Waving his hands, Pete finished up with, "And that is why Patrick and I are perfect for each other and will live in bliss forever and ever." As usual, he and Mikey were leaning against the wall near the smokers as they took their breaks from their respective jobs in the mall. They only got fifteen minutes, and also as usual, Pete had spent ten of them detailing how perfect Patrick was. This was the first time Pete had ever mapped out his future plans for his happy ending with Patrick though. He waited for Mikey's response.
Mikey looked at him expressionlessly for a couple seconds, long enough that Pete started getting twitchy. Finally, Mikey scratched his chin and said, "I'm pretty sure Patrick has told you he's straight a million times."
Pete rolled his eyes and settled closer to Mikey against the wall. Mikey must be in a pissy mood. He only brought that up when something was upsetting him that he didn't want to talk about. Pete leaned his shoulder against Mikey's in support and said, "So he always claims, but that can't get in the way of destiny, Mikeyway."
Mikey nodded then shook his head. "I think it can, actually. You can't be happy if no one is sucking your dick."
Shaking his head in mock resignation, Pete said, "You have no romance."
Pete started walking towards the guitar store where he was a cashier. Mikey paced him for a couple steps before splitting off in to the side towards the bookstore where he was assistant manager of the music section. He called over his shoulder, "I'd rather have an orgasm than romance any day." Pete watched him go and shook his head. It was sad to see Mikey so wrong.
He stopped. It really was sad to see Mikey so misguided. Mikey was always there for him and he'd like to repay the favor. Rejuvenated as his plan formed, Pete headed back to work.
Pete wandered back into the store and leaned on the cash register counter where he could see Patrick's ass as he bent over stocking the picks and strings on the far wall. Pete said, "Mikey has no romance."
Patrick startled and turned around sharply. "Stop sneaking up on me!"
"Sorry, Pattycakes, but this is important."
"I told you never to call me that."
"Focus! Mikey needs our help."
"What are you talking about?" Patrick finally asked.
"Mikey says he'd rather have an orgasm than romance."
Patrick raised his eyebrows and shrugged self-consciously. "What's wrong with that?"
"Patrick! You know true love trumps all! Even sex!"
Patrick rolled his eyes and turned back to stocking the supplies. "I'm never going to date you, Pete. I've told you a million times, I'm straight." He sounded resigned and Pete took heart that he was wearing Patrick down.
Still he needed to focus too. "I told you, this is about Mikey. I think we need to find him a date. Someone perfect for him to fall in love with."
Giving Pete a disbelieving look over his shoulder, Patrick harrumphed loudly. "You mean Mikey Way, who every shift you share your breaks with, who you text every minute of the day, and never stop talking about, that Mikey Way?"
Pete threw his hands up. "Do I know another Mikey?"
Turning back to Pete, Patrick raised his glasses and pinched his fingers over his nose, closing his eyes. Finally opening them and shaking his head violently to make his glasses slip back into place, Patrick said, "There is just no getting through to you, is there?"
Pete smiled sunnily at Patrick. He knew Patrick didn't really mean to be obtuse. He was just being his usual stubborn self. He said, "Come on. Help me think of the perfect guy for Mikey. I'm thinking Andy."
"Andy's straight too."
"Pft. Details. We're talking about love, not sex."
"Andy is not going to date a dude, not even Mikey."
Sighing, Pete conceded on that point. Andy was pretty militant about his beliefs. "What about Joe? He's a good guy."
"You know Joe's serious about his girlfriend."
"Damn. I forgot since she's away at college." Pete was getting discouraged. It was hard finding good guys for Mikey to date. Most guys Pete knew were douches who just wanted to get drunk and fuck. Not exactly true love material.
Patrick said, "I can't believe I'm asking this, but what does Mikey want in a relationship?"
"You mean besides orgasms?" Patrick got a frustrated look on his face, but Pete waved him off. That was a good question and one he didn't know the answer to. He needed to do some research. Absently, he replied, "I'll get back to you on that."
The next day at their break with the sun beating on his face and making him sweat, Pete nonchalantly asked Mikey, "So you know who my ideal guy is, what about you?"
"What about me?" Mikey looked up at Pete for an extra long heartbeat. He was crouched down against the wall and wearing dark jeans and a hoodie. Pete didn't know how he could stand the heat, but that was Mikey for you.
He asked, "What's your type?"
"Pete, this is stupid."
"Come on! You know everything about Patrick! I don't know shit about who you'd like."
Mikey picked at the seam of his blue jeans. Finally shrugging but peeking at Pete's face, with a cagey look on his face, he said, "I don't know. Dark hair, dark eyes. Fit. Good sense of humor."
"That's pretty generic, dude." Still, Pete's brain was flipping through his mental Rolodex of good looking, dark-haired guys who weren't douchebags. There weren't many. Pete really did need to get new friends. Particularly friends who weren't exes of his. He wiped his brow and said, "But don't worry about it, I'll think of someone."
Mikey looked startled. "What does that mean?"
Realizing he had talked without realizing it, Pete tried to bluster his way out, but Mikey was having none of his bullshit. Mikey knew Pete too well. Finally Pete said, "I want to find you your true love like I have with Patrick."
Emotions flickered swiftly across Mikey's face until it settled on a blank look that was similar to his usual expression, but slightly off. Pete was puzzling out the difference when Mikey said, "Don't do me any fucking favors."
Raising his eyebrows, wondering at Mikey's tone, Pete said, "You're my best friend, it isn't a favor, it's the least I can do." Mikey deflated and Pete hadn't realized how tense he was holding himself until he let it go. Wondering what was up with Mikey, wondering if he really was pushing too hard, Pete said, "Hey."
Mikey bit his lip and said, "Nevermind. Do what you want, you will anyway." He then checked his watch and tapped it and Pete knew they were out of time. Mikey stood up and turned to go, but Pete grabbed his arm before he could walk away.
Pete said, "I just want you to be happy."
Mikey pulled Pete into a one-armed hug and said, "I know." He then jogged off to the bookstore. Pete waited a heartbeat, watching Mikey lope off into the distance, loving every awkward movement. Mikey was his best friend and he vowed to find him someone perfect.
"What's up, mi amigos!"
At the shouted greeting, Pete jerked his head up and a big smile spread across his face. He jumped over the counter and shouted, "Gabe!" Gabe swept him up into a hug and Pete was laughing and thumping him on the back before he knew it.
Finally Gabe let Pete down and turned to give Patrick a more sedate hug. Pete asked, "What are you doing here?"
"I've moved back to Chicago. Going back to New Jersey was a mistake. Nothing there but posers and losers."
"I told you Chicago was the place to be."
Gabe leaned on the counter and started asking about everyone they knew and what had happened since he had been gone. It was the best afternoon Pete had had in awhile as they talked, laughed, and ignored customers.
It was as the conversation was winding down that Pete had his epiphany. Gabe was dark-haired and dark-eyed, and he definitely had a wicked sense of humor. More importantly, for all that Gabe played douchebag to the masses, he was actually a total sweetheart to his lovers. He would be perfect for Mikey. Something twinged when he thought of Mikey and Gabe together, but he figured it was envy that Mikey would be getting all the orgasms he wanted while Pete was still waiting for Patrick to see the light.
Never good at subterfuge, Pete simply interrupted Gabe and Patrick, who were arguing sandwiches or deep dish for dinner, with, "So Gabe, how about Mikey?"
Patrick quietly asked, "What are you doing, Pete?" but Pete ignored him as he kept his eyes on Gabe.
Gabe quirked an eyebrow and said, "I think he's a cool dude. Why do you ask?"
Pete honestly tried to think of a diplomatic way to say "I want you to fall in love with him," but nothing came to mind and he gave it up as a lost cause. He just wasn't that crafty at manipulating people. He was more of a verbal sledgehammer kind of guy. Given that, he finally settled on, "I think you should date him. Fall in love."
Now both of Gabe's eyebrows rose. "You want me to date your boyfriend?"
Sputtering his shock as Patrick started laughing, incredulously Pete said, "What? Mikey's not my boyfriend. I belong to Patrick!"
Pete and Gabe looked at Patrick who was shaking his head negatively and waving his hands as if he could ward off Pete. "You do not belong to me."
Looking between Pete and Patrick, Gabe said, "Wait a minute. You mean the whole Patrick thing is real and the Mikey thing doesn't exist? But Patrick's straight and you always go on and on about what you and Mikey are doing. I'm confused."
Pointing at Gabe, Patrick exclaimed, "Thank you!"
Pouting, Pete threw up his hands. "Of course the Patrick thing is real. We're soulmates. And Mikey and I are best friends, so of course I talk about him. Why is everyone so confused?"
Gabe looked at him long and hard then exchanged glances with Patrick complete with eyebrow shifts and shrugs.
Pete tapped his foot impatiently. "So?"
With a final look at Patrick which Pete couldn't decipher, Gabe said, "I have no problems dating Mikey."
Pete threw up his arms and crowed his victory.
"You're an asshole," Mikey said to Pete when Pete told him the great news.
"I got you a date, how does that make me an asshole?"
Mikey sighed in a totally exaggerated and frustrated way. Pete glared defiantly back. He knew he was doing what was best for Mikey, he just wished Mikey could see that and appreciate it. But Mikey had always been a contrary creature and Pete knew it wouldn't be that easy. In a non sequitor Mikey asked, "You're never going to get over Patrick, are you?"
"What has any of this got to do with Patrick? And why would I want to get over him?" Pete asked. He was willing to talk it out with Mikey, but he wished he at least made sense.
>Mikey turned away and looked at the ground, kicking his shoe against the curb. With one final hard kick to the corner of the sidewalk, Mikey finally looked at Pete again. He had an intent look on his face as he searched Pete's expression. Pete tried to look honest and trustworthy. It shouldn't be hard since he did have Mikey's best interest at heart, but Pete feared Mikey wouldn't believe him. That Mikey would see the joker that everyone else saw.
Quietly, Mikey asked, "Gabe agreed to this?"
"Gabe totally agreed to this." Selling his plan, Pete pleaded, "He's a good guy, Mikey."
"I know Gabe's a good guy, I'm not blind." And Pete did know that Mikey knew this. Mikey was an astute judge of character and he wouldn't fall for Gabe's public persona but see through to the truth beneath it. He always did.
"So you'll do it?"
Mikey straightened his shoulders and emphatically said, "Yeah, I'll do it."
Pete was in a foul mood. He was snapping at Patrick and pushing his buttons deliberately, something he rarely did. He didn't get why he was in such a bad temper either. It had just crept up on him as the day progressed. He should be ecstatic since this was the day Mikey and Gabe were having their first date, but every time he thought of them being in love and living happily ever after, he wanted to punch something.
Patrick was not being sympathetic either. The fifth time Patrick said, "Get over yourself, asshole," Pete finally exploded.
Kicking the counter hard enough that the cash register shook, he snarled, "Get over what? And I'm not the asshole here."
Patrick crowded Pete against the counter and poked his finger into Pete's chest. Pete wanted to bite it off. "Do I have to spell it out for you? You could have had Mikey any fucking time, but you gave him away to Gabe. It's not my fault you're a blind idiot, so stop taking it out on me."
Pete yelled into Patrick's face, "I'm in love with you, not Mikey!"
Not giving an inch, Patrick yelled, "If that was true, you wouldn't be this upset about Mikey and Gabe, you moron!"
Furious and at his breaking point, grabbing Patrick's face, Pete kissed him. Patrick did not kiss back. It wasn't a lingering sort of kiss, but it was long enough for Pete to feel confused. He didn't feel the swelling passion he thought he would feel. In fact, he still felt angry and pissed off, not blissed out. Patrick finally got free and pushed Pete away hard enough that Pete's hip slammed into the counter. Panting and turning red, in a low and tight voice, Patrick asked, "What the fuck?"
Straightening back up, Pete looked at him. Really looked at him. At his glasses and wispy red hair peeking out from under his trucker cap. He let his eyes wander down Patrick's compact, sturdy body and then back up to Patrick's pissed off face. He loved Patrick, there was no doubt about that, but Pete was beginning to realize that he possibly wasn't in love with him. Patrick was perfect, but maybe that was the problem. He was too perfect, too ideal. Maybe Pete didn't really need or want perfection, but someone real like him. Maybe he had been expecting to feel a lithe and whipcord thin body and to feel bow lips kissing him back. He flashed back to all the times he told Mikey about how perfect Patrick was and cringed. As reality dawned on him, horror replaced all his anger. "Oh, holy shit. What am I going to do?" Pete crumbled down with his face smushed against the counter and his arms cradling his head.
Cautiously, Patrick asked, "If I come over there, you aren't going to kiss me again, right?"
"No, I'm over that now," Pete mumbled.
Patrick's hand was then rubbing his back. Patrick said, "For what it's worth, I'm sorry."
Turning his head so he could look at Patrick, Pete softly admitted, "Yeah, me too. I'm sorry I pissed you off. I really thought we were meant to be."
"That's because you wouldn't listen to reason, Pete."
But Patrick was smiling when he said this and Pete knew they would be all right. It was his relationship with Mikey that he was worried about. He didn't think he could go back to what they were, not now that he knew his true feelings. He couldn't just be friends anymore. Pete had always worn his heart on his sleeve as a big, dripping, gory mess. Patrick had been the exception, which is why he had thought it was perfect. Now he realized it just meant that he was playing it safe. Sighing sadly, Pete said, "I know, I get it. I was stupid and now I've missed out on my real true love."
Patrick rolled his eyes and smacked Pete on the back of the head. "You haven't missed anything. Just go find them and explain. Gabe and Mikey are only going out because of you anyway."
"But wouldn't that be a douche-y move?" Pete wanted Mikey to love him, not hate him.
Laughing a little, Patrick said, "You're the one who always says nothing should stand in the way of true love."
Feeling another epiphany washing over him, Pete simply said, "Huh," as his brain kicked into high gear again.
By the time Pete reached the street with the club that Mikey and Gabe were going to after their dinner, he was running. He threw money at the bouncer and had to be physically pulled back to get his hand stamped. Once inside he bounced onto his tippy toes to see over the heads of the people nearby looking for Mikey and Gabe. He had no luck with that, so he pushed through the crowd, always peering around for them.
He was far inside, past the bar and near the second dance floor, when he saw them. His heart stopped. Gabe was holding Mikey tight to his chest as they swayed slightly to the booming music. Under normal circumstances, Pete would have made fun of them for being so corny as to slow dance to hard-driving music, but right now it just made him rethink his plan. Particularly since Mikey was resting his head on Gabe's shoulder with his eyes closed. He looked more at peace than Pete had seen him for awhile, which made his heart clench in a different way. How could he not have noticed how unhappy Mikey had been lately?
Pete's feet felt frozen to the ground. He stood there watching them, making people jostle past him as he blocked the path from the bar to the dance floor. His mind was panicking and telling him to run away and cut his losses, get drunk and drown his sorrows, when Gabe looked up and caught sight of him.
Gabe stumbled to a stop, but his tight hold on Mikey remained. Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime of exchanging looks with Gabe, Pete's body unstuck and he jerked backwards and into the crowd. He started pushing his way to the exit, not caring who he bumped into, almost reveling in the chance to start a fight.
He bolted through the door and into the night air, gasping for breath. He ran through the crowd waiting to get in then past the smokers and headed for the alley next door. He thought he heard someone shout his name, but he didn't care. There was no one he wanted to talk to right now.
Ducking behind a dumpster, Pete bent over and rested his hands on his knees. He was breathing hard and it felt like his heart wanted to jump out of his chest. Closing his eyes, he whirled up and punched the wall as hard as he could. Over the rushing in his ears and despite the pounding pain in his hand, he vaguely heard someone shout his name again. He didn't care, just pulled his fist back for another hit.
Before he could complete the punch, a body was wrapping around him and pulling him back. He struggled enough that they were staggering wildly. The person holding him finally gained control and boxed Pete's body between their body and the wall on the other side of the alley. Pete closed his eyes again and rested his head on the warm brick as the fight left him. Over his own haggard breathing, he could hear panting in his ear and then the last voice in the world he wanted to hear was saying his name. "Pete. What the fuck?"
Calming his breathing, hoping he could speak without his voice cracking, Pete said, "I'm fine. You should go back to Gabe."
Mikey was silent at first, but his hold on Pete didn't slacken an inch. Finally, his grip actually tightening, Mikey said, "Gabe is fine. You, on the other hand, are not fine."
"I will be. Seriously, go back to Gabe. Enjoy your date."
"Why are you here? What happened? Is Patrick all right?" Pete tried to hit his head against the wall, but Mikey moved one hand to block that too. Mikey said, "Pete, you're scaring me."
Pete knew there was no way out of this mess. He wasn't that good of a liar, particularly when he was upset. He wanted to rant and rave, break free and punch the wall again or even Mikey for not waiting for him, but at the same time he was perversely enjoying how tightly Mikey was holding him. All he could manage was to stand in Mikey's arms and breathe.
Mikey leaned his cheek on the back of Pete's head. He said, "It's all right. I've got you."
"I want you to be happy," Pete whispered.
Mikey murmured into Pete's hair. "And I want you to be happy too."
"That's why you should go back to Gabe. You looked happy there."
"I'm good enough here, with you. Gabe's a good friend; he understands."
"That's not what I mean."
"Then what do you mean?"
Biting the bullet, wanting to be a better man, Pete clarified, "I mean forever. You should go back and be with Gabe."
"Gabe's just a friend. He knows the score."
Feeling confused and drained, not even knowing if they were talking about the same thing, Pete said, "I didn't. I didn't know. How could Gabe?"
"Because everyone knew but you." Mikey moved his head to Pete's shoulder and pulled him closer.
Pete rested his bruised hand by his temple and looked blankly at the bleeding knuckles. Vaguely he wondered how much damage he had done, how much damage he would do to Mikey. "How come you don't hate me? I hate me."
"Because you're Pete. I love you."
Pete twisted in Mikey's arms and kissed him. Mikey didn't fight, but kissed back and unlike with Patrick, this time Pete did see stars and feel his stomach swoop. Against Mikey's mouth, as he fought to get as close to Mikey as he could, he garbled out, "I'm so sorry. I love you so fucking much."
In the distance he heard clapping and knew it was Gabe. He didn't care if he was mocked forever. He was living in the now with Mikey and enjoying it second by second. True, messy, gory love was worth it.