Goth Exposure

BY : Dean_Wax
Category: Web Comics > Long Exposure
Dragon prints: 1083
Disclaimer: I do not own Long Exposure or its characters. I don't profit from the writing of this story.

Author's note: Wahey, It's babby's first fanfic! I am just delighted that it could be for Mars' awesome webcomic, Long Exposure, although naturally because I've written it the story is still an indulgent, trope-ridden mystery. Have fun!

If you have a read, please do review, even if it's a word or two. I draw a lot of validation from them.


Goth Exposure

It’s a dark, wet night. A single emaciated rat weaves and scurries through the gutters with all the grace of a seal, freezing to sniff at the intricate artwork of the oil slick raised up from the asphalt by the rain. It’s all asphalt here; dirt, asphalt, concrete and grime, the occasional glass pane cracked to create an ambience of dereliction and neglect. Fat, black raindrops slide down said glass in an homage to the shape of the rat’s beady eyes. As it lifts its tiny head before the monolith of commerce it has come across, the sign’s reflection shines distorted across the surface of its gaze.

HOT TOPIC

The window in the front door is shattered.

“Why th’fuck are we here?” Mitch Mueller complains, flicking tiny shards of glass off the knuckles of his fingerless leather gloves.

He’d punched out the window because he said to; ‘he’ being the chubby brunet who walked ahead of him. He could have used a brick, but that wouldn’t have looked as cool. There seemed to be a lot of ‘cool’ going around lately, right down to the swish of those thick thighs rubbing together in zip-laden black cargo pants as Joey traipsed down the aisle. Fleeced ‘em from a market stall two states back, he thinks; it’s hard to remember any more. By now even his mental image of Joey has metamorphosed to match the child of darkness he sees before him, spiked choker and all.

The horizontal slits riddled in the ebony fabric of his shirt gives tantalising glimpses of the freckled skin beneath, and Mitch has to admit that he can’t complain that Spots has started to come out of his shell. He breaks out into a smitten grin as he watches the shorter boy slowly browse the row of shelves. As Joey’s gentle fingers caress certain wares, they leave inky little trails in their wake, floating like vantablack tendrils of smoke before they dissipate into the shadows around them.

Waggling his own fingers, Mitch’s grin turns predatory and he tries to pounce just as Joey’s hand retracts and he sidesteps into another aisle. Feeling cheated, Mitch scowls and shoves his hands into the pockets of his shredded jeans. “I’m bored,” he sulks, throwing a glare over the waist-high barrier between them. He’s just about to complain about being ignored when Jonas interrupts.

“I’m just… looking for something.” For Jonas, the shelves are chest height. He gives Mitch a hazy smile over his shoulder with kohl-lidded eyes, deftly popping the latch on a Rob Zombie lunch box and lifting the lid before he turns back to inspect his reflection in the shiny silver surface within. He hooks a lock of chocolate-black hair behind his ear and Mitch frowns as he catches sight of himself, his usual crop of brown hair now bleached a bold orange-blond.

“What the fuck?” he curses softly, reaching up to run his hand over the bleached mess. It feels coarse; even coarser than before.

Joey blinks at him as he notices the boy’s reaction. He gives him an incredulous smile which stays as he turns to face him, tilting his head to one side. “Don’t you remember?” he asks. “We did it just a few nights ago.”

Mitch remembers a few nights ago but he doesn’t remember his hair. He remembers something different, something intimate with Joey; a cherished night glowing on a pedestal in his mind when even the rain falling outside had sounded soft. It was cold. He gave him the blanket to keep him warm because he was fine. How could he ever feel cold when cupping those round shoulders in his hands made his heart flutter so fast? The silence was soothing; an anchor for his runaway heartbeat as they shared the same air between them. The taste of him was gentle, too; a slight inclination of heads as their lips met. When they drew apart they did not part completely; staying close to one another, connected at the forehead.

Mitch remembers the weight of Joey’s head against his so vividly that he might as well be reliving it all over again: Joey’s fingers playing over the stubble on his chin. Joey's soft sides squeezed under his hands. Joey’s soft lips moving; he was saying something, something important but the sound was all cut out. The only thing Mitch had to go by was the tender look in his green eyes; green like the ocean in those pictures of tropical places oh god it made his heart stop-

Mitch takes a breath; a short, sharp shock of oxygen to his brain that forces his eyes open again to see him standing in the store. He doesn't understand.

“No,” Joey giggles, gripping the edges of the shelf as he leans forward over a stack of Slipknot binder paper with a gleeful grin. “Not like that. More like this.”

The apartment was never there but it was always there; an anachronism! Velvet drapes and black patent leather bolted to the skirting of stone benchtops like Cushman & Wakefield was more like Cutman & Wake. His hip connects hard with the side of it as pudgy hands shove him onto the glossy black marble; his lanky body sweeping Chartreuse bottles off the kitchen counter to join the horrorcore constellation of Pinot Noir and Bloody Mary on the floor. There’s a familiar weight upon his hips; he reaches out to welcome him before he notices the black lipstick smeared across the back of his hand.

Lipstick? No. That stupid clown shit was Javier’s thi-

His thick skull rebounds off the countertop hard enough to make his eyeballs rattle. He wakes up slumped over the edge of an obsidian bath tub, the overwhelming potpourri of dead roses making his insides churn and threaten to spill over like a bucketful of blood. Groaning, Mitch lifts his head and lays eyes on his old switchblade sitting on the little ledge between the tub and the wall.

“I’m gonna kill him,” he growls, knuckles turning white against the bath. The crisp, clean scent of bleach cuts in under his nostrils like smelling salts, stopping him from reaching out for the blade. His eyes trace the arm holding the bottle back to a beautiful face.

“Who?” Joey asks tenderly. Mitch regards him in a daze, taking in how catlike the soft boy’s eyes are with all that kohl. If he had an idea, it was gone now; lost in the soup swirling around behind his bloodshot eyes.

“Your dad?” Joey coaxes, drawing the bottle back and tilting his head at the other with a suggestive grin.

Thick eyebrows knit together in a scowl as he considers. “Yeah,” the taller boy grouses decisively, jutting out his chin as he reaches out and closes his fist of the hilt of the knife. “Yeah. That fuckin’ asshole. I’ll do it right this time.”

Joey's lips spread out into a smile and Mitch can't help but grin in kind. A freckled hand reaches out to him and Mitch moves to greet it cheek-first but the fingers run through the hair at the top of his head unexpectedly.

“I guess it will be like a new beginning for the both of us.” Giggling, Joey waggled the bottle for Mitch to see. It looked like a regular bottle of kitchen bleach, only goth, with the brand, EDGEE, blasted across the purple label in yellow font surrounded by tiny bats. “Wanna do something that would really make him mad?”

Did he say ‘yeah’? Did he smile? He doesn't remember. It was raining but it wasn't cold. He was sitting in the bottom of a shower, the rivulets of hot water running down his lips tasting vaguely chemical. His scalp itched but not as much as his arm stung. Blearily opening his eyes, he leans forward off the tile just as Jonas finishes the vertical slice on the inside of his elbow. He doesn't feel mad; all there is is apathy in the pit of him. With a quiet scoff he gently takes the blade from the other boy and finishes off the upside-down crucifix on his skin because it feels right.

Do you love me?

“Did you say something, Spots?” Mitch lifts his chin sharply, finding it hard to hear over the shower spray. His heart skips a beat as the freckled boy gives an awkward smile, looking off to the side for a moment before he shyly makes eye contact. When he does, however, something changes; the gentle expression in his green eyes brightens to something like an unsettling epiphany.

“Sometimes I don’t want Dean to be alive any more,” Joey says seriously, serenely.

Mitch jolts upright. His arm aches. His head aches; struggling to make sense of a world that skips in an out of a world that never existed. As he turns over his arm slowly, he finds the cut is no longer there. There isn’t even a scar. The switchblade he was gripping is gone from his hand and he is flooded with the feeling that something is horribly wrong.

Gasping, coughing, Mitch stumbles backwards, his heart pounding in a new way. A bad way. His tombstone teeth are quick to bare as fear turns to anger.

“Yer not Joey.”

The shorter boy cackled in reply. “Oh my god, dear - it took you long enough,” he sniggered, pushing his straightened hair back from his face as he did a poor job of containing his laughter.

Joey doesn’t talk like that doesn’t say things like that no

The panic stabs through Mitch quickly and merchandise rattles off the shelves. “Who the fuck’re you?” he demands angrily, and suddenly a swarm of AC/DC hairclips surround the smaller boy, all poised in the air point-first at his face.

Ah, ah, ah,” the boy taunted with a metronome finger. Suddenly his visage was smooth and bright; not a freckle in sight and eyes shining white like some kind of deity. When he blinked, they came up polished and black all over, set above a mean little grin. “Joey is right here. You can’t hurt me or you’ll hurt him.”

The hair clips drop like stones as he realises it, his mind hitting the ‘off’ switch. “Give him back.” His voice is hollow, speaking automatically. The anger bleeds in once the wicked chemical concoction of emotion and adrenaline has a chance to kick in. A new armada of merchandise surround the smaller boy; all of it of the soft variety.

Surprisingly, it sets the pudgy boy on edge. He shrinks in on himself, teeth bared in an apprehensive growl.

Mitch squints at the change in the other’s expression, letting the toys start swirling slowly around the brunet’s head. After a moment, he experimentally bops him in the face with a Talking Lamb Chop plush doll and the thing possessing Joey loses it.

“Get that muck away from me!” he snarls, blackened lips curling back in disgust as he swats it away. “It doesn't belong in my house!”

“Oh yeah?” Mitch jeers as the stuffed toys continue to circle him mockingly. “But I'm not even touching you. Why you gettin’ your panties in sucha bunch?”

“I was a King!” The Joey-Thing roars, sending the shelves between flying into the adjacent wall. “A horseman of a subcultural apocalypse; an emotional renaissance! And just look what they have done to my house now!

The smug grin drops off Mitch’s face and he does something rare; he pauses for thought. He hadn’t banked on whatever-it-was having the ability to make shit move, too. The momentary lapse in concentration is just the window of opportunity the Joey-Thing needs and suddenly the plush dolls explode away from the boy. The shelves rattle and shift, seemingly divided by their wares. SpongeBob wristbands and beaded Elvis curtains go flying to the far end of the store while batwing bracelets and skull-print apparel pull in closer as though drawn by some unseen magnetic force.

With no barrier between them, the tall brunet even feels something like fear. “What the fuck,” he says softly. Even though he did not phrase it as a question, he receives an answer.

“I am both freedom and despair.”

Mitch bails. Scrambling over upturned merchandise, he bursts through the back door into the grand foyer of a Super Outlet Megamall; a liminal space surrounded by silver shutter doors. He isn’t sure how it got here (this was supposed to be a small town) but the layout feels familiar and he doesn’t have time. He runs forward on the white tile floor, vaulting over benches and leaning his lanky body into the turn as he curves around the fountain as if the pedestal in the middle might obscure him from the view of the thing that crashed through the concrete after him.

You can’t run from us forever, Mitchell.

Fearsome to behold in black lipstick, black eyeliner and red eyeshadow, the Joey-Thing advanced, titanesque on tentacle legs made of a messy amalgamation of leather belts, dog collars and lace garters. As the towering pillars lift and land on the floor, smaller straps spread out, snaking forward at an insidious speed as they zipped through the grid-like network of the grout gaps between the tiles. They caught the ankles of Mitch’s scrappy sneakers quickly, latching onto the grimy cuffs of his jeans and working their way up like rapid-acting fungus. Within seconds, a dense network of leather straps has formed around his thighs and they lock together without mercy, sending Mitch flying onto his face.

Swearing as his stubbled cheek drags dry across the tiles, Mitch kicks out with his newly cocooned legs and manages to roll over onto his back just in time to greet the Joey-thing looming over him.

“You have been so difficult,” Joey’s face growls. “Everyone and their dog has some way in; a skull candle on a shelf or some Mills and Boon bondage fantasy. But not you. The only way in was through this adorable little marshmallow of yours, and believe me it was surprisingly easy to make things comfortable in here.”

Sneering, the Joey-Thing brandishes one hand transformed to giant scissors, jamming one blade up the bottom of the trapped boy’s T-shirt before snipping the fabric in two. “I will slit you down the middle and transfuse your blood with Edgar Allen Poe’s piss if I have to,” he snarled. “You will succumb to the way of Goth!”

“Goth fuck yourself,” Mitch quips bitterly, earning a scoff from the demon as he traces the blade down the boy’s stomach. Noticing an unusual bulge in his jeans, he smirks.

“Oh? What’s this?” the Joey-Thing asks. “Perhaps you are a masochist after all.” His lethal scissorhand morphs back into five freckled digits and he reaches forward.

Mitch squirms with a grimace as the metal zipper slides down when suddenly a pilfered Hello Kitty iPod case springs out and hits Joey the face. “Aarrgh!” Screeching, the boy claws at his eyes and falls back in surprise.

Smirking, Mitch struggles against the disintegrating bondage and manages to break free. A single snort of laughter escapes his lips as he scrambles to his feet and makes for the nearest store to take cover.

Inside the pet shop, it is quiet. The display cages are empty and the fish in the tanks lining one wall make no sounds.  Running his fingers quickly through his hair, Mitch winces as he hears a muffled, discordant crash from outside and presses further into the store. The back door doesn’t open to an exit but instead a room filled with shredded paper. The abundance of it forms its own landscape; blank-and-white hillsides and winding canyons that look like static when he squints.

A rustle sounds behind him and Mitch inhales sharply through his nose, spinning around just in time to catch the sight of some of the paper shifting. His heart thuds in his chest as he turns to follow the movement of the unseen thing, pulse thrumming anxiously in his veins as more shapes stir underneath the shifting paper strands, burrowing closer. Urgently patting the back of his ratty jeans for his knife and finding his pockets empty, Mitch’s heart slams up into his throat when a little labrador puppy suddenly emerges with a curious yip, all but tripping over its tiny paws as it ran towards him.

Mitch gawks as a small fleet of puppies, each fluffier that the last, wriggle out from under the rustling paper and circle around his feet. He can’t decide whether he wants to pat them or kick them as they lick and gnaw at the beat-up rubber toes of his sneakers. The pups growl at each other as they compete for chewing rights, falling over themselves as they push each other away. One of them decides to playing tug of war with his shoelace instead.

“H-hey! Stupid dogs,” Mitch grumbles, raising one knee to bring his foot out of reach. The little pups follow it keenly, yapping in protest as they rise up on their hind legs underneath his hovering sneaker as if it were their god. Suddenly he can’t find a spot on the ground to put his foot back down - his lanky arms windmill for a moment before he falls back on his ass with a strangled shout.

Groaning, he sits up to check if he landed on any puppies, pursing his lips as he finds them all swarmed around his shoes again. Pushing them away (gently) with his hands, he pulls the rest of his laces loose and yanks the shoes off his socked feet, levitating them up towards the ceiling. A faint odor of sweat and possible Athlete’s Foot fills the pet shop, undetected by Mitch’s desensitized nose but apparently pure ambrosia to his new puppy acolytes.

Crossing his legs and idly moving his shoes from one side of the room to another, watching the furry mass of wiggling corgi butts and floppy spaniel ears following along after it, Mitch almost forgets the predicament he left out in the mall. As a thought dawns on him, a shark-like grin spreads out on his lips and he emits a little snicker as he gets to his feet.

Out in the mall, the Joey-Thing had really done a number on the decor. Mitch barely recognises the suburban shopping centre which now looks more like some kind of vampiresque ballroom, complete with red velvet drapes and a centrepiece fountain bubbling with tormented souls and the tears of Robert Smith.

Sticking close to the pet store door, the boy opens it a fraction before pushing it shut again, using his calf to nudge back nuzzling snouts from the gap. The sound of pipe organ backed up by the ethereal warble of a musical saw creates an eerie tune which masks the sounds of the monster’s footsteps. Mitch spots him across the mall, throwing back red velvet drapes and bending down from his immense height to peer into shop windows.

“Are you taking this seriously, Mitchell?” The Joey-Thing calls in a confident, maniacal purr. “Because I am. Why don’t you come out and I’ll show you?”

One hand clenching a fist, Mitch cups the over to his mouth and shouts. “Why don’t you come out and suck my dick?!”

The possessed boy freezes for a second before turning his head slowly. The bones of his neck twist just a fraction too far as he pushes away from the hunting shop he was scouring and takes long, ominous strides towards his prey.

“There doesn’t really seem to be a mood for that now, does there?” the Joey-Thing purrs in reply, tilting his head from side to side as he runs a purple-tinged tongue over pearly, white teeth. “You should have taken your chance sooner. We could have had ourselves a nasty little re-enactment of some subterranean dungeon porn. Brian Molko could have written a fucking song about it. But no. Your precious little ideals wouldn’t let you. Oh yes, Mitchel, even you, filthy as you are, just couldn’t let go of - hnnf!”

The demon’s spiel is rudely interrupted by a shoe to the face, inside sole first. Mitch grins as the demon gags as he reached up and wrenches it away from him, only to be hit with the twin in the pair. “Eurgh!” with a guttural yell of repulsion he stumbles backwards, swatting both of the offensive sneakers away. The organ melody breaks out into flopping, discordant crashes before it stops abruptly as though invisible fingers had turned clumsy on the keys and given up. “Disgusting!” the demon snarls. “It’s not un-Goth just to be unclean, you know. You won’t beat me with a bad smell!”

“Oh yeah?” Mitch challenges with a leer. “What about this?”

With a great deal of satisfaction he wrenches open the door to the pet shop, unleashing his puppy horde. As if they were spurred forward by a very different Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, only heaps less goth, the stampede of little paws made a beeline for the source of Mitch’s shoe-stank.

No!” The Joey-Thing screams, rearing back on his massive stilts of leather and black lace but already finding them sticking to floor as though the very aura of puppy innocence had turned his goth apparel to taffy. With a disgusted wail he sinks to his knees, trying in vain to get the shoes away from him but each time he was rid of one sneaker, Mitch sent the other hurtling right back. Sinking lower and lower as the black essence spreads out on the marble tiles like deflated hopes and dreams, the pudgy boy’s chest heaves with a tragic sigh as a mini poodle scales the inky hill and jumps up to lick his cheeks, yapping with excitement.

“Oh, fine,” he mopes as he melts at the edges. “Write me off as just another bloody joke. Delay the inevitable. They always do.” With arms made too heavy by the weight of the world, he watches despondently as more puppies frolic around him. Visibly withering, the Joey-Thing’s eyes seem decades older when he fixes Mitch with one last morose glare. The words come out crystal clear even as his blackened lips began to bubble and stick together like a melted rubber tire.

“He’ll never be as pure as the pedestal you placed him on, Mitchell. You’ll always be afraid to touch his insides while you refuse to believe that he can be just as ugly as you.”

Mitch stares, drawing in an angry breath and taking a single step forward in protest but the demon is already gone. The last of the blackness drizzles off Joey’s body and slowly burning down to a smoke that smells of dead roses with a hint of formaldehyde.

Gritting his teeth, Mitch looks down and jumps in surprise as he finds the switchblade in his hand again. He can’t remember taking it out of his pocket or even where it came from in the first place. Why would he even have it now? Wasn’t it locked up as evidence all those years ago? Did he get it back? He didn’t think he did. Yet here it was, resonating with an unnerving aura of certainty that it had been here with him this whole time. It feels like a symbol for something complex and resentful, now; far more intellectually intimate than the simple stabbin’ stick it was meant to be. Too confusing. Mitch hurls it away with a grunt and watches as it arcs through the air over the street. It lands blade first into the dirt and lightning strikes it from out of nowhere, bursting the handle into flame. A circle of fire ignites around the whole things, bringing about a certain air of finality in the flickering orange light.

“Holy shit!” Mitch exclaims, slapping a hand to his forehead and laughing with a mix of delight and disbelief. “Did you see that?! Joey?”

A weak groan sounds in reply and Mitch turns around to see the boy lying on the floor, the remains of his makeup drizzling down to stain the collar of his 1970s hand-me-down T-shirt. His freckled face frowns but he seems reluctant to move even as a puppy with cybergoth goggles sniffs curiously at his cheek.

Striding over, Mitch looks down at him appraisingly with a hand on his hip. He sure did seem a lot more like the normal Joey in his dorky clothes again. Quirking his eyebrows, he conducts an experiment by lifting one foot and planting it on Joey’s belly, rocking him from side to side insistently. “Earth to Wagnerd… wake up…” he coos softly, barely stifling a snigger.

Joey emits another grumble, his eyes finally opening as the little dog starts to lick his cheek. Upon seeing Mitch’s holey, sweat-stained sock on his squishy stomach, he pulls a face and tries to push him off. “Gross, Mitch!” he complains, sitting up with a grimace. His green eyes widen to saucers as he takes in the smouldering black muck around him which was rapidly turning into paw print stamp art as the pups mill around the general area, looking for the sneakers which still hung suspended in the air. “M-mitch?!” he stammers, “What happened? Why are there so many puppies?”

“Some emo demon shit was possessing you,” Mitch sniffs gruffly, trying to play it cool as he carefully retrieves his sneakers and pulls them on, one at a time. “I fixed it.” Bending to tie his shoelaces (now that they’d had a good airing out, the dogs seemed much less interested) he fixes Joey with a wary look. “Don’t you remember?”

Joey sits up with a gasp, rubbing his fingers over his lips and looking relieved when they came away without lipstick stains. “I remember lipstick,” he says uncertainly, sparing a quick little glance in Mitch’s direction as he expects to be teased for it. When no taunt coms, he continues. “Uhm… it felt so weird, like so much of it wasn’t even real. I mean,” breaking out in a nervous laugh, he runs his fingers through his tousled hair. “Fishnets and eyeliner? Not really my style.”

“Maybe that part wasn’t so bad,” Mitch leans in with a leer, “Kinda sexy.” The quip earns him a light punch to the shoulder but all it does is make the lanky boy smile wider.

“I just don’t understand how it happened,” Joey shakes his head with a frown. “I remember us heading interstate to get away from those guys but then everything gets mixed up and…” With a sudden gasp, the boy pounds his fist against the Mitch’s chest again, harder but not hard enough to hurt. “Mitch!” the boy scolds him indignantly. “You shouldn’t have whizzed on that grave!”

“What I do?!” Mitch shoots back defensively out of sheer instinct.

“You know what you did!” Joey pouts, fuming.

The world freezes, snapshots and slides right in a comic book flashback. They’re standing in a graveyard and Jonas wants to die; he can’t believe Mitch is doing this - a priest was gonna come by any minute and catch them.

“Hurry up, Mitch!” he calls with a nervous grimace. Looking around, the telltale sound of whizz hittin’ concrete made him straighten up sharpish, averting his gaze. Mitch was going to hell. He was going to hell, too, just by association.

“Relax, Wagnerd,” Mitch jeers over his shoulder, looking down with an ugly grin as he manoeuvres his dick to paint a horizontal line. Shaking off and zipping up, he turns around and leans over the desecrated tombstone, gesturing proudly to his handiwork. “It’s funny, see?”

MAINSTREAM GOTH, d. 2006. A Mitch Mueller original, engraving underlined in all-natural materials.

“That’s gross, dude!” Jonas scolds his instinctively, but he feels a little better when he sees the name on the headstone. There was no way that was a real grave, right? That would be so dumb.

Slide back.

“Oh yeah,” Mitch grins carelessly as the memory returns to him. When you gotta go, ya gotta go.”

“Easy for you to say,” Jonas pouts and steps back, hugging his arms tight across his chest. “It wasn’t inside you.”

The grin falls from Mitch’s lips and his eyebrows furrow. “Hey… c’mon,” he says seriously, bending down and placing a hand on his shoulder. “I saved ya, didn’t I, Spots?” Reaching out, he pulls the smaller boy towards the centre of his chest where he curls up into a ball, sniffling.

There’s another snuffling sound down by Mitch’s hip; a curious Pomeranian which seemed to have picked up its own leather jacket during the fray. Mitch picks it up by the scruff of the neck.

“I even got you a dog, see?” He shoves the pup in Jonas’ face, his lips returning to their trademark pointy smirk.

“We can’t steal a puppy,” Jonas squirms as the puppy borks and tries to lick his face. “We’ll get in trouble!” Despite himself, he can’t help but crack a smile, struggling not to laugh.

“More trouble than we’ll be in for this?” Mitch quips, but the relief that washes over him on the inside is difficult to put into words.

“I guess not,” Joey admits, wiping his eyes on the back of his hand before looking around in a daze. “Where are we? I don’t recognise anything. How did we get so far off track?”

“Beats me,” Mitch shrugs.

Just then, the sound of a car engine revs in the distance. The two boys jump apart out of habit as it pulls around the corner.

“What is it?” Joey asks nervously, hastily getting to his feet as puppies yip and jump around his ankles. He isn’t sure he can handle any more excitement in one day.

“It’s a car,” Mitch says unhelpfully. Noticing Joey’s withering scowl, he clarifies. “Some kind of Chevy? I dunno.”

“It’s not an Impala, is it?” Joey asks with a pout, eerily reminded of that TV show with all the possessions and the brooding.

“Nah,” Mitch squints at the tinted windows, unable to make out the driver. “Something else.”

Joey lets out a sigh of relief but he still hesitates when the headlights flash and the car doesn’t budge an inch. “Are they… here to pick us up?” he furrows his eyebrows, struggling to get the suggestion out because it sounds so dumb.

The unseen driver gives two expectant honks as if in reply.

“Sweet,” Mitch says gamely, hoisting a pomeranian up onto his bony shoulder. “Let’s go!”

“Mitch!” Jonas cried, reaching out to catch his sleeve. “We can’t just get into strange cars!”

“Well, does it feel strange?” Mitch asks stoutly, turning around with an impatient scowl.

In the glow of the headlights, Joey sees that Mitch’s hair is already golden brown again. Something about the glimmering teal hue in the Chevy’s finish feels familiar to him, setting his mind at ease. “...No,” he admits. His expression softens into embarrassment and he releases Mitch’s sleeve, feeling like a nerd for even getting so worked up about it. He feels better when Mitch takes his hand in his. He wets his lips before he glances up at him with a nervous smile. “I guess it’s time to go home, right?”  

“Yeah,” Mitch replies gruffly as he stares into the glare. “Fuck this place.”

Hand in hand, they walk towards the headlights.

The end
(or is it)



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