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The Wrong Side of the Lee

Patrick finds the book by accident. His new drum key has gone missing and, since searching his locker, pockets and the band room hasn’t turned it up, he stomps off to the main office to see if it had magically appeared in the lost and found. Patrick is half convinced that someone stole it, but he has no idea who would want a drum key. But it's new and it's his, and he's determined to exhaust all possibilities before he has to explain to his mom he’s started losing things this early in the school year. That’s a surefire way to spend a weekend stuck cleaning his room.

Mrs. Garrison looks doubtful when he stops at the front desk to ask. “I don’t know, Patrick. I don't think that anything new had appeared, much less something as specific as a drum key. But you’re welcome to look.”

“Thanks,” he says, trying to be polite. Just because he’s pissed off, doesn’t mean he has to be rude.

She smiles, pushes her reading glasses further up on her nose, her charm bracelet swinging out to click against the plastic frames, and turns back to her computer. The steady clack of her typing follows Patrick into the back.

The lost and found is in a hallway converted decades ago into a storage closet. It shares the space with office supplies, and a narrow table that holds the school’s PA equipment. Patrick can't help but eye the microphone - it's old, vintage really, and looks more like something swiped from the hood of a 50’s era Chevy than a piece of electronic equipment. It reminds him of Grease; despite that, it wakes a longing, a splinter of want wedged behind his breastbone, whenever he sees it. Even through it’s outdated and kind of battered, the microphone's still more electronic equipment than Patrick has in his possession. Not that he can keep a hold of the gear that he does own – which isn’t going to support his ongoing campaign for more equipment with his mom, that’s for sure. That thought firmly in mind, Patrick turns towards the lost and found bin.

The lost and found bin is a huge wooden box wedged behind the door, beneath shelves of copier paper. It's full of dropped and misplaced belongings; the standard winter trio of hat, scarf and gloves being the most common, but sweaters, jackets and t-shirts - pretty much anything that looks personal, but not expensive –gets tossed in. The bin is large, sturdy but battered, its once sharp corners softening into dents and splinters. If the paint-caked sides are anything to go by, it’s also old. Scrapes in the bin’s surface reveal layer upon layer of paint. Currently, it’s the same battleship grey as the hallway lockers. It’s been a while since the last paint job - the box has gained battle scars: long black streaks of rubber from the door stop, and overlapping layers of sneaker prints. Patrick spent time as office help last year. He’s searched for stray gloves and forgotten jackets in the box, and earning his share of splinters.

This early in the year, the bin is only half full. It's pretty easy for Patrick to push the clothing aside and get to the other items that end up in the bin.

Tugging on a magenta scarf uncovers a pile of eyeglass cases on the far side of the bin. Patrick sees metal and a familiar shape amidst the beige and navy blue vinyl. The glint of silver is relatively close to the top of the pile, so he stretches, but can't quite reach. The plywood sides are just high enough and wide enough that the pile’s past his out-stretched fingers.

He leans farther in, overbalances and finds himself half in the bin, the rough lip digging into his side. It smells like cedar, wet dog and gym socks. Patrick wrinkles his nose and tries to not think about what all could be hiding in the depths. He flails his hand out, hoping to reach the key quickly- and closes his fingers around something much more angular. Pushing a jean jacket aside, he finds a book.

It's a hardcover, slightly larger than standard size, encased in the plastic slipcover used by libraries everywhere. But there's no sticker with call numbers on the spine. The cover has been taped more than once - yellowing pieces of transparent tape are shedding dried adhesive all over the windbreaker the book had been resting on, but the tape’s only around the flaps and mending a rip on the back cover.

The cover art is indistinct – he can make out shapes, maybe a tree and a moon? But the slipcover’s plastic is too scratched to really tell and the flickering overhead light doesn’t help. Patrick turns it to read the spine. The slipcover slides against his palms and the rasp of sound makes him shiver. He can’t read the title – it’s faded too, probably due to being left on a shelf too long in direct sunlight. Patrick can make out a ‘The’ , but that’s all.

He attempts to brush the sticky dust from his hands and flips to the title page.

The Lee-side Book of Spells and Conjurations.

“Okay…”
Patrick flips to a random page. Next to a black and white etching of a nautical compass, is written ‘Spells for Finding Lost Things’.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he mutters.
“Did you find it, Patrick?” Mrs. Garrison asks from the front desk.
“Uh, no.” he calls back.

Patrick glances towards the door, to see if she’s going to check on him, and the book slips through his hands. He fumbles to catch it before it thumps on the floor, and earns a nasty paper cut along the base of his thumb for his trouble. Aware of his surroundings, he swallows a curse. He always forgets how much paper cuts hurt.

This is a lost cause.

He reaches into the box, one eye on the door, and yanks out the first scarf he sets hands on. It’s purple and white herringbone, pilling along the edges, but Patrick doesn’t care. Wraps it loosely around the book, so that it doesn’t look like a book, he shoves it under one arm.

“No luck? That’s a shame.” Mrs. Garrison says.

“Well, I did find this, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.” He pats the scarf. Fibers catch in the paper cut, making it sting.

Mrs. Garrison glances at the scarf, then up at his face. Her expression is surprisingly intent. //She knows!// He thinks, frantic and trying to not squirm under her look. Then she sighs.

“That’s been in there for ages. I’m glad it’s found an owner.”

Her words make the hair prickle at the back of Patrick’s neck. Owner.

“Uh, yeah. My mom will be happy that I found it.”

“I’m sure. Well, you’d better get back to class.” The beads on her eyeglass chain rattle, as she reaches for a pen. “Do you need a pass?”

“Oh no, it’s my lunch period.”

He can’t get out of the office fast enough. The book is heavy in his hands.

Not willing to brave the cafeteria, he goes back to the band room and makes a beeline for the drum kit. There are a few other people hanging around, caught up in their own conversations. They nod at Patrick, but don’t try to include him. (He’d been pretty pissed off earlier.) He really hopes they continue to leave him alone.

When he opens the book this time, it’s to a section entitled “The Notice-Me-Not or How to Confound the Mortal Eye.” Patrick rubs the hair down at the nape of his neck and starts to read.

The pages are stiff, and feel powdery against his fingertips. There are dark brown stains, mostly along the edges and on corners, but some cross over the print, obscuring words. The subject is fascinating, though – weird, but fascinating - and is definitely worth the effort. However, it’s hard to read in the glare of the florescent lights. He wants to leave, go home and read it in private. This is still too public a place and anyone can come in and see him, and they would know and try to take the Book away…

The bell rings overhead, as the band room door shuts on a trill of laughter. Patrick blinks and frowns. How would they know? And why would they care? He can’t skip – there’s a quiz in chemistry that he can’t miss. Besides, there’s no one around anymore.

He stands, absently wrapping the Book up in the scarf and heads towards his locker. He taps his fingers on the side of the snare drum as he passes, irritated that he got distracted and didn’t get a chance to practice. But it’s a distant feeling.

At his locker, he wraps the bundle of Book and scarf in his gym clothes and stuffs it in his bag. Patrick's not sure why he feels the need to hide it, but he does. It takes concentrated effort to keep moving away from the locker and to chemistry. He feels muffled, like he’s packed part of himself away in that bag. Through the rest of the day, he can’t seem to focus on anything but the clock.

~~~

Two-Tone Bible

Patrick can’t get home fast enough. He shuts the door to his room and locks it. Flopping down on his bed, he yelps when he lands on metal and gives himself a bruise. Shaking out the blankets, he finds his drum key. He holds it in his hands; it’s heavy, reassuring, real. Patrick can’t believe that he’d completely forgotten about the key. Uneasy, he pushes some of the crap on his bedside table aside and drops it there.

The Book is easier to read now. Here, with late afternoon light slanting through his blinds, Patrick can see that there are marks in the margins, commentary written in faded ink and pencil, in several different hands.

He stays up half the night, reading through it. It’s not just a book of spells. There are long paragraphs of description, of creatures that he’d heard of from movies and storybooks; but these are descriptions of habitat and appearance, and how to kill them and what you can do with the parts. He’s repulsed by the tone, but can’t stop reading. Woodblock prints of creatures appear throughout. The images are vivid, he keeps his fingers off of them, because he doesn’t want to know what the ink feel like on his skin.

It’s just past midnight when he finds the spell.

The picture catches his eye first. The woodcut shows a man with a guitar slung across his shoulder, holding a small box out to a figure in shadows. They are standing on a crossroads.

‘For Fame and Fortune’ the title reads.

As far as spells go, it’s pretty basic. It needs a crossroads during the dark of the moon, either at midnight or sunset. It requires a couple of paragraphs in Latin, some herbs and a fire.

Oh, and you have to give up your soul.

Patrick goes to bed. His skin feels too tight as he stares at the shadows cast by the streetlight across his room. Things that should be familiar are made strange. The Bowie poster on the far wall looms, details blurred by night.

“This is crazy,” he says, the words half muffled by the pillowcase.

His dreams are uneasy, full of moonlight and shadows so sharp-edged, he cuts himself on them. When he wakes up, groggy and exhausted a hour before his alarm, there’s a streak of blood on the comforter. The paper cut on his hand is bleeding sluggishly again.

~~~

Bless Me Dark

Patrick spends a week sleepwalking through the rest of his life. He’s too preoccupied by the Book; the pieces of folklore and spells combine in his thoughts and set the world he knows sideways. It’s scary, but he feels more connected than he ever has before. He alternates between wanting to keep it safe and wanting to get rid of it. Every time he makes the decision to dump it, he thinks about the etched guitar.

Another frustrating day at school, and he makes up his mind. The spell components aren’t that hard to find. The perfect place pops into mind in the middle of English. It takes him longer to figure out when the dark of the moon is happening.

~~~

Patrick gets to the park as the sun's slanting low through the trees. He wanders for a while, following paths and trying to remember exactly how to get to the spot. His backpack is heavy, grows heavier as he continues on. Joggers move past him, caught up in their own worlds and chasing their own shadows in the dusk. He turns away when he hears voices and continues on past the duck pond. It’s cold in the shade; Patrick huddles down in his hoodie and wishes he’d thought to wear a jacket or at least bring a scarf. He heads off the path, down an incline. A thorny bush snags its branches on his sleeve as he pushes past. There's a blister on his heel when he finally stops.

He’s standing beside a pedestrian bridge. It’s not a particularly tall bridge, and there’s spray paint all over the textured concrete blocks. The path leading under the bridge is broken pavement and dirt, choked with piles of leaves. Patrick looks at the leaves and is glad the fire necessary is small. Still doubtful, he's not sure that this is the right kind of place. It's not actually a crossroads, though it is two roads crossing. It feels right, though.

Even though he’s hidden from the more populated paths by bridge and underbrush, Patrick feels exposed. He pulls his hat lower on his head, the brim limiting his vision. This seems like the most ironic time to revert to childhood-established rules of darkness - if you can't see the danger, the danger can't see you. But he doesn’t care. Patrick ignores the prickle between his shoulder blades and kneels. A piece of gravel digs into his knee. The pain is sharp, and sets the bruise on his thigh throbbing in sympathy. Patrick ignores both.

He slips the backpack off his shoulders. Threads from the fraying strap tangle around his fingers and catch in the zipper, as if the bag knows what he's planning, and wants to stop him before he goes too far. With a snort, Patrick yanks the bag open. He really needs to stop anthromorphizing his belongings.

He arranges the twists of notebook paper, filled with herbs swiped from his mom’s spice rack, in a rough campfire shape. Patrick strikes a match on the asphalt; the sulfur bite of its starting flare lingers in the crisp air. The paper catches with quick licks of flame. He’s glad he decided to do this at dusk instead of midnight – the sunset still painting the sky red will hide the fire.

The Latin rolls off his tongue with surprising ease.

When he finishes, the night is silent. The sounds of city life aren’t there. This is his home - he knows its song, the constant thrum of tires on pavement, the rustle of countless people living close together, as an constant echo of his own heartbeat. But now, that’s gone. Its lack is more disconcerting than the more disturbing images in the Book, or the litany still ringing in his head.

“So, you did come.”

Patrick looked up, startled. His fingers close over the altoids tin in his hand. He stifles the urge to hide it and the Book behind his back. “Mrs. Garrison?”

She is standing under the bridge, where the overhang casts the thickest shadows. Patrick couldn’t quite see her face, just her silhouette. But the cardigan and halo of short, curly hair are familiar. She steps forward - he has to squint as his eyesight blurs; it looks like the edges of her form waver in the dying light. But that can’t be right.

“I honestly thought you’d choose otherwise,” she says, disappointment clear in her voice. “You’ve always seemed like such a good boy.”

Patrick’s indignation at her words -she sounds like she’s referring to a favorite pet - dies when he sees the shadow to her left moves. Slithers really. Patrick shuts down the helpful train of thought that supplies a black and white menagerie from the Book, of things that could move with slick, sliding sounds against the concrete curve under the footbridge.

“I believe you have something for me?” she held out her hand.

The bent edge of the tin cuts into his hand as he stares at her. The sleeve of her cardigan had ridden up; gold glints as the charms on her bracelet catch the light. She smiled at him, wide and toothy. Patrick’s not sure he’s ever seen anyone with that many teeth. And she sounds hungry.

“I don’t…” he sucks in a breath. “This is a bad idea.”

She tsks. “It’s a bit late for that. You’ve said the words and lit the boon-fire. I’m here.”

A line of sweat blossoms along his spine. “But…”

“Come now, we haven’t got all night. I’m sure you have curfew.”

That does it. He’s not at school; she doesn’t get to tell him what to do.

“No. I’ve changed my mind,” Patrick says and takes a step back, puts the tin in his hoodie pocket.

“You can’t change your mind now.”

“He said no,” an unfamiliar voice cuts in.

Patrick flinches. There’s a guy, not much older than him, standing to his left. Patrick can’t tell much about him, especially with the sunset glaring off of his glasses to hide his eyes, but he looks like someone Patrick would meet at a show.

Except for the sword clasped in one hand. Katanas aren’t a standard accessory at shows. Or, well, pretty much ever.

Mrs. Garrison’s mouth pressed down into a thin line. “Guardian.”

“He’s off limits.”

“Says who?”

“I do.” His voice is calm.

“Since when did Guardians take an interest in our affairs?”

The guy ignores her question, looking at Patrick. “Do you want my help?”

Relief floods through him. “Yes.” Politeness has him adding. “Please.”

The guy looks satisfied.

Mrs. Garrison hisses, rage twisting her features.

“You’d better leave,” the guy says.

She laughs, a furious growl of sound that makes Patrick shudder.

“I don’t think so.” The shadows around her move. “I’d heard the rumors that one of your kind was in town. So I took precautions.”

Two huge shapes break free of the shadows. They resolve in two humanoid forms, all writhing tentacles, slime-damp skin, reeking of ocean and rot, and a circular maw full of curved shark teeth. Patrick finds that he can’t move. He’s rooted to the spot, staring. Pulse speeding, he can only watch as the guy lunges forward, sword swinging out in a controlled arc.

It’s a quick, brutal fight.

The stranger steps around the two bodies, turns towards Patrick and holds out his hand. “The book.”

Vicious déjà vu sweeps through Patrick. Patrick doesn’t want to give it to him. In fact, he was to snarl and run far, Book tucked close.

“Patrick.”

The flat utterance of his name is like a slap to the face. Patrick blinks. “What in the hell…”

“Pretty much,” he says. “It’s the book.”

“I don’t understand.”

The guy tilts his head and looks at him. “I think you do.”

Dread settles cold and heavy in Patrick’s gut. He thinks about dark stains on the corners of pages, and rubs at the edge of the bandage on his thumb. With a shudder, he hands the book over. As it leaves his hand, a wave of dizziness washes through him. There’s a roaring in his ears, the indistinct angry muttering of a crowd loud and overwhelming. The only thing he can hear past the roar, is the stranger chanting. Possessiveness rises in Patrick and he takes a step, then another towards the stranger. It’s vital that he gets the Book back before he finishes…

The chant ends and Patrick feels something stretch thin and snap in him.

The familiar night noises settle around him once more. The rustle of autumn leaves shush nearby, in the distance sounding the bleat of a car horn. He takes a deep breath; the air is sharp and sweet in his lungs.

The stranger curses, and Patrick glances his way in time to see the book disappear from his hands. It fades, and the guy curses, closing his fingers around air.

“There are some things you can’t change, Guardian,” Mrs. Garrison says. She sounds smug.

Patrick sees shadowy wings unfurl and swoop out behind her. A breeze springs up from nowhere, kicking leaves and stray cigarette butts into his face. When he can see again, she’s gone.

“What the fuck?”

“You don’t want to know,” The stranger answers. There’s a flat finality to his words.

“I’m getting really tired of everyone telling me what I want to know or do.”

The guy laughs. “Okay.”

“So?”

“She’s not human.”

“That part I figured out, thanks. What, with the wings and all.” He’s pleased that his voice had more snap, less hysteria than it had in his head. “What is she?”

“A succubus.”

“A succubus!”

“A sex demon,” The guy says, as he cleans black slime from his sword.

“I know what a succubus is!” Patrick says. “It’s just… she works at my high school!”

The guy slips the katana into its scabbard and shrugs. “Makes sense. Emotions run high there.”

“Emotions. Right.”

The guy smirks. “Succubi are shape-shifters. They can look like whomever they want.” He frowns, and glances over at the footbridge. “They don’t normally work crossroads deals, though.”

“What about those?” Patrick says, gesturing at the nearest pile of tentacles and slime-slick hide. The scent of damp rot grows and there’s an audible pop. He jumps. The two dead things collapse into couple of brackish puddles.

“Those were just muscle.”

“How do you know all of this?”

“It comes with the job.”

“Being a Guardian.”

“Yup.” He says, absently tapping the sheathed katana against his thigh. “I’m Andy, by the way.”

“It’s good to meet you.”

They grin at each other.

“Which way are you going?”

They don’t say much on the walk back. Patrick’s aware of how close his escape was and gratitude is filling him making it difficult to speak. Andy just seems comfortable with the quiet. The walk back would be pleasant, if Patrick didn’t feel like his was shaking apart inside. He doesn’t really know how long it takes to get back to the park’s entrance.

“Hey, Patrick.”

Andy taps his fingers against the bike rack, the percussive chime ringing bright and clear. The sound is surprisingly calming.

“Yeah?”

“Be careful.”

“You too.”

Andy smiles and heads off across the park. Patrick watches him go, expecting him to pull his own disappearing act. But he just walks across the soccer field, towards the parking lot.

~~~

Mockingbird

Patrick forces himself to walk past the office the next morning. He’s not sure what he’s going to do when he sees Mrs. Garrison. His steps slow as he walks up to the counter, but there’s a stranger at the front desk.

“Good morning,” she says.

“Uh, hi. So, you’re substituting for Mrs. Garrison?”

The woman blinks at him. “Who?”

“The regular secretary?”

She looks concerned. “Are you feeling okay, Patrick? Is that why you’re here – because you’re going home?”

“No, I’m fine,” He says. And then proceeds to stumble on through some kind of excuse.

He’s more careful checking after that, but no one that he talks to remembers Mrs. Garrison at all.

~~~

So the Book’s gone, thank fuck. With it went that underlying clarity, the thrum of connection and information about the world. But traces are left behind. It’s not like all of the knowledge is gone; it rears up at odd times. Mostly when he’s sleeping. The whole waking up in a cold sweat thing is getting pretty old. In a way, having pieces is worse than having it all. Before, Patrick hadn’t really thought much about magic. But now, he knows better.

He steers clear of the library for two weeks. There are other things to occupy his time – school work, band practice, life – so it’s easy to keep busy. But in the end, he can’t stay away. Patrick hates being unprepared and refuses to back down from things that scare him.

So, he doesn’t stop looking, he’s just… careful. The scar on his thumb twinges, an early warning system that matches his gut reaction more often than not. It’s hard to find information that’s rings true, though. He pokes around online a little, but most of what he finds is crap. He has the most luck in used bookstores, and finds dusty books half hidden on library shelves. He wonders if he would have seen them before finding the Book. He avoids the books with plastic dustcovers.

Patrick sticks to easy things – protection charms mostly. They feel right in his hands.

For months, he doesn’t know if any of the tricks are working, but he’s not going to stop. Not now that he knows what sort of things are out there.

He stays away from attraction spells.

Then he meets Joe and through Joe, Pete. And he’s in a band. And he is so grateful that he said no, that this happened under his own power. Well, the start is as much of an accident, in its own way. But he knows that it’s his own hard work and talent that sealed this deal.

 

~~~

Sickly Silver Moon

It takes Patrick a while to notice that Joe has a tendency to vanish when Pete gets particularly clingy. But he’s pulled the disappearing act enough that Patrick’s started to watch for it. He figures that Joe is going off to smoke up in peace.

It’s an early show on a mini-tour; this show was bad, with technical problems and an indifferent audience. Pete’s manic. Patrick is fighting with the last of the cords, and an inexplicable tangle of electrical tape when he catches sight of Joe slipping out a side door. Patrick sees red, shoves the cables into Pete’s hands and stalks off through the bar. It’s a bad idea, leaving Pete when he’s like this, but enough is enough.

The difference in noise is dramatic. The bar - he’s half tempted to call it a roadhouse, but that would grant it a certain dirty dignity that it in no way deserves – is loud and too hot, the air thick with sound. Outside, all of that’s muffled by concrete and steel.

The full moon is particularly bright tonight. Patrick glances up, and watches tattered clouds move in, hiding the moon’s face. Just past the edge of the parking lot is a straggling patch of new growth. The breeze makes the still-bare branches of the surrounding trees creak as they rub together. Patrick glares at the shadows under the trees, and taps his fingers against the battered pouch hidden in the seam of his jacket’s pocket. When all of the shadows continue to behave themselves, he looks around for Joe.

Wind tangles Patrick’s hair in his glasses. As he flicks it free, he hears a soft thump off to the right. He follows the noise, careful to be quiet. Just past the arc of the security light on the far side of the dumpsters, he finds Joe.

He’s standing in socks, his sneakers kicked off beside him. Joe slips of out his hoodie next. Tossed to one side, it crumples in a heap behind him.

A sharp burst of ozone has Patrick wrinkling his nose, trying to keep for sneezing.

Patrick blinks, and where Joe had been standing is an immense timber wolf. Before Patrick can do more than stare, the wolf trots to the edge of the woods and vanishes in the brush.

For a moment, Patrick just breathes and stares at the tree-line. He hears a howl, farther away than he expects. He’s fast, Patrick thinks. That thought breaks his paralysis. He walks over and picks up shoes and hoodie. Then he heads around the building, back to the van.

He doesn’t have to wait long, maybe twenty minutes.

Joe sees him, leaning against the van. He smiles.

“Hey, Patrick.”

Patrick doesn’t say anything, just looks down at Joe’s feet. Joe wriggles his toes. There’s a hole in the heel of his right sock.

“Yeah, so. Have you seen Pete? I need to find my shoes.”

“They didn’t seem very necessary when you headed out into the woods.”

Joe freezes. It’s a brief hesitation, and he covers it with a pretty unconvincing laugh. “What are you talking about?”

Patrick reaches into the van and grabs his hoodie. He tosses it to Joe, who snags it easily. “You look cold without the fur.”

Joe gives him a wide-eyed look, his hands fumbling as he pulls the hoodie back on. Patrick tosses his shoes next. They hit the pavement with mismatched thumps. Joe doesn’t look away from Patrick, sliding them onto his feet blindly. His shoulders are hunched. Patrick sighs.

“When did you get bit?”

Joe frowns at him. “What? Oh no, man. It’s not like that. There’s no biting involved.”

“How long…”

“Since birth.” He edges closer, sitting on the van’s bumper. “You can’t tell anyone.”

Patrick snorts. “Pete knows.”

“He knows my family,” Joe says with a shrug.

“Suddenly the whole Furry thing makes a lot more sense.”

Joe laughs. “Yeah, well Pete’s an asshole.”

They don’t say anything. The space between them feels immense.

Patrick bit his lip. “If it helps… there’s something I can, um, show you.”

Joe looks at him for a beat and cracks up.

“No! Oh, never mind.”

“No, no. Go ahead.” Joe says, still laughing. At Patrick’s glare, he widens his eyes and tries to look serious.

Patrick glances over at the bar’s doors. They remain closed. He slides further back into the van and cups his hands. After taking a couple deep breaths, he starts to hum. It’s different – difficult - trying to do this with someone watching. For a moment, Patrick isn’t sure it’s going to work. Then his anger and frustration rises, finding voice in his next exhale.

A ball of flame, no bigger than a quarter, ignites in the shelter of his hands. It burns, flames curving tight around the surface, for ten seconds or so, before vanishing.

He glances up at Joe, who’s grinning. He doesn’t look surprised.

“That is fucking cool.”

“Nobody knows. Except for you.”

Joe scoffs. “Pete already knows you’re magic.”

“Joe, I mean it. Promise me...”

Joe cocks his head. “I promise. Your secret’s safe.”

Patrick sees the shadows close to the van eddy and swirl. His heart jumps in his throat. Before he can say anything, the bar doors burst open, the breeze carrying a familiar bray of laughter.

~~~

The Nature of My Game

The gigs are small, but they still are gigs. And they keep increasing in number, so Patrick’s satisfied. The big problem remains their lack of a consistent drummer. Mike is great and all, but he doesn’t quite fit. Pete’s on it, though. Sometimes Patrick forgets that he knows everyone in the scene.

Patrick is still shocked when he walks into practice and sees Andy seated next to Pete, watching him wave his hands around as Pete tells the first meeting with the argyle story for the millionth time.

There have been times over the past months, when Patrick thinks that he’d made Andy up. He can’t decide if he’s glad that he didn’t.

Pete bounces up out of his seat and is draping himself over Patrick, before Patrick can think of anything to say.

“And here he is,” he crows in Patrick’s ear. “Andy, this is my Patrick.”

Andy and Patrick stare at each other. The silence stretches on too long. Joe tilts his head, looking between Andy and Patrick. Patrick tugs on the brim of his hat, and holds out a hand.

“Patrick Stump,” he says.

“Andy Hurley.”

Static flares between their palms. Patrick doesn’t flinch as Andy’s eyes narrow and his fingers tighten.

“So, now that you’ve met everyone. Say you’ll do it.”

“I can’t, Pete,” Andy says. “I’ve got another gig.”

The light glints off of his glasses and Patrick thinks of drawn steel.

But Pete’s not easily swayed.

“Come on, man. It’s just one show.” He drapes himself over Andy’s shoulder. “We really need your help.”

The air feels charged by his words. Patrick stomach swoops and he’s have tempted to find something to hide behind – it feels like a lightning going to strike. But all that happens is Andy grimaces briefly and looks resigned.

“Okay. Just this once, Pete,” Andy says.

Pete whoops and flings himself fully on Andy. “You say that now. But you’ll change your mind once you play with us, Hurley.”

Andy glances over at Patrick, who lifts his chin and meets his eye. He smiles.

“Maybe.”