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New Jersey's Worst

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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.”

Chapter Text

June 2, 1998; Newark, New Jersey.


Alicia Simmons was Gabe’s favourite person. She was also his least favourite, because they might all die tonight. It was her idea to throw a house party at Mikey’s house, but no one told her about the vampire living in Mikey’s basement, and now Alicia was face to face with the cryptid known as Gerard Way, art student.


This would be the fourth time Gabe had ever seen Gerard, including that one time Gerard was creeping on Gabe and Mikey right after Mikey came out as a guy. He looked like a vampire, and like he hadn’t seen a shower since Gabe last saw him. Gabe had almost forgotten he was real, until suddenly he was in the same room with the guy again.


The rest of the people at the party were completely unphased, but then again, most of them probably wanted to get dicked down by a vampire. Most of them probably thought Gerard Way was hot, which was hilarious to Gabe, because clearly they all needed their vision checked. The younger Way brother was the hot one, by a long shot. Gerard wasn’t ugly, or anything, but Mikey was fucking gorgeous. Mikey was also nowhere to be found, and so Gabe couldn’t excuse himself to go talk to Mikey, because he didn’t know where Mikey was.


Hopefully, Mikey was still in the house. It was his choice to host, after all. It’d be really weird for him to just disappear in the middle of one of his own house parties.


“What are you guys doing?” Gerard asked. His hair was down past his chin, and covering most of his face. He also had a scarf on, even though it was seventy-something degrees outside.


“What does it look like?” Alicia said, handing Gerard a cup of her cocktail disaster like it was nothing. “We’re having a party. I got a band to play and everything. You’re totally allowed to stay up here, if you want to. Mikey said you’re cool.”


Mikey was a little biased on that point. Gabe refilled his own cup and took a drink from it before scanning the kitchen again. He could see into the living room from here, but he couldn’t see Mikey. He was probably out of Gabe’s view, mingling with his music people. Mikey knew everyone in Newark, it seemed like. Gabe often ended up feeling like a third wheel whenever he and Mikey went to basement shows in Jersey.


“I’m not interested,” Gerard said. He glared at the two of them, for a moment. Gabe wondered if he was the type of weird kid who’d skin squirrels for fun. “Don’t get too loud, okay? I’m not covering for any of you if the police show up.”


“Cool beans, my guy,” Gabe said, and saluted Gerard with his cup. Gerard stared at Gabe for a moment, silently, before turning back around and returning to his room in the basement. What a weirdo. Gabe wondered if he had any friends that hadn’t been introduced to him through his younger brother. Mikey was quiet, but popular, and he knew how to bring people together. He’d been the one to figure out his relationship with Gabe and Alicia, after all, and they were all enjoying themselves now.


“We should find Mikey,” Gabe commented, once Gerard was gone and a few people had come by to ask for more drinks. Most of the people here were in high school, or they’d recently graduated. The band was a bunch of dudes Gabe didn’t know, but apparently Mikey knew them, and had slept with one of the guitarists a few years ago. Alicia had had a thing with the bassist, but they’d never had sex. Blowjobs didn’t count as sex.


“Why? It’s his house; he knows where everything is,” Alicia said. “Besides, he’s not an idiot. He’s not going to do anything with anyone that he doesn’t want to.”


“I guess you’re right,” Gabe said. He offered Alicia what was left of his drink, and she downed it. He pulled her in for a kiss, chasing the cheap alcohol left on her tongue. Alicia felt amazing, too. She was soft and smooth, like freshly molded clay, whereas Mikey felt more like marble. He was colder, sharper, with less give and more resistance. Alicia, on the other hand, kept pulling Gabe in like he wasn’t doing enough, and she was getting impatient.


They ended up making out in the Way’s front closet for about thirty minutes, during which Gabe got Alicia off twice and she got him off once because his boner was getting way too obvious and she didn’t want to blow him in a closet. They’d been fooling around, with and without Mikey, for almost a year. They’d passed the desperate stage of going down on each other in closets.


Alicia wiped her hand off on the closest jacket and ran her fingers through her hair. “Do you think things are going to get weird once you go off to college?”


“No? I mean, why would they? I’m gonna be closer than I was in high school,” Gabe said. He hadn’t been a great student, mostly because he didn’t give a shit about school. He was a week away from graduating, and he’d end his high school career with an even 3.0. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, and his parents were a little disappointed in him. He was still going to college, though, at Rutgers, so they couldn’t be too pissed off.


Gabe had promised his parents that he’d do better in college than he had in high school. He didn’t know if he’d actually uphold that promise, but he was willing to try. He wanted to be able to actually live in New York, instead of just working there and driving back home to Newark every night. New Jersey sucked, no matter what Alicia and Mikey said about it. Gabe didn’t want to live in it longer than he had to.


Alicia rolled her eyes. “Yeah, no shit you’ll be closer, but Mikey and I are still in high school. You’re practically an adult now.”


“Ugh, don’t remind me,” Gabe said, shuddering at the thought. “I’m not looking forward to having to do my own taxes.”


“At least you’re good at math, unlike the rest of us,” Alicia said. She had a point. Even when Gabe didn’t put any effort in at all, his math scores always came out better than the rest of his classes. He couldn’t explain why, he was just naturally good at it. Hopefully, that would carry over into college level math, and he wouldn’t flip out and have a nervous breakdown because he suddenly couldn’t do calculus any more.


“And hopefully that doesn’t change over the summer,” Gabe said. Hopefully nothing would change over the summer, because he was looking forward to two and a half months of nothing but working part time and hanging out with his friends. Gabe kissed Alicia again, grinning when she bit at his lip, and opened the closet. They weren’t hiding from shit.



June 19, 1998; Queens, New York.


Gabe was laying on his back, looking up at the underside of the fire escape above him. His brother had some of his friends over, which meant Gabe couldn’t smoke up in his room, because then one of the kids would go snitch to Gabe’s mom, so he was outside. It was warm. Gabe’s sunglasses were digging into the side of his nose. He felt like he was wasting his weed, since there was no one around for him to smoke with.


Alicia was doing some summer camp thing because her parents were worried she was doing illegal things behind their backs, so they wanted to keep her occupied. Mikey was, as usual, holed up in his house and not going outside in the day time. Mikey’s neighbourhood was pretty shitty, and people would get shot up or held at gunpoint pretty regularly. Both Way brothers had grown up inside for the most part, and even though they’d both outgrown their childhood, Mikey still spent most of his time indoors.


Gabe considered, for a moment, taking the car and driving down to the place where Alicia had to volunteer. Then he remembered that one of his tires was flat, and he couldn’t fix it until he got paid next week. He was stuck here, and he didn’t feel like calling up someone who wouldn’t want to make out with him.


Gabe got weirdly tactile when he was stoned. Most people got hungry for food when they smoked, but not Gabe. He got hungry for pussy.


He started laughing at his own thought, because what the hell, hungry for pussy? Who thought like that? He turned over onto his stomach and looked down at the people passing below, wondering if any of them cared about sex and romance and dumb phrases like hungry for pussy the way Gabe did. Probably not, since most of the people down there were significantly older than Gabe and didn’t have any raging hormones left.


Behind him, the window slammed open, and Gabe startled, dropping the rest of his joint down between the holes of the fire escape. Whoops. That was someone else’s problem, now. Gabe sat up, trying to get his thoughts in order as fast as he could. “What?”


“Your girlfriend’s here,” Ricky, Gabe’s younger brother said. He was grinning his evil genius grin. Gabe hated that grin. “I’m gonna tell mom you’re dating a white girl.”


“Get fucked,” Gabe said, because he wasn’t dating Alicia, and he didn’t care about only dating Hispanic girls or Jewish girls. Alicia could totally pull off being Puerto Rican, if his mom got pissed off about it. He got up off of the floor and crawled in through the window, careful to shut it behind himself. His bed was under the window because he was the older brother, and so he didn’t feel bad about putting his shoes on the sheets. They were Gabe’s own shoes, and his own sheets. If he got them dirty, he’d just wash them himself.


Alicia was standing in the kitchen and looking at the pictures that Gabe’s mom had put up on the fridge. They were all pretty embarrassing, so Gabe crossed over to get her attention immediately. “Hey. What’re you doing here? And how did you find out where I live?”


“Mikey told me,” Alicia said. She glanced over at Ricky, who was still listening in from the hallway to the bedrooms. Gabe glared at him and flipped him off before telling him to shoo. He didn’t know where their mom was, but he was glad she was out now. Gabe didn’t want his mom to meet Alicia or Mikey, because he didn’t know if he could explain what Alicia or Mikey were in relation to him. Yes, they were friends, but they were also clearly something more than that, and Gabe didn’t need his mom asking him questions he hadn’t yet asked himself.


Alicia turned so that her back was to the apartment. “Gabe. Mikey got arrested.”


Gabe frowned, trying to hold back the initial panic. “For what?”


“I don’t know,” Alicia said. “But when I went to his house after the program ended, there were these giant FBI vans outside of it and their front door was open. And I know it wasn’t his brother because I saw Gerard in the basement window. We have to go help him.”


“I’m broke,” Gabe said, because he thought it was necessary to say. If Mikey had been arrested by the FBI, for whatever reason, then they’d be holding him somewhere. Gabe and Alicia were just two kids in the eyes of the government, and they’d have to come with a lot of money in their hands if they wanted to get Mikey back. Gabe turned and glanced past Alicia, to make sure that his brother wasn’t still listening in. “And on top of that, we don’t even know what he did. Can we at least go talk to his mom before we try and break Mikey out of a federal prison.”


Alicia rolled her eyes. “Come on, how stupid do you think I am? Of course we’re going to Ms. Way’s house first. I just wanted to get you so that you weren’t left out. This could be interesting.”


“No shit,” Gabe said.


He followed Alicia down and out of his apartment building, and then the two of them took the subway and trains as far as they could. Luckily, there was also a bus route that lead to Mikey’s house, so Alicia and Gabe didn’t have to walk the whole distance. By the time they arrived, the vans Alicia had mentioned were gone, but the door to the Way’s house was still open. Gabe ran up the stairs ahead of Alicia, and knocked on the door before letting himself in.


“Ms. Way?” Gabe called out into the house. He wasn’t used to being inside Mikey’s house when Mikey wasn’t there. “It’s Gabe? And Alicia?”


“We’re in the kitchen,” Ms. Way called back, and she didn’t sound too happy about it.


Gabe looked over his shoulder at Alicia, and she shrugged. He turned back around and walked into the house, only to find Mikey, his mom, his grandma, his brother, and two middle aged guys in suits sitting around at the kitchen table. Everyone except Mikey and the suits had a cigarette in their hand, and the room was tinged yellow from the smoke.


Gabe swallowed. “Um.”


“Is Mikey in trouble?” Alicia asked, because she hadn’t ever been living in this country illegally and so she didn’t have a fear of government officials.


“Not as much as you two probably think,” one of the men in suits said. He looked Gabe and Alicia over, and Gabe tried to look as white as he could. The man didn’t seem to pay much attention to him. “Neither of you two were involved with the bootlegging, were you?”


“No,” Mikey said. He was slouched down in his seat, glowering at the men in the suits. He sat up slightly, squaring his jaw the way he always did when someone questioned his masculinity. “It was just me, okay? And I’ll pay the fine, or whatever. But leave my friends out of it. They didn’t even know I was doing it.”


The two men in suits looked at each other, and eventually came to the silent conclusion that they didn’t need to question Gabe or Alicia. Gabe and Alicia were told to go wait in the living room, and about twenty minutes later, they were joined by a very disgruntled Mikey and his mom. Mikey dropped down on the seat between Gabe and Alicia, and his mom stayed standing up, looking over her shoulder as Mikey’s grandma acted like a sweet old lady and let the two FBI men out of the house.


Ms. Way stubbed her cigarette out into the ashtray on the coffee table and then started ranting at Mikey. Some of it was in the Way family’s butchered Italian, some of it was in English. Gabe was able to follow it for the most part, because Italian was close enough to Spanish that he could get the gist of it all.


“Mom, I didn’t think it was--”


“You just didn’t think, is what happened!” Ms. Way said. Gabe wondered if his and Alicia’s presence were making it easier for Mikey, or if his mom would dig into him just as hard if he was alone. “You can’t just sell illegal movies and expect for it to be okay! I’m glad it wasn’t drugs, don’t get me wrong, but piracy? I don’t care how much money you were making off of that, if you wanted your own income to spend on concerts you should have gotten a damn job!”


“Who the hell would hire me, mom?!” Mikey yelled back. Seeing them angry reminded Gabe that Mikey’s family was very, very Italian. “Look at me, seriously! Who the hell would want a freak like me in their store? And I’m in high school, and I can’t sleep like a normal person, and I can’t deal with people like a normal person! What else did you expect me to do, mom?!”


“At least try!” she said. Gabe glanced over at Alicia, who looked just as uncomfortable as he felt. They shouldn’t have come over this early. They should have waited a few hours, or at least called the Ways first to make sure nothing else was going on. They hadn’t, though, and now Gabe and Alicia were stuck between Mikey and his mom yelling at each other.


Mikey stood up. He looked angry, and also like he was about to start crying. Gabe didn’t know what Mikey’s parent situation was, but he’d never met the guy’s dad in all the years they’d known each other. Maybe they were divorced. Mikey took a few deep, angry breaths before drooping back down to his usual posture. He swallowed, and crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m sorry, ma. I don’t… I just got tired of being a burden.”


“You have never been a burden on me, or anyone else in this family,” Ms. Way said, and like that, the argument was over. She reached out and pulled her son into a hug, and Mikey didn’t resist it at all, melting against his mother. Gabe and Alicia looked at each other again, still not sure what to do or if there was anything for them to do at all. Finally, though, Ms. Way pulled back and held Mikey by his shoulders. “Don’t ever do anything like that again, though. You scared the shit out of me.”


“Yeah, okay,” Mikey said, but he sounded genuinely sorry about scaring his mom. Gabe just wanted to know what the hell was going on. Mikey glanced over his shoulder at his friends. “Can I… can we hang out now?”


“Yes, but I want you guys out here where I can see you,” Ms. Way said. “Just for now. I’m going to need a bit to get back to feeling normal, after all that.”


Mikey nodded. He stayed standing until his mom had left the room, and then he dropped down between the two of them. He drooped against Alicia, half hiding his face in her shoulder and hair. Alicia reached around him with her free arm and dragged Gabe down on top of Mikey, so that the two of them made a Mikey sandwich. Mikey grabbed Gabe’s hand and held onto it, and Gabe quickly pressed a kiss to the side of Mikey’s neck so that his mom wouldn’t see.


Gabe didn’t know what Mikey’s mom thought her younger son’s sexuality was, or if she cared. He knew Mikey didn’t want to be seen as gay, and he wasn’t too keen on getting labelled as a fag himself. Gabe turned his head towards Mikey and Alicia. “You wanna tell us what that was?”


“Remember how I used to sell people VHS tapes of shows we went to?” Mikey said. “And how that was kind of illegal because we were never associated with the bands playing?”


“Yeah?” Gabe said. That had been years ago. Gabe hadn’t been able to drive then.


“That’s not the only illegal VHS thing I did. I, uh, I made some bootlegs of Disney movies, the kind that are banned here, and I sold some. A lot, actually, but my mom and those guys only know about a few of them,” Mikey said. He looked tired. He also looked scared, and maybe like he was about to cry. Gabe couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen Mikey cry. “So, yeah. Almost got arrested for piracy, managed to get out of it, kinda don’t want to deal with that shit ever again.”


“That’s bullshit,” Alicia said quietly. “It’s a movie, who cares who gets to see it?”


“The FBI,” Mikey said.


“Jesus Christ,” Gabe muttered. He sat up, so that Mikey could see him clearly. “Listen, Mikes, if you do anything dumb like that again, and get caught… call one of us, okay? We’ll hide you in our house, or run away to Canada or whatever. Just don’t think you have to do stupid shit on your own.”



June 30, 1998; Newark, New Jersey.


Gabe pressed his lips to Alicia, dragging his hand down her torso to between her legs. The three of them were naked and in her room, because her parents had gone out on a date and she’d promised them that she wouldn’t do anything bad.


This was definitely something bad, even if Gabe was enjoying the hell out of it. There was something out there, in any given religious text, that said fucking two people at once was a sin. Gabe kind of didn’t give a shit, because if he was going to go to hell, he’d at least get to go down on two very attractive people first.


Alicia gasped as Gabe rubbed his thumb over her clit, and Mikey turned his face towards her to kiss her. Alicia grabbed Mikey and pulled him in so that his hip slammed against Gabe’s. Gabe made a noise at that, and Mikey turned to kiss him instead, dragging his teeth against Gabe’s lower lip. Mikey was fucking wild, sometimes. He reached between Gabe and Alicia and grabbed Gabe’s dick, stroking Gabe gently.


Gabe moaned, turning so that he could kiss Mikey. If his hands weren’t busy with keeping himself up and fingering Alicia, he’d be all over Mikey. As it was, Gabe only had his mouth and tongue to work with on the guy. Mikey didn’t seem to mind. Mikey tilted his head back and Gabe kissed down his neck, keeping his eyes closed. Mikey was weird about people seeing him naked now. Gabe didn’t see the big deal, because bodies were bodies, but he closed his eyes for Mikey anyway.


“Get the lights,” Alicia muttered. Her hand was on Gabe’s thigh, holding him down on the bend.


“Can’t,” Gabe said. He knew she was talking to him. “Your hand’s on my leg.”


“Well, move it,” Mikey said, and pushed Gabe away so that he was on top Alicia. Gabe rolled his eyes and adjusted his dick so it wasn’t swinging everywhere, and then walked over to the lightswitch. There was enough light coming in from the streetlight for Gabe to make his way back over, but Mikey and Alicia were silhouettes now. Gabe stumbled back onto the bed and kicked his pants the rest of the way off. Mikey pulled his own pants off and then pulled Gabe down into a kiss. “Thanks. Now let’s fuck.”


“Hell yeah,” Alicia said, and twisted around to grab a condom out of the secret bottom in her bedside table. She looked up at her boys with the corner of the condom wrapper between her teeth, and grinned. Mikey grinned back, his teeth sharp in the filtered light. Gabe looked at them both for a moment, feeling a rush of euphoria through his veins. Tonight was going to be a good night.

Chapter Text

December 10, 1998; Newark, New Jersey.


Gabe kind of wanted to die. Not in a suicidal way, but more because he had finals in a week and he hadn’t left the library in about twelve hours. He was also on his fourth coffee and he was supposed to be playing a show with his new band tonight.


So Gabe didn’t want to die. He just hated himself a little for being a Goddamn overachiever all of the sudden. He hadn’t been like this in high school. He’s just skated by on whatever grades he ended up with, but now, apparently, his desire to succeed had kicked in at full throttle and he was actually going to die of a caffeine overdose.


His new band, called Midtown, was pretty fucking awesome, though. They had a few songs, not enough for a full set, but they also had a few covers, and hopefully no one would care too much that their set was only about thirty minutes. They were an opening band, and Gabe was pretty sure the only people coming to see Midtown were Alicia and Mikey.


Gabe hadn’t been able to hang out with either of them for the last two months. College was hard, and when he wasn’t in class he was either at work or practicing with Midtown, and Alicia and Mikey both had their own part-time jobs as well. None of them had free time anymore, which meant that Gabe was hogging the phone all the time and jacking off a lot more than he was used to.


He’d made out with a few different girls, but college girls had standards and apparently Gabe didn’t meet them. He was hoping that being in a band would help him out on that platform, because his right arm was getting way more work than his left and he didn’t need anyone else to realise that.


He gave up on his studying and packed his shit up. His body was vibrating from the coffee, and Gabe hoped that the energy wouldn’t wear off while he was playing tonight. He didn’t want to fuck up their first real performance. Midtown had played a few shows before, but they were little basement shows with about five people in the audience each. This was their first time at a bar, and it was listed as an 18+ show. This was real, and it counted towards Gabe’s music resume. He wanted things to be perfect.


His roommate was out when he got back to his dorm, and so he pulled out his bass and ran through a couple of the songs on their setlist. It wasn’t a long set, maybe thirty minutes if the crowd liked them, but Gabe wanted to make it count. He didn’t know when they’d get another chance, because there were a lot of little bands around Jersey and NYC and right now, Midtown was just one of many. They didn’t stand out yet. Gabe had to change that.


Gabe got to the bar first, and made himself at home while the bartenders worked around him. None of them were willing to give him alcohol, so he just lounged across a couple of bar stools while angrily sipping a soda.


It was a good soda, but Gabe was at a bar. He wanted to look like he belonged there.


Gabe felt back to normal by the time Midtown took the stage. There were about twenty people there, which was an improvement but it still sucked. Gabe thought that there would be more people who knew about them by now. The band was trying to release an EP, just so that people could hear them outside of shitty basement shows, but it was harder than expected.


They had five songs. Gabe spotted Mikey Way coming in through the door during the third, and it lifted his mood. He’d missed the guy. He wished Alicia was there, too, so it could be the three of them together again, but he was fine with just Mikey. He knew that Mikey wouldn’t be up for any PDA, but Gabe didn’t care. He had a dorm room and he wasn’t afraid of telling his roommate to get the fuck out for the night. He’d done it before, and his roommate had kicked him out for sex reasons as well.


Gabe didn’t think about how this would be the first time he took a guy back to his dorm. He hoped his roommate wouldn’t be a dick about it, but if he was, Gabe could always switch to a different room for the next semester. He had a week and a half left before break. He’d be fine.


By the fifth song, Mikey was talking to a girl Gabe had seen around campus a few times before. She was pale, with puffy cheeks and long, straight black hair that went down to her ass. She was dressed like one of those Goth Lolita girls who usually ended up doing weird porn after college, and she was kind of shoving her tits in Mikey’s face. Gabe laughed, and it got caught on the microphone, and he covered it by saying something about needing a bit of stress relief.


He didn’t know if Mikey knew he’d seen him. He figured Mikey didn’t know when he started making out with the Goth girl, and Gabe would have been pissed if it hadn’t been really fucking hot. Alicia and Mikey were hotter together, but that was because Gabe knew what they looked like when they were enjoying shit. This Goth girl was just a random chick who’d caught Mikey’s attention. She couldn’t replace Gabe or Alicia. She didn’t know shit.


People actually yelled along to the last song. Gabe grabbed his microphone and turned it to the crowd, because he’d never had that happen before and he knew that that was what real musicians did when the crowd started to sing. The guy in front of Gabe took control of the microphone, and turned it into his own show a little, and Gabe let it happen because the guy was pretty hot and he had a good voice.


The show ended, and Gabe felt good. Really good. Mikey and his Goth girl had disappeared, but Gabe wasn’t worried. He knew Mikey. They were probably fucking in the bathroom, because Mikey had no class when it came to hookups.


Gabe went after the guy from the last song instead. He’d moved over to the bar and was trying to sweet talk the bartender into giving him a drink. Gabe laughed to himself and jumped into the seat next to the guy. “Dude, you might as well give up. I tried for, like, two hours earlier today and I got nothing. I don’t even look under twenty-one.”


“Yes you do,” the bartender said.


“Shh,” Gabe said, putting his finger up to his mouth and winking at her. “I’m trying to be a friend.”


“You both know I can hear you, right?” the guy said. His voice was nice even when he wasn’t scream singing into a microphone. He turned to Gabe. “Your band’s pretty good, man. Definitely worth a four hour drive.”


“You drove four hours to see us?” Gabe sputtered out, because there was no fucking way anyone outside of a fifty mile radius knew who they were yet. “Seriously?”


“Well, not you guys, but I have a lot of friends in the city and they convinced me to come down for a bunch of shows this weekend instead of studying for my finals,” the guy said. He stuck out his hand as the bartender came back with two more sodas for them. “I’m Travis, by the way. A different friend and I are in a band called Gym Class Heroes.”


“I haven’t heard of you guys yet,” Gabe said. “But I’ll definitely look you guys up later. And I’m Gabe. Gabe Saporta.”


“Sweet,” Travis said. “Are you staying for the whole set or are you gonna duck out early?”


“I’ll stick around,” Gabe said. He didn’t mention that it was more to try and find Mikey again than to listen to the music. Travis had driven four hours, and Gabe didn’t want to seem like he was wasting it. Besides, the guy seemed cool. He wouldn’t be the worst person to spend the next few hours with.



December 20, 1998; Queens, New York.


Gabe never found Mikey, but he and Travis did trade numbers and Travis promised to call him whenever GCH released anything. Gabe made Travis the same promise, because he knew Midtown was pretty much ready to make their EP a reality. They just had to wait until winter break was over because the band lived in different parts of New England. Gabe was the only one still within an hour of campus, and he didn’t want to do all the recording himself.


“Gabriel, get out of bed,” his mom said. She was standing in the doorway with her hair up, and Gabe could hear Spanish music playing from the kitchen.


“It’s Sunday, mom,” Gabe said. He knew that if he got up, he’d have to clean the house all day, because his mom was in a cleaning mood and he hadn’t seen Ricky all morning. Which meant Ricky had already been captured and was being held captive with a broom outside.


“Yes, and your grandparents are coming over tonight, and they’re not going to come over to a messy house,” she said. She flipped on the lights and pulled the blinds up off of Gabe’s window. “Now get up and get dressed. There’s a lot that we need to get done with, and it’ll be done faster if you help out.”


Gabe waited until she’d turned her back to roll his eyes, but he got out of bed and took a quick shower before joining his mother and Ricky in the kitchen to start cleaning. His mom was right, and there was a lot she wanted to get done, even though Gabe thought the apartment looked fine. It wasn’t messy, and there weren’t any obvious dust bunnies hanging about. Gabe was pretty sure his mom could see atomic dust, though, because she kept telling him and Ricky that they’d missed a spot somewhere, and Gabe had no idea what she was talking about.


Finally, though, the house was clean. There was still an hour before Gabe’s grandparents came over, so there wasn’t enough time for Gabe to go hang out with any of his old high school friends or Mikey and Alicia. He knew they were still in town because Alicia’s family lived out in Missouri for the most part, and Mikey lived with his grandma. Alicia’s family was leaving in two days for Christmas, but she had promised to meet up with him and Mikey beforehand. Hopefully it would be at a show Gabe had heard about in Brooklyn, because that would be fucking fun.


Gabe liked his grandparents about as much as a nineteen year old gay dude could. They’d never said anything outright homophobic, but Gabe got weird vibes from them. He didn’t see himself coming out to his family any time soon. He wanted to be financially on his own before he risked something like that. He also didn’t think they’d be okay with him dating two people at once.


Of course, because of all this, Gabe’s grandma opened with, “so have you gotten yourself a girlfriend yet?” when she and his grandpa came into the apartment. Instead of answering her, Gabe pulled her in for a hug and made a face over her shoulder so that no one could see. He let go and smiled at her. “Nice to see you too, Grandma. And no, not yet. I’ve been too busy with school and a new music project.”


“Oh, your father mentioned something about that when he visited us a few weeks ago,” she said. Gabe’s grandpa was interrogating Ricky and Gabe’s parents were trying to convince everyone to move into the kitchen so that they could get dinner started. Gabe’s grandma was not going to move on any time soon; Gabe could tell. “How’s that coming along? Should I be listening for you on the radio yet?”


“Not yet,” Gabe said, and laughed nervously. He hoped that his grandma wasn’t listening to the kind of radio stations that would play Midtown songs. They weren’t that inappropriate, but Gabe didn’t want his grandma listening to his music and enjoying it. He liked his grandma, but she was an old lady. Gabe didn’t write old lady music.


He led his grandma towards the kitchen. “We’ve got a few songs together, but we have to do some fine tuning before we can release an album or anything. So maybe in a month or so, but not yet.”


“Well, make sure you call us when you have something to show for all your hard work,” she said, and patted Gabe on the arm. “Your grandpa and I are very proud of you two, you know. You’re both very talented young men.”


Gabe didn’t comment that Ricky was sixteen and barely qualified as a man, because he didn’t want to start up the same argument between him and his brother. Ricky was so sure that he was mature and basically an adult, and Gabe didn’t believe him. Adulthood sucked ass, first of all, and Ricky wasn’t stressing about anything. Gabe had a job, and a band, and he was in school. He was also dating, which Ricky wasn’t doing much of because he was a complete nerd, so he also had that on his younger brother.


Dinner was boring. His grandparents didn’t do much, but they liked to tell the same damn stories about their lives every time the family got together. Gabe was pretty sure they were losing their collective memories, and he knew he was supposed to cherish his grandparents while they were alive, but it was kind of hard when he had to hear the same things from them every time he was around them.


Gabe had a short attention span. He didn’t check the clock, but he was perfectly fine with his grandparents leaving at nine. He hugged them goodbye and said he couldn’t wait until they all saw each other again (which would be whenever Gabe was back in Queens and not at school) and then headed back to his and Ricky’s bedroom to look over his band’s music again. Gabe wanted this first record to be good. He wanted people to ask for a second one.



December 22, 1998; Newark, New Jersey.


Gabe was sitting on the hood of his car, waiting on Alicia, and wishing he’d stayed in the car. It would be weird to get back in now, because he’d already gotten out and turned off the engine, but it was cold as shit and Gabe’s jacket was not as warm as he thought it would be. Alicia was also taking a while. He knew she and Mikey were both obsessed with their hair and their eye makeup, but Alicia wasn’t the type to spend more than ten minutes getting ready.


He wasn’t going to go up and knock on the door. Gabe hadn’t met Mr. Simmons, and he didn’t want to. He was the guy fucking Mr. Simmons’ daughter, after all, and even though Gabe didn’t have a sister, he knew how protective fathers could get about their daughters. On top of that, Gabe couldn’t pass himself off as just Italian even if he tried, and he didn’t want to find out the hard way that Alicia’s parents were racist. There were a lot of shitty people in New Jersey. Gabe had learned that while in college.


The door finally opened, and Alicia came out. She had a long black coat on, with fake fur around the collar, and she was wearing heeled boots. She lit a cigarette as she came down the sidewalk, and lit one for Gabe when she came up to stand beside him. Alicia blew smoke out and kissed Gabe on the cheek. “Hey. How’s college?”


“Not bad,” Gabe said. “You still haven’t been to any of my shows.”


“It’s been a busy semester,” Alicia said. She moved around to the passenger side of the car and hovered there until Gabe unlocked it and let the both of them in. Alicia slid into the seat and shrugged her coat off without dropping her cigarette. Gabe kept his on. He was still cold from outside. Alicia was better at handling the cold than he was. She tapped her cigarette against the empty cup Gabe used as an ashtray. “A lot of stuff happened, sorry.”


“Hey, there’ll be more,” Gabe said. He started the car. “Ready to go pick up Mikey?”


Alicia looked at Gabe strangely. Had she and Mikey broken things off? If they had, why hadn’t anyone mentioned that to Gabe? He didn’t want to be the weird connection between two exes. He didn’t like getting involved in drama.


Gabe bit his lip. “What? You guys didn’t get in a fight or anything, did you?”


“No…” Alicia said. Gabe was still driving towards Mikey’s house. “Gabe. Mikey’s not coming. He’s in the hospital.”


Gabe almost hit the car in front of them. He pulled off to the side and cut the engine before turning to Alicia and looking her over to make sure she wasn’t just messing around with him. “What? No way. Mikey’s… what happened? Is he okay? Why didn’t anyone say anything?”


“He tried to kill himself at the beginning of break,” Alicia said. That didn’t make any sense. Gabe had seen Mikey, just a few days ago, at his show. Mikey had been there, and Gabe had seen him, in the flesh, making out with a Goth chick. But Alicia wasn’t fucking around, and her eyes were a little watery. “He… I mean, he didn’t die or anything, but he’s in one of those psych hospitals. I haven’t been able to see him because I’m not family, but I’ve been at the Ways’ house pretty much every day for the past week.”


“Jesus Christ,” Gabe said. He didn’t want to go to a show anymore. He wanted to see Mikey, and hold him in his arms and know that Mikey was fine. Words weren’t enough. Gabe swallowed, thickly. “Shit, Ally, he was at… he was at the fucking Midtown show and he looked fine --what did he even do ?”


“I don’t know,” Alicia said. “Gerard wouldn’t tell me. He’s pretty shaken up, too. I didn’t know he could feel anything other than sad artist or drunk geek.”


“Jesus Christ,” Gabe said again. He didn't know what else to say. There was a small, impulsive part of him that wanted to drive to wherever they were keeping Mikey locked up and break in, but Gabe knew he had no idea what to do with a genuinely suicidal person. He had theories about how he’d talk someone down from offing themself, but he didn’t think he’d have to ever put them to practice. This was Mikey, though. Mikey, who was sad but in a poetic way, and in a way that made him seek out people at bars and loud, angry music in stranger’s basements. Mikey wasn’t the one who’d try to actually off himself. That wasn’t Mikey.


Except that it was, and Gabe was having to make himself understand that in a shitty car on the side of some no-name street in New Jersey. He rubbed his face, because he could feel it in his throat that he might cry, and he wasn’t the kind of guy who cried in front of people, especially if they were girls. Gabe pressed the heels of his hands against his eyelids. “Fuck. How… how the hell did we not see this coming?”


“I don’t know,” Alicia said. “I know I shouldn’t blame myself but who the hell else do I blame? I mean, shit, I’m one of his only friends at school. Everyone else thinks he’s a freak.”


“I’m going to run over all of them,” Gabe said to his hands.


Alicia frowned. “Maybe… don’t do that. We can protect Mikey some other way.”


Gabe nodded. They ended up not going to the show, because Gabe wasn’t up to it anymore and Alicia didn’t want to go out alone. People were used to seeing the three of them together, anyway. Gabe and Alicia would get a lot of questions if they showed up somewhere without Mikey in tow, especially since everyone on the scene knew who Mikey was.


They ended up at the Ways’ house, and Donna pulled out the sofa bed and made them some hot cocoa from a box. It was good. Gabe held Alicia in his arms and realised that she fit perfectly against him, which probably meant something. It felt weird, though, because Gabe had gotten so used to having Mikey on one side and Alicia on the other. His back was cold, with only the blanket draped over him, and the whole situation felt off.


The house still smelled like cigarettes and stale coffee, and there were still a bunch of skulls and candles and other vaguely creepy Goth things everywhere. It was familiar, but it wasn’t right. Mikey was supposed to be in the picture, splayed out on the couch and texting someone Gabe vaguely remembered on his phone. Gerard was supposed to be passing through with a coffee mug full of paint brushes, and to mutter, “ah, fuck,” when he realised that he’d grabbed his paint cup instead of his coffee on the way up.


“This is wrong,” Gabe mumbled to Alicia’s shoulder. Donna and Elena had gone off to bed a few hours ago, and Gabe hadn’t seen or heard Gerard yet. “This feels wrong.”


Alicia nodded. She turned toward Gabe and pressed her face to his chest, and Gabe buried his face into her hair. She smelled like dollar store hairspray and Camels, and her hair was dry from the flat-ironing. He wrapped his arms around her back and pulled Alicia in closer, because if he couldn’t have Mikey’s warmth, he could try and get twice the body heat from Alicia instead. It would have to do.


Gabe closed his eyes, but he didn’t sleep right. Maybe Mikey held some kind of power over the house, and could keep it from getting uneasy at night. Gabe felt like he was being watched all the time. He wondered if it would be weird to take Alicia and move the two of them into Mikey’s room, because Gabe knew he could sleep in there.


He eventually fell asleep, but he awoke a few hours to voices in the kitchen. They were trying to be quiet, but Gabe still heard them. It was Gerard and Donna, and they were talking in Italian, probably because they thought Gabe and Alicia wouldn’t be able to understand them. Gabe could pick out every third word or so, and he tried to string a coherent conversation together.


He wasn’t very successful. Something about Mikey, about Elena’s health and maybe a retirement center. And drinking, which was directed at Gerard and said by Donna with enough venom that even Gabe winced. He hoped his mom never got that pissed at him for anything. He’d probably die on the spot.


It was like when Mikey had almost gotten arrested by the FBI, except worse because Mikey was actually hurt and Gabe couldn’t help him. Alicia couldn’t, either, so Gabe wasn’t alone in his useless worrying, but that didn’t make the pain any less. It just meant that there was someone he could talk to about it with. Gabe didn’t think there was a therapist anywhere in the city who could help him with this. It was just him and Alicia against the world.


Alicia woke up a bit after Gabe, and he was jealous that she was able to sleep. She’d had time to get used to this, though. She’d known about Mikey longer than Gabe, and she’d been spending time with his family and knew his house better than Gabe did. Gabe felt like a shitty friend for not knowing.


“Am I a shitty person for not knowing?” He asked.


“No,” Alicia said. “I don’t think Mikey wanted either of us to know what he was planning.”


“That makes everything worse somehow,” Gabe said. If Alicia was right, and she usually was, then that meant Mikey knew what he was doing when he showed up at the Midtown show. He’d shown up to see Gabe, maybe with some dumb idea in his head of making Gabe jealous or angry, and hadn’t said a word. Mikey was at the show, Mikey was with the Goth chick, and then Mikey was somewhere else, offing himself and ending up in a hospital.


“I hate this,” Alicia said. She sat up slightly, so that she could see into the kitchen where Gerard and his mom were now drinking coffee and smoking instead of talking to each other. “I just want to see him. This is bullshit.”


“I thought about breaking into the hospital last night,” Gabe said. “When you told me. I have no idea how to break into a hospital.”


Alicia looked at him, a spark of life in her eye. “Can’t be too hard.”


Gabe frowned. “No.”


“Do you want to see Mikey or not?” Alicia asked, raising her eyebrow.


“There’s probably a better way to do that. I don’t want to get arrested,” Gabe said. He didn’t. He was pretty sure that his parents would kill him if he ever got arrested for anything. Gabe didn’t want to die, not when he was in a band that was actually going somewhere, and with an album just waiting to be released. He also couldn’t die because that would stress Mikey and Alicia out, and he couldn’t do that shit to them. Gabe shook his head. “It’s not worth it. They’re not going to keep Mikey in there forever, are they?”


“We don’t know that,” Alicia said.


Gabe rolled his eyes. “I mean Mikey won’t stay there forever. He’s a stubborn little fucker, he’ll charm his way out if he has to. We’ll see him again, and he’ll be okay again.”


“Doesn’t help the current situation,” Alicia said. She was right. But Gabe had to tell himself something so that he wouldn’t run off and do something stupid. Gabe couldn’t afford to do something stupid for his friend. He had too much on the line in his own life, and even though he cared a lot about Mikey, Mikey wasn’t worth throwing it all away for.


He and Mikey and Alicia were growing up now, and unfortunately, part of that meant growing a pair and doing selfish shit to survive. Gabe wanted, with all of his heart, to kick down the hospital doors, grab Mikey, and speed off with him and Alicia in the backseats of his car. He knew, however, that that couldn’t end well.


Gabe sighed, and kissed Alicia. “Yeah. I know. But it’s all we’ve got for now.”



February 1, 1999; Newark, New Jersey.


Mikey and Alicia were both sitting on Gabe’s dorm bed. Gabe was in his desk chair, and relishing the fact that his roommate had indeed decided to move rooms over the break. It was nice to have his own room for the first time in his life. He understood why only children were all spoiled now. It made sense.


Mikey was wearing a Columbia sweatshirt, and he still had the hospital wristband on his wrist. It had his deadname on it, which Gabe had almost forgotten. It was in his face, now, a cruel reminder that while most people knew Mikey was as much of a man as Gabe, the people that mattered didn’t, and that that was why Mikey had tossed back a bottle of Jack and pills like they were candy and ended up in a hospital for a month and a half.


Gabe didn’t know if Mikey was better now, but he was going to get his name legally changed, and then get his boobs cut off, and then maybe things would start to be okay.


“So, I dropped out,” Mikey said. Gabe wasn’t surprised. “I didn’t… I don’t belong there, and I can always get a GED over the summer. I just needed a break.”


“Why didn’t your mom notice this shit before?” Alicia said. She’d decided, somewhere over the past month, that Donna Way was a shitty mother and that she’d been purposely letting her younger son stay in a Catholic school where everyone treated him like shit because his dick came off when he wasn’t using it.


“She did, I just hid it well,” Mikey said. Mikey had decided that he wasn’t going to blame his mom, or anyone, and that he was the issue here and if he fixed himself enough, he’d be better. Gabe hadn’t decided anything. He was still waiting on results.


Gabe frowned. “Don’t do that.”


“What? Hide shit?” Mikey snapped. “It’s easier for everyone.”


“It’s really not,” Gabe said. The difference between him and Alicia was that she was in love with Mikey and Gabe wasn’t. He loved Mikey, of course, but he saw Mikey as Mikey. Not as a tortured soul or a soulmate. Mikey was Mikey and he was hot and funny and fucked up, and Gabe could call him on his bullshit when Alicia couldn’t. “Mikes. You tried to off yourself and neither of us could do anything to help you. And we’re supposed to be your best friends. Or more, if you ask some people.”


“Gabe’s right,” Alicia said. “I don’t care if you skip out on every therapist appointment you’re supposed to go to. Therapists can fucking suck it. But don’t you dare skip out on us. We’re your friends, and we’re not going to judge you or hate you or anything because you feel like shit. We’ve seen all of you Mikey, and you don’t have to hide.”


“I don’t like any of me,” Mikey said. “So forgive me for not believing you guys entirely.”


“Well, I don’t like all of me either, but I’m not going to keep secrets from the people that matter,” Alicia said. She extended her palm to Mikey. “I know it’s kind of childish, but what if we made some kind of pact? Just the three of us, until one of us gets hit by a bus or hit too hard in a mosh pit.”


“What would that involve?” Mikey asked, and looked at Gabe.


Gabe stood up and grabbed the little X-acto knife he’d had laying around from his architecture class last semester. He wasn’t even majoring in architecture; he’d just taken the class because it looked cool and it checked off one of his electives. He swallowed and stuck his own palm out. “Well, if we’re gonna go classic, blood pact? That it’s the three of us against the world and if we need anything, we’ll always have each other to fall back on?”


“The three of us against the world,” Mikey echoed. He turned his hand over. “Sounds alright to me. But maybe use an actual knife. Those are pretty small.”


Alicia rolled her eyes and pulled her switchblade out of her purse. “I hate how much you know about pointy objects.”


They ended up slicing the meaty parts of their right hands, under the pinky. It stung, but it wasn’t anywhere where they’d bleed out, and they could all touch each other’s hands and blood. It was kind of gross, actually, but if it would make Mikey actually talk to people about his issues for once, Gabe would do it. He and Alicia had talked about this a few days ago, when they found out Mikey’d be getting out soon, and decided this was the best plan they had.


Mikey was into the weird horror shit. Touching each other’s blood was creepy enough to get his attention, without being too weird for Gabe or Alicia.


Gabe patted his hand with a paper towel. “Neither of you guys have AIDS, right?”


“Gabe, if we had anything, you would have gotten it before,” Alicia said, rolling her eyes.


“Hey, no harm in asking,” Gabe said.


Mikey kicked him in the shin. “Don’t be an ass.”


Gabe grinned. Okay. Those were results. Things could be okay again, even if it took him slicing open his hand with a knife.