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Warped Tour, Gerard thinks lazily as he sprawls on the ground, is a truly magical place. Where else can you get a bunch of bands hanging out together, bands the media largely regards as emo vampires that want to suck your blood? It’s like a horror movie band camp, but like. With more drugs and alcohol and general assholerly behavior.

He’s sprawled out in a ridiculously grimy lawn chair, surrounded by various band members and crew. They’re all sitting around a fire pit, flames crackling high as they pass around the pipe and take swigs of the seemingly endless beer. Gerard is totally not tempted. Actually he totally fucking is and he shouldn’t even be here but. The bus gets lonely and Mikey’s sitting right next to him, supporting him.

Warped booked two dates at the venue because it’s a large city. Or at least Gerard thinks it is. They’re in the middle of some midwestern state that he can’t remember, just east enough that the summer air is filled with fireflies.

Because of the double booking they get to spend the night at the venue, which also happens to be a large campground adjacent to a lake. All the buses are parked on the grass in a rough semicircle; the sound of running water can be heard from where they’re parked. The water noises are courtesy of those brave enough to enter the communal showers attempt to get clean. Gerard’s not down for that shit. He doesn’t really care about his hygiene that much. Besides, he also values his life. He saw a literal monster slug the size of a fist crawl outside of one of those stalls, it looked like an extra for a horror movie.

Gerard shoots Mikey a despairing look because he’s starting to lose sensation in his legs, can already feel the numbness creeping up. A certain tiny bassist is currently trying to cripple Gerard in preparation for some malicious and evil prank war. Or something. Gerard will never underestimate Pete again, nobody told him that Pete pissed on his toothbrush until after he’d used it for three days.

“Dude. Dude. Dude. Fucking high school.” Pete makes some aborted attempts at waving his hands. He mostly ends up flailing like a beached whale. “High school,” Pete says again, lolling his head around with reckless abandon, like his head isn’t rubbing against Gerard’s dick. Gerard thanks God feverishly for skinny jeans and their restraining properties.

“High school,” Gerard yells earnestly, “is a trap. A trap for kids to force them into conformity! All high school does is convince you that you need to be a stereotype to be accepted.”

 

Andy nods in agreement. He’s Gerard’s promised sobriety enforcer after Mikey (actually he’s probably first because Mikey likes to get really fucking drunk and high. Fraternal love prevents Gerard from ever voicing this opinion.) “High school is an artificial construct,” he says, adjusting his hospital face mask.

“Fucking weirdo,” Pete mutters. Andy lets out a long suffering sigh. He looks a little like he’s some teenage mom with a million kids who are running around Target and causing havoc. The effect is somewhat supported by the Hello Kitty stickers Pete stuck on the mask.

Pete calls Andy and Gerard Kawaii Schoolgirls or Sorority of Designated Drivers, he alternates depending on the mood. Gerard privately thinks that’s a kickass name, but publically calls Pete out for being an asshole because Gerard is pretty sure that Pete and Mikey are... doing something together that will result in a heartbroken Mikeyway by the end of the summer.

But Gerard’s not jealous or anything. Totally not jealous. How fucked up would it be to have a crush on your brother’s pseudo boyfriend? On a scale from 1-10 that’s approaching Freudian levels of psychologically fucked up and Gerard’s not going to let himself go there.

“High school is full of shit Pete,” Andy replies, kicking Pete in the leg. “It’s completely fucking useless, it would be better to just return to the way things used to be.” Andy says matter of factly, waving his hand around in an attempt to disperse the heavy clouds of smoke snaking through in the air. “It’s unnatural.”

A nameless tech snorts. “So, you mean, to like, fucking hunting and gathering? Like, woah! There’s a fucking mammoth! I’m going to stalk it and shit and get some fucking food for my fucking family.” Nameless Tech (he does sound for a smaller band Gerard thinks. A local band that’s only on for a few dates) swears more that both Way brothers combined, a significant achievement. Combined with the bleach blonde hair, he strongly resembles a twelve year old girl who has just discovered the joys of cursing.

Andy doesn’t dignify him with a response.

Gerard has officially lost sensation in one of his legs. He shifts a little, jostling Pete’s shoulders. Pete blinks and turns to look up at Gerard, Pete’s eyes are wide and black, the circles under them dark like bruises. “What were you like in high school?” he stage whispers dramatically. “I bet you were cool as shit. One of those punk theatre kids.”

Gerard shudders. “I was Peter Pan in third grade. It was all a downhill spiral from there.”

Pete makes a noise of assent and pinches his foot when Gerard pauses so he figures he’s supposed to continue. “I mean, I was this socially awkward nerd who liked to wear makeup. I hid in the art room for lunch every single day. I mean, like, I had friends. But they were all kind of weird too.” Gerard studies Pete’s face and thinks about what he’s heard about Pete as a teenager (also known as whatever interview on MTV he catches before he changes the channel). “Yeah,” he says thoughtfully. “We probably would have been friends.”

Pete sits up quickly, almost knocking Gerard over in the process. He turns and focuses his attention on Gerard. Gerard twitches uncomfortably, he’s not used to being in the spotlight like this. Mikey’s stare is comforting and friendly. There’s nothing like that padding Pete’s sharp edges now. “I was an intolerable asshole in high school,” Pete says softly. “We would not have been friends.”

Gerard feels the ridiculous need to protect Pete’s high school self. “We totally would have been,” he says companionably, knocking his elbow into Pete’s.

Pete shakes his head, his stupid emo hair whipping back and forth. “No,” he insists. “I was a dick in high school. I was unmedicated, undiagnosed and dealing with fucktons of small issues that I made into huge issues. You wouldn’t have liked me. I didn’t even like myself.”

Gerard winces. Pete looks a little bit like a kicked puppy, even though he’s the only one kicking himself. “I swear to god that we would have been besties, man.” Gerard responds grandly, spreading his arms wide. “Fucking bffs. I swear on the universe.” Out of the corner of his eye Gerard sees Bert flinch slightly, almost imperceptibly. Gerard narrows his eyes threateningly because Bert is a vicious, squirrelly motherfucker who would sell his own mother for a beer. Gerard may be a little biased. Bert just stares mournfully into Gerard’s eyes before dropping his head and hiding his eyes behind his hair.

Pete sighs. “You’d have to have known me, I guess,” he says, his shoulders slumping.

Gerard opens his mouth to say something thin and appropriately placating but before he can say anything Ray is tugging at his shoulder clumsily. “Gerard!” he crows triumphantly. “Gerard, we’re having a bus hide and seek game. Gerard, come on Bob and Patrick are the seekers. They’ve got that Chicago psychic thing going on, I need you to fucking shield me.” Gerard rolls his eyes, but clambers unsteadily to his feet. Patrick and Bob are so ridiculously matched that they’re invincible. Bob looks high and Patrick looks low.

As the most sober person in a three mile radius Gerard is clearly the best hide and seek partner to have. Ray is a fucking genius.

Gerard flaps his hand vaguely at Pete before stumbling off with Ray. He’s already scanning the landscape through foggy eyes- maybe they can hide behind the pile of complimentary firewood for campers- and by the time he turns back to shout a goodbye to Pete, Pete has already disappeared.

 

Gerard’s first thought, upon awakening, is he needs to murder whoever put an alarm clock in his bunk. Actually, scratch that, it was probably Pete. Pete is now a dead man. Seriously, he’s a grown man on Warped Tour. MCR’s set isn’t until two in the afternoon. Gerard can sleep in for as long as he fucking wants. The alarm clock sounds like a chainsaw right next to his ear but Gerard is stronger than that, he’s 29 for god’s sake. Squeezing his eye shut, he resolves to ignore it and sure enough it shuts off eventually, just like the one he had as a kid.

Gerard tries to breathe slowly and count sheep, tries to to see if he can drift off again. He gives it his best shot, but the light stabbing into his eyelids (did someone sneak a lamp in as well? That’s just cruel) won’t let him. He sighs because he can already feel the energy starting the thrum through his body. He won’t be sleeping in this morning, obviously. Gerard rolls over in the bunk and immediately rolls to the other way because it feels like someone just ironed over his dick with a flatiron holyshit. Once the throbbing waves of pain reside he gropes around a bit until he deduces that he has a hard on. Great. Fantastic. Wonderful. Just another way to round out the teenager experience.

He reaches down and starts to jerk off mechanically, biting his lip so he won’t make any noise. He mentally scrolls through various images in his head, finally settling on his personal favorite- Pete on his knees, staring at Gerard with those huge eyes smudged with eyeliner, using his tongue to make clever little twists around the head of Gerard’s cock- and Gerard comes with a muffled gasp, his toes curling as he shoots onto his stomach. He lets out a satisfied sigh, rolling over onto his stomach (gross) and blinking his eyes slowly to let in the light.

Gerard sits up and gropes the end of of his bunk for a t-shirt, his eyes still closed to conserve energy. Instead he hits a piece of wood with a loud clank. Gerard’s eyes shoot open. He’s sitting on a bed- his bed. His childhood bed, the one in his parent’s basement. Everything’s the same as it was when he was a teenager, right down to the faded blue flannel sheets.

“What the fuck?” Gerard shrieks.

“Honey?” his mom bellows from the upstairs kitchen. “Are you just getting up now? School starts in a half an hour.” Gerard clasps his chest with his disgusting, jizz drenched hand because what the fuck. What the actual fuck is going on.

“Took you long enough,” a familiar voice says behind him. Gerard whips around so fast he knocks his alarm clock off his bedside table. When he registers Bert’s face he lets out a horrified squeak. Bert McCracken just watched him jerk off. Gerard wants to die.

“Are you alright?” Donna yells.

“Fine!” Gerard screams back before turning his attention back on a solemn Bert, who also happens to be levitating above his headboard. “What the fuck are you doing here? Is this because we broke up?” Gerard shrieks in horror. He looks around the room wildly, searching for hidden cameras. “How did you get my mom into this? Is that even my mom yelling, or some freakishly talented voice actor? Why’d you have to drag my fucking mom into this, you asshole!”

Bert looks very, very sad. Epically sad- his eyebrows are all furrowed and his mouth is pulled into a ridiculous frown. “Gerard,” Bert says in the same tone one uses to comfort a loved one at a funeral. “You made a bet with the universe and as the universe liaison I am sworn to see it out.”

“What?” Gerard says dumbly. He wipes his hand on his shirt (gross) and tries not to cry. “Bert, are you fucking with me right now? Wait- okay, are you high? Are you on something? Am I on something? Did Andy fail me last night? Are you a hallucination?” Bert shakes his head forlornly.

“No Gerard,” he replies. “No, I’m really here, hovering above your bed. Go ahead, touch me or something.” Gerard takes several deep breaths to calm himself. It doesn’t work, so he does the next best thing and punches Bert in the mouth. He maybe punches too hard because Bert isn’t on the ground, he’s floating on nothing. The force of Gerard’s punch shoves Bert back into the headboard, his head hitting the wood with a sickening crack.

“Motherfucker!” Bert yells.

“My mom!” Gerard whisper screams. Great, now he’s regressing back to his high school self. In his defense, Donna Way is a terrifying woman, she learned everything she knows from Elena (who is also terrifying and used to give Gerard noogies harder than his dad).

“I get that you’re mad,” Bert huffs out in between pained breaths. “But don’t take it out on me, you imbecile. It’s your fault that you’re in this position and it’s your job to get yourself out of this. All you have to do is fulfill the bet and become friends with Pete. Easy peasy lemon squeezy motherfucker.”

“And if I don’t?” Gerard asks weakly. Bert shrugs.

 

“I guess you get stuck in this alternate universe for the rest of time.” Gerard opens his mouth to grill Bert more, and maybe punch him in the again (in the stomach this time), but Bert must see the murderous intent in Gerard’s eyes because he closes his eyes and disappears. Gerard punches empty air.

“Fuck fuck fuck,” Gerard hisses, curling back in on himself. His lungs feel like they’re collapsing on him, he’s panicking so much. It’s just his luck that he pisses off the universe and gets stuck in some hellish alternate reality.

 

Gerard spends ten minutes freaking out. He curses God, the universe, Bert, his life and anything else he can think of while curled up into fetal position. He even sheds a few tears. He’d probably have spent the rest of the day curled up on the bed but someone opens the basement door. That same mystery person proceeds to beat him with a shoe until he uncurls and opens his eyes to see Mikey staring at him with concern in his eyes.

“Gee?” Mikey says, his mouth slanted down ever so slightly. “We have to leave for school in five minutes.”

“What?” Gerard says blearily. Mikey lovingly whacks him with the shoe again.

“Are you hungover? Gerard, you have to drive me to school, like, now. Mom is going to be pissed if we’re late again.” Gerard grunts and sits up.

“Give me, like, five minutes Mikey.”

“We have to leave in five minutes,” Mikey says, looking amused. “I’ll be in the car, with the coffee.” God, Gerard loves his little brother. He’s so fucking glad that he’s not stuck in this universe without him, he might actually go insane if Mikey wasn’t here.

Gerard rolls out of bed and wanders into the bathroom to take stock of the situation. He learns that, much to his disappointment, he’s regressed back to his high school self. His hair is shorter but still disgustingly dirty and his chub is ever present. Gerard sighs and rubs his eyes blearily. Then he remembers where his hands have been and lets out a horrified squack.

 

“So, Mikey,” Gerard says fake casually. “Where are we going again?” Mikey stares at him blankly. It’s a little unnerving, actually.

“School, Gerard,” he replies dryly.

He’s going to have to assume that in this universe he doesn’t go to Belleville High, instead chances are he goes to Pete’s high school. He’s probably not even in Jersey, is probably in fucking Illinois. Gerard feels a wave of homesickness. It’s different on tour, somehow, because he knows he can always return home.

Gerard drums his fingers on the steering wheel. The car is running, the heating system slowly melting the frost on the windows. “Where. Um. Where might school be located?” Gerard asks faux casually. He can feel the sweat trickling down his back, he’s really not a good liar when he’s sober. He’s not good at much when he’s sober, if he’s being totally honest with himself.

Mikey’s eyebrows are almost touching his ridiculous bangs, they’re raised so high. “You don’t know where New Trier is?” Gerard gulps.

“No?”

Mikey rolls his eyes. “Jesus fucking- how much did you drink last night? Are you drunk now? Do you want me to drive? It would probably be better if I drove right now.” Gerard digs his fingers into his palms and grits his teeth, tries to focus on the sparking pain instead of his stupid baby brother, who is now trying to (unsuccessfully) maneuver around Gerard and turn the car off.

“I don’t drink anymore!” Gerard snaps as Mikey makes another attempt to grab the keys. The air in the car suddenly seems too hot and too cold at the same time. Mikey’s completely silent, his mouth pursed in a stupid little O- the most visible emotion Gerard’s seen him display since they were kids. Fuck.

Gerard wraps his arms around himself and stares resolutely at the wheel. “Mikey- you can drive us to school if you want-”

 

“Shut up,” Mikey snaps, the words harsh and clashing in the still air. “What do you mean you don’t drink anymore? What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“I don’t know Mikes, I’m really tired and hungover and-” Mikey punches him in the shoulder. Hard.

“Ouch!” Gerard yelps. “What was that for?”

“Who are you?” Mikey’s eyes are wild behind his glasses and he’s pressing himself into the passenger seat door, one hand on the doorhandle. “Who are you and what have you done to Gerard? Why have you taken over his body?”

Gerard resists the urge to slam his head into the steering wheel over and over again, cursing Mikey for inheriting his obsession for bad 80’s horror movies. “My body hasn’t been fucking bodysnatched by an alien!” he cries indignantly. “I’m still me, Mikey. I’m just-” fuck. Will Gerard get in trouble with the universe if he tells Mikey?

“No,” Bert whispers in his ear, hot breath tickling his neck. Gerard lets out a terrified (and admittedly girlish) scream. Bert is sitting in the backseat of Gerard’s car. What the fuck is happening to his life.

“You can tell him,” Bert continues, looking entirely unimpressed by Mikey and Gerard. “It’s not a big deal or anything. This timeline couldn’t get more fucked up than it is already, you won’t cause the world to end.”

“Great,” Gerard says dumbly. Bert winks at him before dissipating into the air.

“Who was that?” Mikey shrieks, edging on hysteria. “Where’s Gerard? Where’s my brother?” Gerard’s chest aches because fuck, he’s still Mikey’s brother, even in this universe. He’s always Mikey’s brother. He reaches out to Mikey impulsively and gathers him in a hug. Mikey pushes at his shoulders and tries to shove him away, but Gerard just ignores him and pulls him across the clutch. Mikey’s too skinny to stop him.

“I’m still your brother, Mikey,” Gerard mutters into Mikey’s stupid scene kid hair. “I’m just. A different Gerard from a different universe. I got stuck here by mistake but once I go home Gerard- your Gerard- will come back.”

“How do I know I can trust you?” Mikey says into Gerard’s shoulder. He’s relaxing a little bit, but not much. Not enough.

“I’m your brother.” Mikey lets out an unimpressed noise. Gerard has to agree, he’s not sounding too convincing, even to himself. “I- well-” are events even the same in this universe? Gerard’s going to have to make a lucky guess. “When you were six you had a crush on Melina Alvarez and when you told her she punched you in the face.”

Mikey lets out a shaky sigh, the tension finally releasing from his shoulders. “You’re still not my Gee,” he says warningly, but Gerard can feel the smile that he’s holding back anyways. They’re brothers, after all.

-

“Pete Wentz?” Mikey asks, shaking his head while he rifles through Gerard’s locker. They were both hopelessly late for school so Mikey decided to cut his losses and skip the first period. Gerard’s grateful because without Mikey he would be hopelessly lost instead of mildly lost, which is where he is now. “You have to befriend Pete- fuck- why the fuck did you put your schedule under all of these books?”

“I don’t know!” Gerard cries defensively. “I didn’t do it anyways, don’t blame me.”

“Whatever,” Mikey says before going to back to throwing Gerard’s books on the floor. “Pete’s going to be tough to crack. He’s on the soccer team but he’s also, like, not popular. It’s really weird. Pete’s really weird. He gets in a lot of fights-”

Gerard is struck with the horrifying image of a tiny Pete beating the shit out of Gerard. “Pete’s never- um-”

“No Gerard,” Mikey replies dryly. “You have so far remained untouched by the menace that is Pete Wentz. Anyways, yeah he’s really fucking weird and- yes! Victory!” Mikey stands up so suddenly that his glasses almost fall off of his nose. “Here’s your schedule. I’ll sign you in at the office, you can make it to your second class on time if you go now.”

Gerard reaches forward and pushes Mikey’s glasses up gently. “Thank you,” he says thickly, and really he’s thanking Mikey for so many things, for welcoming a different Gerard, for helping him get out of the mess he made. Just like his Mikey.

Mikey shrugs and taps the rim of his glasses. “You’d better go, you’re going to be late,” he says, but his mouth is curving up on the left.

-

Gerard’s second class is History with Mr. Butler. It’s an altogether unremarkable class except for the fact that Pete sits to the left of him. Gerard almost can’t stop staring because Pete looks so- so different. He’s not a figure child for the cult of emo, that’s for one. Pete’s hair is cropped shorter, and it makes him look younger, softer in some ways. But Pete’s eyes are the same, he still has those huge, liquid irises that look impossibly old and fragile at the same time.

The effect is ruined, of course, the second that Pete sees Gerard staring at him. “Sorry dude,” Pete says, twiddling with his pencil. “I’m not a fag like you- not that it’s not flattering, though, the staring. It’s good to know that I’ve still got it.” He lets out a snorting, braying laugh that shows all of his disgusting horse teeth.

Gerard is speechless. This is the guy who wears fucking eyeliner on Warped Tour. This is the guy that’s been unsuccessfully attempting to woo his baby brother for an entire summer. Gerard can’t help it, the situation is so ridiculous that he begins to laugh, tears rolling down his face. Once he recovers enough to uncurl his body Gerard notices that the entire classroom is silent and that Pete looks furious.

Pete growls, his mouth moving into that patented Wentz sneer, and punches him in the arm. Gerard bites his lip so hard he can taste blood and clutches his arm pathetically. Pete’s punch feels like it’s penetrated his bones. Clearly this is not Gerard’s day, first he murders his dick by rolling on it and now he’s getting pummeled by a veritable midget.

“I’m not gay!” Pete hisses threateningly across the aisle before punching Gerard in the other arm. “You’re the gay one- stay the fuck away from me and stop hitting on me!” Gerard is overcome with desire to strangle Pete’s stupid, skinny neck. Unfortunately, his arms are basically noodles because Pete is deceptively strong and ow, his punches hurt a lot. On the bright side, Gerard reflects while breathing deeply through his nose (he read in a yoga magazine somewhere that it helps dispel pain), his mouth still works.

Gerard prepares to deliver a scathing retort (okay, maybe it’s not scathing but it’s something) when he’s interrupted by a hideous gonging noise coming from every direction. It’s, like, immersive surround sound. What the fuck? After a few frantic seconds of agony the gonging stops and Mr. Butler goes up to the board. Stellar, Gerard thinks. Apparently a gong from the depths of hell is used at Pete’s school instead of a bell.

“Everyone settle down.” Mr. Butler taps at the board with a ruler. “Remember Germany has just invaded the Soviet Union-”

Pete flashes Gerard one of those blindingly vapid smiles that have made him famous and turns back to his notebook. “We’ll have to talk later Gary,” he stage whispers. Gerard lets out a strangled noise and attempts to glare at Pete is a vaguely threatening manner. Unfortunately he’s still trying to come to terms with the idea of Asshole! Pete so it’s not as effective as it could be.

He grips his pencil so hard that the lettering leaves an imprint on his fingers and thinks longingly to the days when he was an alcoholic. At least then he had an excuse to punch people with reckless abandon. Now he’s stuck in high school in an alternate universe and he has to befriend the biggest asshole on the planet. Gerard’s life sucks.

World War II is incredibly boring. Actually, Gerard remembers being pretty interested by it back when he was in high school, but when it’s taught via the masterful droning of Mr. Butler it becomes really fucking monotonous. Gerard’s head is beginning to droop towards his desk and he’s only been in class for, like, ten minutes. This is reaching new levels of ridiculousness.

The entire course is apparently based on lecturing and note taking, so Gerard dutifully writes down everything that the teacher says in his notes. Apparently this universe’s Gerard feels the same way about this class because his entire notebook is filled intermittently with little comics involving a) Mr. Butler dying many horrible, painful deaths, b) a vampire who looks suspiciously like Pete and c) Mikey riding a unicorn.

Gerard snickers softly, it’s good to know that this Mikey is still a ridiculous idiot underneath his scene queen (king? Gerard’s not picky about gender) facade.

“Popcorn Gerard.” Gerard whips his head up and looks around because the room is suddenly really silent and okaaayy everyone is staring at him with identical expressions of “hey you’re an idiot that’s about to publically humiliate himself” on their stupid faces.

“What?” Gerard says dumbly. Mr. Butler looks at him impassively, his face clearly signifying that Gerard is an imbecile for not paying attention and now he must suffer the consequences. Everyone in the class has a little book on their desks so Gerard figures that’s step one to getting himself out of this mess. He roots around in his backpack, wincing at every jostle because the classroom is so eerily still.

Once he finds the book- Night by Eli Wiesel, (Jesus, he remembers reading that in high school, it was depressing as fuck) he utilizes some impressive neck craning to attempt to find the page number. The pretty girl behind him with dyed black hair whispers “page 67”. Gerard feverantly thanks every god that exists and opens his book. He looks expectantly at Mr. Butler. He found the book, he’s on the page, now what the fuck is he supposed to do?

“Start reading at the passage “‘Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed...’” Mr. Butler says icily. Gerard glares at Mr. Butler and begins to read. Honestly he’d had teachers like Mr. Butler in high school but apparently eleven years has erased his memory of how shitty everything is. Seriously, Gerard is too old to relive high school. He reads on, each word monotonous and heavy in his mouth. Mr. Butler never tells him when to stop reading, so he figures that he’ll just continue until the end of class, which is exactly what happens. Gerard’s throat is dry and his tongue lies in his mouth, thick and heavy, by the time the bell (gong?) rings again.

Salvation! Well, kind of. Everyone (including Mr. Butler) immediately begins stuffing their books into their bags and rushes for the door. Gerard is in the middle of a passage about the horrors of the front and by the time he’s stopped reading there’s only a few stragglers left in the class, one of which happens to be Pete. Pete’s head is resting on his arms and his hoodie is flipped up, making him look like a comically innocent toddler who got stuck in a high school movie by accident.

Okay, Gerard thinks bitterly. Pete’s not that short. But he’s close! Anyways, he has the sociopathic tendencies of a five year old and a toddler’s blithe disregard for other’s boundaries so, like, Gerard has the moral high ground. Totally.

A small voice that sounds suspiciously like Frank’s howls “You soaked my socks in toilet water because I took too long in the shower last week!” Gerard firmly represses the thought and goes back to staring at Pete creepily. Gerard’s an intense person, he thinks defensively. Besides, that Edward Cullen guy stalked that Bella girl and stared at her when she was sleeping and everybody thought it was cute. Not that Gerard has stared at his sleeping crush or anything. Well, actually, technically he’s staring at Pete right now so- aaaand he’s not going down that road.

Gerard sighs and pokes Pete in the arm. Pete twitches and shrinks into his hoodie even more than he already has.

“Ding dong, the witch is dead,” Gerard snickers softly. Pete lets out a whimper. Okay, maybe that was a little insensitive. Gerard pokes Pete again and a noise that sounds suspiciously like a sob escapes from the crumpled lump of clothes. Something’s clearly wrong with Pete, Gerard realizes, his stomach dropping.

He gets out of his seat and moves to sit next to Pete on his chair. Gently, like he’s handling a baby rabbit or something, he flips Pete’s hood up and tilts his face so Gerard can deduce what the fuck is going on. Pete’s face is tracked with tear marks and his eyes are huge and blank. He’s breathing thisfast, so quickly it’s unnatural, he’s hyperventilating and- oh. It’s kind of obvious, Pete’s having a panic attack.

Thankfully Gerard is kind of a Super Expert Level 10000 Panic Attack Responder. Mikey used to get horrible ones when they were younger, his eyes would bulge out of his head and he’d breathe so fast they needed to get his inhaler more often than not. Pete’s panic attack is small potatoes. Not that Gerard’s comparing them or anything. That would be weird.

Gerard reaches over and rubs Pete's shoulders, digging his fingers in under the bone. He murmurs nonsense comfort words (literally, he's reciting the pledge of allegiance and singing Misfits songs) over and over again, slowly pulling Pete out of the panic. Pete just shakes, resting his head on Gerard's shoulder. Miraculously no teachers have walked into the classroom. Gerard has no idea how Pete's school operates but it's clearly miles away from his Jersey high school where half of the kids were related to mafia members and it was a well known fact that if any guy touched Veronica Ambrosi her older brother would beat you into next Saturday. Gerard did not touch Veronica Ambrosi but some kid in his science class did. They found him floating in the lake a week later, face down.

Pete grips Gerard's arms. Judging by how violently he's nuzzling Gerard's neck, he's apparently attempting to burrow through to the other side. Gerard sighs and pats Pete on the back. He's not quite sure how this has become his life, but at the same time he can't really complain. This is an excellent way to bond with Pete and hopefully become friends with him.

As if he can read Gerard's mind, Pete suddenly shoves Gerard away. "Were you molesting me, you sick fuck?" Pete sputters weakly. Gerard just rolls his eyes, Pete's using his anger to deflect from the fact that he just had a tiny mental breakdown. Whatever. Gerard isn't going to rise to the bait, he's more mature than that.

"No, you abhorrent little midget. I was helping you not freak the fuck out." Or not.

Pete shakes his head. "You need help, dude. Consent is key. I don't care that you're into guys but you really gotta leave me alone."

Gerard must have killed someone in a past life. He must have murdered some European princess or something, there's no other explanation as to why he's being punished like this. "Fine," he finally manages to choke out. "I'll leave you alone."

Pete's face falls a little but he doesn't back down. "Good," he snarls, already leaning down to pack up his books. Gerard's got to admire his commitment to appearing normal. Pete's face is still wet with tears but he's pretending that everything's fine.

-

"Honey, aren't you going to eat your dinner?" Donna says, looking concerned. Gerard stares at his plate dolefully. The plate stares back. Gerard had anticipated differences between the two universes but what he hadn't guessed was that in this reality Donna was an awful cook. Like, catastrophically terrible. Gerard is legitimately afraid for his life.

"Yeah, ma, I'm just not very hungry," Gerard says. He pokes a piece of spaghetti experimentally. It proceeds to dissolve into uneatable mush.

"Oh Gerard, you don't need to go on a diet," Donna says sadly. "Elena was just joking when she said that last week, she didn't mean it." Gerard knocks over his glass of water, it hits the ground with a crash, glass shards skittering across the floor. Mikey looks up from his pasta and shoots a concerned look at Gerard.

Fuck. Of course Elena is alive in this universe, she's alive until Gerard's in his mid twenties. He knew, logically in the back of his head that it was true but it still didn't feel real until now. It hurts in a way he didn't think it would, to know that he'll be able to see Elena alive again as an intruder in the wrong reality.

"Gee? You look like someone just died," Donald says before shoveling another piece of mush into his mouth.

Gerard winces. The last thing he needs is for his parents to become concerned about his mental state. He knows from experience that Donna will wail and give a bizarre speech about the effects of drugs and the degeneration of youth while Donald looks grimly out the window. Gerard digs his nails into his palms and attempts to look nonchalant and sane. Unfortunately, his nonchalant and sane face is dangerously close to his deranged and three seconds from breaking down face, so he's kind of walking a fine line right now.

Donna stares at Gerard's increasingly unstable face.

"Fu- um. Sorry ma. I'm just really tired, I had a long day today." Gerard mutters.

"You came home at 3:00," Donna says skeptically. "And all you did was go to your room and draw. You didn't even do any homework. I know because I was watching you, you lazy bum."

"Ma!" Gerard cries indignantly. Donald shakes his head grimly.

"Donna," Donald says seriously. "Gerard is a young man, you have to give him his privacy." Donna's lip quivers. Gerard braces himself for the inevitable breakdown.

"I'll give him his privacy when he stops lying to me!" Donna screeches, grabbing her fork and waving it around in the air. Clumps of pasta fall off the tines and land on the table. In a truly miraculous turn of events, a few pieces bounce up and down while their weaker brethren dissolve. "Is it drugs, Gerard? I always told you no drugs. I thought I raised you right but there you go, taking whatever they give you. It's the kids these days, we never did those party drugs like cocaine in high school-"

Gerard feels like he's been punched in the stomach the second the word cocaine leaves Donna's mouth. He knows that she's just talking in abstracts, throwing around scary words that her hairstylist Jeanine tells her, but all he can think of is being in Japan, staring at the line of powder on the bathroom sink and thinking that this was it. He didn't want to come home anymore. Cocaine isn't a fucking party drug, it's a poison. It's a weapon, it's just as dangerous as a loaded gun.

Mikey looks at him strangely, Gerard can feel Mikey's eyes searching his face, translating every wrinkle and crevice into a message, their own secret language of GerardandMikey. After a few awkward seconds of silence Mikey finally speaks.

"Ma, it's not drugs. Gerard is just embarrassed because there's a kid that's been giving him shit at school." It's not ideal but Gerard'll take it. He shoots Mikey a look of gratitude.

Donna is too surprised by this new revelation to call Mikey out for his swearing. She lowers her arm and looks at Gerard. "Is this true?" she says, sounding concerned. When Gerard doesn't answer immediately Donna makes a remarkable recovery and picks up the fork again, waving it around threateningly. "I swear to Mary, Mother of God, if you're lying to me at my own table Gerard Arthur Way-"

"It's true," Mikey insists. "His name is Pete Wentz and he's been pushing Gerard and shit. Giving him trouble." Mikey's face is completely stoic but Gerard can see that the little shit is laughing inside. Apparently Gerard is now in a good enough mental state to be fucked with. Donna looks at Gerard questioningly.

Gerard sighs and relinquishes whatever dignity he has left. "Yeah," he grits out. "Pete has been giving me shit. He shoved me into a locker today, that's why I went straight home, I was embarrassed."

"Oh Gerard," Donna says and her voice has completely softened. "My baby, Gerard, you can't let this boy treat you like this. I'm calling the school, you hear me? I'm calling them right now, I want that menace away from you-"

"Let the boy fight his own battles!" Donald roars, thumping the table for emphasis. Gerard wishes fervently that he could melt into the floor.

"Thanks for dinner, ma," he mutters, picking up his plate. "I'm not hungry anymore, I better get started on my homework."

"You see what you've started?" Gerard can hear Donald complaining as he descends into the basement.

"But he's so sensitive!" Donna wails. Gerard slams the door shut before he can hear any more.

-

"Gee, c'mon, don't be mad." Gerard stares at Mikey impassively. Mikey almost looks a little nervous, he can't stop fiddling with his hoodie tie. "Gerard, it's been three days, I'm sorry." Gerard has suffered through: three anti-bullying lectures, one trip to the library to pick up some self confidence boosting books and one disastrous boxing lesson with Donald. His hands still hurt from incorrectly hitting the punching bag, he thinks he can be forgiven if he's not in the mood to forgive Mikey for his treachery right now.

"Geraaaaard," Mikey wheedles. Gerard just turns away from him and focuses on shading in the zombie's inner organs (they're spilling out of his stomach, it's pretty badass).

"Fine!" Mikey shouts suddenly, stomping his foot. "Sorry for trying to help you cover. You're a shitty brother, you know that? I want my Gerard back. My Gerard wouldn't be such a self centered, obnoxious motherfucker."

Gerard's stomach hurts. He slumps forward, hunching his shoulders, reeling from invisible blows. "Sorry," he says to Mikey and his throat is so dry that just saying one word hurts. "I'm sorry Mikes, I know you want your brother back. I know I'm not him. I'm really fucking sorry."

Mikey touches his shoulder tentatively. "I brought you coffee," he says, even though it's almost midnight.

Gerard turns around and takes the hot mug from him gratefully. "I was being kind of self centered," he says, breathing in the hot steam. "I know you were just trying to help me. I mean, you were kind of fucking around with me too but I overreacted either way."

"I had no idea that Mom and Dad would react like that," Mikey says, blinking up at Gerard owlishly through his glasses. Gerard sighs. He forgets sometimes that Mikey is only fourteen, that he's a freshman in high school.

"Whatever," Gerard says. He pulls Mikey into a hug, squeezing him tightly. "Let's just put it behind us."

"Okay," Mikey says, already sounding happier. "So, how are you going to befriend Pete? Because I don't know if you've noticed but he kind of hates you."

"Really?" Gerard replies dryly. "I haven't noticed."

Mikey elbows him in the ribs. "Asshole. Seriously, I want to hear your plan."

Fuck. Gerard doesn't have a plan. "Um," he says, mind recalling every random fact he's ever heard about Pete Wentz. Pete plays soccer, right? Mikey mentioned that earlier, and besides, Gerard's seen him kick a ball around with some techs after a show a couple of times on Warped. "I'll join the soccer team?" Hey, that actually isn't a bad plan. Gerard can join the soccer team, that way he'll be able to spend every afternoon with Pete. "We can bond over, like, the primal focus that comes with playing a sport."

Mikey is looking increasingly unimpressed with Gerard's genius plan. "Gerard," he says slowly, as if he's talking to a toddler. "You hate soccer. You cannot play soccer. In fact, you hate most physical activity. How do you expect to get on the soccer team?"

"I can learn," Gerard says stubbornly. Mikey arches an eyebrow.

"The soccer season started two weeks ago, tryouts have already ended."

"Donald's friends with the coach, he'll get me in," Gerard says confidently. "Come on, you know that he wants me to do a sport and stop being such a social recluse in the basement. It'll be like Christmas and his birthday all at once if I express any interest in a sport whatsoever."

Mikey doesn't look entirely convinced, but he no longer looks like he thinks Gerard is insane either. "Whatever, I guess," he says. "It's your funeral."

"I'm a genius!" Gerard crows triumphantly. He takes a fortifying swig from the mug and beams at Mikey. Mikey just shakes his head and starts climbing the stairs.

He's almost reached the top when he turns around and looks at Gerard, huddled over his desk, his tiny table lamp the only source of light in the dark. "When did you-" Mikey pauses and looks at Gerard thoughtfully. "When did you stop calling them Mom and Dad?"

-

“So,” Coach John says thoughtfully. “You’re Donald’s kid?” He gives Gerard a disappointed look over before turning around to face his much more fit team. Gerard’s face flushes a bright, humiliating shade of red.

Coach John lets out a weary sigh. It’s clear that he doesn’t think much of Gerard’s pudgy stomach or flabby arms. “I guess you can run around the track with the rest of the team to warm up,” he says doubtfully. There’s a hint of hope in his voice, like Gerard is miraculously going to transform from the Pillsbury Doughboy into an actual athlete by the time he’s finished his laps.

Gerard is seriously beginning to regret joining the soccer team, but he can’t give in now. Mikey will never stop giving him shit. Gerard takes a fortifying breath and runs to catch up with the rest of the team.

Two minutes in and Gerard’s already drenched in sweat. His shirt is sticking to his back, his hair is flopping into his eyes and he keeps on blinking because somehow his face has turned into a big funnel for sweat to drip into his eyes. Seriously, that is the only function his forehead is serving right now, fuck being there to protect his brain. Gerard huffs weakly and attempts to not be left behind by the stragglers.

This is how far he’s fallen- he’s now struggling to keep up with the worst kids on the team. Normally Gerard wouldn’t be too perturbed but there’s a kid with asthma and a broken arm that’s running faster than him. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Gerard valiantly sucks in a lungful of air and pumps his legs harder. He’s supposed to be doing three laps around the field but by the time he joined the team they were on the beginning of their second lap. Surely Coach John won’t make him complete the third? He’s on the end of his second lap now, he can see the blessed goal in sight. He’s so close to the end and-

“Gary! What the fuck are you doing here?” Gerard swivels his head to look at the source of the voice and fuck his life, it’s Pete Wentz. Pete is beaming and running and talking at the same time somehow. He doesn’t even look winded, he looks perfectly normal galloping alongside Gerard. This is a whole new side of Pete that Gerard’s never seen before, he’s never seen this kind of grace and peace on the face of his Pete, the Pete of the future.

“Joined... team...” Gerard manages to wheeze out. Pete laughs and begins running backwards so he can face Gerard.

“Dude, tryouts were a couple weeks ago! You must be really good to get onto the team so late,” Pete says. He’s looking at Gerard, admiration clear in his eyes. Gerard attempts to shake his head violently but he’s too tired to do more than let out a distressed moan and wave his head back and forth lamely.

“I mean, right now you don’t look too good,” Pete says doubtfully. “You kind of look awful, actually, and I’m not sure that the sound you just made is even in English.”

“Hnnrgh,” Gerard pants. He really doesn’t really need Pete making snide comments at him, he’s devoting the majority of his brain activity to just surviving this run.

“But, like, you’re an actor, right? You did that Peter Pan thing in 4th grade. Which was really fucking gay, by the way. So I bet what you’re actually doing is making yourself look worse in front of us, so you can really get us later during the scrimmage.”

Gerard is suddenly very cold. Fear trickles down his spine as he digests Pete’s words. “Scrimmage?” he manages to choke out before collapsing on the field, next to the goal. Pete gives him a bemused glance.

“You don’t have to pretend around me,” he fake whispers. “I know your secret.”

Gerard rolls over and screams into the grass.

-

Soccer is the worst sport Gerard has ever participated in. Technically it’s also the only sport he’s participated in since his disastrous stint on the tennis team in sixth grade. Fast, small yellow balls were not kind to a young Gerard. His considerable girth (actually, Gerard thinks bitterly, he wasn’t even that fat) made him an attractive target to little fucks like William and Jamie, who had been playing since the womb or something ridiculous like that.

Soccer is weird. Soccer makes no sense. Soccer also involves a considerable amount of running and deft footwork. Coach John divided all of the players into two groups, so the teams are unusually small since really they’re one team split into two. This means more running and a higher probability of the ball getting passed to each player.

Gerard trips over himself no less than three times attempting to gain control over the ball after being passed it. After his third time hitting the grass Coach John finally takes pity on him and makes him switch with Reggie for goalie.

“Less running,” he says sympathetically before shoving a gigantic pinny at Gerard. Gerard maintains a dignified silence as he attempts to stuff himself into Reggie’s pinny. Unfortunately Reggie is about a foot taller and fifty pounds more muscular than Gerard, so the pinny hangs off of him like a dress. Gerard can hear one of the kids snickering that he looks like a girl with his long hair and ‘dress’.

Gerard misses Warped. He misses being twenty-eight and playing music on stage with his best friends. He misses Frank and Ray and Bob and fuck he misses his Mikey. Gerard misses them so much that he gets hit in the head with a ball.

Seriously, Gerard was so distracted thinking mournfully about everything that’s missing that he was shuffling back and forth, moving on autopilot, and somehow he managed to stop the ball from going into the goal by blocking it with his head.

Surprisingly, once Gerard recovers and picks himself off of the ground, things go much better. Gerard’s freakish ability to get hit by the ball with every part of his body is paying off, the ball hasn’t gone into the goal once. Granted, Gerard is now going to have bruises all over his body and be in extreme pain once the adrenaline high wears off but other than that everything is great.

Gerard squints his eyes against the glare of the sun and watches Pete. Pete’s- well- Pete’s a tornado on the field. He’s always moving, always using clever tricks and moves to get the ball from the other team and always trying to score. The majority of Gerard’s bruises are from Pete’s well aimed kicks. Right now Pete’s dribbling the ball towards the goal once again.

Some blonde haired guy on the opposing team attempts to steal the ball from Pete, but Pete just passes to a teammate and lopes ahead on the field, confident that he’ll be in possession of the ball again within a few minutes. His teammate, some guy that Gerard thinks is named Ricky, does some fancy footwork before passing the ball back to Pete. The blonde disposed of, Pete continues to advance on Gerard, a look of fierce determination on his face.

Gerard’s a little afraid. Actually, fuck it. Gerard is a lot afraid. Before he got moved to goalie his team was losing by a lot but now they’re tied. There’s only a few minutes left in practice and it’s pretty obvious that Pete isn’t going to be satisfied with a tie where everyone wins. Pete’s always been obsessed with the black and the white, the good and the bad, the pure and the dirty. On Warped he’ll wax poetic about his ex-girlfriends for hours before turning on them viciously, tearing them apart for their stupid habits and their imperfections.

Gerard would normally call misogyny and lecture Pete about respecting women, but he knows that Pete’s just as brutal towards himself. He’s either golden, charismatic and charming everyone on the tour or depressed and darkly angry, convinced that he’s not worth a second of anyone’s time. It balances itself, in some sick way.

Pete’s spinning now but his feet are still controlling the ball, still propelling it towards the goal, and Gerard. So that’s where he got that move, Gerard thinks, recalling memories of Pete whirling around on stage, but somehow still playing the bass passably.

Gerard tenses his knees, prepared to lunge forward to stop the ball from arcing into the net, but then his eyes lock with Pete’s and holy fuck. Suddenly Pete’s mediocre bass playing makes sense because the relentless determination, the unbreaking resolve to drive the ball into the goal is the exact same thing that Gerard sees in Frank’s eyes when he plays, or in Ray’s when he starts to pick out a particularly complicated riff. It’s the same raw emotion that’s present in his own eyes when he’s singing, or drawing, when he’s creating something from nothing.

Music was never Pete’s thing in the way that soccer is, in the way that Gerard is willing to bet that writing is.

Almost in slow motion, Gerard sees the ball arc towards him, into the goal. He wills his tired leg muscles into propelling him up into the air. His fingertips graze the ball just barely but he can’t grasp it. The ball lands in the goal, hitting the net and rolling forward a few inches before stopping.

The entire field is silent, the players frozen, glancing at each other. They’re waiting for the coach to validate the goal, even though it’s glaringly obvious that Pete’s team has won. John examines the ball closely. He lets the players mumble amongst themselves, he draws out the suspense until everyone is shifting uncomfortably. Finally, after a painful three minutes he stands up and declares, “The red team has won this scrimmage!”

Pete’s team erupts into raucous cheering, not ceasing as they begin to strip off their pinnies and file into the locker room to shower and change. Pete is last in line. Right before he goes in the door John moves to pat Pete on the shoulders, but Pete ducks and as a result he ends up hitting the back of Pete’s neck. Pete recoils visibly, hunching in on himself like he’s waiting for a blow. John’s hand hovers awkwardly in the air for a few seconds before returning to his side. Pete keeps walking and doesn’t look back.

Gerard moves to follow him, but John suddenly claps his hand on his shoulder, holding him in place. “Damn,” he says, sounding befuddled. “You’re either the worst goalie I’ve ever seen, or the best.”

“Thanks Coach,” Gerard mumbles before fleeing to the locker room. Pete’s team is still screaming in triumph as they change, slapping each other on the back and punching one another playfully. A few of Gerard’s teammates give him sympathetic shrugs before changing back into their clothes. Gerard, however, is painfully aware that his body is not going to be as toned and athletic as his teammates. He hangs behind as players begin to filter out to their parking lot.

He’s soaking in sweat and feels disgusting, but he’ll be damned if he changes in front of a bunch of fucking Abercrombie and Fitch models in the making.

Pete’s the last to leave. Gerard noticed that he dawdled in changing too, and when he did he did it in the bathroom instead of out in the open like the other boys. Nobody remarked on it, Gerard’s guessing because it’s a common occurrence. Gerard’s guessing that Pete (or his talent) is respected enough by his teammates that they leave him alone. Gerard, being the magical ball attracting pillow that he is, knows that he does not command the same respect.

“Bye Gary,” Pete says, one hand on the door. “That was some really fucking horrendous playing today but somehow it ended up working out.”

 

“My name’s Gerard,” Gerard manages to blurt out.

“Huh,” Pete says, scratching his head. The movement causes his white shirt to stick to his damp skin and Gerard’s breath catches in his throat for a second as he glimpses dark, finger shaped bruises littering Pete’s shoulder and back. “Sorry. I- um.” Pete looks awkwardly at his feet, all the confidence that he’s had on the field painfully absent. “Bye Gerard,” he says quickly, giving Gerard a crooked little smile before slamming the door behind him.

Gerard stares at the door for a long time after, thinking.

-

Ben beams at Gerard, smiling wide enough that Gerard can see a piece of lettuce stuck in his left molar. He wants to say something but at the same time he’s a little apprehensive because he spent the majority of high school in his universe being beaten to shit by Ben. Well, Gerard’s Dimension Ben.

Ben’s smile is starting to look a little strained. He gives Gerard an expectant look that screams ‘smile or I will smite you and kill everything you hold dear’.

Gerard smiles weakly back. “Er,” he says eloquently. “Good game?”

Ben roars with laughter and claps Gerard on the back hard enough that for one very brief, vivid moment Gerard is afraid that his lungs have shifted forward a few centimeters. “Good game?” Ben chuckles. “Good game?”

“Bad game?” Gerard says hesitantly. He’s still not quite sure what he’s doing in Billy’s Pizza with the rest of the soccer team. It’s been two weeks since Gerard joined the team and he still doesn’t know half of the names of his teammates. Also, he has a sneaking suspicion that at least three of them shoved him into a locker at some point during freshman year. When he questioned Mikey about it he would neither confirm nor deny.

But for some bizarre reason the members of the New Trier soccer team have taken an unexpected liking to Gerard. When Gerard left the locker room to go out his car after the game today he’d expected to see an empty parking lot, as usual. Instead he was confronted with all of his fellow team members (minus Pete) and coerced into going for pizza.

A choice that he is now deeply regretting, seeing as Ben is still laughing like an unhinged maniac. And if that weren’t bad enough, Gerard’s only hope has turned and betrayed him. Seriously though, the pizza sucks. It’s deep dish Chicago style, also known as pizza soup drenched in liters of grease and cheese, also known as the black mark besmirching pizza’s true and noble name. Gerard is half Italian, for god’s sake. Putting the monstrosity into his mouth is akin to sacrilege.

“Bad game?” Ben howls incredulously. The rest of the team begins to laugh uproariously as well, howling like jockish werewolves. Actually, Gerard considers, that would make a pretty badass comic. Nerdy vampires against jock werewolves against stoner zombies. High School Musical: The Undead Addition.

“Bad game?” Timmy snorts, laughing so hard that he shakes the table. Pizza innards slosh over the sides of the crusts and pool on the table. Gerard almost throws up at the sight, but manages to tamp down his disgust. “Dude, that was fucking brilliant. I mean, yeah, we tied, but you’re the reason that we didn’t lose 0-10.”

“Yeah,” Ben agrees reverently. “I’ve never seen anything like it, it was beautiful. Balls coming left and right towards you and somehow not a single one went in. Instead they hit you!”

“Actually, he let a bunch of balls in, that’s why we tied,” Sean mumbles around a mouthful of ooze. Ben shoots him a dirty look.

“Gerard, you totally saved the game for us,” he cheers. Gerard frowns because sure, he stopped a bunch of goals from being made at the expense of his own health and wellbeing but he didn’t singlehandedly stop the other team from winning. That was all Pete, scoring goal after goal with deadly grace.

“Where’s Pete?” Gerard asks cautiously. “He’s kind of the reason we tied too.” The entire table falls silent. Gerard gulps feebly. “I mean-” he plows on. “He scored all those goals and he’s a pretty talented player.”

“Are you gay or something?” Ben, breaking the painful silence. “Like, dude, I’m okay with it but woah.”

“Woah,” echoes Tim. The other players nod in agreement and politely edge away from Gerard.

Gerard is too old for this bullshit, it’s official. He doesn’t have the time (or tact, if he’s being honest with himself) to convince a bunch of boneheads of his glaring heterosexuality. God, he does not miss being in high school where saying one nice thing about a fellow guy was tantamount to confessing your everlasting love and devotion to them.

“No,” Gerard says unconvincingly. “Dude bro. Um. No. I love girls.”

Ben does not look convinced. “Your hair is kinda long, now that I think about it.”

“I’m totally straight,” Gerard barks in recrimination, crossing his fingers under the table for the lie. “I have a girlfriend, Jesus.” As soon as the words leave his mouth Gerard regrets them with the passion of a thousand flaming suns. Because Gerard does not have a girlfriend, and he did not actually get a girlfriend until he was nineteen and in college.

“Dudeeeee,” Sam snickers. “You’ve been holding out on us!” Gerard lets out a small sigh of relief, tension draining from his shoulders.

“Sorry guys,” he says, pasting a fake smile on his face. “Anyways, what’s the deal with Pete?”

Now that his straightness has been affirmed the guys are much more willing to talk about Pete. It’s almost ridiculous how they clamber to speak, shouting over each other. Finally Ben gets tired of the chaos and thumps his meaty fist on the table a few times.

“We keep on forgetting that you’re new,” he says to Gerard. “Anyways, Pete’s a talented kid, no one can deny that, but he’s-” Ben pauses dramatically, like he’s on TV. Gerard, in a truly stunning act of self preservation, does not roll his eyes. “Well, he’s troubled. He’s a very troubled kid.”

Sean nods enthusiastically. “Yeah, he even went to a special camp last year because he was, like, in a gang or something.”

“Oh, I heard that too,” Timmy says conspiratorially. “It was, like, a Chicago gang. He was running drugs for them.”

“I heard he killed a guy,” Sam mutters.

“Don’t be fucking stupid,” Ben snaps. “He was fourteen before he went to camp, he couldn’t have killed anyone. Right, Gerard?” Gerard nods mechanically, not even listening to Ben anymore. It’s ridiculous, what Pete’s teammates are doing to him. How did a simple conversation about Pete turn into a scene straight from Mean Girls. Well, technically Mean Boys. Mean Men? Whatever, probably not relevant to this situation, he thinks, refocusing his attention back on Ben.

“He went to a boot camp in New Hampshire,” Ben says wisely. “Coach John recommended him, he told my mom. She that he said Pete was out of control.”

“Out of control,” Sean echoes mournfully while shaking his head. Gerard thinks spitefully that Sean would make an excellent teenage girl.

“Those camps are serious,” Sam says. “My cousin went to one last year, he told me that it was seriously fucked up. They made him run laps until he puked because he swore at some other kid who was giving him shit..”

Ben frowns. “Whatever it was like, it clearly didn’t work because Pete isn’t fixed at all.”

“Yeah,” Tim says. “He’s so fucking weird, we tried to include him in team exercises when he got back but he always blows us off.” He lets out a nasty little laugh, almost between a snort and a bark. “And he hates Coach John, which is just stupid.”

The few pieces of pizza that Gerard did eat feel like they’re engaging in medieval warfare in his stomach. He’d had known that Pete went to boot camp- he’d mentioned it that night around the campfire and in a few interviews- but it always felt like an abstract concept, like suffering children in the Sahara. But now- well now Gerard is confronted with the reality of what happened and it’s almost too much to process.

“Fuck, that’s so awful,” he blurts out. Ben shoots him a confused look.

“Broman, Pete needed the camp, he was a bad kid. The camp was good for him, he might even need to go back this summer. It’s fixing him.” Gerard wants to scream that no, the camp is not fixing Pete, it’s just shattering him further but Ben’s voice is slightly threatening and despite his senior status Gerard’s place on the soccer team is nebulous and unsteady. Gerard, contrary to his actions, is not a complete idiot so he drops the subject.

“Whatever dude,” Timmy says, shooting Gerard a pleading look. “Just drop it. Anyways, you have to tell us more about your new girlfriend.”

-

Gerard is never taking his phone for granted again. Sure, he’d written it off as a small and mildly useful when he had one that was actually functional and could do basic things like connect to the internet and stalk people’s entire online presence but now that he was without, he was feeling the loss. Keenly. Very fucking keenly.

Because the problem was, Gerard had realized, he was going about befriending Pete all wrong. He’d assumed that Pete would be friendly with his soccer team but it seemed like the exact opposite was true- Pete’s soccer team thought he was a drug mule murderer and Pete clearly didn’t feel very warmly towards them either. Pete also was apparently afraid of his coach because he had recommended that his parents sent him to boot camp. Every social aspect of the soccer team was a nightmare to him, Gerard was willing to bet that the only thing Pete enjoyed about the game was the actual playing on the field.

Of course, Gerard had thought it was a genius idea to actually join the soccer team, therefore allying himself with Pete’s tormentors (in Pete’s eyes, at least). And the soccer team, on their part, had welcomed Gerard wholeheartedly, making him sit with them at lunch and inviting him out to parties. It was surreal, reliving his high school experience as a mildly popular soccer player instead of a weird, pale kid who everyone was half convinced was a vampire.

(Seriously. Elisa Giovanni’s mother threw Holy Water at Gerard during her daughter’s confirmation and then claimed that it was a “accident”. The bitch didn’t even have the grace to pretend that she wasn’t surprised when Gerard didn’t start screaming or melting into the floor).

The root of the problem was that when it really came down to it, Gerard doesn’t know Pete all that well. And thanks to the fact that the year was 1995, he has no way to learn anything about Pete, and Pete hadn’t started spilling his guts on his various blogs yet.

“So let me get this straight,” Mikey says, propping his head up on his skinny arms. “You want me to help you stalk Pete Wentz.”

“Keep it down,” Gerard hisses. He’d thought it would be a good idea to soften Mikey up to the idea by taking him out to breakfast but now the little fuck was talking so loudly that everyone would know that Gerard was a creepy stalker with no life.

“Gee.” Mikey looks faintly amused as he sips his coffee. “You have to admit, you sound insane. Like, certifiably insane. I think Pete could actually acquire a restraining order based on this conversation alone.”

Gerard briefly contemplates the cosmic implications of revealing that in the future web browsers on phones and Livejournal will exist. After a few intense seconds he realizes that it’ll probably ruin the entire world and cause Myspace to never exist, a tantalizing thought. In the end he gives up and looks at Mikey pleadingly.

“Mikey,” he says, widening his eyes innocently. “I just need to befriend him and then you get your brother back, that’s the deal. And all I need to befriend him is know everything about his life ever.”

Mikey pauses thoughtfully. Gerard looks at Mikey beseechingly and increases the power of his puppy eyes. Mikey looks down at his plate and stabs his eggs. Gerard feels a curl of triumph, if Mikey is avoiding his eyes then that means that it’s working.

“Okay,” Mikey says finally. “Okay. Okay, I’ll ask around and see what I can do.”

-

Gerard stares sullenly at the back of the passenger seat. The passenger seat does not stare sullenly back because it’s an inanimate object. For some ridiculous reason, this only fuels Gerard’s rage. He kicks the seat and smiles when he hears the satisfying thump of his foot hitting the ugly patterned fabric.

“Gerard!” Donna squawks, twisting around to glare at him. “What was that?”

“Nothing Ma,” Gerard says grumpily.

Donna sighs and turns back to Donald. “I don’t understand why he’s acting like this,” she whispers loudly. “He used to love to visit her.”

Donald takes a break from shaking his fist at the other drivers on the highway and says, “He’s a teengager, they’re unpredictable. Don’t you remember what we got up to as kids?”

Donna giggles and winks at Donald. Gerard’s been watching the entire disgusting display through the rearview mirror. He dramatically mimes throwing up, complete with full body convulsions and rolling eyes. The last thing he needs to know is exactly what his parents were doing as teenagers. He already has a vague idea of what they getting up to since he was born when Donna was seventeen. It’s probably a testament to his family that it wasn’t even a surprise.

Mikey shoots Gerard an unamused look. “Are you having a seizure or something?”

“Gerard’s having a seizure!!” Donna screams from the front of the car. Donald jerks the car wheel in surprise and everyone starts screaming as the car begins to hurtle into the other lane, straight into oncoming traffic. They almost hit at least three other cars in the first few seconds alone. Horns begin to honk furiously as Donald attempts to steer his car back into the correct lane, with little success.

“Fuck!” Gerard squeaks, gripping Mikey’s hand tightly. Donna begins to cross herself frantically, the practice long ingrained in her memory.

“Are you having a seizure baby?” Donna cries. Gerard shakes his head frantically and grips his seatbelt.

“No! Mikey is just being a little obnoxious shit.”

“Oh.” Donna sounds a little disappointed, she probably would have loved the drama of a seizure. “Well, pipe down then. It’s rude to be screaming when your Dad’s driving, it distracts him. Donald-”

The car jerks over into the proper lane, throwing Gerard against his seatbelt. He feels his breath be knocked out of his body in one gust, the nylon straps digging into skin painfully. Gerard gasps for breath; he takes great, heaving gulps of air until he finally fills his lungs enough that they no longer feel like dry, shriveled raisins.

Mikey looks similarly shaken. Donna, predictably, is completely unphased. The abrupt lane change didn’t even halt her speech seeing as she’s currently in the middle of ranting about how easily distracted drivers are.

In the face of her speech Donald’s face is turning progressively redder, until he resembles a large tomato. Gerard can see beads of sweat trickling down his neck, and his knuckles are white from gripping the wheel so hard. The air in the car is suddenly frigid enough that even Donna eventually stops talking, trailing off in the middle of her sentence.

“We are going to be completely goddamned silent until we get to Elena’s, do you understand me?” Donald barks, slamming his hand on the dashboard.

Echoing quiet meets his words.

“Yes dear,” Donna says feebly. Her hair, Gerard notices, is starting to slump. Not even her hairspray and teasing comb can stand up to a scene straight out of Fast and Furious.

“Boys?” Donald growls. Gerard is tempted to roll his eyes because fuck it, he’s twenty eight, but he subconsciously knows that if he does not even God will be able to save him from the amount of yelling he’ll have to endure.

“Okay, okay,” Mikey says quickly. He grabs his walkman and shoves his earbuds into his ears, already curling into himself in the face of their father’s wrath. Donald glares at Gerard through the rearview mirror.

“Yeah, sorry,” Gerard mumbles awkwardly, staring at the car mat beneath his feet.

“Good,” Donald says finally. The car lapses into a tense silence, and Gerard is left staring at the seat again. He knows that any normal person would be thrilled to see their grandmother again, especially if that person hadn’t seen their grandmother in literal years because the grandmother in question is dead in the person’s universe of origin.

Then again, normal people wouldn’t be in a hellish alternate reality either so really it’s a moot point.

Gerard scratches his neck and fiddles with his fingers. He doesn’t want to think about how this Elena might be different from his own. He doesn’t want to be hugged by her when he comes in, or eat her delicious cookies. He feels like a conman, like an imposter. If his alleged seizure hadn’t caused them to almost die he’d be trying to fake sick to get out of having to go in.

Unfortunately, Donald has other plans. He pulls into Elena’s driveway stonily. Before getting out he gives both Mikey and Gerard a look that promises if anything goes wrong on the visit there’ll be hell to pay. Gerard gulps audibly.

Elena is standing at the door, just like she always is. She’s wearing the same ridiculous witch hat that she insisted on putting on every morning in Gerard’s dimension, even in the middle of the summer. Every crevice, feature and wrinkle on her face is the same, right down to her glittering black eyes.

Gerard’s throat feels scratchy, like someone stuffed a wool sweater down it. He can’t speak, it takes everything he has to hug her. Elena hugs back firmly, rubbing his shoulders comfortingly.

“You look like you’ve just seen a ghost,” Elena says mischievously.

“Um.” Gerard croaks. “I- you-” Mikey nudges Gerard comfortingly. The touch shakes Gerard out of his stupor and he smiles in what he hopes in a convincing fashion. “I’m just. Tired.”

Elena grins, her eyes sparkling with laughter. “Same here. I haven’t been getting a lot of sleep lately.”

Donald frowns. “Ma, are you having trouble sleeping?”

“No,” she replies, already starting to laugh. “My friend Stu’s been coming over at night, if you know what I mean.”

The Ways recoil in horror. “You’re too ol- fragile to be doing that!” Donald cries indignantly.

“Think of the children!” Donna screeches. She has her hands over Mikey’s ears like he’s a little kid again. It’s kind of pointless since Mikey’s still listening to his walkman, so he can’t hear anything anyways.

“The kids will be fine,” Elena cackles. “Dinner’s ready, let’s eat already. I didn’t spend hours slaving away in the kitchen to be judged by you. It’s not like you’re shining paradigms of virtue yourselves.”

Donna blushes and lowers her hands. “Your grandchildren had to be made somehow,” she says stoically to Elena before following her into the dining room.

-

Dinner went about as spectacularly as Gerard thought it would, meaning that it was an unmitigated disaster. Donald almost choked on a piece of mushroom when Elena casually announced that she was joining a swinger club and Mikey accidentally ate the cat’s food when he went into the kitchen for seconds.

“It was on the counter in a bowl!” Mikey had said defensively into the horrified silence. “How was I supposed to know that it wasn’t intended for human consumption?”

And Gerard- well Gerard just ate his food mechanically and waited for the dinner to end. It was unspeakably shitty, that his cherished memories of dinners at Elena’s would be tarnished by his experiences in this universe.

After dinner Elena banished Mikey, Donald and Donna to the living room to set up Monopoly. She kept Gerard behind, claiming that she wanted him to help her with dishes.

As soon as his family is out of the kitchen Elena envelops Gerard in an enormous hug. Gerard wants to sink into her arms like he’s done so many times in the past but he can’t will his body to do it. Instead he stands stiffly and awkwardly.

“Gerard, baby,” Elena says, squeezing his arms as she pulls away. “What’s wrong? You’ve been off all night.”

Gerard looks into Elena’s honest eyes and he can’t. He can’t lie anymore. Not to her, he’s never been able to lie to her. “I’m wrong,” he says honestly, staring at his shoes because he can’t bear to look her in the face. “I’m not supposed to be here, I’m not. Something happened and-” Gerard tugs at his hair helplessly, there’s no way he can tell the truth without sounding like a certifiable lunatic. “I guess I just don’t feel right in my skin.”

“Oh, Gee,” Elena says softly. She places her hands on his, as if she can sense that he can’t stomach a hug. “Whatever you’re going through, I’m here for you. I understand if you can’t tell me exactly what’s going on but please don’t feel like you’re not supposed to be here. We all love you so much, even though your Ma can be a bit much sometimes.”

Gerard presses his face into Elena’s shoulder and pretends like he can’t feel the tears starting to gather in the corners of his eyes.

-

“There’s a notebook,” Mikey announces smugly as he sits down on Gerard’s bed. Gerard sits up blearily.

“Blargh,” he says, blinking furiously to get the sleep out of his eyes. “What?”

“Notebook,” Mikey says, drawing the word out like the asshole that he is. “There is a notebook that Pete carries around with him everywhere, the kids at school said it’s like his diary or something. If you want to find out more about him the notebook is the way to success.”

“It’s too fucking early,” Gerard grumbles, groping in the darkness blindly for his lamp switch. He hears Mikey rustling around and suddenly his room is flooded with light.

“Argh!” Gerard screeches, squeezing his eyes against the unrelenting assault of light..

“I opened the window. Windows are good. Daylight is good.” Mikey says, sounding unconcerned about the state of Gerard’s eyesight. He doesn’t even care if Gerard will never see again, having been blinded by the outdoors, Gerard notes bitterly.

“Coffee,” he moans, cursing the day his clearly insane little brother was born. Mikey obediently hands Gerard a full cup. Gerard gulps it down like a madman, ignoring the burn in favor of the sweet, sweet energy rush. He takes back everything he said about Mikey because Mikey is clearly an angel who was sent to supply Gerard with never ending coffee. Or something along that vein.

“Could you maybe repeat everything you just said?” Gerard says, having consumed enough caffeine to behave in a humanlike manner.

“Pete has a notebook,” Mikey says. “I asked around and heard from Sandy who heard from Tim who heard from Ben that Pete has a notebook that he writes in constantly and carries around everywhere. He’s definitely pouring out all of his inner pain and feelings into that thing, Ben thinks it’s like a diary but apparently when he tried to look at it Pete almost tore his head off.”

Gerard gapes at Mikey. Of course Pete has his lyric notebook when he’s a kid too, he didn’t magically acquire the ability to write convoluted, bizarre lyrics the day he met Patrick. Gerard’s seen the current iteration on tour, Pete carries it around with him sometimes. Pete’s lyrics are the secret to his brain and Pete’s brain is the secret to true friendship.

“Or you could just, like, hang out with him sometime,” Mikey says, his mouth curving into an amused smile. “Gee, I really don’t think Pete has many friends. If you just spend a little time talking to him instead of stalking him I’m sure you can convince him to become your friend.”

“I don’t know about that,” Gerard says doubtfully. He’s pretty fucking awkward, and all of his unplanned conversations with Pete have either ended in indignation or- well, indignation. “Look at me, I’m a social recluse who spends most of his time in his mom’s basement and watches 80’s horror movies.”

“That was unexpectedly self aware,” Mikey says skeptically. “Well, I guess this leads us to my last resort scenario. We have no choice but to break into Pete’s house.”

“Yeah,” Gerard sighs wistfully, too busy wallowing in his own self pity to process Mikey’s words. “Wait, what?”

-

“This is the worst idea you’ve ever had,” Gerard hisses to Mikey. Mikey shrugs and hops over the fence into Pete’s backyard. Fuck his skinny athleticism, Gerard thinks as he struggles to get over the fence. Theoretically being on the soccer team has made him stronger but in reality Gerard’s main contribution is getting hit in various fleshy parts with large balls.

Gerard perches at the top of the wood, the grain rough and abrasive under his hands. It seemed easier to climb up via the help of Donald’s stepladder. Getting down seems like a much more daunting task.

“Shut up,” Mikey whispers back, sticking his arms out. They glow in the moonlight, freakishly pale and thin like bones. “I’ll catch you if you fall, okay?”

It’s the metaphor of his life, Gerard thinks grimly.

He jumps.

For a second Gerard feels like he’s falling through space and time itself, crashing through the darkness towards an uncertain fate. Then he lands on the ground so hard he loses the ability to breathe for a second. Mikey is about three feet away from him, which means that somehow he managed to fall diagonally through the air, a bizarre and unexpected turn of events.

Mikey pokes Gerard’s side with his foot. “Gee? Are you okay?” Gerard winces and stands up unsteadily.

“Yeah,” he whispers. “I’m good. Just a little bruised.”

Mikey nods somberly. “Good. After this point we should stop talking and communicate only through hand motions, okay?”

Gerard opens his mouth to tell Mikey exactly how stupid that plan is, but Mikey claps a grimy hand over his lips before he can say anything.

“Shhhh,” he says before he takes off towards the house.

Gerard lets out wordless moan of frustration before hobbling quickly after Mikey.

The house is pretty nice, especially compared to Gerard’s childhood home. He and Mikey grew up in a tiny, rickety house in Jersey. The window shutters were half falling off and their door had three deadbolts. Their proximity to a lake known to contain multiple dead bodies meant that there was always a rifle under his parent’s bed, and the walls were full of dusty dolls that looked like they came straight out of a Romero movie.

Pete’s home is nothing like that. The outside is white wood paneling, the windows are immaculate and the shades are fully intact and functioning. The roof isn’t moldy and there’s an actual trellis in the backyard leading up to the roof. The ivy is dead, killed by the chilly autumn breeze, so the white wood crosses look empty and bare, like window bars.

Mikey and Gerard circle the house a few times, taking care to step lightly. After a few minutes of contemplation Mikey makes some frantic arm motions and points to a window barely peeking out of the ground. Closer inspection reveals that it’s a basement window. There’s a few inches of space around the window, then the ground slopes up dramatically and the yard begins.

Gerard squints and yeah, there’s bars attached to the inside of the window. They seem ridiculously out of place in the middle class neighborhood but Mikey doesn't appear to be phased by this new development. He kneels down and uses a skinny piece of metal to pull the window open, wedging it into the tiny gap between the frame and wall.

Gerard shoots Mikey a questioning look. Since when is his little brother a master at breaking into houses? “They’re more concerned about someone getting out than they are getting in,” Mikey says smugly, breaking his own no talking rule. From there he gently wiggles the screen out of the frame and begins to work on unscrewing the bars from the window.

“Have you ever considered becoming a robber? Because I think that would be an exceptional career choice for you,” Gerard mutters as Mikey pulls the bars out of the window. “Please tell me this is your first time breaking into somewhere. Please.”

“It’s my first time breaking into somewhere,” Mikey repeats obediently, setting the bars on the lawn. “Come on, let’s get in. I’ll go first, okay?” He slips into the basement, landing on the floor with a soft thump. Gerard freezes and waits for a light to flick on but the house is silent. Taking a deep breath, Gerard sucks in his stomach and attempts to slither through the window.

There’s a dicey moment where his shirt gets stuck on the window handle but Mikey gently untangles it and helps him to the ground.

Well. Gerard is officially inside Pete Wentz’s house. He’s lost any form of plausible deniability the second his feet hit the floor. If Mr. Wentz happens to find them he could totally shoot him and Mikey and claim self defense.

“Come on,” Mikey whispers, already picking his way through the cluttered basement floor. Gerard flaps his hands vaguely and gives Mikey a distressed look. Mikey, being the caring person that he is, rolls his eyes. “It’s not that bad, come on.”

Gerard begins to carefully creep through the basement. The Wentz’s are apparently not big on cleaning, or even shoving things into categorized piles. The entire floor is littered with baby toys, abandoned projects, boxes, memorabilia and an alarming number of sports trophies. After the third time of almost impaling his foot by stepping on a trophy Gerard begins to regret his insistence that they not bring flashlights.

When they finally make it up the stairs Mikey looks at Gerard expectantly. Oh, right. Gerard is supposed to know where Pete’s room is.

He kind of remembers watching some interview where Pete gave a tour of his house on MTV but he’s not completely sure where everything is. He bites his finger and squints at the inside of the house. It’s cluttered, just like the basement, but somehow everything seems expensive anyways. If Gerard recalls correctly, Pete’s bedroom is upstairs.

If he’s wrong he and Mikey will probably end up in prison, but at this point it’s a risk that Gerard’s willing to take. He tiptoes upstairs cautiously and swivels to face the end of the hallway. Pete’s room is there, he thinks. Gerard’s like, 69% sure that's his bedroom, which isn’t really promising but it’ll have to do. Mikey follows his pointed finger and nods quickly. He creeps over to the door and puts his hand on the door handle. He’s turning it slightly when all of a sudden Gerard is struck with a horrifying thought.

Pete’s insomnia. Fuck, he totally forgot about Pete’s insomnia. Is he even asleep now? Gerard makes frantic x motions with his arms but either Mikey can't see him or he’s ignoring him, because he swings the door open. The door opens silently in the dark. Mikey pokes his head inside. He’s silent for a second, then a muffled “fuck” filters it’s way over to Gerard.

Gerard speedwalks to Mikey and peers inside and it’s exactly what he feared. Pete is sitting up in his bed, staring at them with huge, terrified eyes.

The room is silent, the only sound is Pete’s soft, panicked breathing. “Are you real?” Pete whispers after a long pause. He can’t tell who they are, Gerard’s grateful for that at least. Mikey insisted on them both wearing ski masks over their heads, a gesture that seemed unnecessary to Gerard initially. “I know I haven’t slept in a while but- but-”

Mikey turns to look at Gerard helplessly. Gerard closes his eyes and prays to God that Pete is sleep deprived and crazy enough to believe what he’s about to do.

“Peter,” Gerard hisses softly, doing his best impression of Voldemort with a hint of Darth Vader. He shuffles towards Pete and narrows his eyes menacingly. Pete scuttles away from him until his back hits the wall. He stares at Gerard, scared out of his mind. His eyes are black in the darkness of the room and the circles under his eyes looks like craters. “I’m here to suck your blood.”

Pete cocks his head, an unimpressed look on his face. “Seriously?” he says, the fear fading from his eyes.

“Um. Yeah.” Gerard nods unconvincingly. “We. Yeah. Need blood.” Mikey looks completely unsurprised by this turn of events, as if he were expecting Gerard to come up with such a colossally stupid idea.

“Going to suck you ‘till you’re a husk,” Mikey says dryly before turning back to searching Pete’s room. “Eeeeee!” Gerard wails eerily, attempting to glide menacingly towards Pete. Unfortunately, he’s not actually a supernatural creature of the night so he ends up doing a modified moonwalk. Mikey winces.

Gerard’s been obsessed with vampires since he was ten but he’s delivering what has to be the worst impersonation of a vampire in existence. For fuck’s sake, he wrote an entire album based on the undead.

Gerard sees Mikey busy rifling through Pete’s shit out of the corner of his eye. He just needs to distract Pete long enough for Mikey to find the notebook, then they can leave. Unfortunately, Gerard is quickly running out of vampire material which is baffling since he spent the majority of his childhood sitting in his basement watching bad actors die in various, contrived ways.

“Ahhhhh!” Gerard wails softly. “Bloooooood!” Pete frowns, looking more and more unafraid.

Gerard’s not a moron, he can see that circumstances are pretty dire right now. Pete, despite his idiotic life choices (see: emo bangs) is no idiot and Gerard is a horrible actor. It’s time for the last resort- Gerard’s dancing routine to Singing in the Rain. He takes a deep, fortifying breath and sticks out his hip while flinging his arms into the air. This is it. This is his last stand. He’s going to dance now. Gerard begins marching to invisible music, twirling his hands around and flipping his feet in the air.

“Ge- fuck. Count Geronimo?” Mikey says huskily. Gerard knows that he’s trying to disguise his voice but that doesn’t stop Mikey from sounding like the main character in a middle aged housewife’s wet dream. “We must depart now with- um- posthaste.”

Gerard nods dramatically. He points to Pete and announces, “You’ve foiled our dastardly plans for now, but we’ll be back!’

Pete blinks slowly. “How?”

“What?” Gerard wasn’t counting on Pete actually asking questions.

“How did I fool your dastardly plan?” he repeats again, looking at Gerard and Mikey with growing disbelief.

“You’re protected by your mother’s love,” Gerard howls (softly because Pete’s parents are literally sleeping next door). “Her care and compassion for you is too pure and good for us to harm you!”

This time Gerard doesn’t wait for Pete to react. Instead he grabs Mikey’s hand and yanks him out of the room.

They sprint to the basement, this time taking less care to be quiet. The sky is already lightening, Donna is going to be pissed if she wakes up in two hours and Mikey and Gerard aren’t in bed. Mikey reassembles the window quickly and this time Gerard maneuvers himself over the fence with relative ease.

Once they’re back in Gerard’s car and pulling out of the driveway they both let out a collective sigh of relief, amazed that they actually got away with breaking into someone’s house and pretending to be the worst vampires in horror history.

“Where’d you get the mother’s love thing?” Mikey asks, sounding impressed. “That was a pretty cool idea Gee. Granted, your execution was shit but it was a pretty good idea.”

Gerard stares resolutely at the wheel and pretends that he didn’t steal it, word for word, from the first Harry Potter book.

-

The diary is not a window into Pete’s soul. In fact, it’s completely unintelligible. Gerard had the vague idea that Patrick reworked Pete’s lyrics for the songs but he had no understanding of how formidable the task really was. It’s not bad enough that Pete never capitalizes anything and has the world’s worst, most cramped handwriting, no, he also has to be emotionally constipated and cloak literally every word in some convoluted metaphor.

“I see shadows on my window they creep into my mouth and choke me until I’m on my knees they like it better that way I’m screaming bubblegum tears and she just turns away- Gerard, what the fuck is this supposed to mean?” Mikey asks, frowning at the notebook in his lap.

“I don’t know!” Gerard cries helplessly. It’s pretty clear that Patrick must have a PhD in Pete-ese because the raw material reads like a pretentious toddler just discovered both literary devices and the dictionary.

Mikey shakes his head. “Actual human contact Gee, I’m telling you-”

“What about that!” Gerard cuts Mikey off and jabs at a random sentence on the page. “Mrs. Williams is a bitch she made me read in front of the class today. I want her to die in a puddle of good intentions and cyanide I’d drink it all afterwards just to see what would happen.”

“Wow Gerard, “ Mikey says sarcastically. “What a brilliant find. Now we know that Pete has homicidal tendencies and hates Mrs. Williams, I guess to become his friend all you have to do is murder someone for him.”

Gerard smacks Mikey on the arm. The effect is somewhat diminished by sound of Gerard’s cracking knuckles. Gerard rubs his hand and winces. Mikey must be working out in secret or something, arms are not naturally that hard.

“I think-” Mikey sighs helplessly. “I think that this notebook is a dead end, to be completely honest with you. We should give it back to Pete, did you see him at school today? He looked like an insane person, I think that him not having the notebook is making him crazier than he already is.”

“Fine,” Gerard says sullenly. “I’ll give it back on Wednesday, just give me one more day with it.”

“Are you really going to use the last resort, DEFCON 0, Omega Plan 3.6,” Mikey says flatly. “For fuck’s sake, have some dignity.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Gerard snaps and that’s the end of the conversation.

-

The last resort (/DEFCON 0/Omega Plan 3.6) is talking to an adult. Well, Gerard technically is an adult so the last resort is actually talking to a different adult than Gerard himself. Gerard talking to himself was actually DEFCON 2/Omega Plan 2.8. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Elena adjusts her pink reading glasses and gives Gerard a scathing look. Apparently now that Gerard’s mental state seems relatively stable she’s taken off the kid gloves.. “You only decided to visit little old me so I’ll do something for you?” she says bitterly. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, back when I was a kid you youths visited us elders out of respect.”

“And fear,” Gerard point out. “Drop the scary grandma act, c’mon.”

Elena sighs and shakes her head. “I’m old,” she complains. “Let me strike fear into your heart. You know, I just heard that Jamie Burning talking about his grandmother and holy shit Gee, that woman is a force of nature. She terrifies all the neighborhood kids so much they bring her candy every morning, just to appease her. Do I get any candy? No, I get a greasy, unwashed, sensitive grandson who wants me to look over someone else’s journal.”

“It could be my journal,” Gerard lies, forcing his hands to stay still on his lap.

“Honey,” Elena says, pursing her lips as she scans the page. “You’ve got a shitton of teenage angst, don’t get me wrong, but you don’t have this much.”

“So you understand it?” Gerard says hopefully.

Elena laughs so hard her (admittedly very natural looking) dentures almost fall out. Gerard thinks spitefully that she doesn’t have to be so theatrical about it. Besides, it’s not like he can’t see her nudging the dentures slightly ajar with her tongue.

“This is fucking illegible,” Elena wheezes. “ I can’t understand a single sentence in here. But that’s not really the point, Gee. The point is the big picture, and the big picture is that this kid is swinging between moods like he’s at a playground. He’s just a hormonal teenager, there’s no secret meaning in here.” Gerard’s disappointed but he tries in vain to school his face into a grateful expression. Unfortunately, his eyes are still conveying crushing dismay. Elena gives him a concerned look.

“Are you constipated?” she mutters. “I knew those cookies that Dolores brought over were poisoned.”

“No,” Gerard says quickly. “I’m just. You know- I’m just a little disappointed. I was hoping to get something a little more concrete from this journal.”

Elena raises her eyebrows and gives Gerard a scrutinizing look. “Do you like this boy?” she asks. “If you like this boy stealing his journal is not a good way to spark off a healthy relationship. Actually, it’s a fantastically awful way. Honey, this is how stalker horror movies start.”

Gerard yelps indignantly and ignores the small curl of heat in his stomach that says yes, he likes Pete a lot. He grabs the notebook from Elena and says “I have to go- um- go run some errands for Donna. Right now. Yeah. It was good seeing you!”

Elena shakes her head but gives him a hug goodbye anyways. “You’re always welcome here, Gee. Remember that.”

-

Mikey’s going out. Gerard can tell this because his little brother is currently strutting around Gerard’s basement, invading his sanctuary with his generous hairspray fumes. Also, he keeps on subtly pelvic thrusting towards the mirror to see if his shirt will slide up his hips even higher when he’s in the club.

“Can you please stop the thrusting?” Gerard says after five minutes become come on. Mikey’s his baby brother. No older brother should be witness to what’s happening now.

Mikey whips around and focuses his beady eyes on Gerard, a sudden spark of interest beginning to glow. Gerard feels a cold trickle of fear slip down his spine.

“Nevermind,” he says hastily. “Just ignore me. Please.”

Mikey smirks. “Gerard,” he says delicately, already sliding his phone out of his too tight skinny jeans. “I’d say you’ve been a little reclusive this past week, wouldn’t you?”

Gerard figures that the safest thing to do is remain silent, so he shuts his mouth and refuses to respond.

“Dude,” Mikey says, now trying for the fake sympathetic approach. “I’m worried about your health, I think you’re reaching new and dangerous levels of social hermitism. If you stay in this house for one more day you may turn into a mossy green rock formation and die.”

“Okay,” Gerard says because a) Mikey has a point, b) these are the most words he’s spoken in the past thirteen hours and c) Gerard doesn’t want to turn into a mossy rock formation, okay? He was a cool(ish) adult and he can be a cool(ish) adult in a teenager’s body. Totally.

-

Upon arriving at the club, Gerard instantly regrets all of his life decisions. First off, Frank is there. Gerard tried to wave at him because hello, it’s his best friend, but instead of responding Frank gave Gerard a quick lookover, determined him to be Not Cool and ditched him to go grind on Mikey. When Mikey finally left to go outside and smoke Gerard again attempted to converse with Frank (he has a quota of social interaction that he's got to fill, okay) but it didn't exactly go as planned. Mostly because Gerard couldn’t stop staring at Frank’s hideous dreadlocks.

Anyways, after a second failed attempt at social interaction Gerard manfully retreats to the disgusting club bathroom. He can always skulk around and smoke a pack he stole from Mikey while his baby brother (who is apparently cool enough to talk to Frank, not that Gerard’s bitter or anything) moshes his way through the crowd.

Gerard pokes his head inside the bathroom. It’s blessedly silent, so he figures that it’s not currently being used for any heinous sex acts. He steps inside and fumbles around his jacket for his cigarettes when suddenly a slightly overweight middle aged man barges out of the handicapped stall and shoves his way out the door. Gerard shrugs. Maybe the guy had terrible food poisoning, god knows the bar food is nasty enough.

Gerard’s holding the lighter literally inches from his face when suddenly he hears a shuffling noise from the handicapped stall. He yelps in surprise and almost singes his eyelashes off. “Who’s there?” he calls out cautiously, because fuck it, he’s seen enough horror movies to know that strange noises often mean decapitation via vengeful spirit.

There’s another shuffling noise and then a sigh, it’s really just a tiny exhalation of air but it sounds so broken that it makes Gerard’s heart ache. Gerard shakes his head, shoves his lighter in front of him for protection and decides that if he dies by shadow monster in some alternate universe then at least it would be a really cool death. Then, after staring at the stall like an idiot for forever, Gerard gently pokes the door open and peeks inside.

It’s Pete. Pete’s slumped against the grimy bathroom wall, his knees pulled up to his chest. They’re gaping through the holes in his jeans, scraped and bloody, his mouth is swollen and moist and he has a blank, detached look in his eyes. Gerard has a sickening feeling that he knows exactly what that middle aged dude was doing in the bathroom.

“Pete?” Gerard says softly, it sounds like a question because Gerard’s voice cracks at the end under the stiffening, oppressive silence in the bathroom. “Um. Are you okay?”

Pete stares dully at him. “M’fine,” he mutters, wiping the corner of his mouth. Gerard searches for a way to tactfully ask Pete if he just blew the soccer dad.

“So,” Gerard ventures awkwardly. “That guy that just left here. He looked. Uh. Satisfied.”

Pete doesn’t reply.

“Might you have. Might you have done anything to. To result in his satisfaction?”

“I blew him,” Pete says, staring at his knees, his fingers messing with the loose threads in his jeans. “I blew him, if that’s what you’re asking.

 

“Well,” says Gerard, for once at a loss for what to say.

“But I’m not gay,” Pete says suddenly, and with great vehemence. He shoots to his feet and grabs Gerard’s arm, staring at him straight in the eyes, gripping his arm so tight that Gerard can feel the crescent of Pete’s nails digging into his flesh. “I’m seriously not gay, I love girls and everything, I just get urges sometimes. Every guy does, and I just do some shit to clear them out, you know? It’s like, fucking baptism. I go to the father and I confess.”

“Yeah, no.” Gerard replies, trying to extract his arm from Pete’s grip whilst wondering how he became Pete Wentz’s youth counselor and support structure. “Pete, that’s just not really how it works. You don’t need to get rid of your gay urges by fucking dudes once a month, or something, you can just get rid of your gay urges by not getting rid of them at all, because really, it’s okay it be gay. It’s totally normal and healthy and honestly being in a healthy gay- or bi- did you know that bisexuality exists? You don’t have to be, like, 100% gay you can also be bi and into girls too, or pan and- well, I think I’m confusing you now but basically I want you to understand that it’s okay to be gay.”

“It’s okay to be gay,” Pete repeats skeptically. He pauses, clearly thinking about what Gerard has said before shaking his head violently back and forth, back and forth. “Nonotforme,” Pete garbles out, his shoulders tense and fingers digging into his shoulders. “Maybe for you but not for me. I’m not gay, no, no, no-” Pete’s breathing becomes erratic, he’s hunching into himself and gasping for air and all Gerard can think is fuck this is the second time he’s caused a panic attack.

Gerard mournfully stares at his clean (okay, well technically not really clean but wearable. Probably) jeans and lets out a pained sigh before sinking onto the ground next to Pete. He waves his arms around in the air helplessly for a bit before finally settling on rubbing Pete’s back and murmuring nonsense words that have a soothing rhythm. He’s halfway through a long, extended and slightly dramatized retelling of Mikey’s thirteenth birthday when he finally feels Pete’s breathing slow down.

“Hey,” Gerard says lamely, awkwardly pulling his arms back into his lap. “Hey, dude, are you okay?”

“No.” Pete replies in an uncharacteristic moment of honesty. “No, I’m really not.”

“Oh.” Gerard mumbles, because he wasn’t actually planning on Pete saying something that wasn’t cloaked in an absurd and convoluted metaphor. “That sucks. Sorry.”

“Yeah,” Pete says, wiping tears off of his face. “Um. Yeah. Do you want to- I don’t know- maybe move this conversation out of the bathroom?”

“Definitely, yes, we can go to my house and watch a movie,” Gerard says as if he’s possessed. As soon as the words have left his mouth he kicks himself internally because what the fuck did he seriously just ask Pete Wentz to hang out with him after suffering god knows how much emotional trauma? But Pete just shrugs and says “sure” nonchalantly before wobbling to his feet and staring expectantly at Gerard like he’s the mother duck and has to lead Pete, the baby duck, across the road to the pond.

-

They ditch Mikey and end up vegging out in Gerard’s basement, laughing their asses off at Ghostbusters. Well, technically Gerard didn’t ditch Mikey because he’s his baby bro, instead he very nicely informed Mikey that he'd have to get a ride home from Frank tonight and snidely insinuated that maybe Frank will even be a nice friend and let Mikey sleep over in his bed. Mikey was too busy humping Frank to exact any kind of revenge so Gerard made a speedy escape with Pete in tow.

Once they got to Gerard’s basement he was struck with a sudden fear that Pete might think him uncool and weird, but no, Pete is apparently just as uncool and weird as Gerard because they’ve been laughing at the fuzzy tv screen for the past hour and a half. Pete, it turns out, is capable of biting sarcasm and generally filthy movie commentary. Gerard approves.

When the movie finally ends there’s a moment of silence, and Gerard looks at Pete. Pete looks back at Gerard. For some fucking reason, because Gerard is an idiot and his heart aches for Pete and how tiny and lost he looks, swaddled in blankets on Gerard’s bed, Gerard decides to give Pete another ill-fated LGBT pride talk.

“Really Pete,” he says earnestly, staring Pete in the eyes. “You have to deal with your... urges or what the fuck ever in a healthier way. You don’t need to blow random dudes in shady bathrooms. You can be in a healthy relationship with a guy, or have a healthy friends with benefits relationship with a guy. And being with a guy doesn’t make you automatically gay. Not that it’s a bad thing to be gay! But yeah. Guy plus Pete doesn’t automatically equal gay.”

“Shut the fuck up.” Pete is obviously still skeptical because he’s not having a change of heart in three hours, Gerard reasons to himself. He bravely continues on.

“Have you ever been with a guy and really felt good about it? Like, not “oh this feels good but it’s bad because now I feel dirty” but instead “holy fuck this guy is rocking my world”.”

Pete stares at Gerard blankly. “No, that’s not the point.”

“But it can be good!” Gerard cries. He leans towards Pete and stares at him, taking in every detail of his face. “I-” he raises his hand to cup Pete’s cheek but aborts the motion because fuck his hands are clammy- “I can show you if you want.”

Pete shrugs, he’s trying to keep his face emotionless but Gerard can see the interest in his eyes. Like a velociraptor, Gerard attacks, lunging towards Pete. Everything seems like it’s happening in slow motion, Gerard can see Pete’s mouth open in surprise and confusion, his hands instinctively reaching out as if to protect himself from a blow but unfortunately gravity is faster and Gerard ends up colliding with Pete and knocking him onto his back. Pete looks dazed so Gerard uses the moment of confusion to gently lean down and place his lips on Pete’s.

Pete lays still under Gerard, clearly waiting for his world to be rocked by his first consensual guy on guy act. Unfortunately, Gerard is just kind of hovering above Pete (even though their lips are touching) because he has no idea what to do with hands. Theoretically Gerard knows exactly what to do, he’s kissed enough people in his life. One hand should be around the waist, the other cupped on the side of the head.

Gerard, however, is currently stuck in his teenage body and his teenage body is responding to Pete’s chapped lips with copious amounts of sweat in the hand region. Placing one of his sweaty palms on Pete’s body would be a grievous mistake, Gerard’s retained enough memories of unsuccessful high school makeout sessions to know that.

Instead he settles for opening his mouth slightly and pushes against Pete, swallowing Pete’s responding moans. Gerard then attempts to use Pete’s current state of distraction to dry his hands off on the comforter but alas, the universe must be conspiring against him because somehow his hands become even more gross and sweaty.

“You bet it is,” Bert says over his shoulder.

Gerard shrieks in surprise and falls backwards off of the bed. Instead of landing on the floor he ends up falling through white space, his stomach tumbling as he spins and turns. Bert, being the obnoxious fucker that he is, is not freefalling through white space. Instead he’s descending downwards slowly and managing to look extremely dignified while doing it.

When Gerard finally hits the ground he takes a few seconds to take in his surroundings (endless whiteness) before striding forward and punching Bert in the face.

Or at least he tries to.

“Motherfucker,” Bert cackles, dodging Gerard’s clumsy fist easily. “You’ve already hit me three times, I’m not that fucking dumb. You need a new move. Or maybe anger management classes.”

“Fuck off!” Gerard howls, waving his hands around frantically. “Why did you pull me out the second that I kissed Pete? What kind of cockblocking fuckery was that?”

Bert gives Gerard a fake concerned look. “Gerard,” he says slowly. “Don’t you think that you’re a little old for him, seeing as you’re twenty-eight and he’s- oh yeah- he’s sixteen? Twelve year age differences aren’t classy until you’re, like, old.”

“I- wha-” Gerard sputters. Oh fuck. He totally just molested Pete. “I just molested Pete Wentz,” Gerard moans, cradling his head in his hands. “He’s not even old enough to really consent and I totally lied about my age and- fuck-”

“Chillax,” Bert snickers, whacking Gerard on the head affectionately. Actually, there’s no affection in the blow at all but Gerard thinks he’s entitled to a little editorializing since he’s literally in an unspecified dimension in between realities. “I was just messing with you dude. You’re all good, you were kind of eighteen in that dimension anyways.”

“I was?” This is news to Gerard, especially since he retained all of his memories of his life in his universe.

Bert smirks. “It was subtle but yeah, your brain kind of regressed to the maturity and intellect you had when you were a teenager. Why else would you agree to break into Pete Wentz’s house?”

“Because that’s the kind of stupid shit I do regularly?”

Bert shakes his head condescendingly. “Even you’re not that idiotic.”

Gerard reluctantly admits that this is a valid point.

“But enough bantering!” Bert declares authoritatively. The effect is somewhat diminished by the fact that he’s also spinning around in circles and waving a fairy princess wand in the air. (Gerard isn’t actually sure how the wand got there). “This is amusing but I have to get you back to your reality, you’ve fulfilled your bargain to the universe. Although the kissing was an interesting interpretation.”

Gerard stares at Bert blankly.

“Friends with benefits!” he replies cheerfully. “Still friends, technically. That was a clever play Gerard, lucky for you that the Universe has a sense of humor.”

“I was actually-”

“Careful there,” Bert says warningly, all the cheer in his voice suddenly gone. He’s deadly serious now and Gerard catches a glimpses a flash of something older, something more otherworldly. Gerard gulps uncomfortably. Despite his ill fated three week romance with Bert and their much longer friendship Gerard is coming to realize that he really doesn’t know Bert at all. “You wouldn’t want me to have to reinstate you back in that reality, would you?”

Gerard snaps his mouth shut.

“That’s what I thought!” Bert trills, the ancient authority in his voice replaced with the familiar fucked up voice that Gerard’s used to. “Besides,” he adds, a sly look in his eyes. “Pete has a disgustingly obvious crush on you in your reality as well, he’s definitely not just hanging out with Mikeyway because he’s a cool dude. Go kiss him or something when you get back. But please, refrain from adopting impoverished Asian babies. Also, make me one of your groomsmen. And I want control over your bachelor party.”

“Blargh?” Gerard’s too busy processing the fact that Pete actually likes him back in his dimension (well, technically, both dimensions) to reply coherently. Bert just shrugs before dancing over to Gerard and tapping him on the nose with the fairy wand. “Bippity, boppity, boo!”

-

Gerard wakes up in his bunk. He jerks upright, hitting his head on the ceiling hard. Really, really hard.

“Yo Gee, you okay?” Frank’s voice filters down from the top bunk.

“No. Um. I mean yes.” Gerard calls back, staring at his hands in disbelief. His hands are the same they were that night around the campfire, black nailpolish hanging on to his nails stubbornly despite the numerous chips. He reaches a hand up to his head and yeah, this hair is just as long and greasy as it was before.

He’s back. He’s really back. Gerard grins, he can’t help it. He feels like a can of soda that someone’s shaken before opening, he’s fizzing with happiness, it’s flowing out of him. Gerard laughs, the sound springing free and clear from his chest because holy shit, he’s home. He’s where he belongs, with his people and his brother and- and Pete. His Pete.

Gerard scrambles out of his bunk, stubbing his toe on a heap of mysteriously hard unwashed clothes in his haste. Normally he would moan and make a big deal about the pain and suffering he’s feeling, but he doesn’t have time for theatrics now. “I’m going out!” he declares to the bus.

“Whaa?” Mikey says sleepily, pushing open his bunk curtain. “Where?”

“Fall Out Boy’s bus,” Gerard says nonchalantly. Everyone in his band needs at least three cups of pure caffeine before they can function normally so he’s confident that no one is going to be coherent enough to actually respond to him like a normal person.

“Cool,” Mikey mumbles before shutting his curtain. Gerard can hear Mikey’s head hit the pillow as he leaves the bus.

He sprints over to the FOB bus in the August heat, sweat sticking to him as he struggles through the muggy air. He pants as he runs and by the time he’s reached the bus his legs feel like jelly, unstable and wobbly. Gerard thinks wistfully of the muscles he gained from soccer. Fuck Bert for leaving them with the other teenage Gerard, that little motherfucker isn’t going to need them with all the hiding in his basement that he does.

Gerard blinks up at Pete’s bus. Now that he’s actually here he’s not quite sure what to do. He has no idea what the passcode is and everyone appears to be asleep. The windows are tinted black and the curtains are drawn so Gerard also has no idea which bunk is Pete’s. After a brief moment of contemplation Gerard decides to bang on the door of the bus until someone lets him in. Pete’s an insomniac, he’s probably awake now.

Unfortunately it’s a very rumpled, tired looking Patrick Stump that opens the door instead. “What the fuck do you want?” he says blearily, rubbing his eyes. “It’s six o’clock in the fucking morning, are you insane?”

“Well,” Gerard says nervously. “I was actually kind of hoping that everyone in your bus could leave so I could talk to Pete.”

Patrick slams the door in his face.

Gerard sighs dejectedly. Normally at this point he would flee to the safety of his bus and draw some pictures of Patrick being eaten by zombies but right now he’s still fueled by the knowledge that Pete likes him back. Patrick is short, Gerard rationalizes to himself as he resumes banging on the door. He can’t do that much damage to Gerard, right?

“What the fuck is your problem?” Patrick roars, flinging the door open so abruptly that it almost clips Gerard on the face.

Gerard gulps. “Please? I really need to talk to Pete-” Patrick glares at Gerard and starts to close the door. Gerard sticks his foot in the doorframe quickly. Unfortunately the door is still at least five inches away from his foot so now it looks like he’s trying to climb inside the bus. Or compare shoe sizes with Patrick, Gerard amends. That’s also a distinct possibility.

Patrick looks like he’s on the verge of ripping Gerard’s throat out with his bare hands. “Get-”

Gerard gives Patrick an imploring look. “Patrick, Patrick,” he says quickly, trying to look non threatening. “I’m really fucking sorry, I know that this is weird and it kind of looks like I’m using again but I really have to talk to Pete alone. I have to tell him that I have this massive crush on him, and the tour is almost over and-”

Something in Patrick’s face softens imperceptibly. He stares at Gerard for what feels like the longest three seconds of his life before finally throwing his hands up in the air and sighing. “Fine. You get forty minutes and don’t do anything on the couch or I will find you and kill you very slowly.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you so much,” Gerard babbles. Patrick shoots him a disgusted look.

“Shut up,” he says before disappearing into the bus. He reemerges a few minutes later with Andy, Joe and their driver in tow. Patrick and Andy give him threatening looks as they walk by, presumably to disappear into the woods and commune with the animals, or whatever it is that vegetarians and vegans do. Joe is still stoned somehow, so he just meanders past Gerard without a second glance.

Suddenly everyone’s gone and it’s just Gerard and the bus. All of his newfound courage escapes him, Gerard tries to hold onto the feeling but it slips by him. Gerard’s throat is suddenly very dry, and his palms very clammy. He’s acutely aware of how gross he must smell, sweating in the moist summer heat.

Gerard takes a few fortifying breaths and steps on to the bus anyways. Pete’s sitting on the couch, smirking at Gerard, but there’s a hint of uncertainty underneath the bravado.

“So,” Pete says casually, if not a bit awkwardly. “A little birdy told me that you have a crush on me.”

“Um.” Gerard says, staring at his hands. “Yes?”

Pete just snorts and laughs his braying donkey laugh, doubling over on the couch. Gerard stares at him, unsure if he should continue standing or not. “I mean, it’s not a question,” he says quickly. “I definitely like you. But if you don’t like me back that’s okay. I’m all about consent,” Gerard finishes weakly. He’s struck with the sudden, horrifying though that Bert could have lied to him, just to fuck with him. It wouldn’t be too out of character.

“No, I like you too,” Pete manages to choke out. “You’re just so- I mean, I’ve been idolizing you in my head as this super badass, cool guy but you’re just as fucking awkward as I am.”

Gerard squawks indignantly. Then he straddles Pete and kisses him to make him shut up.

Pete groans into the kiss, grabbing Gerard’s head and deepening it. He kisses wet and dirty, not unlike his teenage self, Gerard notices. Except, less chaste because now he’s slipping his tongue into Gerard’s mouth and scraping his teeth over Gerard’s bottom lip. Pete’s lips feel like they’re electric, every time they touch Gerard’s it feels like fireworks are coursing through his body.

Pete pulls back and Gerard whimpers at the loss of sensation. Pete grins. It’s a real smile, his eyes crinkling as he beams at Gerard. “Lucky for you,” he whispers as his hips jerk up to Gerard’s, the sensation making fireworks explode in Gerard’s head. “I’m kind of a whore. I always put out on the first date.”

Gerard snickers. “So you were the slutty cheerleader in highschool?”

Pete laughs. “Damn right.”