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You Only Hear The Music (When Your Heart Begins To Break)

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The thing between Mikey and Frank is entirely casual.

It starts by accident, one night, when Frank is wired and Mikey needs human contact and they're both way past the point of caring. Their first time is desperate, maybe a little bit rough, and entirely cathartic for the both of them.

They don't talk about it, just let it be something that happened. But then it happens again, and they once again don't talk about it. The third time, Frank stops them mid-makeout to make sure they know where they stand.

"Mikey, Mikey. Hey, Mikey!" Frank says, detaching himself from a persistent Mikey. That doesn't stop him from trying to get at Frank's neck, just next to the scorpion tattoo, but Frank is smarter and manages to get Mikey away. "Mikes, what are we doing?"

"Well, we were about to have sex, but evidently that plan has changed." Mikey sits up straighter, scratches at his shoulder, but it doesn't do much difference while he's still wearing his binder.

"I know that. But, I mean- Mikey, we're friends! What the fuck!"

"If you don't wanna have sex with me, you can just say so, Frank. You're allowed to say no, you know."

Frank shifts a bit. "I'm not saying I don't want to, I just wanna know what it means."

"It doesn't have to mean anything if you don't want it to. It can just be a no strings kind of thing."

"Like, a friends with benefits deal?" Frank asks. Mikey nods.

"Yeah, like a friends with benefits deal."

They don't actually end up having sex that night, because the mood isn't really there anymore once they've figured themselves out. It does happen the next night, though, and before they know it, it's become a semi-regular thing.

So that's what they do. Casual, no strings. A not-relationship. It works for them, though.

Maybe three months or so into their friends with benefits deal, Mikey starts to realize that he likes Frank, and his solution to this is to simply ignore it. He doesn't really have a reason to bring it up, and besides, they'd both made it clear that this was entirely casual. Sure, Frank isn't really one for one-night stands, and maybe Mikey's own random hookups have slowed and eventually stopped since the thing with Frank started, but that isn't relevant. They agreed on no strings, no feelings. Mikey can deal.

Gerard doesn't seem to feel the same way on the subject.

"What exactly have you got to lose if you tell him though, Mikey?" Gerard asks, over a cup of coffee while Mikey's on break. Mikey rolls his eyes.

"A lot, actually. For one, we could stop with this whole thing, which, isn't that big I guess, but I'd like to keep on with it if we can. For another thing, Frank and I have been friends for years, and we share an apartment . He could kick me out and cut all ties if he wanted to."

"He wouldn't do that, Mikes," and Mikey knows that, but still.

Gerard, in typical Gerard fashion, still frets about it. His nervous energy is practically visible to Mikey, but then, the Way brothers have always been good at reading each other.

"You're sure you're okay, Mikes?" Gerard asks as Mikey starts to put his apron back on. Mikey nods.

"Yeah, Gee, I'm fine. It's not like I'm hiding it from myself or anything, right? I can admit it, I just don't see the point in telling Frank. It's nothing, I promise. Besides, I don't see you telling Ray about your feelings for him."

"That's different!"

"Of course it is," Mikey sighs.

"Ray is straight , Mikey, okay. I don't have a chance with him." Gerard frowns. Mikey totally doesn't roll his eyes at his brother.

"The only way Ray is straight is that he's straight up crushing on you, Gee. Trust me, Ray looks at you and there are actual hearts in his eyes. The two of you are ridiculous."

Gerard makes a strained noise, and brings his head down to rest on the table. "Don't make fun of me, Mikey."

"I'm not making fun of you, Gee, I'm being serious. Ray really likes you, you should try talking to him."

"I dunno, Mikey."

"Just, try to talk to him, at least?"

"I'll try."

In his journey to start his transition, Mikey's been seeing a therapist for about a year and a half to try to get a referral letter for testosterone. She diagnoses Mikey's gender dysphoria pretty early on, but waits to give him his letter just to be sure. It's kind of a pain in Mikey's ass, but he can sort of understand the reasoning behind the decision.

The day Mikey finally gets his referral letter, though, he calls up his friends and Gerard from the parking lot of the therapist's building to tell them. He actually calls them before he calls his doctor, but he's just so over the moon to finally be able to do this that it kind of slips his mind at first. Once the three of them know, though, Mikey actually does call his doctor. The first available appointment is for a week's time, but Mikey can actually get his blood work done the next day instead of after his physical.

Everyone ends up at Gerard's that night, since he's still living in Elena's house and it's bigger than Ray's duplex or Mikey and Frank's shared apartment. Ray and Frank split a bottle of Coke while Gerard guzzles down coffee like it's oxygen, and Mikey hogs the popcorn during their Star Wars marathon. He does relinquish some of the popcorn when they hit the prequels, though, if only so that the guys have something to throw half-heartedly at the screen.

They give up on their marathon when they finish Episode I, because four movies in one night is kind of a lot when they're all over two hours long, and it's past 3 anyways. Might as well at least try to be adults and get some sleep.

Gerard disappears upstairs fairly quickly, and Ray doesn't take too long to follow. Frank, who'd kind of dozed on the couch since just before Anakin's pod race, is still fairly sleepy, and uses what little energy he still has to climb haphazardly onto Mikey's back. It take about twenty minutes for Mikey to half-carry, half-drag Frank to the downstairs bedroom that's down the hall from Gee's living room, and by the time they make it, Frank is more alert, laughing hysterically as Mikey face-plants into the mattress. He even gives Mikey's shoulder a couple of good pokes, just to be sure.

"Yo, Mikey." No response. "Mikey. Mikey!" Mikey groans, but still doesn't move. Frank plops down onto Mikey's back, eliciting another groan, this one more pained.

"Mikey, hey, let's fuck." Frank says. Mikey shakes his head, or more accurately, rubs his glasses against the mattress for about half an inch on each side before giving up.

"It's like three-thirty, Frank," says Mikey, muffled by the bed. Frank shifts.

"So that's a no, then?"

"That's a no," Mikey confirms, pushing his way onto his side, and toppling Frank off the bed in the process. "We both have work in the morning. It'll already be hard enough to wake up as it is."

"Alright, Mikeyway. Goodnight," Frank says, and takes off his jeans before sliding into bed. Mikey follows suit, though he actually makes half an effort to fold his jeans. He doesn't need to worry about taking off his binder, either, since it's currently on the floor somewhere in Gerard's living room, probably covered in salt and butter from the popcorn.

Frank clings onto Mikey as soon as he settles into bed, muttering to himself about Mikey being warm. It makes him chuckle.

"Goodnight, Frank," Mikey says. Frank yawns.

"Night, Mikeyway."

It takes two or three tries before they finally get Mikey's testosterone dose right, but eventually they manage.

Mikey gets his dose through an injection in his thigh, once every two weeks. His doctor administers the first dose, makes sure Mikey knows how to do it, and then he does them on his own. Mikey has kind of shitty health insurance at work, but by some miracle it actually does cover a majority of his prescription, so he only has to pay about $15 for it. He also manages to get the pharmacy to auto refill the prescription, so he can get his dose on time.

The first effect from the testosterone is that Mikey's acne gets worse. It's not ridiculously bad, but he does get several big zits in quick succession to one another. One of these zits is on the side of his nose, right where the nose rest of his glasses sits, which makes wearing his glasses stupidly uncomfortable for a few days.

Another side effect is that Mikey eats a bit more. Not like, stupidly a lot, but he starts snacking a bit more often than he used to. He gains a couple of pounds, too, although it isn't really noticeable.

Mikey's sex drives goes up, too, but he isn't going to complain about that. Frank certainly doesn't. Their affair becomes a bit more frequent, a bit more passionate, but it's still casual.

After two months on T, Mikey's period starts coming less frequently, and by the fifth months, it stops outright. During his sixth month on T, he doesn't get his period, and he doesn't get it during the seventh month either, which is when he figures it's safe to assume that he probably won't be menstruating again.

It's around this time that Mikey and Frank stop being as insistent on condom use. They're both monogamous in this, and they're both clean, so there's no risk there, and if Mikey isn't menstruating, then there isn't a risk of him getting pregnant.

About a year after Mikey and Frank started their affair, though, Mikey starts to feel sort of off .

It starts when Mikey feels more tired than normal. He almost sleeps through his alarm a few times, and actually does sleep through it one morning and it takes Frank almost ten minutes to wake him up. He feels groggy throughout the day, and starts going to bed earlier, but it doesn't help much. About a week after it starts, Mikey falls asleep on the couch, intending to take a ten-minute nap and wakes up three hours later when Frank gets back from a band practice and accidentally hits his guitar case against the wall.

Drinking coffee doesn't help the fatigue, mostly because Mikey can't really bring himself to drink coffee anymore. It smells funny to him, and tastes weirder than it smells. It really sucks, because not only does Mikey usually have a codependent relationship with coffee, he actually works in a coffee shop. Work wasn't exactly a cake-walk to begin with, but being bothered by the smell of the main item on the menu certainly makes it worse.

It's when he starts getting nauseous at random times that Mikey begins to suspect something's up. He knows this isn't normal, there's no way it could be. And Mikey might have ruled out the possibility of pregnancy when he stopped menstruating, but he's not an idiot. The symptoms do seem to fit a bit too well to brush it off.

It's mid-December, about a week after the nausea started, that Mikey goes to CVS to get a pregnancy test. It's probably one of the most uncomfortable things he's ever had to do, especially since he gets a couple of strange looks. The cashier actually asks Mikey if he and his "girlfriend" are trying for a baby, and it should make him feel better that he passes so well, but there's a lead pit in his stomach and he can't bring himself to answer the guy.

Mikey hides the box in his underwear drawer and waits until he knows Frank won't be in the apartment to use it. He doesn't have to wait long, thankfully; Frank and his band are going to be gone for about five days, playing a few shows around New York state before the holidays.

Frank leaves early one morning, while Mikey is still asleep. He wakes up about two hours after Frank's left, and double checks the entire apartment to be sure he's alone before digging out the pregnancy test and locking himself in the bathroom with it. It's the longest ten minutes of his life, sitting there wedged between the sink and the door, knees pulled up to his chest, as Mikey waits for the result. When the timer on his phone goes off, Mikey is actually scared to look, but steels himself. He has to do this.

He almost drops the pregnancy test when he sees it, because it's fucking positive. Fuck . As it is, he stands there several minutes too long, just staring at the test long enough and so intently that the little plus sign in his vision blurs.

It feels like he's working on autopilot as he calls his doctor's office to make an appointment, and forcing the words "I think I'm pregnant" out for the receptionist hurts a bit. She gives Mikey a next-day appointment for the blood work, though, and tells him that the results from those tests should be back by the following Monday, the day Frank is supposed to come back.

The doctor who does his blood work and gives him the results back isn't his usual doctor. He's a much older man, probably pretty close to retiring, and he keeps calling Mikey "Michelle," no matter how many times he corrects him. The actual blood work only takes a few minutes, thank fuck, but the appointment in which Mikey gets his results is a bit longer.

"Congratulations, Michelle," says the doctor, eyes glued to the file in his hands. "You are in fact expecting. I'd suggest starting to take prenatal vitamins as soon as you can, but I won't give you anything for morning sickness since you don't seem to need it. Stay away from drugs, alcohol, and heavy lifting, and it would help if you could avoid drinking coffee as well. It also says here that you're taking testosterone, so that will have to stop for the duration of your pregnancy at least, and maybe a bit after that."

The doctor gives Mikey an ultrasound appointment for the 10th of January, and sends him on his way with a pamphlet on pregnancy and a slip of paper with a few different brands of prenatal vitamins listed on it. Mikey just leaves the clinic and goes to sit in his car, head resting on the steering wheel. He feels like crying, but no tears will come out. This just all feels so surreal, like it's happening to someone else.

Mikey doesn't know what to do. He should go home, he should go to Gerard's. He should tell Frank, he should just keep this to himself. He should get an abortion. He should keep the baby. He doesn't know.

Shaking, Mikey eventually manages to start his car, and drives to Gerard's. He knows he'll be home today, and help Mikey without judging him or getting mad. Actually, when Mikey knocks on the door, the first thing Gerard does is hug him. He must really look like shit.

Ray turns out to be over at Gerard's, sitting on the couch watching some trashy reality show. Gerard just steers Mikey upstairs to the master bedroom, arranging him on Gerard's bed before crawling next to him and just holding him. Gerard doesn't force Mikey to talk, and for a few minutes, they just lay there in silence.

Eventually, Mikey feels like he should say something, but he just can't force the words from his mouth right now. He still has that stupid pamphlet, though, so he gives that to Gerard instead. He studies it for a moment, eyebrows knitting together, before looking up at Mikey, face a bit pale.

"Mikey?" He asks, and Mikey nods.

"Yeah. I'm- yeah."

Mikey rolls over a bit so he can bury his face further into Gerard's shoulder. Gerard rubs his back gently with one hand, still holding Mikey with the other.

"I don't know what to do," Mikey whispers, a few minutes later. He still hasn't cried, but he feels like everything right now might be leading up to it. It helps a bit, though, that Gerard knows now. Mikey hadn't even told him that he suspected this.   

"I know, Mikes," says Gerard, "and I promise that I'm going to help you in any way I can, but this is your decision. I can't make it for you."

They're both quiet for a few long moments, Gerard holding Mikey while he tries to make sense of his thoughts. His mind is whirring, though, thoughts flying past him at a million miles a second, too fast for him to make sense of any of it.

Just before the silence gets too tense, Gerard speaks up again. "Does Frank know? That you're pregnant?" Mikey shakes his head. He doesn't even know if he wants to tell Frank.

It would be just Mikey's luck that in the moment after Gerard's question, Ray knocks on the frame of the open bedroom door, looking very much like a deer in the headlights. It's evident that he'd heard something, but no matter how long he's been standing there, Mikey's fucked.

"Who's pregnant?" Ray asks, high and startled.

Mikey still has his face next to Gerard's shoulder, and he hides it again as Gerard and Ray stare each other down, both unsure of what to do or say next.

"Do you want to -?" Gerard starts, leaning his head down closer to Mikey. His stomach lurches.

"You can tell him," Mikey whispers. It's almost too quiet to hear himself.

Gerard sighs a deep breath. "Mikey's pregnant."

It seems final, now that Gerard has said it, like it's what Mikey needed to really believe it. It's finally starting to sink in, to feel real to Mikey. This is real. He's pregnant. This is his life.

Ray stumbles forward after a moment, and ends up on the bed with Mikey and Gerard, hugging the both of them.

"Oh my god," Ray says. "Oh my god." It's obvious that Ray's trying not to let himself get excited about this. He absolutely loves kids, babies especially, and of their friend group, it's pretty much mutual agreement that Ray will make the best parent of all of them. But Ray's also known the Ways for years, was the second person Mikey ever came out to. Ray wants to be happy for Mikey, to congratulate him and celebrate, but he knows this isn't really something Mikey necessarily wanted. It isn't really anything Mikey ever imagined happening.

"Do you know what you're going to do?" Ray asks gently. Mikey shakes his head. As if everything is finally crashing down around him, he starts crying.

It's horrible. It's cathartic. It's everything he needs and everything he never wants to admit to. Once the tears start, he can't seem to get them to stop or slow down, and he's left there, a mess, wrapped up in Gerard and Ray's arms as they try to console him.

"You're fine, Mikes. We're here. You're alright," Gerard coos. Mikey hiccups a bit against his shoulder.

Eventually, he exhausts himself, and falls asleep on Gerard's bed. When he wakes up, Ray is there, sitting against Gerard's headboard. He's got Mikey's head resting on one of his thighs as he rubs his back gently. Gerard has disappeared, but Mikey can faintly hear noise downstairs.

"Hey," Ray says gently. Mikey rubs his eyes. His glasses have disappeared at some point, too. Ray hands them over when Mikey starts looking around.

"Thanks," he croaks, his voice cracking a bit.

"Frank called earlier. That's why I came up here. He didn't know where you were, and he asked if I knew."

"What did you tell him?"

"I told him you came to see Gerard, and that you might spend the night. I'm not gonna force you to talk to him, but you might want to call him later. He seemed a bit disappointed not to see you." Mikey nods, but knows he probably won't be calling Frank that night. "Do you know what you're going to do?"

"Not really," Mikey admits. Ray brings his hand up to comb through Mikey's hair, smiling tightly down at him.

"It might help if you made a list, you know?" Ray suggests. Mikey loves that he's able to count on Ray right now, a steady voice of reason when everything feels like it's falling apart around him.

Mikey's voice feels small when he asks, "could you and Gee help me?" Ray nods, though, and gently coaxes Mikey downstairs to the kitchen table.

The list Mikey ends up writing has three sections; "why I should keep the baby," "why I should abort," and "stuff that could happen no matter what." Mikey writes most of it himself, with help from Ray and Gerard to organize his thoughts. Ray gives Mikey a couple of suggestions, too, but Gerard only gives him one, afraid to influence Mikey too much.

It helps a bit, to have the list. Now that some of his thoughts are organized, it's easier to think, but that doesn't make the decision any easier. He spends almost the whole afternoon sitting at Gerard's kitchen table, staring intently at the list like it will reveal the secrets of the universe to him. Gerard manages to coax him to eat, and after that Ray distracts him with a movie, which works, for a while. Then Mikey decides to go to bed, and ends up being unable to fall asleep.

Mikey manages to get a couple of days off work, and spends them hiding out at Gerard's house. He and Ray try to split their shifts so that Mikey isn't alone for too long. They don't pressure him into making his decision either, or really bring the subject up.

Whenever Mikey thinks about what to do, a part of him always wants to go through with it and keep the baby. As the days go by, that part of him gets bigger. He starts to become attached to the idea of having this baby, but there's still some doubt in his mind. There's no way of knowing how Frank will react to any of this, and Mikey really doesn't think he'd be able to do this without him, even with Ray and Gerard's help.

Mikey hasn't spoken to Frank since Sunday night, when he wished him luck before his last show. By the time he'd remembered that Ray told him to call Frank on Monday night, it was already too late, and then the weight of the decision keeps him from calling on Tuesday or Wednesday. Mikey feels like if he calls Frank while he's still undecided on this, he'll tell him everything and the decision won't be his to make anymore.

On Thursday, Mikey brings the subject of his decision up with Gerard.

"I think I'm going to go through with the pregnancy," he says. Gerard nods. He smiles at Mikey too, but it's tight, and doesn't quite reach his eyes. He's been tense since Monday, but knowing Mikey's finally deciding seems to be helping him ease up a bit.

"That's- that's great, Mikey," Gerard says, resting his head on Mikey's shoulder. He just got back from work half an hour ago, which is about the same time as Ray left for his own shift, and as soon as he got back he plopped onto the couch next to Mikey to watch stupid cop shows they'd both seen a thousand times before.

"I don't know if I'll- if Frank doesn't want this, if he doesn't want the baby, I don't know if I want to keep it. But I can't really bring myself to end it, either, you know? They deserve a chance." Gerard nods at Mikey's words, but stays silent.

It's a bit hard to put those words out there. For all that Mikey's been getting attached to the idea over the last few days, Gerard and Ray have, too. Ray's excitement has been getting more obvious the more it seemed Mikey would keep the baby, and he hasn't done the best job of hiding it. Gerard's been more subtle about it, but Mikey had overheard him talking to Ray about what it would be like to be an uncle. That's part of the reason Mikey's making this decision; at this point, Ray and Gerard as just as involved as Mikey is.

Ray gets home after supper, and complains about the lack of decent food places near his work until Gerard finally gets up and hands him a plate of food. Normally, Gerard doesn't make much more than enough food for himself, or Mikey if he's also over, but he's been making extra food for Ray the whole time Mikey's been here, even if Ray wasn't around.

Mikey waits until Ray is done eating to tell him what he's decided, and Ray thanks Mikey for telling him. He also reminds Mikey that he should probably tell Frank, and Mikey decides that he can't avoid it forever. He goes into the spare room he's been sleeping in for the past few nights and calls.

"Mikey?" Frank asks when he picks up, voice hopeful. Mikey nods kind of dumbly despite himself.

"Yeah. Hi, Frank."

"Shit, dude, where are you at? You kind of pulled a bit of a disappearing act on me or something."

"I'm still at Gee's," Mikey admits, "I needed to sort out a few things, but I'm good now."

"What's up? Are you okay?" Frank's voice has this worried edge to it that makes Mikey's heart clench a bit.

"I'm fine Frank," Mikey promises, "it wasn't anything big."

"If you're sure. You coming home soon? The apartment feels fucking empty without you."

Mikey can't stop the small smile that tugs at his lips. It's the closest to happy he's felt in days. "Yeah, Frankie, I'll be home tomorrow after work. See you soon?"

"See you soon, Mikeyway."

True to his word, Mikey does actually go home to his and Frank's apartment once his shift ends on Friday afternoon. Frank is there waiting for him, and clings to Mikey like a limpet like he tends to do when he's been on tour longer than two weeks; which, Mikey supposes is fair, given that he hasn't seen Frank in just over two weeks.

The two of them end up cuddled together on the couch watching some new horror DVD that Frank got while he was gone. If Mikey wanted to, he could extract himself from Frank's grip, pause the movie, and tell him right now, but it's actually not such a bad film, and Frank's amazing at cuddles, so Mikey tells himself he'll wait a few minutes. A few minutes pass, and he tells himself the same thing. And then again, and again, and again, until the film ends.

Mikey knows he has to say something now, because sitting here with Frank has left him warm and comfortable and if he doesn't do something he's going to conk out here on the couch and wake up three hours later and still not have the courage to say it. Frank makes a noise of displeasure when Mikey extracts himself from his hold and shuffles to his feet. He takes in a shaky breath and looks down at his feet.

"Mikey?" Frank asks, and there's that same tone of worry as the day before on the phone. Mikey has to do this, there's no way out. It's not like he'd be able to hide it for long anyway.

"I'm pregnant," he finally says, after a long moment of silence. Frank makes some unidentifiable sort of noise that makes Mikey look up.

There's this look in Frank's eyes that's like a thousand emotions passing by at once as he tries to figure out how to feel, and then all of a sudden, he's clinging to Mikey in a tight hug. "You're..." he starts, and then breaks down into giggles. Mikey doesn't think he's ever seen Frank smile so big, and he's talking so fast Mikey can't make out his questions. He thinks he catches, "how long have you known," which is just about the only thing he can answer.

"I found out on Monday," says Mikey. "Gerard and Ray already know. I didn't want to tell you before I knew what I was going to do." Frank's expression falls, just minutely, at Mikey's words.

"What are you going to do, then?"

"I'm going to go through with it- the pregnancy, I mean."

"So you're keeping the baby?" Frank's starting to look excited again, and Mikey's heart skips a beat for a second.

"I mean- yeah, I guess." This earns Mikey a tight squeeze from Frank, thankfully around his chest rather than his waist. After a moment, he lets go, and starts to tug Mikey towards the couch again until they're sitting like they were a few minutes ago.

"Do you know how far along you are yet?" Frank asks. Mikey shakes his head.

"No, but the doctor gave me an ultrasound appointment in January to make sure my last dose of T didn't affect anything, so I'll probably find out then."

"Can I go with you?" Frank asks. Mikey looks up at him. It's not really something he expected Frank to ask.

"Uh, sure, I guess. Why?"

"Mikey, why wouldn't I want to be there? If I know you half as well as I should, then that means the kid is mine. I'm not gonna like, walk away or make you go through this alone. I wanna be there every step of the way, okay?"

And, okay, Mikey really didn't expect this. He probably should have, Frank loves kids almost as much as Ray does, and he's talked about wanting kids before. Granted, he never talked about wanting kids with Mikey , but still. It only makes sense he'd want to be there, if only just for the baby.

"When is your appointment, anyway?" Frank asks, breaking Mikey out of his thoughts.

"Oh. January. The tenth, I think. I told Ray, he's got it written down somewhere."

"Alright. I'll be there, Mikey, I promise."

Mikey really wishes he had the guts to tell Frank how much he means to him.

Christmas sees Mikey and Frank hanging out at Gerard's with him and Ray. It's a bit of a tradition among the Ways to spend Christmas at Elena's house, and now that Gerard's inherited it, he's continued the tradition between himself and Mikey. Ray's been celebrating Christmas at Gee's for three years, and this is Frank's second Christmas with them.

This year, Gerard seems intent on documenting every last moment via photo and video. He actually has three spare memory cards in his front pocket. Mikey is doing his part to hide behind Ray and Frank, away from the camera; he's starting to outgrow his binder, but his chest hurts too much to wear it at all these days, and he still feels weird wearing a sports bra during the day. He'd actually showed up wearing the baggiest sweater he could find in the apartment, but it got too hot to keep it on, and his t-shirt isn't doing anything to hide the lines of his chest. None of the guys have mentioned it, bless them. If they did bring it up, Mikey doesn't know what he'd do.

"C'mon, Mikes, stand still! I've gotta capture this so your kid can look back at this someday," Gerard says, practically running him down in his attempts to get a picture.

"Leave him alone, Gee," Frank says, latching onto Mikey's arm. "He doesn't want his picture taken right now. Just wait until he falls asleep later, then you can get all the pictures you want!" Mikey shoves Frank towards the wall.

Most of Mikey's gifts this year are pregnancy related, although he does get a new Pencey demo from Frank. For the most part, though, it's baggy clothes for when Mikey inevitably gets too big for his jeans. Ray also gets Mikey one of those books to keep track of pregnancy milestones and shit.

"I already filled in the day you found out and the appointment for your first ultrasound," he says, and when Mikey checks, the appointment is indeed there on the page in Ray's neat print. He thanks him, and makes a note to write down all his future appointments in the book as he schedules them.

"What the fuck?" Mikey asks, studying the front of the box over Frank's shoulder.

"They're speakers," Gerard says. "You stick them on your stomach so your kid can listen to music and shit." They thank Gerard for the gift, but Mikey has plans to conveniently "lose" it as soon as they get back to their apartment. Frank looks a bit bemused with the thing, though.

They don't really have a Christmas dinner planned out, so they just kinda sit around Gerard's living room talking like they usually do on not-Christmas occasions. Gerard and Ray share the couch, and Gerard seems intent on tricking Ray into taking a selfie with him. Frank takes the recliner, which is really too big for him and makes him seem even tinier than usual, though almost as soon as he sits down, he pulls Mikey with him, depositing him on his lap and wrapping an arm around Mikey's middle. Gerard manages to turn his attention away from Ray long enough to snap a picture of Mikey, finally, before resuming his pleading.

It's a pretty nice Christmas. Mikey likes it.

Mikey has trouble sleeping the night before his first ultrasound appointment. He tosses and turns for a while, before he eventually gives up and gets up, ending up stretched out on the living room couch while the TV runs quietly for background noise. Without really noticing, he must fall asleep, because he wakes up when it's light out to Frank shaking his arm gently.

Mikey's appointment is only in the afternoon, so once Frank wakes him up he goes back into his room to sleep a bit more. He finally wakes up properly around 11:30, and gets dressed. Frank makes lunch, and then they kill another hour or so playing video games before Mikey's phone goes off and they know it's time to go.

The drive to the hospital waiting room doesn't take long, but they do spend a fair amount of time in the waiting room. Mikey feels tense and nervous and just a little bit scared, but Frank seems a bit more at ease than he is. That's not to say he isn't nervous either; he's worrying his lip ring, and he'd probably start playing with one of his gauges if he didn't have his arm draped over Mikey's shoulder to try to keep him grounded. Finally, Mikey's name is called, and they're led to the office the ultrasound will be performed in.

The technician is a young woman, not too much older than Mikey, who asks him how he'd like to be addressed as she helps him settle onto the exam table.

"Just Mikey is fine," he tells her, and she smiles.

"Well then, Mikey, I'll just ask you to lift your shirt up and we can get started." The doctor says. Mikey does as she asks.

While she prepares her things, she asks Frank and Mikey a few basic questions about how Mikey's pregnancy is doing so far, and nods at their answers.

"This is a dating ultrasound, correct?"

"It's to check that everything's alright," Frank tells her. "Mikey was on testosterone so we don't really know when he conceived, or if there were any effects."

"Well, we'll see what we can find out."

When she picks up the heartbeat, Mikey and Frank's faces both break out into relieved smiles. It's a loud, steady beat that almost feels like it could be Mikey's favourite song if he listened to it long enough.

"Nice strong heartbeat from baby. A bit loud, I think, but I don't see anything wrong." So far, she's had the display turned towards her, so Mikey and Frank haven't seen anything themselves yet.

There isn't really much to see when she turns the screen for them. Mostly, it's just a lump of darkness, surrounded by more darkness, with a dark little figure to one side. "There's your baby," the technician tells them. "I'd say you're probably about seven weeks along. Everything looks fine right now, so as long as you're careful and you take care of yourself, you should be okay."

She helps Mikey clean the gel off his stomach before directing Mikey and Frank to the receptionist who signed them in when they arrived to schedule the next two appointments; a blood test at 10 weeks and a second ultrasound at 12.

A few days after the first ultrasound appointment, Pencey Prep plays a show upstate, and Mikey agrees to go watch.

Just after Mikey had told him he was pregnant, Frank had suggested opening a joint bank account to save money for the baby. Unofficially called the "baby fund," both Frank and Mikey have been regularly putting any money from shows and extra shifts into the account. Frank actually goes into a frenzy scheduling Pencey shows so that the baby fund can have a decent amount of money in it.

Ray and Gerard had also attempted to put money into the baby fund, but Frank and Mikey had refused.

"The baby fund is for if we wanna take time off after the kid is born and shit," Frank tells them. It's the most responsible thing any of them have ever done.

Gerard starts to protest that that's exactly why he and Ray should be helping with the baby fund, but Mikey shuts him down.

"If you wanna help us, buy like diapers or teddy bears or some shit," Mikey tells him. Not even the next day, Gerard and Ray start looking for baby stuff for them. Mikey's not even eight weeks along when Ray's already bought them a carseat for the baby. Like, a stupidly expensive high end one, too. No one dares to bring up the actual price of it, because it's probably more than it should have been.

The venue Pencey is playing tonight is a bit bigger than they usually play, and a lot newer, too. It actually has a proper side stage area, too, which is where Mikey will be watching the set. While the openers play, Frank practically plasters himself to Mikey's back, resting his cheek against Mikey's arm and hugging him from behind. He's been a lot clingier since he found out Mikey was pregnant, which is impressive given how clingy Frank is anyway. Mikey's getting used to the lack of personal space, though.

The openers tonight are an all-girl punk band called the Sisters of Mercy. The four-piece band is made up of girls who are all at least four years younger than Frank, and their names all start with the letter E. The lead singer has short, almost white hair, tied back in pigtails with her bangs all over the place. Both the bassist and the guitarist have dyed hair, likely originally a dark-ish sort of purple that's in different stages of fading out on each of their heads. The bassist sticks out especially, in her long black and red dress and her bass covered in more stickers than paint. The drummer is the most unassuming of the lot, with long brown hair tied back from her face and hidden partway behind her kit, though she's certainly loud enough to be heard among the group.

Sisters of Mercy only has a four song set. Their first three songs are originals, and during the dead time between the songs, the drummer, the guitarist, and the singer take their turns giving anecdotes about the songs they've written. The fourth and final song, though, is a cover, a call and response duet between the bassist and the singer. The bassist gives the dead time speech before this song, spinning a story about how Sister of Mercy came about their name (a local legend from her hometown), and then declaring that they'd show the crowd "how the French punks party!"

The cover turns out to be of Simple Plan's Jet Lag, with the Sisters of Mercy singer taking the lead and the bassist taking the guest vocals. The call is in English, and the answering line from the bassist comes back in an accented French that leaves the audience slightly confused but very much still into it. The bassist definitely isn't used to singing and playing at the same time, though. She misses some of her line in her effort to concentrate on the lyrical timing, but never fails to catch back up to the song, and her voice doesn't falter either. Mikey makes a note to run to the merch table between sets to grab one of their demos.

There's a few minutes between the end of the Sisters of Mercy set and the beginning of the Pencey set, and the band actually hangs out at the merch table during this break. Mikey goes over to talk to them with Frank in tow, and they see him first, looking excited. Apparently the four of them are big Pencey Prep fans.

"Great set," Frank says, shaking the lead singer, Elora's, hand. She beams right back at Frank.

"Thank you so much! I'm sure yours will be great too."

Sisters of Mercy not only have a demo, but also a full album, not quite homemade but definitely not professional either. Frank manages to get a copy of both the demo and the album though, in exchange for a signed copy of Heartbreak in Stereo. After stowing the disks safely in a guitar case backstage, it's time for Frank to go on. Mikey makes his way back to side stage alone.

No matter how many times Mikey's seen Pencey play, there's always that feeling in his chest like he's at his first show the moment the band comes onstage and starts playing. His eyes stay on Frank almost the whole time, running and jumping around like an unstoppable, untethered force. How and where Frank gets all his energy, Mikey will never know, but it certainly makes for an interesting stage presence.

From his spot side stage, Mikey has more room to move around than he usually would if he was in the pit or off by the bar. It gives Mikey a sense of freedom to dance a bit, not in the way that he would at a show but more like he does in his and Frank's living room while listening to Queen or Black Flag. For a little while, he does dance, lets himself get lost in some of the more energetic songs.

Mikey takes a chance to fix his shirt and catch his breath while Frank tells a story about breaking a couple of toes at a show when he feels a bump on his stomach that wasn't there before, and- oh.

Mikey lets his hand rest over the spot, feeling the bump under his fingers, and smiles. Baby bump, he thinks, rubbing it idly with his fingertips. It's small still, not noticeable when he looks, but he can feel it, firmer under his fingers than the rest of his stomach. Frank looks over a moment after Mikey first notices the bump, and his eyes start to look worried when he notices Mikey holding his stomach. Mikey beams at him, though, trying to get the message across that it's okay, he's fine. He's happy.

It doesn't seem like Frank caught the message, but he doesn't rush the rest of the show either, which Mikey is relieved about. Frank has a tendency to rush shows if he thinks anything is wrong and no one stops him, and Mikey would hate for someone's concert experience to suck just because of a misunderstanding. Frank does come rushing over to Mikey as soon as he's able to, though, nearly barrelling into him in his rush. Mikey's still got a hand on his stomach, which seems to worry Frank even more.

"Do you feel okay? Do you need to sit down? Do you want to go home?" Frank asks in a rush. Mikey shakes his head, stupid smile still plastered on his head.

"Frank! I'm fine, I promise," Mikey says. Frank seems a bit skeptical.

"Why are you holding your stomach then? If you don't feel well, you can just tell me, I can take-"

Mikey chuckles a bit, and shakes his head again. "I have a baby bump," he says. Frank's face goes blank for a moment, then starts to fill with wonder.

"You- you have a baby bump?" He asks slowly. Mikey nods.

Frank slowly starts beaming, until his grin is as big as the one he had when Mikey first told him he was pregnant. "I- can. Can I touch it?" Frank asks shyly, ducking his head. Mikey laughs.

"Of course you can, Frank, Jesus." Mikey grabs Frank's hand then, places it just where his own hand was a moment ago, so that Frank can feel the tiny bump beneath his fingers. Frank's eyes light up.

"Holy fuck," he whispers, "that's- that's our baby."

Our baby, he said. It feels like all of a sudden Mikey's emotions slam into him. He likes to think he hides the hearts in his eyes well when Frank looks up.

The morning after the Pencey show, Mikey wakes up eight weeks pregnant, showing, and miserable.

Mikey spends several minutes in bed after he wakes up just staring at his growing chest and stomach, wondering how the fuck he got himself into this mess. The urge to rest a hand on the bump, the same one he gave into last night at the show, is still there, but Mikey resists this time, and fists his hands into the sheets on either side of the mattress. Mikey looks like a woman. A very obviously pregnant woman. He wants to cry and scream and pitch a fit. He wants to curl up and rot away to nothing.

Mikey stays where he is in bed for a while.

Eventually, he has to get up to get food. No matter how shitty he feels right now, he knows it'll be worse later if he doesn't try to function, at least at a minimum. Frank is in the living room when Mikey emerges from his room, and he follows Mikey into the kitchen before latching onto his back and reaching to his stomach to try to feel the bump again. Mikey jerks away from him.

"Hey, what's up?" Frank asks, shrinking back out of Mikey's space.

"I'm fucking pregnant, that's what's up." Mikey snaps, crossing his arms.


"I'm fucking pregnant, Frank. I'm eight weeks fucking pregnant and I already have a baby bump, and I look like a woman and everything sucks."

Frank takes a step closer to Mikey, arm reached out gently, but Mikey takes another step back, so Frank drops his arm. "Mikey. You're- you look like Mikey."

It doesn't take long for Mikey to start yelling. His emotions are shot, he's wired, and it feels like the only thing he knows how to do right now is to argue with Frank. He shouldn't have a baby bump this early, shouldn't be showing yet. Frank tries to be rational about it, though, gently bringing up counterpoints and never raising his voice.

"Some people start showing earlier than others. Hell, some people start showing really late. Besides, Mikey, you're tiny. You've always been tiny. It kinda makes sense that you might show a bit earlier." Frank does have a point, Mikey knows, but right now his entire emotional capacity is "angry and upset," so he storms back into his room, grabbing a random food packet off the counter. It turns out to be a packet of bear paw cookies, the brownie ones that Mikey isn't fond of but that Gerard keeps bringing over for himself and Ray. Mikey eats them, though, and mopes in his room for most of the afternoon.

Frank knocks on Mikey's door a few hours later, as the sun is going down for the evening. Mikey doesn't answer, doesn't even get up from his bed. He's still glaring down at the bump. He still hasn't let himself touch it.

"I've got dinner for you if you want it," Frank says. Mikey doesn't get up. After a moment, there's another thud against the door. "I'll just leave the plate by the door, if you want it."

Mikey waits a few minutes before he goes to the door to get his plate. True to his word, Frank has left the plate by the door, so Mikey picks it up and brings it to his desk to eat. It's breakfast for dinner tonight, it seems, because Mikey's plate has eggs and facon on it. He doesn't feel very hungry, but he still eats it, and once he's done, checks to make sure the coast is clear before running into the kitchen to drop the plate into the sink.

Frank is waiting for Mikey in his room when he comes back, sitting at his desk chair. Mikey plops himself onto the corner of the bed, looking down at his hands in his lap instead of at Frank. The silence is a bit tense, and after a few minutes, Frank starts to bounce his leg up and down. He takes a deep breath.

"I'm sorry if I upset you earlier," Frank says. Mikey shrinks in on himself a bit.

"It's my fault," Mikey says, "not yours."

"Is it the dysphoria? Or the hormones?"

"A bit of both, maybe. Dysphoria, mostly."

Frank nods, laces his fingers together and cups one of his knees. Mikey can see the word "bookworm" spelled out clearly. "You can come sit over here if you want," Mikey says eventually. Frank smiles and walks over, sitting next to Mikey on the bed. He leans his head on Frank's shoulder.

"Thanks for putting up with me," Mikey says eventually. Frank looks at him with a mixture of fondness and mirth.

"I should be the one telling you that," is Frank's answer, and somewhere along the way, they both lean in.

For a few minutes, they're content to just sit there, making out. Since Mikey's been pregnant, they haven't been consummating their benefits as often as before, and they haven't been doing anything much below the belt, either. At first, it seems like right now might follow the same pattern, but then Frank shifts, moving off the edge of the mattress and kneeling between Mikey's legs, bringing Mikey with him as he moves so they can keep their kiss. It's a weird angle, but the bump isn't too far in the way yet.

Finally, Frank breaks the kiss, but he stays where he is before Mikey, one hand on Mikey's hip and starting to pant a bit. "Can I?" He asks, and Mikey finds himself nodding. It's been too long. Mikey ends up lying with most of his body on the bed, and Frank between his legs as he kneels on the floor. He makes a move to lift Mikey's shirt, and he complies, thinking Frank is going to take it off of him, but he simply rucks it up enough for the bump to be visible. "Can I?" Frank asks again.

"Yes," says Mikey, and Frank starts to trail kisses along the bump, working his way down as he gets Mikey out of his jeans. Mikey lets himself loosen up, until the only thing he's thinking about is the way Frank's making him come undone, how much he missed being with Frank like this. When Mikey's spent, Frank works his way back up in more kisses up the bump, until he's reached the top, and then stands, plopping onto the mattress next to Mikey. Mikey latches on at the mouth again, a weird, sideways sort of kiss, and works his own hand into Frank's jeans, jerking him with a practiced ease as Frank whimpers into his mouth. He breaks off from Mikey as he hits his release, and Mikey eases him down with a few more kisses. After that, they just lay there, side by side, breathing heavily together.

And this? This is easy. The hard part is everything else.

"I'm gonna fucking die," Frank mopes, head resting on his arms on Ray's table. Ray shakes his head.

"You know, if you actually told him, things would probably work out." Ray points out. Frank groans.

"My feelings for Mikey aren't like the thing between you and Gerard, Ray. Don't you get it? Mikey's pregnant! With my kid! If I tell him I'm in love with him, he'll think it's just because he's having my baby. Besides, it's not like you're in a position to tell me how to improve my love life when you've been chasing Gee almost as long as I've chased Mikey."

Frank doesn't even need to lift his head to tell that Ray is currently trying to hide behind his hair. "I don't know what you're talking about." He says quickly.

"You'd save yourself and Gerard a hell of a lot of time if you said anything to him. You wouldn't even have to tell him you like him, just let him know you're bi and he'll be all over you."

"Gerard knows I'm bi," Ray protests, but it's weak. "Probably."

"Well, did you ever actually outright tell him you're bi?"

"No. But I hinted at it! A lot!" Frank sits up in time to see Ray settle across the table from him. "Can we not talk about this right now? Please? You still haven't told me why you're here instead of doting over Mikey like you usually do."

"I do not dote on Mikey!" Frank yells, and Ray barely manages to duck the napkin he throws (rather sloppily) his way.

"You so do. Now, spit it out. Why are you in my house?"

Frank sighs. "Are you busy on Tuesday morning?"

"No, I have the whole day off. Gerard and I had thought of maybe watching a movie or something. Why?"

"Pencey is going on a ten-day tour and Mikey's got a blood test on Tuesday."

Ray pushes a curl out of his face, but it bounces back into place. "Mikey can't go on his own?"

"I mean, he could," Frank starts, locking and unlocking his fingers as he looks down at them. "But I'd rather someone go with him, and I can't ask Gee because he's too shitscared of needles."

"I'm still not entirely convinced that he needs someone there with him, Frank," Ray says. Frank looks like he might bring his head back down to thud on the table.

"Please, Ray?" He tries. Ray says nothing. "Please?" Ray still says nothing. "Pleeeaaa-"

"Fine, Frank, Jesus! Okay, yes, I'll do it."

"Thanks, Ray!" Frank says, and the grin on his face can only be described as "shit-eating" in that moment.

Ray wonders to himself how he ever became friends with Frank Iero.

Mikey's twelve week scan falls on Valentine's Day.

He's just as nervous for this scan as he was for the first one, because Gerard had had the stupid idea to look up the reasoning behind the ten week blood test, and then told Mikey that it was to check for signs of Down Syndrome. Thankfully, Frank hadn't been there for that conversation, or else he'd be too crazy with worry to deal with. There's also the fact that Mikey is very visibly pregnant now, especially for only twelve weeks, so he's starting to wonder if there's something they don't know.

This time, the appointment is in the morning, just after 7, so not only does Mikey spend the whole night half-awake worrying, but he also has to get up and be ready to function in public before the sun rises. They're one of the first appointments of the day, though, and this time they don't have to wait too long in the waiting room.

It's a different technician doing the scan this time, a man in his mid-thirties who's tall and kind of rather bland in face and voice. He calls Frank "Mr. Iero" and Mikey "Mr. Way," and he doesn't dally or stall before he's got Mikey on the table and the ultrasound started.

The heartbeat seems different, this time, more like there's an echo, too fast. Something's up. Mikey grabs onto Frank's hand, squeezes. Frank gives him a squeeze back, rests his free hand on Mikey's shoulder. The technician takes his time looking things over.

After a few tense minutes, he turns the screen over so that Frank and Mikey can see. He's got the ultrasound wand resting on one side of Mikey's stomach. "Here's baby number one," he says, and before either Mikey or Frank can think too hard on the wording, he moves the ultrasound wand to the other side, saying, "and here's baby number two."

Mikey's brain goes blank. Beside him, Frank freezes for a moment. "You mean..." He trails off. The technician nods.

"Yes, Mr. Iero. It appears you and Mr. Way are expecting twins. Identical, by the looks of it."

Mikey doesn't really process the rest of the appointment, just knows Frank stays by his side, holding onto his hand whenever he's unable to cling closer to Mikey all the way back home. The whole time, Mikey just tries to get his mind to work properly and form thoughts.

Frank ends up dragging him to the couch when they get back, and Mikey feels him slip away. He whines a bit at the loss of contact. He doesn't think he should be alone right now. "I'll be right back," Frank promises, and turns into the kitchen. He comes back with a glass of water and a fortune cookie, both of which he gives to Mikey. He eats the cookie, handing the fortune off to Frank to read, and sips lamely at the water.

"You have so much to be thankful for," Frank tells him, and Mikey blinks. "Lucky numbers are 7, 12, 25, 26, 29, and 36."

"We're having twins," Mikey says. It's just starting to sink in now. He rests his free hand on his stomach, and Frank does the same after a moment.

"I know," answers Frank, resting his head on Mikey's shoulder.

"Holy fuck."

"Well said."

"Gerard is gonna freak."

Gerard does, sorta, freak, but only a little bit. They call him the next day to tell him, because for some reason, even though he's the world's most excited uncle to be, he doesn't actually call to ask on the day of. Mikey's a bit suspicious, and if he thought Gerard had it in him, he'd chance a guess that he and Ray finally got somewhere in this never-ending dance of theirs. Ray hasn't actually asked them about the ultrasound yet either, which would add weight to the theory. Gerard is pretty damn oblivious, though, and Ray nearly matches him for it, so that's a bit of a stretch in Mikey's mind. Gerard makes a series of really excited noises when he's told about the twins, though, and Mikey can hear shuffling in the background like he's digging for something.

"You guys better still be home in three hours because I'm coming over," he promises, and then hangs up. They call Ray next.

He's excited about the news too, voice so high and elated that Mikey can practically see the smile in it, when all of a sudden he swears.

"Shit," comes his voice over the phone, "I'm gonna have to buy you another car seat! The first one cost me like $300!"

"Ray," Frank calls, jerking Mikey's arm so he can be closer to the phone. "Don't you dare buy us another $300 car seat!"

Ray shows up two and a half hours later with another car seat, the same as the first one, and Gerard in tow. He's got a large envelop held between his teeth and way too many bags on his arms. Mikey takes the envelope from him, and he and Frank grab a few of the bags before Gerard topples over.

"What even is all this stuff," Frank asks, and Gerard beams.

"Baby shit. Mikes, open the envelope!"

Mikey shoots Gerard a look, and pointedly takes a moment longer than necessary to put the bags he's holding down before slowly opening the envelope. Inside is a single sheet of orange paper, with an image on one side, a drawing done by Gerard himself. It's of two bundles, evidently meant to represent newborns, swaddled in blankets with pumpkins and bats patterned on them. At the very top of the page, in Gerard's most valiant attempt at calligraphy, reads "TWICE THE FUN." It's entirely adorable, and Mikey immediately hugs his brother.

Meanwhile, Frank has begun to dig around in some of Gerard's bags, coming back with doubles of onesies and baby clothes and shoes in several sizes each. "Gee, are we even gonna need all these?" He asks. Gerard nods almost frantically.

"Hell yeah. Babies are messy, and they grow really fast. Most of this stuff probably won't even last a year after the twins are born." Gerard chirps. Mikey's digging through bags now too, and some of the clothes are marked as being size "12 months," so if they're not gonna last a year, that seems kind of deceptive.

There has to be a dozen outfits or more in the eight bags Gerard brought with him, and almost all of them have are in pairs with a least two doubles in bigger sizes. There's actually only two unique onesies among the whole mess, which Mikey finds in their own bag, alongside shoes and hats. The whole ensemble is skeleton themed, part of a set, inverted versions of each other. One onesie is black with a white trim and white rib cage design on the front. It has a white hat with a skeleton grin and a pair of white shoes with jolly rogers on them to go with it. The second onesie is the reverse of the first, a white onesie with a black hat and shoes. "Oh my god," Frank says over Mikey's shoulder, once he catches sight of the clothes he's holding. "Those are so adorable!"

Most of the clothes Gerard has bought are adorable. They all also seem to fit the same aesthetic, part spooky and part cute, as if Gerard expects every day to be Halloween for Mikey and Frank's twins. To be fair, given Frank and Mikey both have a deep love for horror and Frank literally has "Halloween" tattooed across his fingers, it's probably a fair assumption that these outfits will be worn.  Neither Mikey nor Frank have any idea how or where Gerard would have gotten the clothes either, given their themes, and the current time of year.

"Gerard, has it ever occurred to you that maybe Frank and Mikey would wanna dress their kids in normal clothes too?" Ray asks, holding up an orange onesie with a jack-o'-lantern face on it.

"Normal is boring," Gerard says, but he is starting to look a bit pensive, like it had never actually occurred to him.

"How about from now on, I buy the baby clothes, and you can find something else to do." Ray tells Gerard, who pouts at him.

"Just because Mikey told you that you could be the godfather, you don't have to be all responsible and adult-y all the time," Gerard tells him. Ray starts to answer before Gerard's brain processes a new fact. "Hey, wait! Since you're having twins, you need a second godfather, right? So I can be a godfather to one of the babies!"

Gerard being a godfather might not be the best of ideas, no matter how excited he is to be an uncle. He sometimes forgets to take care of himself, he's got a lot opinions, and his brain is almost as fucked up as Mikey's. Mikey loves his brother, don't get him wrong, but never in a million years would Mikey ever agree to make Gerard the godfather of one of the twins.

A million years turns out to be six days, because on the seventh, Frank calls Gerard to tell him he's going to be the other godfather alongside Ray. Mikey pretends he's too busy being pregnant to answer his phone for a few hours when Gerard blows it up.

By fifteen weeks, Mikey's outgrown pretty much all of his clothes except for two or three of his bigger t-shirts, and he catches himself cradling his stomach or looking down at it fairly often. The clothes he got at Christmas are starting to come in handy, and Mikey's also stolen one of Frank's baggier hoodies to wear when he gets cold. Frank pretends to be annoyed, but Mikey can tell he doesn't mind.

Frank starts trying to get Mikey into a habit of stretching just a little bit every day. Apparently it's good for him, and Frank, who does a bit of yoga every day anyway and regularly stretches before going on when he's at shows, decides that it's his job to keep Mikey semi-active. Frank's yoga mat takes up partial residence in the living room, where Frank moves back the coffee table so it's against the wall and out of the way. Every day, he bugs Mikey, until he can get him sitting on the yoga mat for a few different stretches; a few lunges, butterfly pose, a bridge. The bridge pose is the weirdest, Mikey finds; he lays on the yoga mat with Frank's hands on his shoulder and feet pressed against the floor, pushing his back up and off the floor. The exercises are supposed to help. Mikey doesn't really know if they make a difference, but he supposes they don't hurt, either, so he lets himself go with it.

Mikey also starts to have trouble sleeping as the days go by. He's used to sleeping on his back, but with the added weight from his pregnancy, laying on his back for too long leaves him sore. His growing belly also makes it hard to find a comfortable position to lay. It almost makes Mikey miss when he was so fatigued in the earlier part of his pregnancy. He buys a body pillow to lay against, to see if it will help, but it doesn't. He tries sleeping on his side, but he can't get used to it, and it hurts his shoulder and arm a bit too. He steals spare pillows from the couch and from Gerard's spare bedroom and tries to sleep slightly propped up, but that doesn't help much either. Mikey resigns himself to deal with it. He almost always falls asleep eventually. Until he doesn't.

Mikey's "give up" point is three fifty in the morning, where he tears the sheets off himself and moves from his bed to the living room couch. After that, the hours pass in a bleary haze of shitty TV and movies Mikey has seen a hundred thousand times, but he still doesn't fall asleep. Just after seven thirty, Mikey is watching some idiot attach a screen door to a boat to prove how watertight his product is when Frank stumbles out of his own room, and catches sight of Mikey almost immediately.

"Did you sleep at all?" Frank asks, because he's noticed Mikey seems to be sleeping less lately, and right now, he looks like he hasn't seen a bed in weeks.

"Couldn't get comfortable," Mikey admits, and Frank gets a determined look in his eyes as he grabs Mikey by the hand and starts to pull him towards his room. He lets Mikey lay himself down on the bed before he gets in behind him, wrapping himself around Mikey in a way that's way more comfortable than it has any right to be. It doesn't even take five minutes for Mikey to drop off once he and Frank are settled.

Frank takes the time to just watch Mikey for a bit, after he's asleep. Laying here like this, sharing a bed while he's wrapped around Mikey, it's almost too easy to pretend it's real. That they're together, actually together. That they didn't just stumble into this. That they want this.

Frank does. Fuck, does he want this, want Mikey. Frank wants it all, the good days and the bad. He wants so much it hurts, a panging ache in his heart that always chooses the worst moments to hit him. More than anything, he wishes he could tell Mikey, to spill his guts and wear his heart on his sleeves, but it's too late. If Frank tells Mikey now, he'll only think Frank is lying because he's pregnant, nevermind that Frank's been in love with Mikey for almost a year and a half now. He's been bitching to Ray about how their dumbasses both fell in love with a Way brother since before he and Mikey had started their thing. Frank had even had a chance to nip their arrangement in the bud, to stop all of this before someone (read: Frank) got hurt, but when he got the chance, he couldn't bring himself to do it. If this is the only way Frank can have Mikey, he's going to hang on with both hands.

Because the thing is.

(The thing is.)

Frank knows that Mikey doesn't return his feelings, that he probably never will. That's not to say that he thinks they'd never work; they might have some differences, but they've got just as many similarities. If they had a proper chance, they might be great together, but if Mikey doesn't feel it, then Frank's never gonna know. The best Frank can do is to be there for Mikey, and for the twins, and pray that it's enough; that it doesn't blow up in Frank's face and leave him alone, without Mikey or their kids. The last thing Frank wants is to lose them. He doesn't know if he'd ever be okay again if he lost Mikey, and he's already getting attached to the twins too. Frank thinks he might die without Mikey, but it's almost to the point now that he wouldn't have a reason to live if they lost the twins. Frank never learned to guard his heart, he falls quickly and all at once. There's no turning back for him now.

Looking at Mikey now, though, asleep, sound and peaceful and glowing, with one hand resting gently on his belly, Frank can't make himself want to turn back. Right now, alone but not alone, and free to let his mind wander, Frank only wants it to be real. To be allowed to hold Mikey like this every night while they sleep, to be allowed to kiss Mikey just because. To be allowed to reach out and touch Mikey's baby bump as they rest together like this. Frank can't, though, so he cups Mikey's shoulders with his hands and lets this be enough, as he closes his eyes and sleeps too.

Frank dreams of love, and happiness, and twin girls, and Mikey, Mikey, Mikey . When he wakes up from the dream, he'll try not to let himself feel disappointment that it isn't real.

Pencey spends most of the month of March on tour. On the morning of the 9th, Mikey sees Frank off, with Frank promising to be home in time for Easter. For those three weeks that Frank's gone, Mikey stays at Gerard's, watching shitty TV and reading the same comic books over again for the hundredth time, in between working shifts at the coffee shop. Mikey finally gets around to reading the original run of Young Avengers, which leads into reading The Children's Crusade, which leads to backtracking to House of M. (Mikey may or may not make a note to bring up the possibility of naming the twins Billy and Tommy with Frank when he gets back from tour.)

Mikey also brings up the possibility of parental leave with his boss because Ray apparently read online somewhere that it's better to do it at this stage of the pregnancy than later. Mikey's boss looks a bit startled to be having this conversation now, though.

"I can only really guarantee you up to six weeks," his boss tells him. "Usually it's less than that, though. It also depends on if you wanna start mat- parental leave before you give birth or after."

"What happens if I decide I want to take more than six weeks?" Mikey asks.

"If you take more leave than we can offer you, then I can't guarantee that you'll be able to keep your job."

Mikey decides not to worry himself too much yet. That's why he and Frank have been saving up money. "Okay. And the leave itself, is that paid or unpaid?"

"The leave includes partial pay, which is better than it used to be. I wish I could offer you better though, Mikey," his boss says.

Gerard looks like he might start bitching out the owners of the coffee shop Mikey works at but Ray manages to marginally remedy the situation by showing Gerard a John Oliver segment on family leave. After that, Gerard starts blaming the country as a whole. Ray manages to get Gerard to calm down, though, by asking him about a painting he's left out in the living room, splattered with multicoloured dots of paint which are also scattered across the floor. Gerard takes the bait and starts ranting to Ray about love and life and new beginnings.

Ray isn't the only one who gets to sit through one of Gerard's rants about love. He also brings it up with Mikey a few times, to no avail. Whenever he so much as mentions Mikey telling Frank how he feels, Mikey shoots back with a jab at Gerard's own barely-hidden feelings for Ray, ending the conversation then and there. It doesn't stop Gerard from giving Mikey a look whenever he catches him texting Frank.

Mikey actually wakes up to his phone buzzing with a new text from Frank on the morning of the 29th, having fallen asleep texting Frank the night before. According to the text, Pencey is less than two hours from home, and the guys are being too insufferable for Frank to get any sleep after having driven for most of the night before.

i love touring but right now i might kill someone, Frank texts him. Mikey laughs, knowing he's just exaggerating.

you can sleep when you get home, Mikey reminds him. He's willing himself to stand up when his phone buzzes again.

cant, we gotta do some stuff today. adult stuff, cant wait

Mikey shakes his head.

Frank gets to Gerard's just over two hours later, a few minutes before noon. He looks tired but happy, and just spends about five minutes standing in Gerard's doorway hugging Mikey as soon as he sees him. Once he lets go, he doesn't even give Mikey a chance to think, just pushes Mikey's coat and shoes at him and tells him to hurry up.

They end up going to Walmart, and Frank makes a direct beeline for the baby section, dragging Mikey along by the wrist.

"What are we even looking for?" Mikey asks, as Frank starts weaving between the isles.

"A crib. I've got a few hundred bucks from shows for the Baby Fund, but I've also got a couple hundred for a crib. Besides, might as well get one instead of waiting," Frank says. Mikey nods.

There are a few different options for cribs, and they spend a good deal of time looking before they make their decision. There's a really nice one that's apparently made for twins; it slots together and would fit easily into the corner of a room, with a removable divider for the corner end where both halves connect. It also isn't overly too expensive, but Mikey and Frank's apartment doesn't have any room for it, no matter how much they keep lingering on the idea of that particular crib. In the end, they choose a little grey crib that apparently converts to still be usable at different ages, and has a drawer underneath it. A Walmart employee helps them to get it into the car, and they take it home. They'll have to come back for a crib mattress, but for now, their main focus will be to assemble the crib itself.

Frank assures Mikey that he can do this himself, and asks him to go put the leftover money into the Baby Fund account. While he's gone, Mikey also decides to get some groceries, since no one's been in the apartment for the better part of the month and there's nothing edible in the cupboards.

When Mikey gets back, Frank is in his room with the various crib pieces scattered around him. He's pushed Mikey's bed into the corner so that there's room to put the crib next to it, wedged in between his mattress and the wall. The crib's headboard is leaning against the wall, and he's got the drawer assembled. He's just leaning over to put the finished drawer onto Mikey's bed so it's out of his way when he jerks, dropping it worryingly close to the edge as he cradles his right hand.

"Fuck!" Frank howls, then looks over his hand to assess the damage. There's a cut running from the tip of his middle finger to the base of his palm, and it's bleeding sluggishly. "Ow."

"You okay?" Mikey asks. "What did you even cut yourself on?"

"I dunno," Frank admits. There isn't any sign on the drawer itself of what would have cut Frank's hand. Hell, the edges of it were about as sharp as a rubber ball. How Frank hurt himself on it, Mikey doesn't know. "I hope it doesn't scar," Frank says quietly, "it would be weird to try to play if it did."

"Do you even know what you're doing?" Mikey asks. Frank has it in him to look offended.

"I do!" Frank says. He's still being careful of his hand, which is slowly starting to scab. "Sort of."

Mikey shakes his head. "Where are the instructions then, I'll read them to you." There's no reason for Mikey to offer to help. He's useless at building things.

"I... don't know, actually," Frank admits. "I put them off to the side somewhere. Didn't think I'd need them."

"You're an idiot," Mikey tells him, and his voice sounds fonder than he means it to. "Just leave it for now, Ray and Gee said they would be coming over soon. They can help you out."

As it turns out, Ray builds the rest of the crib all on his own. He kicks Frank out of Mikey's room almost immediately, claiming he's being more annoying than helpful. Gerard is allowed to stay, but only if he does as Ray asks of him. Ray finds the instructions within minutes, and before long he's got the crib assembled and in it's designated spot against the wall of Mikey's room. He's even managed to place it in the room in a way that leaves space for a changing table, once Mikey and Frank get around to getting one of those. While Ray finishes gathering up the box and cleaning up any debris Frank left behind, Mikey goes into the kitchen to start dinner for everyone. He's just putting the pasta to boil when Frank comes in, putting his hands on Mikey's hips as he plasters himself to his back.

"Mikeyway," Frank says, "what do you think you're doing?"

"I'm making pasta," Mikey answers. Frank starts gently moving him away from the stove and towards the living room, but Mikey makes a noise of protest.

"You're nineteen weeks pregnant and you've been on your feet almost all day, Mikey. Go sit with your brother and his not-boyfriend. I can finish this up." Mikey still looks hesitant, but finally nods.

During the 20 week ultrasound, Frank and Mikey find out that their twins are both girls. They also get a good look at the girls for the first time, can make out arms and legs and spines and tiny little faces. They end up getting four photographic copies of the ultrasound, in which both girls are visible. Gerard looks like he might start crying when he sees it for the first time.

(Frank definitely does start crying when he sees his daughters' faces for the first time on the monitor, happy tears that he can't bite down. Mikey hasn't looked this fucking happy since Frank can remember; his smile looks like it might split his face.)

Gerard has started talking to Mikey's bump whenever he gets the chance, apparently so that the girls will recognize his voice when they're born. Mikey takes to talking to the bump too, sometimes, when he's alone and no one else can hear him. He feels a bit too ridiculous to ask Frank to do it, though, but he gets a bit stealthy about it. Whenever he and Frank are on the couch together, he'll get Frank as close as he can without seeming weird, and have conversations with him that he hopes the girls hear. It would suck if they were more familiar with their uncle's voice than their father's.

Mikey also keeps swearing that he can feel the girls move, but Frank can never feel it if he places his hand on Mikey's belly when he claims they're moving around. Apparently, it's very faint. Sometimes, Mikey doesn't even say that he feels it, just that he thinks he does.

Mikey's just past the 23 week mark and putting some of their newest baby clothes, a pair of yellow and white dresses with flowers on them from Ray, into the drawer from the crib when Frank walks out of Mikey's room holding the box with the pregnancy speakers that Mikey hid at Christmas. He's got a huge grin on his face.

"Look what I found!" He beams, and Mikey groans.

"No," he says, "just. No. I am not playing classical music to my fucking stomach just so you can take a picture to show Gee and Ray."

"Okay, one, I'm not going to take a picture of you unless you let me, which I know you won't. Also, two, this thing goes into your headphone jack, Mikey. You could play the twins a fucking Pencey record and no one could stop you."

Frank leaves the box on the couch with Mikey when he leaves, and Mikey pretends that what Frank said isn't still playing in his mind. He dallies for a while, puts away the crib drawer, gets himself a glass of water, sits on the couch with his feet up and his laptop on his thighs. After a while, he gets up, leaving his laptop on the table so he can go get himself some celery to snack on. When he sits back down, he thinks he feels something faint, like one of the babies might be moving around a bit. Mikey gently rests his hand on his belly.

"I'm here," he promises them, "I'm right here. Frank isn't, but he'll be back soon, I promise." Mikey feels what might be another faint kick, and catches sight of the speaker box. "Actually..."

At 23 weeks with twins, Mikey looks like he'd be about 35 or 36 weeks if he were only carrying one baby. At work, he constantly has to ask people not to touch his stomach, and people give him confused or surprised looks when he tells them he's just over 3 months away from his due date, not 3 weeks. Whatever, Mikey's pregnancy isn't the business of random strangers buying coffee from him. He doesn't need to tell them shit.

It takes some maneuvering before Mikey can get hold of the box, but he eventually does, plopping gently back into his spot before he starts opening the box. He's got his shirt rucked up and the sound pads stuck on either side of his stomach before he realizes he doesn't have his iPod to plug into the speaker jack. Mikey groans at his own stupidity, but still gets up to get his iPod. Once he's got it, he once again settles back into his seat on the couch, plugging in his iPod and queuing up Heartbreak in Stereo.

"Your dad is the one who's singing," Mikey tells his bump, and huh. It's weird to think that not only is Mikey going to be a parent in a few months, but so is Frank. That they're going to do this together (just maybe not the "together" Mikey wants), with uncle Gee and uncle Ray along for the whole wild ride. Mikey hits play on P.S. Don't Write and closes his eyes, letting himself just think.

When Frank gets back from band practice with a bag of Chinese takeout, the first thing he sees is Mikey, laying on the couch with his shirt rucked up, speaker pads stuck to his belly and iPod resting neatly on top of it. Upon first glance, it looks like he's just laying there with his eyes closed, but it soon becomes apparent that he's asleep. When Frank lifts Mikey's iPod, he sees that he's got Trying to Escape the Inevitable playing. Frank has to stop himself from laughing because he was totally fucking kidding about Mikey playing the babies Pencey.

Instead of laughing or waking Mikey up, Frank gently sets down the iPod and the takeout and digs out his phone, snapping a picture. And sure, maybe Frank told Mikey that he wasn't gonna snap any pictures, but just one won't hurt.

Besides, it's not like he's gonna show Gerard or Ray the picture, so technically it doesn't count. If anyone other than Frank ever sees this picture, it'll just be the twins, anyways.

Mikey's working what feels like the longest, most miserable shift ever during the busiest day of the week at the coffee shop when it happens.

The day does not start off too great. Mikey has to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn and his body seems to sense this, because he just cannot fall asleep at all. He's just about to doze when his phone goes off, Gerard freaking out about something or other at five in the morning, and by the time Mikey manages to calm his brother down, he's been on the phone for over two hours and he's running late. Neither he or Frank remembered to get groceries the day before, so Mikey doesn't have anything he could eat for breakfast, and he still isn't sure if coffee is okay for him or not because of too many conflicting sources, so he gets to work running on empty. He's also disheveled when he gets to work, because his work shirt is starting to get just this side of too small and he had to wrestle it on over his belly, completely ruining what little effort he put into his hair.

He gets put onto cash duty, which turns out to be a horrible decision because the first customer he encounters is this bitchy, stereotypical white girl wearing a t-shirt with an SJW slogan on it, and she won't tell Mikey what she wants to order until he lets her touch his stomach, which, fuck no. He doesn't yell at her, but she starts getting insistent, and Mikey has to be saved by a coworker. After that, he gets relegated to making coffee, and of course he fucks up the SJW girl's order, not once, but twice, because he's still bleary and having trouble concentrating. The girl has her phone held suspiciously, has had it about chest level and clearly facing Mikey since he first told her not to touch him, and she threatens to tell Mikey's boss how horrible he was to her. She even uses the term "harassing a customer," which is exactly the opposite of what is happening, but there's nothing Mikey can do except double-check his third attempt at the coffee is perfectly correct and plaster on his most sarcastic fake smile, wishing the girl a good day.

By the time Mikey hits his lunch breaks, he's broken a mug and dropped a can of whipped cream, causing it to explode all over his pants and shoes. By this point, Mikey doesn't know how he hasn't been sent home or fired yet today, but counts his blessings. Lunch manages to be at least half-decent, at least. Mikey gets a sandwich from behind the counter, the last lettuce and ham in the case, and eats it in the silence of the backroom. The only thing that sucks is that his phone died, courtesy of Gee's stupid two-hour freakout, so he can't even text anyone to wile away the last ten minutes of his break.

The second half of his shift goes a bit better. Mikey's back is hurting from standing up so long and every time he thinks he can get away with it, he leans against the counter a bit to take the weight off his feet. He doesn't really mess up any more coffee, but he does kind of fail to put one of the lids on so when the guy goes to grab his cup, it falls and spills. He's in the middle of remaking the guy's coffee when he feels a jab in his stomach, which causes him to pause and nearly drop the coffee. It takes him a moment to realize what it might be, but a second jab comes after the first, and he rests a hand against his belly, a small smile spreading across his face. Because, they're not jabs, they're kicks. One of the babies is kicking. Mikey really wishes his phone weren't dead in his jacket pocket right now.

At his 24 week ultrasound four days ago, Mikey and Frank had gotten to see the babies moving around on the screen, but Mikey hadn't really been feeling anything up until that point. The technician had told Mikey that usually first time mothers ( exact wording! ) don't usually feel movement until closer to 25 or 26 weeks. Mikey himself is just entering his twenty fifth week now, and he's been kind of expecting the kicking and the moving to start becoming noticeable, but he didn't expect to feel it right now, in the middle of his shift while trying not to mess up another order.

Throughout the rest of his shift, Mikey feels antsy to get home to the apartment. The babies kick a bit more, and every time he feels them he rests a hand on his belly. He likes to think they can feel it when he does that; after all, he can feel them. The walk back to the apartment feels longer than it usually does, because he has to force himself not to rush back. Frank won't be home for a little while anyways; he had to help Dewees with something today, some kind of recording thing, so Mikey doesn't know when he'll be back.

Once Mikey gets home, he busies himself with rearranging his dresser drawers. By this point, Gerard and Ray have gotten so many baby clothes that the drawer of the crib is not only so full it's nearly impossible to open anymore, but Mikey's also had to move his clothes out of some of his dresser drawers just to have room to put all the dresses and shirts and pants and onesies. Mikey's room doesn't have a closet, but Frank's does, so most of Mikey's pre-pregnancy clothes are in there, and any other clothes that have been relocated are either balanced precariously on Mikey's desk or crammed into Mikey's other overstuffed dresser drawers. The look on Gerard's face when Mikey had told him to "please, please stop buying baby clothes," was horrendously upsetting, but Mikey had had no choice but to put his foot down. If they got any more clothes, Mikey and Frank would have to use their apartment for storage and live somewhere else entirely (although Gerard had offered them a place at his house on more than one occasion).

Frank gets home around nine, semi-frantic and shifty. Mikey had plugged in his phone as soon as he got home, and once it was charged again texted Frank that he had something to tell him. He didn't mean to be so vague, or to leave Frank worried, but Frank had been driving when he received the text so Mikey didn't have time to reassure him that everything was fine.

"Frank, calm down," Mikey tells him, gripping his shoulders gently. Frank is still looking over Mikey's shoulders as if Michael Myers himself is right here in their apartment. " Frank."

"Sorry, sorry, I'm just worried. Your text was vague as shit, Mikeyway," Frank says, and Mikey knows. This was avoidable though.

"I'm sorry I was vague, but to be fair, I was planning on you being able to answer so I could actually tell you and you wouldn't freak out. Or, at least, not freak out in a bad way."

"What do you mean, 'not in a bad'- Mikey?" Frank startles when Mikey takes both his hands and rests them on his belly. For all that Frank is clingy nearly 24/7, he never seems to touch Mikey's baby bump that much, and whenever he does, he tends to ask permission like eight hundred times first. While Mikey might not want strangers touching his bump, he's okay with his friends doing it. Hell, the last time Ray came over, he and Mikey had a whole conversation while Ray kept a hand on his stomach. Frank could touch Mikey's stomach whenever he wanted, within reason, and Mikey probably wouldn't care. (He may or may not actually find it kind of adorable, and it may or may not make his heart flutter whenever Frank touches his belly.)

"Just give it a second," Mikey promises, and he keeps his hands over Frank's while they wait. The twins don't disappoint, though they do seem to share Gerard's sense of drama because it takes a few minutes, just long enough to be awkward, before there's any movement. Frank's mouth falls open as he feels the tiny kick beneath his fingers.

"Is that..?" He trails off, and Mikey nods.

"Yeah. Baby's kicking."

Frank wastes no further time before he's hugging Mikey, laughing like he just heard the best news of his life.

Mikey gets an ultrasound scan at 28 weeks to check that everything's still fine with the girls, and then his doctor makes him appointments in two week intervals to cover the span from 30 to 36 weeks. If Mikey manages to carry to the 38 week mark, another appointment will be booked accordingly.

"Sometimes twins develop in turns," the doctor explains to them. "Identical twins, especially. Since they share a placenta, it's not always guaranteed that they'll develop at the same rate. Sometimes one baby gets more nutrients than the other. We check them over to be sure that they're doing well, and to know if we need to induce labour for any reason."

The reasoning is sound, but it still leaves Frank a little on edge. Things come to a head the night before the 30 week scan, though.

It starts off with Frank, standing on a street corner in the middle of a downpour. The street around him is dark with the lack of power. A streetlight in the intersection is blank. An officer hasn't yet arrived to mediate the traffic, but thankfully, most of the drivers are cautious in the dangerous conditions.

A bus is approaching in the distance. Frank doesn't know why it seems important, but it does. A bit faster than the bus, a car is coming from another part of the intersection. The driver doesn't slow down as they approach the crosswalk lines, and a couple of pedestrians try to jump out of the way, two little girls holding hands. The car grazes them, sending one girl towards the side of the road Frank is on and the other towards the center of the intersection. The car keeps on.

The bus enters the intersection at that moment, and the car slams into it, sending it curving on an angle towards the left. The passengers inside the bus lurch, some forward and some sideways. One gets thrown against the door, flinging it open and rolling across the road. The body stops, sprawled in an unnatural way, next to the sidewalk by Frank's feet.

It's Mikey.

It's a different Mikey than Frank last remembers seeing. He's missing his glasses, and his hair is shorter, buzzed down at the sides. A pool of blood gathers around Mikey's prone form, smaller than Frank remembers. Smaller than Frank's ever seen him. He's bleeding from cuts all across his chest and abdomen. His baby bump is gone.

Someone is holding Frank back, and something in his throat pulls and scratches. "No!" Frank hears, "Mikey! Mikey!" It's screaming. Frank is screaming. It doesn't sound like Frank's voice.

He's being held back, he's being dragged away from the curb, away from Mikey, someone is talking into Frank's ear. Telling him to calm down. Frank can't calm down. The twins, where are the twins?

"The girls- our daughters, where are my daughters?" Frank asks the passing strangers. No one stops or reacts. People in uniform approach Mikey's body. People in uniform approach the two little girls on either side of the road. Are those his daughters? Frank doesn't know, doesn't remember. Frank thinks he hears something about body bags.

"Sir," a voice registers, the person holding Frank back. He can't make out age or gender from the voice. He can't make out a face when he looks back at the speaker. "You need to calm down, please, sir."

"I need to see them," Frank tells the person, trying to head forward to Mikey. He's pulled back.

"Sir, I'm afraid I can't-"

"You don't understand, that's my family. I need to see my family!" Frank can feel the tears welling up. There's a stretcher crossing the road, with a black bag laid out on it. The shape of it is small, almost child-like. A sob tears through Frank's throat.

"Sir, I'm so sorry, but they're gone. They died." The tone is cold and uncaring, a harsh juxtaposition against the sympathetic words. Frank shakes his head. There are tears running down his cheeks, he can feel them, but his vision is entirely normal.

"No," Frank sobs, "no no no no no no n-" The world falls away mid-word.

He wakes up sobbing, on the floor of his bedroom. He must lay there for twenty minutes, trying to calm down, but he doesn't succeed in stopping his tears. He manages to quell them to a quiet hiccup, but that's as far as he gets.

He can't just not go see Mikey right now, walking down the hallway of the apartment and entering Mikey's room. He's sleeping peacefully, of course, laying on his left side with a hand cradling his belly like he's had a tendency for these last few weeks. He doesn't stir at all when Frank walks into the room, or when he lays down in bed next to him. Mikey is laying next to the wall, facing away from it, so when Frank slides in, he can see Mikey's face as he sleeps. Frank wants nothing more than to reach out and touch, to be able to reassure himself that Mikey is here, and he's fine, and the babies are fine, and everything is fine. He keeps his hands to himself though, wrapping them around his ribs and trying to calm his hiccuping, which is starting to pick up into tears again.

Mikey wakes up a few minutes later to Frank's sniffling, and the sight of him breaks Mikey's heart. His eyes are red and he's still got tear tracks streaming down his face. He's also clutching onto himself with a white knuckle grip, and the look in his eyes makes Mikey think that maybe he's trying to stop himself from reaching out. Without a word, Mikey pulls him in, hugging him and holding him close. Frank starts to cry again once Mikey's got his head resting against his shoulder, and Mikey starts rubbing Frank's arm, trying to soothe him. "Hey," he whispers to Frank, "you're okay, I've got you."

For a few minutes, they just stay there, Mikey holding Frank as he cries against his shoulder. Eventually, Frank's crying slows down to hiccups again, and Mikey speaks again. "You wanna tell me what's wrong?"

He's not forcing Frank to say anything, he's not pressing or insisting. If Frank doesn't want to tell Mikey what's wrong, he doesn't have to. Frank takes a moment to make his mouth work enough to form words. "Nightmare," he explains. "You were gone. You and the twins, I watched it happen. Car wouldn't stop."

Mikey makes a soft noise, and squeezes Frank a little bit. "It was just a bad dream, Frankie. I'm right here, I'm fine, so are the twins. We're all fine, I promise." Frank doesn't look so sure, though, so Mikey gently takes one of his hands, pries it away from his ribs and brings it to rest gently on Mikey's belly. Frank looks a bit spooked, but doesn't move his hand away.

"You don't touch my stomach that much," Mikey says. "You can, you know? Anytime you want, Frank. They're your babies too. Plus, it feels kinda nice." Frank kind of nods a bit against Mikey's shoulder.

"You're sure?" He asks.

"I'm sure," Mikey promises.

Frank is still a bit tense, so Mikey starts talking, planning days in his head, things he and Frank can do with the twins once they're born. Frank's tears dry as he listens, but his head stays where it is against Mikey's shoulder, and he rubs little circles into Mikey's belly with his thumb. He dozes off eventually, still cuddled up to Mikey, and it makes Mikey's heart melt. One of the babies seems to sense that Frank's still got his hand on Mikey's belly because there's a little kick, and Frank, still asleep, gently rubs against the spot the kick came from. Mikey's brain kind of short circuits for a moment. It's just too cute.

In the morning, Frank stays plastered against Mikey as long as he can, with at least one hand always resting gently on his baby bump. He looks like he's actually pouting when he has to let go of Mikey to drive them to the ultrasound appointment, but as soon as they're in the waiting room he's all touchy-feely again. When they actually get into the exam room for the ultrasound itself, Frank is starting to worry again, so he's too preoccupied to be upset when he has to move his hand back off Mikey's belly.

He starts tearing up when he sees the girls on the monitor, though, happy tears. They're moving around a little bit, and he can hear their hearts beating. Mikey squeezes his hand.

"There they are," the technician says.

"Our girls," Frank whispers.

Mikey and Frank have brought up the subject baby names a few times throughout Mikey's pregnancy, but it was mostly a passing sort of thing. Frank suggested two or three names in passing before they found out they were having twins; Mikey had suggested the names Billy and Tommy before they found out the twins were girls. Mikey's 33 weeks now though, and while it's not exactly likely for another three or four weeks, he could still go into labour at any time, so they've mutually decided to throw some names around to see what sticks.

"How about Cherry Blossom?" Frank says, looking up from the baby name book in his lap.

"It's cute," Mikey agrees, "but what would we call the other baby? We're going for a bit of a matching theme, right?"

"We could look at different type of flowers. Maybe Lily or Rose? With another B name for her middle name." Mikey hums in agreement.

It's just the two of them tonight. Gerard had tried to weasel his way into the baby naming game too, actually pouting when Mikey had told him he couldn't come over and help. Ray had had to promise to keep Gerard busy in order to get him out of Mikey's hair, but not before Gerard wrote up a list of suggestions for Mikey and Frank. One of the names on the list was literally Bandit . If Gerard has a daughter someday and wants to name her Bandit, he can, but Mikey wants no part of it.

To be fair, Gerard's list also included the names Zander and Zoe, which Mikey and Frank had thought were worthy contenders, so those ended up on the list Mikey is writing. Aside from Gerard's suggestion and Frank's flower names, Mikey's list also includes the pairing of Samantha and Stephanie, as well as Elena Lee and Helen Louise. Mikey's current favourites are Elena and Helen, but he's a bit biased since those are based on his grandmother's name and nickname. Frank's flower names aren't too bad, either, though.

Frank starts, "hey, how about," but that's as far as he gets before he chokes on seemingly nothing, and starts coughing like crazy. The cough is dry and painful-sounding, and stops all of a sudden with Frank taking a sharp intake of breath and going pale. He dashes up and runs down the hall, knocking into the wall and leaning over to retch just outside their bathroom door. Mikey hears him whimper out a soft "fuck," as he pushes himself to his feet.

"Are you okay, Frank?" Mikey asks, as soon as he catches sight of him. Frank shakes his head. "Are you getting sick again?"

"Maybe," he croaks, and then makes an uncomfortable noise as he holds back from gagging again. Mikey makes to go into the kitchen to get some paper towels but Frank gently touches his ankle. "Don't, Mikey," he says, "I'll get it, just give me a minute."

Frank manages to drag himself into the bathroom without disturbing his puddle of vomit, and curls up next to the toilet. Mikey gets him a glass of lukewarm water to sip on, but Frank won't touch it, so he just leaves it on the side of the tub.

"You should probably call Gee to come pick me up," Frank says. Mikey frowns.


"It's not exactly the best idea for you to be around me when I'm ten kinds of sick, Mikey. I can just stay at Gerard's for a few days." Frank reasons. Mikey shakes his head, frowning a bit.

"And what, I stay here alone? Have Ray stay over with me? Because that'll work out so well. I'll stay at Gee's, okay. You're probably not exactly in a condition to be moved around a lot anyways." Frank doesn't say anything, just nods, still looking a bit pale in the face. Mikey goes back to the living room to grab his phone.

Gerard gets there twenty minutes later, as Mikey is trying to coax Frank into his bed. He's got his head resting against the side of the tub, but he doesn't seem to have a fever yet, he's just woozy and nauseous. Gerard takes one look at Frank and sighs softly. He gently grabs one of Frank's arms and eases him up.

"C'mon, Frankie, into bed with you. Mikey, do me a favour and grab a bucket, some water and a couple of saltines? Bring them into his room." With that, Gerard slowly walks Frank ten feet down the hall and into his bedroom. Once met with his bed, Frank seems to melt into his mattress, closing his eyes as his head hits the pillow. His breathing is still a bit shaky, but thankfully he doesn't throw up again, yet. Mikey gets into the room a moment later with a trash can patterned with Tweety Bird in one hand, and a glass of water in the other. He sets the trash can by the side of Frank's bed and the water glass on his bedside table.

"Do you want me to call Ray, or are you gonna be alright for tonight?" Asks Mikey. Frank shakes his head.

"Don't bother, I'll be fine." Gerard makes a noise of disapproval.

"I really think-"

"Don't, Gee." Mikey says, putting a hand on Gerard's shoulder. "Let him be." He leads Gerard out, calling out a goodnight to Frank and closing the door, before leading Gerard to his room so Mikey can pack some clothes.

"Mikey, are you sure it's a good idea to leave Frank alone like this? No offense, but he's got the immune system of a jellyfish." Gerard asks, playing with his fingers. Mikey shakes his head.

"If it were up to me, I'd stay, but my immune system isn't exactly at full capacity right now either. If you wanna call Ray, go ahead, but you know Frank will use up the last of his strength to send him away." Gerard shakes his head.

"I guess you're right," he sighs, "but that doesn't mean I have to be happy about it."

Frank has managed to make it to every single one of Mikey's ultrasound appointments so far. As such, even though he's got some kind of mutant flu when the 34 week scan comes around, not even the apocalypse would stop him from being there with Mikey. Not even the fact that he feels a bit nauseous, and definitely looks too green in the face to be healthy, comes into consideration as they wait for the appointment to begin.

As far as appointments go, this one goes well. The girls seem to be developing pretty much equally, and their progress is on track with what it should be, so they're given a clean bill of health. "I hope you haven't gotten too used to these ultrasounds," the technician jokes, "because you only have one or two more to go before you deliver."

Mikey's the one to drive them back home, and as soon as they get inside the apartment where Gerard is waiting for them, Frank makes a mad dash for the bathroom. He'd lied earlier when he'd told Mikey he was fine, not that Mikey was stupid enough to fall for it, but the fact that he'd managed to keep his lunch down that long was impressive even for Frank. Gerard winces when he hears a particularly painful gagging noise from the bathroom and turns to Mikey.

"I'm calling Ray, and we're gonna stick around until he gets here. No way am I leaving Frank alone like this." Gerard says. Mikey doesn't have any objections.

By the time Ray gets there, Frank has been buried under a mountain of blankets by a fretting Gerard as Mikey waits on the living room couch. He's got the twin skeleton onesies in front of him, studying them with fond eyes. He'd decided months ago that he'd take the twins home for the first time in those outfits. It'll be upon him before he knows it.

"Where's Frank," Ray asks, closing the apartment door behind him. He and Gerard both have spare keys, have had them since long before Mikey got pregnant.

"Bedroom. Gerard's trying to give him heatstroke, I think." Ray makes a fretting noise and walks down the hall.

He texts Mikey and Gerard with updates on Frank over the next few days. Apparently his shitty immune system is finally kicking the sickness to the curb, thanks in no small part to a lot of soup and even more tea. (Ray makes the best tea, everyone has decided. Gerard always tries to get him to make it when Ray comes over, and he succeeds most of the time.) According to Ray, though, Frank complains a lot about not being able to go into the studio. They've been recording for a few weeks now, and Frank seems to have fixated on one specific song he wants to finish as soon as possible. Ray's been in touch with Dewees too, though, and Frank's parts for the song are all done, just need to be mixed. The other members of Pencey are perfectly capable of finishing their parts regardless of whether or not Frank is there. He still pouts when Ray refuses to let him leave, though.

Frank's actually well enough for company by the third night Ray's been there, so Mikey and Gerard go over and the four of them marathon movies. If Frank's clingy with Mikey the whole time, no one complains.

By the time Mikey's in his 35th week, he's back home with Frank. Things are good.

As he nears the end of his third trimester, Mikey feels decidedly globe-like. He's always been tiny, never much bigger than a stick. With the babies and then just general pregnancy weight gain, he's currently the heaviest he's ever been. It kinda sucks, actually. His whole center of balance has shifted, and he still hasn't gotten used to it. If his knees were awkward before, they're downright wrong now.

Frank is there, though, helping Mikey stay upright and making sure he doesn't topple sideways when he sinks too far into their shitty couch. He's been getting cuddlier, too, as Mikey's due date approaches. Mikey doesn't know why Frank's so clingy, but he's not complaining. Usually, anyways. The only thing that really sucks about Frank's increasing presence is the fact that Mikey keeps expecting Frank to follow him to bed for more cuddles. Alas, Mikey isn't that lucky.

Still, it's weird to look down at his belly and see his bump, to know he can put his hand on it and maybe feel one of the girls kick. As if sensing what Mikey's thinking, one of the girls actually does kick right then, and Mikey smooths his hand over that spot, trying to feel it. He's just past the 36 week mark now, and he and Frank will probably be juggling the responsibilities of having twins within the next two weeks.

His last ultrasound was two days ago, and the doctor told Mikey that the next time he'd be in the hospital would probably be when he went into labour. The biggest difference between his 34 week scan and his 36 week scan was that the girls had flipped themselves over, so that their heads were by Mikey's pelvis and their feet by his ribs, but Mikey could have told the doctor that himself. Either way, the babies currently seem to be aiming their kicks for his ribs.

Frank comes into sight just after what Mikey figures is the last kick for a bit, with his guitar case in one hand and his show bag slung over his shoulder. Pencey is playing a show tonight, a last-minute gig that Frank wasn't really sure about until Mikey agreed to come. They've had a bit of a change of plans now though, since he just hasn't felt like doing anything all day, much to Frank's dismay. "You leaving now?" Mikey asks.

Frank nods. "Yeah, I'm off. You sure you can't make it?"

Mikey shakes his head, "I promise you that if I felt up to it, I'd be right there, Frankie. I'm sorry."

Frank smiles at Mikey, small but soft. "It's fine, Mikey. Don't worry about it. You can catch the next one." He slings his bag higher over his shoulder. "Try not to miss me too much. I'll be back before you know I'm gone." As he passes, he gives Mikey a pat on the arm, and then presses his hand to Mikey's belly for a second. He beams, and lets go.

"See you soon, Mikey."

Not soon enough, apparently.

Mikey goes into labour less than an hour later.

Maybe half an hour after Frank leaves for his show, Mikey feels a twinge of pain in his lower stomach. He shifts a bit where he's sprawled on the couch, and for a few minutes, he's fine.

A little while later, it happens again, a little bit worse than the first time, but not too bad. The third time, it happens a bit quicker, and it feels worse still, so Mikey wrestles with his own body until he can reach his phone on the coffee table next to the couch.

Gerard picks up on the third. "Hey, Mikes, what's up?"

"Gee, can you drive me to the hospital? Fuck-"

Gerard's tone goes from calm to worried. "Shit, what's wrong? And where's Frank, I thought he was home tonight?"

"Fuck, ow, contractions, I think. And Frank's at a show, it was a last minute gig. I'm the one who made him go. He was getting a little stir crazy." It had begun to get a bit annoying, a fact certainly not helped by how close Mikey's due date was getting. Besides, it's not like Mikey had known he'd start going into labour when Frank left. He's just a bit glad he didn't actually end up going to the show himself or he'd be fucked right now.

"Shit, okay, Mikes. I'll be over in like, ten minutes, I swear. I'll get Ray to call Frank on the way but if he's on right now then he might not answer."

"I know, Gee. See you soon."

Mikey tries to will himself upright so that he can at least be grabbing the hospital bag when Gerard and Ray show up, but the furthest he manages to get is sitting up before another contraction hits, and he gives up in favour of cradling his belly with both hands. This is how Ray finds him when he and Gerard let themselves into the apartment.

"You good to stand," Ray asks, and Mikey nods. Ray pulls Mikey to his feet fairly quickly, and keeps an arm around Mikey to help steady him. Meanwhile, Gerard is looking around for the hospital bag.

"It's in my room," Mikey tells him, "everything's in there except the onesies for the girls. Those are on the back of my door." Mikey had spent far too many nights these past few weeks just laying in bed staring at those matching onesies. Knowing that within the next few days the girls will be wearing them on the way home for the first time is both exciting and terrifying.

It takes almost forty five minutes to get to the hospital, because Gerard keeps hitting red lights, and then there's an idiot who pulls onto a wrong-way road that stops traffic for five minutes. By the time they make it, Mikey's in a fair amount of pain, about the level it would usually be when he got period cramps. His contractions are still about fifteen minutes apart, and his water hasn't broken yet, so things aren't moving too fast just yet. By the time Mikey's been settled into a delivery room, he's been in labour for about an hour and a half. He's got an IV for some pain meds, but he's not asking for an epidural yet. Just getting the edge off the pain is fine for now.

Frank gets to the hospital an hour after Mikey's been admitted, still in his show clothes and swinging his guitar case wildly. Ray is the one to bring him into Mikey's hospital room, and as soon as he's within sight, he drops his guitar case and rushes to Mikey's side, taking Mikey's hand in his and wrapping an arm around him in an awkward hug.

"How's it going so far?" Frank asks, obviously trying not to worry. Mikey shrugs.

"Water hasn't broken yet, and contractions are still fairly far apart. It might be a while yet." Frank seems a bit relieved at that.

"You in much pain?"

"A bit, but not too bad yet. They gave me stuff for the pain though."

As it becomes evident that things might drag on a while, everyone starts to settle in different ways. Ray decides to go back home, with reassurances that if anything happens, they'll call him back, but otherwise he'll get back early in the morning. Gerard can't be convinced to leave, though he is eventually coaxed into leaving Mikey's room on the hunt for coffee by Frank. It takes him a few minutes to accomplish this, but eventually he manages. Once Gerard's disappeared, Frank nudges his chair a bit closer to Mikey's bed, laying his cell phone on the table. "Can I show you something?" Frank asks. Mikey nods.

Frank pulls up the music app on his phone, and clicks on a song file that doesn't have an album cover yet. In all lowercase, the title reads "kids from yesterday." The artist section has been left blank. In short, it's a new Pencey Prep song, probably the one Frank was so antsy to get finished while he was sick. He hesitates on the play button.

"No one's heard this song before. We just got it done a few days ago. I haven't even listened to it." Frank tells Mikey. "I was gonna play it live for you at the show tonight but you didn't make it so I cut it from the set. I wanted you to be the first to hear it since I wrote it for you." He takes a deep breath and hit play.

It's different than other stuff Pencey has written in the past, and not just because the first time Mikey's hearing it is as a finished studio track instead of on one of Frank's guitars with still-gibberish lyrics and an out of place chord or two. It's dark, but tries to be lighter. It makes Mikey think of nostalgia and childhood memories, stuff he and Gerard did together over the years, meeting Ray and later Frank. It's like his life laid out before him. It's an amazing song. The bridge really catches Mikey's attention.

Here we are, and we won't stop breathing
Yell it out, 'til your heart stops beating

Mikey tries not to read too much into those words, or the things Frank told him before hitting play. They don't mean what Mikey wants them too. Oh, what he wishes they meant.

"That's amazing, Frank!" Mikey tells him once the song ends. Frank ducks his head, a little smile pulling at his lips. Mikey grabs his hand for a little squeeze. "You gonna play it for Gee and Ray later?"

"Nah," Frank smirks, "I'll make 'em wait for it. The guys and Dewees still haven't heard it either. I think Shaun's about to kill me over it."

Mikey laughs, smiling. "He'd better not kill you; you've still gotta meet our girls. Besides, that song was more than good enough to save your life."

Frank beams, and Mikey swears it's still the best thing ever.

Mikey's water breaks somewhere around eight the next morning, when he and Frank are walking around the delivery room. Up until that point, things had moved fairly slowly, but once his water's broken things pick up pretty quick. By ten, Mikey's about halfway dilated, and he's waiting on an epidural. Ray has been back now for a while and is keeping Mikey company as he lays on his side trying not to puke. Gerard is still missing from his late night coffee run so Frank had gone looking for him, and for a place to change clothes.

Frank and Gerard get back as Mikey's getting the epidural, and Gerard actually turns tail and leaves the room again. He only comes back one he's sure there aren't any more needles around. That doesn't stop Mikey from poking fun at his brother, though, but Gerard takes it well.

"Seriously, he didn't even have the needle in his hand, Gee. He'd already given me the first shot!" Mikey says. Gerard (partly) fakes a pout.

"He was reaching for the other needle, though," he points out, and Mikey rolls his eyes.

The instinct to push hits Mikey at about a quarter to noon, so Gerard and Ray head out to find someone to come check Mikey. A nurse checks him and he's fully dilated, so then it's a waiting game for the doctor to show up. After another five minutes, a doctor gets there, and then it's a whole lot of pushing and pain and cursing for a few longs minutes.

Mikey lets out a dragged out, "fuh-uh-ck," just before the first baby's cry rings out. Cherry weighs five pounds, eight ounces, and as soon as the nurse is done with her, Frank's got her cradled securely in his arms. Lily doesn't take long to join her sister, and about ten minutes before Mikey's cries get cut off again by hers. A bit bigger than her sister, Lily is five pounds, twelve ounces. She goes directly into Mikey's arms. He rests one hand on her back, holding her gently, and her cries quiet a bit. Mikey himself feels like he might start crying any second, a few tears slipping down his cheeks. Frank comes over after a moment and rests Cherry on Mikey's chest next to Lily, and he lays his other hand on her back. Mikey leans down to kiss both girls on the forehead.

"I love you," he tells them, and it's possibly the best moment of Mikey's life, holding his daughters for the first time.

Cherry Blossom and Lily Bloom Iero-Way are born on the 4th of August, Cherry at 12:34PM and Lily at 12:45PM. Both girls are healthy, and as happy as newborns can be. About two hours after the twins are born, they're moved up to a room in the postpartum unit with Mikey.

Mikey and the twins stay in the hospital for three days after the birth. Gerard and Ray come by all three days to visit, and Frank stays with them for the entirety of visiting hours, but since Mikey's no longer in a delivery room, Frank can't stay with him overnight. He tries not to sulk whenever he has to go home without them. If Frank sleeps in Mikey's bed on those nights, no one has to know.

On the afternoon of the third day, Mikey is told that he and the girls have clearance to go home. Frank has maybe too much fun wheeling Mikey out to the car, with Gerard and Ray each carrying one of the twins in their car seats. They end up settling Mikey in the backseat of the car, between Cherry and Lily's car seats. He looks small, sat between them, and a bit at a loss. He keeps looking from one baby to the other as if they might disappear when he looks away. Frank keeps an eye on him in the rear view mirror as he drives them home. When they pull in at the apartment, Frank looks back to see Mikey's eyes tearing up.

"Are you okay?" Frank asks, turning in his seat. Mikey nods. Despite the tears, Mikey's smiling.

"They're home," he says, and Frank's heart melts.

Cherry and Lily actually slept most of the drive home, and remain asleep for half an hour or so after they arrive. Mikey and Frank bring them inside but leave them in their car seats as they doze, setting them down in easy sight before settling down on the couch. "You ready to be a parent?" Mikey asks. Frank nods, and rests his head gently against Mikey's shoulder. At that moment, Lily starts crying, and she ends up waking Cherry as Frank tries to get her out of the car seat. Cherry doesn't take too well to her sister's noisiness, and starts crying herself, too. Frank hands Lily off to Mikey and turns to Cherry, picking her up gently. She's so tiny, Frank didn't know babies could be this small.

"You're okay, Cherry Blossom," Frank says, swaying a bit. She whimpers at him, but Lily's stopped her crying so she's calming down now too. After a few minutes, she dozes off again. Frank turns to Mikey, who's feeding Lily, "do you want me to put Cherry down in the crib, or just back in her seat?"

"You can put her in the crib, if you want. We've got the baby monitors set up, right?"

"Yeah, I set them up last night. I'll grab the monitor when I put her down."

After Lily's fed, Mikey puts her down too, and Cherry's awake and hungry by then. The next time they wake up, Frank changes both their diapers, and ends up sitting on the couch with Lily on his chest, while Mikey sits with Cherry. The day isn't too hectic, and after supper, Gerard comes by and it gives Mikey a chance to take a nap while Frank and Gee watch the girls.

Maybe this kid thing won't be so bad, Frank thinks.

As Frank and Mikey quickly discover, the whole parenting thing is actually really hard. Cherry and Lily have to be telepathic or something, because they always seem to be in sync. If one needs something, the other does too. They don't like being too far apart either; if they're not within sight or reach of each other, they get upset. They don't exactly have object permanence yet, so not being able to account for each other is scary. They don't always like being away from Mikey either, but they seem to be recognizing Frank's voice, and they're getting used to Gerard. Lily seems to like Ray well enough, but Cherry always seems to cry when he holds her.

When the girls are two weeks old, Mikey puts a crib divider into their crib, because apparently it isn't the best idea for twins to share a crib, but the girls express their hatred for the idea by crying up a storm until the divider gets taken away. Once it's gone, they stare at each other until they fall asleep. It's a quiet two hours, and Mikey naps while they're down, but then they wake up, hungry and cranky. Cherry is inconsolable, and won't stop crying no matter what Mikey and Frank do, and as long as Cherry's wailing like a little banshee, Lily is crying too. They eventually tire themselves out, but it's a long while before it happens.

Over the next few weeks, Cherry and lily start to develop tiny little baby personalities, little quirks that make it a bit easier to tell them apart. While they sleep, Cherry likes to be swaddled fairly tightly. Frank actually manages to find a slightly heavier blanket for her, with little fruit designs on it, that's a bit heavier and thicker than her other blankets, and it works wonders. If ever Cherry is restless or won't stop crying, one of them just has to swaddle her in her blanket and she calms right down. Lily, on the other hand, doesn't like being swaddled as much. If you wrap her up in a blanket before putting her to bed, she'll just whine and squirm her way out of it. She also moves around a lot while Mikey's feeding her, occasionally kicking him or knocking him with knees or elbows. Mikey's starting to realize that a lot of the movement he felt during his pregnancy was probably Lily.

Another difference between the girls is that Lily is a lot more expressive than Cherry is. She'll smile back whenever someone smiles at her, and she shows a noticeable excitement whenever she sees Frank, Mikey, or Cherry. She'll make little happy sounds whenever Frank picks her up for cuddles, too. Gerard likes to joke that Lily is 100% Frank's daughter. Cherry, on the other hand, is more stone faced, not as responsive. It takes a lot to get a smile out of her, but kisses or tickling certainly work their magic. She always seems to smile for Mikey, though. If Lily is so obviously Frank’s daughter, then Cherry is Mikey’s.

Mikey's parental leave started the day the twins were born. That morning, before he'd been too far into his labour, Mikey had called his boss and explained the situation. He'd been given the full six weeks off with partial pay, the best he could hope for, really. The twins are five and a half weeks old now, though, and Mikey's supposed to go back to work in three days, but he doesn't feel ready. It wouldn't be so bad either if he knew Frank would be home with the girls, but he's in the studio almost every day while Pencey finishes up their new record, and they're set to leave for tour sometime in October, for about a month. Add to that the fact that Ray and Gerard both have jobs, and that Mikey doesn't really feel comfortable leaving the girls with anyone else, he doesn't have many options.

Frank finds Mikey standing by the crib, deep in thought as he watches Cherry and Lily sleep. Immediately, he latches on, pressing his chest against Mikey's back and hugging him around the waist. Mikey relaxes into the hold, just a bit.

"Baby monitor's in the living room. Come sit on the couch with me, Mikeyway?" Mikey nods, and lets Frank lead him into the living room. They end up crushed together on the couch, Mikey plopping down onto Frank's chest and startling a noise out of him. Frank doesn't let it bother him, though, and is quick to start carding his fingers through Mikey's hair with one hand, rubbing a soothing pattern into his back with the other. Mikey wastes no time resting his head against Frank's chest. "You wanna talk about it, or you wanna just stay here for a bit?" Frank asks gently. Mikey hums.

"I don't wanna leave them yet," Mikey admits. Frank doesn't need to ask him to clarify. Mikey's been worrying about this since before the twins were born.

"I know, Mikes, I know. I don't like having to leave them every day, but it's easier for me, knowing you're here with them. Besides, no one said you have to be ready just yet."

"My boss said so," Mikey points out. Frank groans dramatically.

"Your boss sucks," he says. "You have a bunch of vacation time saved up, right? Why not just take it, stay with the girls a bit longer? I doubt anyone would be able to stop you."

"They could always fire me for taking too much time off," Mikey points out. There's an edge of sadness to his voice, and Frank knows it isn't because he's that attached to his job.

"You have two daughters, Mikey. You're allowed to prioritize them. Just because a fucking coffee shop in Belleville doesn't think so doesn't mean it isn't true. If you lose your job, fine, whatever. You can find a new one when you're ready. We have money saved up, and with the album and the tour, we'll be bringing more money in soon. Maybe not a lot, but enough. We'll be fine, Mikey. I promise."

Mikey stays there, resting against Frank, until the baby monitor goes off and he faintly hears the girls crying through the wall. Then, he gets up, Frank following behind him as they go tend to their daughters.

Mikey calls his boss the next morning. There's a lot of grumbling and pleading, but Mikey eventually gets his five weeks vacation.

Pencey Prep leaves for tour on the 10th of October, with Shaun practically having to drag Frank away from Mikey and the girls, as the other guys tease him for being soft. Frank still sticks his head out the window as they drive away, though, calling out goodbyes and waving frantically. He doesn't stop until he's out of sight.

Mikey falls into a routine fairly quickly. The girls wake him up, he feeds, changes, and dresses them before playing with them for a bit. He eats lunch while they nap, and then feeds them again when they wake up. He finds something to do with the twins for the afternoon, and then makes dinner while they nap again. Mikey feeds them, changes them, puts them into their pajamas. If Frank isn't too busy, he'll call, and Mikey puts the phone on speaker so he can talk to the girls for a bit before they sleep. The girls sleep in increments of three to six hours, so Mikey sleeps when they sleep, and wakes up when they cry. He can't wait until they start sleeping through the night.

Mikey sends off at least one picture of the girls to Frank every day. Frank's favourite so far has apparently been one of the twins sitting back to back in a baby swing, each trying to turn to look at each other while Mikey kept his hand between them. That night, Frank calls after his show, long after the twins are asleep. The phone wakes Mikey up, but the girls thankfully don't stir, Mikey goes into the living room with the baby monitor and his cell phone and lets Frank gush. Eventually, though, Mikey hears grumbling from the background on Frank's end of the call, and they agree to hang up. Mikey thinks Frank starts to say something as he hangs up, but he feels pretty out of it, he's so tired, and by the next morning he's forgotten.

Mikey is meant to go back to work on the 20th, but he's been trying to find another way to take more time off, partly because Frank is still on tour for about three weeks and partly because he still doesn't feel ready. It's a couple of days before he's due back, and he's trying to psych himself up to call his boss while the twins nap, when his boss calls him.

"Mikey," his boss says when he picks up, "I know you're technically on "vacation" right now but I need you to come in later. We're short staffed because Jessica is off sick for the week."

"I can't, I have the girls," Mikey says. He's trying to work up a plan to ask for more time when his boss sputters at him.

"Get Frank to get his ass home and watch them, then. This is serious, Mikey!"

"Frank's in fucking Maine right now, and before you say anything, Ray and Gerard are also both working right now. I don't have anyone who can look after the twins, I literally can't go to work." Mikey is careful to keep his voice calm and neutral. If he yells, the girls will wake up, and they'll be upset about it.

"Figure something out, then, Way. You're already on thin ice. I really shouldn't have let you take your vacation time right after family leave, consider yourself lucky I did that for you." Mikey does not, in fact, consider himself lucky right now. It's not his fault he's got Cherry and Lily to think about right now, and his boss bitching isn't going to help the matter.

"Ice is broken," Mikey grits, "I fucking quit."

As soon as he hangs up, Mikey freezes. He just did that. Mikey Way just quit his job.

It makes him wish he'd been lying about Gee being at work, because Mikey is going to worry himself sick if he has to internalize this shit and he knows that Frank is driving so he wouldn't be able to talk right now. Of course, that's the moment Cherry starts crying, closely followed by Lily, and Mikey is distracted for a while.

The afternoon is kind of nice, sunny, and not too cold, so he puts the girls into warm clothes and puts them in their stroller. There isn't much to see, but it gets the girls some fresh air, and it helps keep Mikey busy for a while. By the time they get back to the apartment, Gerard is waiting in the lobby for them, picking Cherry up out of the stroller when Mikey stops in front of the door. Cherry makes a pleased-sounding noise as Gerard cradles her to his chest.

Mikey sets Lily down on the living room play mat and puts the twins' stroller away so that he doesn't trip on it later. Behind him, Gerard is still holding Cherry, cooing and making noises at her in between peppering her face with kisses. After a minute, he sets Cherry down, and repeats the process with Lily.

Once Mikey's got the stroller out of the way, he goes back into the living room, picking Cherry up as he sits down. She seems content to rest against his chest, one hand loosely grabbing the material of his shirt. He smiles a bit, and kisses her forehead.

"How was work," Mikey asks, because right now, he just needs Gerard to talk. Talking is probably what Gerard does best, anyway.

"Brian came in during his break. We talked for a while. Apparently the record store is a bit short-staffed, but he's not worried about it yet."

Brian Schechter is Gerard's oldest friend, having known him since he went off to art school. Back then, Brian worked as a bartender, and he and Gerard would get drinks together sometimes. Brian was there to help when Gerard hit bottom and decided to go sober, and Gerard was there to help Brian through the same thing. Brian is actually the only friend Gerard still has from his days as an alcoholic, and the two of them have come a long way since then. Gerard's been working at the comic book store for four years, and has gotten involved with Dark Horse through his work. He's even working his way up to pitching a comic or two with them. Brian worked at the comic book store for a while too, until he'd saved up a bunch of money and started renting an empty shop just across the lot. He opened his record store two years ago now, and immediately offered Gerard a job, though he didn't take it. Brian's a good dude, though, and Mikey and Gerard both know if something happened, he'd help out any way he could. Mikey may not be as close friends with Brian as Gerard is, but they still get along well. Mikey's glad to know Brian, and he's glad Gerard's got Brian as a friend. He's good people.

"I should talk to Brian sometime," Mikey murmurs, and Gerard turns slowly to look up at him. "Do you think he'd let me apply for a job at the shop?"

"He'd probably give you a job as soon as you mentioned it," Gerard says, and then his brain catches up, "Mikey?"

"I quit my job earlier. Boss was being an asshole. Tried to get me to go in, didn't wanna take no for an answer."

Gerard knits his eyebrows. "You weren't due back for a few days though," he points out. Mikey nods.

"Apparently Jessica is out sick this week and no one else could cover her shifts. He didn't seem to get that I couldn't leave Cherry and Lily alone though, or that I didn't have anyone who could look after them, especially on short notice."

"I don't wanna make excuses, but people without kids sometimes don't get it." Gerard says. He looks a bit sad as he says it, like he can't believe what he's saying is true.

"Yeah, Gee. Plus, I guess he didn't realize that Pencey recording a new album would mean touring, since he literally told me to get Frank to come home to take care of the girls."

"Frank's literally in Maine right now!" Gerard exclaims.

"That's what I told him!" Mikey agrees. Cherry shifts a bit in his arms, relaxing, and Mikey looks down to see that she's got her eyes closed. She's probably about to fall asleep then.

"Was it only today, that this happened?" Gerard asks, and Mikey nods. "Why would you need to talk to Schechter, then? I thought you took more time off because you weren't ready to go back?"

Mikey doesn't look up at Gerard, because his face feels like it's doing something weird. "I mean, yeah, but I can't just be unemployed, right? I need a job, Gee."

"You guys have a bit of money saved up though, don't you? Like, specifically for this reason?" Gerard pushes, moving from the floor to the couch. He's still holding Lily himself, and she's kicking a bit lazily, but she's probably gonna fall asleep soon too.

"The money was more for stuff for the girls, or if Frank and I took time off that wasn't paid." Mikey says. "But I probably should go look for a job, even if it's temporary or something."

"You don't need to do anything right now, Mikey, except take care of Cherry and Lily. You and I both know you're not ready to go back to work yet. Don't force yourself into this if you don't have to." Mikey nods a bit, but he doesn't really want to listen. Gerard can tell, because he says, "at least wait until Frank gets back from tour before you go out looking for a job, and I'll talk to Schechter for you."

It seems like a fair offer, so Mikey agrees.

Frank is still off on tour on Halloween, so he isn't home to celebrate his birthday. Mikey still goes out with the girls and buys a cake and some birthday candles, though. The cake is small, one of those single-serve ones that he's probably going to eat himself tonight or tomorrow. He asks one of the supermarket bakers to write out a "happy birthday Frank" message on the cake as he picks out candles in the shape of a two and a five, and then picks up a few more groceries aside from the cake before going back to the apartment.

As soon as he gets home, he changes the girls into their skeleton onesies, the same ones they came home in. Back then, they were big on them, but now they're pretty snug. Cherry and Lily will probably outgrow the onesies in the next few weeks, but it looks like the shoes will fit for a while yet.

Once they're changed, he sits them down against the couch and puts the cake between them, far enough away that they won't accidentally smash the frosting or knock over the candles. After a bit of maneuvering, he manages to get his phone in hand, and then Mikey makes a series of cooing noises for long enough that Cherry and Lily will look into the camera. He gets a nice series of pictures out of it, and smiles. Frank will love these. He sends them off after moving the cake back onto the kitchen table and laying the girls down for a nap.

happy birthday frank! Mikey sends, alongside his favourite photo of the bunch. Frank responds less than a minute later.

being 25 is weird, how did you deal?

Mikey laughs, and sends, i had your 24 year old ass keeping me busy

It's a bit weird to think that Frank is 25 now, partly because Mikey still sometimes forgets he's just turned 26 himself, but also because Frank isn't here to celebrate it with him. He'd probably bring the twins out trick-or-treating even though they're only just under three months old, and he'd probably make Mikey dress up too. If Mikey were to find out Frank somehow didn't go onstage in costume at tonight's show, he'd be a lot surprised and maybe a little worried.

The picture of Frank comes around eleven thirty that night. Mikey is still up with Lily when it comes in, since she hasn't really fallen asleep yet, too restless and squirmy to be comfortable. Mikey thinks she must be missing Frank as much as he is. Frank did indeed dress up for Halloween this year; he's got skeleton makeup on, no doubt to match the picture of the twins from earlier. John, Neil, Tim, and Shaun are also in costumes, probably coerced into them by Frank, but they didn't put too much effort into them. The most impressive of them is probably Tim's Flash costume, which looks like it cost two dollars at Walmart. The five of them are gathered together with Frank front and center, and they're holding up a sign with a lot of names and signatures on it. In big capital letters it reads HAPPY 25TH BIRTHDAY FRANK . Mikey chuckled at the photo.

The accompanying text from Frank reads, my fans got me a better gift than you

youll get your gift when you get home , Mikey texts back.

is that a promise?

its whatever you want it to be

After a moment, Mikey sends another text. i cant wait until you get back. cherry and lily and i miss you

i miss you too

Frank gets home from tour on the 14th of November, practically slamming open the apartment door in his rush to get inside. Mikey's in his room, juggling both twins in his arms, and when he comes out of his bedroom and into the living room, Frank rushes over, abandoning his stuff by the door. As soon as he's within reach, he takes Cherry into his arms, and latches onto Mikey in a hug, careful of the girls between them. Mikey hugs awkwardly back with his free hand.

"Holy fuck, I love you," Frank says, and Mikey's heart pangs. Frank's talking to Cherry and Lily, not Mikey. "I missed you three so fucking much, you have no idea."

They stand there together, just hugging, for a good ten minutes before they make any move away from each other. Mikey doesn't say anything, and neither does Frank. It's Frank who finally moves away after a while, though, and goes over to the couch to sit down. Once he's settled, he reaches out his free hand, gesturing for Mikey to hand Lily over too. He does so, and moves back towards Frank's bags by the door.

"Which one is dirty clothes?" Mikey asks. He's got a bunch of Cherry and Lily's stuff in the wash already, and he's gotta put some of his stuff in soon too. Half his shirts are covered in drool and spit up, and the other half smell epically funky even for Mikey. Throwing some of Frank's clothes in with his would just save them a bit of time.

"Brown duffle bag is dirty clothes," Frank answers, and Mikey nods, starting to dig through it.

They're pretty quiet for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. Frank still seems hesitant to part from the girls so they end up napping on the couch with him while Mikey eats. He doesn't bring up what Frank said earlier, and Frank doesn't bring it up either when he hands off the twins so they can be fed and readied for bed. Frank is the one to put Cherry and Lily to bed, and he stays in Mikey's room for a while afterwards. Mikey is about to go and offer to let Frank sleep there for the night when Frank comes back into the living room, and sits down next to Mikey. He leaves a careful distance between them, and Mikey tries not to read too much into it.

"So," Frank starts. Mikey swallows.

"So," he repeats.

"I said 'I love you' earlier," Frank remarks. His voice is awkward and slightly forced. Mikey looks away from him.

"Yeah, you did." Mikey feels just as awkward as Frank sounds. It's kind of annoying. He doesn't know what the point is here. He wishes Frank would get to it, already.

"I'm sorry if I ruined it, we don't-" Frank is going to start babbling. Mikey is confused. Neither seems sure what's going on.

"What?" Mikey asks slowly, and Frank fidgets in his seat, brings his knees up and wraps his arms around them.

"I love you," Frank says, the same way he said it this afternoon, and Mikey snaps his gaze back over to Frank. He looks petrified as Mikey meets his eyes. There's no way Frank is actually saying what Mikey thinks he is. It's impossible.

"It kinda sucks, actually," Frank continues, and he sounds scared, but also rather sardonic. Mikey's frozen as Frank babbles at him. "I've been stuck for so long, and of course I just fucking say it without thinking. That's just me, isn't it?

"I don't need you to lie and say it back. If you don't want me to, I'll never bring it up again. We can pretend this whole mess never happened. Hell, we can pretend we never even slept together at all if you want. Just, don't throw me out of your life? Hate me if you want, bitch and moan and badmouth me to all your friends. By all means, go ahead. But please don't keep me away from Cherry and Lily? Fuck, I'll even stop talking to Ray and Gee altogether if I can keep seeing them."

Mikey's trying to comprehend what he's hearing. Frank is saying he loves him. Frank loves Mikey. And he's talking about it like it's the end of the world, as if he doesn't realize-

"I'm in love with you." After all this time, after all this hiding and secrecy and telling himself it didn't matter, it's all too easy for Mikey to say the words. Frank's the one frozen this time. "I'm in love with you," Mikey repeats.

"I- you-" Frank starts, but he can't seem to think. Mikey nods.

"Love you back. Yeah. Since about three months after we started fucking." If Mikey's being honest now, he might as well be blunt about it.

"That's almost two years, Mikey! What the fuck!" Frank looks like he's just had the biggest epiphany since the discovery of gravity. "Are you telling me I could have had you almost two years ago?" He doesn't sound disappointed, not quite, but Mikey can't really name what he thinks it is Frank's feeling right now.

"I mean, I guess?" Mikey says. "You- how long? For you?"

"About two years and a few months. Not quite two and a half. Since a while before we started." Just like that, Mikey things he knows what Frank's feeling. For Mikey, it's like a twinge of regret that they've missed so much time, but in a way, he wouldn't change anything if he could. This, right now, may not be their best moment, but he loves Frank, and Frank loves him, and just in the next room, their daughters are sleeping soundly and peacefully. There are worse places he could be right now.

"So, what now? Where do we go from here?" Mikey asks. Just because it seems straight forward doesn't mean it is. He wants to know where they stand. Communication is an important skill and Mikey likes to think he's okay at it from time to time.

"I think," Frank starts, "that we've established there are mutual feelings at play here. And you don't seem to be objecting outright to the idea of dating me, either."

Mikey thinks he would enjoy dating Frank, and tells him as much, adding, "I don't want this to affect the twins, though. If something goes wrong."

Frank knows better than to claim it won't. He doesn't know that it won't. He can hope, but he can't know. "I know," he says instead. "I wouldn't wanna separate them, from each other, or from either of us. Separation is messy and I don't wanna put them through that." Frank would know all about it, his parents are divorced.

Neither of them really know what more to say right now. They just sit on either side of the couch, in silence, for some moments. Eventually, Frank moves closer, puts his hand next to Mikey's. He doesn't grab it, but he has it open and facing upwards if Mikey wants to make the next move. He laces their fingers together and that's all they need. Frank settles in closer yet, leans into Mikey. Mikey leans back.

"Any ideas where to go for a date?" Mikey asks. Frank shrugs.

"We could leave the twins at Gee's for the afternoon and go to the movies?" That sounds pretty damn good to Mikey, so he nods.

"Sounds good, Frankie."

They're silent for another few moments. "Would it be really cheesy if I asked to kiss you right now?" Frank asks. Mikey laughs.

"Not at all."

"Can I kiss you, then?"


The kiss is slow and sweet, in a way all their previous kisses never really were. Mikey closes his eyes and cups Frank's jaw, his pinky just brushing Frank's scorpion tattoo. Frank's skin buzzes at the contact. Once they break the kiss, Frank leans his head on Mikey's shoulder, eyes still closed himself. Mikey runs a hand through Frank's hair.

"I love you," Frank says. Mikey smiles softly.

"I love you too."

By the time Christmas rolls around, Mikey and Frank are still trying to juggle parenting, their lives, and dating on top of getting ready for the holiday. Mikey doesn't think he'd ever put this much effort in Christmas. He's definitely never had to wrap up this many gifts.

Gerard and Ray had been happy for them when they'd told them they were finally together. Gerard had actually looked like he'd start going into one of his big speeches right then and there, but Mikey had pulled him aside and asked him when he'd make his move on Ray, and that had shut Gerard right up. They're still dancing around each other as they bring presents for the twins into Mikey and Frank's apartment, and it's getting kind of ridiculous. Mikey wishes he could lock them in a closet together until they finally got their heads out of their asses.

"We don't have a closet big enough for that," Frank points out when Mikey tells him his idea. "But I think I have another idea."

Frank digs out a fake mistletoe from their decorations, and hands it to Mikey so he can tape it to their ceiling, just above the spot Gerard usually takes on the couch. As he steps down, Frank pulls him close for a quick peck, and then the two move away from the couch to avoid suspicion when Gerard and Ray come back inside with the last of the gifts.

A lot of them are for the twins. Some of it is toys, and some of it is other stuff. Ray gets them an ear thermometer, which is apparently a lot easier for the babies than a regular thermometer. Frank has actually used one before, and tells Mikey it's a lot more pleasant to use for everyone involved. Gerard gets them a couple of Jolly Jumpers, as well as a pair of scrapbooks that look too professional to be homemade. There's also the two quilts that Mikey recognizes from staying over at Elena's house growing up. He's pretty sure he actually remembers Elena talking to him about making those quilts herself.

Neither Gerard or Ray seem to notice the mistletoe above their heads as they watch Mikey and Frank open the gifts for the girls, and neither Mikey nor Frank say anything quite yet. It's kind of funny when Gerard opens his gift from Ray, a set of sixty copic markers in a sturdy case, because he leans a bit closer and looks like Ray's just given him the moon or something. Mikey bites his lip and carefully keeps his face neutral, while Frank puts less effort into hiding his giggles.

"Ray," Gerard beams, "thank you so much! These are amazing!" He's so close to having hearts in his eyes right now that Mikey wants to steal one of the markers and draw them on.

Ray, for his part, looks like he's trying to hide behind his ear as he smiles kind of stupidly, and his hair seems to be puffing up in compliance. For a few moments, he and Gerard meet eyes, and neither says anything, just smiles. It's sickening.

"Just kiss already!" Frank shouts, and they startle apart just like that. Ray ends up on the other side of the couch, and Gerard, in an attempt to hide his reddening face, tilts his head back, only to spot the-

"Mistletoe!" He squeaks, and curls up on himself. Ray, however, seems to get a sudden boost of confidence at this new knowledge, and surges forward, tugging Gerard up for a kiss as Gerard squeaks at him again. Not even a moment later, he melts into the kiss, relaxing under Ray's touch as Ray cups his face with both hands. Just before it can turn into actual making out, they pull apart. Gerard is red in the face, matching his Christmas sweater almost perfectly, and Ray looks like he's trying to disappear behind his hair. They won't look each other in the eyes.

"Ray Toro, would you like to share something with the rest of the class? Or would Gerard like to go first?" Frank asks. He's a bit sarcastic about it, but he's not being deliberately mean and they all know it. Ray and Gerard have been dancing around each other way too long.

"I'mkindainlovewithyouGerard," Ray chokes out, and Gerard makes a high pitched sound somewhere between a squeak and a whimper.

"Can- can I talk to you in the hall?" Gerard stutters, and Ray nods hesitantly. They both get up and slowly walk into the hallway just outside of Frank and Mikey's door.

They come back some time later, obviously having been making out for some time and holding hands. They look happy though, and Ray kisses Gerard's cheek again as they sit down.

"Glad you two finally got it together," Mikey says, and Gerard glares at him.

"Don't start!"

Mikey goes to see Brian Schechter about a job on the first Monday in February- the exact day the twins turn six months old.

Brian's record store, Chemical Records, isn't all that big, and it isn't all that busy when Mikey walks in, but it's well fairly well-known in town. Brian has a way of getting hard-to-find albums that no one seems to be able to match, he doesn't charge ridiculous prices for the stuff he sells, and he doesn't have markup on the albums he sells for local bands. Pencey Prep's been selling their records mainly through Chemical Records since Brian opened up shop. Another upside is that Chemical Records is open seven days a week, from nine am to ten pm on weekdays, and from eleven to six on weekends. Brian's staff also know their music- overall, everyone involved does it for the love, not the money.

Even if he didn't know Brian so well, it would still be Mikey's favourite record shop in town.

Brian's office is a slightly hidden room off in one corner of the store, nestled behind the counter with the cash register. It's not a very big office, maybe six feet by five feet, but despite the cramped size, Brian makes it work. When he sees Mikey in the doorway, he gets up from behind his cluttered desk and walks over, expertly avoiding knocking over stacks of records and CD cases.

"Mikey, good to see you! Gerard had said you might come by." Brian says, reaching out for a quick hug. "You've got a couple of girls now too, don't you?"

Mikey smiles. Cherry and Lily are over at Gerard's right now, probably drooling all over his living room carpet and throwing foam blocks around. "Yeah, they're six months old today. Gee's babysitting for the afternoon."

"You'll have to bring them by sometime, Mikes. I'd love to meet them." Brian smiles, "now, I hear you've got a resume for me?"

Mikey's got a cover letter for him too, and he hands them off to Brian, who makes a show of looking them both over. "Why'd you leave your last job?" The question isn't judging, there's no emotion behind it. It's a routine interview questions that any manager would ask- Brian just needs to stick to protocol.

"I quit because I ne -wanted to take more time off, for my daughters. I- Brian, I promise you I'll take this seriously, but Cherry and Lily, they're my priority."

"Mikey, hey, I get it, okay? I'm not gonna freak out because you wanna be a decent parent. That's a totally reasonable thing to want. As long as you show up and do your job well, you're fine. I'm not asking for more than you can give," Brian promises. Mikey's relieved to hear it.

"Thank you," he says. Brian nods.

"So, how does evenings and weekends sound?"

Mikey startles. "I- what?"

"Evenings and weekends? It would give you time with your girls during the day, and you'd know for sure that Frank or Gerard could take care of them while you were gone," Brian says. Mikey still can't quite believe it.

"You're being really reasonable about this. Like, way too much." Mikey points out. Brian shrugs.

"You're my friend, Mikey. Besides, just because I'm your boss doesn't mean I'm out for your ass."

"My boss?" Mikey asks. Brian nods.

"Yep. You start next Monday."

When Mikey starts working at Chemical Records, he only works a few days a week; Tuesday nights, Thursday nights, and Saturdays. By the time he's been there a month, he's up to five days, with Mondays and Sundays off. His coworkers are pretty cool, and Brian is a workaholic who's in his office all day every day, so Mikey's never alone in the shop. The regular customers are pretty cool, too. Mikey likes it a lot better than his job at the coffee shop for sure.

He's behind the counter opening boxes of new records when Frank arrives with a baby on each arm. At seven months old, Cherry and Lily are starting to crawl around, and Lily's been a bit fussy lately. She's chewing on something bright and colourful when Mikey spots her, both hands holding it up to her mouth.

"What's that in Lily's mouth?" Mikey asks, as he puts away the letter opener he'd been holding. Cherry reaches out towards him as he moves closer towards Frank and he takes her without a word, planting a kiss on her brow.

"Teething ring from Uncle Gee. She's been quiet all afternoon since she got it." Frank says, and Mikey smiles. If Lily hasn't been complaining, then she's not bothered.

"That's good."

Brian comes around the corner from his office then, and smiles at the twins. He loves seeing them whenever they visit the store, and has bought them a few toys and gifts since Mikey's been working at the shop. Slowly but surely, Brian is working his way up to being an honourary uncle. "Hey. Is it six already?"

"Five minutes till," Frank answers, smiling. Once they get out of here, they're going to drop off the twins with Ray for the night and then he's taking Mikey on a date.

"Sounds good," says Brian. "Mikey, you done there?"

"Almost, yeah. I've just gotta check this box to be sure everything's in it and then I'm good to go." Mikey answers. Brian shakes his head, smiling, and moves behind the counter with Mikey. As he goes, he ruffles Cherry's hair.

"I'll take care of it, Mikes. You and Frank go and enjoy your date!" He says, and gently pushes Mikey out from behind the counter.

Mikey clocks out with Cherry still on his hip, and then they're off, walking down to Ray's duplex. He's more than happy to take the twins for the night, and tells Mikey and Frank to enjoy themselves, wishing them good luck as they leave. As they walk, Frank grabs hold of Mikey's hand, and Mikey leans into him.

"So, what are we doing tonight?" Mikey asks.

"I'm taking you out for dinner, and then we're gonna go home and watch a movie. I was thinking maybe Nightmare?" Frank says. Mikey smiles.

"Sounds awesome," he says, and then gives Frank a quick kiss on the cheek. Frank beams.

"Love you, Mikeyway."

"Love you too, Frankie."