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Sunshine

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When Pete first heard of Patrick, he was grateful.

If news of Patrick hadn’t been the one gracing everyone’s mouths and screens on the first day of senior year, then Pete was 110% sure it would have been him as the centre of attention. It was better for Pete this way. The crowds weren’t focusing on the kid who had just come out of inpatient at the psychiatric hospital, rather than on some golden boy who was starting freshman year.

Pete didn’t get a chance to meet the kid in the morning, it seemed everywhere he went he was swamped. He was 14, and had started yesterday with the rest of the freshman cohort, but unlike the rest of the freshman cohort, everyone fucking loved him. For starters, Patrick didn’t need to be in freshman year. Hell, Patrick didn’t need to be in senior year. The kid had some serious academic merit tucked under his belt, and from the rumours that Brendon had been texting him, Pete learned that he’d had turned down offers to start college this year. Why? Because apparently the little brat wanted to be normal and make some friends.

He could probably tick that one off his list already, he already had the whole school falling over themselves for him. Everywhere Pete went, in all his classes, all he heard was 'have you seen what Patrick did at lunch?' 'Or Did you hear about what Patrick did in geometry today? Apparently he kicked Mr Campbell’s butt after calling him out for teaching an incorrect method!' It was just Patrick this, and Patrick that. At first it wasn’t too bad, Pete was just relieved the conversations weren’t about him coming back to finish his senior year, but by 5th period it was getting a little old.

By 7th period, it seemed Patrick’s entire life story was known by every student in this goddamn school. He could play any sport at a varsity level. He could ace every class in this school with honours. He could dance (apparently), and yet he was apparently the sweetest little thing that anyone had ever met.

That was the other thing that Pete had heard about Patrick. That he was short. So, so, incredibly short. The smallest kid in freshman year, and probably even looked a little small to be in middle school. The photo being texted around of the captain of the basketball team with his arm around the little guy made him look tiny – his head didn’t even reach Tyler’s shoulders. But that didn’t stop the smile on his face in every photo he’d seen of him.

Patrick, from what Pete had heard, was a little fucking ray of sunshine. That meant that the little grey cloud of Pete could slip under the radar, exactly how he hoped.

---------

When Pete first met Patrick, he was a lot less grateful.

Everything he’d been told about this kid was that he wanted to be in normal classes with kids his age, despite the fact that he could outwit every single goddamn one of them. But when Pete sat down in his music extension class at the end of the day, and saw all the other kids crowded around a pipsqueak with a guitar at the front, something inside him wasn’t happy.

If he hadn’t been accepted into this stupid music course, he probably wouldn’t have come back to this school at all. This was his one chance, it was the best music course for high school students in the city. He’d worked his arse off to be here, and now this little fucking ray of sunshine had just waltzed in, grabbed a guitar and had everyone spellbound.
Pete, despite not even talking to this kid yet, hated the fact that he was here. Of all the classes that he could be ahead in, why did it have to be this one? This was Pete’s thing. It had always been Pete’s thing. Nobody else did it like Pete did. This was all he had now; he hadn’t been accepted into his writing course, so this was his only option.
Now this little ray of fucking sunshine was taking it right out from under him.

The kid was sitting at the front of the room, playing some guitar solo from Professor Hoppus’s electric guitar that nobody was allowed to touch. Except for the golden boy, it seemed. He was absolutely killing it, Pete had to admit, and everyone (including Professor Hoppus) was watching him with awe. He was seemingly having a good time, as told by the smile on his face as he shredded, and finished with a little giggle that made everyone around him laugh.

“Thanks, Patrick.” Professor Hoppus smiled warmly, taking the guitar from the smallest member of his class. “Take a seat up the front here.”

“I won’t be able to see the front if I sit anywhere else.” Patrick giggled. Pete stared at the kid, wondering exactly how he was 14. He didn’t seem 14. In fact, he looked about 10 years old. He was about the same height as Pete’s elementary school aged cousin, he was wearing a bright yellow t-shirt and his voice hadn’t dropped yet either. His honey-coloured hair didn’t help either, especially since it was topped with a little hat. He was a child, essentially. A child with insane guitar skills that had been welcomed into his extension music program.

Pete clearly had his work cut out for him if he was going to be top of the class by the end of this year. That was his goal. Be top of the class and get his name down on some entry forms to some music schools. But he knew to get in he needed some actual credit and experience. Being in this class helped, but he really needed to be at the top of it if he wanted anyone to notice him. He thought it’d be easy, he was by far the best musician in this year level, but Patrick had just arrived and promised to be trouble.

Of all the music classes in the school, it just had to be this one.

They started the lesson by going around the room, introducing themselves and the instruments they played. It wasn’t a very big class, only 8 students, but that was because this program was a nightmare to get into. You had auditions and essays and theory classes, and it was kind of a big deal. It was meant to be for seniors only – seniors that showed incredible talent and potential in the music industry – but it seemed that they’d made an exception.

“I’m Patrick, I like a lot of different genres so I can’t really say I have a favourite, but I play drums, guitar, trumpet, piano, bass, trombone and saxophone.” He smiled, tapping his fingers on his knees as they sat in a circle. “I wanna learn the cello, but it’s bigger than I am, so I think I’m gonna have to wait a little bit before I give that one a go.”

Everyone in the circle laughed, except for Pete, who waited for his turn. The whole idea of reintroducing themselves seemed stupid, he’d been a part of the music program with these exact same kids since elementary school. The music program was a tight-knit group already. Except for Patrick, but he seemed to have been accepted pretty easily. Josh, Brendon and Dallon had already taught him the group’s signature handshake, and Nicole, Hayley and Gerard all were smiling and laughing along with him. It seemed only Pete was being the cynical asshole here.

“So, yeah, I’m Pete, most of you know me already, my favourite genre is punk and I’m a bassist and a lyricist.” Pete twisted the ring around on his finger in an attempt to calm himself, something they’d taught him during his stay in inpatient. “Good to be back. I’ve missed you goofballs.”

“Aww, Pete!” Brendon laughed and threw an arm around his friend. “We’ve missed you too buddy! It’s good you’re back, we might have some actually decent lyrics to sing now.”

Pete chuckled awkwardly, not exactly enjoying the spotlight, but he was doing his best to keep this going because he was genuinely glad to be back in this class and to be with his friends. “Thanks, B.”

“As much as I’d love to have a lovely reunion right now,” Professor Hoppus interrupted his group. “We have a lot of work to get done this semester. We’re gonna be representing the school at the state finals in under two months, so we’ve got some serious compositions to write. Now, Patrick, I know the rest of these guys and I have been working on our songwriting skills for a number of years, but you’re new here. Have you done any songwriting before?”

“Well, I’ve done some little things, but never a whole song, really…” Patrick rubbed the back of his neck. “But I’m excited to learn. It sounds pretty fun.”

“That’s what I like to hear!” Professor Hoppus smiled at him, and Pete scowled. This kid hadn’t even written a song before. How on earth had he even gotten into this program then? He probably had rich parents who wanted their darling little academic to be in whatever class he wanted to be, and they probably gave some huge donation to the school or something. He zoned out for a while, coming up with some stupid backstory for Patrick’s parents and how he’d gotten in here.

It was a little bit mean, but as long as it was in his head and not out loud, it didn’t matter, right?

“So we’re gonna start with some song analysis today to get us started-“ The whole class groaned. “But afterwards I’ll give you your tasks for the next couple of weeks. Then we’ll actually get down to making some music, sound good?”

Everyone grabbed their computers out and dragged the chairs back to the desks. Professor Hoppus grabbed his box of songs, and had each student draw one out of the box to analyse. It was the way they’d always done it, and it was a better way of teaching everyone that giving everyone the same song to research. They’d each take one, write a little bit about it and then explain it to the rest of the class.

Patrick hadn’t done this before, and Pete scoffed a little bit when Professor Hoppus had to lower his box a significant amount so he could even reach one of the slips of paper. “Enter Sandman, Metallica.”

The other thing about the box was that it was open to suggestions. Before the program started, all the students were asked to write down a couple of their all-time favourite songs, ones that meant the most to them and made them want to pursue music as a career. And that song was on Pete’s list.

“So, you’ll realise soon enough that these songs aren’t ones I’ve selected like previous years.” Professor Hoppus chuckled. “Something I want you to look a lot at this year is your motivations and your inspirations. I want you to break them apart, bit by bit. Figure out why you admire them, and then I want you to go above and beyond them. You’re all capable of that, or you wouldn’t be in this program.”

Patrick did his little-kid giggle again, and tucked the slip into the pocket of his jacket. “This is cool!”

Pete got ‘Come fly with me’ by Frank Sinatra, and made eye contact with Brendon from across the room. This was obviously his choice, the guy was obsessed with Sinatra. Brendon just chuckled and sat down with his own song to start researching it.

“Now, these have to be done by tomorrow, guys!” Professor Hoppus called. “You’re gonna be doing a lot of work from home this year, so take this as the first taste of an exciting semester to come. An exciting and busy semester, that is.”

Josh and Brendon both groaned and tried to bargain an extra day to do their homework, but everyone else nodded and began packing up for the day. Patrick, who Pete had been keeping a close eye on (He wanted his song treated right, goddammit!), picked his computer up and placed it on Professer Hoppus’s desk. “Finished.”

That was when every pair of eyes in the room landed on him. Patrick just giggled again, clearly used to his kind of attention. Pete got up and walked over, standing behind Professor Hoppus, who started going through his powerpoint slides. “Well… you are…” He smiled up at Patrick. “And it’s done well. I guess that means no homework for you then.”

“Can I take another song from the box?” Patrick asked, taking his computer back. “I mean, I don’t really have anything to do tonight.”

“Sure, Patrick. Take as many as you want.”

Patrick ran eagerly to the box, and pulled out four slips of paper, which he shoved into his pocket with a smile. “Thanks, professor!”

“Y’know, if you’ve got nothing to do this afternoon, we’re gonna go grab milkshakes and stuff to start the semester off right.” Hayley extended a smile to the young teen. “It’s gonna be fun, you wanna tag along?”

“Yeah, that sounds fun!” He giggled again, and Pete sighed internally. This was meant to be his chance to catch up on the drama that he’d missed while he was in inpatient, but he wasn’t going to cause a scene. Patrick was already so excited, and the rest of the group seemed glad he was coming.

All except for Pete. It seemed his reputation as the group’s pessimist wasn’t going anywhere.

-------

The diner that the group liked to go to to get their milkshakes was nearby, and only a short stroll through the park from the school. They were regulars here, all the staff knew them by name, and all the staff knew their orders by now as well. It was a great relief for Pete to be back here, just like old times. He missed this.

“Hey guys. Pete! You’re back!” Meagan, their waitress, smiled. “It’s good to see you!”

Pete hugged her, and smiled back. “It’s good to be home.”

“Well, it’s not home until I get you a milkshake, kiddo.” She laughed. “Sit down. Regular for everybody?”

“Sounds good.” Brendon nodded. “What do you want, Patrick?”

“Just chocolate, please.” Patrick smiled with a wave.

“Sure thing.” Meagan wrote it down, and looked back up at them. “Is this your brother, Bren?”

“This is Patrick. He’s the newest member of the squad.” Brendon replied with a smile. “He’s 14, but they liked him so he’s in our program now. Super smart, too.”

Patrick just giggled and blushed. “I’m a freshman, I started yesterday.”

“Oh, cool! Well, don’t let them push you around too much. They’re a terrifying bunch when they want to be.”

Nicole chuckled. “Leave us alone, Meg. Look at these little cheeks. Nobody in their right mind would mistreat this little pumpkin. We love him already.”

Patrick giggled again, and Pete found himself growing impatient. He just wanted a milkshake, and he wanted Patrick not to be here right now so they could focus on more important things, like the fact that Brendon had his arm around Dallon, and Dallon was resting his head on Brendon’s shoulder. That seemed like an important detail, and one he was eager to hear more about.

But it seemed the only thing that anyone wanted to talk about was the kid sitting at the end of the table, who beamed out with confidence and seemed to have everyone wrapped around his finger. He was just so goddamn likable. There weren’t a whole lot of people like that, but Patrick seemed to be one of them, and the only person who didn’t like that was Pete.

What was stupid was that Pete didn’t have a valid reason to hate this guy. He was just being nice and doing his little kid thing, and trying to make friends. He couldn’t blame him for wanting to be in a class that matched his actual skill level. Pete probably would end up back in inpatient if they put him in the lower music class.

He was snapped out of his thoughts when his milkshake arrived, and he thanked Meagan profusely before taking a long sip. It tasted like memories, and he smiled as soon as he felt it on his tongue. He thought about all the times his friends must’ve been here without him, when he was in inpatient, and it felt strange to think about. Part of him was worried this morning that they wouldn’t welcome him back, that they wouldn’t want the guy-who-went-psycho back in their group, but it was good that nothing had changed between them.

The only difference was the ray of fucking sunshine sitting down the end of the table, sipping on a chocolate milkshake and raving about how good it was. He glanced over at Pete’s drink and beamed even brighter, if that was even possible. “Chocolate too! It’s really good, isn’t it?!”

“Uh huh.” Pete nodded, not matching the golden boy’s enthusiasm. “That’s why I get it.”

Patrick didn’t pick up on his slightly sarcastic tone, and just giggled. “We’re gonna be great friends. Chocolate people always get along. You’re Pete, aren’t you?”

Pete just shrugged, and stirred his beverage with his straw. Brendon chuckled and patted Pete on the back. “Don’t worry kiddo, Pete’s like an old dog. He’ll warm up to you in his own time.”

Pete had managed to keep everything under control all day, and he was proud of that, but right now his social battery was running on low and he knew he needed to get out of here before he snapped and ruined everyone’s day. So he just handed Patrick a handful of dollars to pay for his drink, and got up from his seat. He was going to leave without saying anything, but hell, he just couldn’t help himself.

“I wouldn’t count on being friends, sunshine. See you in class tomorrow.”