The World's Not Waiting (For Joe Trohman to Stop Being a Pussy and Start Going For What He Wants) [14/?]Summary:
AU Timeline - Teenage angst and Crayola Rainbows. Or, Joe saw him first.Author: rosiedoesBetas: likethepaint
(on early versions)Rating:
R at absolute max.Pairing:
c. 8,600 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...
Well, so much for 'very soon', right? But I have four documents containing versions of this chapter – I've probably scrapped as many words as I've posted, including three scenes (in the van, in a motel and at a branch of Denny's). The good news is that this is a tipping-off point for the next era of the fic. Huge things are coming.
I want to warn people, as well, that there is a fairly offensive anti-Semitic term used late in this chapter, which I don't condone at all, but which was relevant to the context of the scene. I hope that any Jewish readers will understand that no offence is intended to them in using the word, and that it is used by a 'villain' of the piece, rather than a respected character. ♥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 FinishPart Thirteen: Thank Your Lucky StarsThe World's Not Waiting (For Joe Trohman to Stop Being a Pussy and Start Going For What He Wants)Part Fourteen: Stop Making Plans, Start Making Sense
"These mistakes are just part of the ride."
Watching Patrick spend the last few days before they went on their first proper tour packing up all his belongings and agonising over whether he could let his childhood toys go to charity or into the trash (while Joe covertly stowed some of them into his rucksack because he knew Patrick was going to regret it when Mumra was unravelling his bandages in a landfill), was kind of sad. He'd already stashed a bunch of stuff in the Trohmans' basement – Joe's dad had even bought Patrick's drum kit, for Sam. Joe kind of thought he might be hoping it would form a new focus for Sam's toddler-exterminating aggression, but he still wasn't keen on the prospect of his thirteen year old brother hammering away day and night.
Patrick was being fiercely stoic about leaving home. He didn't like talking about it, although he did buy Joe's mom a box of Swiss chocolate for offering him the storage space in the basement and inviting him to stay until he found somewhere. She still had no idea what they were planning; nobody did – although Andy had a tendency to give them speculative looks whenever Patrick avoided questioning on the matter.
The worst part, though, was helping him carry his sleeping bag and pack out to the van on the day they left. His mother stood on the porch with her arms wrapped around herself, not saying anything.
"Are you even going to say goodbye, man?" Joe asked gently, as Patrick yanked the rear doors open and climbed in with his bag, dumping it on top of Andy's stuff.
For a moment, Patrick hesitated, adjusting his cap and pushing his glasses back up his nose.
"C'mon, dude – you're gonna be away for weeks. You're not even coming back here. The least you can do is like, give her a hug or something..."
Patrick exhaled heavily and for a moment Joe really thought he was going to throw a tantrum; but instead, he jumped back down on to the road and walked back up the path with his hands in his pockets and his shoulders hunched. Joe couldn't hear what they said to each other, but there was a lot of hugging. He threw the rolled-up sleeping bag into the van and climbed inside to get settled on the bedding they'd be living in for the next few weeks; he didn't need to watch that part.
"Fuck, I feel like I'm stuck in a fucking Hallmark card, kind of," Pete grouched from the front seat, cranking up the stereo until it made the snare rattle in its case.
"Maybe you should stay there, or something, dude," Joe muttered back. If Pete was allowed to whine, Patrick was allowed to make things up with his mom before he left home.
Pete just flipped him off and pulled his shades down from the top of his head.
"So, are we going
?" Andy demanded cheerfully, as Patrick ran back into the van, leaping up onto the cargo base without breaking step and slamming the door behind him.
"Yeah," Patrick nodded a little breathlessly as he climbed over an amp to get to where Joe was forming their little nest of sleeping bags, pillows and luggage. "Let's get the fuck out of here."
Touring with Fall Out Boy wasn't like touring with Arma. For a start, it was actually partly his band
– he wasn't just a fill-in and he wasn't the little kid that everyone else got to humiliate for kicks – but also, he had his boyfriend slumped across the van beside him and two of their best friends in the front; Andy singing (off-key) to partially detuned rock stations as they travelled toward Michigan, Pete scowling out of the window with his shades on and scuffed sneakers on the dash. There was no aircon in the van, but they had both the cab windows open and doing close to ninety on the freeway there was a sufficient breeze not for them to be too sticky and stifled by the peak summer heat.
Since Patrick's birthday, things between them had been a lot better. Pete had gotten back together with the girl and left Patrick to Joe again; Joe and Patrick had spent a lot of hours making up for all the hanging out they'd missed, and not entirely
discussing their plan to get a place together. It wasn't that they didn't want to do it, anymore – it was just that they'd had so much to think about with the tour coming up, and finishing school, that they hadn't wanted to waste their downtime on Serious Business. Plus, there was always the risk of one parent or other (or worse, Sam) overhearing them, which was the last thing they wanted – they didn't want to get shot down before they'd even had a chance to try. But other than that, they'd been good. They'd been normal. Joe had almost stopped wanting to hiss like a pissed off tomcat when Pete got too touchy-feely.
Sitting in the back of the van for hours at a time, though, provided the perfect opportunity for scoping the market. Patrick had picked up a couple of local papers to check out the classifieds, and they spent the first afternoon lounging in the back and whispering to each other; right up until Pete turned around to ask Patrick which album the Bowie song on the radio was from, and he realised what had been keeping them so quiet for the last hour.
"Are you two looking up someone to teach you how to do it right, or something?" he leered. "'Cause you're looking in the wrong publication for that
, kind of."
Patrick flipped him off absently and rubbed at Joe's knee with the other hand. "We're looking up pest control."
"Burned!" Andy laughed from the driver's seat, drumming the wheel to the beat from the stereo.
"No, seriously, what are you looking at those for?"
"Just checking for like, cheap gear," Joe lied, feeling his face turning pink. Countdown to humiliation...
"On the property
"Pete, do the fucking math, dude. I just got kicked out of my mom's house, and now me and Joe are looking at apartments. Rocket science it's clearly not."Dude, don't
tell him! Now he's gonna like, make our lives hell for the next two weeks!
"What, you two are planning on shacking up together?" Pete asked, his eyebrows lifting so high Joe almost thought they might take flight. "THAT IS THE FUNNIEST THING I EVER HEARD!"
"Oh yeah, we're laughing."
"Do your mom and dad know about this?" Andy asked, looking pointedly at Joe in the rearview mirror and making him feel like he'd failed his math test or something.
He shook his head with a shrug and looked away.
"Nobody knew until just then," Patrick answered for him, rubbing his back apologetically. "But it's not a big deal. We're moving in together – so what? It's what people do."
Pete laughed incredulously, pointing at Joe and reminding him, "He can't even vote!"
"I can in a few weeks..."
"I wouldn't trust you to make a fucking sandwich, dude, forget actual fucking decisions!"
"At least I can be
trusted," Joe muttered.
"So, what's your plan?" Andy asked, apparently trying to side-step the bickering. "Do you have a place lined up, or what?"
"Not yet," Patrick admitted. "We just figured that we'd work it out when we got home, y'know? When we have time. Right now we're just trying to see what kind of options we have."
"How the fuck do you even think you're going to afford rent?" Pete snorted, sitting back in his seat and folding his arms across his chest. "Borders doesn't pay that well, kids."
"I don't even work there anymore, remember? I quit so I could come on this dumb fucking tour. But I'll work two jobs if I have to. I'll do anything. It's not like I get a choice about that."
"I told you, dude – come and live in my basement!"
"I don't want
to live in your basement."
"Listen, man, I've lived away from home about a million times, kind of. It costs more than you can fucking imagine. There's no way you're gonna be able to afford it, or whatever."
"Oh, yeah? Well, just fucking watch us," Patrick retorted defiantly. "And if you're so great at living by yourself, how come you keep ending up back home?"
"Okay, Mr fucking Independent, what do you do when you heating fucks up in January?"
"Call the landlord. Or the building supervisor if you're in one of those places..."
"Or my dad," Joe added, receiving an unamused look from Patrick and realising that he had actually proved Pete's very point. "Just because we're not living there, doesn't mean we can't ask them how to do stuff. I don't think that plumbing gets like, passed down in humans' genetic memory or something, basically. I'm pretty sure even you had to ask somebody..."
"Nope. Because I never lived anywhere where the heating was going
to get fucked up – I was smart enough not to get some shitty rat hole with fucked up plumbing."
"Okay, you know what, Pete?" Patrick began, starting to sound really pissed. "Beggars can't be fucking choosers. We might not be able to get some amazing penthouse or whatever, but not all of us are fucking rich, y'know? Not everyone can get Daddy to pay their rent and not everyone can be that picky about which part of town they live in. Maybe we'll end up with some crappy little studio in a shitty part of town, but that really is pretty much the last thing I fucking care about, right now."
"One," Pete responded right away, counting on his fingers, "if you don't have the luxury of choosing, why the fuck won't you just take up my offer of living in our basement? Two; studios get real cramped, real fast. If you end up in one of those together, you'll end up fucking killing each other, kind of, because he
can't stand mess, and I've seen your fucking bedroom. Three; if you end up hating each other, the band is fucked. Four – "
"Would you shut the fuck up?"
"- Joe's got a cosy, convenient little family to run back to as soon as things start to not work out and where will that leave you, genius? He's not gonna want to stick that shit out when he's got it made, back home."
Joe balked at him, not quite sure whether he'd understood that right because surely even Pete wouldn't call him a flake to his face. "Um, what the fuck
, dude? This was my idea. He won't move in with us, for like, the long-term, so I said I'd do it. I want to do it!"
"Seriously? So, I guess that explains how it's so fucking insane
, or whatever..."
"I've gotta be honest, you guys, I think you're kind of biting off a little more than you can chew," Andy agreed, sounding like he was trying to talk them off a ledge. "It'd be one thing if it was a bunch of people getting a whole apartment or house or something, because it'd all work out less for rent and bills and stuff, and there'd be a pretty good chance at least one person already lived out of home – but just the two of you... I'd say that's gonna be a serious learning curve."
"If we were going to college we'd still have to like, to move out and stuff..." Joe mumbled, feeling very small.
Pete snorted. "Yeah, into halls
or something, where your parents pay your accommodation and they give you three meals a day."
"I can cook," Joe told him indignantly. Better than you can, anyway
"You gonna let Patrick go out and earn the housekeeping while you stay home and keep the place?"
"No! But like, we can manage, dude... we can manage."
In the front, Andy sighed. "Look, guys, I admire your conviction and everything, but Pete's right. Committing to this is a huge deal. It's not all going to be nights on the sofa and sex before work..."
Patrick hadn't turned that red since the day Joe's mom walked in on them. "It's nothing to do with that! I don't have anyone else I'd rather spend my time with than Joe. "Seriously? You don't?
Joe slipped his fingers between Patrick's proudly and pulled is hand closer, glancing at Pete to see if he'd noticed.
"I'm just saying
"Well, don't. We're getting a place together, end of story."
"Only until the sequel; 'The Apartment II: The Eviction'."
"My mom and dad'll help out," Joe mumbled.
"If your mom and dad are helping out, isn't that exactly the opposite of what Rebel Without A Clue, here, was trying to do by not moving in with you anyway, kind of?"
"I don't care if they help Joe out. Joe's parents can help Joe, and I'll help myself. I've already told you: I'll get two jobs."
"Why don't you just ask if some of your friends want to get in on rooming with you?" Andy asked, signally to pull off of the highway. "Share the pressure?"Because we wanted privacy, that's why. We wanted to do this properly.
"All our friends are going to college," Patrick shrugged back. "There's nobody to share with... and I kind of don't want to end up living with someone I don't know, y'know?"
"I'm not going to college!" Pete corrected, elbowing Andy. "Hey – wait! Wait – we should totally make it a band thing – get like, a whole place and all share it. That would be fucking sweet
"Like the fucking Monkees? Are you serious? I didn't leave home so I could turn into a cliché!"
"No, you moved out of home because your mommy kicked you out, or whatever. And it's an amazing idea!"That's totally a matter of opinion, and in my opinion it'd suck.
"Um... count me out, guys. I need to stay home in Wisconsin, close to my mom."
"You spend more time in Chicago than you do in Menomonee anyway, you little mommy's boy!"
"Yeah, so what time I have I want to spend with my family and my other friends, if that's cool with you. And, oh yeah – I still do that whole education thing, that you wrote off already."
"Whatever," Pete sighed impatiently. "We'll just do it with the three of us, then."
Joe looked at Patrick, hoping that as Pete's favourite person he'd do a better job of saying, 'Yeah, when hell freezes over!
' than Joe could.
"Well, we haven't even decided what we're doing, yet..." Patrick shrugged, holding Joe's hand a little tighter.
"Exactly – if nothing's fixed, then it's easier to figure out."
Patrick made a non-committal "Hmm."
"It'd be awesome, dude."
"Yeah, but –"
Joe had a really bad feeling that this was going to spiral out of control before he'd even gotten started. "Can we get something to eat?"
"We're already heading off the highway," Andy assured him.
Joe was still bothered by it when they climbed out of a van at a rest stop in the early hours of the next morning. Pete had been going on and on about this apartment they were suddenly getting and Joe had waited for Patrick to say something to contradict it – but so far there was nothing. He didn't know whether that was because Patrick didn't want to piss Pete off or because Patrick was actually warming to the idea. At the venue, earlier, he'd caught Pete cornering him by the van as they unloaded, 'explaining' why it was 'clearly' the best option. The subtext of the whole thing just seemed to go over Patrick's head. When they woke him up at a rest stop in the middle of the night and untangled him from Pete, he stumbled straight into Joe's arms and let him half-support him across the parking lot, one sleepy cheek pressed to his shoulder.
"Did you get enough rest?" Joe asked, as they tried to figure out how to use the coffee machine in the gas station shop.
"Some. It's kind of hard to sleep when you have Pete breathing on the back of your neck..." Patrick yawned, handing him a plastic lid.
"You could tell him to like, back off, if you wanted."
"Well, yeah, I could. But then he'd be going on about moving in with us again, and I just don't want to deal with it."
"You want me
to tell him to back off?"
"Nah," Patrick told him through another yawn. "We're up next, right? He can't sleep on me if I'm driving and I'll have you right there. Anyway, he's just over-excited – he'll get over it."
"Hmm." That's what Andy said when Pete met you...
Patrick grinned at him and glanced around to make sure no one but Pete or Andy was lurking nearby, before kissing him on the cheek and patting his ass. "Someone's a little jealous..." he sing-songed, smugly.
"Can you like, blame me
, exactly? I thought I got you to myself for a change and now he's like, inviting himself to live with us, dude... It's seriously lame. The whole point was that we were supposed to be able to spend time together..."
"Well, it's good to know you care," Patrick teased, taking a bag and picking up the tongs for the donuts on the display beside the coffee machine.
"He'll totally get in the way."
"Don't worry about Pete, I can deal with him – it's just like telling a four year old, that no, they're not having any candy. You've known him way longer than me, you should have a pretty good idea about that already. Besides, he just broke up with that girl, again – he's feeling a little shitty about that and he just wants something to look forward to. It's got nothing to do with us."
"Yeah, but it's not 'us'; he's never like, tried to feel me up, dude."
"Yeah, it's kind of a hard life being totally irresistible," Patrick sighed mournfully.
As if by magic, Pete appeared from nowhere, clutching bags of candy, "You better believe it, man," he grinned, leaning between them to pick up a cup for his coffee.
Patrick snorted. "Like you'd know."
Joe waited for Pete to fill his cup and wander off to the counter, and muttered, "Yeah, because he seems totally
"Pete has never been bummed in his life
," Patrick scoffed, pointing first to a Boston Cream and then to a jam-filled glaze by way of asking which Joe wanted. Joe scrunched up his nose and pointed to another, instead. "You want that one. Pink with sprinkles
"I'm gonna eat it, not wear it..."
"And you think Pete's the gay one?"
"No, I'm the gay one, Pete's the fucking wannabe who keeps trying to steal my boyfriend."
"And that, my friend, is why it doesn't matter how many times he tries to grope me, I know it's all an act."
"Yeah, but like... are you seriously saying that if someone was trying to feel me up in front of you all the time, it wouldn't bother you?"
"Not if it was Pete, because I'd mostly be too busy laughing."
"But if it wasn't Pete? If it was like... I dunno. Somebody hotter than you, or – I mean... I'm not saying there's somebody hotter than you or anything, but like – "
"If I thought they were actual competition, Joe, of course
I'd care. But Pete isn't competition, he's not hotter than you, and seriously, you really have to stop thinking he is. Also: now is a kind of bad time to talk about this; old dude at the counter is watching us like we're shoplifting."
Joe nodded reluctantly and held out his hand for the tongs. He left with a bag of donuts entirely of his own, planning to eat enough sugar that he could stay awake longer than Pete and therefore deny him any further opportunity for romantic espionage. Which was kind of lucky, because when they got back in the van and Patrick was at the wheel, he dropped his Boston Cream trying to pull out onto the freeway and eat at the same time. Joe tried not to feel too smug that Patrick made him feed him the replacement he offered; especially when he caught the sour look on Pete's face as Patrick caught Joe's wrist and sloppily licked a splodge of custard from his thumb, arguing that he'd already lost one donut and he wasn't wasting this one, when Joe grimaced.
"I can't believe you're grossed out about me licking your hand! It's not like I haven't – "
"STOP RIGHT THERE, IF YOU WANT TO LIVE!" Andy yelled from the back, not even looking up from the comic he was reading by torchlight.
"Okay, we're adding a rule to the tour list, kind of: no talking about fucking in the van. No touching in the van. No acknowledging any kind of sexual or romantic activity in the van. Ever."
Patrick cast Joe a sidelong look and smirked, mouthing, "Happy now?"
Joe wasn't about to complain that this probably meant they'd be tied up against opposite walls whenever they weren't driving, now; he knew when it was probably best to quit while he was ahead.
The only problem was, Pete didn't give up. He just seemed to get more and more into the idea. By the time they got to Alabama four days later he was pin-pointing the exact area he thought they should go for. And Joe had kind of had enough.
"So, like, when are we gonna tell Pete he's not moving in with us?" he whispered over the final amp they were lugging into the venue.
Patrick chewed the corner of his lip and concentrated on adjusting his grip.
"Dude? Dude, I said – "
"Yes. I know. I heard you," Patrick hissed back.
"And...?" Joe prompted, already knowing where this was going and kind of wanting to let go of his side of the amp and go and sulk in the van. Why does he always have to ruin everything?
"And I don't want to get into it right now, Joe."
"You think we should let him?"
"I said I don't want to get into it now, dude, c'mon."
"I don't know! Just – not now
Joe wanted to say something petulant, like 'I'm not moving in if Pete is,' but he knew all that would do was give them even more time alone together and that was the last thing he wanted. In fact, he wouldn't even mind moving in with Pete – a year ago he would have thought that it was the coolest thing in the world to get to live with Pete – if Pete wasn't in the habit of trying to steal as much of Patrick's attention as possible, as often as possible.
"I just wanted us to be, like... closer," he muttered miserably, instead. I mean, if Pete's right about one thing it's that it'd just be like, way, way easier for me to keep living at home, right now. But no, I offer to do something huge – I offer to leave home for you – and it's just thrown back in my face the second Pete steals the idea.
"Joe, if we got much closer we'd be the same person."
"You don't want to do it anymore, do you?"
Patrick stopped abruptly, halfway through a swing door and looked at him seriously. "That is not
what I said."
"You kind of didn't have to..."
"I didn't say I don't want to live with you, dude, it's just that... I think we need to look at all our options first, y'know? And there are like, a hundred people coming in and out with gear right now so if we could just not do this until later, it'd be really, really cool."
Joe didn't say anything. He just helped Patrick carry the amp into the main venue and then sloped off back to the van; the rest of them could set up – they hadn't had a soundcheck at all in the last three venues, so he had no reason to suspect they would tonight.
Miserably, he climbed into the back of the almost empty van and sat on the wheel arch, arms crossed over his knees and his face buried in them. He'd totally
seen this coming. Things had been working out too well. He really wished things were just as they were seven or eight months ago – just getting serious, instead of just getting complicated. Maybe he should
just stay home and let Patrick move in with whoever he wanted. It was just that he'd really started to like the idea and he didn't want Patrick to out-grow him, either. If Patrick was living away from home with Pete or whoever, and Joe was still living with his parents, then it made him look like a kid while Patrick was growing up.
Maybe that was the whole problem. Maybe Patrick just thought that Joe was too much of a kid – after all, he'd never had a job in his life and even if his parents let him get away with a lot, they still basically took care of everything for him... And maybe Joe wasn't really helping his case by sulking. It was just that it really hurt to think that maybe his own boyfriend would rather spend time with other people than with him. What if they broke up? What if Patrick really did get bored of him and they broke up? Sure, he was sick of things being up and down all the time – never feeling quite sure that Patrick wouldn't rather be hanging out with Pete – but the idea of not being with him anymore made his chest ache.
He was still sitting there when Patrick pulled the door open and crawled into the van to sit in front of him, tugging the door almost closed behind him.
saying that," he insisted softly, adjusting his cap and shifting nearer to rub his fingers over a bruise on Joe's arm, from where he'd had a fight with a mic stand a day or two before; "I don't really
want to live with a bunch of people, either, dude, but... Pete's lived in his own place before. And I'm just kind of thinking that, y'know: as much as I hate to admit that he's right, maybe living together already is just a bit... intense. Especially in some tiny apartment where we have to be in each other's faces 24/7. We've never really had a chance to do that before, and – "
"What about when you were staying with us?"
"That was a week
, Joe. How do we know that we won't get sick of each other, or end up fighting, or – "
"And moving Pete in with us is going to fix that?"
"Not Pete specifically. But it might shake things up a little to have other people there... And maybe if we share with Pete and maybe even someone else for half a year or a year or something, then we'll get used to the idea and be able to make it work better when we get someplace by ourselves, because we'll know what we're doing."
"'When'?" Joe echoed.
"Well, yeah, I hope
it's 'when'. You still wanna do it, right?"
"Good, because so do I. And I mean, just 'cause we might not do it with just the two of us now, doesn't mean we won't do it ever."
"But we agreed – "
"I know we did," Patrick sighed, leaning closer to kiss him while Joe ducked away from him, slightly. "Oh, c'mon, Bambi," he whispered helplessly, trying to coax some response from him by kneeling up and trying to pull him into a hug. "We would still be living together – we could still have our own room and everything – but it'd be cheaper, and less pressure and we can give ourselves time to... well, to adjust, I guess."I don't need to adjust, though – I know what I want to do. I want to be with just you like we said we would.
"You're making this huge decision to help me out and – "
"I'm making it because I want to."
"No, I know, and I didn't even mean it like that. I'm not even saying we have to
have Pete living with us – I'm just saying we should maybe think about it. Think about all the stuff we could do for the band if we were all together all the time, y'know? I think it could be really awesome."
"I think it could be more awesome if we didn't," Joe muttered, but he knew even then that Pete was going to be sharing their apartment, whether he liked it or not. He sighed and shrugged him off limply, not feeling any less disappointed and leaving Patrick to stare at him in the shadows.
Joe didn't say anything at first. It was all just too depressing; he'd really set his heart on them getting somewhere together, and now it was going to be completely ruined, because of Pete. Because of the exact reason he'd wanted to do it in the first place. "You should have just told me the truth..."
"You wanna hear the truth, Joe? Honestly? 'Cause the thing is, I don't feel like a 'grown-up' and I'm kind of tired of pretending that I am just because people like Pete and my mom tell me I'm not and I have some stupid point to prove. I feel like this... this awkward little nerd
who only just turned eighteen who just got kicked out of home and doesn't even know how you pay utility bills and can't wire a plug or work a microwave with more than three settings. I don't feel like this – like what we're doing here – is even an adult relationship, y'know? Serious
, sure, because I can't even imagine dating somebody else, but how can we think we're capable of this, right now? We can't even be in the same room naked without being embarrassed. And y'know, people our age are mostly in college and sure, they might get to see their boyfriends or girlfriends or whatever, every day
, but at the end of that, they still get to go and be themselves. They go back across the hall or whatever, and they get to be in their own space. They're not turning themselves into weird, co-dependent little units already. And I hate that Pete's right about any of this, but sometimes I feel more like I'm thirteen than eighteen. I want
to settle down, one day, and maybe not even when I'm old – like, before I'm thirty – and it would be totally awesome
if it was with you, but I just... I don't think it's the smartest thing to do now
"Then... why did you even say yes, if you didn't even want to? I – I mean... I dropped college so that I could stay with you..."
"I do want to
. But I think that maybe we just kind of got... carried away or something. I'm just trying to be realistic about it, dude. When I do this – or even, when we do this – I want to do it right and at least get a chance
at pulling it off. If we get an apartment or something, and we both have a room each, and Pete has a room – and whoever else ends up there has a room – we get our own space but we still get to be there together all the time, if we want to. You can still sleep in my room, and I can still sleep in yours, y'know? We can still be together as much as we want, but it'll just be like... I dunno, maybe more casual? That kind of makes it sound not-so-serious and that's so not what I mean, but you get my point, right?"
Looking over at him properly for the first time, Joe reluctantly mumbled, "Kind of..."
"Because sometimes I feel like I'm playing dress up in kindergarten again, or something, y'know? But like, the other way around, so I'm doing all this super-serious stuff, and kind of doing all these 'grown-up' things that apparently adults are expected to do, but secretly, I know that I'm wearing the Thundercats boxers that my mom got me for Christmas."
Joe couldn't suppress a little snort of laughter at the mental image. "I like those ones. I wish my mom bought me cool stuff like that... I just get hand-woven sweaters she'd have to pay me to wear."
"Just the fact that you think my Thundercats underwear is cool proves that not only are we going to have to be together for a really long time – because nobody else is going to want either of us – but that we are way, way
too immature for this."
"Thundercats underwear is cool. That's just like, fact
, basically. But like... do you seriously want Pete close enough to hear you in bed? Because he's not as kind of like, 'discreet' as my mom and dad, but even they make jokes about us doing it, dude, and Pete will totally humiliate us about it every single day, basically."
"Your mom and dad have never heard us, dude. No way."
"Sam says you 'snore like a cat' or something." '
"I don't snore."
Patrick pressed mortified palms to his face. "Oh man..."
"At least they don't tease you
"You realise I'm never going to come within fifty feet of your parents again, right?"
"If you'd been that picky about it when we started doing this..."
Laughing through an embarrassed groan, Patrick buried his face in the crook of Joe's neck and wrapped his arms around him tightly, as if they hadn't been on the verge of a fight a few minutes ago.
"I'm sorry, you know," Patrick murmured, shifting again so that he wasn't so muffled against Joe's shoulder. "I feel totally flaky about it... but what Pete's been saying kind of made me think, y'know?"
"He's probably like... a little bit right," Joe finally admitted, shrugging and tucking an arm around Patrick's waist, "but it would have been cool to not have to freak out about like, who's gonna come home or if we can get to watch a movie by ourselves and all that kind of stuff..."
"Yeah, but y'know: we can find a way. He's gonna be going away with bands and stuff... or just out, sometimes. And like I said, we can still just spend time in our rooms together. I'm totally cool with barricading ourselves in... and turning up the stereo. I’ve always wanted to incorporate Prince into my sexlife."
"Does your stereo even go loud enough to make a difference? Because you mostly suck at being quiet."
"We'll hook it up to your Marshall, it’ll be fine."
"That's just gonna act like a siren to tell him what we're doing and that'll totally just mean he wants to like, join in or something, pretty much."
"We'll get a really good
lock. I mean, it worked on Sam…"
"Sam is thirteen, dude. Pete could probably like, break into the Pentagon if he wanted."
"Okay, so I’ll make you a deal,” Patrick announced, pulling back and looking him in the eye. “We’ll see if we can handle it for a year – one whole year, sleeping in the same room every night even if we have a room each, eating together every night, hanging out as much as we want – and if that works out, then I promise we’ll get our own apartment. Just us. No Pete. I promise."
Joe looked up at him dubiously, prodded him in the belly button and asked, "Were you like, serious about the Prince thing?"
"Am I ever going to get laid again if I say yes?"
"Then I was totally
joking. Sort of."
Scrunching up his nose reluctantly, Joe leaned in a little to kiss him, gently squeezing his waist with his knees as Patrick knelt between them – just in time for the door to be yanked open again, and Andy to appear with the shaven-headed drummer from one of the other support bands.
For a moment there was silence. Andy's eyes were like saucers behind his glasses and the guy from the other band just stared at them.
"Uh..." Patrick gurgled, straightening his hat and getting up a little too quickly. "Hi."
There was really no point trying to pretend they hadn't been doing anything, and Joe's face was burning up; no one would be fooled for a moment.
"Could one of you pass me my kit bag?" Andy asked evenly, clearly trying not to react. "I'm looking for a spare nut for a high hat..."
"Oh – um, sure," Patrick said quickly, grabbing the bag. "You want me to just find it for you?"
"It's probably in the small pocket on the side."
Patrick scrambled through the bag while Joe stayed hunched on the wheel arch, wishing this dude would go away. They hadn't exactly struck him as the sort of band who'd be cool with sharing air with 'a couple of fags'.
Andy held out his hand and took the nut, passing it quickly to the other guy, who snatched his hand away hurriedly; like he thought he'd catch something if his skin actually brushed Andy's. He grunted something that may have been intended to pass for a thank you, and disappeared back into the building. Andy didn't follow.
"That was dumb," he noted sternly. "You've got a fucking bunch of Jackboot Johnnies around and you're sneaking off and making out right there. Really smart."
"It's not like that, dude," Joe protested quickly. "We just kind of, um..."
"I don't even really want to know. We're in fucking Alabama – just learn to fucking think."
He shut the door firmly before leaving them alone in the lot.
"Shit, dude," Joe mumbled, dropping his head into his hands wearily. "We are so lucky that guy didn't kick our asses or something..."
"Guys like that don't do shit by themselves," Patrick replied, reaching down to rub his shoulder. "They need all their stupid little friends. We'll be fine."Famous last words.
Everything seemed fine until they actually got on stage. It wasn't a big crowd at all – the other bands, maybe fifteen to twenty locals – and Pete was having trouble with one of his pedals, so Patrick had turned and looked at Joe, picking out the first few bars of Everlong
with a little smile. Not even Pete knew the significance of the song, but Joe grinned back, not seeing a virtually full can of beer sailing through the air to smack him straight in the face. He staggered a little and tripped over a cable, landing on his ass. It all happened so quickly that Patrick seemed to take a few seconds to register it and Pete hadn't even had time to see what happened.
Joe sat there for a few moments, clutching the side of his cheek where the rim of the can had connected almost with the side of his eye socket, slightly dazed. Patrick started toward him, looking anxious, and Pete was standing up and saying something vicious into his mic.
"You okay?" Patrick asked, crouching in front of him, his guitar slung awkwardly to the side.
"I... ugh. That fucking hurt, dude..."
"HEY, FAG – WHY DON'T YOU TAKE YOUR LITTLE BOYFRIEND AND GO HOMO?"
There was a peal of raucous laughter from the crowd.
Joe wasn't going to just give up and run away with his tail between his legs, though; not after all the drama with Bradley Kennedy. He rubbed his eyes and climbed to his feet, feeling slightly dizzy, but determined to carry on.
"Do you want to get out of here?" Patrick asked, reaching out to hold his arm to steady him.
"No. It's... it's cool."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm not quitting because some closet case wasted a drink, dude."
The setlist said they were opening with Growing Up, but Pete was busily announcing another track entirely – one they'd only just written.
"This is called, 'Tell that fucking closet case who thinks beating up the skinny Jewish kid makes him more of a man that he's getting bent over my amp after our set'."
At least, that was the song Joe and Patrick both assumed he meant. Either way, it didn't do them any favours. By the time Andy was coated in Coke from a cupful smashing into the rim of his left tom, he was so pissed that he stood up, picking up the nearest can, and hurled it back into the crowd, yelling something indecipherable over the feedback and heckles. He grabbed his stool and his high hat and started carrying them off stage, making it very clear that as far as he was concerned the set was over.
They were supposed to be loaning their basic drum set up to the band on after them, but Andy also had other ideas about that. In a few moments he was back – Joe hadn't even had time to unplug his pedal board – and started unscrewing his toms. People were still cat-calling and heckling and it was starting to feel really fucking scary. Joe almost forgot his amp in the rush to get his stuff out of there. He had to run back with Pete to carry it out to the van, and by the time they got to it, it had been doused in something sticky and wet.
"Merch is fucked," Patrick announced grimly as they kicked the door open and heaved the amp to the van.
"Some shitty excuse for a human being pissed in the merch box."
Joe's stomach lurched. "That's fucked up
"What the fuck was their problem, even?" Pete asked, still sounding totally furious and throwing his bag of cables into the van with absolutely no regard for what they landed on.
Patrick caught Joe's eye and took a deep breath. "Um... well, the drummer from that fascist band came over to the van with Andy, earlier, and Joe and I were kind of taking, y'know: a moment..."
"What the fuck?"
"We were... look, it was nothing major, but he obviously figured out that we're not exactly straight, okay? And we're sorry. We were inside the van – we didn't think anyone could see."
"Are you trying to get fucking killed? Seriously?"
"No – I was trying to convince him I didn't want to break up, okay?" Patrick snapped. "Now, can we just fucking go?"
Pete stopped where he was and stared at him with a look of disbelief. "Breaking up?"
"We're not. It's fine. Things are good. Better. Now can we go
? And are we just gonna dump these shirts? Because they're fucking rancid
"Hey, fags – why don't you get the fuck out of town, huh? Nobody wants your faggoty little asses around here."
They all turned to look at the douchebag who had appeared in the doorway.
"Why don't you just tell us which one of us it is you have your little crush on, so he can give you a little kiss?" Pete sneered back.
Unfortunately, it was at that point that the douchebag's friends emerged from the stage door behind him, and suddenly Joe had a feeling this was all going to end very, very badly.
"Guys – let's just like, go
– there's no point in staying here or anything..."
"The kike's right, assbandit. Get the fuck out of town."
"What the fuck did you just call him?" Pete demanded, starting to launch himself at the offending skinhead, only for Patrick and Andy to dive for him and drag him back. But there was nobody to hold back the other guy. It was fortunate that one of the guys from the bar and the owner of the venue stepped out in time to disperse the impending brawl which could surely not have ended well for them.
"You: you bunch of Midwestern pansies, just get off of my property. And you bunch of morons, get back inside and get your shit off my stage."
Aside from physically having to shove Pete into the cab, up front beside Andy, they didn't need to be told twice. For almost an hour they drove in silence. Joe hunched himself in a corner, tucked up against an amp with Patrick pressed close beside him. He was watching Pete from the floor, as he fumed quietly, staring out of the window while Andy floored the pedal to get them as far away from the experience as possible. Joe had been thinking about suggesting that they get a motel on his dad's credit card, one night, so that he and Patrick could have some space rather than being stuck in a van or on some stranger's floor, but he really didn't feel like risking it anymore. He could maybe understand high school jerks being dicks to preserve their asshole reputations, but why the fuck did strangers have to behave like that? It wasn't as though they'd done anything to them to begin with. How was their being together hurting anyone
, anyway? He was grateful for the fact that Pete had been there to stand up for them, because if he hadn't, Joe wasn't at all sure how things would have worked out. His face was sore and swollen from being hit with the can and Patrick had been shaking for at least twenty minutes after they got into the van. All Joe could do was tuck his arm around him and let him lean on his shoulder.
It was Patrick who eventually broke the silence, announcing that he thought he was going to be sick from the smell of the urine-soaked shirts in the disintegrating cardboard box behind them.
"We should get off the highway and into a town or something," Andy suggested, rubbing his forehead with his wrist. "Maybe we can find some 24-hour laundromat or something, see if washing the merch helps at all."
"And we need some ice for Joe's eye," Patrick added, leaning his forehead on Joe's cheek just below the bruise and squeezing him. Joe just tightened his grip and whispered that he was fine.
"I need some fucking coffee or something," Pete muttered darkly. "Let's get off this fucking road. I'm pretty sure we're far enough away that those assholes won't come looking."
The first part of town they passed through was virtually empty at 10.30pm on a week night; a few small bars seemed to have lights on, but they were being cleared out for closing. It took nearly forty-five minutes to find a rundown section of the city with a corner store and a late-opening laundromat with a half-broken sign and garish strip lights above aged washing machines. They sat together on the central bench, watching the t-shirts spin while Patrick made an impromptu icepack from a t-shirt he'd only worn once before getting a blob of ketchup on it, and pressing the stain-free side to Joe's face for him as he ate some cookies Pete had brought him from the store.
He didn't feel like he deserved to be fussed over – it was really only a black-eye and a swollen cheek – but he was grateful for the fact that none of them were blaming him for any of this. It was his sulking over nothing which had placed them in the van, and his being called malicious names that nearly got them into a fight... If he'd been able to get a grip in the first place, none of this would have happened.
"So, um... I just wanna say, like... thanks, guys," he said quietly, when Patrick pulled the ice pack away to re-fold it so it wasn't pressing a damp patch against Joe's cheek. "I mean... just thanks, basically."
"I kind of regret not kicking that anti-Semitic, homophobic asshole's face in, now," Andy admitted, stretching and cracking his knuckles tiredly.
"Nobody fucks with my kid brother but me," Pete added seriously, slinging an arm around Joe's shoulders. "I'd take the fucking bunch of them on in a second if I had to, man."
"Well," Joe shrugged, glancing at Patrick, "I guess that's why we're gonna get an apartment together, right?"
Patrick broke into a broad grin, his head ducked a little as he added more ice from the plastic party-pack on the floor beside him, and pressed his knee to Joe's.
"So we are, now?" Pete asked, almost pulling him into a brotherly chokehold. "I figured you thought it was a shitty idea."
"Yeah," Joe shrugged, "but I guess I kind of like, got some sense knocked into me or something."
Pete just laughed and let him go, stealing a cookie.
Later, when Patrick and Andy had wandered off to find a dark corner to pee in before they got back on the road, Joe found himself sitting in the cab beside Pete and remembering why exactly it was he'd always looked up to him so much; how loyal he was to his friends and how he'd always been there to protect him when he was a kid. And clearly, still there to protect him even now.
"You feeling okay?"
"Yeah – yeah, I'm like... I'm fine. But I just want to kind of say sorry if I've been an asshole, recently."
"You're always an asshole, dude."
Pete looked at him contemplatively for a moment and bumped his fist on Joe's shoulder. "It's cool. I get that you're really into him, bro, don't worry."
"No, I know, but I should still be more like, trusting or something, I guess... and I just kind of fail at it."
"Listen, you don't hear the way the guy talks about you. If you did you'd get why this is a dumb conversation to even have."
There was a small explosion of pride in Joe's chest, hearing that. "Yeah?"
"He's my best friend, whether he likes it or not, but I can get a fucking hint, kind of."
Pete just grinned to himself and started the ignition as the other two walked back toward the van. "You saw him first, didn't you?"
Joe grinned back, quickly switching to a grimace at the pain in his cheek. "Ow. Fuck... But yeah, I did, and I'm like, seriously glad I humiliated myself because otherwise I kind of doubt we'd even be here at all..."
"I just can't believe you thought you had to get a book about it, instead of just coming to me or Hurley or whatever. You know
we're totally here for that."
"Well, I was just like freaking out... And those dudes are exactly – wait a second. I never told you about that!"
Pete just grinned wider. "I know more about you than you'd fucking believe
, bro. Actually kind of a lot more than I want to know. It's one thing to date your best friend and everything, but sometimes a dude's gotta have someone else to share shit with. He can hardly talk to you about why you're supposedly so fucking amazing... I'm pretty sure that's why he spends so much time at my place, or whatever."
Joe had barely opened his mouth to ask what the hell Patrick had been telling him when the rear doors opened and the others climbed back in over the shoddily-packed gear in the back.
"Are we good to go?" Patrick asked, leaning on the back of Joe's seat and rubbing at his hair affectionately.
"Yeah," Joe nodded, catching his hand and glancing at Pete. "I think we're gonna be fine."
Part FifteenTitle from 'Summer Hair=Forever Young', quote from 'Coppertone' by The Academy Is...