Chapter 1: "Pay For Your Shit"
"So, let me get this straight. He asks you, "How is Richie?" And you hit him."
"You did what?" Dom hands Patrick a plate of chicken.
"Punched Kevin in the face because he asked after Richie," Agustin recites while forking some chicken into his mouth.
"Why?" Dom is in shock.
"Because when it comes to Richie, Patrick is a crazy person."
"What?" Patrick gives Agustin a look. "No, I'm not."
"Oh, and get this," Agustin says to Dom, who is still standing in front of them, his mouth opened in disbelief. "He is suspended from work."
"Paddie, why? I can't believe this. You are like the least violent person I know."
"That was until he started getting that good Latin dick."
"Uh -pfft." Patrick can't come up with a good reply.
Dom sits beside Patrick on the parklette. He has staff now (one) so he can afford to gossip with his friends as the lunch crowd dwindles. "What happened, Paddie?"
Patrick shrugs. "I go into the break room. Kevin is there, looking very chipper -Get this, there is a break room for senior staff upstairs but he comes downstairs. Obviously, he's trying to mess with me. He is smiling. This huge friendly grin. Like he is not a liar and a cunt by the way. I'm trying to avoid him. But he comes up to me and says, "Hello, Patrick. How's Richie?""
"And you punch him?"
Patrick winces in embarrassment. "I punch him. It wasn't really a punch-punch. It was like a back hand but with more knuckle than fingers because I was still trying to decide between a slap and a punch when my hand just flew away from me."
Agustin snorts. Patrick eyes him.
"And you got suspended from work?"
"Yes. Apparently, there is zero tolerance for violence. And I hit my boss. The asshole said it was fine, he didn't want me to get fired or anything but HR had to punish me somehow. "So that sort of behaviour is not repeated."" He makes air quotes with his still untouched plate of chicken and his fork.
He shrugs and takes a bite of chicken. "What I don't get is why Agustin seems more upset than Kevin."
Agustin chuckles dryly, wipes his lips with a napkin but says nothing.
"Of course, he is upset." Dom voice is still set in highpitch shock-mode. "You got suspended."
"Nope. That's not why I'm upset. I'm not even upset. It's your job and you got suspended and not fired. I'm not upset. I'm just worried that since you fell in love -" it was Agustin's turn to use the air quotes, "you've gone crazy. I mean, crazy possessive. Like no one can say anything about Richie without you hurling out the over-protective mom act."
"What are you talking about?" Patrick snickers.
"Remember last week, when I was complaining about how Richie gave me a bad haircut?"
"Is that what this is about?"
"You literally threw a tantrum about how there was nothing wrong with the haircut and if I didn't like it, maybe I should start paying for my haircuts instead of getting them for free."
"Well, if you are not paying, you shouldn't be complaining."
"Like Richie never gives bad haircuts."
"No, he doesn't. And if there was some mistake, it was probably because you didn't sit still."
Agustin scoffs. "Look, I know this is your first love and everything and you are scared he's going to find out you are not all that after all and dump your ass -"
"Hey!" Dom cuts in. "What is this? Really, you guys."
Patrick gets up. "Fuck you, Agustin. Just fucking pay for your shit and stop freeloading all the time. At least, you have a job now. You can afford to."
"Seeing as you almost lost yours and may still do - who knows? - you might as well as get off your high horse."
Patrick dips his hand in his pocket and pointedly pushes some money into Dom's lax hand. "See, that's how you do it. I'll see you later, Dom. Thanks for lunch."
As Patrick walks away, Dom turns, mouth agape, to Agustin. "What just happened?"
Agustin takes a bite of chicken in response.
Chapter 2: "I Support You"
Patrick heads to the barber truck. He debates telling Richie why he was suspended. Richie may think the entire punching Kevin thing is because Patrick still has feelings for the asshole. But really, you could just loathe someone without ever wanting to be with them. All that love being the other side of hate is just crap.
He would just love for Kevin to be out of his life, period. Kevin reminds him of a time when he was stupid, naively hopeful and totally immature. He should have known better for his age - experience or not. That's what happens when Dana Murray is your mom. She inflicts you with so much neuroses you eventually don't have much of an instinct to doubt.
A voice in his head reminds him he is still being immature; blaming his mom for mistakes made in adulthood, and not completely owning his shit.
Richie is sitting at the door of the truck when Patrick gets there. He smiles when he sees Patrick but waits for him to approach. He pulls Patrick down for a kiss and then beside him, hugging the taller man close.
"Nice surprise," he says, bussing Patrick's forehead. "My favourite days are when you surprise me at work. Especially if I was just thinking about you just before you come."
Patrick wraps his arms around Richie's waist. He nuzzles his lover's neck. "I love surprising you."
"The only thing missing from your surprise is food. I missed lunch and was just debating going over to the corner to get tacos or wait for dinner. I've been on my feet all afternoon. I just want to lie back on the floor here."
"Awww. I just came from Dom's place. I tossed the chicken I bought. I lost my appetite." He makes a face, remembering his fight with Agustin, and then belatedly realises he said too much.
Richie gives him a penetrating look. "That's another thing. You sometimes surprise me when you've had a bad day at work."
Patrick avoids his piercing gaze.
"So what happened? Don't tell me. Kevin."
He tells Richie everything, including his fight with Agustin.
"Agustin gets all sulky when he can't have his way. I know it's your choice if you want to cut his hair for free. You don't have to do it because he's my friend -or your friend these days. But he shouldn't act like he is entitled to it or something."
"I can't believe you guys are still arguing about that. I did give him a bad hair cut. It was the end of the day and I was exhausted and he insisted -"
"That's it. Why insist you cut his hair? You are not his personal barber or something. And he wasn't going to pay. He acts so selfish and spoilt sometimes."
Richie shrugs. He knows better than to try to settle a fight between Patrick and Agustin. Or worse, take sides. They were friends long before he came on the scene. The two are more like brothers, and siblings' fights are more easily resolved when no third party comes in between them.
"So what are you going to do about Kevin?"
Patrick winces inwardly, noting how Richie refuses to get distracted by Patrick's spat with Agustin.
"Not let him get to me, I guess. Frankly, I don't know how much longer I can stand to see his smarmy face without wanting to punch it each time. And before you say anything, it's not because I'm still in love with him. Rather, each time I see him, I'm reminded of one of the dumbest mistakes I ever made - choosing him over you. I mean look at where we are now."
"Sitting in the doorway to my truck in a park?"
"Exactly. And I can't imagine being anywhere else but right here with you."
Richie is quiet. Patrick pulls away from Richie, puts his feet up and wraps his arms around his knees.
"I know you said I shouldn't run away but I think I'm going to try and look for another job. Being around Kevin without getting mad and wanting to punch his face in is not something I think I can do. I want that chapter of my life to be over and done with for good. I like where I am right now and how much I have grown. I don't want to be forced to regress."
He is staring straight ahead while he speaks. He turns to Richie. His boyfriend has an indecipherable look on his face.
"What?" Patrick chuckles.
Richie leans in for a quick kiss. "It's fine, Pato. Do what you feel is best for you. I support you."
Patrick's smile is sickly sweet. He rests his head on Richie's shoulder. The other man places his jaw on Patrick's head, embracing him.
"And you are right," Richie continues. "Kevin's face really begs to be punched."
"Right?" Patrick exclaims, excited by his partner's easy acceptance of his violent instincts.
Patrick sees Agustin first. His not-so-best-a-friend these days is sitting facing the entrance to the restaurant. Patrick beams when he recognises the back of Richie's head. His boyfriend is sitting beside another dark headed man who is directly opposite Agustin.
Agustin smirks when their eyes meet. Patrick ignores him and taps Richie's shoulder. Richie leaps up. He tries to speak through a mouthful of food, gives up and kisses Patrick's cheek instead. But Patrick grabs him by the shoulder and plants a huge one on his lips.
"My Richie," he sighs. Agustin rolls his eyes.
Patrick scrutinizes the third person at the table. He's sure it's not a face he's seen before. "Hi." He gives a small wave. "I'm Patrick."
The other man reaches out to shake him. "Louis."
"Patrick is Richie's crazy ex-boyfriend," Agustin sneers.
It's Patrick turn to use the eye roll as he sits beside his prickly best friend. Richie narrows his eyes at Agustin. He snaps out what sounds like an insult in Spanish. Agustin responds with an impish smile.
"It's nice to finally meet you," Louis tells Patrick. "I've heard so much about you."
"He's Agustin's friend from work," Richie explains. "But we all hang out together sometimes."
"Okay. Nice to meet you."
"So how did it go?" Richie asks.
Patrick resumed work that morning. He shrugs and snags a fry from Richie's plate. "It was pretty complicated. But long story short, I did it. I quit."
"You quit?" The ends of Richie's once-again-stuffed mouth pull up at the instinctive concern Agustin displays. "Why, Patty? What's going on down there? Why are you smiling?" The last question is for Richie.
Patrick's man chuckles.
"Your boyfriend just lost his job."
"I didn't lose my job, I quit."
"Sounds the same to me. You are unemployed."
A waitstaff comes along.
"What are you having?" Patrick peeks into Richie's plate. "I'll have what he is having. And some meatballs on the side."
"So what happened?" Agustin pokes Patrick in the arm.
"Ow." Patrick rubs his arm furiously. "I went in and was called to see HR immediately. Apparently, there is a new manager from the last time I worked there. She had learnt Kevin and I used to be a thing." Patrick makes a face. "So she wanted to find out if Kevin had abused his power in anyway and if I planned to sue the company for the suspension more or less. I told her no, what Kevin and I hsd was consensual back then. It didn't matter anymore anyway, I said, because I only came in to turn in my resignation. She goes into a panic trying to make me sign some waiver that Kevin was not the reason I was quitting the job, and MDG would not be culpable in any future sexual harassment suit."
"Oh wow," Louis sayd.
"Yeah," Patrick frowns at him. "Like I said it got pretty complicated."
Agustin scoffs. "Well, I hope you didn't sign anything."
"Of course not. I just wanted to get out of there. So, I'm in my office packing up my desk when Kevin comes in. He accuses me off trying to get him fired after he helped me get the job."
"That fucking guy," Richie exclaims.
"You really should sue him, Patrick, and get all his gay money," Agustin says taking a sip of his drink. "Wait, I have said that before."
Patrick's food arrives and it's quite a lot. "Oh no! Babe, you should have warned me," he complains to Richie. "You'll have some of my meatballs, right?"
Richie chuckles. "I'm stuffed actually." A belch escapes him and he laughs harder.
"I'll share," Louis offers, earning another weird look from Patrick.
"The invitation was only meant for "Babe" over there," Agustin points out helpfully.
"Oh, my bad," Louis starts to say.
"It's okay," Patrick extends his plate to him. "Have some. Okay, maybe one. I don't really share my meatballs."
"So, Kevin," Richie prods.
"Oh yeah," Patrick puts some ketchup on his fries. "I basically told him to fuck off. Packed my boxes and left. So now, I'm not only unemployed but I've probably ruined my chances of getting another job."
"Why? Because of Kevin."
"Yeah, he sexually harassed you," Agustin insists.
"Not exactly. I mean, maybe in the beginning but later, it was mutual. I mean, I moved in with the guy."
"For one night."
"Yeah, one night but I don't come out of this looking like a saint or a martyr either."
Richie reaches across the table and grasps Patrick's free hand. "It's okay, Pato. Like you said, that chapter is closed. You don't need to keep beating yourself up over your mistakes. Look at it this way, you can finally do your own thing now. If you want to."
"Yeah, Patty," Agustin rubs his arm reassuringly. "And I doubt anyone would refuse to give you a job because you had an affair with your boss. And then quit your job twice to get away from him."
Patrick raises an eyebrow.
"I mean," Agustin rushes to clarify, "You're brilliant. Looking at your resume, anyone would hire you just like that." He snaps his finger.
Patrick smiles . "Thanks, Agustin."
Richie is warmed by the renewed camaraderie between Patrick and Agustin. He congratulates himself for not taking sides. Like there is any side to take. He will always be Team Patrick. He rubs Patrick's hand with his thumb, brings it to his lips and kisses it. Patrick leans over the table, almost causing the glass of water in front of Agustin to topple. He purses his lips for a kiss, which Richie gladly drops on it.
"I love you," Patrick says.
Agustin rolls his eyes as he holds onto the glass of water.
"How is Eddie, Agustin?" Patrick asks pointedly. "You know, you two are way into more PDA than Richie and me, so I don't get your eye-rolls."
"Oh please, we both know you are marking your territory."
Agustin cocks his head towards Louis who is gazing awkwardly at both of them.
Patrick snorts. "Yeah, keep trying to push your moot point."
Richie steps in. "He's right, Pato. You act all possessive with me. But I like it. And I do it too. Maybe even more than you. Like right now, I think I'll go across the city and just punch out Kevin."
Agustin laughs as he puts his drink to his lips. "Fine, but you still owe me a haircut."
Okay, this didn't go the way I expected... which is why you shouldn't take too long a break between chapters.
Still, I invite you to enjoy and comment.
Thanks for all the many kudos.
"Yeah, doesn't mean you should act like a crazy person," Agustin snaps as they stand before a shelf of shampoos.
They've both come to shop for home supplies.
"How am I acting like a crazy person again?"
"Asking me not to speak Spanish around Richie."
Patrick scoffs. "I didn't ask you not to speak Spanish to Richie. I only said you do it a lot these days. Like you both are in some secret cult, sharing jokes the rest of us are not privy to. It's rude." He faces his best friend defiantly.
"I can't help it," Agustin laughs, his anger deflating in the face of Patrick's accusatory iciness. "When you're bilingual, there are inside jokes, slangs or sayings that completely makes sense in the other language but would totally fall flat in English."
Patrick rolls his eyes, drops a bottle of Richie's favourite shampoo into the cart and pushes it forward. Agustin is carrying a basket. He picks up a similar bottle off the shelf, glances briefly at its label and plops it unceremoniously into his basket.
"It's just the way you say it," Patrick twists around to glare at Agustin, his hands still on the cart beside him, "Like it's some big secret you don't want the rest of us to know. Then you laugh. It's the laugh that's most annoying."
"Wait," Agustin gasps. "Do you not like Richie and I being friends? I'm sorry, I thought you'd be pleased with the fact that your best friend and your boyfriend got along pretty well."
"Of course, I like that you and Richie are friends. It's just you making it a whole thing -"
"Like you're trying to rub it in my and Eddie's faces ?"
"What?" Agustin splutters.
Patrick huffs and starts to push his cart again but Agustin rushes to block his path.
"Wait, what? You think there's something between me and Richie?"
Against his better instincts, Patrick asks anyway, "Is there?"
Agustin looks away in frustration then out of nowhere, smacks Patrick in the head. The other man's mouth soundlessly drops open.
"I never thought I'd say this but love has made you ridiculous. You need to rein in your insecurity. Richie loves you like a crazy person. Only, he's saner about it than you are. And me speaking Spanish to Richie to rile you up, it's just that -me riling you up."
He pauses, staring at Patrick with widened eyes filled with disbelief. "And the idea that I would sleep with your boyfriend -any boyfriend, not just Richie..." His hurt is tangible in the air. It hangs there between them: a thick dark cloud of anger, sorrow and resentment.
Patrick bites his lip, his remorse and shame clear on his face.
His best friend waits.
"I'm sorry," Patrick lets out finally.
He srubs his hands over his face, sighs. He avoids Augustin's eyes, gives a small rueful smile, leans hard into his cart. "You are right. This "my love" for Richie is turning me into a crazy person."
Agustin snorts. He shifts to walk away but pulls Patrick's cart along forcing the other man to move too.
"It's just that... I'm scared of losing him." Patrick gazes unseeingly at the shelves moving past him. "You know, I was too scared the first time and I lost him. I just feel like he could do better than me. Like I'm going to make another mistake and then lose him again to someone better. This time, for good."
He stops walking completely, gripping the cart with whitened knuckles, head hanging towards the ground. He looks so miserable that Agustin can't help "awwwing" as he gives Patrick a hug.
"You're not gonna lose him." The shorter man wipes a lone tear that has escaped down his friend's cheek. "For some weird reason I doubt he understands either, Richie is totally head over heels in love with you. I don't believe he's going to let anyone ever steal him away from you. Most of all, me."
He pulls away from Patrick, holding him at arm's length. "You've got to quit reliving the past. Enjoy what you have now. Love that man like there's no other person in the world."
"There's none," Patrick sniffs, allowing himself a watery smile.
"Exactly. Take all that insecurity and turn it into something that makes you appreciate more what you have instead of becoming some crazy, obsessive, possessive asshole."
Patrick aims a slap at Agustin's head which the smaller man dodges. "I hate you."
The two best friends exchange heartfelt looks filled with gratitude, understanding and forgiveness.
"Come on. The cashier is probably thinking we're back here using his shampoo for lube."
Patrick sniggers before bursting into uncontrollable laughter that expels all the fear he'd been storing up for no reason at all.