Mikey has something to tell Pete Wentz. It's not good news.
“Hey, Pete.” Pete closed his mouth and did the only thing that made sense right then, he pulled Mikey into a bone-crushing hug.
“Mikeyway!” He cried gleefully. He paused, “Wait.” He held Mikey at arms-length with his hands on too-skinny shoulders that Pete noted quickly. “Now tell me the truth, Mikeyway.” Mikey look surprised and his eyes widened with honesty as he nodded. He looked so much like a child in that moment that Pete struggled to keep a straight face. “Are you my Valentine’s Day present?” Instead of the affectionate laugh that he was expecting, all Pete received was a weak smile and a darkening of Mikey’s pretty eyes. Pete instantly sobered.
“Not exactly, Pete.” Pete’s frown affected Mikey more than he’d intended it to and the younger man slumped as if the weight of the world had settled on his shoulders as both his smile and eyes dropped. Pete quickly slid an arm over Mikey’s shoulders and pulled him inside, shutting the door behind him. He swept Mikey into the living room and made him sit on the couch, calling Hemingway to jump up beside him. Mikey smiled gratefully and scratched that spot behind the dog’s ears that made him scratch at imaginary fleas. Imaginary because Hemingway was not; under any circumstances, allowed to have fleas. Ever.
“Now what’s this about and why do you seem so… defeated?” Mikey’s smile was rueful and just a bit bitter as he glanced away. He took a deep breath and finally looked up. The intensity of his eyes caught Pete off guard. Something was obviously very wrong.
“You told me once that if I ever needed anything, you wanted me to come to you first.” Pete zoned out for just a second as he relived that memory. It had been one of the best and one of the `worst of his life. Back then Mikey was one of the most plainly dorky people he’d ever met; in that Mikey’s place was a new Mikey. His short black hair shone in the light from the window and his unobstructed hazel eyes were serious in a different way. “Pete, I need you to tell me now if that’s still true. If you still feel that way.” Mikey’s gaze was more gravely honest than Pete had ever seen it.
Pete moved closer and knelt by Mikey’s spot on the couch, taking his hand. “It’ll always be true, Mikes.” The look of concern that he displayed forced Mikey to look away, giving him a chance to compose himself. He took a breath when he looked back at Pete.
“What I’m about to ask you to do is…” he closed his eyes, “It’s selfish, Pete. It’s selfish and it’d probably be considered immoral. I have no one else to turn to. No one else I’d trust to do this for me.” Pete was struck dumb by that statement. Mikey and Gerard were closer than any other two people he’d ever met. Family was brought to a whole new level with them. For Mikey to be unable to tell his BROTHER…
He was pulled from his thoughts when Mikey spoke again, no longer looking at Pete. “If you don’t know for sure that you can handle this I want you to tell me now. I won’t mention it again, we’ll go back to the way we were. We’ll stay very close friends for-“ he paused again and closed his eyes, “for as long as we can.” Pete was outright frightened.
“I can handle it, Mikey. Now tell me what the fuck is going on.” Mikey waited a long time before he nodded, pulling a few folded pieces of paper from the pocket of his hoody. He turned them over in his hands and just looked at them for a while before handing them to Pete.
Pete kept a careful but discreet eye on Mikey’s expressionless face as he unfolded them. He looked down and froze at the first line. ‘Alexander disease is a slowly progressing and fatal neurodegenerative disease’. He read through the rest of them with increasing disbelief and terror. His hands were shaking noticeably by the time he finished. He looked hurriedly back up at Mikey only to see that his hands were shaking as well. His previously unreadable eyes now held a fear and age-old sadness that broke Pete’s heart.
“But there must be-“ Mikey shook his head.
“You know there’s no cure, Pete. I know you read it.”
“But there has to be some sort of experimental treatment or something! Anything!” Mikey’s sad smile and affectionate pat of Pete’s hand broke his heart into even smaller pieces.
“There isn’t, Pete. They tried a bone marrow transplant on someone with infantile Alexander disease once. It did nothing. There have been other treatments, but none that made even the slightest change for the better.” Pete was grasping at any idea that might save his friend’s life. Anything that might mean that he didn’t have to deal with the reality of a world without Mikey Way in it.
“But you have adult-onset! The disease spreads more slowly the older you are when it starts, right?!” He started to flip through the papers again, desperate. Mikey took them from his still shaking hands and set them aside, wrapping an arm around Pete’s neck in a gentle hug that really only settled Pete’s attention further on how skinny and frail they felt.
“I don’t have adult-onset, Pete. I’m so sorry. I was afraid you’d react this way, it’s why I didn’t want to tell you.”
“HOW THE HELL ELSE WAS I SUPPOSED TO REACT, MIKEY?!” Mikey flinched back and pulled away, giving Pete a wounded look. Pete forced himself to calm down. “I’m sorry, Mikes. I didn’t mean to yell. But how could you have expected me to react any differently than I did? It was either an overestimation of my composure or an underestimation of how much I care about you.” The candid statement made Mikey turn away, giving Pete his answer far more clearly than if he’d spoken out loud. Pete paused and his face drained of all color. “Wait. You said-” Mikey nodded, still not looking at Pete, despite his friend’s desperate attempt at meeting Mikey’s eyes.
“It’s not really juvenile. It was right between juvenile and adult-onset. Even the doctors weren’t really sure which to classify it as.” He finally looked back at Pete. “It started when I was fourteen, Pete.” Pete’s world crashed down around him; he felt like screaming. “The symptoms were mild enough that no one but me really noticed them; I always wrote them off. A bad case of flu, stress, lack of sleep,” he glanced down and blushed slightly at the next one, “uhh, side effects of some… bad habits.” Despite the subject matter, Pete very nearly cracked a smile at that.
“Once My Chem started and we were touring all the time I figured that they were just side-effects of the lifestyle. I always told myself that Gerard was going through the same things that I was. What I always seemed to ignore was the fact that Gerard was a functioning alcoholic at the time and,” Mikey flinched, “on more drugs than even he could name. When he got clean and I left the Paramour,” Pete cringed at the thought of the mansion that had also nearly claimed Mikey’s life, “I had nothing left to blame them on. The therapist I was seeing at the time confirmed that they weren’t normal and sent me to a doctor he knew. He diagnosed me.” Pete swallowed and forced himself to ask the question.
“How long?” His voice broke. Mikey got off the couch and sat next to Pete on the floor, wrapping both arms around his waist.
“Pete, I need you to understand. It was a miracle that I lived to twenty-five.”
“How long, Mikey?” The first tear fell on Mikey’s head when Pete pulled him closer.
“Three months, Pete. They gave me three months.” Pete’s wail of anguish surprised them both as he gathered a too-skinny Mikey into his arms and sobbed against his shoulder. Mikey shook with the force of his own tears as he wrapped one arm around Pete’s neck and settled his other hand against the back of Pete’s head.
Hemingway jumped off the couch and ran around them both, whimpering with concern. They stayed that way for hours as Pete rocked them back and forth. Pete closed his eyes and tried to feel the life flowing through Mikey’s body; feel Mikey’s heart pound against Pete’s own chest. He couldn’t. He was incapable of focusing on anything other than the fact that the very much alive young man in his lap might be cold and empty in three short months. Pete cried harder. Mikey held him tighter.