(not) comforted by anything i say
Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at

Teen And Up Audiences
Archive Warning:
Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Gen, M/M
Ride the Cyclone: A New Musical - Maxwell & Richmond
Mischa Bachinski/Noel Gruber, Mischa Bachinski & Ocean O'Connell Rosenberg, Mischa Bachinski & Constance Blackwood, Mischa Bachinski & Ricky Potts, Mischa Bachinski & Penny Lamb
Mischa Bachinski, Noel Gruber, Ocean O'Connell Rosenberg, Constance Blackwood (Ride the Cyclone), Jane Doe | Penny Lamb, Ricky Potts, Original Characters
Additional Tags:
5+1 Things, Mom Friend Mischa Bachinski, hes a mother hen, Protective Mischa Bachinski, Male-Female Friendship, Hurt/Comfort, Fluff, male-male friendship, Mostly Fluff, mischa has PROBLEMS with accepting affection, and being loved, totally not projecting wdym, Not Canon Compliant, no beta we die like the choir, Hugs, Found Family, Everyone Needs A Hug, Historical Accuracy, i tried okay, its set in 2008-2009, so i gave mischa a mp3, Everybody Lives
Published: 2022-10-24 Words: 7,411 Chapters: 1/1

(not) comforted by anything i say


Mischa Bachinski is a man of many talents.


5 times Mischa surprised his friends with his talents + 1 time they surprised him.


hello cyclowns

i literally wrote this in two-three days powered by rtctwt

posting this at midnight in my time no beta read

(not) comforted by anything i say



Mischa has decided - study hall was the most boring period in excruciatingly boring school. For an hour and a half, he was expected to sit on his ass in a quiet library and study. No music, no talking, only him and a biology book.

Fortunately, or maybe not, Constance had her study hall at the same time as he did. They sat next to each other every time - most of them, Constance actually studied. She preferred zero outside stimuli while studying, meanwhile Mischa...

Yes, his methods of studying might be unconventional, but they worked, okay? Penny and Ocean once walked into his room while he was blasting some rap remix on full volume, laying on his bed with legs up in the air, reading his physics notes out loud.

(He got a B- on that exam though.)

So during study hall, Mischa usually put on music in his 5 dollar earbuds and tried to learn something. Constance didn't bother him, too wrapped up in her French studies.

That fateful day, his assistant teacher encouraged him to try origami for his “anger management issues”. So he did. And it turned out that the few figurines his older cousin taught him when he was a little boy still were in his memory.

His mind was happy to have anything to do in these absolutely horrible times, even if his hands moved mechanically. The paper folding was a nice sound, and the way the swans looked made Mischa's brain so happy for some reason. So far, nobody asked him about the army of paper birds on his desk, and he didn't know if he could bear the librarian whisper-yelling at him for "trashing". The time when he ate a Snickers was bad enough. So far, Constance was focused on her things, something that sounded suspiciously like Justin Bieber blasting in her ear buds.

It was okay.

Until it wasn't.

"Mischa? Do you know how to do this?" Suddenly, a math textbook was being slipped into his vision, with some calculations made with a pencil on the sides. He scooted closer, examining the numbers.

"Which one?" He crooked out. God, why did he sound like that?

"Example D." Constance sighed and slumped in her seat. "It's over. I'm not going to pass this class. I will be working at the Gas Plus gas station forever."

"Come on, Con, someone needs to pump Ocean's gas." Both of them snickered quietly. Constance passed a pencil and sheet of paper to Mischa and he started explaining to her, step by step.

He liked Math more than English. In Math, you had one good solution. In English, you had to jump around, talk, and talk, and talk, and the books they had to read made no sense.

Besides, he didn't have to speak English in Math. A bonus point.

After Constance pulled her book, paper and pencil back to her space and thanked him, her eyebrows suddenly frowned and she looked at something in Mischa's lap.

"I didn't know you could do origami."

Mischa looked down. His hands were toying with a swan, a carbon copy of at least twenty others on his desk, folding its paper beak.

He looked at her with a confused face.

"You can’t?"

Constance's eyes opened wide, and she looked at him like he's stupid.

"My fingers have, like, zero flexibility. I can't do it."

Mischa let out a quiet chuckle, and Constance swatted him on his back. He looked at the twenty little swans that sat in front of him.

"Do you want one?"

For a good second, he was sure she will decline. Who would want a goddamn paper swan, Mischa? His mind screamed at him, but to his surprise, Constance beamed and nodded eagerly. He let her pick out one, but in one moment she had five swans in her hand, the other one carefully opening her backpack.

“They’re super cute, Mischa!”

The next period, International Studies, Mischa sat in the back, watching a tutorial on YouTube and folding paper. The flower turned out to look decently, and during next choir practice he gave it to Penny.

She rewards him with a bone-crushing hug, and another "You can do origami?" today.

When he's over at Constance's a few weeks later, he pretends to not notice a swan on her desk. He also pretends to not see another swan in her locker. Or Noel's locker. Or Penny's. Or how another swan, made of the same paper as the other ones sits proudly on Ricky's nightstand.

Mischa smiles to himself every single time.




Mischa is seriously considering dropping out of high school right now. His adoptive... guardians would probably send him back to Ukraine and even pay him for it, but everything would be better than this.

"Come on guys!" Ocean said.

"Cooking class will be fun!" Ocean said.

It's no fucking fun. Everything Mischa tries to cook ends fucked up and inedible. The teacher, Mrs. Woods, allowed him to leave starting next semester.

But no, Mrs. Woods have them do an assignment in twos that's worth half of their fucking grade! And she paired up him and Ricky. The kid who couldn’t talk. It's not like he didn't like Ricky. He was cool and all, his cat-women were fun to listen about. But it was just that Mischa liked to listen to someone talking while doing a task. Even if it was TV, or his adoptive guardians talking in their bedroom (the house’s walls were thin. Sometimes he wondered if they heard how the punched the walls or sung in the shower.). Ocean and Noel were both blabbermouths, and he tried to do homework together as frequently as they could. He liked the background noise. Ocean would go on and on about future and her studies, while Noel mainly talked about his french films and poetry.

Mischa shoots Noel an apologetic gaze, Noel sending him one that says "good luck soldier" back. He got paired up with some girl he didn't even talk to. Tiffany? Tanya?

Anyways. Mischa turns to Ricky, who's already organizing his things in his bag. Mischa just pushes his notebook and one singular pen into his backpack.

“We need to set up a date.” Ricky’s AAC device speaks.

"What's the deadline?" Mischa rubs his face. It's the last, eighth period and everything feels itchy.


"And... "

He interrupts him. "Tuesday."

Mischa puffs. "We can do it at my place. Tomorrow, later. Jean is out playing bingo and Thomas is on some conference in Ottawa to Sunday."

Ricky’s fingers lingered over the keyboard, like he wanted to say something, but in the last moment stopped himself. Then he started tapping again: "Alright, will text you later. Bye!"


catman ---> mischa

catman: Hi

catman: So when do you want to meet up?

mischa: We can go right after lessons

catman: Alright!


So, there he was. On a Wednesday evening, pulling out from the cooker a tray full of cookies he put his blood, tears and sweat into. Maybe it's an exaggeration - but the task was tumultuous. They forgot yeasts of all things, so Mischa had to drive his adoptive guardians' car, an old, beat-up family van, to the nearest shop. Why Canada seemed to never have grocery shops? Fucking Canadians, have to complicate everything. And then, when yeasts were in and they were mixing Ricky spilled a whole bag of flour on the floor. He apologized, and took it on himself to prepare the cookies while Mischa vacuumed.

In the background, Ricky was sitting on the kitchen island, leaning over another tray full of cookies, absolutely devouring one of them. He could see sparkles, fireworks and glitter in his eyes as he swallowed bite after bite.

"Jesus Christ, Mischa, where did you learn to bake like that? These are absolutely delicious." Mischa shrugged and put the tray next to Ricky.

"I baked a lot with my mom. I was often sick as a child, so she would keep me in our flat and we would spend hours baking. I can bake some cakes too."

Ricky’s eyes widened.

"Please show me. I’m begging. On my knees.”

He ended up baking cheesecake and Ricky took it to his house to show off to his parents how good baker Mischa was. They also ended up eating the first tray of cookies together, mindlessly watching Grinch. Ricky was actually a cool dude, and they talked a lot. Mischa got used to the device’s robotic voice quickly, and he showed Mischa his drawings. They were absolutely the coolest and Mischa told him a thousand and one times he had a huge talent.

Ricky packed the ten cookies, the ones that looked the best, in a ginger color, in a special bag for Mrs. Woods. The rest was for their friends.

As expected, they got an A for their assignment. Mrs. Woods fawned over their cookies and Ricky grinned at him.

If his friends were happy, Mischa was happy.




On an average Friday, Mischa is sitting in the choir room with Penny, chatting about some hot guys from their mutual Economics class. Mischa is sitting on a white, old fold-out chair and Penny is on the floor, back against a rolled carpet, when Noel barges in. He looks normal, hair slicked back and clothes ironed perfectly, but someone in his eyes and the way he stands, stiff like a statue, tells Mischa he has a secret.

It gets spilled a second later.

“Guys, I need your help.” His hands squeeze into fists, and his eyes run around the room, never looking at Penny or Mischa.

Penny sits up and puts her knees under her chin. “Listening.” Mischa confirms with a nod.

“I need someone to teach me how to roller-skate.” He says it with such nervousness, Mischa can’t help but let out a quick, sharp laugh. Noel stares daggers into him.

Penny’s lips form into a thin line. She pouts adorably. “I can’t roller-skate. But Constance can.”

Mischa cuts in. “She’s out of town, remember? Attending some cousin wedding in Alberta.”

Noel puffs and slides hands down his face. “Great. Mother-fucking-great.”

“Why do you even need to roller-skate?”

“My mom bought me rollerblades for my birthday and she wants to skate with me on Saturday. I can’t just tell her I can’t skate, I’m almost 18, goddammit!” Noel puts his back against the wall opposite Penny and Mischa.

Mischa looks between Penny and Noel, then again at Penny, then at Noel and he finally says:

“I can roller-skate.”

Noel looks up at him. He looks shell-shocked. Penny looks at him. She looks interested.

“You can? Since when? What? When? How?-“

“Learned back in Ukraine. I also can ice-skate. They are pretty similar, you know?”

Noel looks at him with a hopeful, excited gaze. Mischa can’t help but think the boy is somewhat cute. “So you can teach me how to roller-skate?” Suddenly, he rips his eyes away and tips of his ears go red. “Of course, if you want.”

“I want to.”


Next afternoon, Mischa borrows rollerblades from Ricky’s dad (the ones Constance’s mom wanted to lend him were way too small) and speeds to the park where he and Noel agreed to meet up. The other boy is already there, sitting on a bench in a long, gray coat, dark pants and black, white and red rollerblades, new, not dirty at all.

Mischa stops sharply in front of Noel and flashes a grin at him. Noel smiles back.

“You ready for training, poet?”

Calling Noel “poet” wasn’t a new thing, but it still was uncommon enough Mischa could sweep Noel over with this. Noel’s lips curled inward, they often did when he smiled and he mumbled a “yes”.

Mischa reached out with both of his hands, and Noel stood up shakily, his knees turning inside, and he held onto Mischa’s arms with a death grip. He plummeted down, back in his seat, but he started getting up once again. After many grueling attempts, he managed to stay upright, holding onto Mischa like a lifeline and knees buckling.

“Okay, this is a good start. Do you can go further?” Noel’s eyebrows furrowed for a while, like he was thinking about something before nodding. Mischa let go of Noel’s right arm, and to his surprise Noel grabbed it fast, looking up at Mischa with pure betrayal in his eyes.

“If you want to skate, I can only hold one of your arms.” Noel nodded. He took a moment, staring at his hands before reluctantly letting go. Mischa squeezed the hand that he was still holding and slid one foot in front, pulling Noel with him.

“Shit!” Noel scrambled not to fall, grabbing at Mischa’s neck but failing, landing on his knees. “Fucking hell, why didn’t you tell me?”

Mischa laughed. “Thought you were ready. Want to try again?” Noel sighed, pulling himself from the ground and wrapping his left hand around Mischa’s arm. This time, Mischa waited until Noel gave him confirmation, and then started. Right foot, left food, right foot, left foot. Noel quickly got the hang of it, and after a few circles around the park he still didn’t let go of Mischa, but he looked more confident on the rollerblades.


They were making a sharp turn, on a triangle shaped pavement. Noel didn’t bend his legs in time and he ended up tripping, falling backwards and in his head he was saying his Holy Mary’s, praying for his head to not take most of the damage, when a strong arm wrapped around his middle.

He didn’t fall. In fact, he stopped falling.

He opened his eyes.

Mischa was leaning over him, arm bent awkwardly around Noel’s waist.

“Shit, dude, you good?” Mischa pulled him up, the other hand grasping on Noel’s hand. Noel’s hand ended up on the other boy’s shoulder. He held onto Mischa, his arm still around his waist, and Noel’s whole body was burning hot. Like someone just emptied a kettle on him. Mischa staring into his eyes didn’t help. Noel could see that they weren’t brown, but actually hazel, with dark brown borders and specks of gold in them. “Thought you were gonna crack your head open. Thank God you’re okay.”

Noel smiled brightly, his top gums showing, and for some reason, Mischa’s heart sped up. His cheeks heated up, and he was pretty sure they were in Noel’s cheeks color. Noel always blushes fast - when it’s cold, his cheeks and nose are in a rosy-pink color all the time. It’s kind of cute, if Mischa’s honest.

Noel leaned closer, and Mischa’s mind was flooded with questions of “what if what if”. But they quickly faded as Noel brought one hand to Mischa’s face and bopped him on his nose, with a tiny “boop” from his mouth.

Mischa was absolutely paralyzed. Earth below him could split open and he wouldn’t move an inch. Everything that mattered now was Noel, smiling brightly and honestly, with his gums showing and smile lines dark and deep, one hand near his face. Mischa gave him his best, crooked smile.

“Want to practice more?”

“Is this even a question?”


In the end, Noel wasn’t a good skater by Saturday. But he was a decent one, and he didn’t trip over his feet every few steps. Mischa felt like a proud mom, watching Noel skate back and forth, and finally be proud of himself, constantly showing Mischa thumbs up.

Noel was just happy about… Everything. He got to spend time with Mischa, and he learned how to roller skate, and he could finally do something with his mom. It’s good. All good.




Caring for his friends came easily for Mischa. He was a mother hen by nature – checking if everyone was okay after school, offering to chauffeur and being the first to yell at bullies. He actually was shocked to see how much bullying they were putting up with. After a few fights, all won by Mischa, not many people dared to say anything mean to them.

One time, when he and Penny were hanging out in his car, drinking beer and laughing loudly at everything the other said. It was mid-May, finals were coming up too fast, and both of them needed some relaxation after the Canadian History pop quiz today.
So when Penny, holding a Heineken beer in one hand and a lighter in another, demonstrating how she put a trashcan on fire in 6th grade, looked at the time and paled, Mischa was naturally concerned.

"Penny? What's-"

"Shit! I was supposed to be home at 9:30, shit, shit, shit, my parents are gonna kill me-" She scrambled to get her phone out of her jacket’s pocket, and in a flash Mischa saw a number similar to 25 and a red telephone next to it.

He looked over at his car's clock. 10:53. Oh.

"They probably think I ran away, oh my god, I am so dead-'' She started pulling on her hair, trying to get up but falling, knees buckling, breathing heavy but erratic. She looked over at him, looking small and terrified, like an afraid child. Mischa's heart had approximately two seconds of being crushed to death with sympathy before his brains kicked in and he put his hands on Penny's shoulders. He scooted himself a little closer, not close enough to invade her personal space.

"Penny. Deep breath in." He demonstrated, waiting until she looked him in the eyes and copied him. "And out." He let out air slowly, watching Penny. "Again. In. Out. You're doing great, ангел. One more time."

He sat there with her, on the dirty floor of his van for God knows long before she calmed down enough to look at him and start talking.

"We need to get to my house fast. They are gonna kill me if I don't appear soon."

"If they try to, they have to kill me first." Penny smiled at him, still misty-eyed. She didn't know that Mischa would gladly put his life on line to protect his friends. His real family.

“What if-if when they get mad they get violent?” She looks up at him. She still looks so small, so fragile Mischa wants nothing to do more than scoop her up in his arms and never let anything bad come near.

He opts for a smile that he hopes is gentle and comforting. “Then I will take them on. Nobody can harm you, ангел.” Penny gives him a weak smile, and they both scramble into the front, Mischa driving and Penny in the passenger seat. She was supposed to be the driver, but after the panic attack she didn’t trust herself enough.

Mischa had no problems with that.

Penny’s newest foster parents lived in a good neighborhood, three blocks away from the main street. Soon enough, Mischa was pulling in their driveway, one hand on the wheel and the other one interlocked with Penny's.

Her foster parents are sitting in their living room, in front of the front door. Her foster mom, Alicia, has dark, long hair that curls on the ends, huge black glasses and was wearing a matching purple pajama set. She was sitting on the couch, biting her nails, while her husband, Penny's foster dad, Leroy, with balding evident on his head and still in work clothes paced from one wall to another.

When the door opened, both of their heads snapped towards the sound. Alicia let out a loud sigh of relief and sagged down on the couch, putting her head in hands. Leroy shot from his place, towards the front door.

“Penny! Where were you-” he yelled.

Yes, he probably was stressed out because his foster child was missing and not contacting them, he probably got off work and was stressed out, he would control his voice if this whole situation wasn't so stressful.

But he screamed.

Mischa had to only glance towards Penny to see how panic seeps into her beautiful icy blue eyes. He felt dread punching its way into his gut, and his body started getting ready for a fight automatically. His arm muscles tensed, and he cracked his neck.

He stepped in front of Penny, loud, hard steps. The way he learned he can show dominance. He put his head high, arms crossing on chest, legs apart. Appear taller, bigger, stronger.

Leroy stopped.

Penny gripped the back of his jacket. He could feel the way she held onto it, like her hands were made of steel. Lifeline. Probably the only thing grounding her now.

Alicia was now watching the scene, and oh, she got up and walked up to her husband, putting a hand on his shoulder.

Mischa kept staring at Leroy. He needed to make him know that no one hurts Penny.

"Hello." Alicia started, voice small and seemingly trying to seem not dangerous.

"Hello ma'am." Mischa responded, not taking his eyes off Leroy. The man seemed to shrink by every second. Good, Mischa thought. Be scared.

"What- What are you doing here?" Penny looked out from behind Mischa and smiled at them. At that moment, Leroy's gaze focuses on the profile of his wife. Mischa let out a puff.

"Dropped Penny off. Sorry for taking so long, didn't remember time." In the past, Mischa used his heavy accent for his profit. But now, he was just anxious and angry at her dad. Her mom seemed good, for now. So it slipped.

Alicia's mouth flew open a little she heard his thick accent. She quickly closed it. Mischa saw.

For another moment, there was nothing but silence.

"It's okay. Penny, we were just- we were just worried. You didn't answer your phone. We were scared." Penny nods and smiles gently, still halfway hidden behind Mischa.

Leroy clears his throat. "You know it's a rule."

Penny freezes, putting her forehead against Mischa's jacket. She starts grasping at it repeatedly, and he recognizes it's a rhythm. It takes everything in him to not turn around and give her a bone-crushing hug.

Leroy seems to know he made a mistake, because he shuts up. Mischa is very fucking glad.

Alicia puts and end to the silence once again. "Do you guys want some broth? We have some leftovers from dinner."

Penny nods, but Mischa hesitates.

"I don't want to be a bother-"

Alicia chuckles. "Oh, our children's friends are never a bother. Come on, you must be freezing."


Alicia's broth is perfect. It's the mix between Constance's mom's soups and broth in Ukraine. Mischa devours it in record time. Everyone is staring at him.

"Glad you like it. Want more?" Alicia looks genuine, so he nods, and he gets another plate of warm soup. It's golden, oil swimming here and there, noodles on the bottom, and he can see carrots and other green vegetables floating.

He sits next to Penny, in front of Leroy, who is still staring at her. Just turn around, balding fucker. He tries to focus on the broth.

"Can Mischa stay over tonight?"

Penny sounds so calm, voice almost emotionless. Mischa’s stomach twists in the most painful way, and at the same time his heart flutters.

He pulls his head up. Alicia looks at her husband, questioningly, while Leroy looks between Penny and Mischa scrutinizingly, trying to detect any lie.

“... Alright. But I’ll give him the camp-bed.”

Penny has the biggest grin on her face, and she hums out “Thanks, Leroy.”

Mischa wants to help Alice clean up, but Penny is already dragging him by the hand to her room upstairs, sneaking quietly by her foster siblings’ rooms. Penny’s room is nice - it’s small, but comfy, with dark blue walls and beige carpet. Her bed is a college dorm room-looking, with wooden frame, but the sheets are clearly hers - white in pink dots, with some stains Mischa doesn’t comment on. There is a big window, with white blinds, now closed, and the whole room is lit by purple LEDs. She has a lot of posters hung above her bed, mostly musicals and bands. There is a nightstand squeezed between the bed and matching dark brown wooden desk, which is covered in papers, colorful pencils and empty cups.

“Sorry for the mess. Meant to clean up earlier.” Mischa waves his hand, silently saying “no worries”. Leroy walks in with a mattress and a metal frame, sets the frame down in the feet of Penny’s bed. Mischa helps him with steadying the mattress, and he feels how forcefully Leroy moves around the mattress and frame.

They finally set it up, and Alicia arrives with sheets. They are plain muted green, starched, smelling like detergent and uncomfortable against Mischa’s skin. But he’s grateful.

“Thank you.” He sends Alicia the best smile he can muster.

“No worries. You’re always welcome.” She turns to Penny, fixing up her covers. “Goodnight, Penny. You too, Mischa. Sweet dreams”. She pats Mischa's arm under cover.

Mischa’s stomach twists again. Nobody tucked him in since he was eight or so. His mom worked a lot, so he had to go to bed on his own. Nobody really told him good night too, his friends from the choir, mostly Constance, Penny and Ricky sending goodnight messages to their group chat.

“Goodnight.” He manages to mumble out, before his eyelids betray him and close on themselves. The light turns off, door clicks, and his head barely touches the pillow when he falls asleep.


Few hours later, maybe not, he feels the mattress dipping. Reluctantly, his eyes open. It takes a moment to adjust to the darkness, because apparently Penny can only fall asleep in complete darkness. When his eyes are finally working, he takes in the image of a person laying next to him, almost curled up in his chest, shifting and curling on themself.

“P’nny?” His croaks out, voice hushed. The person stills. He has to think for a moment about what he wants to say and how to say it in English. “Wh’t are you d’in’ h’re?”

“Had a bad dream…” She whispers out, sounding scared and small. Like the night before. “I can go back to my bed.” She starts shuffling.

“No, no, it’s a’ight. Don’t mind.” He cautiously pulls one arm around her, knowing how Ricky doesn’t like to be hugged or touched at all when he has his bad days. She melts into the touch, and he wraps his arm tighter, pulling Penny into his chest. She sniffles a few times and snuggles deeper into his hoodie.

“Thank you.”

Mischa is out cold, with a tiny smile dancing on his lips.


He leaves before breakfast, carefully down the hall and then leaving by the back door. Penny hugs him goodbye and apologizes for last night. Mischa leaves her his hoodie. She’s looking the happiest she’s been in some time.
At home, he slides through the basement window, lays on bed and falls right back into sleep.


choir gays

march 16th, 11:23 AM

drop a penny: I can't believe you mischa bachinski

drop a penny: you embarrassed me in front of my foster parents

drop a penny: they keep asking

drop a penny: oh was this your boyfriend penny?

11:29 AM

badegg: tell them i have a fiance waiting for me in ukraine

drop a penny: I ALREADY DID

drop a penny: THEY WONT BELIEVE ME 💔💔

french whore: can you SHUT UP im trying to sleep




Ricky’s calm. It’s Ocean who is panicking more.

And it’s all about a stupid button on Ricky’s jacket. He has been traveling for competitions with the choir, though he can’t sing, he’s been in charge of technicalities. And an unofficial “NPC”, as Mischa said, of the St. Cassian’s Chamber Choir, after he stood in the back for a few competitions.

He was walking, his jacket’s middle button got caught up on the door’s handle as it clipped off. He didn’t even notice, but Ocean did. And now she is frantic.

To be honest, Mischa doesn’t care about the button. Ricky doesn’t either, he’s tinkering with the curtain system with the school they are playing at with the said school's technician. The technician looks 50-something, with a bald patch on the top of his head and thick, dark glasses on the top of his nose. Ricky’s fingers slide on the AAC device’s keyboard, technician nodding.

Ocean is running around, talking to herself about the performance being ruined because of a button falling off, stressing everyone out.

Penny is already pressed against Constance. She hasn’t been feeling well since yesterday evening, but she was dead set on performing with the choir. Noel is standing next to Mischa, biting at his thumb’s skin.

“God, Ocean, just sew it back on!”

“I can’t!” She yells, startling everyone.

A beat of silence.

“You can’t sew?”

Ocean’s face goes beet red, and her hands flow up to her face to cover it.

“You had these,” Mischa makes a few frantic moves of his hands in the air. “Eco parents, and you don’t know how to sew?”

Ocean’s tongue clicks, and he can hear her eyes rolling behind her hands.

“They never taught me.”

“I can’t sew too.” Constance raises her hand, offering a sheepish smile to Ocean. Penny nods against her arm.

Mischa sighs. Once again, he and his “talents” his mother taught him to save the day.

“I can sew. Think I packed my kit- Wait.” He starts thrashing through his school bag. To be honest, it’s his only bag - he borrowed from Noel’s older brother his backpack when their class was going camping.

“You can sew?” The bag is ridiculously messy, papers and Snickers wrappers laying around. There is a bottle of water, and a thermos with hot, lemon tea, one Twix thrown there absentmindedly, few dollars, bandages, and- oh, his sewing kit. Thank god.
He nods.

“Do you have any more hidden talents? Like, riding horses? You’re secretly Banksy? Do you have a pilot license?” He turns to Noel. He’s saying it with a pretend annoyance, but deep in his voice lingers curiosity and actual surprise.

“I can ride a horse. But not planes.” He shakes the kit. “Ricky, give me your jacket and the button. I do it fast.”

Ocean still stands, beet red, with shock clear on her face.

“How can you sew?” She says, as Ricky shrugs off his jacket and hands it off to Mischa. He opens the box and retrieves a needle.

He starts talking while trying to pull the black thread through the needle’s head. “My mom could. When you don’t have much money, you learn how to fix clothes. I used to play football all the time, so my pants had holes on knees. All of them had, like, ten layers of denim before I grew out of them. Yes, it finally went!” He immediately starts working, around the button, sewing it strongly into the material, to make sure it won’t clip off again.

Ocean’s brows furrow. She doesn’t speak. Looks like she's thinking. Intensively. Constance trails off, talking to Noel, Penny half-listening. Ricky is back to curtain system. Ocean still stands in middle of the room. Mischa is caught up in his work, quick job of flexible fingers, and in no time he's making a knot.

“Do you want scissors-” Constance starts speaking, meanwhile Mischa leans down and bites off the remaining thread. The room falls silent. Mischa looks over them. They look surprised, if not shocked.

“No, thank you.”




Mischa didn't expect anything for his birthday. Really. He turned eighteen, wow, so cool, now he was worried that his adoptive legal guardians were going to kick him out, as soon as the clock ticked midnight. But they didn't. In fact, it seemed like they forgot about it.

He was grateful for whoever ruled the world from far above.

Noel started attacking him with "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" messages at midnight, soon the rest of his friends joined in. They talked on the groupchat until 2 am, when Ocean, horrified, notified them that they should sleep because it’s a school night guys!

Mischa didn't go to school that day. He didn’t want to, and he told himself he can because it’s his birthday, dammit. He slept in, and after he woke up at 11:30 am, the first thing he noticed was that there were about two hundred unopened messages and fifty unanswered calls on his phone.


Mischa grabbed at his phone and chucked it from the charger. He wasn't worried about the charger or outlet - he had to "borrow" his "dad's" equipment once or twice because it fell from the wall, but he attached it hard enough to not give up so easily.

He scrolled down his contacts list, eyes seeking out "Poet". He pressed on the number and waited for two signals only when the phone was picked up.

"Jesus Christ on a bike, Mischa, you scared me, us, to death, I thought they sent you back to Ukraine and you were on a plane, you weren’t picking up and we started convincing Ocean to skip lessons to go to your house and check on you, she was ready to write to the Prime Minister to not let you out of the country, and-" Noel immediately shot into his monologue. Mischa snorted at Noel's rambling, and the other boy couldn't help but giggle too. "Why aren't you in school?" His tone turned to accusatory, similar to Ocean's.

"Why, do I have to go to school on my birthday?" Mischa shifted in bed, sitting up, entangled in his covers. His band t-shirt was absolutely crumpled. Noel scoffed. "No, but..."

"Exactly. I come to choir practice. Say hello to the rest from me. Bye!" Before the other boy could answer, Mischa hung up.

He laid on the bed, contemplating his next move. He could sleep in more, but it meant he would frantically run to the school at 1:30. Eventually, he crawled out of his bed, checking if anyone was home.


He made himself a breakfast - usual cereal, nothing fancy - and sat down before the TV, watching the news. Some robbery in Vancouver, a stolen car, political scandals, celebrity scandal, blah, blah. He drank the rest of the milk and got up, walking to the basement and changing into clothes. Not his school uniform, but his jogging clothes. Yes, out of all this, Mischa picked up jogging.

Their gym teacher required them to do one sport outside school per semester. Mischa decided on jogging, like Penny. Sometimes, they jogged together, but more often they went separate ways; Mischa loved running out of the city, in the woods, while Penny preferred sticking to familiar areas. Ocean went for the volleyball team, Constance started lifting weights, Ricky worked on his legs as much as they allowed him to, and Noel started gym overall.

The day Mischa saw the tiniest shade of abs on his stomach, is the day Mischa got his “Am-I-Bisexual” confirmation.

After searching for his headphones for a moment, he found them under a crumpled puddle of clothes he needed to wash. His MP3 was on his desk, charging up. It was covered in stickers, something he would never do in Ukraine - but his friends here, in Uranium City, Saskatchewan, Canada, really pushed his limits. So, his MP3 had cat stickers, one glitter fairy sticker and crudely drawn dick with hair. Courtesy of Ricky.

He put on his sports shoes, he finally saved up enough for proper ones, and after locking the front door and putting keys in between two huge flower pots he started running. His plan was simple - out of Uranium, his usual 40-minute jog in the forest and then back home.

He stuck to it and got home on time, Eminem rapping in his earbuds. Mischa cursed, catching breath while opening the front door and running down the stairs. He had half an hour to shower, change and go on foot to school, because his adoptive male guardian had taken the car.

Mischa showered and changed into simple clothes - a colorful ABBA t-shirt, once owned by Constance, gray sweatpants and a dark blue zip-up cozy sweatshirt. He put on his used, almost falling apart Converse-knock off red sneakers and closed the front door once again, this time keys safely tucked in his pocket.

He slipped into the school through one of the side doors during a break, hoping he wouldn’t be caught. He wasn’t, and he made his way to the choir room safely. There’s no one there, and the lights are off. He pats around, trying to find the switch, and as he turns it on-

“SURPRISE!” A sudden shout comes from all directions, and Mischa jumps metaphorical ten feet in the air. He turns around, and his friends are everywhere. Constance behind the curtain, Penny and Noel hidden in the chairs, Ricky just behind him, and Ocean standing behind a piano on the stage.

“Happy birthday!” Everyone yells, Ricky’s AAC device too, a small smile creeping up on Mischa’s face. Ricky walks up from behind and envelops him in a hug. Penny jumps out from her place between chairs and wraps herself around him too, Noel soon joining, putting his head on Mischa’s shoulder. Constance runs up to them, wrapping her arms around Mischa and Penny, and Ocean reluctantly joins them, hugging Mischa’s back.

It feels so good. So familiar. So comfortable. He melts into the touch, the warmth surrounding him from every direction. Mischa exhales softly.

“We have a surprise for you!” Out of blue, Constance squeaks excitedly and runs off, behind the curtain. The hug breaks up, though they stay close. Noel and Ocean disappear behind the curtain too, followed by Penny. Ricky stays close, looking at Mischa, with huge grin decorating his face.

Mischa smiles back. His mind is blank - it’s a comfortable silence, no thoughts racing.

Penny is the first to walk out. She’s walking backwards (suddenly, all the times last week he saw her casually strolling backwards make sense. He thought it was just another one of her quirks, but turns out she was practicing), holding something with outstretched hands. Noel shovels away the curtain with one hand, the other one holding the same thing as Penny, Constance opposite of him, both of them grinning at each other. And Ocean in the back, gripping the frame with so much force her knuckles are white.

“Happy birthday Mischa, from all of us. We have a little surprise for you!” Penny laughs, and as they all are in the middle of the room, it looks like they went over this step a thousand times, they set down the thing.

Mischa’s jaw falls to the floor. And rolls a few feet.

The thing is a huge portrait of him. Clearly, all of them worked on it - the paper is bent in places, and one of the corners is dog-eared. But it’s so beautiful that Mischa might cry, throw up and run away.

The colors are mismatched, half of his face is almost orange, a tiny bit of his neck is pale pink. He has two completely different eyes, one in an anime style and he’s pretty sure it was Ricky’s part because it looks like his cat-people in sketchbook, the other eye is more realistic and crudely-drawn, but the author used like, twenty colors ranging from green to black in it. And his hair is curlier and lighter than it’s in real life.

His mouth has also been split in two - one cheek shaped with smile lines and dimples, lips stretching, second cheek mostly covered because of how he is angled in the picture but still raised high, with cheekbones clear and lips big. His chin is surprisingly real life-like - long, but not pointy.

His school uniform has been drawn by one person. The sweater vest is lighter, but the shading is nice. Collar of his shirt is put up like he always does.

The whole picture screams Mischa. It screams devotion, loyalty, love. It screams that he’s loved. He’s loved for who he is, and he’s cared for, and his friends care about him enough to remember a little day. They had to meet up at least a few times to do it, and they had to agree on something, which is rare in the St. Cassian’s Chamber Choir.

Suddenly, something hits him. He knows which photo was used for this. Constance took it while all of them were hanging out at Ricky’s. His parents allowed them to stay over, and they ordered too much pizza and had a blast playing Just Dance. It was soon after Constance’s birthday, and she got a brand new, super-duper-deluxe camera (she picked up photography class for her senior year and immediately fell in love with photography) and she was shooting pictures the whole time.

This one, she went up close to him and Noel. He had an arm around Noel, who was commenting expressively on a dance battle between Ocean and Penny to Groove Is in the Heart, and he looked right into the camera when Constance shot the photo. Noel jumped from his place and complained about his eyes hurting from the flash for next ten minutes, before he was allowed to dance Womanizer.

Constance later sent all the photos to Mischa via Flickr. He printed some of them and hung them above his bed.

Tears prick at his eyes. They really must love him. Devote themselves to such a time-consuming project, for one day. For his happiness. For him. Huh.

Such a weird feeling. It’s like the constant pit in his stomach is filled, and his heart flutters with joy. He didn’t get any presents for his birthday last year, and a few times in his childhood when his mom couldn’t get enough money.

Before he knows it, tears start to run down his cheeks, steady and heavy. He pulls his sleeves to wipe at them, but his eyes produce more and they fall more furiously, non-stop. His cheeks feel hot, he’s blushing from embarrassment. There is no reason why he should be crying.

He’s not hurt.

He’s safe. He’s okay. He’s loved.

Maybe it’s the overwhelming love. Maybe it’s the sudden realization that people care about him.

He’s loved. He’s cherished for the fact he lives.

(He doesn’t deserve to be. To be so loved. Gosh.)

He sniffles loudly in his sweatshirt. Noel shoots up to him from where he stands.

“Mischi, are you okay?” Noel places his hands on Mischa’s forearms, gripping steadily but not painfully. His touch is comforting, it has always been - his hands are constantly cold, but it doesn’t bother Mischa. His hugs are the best, it never feels awkward when they touch during movie nights.

It’s like Noel is a lifeline and Mischa is drowning.

Mischa peels away his hands from his face and is met with Noel smiling softly, though eyebrows are turned up in worry; he’s so close their noses almost touch. Mischa’s hands travel to the back of Noel’s neck and he leans into his chest, sniffling and sobbing quietly. Noel’s hands are in his hair, on his back, stroking so lovingly.

Vomit comes up in Mischa’s throat. The last time someone did that was when he was leaving Ukraine, and his mom hugged him for the last time. She was in hospital, looking so sick and pale, with IV in her arm, but she smiled at him constantly, mumbling his name and words of pure love.

Tears don’t stop. Constance joins the hug from behind, Ricky coming next, he can feel one of the crutches leaning against his leg. Ricky drags Penny with him, Penny half-against Ricky, half-hugging Mischa. Ocean joins quicker than last time, fitting herself into a small space between Constance, Noel and Mischa.

After a few moments, Mischa pulls away, wiping at his eyes and face. Penny hands him a tissue, and he accepts gratefully. A moment passes, and he utters out a “Thank you guys…”

“There’s no need to thank us.” Constance smiles encouragingly.

“We just did what friends do.” Noel speaks, one hand still resting on Mischa’s bicep.

Mischa smiles through the tears.



The picture is framed and hangs proudly in Mischa’s room, above his desk, so every time he struggles with homework, he can look up and see his friends’ work.

He smiles every single time.

He’s loved.

(The taste of love in his mouth finally tastes good, not metallic.)


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