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The only sucky thing about having a broken wrist was that Bob had to take a break from drumming. He didn't mind having to miss concerts -- both regular band and jazz band were doing Christmas programs and Bob fucking hated playing Christmas music. The band teacher let Bob riff on some of the songs for jazz band, but you could only do so much with Christmas music.

So not having to spend so much time on that crap was awesome. He hated not being able to play the way he was used to playing, though.

Kitty Dunn, who tag-teamed drumming with him for regular band, took his spot in the Christmas concerts for jazz band too. Mr. Morris made Bob teach her the parts, like that would be a punishment for being an idiot and getting his wrist busted at such an inconvenient time of year. Considering it was an excuse to hang out in the band room as much as he wanted, jamming with Kitty, it was more like a reward. Kitty was cool, and Bob still had one good hand to drum with, so.

"Fuck." Kitty stopped playing and threw a drumstick at Bob. "Seriously, Robbie, couldn't you have busted your wrist before All-State Jazz Fest instead?"

Bob had an orphaned snare drum on his lap; he was practicing rolls with his good hand, mostly keeping time with Kitty's lame Christmas tunes. He stopped playing long enough to make a grab at the drumstick whizzing toward his head. He missed, but at least knocked it off course, and it clattered across a xylophone and fell to the floor.

"Sorry Jenny," he said. "Suck it up."

Jennifer was Kitty's real name. She hated it when people called her Jenny. Much like Bob hated it when people called him Robbie.

She made a face at him and dug another stick out of the bin on the floor. Her t-shirt rode up as she bent over, exposing some of the ink on her back. She had some amazing tattoos. Bob occasionally contemplated getting a tattoo, but while he was okay with getting shots and getting his lip pierced and stuff like that, the thought of being jabbed with a needle non-stop for an extended period of time kind of made him want to throw up.

The door at the rear of the band room squeaked; Bob glanced up to see Patrick slip into the room. Bob gave him a nod as Kitty counted into "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."

Amazingly, Patrick's Wentz-shadow was nowhere to be seen; but with school being over his camo trucker hat was present. It clashed kind of hilariously with his bright green argyle sweater.

While Kitty ran through the song, Patrick settled in a corner with the electric guitar. He didn't plug it in, and his fingers flying over the frets didn't match the song Kitty was playing. Bob watched surreptitiously, trying to figure out what Patrick was playing. After a while he realized he'd started lightly tapping out a simple drum line to match the rhythm Patrick had going.

Then he realized Patrick was watching him, too. Bob felt his cheeks go pink, which was dumb because it's not like he'd been caught checking out Patrick's ass.

...of course, as soon as the thought crossed his mind, mental images from all the times Bob had checked out Patrick's ass flooded into his head.

Determinedly ignoring the fact that those thoughts were probably making him turn even pinker, he offered a half-smile and a 'sorry, couldn't help it' shrug.

Patrick made an awkward shruggy motion back, and...turned a little red too.

Which Bob thought was weird.

And maybe a little interesting.

Bob focused on listening to Kitty and nitpicking her technique to make her cuss him out, and did not look back at Patrick. He knew that if he looked, he might find Patrick looking again, and then they'd do that thing where they obsessively sneak glances at each other back and forth, and then pretend like they weren't sneaking glances, and then wash, rinse, repeat, and...no. Bob did not do that shit.

Several songs later Kitty ended "White Christmas" with a half-hearted clatter. She unceremoniously dropped the drumsticks and kicked the stool over on her way to standing up.

"Okay, I have to get out of here before I go crazy and kill something." She had taken her sweater off to play; she grabbed it off her pile of stuff and yanked it over her head, straightening out her pigtails before pulling on her coat.

As she hoisted up her bag, Bob leaned over and tugged on the hem of her coat to get her attention.

"Thank you for helping out me and the entire jazz band, Jennifer," he said. "You are the poster child for 'team player'."

"Kiss my ass, Robert," Kitty said, but her smile took the edge off the words.

When she got to the door Bob called after her, "Seriously, you sounded good."

She just rolled her eyes. "I always sound good."

Then the door closed behind her. Bob got up to put away the snare and his drumstick; the cabinet door clicked loudly in the silence when he closed it, and it struck him suddenly how very alone in the room he was with Patrick.

Glancing over at Patrick was an involuntary reaction to that thought. Patrick was huddled over his guitar, which was still not plugged in. He snuck a look in Bob's direction, caught Bob looking at him, and ducked his head quickly, pretending like he hadn't been sneaking a glance just then.

Bob stifled a snort. And because he did not do that sneaking-looks thing, he said, "You should plug it in and let me hear it."

A full-body flinch made Patrick's hold on the neck of the guitar slip. He clutched at it, resettled it; then turned to Bob.

His expression was trying to be nonchalant, but came across mostly as deer-in-the-headlights.

"Huh?" he said. Then he cringed, and Bob had to really work at not laughing. "I mean. I." He cleared his throat. "What?"

Bob gestured with his bum hand. "The guitar. Whatever song you've been practicing. You could actually play it out loud?"

"Oh." Patrick ducked his head, focusing on the guitar as he slid his hand up and down the neck in a nervous gesture. He um'd uncertainly under his breath, and when he looked up he had a weird, almost apologetic, look on his face. "Well. Actually. That wasn't. I wasn't really. Playing anything. You...would have heard of?"

Bob stared at him blankly for a moment. "Okay. I don't actually care. I'd still like to hear it." Then he shrugged, in case he was sounding too earnest. "But if you don't want to play it that's fine."

For a second Patrick's eyes darted around the room, possibly checking out potential escape routes while he fiddled with the brim of his hat. Bob was about to give up and just leave Patrick to his practicing alone -- if he got home before his step-dad did he could get cleaned up and leave for the Pier without having to promise to be home at a specific time -- but Patrick finally stopped fidgeting and sighed.

"It's actually," he mumbled. "Something I've been working on. Sort of."

Bob's blank moment was shorter this time. "Oh hey, like something you wrote yourself?"

Patrick nodded. He looked like he wanted to sink through the floor; Bob shook his head and hoped he didn't come off as condescending, because he meant it when he said, "Well, then you're not getting out of here until you play it for me."

While Patrick turned red and made wishy-washy noises, Bob crossed the room, snagging the small amp along the way. He set the amp near Patrick's chair and plugged it in, and got down to hook it up to the guitar. Having to brace the guitar with his casted hand jostled it a lot. Probably more than strictly necessary, but Bob was trying to make a point.

"What -- oh for --" Patrick smacked at Bob's hands and snatched the wire from him.

Bob sat back on his heels, grinning when Patrick scowled at him because despite the scowl Patrick still plugged in the guitar.

"Fine," Patrick muttered. "But it's not a big deal. It's just a thing I've been working on. It's got kind of a bluesy sound, and I know you don't really like the blues."

"I like the blues," Bob said, then corrected. "Well, jazz fusion with blues influences is cool."

Patrick made a face. "This is blues with blues influences. So if you hate it, it's your own fault for bugging me to play it."

"Noted," Bob said. He got comfortable on the floor and then waved a hand in a 'get on with it' motion.

Bob really wasn't the hugest fan of the blues, but that was mainly because straight-up blues was usually pretty boring to play on the drums. Listening to a skilled musician play anything could sell him on a sound, though, and Patrick was sure as hell a skilled musician.

It didn't take long for Patrick to really get into it, either. When Bob didn't get bored right away, Patrick got a lot more confident. Pretty soon he started mixing things up. He'd say something like "but I was thinking about maybe --" out of the blue, and then shift chords, or add a slide, or change up the tempo.

At one point he said, almost to himself, like he'd forgotten Bob was there, "And, like, it could go --" And then he started singing.

He just mumbled through some phrases and hummed a couple of looping scales; Bob couldn't understand half the words. But it still sounded fantastic.

"Holy shit, dude," Bob said when the last note faded out. "That was really good."

Patrick leaned down to switch off the amp, not looking at Bob when he said, "Yeah? I mean, you don't have to just say that."

"I'm not. I'm serious. That was great." Bob stopped with that, ducking his head to pretend to scratch his nose. Actually he was hiding a smile because Patrick was turning red again, and jesus, the kid blushed at the drop of a hat. He was worse than Bob, and Bob knew he was pretty bad with his stupid fair skin.

Fuck if it wasn't fucking cute.

When he got his sappy grinning under control he cleared his throat and looked back up. He was ready to continue with his praise, maybe pick out some details he'd liked, but now Patrick was looking at him. His expression made Bob forget what he'd been about to say.

"Uh," he said instead. "But. Yeah, like I was saying. You know. Really good."

"Well," Patrick said. "I guess. Thanks."

He stared at the guitar for a second, and then set it in the guitar stand against the wall. Without the guitar, though, he seemed to not really know what to do with his hands.

"Sooo..." Patrick said. He clasped his hands and wedged them between his knees.

Patrick sucked his bottom lip into his mouth and caught it between his teeth; Bob got so distracted by that that he didn't think to try to fill the silence that fell between them. For a few long, awkward moments, there was no sound except the low buzz of the wall clock.

Between the quiet and the way Patrick was watching him in a sort of sideways but weirdly intent way, Bob felt jittery. His skin prickled, and it started up an itch under his cast. He shoved his sleeve up and stuck his fingertips beneath the edge and rub-scratched as best he could.

A soft startled laugh made him look at Patrick. Raising his eyebrows, Patrick pointed at the cast.

"That's very...pretty. I like all the hearts and the swirly glittery thing."

Bob blinked at the abrupt change of subject, but then grimaced at his cast. "Yeah, Vicky and Gabe sat on me so Greta could do that. The glittery thing is actually supposed to be a snake. Gabe's idea." He sighed. "I keep meaning to draw over all of it or something, but I haven't done it yet."

"Oh hey, actually --" Patrick pulled his backpack onto his lap and dug around in it. "I actually have -- here."

He held up a couple of permanent markers in red and black. "And I could help. Since I'm here?"

Bob shrugged. "Yeah, okay. Might as well."

He caught the black marker Patrick tossed him and rested his arm on his knee. Patrick sat cross-legged in front of him with the red marker. He turned his hat around so that when he leaned in the brim wouldn't get in Bob's way.

Because he had to lean in that close to get to Bob's cast.

From that close, Patrick's eyes looked huge and blue and his mouth looked even better than usual. Bob had to force his eyes closed for a second to not stare, thinking okay, this is awkward.

"Um." Bob opened his eyes again and focused diligently on his cast. "You could just turn the hearts into red blobs. Just so they don't look like hearts anymore."

Patrick nodded and ducked his head to work on the hearts. That hid his very distracting mouth, but bared his neck. The curve of it, and the way his hair curled a little beneath his ear -- Bob couldn't help thinking about how he'd have to push that lock of hair aside to get to the sensitive spot just below Patrick's ear and wow, that was pretty much just as distracting as Patrick's mouth.

Yanking the lid off the pen, Bob scribbled furiously over the glitter-snake. Unfortunately, scribbling over it didn't work very well. The glitter was too shiny and gritty; it didn't take the ink very well, and Bob didn't think it would take long to ruin the pen nub.

"Dammit," he muttered. And okay, maybe he was transferring a little sexual frustration into anger at innocent glitter, but seriously. Greta was so getting dirty socks stuffed in her locker for this. "I wonder if I should just try to scrape this shit off."

Patrick paused and considered the glitter. "Maybe," he said.

Then he paused again. Still examining the glitter, he cleared his throat, braced a hand on the floor, and leaned in.

Bob barely had time to register the kiss -- off center, totally a dry and stiff grandma peck -- before Patrick jerked away and sat back.

For a moment they stared at each other.

"Uh," Bob said intelligently. On one hand, he was thinking we need to work on his aim and Patrick's mouth, holy shit and so does this mean I can kiss him too?

On the other hand, he was thisclose to bursting out laughing because Patrick looked completely horrified and was just about as red as a tomato.

Patrick twisted the pen in his hands for a long, mortified moment, and then blurted, "Greta said I should just say something. Pete said I should just kiss you. And I don't normally take Pete's advice, because, you know, Pete, and I have no idea why I did that, but Pete's been driving me fucking crazy, I swear to god, he keeps going on and on about what it was like to kiss you and if it wouldn't get me expelled and probably the death penalty I would fucking kill him --"

Bob shook his head and said, "Yeah, okay, whatever, but could we maybe go back to the --"

This time he did the leaning in, and Patrick's mouth was much more relaxed. Mostly slack with surprise at first, but then he did kiss back. He wasn't all that great at it -- tendency to stiffen up, occasionally too much teeth -- but Bob had never been a stickler for technique. He just liked the feel of a mouth against his, and Patrick's mouth felt really, really good.

It didn't last nearly long enough, though. Just as they were getting a rhythm going Patrick suddenly pulled back.

"So you're definitely okay with this?" he said.

Bob laughed and dragged his hand down his face. "Patrick. I'm pretty sure the kissing means I'm okay with the kissing."

Patrick actually looked annoyed. "Well, duh, I just mean, I haven't exactly done a lot of kissing and I'm not very good at it, but if you're okay with that, then, it's probably...okay?"

Pulling his expression into something serious rather than laughing in Patrick's face was not particularly easy, but Bob managed. "I don't know, it depends on if you're gonna let me get in your pants on the first date."

For a second Patrick stared at him wide-eyed. Then he scowled and socked Bob in the arm. "Fuck you, don't make fun of me."

"Ow." Bob rubbed his arm -- Patrick hit hard, geez -- but he also started laughing.

Just as abruptly as the scowl and pummeling had started, Patrick's expression switched to back to uncertainty.

"Wait. Does that mean there's going to be a date?"

Bob was still grinning when he shrugged, but a cold little shiver curled in his stomach for a second. Even though it was pretty obvious Patrick would say yes, Bob always got nervous when he had to ask people on dates.

"I'm going to the Pier for the free show tonight. We could meet out there if you want. Maybe get some food." Then he remembered, oh right, freshman, no driver's license, and added, "Or I could pick you up."

A small smile tugged at Patrick's mouth. "Okay. That would be good."

"Yeah?" Bob said. Of course he'd expected that. Didn't mean he wasn't a little relieved, though. "Cool."

Then he hooked a finger in the collar of Patrick's shirt and drew him forward.

"In the meantime, we are in a practice room, so we should probably practice things."

He felt Patrick's smile widen when their lips met. After that first quick touch Patrick pulled back just enough to say, "That is a fucking cheesy pick-up line, Bob, seriously."

Bob didn't bother with a come-back; he was too busy convincing Patrick that kissing is more fun than being snarky.

And anyway, it may have been cheesy, but hey, it worked.

*