated cheek and closes his eyes as Frank crawls onto the bed and lies so he’s tucked along Mikey’s back.
Frank rests his hand over Mikey’s hip. “Is the Foggy Phantom taking the boy back to his lair so he can ravish him?”
“What? No!” Gerard narrows his eyes and looks at Frank. “It’s not one of those kinds of stories. The Foggy Phantom is a fighter for justice, battling the killer fog, not picking up stray boys so he can have his wicked way with them.”
“But you were talking about sucking, and the boy’s mouth, I heard you when I was coming in.”
“He was sucking out the fog. With a tube,” Gerard says, punctuating his words with swipes of his hands through the air.
“Right, sucking stuff out of ‘the boy’s’ throat, with a tube.” Frank presses his mouth close to Mikey’s neck, says, stage whisper soft. “I think your brother has issues.”
“I just… Shut up.” Gerard protests, and he reaches across Mikey and jabs Frank hard in the side.
“Gerard’s always had issues,” Mikey says, and he looks at Gerard. “They were standing at the edge of a cloud….”
A last glare at Frank, and then Gerard turns back to Mikey.
'How will we get across?' The boy asked. The Foggy Phantom only smiled, and stood even closer to the edge. His long coat flapped around his legs as he held out his hand, palm toward the sun. Suddenly, a beam of light arched through the air from the Phantom’s hand, creating a rainbow that hung high in the sky. The Phantom lowered his hand and turned to the boy and said. 'Watch.'
The boy watched the rainbow, it's glittering colours beautiful and still. He moved to stand at the Phantom’s side, trying to see what the Phantom was looking at. He gasped when a dragon suddenly flew into sight.
It had red wings and blue scales that shone in the sunlight, and it roared fire as it swooped low, the air around it crackling with colours.
'Meet Judy', the Phantom said, and when the dragon hovered close, he stepped forward, pulling himself onto its broad back. 'Come on,' the Phantom held out his hand, and the boy allowed himself to be pulled upwards until he was settled behind the Phantom, his cat secure between them both.
Gripping with his knees, he hooked his hands under the dragon’s scales, holding tight and screeching with fear when the dragon’s wings flapped, and they swooped into the air.
“The boy’s not very brave,” Frank says, and pats Mikey’s side. “Mikey wouldn’t screech. He’d just sit on the dragon and look bored”
Mikey nods in agreement, carefully because his head is killing him. Gerard frowns at them both.
The boy hooked his hands under the dragon’s scales, held tight and looked bored as the dragon flapped its wings and swooped into the air. They flew over a bank of clouds, skimmed oceans and carved tracks in vast untouched plains, until finally, when the boy’s hands were frozen and his hair pulled back into weird shapes, the dragon slowed over a fluffy white cloud.
Turning its mighty head, the dragon nodded majestically at the Foggy Phantom, and then held out a wing so they could dismount. The boy’s legs trembled when he stood, and he stumbled forward, his cat held securely in his arms.
'You can rest soon', the Phantom said, and he stroked his hand along Judy’s back and pressed a kiss beneath her flared nose before walking away from the edge. This cloud was jammed with colour and sound, currents of mist swirling through the air and around their feet, but this wasn’t an evil mist. It felt different, with patches of magenta and burnt amber and steely grey that surged close to the Phantom, wrapped around the boy’s feet in a soothing caress.
'The others are back there.' The Phantom pointed toward a hill that was covered in brilliant sap-green grass, violet flowers emerging through the mist.
Frank props his chin against Mikey’s shoulder. “How did they know the colour of the grass? I mean, the mist is always there and that would cover it.”
“At the bottom maybe, with it being a hill the mist wouldn’t reach the top.”
“Yes, exactly,” Gerard says, and points at Ray who’s walked into the room carrying a blanket and a pile of magazines. “Ray knows how to visualise a story, unlike some people.”
Frank giggles and the vibrations tickle against Mikey’s shoulder. It’s a nice sensation, better than the vice that’s wrapped around Mikey’s chest, and he shivers when Ray puts down the magazines and unfolds the blanket.
“Is that for me?”
“I charmed housekeeping.” Ray smiles and with a deft flick of his wrists, settles the blanket over both Mikey and Frank. Kneeling next to Gerard, he tucks in the blanket, and runs his fingers over Mikey’s cheek. “You’re still hot, have you been taking your medicine?”
Mikey nods, because the chance of him not taking his medicine is less than zero, especially when he’s surrounded by people who feel the need to check multiple times a day.
“Good,” Ray says, and slides to the floor, his head back as he looks at Gerard and prompts. “So, they were heading for the hill.”
Gerard looks at Frank. “Anything else to say before I go on?”
Frank shakes his head, and Mikey lets his eyes close as Gerard begins to talk once again.
The mist stopped half way up the hill, and as they climbed the boy’s eyes widened as he breathed in clean air that didn’t tickle against his mouth or nose at all. When they reached the summit, the Phantom pointed at a small groups of tents at the bottom of the hill, each one topped with black flags that fluttered and flapped despite the lack of wind.
The boy looked at the tents, saw animals wandering freely, pink horses with auburn manes, a bear with midnight blue fur, his mouth wide and surrounded by the dark music that wrapped around its roar.
'That’s Bob’s bear', the Phantom said, and he started to walk down the hill without waiting to see if the boy would follow.
Ray shakes his head and purses his lips. “Typical Gerard, always taking the lead and leaving Mikey behind.”
“Like Mikey won’t be following right behind anyway.”
“Mikey doesn’t blindly follow me!”
“Gerard doesn’t leave me behind!”
They both protest at the same time, and Mikey shares a look with Gerard when all Frank and Ray can do is laugh in reply. It makes no sense at all, and Mikey would roll his eyes or jab them in their stupid heads with his elbow, but as it is all he can do is sigh and concentrate on breathing, sleep still hovering just out of his reach.
“As I was saying,” Gerard says.
'That bear belongs to Bob'. The Phantom looked at the boy. 'If you stay you’ll get something to ride too.'
Gerard breaks off suddenly and looks at Frank. “Don’t say a word. Not one word.”
Miming zipping his lips, Frank presses close and hides his grin against Mikey’s neck.
'I can stay?' the boy said, and he looked at the Phantom, worship obvious in his expression.
“Gerard’s got you down,” Frank whispers, and this time, Mikey does elbow him; hard.
The Phantom looked at the boy. 'It was fate we met, we need one more for our group and I think you’re it.' He smiled and stretched out both arms, and the fog swirled madly around their feet. 'I am the Foggy Phantom, and this is my band of men!'
From out of the tents, men appeared. One with hair that crackled with lightening, tiny bolts zipping from his head. Another who threw out his hands, causing tiny whirlwinds to spin to the earth, the last man, tiny and monkey like with huge eyes and bare feet which allowed him to cling to any surface.
“Hey!” Frank protests and he pushes himself up so he can look at Gerard. “Ray gets lightening hair, you battle killer fog, Bob can cause whirlwinds and I’m a monkey that clings!?”
“If you didn’t keep interrupting…”
“I like monkeys,” Mikey says, talking over Gerard. “They’re cute.”
“True,” Frank agrees. “But still, a monkey?”
Gerard frowns. “Right, fine, it’s not as if this is my story or anything.”
The last man was tall and buff, with muscles that bulged under his many tattoos and a laugh that could charm the birds from the trees. Together they fought, keeping Between safe from those that meant ill will. But for a long time they’d needed a fifth, and now he was here. Now they had the people needed to save the world. The Phantom couldn’t help springing down into the fog, his hands held to the sky, leaving rainbows in his wake.
“The Phantom’s kinda gay,” Ray says. “I’m just saying.”
“Are we playing celebrity who’s gay again? Because I still say Spencer Smith.”
Mikey opens his eyes when another blanket is dropped on top of him, and a bottle of water placed next to the others on the nightstand. He looks up at Bob. “It doesn’t count if you know it’s true.”
Bob sits next to Gerard and briefly pats the lump that’s Mikey’s blanket covered legs. “That means you can’t have Pete, then.”
“I’ve never said I did,” Mikey says, a convenient coughing fit giving him an excuse to press his face against his pillow as everyone looks his way.
“Okay then, moving on,” Frank says, and pats Mikey’s back. “Gerard’s telling us a story. I’m tall and buff.”
“And I’m wearing pink panties and am really called Bobertta.”
Which is a mental image Mikey didn’t expect at all, and he’s caught in a laughing-coughing fit that brings tears to his eyes and makes him gasp for breath.
“Come on, sit up, slow breaths, you can do it.”
Hands against his back, and Mikey sits, matches breaths to Gerard’s until finally the coughing eases, leaving him light-headed and hurting when he lies back down, even more pillows propped under his back.
When he can talk he looks at Gerard, and says, words slow and rough. “Finish the story, please.”
Gerard looks unsure, but he finally nods.
Reaching the bottom of the hill, the Phantom stood next to the other men, and waited for the boy to approach. When he did his song surged forward, pulled toward the others and at that moment a melody was crafted, something strong and powerful and proud. The boy knew it was meant to be.
The Phantom held out his hand, looked at the boy and said, 'this is our fifth, this is….'
The boy crouched down and placed his cat on the floor, watching as it ran toward the herd of horses and the bear. He looked at the watching men, quirked a smile and told them, 'I’m Mikey'.
And that was the story of how their song became more, something permanent, and little brothers finally gave into sleep.
Barely aware, Mikey smiles too when Gerard’s voice quietens. Ray and Bob pad from the room, and Frank lies still, holding him tight as Mikey finally sleeps.
Tags: my stories:bandom