The patch of ground they settle on is maybe two thirds dirt, one third dying grass, but it's not covered in trash and still hot from the day's sun. It's hidden from prying eyes by a lucky combination of parked buses and a wooden fence. The buses are giving off heat from today's sun, but they also give enough shade to make this spot as perfect as it can be – at Warped.
Pete throws down his hoodie. Mikey instantly drops onto it, quirking his mouth at Pete, who just huffs, then pushes Mikey back into a lying position to use his stomach as a pillow. They stay like that for half a minute at the most, and then Pete is squirming to get at his sidekick and starts typing furiously. Mikey's pocket buzzes. He ignores it.
“Aren't you going to check that?”
“I know it's from you. You could just tell me, like, right now.”
“But this way it'll keep longer.”
Mikey still refuses to move. He's starting to relax, lazily watching the changing light as the sun moves, thinking of nothing but how hot he feels, when Pete starts moving again after what can't have been more than five minutes. Annoyed, Mikey grabs Pete's hair and tugs. That works, surprisingly enough. Pete starts a rambling recount of today's set, not minding that Mikey's too tired to really contribute.
“And then a life-sized Wookie jumped on stage and started trying to steal Andy's drum set... Okay, you really aren't listening, are you?”
The word Wookie penetrates Mikey's lazy daze and he startles at the feel of Pete's hair under his fingers. Huh. His limbs prickle and he shivers slightly. How long was he spaced out? Pete seems to be scrolling through some photos on his sidekick, but he snaps it shut when Mikey yawns and exhales loudly.
“You have to cross your limits to really know where they are.” Pete says quickly.
“'s what I wrote. Texted you.”
“Okay? What do you -”
Before he can even finish his question, Pete turns around to look at him, grabs his hips and squeezes, holding him. As hugs go, it's really uncomfortable. Pete lets go just to touch Mikey's shoulders instead, and stares intently at him. Mikey's cheeks grow hot. He's taking a deep breath when Pete drops his gaze, letting his bangs fall into his face.
“Fuck. This is stupid.”
Mikey blinks in confusion. This is not what he expected to happen at this moment.
“Fuck, sorry. How can this be so... Can we just strike - well, there's nothing to strike. That's the fucking problem. I-”
“Uh, slow down a bit, yeah?”
“Fucking love that shirt. With you in it. Actually, it's kind of... That's your magic thing, right? Can't ignore you, ever. World just drops away and I'm nothing. You know I love you, right? But it's more than that because I fucking hate hurting but I would. For you. Is there a word for that? Is that romantic? I should know this shit...”
“... That's not romantic. Intense, maybe?” Mikey stumbles a bit, internally. His gut clenches and he tenses, shivers with it.
“Well, thanks for not calling me crazy.”
“I don't like judging people.” And Mikey's glad Pete is focusing on the crazy part and not – not asking Mikey to explain his own feelings.
Pete lets out a heavy breath and looks down at their patch of dirt. The noise that never goes away on these kinds of tours grows louder in Mikey's ears. He clears his throat, then says, “What you said right now –”
“I wish loving you was enough to make myself do this. Do you. Uhm. Sorry for making this sound cheesy. Just, I've never, with --- at least not with a clear mind and I guess you wouldn't appreciate me being on something, not with your brother -”
Mikey abruptly fights himself loose from Pete. He needs to figure things out. He needs his brother.
“That, uh, reminds me. Gerard told me he wanted to show me some new drawings and well, I think he said we'd meet at the bus two hours ago? By now he'll have noticed I'm not there.” It's a bad lie; Mikey could always text Gerard – or Bob. Gerard never checks his phone, but Bob is conscientous about stuff like that and he'd totally deliver a message if Mikey asked. They've explained to Bob that he's not the new guy anymore, never really was, but he still has that eagerness to make himself the best bandmate possible. Thinking about Bob makes it easier to ignore Pete's hurt expression as Mikey walks away quickly, eyes tearing up because of the too-bright light of the setting sun.
Mikey has a reputation as being easy to talk to. It would be nice not to know this about himself but it's kind of hard to not be self-aware when you're Gerard's brother. He honestly can't tell if it's a good thing. People that aren't his friends don't seem to put much stock into what he says, they just tell and tell him stuff and never listen to his answers.
He doesn't get it.
Mikey rarely feels the urge to share when it's not explicitly wanted. He can never be sure that people want to listen to him. Even talking to Gerard is too hard sometimes although Gerard assures him that he isn't bothered by the darker stuff, and it'll certainly not drive him to drink. It's just that Mikey is good at the superficial how are yous and did you knows and do you remembers and bad at the... other stuff. The stuff that actually matters.
Five people stop him on his way back to the trailer until he puts on his earphones and a vague expression. He could ask Pete for an “Out of Order” t-shirt, explain to him other people tell him things like they think he's a vending machine, put in words, get instant relief through acknowledgement. Maybe the next time he sees Pete, all their easy camaraderie will be gone and he won't be able to make Pete listen to his train of thought. He should have stayed and listened to Pete. No, he should have shut him up. Kissed him, told him it'll be okay. Not to be afraid.
Sex is never the hard part, Mikey wants to tell Pete. He fumbles for his sidekick to text Pete, but stumbles over something and falls against the side of their tour bus. Twitching away from the hot metal, he lets the sidekick slide back into his pocket. It was a studid idea, anyway.
It's hot and dark in their bus. All of their windows are covered to keep out the sun, except one. Gerard is using the fading light to draw in his sketchbook. He is surrounded by clutter: old coffee cups, an empty water bottle, food wrappers, dvd cases and magazines strewn haphazardly on the bench, the table, the floor. Gerard's pencils and markers are neatly laid out though – sober Gerard always tries to take care of the things important to him. At Mikey's arrival, Gerard looks up with a smile – half genuine happiness, half sheepishness.
“Hi! Want to see what I came up with for Dr. Darwin's nearly fatal accident?” Mikey steps closer, with only the slightest hint of hesitation. That tiny pause is enough to alert Gerard that something's up, though. “Was it you that just fell against the bus? Are you alright? Do you need something to drink?”
“M'fine. Would drink something, though.”
Gerard hands him a can of coke he fetches from the other side of the couch. “It's nearly full. If you want?” He looks at Mikey, obviously trying to gauge his state.
Mikey sinks onto the couch, coke in hand. Gerard starts cleaning up with quick movements, as though he has time to lose. He never was this way, before. Now he has all this energy, despite the bottomless drain that is Warped. Mikey watches him, silent.
“What's going on? Something happen? That iffy sandwich you had acting up?”
Mikey giggles helplessy at Gerard's last question. “I didn't eat that, I just wanted to see you squirm.”
“I thought you did it to challenge that Pete guy.”
Damn Gerard, he always just knows.
Mikey pauses, unsure of what to say. With nothing left to tidy, Gerard sinks down to sit beside Mikey, carefully leaving space so they won't stick to each other in the heat. After a moment, Mikey slides closer and leans slightly against Gerard's shoulder. Fuck the heat, he needs comfort. He kicks off his shoes and puts his feet on the small table, hugging his knees.
How does he start? What does he need to say to make Gerard understand? Understand – so he can tell Mikey what his trouble is really about. That's what he's good at, coming up with motives, not only for fictional people.
“He said he loves me. And... not just in a 'friends' way, I guess, but...” Remembered shame makes his skin flush and he hides his faces against his knees. “He doesn't really want me.” he mumbles. In the company of his brother, he feels safe to let the memory bring up his hurt.
“I'm not sure how he can love you but not want you...” Gerard says, voice barely above a whisper.
“How. How can I be sure he really... How can I... How do I know he really does love me if he won't even touch me?”
“Mikeyway. Why is it so important that he really loves you? Are you two even dating?” There's a slightly panicked note in Gerard's question. He's probably wondering if he failed as a big brother because he has to ask.
It's a valid question, though. What do Pete and Mikey have but some shared meals? A love of dorky humour. A deep admiration for geniuses like Patrick and Gerard. A more (Mikey) or less (Pete) secret love of writing stories.
… And dozens of texts exchanged every day. Casual meetups where the hours melt away, and bucket lists of stuff they have to do together before this tour is over. So maybe they are dating, somewhat. In the months before Warped, Mikey only managed to have hook-ups, people he met along the way. Not intentionally, but apparently having sex with Mikey is not an incentive to have a relationship with him. Maybe he should be glad Pete doesn't want sex...
“Uhm. You know I don't really know Pete that well, but he seems... like being with him would take a lot out of anyone... Maybe he is hesitant because he, uhm, might be a bit much? I guess he knows that. Or he really isn't gay, or no, bi. I dunno what to say, if he really isn't then this really can't work out, but maybe-”
“He's not too much, he's – I like him as he is, he's fun and I know he can go deep, too. I don't mind him being complicated, everybody fucking is, I just-” Mikey stops there, gasping for air. If he breathes slowly, he won't lose control. Maybe.
“I wanna know that I'm the only one he...”
“You want to be able to trust him!” Gerard has a really annoying aha!voice.
But what he says finally lets Mikey's guts uncoil. Not that much, but, well, Mikey got what he hoped for.
“You know, the weird thing about trust is that you can't wait for others to prove you can trust them – you have to show them that they can trust you.”
Okay, this is why Gerard is a genius, always will be for Mikey, no matter what the world thinks.
Mikey fishes for his phone and sends out a message to Pete before he can rethink it.
I want u 2 always feel safe w/ me. more important thn anythng
He doesn't get a reply.
It's 3:42 a.m. Mikey can't sleep. He's sitting on the bench again, listlessly watching their TV screen.
Then he hears footsteps, and Frank appears beside him.
Mikey just nods. Frank disappears and reappears in moments, carrying his bedsheet.
“Let's hang out.” He sprawls half on top of Mikey and spreads the sheet over them. They've been driving for a few hours, and the A/C has cooled the air.
“I don't know what we're watching. What are we watching?”
“Dunno, got it from a fan and it's not in English.”
“Weird. Our fans are weird. We have great, weird fans.” Frank is probably annoying Mikey on purpose. “Fans that give us stuff that we can never, ever understand.” Frank wheedles. Then he moves around and settles even more of his body on top of Mikey.
Mikey's cheeks flush and his body heats up, not with embarrassment but with – desire. Frank is like a brother, but Frank is also tiny, tattoed, and beautiful. He shoves Frank away. Regrets it immediately.
Frank stares at him, aghast.
“Sorry. It's just. I don't ---- mind you cuddling.” He changes what he was going to say in the middle of his sentence. “I really don't mind. You know that, right?”
“It's hard not to want to cuddle. I miss Jamia... It's hard to be alone.” Frank must really be hurt, he only ever justifies his actions when he is totally thrown.
Mikey does the only thing he can think of, grabbing Frank and pulling him down onto the couch again, the sheet forgotten on the floor. He presses a kiss against Frank's temple.
“Yeah. It's hard to be alone.”
He falls asleep with Frank's arm across his stomach, weight comforting but not exactly right.
When he wakes up, he texts Pete.
I've crossed mine, where are you?