September 10, 1997; Newark, New Jersey.
Gabe was pretty sure he’d been waiting outside for over an hour. He couldn’t imagine what was taking Mikey so long, now that he was a guy and didn’t have to worry about hair or makeup. Gabe looked at himself in the rearview mirror. What the hell was he doing? If Mikey was a guy now, then were he and Mikey still… together-ish? Did that mean Gabe was gay? Gabe didn’t care, really, because Mikey wasn’t the first dude who’d caught his attention, but there was a difference between finding a random guy hot and holding hands with another guy in public.
Gabe was trying to be supportive of this whole transgender thing. He didn’t get it, fully, because he’d never thought about being a girl, but he was trying to be supportive. If Mikey was going to be a guy, full time, then Gabe was going to have his back. They could be bros who just happened to make out sometimes. It was whatever.
Mikey tapped his knuckles on the window, startling Gabe out of his thoughts. Gabe jumped, before rolling the window down and sticking his head out. He considered going in for a kiss, but when he looked past Mikey he could see Mikey’s mom and weird older brother looming in the doorway. Gabe waved awkwardly at them, instead, and unlocked the passenger door for Mikey.
Mikey handed Gabe a cigarette once he was in the car and Gabe had started the engine. “Gee’s worried you’ll turn into a dick, now that you know.”
“Your brother’s weird, Mikes,” Gabe said. He hunched over the steering wheel to light his cigarette up, and tossed the lighter back over to Mikey. “How about we just… ignore his opinions on things. It’s easier for me when I do that, and it might help you out too.”
Gabe didn’t need to look over to know that Mikey was rolling his eyes. It was weird, seeing him now and knowing who he was. His chest was gone, or hidden under the t-shirt and jacket combo he was rocking, and he’d cut his hair short enough to show off his jawline. He was still wearing that stupid hat that Gabe hated (and feared, because it probably had lice at this point), but Gabe figured that was a Mikey thing and not a secretly-a-guy thing.
“Gee’s my best friend,” Mikey said. “Watch your tongue.”
Gabe grinned. “What, is he gonna cut if off or something?”
“Yes, totally. My older brother is going to sneak up across the bay and come pull off your tongue in the middle of the night,” Mikey said. Gabe glanced over at him, but he couldn’t see enough of Mikey’s face to know if the younger teen was joking or not. Gabe figured he was; Mikey didn’t think Gerard could do anything wrong, ever. Back before Gabe ever knew Mikey, he’d known about MikeyandGerard. They were a duo. There had once been rumours that the two brothers were actually dating each other. Gabe had ended that one when he started going around with Mikey everywhere. People still thought that Gerard was weird, and there was nothing Gabe could do about that.
“Who are we seeing again?” Gabe said. “All your band connections run together.”
“Pennywise,” Mikey said, blowing smoke out into the night air. Gabe had considered getting some air freshener for his car, since it always smelled like weed and cigarettes, but there was no point. Between him, Mikey, and the rest of his friends, there was no hope for Gabe’s car. He was fucked in that department.
“Isn’t that the clown guy?” Gabe said, making a face. “Are they any good?”
“It’s a Stephen King reference, of course they’re good,” Mikey said. That was another thing about MikeyandGerard. When they weren’t too busy praising each other, they were praising every classic horror film known to man. “I just hope no one from school is there. I’m tired of those assholes already and we’ve only been back for two weeks.”
“At least you’ve only got two years left,” Gabe said. Mikey was a junior, and he was a senior, and neither of them knew what they’d be doing once they graduated. Gabe was going to college, most likely, because he was smart and a minority, and there were already schools throwing scholarships at him because they knew he’d look good for their diversity stats. It was one of the only benefits of being both Jewish and Latino. He wondered if colleges would be treating him the same way if they knew he was gay, too.
“Easy for you to say,” Mikey said. “You’re a senior. You’re pretty much done with everything. I still have to figure out if college is right for me, and then convince my mom and dad that I’ll be fine working at a record store or promoting bands in the city, and that I don’t want to get a desk job, ever, because corporate sucks ass.”
“You could go to art school like Gerard. Then you’d still be making everyone happy by being in college but it wouldn’t be like an actual college,” Gabe suggested. He couldn’t see Mikey in an art school. Mikey didn’t look like it, but he was quite the party animal, and art school kids weren’t known for partying. They were more known for smoking, being sad, and complaining about how much life sucked.
Life did suck, but that didn’t mean Mikey or Gabe or anyone else wanted to sit around and talk about it for hours.
Gabe parked pretty far away from the venue, because he’d been going to enough shows to know better. Shows like this tended to get rowdy, and Gabe had just spent the last of his after school savings on getting his younger brother a bike for Christmas. Gabe couldn’t afford to get his car messed up, not until after his own birthday. Hopefully one of his relatives would be nice and give him money instead of clothes.
There was about an hour before the show started, so Mikey and Gabe headed to the bathroom to scrub the X’s off of their hands. Gabe wouldn’t be drinking, because he had to drive Mikey back home tonight, and Mikey probably wouldn’t drink either, since his parents and brother were acting all over protective now that he was a guy, but it was part of the ritual. They were teenagers at a punk show. Of course they were going to get the X’s off.
Mikey didn’t take his hat off, even when they were inside. Gabe wiped his hands off on his jeans and then took the hat for himself, turning it upside down under the fluorescent bathroom lights. “Are you sure this thing is still sanitary? I swear you’re always wearing it.”
“I wash it, fuck you,” Mikey said. He was growling out his words, talking slower and angrier, the way he used to when Gabe first met him. It was a thing he did to look more like a guy. Gabe leaned down and kissed Mikey, quickly, so that anyone passing behind them wouldn’t see. They were two guys in the bathroom of a no-name venue in New York. Kissing was a no-no, and Gabe didn't want to see himself or Mikey getting hurt.
Gabe gave Mikey his hat back, and the two of them returned to the gathering crowd. Mikey was strangely good at mingling, and it always seemed like he knew everyone. Tonight was no exception, as Mikey lead Gabe through the crowd, talking to everyone they passed as though they were all longtime friends and this was a high school reunion. Gabe was impressed. He was an extrovert for the most part, but he didn't mingle like this. He had his friends, and he knew how to get along with people to have a good time, but he wouldn’t consider random strangers his friends.
“Way? What’re you doing up here?” a voice said. Mikey turned around, and Gabe turned with him. A short teen with badly bleached hair was looking up at the pair of them. He looked like a douchebag, if Gabe was going to go off of looks alone. The kid looked Gabe up and down. “Who’s your friend?”
“Gabe, this is Frank. Frank, this is Gabe,” Mikey said. He took a noticeable step away from Gabe as he spoke, and Gabe ignored the sharp pain in his chest. It was whatever. If Mikey didn’t want people thinking he was a fag, then Gabe wouldn’t either. And it wasn’t as though Gabe needed to add any more fuel to his own personal fire. He didn’t need to learn every gay slur in the book. Mikey crossed his arms over his chest, settling them away from where his boobs once were. “I’m surprised you guys never met before.”
Frank narrowed his eyes. “Are you actually from Jersey, or did Mikey meet you over here?”
“I live in Queens, actually,” Gabe said. He looked over at Mikey. What was it with Mikey and his ragtag Jersey crew and their love for their home state? New Jersey sucked. It was the dirtier, trashier version of New York, and everyone there chain smoked or tanned themselves into a walking leather jacket. “But I know good music when I see it.”
“Clearly,” Frank said. Gabe had a horrible feeling that he was at the wrong end of a joke. Frank stared him down for another moment before breaking into a grin and launching himself at Gabe. Gabe squawked and managed to catch Frank. Frank jumped out of Gabe’s arms and stole Mikey’s hat, smashing it down over his fauxhawk. “Yeah, you’re cool. For a New Yorker.”
“At least our air pollution is from cars and not cigarettes,” Gabe said, and Mikey giggled behind his hand. Frank shrugged, knowing he couldn’t argue that.
The three boys found their way to the front of the crowd as the show started. Gabe reached for Mikey’s hand without thinking about it, and Mikey let him hold on. Mikey squeezed his hand against Gabe’s before letting go and getting into the music, and then pulling Frank back from the moshpit that was starting to form.
Gabe and Frank ended up in the pit anyway, with Mikey hovering around the edge and looking like a worried dad. Gabe took a few solid hits, but he was as tall or taller than most of the other guys there, so he didn’t get smothered. He had to pick Frank up off the floor once or twice, though, because Frank did not act like he was five foot two. Gabe could understand why Mikey was stressed on the sidelines. As the pit slowly faded out, Gabe wrapped his arms around Frank’s torso and brought him back to where Mikey was still bobbing his head to the music.
Mikey looked good, out like this. Gabe could only imagine what he’d look like once puberty was done hitting him in the face. Mikey grinned up at Gabe and pushed his bangs out of his eyes before turning towards the stage and dropping into an epic headbang as the next song started. They didn’t need to throw their relationship out in public. Gabe knew that. He and Mikey were a duo, and they were going to be fine.
September 25, 1997; Queens, New York.
Gabe didn’t get paid enough for this shit. He hated retail, and he hated everyone who came into the store looking for a specific item that was probably not real. He hated that people came in minutes before closing with a shopping cart and an agenda.
He hated a lot of things, but most of all, he hated that he didn’t get paid enough to not hate everything else. If he was paid like a human being and not a servant, then there wouldn’t be any problems. But there was a reason Gabe didn’t feel bad about taking unwarranted smoke breaks. He’d earned them, having to deal with dumb fucking customers all day. He was only paid five dollars an hour, too. It was bullshit. Capitalism was all bullshit, and Gabe just wanted to be in a band.
“Saporta, stop hiding in the stockroom,” one of his coworkers, a chunky dude from New Jersey, said. He had no reason to hide, considering his shift ended an hour after Gabe’s started. “There’s some kid with a bad haircut looking for you out there. Go talk to him.”
“Alright,” Gabe said, and dropped his cigarette down, stubbing it out with his heel. He strode to the front of the store, avoiding eye contact with all of the customers he passed. There were too many people in here for a Thursday afternoon. Gabe didn’t trust the universe.
When he got to the front registers, he was greeted by none other than Mikey Way himself. Mikey wasn’t wearing his hat, and Gabe wondered if his friend still had it after the Pennywise concert. Gabe leaned against the counter and batted his eyelashes at Mikey. “What can I get for you today, sir?”
“Don’t do that,” Mikey rolled his eyes. “And when do you go on break? I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“In about an hour,” Gabe said. “Wanna buy me a coffee and we can talk over that, like real adults?”
Mikey sighed. “It’s not a coffee discussion.”
“Right. Uh, well, I guess you’ll have to figure out a way to entertain yourself for an hour, then, because I can’t sneak off-site for too long, or someone will notice and snitch on me,” Gabe said. Mikey knew how much Gabe needed the extra money. Gabe wasn’t poor, but both of his parents were immigrants with shaky English, and it wasn’t easy for any of the Saportas. Gabe swallowed. “But if you wanna meet me at my car… that could work?”
Mikey nodded. “I’ll see you there.”
“Yep. Don’t be late,” Gabe said, and gave Mikey a mock salute. He really hoped that Mikey just wanted to make out with him, and that it wasn’t anything bad. He watched Mikey walk out of the store, head down, shirt collar popped up, and wondered yet again how the guy was so popular with the punk crowd. Maybe it was because he was just as weird as anyone else.
Gabe went back to work, smiling through all of the annoyed old people trying to buy their bread and whatnot. Gabe really didn’t pay attention to the things people bought. He just scanned them through, and whenever there wasn’t a line, slipped back to the stock room to organise it and pull stuff out. Convenience stores were boring.
Mikey was sitting on the back of Gabe’s car when he came out for his break, smoking a cigarette. He put it out when he noticed Gabe crossing the street, and moved around to the back seat door. Gabe leaned around Mikey, unlocking the door and climbing in. Gabe’s car was pretty average, aside from the darkened back windows. It was great for making out with someone in public, and even better now that Mikey was a guy and people would judge them for it.
Gabe was parked on a side street, and his car was in the shadows of the late afternoon sun. No one was going to notice them, if making out was Mikey’s plan.
Mikey closed the door behind himself and crawled up beside Gabe. His eyes were a bright, mossy green behind his glasses. Gabe had always liked Mikey’s eyes. They were sharp, like a cat, and wary, and they gave away everything about him. Mikey seemed closed off only to the people who didn’t know to look him in the eye. Without thinking about it, Gabe closed the distance between the two of them and kissed Mikey. Mikey kissed back, deepening the kiss as he pushed Gabe back against the car door. It was a good thing Gabe remembered to lock the car once he and Mikey had gotten inside, then. Gabe dropped the car keys to the floor and placed his hands on Mikey’s waist, pulling their bodies flush against each other. Mikey was warm, his skin shuddering as Gabe touched him.
Mikey bit at Gabe’s lip, and Gabe ground his hips up against Mikey. Mikey moaned and tilted his head, kissing down Gabe’s neck as Gabe pulled Mikey’s shirt up under his armpits. Mikey was wearing bandages again, which worried Gabe. He knew Mikey had to, to get rid of the dysmorphia or whatever it was, but he knew what ace bandages could do, and he didn’t want Mikey to end up with bruised ribs. Mikey spread Gabe’s legs apart under him, grinding down against the older boy. Gabe whined against Mikey’s mouth, and pushed him up for a moment. Gabe looked into Mikey’s eyes, noting how wide his pupils were. “It’s only a thirty minute break, dude. I know you think I’m fast, but I’m not that fast, and I don’t want to have to wipe cum off my pants.”
“Shit, sorry,” Mikey said, and slowly pulled back from Gabe so that he was in a sitting position. He bit on his lower lip, which did not help Gabe’s boner at all, thank you, and said, “I really did have something to talk to you about, though.”
“Go for it,” Gabe said. Maybe if Mikey had a serious enough question, Gabe would stop feeling like he was about to cum in his jeans. That would be nice.
“Do you think I made the right choice? Coming out, being a guy all the time… do you think it was a good idea, or should I have waited until I was out of high school?” Mikey said.
Gabe sighed, breathing out through his nose. He wanted to have an easy answer for Mikey, but there was none. Gabe wasn’t transgender, nor did he go to a public high school in a Catholic neighbourhood. Gabe knew that Mikey’s family was completely supportive of him being a guy, but family wasn’t everything, and high schoolers were shitty. Gabe sat up, slowly. “I don’t know, man. In all honesty. I think… I think if it makes you feel better about who you are, then what other people say doesn’t matter, but that doesn’t mean anything when people are being shitheads.”
Gabe frowned. “No one’s… hurting you, right?”
“God, Gabe, no,” Mikey said, rolling his eyes. “Remember how Gee got held at gunpoint a few years ago and it wasn’t even that big of a deal afterwards? I’m fine. I can take care of myself.”
“I know, but you shouldn’t have to,” Gabe said. “If people are being dicks, you could always change schools, or be homeschooled, or something.”
“Or dropout,” Mikey said. He rolled his eyes again. “It’s not like I’m going to college anyway. Might as well make that perfectly clear. People can’t write shit on my locker if I don’t have a locker to write shit on.”
“Don’t drop out, Mikes, come on. Education is important, even if we’re both gonna go into music,” Gabe said. His parents had made sure to instill that into him and his brother at a very young age. No matter what life threw at you, knowledge would always be there. Gabe tried to live by that, even though it was hard sometimes when he didn’t want to wake up at five in the morning to go to school after he’d been up until two working on homework the night before.
Mikey crossed his arms and clenched his jaw. There it was: anger. “It’s fucking stupid. I haven’t changed as a person or anything, I’m just being me now, instead of whatever fucking image people had of me before. I fucking hate everything.”
“I agree,” Gabe said. “I wish we could jump forward and just be happy already. Why do we have to deal with all of this bullshit?”
“Because God hates us, specifically,” Mikey said.
“God hates me because I’m a gay Jew,” Gabe said. He laughed at himself. “I’ve heard that one before, really. People are dicks.”
“People need to take a collective dick up the ass and get over themselves,” Mikey said. “Not everyone is gonna be a cookie cutter person, and there’s nothing fucking wrong with that. Fuck people.”
“Delicious,” Gabe said, because he couldn’t think of anything else to add to Mikey’s argument. Mikey smiled, just a little upward quirk of his lips, and leaned in to kiss Gabe again. So much for not being horny at work, then. Not that Gabe was going to try and stop Mikey, since Mikey was fucking awesome and Gabe was always down for making out with him in the backseat of a car.
October 13, 1997; Newark, New Jersey.
The Way’s house was weird. It looked like someone had tried to recreate the Addams family’s house in the suburbs of New Jersey, but had forgotten to bring a copy of the movie with them for reference. Gabe loved it, except for Gerard’s basement room, because Gerard’s basement room always smelled like stale coffee, cigarettes, and paint, and Gabe just didn’t see how someone could live down there like that.
“You’re here early,” Ms. Way said as she served Gabe coffee. It was the only snack food she could make herself, and she wasn’t the type of mom who wanted to serve her kid’s friends something out of a box. It was three in the afternoon, and it wasn’t a good time for pasta. Gabe did that on purpose. He liked Ms. Way’s cooking, but he liked his own mom’s better, and besides, his mom knew how to use spices that weren’t green.
“Yeah, I didn’t have work today, so I thought I’d come hang out,” Gabe said. He sniffed the coffee. It smelled good. His parents drank black coffee, which Gabe couldn’t stand, so he didn’t have a lot of coffee at home. “I should have called first, though, to make sure Mikey was actually home. Sorry about that.”
“It’s not your fault,” Ms. Way said, waving Gabe off before lighting a cigarette of her own. “Mikey said he’d be home after school, but lately I’ve been taking everything he said with a grain of salt.”
Gabe frowned. Mikey had a good relationship with his mom, unlike most teenagers. “Why’s that?”
Ms. Way sighed. “He’s been hanging out with this girl lately, Alice something. I’m worried she’s turning him into more of a deviant than he already is. You know I have no problem with my kids trying new things out, so long as they’re safe about it, but something about Alice seems off. I can’t put my finger on it, though. So I’m glad you’re here, because at least Mikey won’t be alone with that girl.”
“You think they’re fu---” Gabe cut himself off before he suggested that Ms. Way’s younger son was fucking some random girl. Gabe wasn’t jealous; he and Mikey had never been exclusive, and they’d never made plans to change that. They weren’t in love with each other, or promised to each other, or any of that other bullshit people did when they were sixteen and thought they had their life figured out. No, Gabe and Mikey were just Gabe and Mikey, and whatever came with that label came with that label.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they were,” Ms. Way said. She leaned over and reached into her purse. “Speaking of which, Mikey mentioned that the two of you might be going to see Rocky Horror at the end of the month. Make sure you take these.”
She handed him condoms, which was not the weirdest gift Gabe had gotten from the Way family, but it was probably the most awkward. Gabe sputtered out a thanks, and shoved the condoms down into the depths of his backpack. He didn’t want his mom to see those. Unlike Mikey’s mom, she would not be so cool with her son having sex before marriage, or a stable relationship.
“Mom, I’m home!” Mikey called out from the front of the house. Gabe heard the sound of a door closing behind him, and then inaudible chatter between Mikey and someone else. Gabe guessed it was Alice. It was pretty ballsy of Mikey to bring someone home when his mom was there. Then again, Gabe didn’t think Ms. Way would care too much, since she’d just given Gabe condoms.
“Gabe’s here!” Ms. Way yelled back from the kitchen.
Gabe turned around in his chair so that he could see Mikey when he and his mystery guest came through the door. Sure enough, he was with a teenage girl, and she looked like every other punk groupie Gabe had met. Hell, Gabe may have even kissed her before, if she was the type of groupie who made out with anyone who looked like they knew someone. Gabe waved, because he tried to be friendly. “Hi. I’m Gabe.”
“I’m Alicia,” she said. So, not Alice, then. Ms. Way had gotten her name wrong. She stuck out her hand, and Gabe shook it. “Mikey’s told me all about you, by the way.”
“All about me?” Gabe asked, looking past Alicia to Mikey. Mikey shrugged. He had a new hat, and it was pulled down so that his hair was over his eyes, and Gabe couldn’t see his expression. Of course. Smart son of a bitch. Gabe looked back to Alicia. “He’s told me nothing about you, by the way. But nice to meet you, regardless.”
“I’ll leave you three to get to know each other,” Ms. Way said, standing up. She looked over at Mikey, staring him down. “I’m going downstairs to check on Gee. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t approve of.”
“Yes, ma,” Mikey said, nodding. He waited until his mom was down in the basement before he pulled Alicia and Pete down the hall to his bedroom. Mikey closed the door and locked it, because Mikey had done this before with Gabe, and probably with Alicia, and he knew what he was doing. He offered both of them cigarettes, which Gabe accepted without question. Mikey lit up his own and motioned at the bed pressed against the wall. “Sit down?”
“Yeah, sure,” Gabe said. He kicked his shoes off and jumped onto the bed, claiming the Spiderman pillow for his own. He pulled out his own lighter from his pocket and lit his and Alicia’s cigarettes.
Alicia blew smoke up into the room. “So, why’d you gather us here? And why does your mom hate me?”
“She hates you because she thinks you’re a slut,” Mikey said. Mikey had never had much tact. It had been fine when he’d been a girl, because a lot of guys liked girls who were badass, but it didn’t work as well now. Now, Mikey just seemed like an asshole. “And I brought you both here for a reason, obviously. Gabe, you and I have been a thing for a while, and I trust you with a lot of shit, so please don’t freak out. Alicia, you’re like, terrifyingly awesome and you don’t have any issue with me kissing guys, so don’t take this the wrong way.”
Gabe and Alicia looked at each other. Gabe wondered if Mikey was going to have them fight to the death to see who would get to date him. Gabe would let Alicia win, if that was the case. He was totally fine with being Mikey friend, and nothing else.
Mikey took a deep breath. “I like both of you. And I don’t want to have to choose, and I don’t think I should have to choose, so this is me asking if you guys wouldn’t mind hanging out with each other the way you do with me?”
Alicia arched an eyebrow. “Is this your way of asking for a threesome?”
Gabe snorted. He liked her already. “If it is, I’m totally cool with that.”
Mikey rolled his eyes. “Not a threesome, not yet. I meant… what we do with just the two of us, we all kind of do. Together. Like, going to shows and making out in the back of Gabe’s car.”
“I don’t think we can all fit in my car,” Gabe said. He shrugged. “But I’m still on board.”
Both boys looked over to Alicia, waiting for her response. Gabe didn’t know her yet, so he wouldn’t judge her for saying no, but he hoped she’d say yes. It’d be cool, to have a guy and a girl. Alicia took a long drag from her cigarette and put it out in the ashtray Mikey had on his windowsill. She nodded. “Yeah, I’m down. It’s not like I can stop people from saying I’m a slut anyway. Might as well enjoy the label.”