Frank said, "You still celebrate half birthdays?"
"Mikey insisted it was necessary in the case of assholes who couldn't be bothered to share their real ones in time to actually do something about it."
Bob nodded at this, seemingly for emphasis. It was hard to tell with Bob. He could have just been thinking about something that required nodding. Tommy said, "Your birthday's on Halloween, seriously?"
Frank looked at his hands, which were flat against the table. "Did everyone just think Halloween was my favorite holiday, or something?"
Gerard and Bob shared a look. Gerard said, "Pretty much, yeah."
Frank glanced down to where Tommy was kneeling, practically under the table. Frank tried not to touch Tommy when he was on the floor. It didn't reassure him the way it had Mikey, which was pretty understandable. Mikey had known how the structure was built between them. Tommy had a harder time following the blueprint, its facade-like nature. Tommy must have felt Frank looking, because he shrugged. "Fit the profile."
Frank laughed. "The profile?"
Bob said, "You're hardcore."
Gerard had to plant his face in the table so it wouldn't be clear just how hard he was cracking up.
Frank couldn't open the letter in the kitchens. There were plenty of spots to hide away in and find some quiet for himself, but they all had imprints of Mikey shaking from hunger and anxiety, his voice soft with resignation. Frank still couldn't go near the stove without the phantom smell of charred flesh hitting him at first. So no, the kitchens wouldn't do as somewhere to read what Mikey had to say.
Meals wouldn't do either, not with all those people around. In the end, he did something he generally wouldn't have done, really tried not to do in general and asked Bob, "Keep an eye on Tommy? Just come get me if there's a problem."
Bob said, "Happy birthday-thing."
Frank said, "Yeah, thanks," and did his best to disappear silently. Being two apples tall--as his grandfather was always kind enough to describe him--had its uses at times.
Happy half-birthday. See, I never had another Iero-person in prison to help me find out all these secrets about you. You should never have given me your mom. She's my secret weapon, and I have no mercy. None. I am Mikey the Merciless. If you had just told me when your birthday was in the first place, perhaps we could have left it at some candy and a book, or something. A letter. But no, see what your stubbornness has brought upon you? You have nobody to blame but yourself.
If I could, I would find a way in there, and prove my point. Pointedly.
All I have are letters. Letters and pictures, which this envelope has two of. They're your presents, the best things I could think of. I'm usually pretty good with presents, but you make it hard. I mean, the ban on things I can and can't get you makes it hard, but you also, you do, even if you don't mean to. Or maybe it's not you so much as how much I want it to be right. Gee says perfectionism is a sure way to fuck things up, and he's probably right, but he's one to talk, okay? Have you ever seen him when he's finishing a picture he's actually going to give someone, formally?
Right, tangent. Anyway,
There's captions that explain both pictures. Happy birthday, whole and half and even fourths.
Frank read the letter three times and then just sat with it for a while before he could get up the nerve to look at the pictures. If he were talking to one of the guys, he would have described his hesitation differently, but that's what it was, fear. For all that Mikey worried about not getting the right gifts, he had an uncanny ability to strike right at the stress fractures in Frank, the places where his contained joy and his bundled despair met up and consistently tried to keep each other at bay. Frank loved that Mikey could do that--that Mikey was, indeed, Mikey and he was Frank and that yes, that said everything--but he was a little scared it was going to rip him apart before he ever got to see Mikey again. A little over three years was a long time from this side of the years.
Finally, Frank took a breath and made himself look at the first picture. It was a Gerard Way original. On the back, Gerard had written, "Mikey asked me to draw him talking about you."
Frank turned the drawing over. It was obviously fairly recent, given that Mikey wasn't skin and bones. His mom had told him that Mikey had finally, finally started gaining weight once the hospital bills were paid and he could start helping her with rent and utilities. She was teaching him how to cook basic things, working-mom things, and there was a woman named Greta, from the church, who taught him slightly more complicated things through the soup kitchen. Frank could tell he was actually eating from the slight softness around his cheekbones, the way his chin was no longer blade sharp.
Frank wanted to touch, he wanted to explore this new territory, but he made himself remember that he couldn't, that there were crimes that demanded repentance, that this was his punishment. Then he made himself look at Mikey's eyes, his mouth. Gerard had caught Mikey in the middle of a thought, Frank couldn't even imagine what from the layers of expression that were resting in his eyes, the skin around them. Mikey looked worried and fond and lonely and like he had a secret that was only safe with him. Mostly, though, mostly, Mikey looked like a man in love. Frank knew because occasionally his own eyes accidentally caught glimpses of themselves in the mirror, and there was nothing else to call it, nothing at all.
Frank looked and looked, but the expression didn't change. He touched a careful, shaking finger to the corner of Mikey's eye, but that didn't change anything either. Frank made himself set the picture aside to look at the next. This one was a picture taken with a camera. Mikey had written on the back, "Brian helped me get a discount through his artist. I like it. I think it makes sense for us. Oh, Spencer took the picture, because the center has printing capabilities, and yeah, I wasn't asking your mom."
Frank flipped it over to find a picture of Mikey's chest. Over his heart there was new ink--his first, Frank knew. There was the logo of the 100 Grand bar lying horizontal. Atop the bar, slightly to the right was the word "Trick," and below the bar, skewed to the left, the word "Treat," both in black, and a spidery, creeping text that reminded Frank of Halloween imagery. Frank whispered, "Mikey," and tried not to break right open on the blunt edges of his own happiness.
Frank told his mom, "You're a complete traitor."
"And yet, I sleep well at night," she responded, gloriously unrepentant.
Frank scowled. "Why aren't you encouraging him to put money toward his own stuff? I thought you were my partner-in-crime. Bonnie to my Clyde, Thelma to my Louise, Sundance Kid to my Butch Cassidy."
"Give me a second to laugh at the thought of you being Butch anything and then I'll ask you to consider that all those people died."
Frank sighed. "Details."
She laughed a little before softening. "Frankie, he wasn't able to make his own decisions for three years. And he was barely eighteen when he went in, barely at the point of independence." Her eyes were troubled as she said it and he knew she wasn't thinking only of Mikey. "He needs some time to do things he wants to do just because he wants to do them. And if they're things that cement his relationship to you?" She shook her head. "I'm not gonna be the one to get in his way. I'm just not. You wanna write him a letter to that effect, that's all you, but I think you're a fool if you do. Ten times a fool."
Frank looked away for a moment and when he looked back admitted, "It's hard to worry from in here."
She nodded. "It's not exactly peaches on this side of the glass, I gotta tell you."
"I'm sorry. Mom, I'm so--"
"Hush. I didn't mean-- I just. Let us do what we need to do for you, okay? Please."
"I wrote him a thank you letter."
She smiled slightly. "I raised you right."
The first Halloween we were together, I told you the story of the time I went as Michael Jordan for Halloween and you told me the story of that one year, when you and Gerard went as Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee because people called you it anyway and why the hell not? You told me about how your grandmother made the costumes even though she really didn't have the time, and you helped her by sewing the buttons on, even though you were bad at it and kept poking your fingers. Last Halloween you brought me a 100 Grand bar and an Almond Joy and the special Halloween M&Ms just because you thought it was my favorite holiday. (Which it is.)
My point is--and if you were here, I would totally make it pointedly--you've always given me birthday presents. You just didn't know you were doing it.
I don't know how hard I can really be to buy for. You're always finding the right things.
I fucking love 100 Grands.