At the last second, right before the Fall Out Boy bus drives away from the last Warped Tour show of the summer, Pete shoves the Polaroid into an old novel that's been laying around and rushes down the stairs, thrusting the paperback into Gerard's hand and stammering out something about thinking he might enjoy it.
He'd been carrying the picture in his back pocket for weeks; it's creased and worn now. Its edges almost frayed with wear. Pete didn't exactly have a plan for the photograph, didn't know whether he was going to show it to Mikey or not, he just liked having it around. Liked keeping a piece of Mikey nearby, as 14-year-old-girly as that seems, even to him.
The picture was taken about halfway into the summer, maybe a little later. He is shirtless in the photograph, leaning hot and sweaty against Mikey, who's beaming broadly, like an eight-year-old kid on Christmas morning.
It's a fairly innocuous picture, as far as pictures of Pete go. Sure, he's kissing Mikey's cheek, one arm around his shoulder and the other hand fisted into Mikey's t-shirt, skin damp where his fingers fall against the bare skin of Mikey's hip, but, he's Pete Wentz. There isn't a photograph in existence Pete with his friends that doesn't have some degree of homoerotic undertone.
You look at the Polaroid, though, and if you were there, if you're Pete or Mikey, you don't see two guys goofing off, maybe touching a little too closely. You don't see anything. It's all sense-memory. That's why the picture means anything at all. Of itself, it's really nothing more than formerly shiny paper and chemical reaction.
The salty taste of sweaty boy with a hint of Mikey underneath, the way sweat-slippery bare arm caught against t-shirt and slid across damp skin. The way bodies sagged together lazily, comfortably, trusting that they wouldn't fall. A faint scent of alcohol and cut-grass layered in between the smell of dirty boys. That's what the picture is of, if pictures could capture senses the way they capture images. Instead it triggers a memory, warm and happy, a little bit of uncomfortable anticipation wavering at the edges like ripples of heat coming off a sidewalk.
Mikey didn't know the picture was being taken, Pete did. The pose is... not deliberate, exactly. He didn't change anything about what he was doing when Dirty pointed the camera his way, but he didn't stop either. He wanted the camera to see exactly what he sees in Mikey, and it did. More perfectly than Pete could have ever planned for.
Mikey doesn't see what Pete sees in him, and that's the whole problem.
Pete's in love. Pete falls in love several times a day, so no one really feels that his announcement of being in true, deep, mad love with Mikey Way is particularly significant, including the ridiculous precious boy in question. But it is significant. Mikey's not just another sunset or fuzzy hoodie or animated movie or any of the other tiny things that Pete finds an occasional bright spot in. Mikey is special in a way that Pete's not sure he has the words for. He never has the words for the things that really matter and when he tries to say them anyway his meanings get lost in stupid metaphors about car crashes and cemeteries.
He doesn't know how to say, "You're my friend and I like you." There aren't adequate ways to convey the way Pete and Mikey make sense together in Pete's head, so he has to settle for the simplistic, for saying that he and Mikey have been spending a lot of time together lately. For saying that they have a lot in common - music and being kind of geeks, and maybe being the "heartthrobs" of their respective bands. Mikey also reminds Pete more than a little bit of Patrick, and, though he doesn't mention that particular realization to either of them, it's something that could never be a bad thing. The more Pete gets to know Mikey, the more he's awestruck by him, the more he's amazed that Mikey Way wants to spend time with little old him. Mikey Way. So they hang out during Warped Tour and Pete drags Mikey into stupid poorly thought out adventures and Mikey lets himself be dragged. Sometimes Mikey even does the dragging, joining in at finding ridiculous ways to pass the time, and it gets to the point where neither of them remembers whose idea it was to go to a water park or to have a sleepover, just that the ideas all seem to be good ones, even when both of them end up playing shows sunburned and completely sleep-deprived.
The friendship between Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance, between Pete and Mikey, happens all at once, like an explosion. Like spontaneous combustion. The bands had been circling each other for awhile. They knew of each other, how could they not, and knew each other in the way where the music world really isn't all that large, but they weren't exactly friends. Not enemies either, just circling, not even warily, more waiting for the right moment for their lines to intersect. And then they do, and Pete goes from referencing My Chemical Romance lyrics to loaning Mikey his jacket on a cool April evening.
Mikey Way is just a kid Pete had been meaning to get to know. The theatrics of My Chemical Romance intrigue him, and the lead singer puts him off, a little. Makes him just a little nervous. But the bass player, he's cute and kind of normal-looking. As normal-looking as Pete is himself, anyway. Plus, bass player. Pete's got just as much of a weakness for them as the next person. Maybe more.