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A is for: Amusement Park, Brendon/Frank, closetfanatic

Everybody blames Pete for Brendon and Frank discovering their Empowering and Forever True Love, even Mikey, who usually lets Pete off the hook. Pete always says, "But, but, they're perfect together," and someone else always says, "Yeah. That's the problem."

***

Brendon finds BonBon Land, which isn't a shock, since Brendon's far more attached to plugging in weird ass items into search engines than Frank. Of course, it never takes much for Brendon to then convince Frank that watching/reading/doing whatever he has found is the best idea EVER. So far there have only been two trips to the hospital, but that's because Spencer, Ryan, Ray and Mikey are all really good at First Aid. Spencer has continuously tried to find a way to block Brendon's internet access, but no matter what he does, Brendon always finds away around the parental controls.

***

Actually, as Brendon's ideas go--and Frank's willingness to aid in them--BonBon Land is relatively sedate. It's meant for children, so for the most part, everyone, even Ryan, who falls off shit a lot, is fairly safe. Ryan asks, "Seriously, we have a free day in Denmark, and this is what we do?" but once Jon has gotten him nice and buzzed, even that objection goes out the window.

***

Frank and Brendon take one look at the park map, and, in perfect unison, say, "The Dog Fart Switchback."

They don't even look at each other and high five the way they did for the first few months of their symbiosis, they just accept it as a fact of life and start figuring out exactly how to get to the ride they want.

***

They ride the The Wild Boar four times, partly because it's fun, partly because they discover they can hold hands underneath the front of the carriage and nobody notices. Brendon feels a little bit like a thirteen year old when he gets to the end of the ride and his hand is all clammy inside Frank's, but Frank squeezes and Brendon remembers that he's not the only one in love.

B is for: Baby brother, Mikey, Gerard, rilee16

"Gee," Lindsay's whispering. "Gee, babe. Your brother's here."

Gerard blinks awake at that. Lindsay looks kind of sick, but she's been looking like that a lot. The doctor says it's totally normal. He shoos her back into bed anyway and mutters, "Should've waken me."

"Why? You just puke, too. I know you love me, I don't need the physical proof of it."

Gerard frowns and kisses her forehead, pulling up the blankets. She doesn't actually like being under them that much, and will kick them off as soon as he's gone, but it makes him feel better. He's a selfish husband, he knows, but he really does love her. He thinks that must count for something.

He makes his way downstairs, where, sure enough, Mikey's sitting on the couch. There are two cups of coffee on the coffee table, so Gerard knows he's expected. He sits down and picks up the offering. Mikey says, "I didn't wake Linds."

"Nah, I know. Morning sickness."

"Suck," Mikey says, shivering a little. Gerard knows Mikey's terrified of the idea of having children, having little people who feel the way he sometimes feel when the meds aren't quite strong enough, or the day has been long enough that no amount of chemical help matters. They've never talked about it, but Mikey is Gerard's, has been since Gerard was allowed to look through a hospital window at a row of beds with babies that all looked the same, and he'd known, he'd known, "That's Mikey."

"She's okay," Gerard says, because for all his worry, she is. Women are kind of awesome. Gerard is really glad he isn't one. "You?" he asks. They both know Mikey isn't. He doesn't show up at eight in the morning on days when he is. He doesn't wake up at eight in the morning on days when he is.

"Nightmare," Mikey says.

"Horror flick nightmare or woke-up-and-wasn't-sure-it-wasn't-real nightmare?" Gerard's pretty sure it was the latter--the former wouldn't have brought Mikey over--but sometimes it helps to do some of the talking for Mikey, to give him time.

"'Member that time, I was like, ten, I guess, and we were walking home and I used to like to play on the tracks and you were always--" Mikey smiles, lowering his head, like it's private, only Gerard knows that Mikey doesn't hide from him. The smile isn't private, it's unsure. "Like, coming from a guy who had found a way to climb onto the roof so he could paint the tiles, it was a little funny, that like, you were always yelling at me to get off, but then there was that one day--"

"Yeah," Gerard says, because he remembers. Fuck if he'll ever, ever forget the heart-decimating terror of seeing an oncoming train, and Mikey having his stupid red shoelaces stuck in the track.

"In the dream it's you. It's you. And I don't get there." Mikey's breaths are short. "Um. Your shoelaces are the Spiderman ones you liked. Just so you know."

Gerard sets his coffee down and pulls Mikey to him, laughing a little in Mikey's hair, but not out of amusement, not exactly. Just at how Mikey that awareness is. Under his fingers, Mikey is a bit too warm, his heart beating two, three beats a second too fast. Gerard can still feel the grain of Mikey's second-hand Chucks, the skinny, fragile ankle he'd torn from the shoe. After a second, Mikey shifts so that he can fit better, the two of them puzzle pieces that always know where the right edges are.

Gerard says, "Didn't happen like that," and he isn't talking about oncoming trains, although, maybe at the time that's what the drugs had felt like, just a little.

"Okay," Mikey says, his fingers curling in the collar of Gerard's t-shirt. He sounds tired.

Gerard asks, "Wanna sleep?"

"Don't-- Don't let go."

"No." Gerard shakes his head and maneuvers them so that they're lying on the couch. It's clumsy and they'll each have new bruises later, but neither of them complains. "Nah, I'm tired too."

For all that he's taller, Mikey rests his face against Gerard's neck, snuffling a bit. Gerard closes his eyes, smiling.

C is for: Canadian Shack, Panic GSF, liketheroad

Spencer was pissed. It wasn't that Spencer didn't get pissed, but it actually wasn't all that usual, not the truly, deeply, bone-deep angry kind of pissed that he was right now. Also, generally, if Spencer was going to expend the energy to be that upset with something, it was most likely going to be Ryan. Not that Ryan minded the object of Spencer's ire not being him--he kind of preferred it that way--but it was a weird change of pace.

"What the fucking fuck?" Spencer asked upon seeing the inside the motel the label had booked for them. He sounded really calm, which was pretty much a dead give away.

"I'm cold," Brendon said, and Ryan had no idea how someone who practiced his own pout in the mirror could sound so matter-of-fact when whining. Granted, it was really cold. Really, really fucking cold.

"I could maybe make a fire," Jon said, looking doubtfully in the direction of the "fireplace," aka, hole-in-the-wall-with-some-pieces-of-wood-languishing-there.

Brendon wrapped his scarf more tightly around his throat and said, "I could help."

"No," Spencer put his foot down. Normally Spencer would have just followed over and made sure Brendon "helping" didn't end with Brendon being burned to death, but Ryan got the feeling he didn't have the patience for that right now. Ryan didn't really blame him. It had been a miserable tour, all around, and ending up in Canada's worst-ever-motel-type-complex was just the latest of the awful.

Spencer pressed a hand to his forehead. Brendon said, "Hey, hey," and tugged Spencer toward the sofa. Whatever he saw when he got there must have deterred him, because he said, "Uh, okay," and just steered Spencer toward the chairs in the kitchenette.

Ryan watched after them for a bit and then went to Jon who asked, "You have another lighter?"

Ryan gave him his and asked, "Uh, so--"

"I think the wood is wet," Jon said.

"Right," Ryan said.

The thing was, normally Spencer was the one who pulled it together and took care of them, but Spencer was just getting over having the flu bug from fucking hell--one he'd played with; and, if Ryan wasn't incorrect, the one that Brendon was busy coming down with. Also, Ryan, for all that he sometimes forgot this, was perfectly capable of taking care of both of them. He just had to be in a position where it was necessary.

Ryan said, "I'm gonna see if the bus is locked yet."

Jon nodded. Ryan buried his hands in his pockets and trudged out into the slush of the parking lot, where he found the bus to be locked. He knocked on the door that Zack had told them he'd be in and said, "We're gonna need--"

"Yeah," Zack said, "I was just about to come over."

Ryan let Zack follow him back, blankets bundled in his arms. He took the blankets from Zack when they were there, and shooed him over to help Jon with the fire-building progress. Ryan spread the blankets over the bed--one to lay on, because no way were they sleeping on the sheets--and several to cover them. There were two beds, but Ryan just pushed them together, the activity warming him up.

He wandered out, noting that somehow, Zack and Jon had managed the impossible. He wasn't terribly surprised. When he got to the table, Brendon said, "Spencer made me hot water. Want some?"

Ryan smiled a little for him and ruffled his hair. Brendon buried his face in Ryan's stomach. Ryan caressed at the back of Brendon's neck, and looked at Spencer, who just mouthed, "Fuck."

Ryan said, "Finish your water."

Brendon made a face, but did as he was told. That, right there, told Ryan just how tired and disgusting Brendon was feeling. When he'd drunk the last of it, Ryan pulled him to his feet and then turned and did the same for Spencer. Jon was standing in front of the fledgling fire, holding his hands out to it. Zack said, "Okay. Um. Text if you need anything."

"No service," Spencer said. Ryan wasn't surprised he'd checked.

Jon said, "We'll come get you, it's okay."

Zack didn't look thrilled at the idea, but he left, all the same. The four of them huddled around the fire, trying to warm up, just a little, just enough so that they would be able to go in the next room and curl over each other, under the blankets--manage to keep themselves warm enough to get through the night. Brendon's breathing was loud, and Spencer was hunched over on himself, clearly thoroughly miserable.

Ryan looked at Jon, who nodded his head a little, and the two of them did their best to crowd the other two between them, cuddle them close. Spencer pressed his face into Ryan's cheek. Brendon murmured something and drew himself even tighter, bringing Jon with him. Spencer said, "This changes nothing. Someone's still going to die for this."

"Mm," Ryan said, kissing at the side of Spencer's mouth. Spencer sighed and loosened up a little. They stood in front of the fire until Brendon started to fall over.

D is for: Daffodils, Ryan/Bob, silverceri

AN: I set this in the Blanket Made of Stars-verse, I hope that's all right.

Every year, Ryan planted flowers all around the house. He would ride into town, pick his way through the general store's selection of seeds, and bring back enough that he could plant two even rows of flora as a frame for the structure.

Every year, Ryan's garden died a slow and not-particularly-dignified death. Ryan was great with the cows, could fix a hearty dinner, and knew how to drive a bargain unlike anyone Bob had ever met, but he was horrific at growing flowers, and the Nevada climate was not a man's best friend in that particular situation. Bob had never seen Ryan be anything but determined about the whole venture until the evening he came home from the fields a little early and found Ryan decimating one corner of his failed garden with a spade.

Ryan was too focused on what he was doing to hear Bob approach. Bob said, "Ryan?" but Ryan was caught up in his own rage, and didn't answer. Bob let it go until Ryan had exhausted himself, when he said, "Ryan," again and moved in, touching a hand to Ryan's shoulder. Ryan whipped around and planted the point of the spade at the center of Bob's chest, eyes both enraged and terrified. Bob put his hands up. "Just me."

It took a second for Ryan to comprehend. Then he dropped his hand. "Sorry, uh-- Sorry."

Bob shook his head and just tugged Ryan back to him, stroking his back. Ryan's breathe caught a little. Bob said, "It's okay."

"I kill everything," Ryan said, low and soft and without any apparent emotion. Bob knew better.

"I'm pretty sure it's the desert that's killing your plants, Ry, not you. Maybe you should try some cacti, or something? Something that doesn't need so much water."

Ryan sighed. "Something ugly."

Bob winced. He sometimes wondered if Ryan wasn't meant to be kept here, in this place, if what he really should have done was taken Ryan somewhere far away, where he could be without tangible memories and have as many flowers as he damn well wanted. He said, "It'll live."

Ryan said, "Yeah, the ugly shit always does."

***

Bob talked to Mikey who said, "There are cacti that grow flowers. Um, I haven't seen them around here, but remember when we were going through New Mexico?"

Brian nodded. "Probably easy enough to get an order in."

Bob said, "Enough for him to, um, landscape, or, I mean, whatever he wants." Then, "I hate you," when Brian put on his very, very best straight face. Mikey didn't even bother.

***

Gerard, Mikey and Matt all helped Ryan plant the cacti, which came as baby plants, rather than seeds. Bob came out with a pitcher of lemonade at one point, enjoying the way Gerard was entirely more muddy than was probably necessary, and Ryan was trying to pet the cacti. Matt had to take a needle out of his hand more than once. That night, after they'd washed up and eaten dinner, Bob kissed it better. Ryan laughed, husky and pleased.

***

Most mornings, Ryan didn't even open his eyes until after his first few sips of coffee. Bob loved watching him, reveling in the way that Ryan trusted his surroundings enough that he needn't be alert first thing. This morning, Bob enjoyed watching as Ryan did open his eyes, closed them, then opened them pointedly again. He said, "Oh," a slip of breath, disbelief.

"You like?" Bob asked.

"How did you--" Ryan turned slowly, taking in the way that daffodils covered nearly every surface. There were more throughout the house.

Bob said, "You can't grow'em outside, but in pots, well, it might work. None of us are entirely sure, but we figured it might be worth a try."

"I-- Daffodils are--"

"Your favorite," Bob finished. Ryan looked at him. Bob shrugged. "It was the one flower you never gave up on. Everything else you'd try once and then just stop, but the daffodils--"

Ryan was on him then, kissing him, the taste of coffee and cream and just a hint of baking soda, hitting Bob's tongue. Bob drew him in, holding Ryan to his chest, holding to the way he could feel Ryan's chest opening, wide with his happiness. Ryan said, "I love you," between kisses.

Bob said, "I like'em. They have color."

Ryan grinned into the kiss.

E is for: Exasperation, Gerard/Bob, redandglenda

Bob loved his band, he really did, he loved every last one of them and would have taken a bullet for any of them without thinking about it. That said, if Gerard left his dirty socks on the bus table one more time, Bob was going to tie him to the hood of said bus with said socks. Naked.

"Seriously, Gee, who the fuck puts their socks on the table in the first place? You weren't raised by wolves, I happen to know both your parents, also, your brother, who doesn't seem to have this problem."

Gerard looked abashed, but all he said was, "He just remembers to hide it better."

Bob took a breath, counted to ten and said, "Don't. Do. It. Again." Then he walked away, before Gerard could come up with some ridiculous way to excuse inexcusable behavior.

***

The socks disappeared, but almost-empty coffee cups started appearing wherever Bob stepped, it seemed. These had to be Gerard's fault, largely because Gerard was the only one of them who somehow managed to forget to finish his coffee. He'd get distracted by something, and by the time he remembered he had coffee it was either cold and gross, or he couldn't find it. Sometimes, he just didn't remember.

After spilling coffee a third time by simply walking, Bob found Gerard, and stayed with him while they played "find the mostly empty coffee cup" and threw all of them in the trash. Bob said, "Next time, I will get an economy-sized bag, and put you in there until the next stop."

Gerard blinked and said, "Um. You want some coffee?"

Bob really wished he had something to hit his head against--repeatedly.

***

It was when Gerard started "accidentally" stealing Bob's pajama pants that Bob figured it out. Gerard accidentally stole Mikey's shit all the time, and didn't even realize it despite the size difference. But that was Gerard and Mikey, not Gerard and Bob. So Bob sat Gerard down in the lounge and said, "Okay, what did I do? Just tell me and then we can work it out."

"Um. You threatened to tie me to the hood of the bus?"

Gerard was a shit liar. It was kind of awesome and horribly inconvenient, all at once. Bob just looked at him. Gerard started fidgeting. Bob waited; once the fidgeting had begun, it was never long. Gerard held out longer than Bob expected him to, but eventually he burst out with, "I just, um. It's just that you notice."

Bob played the sentence in his head three times. "I notice what, exactly?" That felt more tactful than, "I notice that you drive me crazy with your pigsty habits?" and Gerard seemed a little nervous, so Bob was willing to tread lightly.

"Uh. Me?"

"You," Bob said, because he really wasn't sure how else to respond to that. Bob noticed Gerard all the fucking time. He was just a gentleman about it, okay?

Gerard got all squirrely, then, and Bob was pretty sure he would have shot right out of the lounge except that Bob caught him. He held on even as Gerard tried to get away. "You were, like, pulling my pigtails?"

"I was saving that until Mikey could get you to wear your hair in actual pigtails," Gerard said, a little indignant, given what he was telling Bob.

"You could have just kissed me, or, like, shared your coffee with me."

"I was worried that would be construed as sexual harassment." Gerard actually bit at his lower lip in concern.

"Jesus," Bob said, and hauled Gerard to where he could kiss him properly. Gerard went all limbless in seconds and barely even roused when Bob pulled back for a minute to say, "If I find dirty anything in my bunk, my revenge will be swift and unkind."

Gerard asked, "Even if it's me?"

Bob sighed. "I'm willing to enter into negotiation on that item."

F is for: Friendship, HG/SS, lifeasanamazon

Every Thursday, Severus gets home late. Hermione doesn't really notice anymore, it's just part of their routine. Sometimes she goes out on Thursday nights, because he's not going to be waiting for her, but sometimes she enjoys having the house to herself. She can play music as loud as she likes, talk to herself aloud, even make kippers, which are a major comfort food for Hermione, but the smell turns Severus' stomach.

When he comes back, he has a drink--sometimes she does, too--and a nightmare, which they don't talk about. On Fridays, they get up and go to work and it's as though Thursday night never happened.

***

She knows where he goes, and she won't ask him to stop, despite the fact that her heart aches at the thought of him doing what he does, seeing whom he sees. Hermione, more than most, understands that certain bonds aren't breakable, not even by wars and deaths and tenuous promises of freedom.

***

It's been nearly a year of Thursdays for them when, on a whim--or maybe the wave of exhaustion--Hermione says, "You can talk about it. You can trust me."

"It's hardly an issue of trust," he says, striving, clearly, for defiance and disdain, but only managing a shaky weariness. "You have been subjected to enough by the people I show tacit support for without me bringing home my worries. My actions are inappropriate, my words shall not be."

"Hiding from me is inappropriate. Being a friend through hard times-- Well, that's one of the reasons I married you."

***

The worst part of it, perhaps, for Hermione, is how Severus lets her have her friends. He might not come around when they are spending time together, but after the first few months he stopped sniping at them, and soon thereafter began showing some small gestures of support when she was having troubles with or worried about them. And yet, when it comes to the Malfoys, locked up in their cells, Severus refuses to say so much as a word.

***

"If you have such problems with their actions, then why do you continue to show them concern?" Hermione asks, one Friday morning, knowing she is breaking their rules. She didn't marry him for his tendency to think inside the box. She doesn't think that's what he saw in her, either.

"The answer is not so complex as you are probably hoping."

She takes a bite of her breakfast. "Dazzle me."

"Everyone makes mistakes."

She doesn't say anything, because she knows him--that may be the basic philosophy, it isn't the reason. He stands out against her quiet interrogation for all of three minutes before breaking. "Albus used to say that saving me had done no good if I didn't use the knowledge of what being saved was to aid others in the same process."

Hermione hadn't known the Headmaster all that well, but, "That does sound like him."

Severus looks at her. "I don't find them irredeemable."

She moves into his space, kisses him. "No."

He leans into her just the tiniest bit, the inch or so everything he will never say. She nods. "No, of course not."



G is for: Gerard's ideas, Frank/Mikey,

Gerard had an Idea, Mikey could tell. Ideas, in Mikey's experience, were one of two things: Awesome, Incredible and Brilliant, like starting a band with Ray Toro, or Fucking Disastrous, like moving to Seattle or dyeing his hair anime-red. Gerard was a man of extremes.

Gerard was in the same room with him, so it was only appropriate to text, "penny for 'em."

Gerard looked up, all false-innocence. "Nothing to buy."

Mikey sighed. When Ideas were secret, they always, always fell on the Fucking Disastrous end of the scale.

***

Usually, Mikey was able to see the Idea coming from miles away, but somehow, when Gerard said, "Hey, go on a road trip with me, just for a weekend?" Mikey hadn't predicted that what Gerard actually meant was, "I plan on pretending I'm going on a road trip with Frank, too, and then ditching both of you at the last minute."

Frank said, "Your brother is the worst matchmaker ever."

Mikey rubbed at his forehead. He'd actually kind of been looking forward to going out to Amherst. The B&Bs there were old and drafty and made him think of ghosts. He liked it. "Yeah."

"Hey," Frank jiggled the keys. "We've got reservations, right?"

Mikey peered at him out of one eye. Frank shrugged. "It'd suck to waste 'em."

Mikey got in the car.

***

"He just wants you to be happy, you know?" Frank said in the middle of a Taking Back Sunday song that he had previously been, um, interpreting at the top of his lungs.

Mikey turned down the volume. "What?"

"Gerard, he just worries."

"I'm okay," Mikey said, and meant it. Nothing was wrong right now that couldn't be fixed, not so long as he kept taking his meds and didn't let himself think too much.

"Yeah, but he wants you to be happy. We all-- I want that, too."

Mikey shook his head and reached to turn the volume back up, but Frank caught his hand. "You didn't see this coming when normally you would have because you weren't really paying attention, but I did. I did and I showed up this morning and got in the car with you anyway, and you're allowed to ignore that fact if you want to, but it's still a fact."

Frank let go. It took Mikey a second to feel his fingers again, even though Frank hadn't been holding on particularly tightly. He turned the dial.

***

They arrived early enough to spend the day in thrift stores and having small, continuous snacks in different coffee shops. In the evening they made their way to the B&B, which was a few miles outside the town proper, through winding, wooded roads. The innkeeper had sugar cookies made and coffee brewing and she was proud of her place, of the history it encapsulated. Mikey let her words run over him, the same as her cats.

At some point, Frank tugged him down a hallway, up a few stairs and onto a bed. Mikey looked down at where Frank was taking Mikey's shoes off his feet and said, "I'm tired."

"Yeah," Frank agreed, like he'd known. Maybe he had. Frank always knew things he wasn't supposed to know.

Frank pushed back the covers and herded Mikey into the bed and was about to turn away when Mikey grabbed his wrist. Mikey looked at his hand, thinking how Frank had done this earlier. He said, "Keep me safe from the ghosts."

The wind blew through the windowpanes and Frank didn't ask, he just climbed in beside Mikey and said, "Won't let 'em get you."

H is for: Hug, Bob/Mikey, saba1789

Mikey's memories don't always go in order. For instance, he knows that the first time he met Bob, he was ordering a beer, something cheap and vaguely stale-tasting, and on his way to getting toasted before he had to play. He remembers Frank going on about Bob's, "Skillzzzzz, seriously Mikeyway, he made, like, that opener sound like they knew what they were doing." Mikey remembers thinking, "Yeah, that's pretty incredible," and, "Jesus, how long does it take to get a beer in this place?"

He knows that was first. The first thing he remembers about Bob, though, when he thinks about it, is the way Bob held him, hour after hour after hour, when Gerard was detoxing, screaming things, things Mikey didn't want to hear and couldn't walk away from. He remembers how it should have felt like a forced hold, keeping him away from Gerard, keeping him there, anchoring him. Instead, it felt like a hug. Mikey knows there were things before that, he just doesn't think any of them mattered.

***

Each of the guys has a different hug and Mikey loves each one in its own way, but Bob is the only one who can completely wrap Mikey up--not even Ray can quite manage that, even if his hugs are sturdy and steadying and as familiar as home. Bob's hugs are warm and certain and they remind Mikey that he's wanted.

From the very first, Mikey knows he probably shouldn't give into them, they're too good, like alcohol and pills and other things that take him away, make things all right. He knows he shouldn't, but Mikey has never been very good at saying no.

***

When Mikey finally gets clean, he spends days shaky and pained and afraid of his own body. He spends even longer afraid of his mind, of the pull it has on him, the desire it can draw around him, until the tug is almost too much to resist. He manages, but just barely.

The guys don't come until he tells them they can, and he thinks he's ready, he's pretty sure, but then Bob is there, his arms safe and warm and really fucking addictive and Mikey thinks, fuck, because this is one drug there's no meetings for.

***

Mikey tries to just take it one day at a time--they tell him that's how it's supposed to go--but Bob is always there when Mikey needs him and it's impossible to say no, far more impossible than it was to finally put aside the pills and the booze. Mikey tries to act normal, not to let on as if there's anything wrong, but after a month Bob says, "Mikey. If-- If I make you uncomfortable, you know you can just--"

Mikey finds his fingers digging into Bob's arm and it's humiliating, but he doesn't think he can let go. Bob asks, "Mikey?"

Mikey shakes his head a few times, but Bob's not getting it, he's still making calming noises. Mikey stutters, "Not supposed-- I need and I'm not supposed to-- Rely--"

Bob puts his hand under Mikey's chin, makes Mikey look at him. Time has literally stopped moving, that's all that can explain why this is taking so long. Finally, Bob says, "I'm not a drug. I won't destroy you from the inside out. Swear."

Mikey blinks, because nobody told him that there are different types of dependence. He feels stupid, because of course he should have known that. He's just not sure how. "Scarier than one," he admits.

"Good thing for me that you're fucking brave," Bob says, his voice gruff. He's not looking at Mikey.

Somehow it's that, the utter vulnerability in Bob's shoulders that makes it possible--easy--for Mikey to slide a hand along Bob's back, to say, "Not really," even as leans in, eager for the touch, the hug, eager for Bob.

I is for: Incognito, Bob/Brian, crowgirl13

Brian can, for the most part, walk down a street completely unmolested no matter where he is. Bob, on the other hand, is a different story. It makes for interesting dates.

***

The first time, Bob fucked Brian on the dark side of the van in a public parking lot. Bob was technically Brian's employee, or at least, the employee of Brian's band, and it was all kinds of a bad idea. The best thing for it would really would have been for both of them to pretend it hadn't happened in the morning. Instead, Bob said, "Hey, I bet we could catch a one o'clock mat on Saturday, my treat, popcorn and all."

Brian said, "What a fucking gentleman."

It had been really easy, back then.

***

They aren't the kind of guys who do romantic dinners with mood lighting or riverboat cruises, or whatever, but occasionally, Bob likes to go to a concert of a band he doesn't know anybody in with Brian, or Brian likes to take Bob to hole-in-the-wall diners he's found that only Bob will understand. Most of the time, it's easy enough to dress Bob in ways where nobody will notice him, even given his size. The places they pick aren't likely to attract the kind of people who will get all up in Bob's face.

Occasionally, though, there are problems.

***

If Bob has to wear a suit, they're pretty much fucked. There is no good way to put a cap on Bob in a suit. He doesn't have flashy taste in suits, but suits, unlike baggy jeans and non-descript t-shirts, do not have the same camouflaging effect. Bob doesn't like suits, and it's rare that he has to wear them, but there is the time that Brian's brother gets married and says, "Brian, I swear to fuck, you and your boyfriend need to show, and in appropriate attire."

Brian's brother is an insurance agent and really shouldn't be scary. Bob says, "Suit it is."

It's a fucking bitch making sure none of those pictures get out on the internet. Bob tells him, "Next time, we invite the guys and make it look like a family affair."

Brian agrees by way of fucking him over the back of the couch. Bob doesn't complain again after that.

***

Then there's the time that Bob's mom scores a job at one of Chicago's nicest restaurants and swears to disown him if he won't take Brian on a date there. Bob cuts his hair for the occasion, and wears the world's most boring gray slacks and sports-jacket combo. Brian says, "Not the look that turns me on the most."

"Shut up, I'm buying."

"You get your mom's discount."

Bob sighs, looking at Brian pointedly. Brian makes a face. "Yeah, just."

Bob nods in agreement. "Just."

The pictures from that do leak, despite their best attempts to have a table in a secluded area--which, in hindsight, just makes it worse. Brian makes noise about a business dinner and Bob doesn't say a damn thing at all, and sooner or later, the fans go back to being concerned that Frank and Gerard aren't spending enough time with each other.

***

They're having a night in at Brian's place in LA--pizza and popcorn and a movie--and Bob says, "Every once in a while, it'd be nice, not having to worry about someone seeing my face."

Brian looks at him because they hadn't even been talking about going out. Bob just shrugs. "Hiding's never really been my thing."

Brian says, "Spotlight hasn't either."

It feels like there should be so much space in between, but they both know there's not, not when it comes to this. Bob looks back at the screen, "Sorry, didn't mean to--"

Brian cuts him off with a kiss. It's quiet and they're inside with nobody to see and still it's not so far from the first time: Brian Bob's employee now, the risk still all around them. Brian keeps kissing.

J is for: Joy, Greta/Bob, secrethappiness

Patrick had texted him, "Come out with me tonite? Greta's playing a bar."

Bob, honestly, hadn't had a fucking clue who Greta was, had probably thought she was Patrick's girlfriend or some musician he was currently fanboying. On the other hand, he hadn't had any plans for that night, either. "ur driving"

***

Bob knew he recognized her when Patrick introduced her, he just hadn't a clue from where. That was enough, though, for him to suspect she was on Pete's label. Pete had too many fucking artists to keep track of. She shook his hand and smiled easily. "Thanks for coming out. I hope Patrick didn't have to bribe you, or anything."

There was a slight hint of laughter at the end of the statement and Bob couldn't have helped smiling, even if he'd wanted to try. "Just a blowjob, nothing major."

Her laugh at that was real and open, her face and body going along for the ride. It had been a long time since Bob had responded to anything by way of an automatic hard-on and a desire to make it happen again, no matter what. He said, "Buy you a drink after the show?"

"Underage," she told him. "And everyone here knows it."

"Coke it is," he said. She laughed some more. Mission accomplished.

***

"How underage?" he asked Patrick.

"Do I get a blowjob for answering?" Patrick returned.

There were roughly a million answers Bob could give him. He figured the one that would get him the answer was, "I like her, Patrick. Like like."

Patrick rolled his eyes. "Your band is turning you into an earnest motherfucker."

"Yeah," Bob agreed. Whatever, Patrick was in a band with Pete Motherfucking Wentz.

"Legal."

Internally, Bob did The Dance of Victory. Externally, he nodded. "Good."

***

Greta played the piano like someone who'd been doing it since she'd figured out she had fingers, and she had a voice that was made up of smoke and wine and maybe really good chocolate. He thought if she covered Billie Holliday he'd probably embarrass himself right there, in the middle of the club. Happily for everyone, she didn't.

***

At around one, Patrick came back to where Bob and Greta were sitting at the bar and said, "I'm going home. You'll get a ride?"

Greta said, "I drove. I can take him."

Patrick kissed her cheek and said, "Sublime, kiddo. As always."

"Aw. Bet you say that to all Pete's girls."

Patrick neither confirmed nor denied the accusation.

***

They closed the place down over Cokes and the occasional beer on Bob's end. He followed her out to her car and gave her instructions home. She said, "Holy shit, I used to have lessons in this part of town. Way, way back when."

Bob politely didn't mention that there wasn't that way much back to her. Instead he asked, "Come up for a coffee?"

She smiled sweetly and said, "It should be mentioned that I'm not easy."

"It should be mentioned that Mikey and Gerard have trained me to make really good coffee. Also, I'm not an asshole."

She pointed at him with her keys. "I am taking your word on that, Bob Bryar. Your word."

***

At six o'clock, he dug out an old t-shirt for her, turned back the sheets in the guest bedroom and said, "Night."

***

He woke up to the sound of soft laughter and a whispered, "Fuck if I know. Honestly." He could smell coffee, lighter than he made it, and something else. Bob got out of bed and walked into the main area of his apartment, running a hand over his head. Greta was still in his t-shirt--it came down to her knees. She was perched on one of his counters, talking on her cell. Next to her, pancake batter was all made up.

She said, "Gotta go, talk later," and hung up. "Hey, I was waiting to start."

"I had pancake batter?"

"Well, you had flour and eggs and sugar and some other stuff you need, I just--"

"Marry me," he said.

"Don't you think it's a little early for that?" she asked, her voice all serious consideration.

She looked as beautiful with her hair unbrushed as she did when she was all done up for a show. She knew most of the jazz musicians Bob did and was interested in the ones she didn't. Her laughter made it so that he didn't mind waking up at all. And she could make pancakes from scratch. "No."

"Okay then, I'll look at my calendar later, we can set a date."

Bob laughed.

K is for: Kissing, Bob/Brian, hammerhead22

Brian got into the shower one morning without remembering to take his clothes off. Some indeterminate amount of time later, Bob snatched him out, turned the water off, asked, "Are you trying to kill yourself? Because there are easier ways than hypothermia," and left him to the tender mercies of some label rep.

The next day, Brian put himself in rehab.

***

Bob picked him up on the 29th day. Brian said, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I--"

"Save it for someone who might think about not forgiving you."

Bob--"

"No, seriously, Bri. You're probably gonna need the energy."

***

Brian met up with My Chem in Michigan, because he liked killing two birds with one stone, and if he didn't visit him mom she was going to disown him. He went back to Bob's room after the family reunion and opened up a soda from the minibar before he could get himself into any more trouble.

Bob said, "So, hey, we got you something."

"We?"

"I have these friends. Sometimes we live on a bus together--"

Brian threw the bottle cap at him. Bob caught it. He walked over behind the couch and picked something up. It took Brian several moments to understand. "You got me a cat?"

"Two years old, spayed, has all her shots. Stupid name, but that's okay, you can pick a new one. Short-haired, so she won't shed as much, and super friendly, even to Frank, who's a total tool with cats."

"You realize I can't keep a plant alive to save myself?"

"Not about some AA thing. We just think you need something to think about other than work."

"That is really not a good enough reason to put a living creature in my hands."

Bob rolled his eyes. "Mikey and Gee are still alive. The cat'll be fine."

Brian wasn't really sure how to argue with that.

***

Brian named her Ella, for Fitzgerald, and pretended like he didn't remember the first night he'd ever truly listened to the woman sing, fuzzy on Tequila and sharing an earphone of Bob's discman on the hood of a van, warm in the dry heat of a San Diego evening.

***

They weren't on tour for Bob's birthday, they almost never were, what with it falling on New Year's Eve. Brian caught up to them in New Jersey. Bob was staying with Mikey, since he had the nicest guest bedroom. Brian would kind of just show up and land somewhere; that was how it was. He went to Mikey's place first, for all of that. Alicia answered the door with, "You brought Ella, right?"

Brian was glad he'd thought ahead. He was pretty sure Alicia wouldn't have let him in if he answered incorrectly.

***

Gerard, Lindsay, Frank, Jamia, Ray and Krista all showed up at some point. Frank had a couple of beers with Ray, but mostly it was a dry party, and it didn't pass Brian's attention that Bob hadn't partaken of the alcohol. Bunny and Ella were cautiously considering their friendship potential, and Carson Daly was doing his best to be an asshole on the TV. Brian kept telling him he really didn't need to try that hard--it came naturally.

At around eleven-fifty, Bob said, "Lindsay made sparkling lemonade. It's good."

Brian said, "Yeah, okay."

They toasted at midnight, sugary, carbonated, citrus-smelling liquid tipping over the sides of the glasses and onto their hands. Brian came up from his sip to the feel of Bob's lips on his, sticky and too sweet. Bob pulled back enough to murmur, "Happy New Year."

Brian hadn't been expecting the kiss, but after a few seconds of thought, he realized that was probably because he'd gotten used to expecting nothing--particularly in relation to the things he wanted. It worried him until it sunk in that, "There's nothing I can tell you that you don't know." He was so used to having to explain himself, the traveling, the alcoholism, his growing allegiance to a cat above all others, but none of that was news to Bob.

"I don't know how you kiss," Bob told him.

That wasn't the kind of thing Brian told. That was the sort of thing that could only be shown.

L is for: Laundry, Hermione/Severus/Remus CoMC-verse, whoyouinvent

Even with the continuously improving Wolfsbane, the wolves remained sensitive in the twelve hours between changes, and the twenty-four hours afterward. Severus was always working on ways to try and cut down on the touch sensitivity by way of the potion, Remus consulting as best he could. Hermione generally tried to think about the problem in other terms, since she felt that avenue was covered.

The day she found Zev shivering in early autumn and tried to put a sheet on him, only to have him forcefully whine, "No," then, "please," was the day Project: Laundry began.

***

Project: Laundry necessarily involved Severus and Remus, since Hermione needed someone to consult with about detergent potions, and someone to try out the final product. She also pulled in Ginny to brainstorm with her on charms, since, after a while, she realized it was possible that repeat launderings and careful selection of laundering potions wasn't quite enough. Month after month after month she found herself up to her waist in suds and magics and linens trying to get the right combination, and still the wolves whined and shimmied away from contact, left to the tender mercies of heating spells cast by those of them doing their best to stay awake and alert in order to help, post-transformation.

***

It was Remus who figured it out. Accidentally, albeit, but Hermione wasn't one for semantics. Well, mostly, he wrapped himself around her one morning while he was still in the pure silk-cotton mix pajamas Paulo had sent for his birthday, and Hermione realized she'd been going about the whole situation completely wrong. It wasn't just about the washing, it was about the actual material.

She muttered, "Severus, Sev'rus, S--"

"It is a bloody unholy hour, wife."

She ignored him, largely because he woke up to try something he'd dreamed of in his lab all the time. "You have contacts in China, yes?"

"Should I reply in the affirmative, will you allow me the regenerative sleep I so desperately need?"

"Only if you promise to contact them in the morning."

"Late morning."

That was good enough for Hermione.

***

"That's a lot of silk," Millicent said, when she brought the newest litter of kneazles over to see if some would settle. So far they weren't having much luck, but Hermione actually thought that was more because of how young some of the wolves were, rather than the wolf-nature itself.

Hermione nodded. "We're still waiting on the cotton."

"Running out of space? Need a tent?"

Hermione laughed. "Are you trying to curse us?"

***

The first blend, despite consulting with some of the best and brightest wizards and witches who worked with natural and polymer blends, didn't work, nor did the second. Hermione caught sight of a hare in the month following and had the idea to add angora to the mix. After two iterations of different percentages, Hermione went to cover Remus on the morning after the final change. She could hear him holding his breath, expecting it to be too much and she wanted nothing more than not to have to try it, not even for the second it would take.

Severus, mercifully, took the other end and helped her to lay it gently over Remus. His breathing stopped for a second and she asked, "Remus?"

Remus released his breath, slow and a little shaky and said, "Mm. Going to sleep now."

Hermione made herself help cover the other wolves before eating a celebratory breakfast of chocolate and making out with Severus until he was begging for her hand. Magnanimous in victory, she helped him out.

M is for: Many fucking cups, WW, amand_r

"Do we have cups? Donna, do we have--"

Donna put a hand to Josh's chest and said, "We have cups, we have plates, we have napkins, we have plasticware--all recyclable. We have placemats, despite the tablecloth. What are you supposed to be doing?"

"Making the iced tea," Josh said, because he knew that much.

"Right. So, why aren't you doing it?"

Josh let that hang in the air for a few minutes. "I was worried about the cups?"

Donna rolled her eyes and walked out of the room.

***

Josh was, admittedly, bad at parties. Or, well, he was okay once he was actually at them, if the value for okay was something like, "As long as everyone's talking politics, I won't make a complete ass out of myself." The set up, though, he was miserable about. After the first time they'd hosted a dinner party--Josh, President Santos and his wife, Sam, a few of the other people around the office--Donna had said, "If we do anything like this, ever again, I give the orders, and you listen."

Josh had said, "But I--"

"It wasn't an offer," she told him.

Josh knew it was mostly for the best, but that hadn't stopped him from arguing his point for the better part of a year. Donna hadn't even bothered to argue back; she just refused to host any social events at their house.

***

When CJ got pregnant with her second child--Josh suspected it was an accident, but had enough tact to only mention that to her in private. He could acknowledge he'd probably deserved the slap--Donna said, "We're hosting a co-ed baby shower."

"Isn't that breaking some sort of sororital pact taken by women of all shapes, sizes and colors at birth?"

"Sororital isn't a word."

"Donna." Josh knew he was whining, but it wasn't like he could help it. Sometimes his voice came out that way.

"Most of her friends are male, this is how it's going. I'm going to write a shopping list and you're going to shop for the necessary items a couple of days ahead of time. You're also going to help me with the invitations and set up. What you are not going to do, is get ideas."

"I'm an ideas guy."

"Yeah, well, keep it at the office." She said "at the office" like most people said, "in your pants."

"What if--"

"Office," she reiterated. Josh gave in, but only because if pressed, Donna was totally willing to withhold his husbandly privileges.

***

The other problem was that he got a little high-strung at the last minute, wanting things to be perfect. Donna had repeatedly marveled that he could handle trying to get bills passed and budgets changed and whatever the hell else the country needed in a matter of hours and not go to pieces, but the minute people were about to have some cake and ice cream at his house, it was total meltdown time.

"Donna! Tea's made!"

"Great," she called from the other room. "Now get the hell out of the kitchen and let the catering people do their job."

"What should I--"

"Watch some CNN."

"But--"

"What if something important's going on?"

"I'm pretty sure my phone--"

"ESPN, then."

Josh frowned. "Funny." He went with CNN.

***

There were cups everywhere. It was like they had procreated to the advancement of their species over the plates. CJ had offered, "I can stay and help--" but Donna had glared, "Don't even think about it," and then helped her out to her car with all her swag. Josh had gotten a text minutes later, "Thanks for pressing the point about no stupid games."

He texted back, "I will always have your back."

CJ responded, "At least when you'd have to play the stupid games, too."

Josh smirked. "Definitely then."

Donna came back and looked around. She said, "Possibly, I should have booked a cleaning service."

"I did," Josh told her.

"You-- Um, what?"

"It wasn't on your list of things to do."

"Right, because I--"

"Can do everything yourself." Josh smiled, his words soft. "I know."

She looked sideways at him, and, after a second, responded with a smile. "Have something in mind for while we're not cleaning?"

N is for: National Holiday, Pete/Matt (National), robjlea

Matt knew who Pete Wentz was. Matt knew, because Matt a) wasn't dead and b) had not eschewed all technology-and-print-related forms of media. What Matt didn't know what why Pete Wentz seemed to be at the dressing room door, making loud and gesture-laden proclamations about how awesome Matt's band was. Matt said, "Uh. Hi?"

Pete said, "Hi, I'm Pete Wentz, your biggest non-crazy fan."

Matt thought about it for a second and asked, "For what value of crazy?"

Behind him, Aaron and Bryce both laughed. Pete just said, "Excellent question," and settled in to think of an answer.

***

"Patrick says it takes balls to turn your back on an audience that way," Pete said later, when they were in some coffee shop that made Turkish coffee. That wasn't normally Matt's speed, but it was what they had been able to find close by that wasn't either McDonald's or closed, and he had to admit, the coffee was going down nice and smooth, and nobody was bothering them, so that was all he really asked for out of a coffee place. The baklava didn't hurt.

He frowned. "I would argue the opposite."

"Yeah, well, it's possible your crowds are less likely to hump your back than ours are," Pete said, seemingly quite solemn, except for the way his eyes were just a little too cutting to be wholly on level.

Matt couldn't say what made him ask, "How do you handle it?"

"Throw myself to them and see if I can brave the storm," Pete said.

"I take it that's supposed to make sense?"

Pete smiled into his coffee. "Probably not to either of us."

***

Two weeks later, there was an email in Matt's box, a video contained in it. He watched as Pete walked into his audience, let them subsume him, and then rose again. It wasn't precisely Messianic, but Matt also didn't think the words "rock star" described what he was seeing. He didn't really have words for it, which frustrated him, despite his knowledge that there were plenty of things in the world that couldn't be written out. He wasn't sure why, but having Pete Wentz be one of them came at him from the wrong direction, and settled under his skin in places he couldn't reach.

***

Another month and Matt received a text. "Hdng n th bck. cffee ltr?"

Matt was fairly certain that the last email he'd exchanged with Pete had made it clear that Pete was on tour, and not in the same area of the country as The National. "wht r u doing here?"

"nat'nl holidy. only pproprit"

Matt thought, and thought, and checked a calendar, but, "wht holiday?"

"martrs dy. ugnda"

"wtf?"

"fr all th missnry martyrs"

Matt considered that for a few minutes and just said, "coffee snds good."

***

Pete said, "No, no, we have to go to this place one town over."

Matt had just performed a show, so, "Please don't tell me you've developed some ethical dilemma with corporately controlled coffee--"

"No, we just need a Ugandan blend, and the Coffee Bean here doesn't have one."

"You are one weird motherfucker, you kno--"

"Don't worry, my band reminds me all the time."

***

"Is this a normal thing, for you, celebrating Ugandan holidays commemorating men who were serving a vaguely imperialistic mission?" Matt asked.

"I was trying for Indian Martyrs Day, which commemorates Ghandi, but the timing wasn't working out."

"And this did?"

Pete shrugged, which Matt thought could probably mean anything from, "no," to, "well, I commissioned fairies to transport me here." Matt took a deep sip of his coffee. "Pete."

"Matthew," Pete said.

Matt took a chance and told him, "Turkish coffee and Ugandan holidays about death are not romantic."

Pete raised an eyebrow. Matt laughed, because, well, maybe they were--just a little bit. "Well, okay, but only enough for a handjob."

Pete laughed. "I'll earn the rest."

O is for: Oasis, Pete/Jon, gillianjar

Pete can't remember the first time he met Jon, which is weird, because despite Jon's laid back schtick, Pete has a hard time believing that there was a time when his heart didn't speed up when Jon was in the room. There must have been one, though, because the best he can remember is some outdoor concert that Fall Out Boy played with 5o4, and Pete knows that wasn't the first time, since he can remember the easy camraderie backstage, too easy for it to have been a first meeting. He thinks Jon knows, but then everybody seems to remember the first time they met Pete. It's reassuring and utterly terrifying all at once.

***

What Pete does remember is the phone call from Jon after the parking lot and days of feeling fuzzy and alone. He remembers, because he wasn't expecting it. He actually asked, "Um, John?" Because he couldn't think of anyone by that name who would be calling him.

Jon had said, "Walker, formerly of 5o4?" not sounding in the least put off.

Pete had blinked. "Oh. Um, Jon. Hi."

Jon had asked, "How's it going?"

Pete had opened his mouth to lie. When he finally closed it, he'd divulged nothing but the truth.

***

Jon is good with dates, is the thing--both the fun ones and the ones everyone usually pretends to forget. He's good at being calm no matter why he's calling to check in on a person, or sending a t-shirt that will make him laugh, or making sure that a friend's there to actually sit with him. It's why when Panic finally gives up on Brent, Pete urges them to take Jon. They're halfway there in their heads already, Pete's word just finalizes it. But he's never really had any way to say thank you for the soft, "Heys," of Jon's calls, the birthday presents or the e-cards that honestly make him smile when he most needs it. Panic is the biggest thing he has to give.

***

Sometimes Pete will call Jon and say, "Um," and then not know what else to say. Jon has kind of figured out what Pete's silence means--either that, or he always knew. Usually, he talks about funny touring incidents and missing his cat and pretty much anything that comes to mind. And when Pete remembers how to say what he needs to say--if he does--Jon listens and never laughs, even when Pete knows his words aren't making any sense.

***

One time, all Pete can ask is, "Why did you call me? After the Best Buy? I mean-- We weren't--"

"Tom says I'm a good guy in a crisis."

Right, but Tom was, always had been, Jon's friend. "Sure, but. It wasn't your crisis."

"You always made me laugh. Even when, like, venues sucked, or we just got canceled last minute, or whatever. I thought, y'know, I'd try and return the favor."

Pete blinks at his phone for a long, long moment. Finally Jon asks, "Pete?"

Pete rubs at his face. "Just. Glad I--"

Jon laughs into the silence. "You're such a fucked up dickface."

"Yeah," Pete acknowledges.

"But also, kinda my safe place," Jon says it easily, like it isn't everything, and that's... That's just Jon.

"Yeah," Pete tells him. "Me too." He can hear Jon's smile on the other end of the line.



P is for: Peony, Reid/Prentiss,

Spencer is actually really not looking when he notices the tattoo on Prentiss. He's doing what he's supposed to be doing--making sure that nobody else looks in the room, inconveniently surrounded by windows--while Emily changes shirts after an unfortunate and uncomfortable run in with one of the local police officer's coffee mugs. He just accidentally glances back, almost an instinct, while asking, "You decent?" and it's hard not to notice the crawling, bleak vine of peonies that cover an entire hip. His gaze snaps back onto the windows and it's only another few seconds before she says, "Yeah, thanks, Reid."

***

He knows he shouldn't ask, that it's information he's not supposed to have, but Spencer has never been as wise about shutting up as his brain has often told him to be. In his defense, he picks a time when it's just the two of them, sitting across from each other on the plane, ambient noise hiding any discussion they might have. He says, "Prentiss, I know I wasn't meant to see, but I couldn't help noticing--"

"My tattoo?" And of course she knows. She's paid to be observant, just like him.

"They're peonies," he says, hating to state the obvious, but unsure of where else to start.

She laughs a little. "Yeah, got them in Japan when my mom was stationed over there."

Spencer frowns. "How old were you?"

"Sixteen. I was kind of going for pissing mom off, you know?"

Spencer doesn't, exactly, but he's not unfamiliar with the psychological concept. What's bothering him, though, are chunks of text that have stayed in his mind since he was thirteen, and the idea of body art was enticing in its very exoticness. "I thought peonies stood for wealth, fortune, and necessary risks."

She smiles ruefully. "Why wouldn't you know about Japanese body art?"

Spencer flushes, but he's not embarrassed, her tone is too light, too vaguely amused for that. She says, "They do. Mostly, I just wanted something pretty and this fit the bill. But they also represent fragility and the fleeting nature of life, and that--"

Spencer's already nodding. She gives him a knowing look. "Yeah."

***

Spencer can't stop thinking about it. He tries, but every time she wears a white shirt, he can see the hints of black ink now, every time her hips swivel in a certain way he can picture the way the art would stretch. It's possible he's going crazy by some definition he's never read about. It's not the way Spencer would have chosen.

***

Spencer follows Prentiss home after La Plata. He can't help it. It's not that he didn't listen, he agrees: it was her choice, and he wouldn't take that from her, not when she's walking away basically whole. But her face is a mess of black and blue and purple that she didn't ask for, not really, not in any consensual sense of the word and although Spencer tries to just go his own way once in his car, he can't.

She must know he's following--he's not being sneaky about it--by the second light, but she allows it, never stops, never slows herself to make sure he's still with her. It's a compromise of sorts. She does wait at her door, and silently motions him in ahead of her. He goes, turning to say, "I'm sorry," but the words never make it out, because her lips are already there. The split cracks and the kiss is bloody, but for all that Spencer is so sure that should make him stop, it doesn't. He thinks, no matter what she says, that maybe he owes it to her to swallow down a little copper.

He does tell her, "It's not just an ink fetish."

She laughs at that, the sound still a little rough, but real, the way everything about her always is. Spencer thinks it should be hard to take, her honesty, her willingness to bare herself, but it makes him feel better, like humans aren't so predictable, like they can be more than all the statistics and words and stories tell him. She says, "Spencer, let's pretend I'm a highly skilled profiler, okay?"

His laugh is far more nervous, but just as real. He tells her, "It is really amazingly hot, though."

She tucks her fingers under the hem of her shirt. "Wait till you see the rest of me."

(AN: If you would like to see the tattoo, imagine this on her hip.)

Q is for: Quick, Ryan/Spencer, doll_revolution

The first time Ryan and Spencer jerk each other off is, unsurprisingly, the first time either of them has ever had another hand on their dicks and it's over in less than a minute. They both know that's too fast, it's supposed to last longer, guys should hold out, but they're Ryan and Spencer, so there's no point in blushing or anything, at least not about something other than the whole being-naked-and-holding-each-other's-dicks thing. When Spencer can breathe with some regularity again he does say, "I could probably get better at that. Given the chance."

"Yeah," Ryan agrees. "Me too."

***

They do get better. Ryan's a big reader and has a bizarre lack of fear where checking obscene things out of the library is concerned, so Spencer learns a lot, mostly by listening, or, okay, watching Ryan's mouth and then going along with whatever Ryan tells him to do. Ryan has no flexibility whatsoever, and Spencer has the world's easiest gag reflex, and most of the time just talking gets them so excited that it's not much longer than that first attempt. If anyone had told Spencer he'd consider all this sexy, he's entirely sure he would have laughed at them--enough to hurt.

***

Eventually, though, it's not so difficult--and if it is, it's the good kind of difficult--to breathe deep and be in the fucking moment when Ryan's in his ass, too much and too happy and Ryan, or vice versa, Ryan safe beneath him, trusting and smooth and tight. Spencer learns to hold out until Ryan begs, because there's nothing, nothing better than that sound. Ryan, he suspects, has learned to hold out until he has to beg. Spencer isn't sure what it does for Ryan, would never have predicted it, but that's fine, it's just them, and he's never, ever not going to give Ryan what he wants.

***

Of course, they also learn how to make it quick. After all, there are times when a guy needs a little release at ten minutes to stage, okay?

***

Spencer thinks that maybe the best times are when one of them does something stupid, like falling or yawning or getting distracted by a new idea for a song, and the other one doesn't really care. It's easy to remember back six years, when sex was the most important part of touching, when it was desperate and new and everything, and that was good, too, that was great. But he likes this better, the way it's just another good thing, another part of what makes them RyanandSpencer. There have been times, on the road, when they've both fallen asleep during the act, and when Spencer wakes, he never feels like he's missed something. It's only been put off a bit.

R is for: Romance, Reid/Morgan, poetrychik

Derek knew he shouldn't find Reid's fumbling attempts to figure out how to get from point A to point B with girls anything other than mildly endearing. Even if they hadn't worked together, Reid still would have been considerably younger than him. But Derek had also long ago accepted that human nature was just that. Rarely was it possible to fight it, and almost never was one able to win. Besides, whether he could control his thoughts was a moot point, so long as he could control his impulses. All he had to do was help Reid figure out the things he wanted to know without making it about the two of them. That was all.

***

Derek wasn't entirely sure when his Really Fucking Noble intentions to leave Reid to himself had gone by the wayside, which was disturbing. He made a point to be as self-aware as possible, since nothing was more deadly on a team of profilers than losing track of your own weaknesses. But he clearly had, because it was Prentiss who said, "Your hangups are endearing, but kind of starting to annoy me."

Derek had considered pretending ignorance, but the only thing worse than her talking to him about the situation was having her call his bluff and detail his issues. He glared at her. "He's a kid, and we're coworkers."

"I call bullshit on the first and pussy on the second."

Derek glared harder. She paid absolutely no attention. He said, "Prentiss--"

"Happiness isn't always convenient," she said quietly. "And I don't know how I'm the first person to be telling you that."

She wasn't. Derek geared up for a fight about the difference between convenience and what was right and wrong and had almost gotten to his opening volley when he realized that even in his head, it was all just semantics. His job often made him feel that contributing to the possible harm of others was one of the greatest crimes to be found, but he knew, in truth, that everyone made mistakes. Sometimes, hurt was inevitable, and the possibility of it, even moreso. So what he said was, "I don't want to fuck him up. Not any more, at least."

"Yeah," Prentiss said. "I know." The lack of reassurance was comforting. The last thing Derek needed was his team members lying to him.

***

It was indecently easy to turn the tricks he'd been teaching Reid back on the kid and not have him even really notice. It was just a matter of giving instruction in an exemplary manner. So, if he was teaching Reid about, say, body-language, of course he'd need to show Reid in order for him to get the idea. And if it left Reid licking his lips self-consciously and lecturing about the messages sent by posture in every day conversations? Well, that was just Reid.

***

The more obvious parts of wooing, those took more nerve. Derek started easy, by bringing Reid's coffee to him in the mornings. The first day it happened, Reid's, "Thanks," was at once bright and also, suspicious. Derek didn't blame him. It was more fun than it should have been watching Reid's mind work over the situation, try and figure out what Derek was up to. At the same time, Reid was actually very good at his job, so Derek kind of wished he'd quit it, even knowing that Reid probably couldn't--it was in his nature.

Before Reid could get a grasp on what was going on, Derek took it up a notch by stealing some of the paperwork usually divided amongst the team so that Reid could get some extra sleep--or at least some downtime. Especially on Wednesday evenings, when Derek knew--they all did, even if they kept quiet about it--that Reid went to NA meetings so long as they were in town for him to do so.

After about two weeks of that, Reid said, "Either you want a favor, or you want me fired. I figured you for more straightforward, in either case, but--"

"Dinner," Derek said.

"What?" Reid asked, looking at him like he'd grown two heads and Reid wasn't sure which book to consult for what the second head might do.

"I want you to go to dinner with me," Derek kept it simple. Most of confidence, he had found, was keeping details to a minimum, not seeming like you needed to fill up silence or empty space.

"Um."

Since, okay, the silence was unnerving Derek a little, he threw in some of the humor that he had so often tried to teach Reid. "I know coffee's more traditional, as first dates go, but I figure I get a pass, having known you for five years."

"Five years, three months and ten days," Reid told him, somewhat absently.

Derek hid a smile. Instead he said, "You don't have to say yes, Reid. No pressure, and nothing changes if you don't want to."

Reid narrowed his eyes for a moment. "And if I do?"

"That's more complicated," Derek admitted, and reminded himself not to say anything about his groove to any of the other team members. JJ was a total snitch.

***

Derek made reservations for a Tandoori place he knew Reid enjoyed. Reid had smiled when Derek had mentioned the plans and said, "So, seven? I could meet you there."

Derek said, "More green to use one car."

Reid said, "I'd planned on walking."

"It's about a million degrees out there, kid."

Reid rolled his eyes. "Midwesterners." Later that day, though, he agreed to be picked up, so Derek let Reid's regionalism go. Everyone had a few faults.

***

Derek ordered the wine and Reid ordered the food. They talked about work until it lead Reid onto a tangent, and then they just allowed the conversation to go as it would. Eventually, Reid asked, "No flowers?"

Derek asked, "Honestly, when it's not me giving them to you, where'd you get your dating tips from?"

"Movies and spying on other kids when I was in high school."

Figured. "You're not home enough to appreciate flowers. If I were going to give you something, it'd be something you'd appreciate, like pre-ground coffee, or a gift-certificate to that salad place you eat lunch at every third day."

"Romantic," Reid said in a joking voice, but Morgan was as trained as Reid to listen closely, hear what wasn't said. He just looked at Reid, and sure enough, with patience, got his blush.

"Yeah," Derek said, his voice low.

Reid took a hasty gulp of the wine and then wheezed a bit. Derek ate, didn't watch him struggle. Finally, Reid gasped, "Why?"

Derek looked at him, the space of the table feeling infinite for a second, and then like nothing at all. He said, "You know as well as me, kid. Sometimes, there just aren't any answers."

S is for: Sunlight, gen, Ryan, Phury and Z, emmytie

AN: This story is part of a universe I'm busy toying around with. If you're familiar with BDB, it might make SOME sense. If not, probably none at all.

Ryan saw the women before the brothers--familial, not titular, although he supposed they were Brothers as well. (Also, Ryan had promised Brendon he would stop freaking out about the whole Protectors of the Vampiric Race Thing and using mundane details to keep himself from thinking, "holy shit" every time the topic came up, but so far he hadn't managed. He was being quiet about it, and even Spencer agreed that that counted. Ryan thought this might be because Spencer was also freaking out a bit, but he was nice enough not to call attention to that fact until he, y'know, needed a favor or something.)

There were six or seven of them, and Ryan remembered a few--Cormia, because they'd had that talk about ways to make the bus feel bigger, and Layla, because Spencer had given her tips on how not to burn pancakes, and Malia, because she'd been a little in love with Jon. Layla came forward, hurrying just slightly past the rest, vibrating with excitement and she said, "Spencer! I got a waffle iron!"

Phury wasn't too far behind them, which wasn't a surprise. Where the girls were, Phury was. Ryan found it both romantic and sort of chauvinistic, but then, he was pretty sure the two often went hand in hand. What surprised him was that--

"Z!" Brendon piped up, looking like someone had just given him a bionic pony for his birthday. "You came!"

Z gestured with a hand. "Seven to one. I took pity."

Bella, her hand tucked reassuringly in Z's, said, "Hi Brendon, we're looking forward to the show."

"Who's babysitting?" Jon asked mildly, mostly, Ryan suspected, because Z still looked poised to flee.

"Beth," Bella said. "But I saw John lurking with toys hidden in his pockets."

"...attachments, for, like making pasta and..."

Phury looked over at where Spencer and Layla were still talking with ill-hidden fear on his face. Cormia and Bella both pretended not to laugh.

***

Ryan could hear Z singing off stage. It was softer than his normal full-bodied tenor, he was clearly singing along. He didn't look over. He got that, sometimes, it was easier to be only the best parts of oneself, not have anyone else see the rest.

***

"We have a problem," Zack told them.

"Don't tell me someone forgot to book a hotel again?" Eric asked, sounding pretty fucking annoyed, and well, Ryan sympathized. He was beginning to think they should do like Black Gold and just take care of it themselves.

"We're looking into the problem, but evidently it's Parents Weekend at one of the local schools and--"

"Yeah, we're totally gonna end up on the bus again." Jon sounded exhausted. Ryan didn't blame him. He was about ten seconds from killing something with his teeth. They hadn't had a hotel night in nearly a week.

Ryan noticed Brendon very studiously not looking behind him, and a second later, Phury said, "There's probably room at the cabin. I mean, it'll be tight, but as long as people don't mind sharing beds--"

"As long as they don't move beneath us, we will take it and be grateful for it," Spencer said, serious as death.

Phury looked at Brendon. "You can dematerialize, yes?"

"Yeah, I've been." Brendon nodded. "I'll get Ry, Layla, can you take Spence? Phury, Jon?"

Everyone nodded. Brendon pulled Ryan to him and Ryan tried not to struggle. He was still getting used to this post-transition Brendon, his body not the one Ryan had known for so long, trusted with the depth that he trusted Spencer or Jon. Brendon said, "Hey."

Ryan said, "I'm fine, sorry."

Brendon said, "One, two, three."

***

It was a long tour, but not a big one, mostly clubs, only two openers, so with three to four people to a room, they all fit perfectly. Ryan and Spencer curled up in a bed, and just before he drifted off, Ryan asked, "Layla?"

"Nah, just flirting."

"Yeah? Because she's hot."

"So are you, and somehow I've managed to control myself all these years."

Ryan laughed, but took Spencer at his word.

***

Ryan awoke around ten. The doggen weren't scheduled to pick them up and take them back to the bus until noon, so he had time to take a slow shower and see if he could find some coffee. It was easily located in the freezer, and he made enough for at least four cups. He was glad when he took his mug into the living space and found the twins sitting there, talking quietly. He said, "Sorry, I didn't-- There's coffee," and then turned to leave.

"Ryan," Phury said, or at least, Ryan was pretty sure it was Phury. When he wasn't looking, the twins could sound very similar.

Ryan turned. Phury said, "You weren't interrupting."

"I'll get coffee," Z said, and disappeared for a bit to do so.

They were sitting in silence, enjoying the drink, when Ryan's gaze roamed over the shuttered windows and he said, softly, "Brendon was afraid of losing the sun."

He hadn't meant to say it aloud, and now that he had he was unsure if maybe he hadn't betrayed Brendon, just a little. Z and Phury were having some kind of conversation that didn't involve words or even facial expressions. Finally, Z said, "Thought he grew up among our kind."

Ryan shrugged. "Kinda half-and-half." Brendon had never really fit in well with anyone, and he wasn't shy about admitting that.

Ryan was pretty sure the conversation was over when Z spoke up again. "I miss it."

Ryan honestly couldn't tell if he was more shocked, or Phury. Phury said, "I--"

Z turned away, though. "Mostly, it was just dark for a long time. I don't think I would-- We all know what's coming. We all expect it."

Ryan didn't know what Z was talking about, but he said, "Yeah, well. I would miss it."

He pretended not to see the way Phury gently settled a hand over Z's shoulder, as if so sure he would be repelled. Ryan was pretty sure he'd never seen the twins touch. The only person he'd ever seen touch Z, actually, was Bella. Z didn't shake the hand off, though, if anything, he rose into the touch, ever so slightly.

Ryan said, "I'm getting another cup of coffee. Either of you want anything?"

The two answered, "No," at once, and Ryan left them to whatever creature comfort it was they were engaging in.

T is for: Time, Jon/Ryan, maple_mahogany

After his first few weeks on the bus, Jon made himself say to Spencer, "So, Ryan."

Spencer asked, "Hey, wanna play the PS2?"

"Spence," Jon said, because, hey, he wasn't that easily distracted. "I think he's having a nervous break."

"He's not," Spencer told him, sounding pretty fucking sure.

"Because he--"

"He loses time. I know. He always has, ever since I've known him."

"And you don't think--"

"So far he hasn't crashed a car or stopped playing during a set. It's a coping mechanism and I'm pretty sure he's in control of it, so no. I don't think. And if this gets out--"

Jon raised his hands and then, as an afterthought, used one to zip his mouth shut.

***

It was still kind of freaky, though, the way Ryan would just disappear into his head for hours, and not realize any time had passed when he came out of it. Jon did something he never did, which was to get online and research all sorts of mental disorders. He had no way of knowing if Ryan saw over his shoulder, or was told by one of the others, but Ryan sat next to him one morning, when they'd both just woken and said, "I'm not crazy."

"I don't think you are." Which was true. Jon was worried, but Ryan had shown no signs that he'd actually lost it.

"I've done it since I can remember. Probably since my mom left, I think?" Ryan rubbed at his face. "I used to see a shrink who said all this shit about me wanting to freeze time so that she couldn't leave." Ryan shrugged. "Maybe he was right."

"Didn't he suggest--"

"He suggested medication. My dad gave me bourbon with dinner, instead."

"Um. How old--"

"Ten. It mostly just put me to sleep."

Jon wasn't exactly sure what to say to that. By the time he was willing to attempt anything, Ryan had already wandered off.

***

"Is it because you want Brent back?" The question hurt to ask--and it shouldn't, Jon was only their temp, they'd made that clear--but he made himself anyway.

Ryan laughed. It sounded like it hurt his throat. He said, "So someone I thought was my friend could just keep trying to fuck up my life's dream? Yeah, no, thanks but no thanks."

Jon winced, but pressed: "It's something."

"It's always something," Ryan agreed. "With me, it's always fucking something."

***

The day Jon accidentally took a wrong turn coming off the stage, got lost, was late for bus call and almost managed to get himself left in Tulsa, Ryan fugued for nearly twelve hours after Jon was on the bus, safe. Even Spencer started worrying after about hour five, when he woke up to check and Ryan was still just staring into space. They tried a few things to bring him back, but after a while they just made sure someone was with him at all times.

He came out of it an hour before the next venue and couldn't remember coming off the stage in Tulsa. Shakily, he said, "Uh, maybe we shouldn't deviate too much from the playlist tonight."

Brendon said, "Oh, you think?"

***

Spencer and Ryan had a huge fight after that, which they both pretended was nothing. Brendon nodded, "Three hours of yelling was always nothing in my family, too."

Jon figured he probably should have really wanted out--really, really should have.

***

Ryan was really nice after the fight. He got up early, and made coffee, and didn't yell at Brendon and in general acted un-Ryan-like. Brendon reacted by doing everything he could to provoke Ryan. Spencer seemed somewhat resigned to the situation. Jon took the moral high road, fed Ryan some brownies that he neglected to mention the ingredients for and, when Ryan was lying on the ground and giggling at the ceiling patterns on the bus, said, "What's going on, Ry?"

Ryan said, "These lights, they're pretty. Who put them there?"

"Probably General Motors, not really sure."

"I like them."

"Yeah, I can tell. Ryan, hey," Jon lifted Ryan up so that he was sitting, facing Jon.

Ryan blinked several times. "You're pretty, too."

"Just what I've always wanted to hear. You know what else I want to hear?"

Ryan thought for a long moment. "That it's okay to leave?"

That made Jon blink. "What?"

"People like leaving me, but usually they don't wait until--" Ryan tilted his head. "What are you waiting for?"

Jon sighed and laid Ryan back down. Ryan giggled. "Carpet tickles."

"Yeah? This tickle too?" Jon asked, lying a blanket over him. Ryan wadded it up in his fists and snuggled into it. Jon left him to enjoy the world without ignoring it for a bit.

***

Jon hauled Ryan up to the couch the next morning and fed him sips of coffee until he was awake enough to peer out of one eye and ask, half-grouchy, half-unsure, "Did you get me high?"

"You liked it," Jon reminded him.

"But--"

"I don't want to leave. I want this damn band, which I haven't even been offered, by the way, so I'm not sure why I'm not the one who gets to be all self-conscious. And making time stop for yourself doesn't make it stop for everyone else. But I'm not going anywhere, so you don't have to fucking freeze anything."

"I'm not sure my psyche is that straightforward," Ryan informed him, in between mainlining the coffee.

"Yeah, well, I'm still not leaving. Not until you tell me to go."

Ryan dug bitten fingernails into Jon's wrist. Jon let him. When Brendon stumbled into the kitchen area, Ryan bitched at him about leaving his dirty shirts in the lounge. Brendon grinned and said, "'Morning, Ryan."

U is for: Underwear, Mikey/Frank, desultory6

Frank's mom, who is generally awesome, never fails to include underwear in Frank's Christmas gifts. The first year the guys discover this it is pretty much the basis of every joke they make for at least three months, and Frank responds mostly with a hail of middle finger gestures and retaliatory underwear freezings. Eventually, of course, they move on to bigger and better things--like Gerard's love of lesbian Russian pop and Ray's hard on for Chia plants--and it only ever comes up around Christmas, when there's a brand new package of Batman or X-Men or Captain Underpants underwear.

Mikey will help in a prank if drafted in by one of the others, but mostly he stays clear. Well, except for the X-Men year. He totally steals those fuckers before Frank even opens the package.

***

Frank's revenge is quick, decisive, and involves Mikey's very, very favorite Goonies shirt--around his wrists. Mikey's honestly not sure if he was supposed to have enjoyed it or not. Frank sucks about giving mixed signals.

***

When confronted, Frank asks, "How is my dick in your mouth a mixed signal?"

And okay, that's fair, only, "I know where that dick's been." Mikey considers, "Well, at least some of it."

Frank sucker punches him in the stomach then, but Mikey's not precisely sure what that means, either.

***

By way of apologies, Frank explains, "When I was a kid it was her way of making sure my underwear wasn't falling apart. We didn't have a ton of money, because dad, y'know, he did his best to get the alimony and child support to us, but if he wasn't playing, well, and so if she bought it at Christmas, it worked double: cool undies and the reassurance that I wasn't wearing stuff that was too small for me."

"I could color-safe bleach them and give them back."

Frank blinks a few times and then holds up his finger in the international sign for "one moment," before whipping his phone out and texting furiously. It's not as classy as, say, eating a Twix, but Mikey gets that there are times when you need a moment. Mikey waits patiently and doesn't think about how hot the tattoos on Frank's fingers are when he texts, because that would be inappropriate.

Finally, Frank says, "Your brother swears to me that the rumors about you being brain damaged as a child are false, so explain to me how it's possible that I tell you about my stupid, mildly deprived childhood, after having hot, hot blowjob times with you and you take that as a sign that I want you to return the fucking underwear?"

Mikey narrows his eyes. "Sure, phrased like that, I sound stupid, but I could also point out the part where my stomach is still totally bruised."

Frank scowls. "Okay, that wasn't my most romantic gesture, ever."

Mikey feels his mouth moving before he even realizes he's going to ask, "Do you even know what the word romantic means?"

Frank is silent on that account. Mikey makes a tactical retreat to his bunk.

***

Three days later, Mikey finds a package of My Little Pony underwear that is actually in his size on his bunk. There's a note in Frank's--atrocious--handwriting: "This is romance, motherfucker."

Frank didn't need to bring Momma Way into this, really, but still--Mikey kind of totally agrees.

V is for: Voice, Brendon/Jon, universeunfold

Jon really doesn't think he's been gone for that long when he comes back to LA, to Brendon's and finds that the studio has become an area dedicated to performance art. He picks his way through the million and a half pieces of paper that litter the floor and asks, "Are we trying to say something about the materialistic and wasteful ways of our society?"

Brendon smirks. "I'm not Ryan Ross." He looks at whatever's on the paper in front of him and makes a face, wads the paper up, and tosses it over his shoulder.

***

Sure, Jon gets not being happy with something you've written. Jon still gets the itch to fix "Nothern Downpour" or the parts on the new album that are his that Spencer has forbidden him to touch ever again, ever. But Brendon's aversion to his own words is extreme and Jon often wonders if maybe Ryan said things to him that were worse than Ryan's quiet public dismissal of the songs on Pretty. Odd.

Jon knows Spencer told Brendon to stop listening to Ryan's fear, and Jon has--more than once--told Brendon that he likes the way Brendon tells stories with his words. Jon's pretty sure even Ryan has pulled his head out of his ass long enough to let Brendon know that he's better than he thinks at the lyric thing, but it doesn't seem to matter, because unlike when he picks up an instrument and yanks a tune right out, nothing Brendon writes with words is ever good enough for Brendon.

***

"It's a matter of, like, voice," Brendon tells Jon one day, when Jon is helping him pick through the scrap paper for more places to write before he has to recycle the whole lot.

"Voice," Jon says, and wonders if he brought any pot. Brendon sometimes makes more sense when his edges are a little dulled.

"Like in third grade, when your English teacher was talking about, uh... I don't remember what we read in third grade, but there was definitely narrative voice."

"You think there's something wrong with your narrative voice?"

"Namely that I don't have one."

"Uh. What?"

"Ryan, it's impossible not to know that Ryan has written something, it's all twisty and somehow fluid and there are weird words, but it's Ryan, no matter what the words are saying, no matter even if I'm singing them."

"You--"

"I'm just. I don't even know what to say. And if I knew, fuck if I'd know how to say it."

Jon finds a piece of paper with the entire back clear. He hands it to Brendon. "Maybe your voice has more than one note."

***

"Did you say my writing voice had one note?" Ryan asks. He doesn't sound upset. Maybe a little muted, but not really upset.

"Just trying to give Brendon a way to look at himself that doesn't involve your shadow," Jon tells him, finally. He's not sure the danger has passed, exactly, but it's the truth, and honestly, Ryan could stand to get over thinking that putting Brendon down will make him feel better about his own insecurities.

Ryan looks at him, eyes just fractionally wider than usual. "Brendon Urie in my shadow?"

Jon rolls his eyes. He's in a band of endearing morons.

***

Sometimes, when he's driving, Brendon will sing billboards. He'll just pick a billboard, take the slogan, and find it a melody. In the middle of rush hour traffic, Brendon having just told him in melodic form about the efficacy of Bank of America, Jon says, "That's your voice."

"The voice of Bank of America?" Brendon could not be taking Jon less seriously if he put some effort into it.

"The voice that makes music out of everything."

Brendon opens his mouth, but Jon's not done. "The words aren't important. They're just the notes, that's all."

Brendon raps his fingers on the steering wheel and sings quietly about Pedigree food for dogs and cats. Jon leaves him to his mammalian thoughts.

***

Two days later, Jon makes it to Ryan's place to see Ryan and Brendon hunched over together, Ryan nodding. Brendon looks up and says, "I wrote a song about the materialistic and wasteful nature of our culture."

Jon asks, "Really?"

Ryan says, "I think it's about a dog."

Jon nods solemnly. "Definitely a social commentary."

W is for: Worry, Janet/Jack, po_thang

There were nights, plenty of them, when Janet drove home from the mountain to make dinner for Cassie, maybe help her with some homework and pretend like she hadn't left a significant chunk of herself inside the base, waiting for Jack to step back through to hamburgers and milkshakes, action flicks and his own bed--to their world. Usually it was just concern, because every time anyone stepped through the Gate, there was space for things to go wrong. Sure, Jack's team seemed to manage it more than most, but she was aware they weren't actively seeking out the trouble. Sometimes, though, when they hadn't reported in, or other teams were bringing back tales of trouble, well, it was generally those nights when Cassie said, "Mom, just. Go watch TV, or something. Preferably before you burn the house down."

***

She was a doctor, first and foremost, maybe even before mother, definitely before woman, so when she was on-shift, it was the patient who needed her most that got her attention first, no matter if Jack was in the infirmary or not. Granted, much of the time the two coincided. It wasn't precisely what Janet considered to be a lucky coincidence.

Jack's team never left when he was in the infirmary. Thy took shifts, sleeping in the mountain as one of the others watched over. Janet could always cajole Daniel or Sam into letting her have Jack alone for some of their shift, a few hours. Sure, she had to check on the other patients, be available for an emergency, but it wasn't too hard to pull the curtain around Jack's bed and sit next to him for a bit, just the two of them.

She didn't talk a lot, not unless she had something to say. Jack was the talker between the two of them. He didn't need her to call him back, he just needed her to be there when he found his way.

***

He would come to her place after missions like that, when he'd scared her out of her mind and she wasn't really allowed to say that, because these were the risks they took, all of them. Even the people safe in the mountain had been through more than enough internal crises to know that safety was, at best, a very private joke between all of them. He would come to her place and tease Cassie until she smiled. He would help her cook and he would clean her dishes. She said, "I have a dishwasher for that."

He said, "I'm old fashioned."

He would kiss her until he could ask her her name and she wouldn't know, but not until she forgot her fear. There were some things that could not be erased, no matter the pleasure, no matter the time, no matter the focus put into it. He never apologized and she never asked it of him. He was a soldier first, before a man, definitely before a lover. She had known that from the first, and it had never made him less for her. They understood each other in that way.

When he was sleeping, though, she would say, "I missed you," and tuck her fingers around his neck, her thumb at his pulse point. Steady and perfectly rhythmic, it never failed to lull her into sleep.

X is for: X-ray, Mikey/Frank/Pete, abelbell

"I'm wearing a communion dress," Frank told his phone when he picked it up, killing the strains of Fable of the Brown Ape.

"TMI, Iero," Patrick responded.

"Well, don't use your bassist's phone to call me."

Mikey frowned over at him, but Frank just shrugged, he didn't know what was up yet. Patrick said, "I didn't-- Oh, uh. Sorry."

"Where's Pete?" Frank asked, putting the phone on speaker. Patrick was actually pretty put together, but there were things that could make him panicky.

"Hospital. I'm outside. They wouldn't let me call, so I-- Joe's with him."

"What happened?" Mikey asked, one hand coming to wrap tightly around Frank's elbow. Frank liked that even when he wasn't calm, Mikey sounded calm. It had a placebo effect on Frank.

"FPO," Patrick said. It stood for "Freak Pete Occurence." They'd codified it after the third time Pete had managed to do something so unlikely that it was hard to explain. "All I saw was his bass go one way, him go the other, and the crowd go, well, kinda both, actually. Took security nearly five minutes to get people off him."

Patrick's voice was hoarse, Frank could hear that now. He wondered how long it had taken Patrick to realize they had Pete, to stop screaming. Mikey asked, "What are they saying?"

"They'll know more when they've got the x-rays back. He's not having trouble breathing and they don't think there's any internal bleeding, but they have to do some tests to make sure. I'll call you as soon as I know. I just didn't want you getting the news by, like, Twitter, or something. Someone else's Twitter."

"Thanks, Patrick," Mikey said softly. "We appreciate it."

Frank was glad Mikey could say it for them, because at the moment, he didn't know where to find his tongue.

***

Frank got up to make coffee, because that was what a guy did when he had no clue what the fuck else to do. He was halfway there when Mikey stopped him. Frank turned around, intending to get frantic with Mikey, to make him take the worst of what was bottled up inside. Instead he caught Mikey's gaze, shielded and deflecting and utterly terrified. Frank said, "I'll make tea, okay? The non-caffeinated stuff."

Mikey shook his head. "Milk and cookies."

"I don't think we have any cookies."

"Under the sink, behind the trashbags, in a Ziploc."

Frank managed to smile. "Diabolical, Mikeyway."

Mikey nodded solemnly.

***

Patrick didn't call, but Joe did, with the introduction, "Patrick's with him; he's sleeping."

"Good sleeping?" Frank asked. There was a huge difference.

"Yeah."

"You know what happened? What's going on?" Frank was clutching the phone, despite it being on the table, and Mikey made him loosen his fingers.

"According to Pete, who was somewhat fucked up on Percocet while relating this, all he knows is that he felt something hit his chest, and something tug him from the stage. In fairness to him, I saw him go down, and it did not look like a stage-dive."

"Probably not," Frank muttered, since Mikey had read him the fucking riot act the last time he'd done that, and refused to so much as sleep in the same bed with him for a week. Pete knew the story. Neither of them pissed Mikey off, not if they could help it. He asked, "What're the doctors saying?"

"Fractured collarbone and ankle, he needed some stitches on one of his elbows and his jaw, bruises everywhere, but it looks like he's mostly going to be fine."

Mikey laid his head on Frank's shoulder. "What's your plan for the tour?"

"For the moment? Canceling at least the next two or three. After that? I don't know. It'll depend on him."

Frank poked a little at Mikey until they were looking at each other, and then held a short, silent conversation with him. Mikey nodded and Frank said, "Hey, Joe? Send us the info on where you guys are, and don't tell Pete, just in case we can't make it work."

"Already in your inbox."

"You're a technical genius," Mikey told him.

***

Minneapolis was still cold, despite the late spring, and having come from LA, it was a shock to the system. Frank didn't actually mind. He thought it would make wrapping himself around Pete, Mikey on the other side, the three of them left to each other, even better. They took a cab to the hotel and went straight up to the room, knocking softly. Patrick answered the door, looking exhausted. He said, "Hey," and slipped past them with a small salute.

Mikey reached out and pulled him back for a hug. Patrick came easily enough and Frank wrapped himself over Patrick's back. When Mikey was good and ready, they let go and shuffled quietly past into the room. The curtains were closed and the room dark. Pete was snoring a little. Mikey kissed Frank's neck, so that Frank could feel his grin. They both shucked their shoes and jackets and pants and climbed in, careful of Pete.

Pete woke with a mumbled, "Wha?"

"What's rule number three, Pete?" Frank asked.

Pete blinked a couple of times. "Frank?"

"That's my name, not the rule. Try again."

Mikey was rolling his eyes, Frank knew. He could only just see him sweeping his hands over Pete's body, cataloging the damage. He said, "Hi, Pete."

"Mikey?" Pete asked.

"What's the rule, Pete?" Mikey kissed him lightly, right above where the stitches in his jaw were helping it to heal up.

"No scaring the shit out of each other."

"Definitely broke that one," Frank told him.

"'M I-- 'Sthis the drugs?"

Mikey smiled at Frank. Frank sighed. "No. We're here."

"Oh," Pete sounded unsure of what to do with that.

Frank made a face. "Go to sleep. I'll berate you when you'll remember it."

Pete's fingers fumbled at Frank's shirt and then curled into it. He yawned. "'Mkay."

Frank couldn't help himself--he kissed Pete's forehead. Mikey didn't laugh at him.

Y is for: Yellow, Mikey/Frank/Pete, Empires-verse, libgirl

Pete was the one who decided on Yay Mikey Day! He implemented said not-precisely-national holiday while they were on tour together. It was the second year that Mikey had woken up on the date of his shooting and not known exactly what to do, how to feel. Frank had been atop him, heavy and warm, Pete's lips at the back of his neck, his breath stale-but-familiar, and Mikey had closed his eyes again and tried to breath through the overwhelming tactileness that was simply being alive. Pete had said, "You're here, you're right here," his voice more awake than it should have been.

Mikey had made a noise in the back of his throat and let them hold onto him. And when Pete had announced Yay Mikey Day! that night during Fall Out Boy's set, no explanation, just pure glee, well, he let Pete hold onto him in that way, too.

***

Every year, no matter what Pete was doing--a tour, recording, charity work, whatever--he found a way to be with them on Yay Mikey Day! There was even one time, when, despite trying their best, My Chem had ended up in Singapore, and Pete still got himself there--promptly collapsing with actual, honest exhaustion once back in the US and inciting rumors of drug use. Mikey and Frank had had to carve out time to make it to see him after that incident, and had made him agree that sometimes it was okay to just call, and maybe send a gift of dubious taste.

Mikey had been mildly daunted by the expression on Pete's face when given permission to indulge his batshit-insane gift-giving techniques, but he was smart enough not to show it. The only thing worse than fear was Pete knowing the fear was present. Frank, who probably wasn't even afraid, said mildly, "But if it bites, I send you back something poisonous." The two of them shook on it.

***

Three years later it was Pete who was overseas on Yay Mikey Day! and both of them had made him promise not to try anything that would end with him in the hospital again. Their lives honestly had enough stress to be going on with. Mikey woke up to the ringing of his doorbell and pushed Frank out of bed. Frank grumbled, "Only because it's your day. Only, do you hear me, Mikeyway?"

Mikeyway heard him just fine, but he stayed right where he was. Or, he did until he heard barking. Then he rubbed his eyes, murmured, "What the fuck?" and made his way toward the front of the house. In their front hallway, Frank was on the ground playing with a puppy that seemed to be mostly yellow lab, but was clearly some kind of a mix. Frank held up a note and Mikey read Pete's handwriting: "She doesn't bite. Promise."

Mikey couldn't help laughing.

***

"We named her Wendy Angela Darling Mockingbird Iero-Way," Mikey told Pete.

"Awesome. Can I call her Wendybird?"

"That's the plan," Mikey confirmed.

***

Pete liked to alternate between red and yellow gifts: red for love, yellow for friendship. He'd tried orange, but Frank had shut that down pretty much as soon as it had started. "Nobody and nothing looks good in orange, Pete."

"I can pull it off," Pete told him.

Frank had thought about that for a long time. "Fine. We're allowed to give you orange shit. But that's as far as I'm willing to compromise."

Pete was pretty good at taking what Frank had to offer.

***

The year after Pete sent them Wendybird, Mikey and Frank drove to Virginia--where Yay Mikey Day! had first been declared--and met up with Pete at a B&B that would allow her to accompany them on the trip. More leaves were on the ground than on the trees, and she was enjoying playing in them, sending up showers of orange and red and brown all around her. Pete rested his chin on Mikey's shoulder--the one closest to his scar--and said, "I love the fall."

Mikey nodded, and sipped at the coffee Frank had gotten all of them. Frank looked calculatingly at Pete, and Mikey knew what was coming about three seconds before he was being showered with the leaves Frank had been hiding in his hand. Then Frank ran off screaming, "Leaf fight to the death!" Pete was right behind him.

Z is for: Zoo, Gerard/Pete, fictionalfaerie

"Monkeys. Monkeysmonkeysmonke--"

Gerard cut Pete off with a hand over his mouth. Pete just kept trying to say "monkeys" behind his smushed lips. Gerard couldn't help laughing. Pete's eyes betrayed that he was also grinning. Gerard said, "Okay, we see the monkeys first."

Pete threw up his arms in the international sign for victory. Gerard considered a second before withdrawing his hand. Pete got in one more, "Monkeys!" but then refrained, instead skipping ahead to a map of the zoo. Gerard followed. Mikey'd made him promise not to lose Pete.

***

Pete was running his fingers over the glass that kept the howler monkeys from them, tracing patterns that looked like the way the monkeys jumped. Gerard asked, "Why monkeys?"

Pete asked, "Why not?"

Gerard bumped him with his hips. Pete bumped back, but he also said, "They can almost fly."

Gerard waited. Sometimes Pete was collecting his thoughts, sometimes he was just figuring out if they would make sense outside his head. Pete shrugged. "Like, birds just fly, and that's never--humans don't. But monkeys, it's like they figured out something in between, and we're from them, and I dunno. They ping my sense of whimsy, or whatever."

Gerard liked the way Pete didn't even bother trying not to sound wistful. "Good reason."

Pete's fingers skipped over the glass.

***

Gerard liked otters. Otters and badgers and sea lions, animals that seemed perfectly happy to float leisurely in ponds or be surprisingly industrious with tree bark and bits and bobbles that floated their way. It was nice, watching them make patterns in the water, concentric and non-sensical.

"I bet they're smooth," Pete said, watching one particular sea lion who would slide onto a rock and then let himself slip back into the water, again and again.

"Smooth and kinda soft," Gerard agreed.

"Like ice cream," Pete said.

Gerard thought about that. "Yeah. Like ice cream."

***

Which meant that Pete, of course, wandered off to get them ice cream. Gerard possibly flipped the fuck out for a minute before remembering that they both had phones. He texted, "whr th fck r u?"

Pete reappeared seconds later with one cone of vanilla, one of strawberry. He gave the strawberry to Gerard and said, "We share."

"Don't do that."

"Mikey made you promise not to lose me, huh?"

When pushed into a corner, Gerard could spin his best lies, "Or, like, there's the whole part where I love you." Okay, so, maybe not lies, but a deflection of attention.

Pete grinned. "That's okay, Mikey made me promise not to lose you, either. I think he thinks if one of us manages, he's golden."

"Interfering interferer."

"That's Mikey."

Gerard held out his ice cream cone. "Vanilla time." Pete complied.

***

Pete named all the elephants, but he was magnanimous enough to leave Gerard the giraffes. Gerard was careful not to mention that he preferred giraffes, even if he thought Pete might have known. Pete could be sneaky with his sweetness.

Gerard named his favorite one Marlena because it sounded like a good name for someone with an elegant neck and big, pretty eyes. He'd been saving it up, liking the sound of it on his tongue. Pete went with Oompa Loompa Oreo, along with a whole explanation of the thematic nature of the name. Gerard said, "I'm calling him Olo."

Pete thought about it for a moment. "Nice ring to it." Then he made a ringing noise, like a phone. One of the wandering peacocks looked at him angrily.

Gerard nodded in the bird's direction, "I know."

Pete asked, "What color do you think Olo's room should be?"


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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile