Mike knows that his self-control sucks. He’s known that since before he started trying to get sober.
But the thing about sobriety is that it’s a very elusive state of being. No matter how much you want it, or how much you may think you want to be sober, the substances that you’re trying to quit (as well as the way they’ve altered your brain chemistry) know otherwise.
And Mike has begun to figure that out. The hard way.
He doesn’t know what he was thinking telling Jaime that he’d come to this party. At the time, his reasoning had mostly been that he hadn’t seen anyone outside of school other than Mikey, Tony, and his brother for about three weeks, and he felt as though he could use a little bit of social interaction.
Somehow he’d managed to forget about the kind of people his social circle contains.
Literally the second he enters the house, he’s practically assaulted with the suffocating smell of weed and cheap alcohol, and as he walks farther into the house, he sees people doing motherfucking cocaine off of the counter in the bathroom, the door wide open for anyone and everyone to see.
The amount of time he has to process the scene in front of him is practically nonexistent, as Jaime comes up to him talking at a rampant pace about one thing or another (the music is so loud and Mike is so disoriented that he can’t really distinguish precisely what’s being said), cheerfully sugarcoating the events around them by jabbering about how happy he is to see Mike back and hanging out with all these people again, and how many of them, Jaime himself included, missed him.
Between the moment that Jaime started talking to him and now, Mike somehow has found himself in the bathroom, snorting lines of cocaine, taking hits of the joint that’s being passed around, and drinking whiskey straight from the bottle. Hours successfully slip by him unnoticed, mostly because he’s too high to give a fuck about what time of the night (or day) it is.
However, he starts to give a fuck when the phone in his pocket starts ringing.
He pulls it out and looks at the caller ID, and when he reads who’s calling, his heart plummets through the floor.
“You gonna answer that dude?” One of the guys in the bathroom asks, wiping his nose, a tiny smudge of blood dribbling out one of his nostrils.
Mike nods reluctantly and leaves the room, weaving his way through the swarm of intoxicated people to get to the back patio before he answers.
“Mike? Where the fuck are you? I called Mikey, I called Vic, fuck, I even fucking called Pete and none of them have any clue where the hell you are,” Tony says, his voice somehow managing to be both terrified and angry all at once.
“I’m fine, Tony. I’m with some friends. Nothing – nothing you need to worry about.”
He can hear Tony’s raised eyebrow.
“What kind of friends?”
Mike shrugs. “Just friends. Some people I know.”
Tony pauses. “Just friends, huh? So if I were to show up wherever you are right now, I wouldn’t recognize anyone as one of my customers, and you’d be sober?”
“Why don’t I believe that?”
“I don’t know,” Mike says spitefully, “Maybe because you don’t trust me!”
On the other end of the line, Tony scoffs. “I have every fucking right not to. Tell me where the fuck you are, I’m picking you up.”
Mike falters, but eventually relents and tells Tony where he is. He hears the sound of a car engine turning on, and Tony snaps out a quick, “I’m on my way, bye” before hanging up.
Against any and all forms of better judgement, Mike ducks back inside, does a few more lines, drinks a few more swigs, and finishes of one of the joints just as Jaime calls out for Mike, telling him that someone is here for him.
The look on Tony’s face isn’t one that Mike really wants to see again. It’s all anger, and it occurs to Mike that maybe waiting outside would have been better, because on the outside of the house you can’t see (or smell) all of the drug paraphernalia.
“C’mon. We’re going,” Tony spits, and Mike goes, apprehensively.
Inside the car (which must be Tony’s, or Tony’s mothers, because it’s not Andy’s truck), Tony doesn’t say a thing. The ride is silent, tension hanging heavily in the air, and Mike literally would rather that Tony screamed at him until he lost his voice than just drive silently, knuckles white against the steering wheel.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers weakly, the drugs in his system not anywhere near powerful enough to filter out the intense feeling of guilt that’s ravaging his body and mind.
“No you’re not. Shut the fuck up,” Tony says in an excessively disappointed tone.
“I am though,” Mike mutters.
“I told you to shut the fuck up. I don’t want to hear it,” Tony snaps, pulling into an unfamiliar driveway and stopping the car.
“Where are we?” Mike asks, looking around at his unfamiliar surroundings.
“My place. You’re staying with me tonight. I don’t want you around anyone else.”
Mike knows that he doesn’t have any say for or against these circumstances, so he silently follows Tony inside his house.
“Mom?” Tony calls out, dropping his car keys on the small stand beside the front door.
“Yeah?” comes the response.
“I’ve got a friend with me, is it cool if he stays over?”
There’s a pause, and then a barely audible sigh precedes the reply: “I suppose. But you both better be asleep by midnight,” she says.
“Thanks!” Tony calls, grabbing Mike’s arm suddenly and dragging him down the hall and towards what Mike assumes must be his bedroom (when Tony throws open the door with an unnecessary amount of force, his assumptions are confirmed).
The bedroom isn’t too terribly large, painted a robin’s egg blue that was obviously picked far earlier in Tony’s life. Near the baseboards the paint is beginning to chip, the sheetrock beneath leaving a dusty film of white where the paint had been and giving the beige carpet an odd, off-grey glaze.
However, Mike doesn’t have too much time to ponder the particulars of the aforementioned chipped paint, as Tony shoves him into the room roughly and closes the door in a chillingly calm manner.
“You’ve got two minutes to explain yourself. No more, no less. Starting now,” Tony says, voice cold and even.
“I went to a party, I got really fucking wasted. There’s nothing more to explain,” Mike says quietly.
Tony doesn’t respond, leaving an uncomfortable and looming silence hanging between them. He watches Tony shift his weight from foot to foot, eyes cast down to the floor, obviously trying to think of what to say next.
Instead of the anger that Tony had been expressing for the last forty-five minutes, the rage abruptly drops away and Tony’s response completely throws Mike off.
“Why? I mean, what was I doing wrong? It was going so well Mike, just... Why?”
And Mike doesn’t have an answer for that.
“I don’t know,” he shrugs.
“But you have to know something, at least a little.”
“I’m just weak, I guess,” Mike says, voice flat.
“No, no,” Tony says, stepping forward and grabbing Mike by the shoulders. “No, none of that. You’re not weak. You’re pretty fucking strong, especially to have made it this far. It’s not easy to just quit, you know. It takes a lot of willpower and like, superhuman capabilities. You’re not weak.”
The combination of intoxicants in his system make everything around him have a strange haze, but it scatters just enough so he can see Tony’s face clearly. He sees the honesty, the caring, and something else, something buried deep behind the confusing mixture of emotions that seem to be flickering through Tony’s eyes all at once.
Tony sighs and looks at the alarm clock on the desk by the bed, seeing that it’s getting to closer to midnight. He knows that his mom will be in soon to make sure they’re asleep, so he decides it’d be best to try to go to bed now. They both need it, that’s for fucking sure.
“Listen, we should both probably sleep now. Do you want the bed or would you like me to go get a sleeping bag?” Tony says.
Mike looks at him, confused. “We can share, you know.”
“I don’t know,” Tony hesitates. “It’s not a very big bed.”
“Frank and Kellin share a twin every time they’re at Frank’s house. We can probably successfully share a full,” Mike remarks.
“Okay, fine. Fine. No homo.”
“Cut that the fuck out,” Mike mutters.
“What, would you prefer it to be full homo?” Tony says, smiling.
“Yes. Now be quiet, I’m tired,” Mike says, flopping onto Tony’s bed and just barely managing to pull the blankets over himself before he passes the fuck out.
Tony stops, trying to completely process what Mike has just said. Miniscule fractions of himself consider that maybe what he said wasn’t influenced by drugs, but the rest of himself knows that it has to be the drugs talking.
Shoving all considerations aside, Tony climbs into bed next to him and drifts off, listening intently to the even in and out of Mike’s breathing.
For the last couple days, Ashley has been Andy’s only truly consistent companion. With Oli gone, he’s pretty much completely alone. Gerard and Mikey’s mother had requested that the two “be at home more”, so to lower any sort of suspicions the brothers haven’t really left her sight save for school for the last week or so, leaving Andy to scramble for any kind of company he could find, resulting in Ashley and Andy sitting in the floor of Andy's room, drinking cheap-as-fuck beer that Vic had left behind a few weeks back.
Ashley may not have been his first candidate in the friendship department, seeing as their friendship did form rather reluctantly, but he's come to find out that Ashley isn't really that bad of a person.
The two find that they have more in common than was originally thought, discovering that they share a very similar taste in music, resulting in an hour long conversation about whichever one of the bands that Andy had a poster of haphazardly taped to his wall, leftover from his embarrassing days of being one of those obnoxiously pretentious fans that leapt at every opportunity to brag about how cool they were for listening to this band that was, in reality, more popular than perceived.
Hours drift by the pair unacknowledged, the topics changing rapidly and smoothly.
"So," Ashley says, setting his drink down beside him, "Fill me in on the rest of the guys. I mean, I haven't really had an opportunity to get to know them personally. So far it’s been 'strictly business', and I'd like to know a bit more about who I'm working with, you know?"
Andy nods. "I get that. What would you like to know?"
“How about relationships? Anybody got a lady friend?” Ashley asks, stretching out his legs and crossing them at the ankle.
“Well,” Andy says, “Not lady friends, that’s for sure. Vic has a kind of boyfriend, named Kellin, and I don’t know what the fuck is going on with Gerard, but he’s got a sort of boyfriend too, named Frank. Oli and Vic are staying with Frank and Kellin, who I think live together or something like that? I’m pretty sure that they’re stepbrothers, or close to it. They have basically no parental supervision.”
“Why haven’t I heard about them before?”
Andy shrugs. “I don’t know. Their relationships aren’t any of my business, honestly, and that’s Vic and Oli’s safehouse, I can’t afford to give away their location or who they’re with to people I don’t know all that well. No offense, or anything.”
“None taken,” Ashley says. “Does Tony know where they are?”
“I don’t think so,” Andy replies, shaking his head. “I don’t think he was there when we decided where they’d be staying.”
“Gee and Vic are the only two people that have siblings that I’m aware of, and I’m pretty sure you’ve met them both at least once. Probably one of the times that we had to make sure Pete didn’t try to call the cops on us or something.”
“Yeah, I think I’ve met them,” Ashley says, taking another swig from the lukewarm beer, “Are Vic and Gerard protective of their brothers?”
“Oh god yeah. Oh fuck yeah. The reason we got in that fight that you ultimately heard about was because somebody beat up Gerard’s brother. They’re so protective I don’t think you could even prick one of them with a pin without their brother slitting your throat.”
“Jesus,” Ashley mutters.
“You’re telling me. Though it can be pretty useful sometimes, how protective they are. Gerard in particular doesn’t let anything happen to the people he cares about, and if something happened to Mikey, and probably Frank, too, I think he’d break. I think he’d just break,” Andy says.
“Fuck, that’s not good,” Ashley says.
“I know, but I don’t think that’s going to happen, and it’s more of a strength than a weakness. For now, at least.”
Ashley nods in agreement. “What’s Frank like?” he asks. “I honestly don’t know if I could picture Gerard dating somebody – he really seems like somebody who flies solo and likes it that way.”
“Kind of. Gerard likes company, but he doesn’t like vulnerability, even though his anxiety definitely makes him act more vulnerable than he’d like, and he sees company as vulnerability. As for Frank, I’ve only interacted with him once or twice. He and Kellin are really, really close, seeing as they’re together pretty much all the time, and the few times I’ve talked to him Frank’s seemed like a nice guy. Extremely calm, especially in comparison to Kellin, who’s... Fuck, I don’t even know how to describe it,” Andy says, gesturing with his bottle and then chugging the rest of his drink so it doesn’t slosh over when he gets extra expressive.
“Could you maybe try to describe Kellin?” Ashley asks.
Andy snorts. “No. It’s impossible. Actually, I need to go talk to Oli, maybe you could come with and meet Kellin for yourself,” he says, pulling his phone out of his pocket and scrolling through his contacts.
“That’d be awesome,” Ashley says, smiling.
“Hey, guys?” Oli calls out, receiving respective replies of “what” and “fuck off” from the other people in the house. He walks downstairs, wandering towards where he thinks the voices came from. “Andy and Ashley are gonna stop by in a little bit, that cool?”
“I don’t give a fuck,” Kellin yells out first, but Vic’s the one with the important (as well as reasonable) response.
“Ashley’s coming too?” he says, looking at Oli questioningly, putting down the spatula he was using to flip the pancakes that Kellin had oh-so-politely demanded.
“That’s what Andy said.”
“That doesn’t make much sense. I mean, Ashley hasn’t been working with us for very long, why would Andy just give up our location like that?” Vic says, furrowing his brow, not asking the question to anyone in particular, more or less just musing about their circumstances.
“Well, Andy did sound a little tipsy, but there are two possible answers,” Oli says. “The first and most probable being that Andy trusts him enough by now, the second being that Andy’s got a boner for him.”
“It’s probably the second one,” Kellin says, tone flat, putting more blueberries in his mouth that are supposed to be for the pancakes. Frank does everyone else in the room a favor and smacks him over the head as he walks by, heading towards the couch.
“Should we be extra cautious?” Vic says.
Oli shrugs. “Maybe. But they’re already on their way, and if I know Andy, and if he’s actually started to trust Ashley, then he’s already told him a lot.”
“I take it I’m not allowed to throw things at Ashley to assert dominance?” Kellin says through a mouthful of blueberries.
“No, you are not,” Vic says, putting the remaining pancakes on the plate with the other ones and turning off the griddle.
“You ruin all my fucking fun.”
“Cry about it.”
“I’m gonna,” Kellin says, stomping out of the kitchen, grabbing a pancake and taking the blueberries with him.
Somehow, Andy, although slightly intoxicated, manages to drive to Kellin’s house without getting pulled over, wrecking the car, or getting lost.
If Oli wasn’t familiar with Andy’s levels of alcohol tolerance, he’d think that Andy had preformed some sort of miracle.
The two seem to have sobered up ever-so-slightly when they walk in the door, just enough so that Andy can make introductions and just enough so that Ashley can comprehend what’s being said.
“Vic told me I’m not allowed to throw things at you to assert dominance,” Kellin says. Ashley looks at Kellin like he’s a freak of nature.
“Uh... yeah, that wouldn’t be very nice,” he says.
“That’s not the point. The point is that I hit you in the face with a lamp and you don’t fuck with me,” Kellin says, very calmly.
“O....kay?” Ashley replies.
“Oli, can I talk to you for a minute?” Andy says.
“Yeah, sure. You kids have fun, and make sure you don’t let Kellin near objects that could potentially be thrown,” Oli says.
Andy and Oli round the corner and into the kitchen.
“What’s up?” Oli asks.
“Nothing, just wanted to talk to you. See how you’re doing and all that.”
“I’m fine. Well. Mostly fine. Living with Kellin is terrifying. But other than that, I’m perfectly alright. How are you?”
Oli looks at him inquisitively. “That’s good.”
“...That all?”
The look doesn’t leave Oli’s face as the two leave the kitchen and enter the living room. Something’s got to be up, but Oli can’t figure out what it is for the life of him.
The living room is eerily silent. Frank is sitting in one of the armchairs, knees to his chest, staring Ashley down, biting at his cuticles, while Kellin is sitting next to Vic and attempting what seems to be killing Ashley with his eyes.
“Kay, Ash, you ready to go?” Andy asks, and the look on Oli’s face intensifies.
“Sure,” Ashley says, standing up.
Everyone says their goodbyes, and the second the door closes, Frank speaks.
“I don’t like him.”
“Who?” Vic asks.
“Ashley. I don’t like him. Not in the slightest. Something about him seems... Off.” Frank says, speaking around the fingers in his mouth.
“I don’t like him either. I want to throw that lamp at his face,” Kellin says, uncharacteristically angry.
“I have no idea why you two are being so hostile,” Vic says. “There’s nothing wrong with Ashley, at least not to my knowledge. The dude seems to be perfectly normal, and perfectly fine. I may not trust him completely yet, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason that I shouldn’t trust him in the future.”
“I don’t know why I don’t like him, Vic,” Frank says, “I just don’t. I just really fucking don’t.”
“Let’s just stop fighting for now, okay?” Oli says. “We can talk about this a little more once we all take a breather.”
The room mutters a reluctant agreement, but it’s an agreement. They all settle into the couch and allow themselves to become absorbed in shitty daytime television, just as a distraction.
Oli doesn’t want to admit it, but something’s up.
Something’s definitely up.