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Mikey arrived home to find Bob on the couch, Gerard curled up in those ridiculous car pajamas that made him look about six--if Mikey was being generous--with his head on Bob's thigh, asleep. Mikey asked softly, "You want me to stay at Linda's tonight? Give you guys the place?"

Bob looked up and said, "C'mere, Mikeyway."

"She won't mind," Mikey said, even as he obeyed. Bob shifted a little to make room for Mikey on his other side. Gerard mumbled, but didn't wake up. Mikey sat in the space Bob had clearly designated as his.

Bob said, "This is your apartment, Mikey."

Mikey shrugged. "Yours too." It was easy to say, even comfortable if he didn't think about whose apartment it wasn't, couldn't be just yet. Mikey wanted Bob here, he did. He wanted Gerard sleeping like the dead even through the noise of their deadbolt and movement underneath him. He wanted Gerard safe while he was asleep.

Bob asked, "Do you want-- Would Linda's be easier?"

Mikey's instinct was to allow Bob an unhesitating, unwavering, "No." In fairness to Bob, though, he thought about it. What he came up with was, "I want to see the two of you together. Without all the bullshit."

"Even--"

Mikey cut Bob off with a shake of his head. "Even."

Bob said, "Here," and dug into one of the myriad leg-pockets on his carpenter-style jeans. He withdrew a letter. "For you."

Mikey took it. "I'm gonna go to my room," he said. He shut the door behind himself.

*


Mikeyway,

I feel like there are a lot of things I need to remember to tell you in this letter, and that if I don't something might happen and that I
will forget something, like the way you always forget your toothbrush or your pajamas when you were going over to your friends to spend the night. First thing's first, though: no worrying. Bob fixed me up with Zack, the biker who's generally smiling until he decides to throw someone across the room? Yeah, we get along pretty well, and I've figured out most of his ticks. Really, he just has one: don't touch what's his. I'm pretty grabby, but also not retarded, so it's working out all right. Also, I think he's kind of decided I'm his, which is convenient.

If you can, I'd like to know what they're like. I mean, I keep trying to remember that I'll find out, but I guess I just want it would be nice to show up and be able to catch up easily. Or, maybe not easily. Maybe quickly. Maybe not either. I don't know how to explain it. I just want to be I'm ready to I like anecdotes. That's it.

You have to remember with me. That part about me finding out for myself. Because if not you might get lonely. I try not to worry, since that's not really fair, telling you not to and then doing it anyway. But I don't want you to be lonely. That's probably stupid. You have all those people around you. I don't know what I'm talking about, really.

I've been rereading Cobain's journals. They always make me feel a little more sane.

A year isn't so long. Not really. Not in the grand scheme of things. Right?

Frank


*


When Mikey emerged, Bob was in the kitchen, grating potatoes. He said, "I sent your brother to the store."

"You made him get dressed first, right?"

Bob laughed, just laughed like Mikey had made a joke, which okay, he had, but that wasn't--as far as Mikey remembered it--Bob's general response to humor. Mikey nearly tripped over his own feet. "Uh. Is there anything I can help with?"

Bob shook his head. Mikey said, "Are you sure? What are you making?"

"Potato pancakes. My mom and Ilya's mom were both really insistent that everyone needed to know how to make a few basics."

"Potato pancakes are basic?" Mikey asked.

"In a Russian neighborhood." Bob shrugged.

"Oh. Do you make borscht?" Borscht was kind of the only thing Mikey knew of in concert with Russian culture, and he wasn't even entirely sure that was Russian, that he wasn't just getting it mixed up with something else.

"I'm allergic to beets."

"Really? Or metaphorically?" Mikey really couldn't believe that had come out of his mouth, but evidently now that Bob was actually willing to talk, Mikey's brain had decided that he couldn't stop the talking, lest it not start up again.

"Really."

"Like, anaphylactic shock allergic?"

"No, hives."

"Ah." Because really, what was there to say to that? How do hives feel? Oh, did that suck?

Luckily--and mildly shockingly--Bob was willing to take care of carrying on the conversation. "Did you want borscht?"

"I've never had any," Mikey admitted.

Bob said, "Potato pancakes are better."

"Okay," Mikey said. He could take Bob's word for it.

*


Frank,

As it turns out, not only does Bob Bryar speak, fluently, in English, he also has good survival skills, like cooking. Did you know this? Were you holding out on me? Probably not. Even Gerard seems surprised, so I sense he was keeping us all in suspense.

If you like Cobain's journals for that, you should read
Buried Alive. You may have already, but yeah, it's seriously a case of "there but for the grace of G-d...." And interesting, so that's helpful.

I don't know that I
can not worry, but I guess, since you asked, I'll try. And as for loneliness, there's no fucking way it's lonely out here, Frank Iero. Even with Gee and Bob and Brian and Matt and your mom and Ryan and Brendon and Spencer and Jon and Pete. Evidently lonely is different than it used to be.

A year is forever, but I'll pretend like it's only 356 days. Somehow, that seems slightly shorter. Don't ask.

Mikeyway


*


Mikey finished brushing his teeth and went to his bedroom to find Gerard sitting in the middle of his bed, his legs folded into a pretzel. Mikey asked, "Everything okay? Because you have a Bob in your room. He's probably waiting for you."

Gerard nodded. "Yeah. Um. I know. Just."

Mikey frowned and sat on the edge of his bed. "Just?"

Gerard spread his hands, palms up. "Are we going to make you sad?"

Mikey thought about lying, but Gerard, for all the things he missed, always caught the important stuff. He nodded slowly. "Yeah. A little."

"A little?"

Mikey shrugged. "Gee, come on."

"I don't--"

"If it were Frank. If it were me and Frank, would you want me not to be happy because you didn't have Bob? Seriously?"

"That's just stupid."

Mikey looked at Gerard with what he felt was a fairly solid, "Yeah, and?" expression. Gerard said, "But you're my baby brother. I'm supposed--"

"Shut up."

"No, Mikey, listen--"

"No, you listen. I hate the way you're always acting like I deserve you to be better to me just because mom conceived me second. It's great that you try and protect me and you love me and you're the best older brother in this entire world, and I wouldn't trade any of that, but how do you think it makes me feel, when you try not being happy so that I will be?"

"Okay. Okay, so tell me how it makes me feel that you watched after me that year when I was completely fucked up and never thought about how much you probably needed me to actually fucking pay attention, and I thought later, Mikey, I thought about how you must have gotten clean, how it must have been that time in the hole, because I don't remember you using after that, and you were watching, you were watching for me, how do you think I feel about failing the shit out of you like that?"

Gerard panted for a second and Mikey was still trying to come up with an answer when Gerard continued, "And how about how Ray came along and I just let him take care of me without thinking that maybe I could get him to protect you? What about Bob?"

Mikey bit his lip at that. "Bob was just yours, Gee."

"That's not the fucking point, Mikey."

"I-- I know. I just. Gee. It's-- Okay, so I'm sad. I miss Frank. I miss the way he gave me things just because he was trying to make me smile, like the time he started that rubberband ball and it got huge and I couldn't even understand because where the fuck was he getting rubber bands from, and then he just presented it like the best present ever and it kind of was, just you know, because it was funny, and there wasn't much in there that was.

"And I miss the way he tasted when we'd share Reeses cups, and the way he drowned in all his sweatshirts, every last one. I miss his voice and the fact that sometimes he starts sentences in the middle and doesn't realize it and by the time I left, I knew what he was talking about anyway. I miss him all the fucking time. And that's sad. But it doesn't mean I want you to be missing Bob, too. Especially not when he's in the next room, so it would be entirely fucking pointless. That's sad, too."

Gerard nodded, slowly. "Okay. Okay. But maybe-- Maybe some nights I could come in here? If I wanted to? If I missed you?"

Mikey rolled his eyes and pulled Gerard off his bed, across the hall, into his and Bob's room. He told Bob, "I have something for you."

Bob said, "You could keep him, if you needed to, Mikeyway. For tonight."

And Mikey might have wanted to, might have really wanted to, but he didn't need to, and he knew the difference. Mikey pushed Gerard a little toward the bed. "He's all yours."

Mikey closed the door behind himself and went into his room, closing that door, too. It wouldn't do much to block the sound, but a little. Mikey folded himself into a pretzel and sat in the spot on his bed that Gerard had warmed.


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