“I don't know who you guys are.”
He said it with such sincerity that Joseph almost believed him. Everyone else in the car seemed to, even Sunita, the biggest skeptic he had ever met in his life, had gone oddly quiet.
“Good one, Tom.” Joseph half-laughed, breaking the silence but not managing to ease the tension. “Where'd that come from, then?”
Tom gave him a mixed look, full of confusion and worry. Full of fear. Tears were just starting to stream down his face and his knuckles had already turned white from where he was gripping the steering wheel. His head was just barely turned towards him and he was looking at him like –
Like he was a stranger.
“Oh, god. You're not joking.”
Tom nodded, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand as his face crumpled.
“I know I'm supposed to, but I just can't remember-- I don't know what's wrong with me.”
“Hey!” Mike spoke up, patting Tom on the shoulder as best as he could from where he was sitting. “There's nothing wrong with you, Tom. I'm sure we can figure this out.”
“Right, Mike's right.” Sunita added. They were both trying to make him feel better, but Joseph had a sneaking suspicion that neither of them knew how to fix this, at least, he didn't.
Mike had quickly decided to take the wheel off Tom, After he confessed that he only knew where he used to live, not where he lives now. So now Tom sat in the back with Sunny, Mike was driving them back, and Joseph was left there, dumbfounded at what had just happened.
Tom didn't remember him.
“I'm gonna get a drink.” Tom had told them, and then promptly disappeared for the rest of the show. Joseph couldn't blame him, he was genuinely considering joining him, but for whatever reason, he just didn't.
Maybe if he had, this wouldn't have happened.
When Tom came back, he clearly wasn't right. He was quieter than before, more fidgety. When asked where he went he just responded with:
“I don't know.”
“What do you mean, you don't know where you went for an hour?”
“Uh, yeah. I just.. Went. Y'know, out.”
Whatever, Tom had always been a little bit of a scatterbrain, it was fine, he was fine. They left shortly after, because they had all just about had enough of the town. Joseph had had enough when he saw The Statues made in their honour. At least seeing the remains of dream park again was satisfying.
“It has to be them, Mike.”
“I know. But what do you want to do about it? They praised us so much, don't you think it would be rude to--”
“My boyfriend doesn't remember anything because of them, Michael! I'd gladly burn the town to the ground if it meant getting his memory back!”
“Alright, alright!” The other man raised his hands in defence, looking more exasperated by the second. “We'll have to go tomorrow.”
There was a heavy silence between them.
“I understand, Joseph. I can't imagine what it's like for him.”
“I should've went with him, I could've prevented this.”
“What if you couldn't? What if you had lost your memory too? What would've happened then, Joseph?”
“Listen, I'm going to bed, and you probably should, too.”
Mike only received a disinterested hum in response, because he and Joseph both knew that wasn't going to happen. But he wished Mike a good night anyway, and sat down on the sofa. Tom sat down on the other side of the sofa almost immediately after, glancing at Joseph once or twice but not saying anything. When had he come in?
“You really don't remember anything about me.” Joseph broke the silence, eyes on the tv but not really taking in what was happening on it.
“No, I've been trying but I just – can't. I'm sorry.”
“It's not your fault.”
“I feel like it is. You're not mad at me, are you?”
Hearing that from Tom, who sounded genuinely upset about it, made Joseph visibly jolt. “What?! Why would you – No, I'm not mad at you!”
He wasn't mad, he didn't have the sheer strength to be mad at anyone, for once. He was scared. Scared at the thought of losing someone else, even if they were still there, sitting right next to him.
“I'm just.. Worried. I suppose.” He admitted.
“Yeah, I think so. I'm going to be completely honest, I don't know what to do. I don't know what they did to you and even if I did, I don't know if they could fix it.”
He glanced at Tom, who clearly hadn't taken that well. Maybe he shouldn't do that.
“Sorry. I shouldn't have, I didn't want to freak you out.”
“It's fine, I understand, mate. I'm sure everything's gonna be alright.”
“..And if it's not?”
“We'll try and redo, right? I'm still here, I'm still me. It shouldn't be too hard to get things back, probably.”
He nodded, letting a heavy sigh escape him. Tom was right, he was still here, still the same Tom as before, he just... didn't know who he was anymore.
“I wish I could remember what happened, though... Am I really your boyfriend?”
Oh god, of course he heard him talking to Mike.
“Uh – yeah, you are.”
“How long have we..?”
“Just over a year.”
The other man went very quiet, his eyes half focused on Joseph, who turned his attention back to the television. It was getting late, but he couldn't bring himself to go to bed like this, he was probably going to be up for a good while. He didn't want tomorrow to come, because there was always the possibility that they won't be able to help Tom, the thought filled him with anxiety.
“Rats.” Tom whispered, eyes wide.
“...What did you say?”
“Rats. You keep rats.”
Tom shouldn't know that. Not now, at least. Which means-
“You remembered something.”
“I remembered something!”
“How-- how many rats do I have?” He couldn't hide the excitement in his voice.
“Four! You let me see them one day and that's when I realised I had feelings for you!” Tom spoke so fast, and so certainly that he even seemed to surprise himself.
“Wh-- That's when you realised?”
“You were talking to them, and I dunno, something about it made my heart like... ache, y'know?”
If he hadn't been before, he was absolutely convinced he was in love with Tom now.
“..I knew the first time I saw you perform on stage.”
“Ross and the boys!”
He nodded, they were getting somewhere! “Mike and Sunny had dragged me there, and when I saw you up there, I just knew. I wouldn't look you in the eyes for a week.”
Tom nodded vaguely, he obviously didn't remember that, specifically, but he was trying.
“Can you remember anything else?”
“Yeah, I--” He had that look on his face again, but determination quickly turned into frustration and he sighed. “No. I can't.”
Joseph shuffled closer to him, tentatively taking Toms hand in his own.
“It's alright. Don't strain yourself.” He said as soothingly as he could, he was never good at it. But at least Tom seemed to find some comfort in his attempt.
There was a pause, as if they were both just enjoying being in each others presence for a second. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad like this, maybe they could make this work.
“I remember the band better than I remember you.” It was hard to place the tone in his voice. Sad, maybe? “Do you think they're trying to make me forget something specific?”
He considered this for a second, if it was what he thought, it would make sense. Dream Park generally didn't like people who went in and knew what happened to get out, maybe the town carried the same sentiment.
“That might have been their plan. Get the Dream Park out of us, and in the process, forget everyone we met there.”
Tom nodded again, mouthing something to himself before looking back at Joseph and smiling. He almost seemed like himself again.
“Come on. It's late, we'll head over to the town tomorrow and see if we can get this all sorted out.” Joseph said as he stood up, already feeling better about the whole situation. Huh, maybe talking to people about things might make the situation better, who knew.
“Thanks, Joseph.” He paused. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Yeah, it'd be fine.