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jamjar: (TAI The Butcher)
[personal profile] jamjar
Originally posted for the Turning Tricks or Treats fic exchange, over here.
Recipient: [ profile] vampyre_hunter
Title: And starring Mike Carden as himself.
Fandom: The Academy Is...
Pairing: Mike Carden/Michael Guy Chislett
Rating: PG
Author: [ profile] jamjar

Notes/Summary: Just another day in the world of TAI TV... Thanks [ profile] quettaser and [ profile] megolas for help, handholding and listening to me whimper.


They're all a little drunk or a little high, even the ones that haven't taken anything. It's a side-effect of bands mixing or maybe just running short on sleep for the past few days, weeks, months. Mike knows for a fact that he's technically sober, but he doesn't feel it. He feels loose-limbed and laidbacked and lazily amused, pleased with the world, watching Sisky talking sincerely to Vicky T and almost completely managing not to look at where the black lace of her bra edges is peeking from her dress, the Butcher and Gabe playing some game that involves slapping and progressively more nudity while Bill leans on Gabe's back, peering over his shoulder at their hands. Michael's talking to Ryland about something, shaking his head. His hat's still on, but his shirt has fallen by the wayside, victim to the latest episode of TAI TV.

Michael looks cheerful, in his usual way, which is quiet and low-key only in comparison with their friends and bandmates. It's restful and Mike's vaguely grateful that for every Bill or Gabe or even Sisky, there's a Michael or a Jon or a him to balance it out. Even if they have lost Jon to the lure of a place on stage and boys with eyeliner and good manners.

Ryland looks taller and skinnier next to Michael, or Michael looks broader next to him. Mike thinks of Australia and sun, golden sand and surfing even though he's not sure if Michael surfs, if he even swims.

"Hey," Bill says, coming to sit next to him. "Whatcha doing?" Drawing it out like he's a kid and sitting down like he's at least twice as heavy as he actually is.

"Enjoying the peace." There's a shriek that could be VickyT but was coming from where Gabe and Butcher are. Mike doesn't look over, doesn't want to know. He keeps his attention safely focussed on Michael and Ryland. Michael's smiling and saying something and Ryland's expression is focussed, concentrating as he answers—no, not answers, repeats. Trying to steal Michael's accent again, and failing judging by the way Michael laughs, shakes his head and tries again. "Relative peace," he adds, correcting himself at another scream.

"Yeah?" Bill sways against him, affectionate and because his balance is always the first thing to go. He follows Mike's gaze.

"You know they're older than you, right?"

Bill waves a hand, dismissively. "In years, sure, but not in life. In life, I am an ancient. I have an old soul."

Mike looks at him for a moment, waiting for him to explain, then shakes his head. "You're so fucking pretentious."

"'I can't remember a time when people haven't been calling me a pretentious wanker.' David Bowie," Bill says, arch expression and leaning back on his hands.

"You can't quote Bowie when someone calls you pretentious, that's like, like—" Mike shakes his head. "Seriously, Bill."

"Unseriously, Mike. Michael Carden. Maybe we should have a birthday party." Bill has his face to the rest of their band, over to where Ryland is saying something that makes Michael laugh. It's different, Michael's laugh, distinctive from (distinctive to?) Bill's or Butcher's or anyone elses, and Mike wonders if Michael laughs in an Australian accent, if that's why it's noticeable. Maybe, or maybe it's just because everyone laughs different to everyone else. "His birthday's in April," Mike says, distracted.

"Whose birthday?" Bill says, frowning.

"Michael's," Mike says, and Bill's confusion is contagious, maybe, because who the fuck else were they talking about. "You've missed it already, and we already—we went to see that film, the one with the guy that was in that copy show?"

Bill looks at him like Mike's the one rambling. "Why are you bringing up Michael's birthday?"

"Whose birthday were you talking about?" Mike runs through the ones he knows, and there's only Travis coming up and Gabe and 'Sashi are planning something for that.

"I wasn't talking about anyone's birthday in particular," Bill says. "Why are you bringing up—Oh! Ohh," Bill says, drawing it out and smiling like he's just realised something. "Huh. Well, I guess it's not exactly a surprise."

"What?" Mike sits up, almost upsetting the deckchair.

Bill smiles at him, elbows him too hard -after his balance goes, Bill always forgets how fucking bony he is- and says, "So he's born in April, that makes him what, Taurus, like Patrick?" He elbows Mike again. "The bull." He raises his eyebrows meaningfully, like they're exchanging secret codes. Mike's normally better at understanding Bill when he's wasted.

"How fucked up are you?" Mike says. "Because you're making no sense. Less sense than Gabe at 3 am or Travis ever or—"

"Or Michael and James when they speak strine?" Bill suggests, failing at an Australian accent.

Mike shrugs. He's pretty sure that half the time, Michael and James are only playing at incomprehensible accents, making up fake words off the top of their heads to confuse the rest of them, but he's not a hundred percent sure. "Yeah, or that."

"You spend a lot of time listening to them, right?"

"White noise," Mike says, "I tune all of you out."

"Hmm," Bill says. He puts on a knowing expression that Mike has discovered means exactly nothing.

"What?" He says.

"Just 'Hmm'," Bill says. He tilts his head back and smirks, just a little. "And it's okay, y'know."

"And I don't know, know what?"

"Hey, what are friends for?" Bill smiles, fond affection like he gets when he's looking at Sisky.

Jesus, it's going to be bad. "Seriously, Bill, what?"

Bill pats him on the shoulder and says, "Don't worry. I'm gonna help you out."

"With—Bill, I don't need help," Mike says, slowly and clearly. "With anything. At all."

"It's fine, it's no trouble." Bill smiles expansively and Mike gives up trying to make sense of him, of the evening, and leans his chair back, balancing it on two legs. The sun's coming down and the lights are coming up and Mike can just hear the beginnings of the latest instalment of the endless arguments about national sports starting. He closes his eyes and lets it wash over him.

"A valentine theme?" Mike says. It must be his turn to state the obvious, so he nods his head at the calendar stuck to the fridge door. "Bill, it's August."

"So we beat everyone to it," Bill says. "Or we film it now, show it then, whatever. Do you really want to be rolling around on the beach like in From Here to Eternity in February?" Bill leans back against the window, like that's just the most ridiculous thing he's ever heard. He's got one leg tucked up against his chest and he's squashed up next to the window, but only because Butcher's sitting next to him, taking up 80% of the available space available. Sometime in June, Butcher declared that he was taking back space from everyone bigger than him. It's the latest on-tour game or joke or competition, something to fight about when they're travelling through the flatlands. Mike gives it three more weeks til somebody snaps and sits on him or tries to squash him into a suitcase. Sisky sits on the counter, head bent to avoid banging it against the cupboard and splitting a bag of tortilla chips with Jack. There aren't enough seats, not with Mike pressed between Michael and Tony.

"So are we doing classic love scenes? Like, recreating them from the movies?" Michael says, leaning in across Mike. "'Play it again, Sam.'" Dropping his voice and sounding like Humphrey Bogart would if he was Australian, and maybe drunk.

"Humphrey Bogart never actually said that," Mike points out, shifting so he's got more space. They've got to work on a rota, some kind of way of stacking themselves in on the seats so it's not the skinny guys all on one side, average on the other.

"What?" Michael looks surprised, almost hurt. "That's one of the classic lines, what d'you mean he never said that?"

"He just says 'Play it, Sam' and 'You played it for her and you can—'"

"Mike," Bill says, his voice sharp. "Stop destroying Michael's illusions. Anyway, I was thinking maybe a guide to romance, like a Dear Abby thing, or one of those old education things, How To Behave On Your First Date. Make it all scratchy and black and white, with—"

"Or we could get Ryland to be David Attenborough, do a Life of Bands thing," Jack suggests. "And here we have the rare clothed Butcher, about to launch into his mating display. See, he starts by removing his outer feathers to reveal the brilliant colouring..." He stops and cackles.

Bill rolls his eyes, then he looks at Mike again. It's the same kind of look he gave him yesterday and Mike was hoping he'd have got over it. "Huh, maybe. The point is romance. Love."

"And rolling around on a beach," Michael says.

"If the script demands it. For art," Bill says. "And the fans."

"You think our fans want to—yeah, of course they do." Michael grins, leans back and give Mike a side look, like they're in it together as the relatively sane ones. Are we really doing this? Mike spreads his hands in an I-know gesture, but smiles back. The twisted TAI TV eps are always the best, as long as he can keep a straight face during filming and Tony hasn't objected yet.

"I'm not doing the beach scene," Mike says. "Sand gets everywhere."

~Take 1~

"So, Michael," Ryan Ross says, holding make-up brush carefully, one hand tilting Michael's head to the side so he can paint in hearts or stars or whatever he's doing. "Where are you from, exactly?"

There's something about his expression, the way he told Michael to keep absolutely still, that makes Mike flashback to visits to the dentist. He leans forward to watch, wondering if he should point out to Michael that he doesn't have to go along with this.

"Skipton," Michael says, "Home of the platypus."

"Really? Don't—there."

"Summer home. It winters in Queensland." Michael tilts his head back so Ryan can get a better angle for his eyes, tracing them in gold. "They have to migrate, because of the jellyfish."

Ryan Ross looks at him, frowning a little, concentrating on the precise smudge of glitter. "You," he says, distractedly, "Are so full of shit. And I'm done." He steps back and turns the chair around so Michael's facing Mike. "What do you think?" He says, proudly displaying his work.

Mike shrugs, because what is there to say? It's Michael Guy Chislett with gold dust on his face, smudged eyeliner. "Sparkly?"

"But subtle." Ryan Ross smiles and Mike thinks he looks like Bill, when Bill's spent too much time around Gabe. "Come on, we need to find those fairy wings."

They're not fairy wings. They're cupid wings, small and gold and they don't fit, so Jack and Butcher use duct-tape to attach them to Michael's back. Bill pouts a little, in a perfectionist mood, but it's TAI TV, it's meant to have the strings showing. Butcher keeps adjusting them, but the left one still looks in danger of falling off.

Michael has a little bow and arrow, the product of a visit to a dollar store and five minutes with gold paint and a glitter pen. Ryan and Bill are saying something about gold make-up, and then Michael's bent double and laughing. His wings catch the light, cheap gold glitter falling off him like fairy dust. It catches the light and matches his hair, a weirdly TV affect to see in real life, disconcerting.

Then one of them falls off and Butcher has to dig up some duct-tape from the crew.

~Take 2~

The safari jacket looks like he stole it from Ryan Ross, stretched out so it can fit on Michael. One sleeve is torn off and there's red splatter over it, Mike recognises Butcher's heavy touch with fake blood, but he doesn't know whose idea the rubber snake's head was.

"All that hard work for nothing," Jack says. "And Ross still doesn't know we stole his jacket."

Michael looks apologetic and says, "I'm trying."

"That's—fuck, man, that's the worst Steve Irwin impression ever," Mike says, shaking his head. "Seriously, what the hell? You're *Australian*."

"She's a beauty, all right, and he's got to really make a show of it if he wants—" Michael says, trying again, but Mike holds a hand up to stop and he switches back to his normal voice. "It wasn't that bad."

"Yeah, it was," Jack says, lowering the camera. "It didn't even sound funny-bad, it sounded like—I don't know what it sounded like. Maybe we can get James to do it or something?"

"Take a look at this little pair of beauties," Michael tries again. "They're about to do a little mating..." he trails off. "It's not that bad, right?" He looks at Mike and Mike hearts to disillusion him, but...

"Seriously, man, just stop. It's tragic." Mike shakes his head and puts an arm across Michael's shoulder. The jacket is ripped at the back, too, patched with fake snakeskin. "It's more like, he sounds more like, crocodiles, I've been catching them since I was nine. No worries." He tries to get the accent right, match it up with the one on TV and not Michael's.

Michael pulls away and stares at him. "Okay, that's just fucking disturbing," he says.

"What?" Mike looks at him and at Jack.

"Nothing," Michael says. "Just promise me you'll never do that again, okay?" He gives a shudder that Mike thinks is exaggerated, but not fake. "I don't need that in my head."

"It's perfect," Jack says. "Hey, you're about the same size, he can wear the jacket, you can wear the gorilla suit, it'll be—"

"No," Michael says and he puts his hands on Jack's shoulders, forcing eye-contact. "We're not doing that to kids, delicate age, and then they hear that voice coming from the guy who they've got stuck to their walls? Crushes and the Crocdile Hunter don't mix."

Mike thinks about interrupting, pointing out that he's not the prettiest person on the band, not even the prettiest in a five foot radius, but he knows how to take a compliment.

"I think you're overestimating—" Jack starts to say, but Michael slaps a hand over his mouth and then turns his head to look at Mike.

"Seriously, for the kids, for me, promise me you won't."

Mike shrugs , heartlessly casual. "They're young," he says. "They'll recover."

"Yeah, but I wouldn't."

~Take 3~

"No, because it's ridiculous."

Bill rolls his eyes and says, "Look, you just drive up, black leather jacket and motorbike—"

"Which I can't drive, so—"

"So Butcher and Sisky will push you along, then you show up, do the whole Prince Charming James Dean thing. It's classic."

"It's insane. Insaner. What happened to Academy Planet?" Mike says. "I liked that idea."

Bill waves that away. "Michael thinks it might give people issues. Or fetishes, and not the good kind. He was kind of..." he shrugs an end to the sentence.

"Australian?" Mike says, trying to fill in the missing word.

"More traumatised," Bill says. "He would have done anything to stop you doing it. Anything," he says again, meaningfully.

"Bill, man—"

"Do you know how hard it is to get a prom outfit at short notice? Forget the dresses, especially for someone with Michael's build. "

"You wanted him in a dress?" Mike says, trying to picture it and then trying not to.

"Not really, I mean, not like a thing, not like a fetish. Just the chance was there, and if I hadn't taken it. But we couldn't find one his size anyway, so it's all moot."

Mike shakes his head and doesn't call Bill on his choice of words. "So where'[d you get the suit from?"

Bill shrugs. "Butcher knows a maitre d'. It sort of works, right? He looks like a waiter, but then so do most boys on prom night. Waiters or bouncers."

"Do they even have proms in Australia?"

Bill folds his arms and looks at him, raising one eyebrow. "Mike. Are you questioning the lack of realism in TAI TV?"

"You're taking this too seriously," Mike says.

Bill puts his arm around Mike's shoulders. Mike thinks of spiders they saw in Australia and Japan, fragile and threatening and probably toxic, whatever google said. "If he didn't have a prom, isn't that even more reason for him to have one now? So he can get the whole experience?" Bill says, trying to sound reasonable and coming off as vaguely drunk. He's not—drunk, Bill can't walk straight, but believes he can dance like Gabe and is obviously wasted from the first shot, even if he can actually keep drinking til Travis is under the table, but the overly rational speech is pretty similar. "Now go put on your leather jacket and get ready for your big scene."

Mike shrugs on the jacket and goes over to the motorbike. In front of the video camera, fairy godmothers Sisky and Butcher are telling cinder-Michael that he can go to the prom, pausing every now and then to add the Very Special Messages that are going to appear in the final cut. It's a stretch from the original concept, but there was extra glitter spare and Butcher found a tiara and light-up wand, so.

In five minutes, Mike's going to roll on screen in a leather jacket as prince charming or Danny and escort Michael to the prom, while Guy Ripley explains the mating habits of the North American Homo sapiens musicalis. Michael catches him looking, waves and Mike flashes back to high-school dating. He did okay. Not as good as Sisky, who had some kind of idiot savant gift for getting laid, but pretty good, enough to look back and smile.

They manage to get the bike on with lots of static shots, and honestly, Mike kind of digs getting to pose in sunglasses and a leather jacket. He looks ridiculous, yeah, but in a stylish way.

They stand in front of a door and someone's stuck a piece of paper on it that says, "Michael's house and not the door backstage at all."

"Oh, it's that badboy with a heart of gold and moody—" Michael stutters, his mouth twitching and Mike has to look away before they set each other off. Michael pulls it together and says, "with a heart of gold, Mike Carden. Maybe this is—"

"Fuck, battery," Jack says. "Time out, I need to get a new one. You, don't move."

Mike shrugs and pushes away from the wall where he's been leaning, taking his sunglasses off. It's dark enough already, sun coming down. Michael's still standing on the doorstep, maybe six inches taller than usual, taller than Mike, and that it gives Mike flashbacks to his first proper date where he spent half of it wondering if she'd always been three inches taller than him before realising, when she stood on his foot, that oh, she was wearing heels.

Good thing he's never shared that story or Bill would probably try to recreate it right now, and he's pretty sure they don't make heels in Michael's size. He snorts at the image and Michael looks at him, eyebrows raised in a question. He shakes his head. Not worth explaining.

Michael shrugs, accepting and smiles back. He steps down and slouches down next to Mike. It's oddly private, even though there are people buzzing around, with the way their bodies are angled in, like they were sharing a cigarette if either of them smoked.

"So d'you bring me roses?" Michael says. "A corsage?" He draws out the word, emphasising it, one eyebrow raised.

"You're pretty high maintenance," Mike says. "For someone who didn't even get asked to the prom."

"I just don't want you to think I'm easy," Michael says. "Not the kind of boy to end up flat on my back just because someone rolls up on a bike in a leather jacket and sweeps me off my feet."

"Yeah? Hey, you got a sister or something I can call?" Mike shakes his head, tries to keep a straight face. "I dunno, man, seems like you might be a bit too much work."

"Charming," Michael says. "Granted, everything I know about proms I learnt from American TV, but shouldn't you be trying to get me hammered right now?"

"Yeah?" Mike grins, thinks about teen movies and YA books.

"Then I lose my virginity in the back of a chevy and get knocked up before graduation," Michael says cheerfully. "I'm shunned by the community and have to raise our child alone. I'm pretty sure I become a nurse, bravely struggling to make something of my life despite the cruel bastard that abandoned me. Or a stripper."

"So what you're saying," Mike says, slowly, "is that you're a sure thing? I'm definitely getting laid tonight?"

"Well, it is prom." Michael shrugs, what can you do? "It's an American tradition, right?"

"That's just what we tell the exchange students," Mike says.

Michael laughs, quiet and with his head tilted down. Private, almost, so Mike has to lean in to hear it. He doesn't move back when Michael stops and looks up, across the parking garage. "He's not subtle, is he?" Michael says.

Mike shrugs and looks at the scene. Bill's got a confetti gun from backstage and this may be the first TAI TV episode with special effects that don't involve photoshop or quicktime pro.

"He could have just said something, you know," Michael says. "Or you could've."

Mike takes a swig of his coke and leans in.

Michael turns to face him. The sun's behind him, making Mike squint. His face is dark against the sky and Mike can see traces of make-up on his face, in the corner of his eyes and smudged against his hairline. He holds the can in both hands, rolling it between his palms, and then Michael takes it from him and puts it on the other side. It's a slow, deliberate movement, and it's the same when he leans in, giving Mike plenty of time to move away, to have second thoughts or a sudden bout of common sense.

He doesn't. He just waits and there, and then Michael's kissing him one hand on the side of his face and maybe he didn't know it was going to happen until right this moment, but it doesn't feel like a surprise, feels weirdly like a break from a tension Mike didn't know was there. It's—jesus, he didn't know how much he wanted this, how much he was waiting for it to happen, for that easy sense of company to turn in this.

"Come on, it's the final scene." Michael says.

They hold hands against the sunset while Jack complains about UV filters and makes them stand a little close, a little more apart, until Michael lets go and a second later, Mike feels his hand on his ass, copping a feel. Bill whoops and Jack says, "That's it, that's the money shot, baby!"

Michael rolls his eyes and calls out, "Voyeurs! Pervs!"

"Live action porn, baby," Jack calls back.

"Yeah, they're laughing now," Michael says to Mike, "but they haven't realised we're all sharing a bus!" He yells the last bit and is rewarded by groans and cheers and Adam Siska yelling, "My virgin ears!" like they don't know how much he gets laid.

~Roll credits~

No-one's up at this time of morning except the driver, usually, so Mike slides out of his bunk quietly and heads to the kitchen. He knows where Butcher keeps the last packet of maple chocolate chip cookies, tucked away just where they can't be seen, but not so far back anyone can accuse him of hiding them.

He's kind of surprised to see Bill up, less so to see the cookies open in front of him. Bill smiles and pushes the cookies at him. Mike sits down, a little cautiously. He still doesn't trust Bill's smile.

"Morning," Mike says, carefully.

"Good morning, Mike," Bill says. He looks at Mike and smiles, blissful and ridiculous. "I," he says, "am the fucking Roman Polanski of romance."

Mike looks at him for a second, then reaches out across the table and slaps him on the back of the head. "Bill, that makes no fucking sense!" He says. "Fuck, man, you've got to stop hanging with Gabe, you can't handle it."

"Ow!" Bill rubs his head and glares at Mike, and sure Mike had done it hard enough to hurt, but Bill is still overreacting. "Fine, see if you can get laid without my help. You could at least say thanks. But I guess your happiness is thanks enough." He smiles at Mike and pats his hand, channelling someone's grandmother. "That's all I ask for." He takes his hand off Mike's and makes a grab for the cookies.

"Delusional," Mike says, and steals the last one.

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