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July, 1991

Chapter Text

It was a hot night when he arrived, boom box blaring and boots echoing in the dirty streets. St. Jimmy, they called him. He was far from a saint. Billie Joe Armstrong, resident lost boy, was on the corner of Broadway, kicking the curb and scrounging in his pockets for a cigarette. He had just asked Mike and Tré, his best and only friends, for a lighter when St. Jimmy arrived. He came out of the alley beside the concert venue on 12th Street, glancing over and sneering at the three of them. Billie sneered right back, setting an example for his friends who jeered at Jimmy, told him to fuck off. He just flipped them off and walked down 12th street.

After the concert that night, Billie Joe walked home alone, back to his house off 11th Street. As Billie got to the highway underpass where 12th turned to east 12th, he noticed that the boy from before was sprawled out on the ground, boom box silent and legs splayed at an odd angle. Billie Joe walked over nervously, craning his neck to see if the boy was alright.

“Hey,” Billie said, kicking the boy’s shin with the toe of his boot.

“Hey yourself,” the boy responded, motionless.

“You okay?”

“As okay as a fucking corpse,” he responded, but he sat up and winced at Billie Joe. “What’s it to you? What’s your name, anyway?”

“Billie Joe. And I was just… you looked kinda – well, dead,” Billie explained, shrugging and then backing away. “I’ll leave you alone, sorry.”

“Aw, I’m not dead yet. I’m Jimmy,” Jimmy said, standing slowly and holding his hand out to Billie Joe.

“Jimmy,” Billie repeated, shaking the skinny boy’s hand and smiling slightly.

“And don’t wear it out,” Jimmy quipped, picking up his boom box and looking back at Billie Joe. “You wouldn’t happen to have a couch I can crash on, do you?”

“Sure, what the hell.”

“My motto in life.” At this, Billie laughed and led Jimmy back to his house. When they arrived, Jimmy set his boom box inside the door and then collapsed face down on Billie Joe’s couch. Billie grimaced, peering up the stairs to see if his mom or step dad had woken up, but all remained still in the house. When he looked back to the couch, Jimmy was asleep, his arm draped over the side. There were thick, bloodstained bandages on his wrists. When Billie tried to wake him up again to ask, Jimmy just flopped limply and remained asleep.

Billie stayed up cleaning the deep wounds on Jimmy’s wrists and putting new bandages on them, and then he went to bed quietly, wondering about this new enigma.

He didn’t know it, but Jimmy was about to change up his life – and his friends’ lives – much more than anyone could have expected. He would make them laugh, stand up for themselves, and most definitely give them something to cry about.

But for now, he would spend two full days sleeping on the Armstrong couch.

Chapter Text

When Jimmy came around, he woke with a splutter of curses and scared the living daylights out of Billie Joe’s mom, who yelled at Billie for a solid half hour before driving both teenagers out the front door.

“Tough lady,” Jimmy remarked, hefting his boom box onto his shoulder.

“You should meet my step dad,” Billie Joe responded, hopping on one foot as he tried to yank his other shoe on. He popped two pills from his pocket into his mouth and then took a swig of root beer, earning an odd look from Jimmy.

“Weird breakfast you’ve got there.”

“Soda pop and Ritalin, nothing better,” Billie responded dryly, shrugging and stretching his arms out.

“You’re the Jesus of Suburbia, aren’t you?”

“What the fuck does that mean?”

“The son of rage and love, you know,” Jimmy replied, making Billie Joe even more confused.

“Yeah, sure. The Jesus of Suburbia. That’s me,” Billie responded. Jimmy seemed happy enough to be agreed with, and he let it drop. Together the two of them walked downtown, stopping in a 7-11 parking lot. Well, Jimmy collapsed and Billie stopped to see what the hell was wrong with him.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Um… I haven’t eaten in a week?”

“Jesus Christ.”

“Yup.”

“Wait here.”

Billie Joe came out with a donut and a bottle of coke, handing both of them to Jimmy and then sitting down next to him.

“It’s a lie, you know,” Jimmy told him, just before stuffing the entire donut in his mouth.

“What’s a lie?”

“Tuh mowo,” Jimmy responded around the donut.

“Tomorrow is a lie?”

“No, the motto,” Jimmy said, mouth clear of food. “’What the hell.’”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, people say ‘what the hell’ but no one does anything for the hell of it anymore. Everyone is always doing things to get ahead of other people. It’s fucking bullshit.”

“Wow.”

“I know.”

“No, I mean, wow, I didn’t know you even had intelligent thoughts, what with the amount of drugs that are bound to be running through your system.”

“Fuck you, I’ve been asleep for – how long was I asleep?”

“Two days.”

“Two fucking days. That’s plenty of time to get drugs out of my system, and news flash? I can’t pull them out of my ass.”

“Well, that’s good. You aren’t a drug mule for some cartel.”

“Fuck you.”

“No thanks.”

“You know, kid, you’re alright.”

“Thanks, Jimmy.”

“The other thing is a lie, too,” Jimmy said suddenly, breaking the silence.

“What other thing?”

“’Home is where the heart is.’”

“Why?”

“Because everyone’s heart doesn’t beat the same.”

“That makes no sense.”

“Yeah it does.”

“Sure, Jimmy.”

“Fuck you.”

“Nah.”

“Cheeky bastard.”

“Let’s go find Tré and Mike.”

“If you say so.”

“Can you even walk?”

“Fuck you.”

“Do I have to say no again?”

“Just shut up and help me up.”

It was so hot outside that most people were off the streets; the stoplights went on timers, crosswalk sirens beeping on and off and echoing in the emptiness. As they walked, Billie Joe began to frown and hold his stomach, and soon he was barely holding back vomit.

“That’s your breakfast agreeing with you,” Jimmy told him. Billie was too busy bending over and emptying his stomach into the gutter to argue. They made it another block to an abandoned shopping center before Billie had to stop again and run into the filthy, graffiti stained bathroom. The walls, Billie Joe noticed between bouts retching over the nasty toilet, were covered with odd sayings, initials, and random pictures.

All it seemed to say was that the world was ending and Billie decided he couldn’t care less. He staggered back out to where Jimmy was waiting, leaning against the wall with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. It wasn’t lit, but he pulled it out of his mouth like it was, blowing stale breath that smelled of donuts and coke into Billie’s face.

“Feeling better, sunshine?”

“Fuck you.”

“It’s my turn to turn you down, I see.”

“Whatever.” Billie pulled a lighter out of his pocket and lit Jimmy’s cigarette from him, stealing it and taking a drag before handing it back over. Together they continued on their way.

By the time Jimmy and Billie Joe made it to the underpass where they had met – had it really only been a few days? – they both had forgotten where they were going. They stood under the freeway for a minute, staring at the heat wafting up from the asphalt from the relative shade. Their shirts stuck to them uncomfortably; Jimmy stood still for a second before handing the cigarette to Billie and peeling his off and throwing it over his shoulder. He was shockingly thin and painfully pale, and Billie made a halfhearted joke about his pallor. Jimmy just shot him a look and stole the cigarette back.

About two weeks went this same way. Some days, Jimmy and Billie Joe were joined by Tré or Mike or both of them, and some days they rambled alone together, just the two of them. Some days, they talked about nothing at all, and some days they talked about anything and everything, whatever Jimmy seemed to bring up. It was the days where they talked about something that stuck with Billie Joe the most, pried their way into his brain and sat with him when he went home at night and tried to avoid his mom and stepdad.

In one of his more creative ventures in avoidance, Billie found himself on the roof of their small house, scraping both his knees and most of the skin off of his right arm in the process. It was during this endeavor that Billie Joe remembered why he had never done sports as a kid. Winded, bruised, and bleeding, he collapsed on the shingles and stared up at the night sky, cloudless and clear.

And he began to talk.

He talked mostly to Jimmy, but it was probably good that Jimmy wasn’t there because at the time Jimmy was sitting on the edge of the freeway with a large, heavy gun in his hand that he kept pressing to his temple. He kept dozing off though, and the gun would droop down and point at his chin until he jerked back awake.

Jimmy had troubles, you see.

But Billie Joe talked, and he talked himself to sleep and then woke up on the edge of the roof and jumped so violently when he awoke to sudden death staring at him that he nearly fell to the ground. When his heart had stopped pounding and he found himself safely in the middle of the roof Billie sat back down and began to talk again. He couldn’t quite remember if he had said everything he wanted to the night before (since he had been considerably drunk and more than a little stoned) so he basically repeated himself. He knew he was either demented or disturbed, and he knew that he was somewhere in the grey area of insane and insecure. He knew a lot, and he knew very little. It didn’t matter though.

Billie Joe’s mom wandered out of the house at around ten in the morning, and when she turned to see her son on the roof nearly fainted from fear. When she had come back around she just screamed at him for the whole neighborhood to hear. Apparently he was late to therapy. It took him a solid twenty minutes to climb off the roof, and another ten to find acceptable clothes that weren’t shredded by the roof or smelled strongly of some inebriant or another. He glanced in the bathroom mirror, grimaced, and grabbed a pack of gum on his way out to the car where his mom was waiting to yell at him some more.

After basically sleeping through therapy (“I pay ten dollars for you to pretend you have problems, you better not fuck around, Billie Joe Armstrong”), Billie stumbled past his mother and took off down the street, flipping her the bird gracefully and nearly getting hit by a bus in the process. He flipped the bus off too.

He ran away from home for about a week, sleeping under the freeway with Jimmy, until he got really hungry and sick of peeing in bushes.

It was the best and worst week of his life.

Chapter Text

July dragged on, and by the end of it Billie Joe felt about half dead. Between the heat and a steady diet of soda pop and Ritalin (not counting stolen alcohol and the less-than-occasional joint), he was a bit worse for wear – but Jimmy was worse. He left town for a while, leaving nothing but his boom box on Billie Joe’s doorstep. Billie waited patiently for him to come back, listening for the phone; Jimmy only ever called when he was coming home.

It was on one of these wasted nights, sitting in the dining room of the Armstrong house, that Billie Joe realized that he may have been alive before summer, but Jimmy had taught him how to live. This sudden realization drove Billie out of his house and onto the streets, even though it was raining heavily. The fat droplets sizzled on the pavement as he walked, the hot rain barely stifling the heat of the day. Just a few years ago, Billie mused, he had been an optimistic little kid, dreaming about a grand future. Funny how the rain seemed to wash away dreams and aspirations. Billie pulled a baggie of weed from his pocket, shaking it forlornly when he saw that all that was left were stems and seeds.

Hitting the underpass on 12th Street, Billie continued towards downtown. Headlights flashed through the rain as a car turned from Parkway Drive, illuminating a figure up ahead. Getting closer, Billie Joe was delighted to find that it was Jimmy. He stood on the curb, face tipped up to the sky and eyes shut. Billie walked up next to him and stood quietly, waiting. Finally, Jimmy opened his eyes and looked over at Billie Joe, digging in his pocket. He pulled out a full baggie of dope and handed it to Billie, smiling slightly.

“Hey kid.”

“Hey Jimmy.”

“Let’s take a walk.”

“Sure.”

They walked north now, back towards the freeway down Parkway Drive. The rain began to ease up, shifting from a deluge to a gentle downpour, and the two boys’ shoes squished as they walked. The soft splashes of their steps were the only sounds they made.

“We’re fucked up,” Jimmy told Billie Joe finally, shoving his hands in his pockets – which was a bit of a struggle, since they were plastered to his legs with water. Billie glanced over and was surprised to see a gun handle poking out of Jimmy’s waistband. He didn’t ask, he just nodded.

“Yeah.”

“But we’re not the same as all of them,” Jimmy blurted, wrenching a hand out of his pocket and gesturing wildly. “Fuckin’ parents, screwing up lives. It’s not our fault,” he continued, voice drifting off as he repeated his words. “It’s not our fault.” By now, they were over the bay, on the bridge that curved over an inlet. The ocean was quiet, the tide low. Jimmy stopped abruptly and looked over at Billie. “You’re alright, you know that?”

“Thanks, Jimmy. You too.”

And before Billie could say anything else, Jimmy whipped the gun from his waistband and shot himself in the head. Billie Joe yelped, staring in horror as Jimmy crumpled to the ground, a stream of blood flowing over the side of the road into the bay. He ran as fast as he could to the nearest payphone, his tears mixing into the rain which had picked back up again. Billie Joe called an ambulance, sobbing as he told the operator where Jimmy’s body was.

The next few days were a blur. There was the funeral (sparsely attended), and there were a few questions from the police. Apparently his family was looking for him. He had been reported missing three months ago from his home in California. Billie Joe had never asked where he was from.

At the very end of July, Billie Joe’s mom put an end to his sulking and made him apply for a job at the hardware store on East 12th, right by their house. He got the job, earning minimum wages to file papers and stock shelves. He spent his shifts daydreaming and avoiding customers, wishing he was anywhere else, smoking a cigarette or drinking coffee. He missed Mike and Tré; ever since Jimmy came along, he had seen less and less of his friends.

Billie Joe had to remind himself, as he stocked the wrenches and pipe segments on aisle two: Jimmy was never coming home. It was time he tried not to do the same.

Chapter Text

On July 31st, Billie Joe Armstrong finished his shift at the hardware store and then headed home at 4:00 in the afternoon. He stopped in front of his house, but he heard his mom and his stepdad yelling and stopped in the driveway. Billie decided he had two choices: either he could go inside and inevitably get yelled at for something that wasn’t even his fault, or he could walk. He chose the quieter of the two options and headed west, towards the ocean.

It wasn’t raining, but something about his route reminded him of the night Jimmy died and Billie Joe found himself retracing their route, turning on Parkway Drive. He stopped at the foot of the overpass, mentally preparing himself before walking up the sidewalk until he was about where Jimmy had… where it had happened. For a minute, Billie Joe just stood there, hands on the railing and face tipped towards the sun. There was still a bloodstain on the side of the road, splattered down the side of the freeway.

Billie Joe looked down for a minute, collecting his thoughts and breathing slowly. He could, of course, throw himself over the railing and take the route Jimmy took. It seemed so attractive sometimes, taking the easy way out. He couldn’t, though, couldn’t bring himself to do it. For one, Billie hated the way falling made him feel, that unpleasant drop in the stomach and the terrifying nothingness of it all. And besides, he was scheduled to work the next morning. Billie Joe stepped away from the railing and headed back the way he had come, suddenly very tired.

When he got back to his house, it was much later than Billie thought it would be. He had left work at 4; it was 7 at night already. He had spent hours on the bridge, remembering Jimmy. Letting himself in, Billie Joe waved his mother off when she asked him where he had been, retreating straight to his room without eating dinner.

On the shelf next to Billie Joe’s bed there was a single picture, not even in a frame. It was a grainy Polaroid of Billie Joe, Jimmy, Mike, and Tré, taken in early July when Jimmy was new and Billie Joe hadn’t alienated his friends. He missed them, he found, with no Jimmy constantly monopolizing his attention. Jimmy’s death had been unpredictable, surprising. But was it really… wrong? Jimmy was obviously troubled, and he wasn’t long for the world as it was.

Billie Joe hoped he had the time of his life.