They're just stepping offstage when Pete bounds up to Mikey, takes his hand, and says, "Hey, Mikeyway, let's go for a walk."
Mikey follows, his hand still in Pete's. The summer air full of grass and exhaust.
They walk until they're at a park filled with kids, running around and shouting, their faces and hands covered in melted ice cream. Mikey is amazed that Pete has found this place, always finds places like this, full of normal life, where they blend right in even though they don't belong. Pete's talking about soccer and where he grew up and a supposedly flawless plan to find a family reunion, pretend to be long lost cousins, and get a burger fresh from the grill and be regaled with stories by grandmothers about how this city used to look fifty years ago. Mikey only half-listens, because Pete talks so much, it's too much to process, and he's distracted by the noise of the park, and what he thinks might be someone singing Ring Around the Rosie.
Pete finally goes quiet when he presses Mikey up against a tree, a fair distance away from any family or family reunion or rogue running child. Pete places his hands against the tree bark, so his arms gently squeeze Mikey's waist and Mikey thinks he knows what's going to happen next, but he just stands there, breathing shallowly, because this is Pete and this could easily turn into tickling or a game of tag or another extended storytelling session where Mikey will learn all about Pete's favorite elementary school teacher.
But this time, Pete leans closer, his eyelids fluttering, and he whispers, "Can I kiss you, Mikeyway?"
Mikey doesn't say yes, but he doesn't pull away. Pete seems to actually be waiting for his permission, and even though the press of Pete is warm and tempting and Mikey can feel the tension building inside his stomach, sweet and heart-thrumming, he still doesn't say yes.
"Heard melodies are sweet," Mikey says, his mouth a little dry, and he licks his lips, "but those unheard are sweeter."
Pete's face transforms into a wolfish grin. "What?" he says, and Mikey can feel the curiosity radiating off him.
"It's a poem," Mikey says. Pete's hands are moving across the bark so that they're closer to Mikey's chest, his fingers almost touching Mikey's ribs.
"Are you quoting poetry at me? That's hot, Mikey. I'm hard to impress and that's hot."
Mikey thinks Pete isn't really hard to impress at all.
"So what does it mean?" Pete says. "Is it a yes or a no?"
"Go read it. " Mikey says, lifting his chin so that he's almost touching Pete's cheek.
"Ok," Pete says. "Ok, I will," and he practically runs all the way back to the buses.
Mikey doesn't see Pete for the rest of the day, and it certainly doesn't take that long to read a poem, unless Pete thinks he needs a runner to go out and buy him a book. Mikey vows to make fun of Pete forever if he doesn't at least try looking it up on the Internet.
They play a show that afternoon and later, Bob asks Mikey if there's something wrong with his neck. Mikey's hand immediately goes to where Pete's mouth had almost been on his throat, and Bob smirks.
"I just meant because you kept turning to the side the whole time, like you were looking for someone." Bob's smirk gets wider and Mikey just glares, but then Pete spoils it all by choosing that moment to appear at the picnic table.
"Hi," Mikey says.
"Thou," Pete says, like his mouth has never tried the word before.
"Ok, I'm out of here," Bob says, standing up quickly and walking away.
"Thou still unravished bride of quietness and slow time," Pete says.
"That's the poem, right there," Mikey says.
Pete sits down on the bench, leans close, his thigh pressing against the edge of Mikey's, and says, "Slow time. I like slow time. Time with you is always slow time." Mikey feels his breathing start to pick up. "I think you hold quietness and slow time in those long fingers of yours." Pete takes Mikey's fingers in his and strokes them once, gently. Mikey is grateful that Pete did not call him an unravished bride.
Pete leans closer and says, "What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape?" The way Pete lingers on 'shape' makes Mikey shiver, because the way Pete's looking at him, looking up and down Mikey's body as he says it makes it sound lustful, almost dirty. Pete continues, "What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?" He seems to have spent the day memorizing the poem. His voice gets breathy, urgent as he says, "What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? What pipes and timbrels?"
Mikey swallows hard, and Pete whispers, "What wild ecstasy," in Mikey's ear, Pete's tongue just barely touching his earlobe. Mikey gasps.
But then Pete stops. That's the end of the stanza and Pete presses Mikey's hand back into Mikey's lap, and stands up, unfolding his legs from the bench of the picnic table.
"We've got sound check," Pete says. "See you later, Mikeyway." Pete looks entirely too pleased with himself. Mikey doesn't realize until Pete's walked away that he's got his bottom lip between his teeth. He lets it go, and worries it with his tongue. He thinks telling Pete about Ode on a Grecian Urn is actually going to turn out to be the biggest mistake he's ever made.
"Ah, happy, happy boughs," Pete says, around a mouthful of waffles. Mikey snorts sipping his coffee. Somehow, either by virtue of the number of people who managed to wake themselves up long enough to leave the bus for the diner, or the number of people in the diner at 6 in the morning, Pete has ended up getting them booth alone, three tables away from the rest of their group. Mikey wonders if Pete bribes his way through every day, though Mikey's not even sure how you'd bribe circumstances to work out like this. It's just a part of who Pete is - these things happen for him, almost as if it's just because he wants it.
"Ah, happy, happy boughs, thou cannot shed your leaves, nor ever bid the spring adieu." Pete sips his coffee, nudges Mikey's knees apart with his bare foot, his sandal abandoned on the floor. Mikey reaches down and grabs Pete's toes, his thumb stroking up under the bridge of Pete's foot and Pete's eyes go wide and his smile huge.
"I don't ever want to bid this summer adieu," Pete leans over the table and touches Mikey's nose with the tip of his finger and then, as though accidentally, as he's pulling his band back, touches Mikey's lips.
Mikey doesn't tell Pete that that's kind of the point of the poem. You don't want these things to end, but they do.
They're just getting off the bus, half of the Warped vans and buses still pulling in behind them. The band unfolds from the bus like creaky old men, blinking in the sunlight. Mikey wants nothing more than to take off his shoes and lie down on the ground, even if it's sand-covered pavement. Mikey wants to be away from the bus; he'd climb up on the roof of the nearest building if he could, just to get closer to the sky.
He thinks he ought to find Pete, because he would know just what to do to shake off this road weariness, this cramped feeling that makes Mikey restless, cranky, closed-off. He debates it with himself and finally texts Pete, and then goes to help Gerard decide the set list, which he promised he'd let Mikey change when he got bored with the order of the songs.
They sit in lawn chairs under a giant beach umbrella stuck into a planter full of rocks, and Gerard doesn't ever seem to take off his sunglasses. He even threatens to wear them all through the show today. Mikey drinks blue Hawaiian punch from a juice box and argues with Gerard about the potential acronyms from the first letters of the songs on the set list just for fun.
Eventually, Gerard wants coffee and Mikey stands, stretching and cracking his back.
Pete appears out of nowhere. Mikey turns his whole attention to him, but Pete's only there for a second, only for the time it takes him to slide a hand in Mikey's back pocket, and then he runs off, like he never stopped moving. Mikey reaches in and finds a scrap of paper. On it is written, "For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd, for ever panting, and for ever young."
Mikey blushes so hard Gerard asks what he's looking at and Mikey quickly shoves the paper back into his pocket.
Pete comes to get him later that night, once the crews have started cleaning up and almost everyone's either gone to bed, gone out to a party, or gone home. They go wandering down side streets, Pete moving like he already knows where he's going, like he's lived here all his life. They reach a street full of houses that dead-ends in a cul-de-sac.
"What little town by river or sea-shore, or mountain-built with peaceful citadel," Pete says, addressing the houses, "Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?" Mikey can't help but laugh.
"It's not morn yet," he says. "It's empty because everyone's asleep."
"Shhh," Pete says, even though he was the one shouting just a minute ago, shouting a poem to this neighborhood in Ohio, but then Pete's laughing, too, his arm around Mikey's shoulders. Mikey presses his face briefly into the fabric of Pete's t-shirt, inhaling. When he pulls back, Pete says, "Little town, thy streets for evermore will silent be; and not a soul, to tell," and then a porch light goes on across the street from where they're standing and Pete grabs Mikey's hand and they run off.
Two days later, they're sitting in the lounge of the bus, limbs entwined, Pete's laptop balanced on his knee. Pete starts speaking the poem, like its conversation, light and easy. "Thou, silent form!" and it takes Mikey a second to figure out what Pete's saying. Mikey blinks up from his Sidekick, and Pete's fingers, which had been unobtrusively resting on Mikey's forearm are now traveling up Mikey's arm, under the cuff of his t-shirt. Mikey watches them, watches Pete's eyes follow his fingers. "dost tease us out of thought," and by now, the sound of Pete saying 'doth' doesn't even seem odd, "as doth eternity." Pete's fingers are trailing back down now, over Mikey's bicep, and when they pass so softly over the crook of his elbow, Mikey shivers. "All you're doing is texting and I can't pay attention to anything else. I can't even think," Pete says, now sliding his fingers back up, even higher under Mikey's shirt cuff. "I want to know how you're texting, I want to know what you're saying, I want to know everything you're thinking,"
From anyone else it would sound either annoying or controlling, but from Pete, it's exhilarating, because Mikey thinks Pete probably does desperately want to know all of those things. He doesn't just want all of Mikey's attention on him. He wants everything, wants to know the entire situation, all the hundreds of ways it could play out, the two of them alone in the back of the bus, sitting so close Mikey can feel when Pete's breath speeds up.
His Sidekick beeps and Mikey turns back his attention to the screen. It's Frank, asking where the hell he is and if he's still wearing clothes. Pete tries to read over Mikey's shoulder, but Mikey cups his hand over the screen and leans away from Pete. When he starts to type a reply, he looks up, with a coy smile, and Pete laughs, low and rich. "What am I going to do with you, Mikeyway?" he says. His fingers have stopped traveling up and down Mikey's arm, but they're still resting close, their very tips touching his skin.
They have a half-day off when they get to New York early, and Mikey follows Pete off to explore like he always does. Pete links his arm with Mikey and Mikey thinks, only Pete, only Pete can make him do ridiculous things like this without feeling ridiculous.
There's a walking path and a brook and little signs about bird nesting area conservation and they sit down next to each other on the grass in a shaded spot. Well, they start out next to each other, and while Mikey keeps perfectly still, watching the water and a squirrel forage in the leaves, Pete shifts and squirms and contorts until he's leaning his whole side against Mikey, and then he's got his arm around Mikey's waist, and then Pete's laying his head down on Mikey's thigh, tugging Mikey's arm down and tucking his arm into it, so Mikey's fingers are threaded with Pete's and resting on Pete's chest, Pete's face wide and open looking up at Mikey.
"Heard melodies are sweet, both those unheard are sweeter," Pete says and Mikey can't help but grin. He's been waiting for this, for Pete to finally stop skipping around and go back to the second stanza, to the part Mikey had quoted in place of an answer he hadn't wanted to give. Of course Pete would get inside the poem and rearrange it for his own interests. Of course Pete would leave the part that Mikey mentioned, the most important part, for the end.
"Therefore, ye soft pipes, play on. Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd," at 'endeared', he squeezes Mikey's fingers. "Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone," Pete shifts so his cheek is against Mikey's jeans. Mikey curls in on himself slightly without meaning to, but when Pete continues, it's the beginning of the stanza again, "Heard melodies are sweet," he says, with curiosity in his voice, "but those unheard...I've never thought about unheard melodies before. As soon as I think of them, I want them to be heard. The unknown is never sweeter, I always want to know."
"I know you do," Mikey says quietly.
Pete sits up, his thigh crossed over Mikey's knee, one hand on the grass so he's leaning right into Mikey's space.
"You weren't talking about music, were you," Pete asks, his voice low.
Mikey shakes his head.
"You think the waiting is sweeter," he says. "You think not knowing is better?" Pete is so close now, his mouth inches from Mikey's.
Mikey wants to say that it's not about waiting or knowing, it's about the promise versus the reality. It's about how wanting, desperate and consuming and complicated wanting is always so much better than getting what you want. He wants to tell Pete that the poem's about how things always spoil, love always ends, death always comes except in drawings, in moments frozen in time.
"Don't you want to know how sweet this could be?" Pete asks, and then his lips are on Mikey's and Mikey forgets anything he wanted to say. He's lost in the blinding moment of fulfillment.
And when Pete pulls back, Mikey wonders if it really is inevitable that he'll wish he never knew what this felt like. He wonders how long it will be until the only thing he wants is to have remained, paused, forever always just about to kiss Pete Wentz.