Time changes nothing; life, on the other hand, changes everything. One-shot. Read, review, rate and feel my love! :P
As the lights douse the stage like liquid glory, I can’t help but look towards the one person who means the most to me in this world, the one person who makes every gig we play something that I over-analyse through fear of it not being safe enough, secure enough, un-dangerous enough; I look to my baby brother.
Okay, so maybe less of the ‘baby’, what with him being thirty-one now, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t protect him, that things can’t go wrong that I can make go right.
I can see him looking down nervously at the strings of his bass, that weapon of silence mass-destruction, and I can’t help but feel my heart firework with pride; although I know that he’ll never admit it, he is the best bass player I know, the most devoted and modest little rocker that I’ve ever known to grace my ears with his skilful strumming.
And he’s my little brother, which means that I protect him, no matter how old he is or how amazing I know he has become.
He looks up at me with eyes that waver with anticipation, eyes that used to be filled with pure fear at the thought of having to do absolutely anything in front of anyone; but he’s all grown up now, become my big little brother, and in doing so has made me the proudest big brother in ever to fall onto the Earth. It’s hard to believe that this man, who will always be some adorable little toddler who runs around clutching a unicorn plush to his chest in my fond mind, is the same kid that used to crawl into my bed every night through fear of him getting eaten by the scary shadows that would surely run in terror from big scary Gee; from a big brother who always made it perfectly clear that nothing can ever hurt my baby bro as long as I’m around.
A soft whimper squeaks through the serene silence of my bedroom, shattering through my dreams like a sharp stone of concern through my glass window of sleep, thus making me let out a half-hearted groan of recognition for my baby brother to cling his hopes onto.
I could simply ignore my eight-year-old brother’s frightened little mewl, could just roll to be facing away from him and his anxiously prodding fingers; but the one thing that I can never do is abandon my baby brother, not when this night’s fear was probably installed in him by the horror movie that I let him watch even though Mom told me not to let him see ‘The Shining’, that if I wanted to watch it then I would have to put Mikes to bed first.
And I wasn’t going to let him watch it, honest I wasn’t, but, well, he used those huge puppy-dog eyes that always work on my too-soft heart; he gave me the look that I know has gotten him out of a lot of trouble with Mom and Dad in the past, a look too adorable to be denied. So I told him to grab his blanket and to sit next to me on the couch, that way I could easily cover his eyes should things get too horrific for the innocence of his naïve little eyes.
In the end I had to turn the whole thing off, not because I was scared (I’m too old to get scared by something as silly as a film), but because Mikes was actually crying in pure, unbridled terror. Terror that I had allowed to be inflicted upon the one person that I’ve been trusted to look after whilst our parents are out. Terror that forced him firmly into my arms with such a velocity that it almost forced the two of us to go tumbling off of the couch. Terror that made me feel bad enough at the time because it made him sob and sniffle like I hope he never does again but is making me feel like a real-life horror movie monster right now.
Because right now my baby brother is stood next to my bed, my hand-me-down (through his choice) Batman pyjamas abseiling off of his shuddering body, and is currently begging for the comfort that he wouldn’t even be needing if it weren’t for my own stupidity.
So it’s only fair to both my own conscience and to my petrified baby brother that I make it up to him.
“Yeah, Mikes?” I yawn lazily at him, reaching up to turn my light on so that I can see how much I’ve messed up with him, how hard I’m going to have to tickle him to get his smile back.
Which I most certainly will.
I’m his big brother; it’s what I’m here for.
I watch Mikey in awe as he moves around the stage with all of the confidence that I used to have to encourage into him before every show, confidence that he used to refuse to retain solely because he thought that he had nothing to be confident about, nothing to show off in front of anyone.
Which is an absolute load of bullshit; he has more things to be proud of than there are stars in the night sky. I know that I might sound like I’m just being an overly loving big brother, something which I proudly won’t at all deny being, but it really is true. The guy has a heart made of something an unspeakable number of times more valuable than gold, the intelligence of a super-computer, the dedication of a robot, the inner-strength to match that of the structural strength of a cathedral; all in all, I couldn’t ask for a better little brother, the kind of little brother who has always been here to help me through everything. He only learnt bass so that he could help me start a band, learnt it with such pure determination that it made me feel like any of my dreams could come true just as long as Mikes will back them up. Which he always does.
And in return I’ve always supported him in everything, be it by giving him soft smiles that he instantly adores me for or long lectures that he might hate me for at the time but will always thank me for later.
”Gee, I don’t wanna go!”
“I know, Mikes, I know.”
“Then don’t drive me!”
I let a ragged sigh force it’s way out of my parched lips, the kind of sigh that’s weighted with every emotion that I don’t want to be feeling right now; guilt, frustration, annoyance and, above all else, sympathy. Sympathy for my introverted little brother who’s looking at me like a lamb being led to slaughter, like a toddler being forced away from it’s favourite teddy, like a saint being sent to hell. Because today is Mikey’s first day at high school; a place that my ranting over the past three years has caused him to hate, that my various bruises have caused him to fear.
And now I’m paying for it as we sit in the two front seats of my clapped-out jeep, his fourteen-year-old self blinking desperately to hold in the tears that I can see misting his glasses and threatening to smudge the eyeliner that I got up extra early to help him with. He really does look like he’s going to burst into bawling at any given second; his pale skin has drained of everything that could possibly connote happiness or life, his eyes are wide with the same sort of fear that a wild horse must feel at it’s first encounter with a saddle and he’s shaking so profusely that I’m half tempted to just grab hold of him and force him to be still because seeing him like this really is extremely unnerving for me.
Maybe I should just take him back inside, tell Mom that there’s no way that I can make Mikes go to school in the state of desperate panic that he’s fast tornado-ing himself into, that I refuse to let my baby brother go through with this if it terrifies him as much as it quite clearly is. Maybe I should just snap at him, let all my frustration at having to go back to school myself just flood out in one fell swoop in the form of me forcing him to endure the same torture that I do every day. Maybe I should just sit here with him until he calms down enough to be reasonable.
Maybe I should do what I do best; comfort him.
“Hey, Mikes, it’s gonna be alright, Kiddo.” I soothe warmly into the tense atmosphere of my pitiful excuse for a vehicle, sighing once more (this time in agonizing pity) when he looks up at me with untrusting, tear-dilated eyes. “Oh, Mikes… C’mere, bro.”
With that he leans across the gear box, all anger at his executioner forgotten in favour of the soothing salvation that aforementioned only the executioner can deliver, and straight into me; his head on my chest in such a way that it makes my soul burn away at my heart in the same way that his bleach-like tears are burning away at my worn-out Pulp t-shirt. I haven’t seen him cry like this for a long time, not that any length of time is long enough when it comes to my baby brother not crying, and I absolutely fucking hate it; I feel like I’ve let him down by not belaying his fears like a big brother should, by not spotting how scared he is before now, when he is sat in my car and clinging to me as though I can keep at home, away from all of the scariness that the unknown waters of high school might hold.
“Shush, it’s all cool, Mikes. I got ya.” I whisper down into his ear, my hands forming soft circles on his shuddering back. “Wanna tell your big bro what’s got you so upset?”
Like I don’t already know.
“What if nobody likes me, Gee? What if they hate me and hurt me and nobody wants to be my friend?” With his heartbreakingly heartfelt anguished declaration of agonized, honest-to-god anxiety, I feel my arms wrap around him even tighter, like a seatbelt around a body when a car breaks too suddenly. “Don’t make me go, Gee. Please.”
At that I have to force my eyes to swallow back their tears like soured bleach; he sounds just like the defenceless little boy that I always view him as, as the defenceless little boy who I have to stop from feeling like he does right now. Afraid. I have to make him not be afraid to keep on living, to go through high school be it with the crowd of friends which someone as benevolent as him deserves, or be it alone.
I may normally be a pushover when it comes to Mikes; he wants to watch one of my videos, no matter how scary, I let him; he wants me to help with his homework, I do it even though I’d much rather be flicking through my comics; he wants me to take him somewhere, I take him there even if it is to some place that I can’t stand like the library or the local swimming pool. I always do my best to get my baby brother what he wants, sometimes more so than doing what’s best, but right now I’ve got to make him go to the place that may well be synonymous with hell.
I have to make him go, I have to install him with the confidence that I know he has to develop somehow, that he should have developed a long time ago.
“Mikes, what’s not to like? You’re kind and sweet and funny and if anyone dares to even look at you funny, I’ll make ‘em regret it, okay?” I feel him nod against me, but he’s still adamantly refusing to loosen his vice-like grip on his one lifeline. “And even if you have no-one, Mikes, you’ll always have me.”
He finally pulls out from my shelter, a small smile tugging at his quivering lips.
A small smile that makes being late for the first day of the semester not so much a bad thing, but rather a joyous thing because I’ve made my baby brother smile. Something that I would quite gladly kill for to make happen.
Because I’m his big brother; it’s what I’m here for.
My gaze falls to the crowd, to everyone who’s made me who I am today, who’s given Mikes the confidence that I could never have given him on my own. Their ears are like drains, eagerly swallowing every sound that we make like water. Every sound including Mikey’s flawless bass-playing, those delicately intricate patterns that he knows better than the back of his own hand. Pretty little patterns that fall from the speakers like raindrops on rose petals.
He really is quite remarkable, my little brother; the way that he can commandeer those metallic strings like they’re the soldiers and he’s the General making them fight a war against the hopelessness of silence alongside Frank and Ray’s golden guitar-playing. I can hear kids screaming our names, all of our names, and I can’t help but smirk to myself at the thought of a fourteen-year-old Mikes being terrified of nobody liking him when now he is one of the most loved people that I know.
It wasn’t always this way though; people didn’t always scream his name in such an adulated way, it used to be snarled like some sort of taboo curse word. It used to be uttered as though being called ‘Mikey Way’ was some sort of cutting insult. And that’s why I couldn’t be prouder of him right now; for him to go from being too shy to stand up for himself to being one of the most amazing live bassists of our time is something that makes my insides glow with the pride that only my baby brother can cause to blossom within my soul.
Because I’ve seen him at his worst.
”Mikey, please, please don’t cry! Please, they’re not worth it, Bro.”
This is the third time this week, Mikey’s second week into being a Junior, that my baby brother has run in from school and straight down to my basement bedroom; heart racing, hyperventilating, teary and, much to my complete horror, bloody.
Those bastards at Belleville High beat him up now that I’m not there to protect him, take out all of the frustration that I caused them by preventing them from being able to play with Mikes like they wanted to fuck with him being let out in high definition. I can see how it’s killing him inside like I want to kill the bullies on the outside, how I’m the only thing left keeping him that same kid that is fast fading from view.
“You’re safe now, Mikes. I’ve got you and I’m never letting you go. Know why? Because I’m your big brother and best friend; we’re all each other needs. The Way Brothers against the world.”
Right now he’s curled into me like a snail into his shell, drawn into everything that he associates with home and safety and love and comfort. And I, in return, am coiled around him, sticking to him glue in such a way that’s meant to emphasise the fact that he’s definitely not alone and never will be.
Not whilst I’m here to hold him close and make him smile like only I know how.
Because I’m his big brother; it’s what I’m here for.
I can’t help but giggle as Frank struts over to my little brother acting like, well, like Frank Iero and trying his hardest to distract Mikes from doing what my brother does best in ways that are only okay because they’ve been best friends for longer than even Ray can remember.
I really am thankful for Frankie and Ray, for having others who took the time to get to know Mikes and to be his friend when all he had was me; someone who would gladly take a bullet for the kid but will never truly be enough. I’m eternally grateful to Alicia too, for making Mikes smile like a little kid at Christmas whenever she so much as looks at him; I’ve quite honestly never seen such an in-love pair, bar myself and LynZ.
But I’ll never feel as profoundly blessed to have someone as much as I do for having my baby brother; whenever I thought that I couldn’t go on, that the world was going to take my heart, that I couldn’t make it to the end, that I was going to go headfirst for a halo, he always pulled me through. Always made me realise that the pain is worth it because I have people who care, people who need me to keep going; people who I would hurt a lot more by me leaving than life hurts me. Not that it does hurt me.
”Gerard, bud, you gotta stop doing this.”
Great. Here we go again; Ray telling me off for having fun, for drowning out everything that I don’t want to feel in a way that every other guy my age does. Sure, sometimes I take it a little too far, but doesn’t everyone? I personally think that it makes me perform better, makes all of my nervousness hide under my lack of inhibitions. I mean, at the end of the day it’s only a little bit of fun. The sort of fun that makes everything else seem that little bit easier.
“Don’t look at me like that, Gee. I know you think you know best, but trust me; you don’t. You can’t do if you think your behaviour is healthy.” He chastises me, reminding very much of my least favourite high school teacher, and that’s saying something; I only ever liked one teacher and even that was because he hated me enough not to complain whenever I bunked.
“And you think you do know what’s best then?” I shoot back, grinning smugly as his jaw all but drops like a falling star.
There’s an awkward silence, one that stretches out like an ocean yet makes the empty tour bus feel as crowded as a popular club on a Saturday night. An awkward silence that screams at me to apologize, to tell Ray that I didn’t mean to snap but that I really don’t need his help; I’m doing just fine by myself. I’m just a kid having some harmless fun. Even if I am harming someone, it’ll just be myself so who the fuck is he to think that he can try to make me stop? I’m not even harming myself by drinking like most other people my age; I just do it a little more frequently than most.
But that’s my choice. Not his.
“No, I don’t.” He sighs at me, eyes dropping to his lap where he proceeds to dejectedly fiddle with his lucky guitar pick.
I can’t help but feel a stab of guilt at that; he was only trying to help after all, only trying to be his idea of a good friend even though I really couldn’t ask any more from the dedicated guitar god. He already goes above and beyond for me, so it really is the very least that I can do to humour him; to simply hear out his overused lectures over how my lifestyle is not as rock and motherfucking roll as he seems to believe that I think it is.
He takes a deep breathe in and looks back up at me, our eyes locking to reveal nothing but excruciation in his benign irises of concern. An excruciation that makes my stomach twist in ways that I know has nothing to do with the alcohol.
“But I do know that this isn’t it! Not for you, not for the band and certainly not for Mikey!”
Mikey. My baby brother. Everything that makes this world seems a little less cruel because it is this world that gave me such an amazing little brother; the sort of little brother who’s left his entire life behind to help me chase my dreams.
“Don’t you ever think about how this is affecting him, Gerard?” He runs a hand through his wild mane of hair, giving me just enough to get my hazy head around the horrific suggestion that my best friend is making; that I’m actually hurting the one person that I’m constantly striving to protect. “Because it sure as hell is. You might not see it but I do and Frank agrees; seeing you kill yourself is killing Mikes too. Do you know that he cries himself to sleep every night over you? That he climbs into mine or Frank’s or even Bob’s bunk every time he has a nightmare? Which is pretty fucking often nowadays, because every time he has a nightmare it’s about you dying; it’s always about what you’re doing to yourself and it’s fucking killing him, Gerard!”
And just like that I can see it; every false smile and teary-eyed glance floods my mind in such a way that makes me able to empathise with a sun-exposed vampire.
This has to stop. I have to make Mikey happy.
I’m his big brother; it’s what I’m here for.
I cast my vision to the sea of lost souls that we, all four of us together, have poured together with our music; Goths, nerds, emos, non-conformists, preps, punks, all those people who simply can’t be labelled all moving as one body of hope. All because of me and Frankie and Ray and, of course, my baby brother. A baby brother who has helped to mould me into the person that I am today, a baby brother who always encouraged me whenever someone told me that I was wrong, always made me feel loved whenever I thought that I was alone.
Not that I ever truly thought that; how could I, even in my teenage years, think such a thing when I had Mikes by my side the whole time?
And I know that Mikes feels the same when it comes to my never-ending support.
I’m worried about him.
Really fucking worried about the one person who should never be the cause of worry purely because he should never be anything less than safe.
But ever since we came here, to the motherfucking Paramour Mansion, he’s been acting…
Distant, I guess. More so than usual. Like half the time he’ll just be completely zoned out, contemplating something that not even I can hope to understand, and the rest of the time he’ll be so pulled into something that it’s impossible to tell what’s really going on in that head of his. Something that scares the living shit clean out of me; I’ve always been able to read my baby brother like an open book, it’s something that I rely on in order to be the big brother that I’ve always prided myself in being, yet ever since we got here it’s like I’ve lost him completely. Lost my guiding light in this murky, musty old world.
And he’s started coming to sleep in my room again, just like when he was frightened as a little kid.
Back then, back when he was still small enough for me to scoop up like an eagerly-awaited birthday present, it was adorably cute; the kind of adorable that makes the sorrow of my baby brother needing comfort at all, just that little bit more bearable. But this time around it’s the opposite of adorable; it’s just pure anguish that might just be survivable if only he would actually let me comfort him.
Sure, he lets me hold him and hush him, but he never tells me what’s actually wrong; how am I meant to comfort him when I don’t even know what the hell I’m comforting out of his shuddering spine with my gentle tissue-paper hands?
I don’t know but I’ll keep trying. I will see him through this, just like always.
Because I’m his big brother; it’s what I’m here for.
I look over to Mikes once more, savouring the way he’s beaming in his own surreptitious little way. I know that he’s somewhat infamous for his ‘poker face’, but in the past few years my little brother has been proudly putting that now-myth to bed; has been smiling more and more frequently, each star-like smile making my head swell to the size of a small universe in both admiration and unadulterated pride. Pride because I can still remember, with brutal clarity, all of those times when I thought that he’d never smile again; all of those times that brewed the kind of fear within my brotherly heart that always makes me try all the harder to make him feel as loved as he always has been.
As loved as he knows he is now; with screaming fans and a beautiful wife and an adorable little niece and more friends than his iPhone contact list can cope with holding.
As loved as I will never let him not feel.
Because I’m his big brother; it’s what I’m here for.
A/N: Thank you sooooo much for reading this and I sincerely hope that it was alright! To anyone kind enough to be interested, I’m contemplating a new chapter-fic and to help me plan it out (which I’m kinda in the process of doing) I’ve come up with some questions which, if you could be lovely enough to answer, you can check out here: http://www.ficwad.com/author/130696
Anyways, thank you very much for reading and please review! :)