by Synchronik

Inspired by this:

The party is hot. Not hot as in cool--although it looks to Mikey as he comes through the front door unwinding the blue scarf his grandma knitted for him from around his face that it's probably going to be cool as well--but hot as in, like, a thousand degrees and Mikey can already feel the sweat blooming on his upper lip and under his arms.

"Michael, my darling!" Someone plucks the hat off his head.

Mikey smiles. "Hey," he says.

"How are we this fine fine evening?" Ben is one of his favorite people. He's taller than Mikey and has short dark hair and he's got on a button-down black shirt that pulls across the chest and Mikey sometimes jerks off to the image of Ben in this very shirt, so it's nice to see him actually wearing it. Fuel for the fire so to speak.

"Fine," he says.

"'Fine,'" Ben says, dropping his voice even though Mikey's voice isn't low, just quiet. "'I'm Mikey and I'm fine.'" He slings an arm around Mikey's waist. "What are we here to do?"

"Party," Mikey says.

"Party!" Ben shouts and off they go.

He drops his coat in one of the bedrooms, but on a chair in the corner instead of the bed. Once, last year, he'd walked around for two weeks with a stain on the back of his jacket before Gerard had pointed it out and said "what is that?" Gerard had called him Monica for like, at least, two months after that, even sometimes still in the emails that he sends from art school. Mikey has learned to tell whether Gerard was having a good day or a bad day by whether he uses the stupid nickname or not. Gerard hasn't called him that in a while, though, probably because he is so busy with school and stuff and has simply forgotten. All of someone's days can't be bad, Mikey is pretty sure. Not even Gerard's.

"Is that shirt new?" Ben asks, fingering the sleeve of Mikey's t-shirt.

"Yeah," Mikey says. It's a lie. The shirt--a medium blue with white racing stipes down the sleeves and around the collar--is old, Mikey's from four or five years ago, before he had his growth spurt. But he took it out of the bottom of the drawer and put it on tonight because he had a feeling it might fit right now, tight, the way he likes his shirts to fit even though some of the guys at school call him a fag, and it does, although it keeps riding up and he has to yank it back into place from time to time.

"It's nice," Ben says, rubbing the fabric between his fingers, but he doesn't mean anything by it, so Mikey doesn't answer.

He follows Ben to the kitchen, which is always one of the centers of activity in a party like this because it's where the alcohol is. He shouldn't drink, he knows--Gerard drinks and it worries their mother, because their father has a problem with alcohol, too--but it's New Jersey and he's nineteen going on twenty and there's nothing else to do on a Friday night, so when Jessica, whose house this is, turns and hands him a plastic cup full of something that looks like fruit punch, Mikey takes it.

It's vodka punch, his favorite of all the party drinks. Beer makes him feel bloated, like his jeans are too tight, and rum makes his head hurt. He's a vodka guy, he thinks.

Ben is talking to girls Mikey's never seen before, two small pretty blond girls.who are wearing tank tops even though it's November, probably because it's even hotter in the kitchen where everyone has gathered than it is in the living room. He introduces them by their names, which is a talent Ben has, and Mikey says hi. He does not bother trying to remember their names, because in a few hours Ben will be drunk and will drape himself over Mikey and whisper in his ear and want to go into dark corners with him and press against him. Some of their friends think that he and Ben are going out, a wrong impression Mikey doesn't correct, but to which he always thinks "god, I wish."

One of the girls (the prettier one, but Ben won't care about that) touches Mikey's arm, pretending to feel the material of his shirt. It's a ruse to touch him, her hand sliding over his bare bicep, curving around his elbow. Mikey sometimes wishes that he were a girl and could touch guys and laugh and pretend that it didn't mean anything. There are a couple of boys he would like to lean into, laughing, and accidentally press his hand flat against their stomachs, the way this girl is doing to him now.

"Scuse me," Mikey says, holding up his mostly empty glass. The trick at parties like these is to not get caught by anybody you don't want to be caught by, to keep moving and dodging shrapnel, using your drink as a shield. Mikey wonders if there could be a good video game idea out of that, a little digital party kid darting and weaving. He'll have to ask Gerard, who is in art school with kids who do video game design.

"Mikey!" someone says while he's getting more punch and it turns out to be Frank, the lead singer from Pencey Prep. Frank is short and a little chunky and if he weren't in a band, Mikey probably wouldn't have talked to him the first time because he wasn't cool enough to talk to. That's a shitty shallow thing to think, Mikey knows, but it's okay, because now that he's met Frank and talked to him a couple of times, Mikey knows that Frank is cool and would continue to be cool even if he weighed 350 pounds and was covered with zits.

"Hey," Mikey says. Frank grabs his cup and takes a long drink out of it. He's always doing stuff like that--taking Mikey's cup, borrowing his hoodie, stealing his cigarettes and then smiling so that Mikey can't get mad. Frank's got a nice smile. He would be cute if he weren't a little overweight, but it's better that he is because this way Mikey can be friends with him and not want to fuck him, like he does Ben. Plus, Frank's got a girlfriend. "Where's Jamia?" Mikey asks, grabbing a new cup for himself. There's no point in trying to rescue his old cup from Frank. It would just end up in a wrestling match.

"She stayed home," Frank says. "She's not in the mood for a house party she says, so I said cool and came anyway, because there's always room for a house party, man." Frank continues talking, something about the party he was at yesterday and how insane it was - "_chicks had their tops off, man," he's saying--but Mikey's thinking jello. There's always room for Jello, and misses part of it. That's okay. Frank just likes to talk--he doesn't so much care if you actually listen to him.

"So who you here with? Ben?" Frank asks. Mikey nods. "That's fucked up, man, and you know it," Frank says. Two or three weeks ago, Mikey had gotten stoned and found himself lying on a bed nose to nose with Frank in a back bedroom of another house party telling him all about Ben and how much he wanted him. He'd been really upset about it at the time. That came and went. Some nights, like tonight, Mikey was cool with the way Ben was and what he wanted, and some nights like the one three weeks ago, the thought of Ben touching someone else made him want to cut out his heart. "I mean, you know this guy is bad for you, right?" Frank asks him, his hand on Mikey's arm. "So why do you want to keep hanging out with him? He's a mess, man. A total fucking mess."

Mikey shrugs, nodding into his cup. Frank's right, of course, but that doesn't change how Mikey feels. Nothing does.

Frank smiles up at him. "You're seriously fucked up," he tells Mikey. "So did you get that album I was telling you about?"

That's another cool thing about Frank, besides the fact that he's funny and that he seems to legitmately care about Mikey's fucked-up love life. Or non-love life. Make out life. Anyway, Frank has great taste in music. It's a little more hardcore than Mikey likes, some of it, but a lot of it is awesome and Mikey never would have heard it if it hadn't been for Frank. He listens to Frank talk about some new band for a while, nodding and saying "cool" from time to time. Frank is relaxing to talk to. Even when Mikey can't really understand what he's saying because of the background noise, Frank's voice has a nice cadence to it, a friendly rhythm.

After a while, some girls who are fans of Pencey sort of clump around them and start asking Frank questions and Mikey excuses himself to go take a piss. He doesn't like fangirls--they seem so fake, like their questions were auditions for some show. It's annoying. The bathroom has a candle burning in it, so Mikey doesn't turn on the lights, just pees and washes his hands in the flickering twilight. In the candlelight, his reflection looks angular and beautiful, his eyes mysterious through the dark frames of his glasses.

When he comes out the party has moved into what Gerard calls the Dance Club Living Room Stage. Gerard doesn't come to many house parties, and didn't even when he'd lived at home, but he sure has the stages pegged: the Welcoming Kitchen Stage, followed by the Crazy Keg Stand Stage, followed by the Dance Club Living Room Stage, followed by the Last Chance Hookup Stage. Gerard's a sharp observer of social customs, even though he doesn't participate in them much.

Dance Club Living Room Stage is maybe Mikey's favorite stage. It's when the lights in the living room get turned off and the music gets turned up and everyone dances and everyone touches and he hasn't taken more than three steps into the living room before Ben has grabbed him around the waist, crying out "Mikey!" and they are dancing.

The key to dancing with Ben is to pretend not to care too much, so when Ben pulls him tight and shoves one thigh between Mikey's legs and shimmies back and forth in time to the music, Mikey sips his drink and looks off into the middle difference and pretends that his erection isn't pressing painfully against the fly of his jeans, that his stomach doesn't tremble when Ben's hand slips under the hem of his t-shirt and presses against the small of his back, that he doesn't want this.

Eventually, the room becomes packed with other dancers and he and Ben are pressed into a corner, Ben's back against the wall. They continue to move back and forth, a semblance of dancing, but Ben's hands are on his waist and Mikey sets his drink on a nearby stereo speaker and hooks his arms around Ben's neck. Ben is taller than he is, so Mikey can lean in and tuck his nose against Ben's throat. Ben's fingers creep over his spine, inching upward, baring his skin so that he can feel the fabric of Ben's black dress shirt on his stomach. Ben says something, mumbles something, and Mikey lifts his head.

"Hmm?" he says. They're so close, they're breathing the same air, but Mikey makes sure that he doesn't meet Ben's eyes. "What _"

The kiss is awkward and slow and barely a kiss, just the glancing brush of lips. Ben's hands are high up on his ribs, his thumbs just under Mikey's nipples, Mikey's shirt hiked way up. Cool air breezes over Mikey's back. They move together, no longer in time with the music, and the only sound in Mikey's ear is Ben's rough breath. Mikey rubs up against Ben's leg and licks his salty neck. Ben has a thing with his neck--his hands tighten on Mikey's ribs. His hips jerk forward and his head tilts back. They're locked together, hips pulsing, and Mikey tangles his hand in Ben's hair thinking "maybe, maybe this time," but his hand must be too much because Ben shudders suddenly and pushes Mikey back two steps.

"I gotta piss," he mumbles and staggers off.

Mikey stands there for a second, head down. It always comes to this, him standing alone while Ben staggers off. He sighs. He presses the heel of his hand into his erection, shoving it away from his zipper, and then he heads into the kitchen for another drink.

Frank is by the keg, leaning against the counter sipping a beer. "Where's Ben?" he says.

"Bathroom." Mikey shrugs. He grabs another cup, but the cooler that had the punch in it is almost empty, so he puts the cup down again. Suddenly, this party really sucks. Ben will come out of the bathroom in a few minutes and clap Mikey on the back, but he won't touch him much after that and will go home, probably with one of the blond girls he met earlier, and Mikey will go home alone.

"Almost Last Chance Hookup Stage," Frank says idly. Mikey blinks. Sometimes he forgets that Frank is friends with Gerard, too.

"Yeah," he says.

"I'm going to take off. You hungry?"

"A little," Mikey says. He's not, really, but he doesn't have a car and Frank does, and suddenly nothing sounds better than to be in Frank's giant old Buick, the heat blasting on his feet, eating french fries and listening to Frank chatter about bands.

"Cool. Grab your coat and let's go get food."

Mikey shoves away from the counter and heads down the hall for his coat. The crowd has evaporated from the living room, leaving only a smattering of couples swaying and making out. Frankie called it: Last Chance Hookup Stage.

Mikey grabs his coat off the chair and when he comes out into the hall, Ben is there, talking to the pretty girl who'd fingered Mikey's shirt earlier. "Hey, Mikey," Ben says, smiling. Mikey smiles back and clenches his fist in the fabric of his coat. Sometimes he wants to punch Ben in the face.

"I'm going to get food with Frank," he says.

"Cool," Ben says and turns back to the girl.

"Cool," Mikey mouths, but quietly, so that Ben can't hear it. He can't help it, Mikey knows, but that doesn't make it suck any less.

"Ready?" Frank says, when Mikey gets back to the kitchen. He doesn't have a hat or gloves or even a real winter coat--just a battered leather jacket. Mikey sometimes wonders how Frank got so cool.

"Ready," he says.

Frank smiles. "Excellent," he says.

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