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Strip malls / winter in the fall / it happened so slow I barely noticed it at all
Blank tapes / try to stay awake / I'm running from the future but I can't escape it


Mikey spends most of twelfth grade watching Jersey from backseat windows, passing streaks of tail lights and on-ramps.

In the winter the smoke from industrial stacks curls white and solid against the cold gray sky and when they pause at red lights, Frank's shitty Honda rumbling beneath his feet, Mikey looks at the people standing at bus stops--hoods of their jackets pulled tight around their faces, hunched over with their hands in their pockets--and thinks that they could be statues and he wouldn't even know they weren't real.

His brother sits up front because he gets sick in the back, even though it folds Mikey's too-skinny legs up and he has to splay them wide apart, knees on either side of the back of Gerard's seat. "That's where they found that kid that got stabbed," his brother'll say when they pass an empty park, trees bare and skeletal, grass brown and frozen. Frank likes to imagine how it happened, gesturing with his cigarette as he smokes out the window, icy wind tossing his dreads around his face while he talks.

Gerard pulls his big ugly black trench coat tighter around himself and turns sideways in his seat, nodding with a big smile and clarifying exactly where the knife got lost beneath the sand in the playground and how the blood dried in brown clumps. Mikey likes to shove his knees into the back of his brother's chair when he gets carried away and Gerard makes a big show of getting carsick when he turns around to swat at Mikey's thigh. Frank grins, eyes darting back and forth between them like he always does when they give each other shit, like they're so interesting or something.

Mikey and Frank fight over the music sometimes, and Frank might be closer but Mikey has long arms so he hunches over the gearshift. He loves that satisfying feeling of pushing the cassette tape in, feeling it click into place before the music fills the car. They keep all their tapes between the two front seats, jammed tight. Mikey likes the way they look, the colours and lettering down their spines, how they feel when he runs his hand along them and pulls one out, how perfectly it fits back in. So many are white with his cramped black writing or Frank's loopy scrawl, saying things like "Jocks Can Suck My Dick Summer 1996" and "Frank's Shitty Screamo".

They stop at malls and Mikey stomps through the blackened snow piled up by the sidewalk because it feels so satisfying. Later when they're sitting in the food court, knees knocking under the tiny table, Gerard will bitch him out for complaining about his cold and wet feet.

The three of them walk the mall from end to end, shoulders bumping. Gerard's coat flaps behind him, Mikey's jean jacket tight across his shoulders and the hood of Frank's sweater up as he chews on the strings. Mikey likes how it makes him feel, talking shit about the people they pass, the clothes they wear, the shitty bands whose faces are blown up in the windows of music stores.

"Drones," Frank says around a mouthful of cotton string, elbowing Mikey's hip, "programmed to seek and destroy individuality."

They get coffees in stupid tiny white styrofoam cups and sit out the ass end of the mall on the loading dock, sipping from shaky fingers as they look out at the highway across the abandoned lot, legs swinging from the edge of the concrete platform.

"End of the fucking world," Gerard says, breathing in steam from the cup held close to his chest. Mikey thinks it looks like it from here: colourless gray sky, dead grass and frozen mud, patchy snow, trucks passing like a river of noise and metal and wheels.

Frank gets cold in just his hoodie and likes to tuck his hands into Mikey's armpit, coffee clenched between his thighs. Gerard watches from Mikey's other side as Frank turns in, presses his nose like an icy point against Mikey's exposed neck. His hair smells like cigarettes and the wax he uses on his dreads.

"Warm me up, Mikey Way," Frank says and Mikey obliges, puts his arm around Frank's shoulders as he looks out at the flat, ugly buildings around the lot, one-stories with no windows and empty parking lots. Frank pushes his face in further, opens his mouth and breathes hot against Mikey's skin. "We're the only ones who aren't drones," he mumbles and it makes Mikey shiver when he feels the wet of Frank's tongue. His fingers get cold where they're bare, wrapped around Frank's shoulder.

When Frank kisses behind Mikey's ear, it makes him suck in a breath, cold air burning his lungs as his fingers tighten. Gerard laughs and reaches across Mikey's lap to rescue Frank's coffee before he spills it from leaning too far over. Gerard puts it down carefully on the platform behind them before finishing his own and crumpling it, dropping it to the ground below their hanging legs.

"We'd never be drones," Gerard says before he lets his head fall to Mikey's other shoulder. He smells like home and when he kisses Mikey's pulse, it speeds up. Mikey can feel Frank smile, sees him reach across to work his bare fingers in between Gerard's thighs. Gerard's lips are dry and coffee-warm, his hand curving in the lapel of Mikey's jacket as he noses up behind Mikey's ear into his hair. He presses kisses into his scalp, along the shell of Mikey's ear. Mikey's eyes fall shut and he's so cold and so hot at the same time.

When they stumble back in the fire exit, they breathe on their icy fingertips and rub their hands together to warm up, Mikey curling his wet-numb toes inside his shoes just to feel them move. On the second floor of the department store there's a men's change room where no one ever goes, burnt bulbs and shadows behind shuttered doors; it's there that Mikey gets his cold hands up under his brother's sweater to warm them against his belly, smiling and licking into Gerard's mouth when he gasps at the sensation and tries to shove Mikey's hands away. Frank gets Gerard's hands in his own, holds his wrists behind him and watches the two of them, his eyes moving back and forth like always. Gerard tastes bitter and dark when he kisses back, doesn't sweeten his coffee like Mikey does.

"Shh," Mikey says when Frank guides Gerard's hand to his belt and bucks up into it, hissing. Frank giggles into Mikey's arm and it cuts off into a choked noise when Gerard gets his hand inside his boxers. Mikey slides an arm around Frank's shoulders and the other around his brother's waist under his sweater, holding the two of them in like a football huddle.

He watches Gerard's wrist work fast and rhythmic inside Frank's baggy jeans, feels Frank's shoulders twitch and hunch in, the sharp intake of breath that expands them. Mikey and Gerard's eyes meet and they smile, leaning so their foreheads touch, Mikey's fingers curling and uncurling at the soft dip of his brother's spine, feeling his body shake with the movement of his arm.

Frank doesn't know how to be quiet so Gerard cups his big square palm around Frank's jaw and kisses him, eyelashes so soft against his round cheeks, and Mikey watches their tongues slide wet and messy. He likes to know that he's touching them both, like a live wire conducting a current.

After, Frank panting with red cheeks and big glassy eyes as he leans in the shadows against the door of the fitting room, Gerard presses Mikey back into the wall, coat hooks on either side of his head, hips rolling, hands clenched painfully on Mikey's shoulders. "Please, Mikes," he chokes into Mikey's ear as he buries his face in Mikey's neck.

Mikey swallows hard and tucks his fingers into Gerard's belt loops, pulls so tight he feels it in the muscles of his arms and his back, and grinds up just how he likes. He watches Frank over Gerard's shoulder, staring at them with round, red lips and a hand curled, unmoving, inside his tacky boxers. Gerard's black coat hangs around them both like a veil, but it can't be hard to see what they're doing in the roll of Gerard's hips, in the way Mikey pants softly against his brother's temple.

The pressure always feels good, not just on his dick but across his chest, Gerard solid and warm and pressed up against him, pinning Mikey to the wall so he can't move. And that's always what takes Mikey over the edge, when his knees start to shake and his eyes squeeze shut, balls drawing up tight: that feeling that he can struggle and push his chest out and hitch his hips up but his big brother will be there, Gerard will always be there ready to push right back.

The sun is going down when they walk to the car, Frank kicking a chunk of ice ahead of him all the way to their parking spot, Gerard sucking back a cigarette and coughing when he inhales too fast.

In the backseat Mikey runs his finger down the spines of cassette tapes as they swing out of the lot, dusk-gray Jersey slipping by in his peripheral vision. He pulls out a blank case and thinks about what'll go on their next mixtape.


(DVD commentary for this fic here!)