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09 April 2008 @ 09:05 am
Bandom Fic: Crossing the Rubicon  
Bandom fic: Crossing the Rubicon
14,000 words, R-ish. Pete/Mikey, Frank/Gerard, Patrick/Greta, Brendon/Ryan, Gabe/everybody
One morning I woke up and thought: what the world needs now is: love, sweet love an AU bandom pastiche of 10 Things I Hate About You. So there I was. And here we are.

Mad props across the water to jehnt, who told me all the weird names Americans use for stuff.

This is all true. Except for how it's not.


"I need a guitar," Pete said. "I have my dad's credit card and five hundred dollars in savings, where do I go? Which kidney should I sell?"
"Calm down," said Patrick. He sounded like he was eating something. "Come over to my place, I'll lend you a banjo."





Pete was good at changing schools. He had a technique. Scene hair and eyeliner were like a Canadian passport, welcome everywhere but regarded with slight confusion. Even in the backwaters of Utah, he'd found other kids who dressed like him, although he was pretty sure they washed their faces in the school bathroom before they went home in the evenings.

The only thing he was really worried about in Modnab, California was the weather. He'd been there for a week before starting school, to 'acclimatize'. This mainly consisted of writing in his blog and taking long walks around the breathtakingly dull suburbia. His younger brother and sister got no such leverage, but then again, he'd been doing this far longer. Learn the way of the Jedi they eventually would.

But the weather was playing havoc with his hair. It got so hot the wax melted. In fact, Pete was pretty sure his car might melt if exposed for too long. One of the handles was held on with duct tape. It wasn't exactly a classic.

Any subconscious fears he might have about fitting in were assuaged on meeting the careers and guidance counselor. First of all, he was a he. Second of all, he was shirtless and covered in tattoos. Sure, Pete thought it was humid, but not that humid.

"Clothes pander to the patriarchal hegemony," was the first thing the counselor said, leading Pete to fervently hope that he was at least wearing pants. "I'm Andy Hurley. People call me Andy Hurley. Now, we have two new students coming this week. Are you Amanda Hope or Peter Wentz the third?"

Pete started to laugh, thinking this might be a joke. Andy's face was serious, though. "Um, I'm Pete Wentz," Pete said. "Um. Obviously?"

"If you say so," said Andy. "Gender is a socially-defined norm." He stroked his tie. "You'll need a timetable and a map of the campus. Here at Modnab High School we have a small and closely-knit community."

At this point screaming came from outside. It sounded like, "Representational art is degrading and wrong!"

Pete started up from his chair. Andy, terminally serene, switched the blinds closed. "I'm sure you'll fit in perfectly."

Pete sat there for a few minutes, until it became obvious he was supposed either to leave, or join Andy in some guided visualization.

On his way out he passed a short kid with a floppy mohawk, plus a scorpion tattooed on his neck, which Pete was pretty sure was illegal. The kid snarled up at him, making Pete start back. Pete was no giant, but this kid could have fit under a mushroom, easy. All the same, Pete felt the doorframe against his back as he sidled out.

A hot-pink post-it was stuck on top of the sheaf of papers ('recyclable,' said Andy, 'regenerated from sewage. We don't believe in killing trees'). It said: See Patrick Stumph, and gave a phone number.

Pete felt a little weird about just calling some kid he didn't know, so he stalled and went back down to the cafeteria instead. Homeroom was out and the corridors were filled with teenagers hunting in packs. Pete made a beeline for the vending machines, on the theory that it was never too early for candy.

A knot of earnest-looking kids in navy was standing there. One of them was actually wearing argyle socks, which. Pete didn't even know how to think about that. The kid was apparently defending the musical stance of Diana Ross after abandoning the Supremes to launch a solo career.

"But, Patrick -" said one of the others, and Pete groaned. Of course. He'd got one of the music and performing arts geeks.

"Are you all right?" said Patrick. "You don't have an ulcer, do you?"

"What?" said Pete. "No."

"My aunt groaned like that," said Patrick, authoritatively. "She had an ulcer. She died of it."

"I don't have an ulcer, jeez." Pete grabbed his Snickers out of the machine. "Are you Patrick Stumph?"

"Are you Pete and or Amanda?" said Patrick. "Andy Hurley warned me that there was fresh meat incoming."

Sadly, Pete could actually imagine Andy Hurley saying that.

"I'm Pete," said Pete. "I only go by Amanda to my close friends."

Patrick smiled, for the first time. For the first time, Pete relaxed. No one with a smile that joyful could be all bad, even if they were scarily knowledgeable about Motown.

Patrick excused himself from his friends to show Pete around before first period. There wasn't much to show: Modnab High School was never going to win awards for sheer size or square footage. Pete thought the courtyard was pretty unique, though. It featured, among other things, a fountain and two concession stands, one from Starbucks and one from Smoothie Hut.

"Stake your claim now," said Patrick. "Coffee or smoothies. Once you buy from one, you're committed for life. Stars and Smoos are eternal and ruthless foes."

"Right," said Pete. He was more convinced by the groupies hanging around each cart than Patrick's doomsday tone. The Smoos wore a lot of pastel and looked kind of like squirrels, whereas the Stars had the shifty, red-eyed appearance of confirmed addicts. Pete adjusted the zip on his lavender hoodie. "Me, I'm kinda straight-edge, so..."

"Smoothies it is," said Patrick.

They sat under a tree while Pete pointed out various people and Patrick gave him the low-down. ('That's Bill Beckett. His hips have been declared weapons of mass destruction by homeland security.' 'Ryan Ross. Rumor has it he steals his scarves from hobos.' 'Vicky T runs a luminous bubblegum empire from her spare bedroom.') Pete was impressed by Patrick's recall. It transpired that most people in Modnab had lived there forever, and knew everything about everyone. The idea made Pete slightly itchy.

Patrick was in the middle of a tirade against the artboys ('They want us to tear down the fountain, you know. Apparently it's not post-modern enough -') when Pete, idly scanning the crowds, felt his heart stutter to a halt. Two boys walked past him, conversing in low voices. At least, one of them was talking. He was tall enough to loom and look perpetually uncomfortable, and had the largest hair Pete had seen outside of Sesame Street. The other boy was just listening, badly, his eyes drifting away. His gaze slid over Pete, who felt like he'd been burned.

They settled down under the next tree. Big-Hair opened a guitar case, but the other boy was the one who took it out and settled it in his lap. A few seconds later, haunting strains reached Pete's ears. The boy had slender pale fingers. Pete wondered how he avoided getting tanned in California.

"Who's that?" he managed to say. "He's really good."

"Yeah, if you like Jeff Buckley," snorted Patrick. "He's Mikey Way. And that's Ray Toro. Ray's in a band. They don't suck much," he added generously.

"Is ... Mikey in the band, too?"

Patrick shook his head. "Mrs. Way would never let him. She's got this thing against bands and musicians and clubs. Mikey doesn't even have his own guitar."

"He's cute," breathed Pete, and a second later winced. His mouth was apt to run off things without consulting his brain, and it didn't have the greatest survival instincts either. Pete had learned early to use his tiny frame for speed, not style.

Fortunately, Patrick just sent him a squinty sideways look. "You gay, then?" he asked, in the same tone as he might say, "You're short, then?"

"Just above the waist," Pete assured him. Patrick nodded, wisely, like he was taking it all in. It was a little while before he spoke again. By then they both had thick smoothies, with syrup added by the enthusiastic and irrepressible barista. ("He's Brendon," said Patrick, as if that explained everything.)

Patrick licked the foam off his straw and asked, "So are you all smooth in front, like a Ken doll?"

♣♣♣

It wasn't the worst first day Pete had ever had. He shared some classes with Patrick, including last period geometry. Of course, Patrick already had a nest of nerds to pick from, so Pete flew solo for the most part. But geometry was free of assigned seating, and Patrick graced Pete with his presence. Pete didn't even try to pretend to be ungrateful.

Mikey Way was also in his last period geometry class, chin against his chest. Clearly he shared Pete's appreciation of Euclid. He was sitting over by the window, where the crazy golden light of perpetual summer washed over his shoulders. Pete's view was unobstructed and his little crush growing by the minute, when a tall guy in a basketball shirt swung into the seat beside Mikey's. Mikey's chin lifted.

Pete wanted to ask Patrick who the guy was, hoping for an answer like 'a five-time-convicted petty criminal,' but class had started. Figuring there was no need to add fuel to the fire, as his first pop quiz would quickly earn him the teacher's unending disdain, Pete put his head down and tried to look inconspicuous. It was a little hard to do with green bangs and black nail polish, but he pulled it off. Mainly because there was a boy in the back row with dreadlocks and a tutu.

People filtered out of the room slowly when class ended. One of Patrick's navy-clad crew came over to ask him about homework club (homework club!). The tall guy wrapped his arm around Mikey's neck and nuzzled his chin into Mikey's hair. Pete was surprised by how jealous he felt. Whatever the guy was saying was amusing, because Mikey smiled. It was tiny by any standards known to man, but it was there.

Pete followed Patrick out to the parking lot, managing to slip in a question about the mystery flirter. He was Gabe Saporta, "professional pimp," said Patrick. "He does nude modeling for the art school in town."

"Really?" Pete laughed derisively.

"Yeah." Patrick grinned in return. "He offered his services here, too, but Principle Ivarsson politely declined."

Pete had passed Principle Ivarsson in the hall. Pete didn't go for blondes as a rule, but Principle Ivarsson was a blonde expressly designed to break those sorts of rules.

"Word is," whispered Patrick, "she took him up on it in a private capacity."

"What? Gross," said Pete, and it was, but it sadly made Gabe kind of ... cool. He watched as Gabe moved some guitar cases around in the backseat of his flash little sports car so Mikey and Ray would have room to hop in. Bill Beckett was riding shotgun, and looking rather disgruntled at having his lap loaded with instruments.

"Catch you tomorrow, Wentz," said Patrick.

"Do you need a lift?" asked Pete.

"Nope, I'm all set." Patrick lifted a helmet out of his backpack.

Pete watched as he tootled off on a bicycle, an honest-to-god bicycle with a basket on the back. Pete had never met anyone who wore argyle socks and still managed to be so effortlessly cool.

He thought Mikey might have glanced at him as Gabe's sports car zoomed past, making Pete's second-hand Micra rock in the slipstream. But he probably imagined it.

♣♣♣

Mikey was late. Mainly Gerard knew this because he'd been home for an hour already, but there was also the sound of saucepans crashing to clue him in. Mrs. Way rarely cooked anything that involved more complicated machinery than a microwave and a bowl. Saucepans meant mischief was afoot.

Gerard's window overlooked the front lawn, so he saw Mikey alighting from Gabe Saporta's sin-red death-trap. Gerard abandoned his half-finished Wedding Breakfast (for the Bride of Frankenstein) oil and went to sit on the stairs.

Mikey's hair was mussed in a different way to the crushing it received from being flattened under hats. The skin under his glasses was all red. Windburn, Gerard decided. The price of driving with the top down.

"Hey, Em," he said softly.

Mikey looked up, his bag swinging from his fingers. "Hey, Gee." He didn't bother to lower his voice. "Mom home?" He never kept track of Mrs. Way's shifts, not like Gerard, who relied on those nights to go drinking with Greta and Bob.

"Is that you, Mikeyway?" Mrs. Way stomped out of the kitchen, ladle in hand. The faint smell of burning followed her. "And where, might I ask, have you been?"

"I got a ride with some friends," said Mikey, sounding bored. "We swung by the boardwalk for a while."

"Next time, call first," said Mrs. Way, brandishing her ladle at him. "It wouldn't kill you to set my mind at ease."

"No, Mom. Sorry, Mom."

Mikey started up the stairs. Mrs. Way picked up the post, which Mikey had kicked off the mat on his way in. "Call your brother," she said to Mikey. "He's got mail."

"I do?" Gerard jumped up. He slithered down the stairs and grabbed the manila envelope out of Mrs. Way's hands. There was an English stamp, blue and white, a woman's head. Sweat began to prickle under his eyes. "Oh my god," he breathed, looking at the return address.

Mikey turned back and came to rest his chin on Gerard's shoulder. "What is it?"

"It's from St Martin's," said Gerard. He couldn't open it. His hands wouldn't work. Instead, Mikey's snaked around from behind and awkwardly ripped open the flap.

"It's thick," he said. "Is that a good sign?"

Gerard pulled out a prospectus, a map, a cover letter. Dear Mr. Way, We are delighted to inform you... "Yes, it's a fucking good sign." He ran and faceplanted the sofa, stifling delighted screams.

"Is he having a seizure?" asked Mrs. Way. Gerard rolled his eyes. Honestly, that had been one time, after a ten-hour Halo-playing marathon.

He rolled over, clutching the prospectus to his chest. He was too excited to worry if it got crumpled. "I got in, Mom! To St Martin's. In London." He took a deep, shuddering breath. He'd walk the same streets as Damien Hurst and Tracey Emin, sit in the same cafes as David Hockney, go to the National Gallery and Madam Tussaud's and the Tower of London. He'd be seeped in history, pickled in it, like old wine. Nothing like California, where the bright sun erased everything older than five minutes.

"London?" repeated Mrs. Way. "But, honey ... I thought you decided to go to SVA. You know, stay in America? With us?"

"That's not how I remember the conversation," said Gerard. "You wanted me to stay in America, I wanted to go to London. But you agreed to let me go if I got in."

Mrs. Way exchanged a glance with Mikey, the 'talking about Gerard behind his back' look. Gerard seethed a little. "I suppose I didn't think you'd get in," she said faintly.

"Well," said Gerard, "I did. Would it kill you to congratulate me?"

"Are you really going to leave? You can't even cook, let alone speak British," said Mikey, who was sometimes a rat-bastard traitor, now that Gerard came to think about it. And he was the one who'd instigated the Halo marathon that had ended with Gerard in the ER with a needle up his arm.

"At least I don't have to catch rides with scum like Gabe Saporta," retorted Gerard. "Did he proposition you again?"

"He - who even uses words like that?" Mikey demanded, flushing. "He just told me about this gig on Saturday night -"

"A flea-infested mosh pit," Gerard clarified; Mrs. Way was looking confused.

"We've discussed this," she said to Mikey. "I'm not letting you go to one of those concerts unless your brother goes with you."

"Ray is going -"

"Ray doesn't see beyond the end of his own nose," said Mrs. Way briskly. "People could be shooting heroin into their eyeballs and he'd be looking at his feet. And Brendon's a nice boy, but silly. I can't trust them to take care of you."

Mikey bristled. "I don't need taking care of. I'm sixteen."

"Rather," said Mrs. Way, "the point."

Mikey turned beseeching eyes on Gerard. The effect was amplified by his coke-bottle glasses. "Please, Gee. This isn't a flea-infested basement. It's a proper show."

Gerard nearly melted, but he thought back to Mikey's comments about him moving to England. And about his own hatred of social events. People might touch him.

"Gabe said he could get us cheap tickets," Mikey added. That sealed the deal. Gerard went nowhere Gabe was, which had made school difficult for a while, but not more so than usual.

Mrs. Way looked relieved when Gerard shook his head. An alarm went off in the kitchen. "That's my cue," she said, handing the ladle to Mikey, who looked close to stomping on it. "I've got to go. I left money in the jar for takeout. Get some salad, okay? And Gee - we'll discuss England later."

She took off her housecoat. Underneath she was already wearing her uniform. She kissed them both on the cheek and hurried out the door, sneakers squeaking.

"I still can't believe you told her about Bert catching chlamydia at the Smashing Pumpkins gig." Mikey scowled at Gerard. Mrs. Way ran an STD clinic; nothing was more likely to turn her against an activity than mentioning how often it led to gonorrhoea.

"He did," Gerard pointed out, with absolute truth.

"That's because he's a slut, not because he goes to concerts," said Mikey. "Are you really moving away?"

"I guess so," said Gerard. He looked down at the shiny prospectus. "I hope so."

Mikey mumbled something before he trudged upstairs. No one could trudge like Mikey: it sounded like the very floorboards were in pain.

Gerard couldn't decide if he'd said 'Fuck you' or 'Don't go.'

♣♣♣

"You have a crush," observed Patrick.

Pete, who'd been staring into space with his face in his hand, jumped. "Huh? No."

"You've been staring at Mikeyway for like ten minutes," said Patrick. "Pretty soon Gabe will come over and eat your face."

"God, is that a euphemism for something?"

"I hope not," said Patrick, very carefully, after a few minutes.

In any case, he'd startled Pete out of what he was forced to admit was a dreamy haze. Mikey was playing Ray's guitar again, while Gabe hung over him and occasionally corrected his fingering. Pete didn't think he needed the help.

Anyway, "I don't have a crush," said Pete. "I just think he's cute."

"Yeah, you might have mentioned that," said Patrick. "Once or twice a day. I'm sorry to break your heart or whatever, but the guy is straight."

"So am I," said Pete instantly.

"No, I think he's straight all the way up and down," said Patrick. "Besides, I've never seen him talk. Ever. Sometimes he's called on in class and he mumbles. That's it, man."

"So he's the strong and silent type."

Patrick scrunched up his nose. "Strong? He has arms like tiny, small, tiny ... twigs."

"What about Gabe, then? Is he straight?"

"Gabe goes every way," said Patrick. "And I mean that in the most literal sense possible. He's also been in more bands than precarious sexual situations. He's probably trying to recruit Mikey."

"I thought he wasn't allowed to go out?"

"He's not - unless Gee goes with him." At Pete's blank look, Patrick added, "His brother, Gerard. He doesn't go outside much. Which basically explains why Mikey is Stay At Home Sally."

"But if Gerard went out -"

Patrick shook his head. "Never happens. Oh, he goes drinking under the piers some nights with the art kids, but I think they just wallow in their silent pain and stuff. It's not really social."

Pete was silent for a few minutes. He squinted up into the sun. "Do you ever just ... want to talk to someone?" he said quietly. "For no good reason. You just - like them. You want to curl up beside them and whisper secrets in their ear and hold their hand."

"Ker-ist," said Patrick, "you've got it bad." He sighed. "I suppose it's my duty to inform you that Mikey's actually looking for someone to teach him to play bass. Someone with their own guitar, obviously."

"Wait - yes! I could!"

"Can you play bass?"

"No."

"Do you have a guitar?"

"No." Pete grinned. "This is perfect! Patrick, you are a wonderful genius-type person."

"Not to mention psychic," said Patrick. "I can predict with utter certainty that this won't end well."

Pete just ruffled Patrick's hair and went back to staring.

♣♣♣

It was criminally easy to set up a lesson with Mikey. Pete sauntered over to Ray's locker that afternoon and spun a wonderful tale about needing extra cash for 'stuff'. He implied that 'stuff' included hard drugs and loose women, to make himself seem more interesting. He left a little disheartened, because Ray mainly stared at his own shoes, but an hour after school let out Pete's cell phone bleeped.

hey ray said u give bass lessons

Pete quickly shut the phone and clenched it in his fist. His heart thumped against his ribcage, trying to get out.

this is mikey way btw

Pete resisted the urge to text back: i no and quote Shakespeare. Instead, he spent an hour composing a suitably casual reply, suggesting they meet up after school the next day. Then he rang Patrick, frantic.

"I need a guitar," he said. "I have my dad's credit card and five hundred dollars in savings, where do I go? Which kidney should I sell?"

"Calm down," said Patrick. He sounded like he was eating something. "Come over to my place, I'll lend you a banjo."

Patrick had approximately five hundred and seventy guitars just lying about. Also a drum kit, a didgeridoo, a trombone and a piccolo.

"I thought you might need this, too." Deadpan, Patrick handed over Bass for Beginners. "My dad's a music teacher. He uses it for the really hopeless cases."

Pete didn't go to sleep that night. He was almost tempted to visit the Starbucks cart in the morning, but Brendon was watching him. He was moving a lollipop from one side of his mouth to the other. Apart from the spiky hair and pink hoodie, he bore a startling resemblance to Don Corleone.

"Give me something to wake me up," Pete begged.

Brendon brightened. "Do you mean you want my Super Secret Secret Ingredient?"

"If it bears a passing resemblance to caffeine," said Pete, "then yes." Straight edge morals were for awake people.

He drank the smoothie, which was an alarming shade of electric blue, and spent the morning alternately hearing high-pitched buzzing noises and cursing the Uries to the eighth generation. The high wore off at about lunch time. Pete wove in and out of consciousness, hearing snatches of Patrick's conversation with a sophomore called Joe.

"It'll be mega," Joe said at one point, shocking Pete into temporary wakefulness. He hadn't realized there were people still alive who used the word 'mega.' "Jon even had special invites made, Stars only." He held up a flyer, scribbled all over with black marker.

"Crash it?" said Patrick.

"Crash it," agreed Joe. Pete nodded. Crashing was what he was doing, all right.

After the last bell he went to the appointed place by the fountain and rested his head against a stone cherub. The stone was warm, the sun too bright.

The next thing he knew he was being shaken awake. He tried to wriggle away, but the shaker was insistent.

"Five more min'es, Mom," he mumbled.

"Uh, no," said a voice that was so not his mom's, Pete didn't know how to express it.

"You're Pete, right?" Mikey - for Mikey it was, standing back and taking his hand off Pete's shoulder - said. "I'm Mikey Way."

"I know," blurted Pete, still fuzzy-minded. He blushed, but Mikey seemed to take that in stride. Modnab High School really was that small.

"You have a guitar, great," said Mikey, and what had Patrick said about Mikey never speaking? He had a low, soft voice, sort of like crunchy velvet, and Patrick hadn't lied when he claimed Pete had it bad.

"So you want to play bass?" said Pete. He immediately wanted to slap himself.

"Yeah," said Mikey, obviously a kind and forgiving soul. "I play rhythm guitar fine, but I don't like fronting."

"Sure." Pete nodded, making out he understood any of that. "Well, bass is pretty simple." According to Bass for Beginners.

Mikey opened the guitar case and took out the guitar, cradling it in his palms. Pete couldn't look away. A faint dusting of an expression lit up Mikey's face, which was ninety percent hidden by glasses and hair.

"You must like going to -" Pete gulped "- gigs and stuff then. Are there any good places around here?"

"I wouldn't know," said Mikey. "My mom doesn't let me go to any. You should ask Gabe."

"Why not?" pressed Pete. Not just because he wanted the answer from Mikey's lips (oh shit, Mikey's lips), but because he liked hearing Mikey speak.

Mikey shrugged, splaying his right hand over the fret. "She wants my brother to go with me, to protect me from big bad wolves, and he won't. So."

"He never goes to gigs?"

"He never goes anywhere," corrected Mikey.

"Maybe if there was a band he liked..."

"Yeah, I don't think Glen Miller will be playing shows any time soon."

"Right." Pete studied Mikey under his bangs.

"So, the lesson?" Mikey looked up, not quite at Pete's face. "Not to be rude, but I have to get home before my mom, or I'll be grounded."

"Sure, yeah." Pete frantically wracked his brain for the things he'd learned ten hours earlier. "Okay. First of all, start by putting your hands like this..."

♣♣♣

Pete and Mikey parted ways in the herbaceous border. Pete had offered Mikey a ride home, but Mikey declined. He just said, "Thanks, but I'm good," which set off a dozen sparklers of jealousy in Pete's chest. He assumed Mikey was going with Gabe, although Ray was getting a late coffee at the Starbucks cart. Ray was a nicer option, and one that was completely rejected by the insane person living inside Pete's head.

Brendon sent Mikey darkling looks as Pete ordered a banana smoothie to go. "Sometimes I worry about that boy's allegiances," he told Pete, as Ray waved a mocha in front of Mikey's scowling face. Sometimes Pete worried about the allegiances too, and what would happen to him if he ever really needed a peppermint tea or something.

"So," continued Brendon, leaning over the counter, "did you hear about the Stars' party? You're welcome to come crash it with us. Gabe's band is playing, should be good."

"Hmm," said Pete. He slanted his eyes across to Mikey again. During their conversation he'd asked Mikey if he'd read Harry Potter. Mikey hadn't, but he liked the films okay. It was probably impossibly dorky to ask Mikey if he wanted to come over some time and watch them together. Pete would probably do it anyway.

He'd stared at Mikey's ear for a lot of the time, wanting to lick the delicate curve, the pink shell. But that was okay, because ears were above the waist. Totally.

"I'd love to get Mikey to come," said Brendon, who clearly didn't require much in the way of audience participation. "But his mom's so uptight about live music we practically have to get DJs to sign an affidavit before she'll let him out the door."

"But if Gerard came, Mikey could," said Pete. "Right?"

"Yeah, and maybe it'll start raining marshmallows and sherbet," said Brendon. "That'll be two dollars, please."

Pete rummaged in his pockets - always a tricky manoeuvre - and found himself with a handful of change. "Er ... I don't think I have enough for a tip."

"That's all right," said Brendon. "But you have to pay me back in kisses."

Pete only got to the first syllable of 'seriously?' before Brendon grabbed him around the back of the head and smashed his lips into the corner of Pete's mouth. Brendon was wearing some kind of fruity lip balm: the scent fried the nerve endings in Pete's nose.

"Jesus, is that ginseng?" he gasped.

"No! Eucalyptus."

"Isn't it time for you to close up shop?" said Mikey from behind Pete. Pete blushed, and Brendon's eyes widened for a second. "Jon left ages ago."

"Don't compare me to that miscreant," sniffed Brendon. "I have a work ethic, you know."

"And it is, what? Sexually assault your customers till they cry and give in?"

"Pete isn't crying," said Brendon. He pulled off Mikey's cap and put it on his own head, with an ominous creak of hair gel. "He's a manly man, unlike you."

"Excuse me for not wanting your tongue down my throat every five seconds," said Mikey dryly. Pete couldn't stop checking him out in his peripheral vision. Little licks of hair brushed his cheeks and fell into his eyes. Brendon was doing some kind of voodoo monkey dance, fortunately, and didn't notice.

"Pete's crashing the Stars party with us on Saturday," said Brendon. Pete couldn't remember saying that at all. "Could you try talking your mom around -"

But Mikey was shaking his head. "She's already pissed about Gee. No way is she letting me go."

"Shame," sighed Brendon. Then he brightened. "We could kidnap you!"

"No."

"Come on, you only fell a few feet last time. Some minor scratches. Tiny, really, compared to Vietnam."

"Brendon," said Mikey, "no."

"You guys coming or what?" yelled Ray.

"See ya, Petey!" Brendon darted in for another kiss, getting Pete square in the nose. He'd be reeking of koalas for a week.

"Sorry about Brendon," said Mikey. He sketched an apology with his hands. "He's ... Brendon."

Pete nodded. "Same time tomorrow?"

"Sure," said Mikey. And Pete had to grab the side of the cart for support, because Mikey smiled, and it was the greatest thing Pete had ever seen.

♣♣♣

"Patrick, I love you," said Pete.

"What do you want now?" asked Patrick, who'd quickly cottoned on to the basic layout of this relationship.

"You know everyone here." Pete pushed a tuna and sweetcorn roll into Patrick's hands. Patrick hated cafeteria food but he also slept too late to make proper lunches. Pete was a mean hand with a sandwich. "Who could convince Gerard Way to go to a gig?"

"No one," said Patrick. His eyes were fixed on the roll with something like religious fervor.

"He has no friends?"

"Sure, he has friends. Greta and Bob. They hold protest rallies about once a week."

"What are they protesting?"

Patrick paused, roll halfway to his mouth. "Do you know, I have no idea? Corporate art, maybe. Or the price of canvas. Something deeply relevant to the fate of humanity, anyway."

"Could we work through them?"

"We?" said Patrick. Pete produced his secret weapon: a slice of his mom's homemade peach cobbler. Patrick looked like he might cry. "Oh. Okay. No. Gerard's really stubborn and they've all been friends since forever. They can't not know that about him."

"So we need someone equally stubborn but who Gerard will follow," said Pete.

"I've heard Jesus is planning a second coming any day now," said Patrick, but he did glance around the cafeteria. After a second, he said slowly, "I suppose there's always Frank Iero."

He pointed at a far table. A vicious-looking kid was tearing apart a pizza. He looked familiar; when he turned his head to snarl at the boy beside him, Pete saw the tattoo and realized why.

"He looks capable of tying up Gerard and dragging him there," said Pete. "The caveman routine was not so much what I had in mind, though."

"Beggars can't be choosers," Patrick pointed out. "And Frank's an unknown quantity. He transferred from New Jersey last year. I heard he did time in Pencey Penitentiary."

"For juvenile delinquents?" clarified Pete. "His resume just keeps getting better."

"We could sell him as a tortured soul," suggested Patrick. "Gerard will totally go for that."

"What about Iero? How do we sell Gerard to him?"

"I don't know," said Patrick. "Money'd be favorite. You got any cash on you?"

"Yeah, but I'm not using it," said Pete. "I don't want this traced back to me." At Patrick's confused look, he added, "Come on! This is the definition of desperate: paying someone to get you a date by proxy."

"Oh, so you want to date Mikey now?" said Patrick.

"Um," said Pete. What he wanted, basically, was an extended makeout session with Mikey, on a bed (Pete's, Mikey's, Patrick's, Frank Iero's; any bed would do), their legs tangled together, kissing with tongues until they got sweaty and warm. Patrick would most likely regard that as too much information, though.

"Let me see if I can hook you up," said Patrick. "But only because you love me."

"And my baked goods," said Pete. "It's apple pie day tomorrow at Chez Wentz. You want in?"

♣♣♣

Frank had been angry for what felt like forever.

He was angry at his mom for leaving his dad, at his dad for making her. He was angry at having to move away from Jersey and all the things that made the divorce remotely bearable. He was angry at California, with its indefatigable cheerfulness and 365-days-a-year-sunshine. He was angry at Modnab High School for being small and welcoming and enthusiastic. He was angry at his teachers, for teaching different stuff in a different way than he'd been used to. He was even angry at the goddamn beach.

Most of all, though, he was angry at himself.

Before!Frank had been a bubbly kid. That was always the word adults and yearbook people used to caption him: 'bubbly'. 'Friendly'. 'Happy go lucky.' Things like that. Frank doubted people in Modnab would call him any of those things. Some random stoner had tried to hit him up for crack just last week. That was Now!Frank: the go-to guy for hard drugs. Frank found it darkly humorous.

He sometimes wished he had drugs to take, but more in a self-punishing way than in a 'wanting to be whacked' way. The only meds his mom kept in the house were Tylenol and Neosporin. Frank didn't think even hardcore junkies would get desperate enough to mainline Neosporin.

After a parent-teacher meeting his mom said despairingly, "Frankie, you aren't even trying to fit in here."

It was true: he wasn't. Some five-year-old part of his brain thought that if he shut his eyes long enough, things would snap back to the way they were. So he continued bombing tests, turning in half-finished homework or no homework at all, repulsing all efforts at social interaction. There were lots of those: Mobnab was a friendly place. He kind of ate lunch with some metalheads, but even they were pretty chill. Travis sometimes turned up in a tutu or a kaftan, admittedly because he was stoned all the time, and Butcher braked for animals. But he didn't talk to them and they didn't hang out.

So the first time Gabe Saporta spoke to Frank, he was pretty surprised. In fact, he thought Gabe might be hollering at someone else, an assumption that was put to the lie when Gabe dropped an orangutan arm over his shoulders and crushed him into his armpit, albeit in a friendly manner.

"I was looking for you everywhere," said Gabe. He sounded like this was a mammoth task, like he walked Pole to Pole in his quest for Frank. In fact, it took ten minutes to walk from one end of Modnab High School to the other, and that was without having Gabe's mile-long legs.

"I don't sell drugs," said Frank immediately. Gabe looked kind of shocked, but then he let out a bellow of a laugh.

"Good," he said. "My dad's a cop. I have a favor of a different sort to ask."

"I don't date guys, either," said Frank. This was only technically true. He'd made out with Bobbie Venom for three hours the night before he flew out to Modnab. That had been all Bobbie, though, and Frank was too upset and rage-sick to care. Or stop him.

"Hold it back a little, Frankie," said Gabe. "We're in the baby steps stage here, you need to retain your mystique."

"What do you want?" snapped Frank. Gabe was rich - or at least, his family was - and he played in a band and girls fell out of trees to date him. Frank had nothing Gabe could possibly want or need.

"Do you know Gerard Way?"

"I know of him." Frank shrugged. Gerard Way was in his class and wore eyeliner: a little hard to miss.

"I want you to convince him to go to the Stars party on Saturday night."

"Yeah, right." Frank laughed derisively. The Stars versus Smoos rivalry that took the place of something normal, like geeks versus jocks, didn't actually make him angry. He just thought it was stupid. "Why would I do that?"

"I don't know." Gabe flicked a wad of bills in his face. "Because Benjamin Franklin wants you to?"

Frank followed the greenbacks hungrily. Money was tight since the divorce. 'At least the weather's free,' his mother joked, which was Frank's cue to mention how much he missed snow.

"I can see by your eyes that you agree, young Skywalker," said Gabe pompously. "All this is yours, plus a few camels and desert oasis, if you get me Gerard Way."

"You aren't going to ... sell him to the white slave trade, or something, are you?" asked Frank. Gabe wore baseball caps backwards; he was capable of anything.

"Of course not," snorted Gabe. "As if they'd want him. What's your cell?"

"I -"

"No, I'm not going to forward it to the mafia," said Gabe. "I thought you might need the address of Gee's favorite art gallery. I'm not paying you peanuts, Iero. Don't fuck this up."

Gabe's eyes glinted. He looked a bit like a snake. A demented, sartorially-challenged snake. "Okay," said Frank, and quickly reeled off the numbers.

♣♣♣

part ii
 
 
Current Mood: enthralledlolarious
Current Music: keep an open mind (captain)
 
 
 
mrsquizzical: boyhandsmrsquizzical on April 9th, 2008 09:14 am (UTC)
*hasn't read*

*has fingers over eyes*

i'm trying to finish your other thing! and you're tempting me with this! argh. priorities!!!

(sorry it's taken me longer than i said it would. rl kicking my arse. son's medical issues. blah blah blah.)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: MCR: Frank + Gerard + goofy laughingscoradh on April 9th, 2008 11:12 am (UTC)
I AM A VILE TEMPTRESS.

no worries at all! the three others have got back to me - not something i'm saying to make you feel guilty, but if rl kicks your ass to the curb on this, you can totes pull out without feeling you're letting me down. :D
orwhoeveriamorwhoeveriam on April 9th, 2008 01:20 pm (UTC)
*hasn't read it yet either*
well, except the first paragraph.
modnab, california!? nooooo.
10 things i hate about you was set in tacoma, wa.
where i live. it's our only claim to fame! don't take it away from us!
lol.
that's all, gonna read it now and find out if it's cali for a reason.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Dinosaur: attracted to musicscoradh on April 9th, 2008 01:31 pm (UTC)
Modnab is not a real place. For all intents and purposes, California isn't either. I set it there because it's like the place where good people go to die and, also, I can base a lot of it on my TV-watching.
orwhoeveriamorwhoeveriam on April 9th, 2008 01:45 pm (UTC)
i suppose that's reasonable. plus frank would have a hard time raging against the weather for being too sunny and cheery in tacoma.
this is great, btw, i love which characters the bandom guys are.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Marie Antoinettescoradh on April 9th, 2008 10:19 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I've heard tell it's basically like Irish weather. Do not want.

Thanks! I don't know why Brendon is friends with Mikey, though...
orwhoeveriamorwhoeveriam on April 9th, 2008 10:36 pm (UTC)
aha, i've got it. brendon and mikey are in band together.

yeah, i've heard that too. lol, i feel like guilty for insulting the weather. today's the nicest day we've had in 6 months.
lily_liedtome: Bandom: MCR: Frank lily_liedtome on April 15th, 2008 06:13 am (UTC)
I'm liking this so far, but... I don't think that Dionne Warwick was in The Supremes? So that threw me out of the story a bit.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: MCR: pensive Frankiescoradh on April 15th, 2008 07:56 am (UTC)
Fixteded!
(Anonymous) on June 10th, 2008 01:49 am (UTC)
This is like my 3rd re-read of this story (I'm going thru a bit of a bandom stage right now) and I noticed a little typo:
in the scene near the beginning when Mikey gets home, you typed "Mrs.Wentz" instead of "Mrs.Way"
Just thought I'd mention it.
:)
-tg
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on August 23rd, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC)
Oh man, I only noticed this now! But thanks for pointing that out.
real men love discotakkatakkatakka on August 23rd, 2008 08:40 pm (UTC)
"We could kidnap you!"

"No."

"Come on, you only fell a few feet last time. Some minor scratches. Tiny, really, compared to Vietnam."

Going in my Facebook quotes.

xD

every Starbucks should have a polar bear: SGA: pretty cityscoradh on August 23rd, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)
That sounds cool, although I'm not a facebook afincionado. Go me! :D
real men love discotakkatakkatakka on August 23rd, 2008 10:42 pm (UTC)
I have to admire you for that. To be honest, I only really use it to log all my favourite fanfic quotes...

xD
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: bandsscoradh on August 23rd, 2008 10:57 pm (UTC)
I do have a profile, except I've only used it three times. I didn't realise there was a big fanfic contingent there, though! I sort of assumed that was mainly limited to lj.
britt_lpness on February 9th, 2009 01:59 am (UTC)
lol this is awesome!!
I love 10 things I hate about you!
and bandom!
so both of them together is like
OMG!awesomeness

"You've been staring at Mikey Way for like ten minutes," said Patrick. "Pretty soon Gabe will come over and eat your face."
lolol