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Chasing Sunlight

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Patrick scowls at his mother the entire way to Juneau, Alaska, all the way up to when they're standing outside their new house with the UHaul truck full of their shit beside them.

The house is a small little thing, and Patrick hates it immediately. He's seen pictures prior to the move, but they did nothing to ease the anger he has over moving from Chicago to Nowhere, Alaska. The tall pines seem to mock him and the flowers planted out in front of the house laugh at him. He wants to laugh right back. They’ll die come winter.

Despite all the green, it's dark and dreary, clouds covering the town like a heavy watchman. Patrick looks around warily, not liking the way the dark clouds seemed to threaten them.

"Isn't it beautiful?" His mother gushes, unable to tear her eyes away from it. It's painted light blue and white and stands out against the rising green trees behind it. Most of the other homes around them are also painted similar light colors, and Patrick wonders if it’s to keep out the forest from closing in on them and the dark clouds from settling in. Patrick feels a little ill looking up and seeing a mountain rising up right behind their home. He misses Chicago.

Patrick shrugs. "Yeah. Sure." He says when his mother turns and scowls at him. "What? You think I'm happy about this?" He asks her, annoyed. The past month had felt like shit to Patrick. His mom had been high on the fact that she was getting remarried in three months and had mostly ignored Patrick's growing angst throughout the past month. Patrick's feeling extra angry now that moving is a reality. She’d hardly considered his own feelings about the move, and Patrick resents her for it.

It's dreary out, and damn cold. Way colder than it had the right to be considering that it was early June. Patrick glances around. There's not many people out - a couple of kids play with a dog across the street and a neighbor mows the lawn. It's similar to Glenview in that, but it's colder and quiet, and there’s much more green. It’s quiet enough that it makes Patrick feel uncomfortable and long for the bustling traffic and noise of home despite the fact that he had never really liked the noise in the first place.

He follows his mom inside, not really wanting to but also not really wanting to be out in the cold. It's small inside, but, admittedly, nice. The wood floors are nice, and the walls are painted a clean white. Patrick hides the fact that he kind of likes it, mostly just to spite his mother some more. She leads him up to his room and he pushes the door open, feeling severely disappointed in what he sees.

It's much smaller than his old room, and he doesn't know how he's going to fit all of his instruments in here. His mom seems to get it though, and she touches his arm gently. "I know it's small... but there's an extra room. Me and Brent thought you could keep your instruments in there, honey." His mom tells him.

Patrick swallows hard and nods. He just wants to be at home in Chicago, not this new foreign little town with sky high trees and mountains. It's nerve wracking, to be somewhere like this. He's a city kid and the encroaching wilderness only serves to make him anxious and hope nothing is out there. "Thank you.” He manages to say. He’s thankful for the fact that he has a room for his instruments, but his mother’s moment of kindness doesn’t change the fact that he doesn’t want to be here. She could buy him anything in the world and it wouldn't change his feelings about Juneau.

He goes into his new room and looks out the window. All he can see is greenery and some of the town below. The neighborhood is higher up than the downtown area, and Patrick has to admit that the view is breathtaking. Alaska, the last frontier, he muses in his mind as he looks out into the trees. There’s a deer, little white spots across it’s back, feeding in the grass laying in the forest just outside their house. Patrick stares at it, and when it lifts it’s head, Patrick feels it’s staring back.

Patrick and his mom meet back up in the kitchen. That too is small, and Patrick can tell his mom is trying hard to hide the fact that she's disappointed. She loves a big kitchen and loves to cook. "Well. I'm tired." Patrick says, for lack of better words.

"Brent will be here soon to help us move in everything. Decided how to arrange your room?" She asks him, heading to the back door. "Come look, Rick." She calls, stepping out onto the porch.

Patrick follows her hesitantly, stepping out into the cold. It's like nothing he's ever seen before, like the trees and the mountain are going to come and swallow up the town whole and leave nothing in its wake. He shivers. It's beautiful, but he can't help but wonder what lives up there. Bears, possibly. The idea of a bear in their backyard definitely makes him feel weird. "Wow." He manages.

"Wow." His mom echoes. "It's beautiful. It's so different..." She trails off, and Patrick catches the slight longing in her tone. He feels anger bubble up in him – she has no right to miss home when she was the one who forced this upon themselves.

Patrick scowls at her again. "We didn't have to move. We could be at home right now." He tells her, voice cold. He's done enough moping and now that they're here, he'll tell her how he feels. "This isn't where we belong." He's sure of it. They belong back in Chicago, with the bustling of the city right nearby and the cold winters and high crime rates. Patrick holds back watery eyes just thinking about the city. They’re so far from it and he hates it here already.

His mom looks hurt. "You haven't given it a chance. What if you end up loving it?" She says, challenging, and Patrick wants to scream at her, wants to yell that he'll never love Juneau, because he misses home and he misses his friends and he doesn't want to live with some man they've known for less than a year.

 

"Trust me. If the day comes, I'll be dead." Patrick deadpans, before he turns on his heel and storms back into the house. It's unfortunate that he has no bed to throw himself onto, so instead he makes his way up to his room and slumps against the wall. "Fuck this." He whispers to himself, but mostly to the wilderness outside.

All he knows is that when he's old enough and has enough money, he's leaving Juneau behind and going back to Chicago, where he fucking belongs. His mom might be insane right now and he wants nothing to do with Brent. He's got a year until he's eighteen, and maybe then he can figure out what to do.

Patrick's unsure how he falls asleep or when, considering the only thing he has is a dusty floor and a hard wall, but when he comes to he's got a stiff neck and back, and he can hear voices downstairs. His mom is talking to Brent, and she sounds happy. Patrick wishes he could feel as happy as she did.

He gets up and makes his way downstairs, wincing when his back pops. He feels old. Two days of driving really ages someone, he thinks. Patrick heads into the living room and stops when he sees Brent, trying not to scowl at the sight of him and failing.

"Oh, hey, Rick!" Brent greets. Patrick frowns at him.

"Don't call me that." Patrick tells him, voice sharp. Only his mother and siblings call him that - he's not going to let some stranger try to fit themselves into his life like that. If Brent wanted to call him that, he would have to earn it.

Patrick's mom frowns right back at him and Brent raises his hands. "Okay, Patrick. How do you like Juneau so far? It's beautiful, right?" Brent asks him, fishing for another attempt to try and talk to Patrick.

Patrick's irritated by the fact that all people can seem to say about Juneau is that it's beautiful. Sure, it might be, but he hasn't heard anything about the actual town or the people living in it - the town could be full of serial killers for all he knew. If only his mother had taken the time to stop and really think about what she was getting the two of them into.

“There’s even a little record store in town. They might be hiring. Most places usually are.” Brent tells him when all Patrick does is remain silent and glower at him. He looks a little uncomfortable now and Patrick just feels satisfied that he’s made Brent uncomfortable. The prospect of a record shop is interesting though – he figures that he can maybe apply for a job there and even if he doesn’t get hired, he’ll still be able to check out cool records. They might have stuff that Reckless Records back at home didn’t have.

So, while he doesn’t respond to Brent, he files the information away for later. “We’re going to start moving stuff into the house, Patrick. I need you to help me and Brent.” Patrick nods at her, hiding his frown. He’ll help her – he’s definitely not helping Brent with anything. Brent was part of the reason they were even standing in this little house in Juneau. If it hadn’t been for him, he’d still be at home, in bed or playing his guitar.

The next couple of hours are spent moving things into the house. It’s difficult and Patrick hates it. He hates moving in the couch and seeing Brent smiling at him on the other side of it, hates trying to get the bed frame and mattress up the stairs and into his and the master bedrooms, hates every moment of moving everything in.

Moving all his boxes into his room takes a lot of time and he almost regrets having so much stuff before he remembers that if they hadn’t moved, he wouldn’t have had to pack up everything and have sore back right now. They don’t have time to move everything into the house before it gets dark, and it gets dark significantly later. It’s almost ten when the sun finally goes down, and Patrick thinks it’s weird. Brent tells him that the sun will rise around four, and Patrick makes a mental note to curse Brent out when he wakes up in the morning and buy black out curtains as soon as he can.

He’s glad when he’s finally able to collapse into his bed. He’d put the sheets on quickly and it wasn’t perfect, but it reminds him so much of home. He curls around his pillow and stares out into his new room. The walls are closer than before and it’s bare at the moment, aside from the bed, a table, and boxes. The walls are way too blank for Patrick to be comfortable with, and he moves putting posters up to the top of his checklist. If he has to stare at the blank white walls for any longer, Patrick figures he might just go as insane as his mother.

Patrick sleeps, but it’s not satisfying in the least. He dreams of home through his fitful sleep, and he tosses and turns throughout the entire night. When Patrick awakens sometime before five, he curses Brent silently, fuming over the fact that he’s awake before noon on a summer day. He turns over and burrows under his covers to get back to sleep, feeling more tired than he did when he went to bed.

Patrick wakes up again sometime after eleven, and he’s more satisfied this time when he wakes up. He feels like he actually slept on a bed and not outdoors on the ground, which is saying something about his discomfort. He rises slowly, climbing out of bed like one of the undead and shuffling downstairs. He’s starving now that he’s not sulking – he’s too tired to sulk and knowing his mother, she won’t make him anything if he voices his upset. So Patrick heads downstairs quietly, eyelids drooping.

“Morning, Patrick.” His mother says when he enters the too small kitchen. She pushes a bag of kolaches towards him. “I went out this morning to town to buy breakfast since we have to go grocery shopping.” She explains to him, sensing his confusion. His mother always made breakfast. It was a big part of Patrick’s life, actually, and the fact that he's eating store bought kolaches instead of a home cooked meal is a bit upsetting to his daily routine. "The town is so lovely, Rick. All the little shops and all the trees and the roads! It’s all so nice. You should go out later to check it out. Who knows, maybe you'll make some friends.” She tells him as he digs through the bag and pulls out a kolache. Patrick's doubts he will, and the kolache tastes different from the ones at home. “Brent’s gone to go buy some stuff for the house. We’re going to finish moving everything in today.”

Patrick nods, silent. Even though it’s nearing noon, it’s still much too early for him to muster up the strength to hold a conversation. He sits there sleepily, listening to his mother talk as he eats. It’s so quiet, except for birds chirping and bugs making noise outside. It’s weird and feels almost eerie – Patrick’s not sure if he’s ever going to be able to get used to it.

Brent comes in a while later, bursting into the house happily and making Patrick jump out of his seat. He practically waltzes over to his mom and plants a kiss on her lips – Patrick pretends to gag from across the counter. Patrick’s aware it’s probably childish of him to do so, but he feels he has every right to. If he wants to hate Brent, he feels like he’s definitely allowed to. Besides, Brent's way too happy for so early in the day.

"Good morning, my lovely family!" Brent says, and Patrick scowls into his food. He's definitely not a part of Brent's family, no matter what he or his mother says. "I went grocery shopping, I just need to bring the bags into the house."

Patrick's mom smiles at Brent. "Patrick, go help Brent bring the bags in." Patrick wants to protest, but knows doing so will just lead to trouble. So, instead, he stands and huffs, shuffling out the door and following Brent to his car.

It's dreary out again, and freaking cold. "Does it ever get warm?" Patrick mumbles, half to himself and half to Brent.

Brent chuckles, and Patrick hates him for it. "Not really. It's usually in the sixties during the summer and gets in the twenties during the winter." Patrick shivers just thinking about it. Chicago was cold, but at least it had four seasons. Juneau seemed to just have one - winter.

Patrick grabs bags from the trunk of Brent's car, piling them onto his arm. Brent does the same, and when they've all the bags, Brent closes the trunk. Patrick turns to head inside, but Brent stops him. "Hold on, Patrick."

He wants to roll his eyes and keep walking. Instead, he stays silent and turns back to face Brent. "I know we haven't had the best of relationships, but I want you to know that I care about your mom, and I care about you."

Patrick doesn't stay to hear the rest of his shtick. He's heard enough and he knows its bullshit. Patrick turns around and heads back inside, and Brent calls his name, but he ignores it. He doesn't want to hear it.

He puts the grocery bags onto the counter and his mom smiles at him. "Thank you, Patrick. You should unpack your stuff today."

Patrick plasters on a fake smile. "Okay." He doesn't particularly feel like going through box after box, but it's got to get done and he thinks he might feel more at home if he does unpack everything. He knows he can't quite get his room here to look like it did back at home, but at least he can make it more comfortable looking.

He heads upstairs when Brent enters the house again, not wanting to hear or see him. He's aware that he might have some irrational hatred towards Brent, but he just can't bring himself to care. Patrick's pretty sure Brent's probably a serial killer and is just waiting for the right time to kill them and hide their bodies in the forest.

There's a million and one boxes in his room and Patrick doesn't know where to start. He figures he should start with clothes, that way he at least has shit to wear. His new closet is small and he hopes it's going to fit everything - if not he'll have to shove some clothes into the dresser.

Patrick unpacks, hanging up shirts and folding ratty jeans. Most of his jeans have holes in them and he smiles to himself. He's not sure if ratty jeans are in style in Juneau, but he supposes there's only one way to find out.

He hangs up his band shirts lovingly, taking more care with those than the rest of his clothing. Patrick shoves shoes into the corner of his closet, bringing out his newest pair and setting them by his bed. When he looks at how many pairs of shoes he really has he realizes he's kind of spoiled - no teenager should have that many pairs - and he feels the slightest bit of guilt for treating his mom so badly the past month.

Patrick slowly unpacks everything, setting up the digital clock he has and watching the hours tick by. One of the first things he gets out is his record player, and he digs through his box of records to find something to play.

For a few moments after Bowie's playing, his voice filling his new room, Patrick sits in the floor, back to his bed, and closes his eyes, letting it wash over him. He misses home, and if he closes his eyes tight enough, he can imagine he's back in Chicago, listening to his records loop as he does his homework or plays video games. The record blocks out all the chirping from birds and bugs, and Patrick wants to just cocoon himself in the music and never leave.

After those few precious moments, though, he keeps unpacking and making his room home again. Patrick puts up posters and pictures of himself and friends together, trying to cover as much of the white walls as possible. Once he's finished with that he steps back to admire it all. Patrick's tried to recreate his bedroom in Chicago and it's only half worked - the longer he looks at this room the more he wants to cry.

It takes the better half of the day to unpack all of his stuff and get it to how he wants, and when he's finally satisfied, he sighs and sits down on his bed. He needs a rug, and curtains, and Patrick wonders if his mom will let him go out and buy those two things. She'll probably allow him to if he reminds her that he's sad about the move.

Patrick dresses, changing out of his pajamas into jeans and an old faded band shirt. He pulls on his new sneakers and heads back downstairs, delighted to see his mom cooking and Brent nowhere to be seen. "Mom," he says, approaching her and taking a seat at the small bar. "Can I go buy some curtains and stuff for my room? I woke up really early because it was bright." He explains to her, hoping for the best.

She turns and raises an eyebrow. "Maybe waking up that early is good for you. It might make you go to bed earlier." His mom says, and Patrick wants to cry. He doesn't want to wake up early, and he knows that she knows that he's a night owl. He's up late and asleep late. It's just how he's always been.

"Mom, please." Patrick sighs, giving her his best puppy look. As the youngest, he's definitely perfected it over the years. "I can take your car and be back before dinner. I promise."

His mom seems to mull it over for a moment before she nods. "Okay, Rick. Keys are by the front door. Be careful - you don't know these streets." She says.

Patrick nods and hurries to the front door, grabbing the keys off a little hook. "Be back soon!" He calls, heading out of the house and for the first time in a while, feeling free.

When he gets into the car he debates just leaving - driving back to Chicago. Of course, Patrick's not sure where he would stay or how he would even get there - it would take a while and even if he doesn't want to be here, he doesn't want his mom to worry. He's a momma's boy, and deep down he knows it.

So, instead of driving away from Juneau, Patrick just sighs and starts up the engine, heading down into town. The streets are darker than Chicago's, even at five in the afternoon, and bumpier. More wild. Everything was more wild in Juneau, though.

Patrick's not even sure where he would buy curtains and a rug. There's not the typical shops of Chicago, just smaller stores and a supermarket or two. He's driving down in town, admiring the old roads and streetlights when he spots the record store. He hesitates, but then pulls into the store and parks the car.

It's a small little place, and it's definitely no Reckless Records, but just the sight of something familiar brings him joy. He heads inside after locking the car, and he's met with a burst of warm air as he enters and the sound of a bell chiming.

"Welcome to Sound Exchange." Comes a voice. Patrick searches for the source and spots a curly haired, sleepy looking teenager. The place is bigger than the outside suggests, and chock full of records. Patrick's already half in love, and likes it despite the fact that it's no Reckless Records. "Are you looking for anything particular today?" The teenager asks.

"Um, no. Thank you though." Patrick says, giving a half hearted smile. He's just here to look and even then he's not really supposed to be here. He told his mom he'd be shopping for curtains - not browsing records.

But he can't just turn around and walk out, not when he just entered the store. So Patrick sinks into an aisle of records, hoping he isn't blushing with embarrassment. He's not even sure what possessed him to enter the store, but now that he's here, he's gotta spend a good ten minutes browsing.

Patrick goes through the records, not looking for anything in particular, but attempting to look like he is searching for something. Social anxiety makes him sink lower when the teenager at the counter catches his eye, and he blushes deeper. Why was he like this?

The teenager looks him over. "Never seen you in here before. And I know most of the regulars. What's your name? I'm Joe. Joe Trohman." The teenager, Joe, says this all in one breath, a curious smile on his face. Patrick wants to sink into the floor and never come up.

Instead, Patrick rubs at his arm and heads over to the counter that Joe's leaning over against his better judgement. It too has records piled on it and the display under it has some rarer ones Patrick's never seen before. "I'm Patrick Stump. I just moved here." He explains, picking up an older vinyl and admiring the cover art.

"Oh! Where from? And why to Juneau?" Joe asks, looking interested. Patrick's sure he doesn't get a lot of teen customers who have just moved in. "Interesting choice." Joe's tone suggests that it's not that interesting though.

Patrick sighs. "Chicago. And 'cause stuff. And yeah. Tell me about it." He's not particularly interested in letting someone know all his business.

Joe seems to sense that and backs off a little. "Well, there's a lot of cool stuff to do around here. I know it probably doesn't seem like much, but there's some awesome stuff going on around here." Patrick perks up at that, looking at Joe curiously. "Maybe I could show you around?"

Patrick debates it in his head. On one hand, he wants to say no because he wants nothing to do with Juneau, but on the other hand, he doesn't want to be friendless here for the next year. And besides, Joe was a local and probably knew some cool places that Patrick would never be able to find on his own.

"Okay. That sounds interesting." Patrick says, a little bewildered that he's made a friend already. Well, not quite a friend, but an acquaintance, at the very least. "Um, yeah." He says, for lack of better words and social awkwardness.

Joe smiles at him, genuine and Patrick feels good about it. "Okay. So this is Sound Exchange, obviously." He chuckles and it feels right to laugh with him, so Patrick does. "Um, it's our only record store... and we've gotta decent stock. You just gotta look through it to find what something really good."

Patrick nods. Reckless Records was like that, too. "I would, but I told my mom I'd back soon. Is there anywhere that like... sells furniture stuff?" He asks, furrowing his brow. Joe would probably know, especially since he was a local.

"Try the furniture warehouse. It's not far from here. I can give you directions?" Joe says, and fumbles to find a piece of paper and a pen. Patrick watches, slightly amused. Joe seems nice, he thinks, and he hopes that Joe will be true to his word and show him around Juneau sometime. It was bad enough moving to a new town, but being friendless in a new town was even worse.

Patrick was never one to have many friends, choosing to stick with his small collection of them. They were band nerds, like him, and Patrick hopes that Joe working at Sound Exchange means that he's a music nerd. He doesn't have to be on Patrick's level, but Patrick hopes he at least knows something about it.

Joe writes down directions and Patrick scratches at his arm nervously. He hopes that Joe doesn't stand him up and never talk to him again. That would kind of suck.

"Okay, here you go. I wrote down my number too, that way I can show you around town sometime." Joe says, all friendly. Patrick appreciates it, and appreciates the fact that Joe seems to be talking first and making conversation. Patrick was bad at making conversation and was an awkward mess outside of his friends - he tried but most of the time he failed to really grasp the concept of good conversation.

Patrick takes the paper and smiles gratefully. "Thanks, Joe." He says, inspecting the paper. Joe's detailed out every turn and street name, something he's grateful for.

Joe says goodbye to him and he leaves the store, feeling all around a little better about Juneau. He still hates the place, but the fact that he's got some semblance of a friend now makes him feel more at home. It wasn't good for a teenager to not have friends, and Patrick, despite all the social awkwardness and anxiety, was a pretty talkative person when he wanted to be.

Driving through Juneau and following Joe's directions was fairly easy. He doesn't get lost and the streets aren't too busy, considering it's a Saturday afternoon, but it's just before six and people are probably just getting off of work. He figures that the ride back home will be a little slower, and so he relishes the quietness of the streets and takes in his surroundings.

Juneau really is beautiful. There's a river south of town he can see as he drives down alongside it, and when he glances to his left he sees the mountains, tall and snowy at the top. He recalls his mother telling him that Juneau doesn't actually have any roads connecting to any other cities, and that the only way out is by ferry. When he looks down at the river and up at the mountains, he realizes just how isolated Juneau is in the wilderness, how so much could happen here and how so many little people would know. It's an intimidating thought, and Patrick keeps his eyes on the road for the remainder of the drive after that.

Patrick buys curtains and a rug for his room at the Furniture Warehouse, shoving them into his mothers car and starting up the drive back to his house. He can't bring himself to think of it as a home at the moment. When he tries it feels strange and so Patrick just refers to it as a house. Home is where the heart is, and his heart is back in Chicago.

He nearly gets lost on the way back home, but makes it. He's relieved to see the house, something he'd never admit to thinking, but he's relieved all the same. Just that small outing has worn him out and he feels like he could sleep for days - there's nothing else he wants to do.

Patrick remembers Joe as he's carrying the curtains and rugs inside though, and smiles to himself. He figures he can take Joe up on his offer for a tour of the city soon, and decides he'll text Joe about it. He's glad to have gotten his number.

"Hey, 'Rick. Did you find curtains?" His mother asks once he's in the house. It seems like he's back just in time for dinner and he's definitely glad about that.

"Yeah. And a rug to spice up the room." He says, holding it up. It's heavy, and he puts it down on the couch before he moves into the kitchen. "I went by that record store. There's this boy that works here and he offered to give me a tour of Juneau." Patrick tells his mom, sitting down at their brand new kitchen table. He doesn't like it. It's far too different and far too new from the one they had at home.

His mother makes a pleased noise and turns around. "Good! I'm glad you're making friends, Ricky. I promise, once you go around the city, you'll love it. Brent says there's a lot of stuff to do."

Patrick rolls his eyes. "Brent says a lot of stuff." He counters, not feeling bad about his words. He wants to lash out again, tell his mother how he really feels about all this, but he holds back.

"Patrick, would you stop!" His mother exclaims, turning towards him with hurt written on her face. "All you've done is complain since we've got here and you don't even want to take the chance to get to know the city!" She's definitely upset and Patrick feels a little bad about making her mad.

"Because I don't want to be here! I had one year left of high school and you decided you didn't care and decided to move us across the country! How do you think I've been feeling for the past month!?" Patrick nearly shouts before he controls himself. He takes a shaky breath and rubs at his eyes, throat right. "You haven't give me a second thought in all this. All you do is care about Brent!"

He stands up, flustered, and rushes out of the room and up to his own. Patrick can't fucking do this, he just can't. He knows that he might be being over dramatic, but it's all he can do. Patrick's mother has acknowledged his distaste at moving and has acknowledged how he feels about it, but she still doesn't care. If she had cared, they wouldn't be here.

Patrick swallows hard and moves over to his record player, putting in a record and breathing harshly, like he's run a mile. He wants to cry, and so he does, hot and nasty like he hasn't done in a while.

He can't even bring himself to climb into his bed - he just slumps down onto the floor and sobs, head in his hands. He fucking hates this. He hates feeling so useless and out of control in life, hates that all he can do is sit and cry. It's hot and nasty and he's so damn done with everything - with this town, with his mom, with fucking everyone that makes him feel invalid.

Patrick cries and cries, until his head starts to ache and his hands are wet with tears and snot. He feels younger than he ever has in his life - and all he wants is for things to go back to how they were before. He's not sure how long he cries for but all he knows is that his head aches and he's dead tired once he finally runs out of tears.

Once he realizes how long he's cried for, he feels pathetic. Patrick's seventeen years old and here he is, crying and crying like he hasn't for years. He's embarrassed, and he's glad that know one saw him cry like that.

Despite feeling embarrassed, he does feel a little better once it's all done. That kind of cry will last him a while before he has to do it again.

Patrick stands up slowly, head aching and every muscle protesting. Patrick kind of just wants to sleep on the floor - climbing up onto his bed seems like too much of a challenge. It feels like scaling Mount Juneau as he climbs into it, exhausted and hungry. He needs to rest for a moment and then head back downstairs to grab some food.

He won't apologize for his feelings, but he might apologize for being rude. After crying, Patrick's aware that he was rude to her and he really doesn't want to apologize, but he knows it's the right thing to do. "Fuck." He whispers to himself, rubbing at his eyes and yawning. He's so damn tired.

Patrick gives himself a couple of minutes to recover before he heaves himself up off his bed and takes a shaky breath. Anything would be better than this. He heads to the bathroom and splashes his face with cool water before he goes back downstairs, feeling exhausted and wanting to just fucking get out of Juneau and never come back.

His mother is silent when he walks into the kitchen, and Patrick doesn't blame her. Brent's still nowhere to be seen and he's at glad that Brent wasn't here to witness his outburst.

"I'm sorry." He croaks out, siding at the sound of his voice. He feels like shit, and his head fucking aches. "I shouldn't have been like that." Patrick whispers, closing his eyes. The bright light of the kitchen bulbs seems to be burning them and he doesn't like it.

She remains silent again, and Patrick feels his heart pick up speed. "Patrick, I just want you to understand that this is our home now. I'm marrying Brent because I love him and I just want you to get to know him." She says softly, turning to look at him. "Can you just give it a chance?"

Patrick stares at for a long time, wanting to shake his head. Juneau is a strange place with strange people and he doesn't want to get to know it. He wants to go back to Chicago.

Instead, he musters up a fake smile and nods. "Okay."

Chapter Text

The day after his outburst and crying session, Patrick felt considerably worse.

Despite telling his mom he'd give Juneau a chance, he nearly changes his mind once he wakes up. He sleeps in later this time, and Patrick's thankful for that at the very least. The blackout curtains had done wonders for him, but there were still birds chirping annoyingly outside and he wishes he had the stomach and skill to shoot and gun them all down.

He groans when he wakes up, and blearily grabs for his glasses. His hand hits a piece of paper, and when Patrick sits up and looks at it in confusion, he realizes it's the piece of paper Joe gave him. Patrick realizes then that he hadn't texted Joe or even put his number in his phone, and he feels a little bad about that.

Patrick grabs the sheet of paper and yawns, rubbing at his eyes as he inputs the number into his phone. He figures that the first step in giving Juneau a chance is giving the people a chance. Namely Joe, and hoping Joe would like him and help him change his mind about Juneau.

**Hey, it's Patrick! Sorry I didn't text yesterday. Hope I can take you up on your offer?**

Patrick feels a little silly for texting that, but he's not sure how else to say he accepts his offer for a little tour of Juneau. He wants to stay out of the house as much as he can so he can avoid Brent, and if this is the way to do so, then he's going to jump on it.

While he's waiting for Joe to answer back, Patrick hops in the shower. It takes him a couple of minutes to figure out how to work the knobs, and he stands there naked and shivering as he tries to figure it out.

Cold water pours through once he gets it going, and he stifles a shriek. He fucking hates cold showers - at home his mother would often complain about him using up all the hot water with how hot and how long he showered for.

He almost wishes that he was an early riser so that he could use up all the hot water before Brent had the chance to shower, but knowing Brent, he'd probably be one for cold showers anyway, the bastard. Because Brent was perfect and Brent never fucking complained.

Patrick scowls at the thought of him, and wants to cry when he realizes he can't get the shower to run hot. The shower is way too complicated and different from the one he had at home in Chicago. So Patrick showers cold for the first time in forever, cursing his new house, Brent, and all of Juneau for making him take a cold shower before noon.

His mom is nowhere to be seen when he heads downstairs after his shower, hair dripping. However, when turns the corner into the kitchen to search for food, Brent's standing there.

Patrick immediately regrets his decision to enter the kitchen. "Hey, Patrick! You're finally awake. You sure do sleep in late!" Brent says, far too fucking cheery. Patrick wants to scream. "I was thinking that maybe I could show you around Juneau today."

Patrick would rather drop dead. Instead, he grits his teeth and stops himself from vocalizing his thoughts. "Actually, I met this boy at Sound Exchange. He was going to show me around." Patrick explains, proud of himself for not cursing Brent out.

"Oh. Okay. Well, maybe I could take you out for dinner later?" Brent says, a smile still on his face. "Your mom is going to be out all day. She's job hunting and running errands."

That explained where his mom was, at the very least. But Patrick definitely does not want to eat dinner with Brent. In fact, he doesn't even want to be in the same room with him.

"Yeah... I don't know." Patrick says, rubbing his arm and moving towards the pantry. He grabs a bag of chips and starts to slide out of the room, avoiding Brent's eyes.

"No food upstairs, Patrick." Brent tells him, and Patrick wants to scoff at him.

Instead, he just goes upstairs anyways, not giving a damn about what Brent has to say. Brent has no right to act like his fucking parent all of a sudden, especially when he's just his mother's boyfriend. Well, fiancé, but that's besides the point.

Patrick checks his phone and is delighted to see a text back from Joe. He's a little nervous to open it, though, in case Joe tells him he's changed his mind and that Patrick can tour himself around Juneau.

**Hey!!!! Ok that sounds good. gotta lot of cool places around Juneau to show u. I can even pick u up?**

Patrick smiles at his phone. It feels like his first real smile in ages, and it hurts his cheeks if he even smiles for just a moment. It feels like all he's been doing lately is frowning.

There's a knock on his bedroom door after a moment, and Patrick rolls his eyes. Brent. "Patrick, open up! I told you, no food upstairs!" Brent beats on his door again, and Patrick chooses to ignore it. Again, Brent isn't his father and he's not listening to orders from him.

**yeah! that would be good. I live on 262 Elk Drive. You can come whenever.**

Brent knocks on his door again. "I'm going to tell your mother about this!" Brent threatens, and Patrick scoffs. He doesn't care what Brent or his mother thinks. If she's cared what he thought, they wouldn't be here and Brent wouldn't be knocking down his door.

"Be my guest!" Patrick shouts, feeling satisfied when Brent stops knocking on his door and he hears footsteps going away from his door.

Patrick puts down his phone and gets ready, grabbing a light jacket. He's used to the cold of Chicago, not the cold of Juneau. It's different somehow, but everything seems to be different in Juneau. Patrick doesn't like that.

He checks his phone again, hoping to see a text from Joe. Thankfully, there's one, and Patrick doesn't want to be around to witness the wrath of his mother.

**be there in twenty!**

Good, he's glad that Joe will be at his house soon. Patrick takes the moment to look around his room, sighing. Despite the fact that he's put posters up and pictures of back home up, he still feels painfully isolated and doesn't feel like this room is really his own.

It feels like he's a puppet or a doll in a little house that someone else is controlling. Like someone is tugging all the wrong strings to make his life hell. Whatever puppeteer thought it would be fun to introduce Brent to him and his mother is sick. Patrick hopes they suffer a fate crueler than death.

"Fuck." Patrick whispers to himself. He feels like he's been doing that a lot lately. "This tour better be good." He says softly, turning to look out the window. From this view, Juneau looks like a fairly normal American town. Houses. A downtown area. Trees. Granted, the mountain is a little different, but Patrick wants to know what else Juneau has to offer besides a good view.

A white van pulls up after a bit of Patrick just staring out of the window, trying desperately to just know what Juneau is holding. It's like it's full of secrets or hidden treasure. Patrick hopes the treasure sucks. When he gets a text from Joe after a moment, he knows the white van is his, and he heads downstairs.

As he's pulling open the front door, Brent stops him. "Where do you think you're going? Your mom says you're grounded." Brent tells him, annoyance in his tone. Patrick scoffs at him, wanting to laugh at how fucking ridiculous Brent sounds. Grounding him? He's not letting a stranger ground him.

"Yeah, well, you're not my dad. And frankly, I just don't care." Patrick spits, closing the door behind him and making his way down to Joe's van.

He's never been one to be so spiteful and he's definitely never been one to break his mothers rules or to disobey her word, but he just doesn't fucking care anymore. She could ground him all she wanted, but he just doesn't give a damn. There's no reason to - not when she hadn't gave a damn about him for the past while.

Patrick's feeling particularly rebellious as he pulls open the passenger door. "Trying to kidnap me? Or do you have free candy, by any chance?"

Joe's sitting at the wheel, and he laughs whenever he hears his words. "Hey! And if you want the free candy, it's in the back." It's punctuated with a wink that makes Patrick instantly feel more comfortable. "Nice house, by the way. I live a couple streets down, on Rose Court." Joe explains as he climbs in.

Despite the fact that they've only had one conversation, Patrick feels pretty at ease with Joe. There's a kind of comforting air about him, something so chill and relaxing that Patrick just takes a deep breath and smiles back. He feels better now that he's out of that damn house. "It's all right. Smaller than the one I had in Chicago. Not to be like, a spoiled brat, or whatever."

Joe laughs, and Patrick likes it. It's suiting. "I don't know anything else besides Juneau, but Chicago sounds cool. I've been to NYC once, but it kinda freaked me out." Joe says, beginning to pull away from the house. Patrick's glad to see it go.

"Why?"

"All those tall buildings. There was no green anywhere. No mountains. It's weird. I'm an inside kind of guy, but nature's got this big part in my life, growing up in Alaska. You'll get it once you live here lone enough." Joe explains, and Patrick notices he has a lisp.

It's cute, in some kind of way, but that thought alarms Patrick and he shoves it away immediately. Cute? Guys weren't cute. "I grew up in the city, so this is kind of the opposite for me. I'm freaking out looking at these mountains!" Patrick laughs, pushing away his other thoughts. That was for another time. Joe laughs too, and Patrick gets it. Being somewhere totally different is kind of awful.

"So, like, the thing about Juneau is that everything to do here is outside. I mean, I'm an inside person but I love going to these places." Joe tells Patrick, glancing over at him. He's got his curly hair in a bun and Patrick notices a tattoo peeking out from under his shirt sleeve.

Patrick laughs. "Oh man, I'm not an outside person." It's true.

"Well, good thing it's cold out, right?"

That's also true. Patrick's glad now that they moved to Juneau and not someplace in Texas. He'll get used to the cold in no time, but getting used to Texas heats would be another thing. "I'm gonna take you to the tramway. It takes us up Mount Roberts and there's some trails up there, too. Trust me, it's worth being outside for."

Patrick sure hopes so. "We have to go down to the docks to get on the tram. It's like a five minute ride to the top." Joe says, and when he glances at Patrick again, he spots a lip piercing. He's not sure how he hadn't noticed it until just now, but it's definitely something interesting.

"You have a lip ring? And tattoos?" Patrick says, though he voices it like a question. "How old are you?" Patrick asks. If he's got tattoos, than he's probably eighteen, right?

But Joe grins at him knowingly. "Just turned seventeen. You can get a tattoo at seventeen with your parents consent." Patrick blinks at him. If Joe just turned seventeen, then he's probably younger than Patrick. "How old are you? And do you have any secret tattoos I should know about?"

"Seventeen. Born in April." Patrick says, laughing. "And no, no secret tattoos. I'm kind of afraid of needles." It's a little silly, but Patrick's sure he's been traumatized by a visit to the doctor from when he was a child. "They're so cool though."

Joe chuckles and haphazardly pulls up sleeve to show off the tattoo. They swerve lightly, but it just makes Patrick laugh instead of fear for his life. Anything could happen and he doesn't think he'd particularly care.

"I've got a friend I think you'd like. He's cool. He plays in a band, too. Juneau's kind of small, but he gets a decent crowd." Joe says, putting both hands on the steering wheel once Patrick's had the moment to examine the tattoo. Patrick glances out the window, and it's all trees and overcast sky.

He's not sure if he wants to meet other people. It's not that he's antisocial, but there's this niggling worry deep down that he doesn't want to voice.

Instead, he smiles. "Sure. What's his name?"

"Pete Wentz. He's older. Like... twenty two, I think?" Joe says. "I'll have to introduce you one day."

Patrick turns and looks back out the window. They're getting closer to the docks, and Patrick can see the tram. "Yeah. One day." Patrick says softly, unable to tear his eyes away from the view down here.

Up higher in town the view had been of the town area, the docks, and the river, but now it's of the mountain. Patrick can really see how enormous it is, and all he can think of is it all crumbling down. He's definitely not cut out for this kind of nature.

They pull up to a red building a few minutes later, and Joe parks the van. "All right, here's the tramway." Joe says, and they climb out of the van and head to the short line.

While they're waiting, Patrick looks up, admiring how the mountains rise up above the clouds. "So like, this is so weird for me. Mountains are different from skyscrapers."

Joe looks too. "Yeah, well. Mountains are forever. Not a lot of things are."

"Surprisingly deep from a seventeen year old who drives a white van." Patrick teases, hesitating lightly before he says it. While Joe's a friendly guy, he's not a hundred percent sure on how he'll react to teasing. He hardly know him at all.

But Joe just laughs and shakes his head. "I mean, it's true! I can be smart when I want!"

Patrick feels like he's talking to an old friend rather than a brand new one. "Could have fooled me."

"All right, then, city kid. Let's see how you handle the tram," Joe says when they're next in line. "Hope you're not afraid of heights."

Patrick's not terribly afraid of them, but the thought of riding all the way up does cause a little twinge in his gut. There's no way he's chickening out, though. "I think I can handle it."

When the next tram slides in they climb in with a couple of other people, doors closing. Patrick feels rising anxiousness and excitement all at the same time, and he can't help but wonder why Joe is doing this for him. He hardly knows him and Joe's not a tour guide.

Patrick turns to face Joe. "Why are you doing this?" He asks quietly, catching his gaze. Joe's got clear blue eyes, some of the bluest he's ever seen. Patrick's are blue, but not like that. "Like, taking me around Juneau? I'm new here and I'm kind of weird, actually." He's probably just ruined his chance at a good friendship, but today's he's in a weird mood and Patrick just doesn't care what he messes up anymore.

Joe furrows his brow and frowns, confused. "You seem like a nice guy, Patrick. And I get it, you know? What being alone is like. If you'd let me, I'd like to be your friend." Patrick swallows hard and nods after a moment, turning back around. He feels so stupid, so childish, but he wants to cry. Lately, everything seems to be making him want to cry. He was never a crier in the first place, but now it seems like it's all he can do.

"Thank you." Patrick whispers, closing his eyes and leaning against the tram window.

They begin to move and Patrick jolts, holding onto the railing. Joe chuckles next to him and holds on too, but looks much more at ease.

The tram lifts them up and up and up, and Patrick's enthralled by the view. A minute in he can see the river and the mountains on the other side of it, the small town across the river. But as it rises higher and higher up the tracks, he can see Juneau, can see it getting further and further away from them as they rise higher into the air.

It's like nothing Patrick's ever seen before, and it's so beautiful that he can't tear his eyes away. "Wow." Patrick whispers, for lack of betters words. He's mostly speechless about the view, and for once, he doesn't miss Chicago.

"Right?" Joe says softly. "The first time I saw this I was really little. I come sometimes, and even though I live here, I love it every time." Patrick can definitely see why. "You should come at night one time. You haven't seen anything else like it."

Patrick thinks he might have, though. He remembers being on Lake Michigan in a boat during the night, doing some late night Chicago tour. He loved doing things like that, things that took him around Chicago, because he loved the city and he loved that it was always so alive.

He'll never forget that first time he saw all of Chicago, lit up like a Christmas tree, from the boat, speeding along. It was beautiful, in a different way from Juneau, and Patrick suddenly aches for it all over again.

"God, I miss Chicago." Patrick sighs, still unable to look away. "Would you miss Juneau if you moved away?"

"Of course. I mean, it's small and it's no Chicago or anything, but it's home. Leaving your home sucks. But I mean... maybe you can make Juneau home. I'd try to make some other place home." Joe explains, and Patrick doesn't believe how wise he seems for a teenager. It's equal parts strange and relieving. Strange because Joe's younger than him and relieving because maybe Joe's right.

They ride up in relative silence for the rest of it. It's only a couple minutes more and Patrick can't believe the view. When they get off at the top, there's a trail and they stop in front of it.

"I'm not gonna make you hike the trail but it's really not too bad. The views are worth it." Joe says, running his arm. "I've hiked it like a million times."

Patrick considers it. If he says yes, then they'll have to spend time hiking - which is something he never anticipated he'd do - if he says no, then they'll have to go do something else or he'll have to go home. And he definitely doesn't want to go home. Not when he's sure that his mother is going to be pissed at him for mouthing off.

"Sure, why the hell not?" Patrick says, giving Joe a smile. "You gotta tell me about Juneau while we hike though."

They start walking along the trail, side by side. There's some other people hiking along the trail as well, and Patrick notices they're dressed in considerably more appropriate hiking clothes. "You can tell who tourists are by how they dress." Joe says. "They dress like they expect temperatures in the negatives."

Patrick chuckles. He can see that. "Juneau gets cold in the winter for sure, though. It's summer though, so whales usually come through the river. Maybe you'll see one this summer."

That's definitely pretty cool. Seeing a whale in the wild? Patrick's never thought about that, but now that he is thinking about it, he realizes that would be pretty fucking awesome to see.

They hike the trail together, taking turns asking questions. Patrick learns that Joe plays guitar and that he's pretty much a math genius. In return, Patrick tells Joe about all the instruments he plays and Joe insists that they get together to jam sometime.

And, despite the fact that they've only known each other for a short time, Patrick feels at ease talking to him and feels like they've known each other for longer than they really have. It's nice, to have a friend that he just clicks with like that. Even back at home he'd lacked a friend quite like Joe. With Joe, even though it's only been a few hours, it feels right.

Patrick's glad to have a friend like him.

At one point, as they're taking the tram back down, he gets a text from his mother. She's angry, like he expected her to be, and she demands him get home immediately. But Patrick ignores it and turns off his cellphone. He's going to play the angsty teen part if he wants to. He's never played it before but he thinks he's pretty damn good at it so far.

"My moms going to kill me when I get home." Patrick says once they're leaving the tram building. He's thoroughly enjoyed the views and hiking but he wants to go somewhere indoors, preferably with food and water.

Joe laughs as they get into his van. Patrick still feels like he's climbing into a pedophiles sex den, but he blames the media for that. "Why?"

"I disrespected her stupid boyfriend. Fiancé, whatever. He's not my dad and he's definitely not telling me what to do."

Joe looks at him in surprise. "Really? Wow. Build up that teen angst, man." Patrick shakes his head and laughs lightly. Truth be told, it fucking sucks. He's had a good time with Joe so far but he definitely doesn't want to go home and get back to reality. Knowing his mother, she won't want him to leave the house for a week.

But the thing is, he's not sure he would mind. Outside of Joe, there's nothing he wants to do in Juneau. Staying at home in bed seems like the best option, the only thing left to do. It's depressing, but Patrick's tired of everything.

"Yeah... I think I gotta get home. I had fun today, Joe. Can't believe I even went hiking." Patrick tells Joe, who nods.

He desperately doesn't want to go home, but there's no point in continuing to avoid his mothers wrath. He's just delaying the inevitable and he's fucking tired, too. If she grounds him he can at least take a nap.

He's filled with dread as they pull up to his house. From the outside it seems so innocent, a perfect little family living inside with no problems whatsoever. He knows the truth though, Patrick thinks bitterly. There's a mom whose getting married to a stranger and a son whose losing himself and everything else. It's disheartening, and he sighs once they park.

"Well, thanks for coming with me today, Patrick. I hope we can hang out again soon." Joe says, looking hopefully. Patrick smiles, and he knows it'll be his last one for a while.

"I'll see you Joe. That is, if my mother doesn't kill me first."

The walk to the front door feels like a funeral march - his mother is going to kill him and dance on his grave for what he did. It was stupid of him, but it's all he feels he can do. There's not going to be any escape from Brent, but Patrick doesn't have to like it.

"Patrick Martin Stump, you better have a good reason for disrespecting Brent and leaving this house when he said not to."

Patrick grimaces. His mother is sitting in the living room with Brent next to her. Brent looks a little nervous, like he's afraid of disciplining Patrick. Patrick wants to punch him in the jaw.

He stands in front of his mother, meeting her eyes. Patrick's learned long ago to look her in the eyes when she's mad. "I don't." He says, tired and wanting to get his sentencing over with.

She frowns and glances at Brent. She's pissed. "Care to tell me why you left then?" She asks, folding her arms across her chest and Patrick can see that intense fire in her eyes. His dad once said Patrick had it, too.

"Because Brent's not my dad and if I'm living in Juneau, then I may as well get to know it." Patrick counters, not willing to be intimidated by her. She was the most stubborn person he knew aside from himself, and sometimes it definitely caused a strain in their relationship. Like now.

Patrick wants to go back to the before. Before Brent proposed. They were happy at home and Patrick would do whatever she asked of him. But now, it's like some far off memory that keeps looping in his head like a record. The woman he once respected and idolized seems so foreign to him now, and he hates it. Hates the fact that Brent is the reason why she's so different. It's like Patrick doesn't even know his own mother anymore.

She's quiet for a moment. "That doesn't mean you disrespect him. He offered to show you around Juneau and you want to go with some stranger you met yesterday!" With those words Patrick feels that bubble inside him pop, feels all his self control dissolve. So Joe was a stranger but Brent wasn't? Patrick's certain his mother is actually an idiot in that moment.

Patrick laughs. It's cold and bitter and it doesn't even feel like he's in control of himself anymore. "And what, Brent's not a stranger? The only thing I know about him is his last name and the fact that he's somehow seduced you into marrying him less than a year after knowing him. You want to know how I feel, mom? That's how I feel."

He takes a shaky breath and clenches his fists. It's like he's run a marathon with all the adrenaline pumping through him and the anger he has. Patrick wants to walk out the door and never come back. "I fucking hate this mom. I've been trying to tell you for the past month and you've just ignored me because you're oh-so in love with Brent. What is it, mom? Does he have money? What makes him so good that you pick us up and make me leave Chicago!?"

Patrick's shouting now, angry like he's never been before and wiping furiously at his eyes. Brent looks shocked and his mother looks furious. "You haven't given it a chance! You said you would give Juneau a chance!"

"I have! I went out today and yeah, it's beautiful, but it's not home! And I never said I would give Brent a chance! Why would I give the guy who ruined my fucking life a chance at being my what, my dad or something? I already have a dad, and it's not him."

Patrick's mother wipes at her own eyes, a frown on her face. Patrick misses the times when she would always be smiling. "Me and Brent are getting married, whether you like it or not, Patrick. So you better get use to it, fast." Patrick hates her and Brent with everything in that moment.

"I just- screw this." Patrick growls, running hands through his hair and feeling close to tears. "You don't give a shit about me. And it's all your fucking fault." He directs the last part to Brent, voice dripping with venom as he does so. Then, he turns around and stomps upstairs, back into his room and locking the door.

It feels a lot like yesterday, but he doesn't cry. He can't bring himself to - and distantly he wonders if he even has any tears left to cry. All Patrick has is anger and regret and he just wants everything to go away. He wants to punch a hole into the all and throw himself out of the window all at the same time.

If everything could just go away for a while, then everything would be better. All the pain of now and of yesterday and all the pain to come - he hates thinking about it and hates that there's still much more.

There's kids in third world countries suffering much more than himself, Patrick thinks, but he still feels like he's suddenly having the worst day imaginable. He wants to go back and hang out with Joe for a while longer and keep delaying the inevitable fight with his mother.

Patrick said he would give Juneau a chance and he has give Juneau a chance. Brent is an entirely different matter and he never said he would try to make friends with him or whatever. He still hates him for existing and especially for proposing to his mother.

Brent has to have different intentions. They've been dating for less than a year and there has to be a reason why he proposed to his mother so early. There has to be some kind of motive, Patrick thinks wildly. There's just no fucking way that this could be his actual life now.

Maybe Brent was blackmailing his mother? Maybe he had information on her that she doesn't want anyone to know and he's forced her into marrying him. Patrick feels sick at the thought and he leans against his wall, breathing raggedly. There's just no absolute fucking say that Brent and her are getting married out of love. If there's something else going on, Patrick's going to figure it out.

"Love doesn't fucking exist." Patrick says bitterly, aware he sounds so damn emo, but he's so over the whole caring thing.

He's going to get to the bottom of this marriage, and when he does, he's leaving Juneau.

Chapter Text

A week later, he’s ended up with a job at Sound Exchange. The pay is alright, nothing like his job back in Chicago, but Patrick figures it could be worse. They could be paying him a lot less, and Patrick just considers himself lucky that he has a job a week into the move.

 

He likes the job enough - he’s been through training. Unsurprisingly, it was Joe that trained him, and instead of real training they really just ended up more or less hanging out together at the record store. 

 

It was fairly quiet most of the time, but Patrick could see a pattern. Regulars came in early to take a look and see if anything new came in, and teenagers came in later in the afternoon. Sound Exchange closed fairly early, and so even if he did work a full shift he had plenty of time to hang out afterwards. 

 

In the week and few days he had been in Juneau, he’s developed a small routine that he’s settled in. Wake up, eat breakfast, ignore Brent, go to work, hang out with Joe afterwards. He likes it enough, though he hates looking at Brent. He spends as much time as he can out of the house, and at some point his mom stops caring.

 

He’s bitter about it - his mom is obviously too wrapped in her own life to worry about Patrick. But, despite being bitter about it, he desperately wishes that she cared. He loves his mom, even through the stupid shit she’s doing right now, and all he can hope is that one day she wakes up, realizes she doesn’t know a thing about Brent, and they move back home. 

Patrick feels slightly guilty for thinking that though - he’d have to leave Joe behind. They’ve become fast friends, and he’d even consider himself closer to Joe than to any of the friends he’s left back home.

 

Joe is cool. Patrick’s certain he’s never had more fun than when he’s hanging out with Joe - aside from playing music, of course. Joe is easy to talk to and he says all the right things when Patrick complains. And Patrick complains a lot. But Joe listens, listens like he actually cares and he’s not just putting up with Patrick’s complaining. It’s nice, and Patrick’s fairly certain he’s never had someone listen to him like this before. Even his mother.

 

He looks forward to hanging out with Joe every day. Joe talks about other friends, and when they walk the streets or go out to eat, he points out some of them. But it seems like he’s always available, and he never talks about hanging out with them. Patrick doesn’t mind, it just makes him feel better about the fact that Joe is his only friend in Juneau so far. 

 

Patrick feels like he’d be okay with just having Joe as a friend. Maybe he’ll feel different when school starts back up, but for now, he feels fine with it. So far Joe has been one of the best friends he’s ever had, and he’s known him for less than two weeks.

 

On his fourteenth day in Juneau, he has a day off from work. Joe does too, and so Patrick heads to his house to hang out. He says a quick goodbye to his mother, who seems wrapped up in house work, and makes his leave. The walk to his house isn’t far, and it’s a nice day out. Though he’s slowly getting used to the mountains that tower up around them, it still freaks him out some days, so he speeds up his walk until he arrives at Joe’s door.

 

He knocks, and shivers slightly when he hears a slight noise from the trees. Goddamn wildlife. He wasn’t sure if he would ever warm up to that part of Juneau. A moment later, Joe opens the door, a grin on his face. “Hey man!” Joe says, pulling Patrick inside.

 

In the short time that he’s been here, he’s been inside Joe’s house a few times. It’s immaculate and homey in a way that makes him miss his old home. “Hi, Joe.” Patrick greets, shrugging off his cardigan. “What’s up?”

 

“Well, you’re not gonna believe this. You know my friend Pete?” Patrick nods. He’s heard a lot about Pete over the past few days. He seems nice from what he’s heard, if not a bit fucked up. Then again, they’re all a little fucked up. “Well, he needed someone to fill in for guitar for a show tonight that he’s playing. So I’m doing it!” Joe seems very excited, and Patrick feels excited for him. He remembers playing shows back in Chicago, and he misses it dearly. “And you’re coming!” Joe pulls out a ticket from his back pocket, and Patrick grins at him.

 

“Oh man, thanks!” Patrick exclaims, taking the ticket and holding it close. “I guess tonight I get to see how good of a guitarist you really are, huh?” Patrick teases as they begin to head up to Joe’s room. “And do I get to meet the legendary Pete Wentz?”

 

Joe laughs. “I am a great guitarist. And yes, you do get to meet Pete Wentz tonight. And another friend. Andy. He’s a drummer, so I’m sure you’ll get along great with him. He’s a transplant, too.” 

 

Patrick’s interested. While he plays most instruments, his real love is the drums. It’s made even better by the fact that Andy is a transplant too. He hopes that he can meet him and complain about how much it sucked to move here. “Great, I can’t wait to meet them.”

After a few hours of chatting and playing video games, they load up into Joe’s van and take off to the venue. It’s a bar, Joe tells him, one of the biggest they have in town. That’s not saying much, but Patrick likes Joe’s excitement, so he doesn’t tell him about the places he’s performed at.

 

They get in with minor issue - the guy up front doesn’t seem to believe Joe is in the band until Joe threatens to call Pete. They get let in and Patrick’s excited. He hasn’t been to a local show in ages, and he wants to see how the scene is in Juneau. Joe looks around for a moment before he seems to spot someone, and he grabs Patrick’s arm and begins to drag him to his destination.

 

The person in question is a guy with tattoos all over his arms, not much taller than Patrick but shorter than Joe. He’s wearing glasses, and has long shaggy hair that falls to his shoulders. He’s good looking, and Patrick gnaws on his lip when he sees him. “Hey!” Joe says, clapping the other guy on the back. The guy smiles at Joe and pushes his long hair back, before looking at Patrick.

 

“Who is this?” The guy asks, crossing his arms. He’s got a bottle of water in one hand and drumsticks in the other. Patrick can only assume this is Andy.

 

“Oh, this is Patrick. Remember I was telling you about him the other day?” Joe explains, pushing Patrick forward a little bit. Patrick nearly stumbles, but steadies himself on Joe. 

 

The other guy shifts the drumsticks into his pocket and then sticks out his hand for Patrick to shake. “Andy. Nice to meet you. I heard you drum, too?” Andy asks, looking interested. 

 

Patrick nods. “Yeah. Since I was a kid.” Andy looks pleased. “Joe told me you’re a transplant?”

 

“Yeah. Came from Milwaukee a couple months ago. Just wanted to get away from it all and Juneau seemed like the furthest place to be.” Andy tells him, leaning back against the wall. “Where are you from?”

 

“Chicago. I just moved here about two weeks ago.”

 

“I’m gonna go find Pete.” Joe butts in, before heading off. Patrick wants to follow him - he’s no good at talking to strangers, but Andy leans in to him, waving for Patrick to do the same. So he does, though he feels a little strange about it.

 

“Pete’s a little… crazy.” Andy says softly. “If he says anything weird, don’t take it personally. He’s nice and all, but he doesn’t really have a… filter? Yeah, a filter.” Andy tells Patrick, before leaning back again.

 

Patrick raises his brows. A little crazy? What the hell was that supposed to mean? Patrick’s not really used to crazy. The craziest thing in his life so far has got to be the move to Juneau. It’s really not saying much if that’s what he considers to be the craziest. 

 

Before he gets the chance to say anything, Joe returns, another man in tow. Patrick’s breath catches in his throat - he’s dangerously hot. Sure, Joe had told him a lot about Pete, but not about his looks.

 

Pete was short. A bit taller than Patrick but shorter than Andy and Joe. His skin was a deep tan, and black tattoos curled around his arms. He had shaggy black hair that seemed too straight, and when he smiled he had too big teeth. He was muscular, in a lean way, and Patrick couldn’t believe how undeniably hot he was. 

 

He’s never thought much about guys, always noticed them a lot more than girls, but still. It’s at the moment that Patrick really, truly, feels actually gay

 

“So you’re Patrick, huh?” Pete asks, amber eyes seeming to sparkle with mischief under the bar lights. “Joe talks a lot about you.” He’s holding a beer in one hand, and he takes a swig as he finishes speaking.

 

Joe grumbles and punches him on the arm. “Shut up, dude!” He says, almost embarrassed. Patrick’s flattered that Joe talks about him. 

 

“Well, he didn’t say you were so damn cute.” Pete says, eyes flitting over Patrick. Patrick blushes, unable to stop himself, and hugs himself tightly. “Hah, even cuter when you blush.”

 

Andy rolls his eyes. “See what I mean?” He says, looking at Patrick. All Patrick can do is nod dumbly. Joe looks annoyed, and he shoves at Pete.

 

“Don’t harass my friends.” Joe says, annoyance clear in his tone. He steps aside and takes a place beside Patrick, a little too close. “He’s new here, I don’t want you scaring him off.”

 

Pete leers at the two of them, before chuckling. “Where you from, Patrick? You should move back if you can. This place is a fucking shithole.” Pete adds the last part darkly, looking almost thunderous as he says it. 

 

Patrick is inclined to agree, but he doesn’t. Instead, he scratches his arm awkwardly and shrugs. “I like it.” He says. It’s only half a lie - he does like Joe, but he hates most everything else here. “And I’m from Chicago.”

 

“Chicago? You left Chicago for this place?” Pete sounds incredulous. Patrick shrugs again.

 

“I didn’t have a choice. I’m only seventeen, you know. My mom moved here with her stupid fiancé and I don’t have a dad.”

 

Pete snorts. “Well, I hope you’re prepared to live here. I’ve been here my whole life and I wanna kill myself every day because of it.”

 

Andy shoved him, nearly tipping Pete over. “Dude, don’t say that.” He says, voice low. “C’mon.”

 

“What? It’s true!” Pete says, taking another drink. Patrick can see what Andy meant about not having a filter. Either that, or Pete’s a little drunk. “This place sucks.” 

 

Joe scoffs. “You’re just drunk, dude.” He confirms Patrick’s thoughts. “I thought we told you to like… not get drunk before the show? You always fuck up when you’re drunk.”

 

Pete waves a hand, and Patrick feels very out of place in the conversation. “Yeah, yeah. I fuck up either way, Trohman.” Patrick swallows hard. He can see the genuine sadness in his eyes, can almost feel the hurt that seems to emanate from Pete.

 

All Joe does is roll his eyes. “Shut up. Getting drunk was your decision. Andy might baby you but I’m not gonna.” With that, he grabs Patrick’s arm. “C’mon, let’s go see if we can get a drink or something.”

 

Pete’s dark smile has faded, and he looks more blank than anything. “Glad to meet you, Patrick.” Pete mutters, finishing off his drink. “Maybe we can meet again sometime when I’m not drunk.”

 

“I’d like that.” Patrick tells him, before Joe pulls him away entirely. He catches the sigh Pete releases and the arm Andy puts over his shoulders before he turns back, eyes on Joe.

 

“Sorry about Pete. He’s not nice when he’s drunk.” Joe says, though Patrick hadn’t thought he was being particularly mean. “He already has no filter and when he’s drunk he just likes to get all depressed and shit.”

 

Patrick shrugs. “It’s okay. Is he alright?” Patrick asks after a moment's hesitation. “He seems really sad.”

 

They end up at the bar and Joe shrugs back at him. “Not really. His parents are dicks. They tell him he’s a failure ‘cause he dropped out of college, and his ex girlfriend cheated on him, and he’s like, bipolar. I don’t know what’s got him all sad tonight, though.”

 

Joe attempts to order them a drink, convincing the bartender that they’re of age, because hey, they’re playing tonight and the bartender knows Pete, so he’s got to know that Joe is old enough, right? The bartender just squints at them and sighs, making them the drinks they asked for.

 

Patrick sips at his and wrinkles his nose. “I don’t really get the appeal of alcohol.” He tells Joe, but takes another sip anyways.

 

“It’s nice to drink socially, I guess. It’s also nice when you’re feeling like shit and you don’t really wanna feel anything else.” 

 

Patrick nods and continues to drink. They talk for a while, mostly about the band and Andy, but Pete stays on Patrick’s mind. Finally though, Joe leaves him and starts to get ready for the performance. He feels a little lost, but takes a seat and waits for the band to begin.

 

They take the stage, Joe on guitar, Andy on drums, and Pete apparently on bass and vocals. Patrick watches Pete closely, and at one point catches his eye. They stare at each other through the small crowd that’s gathered, and Patrick feels heat rise under his skin.

 

“Alright, alright.” Pete says eventually. “We’re Racetraitor, and we’re gonna get wild tonight.” His eyes stay on Patrick, and Patrick can’t bring himself to look away. “This one is for a special guy named… Patrick.”

 

Patrick blushes deeply as they begin to play. He catches the annoyance on Joe’s face, and he looks down at his hands. Pete is just entirely too drunk.

 

They play a good set, maybe an hour or so long. Patrick’s not really impressed by the music, but he’s more impressed by their individual talent. Pete is truly god awful at singing, and he seems to know it, but his bass playing isn’t half bad. Joe was right about his own guitar skills, he’s absolutely killer and Patrick is kind of jealous. Andy is amazing too, and Patrick can’t tear his eyes away during a drum solo.

 

The set flies by and before he knows it, they’re done, and they begin to pack up all their stuff. Patrick gets up from his spot and heads over to the stage, waving at Joe.

 

“Hey! What’d you think?” Joe says, sweat soaking his curls. His blue eyes look fiery, and his shirt is damp. 

 

“You’re fucking awesome, man. You were totally right, you absolutely shred on guitar.” Patrick tells him, thoroughly impressed. Honestly, Joe’s one of the best guitarists he’s seen, and he’s only seventeen. 

 

Pete staggers over, eyes looking a little glazed. He’s in the same boat as Joe, shirt soaked from sweat and skin glistening. Patrick hates that he finds it hot. “Hey, dollface.” Patrick and Joe cringe at the same time. Pete seems more sober than earlier, but his movements are jerky. 

 

“Ugh, Pete. Stop being creepy.” Joe says, rolling his eyes and continuing to pack his guitar up. 

 

Pete smirks. “I’ve got a little something for the afterparty .” He says, digging into his pocket and pulling out a little baggie. It’s small and filled with a crystal like substance that Patrick can only identify as cocaine.

 

Joe freaks, understandably so, shoving at Pete. “Put that shit away, dude! You trying to get arrested?” He squawks. Patrick feels the same way, backing up. “You know I don’t do that fucking shit, moron.”

 

“Maybe Pattycakes here does, though.” Pete jeers, and Patrick shakes his head frantically. Underage drinking? Sure, he’s fine with it. Patrick draws the line at cocaine . “No? Alright, more for me.”

 

“You need to fucking stop with that shit, dude.” Joe says, shoving him roughly. That seems to piss Pete off, because he shoves him back even harder.

 

“Who are you? My fucking mom?” Pete growls. The crowd in the bar hasn’t seemed to notice their incoming fight, but Andy sure has. The drummer rushes over, looking concerned.

 

“What’s going on?” Andy asks, looking at Pete. 

 

“How about Pete carrying fucking coke on him?” Joe growls back, squaring up to Pete. He’s a lot taller but he’s a lot lankier, Patrick doesn’t think he could win the fight. 

 

Pete looks murderous. “Don’t act like you’re a fucking angel, Trohman. What was it you were asking me to try the other day? Meth, was it?”

 

Joe takes the first swing, hitting Pete squarely in the jaw. Patrick steps back, almost stumbling in his fear. Joe and meth? It didn’t add up, and he’s entirely too confused.

 

Pete swings back, and Joe falls to the ground. All Patrick can see is Pete climbing on to him, Andy trying to pull him off. All he hears is the crowd in the bar screaming with glee at the fight, shouting at them to continue.

 

“Stop!” Patrick hears himself yelling, his body shaking. Pete continues punching, until someone climbs on stage and helps Andy pull him off Joe. He climbs up too, leaning over Joe’s face and grimacing.

 

His face is almost entirely covered in blood, and he’s got a hand over his nose. “Fuck you Pete, fuck you! This is why people don’t fucking like you, you piece of fucking dogshit!” Joe yells, sitting up. Patrick feels panic rush through him when Joe moves his hand - his nose is almost certainly broken.

 

Andy and the stranger drag a screaming Pete away, and Patrick swallows hard. “Joe, oh god, Joe, your- your nose.” He whimpers, unsure of what to do. Joe wipes away some of the blood from his face, grunting in pain. “Joe, fuck, what do I do?”

 

“Uhhh- um, help me up…” Joe mutters, looking a little woozy as his adrenaline begins to fade. “Um,” 

 

“I think you need to go to the hospital.” Patrick says, breathless as he touches Joe’s arm. Joe’s eyes flit to where he’s touching him, but Patrick doesn’t really notice. “Your nose is um, oh god.” Patrick can’t even say it.

 

“It’s what?” Joe asks, looking frightened. “What, what!?”

 

“Oh god, I think it’s broken.” Patrick whispers, touching Joe’s face lightly. Joe frowns deeply and his brow furrows, and Patrick can see tears forming. 

 

Patrick helps Joe up and helps him out of the bar. On the way out they pass Andy, who takes one look at Joe and punches a wall. “I’m going to fucking kill him.” Andy says.

 

They don’t stick around to see if Andy does. Patrick asks Andy to collect Joe’s things and when he agrees they leave - Patrick driving Joe’s van as Joe gives him directions to the nearest emergency room. He looks woozy and out of it, operating on autopilot, and Patrick’s terrified. 

 

“Fuck Pete, fucking bastard, I’m gonna fucking…” Joe trails off, hands clenched tightly. “One fucking minute he’s your friend and the next? He’s beating your goddamn face in.”

 

Patrick doesn’t know how to respond. Instead, he stays quiet as he pulls into the parking lot and helps Joe out of the car, letting him lean on him as they walk into the emergency room.

 

It’s very quiet and empty, as Patrick had expected. He’s sure not much goes on in Juneau. Someone comes and collects Joe, and Patrick is left in the waiting room, holding onto Joe’s coat. It’s got blood on it but he maintains a white knuckled grip on it - terrified of losing it. 

 

It feels like an eternity later when Joe finally walks back out, face clean. There’s blood on his shirt still but his face is spotless, a splint placed over his nose. There’s dark bruising around the area and looking near his eyes, and Patrick feels his breath catch in his throat.

 

“Joe!” He calls, standing up and trotting to him. “Fuck, I’m glad you’re okay.” He breathes, looking him up and down. “What did they say?”

 

Joe looks pissed off. Patrick’s not sure if talking was the right idea. “It’s broken. Should be fine in a few weeks. I have to wear this for a while and then apply ice if it hurts.” He says robotically, taking his jacket from Patrick.

 

“God, I can’t believe this.” Patrick says, placing a hand on Joe’s back and leading him out. “Did you tell your mom?”

 

Joe winces. “No. She’s going to be so mad if I tell her it was Pete. I have to think of an excuse. Like maybe I fell off the stage and landed face first.”

 

“Maybe you should tell her it was Pete.”

 

“No way! I’ll never get to play in their shows anymore. And plus, even if he is a huge fucking asshole who deserves an ass beating, he’s been there for me in some really bad shit.” Joe mutters, unlocking his car, before handing the keys to Patrick. “Can you drive me home?”

 

Patrick nods. “Of course. But like, you still want to hang with Pete after this?” 

 

Joe sighs, climbing into the passenger seat and shrugging. “Look, I don’t know. Maybe if he lets me break his nose.”

 

They’re quiet on the drive back to Joe’s house - it’s very late. Patrick had texted his mom earlier that he was going to be spending the night at Joe’s, and she had surprisingly not argued with him.

 

Patrick parks the van outside but doesn’t turn off the engine. “Can I ask you something, Joe?”

 

Joe looks at him, long and hard. “I don’t do fucking meth, if that’s what you’re gonna ask.” He says hotly, slumping down in the seat. “I asked Pete what it was like to do it, because he’s done all kinds of dumb shit. I didn’t ask him if could try it.”

 

Patrick swallows hard and nods, the knot in his stomach easing. As much as he likes Joe, he’s not sure he can be friends with someone that does drugs. “Okay. I’m glad you don’t do drugs.”

 

“Me too. All it does is turn you into a massive dickhead named Pete Wentz.” Joe snorts, then touches his nose gingerly. “Ouch.” 

 

Patrick chuckles, stopping the engine and handing Joe his keys. 

 

They head inside quietly, up to Joe’s room as silently as possible. Joe plops down on his bed and sighs harshly, rubbing his face gently. “What a shitshow. I also just remembered I’m like, not properly equipped to handle a stayover guest.” Joe tells him, looking guilty.

 

Patrick cuddles with his shirt hem. He feels bad for basically inviting himself to stay the night. But if he walked into his own house this late at night… his mom would have his hide. “I can go home?”

 

Joe shakes his head and then grimaces in pain. “N-no. You can sleep in my bed with me. I don’t mind.” Patrick eyes the bed. It’s a queen size, he thinks. There’s be enough room for the two of them, at least. Patrick raises an eyebrow and Joe’s face flushes. “It’s not like- like gay or anything.”

 

Patrick almost cringes. While they’d never discussed sexuality before, he was sure Joe was straight. Joe hasn’t said it in a particularly harsh way, and Patrick couldn’t blame him - Joe didn’t know that Patrick was gay. Or at least, Patrick thought he was gay.

 

“Yeah, I know. I’m cool with it.” Patrick says, blushing. “Not gay at all.” Joe looks how Patrick feels. He wants to tell Joe that he’s gay, desperately. But what if Joe was… homophobic? He doubted that his friend was, but the thought almost made him shudder. 

 

Joe hands him a night shirt and pajama shorts for him to change into, and he leaves the room to go brush his teeth. Patrick undresses and slips Joe’s clothes on. They smell good, like Joe does, and he takes a big inhale and then sits on the bed, waiting for Joe to get back. Joe enters the room with a toothbrush in hand, tossing it at Patrick.

 

“I found an extra unopened toothbrush. You can have it, and like, keep it here, if you want.” Joe tells him, shifting in place and looking nervous. Patrick just smiles at him and nods, leaving the 

room to brush his teeth.

 

He brushes his teeth in Joe’s bathroom, staring at himself in the mirror. He looked exhausted, dark circles under his eyes. He hadn’t really slept properly since he’d moved to Juneau, every night plagued by nightmares or memories of his old home. He spit and then swallowed hard, turning away from his reflection when he felt tears well up in his eyes. God, he missed Chicago.

 

Joe could apparently tell something was wrong, because when he entered the room again, his expression changed. “What’s wrong, ‘Rick?” Joe asked him softly, patting the bed next to him. Patrick took the seat and a shaky breath, pressing into Joe’s side. Joe didn’t mind, and he hooked an arm around Patrick.

 

“I just… I really miss home.” Patrick whispers to him, staring at his hands. He felt stupid and childish for crying about this. He was almost an adult and this was how he approached his problems? It fucking sucked to be in Joe’s room like this, tears falling from his eyes and landing squarely in his lap. “I wish I could just go back to Chicago now.”

 

Joe’s silent for a moment, but there’s a soft hand rubbing his back lightly. “I’m sorry, Patrick.” He says eventually, just as soft as before. “Let’s try and get some rest. It’ll be better in the morning.” 

 

Patrick just nods and they lay down, Patrick closer to the wall and Joe at the edge. It’s not weird to Patrick, and in fact, he kinda likes it. He’d shared a bed with his older brother for a time when they were younger, and this reminds him of that. He struggles to fall asleep - tossing and turning in bed until the soft breathing of Joe lulls him to sleep.

Chapter Text

Three weeks pass, rather uneventfully. Patrick’s been in Juneau for over a month now, but each day feels the same to him. 

 

He and Joe hang out between work shifts, and Joe shows him around town a bit more. He spends more nights at Joe’s, always falling asleep to the soft sounds of his breathing. It’s nice, in a way that Chicago wasn’t, but with every day that passes he feels like he misses his hometown more. He doesn’t know who told him that it would get better eventually, but he’s sure they’re wrong.

 

Joe’s nose heals slowly, the dark bruising around his face disappearing. Joe tells Patrick that Andy had come to check on him, assuring Joe that Andy had beaten Pete’s ass. He doesn’t see Pete, and neither does Joe, but Andy tells Joe that Pete is sorry.

 

All Joe says is for Andy to tell Pete that he needs to stop doing drugs. 

 

But, one day after work, Patrick gets a text from Joe.

 

I have band practice tonight. Wanna come?

 

Patrick’s fingers hover over the buttons. He’s not sure if he wants to see Pete, but then he realizes Joe probably wants to see him less. He figures that if Joe can suck it up he can, and he types out his reply.

 

Sure. At your place?

 

Yeah. In about an hour.

 

Patrick mills about his house for a while, grabbing a snack and wondering if he should bring anything to the practice. He knows he’s not part of the band, but god, it’s been so long since he’s jammed with anyone. In the end he decides against it, too nervous to bring it. Maybe next time, once he gets a feel of their practice.

 

He heads over a few minutes before six, enjoying the short walk. It feels nice out, and Patrick will admit, summers in Juneau seemed far nicer than the ones in Chicago. 

 

He’s about to knock on the door when the garage door rolls up, and Joe pokes his head out. “Hey! In here.” He says, gesturing for Patrick to come in.

 

Patrick heads over and enters the garage. He’s never been in it before, and it’s mostly empty. There’s a few boxes shoved into the corner and some gardening tools in another. There’s a beaten down couch against one wall and a mini fridge near it, but other than that, it’s clean and empty. Andy’s already on the couch, twirling his drumsticks.

 

“Hey Patrick.” Andy says, giving him a wave. He’s talked to Andy a few times over the few weeks he’s known him, and he’s liked him a lot so far. They have a lot in common, from Star Wars to drumming. It’s nice to know other people, as much as he likes Joe.

 

“Hey, dude. Thanks for letting me come.” Patrick tells the two of them, hands in his pockets. There’s no Pete yet, and Patrick turns to look at Joe. “No Pete?”

 

Joe shrugs. “I dunno. He said he’d be here but who knows. Asshole’s probably high on something right now.” Patrick frowns, but takes a seat next to Andy. 

 

“I guess we’ll see.”

 

It’s half past six when Pete finally strolls into the garage, shutting it behind him when he sees Andy and Joe. Joe’s been complaining about how he’s always late, and Andy gives Pete a disapproving look. 

 

“Sup.” Pete greets them, eyes lingering on Patrick. “We’ve met before, right?” He asks Patrick, looking him over with those amber eyes of his. Patrick nearly shivers - it’s a dark once over that he likes.

 

Instead, he nods. “Yeah. At the bar.” He says, not willing to elaborate further. 

 

“Oh, that explains it. I was on so much shit that night I don’t really remember you.” Pete explains, shifting his bass case and placing it on the floor. “Sorry if I like, scared you.”

 

Patrick waves a dismissive hand. Of course Pete scared him - he’d beaten his friends face in, for fuck’s sake, but he’s not going to admit it. He doesn’t want the same misfortune to befall him. But Pete looks entirely sober, looking calm and collected, entirely different from that night a few weeks ago.

 

Joe’s eyeing Pete warily, continuing to tune his guitar. “So, you’re late.” Joe tells him, not looking up from his task.

 

“Whatever. Not that late.” Pete says. “I’ve got a job, you know.”

 

Joe snorts. “Me too, ass. And Patrick. And Andy. We’re all here on time.” 

 

“Working at record store isn’t a real job. Try working construction.” Pete shoots back, and Patrick really doesn’t want there to be another fight.

 

Andy seems to sense on coming too, because he stands up, pointing a drumstick at Pete. “Yes, we get it, Pete. Woe is me and all that crap. Can we just get started?”

 

Pete grumbles but nods, and Andy heads over to his drum kit, taking a seat behind it. It’s not long before they start to practice, and Patrick’s eyes hardly leave Andy’s drumming. He’s entranced by it - he’d even say Andy was better than him. But it’s been a while since he’d been motivated enough to sit behind his own kit and practice.

 

Pete stood halfway through a song and groans. Andy and Joe stop abruptly too, both looking up at him. “Look guys. I’m a shit vocalist. We all know that.” Patrick is inclined to agree, though he remains silent. “So like, we need an actual vocalist. Otherwise nothing is gonna happen with this band.”

 

Joe and Andy shrug. “And where are we gonna find a vocalist?” Joe asks, sounding a bit snarky. Patrick wants to tell him to stop trying to provoke Pete, but he feels like Joe’s earned it, all things considering. “Not like Juneau has a lot of good ones.”

 

Pete scratches his chin and then points at Patrick. “Can you sing? You look like you sing.” Pete tells him. Patrick’s brow furrows and he shakes his head.

 

“Uh, no. Absolutely not.”

 

“C’mon, just show us what you got. We need someone with a better voice than me.”

 

Patrick stands, hands clenched. “I don’t sing.” He says through gritted teeth, looking directly at Pete. Pete stares back, and it’s a long heated moment that makes heat pool in Patrick’s belly. He swallows hard, not tearing his eyes from Pete’s. “Trust me.”

 

“Look, lunchbox,” Pete begins, and Andy chuckles. Joe shoots Andy an angry glare. “Just do it. I’ll make it worth your while.” He adds, winking at Patrick.

 

Patrick blinks, unsure of what that means. “Uh, um,” he stammers, before Joe comes to his rescue.

 

“If he doesn’t wanna sing, he doesn’t have to, dickhead.”

 

“Dude, what is he’s amazing though? Have you ever heard him sing?”

 

“Well, no, but-“

 

“I’ll do it, okay?” Patrick blurts, cutting them off. He doesn’t really want to do this but if it makes Pete happy, then sure. He doesn’t want Joe and Pete to fight again, because Joe’s nose is still healing and he doubts it can take another hit, even a light one. “Just, ugh. What do you want me to sing?”

 

Pete thinks, and turns to them. “We all know Love Will Tear Us Apart, right?” Joe and Andy nod, but Joe looks furious. Andy looks more amused than anything. “You know it?”

 

Patrick scoffs. “Of course.” He tells him, and with that, they begin playing. Pete gestures him over the mic and he takes it, shooting Joe a desperate look. He was going to be awful, and they were definitely going to make fun of him once he finished. 

 

He sings, eyes shut tightly the whole song. He’s terrified, gripping the mic tightly and swaying slightly with the music. It’s decidedly not fun , he thinks, but he keeps going until the music fades and they’re all silent.

 

No one says anything, so Patrick opens his eyes. They’re all looking right at him, wide eyed. Joe’s mouth is open, and when he catches Patrick looking at him, he shuts it.

 

“Holy shit.” Pete whispers, placing his bass down.

 

“What?” Patrick demands, feeling self-conscious. “Was I really that bad?”

 

“Dude,” Joe begins, before trailing off.

 

“Your voice… is fucking amazing.” Pete says, moving towards Patrick. Andy and Joe nod at the same time, and Patrick suddenly feels very confused. They have to be joking, because Patrick’s not a singer and he’s never had vocal lessons, and he doesn’t even like singing! This was just a stupid joke they were playing on him.

 

He shakes his head, and then yelps when Pete practically tackles him. “Dude!  You have to fucking sing for us, we could get so fucking famous with you on vocals!” Pete exclaims, squeezing him tightly. Patrick’s not sure if he prefers sober Pete or high Pete. They’re both equally confusing and terrifying.

 

“No way!” Patrick grunts, shoving at Pete, who lets go and looks him reproachfully. “I don’t sing!”

 

Joe shakes his head, laughing. “Did you even hear yourself? You’re awesome. C’mon Patrick, join the band. For me?”

 

“For me?” Pete mimicks in a crude high pitched voice that sounds nothing like Joe. Joe turns red and shoves him, and Patrick can’t help but think about how fucking cute Joe is when he blushes like that.

 

His mind stops, and he wipes the thought away. They’re friends . He’s not going to think weird shit about his friends like that. “I don’t know. Maybe.” Patrick manages, looking back at Pete. His hands are clasped to his chest, begging. “I have to think about it.”

 

“We’d really like you to join.” Andy pipes up. “We’re not lying to you. Your voice is really nice.”

 

Patrick just eyes Andy for a moment, feeling wary. He’s still not sure if they’re being truthful, but he figures all of them seem genuine. Besides, he trusts Joe and Andy. Pete, not so much, but Pete seemed like he was being serious, too. He just shrugs, still unsure. He would have to think about it - he’s not even sure that he wants to be in a band at the moment.

 

“I really just have to think about it. I haven’t been in a band since I left Chicago and… I just don’t know.” Patrick tells them. 

 

Pete narrows his eyes, shifting. “Well, fine. After practice we’re going out to eat. Just the two of us.” Patrick raises his eyebrows, and Joe looks equally confused. “I said I’d make it worth your while, right?”

 

Patrick just stares at him for a long moment, before he nods. What’s the worst that could happen? It seemed like a nice gesture and even if Pete was trying to bribe him into joining the band, at least he would get a free meal out of it. “Alright.” Patrick tells Pete, shoving his hands back into his pockets.

 

Joe looks annoyed again, blue eyes focused in on Pete. Patrick watches him open his mouth to say something but stop when Andy lays a hand on his shoulder. Patrick gives Joe an apologetic look - he feels bad for basically bailing on Joe after the practice, but there’s just something about Pete that is so intriguing. Patrick doesn’t like that he does drugs, but he can push that to the side for now.

 

Pete is interesting . There’s a dark air about him, something entirely mysterious. His eyes are sad, and Patrick can practically see the tension in his body. He’s got a lot of tattoos and Patrick kind of wants to examine them all. He’s very interested in them, but he’s not sure how he could realistically look at them without being weird. The more he looks at Pete the more he wants to know him - know what it is that makes him feel sad and makes him feel like he has to be drunk or high on something. 

 

The practice goes well enough after that - Patrick sits quietly on the couch while they practice their songs. Pete doesn’t bother singing anymore, instead he casts glowing looks in Patrick’s direction occasionally, as if to say “ We have a new vocalist now! ” Patrick isn’t sure what to think, but it’s slightly unsettling.

 

Once the practice starts to die down and they begin to pack their things up, Joe sits down on the couch next to Patrick. Pete and Andy are having a heated debate about something or the other, and Patrick had been watching with amusement. Joe nudges him lightly and he turns to look at him, a little confused.


“You know, you don’t have to go.” Joe mutters under his breath, eyes on Pete. They’d gotten along okay during practice, but Joe had more or less been ignoring Pete. Patrick can’t blame him, especially when he glances at him again and sees the tell tale signs of his healing nose. Joe had been lucky with the healing process, and it didn’t really look any different than it had before it had been broken. “Honestly, I don’t think you should. You could just stay here and spend the night or something?” Joe suggests, sounding hopeful.

 

“No… it’s okay, Joe. I want to go. It’s free food, and besides, I wanna try to get to know him. Especially if I’m gonna be in a band with him.” Patrick tells him, fiddling with his shirt hem.

 

He knows it’s not the answer Joe is looking for, and when he glances at him, he looks displeased. Andy and Pete are still arguing, loud enough that he’s sure they can’t hear them. “I just don’t trust him. Especially with being alone around you.”

 

Patrick gives him a long look, confused as to what that meant. “What? What do you mean?” Patrick asks quietly, eyes fixated on Pete.

 

“Listen, he fucks anything with a pulse. I know you’re not gay or whatever,” Joe says, hesitating slightly, “But like, he doesn’t really care.” Patrick gapes at Joe, not entirely believing the words that just came out of his mouth. He doesn’t want to correct Joe - he is gay, but Pete and him? It would never happen. Patrick didn’t even really want it to happen. Well… maybe a bit.

 

Instead, he laughs nervously, feeling a little too warm. “It’s not gonna happen, Joe. I can take care of myself.” He says, laying a reassuring hand on Joe’s shoulder. “And if something does happen, I’m sure I can count on you to be my knight in shining armor.” He says playfully.

 

Joe just smirks at him, and gives him a light shove. “Alright, alright. I guess if you happen to become a damsel in distress, I’ll come save you.” He jokes, and then slings an arm around Patrick’s shoulder. It’s warm and comforting and Patrick leans into it, smiling. “But really, doesn’t hesitate to call if he like… you know.” Joe adds, much more serious this time around.

 

Patrick gives Joe another smile. While he’s sure he can handle himself, he’ll definitely be sure to call Joe to come get him if something weird does happen. It’s at that moment that Pete plops himself down between the two of them, squeezing into the small space. Joe’s expression changes, looking stormy as Pete grabs Patrick’s hand and gives it a squeeze. “So, ‘Rickster, where do you wanna eat?”

 

After cringing at the nickname, Patrick grabs his hand back from Pete. “I dunno. I haven’t been here that long. You’d know the best places to eat.” Patrick tells him, rubbing his hand. Pete’s hand was warm and a bit rough, and it left a weird feeling in Patrick’s stomach. “I’m alright with whatever.”

 

Joe stands up, grumbling as he walks over to Andy. Patrick feels bad, but it seemed like directly dealing with Pete was the best way to get rid of him quickly. Pete just gives him a grin and hooks his arm around him, bringing him close. It also seemed like Pete thrived off physical attention - he was always hanging off someone. 

 

“Well, cutie, how about this nice little burger place? I doubt you’ve been there.” Pete suggests, squeezing him tight.

 

“Uh, well,” Patrick says, attempting to wiggle free from Pete’s grasp. “Sure, that sounds good.” He could definitely go for a burger at the moment. Though he hadn’t done much at the practice, he felt famished. 

 

“Alright! Then let’s go. C’mon.” Pete exclaims, standing up and yanking Patrick up along with him. He grabs his bass case and waves at Joe and Andy, before motioning for Patrick to follow him. “So long, kids. See you guys later.” Patrick shoots Joe a nervous glance but follows - Joe looks worried and Andy just looks amused.

 

Patrick follows Pete to his car. It’s a beaten down old thing, and he hesitates. But Pete gestures him into the passenger's seat, grinning as he does so. The inside of Pete’s car is clean, though it smells strongly of weed. Pete starts up the car and they head off, and it’s quiet as they do so.

 

After a while, the overwhelming urge to ask a specific question overtakes Patrick. “Pete,” he begins, a little unsure. “Why do you hate Juneau?” 

 

Pete stays silent, and Patrick regrets asking it. God, his stupid big mouth that blurted whatever came to mind. He’s sure that he’s ruined any chance of a friendship with Pete until Pete breaks the silence with a soft laugh. “It’s a place that has a lot of bad memories for me. I guess I just feel trapped here.”

 

Patrick feels like he can definitely relate to that. He feels trapped too - he has to wait until he finishes high school here to leave. He knows for a fact that he’s going back to Chicago once it’s over. “I get that. I wish I was back in Chicago.”

 

At that, Pete perks up visibly. “What is Chicago like? I’ve always wanted to go.” Pete asks him, glancing over at him for just a moment. “I’d honestly like to move there once I can get away from this place.”

 

“It’s… amazing. It’s home and it’s wonderful. There’s a million things to do even when you live in the suburbs and it’s cold…” Patrick trails off, heart aching. God, he misses his home. He misses the old house he grew up and he misses Glenbrook High. He misses his bandmates and the record stores he used to prowl after school every day. “I’d go back in a heartbeat if I could.”

 

“Well, if I end up moving there maybe you can come with me, Pattycakes.” Pete tells him, tone lighthearted. “Who knows, right?”

 

Patrick just laughs. “I gotta finish high school first. I wish it was already over.”

“I feel you. I remember being seventeen. It sucked, hardcore. But honestly, twenty two doesn’t feel that much better so far.” 

 

Patrick falls silent at that - he’s not really sure what to say. He knows that Pete has all this shit in his brain that really fucking sucks, and he can relate. But Pete seems so much darker and so much more lost. Patrick wishes he knew what the right thing to say to him was. Luckily, they pull into the restaurant parking lot before it gets awkward.

 

“Thanks for coming with me.” Pete says after a moment, turning off the car. “Lately… I haven’t been great with people. I mean, you saw what I did to Joe.” He laughs, but it’s hoarse and empty. Patrick winces. “I know I haven’t known you long, but it seems like it’s different with you. You’re a lot easier to talk to then Joe or Andy. All they do is get on my ass about my poor life choices.”

 

Patrick gives him a weak laugh. “Give it time. I might do the same. Don’t want you overdosing or something.”

 

“Trust me, ‘Rick. I’m the king at not overdosing.”

 

The way he says it sends a slight chill through Patrick. When he looks at Pete and sees the darkness swirling in his eyes and through his mind, he can’t help but feel like Pete’s words might come back to bite him. But he keeps quiet and tries to shake the feeling. He doesn’t know Pete well but he’s sure that he’s smart enough to know what he’s doing. Even if Patrick doesn’t approve.

 

They head inside the place. It’s a small burger joint that Pete was correct about - he hasn’t been here before. He’s been to what feels like all over town with Joe so far, but it’s nice to go somewhere that he hasn’t gone yet with Pete.

 

They go in, get seated, and they keep talking. Pete’s easy to talk to. If Patrick had thought Joe was easy to talk to, he’s got nothing on Pete. Pete just understands right off the bat what Patrick means. There’s no asking him what he means when he says something weird, Pete just knows. He’s never felt this kind of connection with someone before and it’s almost a little terrifying how insane it is. They’re polar opposites in some ways, but in other ways they just entirely click in ways that he and Joe don’t.

 

He entirely appreciates Joe still, but there’s something so innate about the way he and Pete converse that it blows his mind.

 

“You know,” Patrick says half way through their meal, finishing a particularly delicious bite of burger, “This is so weird.” Pete gives him a funny look. 

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Like… talking to you I guess? I don’t wanna sound weird but I guess I’ve never had this kind of connection with someone right off the bat before.” Patrick tells him, playing with a french fry. He feels kind of embarrassed saying it to Pete, because what if it was just him being weird and Pete was just charismatic? 

 

Thankfully, Pete’s confusion eases and he smiles at Patrick. “Yeah, I feel that way, too. It definitely is weird.” Pete confesses, mimicking him and playing with his food. “I’m good at talking to people but I never particularly enjoy it. Except for like, now.”

 

Patrick feels thrilled. He doesn’t know Pete super well but from what he’s gotten to know from their dinner conversation, he wants to know him well. He seems cool, in a sad kind of way, and Patrick kind of just wants to see him smile.

 

“Honestly, you and Joe and Andy are like, the only good things about this town so far.” Patrick tells him. “Juneau just isn’t what my mom predicted it would be.” 

 

Pete laughs, a real one this time. “Yeah, Juneau kind of sucks. And my friends kind of suck, too. Except for Joe and Andy and now you, too. Being friends with people you hate definitely sucks.” 

 

“Why are you friends with people you hate then?” Patrick asks him curiously. Any time he’s disliked someone he made it a point to not talk to them anymore. But Patrick would be the first to admit he sometimes struggles with his anger - it was better overall to just cut people he disliked out of his life. 

 

Pete shrugs, silent for a moment and taking another bite of his burger. Patrick is patient, waiting for him to finish. “Well,” Pete begins, swallowing hard. “I guess it’s easier to be around people that you hate, in a way. You don’t really have to talk to them like you care, and you don’t really have to care about them, but you’re not entirely alone when it matters.” Pete finishes, looking a little tired. “It’s not ideal but no one likes putting up with me for more than an hour or two.”

 

Patrick takes it in. It feels strange to him, to put up with people he hates just for some company, but there’s something about the way Pete says it that makes him not want to push further. “I guess I’ve been lonely a lot of my life.” Pete adds softly, bringing his gaze to meet Patrick’s. It’s soft and sad, and Patrick’s heart aches for him for a moment. While he hates this new part of his life he’s sure that he’s never felt like Pete does.

 

In a way he wishes that he had felt like Pete before, if only to relate to him better. “I’m sorry.” Patrick says sincerely. “I guess I don’t really know how that feels.”

 

Pete just shrugs and give him a soft smile. “I’m glad you don’t know how it feels. Feeling like that sucks and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

 

Patrick appreciates the sentiment, even if he does feel bad for Pete still. They finish up their meal, the conversation shifting to something a lot more light hearted than before. They talk about music, about food, about anything that comes to mind really. By the end of the dinner Patrick can definitely say he knows quite a bit about Pete Wentz.

 

Pete drives him home after he insists on paying for their dinner. Patrick tries to argue but he eventually lets Pete foot the bill once he realizes that they’ll be there all night arguing. Pete pays it while crowing, looking entirely too smug about the whole thing. Patrick promises him that he owes him a meal now, and Pete grins at him.

 

“That was the plan. Now you owe me a meal so we have to hang out again.” Pete tells him as they’re driving back to Patrick’s house, a big smile on his face. Patrick’s got one on too, and it’s times like these when he’s glad that he’s in Juneau. “All part of the master plan, ‘Rickster.”

 

Patrick just laughs, because he would have hung out with Pete again anyways. “Well, I guess I need your number then.” Patrick tells him, pulling out his phone and fiddling with it for a moment.

 

Pete recites his number and Patrick punches it in, shoving the phone back into his pocket once he’s got it in. “Thanks again for the meal.” He tells him as they turn onto his street. Suddenly, despite the fact that it’s entirely too late for a weekday night, he doesn’t want to go. He’s having a great time talking to Pete and he really doesn’t want to go home and face his mother and Brent in any way, shape, or form.

 

“Of course man. Just think about joining the band, would ‘ya?” Pete asks him as Patrick points out his driveway. “We could really use you in the band. I know I’m kind of shit but like, with you and Joe and Andy’s talents? We could totally go far.” 

 

Patrick huffs out a laugh - he’s not so sure. Up until a few hours ago he hadn’t sung in front of anyone, and he had totally thought his singing voice was shit. Now there were three people pestering him about joining their band. It was pretty crazy, in his opinion.

 

“Alright, I promise I’ll think about it. But no promises.” Patrick tells him. “Thanks again, Pete.” He says, unbuckling himself and climbing out of his car. He gives him a little wave, and Pete waves back.


“Okay, Patrick. Talk to you soon.” Pete promises. 

 

Patrick shuts the door and turns around to go inside, trying to contain the smile that’s growing on his face. He feels a lot lighter than he did this morning, and he can only hope that the feeling continues throughout the rest of his week. 

 

And, the more that he thinks about joining the band, the better he feels about it. Especially if he gets to hang out with Pete, Joe, and Andy more often.