It had been while Tommy was watching Alex set out the Cool Whip tubs--ready to top the milkshakes at will--that he had said, "What, no green whipped cream? Where's your Irish spirit?"
And Alex--who Mikey sensed had a crush of epic and even seismic proportions on Tommy--said, "Um, that is kind of a really fun idea."
Mikey had to give it to him, it was. Alex asked where the leftover green food coloring was and put Tommy to work helping tint the whipped cream. Brendon came to check how things were going and said, "It looks like a four leaf clover threw up in here."
"Perfect," Greta said, handing him the bottle of green sprinkles. "Get to work."
Mikey wasn't sure that handing Brendon a bottle of sprinkles and essentially telling him to go to town was the best plan ever, but Brendon managed to prove himself decently restrained, sort of. Brian came by moments later and asked, "Can I steal Mikey? Ryan's going crazy--"
He didn't have to finish, though, because those were the magic words. "Go," Greta, Alex, Tommy, Chris and Brendon all ordered at once. Mikey laughed, and followed easily behind Brian.
"What d'you think?" Gerard asked for something like the twentieth time.
Mikey said, "They suck."
"Mikey," Gerard whined.
Mikey snickered. "I think the same thing I thought the first nineteen times you asked me. They're the best parade floats ever."
"Not ever. That's the Rose Parade. They make their floats out of roses."
"Hence the name."
"Oh, shut up."
"I like yours better," Bob opined, while helping Gustav straighten his leprechaun costume into place.
"You're biased," Gerard informed him, but he was beaming, all the same.
"Who's the smoking hot piece with the legs?" Tommy asked, looking at where a woman had just made her way up to the front of the barricade between the parade and the crowd. She was clearly searching for someone.
"My boss," Bob said.
"Oh. I mean, um, she's--"
Bob snickered. Tommy grumbled. Gerard asked, "Really, that's Vicky? Can I meet her?"
Bob shrugged. He called out, "Vicky," and waved a hand. She grinned and made her way over.
She said, "You seen any '92 Accords in this crowd?"
"You found someone else who thinks in cars," Gerard said, bouncing a little. Bob leaned down and surprised him with a kiss. Mikey tried not to laugh, watching Gerard struggle not to fall over. He still never expected the small moments. Bob steadied Gerard, and for a second, Mikey lost his ability to breathe, thinking what that would be like. Mostly, it was just the odd idea that they didn't have to be afraid, that even with all the risks that the world itself posed, they were safe. But there was also the part where he just wanted Frank's hands holding him up. Even if he could stand by himself. That was insignificant to the desire.
Bob said, "Vicky, this is my boyfriend, Gerard."
"Good of you not to go around kissing boys you're not dating," she said, and held out her hand.
"And this is his brother, Mikey."
Mikey shook her hand, too. She had a stronger grip than most people did, but it didn't hurt. Bob finished off with, "And this is our roommate, Tommy."
Tommy said, "Freeloader, really," but shook her hand.
"Good on you," she told him. "So, seriously, where's my girl?"
"Probably getting ready to watch the parade near the church end of things," Bob said.
Vicky said, "Great. Good meeting you all. Catch you later, maybe."
"Girl?" Gerard asked.
"Greta," Bob didn't-quite-explain.
Tommy said, "I swear, it's like G-d hit this place with the Gay Stick."
"Watch out," Mikey told him, and said a little prayer for Alex's sake.
There is such a thing as too much mint-flavored milkshake. Just so you know. I actually have not yet experienced it, but quite a few of the center's kids did. It was...we'll use the word spectacular.
Despite that mishap, even Ryan was pretty happy with the way things turned out. The floats were the best thing ever. Gerard has all these ideas for next year. Some of them are, well, Gerard-y, and so unlikely to happen, but he's got some fairly down-to-earth ones, too. Jon says it was the best turnout ever. Tommy's off with him, developing all the pictures and deciding which ones to send to media outlets. We actually even had some news crews report on the event live, which is the first time that's ever happened.
My stats midterm is coming up. Ryland says he'll buy me lunch if I get a B or higher, and you know me and free food.
Bob has mentioned trying to teach Gerard and me how to drive. Gerard's excited by the idea, but, to be honest, I think Bob could say he wanted to vivisect Gerard for the sake of science and Gerard would ask how long it was going to take and then giggle. I'm not sure how good I feel about getting behind a moving vehicle. I don't know, it just seems like the kind of thing I could fuck up without trying too hard. But then, he's probably right, it probably is a skill I should know.
I saved you green-frosted sugar cookies. Actually, I asked Greta to set a couple aside and she made a few with your name and some clover designs on them. I figured it's okay, people will probably think they're from your mom. Happy St. Pat's.
P.S. Evidently food in general works. Bob says Greta accidentally caught Vicky, his boss, with potato soup. I thought we should both know this. For research purposes.
Tell Greta thanks, and that no matter how well the potato soup worked, I still suggest a cake, or something. It can never hurt to cement these things.
You should let Bob teach you to drive. He won't let you get hurt. He let that happen for a long time and he's pretty determined never to again. Why do you think he always looked after me so carefully? It's not because he liked me bugging him, I guarantee you that. Besides, if he does let you get hurt, I'll kill him, and you may not believe it, but Bob is totally terrified of me. Totally.
I think your stats midterm is happening today. You have to tell me where you made Ryland take you. I would make him take me out for a burger. Burgers are celebration food. With fries. I'm going to make you take me out for that in 287 days.
Mikey folded Frank's letter to where just the middle paragraph was visible and set it in front of Bob. He said, "Sometimes, I think we all say stuff we don't know about, not really, but Frank usually at least admits that he's not sure about that stuff. He sounds pretty sure."
Bob said, "Mikey."
Mikey just waited.
Bob shook his head, and Mikey sort of wanted to let him get away with that, but, "You didn't let me get hurt. It wasn't like that. They-- You had to protect Gee. You took care of Gee."
Mikey tilted his head. "Not what?"
"The two aren't-- Just because Gerard is being taken care of doesn't mean you are."
"No, I mean. I know that."
Bob crossed his arms over his chest. Mikey shifted. "I do."
Bob still didn't say anything. Mikey bit his lip. "It's just easier, you know, when he's okay. He wasn't and then you-- It's just easier. Better."
Bob nodded. "Better. But not good."
"Frank made things good," Mikey said, trying not to snap. He knew Bob wasn't trying to lessen what Frank did, that this wasn't even really about Frank, but Frank wasn't here to talk for himself, either, so somebody had to.
"And you had to wait for him," was all Bob said, neither confirming nor denying. "And Gerard had to watch you starve and get beaten and hide yourself as much as you could until Frank showed because when you asked, I said I wasn't interested."
Mikey flinched at the self-disgust in Bob's voice. "I didn't take it like that."
"You weren't the one who had to look at you while you said it."
Mikey ran a hand over his face. "Bob. You took care of Gee and you took care of Frank. Whatever score we had, if we ever had one, it's long settled."
Bob smiled a little. "Okay."
Bob just looked at him. Mikey once again found himself being the one to say, "Okay."