Gerard had always reveled in his role as big brother. Being the one to go first, to impart important playground wisdom, taking the role of social secretary for the both of them (decreeing who they would play with and when), all seemed to come naturally to him. He had nightmares, though. He always had, and it was after one of these that he first pressed his cheek into Mikey's shoulder and asked, "You want to play a game?"
Gerard usually shuddered away from any mention of playing after nightmares, so Mikey was understandably suspicious. "What kind of game?"
"An easy one," Gerard said. His hair was tickling under Mikey's chin. "You be big brother."
"But," Mikey frowned, the statement challenging one of the few immutable truths of his seven-year-old world, "you're my big brother."
"That's why it's a game, stupid," Gerard said, in the tone that made Elena laugh and say You're too young to have suffered so deeply, honey. "You be big brother and...and I be the little brother. Just for a while."
Mikey was silent a moment, considering. "What do I do?"
"Anything you want," Gerard mumbled, turning his face further into Mikey's shoulder. "You're the big brother."
Mikey had never really felt the need to rebel, but every younger sibling wants a taste of that power. They played "big brother" occasionally, in mornings after nightmares or just any time. Mikey was pleased to decide to go to the Daniel's house instead of the Balistrieri's, and when they played X-Men, he got to be Wolverine and Gerard had to be Professor Xavier.
They played on and off as the years went on, and Mikey came to recognize it as one of those things they did that other people wouldn't understand. No matter how old Mikey and Gerard were, "little brother" Gerard never got any older.
Mikey thought they grew out of it. In high school, Gerard started drinking and stopped asking. He still crawled into bed with Mikey sometimes, but it was to whimper and make MIkey's head spin from beer-soaked breath, not to whisper You want to play a game?
Drunk, Gerard cried, vomited on, and kissed Mikey multiple times, sometimes more than one at once. But he never was little.
Still, when there was a soft knock on the door to the room Mikey would be sharing with Ray if he ever left Bob and the bus studio, he opened the door the door to Gerard in bare feet and sweatpants with big eyes. And he knew it was his turn again.
"Can't sleep?" Mikey took Gerard by the shoulder and guided him into the room. Gerard shook his head slowly and Mikey sighed with mock exasperation. "Well, you can't sleep with me."
Gerard looked up at him, pouting outrageously. "Just a little while?"
Mikey made a face, but he jerked his head towards the bed. "Fine. But just a little while."
He hadn't seen Gerard's face light up like that in a long time, and it made his chest ache. He watched Gerard scramble into bed like he was much smaller than he actually was, and he watched him wriggle his way under the covers. Gerard kept his eyes trained on Mikey through it all.
"I thought you wanted to sleep." Mikey smirked and Gerard made a face, nose scrunched up.
Mikey grabbed the remote off the top of the TV and brought it over. He sat next to Gerard, on top of the covers. He flipped the TV on, and part of him wanted to buy a porno, just to see what Gerard would do. If he would stay little, or freak out, or...or something else. But he was the big brother, and he could play pranks, but he needed to take care of his little insomniac.
He changed the channel to Nickelodeon instead; Spongebob was on, and Gerard clapped happily. As the episode went on, Gerard leaned against Mikey, resting his head on Mikey's shoulder. Mikey was entirely aware that he was a bony fucker with a bony shoulder, and it couldn't have been comfortable. Gerard didn't seem to mind.
After Spongebob, they watched Fairly Oddparents. Gerard giggled even while he was yawning, exaggerated like a sleepy kitten. Mikey was thinking of that more than being a brother when he rested his hand on top of Gerard's head, brushing hair out of his eyes. Gerard leaned into the touch and yawned again.
"Now you're tired," Mikey said, and Gerard shook his head blearily.
"Are so," Mikey retorted, and immediately felt a little stupid for arguing wit ha ten year old. He mussed Gerard's hair and shoved him lightly. "Time to go back to your own bed."
"No." Gerard looked up at him with big, sad eyes. Those worked even when Gerard was his normal age; Mikey didn't have a chance. "Don't make me go. Can't I stay?"
"You want to sleep in my bed like a baby?" Mikey wasn't exactly sure how this would work. The last time they did this, he was eleven himself. Having his brother curled around him at night wasn't out of the ordinary in any case. He didn't know if Gerard did intend to spend the night here, or if he wanted to be talked out of it. Or what he wanted Gerard to choose.
"I'm not a baby," Gerard said with a stubborn set to his lower lip, but he didn't move. "I want to stay. Please?"
MIkey knew that he would never be able to say no, even if he was big brother. "Okay. You can stay." Gerard cheered and Mikey flicked his nose. "But we're going to bed right now."
Gerard deflated, pouting, but it was ruined when he yawned again, big and long. He slipped down, further under the covers, and his eyes closed to slits, just barely watching. Mikey rolled his eyes, but he stripped off his t-shirt and climbed under the covers with Gerard.
He fell asleep faster than he had in years, and when he woke up to light sneaking under the drapes, Gerard was watching him again.
Gerard leaned in, and Mikey didn't move, stayed still while Gerard pressed their dry lips together. He closed his eyes, and Gerard's nose brushed his. "Thank you."