The World's Not Waiting (For Joe Trohman to Stop Being a Pussy and Start Going For What He Wants) [13/?]Summary:
AU Timeline - Teenage angst and Crayola Rainbows. Or, Joe saw him first.Author: rosiedoesBetas: likethepaint
R at absolute max.Pairing:
c.7,200 this chapter.Author's notes:
This fic is written in a slightly AU timeline, where Andy joins the band straight away. One or two formerly key players may also be conspicuous by their absence...
This chapter almost never happened. It was born from a 'deleted scene' from the text which will be chapter fourteen, which I showed to heyginger
who then convinced me it needed to exist. Ultimately, this is a bonus chapter written, for the most part, in the space of two days.
Chapter fourteen is being reworked to accommodate some information which was shifted around a little, and should be completed very soon
: At the end of this fic are some references to a show called Mork & Mindy
. For those who are
young enough to make me feel old
too young to remember the show (even as reruns in the 1990s), Mork was a mildly insane alien from the planet Ork, played by Robin Williams. He arrived on Earth in a space craft shaped like an egg and drank through his finger. It'll all make sense in about 7,000 words time, I promise.Disclaimer:
Get me a Dolorean and I'll make it real; until then, sadly not true. Previous Chapters:Part One: Paperbacks and SexualityPart Two: My Heart is On My SleevePart Three: Your Secret's OutPart Four: No Less DefeatedPart Five: Place Your Hand BetweenPart Six: My Badge, My WitnessPart Seven: Knocking Boots in the BackPart Eight: The Battle's Only Halfway DonePart Nine: Kiss Safe Thoughts GoodbyePart Ten: Snitches and TalkersPart Eleven: My Reputation's on The LinePart Twelve: Things I'll Never FinishThe World's Not Waiting (For Joe Trohman to Stop Being a Pussy and Start Going For What He Wants)Part Thirteen: Thank Your Lucky Stars
"Forever is not that far from here."
Late on the Saturday night before Patrick's eighteenth birthday, Joe was slumped in the corner of the couch in the living room, his feet on his mom's lap, watching the credits roll on a film on TV that he'd lost interest in after the first half hour. Sam had insisted on staying up to watch it, and then fallen asleep at the other end of the couch, snoring. It was kind of depressing. Saturday night, and he was hanging out with his mom and dad while his boyfriend spent another
weekend hanging out with Pete so they could 'write more'. Every time he thought about it a sharp pain radiated through his chest and made him cringe, so he'd been trying not to. But he couldn't help it. Patrick was supposed to call.An hour ago.
An hour and eight minutes ago, actually, because it was well after eleven, now, according to the clock on the TV.
"Son, what are you waiting for?"
Joe looked over at his father and mumbled, "Huh?"
"You've checked the time repeatedly – what are you waiting for? A bus?"
"Oh..." Joe could feel himself blushing. He was reluctant to admit that he'd been stood up by his own boyfriend. "It's nothing... I should just like, go to bed or something."
"Before midnight? You don't even go to bed before midnight when you have school!" his father laughed. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing, Dad, it's fine."
"Aren't you seeing Patrick this weekend, honey?" Joe's mother asked, smoothing absently at Sam's hair while he slept.
She rubbed his shin sympathetically, looking a little anxious. "Is everything okay? You just seemed a little miserable lately and Patrick hasn't set foot in the house in two weeks..."
"He's busy. For the band."
"Well, you're in the band, too. Why aren't you being busy with the band?"
"I don't write lyrics, basically. They're like, writing better songs for the EP and this album that guy was talking about."
"Every day?" his father cut in dubiously, holding his hand out for the remote.
"No, but Patrick still has to work and stuff... and I see him when we play shows. I saw him on Monday." Even though I got like, one kiss the whole night because there were more bands than backstage rooms and we had some assholes sharing with us who totally thought it was funny to call each other 'fags'. And I sound so totally pathetic, right now. Seriously. I can't even get my boyfriend to spend time with me, how lame can I get?
"Actually, I think I'm gonna go upstairs and just like, work on the posters Pete wanted me to make, or something..."
He made a quick exit. When even his father thought there was something wrong with their current arrangement, he knew it really had to suck. And frankly, it kind of did. He hardly got to see Patrick at all, lately. There were calls sometimes, late at night, if Patrick got home from their writing sessions before midnight. They'd just talk about nothing in particular until Patrick couldn't stay awake any longer, or he fell asleep, which had happened more than once. Joe wasn't sure that was a good thing or something he should be really uncomfortable with – especially when, two weeks before Patrick's birthday, Pete broke up with his girlfriend.
The thing was, he'd been able to hold it together and brush it off when they were spending entire weekends ensconced in Pete's basement, writing 'better' lyrics for the EP – they did need to do that and for the sake of the band Joe would pretty much allow them anything; but spending so much time together didn't seem to have stopped. In fact, in the last few weeks, things had been gradually creeping back to the way they were right before Joe and Patrick had started dating. Dude, I can't make it – I said I'd go hang out with Pete. He's having girl trouble, y'know? But I'll call you. I promise.
He never forgot to call these days, if he promised he would (even if he called and then fell asleep in the middle of the conversation) – but he never told Joe what he and Pete talked about, beyond, "Y'know: stuff," and he passed up on shifts at work at least four times in two weeks, to spend it with Pete. And that had resulted in their reluctance to give him time off for the tour they had planned for the summer and was going to force him into quitting a job he actually enjoyed, in a couple of months' time. It was dumb and Joe had been a little frustrated with him – but he never said anything because he didn't want to seem like he was nagging or paranoid. Even if really he kind of was. The thing was, when he had Patrick's full attention, Joe could forget about Pete; and that must mean that he was jealous. And nobody liked a jealous boyfriend.
It was just that it was so rare for him to have Patrick's time and attention, lately, that he didn't really know how to be anything else. He missed him
. He missed spending whole weekends watching movies in the den, or going to shows where they weren't on the bill themselves, or actually writing music
, because Joe was perfectly capable of that, thanks; and he really, really missed Patrick sleeping over, or staying at Patrick's. He thought they'd decided to quit education so they could spend more time together, not less.
Joe was just playing around with Photoshop on his computer, trying to start making something Pete would approve of, when his cell started vibrating on the bedside cabinet. He jumped out of his seat, almost tripping on the strap of his rucksack, and grabbed at it, answering as quickly as humanly possible. He felt twice as lame as he had downstairs, glad that no one had seen his desperate scramble. Maybe, just once, he should make a point of not answering – but he was afraid that if he did that, Patrick might think he didn't care anymore.
"Finally! It's me. Hey. Where have you been?"
Joe blinked and frowned at his Star Wars alarm clock. "Huh?"
"I've called like five times."
"...no, you didn't."
"I left voicemail messages! Didn't you check your cell?"
"My cell?" Oh my God, I am such a moron. I am a total fucking
idiot. "Shit, dude, I'm sorry... I didn't even think to take it downstairs... we were watching a movie."
"Oh... I figured it was late and if I called your house phone your dad would make some smartass comment or something..."
Joe laughed a little, softly, feeling like he had been torturing himself over nothing after all. He was clearly a total
chick. "Yeah, he totally would have... I'm sorry, dude. I was wondering what happened, and everything, I just never thought about my cell. You always call on the house line..."
"Doesn't matter, now, I got you in the end... I just kind of didn't want to go to bed without saying goodnight or something, y'know?"
The sharp pains in Joe's chest were replaced by a little flutter of happiness. He wished Patrick wasn't on the other end of the phone line, but that seemed to be all he had lately, so he'd better learn to appreciate it. "I'm glad you tried again..."
"I'm glad you picked up, finally."
He could totally picture the wry grin on Patrick's face. "So, how are you?"
"Ugh. Drained, dude. I swear, between trying to make sense of Pete's relationship issues on paper and trying to make sense of them while he bitches, I feel like I'm the one she was fucking around on."
Joe snorted. "Yeah... I can imagine."
"So, how are you?"
"I dunno... maybe because my boyfriend is like, busy being Jerry Springer and my best friends all have better things to do, basically. Or hey, maybe I just miss homework."
There was a short pause on the line. "If it's any consolation, being
Jerry Springer is like scooping my eyes out with a spork and eating them."
Joe laughed, but it came out a little dry and cynical-sounding.
"I do miss you
, you know," Patrick's voice said softly, sounding a little hurt that Joe might assume otherwise.
"All you have to do is like, tell him you can't come over one night, if you wanna see me or something, dude. I'm always here..."
"I know," Patrick sighed, the breath sounding like a crackled whoosh on the line. "I just think that Pete would take it personally, y'know? He's feeling pretty fragile and writing is therapeutic; I'm kind of worried about him. He's taking the whole thing pretty hard."
"I guess..." Joe was sure he sounded like a spoilt brat, wanting all the attention, but Pete and the girl broke up at least once a month. If he wasn't getting used to it by now then maybe he should stop dating her altogether.
"So – hey, it's my birthday this week," Patrick reminded him cheerfully, after a long pause.
"I know. Have you like, figured out what you want, yet?"
"I want to see you."
"Sure. If Pete doesn't like, have a problem with it or something..."
"Hey – it's my birthday, Pete can fuck off."
"What's that, like your gift from Pete is to be given freedom for a day or something, basically?"
"Yeah, you haven't seen me because he keeps me in a tower and the only way you can get in is by climbing up my hair. Except don't try that because enough of it comes out without anyone pulling it, already."
"Is it getting any worse?" Joe asked, feeling bad. Patrick always turned the things about himself that made him self-conscious into jokes, but Joe had been the one he asked to examine the back of his scalp to see if he was missing anything when he noticed that his hairline seemed to be changing. Joe had even shaved his head for him (under close supervision from his mother, who was usually responsible for shaving Joe and Sam's hair) because he felt bad for never having told him sooner. He knew that the last thing Patrick found it was funny.
"I don't think it's gonna stop
getting worse, dude."
"It's not really a big deal, though... I still think you're awesome."
Patrick laughed, but he didn't sound convinced. "Thanks."
"So, do you have plans or anything? For like, your birthday or something."
"Well, I thought it'd be cool to do something that isn't a show, for a change, y'know? I figured we could go bowling or something, maybe."
"What, just us, or...?"
"No, I meant all my friends."
"Okay. But... do you wanna stay over?"
"I always want
to stay over, it's just y'know: sometimes I can't."
"That's not what I said, Joe, c'mon."
"Sorry... I just want to have some like, quality time or something, dude. Like, not having a million people around us. Or Pete."
"Okay, I'll stay over. I might have to leave early, though – don't know if I have work, yet."
"If you do, I'll give you a ride to the store."
"Right. Okay. Deal."
"Awesome," Joe said, and he was smiling for the first time all day. It was kind of ridiculous how happy just the thought
of spending time with Patrick made him. "So, what do you
want for your birthday?"
"I don't know, dude," Patrick yawned back at him with a sleepy murmur. "You don't have to get me anything..."
"But there has to be like, something you want
"Not that I'd expect anybody to buy me, man... I kind of have bigger problems than what I want for my birthday, y'know?"
"Is your mom still not letting up?"
"Nope. I'm still out the day I finish high school. I don't even know what I'm gonna do, Joe."
"Stay with us
"Dude, we've been over this like a million times already..."
"Because you should
"Maybe I should, but if I do that I'm just proving her point, y'know? She thinks I don't know what I'm doing and I can't take care of myself, and so if I come stay with you and your mom and dad are basically keeping me, that means she's right."
"I get that, dude, but even for a while – like, until you've figured something out for the long-term..."
"Listen, I'll think about it, okay? But right now it pisses me off to think about it, and after the day I've spent listening to Pete's problems, I kind of want to forget my own, because right now I'm going to have the suckiest birthday in history."
It was long after Patrick had hung up, and all the lights were off, that Joe figured out what he was going to buy him. If his mom would negotiate a temporary loan on her credit card, that was.
"So, what did you get him in the end?" Andy asked, trying to lift a corner of the wrapping and peek inside.
"A book," Joe shrugged, knowing that Andy was going to find it hilarious.
"A book? This thing is a book? It weighs more than my dog!"
"Probably like, cost more than your van, dude."
Joe nodded, peering through his windshield to see if anyone else had arrived at the venue for the night's festivities – a bowling alley and occasional music venue in Maplewood, where they were due to congregate and hang out before getting some food at a cheap Cuban restaurant down the street. "Seriously
"Why are you hiding it?"
"Because you'll freak out, basically."
"Over a book?"
"It's a seriously expensive book, dude."
Andy eyed him suspiciously. "What are you trying to prove? Is it because he's been spending all the time at Pete's? Because of the writing."
"Right. Suuuuure. I've seen some of the looks you've been giving the guy, recently, Joe. I'm not stupid. It's pissing you off that they're spending so much time together."
"I bought him the book because he wanted the book
, man," Joe argued impatiently, not wanting to make it sound like Patrick had asked for something so expensive for his birthday, because he really, really hadn't. "It was like, way more than he could afford, especially if he needs to move out of home in a couple of months... but he's been freaking out over it since they got it in stock, and I just figured if anything is gonna like, make him feel better about stuff right now, that's probably it."
Andy just nodded to himself silently for a moment, before muttering, "Well, I hope he appreciates it."
"Yeah," Joe nodded back, although he was starting to feel less convinced, "of course he will, dude."
By the time the others showed up, he was thinking of leaving it in the car and maybe giving it to him when they were alone, in case he didn't like it or thought it was stupid. It would be seriously embarrassing if he opened it in front of all the others and was disappointed. However much it cost, it was just a book... hardly the kind of thing that got most eighteen year old dudes in punk bands excited. The only reason he took it inside with him was that Andy thought he'd forgotten it and handed it to him at the door.
Patrick beamed when he saw Joe walking over, waiting by the front desk with Pete, Chris, Simon, Leon and another kid from school. He must have changed at work because he wasn't in his uniform, but his denim jacket had a large, round '18 Today!' badge on the pocket. They couldn't exactly kiss each other in the middle of a bowling alley, so they settled for a hug, only to be met with a chorus of, "Get a room!" and a weird look from the kid Joe didn't know.
"Happy birthday, dude," Joe grinned, squeezing his wrist subtly; Patrick smiled back with his lip pinched between his teeth and tickled Joe's palm with his fingertips as he let go.
It was quite possibly one of the most frustrating moments of Joe's life.
"So, can we get a lane before you two forget what we came here for, kind of?" Pete smirked, grabbing Patrick's shoulder and steering him over toward the counter.
"Can I even open my presents first?!"
"No, dude – wait until we get to the lane and we have someplace to dump our shit. Jesus. You're like a five year old!"
A few minutes later, sitting in their little corner of the alley, at the far end, Pete finally decreed that it was okay for Patrick to start opening his presents, now, but that he had to open Pete's present first. Leaning subtly against Joe on the bench, Patrick rolled his eyes and held out a hand for the shoddily wrapped parcel.
Joe watched as Patrick yanked off the paper and Pete crowed, "This is seriously the coolest present you're ever gonna get, man."
"What, d'you buy me a lifetime supply of ice, or something?"
Patrick snorted and shook his head, then looked down at the dark blue folder in his hand. Joe leaned forward to peer over his shoulder, one hand resting inconspicuously on his waist.
"...What..? What the fuck is
"It's a star, dude. I told you I was gonna make you a star, so now, Patrick Stumph is a star!" he announced proudly and Joe kind of wondered where all the angst had gone.
"You bought me a star?"
"Well, it's not like you can keep it in your yard and feed it carrots, or whatever, but yeah, dude – I got you a fucking star! Is that not the coolest fucking present you ever had?"
Patrick shook his head and started laughing, looking up at him. "Yeah. Yeah, it's as cheesy as fuck, but yeah, it's the coolest present I ever had." He got to his feet to give him a hug and Joe looked away, fingering the tape on the gift on his lap. "Thanks, Pete. That's... really thoughtful... for you
. Thanks. I seriously hope this wasn't insanely expensive or something, though, y'know? I hate when people spend a whole bunch of money on me, because it's seriously not necessary or anything. My grandparents do it every single year, even though I tell them not to... And I mean – this is a star
."No, it's a worthless bunch of paper that cost like, twenty-five bucks online. I've fucking seen them! All you're actually getting is a crapload of like, paper and pictures and shit. How is that the coolest gift ever?
"Nothing's too good for the Rickster," Pete assured him smugly, keeping an arm around his shoulders and pointing out where the star was supposed to be on the map in Patrick's hands. Beside them, Andy was watching Joe; he could feel it. And he really wanted to get up and go for a little walk over to the bar area to get a coke or something, but if he did that it'd seem like he was sulking, and maybe he was – maybe Andy was right, and he was jealous – but sometimes he really wished that Pete would remember who Patrick was dating.
"So, hey – Patrick, why don't you open something else?" Andy asked, gaze still fixed on Joe.
"Oh – sure, sorry," Patrick said, carefully closing his folder and placing it on the bench, holding out his hand for Andy's gift (a t-shirt and wristband).
"You gonna open Joe's?" Andy prompted again, when Patrick had thanked him.
"No, it's fine, he can do that later," Joe cut in quickly. "There's no rush." And I kind of like want to put the humiliation off as long as possible, thanks.
Smiling at him wryly, Patrick asked, "You want me to open it later? Like, how much later? After everyone else's, or when we get home?"
"Doesn't matter," Joe shrugged, trying to force a smile because he didn't want to sulk at Patrick's party, in front of his friends. Leon was already whispering to a confused-looking Max, or whatever the dude's name was, probably explaining that, oh yeah, by the way, that dude is kind of supposed to be Patrick's boyfriend.
"Come here," Patrick sighed with a laugh, holding out his hand for the present.
"No – it's fine. You can open it later, dude."
"I want to open it now, though."
"But – "
"Joe, just give him the present, man," Andy cut in, just as Pete snatched it off his lap and danced out of reach with it.
"Hey, Patrick – come open this fucker, I wanna see what he got you, kind of." He started to peel the edge of the tape back, and Joe kind of wanted to punch him for ruining everything, with his stupid gifts and making a big deal out of everything when all it needed was for it to be a nice little moment when Patrick got a gift he really wanted for his birthday.
Now he just felt stupid.
Patrick snatched the parcel back, even though Pete didn't make much of an effort to keep it from him, and sat himself down on the bench, so close to Joe that they were pressed thigh-to-thigh.
Joe jiggled his knee up and down twitchily, chewing his lip and wishing he could be as far away as possible. He had to bite down on a cringe at the sound of the wrapping paper tearing, and almost bit through it when Pete half-shrieked, "Is that a book
?!" before breaking into delighted cackles, as if he'd just witnessed the worst gift-giving moment in history. "Ohhhh – that is fucking priceless! He got him a book
"Joe... you didn't..." Patrick's voice asked, with an edge of stunned disbelief. The parcel in his hands was only slightly exposed, one corner torn from the wrapper.
"I just thought..." he shrugged, trailing off and wishing the ground would just open up and take him. He could deal with Hell; it couldn't be much worse than this - watching Patrick peel back the rest of the paper slowly, as if he didn't believe
Joe had bought him a book.
"Joe... this is..." he just stared at the cover for moment, running his fingers along the edge of the cover. "I can't take this, dude."
"You can't?" Joe asked, his stomach dropping, painfully aware of the others watching them. "But you were really into it, so I just –"
"Joe, this is just... it's way too much. You can't spend this kind of money on me, it's just stupid. You didn't need to do this – "
"It's just a fucking book, dude!" Pete cut in. "How much could it cost?"
"A hundred and seventy dollars!" Patrick told him, sounding absolutely horrified.
Leon actually muttered, "Holy fucking shit," and gave Simon a pointed look, like Joe had cut his ear off and sent it to Patrick in the mail.
"If you want to take it back, I can like... get you the receipt," Joe murmured back, wishing with all his heart that he'd never bothered – because Pete could spend a few bucks on a worthless wad of paper and it was awesome, but Joe making the effort to try to do something really special and going to come out of his allowance for the next three months, was greeted with total humiliation.
"What would I do with the money if I did?" Patrick asked, his voice much softer, apparently realising that this was not the reaction Joe had hoped for. "This is an amazing present, Joe, seriously – I just can't believe you'd spend this much on me!"
"I can," Andy muttered in the background, polishing his glasses with the hem of his shirt.
"It's totally unnecessary – "
"Yeah, I mean, fuck – who wants a $170 book? If you're gonna spend so much cash at least get a guy something with an 'on' switch, kind of!" Pete laughed.
wanted it!" Patrick snapped. "I really wanted it, but because of this fucking band and because I'm getting kicked out of home for quitting school, I have to save everything I can and figure out how to keep myself in a couple of months time! This is... fuck
, y'know? It's one of the nicest presents anyone ever got me."
Joe swallowed with a little difficulty and ventured a glance in his direction. "Really?"
Patrick stared at him like he was insane. "You know
how much I wanted this book – what else would you think?"
"Um... well, you said I was stupid, so I dunno... that I was stupid, maybe? That it was a super bad idea?"
"Dude – that isn't what I meant. Like, at all
. And I really appreciate this, but I think you're totally crazy for spending all this on me. You don't even have a job – "
"No," Joe shrugged, self-consciously, wishing everyone else would just go get a drink or something and stop staring at them like they were giving a street performance, "but I have a pretty ridiculous allowance."
"Right. I'll thank your mom and dad for it then, when I come over," Patrick grinned, tucking an arm around him and leaning his head on his shoulder for a moment.
"What's it about?" Chris asked, moving and twisting so he could see the book right-side up.
"It's an encyclopaedia of marine mammals," Patrick beamed, showing everyone proudly.
Pete snorted. "And that's worth a hundred and seventy bucks?"
"This is a fucking amazing
book! We got it in store in February and I've been looking at it every day. Real scientists
use this as a reference! It's fucking cool, Pete, don't knock it. You knew I was a geek about this stuff."
"You need to get out of my immediate vicinity, or something, because you're draining my cool."
Patrick flipped him off and stood up, pulling Joe to his feet, laying his book on the bench where he'd been sitting. "Oh, no, no, I'm going to drain your cool when I kick your ass in the game. Fucking watch me."
"Wait – before we get like, started and stuff, I just wanna go and... get a drink or something," Joe said, checking for his wallet in his pocket, desperate for an excuse to just not be surrounded for a minute; to get away from the group without looking like he was in a bad mood. "Anyone want anything?"
Patrick hurriedly nudged Chris out of the way to follow, mumbling, "I'll come with you, dude, wait up."
Joe just nodded. Neither of them said anything else until they were at the bar, waiting for the girl serving them to produce their tray of soft drinks, and then Patrick subtly caught his hand for a moment and stroked Joe's knuckles with his thumb.
"You okay?" he asked, sounding worried.
"Sure, dude, I'm fine." Awkward and embarrassed but I'm not dying or anything.
"You just seem kind of bummed out, Joe, and I kind of –"
"No, it's cool... I just... I'm sorry if you like, feel weird about the book and stuff. You can take it back if want... I just thought that like, getting you something you were really into would cheer you up or something, I guess. If your birthday was gonna suck, I figured that at least one thing about it should be awesome."
..." Patrick groaned and pressed his forehead to Joe's shoulder for a second. "I told you it was the coolest thing ever and meant it, dude. I love
that book and you are way too kind for getting it for me. I'm touched, man, honestly."
"I'm not trying to like, get compliments or anything, I just didn't want to defeat the whole point of getting it if you just feel bad. I didn't mean to make you look like a nerd or anything, either, and Pete – "
"Oh, forget Pete, dude. I don't care who knows I'm into that stuff – it's fascinating, y'know? Animals are cool. It's not like you got me a book on dress making or something."
Joe managed a short laugh and bumped him with his elbow coyly.
"Hey," Patrick said in a stage whisper, leaning a little closer, and beckoning him nearer, "for what it's worth, he could get me a fucking galaxy of stars and it still wouldn't be as cool as yours."
Joe didn't say it, but it was worth more than anything.
An hour and a half later, Patrick had proved his point to Pete (although Simon and Max had actually been the winning pair) and they had decided to reconvene at the restaurant. It was getting dark as they walked the few blocks from the bowling alley, and Joe had all but forgotten about the problem with the presents until Pete caught up with them and wrapped both his arms around Patrick's neck from behind.
"You know what would be cool?"
"If you stopped choking me?"
"Finding your star."
"Finding your star, dude – you have a fucking map!" Pete reminded him excitably, letting him go to turn and walk backwards ahead of him.
"There's no way you could see it from here," Andy pointed out. "Even if it's in our galaxy the light pollution would block out most of the stars... You'd have to be in the middle of nowhere to have a snowflake's hope in hell."
"Actually, that's a pretty cool idea," Patrick mused, cocking his head and looking at Joe. "What do you think?"
"Going for a drive or something; seeing if we can find this piece of intergalactic real estate."
"My car's front-wheel drive, not rocket booster, dude."
Patrick laughed and elbowed him in the ribs, catching his fingers lightly. "Oh, well, we'll have to settle for a ride out of town, then..."
"So, are we ditching dinner?" Pete asked, stopping in his tracks.
Patrick glanced up at Joe and took his hand more firmly, "Actually, Pete – thanks for the idea and everything, but, y'know... I think it'll just be me and Joe."
"What the actual fuck
? It was my idea!"
"Yeah, but it's my birthday."
"I bought you
the star, and you don't even want me to be there?"
"Am I dating you
Pete stared at him sourly for a moment and turned to catch up with Andy and Chris. He sulked at the opposite end of the table for the rest of the evening and Joe was pretty sure they were going to be paying for this for the next two weeks.
By eleven they'd already been on the interstate for an hour; the windows were down, the stereo was decently loud, and Patrick was in the best mood he'd seen him in since the fight with his mom.
She hadn't even gotten him a gift for his birthday; just a card and the announcement that seeing as he was an 'adult' now, he was too old for presents. Joe suspected she was making a point, and probably had a bunch of computer games hidden in her closet, but he hadn't told Patrick that because he didn't think Patrick would want to hear it; he liked being a martyr sometimes.
It was nice, though – beyond nice – to be way out in the middle of nowhere, speeding north-west along the I90, nothing but dark fields and headlamps for miles and miles. They'd hardly spoken for the last half hour, but it was a good silence; it was comfortable and warm. Occasionally, Patrick would read facts aloud from the book he was reading by the penlight on his keychain, but they didn't need to break it with idle conversation, they could just enjoy it.
"You think we're far enough away from the city, yet?" Patrick asked eventually, peering up at the sky outside his window.
"You want to pull over?"
– we should get off the highway and into some little farm road or something."
Joe grinned and shrugged, signalling to move to the outer lane so they could pull off as soon as possible. "You planning on like, raping and murdering me and burying the body, or something?"
"No. Well. Not the murdering or the burying. Or the raping, technically. It's just, y'know..." he mumbled into his chest, "hard to be romantic or whatever with traffic roaring past every two seconds... and I figure that, y'know: we deserve a chance to be a bit romantic for a change."
"You know that every time we try that we kind of like end up getting caught, right?"
"That's not what I meant! I meant romantic
. Like, old skool romantic; we're out here to look at the stars, dude. That's romantic
"Seriously? Wow. That's like a major anti-climax, dude... like, literally. I thought all that star stuff was an excuse," Joe joked, tutting loudly.
. Sometimes, believe it or not, I just wanna hang out."
"LIES! When was the last time we hung out and something didn't
happen?" Actually, when was we last time we hung out?
Patrick smirked and patted Joe's thigh. "Oh, I didn't say often
The road they found themselves on was quiet and unlit, and they drove a mile or two into the darkness, passing barn-style farm houses and a couple of confused looking horses in a field, before pulling over onto a grassy verge beside a wooden gate. It really did feel like they were in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but corn fields in every direction. He had no idea where the road went as it trailed into the distance; he'd never been out in this area before but it reminded him a lot of every horror movie he'd ever seen in his entire life. It really was amazing how clearly they could see the stars, out here. Joe had never really thought about it, but the light pollution around the city must be insane for there to be this much of a difference.
"Come here," Patrick said quietly, his voice still sounding loud in the silence, closing the passenger door and walking over to lean on the gate, looking out into nothing.
Joe followed, hesitating and wondering whether he should lock the car or not; he decided against it – it was unlikely either of those horses had a license.
"It's pretty amazing," he whispered, leaning up against him and propping his chin on Patrick's shoulder.
Patrick glanced across at him, and smiled.
"Did you bring out your little map thing?"
"We couldn't see it even if I did. It's dark, the moon isn't bright enough."
"What about your keychain?"
"Nah," Patrick shrugged, tilting his head to rest against Joe's cheek, "it'll just look like all the others."
Joe chuckled and asked, "So, why did we come all the way out here?"
"Well, it was to see this goddamn star, but actually I'm just kind of glad we're outside the city... sometimes I just wanna be a million miles way, y'know?"
"Are you having second thoughts about college or something, dude?"
"Fuck, no! No way."
"Well, that's pretty good to hear 'cause you kind of like freaked me out for a second."
Patrick turned to look at him as best he could, his bottom lip pushed out sulkily and shining blue in the dim moonlight; "Hey, we made a pact."
Grinning against Patrick's cheek, Joe nodded, all his worries about Pete coming between them feeling stupid and insignificant for once. "So, I guess like, if she does kick you out you'll always have this star to go live on," he laughed quietly, squeezing him a little tighter.
"I dunno, you feel like going into space?"
"Sometimes, I'm pretty sure I like, came
from outer space."
"What, in an egg like Mork?"
, no. I was thinking more like Superman or something..."
"No, I promise, Mork is more accurate."
Joe pinched him in the ribs and made him squeak like a startled guinea pig. "It's lucky you didn't want any sexy time for your birthday, seriously."
"I do! I just didn't mean out here. We are going home
at some point."
"If we don't get eaten by like, the Children of the Corn or something."
"Because clearly, Superman is always foiled by brats. Nanoo, nanoo."
"You're only saying that because you're like, impressed by the things I can do with my fingers."
"Why do you think Mindy married him?"
For a few minutes there was a very pregnant pause and Joe's breath kind of caught in his chest. He tightened his arms around Patrick's waist and gently pressed his lips to the side of his neck, and kind of wondered if, had it actually been any kind of legal, one of them would have followed that up with a proposal or something; but he didn't try it. He sure as hell wasn't going to be the one to break the silence with something completely misjudged and inappropriate; at least not this time. It didn't seem like Patrick was going to, either, and when he did speak it was as if nothing had even happened. He just wriggled and twisted until he was leaning back against the gate, and facing Joe, and took a deep breath.
"So, um, I've been thinking and I'm pretty sure that, y'know: Pete can take care of himself, now. I mean, he seems pretty much okay, right now, and he'll probably get back with his girlfriend by next week, so... I don't see any reason I can't start spending more time with you, again. If you'll, y'know, have me, or whatever..."
Joe kind of wondered if it was actually his
birthday instead of Patrick's, all of a sudden. "Yeah?"
"If you're just saying that because like, you feel bad, you don't have to. If you think that Pete will go off the rails without your whole therapy thing, I understand if you want to like, keep doing it... but if not then I guess I can like, make some time in my diary or something, maybe..."
Patrick just gazed at him with a peculiar look on his shadowy face, and then kissed him. "You're pretty amazing, you know that?" he said, sounding, as far as Joe was concerned, a little awed.
"Actually, dude, I do. I'm pretty much the definition of amazing. But you're not so bad, either, I guess..."
"I still can't believe you paid all that to get me a book."
"Well... I went in on Tuesday when you were at Pete's and Lizzie was the assistant supervisor or something, so she gave me like $20 off as a discount..."
"That's still a hundred and fifty bucks, Joe!"
"Yeah, but you really wanted it. And it was educational. And I didn't get you a gift last year..."
"You're sure you weren't just thinking that... I dunno. That maybe you needed to give me something huge to compete with Pete?"
Joe snorted. "I can give you something huge for free
"No," Joe assured him, sighing heavily. "I just wanted to give you something amazing and make you feel better, dude. No secret agendas or anything, I swear on my mom's credit card."
Patrick leaned forward and buried his face in Joe's shoulder, tucking his arms around him. "Well, then thanks, Joe. This pretty much has to be the coolest birthday ever, and the nicest present ever. I haven't felt this good since... actually, since July 26th."
"That was the Thursday after you got back from the Arma tour, remember?"
Joe stared down at him for a second, and then something clicked and he felt like a total douche. "Shit – that's when we got together."
"Yup," Patrick nodded without lifting his head. "The day I bullied you into dating me, the day I came out and didn't get smited... Pretty awesome all-round, actually."
"We've actually been dating for nine months and a day, dude. That's forever
Patrick laughed awkwardly and muttered, "I'm kind of hoping there's more to the whole 'forever' deal than nine months, dude."I can totally see me dating you forever. I can totally see us as like, bad tempered old dudes sitting out on rocking-chairs on the porch, shaking our walking canes at all the kids and stuff, bitching about how things were different when we were young...
He'd blurted out the next thought without really even realising it until Patrick pulled away and looked up at him, asking, "What?"
"We should do it," he said again, without thinking to add any further clarification.
"Yeah, I got that, but what should we do?"
"Oh. Um..." he trailed off, wondering if he really did mean this; but right now it seemed like the most obvious thing ever and he really couldn't see any reason not to. "I was just thinking about stuff, and like... this whole forever thing."
"And it's like, we have no plans for breaking up or anything, right?"
Patrick just stared at him. "Right."
"Cool. Excellent. So... I was kind of like thinking that maybe, seeing as you like, need someplace to live and stuff in a couple of months and we're like, going on tour and everything until sort of, mid-July... maybe afterward we should kind of... trytofindsomeplacetogetherorsomething. If you want."
"Uh... yeah? I mean, I'll be eighteen, too, in September. And it'd be cheaper and everything, if we're sharing rent and stuff."
"Woah – what? Dude
. Are you serious?"
Feeling a little embarrassed and afraid it was way, way too soon, Joe just nodded.
"You seriously want to do that?"
"Well... yeah. I guess it's all like, a little more complicated and stuff, but... yeah. We should have been like, leaving home to go to college anyway, right? And we'll have been together over a year, in September."
"Joe – why would you want to leave home? Your parents are amazing! If I was you, I'd be living there until I was thirty..."
Shrugging, Joe just said, "Because you won't move in with us."
He'd really only expected them to be out there for an hour, but it was almost three in the morning that Joe made the turn onto the exit ramp of the I90 to head onto the I94 northbound toward the suburbs. Patrick was asleep in the passenger seat, his head resting against the window and the smallest smile on the corner of his lips.
They'd spent hours out there, sitting cuddled together on the verge, figuring out if they could really do this. The only thing they'd really settled on was the fact that no one was to know, not even Joe's parents or Andy, until they'd worked out exactly what their plan was – and had some all-important time to really think it through and cool off and figure out if this was as sensible as it felt right now. They'd both acknowledged that in normal circumstances the idea wouldn't have occurred to either of them, at this point. It was only a few months ago that Joe had told Luke that Patrick was way too young to move out of home, and now they were planning on doing it together. It was going to be hard work, for sure – Joe would actually have to get off his lazy ass and find a job for the first time ever; but if that meant making sure Patrick had someplace to live in a few months' time and that even if Patrick had to spend time working with Pete on songs or whatever, he would still come home and be with Joe every night, then he considered that an acceptable compromise.
Quote from 'Arbor Lane' by Spitalfield
And the book is real