play it again sam (and this time make it count)

Mikey thinks it would probably be weirder walking into his ex-boyfriend’s bar with his wife if he hadn’t played picture-message phone tag with Pete just last week. It was something they did every once in awhile, especially when they were both on tour and stayed in hotels whose only element of surprise came in whether the breakfast was cold or hot.

Pete would take a picture of a lamp, and Mikey would take a picture of his lamp, and then the game would be on, scrambling around hotel rooms or venues trying to match each other’s pictures as closely as possible. It said something about the depressing monotony of touring life, but there were times when the pictures were of people’s dirty boxers (Frankie and Trohman had similar taste) or pyramids of soda cans (that took an hour to construct and required the help of two techs and Bob’s steady hand) made up for seeing the exact same bedspread Mikey was curled under on Pete’s bed six states away.

And it wasn’t like Pete was actually at Angels & Kings. Mikey isn’t entirely sure where Pete is right now, because the last text message from him had been predictably opaque: sun dances in my eyes and I wish it was going to rain, it would keep me from looking at you. Whatever the fuck *that* means.

Mikey has known Pete for going on three years, and he’s still mystified by the shit Pete puts down on paper, whether electronic or otherwise.

He never lets on that he doesn’t get it, though; it would ruin the inscrutable thing he’s got going on. So he always sends something rambly and incoherent back, usually a Morrissey lyric or something from one of the post-its Gerard leaves everywhere like a trail of confetti. It seems to make Pete happy, though, and if Mikey’s learned one thing from an intense summer and the resulting heady friendship, it’s that Mikey is really on board with Pete being happy. Especially if it’s so easy to make happen.

The thing about that summer wasn’t the inevitability of summer’s end. It’s an easy mistake to make, especially since Pete’s predictable habit of airing his relationship issues through Patrick Stump’s voice means that everyone has an opinion on a relationship that is public in the most circumstantial of ways.

Summer ends, okay, but it’s not like the world stops.

It just seems like it does when you go from spending twenty-four hours a day with someone in the alternate universe that is the Warped tour to downtime on opposite coasts with only a telephone line in between.

They could have made that work, Mikey really believes that; they could have made the long-distance thing happen, on different schedules with different tours in different time zones, if they hadn’t felt the loss so damn deeply. Mikey blames himself as much as Pete for that, for reaching out to grasp someone that wasn’t there, for the silences on the phone that could only be filled by a warm body.

They stopped what they had because it was too much to not have anymore, and Mikey fucking regrets that, but he never said he was strong. Pete just always thought he was strong enough for the both of them.

Mikey relaxes back into the couch at A&K, catching Alicia’s eye where she’s holding court at the bar, laughing between tequila body shots off her friends. She smiles at him, full and uninhibited, and his lips quirk up in response. She’s probably the best thing to ever happen to him, and Mikey’s very aware of just how lucky he’s been.

She teases him and Pete both with equal fervor, not holding this thing Mikey still has with Pete against him. Any girl that puts up with a guy in a band–a really busy and life-alteringly famous band–as well as the guy’s weird relationship with his ex-boyfriend is someone who should probably be awarded a medal.

It’s not that Mikey doesn’t have things he lets slide with Alicia, because neither of them are perfect human beings, and marriage is definitely work with the fun stuff thrown in whenever you can get it. He’s just still at the stage where he can’t believe that this woman actually married him, and sometimes it gets a little big when he realizes that he gets to spend the rest of his life with her.

He told that to Pete, right before he asked Alicia to marry him. Mikey wasn’t sure it was something he could tell Pete, and spent a couple hours thinking it over before figuring what the fuck, if he couldn’t tell Pete, who used to be able to read his mind from the way he breathed on Pete’s skin, and could still do a pretty good job of it even without touching involved; if he couldn’t tell Pete, he didn’t think there was anyone who could really get it.

Pete just looked at him for awhile and then smiled, but it was the smile where his eyes looked at the ground even as he was facing straight at you, and Mikey knew better than to listen to the words Pete said. He listened to the way Pete shifted (why couldn’t that have been us, it should have been us), the way his breath stuttered with laughter as he said congratulations (I wish I could hate her for having you but I just hate that she makes you look that way), the way his arms felt wrapped around Mikey’s shoulders (can’t we go back in time? hold hands with me in the back room, kiss me before soundcheck, don’t give up this time).

Mikey heard all of that and just hugged Pete close, for a long time. Finally Pete sagged against him and he said, more to Mikey’s neck than anywhere else, “I’m happy for you,” and that time, he meant it.

Mikey’s not saying it isn’t kind of weird, but whatever Pete thinks, Mikey always found Pete to be the best friend (that wasn’t his brother) he ever had. Mikey doesn’t make friends easily, and even when things were falling apart he told Pete, up front, that they would still be friends. He doesn’t think Pete believed him then, but he probably does now, because Pete has a hard time giving up people, especially when they don’t want to be let go.

The karaoke breaks, and Mikey waves to Alicia that he’s going to the back room for a little bit of breathing space. She grins and blows him a kiss, and he makes his way through the group of people clumped at the far end of the bar to the “Staff Only” door. It’s immediately quieter, and Mikey leans against the hallway, just for a second. His phone buzzes in his pocket, and there’s a new text from Pete.

so yr givin em all crazy 8s yeah

I like to be the median point

u gotta make a statement w/ yr judgin

statements were never my thing

take a cue frm yr brah i left u somethin in back rm


But there’s no reply, so Mikey walks down the hallway to the office door. There’s a framed picture of Hemmy on it. Mikey knocks a little, but no one answers. It’s open, though, and Mikey goes in even though he feels like he’s trespassing. On the table is a white envelope with his name scrawled across it in messy Sharpie: “mikeyway” in Pete’s sprawling print.

He takes it and goes back to the hallway to open it up. Inside are a bunch of Polaroids, from a couple years ago on Warped. Pictures of Mikey sleeping, of their faces squished together in a bunk, of Pete putting on eyeliner (even though it smeared in the summer heat), of them playing bass at each other in someone’s trailer, a couple dozen memories tucked into a manila envelope. Pete had some kind of obsession with Polaroid that summer, but Mikey never saw the pictures afterwards.

He folds up the envelope and shoves it in his hoodie, close to his body, and goes back out to the floor; he’s pretty sure the judging is going to start up again in a minute. Before he leaves the relative peace of the corridor, though, he fishes out his phone again and types: thanks for the memories, but we’re gonna make more.

He pushes his way out to Alicia and kisses her cheek; she whisper-slurs something dirty in his ear and his grip tightens on her for a second before he kisses her again and goes back to the judging. His phone buzzes again, but he doesn’t reach for it; he just lifts up his cue card and gives the girl singing a full 10.