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Living on the Railways

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When he was eight, Johnny's big brother made him a comic book for his birthday. In the comics Johnny was a Russian Tsar who was friends with aliens, and he fought crime and skated and wore the most amazing fur coats.

Johnny suspected the fur was fake, because Gerard wasn't even a vegetarian or anything, but sometimes his head just worked like that. That was okay, though; it was still the best comic book anyone had ever made, and Johnny had the expertise to know -- comics weren't really his thing, but you couldn't be a Way without knowing all about them. (Johnny's favorite is Superman. Fuck Frank Iero, anyway.)

(Okay, that's a lie. Johnny kind of despises Superman. The idea of being something else completely and making yourself the most normal thing you can, like being extraordinary is a bad thing somehow, and then acting like it's the real you that's a disguise -- seriously. Even more than he hates Superman, though, Johnny hates that smug face Frank gets, so he'll stick to his story, thank you very much.)

"Is he wearing a dress?" said Gerard's friend Dave when he saw it. Johnny leaned over Mikey's shoulder to look; it was the bit in the Italian embassy, where Johnny and the aliens came to a formal dance to celebrate winning.

"It's a ball gown," Gerard said, in this fierce voice, like he was daring Dave to say anything else.

Dave didn't even notice, though. "Wait," he said, peering at another panel, "Why does this alien have glasses?" as if he couldn't tell it was Mikey just because of the wings.

~*~

(The reporter says, "With all of you touring all around the world so much, do you get to see each other often?" and Gerard says, "Well, I see Mikey all the time," and the reporter laughs politely and lets them tell her about the time they ended up in Tokyo at the same time as Johnny for exactly three hours and almost, almost talked him into having some ice cream to celebrate.

"Did anyone think this would happen, when you were growing up?" the reporter says. "That all three of you would become so successful?"

Gerard starts to answer, is about to start into some long thought about their childhood and Jersey and dreams -- he'll know exactly what only when it comes out of his mouth -- but then Mikey says, "Well, I mean…" and Gerard falls silent and listens.

Mikey says, "I mean, back when Gee was hiding in the basement all day and I was, like, selling kids DVDs in school and sort of thinking maybe learning to play something could be a good idea, you know, and Johnny was -- well, going to regional competitions in junior high --" and the reporter laughs, more genuinely this time, and says, "So people only knew part of it'd happen, huh?" and Gerard says, "Well, and -- now we have a few albums and stuff and he's going to the Olympics, you know, so in a way, it's still true."

One might say, the article says, when they read it a few weeks later, that while all Way siblings have vision, Johnny found the focus to match to it far earlier on, and it's probably as good a way of putting it as any.)

~*~

There were a few years, growing up, that Johnny spent just pissed off at everything, absolutely everything besides the ice and the music and maybe Elena. He was pissed at the school with its dress code and the kids with their stupid expectations and his parents with their cheerful lack of getting it, of getting anything he was going through, and at himself for going too slow on the ice, not yet good enough. Stupid Lysacek barely even figured on the list, more a symbol than anything.

And he wanted like hell to be pissed at his brothers too, their spaciness and disorganized rooms and inability to figure regular showers into their schedules, their awkwardness and their lack of self awareness. He watched Gerard spend years trying to get people to like him before finally realizing that the things he found worthy weren't things a bunch of kids in a New Jersey school were likely to admire him for, before finally deciding that fuck them, he was going to do his own thing anyway.

And Johnny, who got it instinctively from the get-go, who'd arrived firmly at fuck 'em from the very start, wanted to think sharp, cutting things, because how could anyone not get these things, and how was it fair that the people he could do and be anything he wanted around, who were his safe space and always had his back and all that, were also these people he could never quite fit with, who couldn't bring themselves to see the world he lived in or the world they lived in, even.

Sneering at Gerard would have to mean sneering at Mikey too, though, and that part was easier said than done, not to say completely impossible. So he ignored it and hated other people instead (Lysacek was so easy to hate, after all), and in the end he got over it, and things got better.

~*~

It's not like they ever really talk about it. Mikey and Gerard go on tour and do angry songs about being misunderstood or afraid or, sometimes, about vampires, and about things that are too big to put into words without screaming them, and Gerard talks a lot about saving people's lives and makes out with Frank on stage and kids who get harassed at school scream back at them. Johnny jumps and spins and skates, and makes his own costumes and stupid TV shows, and dances the way he was always going to and is himself, and he holds his head high when they take away his points for it and tells them that little boys can only hope to be like him when they grow up.

They don't talk about it. It just is; one day far back when Johnny was turning eight, when his brothers were just older enough that it was a miracle they were willing to hang out with him still (though he wasn't aware of it then, it was just the way it always had been), sitting up later than he was usually allowed because it was his birthday, popcorn and a flashlight and Gerard saying, certain like there was no other way, like he knew it for a fact: "Of course people can save the world. People save the world all the time."