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Try, Try Again

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The First- 338 BC
Pete loves Mikey. It’s not exactly a new idea. In fact, their love is the entire reason they’re in this battle. The Sacred Band of Thebes is only for those like them, brutal and fast and brave and in love. It’s a troop three hundred strong, but it’s truly just a group of a hundred and fifty souls, who happen to have two bodies.

He always loves Mikey. He loves him when they are travelling; while Pete is the heniochoi Mikey’s truly better at steering the horses around obstacles that could cause a stumble leading to death. He loves him while they are hunting, Mikey understands the perfect combination of silently stalking prey and when to drive forward with his spear. He loves him when they are trying to sleep, Mikey is the only one he knows that has as much difficulty falling into Morpheus’ dominion as he does. He loves them when he’s fucking Mikey, and often wishes that Mikey was not the eromenos, so he could too experience the dominant role. But as soon as Mikey is old enough to be erastes, Mikey will have to leave him, so Pete is satisfied with the roles they hold. It’s in battle that Pete can feel it most. Love surges through every inch of his being, the force of it working down the shaft of his spear, culminating in the thick blood the enemy pours.

Mikey is different. Pete is knows everything about Mikey, every thing he feels, every thought he has. He knows Mikey cares very little about their band, only about him. If it wasn’t for Pete, Mikey probably would have left the citizen army years earlier. But the only way for them to be together is to be warriors, and when Theagenes gave them the honor of being in the Sacred Band, there was no choice. And once you have your shield raised you cannot lower it, not without shaming your love. And so Mikey fights, for him.


The Fourth- 1692
Pete isn’t sure who accused Mikey. Nor can he guess. In the last week accusations have been flying around the county, and those accused have turned fingers upon others, in hopes to win their lives back from the court. It hasn’t worked, everyone who has been to trial has been found guilty. But that truth doesn’t stop anyone from having faith that they’ll be the first.

He wishes he knew. If he did, he would rend them limb from limb, and face the consequences. Better to be damned to Hell than let Mikey’s accuser go unpunished. He’s destined for the foul flames of Hell anyway. He is many times a sinner, vanity and crude word and pride and a dozen besides. And no matter how much he might repent caring about his appearance, he will never repent for his most heavy of sins. His love is an abomination, and Lucifer will take him, and eons burning will be worth the years of pleasure he’s had with Mikey.

In truth, it’s likely why Mikey has been branded a witch. Someone must have witnessed them. As careful as they try to be, as they must be, there are many eyes in the county, and not nearly enough hiding spots. And if that is true, any moment he too will be renounced. Pete will be happy to be on the end of that rope -there’s no sense in thinking there will be any other end to this farce- as life without Mikey seems impossible. He’s only torn between ideals. Should he bring down as many people with him as he can; decide on likely accusers and ruin them? Or should he hold himself to a higher standard than any other in the county, and be the first to keep his mouth clean of lies?

In the end it won’t matter. Mikey will hang, his brother will probably hang, and he will hang. Pete’s only hope is that he meets Mikey in Hell.


The Fifth- 1759
There are list of things Pete loves about Dashwood.

He loves the way everyone in the room isn’t afraid to mock religion, and it’s pathetic rituals. They call each other Monks and Brothers, and they call the whores Nuns, because none of the titles mean anything. Every time he hears people on the street mutter rumours of Black Masses he repeats them to anyone who will have his ear. It’s not true, of course, but it never hurts to have people be offended.

He loves the artwork. Pete can walk among the caves for hours, imagining himself within the scenes of Poseidon or Venus. He can’t help the giggle that comes out upon seeing all the phallic symbols, but he’s hardly the only one walking past the giant stone penises without at least smiling. The murals Brother Hogarth paints are stunning, Pete makes sure to toast him at least once a meeting for his work.

He loves the banquets. He doesn’t go into the kitchens himself, Pete hasn’t cooked a day in his life and he’s not about to start. He has an inheritance, and he buys each meal at whatever place he happens to stop at when he’s sober enough to want food. But there’s no question that the food at Medmanham Abbey tastes better than anything he’s ever had at a rooming house. Maybe it’s the atmosphere, dozens of men and women around him, drinking and gambling and baring their shoulders.

Most of all, he loves men in white jackets. More specifically, he loves his man in a white jacket. Every brother wears the same garb, white trousers, jacket, and cap, only the Abbot is allowed to wear red. He only sees Mikey on meeting nights, he’s not even sure of the man’s last name or station in life. But by the end of the evening they are tumbling each other to the floor, or bed, or on the grass in the gardens. Sometimes Pete has to clench on to the shrine to Priapus and will himself to not end it too early.


The Seventh- 1954
Pete knows he’s a lobotomy waiting to happen. It’s shitty but it’s true. Just because he’s crazy doesn’t mean he can’t be a realist.

It’s true of everyone at the asylum. First they try talking to you, men with white coats and glasses glaring at you across a mahogany desk and expecting you to spill your secrets. Even if you do, they never find the real meaning of your words. Then you try drugging you. A quick slip of a needle into your arm, and your bloodstream is more Thorazine than blood. Then they try shocking you, a rubber bit in your mouth so you don’t bit off the tip of your tongue. And once that doesn’t work it’s time for ‘elective’ surgery. If you say no they’ll never let you out. If you say yes you’ll never remember anything else that happens to you.

Pete’s been here awhile. He’s met a lot of different types of crazies, the ones that can’t stop screaming, the ones that talk to themselves, the ones that don’t blink or talk or eat. There’s a new one that’s almost the same as him; can’t really sleep, sometimes too sad, sometimes too mad, can remember times when he was too happy.

Because neither of them sleep, they can talk to each other. Some orderlies let them go to the common room and sit with their starched hard white pants curled under them. Some orderlies don’t let them out of their rooms, and threaten more Thorazine if they complain. On those nights they just shout their questions across the hall to each other, through their locked doors. It’s not like they’re keeping anyone awake, the people that scream because bugs are walking down the wall are just as loud.

They talk about everything and so Pete knows before he was classified as this crazy they were the same in another way. He used to kiss boys too. Pete doesn’t kiss crazies, it seems like a bad policy. But if he made an exception it would be for Mikey.


The Eighth- 1969
Charlie says everything is going to change. Pete knows it, can feel it in his fucking bones. Pretty soon the war is going to start, and they have to be ready. You only have to listen to The White Album once to know it’s true.

It’s why he gets nervous when Mikey’s out searching for the Bottomless Pit in Death Valley. If it starts when they’re separated, they could be fucked. He doesn’t like letting Mikey out of his sight. Even when Mikey’s hooking up with Squeaky or Susan, Pete stays in the room. No Blackie’s gonna get Mikey. Of course, most of the time they can avoid being pinned to a girl and just sleep with each other. Sometimes Tex gives them shit, but fuck him.

Being part of the Family makes Pete feel alive. He doesn’t need the acid or the dope, though it’s nice. He just needs people that understand what’s really happening in the world. He and Charlie write together, sometimes. Charlie writes with everyone, but he tells Pete that his lyrics are some of the best, what most of the songs are going to revolve around. He says Pete has a way with a metaphor, that he’s subtle but true, just like the The Beatles. Pete almost fuckin’ cried the first time Charlie told him. When he repeated it back to Mikey, he blew him in congratulations.

He and Mikey talk every night, curled together for warmth, about what it’s gonna be like when it starts. It’s gonna start soon, the prophecy said Helter Skelter would be in the summer. It’s the beginning of June, it’s gonna be any day now, and Pete can’t fucking wait.


The Ninth- 1975
The coke’s bad. The coke’s bad. The coke’s bad. The coke’s bad.

The coke is bad, and what the fuck is he supposed to do? He can’t think, he can’t fucking think, how is he supposed to think right now? He can’t possibly be expected to know what to do right now. But there’s no one else to help him.

Mikey always goes first. Pete always places the pretty snow on to the glass table, tilts the corner of his plastic baggie until there’s a decent pile. Pete always uses his credit card to chop it finer and finer, so it doesn’t rip their nose apart. Pete always draws the lines with the edge of the credit card. Mikey always goes first, after Pete grins and say ‘first hit’s free’. It’s a joke between them, a copy of what Mikey told Pete the first time he got Pete to try it. He snorted it off Mikey’s index finger, before Mikey pushed it into his mouth, and then his ass.

The coke’s bad, and Mikey always goes first except now he’s never going to go again. What the fuck is he supposed to do? He can’t call an ambulance, and there’s no point anyway. He can’t call the cops, and it’s not like they’d care. He can never call Mikey to ask for advice again.

He doesn’t need to know what he’s going to do, not beyond the next hour. He’s going to get a gun, he’s friends with a bunch of criminals, surely one will have them. He’s going to find Amanda, their fat fuck of a dealer, mentioning something brilliant and airheaded like he knows he just bought a quarter, and he hasn’t even had it yet, but he’s planning on having a big party and he needs more for everyone to enjoy. And when he has her alone, he’s going to shoot Amanda, right in her gum chewing face, and watch her bleed out. Then Pete will take things from there. He never was much for planning ahead.


The Eleventh- 2007
It’s not like he doesn’t love her. It wouldn’t be fair to offer if he didn’t love her, and after everything he’s faced Pete does his best to be fair about things. But loving Ashlee is like loving Patrick. It’s true, and real, but it’s also composed of what others think about it. He loves Patrick because he does, but also because they’re Pete-n-Patrick, and it’s better for the band if a hundred thousand fangirls have someone to see hugging. He loves Ashlee because he does, but also because he has to.

What it is, is there needs to be proof he’s moved on. The internet knows too much, it knows what the cameras never did. People collect links; blogs that can be misinterpreted (interpreted correctly), AIM away messages, original titles to songs.

Mikey’s done a lot better at the game of forgetting the past. It probably helps that Mikey found someone waiting in the wings, dove into the new before he had a chance to get nostalgic for the old. Pete’s envious of that sometimes. He doesn’t have an entire album following him -an album that his band told him he’d regret when he had to perform it every night. Unless I Don’t Love You is Mikey’s version, but Pete refuses to believe it. They might have nothing now, but Pete’s certain in what they used to have.

He’s going to be a father now. Well, he always was, it’s not like denying it to the public would have made it any less his DNA. But he’s going to be the kind of father that’s there. He’s going to love his child, and never over-exaggerate, never send it away to be tortured for skipping class. He’s going to love his wife, brassy and in everyone’s face about it, friends and family and paparazzi, he’s going to embarrass his kid by kissing Ashlee at the kitchen table as soon as the kid is old enough to get embarrassed. Because that’s what fathers do, and that the option that’s left for him.


The Twelfth- 2024
So maybe it’s a bit of a pain in the ass to keep his hand in Mikey’s. Pete’s a small guy, not exactly noticeable on the crowded sidewalk. People have a habit of walking right into him, he’s gotten used to dodging. With his fingers linked to Mikey’s he has to try to tug Mikey out of the way, and Mikey doesn’t seem to be competent in the least at dodging. He’s not entirely sure whether it’s because he’s just not paying attention, or if it’s because he’s trying to make some kind of statement. Knowing his boyfriend, it could be either. Still, he doesn’t want to let go.

They’ve got a few hours until the scene picks up. Right now all the clubs are closed, lights on and lifeless. Mikey likes to joke about breaking in and having a pre-party instead of finding somewhere to crash for an after-party, but Pete always shakes his head and usually stops Mikey in the middle of the sidewalk for a kiss. Even if Mikey was serious, Pete would say no. He’s never been in a club before it’s started to fill and he doesn’t want to. Lights on and empty even the best of clubs would lose the magic. Pete never wants to let go of anything that glitters.

Just because they can’t grind and flail doesn’t mean they can’t be together, be obscene. The walking man turns to a white warning hand and Pete uses his hold on Mikey to pull him sideways, stands on his tiptoes and coaxes Mikey into bending down. They kiss until a woman behind them attempts to walk around them to cross the street, jostling Pete in the process. Which proves his point, sort of. If he had a point, anyway.

Unlike the clubs, the rest of the buildings in Osbourne are alive, customers rushing in and browsing. It’s Pete’s favourite area of the city, and he loves the outside vendors even more than those that have stores. He really fucking admires the kind of person that says ‘screw it, I don’t need walls, I just want people to see my shit’. Whenever he has money that’s not going to concert tickets and club covers, it goes to the brave street businesses. If his ten bucks makes the person stay on the curb one more day, it’s totally worth it.

He spots a woman sitting on an ottoman, a second small one beside her. Pete tugs Mikey over and asks if she sells stories. Once he was walking through Osbourne and he paid three bucks for the best fairy tale he’d ever heard. Pete still considers it entirely possible that the old man was a scribe for the gods exiled to Earth for some misbehaviour.

“No, no stories. But I can tell you your past lives, if you let me touch your hand.” Pete doesn’t think about it for a second, he just drops down, planting himself on the slightly grimy orange velvet.

Mikey seems more skeptical. “How much?”

“Twenty each.”

Pete winces a bit, but pats the multiple pockets of his cargo pants trying to find his wallet. He’s pretty sure he has it, and if she’s anything like the old man, it’ll be worth every dollar.

“Pete, come on.” Pete glances up from unzipping it. “It’s a waste. You know what else forty bucks buys? Us coffees and a bit of merch tonight.”

“Sorry,” he says to the lady, then stands and flits the foot to his boyfriend. “You have the best ideas Mikeyway. I love you.”

Mikey presses a rough kiss to his temple. “Course I do. Love you too. Coffee now?”

“But of course!” Pete bows to Mikey, and holds out his arm like a proper gentleman. Mikey takes it, and they walk off together. He’s probably right anyway, coffee will be fragrant and delicious, and if he wants he can always pester Mikey to tell him stories of them in other worlds. Mikey and his brother like comic books, Mikey can probably come up with brilliant origin stories. As long as there are no radioactive spiders, Pete’s happy.