There are times Mikey forgets she's a girl.
Which, yes, she's well aware of how strange that is; how many people can honestly say there are days they look in the mirror and are surprised to see tits tenting out the front of their shirt?
But in all fairness, she does spend ninety percent of her life living on a tour bus with four guys who seem to think that she's neither one of the guys nor a girl in the usual sense of the word. Mikey falls somewhere in between, if younger sibling could be considered a gender. A sexless, innocent, perpetually naïve gender.
And their opinions aside, Mikey's hardly the girliest girl to ever come falling out the girl tree. She wears jeans and tee shirts, ragged cons and clunky glasses. She keeps her hair cut shorter than Gee's and her body's lanky enough that she can and does go without a bra when they've gone too long without doing laundry.
Her being a girl has never really been much of an issue. Sure, when they first started making it people made a weirdly big deal of her being a girl and the bassist, but before long people got swept up in the force of Gerard's words and forgot that skinny, shy Mikey in the background, hiding behind the bass, was a girl and not just a particularly androgynous scene kid.
So, the point is, sometimes Mikey forgets she's a girl and it's really not that big a deal because even when someone they're touring with suddenly realizes that she is female with actual functioning female parts, nothing happens. Because she is also a girl with one older brother whose scary as shit in his own particularly odd way and three additional older brothers by proxy who have no compunctions about killing to defend her honor.
It's kinda sweet, actually, the way they protect her with such fervency.
Mikey always rolls her eyes and puts on her headphones, thinking it's funny how uptight they get considering she wouldn't sleep with whatever guy was making eyes at her unless their dick fell off and they magically grew tits.
"Warped tour is a Big Fucking Deal," Gerard tells them, eyes lit up with the kind of awed excitement Mikey remembers from the day she agreed to learn bass, the day Pencey broke up, giving them Frank, the day Bob agreed to stay.
He says it just like that, capitalizing the words with his voice and Mikey thinks holy fuck, maybe they actually have made it.
He lists off the other bands Mikey knows them all; granted, some are only by name, but others leave her with a knot fear/excitement in her chest because she knows their words. She listens to them at night as she falls asleep and wishes on shooting stars to someday be like them.
Petra Wentz is small and compact, with messy black hair and a sleeve of tattoos down her right arm. She's got on tight jeans and a tank top rucked up far enough for Mikey to see another tattoo etched to the skin below her bellybutton. She's also fucking vibrating with energy, bouncing on the balls of her feet, drumming her thumbs against the ridge of her hip.
"Holy fuck, you're Mikey Way."
"Yeah." Mikey shoves her hands into her pockets and tries not to hunch her shoulders because if Gee sees her he'll get on her case about being shy and how she doesn't have any reason to be shy, she's talented, blah, blah, blah, the whole self esteem trip.
"You're fucking gorgeous," Petra says with a wide grin. Mikey feels her face flush bright red because one, she's not gorgeous and she knows it and two, Petra actually could be considered something along the lines of beautiful. Mikey's celibate, but not by choice, and she's not blind for fuck's sake.
"Um." Mikey wonders how bad it would look if she took of running. Aside from the fact that, knowing her luck, one of the guys would see and she would never, ever live it down.
Petra laughs. "You're cute when you're flustered. Anyway, I'm Petra Wentz, but I fucking hate Petra, so you can call me Pete."
"Pete," Mikey repeats. "Hi."
Petra…Pete, Mikey mentally corrects, widens her grin and tries her best to throw an arm around Mikey's shoulders. It's doesn't work particularly well, what with Mikey being like five inches taller than her, so she settles for hooking an arm around Mikey's waist.
"Wanna come meet my band? Patrick's had a crush on you and Frank for-fucking-ever and it'll be awesome to watch him squirm."
She's warm and she smells good and, oh, Mikey knows the smart thing would be to run away, teasing be damned. "Yeah, sure, okay."
Mikey learns a lot about Pete very quickly.
She learns that Pete has no concept of person space, or at least no respect for it and at first that's really fucking hard for Mikey to cope with. It's not that she doesn't like being touched, it's just that she likes at least being warned and Pete tends to come out of nowhere and suddenly Mikey has a lapful of warm girl, nuzzling into her neck and leaving butterfly kisses against her jaw.
Pete has no filters between her brain and her mouth, between thinking and doing. She spends an afternoon running around the tour spraying anyone who falls into her clutches with a water gun filled with kool-aid just because it seemed like a fun idea. Mikey trails behind, trying not to laugh and warning anyone she sees carrying merch to take another path.
She learns that Pete can be the most frustrating person Mikey's ever met because she smiles widest when she's upset and is quietest when she's happy, like she's afraid that giving words to the emotion will make it fly away.
Patrick tells her that Pete is a notorious insomniac and the first time Pete falls asleep with her head pillowed on Mikey's thigh, Patrick looks at her with the strangest light in his eyes that's somewhere between astonished and terrified. Mikey grins crookedly back and smoothes down Pete's hair; she feels like she's accomplished something on her own for once, and it's kind of nice.
They're sitting sprawled on top of Mikey's bus after one of the shows; Pete's changed into wash soft flannel pants cut off just below the knee and a tank top artfully splattered with a thousand different colors of paint. Her eyeliner is smeared around her eyes and somehow it still looks beautiful as the moonlight and lamplight mix together on her face.
Mikey bites down on her lip as her gaze catches on the shadow of Pete's hip; she wants to rub her thumb along the ridge, to feel if the skin is as soft as she thinks.
"Whatcha looking at?" Pete asks, voice soft and happy. She twists a finger in a tendril of hair escaped from the messy ponytail piled high on the top of her head.
"You," Mikey answers honestly and Pete chuckles, low and oddly shy.
"I'm nothing special."
Honestly, Mikey thinks that might be the most bullshit thing she'd ever heard in her life because there is no other word for Pete but special, so fucking brilliantly, wonderful, captivatingly special Mikey wonders how anyone can ever stand to look away.
Mikey doesn't have a question to ask, just a tumult of emotions swirling low and heavy in her stomach, tight and needy in her chest, shivering along her spine and down her nerves. She has dreams repeated again and again, saturated and sharp, of little moments that in and of themselves mean nothing but come together to mean something.
She reaches out and cups Pete's face in her hand, brushing her thumb over the bump of Pete's chin; her skin isn't as soft as Mikey had expected, but it's better somehow, more real. Sometimes Pete blinds her, fills her up so much Mikey loses sight of the fact that Pete is just human and very real.
Pete stares at her and Mikey almost laughs a little that neither of them have a question that can be asked with words. Her hand drifts up to settle on Mikey's hip and, yes, suddenly it all makes sense because this is what the last few weeks have been leading up to. The cock of Pete's head and the nervous dart of her tongue across her lips feels inevitable in a good way.
The kiss isn't quite right, the angle is awkward and it's a little too nervous, a little too 'oh god are we actually doing this' to be just right, but Mikey doesn't care because it's her and Pete on top of the bus and somehow that feels not just inevitable, but more like fate.
Mikey wakes with Pete molded against her side and Gee staring at her with an inscrutable expression through the gap in her bunk's privacy curtain.
Pete snuffles in her sleep and shifts closer, tightening her arm around Mikey's waist as she presses her face into the curve of Mikey's neck. Mikey rolls her head to the side, tucking her chin to the top of Pete's head and meets Gerard gaze with as bland a look as she can muster. She knows her brother better than anyone; he's going to be overprotective no matter who she brings home.
"You sure about this, Mikey?" Gee asks quietly.
Mikey curls her hand around Pete's hip. "Yeah."
Gee blinks and ducks his head. "Okay then."
"Are you afraid of being a girl?" Pete asks one night, mouth hot and wet as she traces a meandering line across Mikey's pelvis.
"Hm?" Mikey arches up, only half hearing the question, because Pete has a fucking brilliant mouth and it's almost fucking impossible for Mikey to have any thoughts resembling coherency while she's using it.
"Being a girl," Pete repeats, splaying her fingers over Mikey's hips. "Are you afraid of being a girl?"
"What?" Mikey wriggles her hips as Pete nips at the skin along the crease of her thigh. "Afraid? I'm not afraid."
Pete huffs out a sound that might be a laugh and shifts, tucking her chin on the ridge of Mikey's hip. Her eyes are dark and sated, hair falling beautifully rumpled around her face. Her lips are just a touch swollen, slick and pretty. Mikey wants to pull her back up and kiss those lips, wedge her legs between Pete's thighs and make her come apart.
"It's just that you're really fucking pretty Mikey," Pete says with a half smile. She dips her thumb into Mikey's bellybutton and drags her nail across the skin. "You're gorgeous actually."
"Pete," Mikey begins and trails off. It's not that she thinks she ugly or anything, she's just honestly aware that she's kind of funny looking, too tall and too skinny, knock kneed and awkward to every be anything but.
"You are," Pete insists. "Trust me, I've spent a lot of time looking at your face."
"You're biased," Mikey counters, smoothing down Pete's hair. "I mean, I'm not even the prettiest person in my band, Pete, and the rest of my band is four guys. I'm not gonna make People's 100 sexiest anytime soon."
"People defines sexy as tall, hyper inflated bimbos with more plastic in their bodies than actual tissue," Pete says flatly, crawling up Mikey's body. She snuggles up next to Mikey, slinging an arm protectively across her stomach. "You're not that."
"Yeah." Mikey rolls her eyes. "Knew that."
"Come with me."
Mikey stares at Pete as she stands in the door of the hotel room she's sharing with Gee, hair damp around her ears and neck.
"There's a bed right there that belongs to me," Mikey says slowly, "And I'm sure I could get Gerard to distract himself with Patrick for a few hours. Why we would go anywhere when there's a bed right there for us that's not on a bus?"
Gerard has gotten in the habit of spending time on the Fall Out Boy bus whenever Pete and Mikey are on their bus together. He comes back looking rumpled and happy, with faint hickeys meandering along his collarbone where he thinks people can't see.
"Because you don't think you're beautiful and that breaks my heart." Pete smiles and turns it into a joke, even though Mikey damn well can tell it's not. "Please."
Mikey thinks it says something that she doesn't ask where they're going, she just yanks on a pair of relatively clean jeans and shoves on her cons.
Pete takes her to some clothing store, the kind of place the deals if floating, short, glittering, pretty things.
Mikey feels really stupid just looking at herself in the mirror, safe in the confines of the dressing room.
"Mikey?" Pete sounds really fucking excited. Mikey really, really wants to shimmy back into her jeans and layer tee shirts over her top until she doesn't feel so goddamn exposed.
Pete comes up behind her and slides her hand along the crest of her hips to flatten her palms against Mikey's pelvis. She tucks her chin to Mikey's shoulder and smiles, staring at them in the mirror and suddenly Mikey feels like maybe there is something there after all.
"Jesus fuck, Mikey," Pete whispers, nipping at Mikey's earlobe. "You are so fucking ridiculously gorgeous."
Mikey grins a little and blushes. She hasn't worn a skirt since she graduated from high school and that thing had come from the dredges of a bargain bin two days before because the school flat out refused to let the girls wear pants. She's certainly never worn one so short and, God, her legs are pale and skinny, but maybe not quite as chicken as she'd been told when she was little.
Pete runs her fingers up along the soft curve of Mikey's stomach, fingers catching just slightly on the hem of her shirt. She pauses for a moment to cup Mikey's breasts and Mikey's breath catches in her chest, just a little. The shirt's cut low but she still doesn't have much in the way of cleavage; she just doesn't have the cup size for it.
"You really like it?" Mikey mumbles, lacing her fingers with Pete's.
"God, Mikey." Pete drags her teeth along the little patch of skin behind Mikey's ear. "You really gotta ask?"
Pete gets in the habit of leaving Mikey little presents where only Mikey will find them.
Tucked underneath her pillow she finds an absolutely obscene thong made of a band aid size piece of lace and silk string. Mikey blushes furiously when she opens it, but still slips it on the next day and, once she get over the initial fucking weird feeling of constantly having her underwear up her ass, she actually feels kind of sexy.
She finds a tube of edible, cherry flavored lotion in her duffle bag, a pair of dangling earrings in her cons, bright red lip gloss stuck in with her toothbrush.
Mikey never knows how Pete manages to get them in there and she half suspects that one of the boys is helping, probably Frank because he's still holding out hope that Mikey'll break down and let him tape their "sexy lesbian bunk escapades".
Whatever the case, Mikey is always pleasantly, warmly surprised when she finds one and walks around the rest of the day feeling like something almost special.
Pete takes her on two am dates to Taco Bell and McDonalds, sometimes roadside diners if she can convince enough of the tour that they need waffles or they're going to die.
Mikey wonders if they can really be called dates; more often than not it's them crammed into one side of a booth with Patrick and Gerard on the other, Ray, Bob, Frank, Andy, and Joe behind them with everybody else scattered around. The waitresses tend to look at them with something akin to unholy terror in their eyes, but they make a point of being polite and tipping well, even cutting back a little on the language.
It's hard to think of it as a date with her brother sitting right there, but Pete slings her arm around Mikey's shoulders and holds her hand under the table; they share plates of pancakes and waffles and French toast, steal sips from each others drinks and that's something.
When they get back to the buses she and Pete curl up on the couch and exchange quiet little kisses while the boys play videogame; Pete tastes like powdered sugar and syrup and Mikey's happy, which is better than nothing at all.
The first time Mikey realizes the obvious, their set's over and they're back on the bus, tried, but content, and it starts to rain.
No, it fucking pours and the sound of the drops battering against the roof off the bus echoes inside as Mikey sits curled on the couch with one hand pressed to the window, watching as the world slowly dissolves into gray.
"Well fuck," Frank says with a sigh. "Fall's coming. It'll suck to have this end."
Mikey nods in agreement because she can't speak.
Pete calls that night, but Mikey forgot to take her phone off vibrate and sleeps through it.
In the morning there's three missed calls, one long, rambling voice mail, one short, clipped voice mail, and one voice mail that's nothing more than a few seconds of breath on the line before it goes dead. Mikey curls up in her bunk, fingers hovering over the buttons and wishes for the world to rewind.
"I'm sorry," she says to Pete. "I didn't hear the phone ring."
"It's okay," Pete lies, "I just couldn't sleep."
"I'm sorry," Mikey repeats, long past the time when it would have made a difference.
"Mikey, really, it's not a big deal," Pete says and for the first time a thread of something that could be resentment stains the words.
Mikey finds Gee sitting on the couch, eyes lidded and rimmed with exhaustion, disinterestedly watching some movie. He looks up when she walks out, pajama pants hanging off her hips, Pete's tee shirt riding up on her stomach.
"Hi, sister dear," Gee says through a yawn.
"Hi, brother darling." Mikey pads across the narrow space and curls up beside him, fitting her skinny body against his like she hasn't in too long a time. He kisses her temple and turns down the sound, asking without uttering a question if she needs to talk.
Mikey thinks that for all Gerard can be a monumental fuck up, he's also the best person she knows.
"How many tour dates are left?"
"Five, I think."
Mikey presses her face into his chest and tried to ignore the burn in her eyes. "Fuck."
It's a weird end.
"Pete-" Mikey begins with no idea how to form the ending. The months and weeks and days and hours and minutes don't bleed together in her memory, they stand out sharp and clear, glittering with heartbreaking wonder.
"Don't," Pete says, begging.
Mikey knows it's not don't leave, don't say it, don't do this. It's don't speak and make it any more real than it has to be.
Pete fists her hands in Mikey shirts and pulls her close, chests and bellies flush against each other, and kisses her, hard and final. Her mouth is still warm and her lips are still chapped, she tastes like mint and gum and smells like honey and vanilla.
She pushes Mikey away, turns, and walks and doesn't look back and, oh God, Mikey stands there and is still so very fucking much in love.
Gerard finds her in her bunk, his own eyes red rimmed and too raw.
"You and Pete?"
Mikey swallows hard and looks away. "You and Patrick?"
Shared understanding doesn't make it hurt any less at all.
Time passes and they move onto new tours and new songs and life gets hard, it gets really fucking hard for awhile. Sometimes Mikey wakes up in the morning to cryptic, nonsensical text messages from Pete, rambles brought on from exhaustion and written between the words and beneath the lines Mikey can hear I'm sorry.
Eventually she texts back I'm sorry too.
Mikey stares at the words for a long time, but once she sends always something in her chest unknots and she can breathe again for the first time in too long.
Mikey sees her from the stage during a little club show; she's standing by the bar, singing along, eyes lit up and brilliant.
Alicia is tall, but not quite as tall as Mikey and elegantly thin, unlike Mikey's own awkwardly bony frame. Her hair is died a kind of purple brown color which should look really strange, but somehow doesn't and when her gaze settle on Mikey she smiles without any trace of fan awe shooting through her eyes.
"I'm Alicia," she says with a nervous little laugh.
Mikey thinks that might be the moment when she falls head over heels with a girl she knows nothing about except her name.
Being with Alicia is different from being with Pete.
Pete was all about the great and grand picture, the moments that transcended words and thought and became simply an ecstatic instant of existing not beside each other, but within each other. Pete was blinding and consuming and wonderful.
Alicia is quieter, but no less deep.
Alicia doesn't just know that Mikey mainlines coffee, she remembers that Mikey's backwards from everyone else and likes frozen drinks when it's cold out and hot chocolate when it's warm. She puts jersey sheets on her bed because flannel makes Mikey's legs itch. She remembers to buy chicken tenders instead of chicken nuggets because, despite Frank's accusation that she's just crazy, Mikey knows they taste different.
Alicia asks nothing of Mikey, just that Mikey love her back and, whenever she can, that Mikey lay down beside her in bed with her head on Alicia's chest, listening to the steady thrum of her heart.
Mikey's almost asleep when her sidekick buzzes, screen lighting in the darkness. Beside her, Alicia shifts and mumbles under her breath, fingers curling possessively around Mikey's hip.
Blinking, Mikey gropes for her sidekick and even though she can't read the display without her glasses, there's a very small number of people who would call her at three o' clock in the morning during one of the few nights she gets with Alicia.
"Hi," Mikey says softly, carding her fingers through Alicia's hair.
"Hi, Mikey Way," Pete says and she sounds wired, like energy's thrumming too close to the surface for comfort. "Is this a bad time?"
Mikey smiles to herself. "No. What's up?"
Pete pauses and Mikey can practically see her chewing on her lip as she thinks, sorting through the tangled jumble of words in her mind to try and choose the best ones. "You're happy, right?"
"Yeah," Mikey says after a beat of wondering what the hell Pete's getting at. "Yeah, I am."
"That's good," Pete sighs. "I'm happy you're happy."
Pete laughs and it's not bitter, but it's not really all that happy. "I guess. It's just…I miss you sometimes Mikey. I mean, I know we're done, that ship has sailed and all that, but, yeah. I just. I don't know."
Sometimes Mikey wishes she could just hang up on Pete and pretend she doesn't exist. She undeniably complicates things. But, really, Mikey knows she wouldn't have Pete any other way because then she wouldn't be Pete, she'd be just another scene kid, talking too much and revealing too much.
"I want you to be happy, Pete," Mikey says softly.
"I know." Pete sighs. "I think I will be. Eventually. But, just so you know, this next album might be about you."
Mikey chuckles softly. If she wrote the lyrics, their next album would be about Pete. "That's okay."