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dear future self (where the love light gleams)

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The house had been on the market for quite a while. In fact, every few months, as he had been on the search for a place, it kept popping back up. It was never sold for very long and Patrick was convinced that it must have been fate or destiny or some of that other bullshit that spiritual people believed. But Patrick wasn't a spiritualist, he was a realist, and a realist who wouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth at that. 

He bought the house.

It was up on a hill, with a grand, Victorian air about it. Mulberry bricks, white accents, all big windows and fancy decor dusted in snow. The door was even painted metallic gold, a bold choice that made it feel magical as Patrick stepped through the threshold with the first box in his hands. 

A fresh start was exactly what he needed after everything, anyways. His band splitting, his solo career going sour, and his disconnect from his friends (and his... never mind) had all made Patrick's old home feel like it was pressing on his chest, the memories weighing him down. The new house, painted inside, too, with purples, whites and golds, felt clean. Like a breath of fresh air.

It took a day or so with the help of his brother and sister to get all his stuff in the house, and only a week after that to get himself settled. One evening, as Patrick milled about, he took a closer look at the space he now called his own. The ceilings were high, boasting intricate crown moulding; every frame and ornament in the house was meticulously crafted, and the details stood out better now that he was alone, and able to appreciate them even more. And, with everything bought and taken care of, Patrick could explore the rest of the house, too. 

He hadn't been able to take a look at the attic during the open house, with so much information to get out of the way first. Carefully, Patrick began lugging some of his own attic-bound boxes up the steep stairs, praying the space was even usable. To his surprise, though, it was more than "usable"; in fact, it was already being used. As he tripped up into the chilly attic, tinted orange from the November sun's rays through the dusty windows, he found that it was filled with old belongings.

Boxes, chests and taller items with drapes all over them littered the room, with no clear pathways between any of them. Much to Patrick's asthmatic chagrin, everything was covered in a film of dust, undisturbed for what looked to him like years. But curiosity reigned over the regard for his own health, and with a grin, Patrick carefully set his own boxes down, ready to explore what the past had for him. 

There were typical things left behind; photographs of long-gone families, blankets, holiday decorations, and old Christmas Sinatra records that Patrick casually slid towards the stairs to sneakily add to his own collection downstairs. But what stood out to Patrick, above all else, was a large figure shrouded by a white sheet in the far corner. Something about it was... off-putting, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, as if something were about to happen. Brushing the feeling off, he stepped around the boxes and memories and approached, yanking the sheet off with a clumsy flourish. 

Underneath, there was a mirror. It stood taller than Patrick (which wasn't a difficult feat), made from a golden metal and crystal clear as if it hadn't aged a day. It must have been over one hundred years old, the craftsmanship was unreal. Inlaid in the very top was an hourglass on a spindle, filled with lavender-coloured sand that shimmered in the low light. The mirror practically glowed at Patrick, and he breathed out slowly in awe.

"Oh, that's going in my room," Patrick murmured to himself, as if the crystalline glass of the mirror was water, and he would disturb the stillness of the surface if he spoke any louder. Reverently, he took hold of the mirror's edges, lifting it gently out of the place it had been resting for so long. It was somehow light as air, despite being made from what looked to be solid gold. Delicately, Patrick shuffled out of the attic, easing his newfound treasure down the stairs. 

The mirror being bigger than him wasn't even a problem, it was so light and easy to maneuver. It was almost as if the mirror were working with Patrick to get down the attic stairs and make it to his bedroom unharmed. That strange, put-off sense hadn't left Patrick, even as he set the mirror against the wall in his room, facing towards the bed. It was as if some great event were about to take place, and Patrick were simply going to watch it unfold. 

Which was quite right. 

In the brighter light of his room, the mirror looked even more stunning. It really did glow, like the sun was trapped in the metal and trying its damnedest to be free. The hourglass stood out more, too, the purple glint beckoning for Patrick's attention. He didn't so much think to spin it; rather, the thought was planted in his brain by some outer force. Moving without question, Patrick lifted his hand, flicking the hourglass and sending it on its way. 

Before the hourglass had pleaded to spin, Patrick's reflection had been as it should have: a short, thin guy with bleached-blonde hair, his ratty old t-shirt and sweatpants covered in dust from the attic. But soon, the hourglass slowed, then stopped, the glimmering purple sand beginning to trickle down from the top. When Patrick stepped away, he bit back a scream of surprise. 

A completely different person stood before him.

The man was the same height as he was, but heavier set. His auburn hair was hidden underneath a fedora, and he sported a full beard. His cardigan and jeans were dark, and looked like they were stage clothes of some sort. Even the room he was standing in was different, an orange lit hotel room as opposed to Patrick's white bedroom. He was obviously older, and he looked through the glass at Patrick with a warm smile. Staring deep into his eyes, Patrick felt his fear fluctuate, lessening for just a moment before crashing back down on him full force; the man's eyes were the same as his. 

The reflection was still him. 

That made no fucking sense. That makes absolutely no fucking sense, Patrick thought, frozen in place as he stared at his reflection. The man in the mirror stared right back, looking bemusedly at him as he tried to sort his thoughts. Maybe it wasn't a mirror, maybe it was a television. No, no, it was too fancy to be a television. It was just an old mirror. 

A very strange old mirror. 

A magical old mirror in his magical old house with a magical reflection and oh good god, Patrick was going to hyperventilate.

As if on cue, the mirror Patrick (which, holy shit, what was he even saying?) waved at him, motioning for him to "calm down". That didn't help. Slowly, Patrick sank to the floor cross-legged, his thoughts racing. The other man didn't follow him down, making Patrick freak out even worse because his reflection was not moving with him and that's so not right, oh Jesus. Again, the Patrick in the mirror signalled him to calm down with his hands, and somehow, Patrick managed to pull a shaky, distressed breath. 

"What the fuck is going on?" Patrick choked out, hands tangled in his hair. Mirror Patrick shook his head, pointing to his ears. Can't hear you, he mouthed. Patrick didn't even have the time to freak out over the fact that his reflection responded to him before his stomach was dropping through the floor for an entirely different reason.

Another man came up behind the Patrick in the mirror, pulling his long hair out of a bun as he went. Casually, as if as easy as breathing, he curled himself around the mirror Patrick. He linked his hands around Patrick's waist, pressed a sweet kiss to the back of his neck, then hooked his chin over his shoulder. And that's when Patrick, down on the floor in a mess, couldn't hold back his distress any longer. 

The other man was Pete. Fucking Pete.

Patrick hadn't spoken to Pete in months. The band's hiatus (Patrick hated that word now, vehemently) had caused a rift between the two of them, and every time Pete crossed his mind, Patrick's heart would plummet to his shoes before slowly working its way back to its place... but it never felt quite okay. 

Patrick missed him, loved him, and at this point, it was seeming as though he would never be able to have him at all, in any capacity.

Quick as lightning, rage shot through Patrick. The mirror was fucking lying, it had to be. It wasn't showing the future. It was Hell, or some torture God created for him. Something like that, obviously. Mirror Patrick didn't react, just looked through the glass at Patrick with sad eyes as he twisted to press his own head against Pete's, swaying them both back and forth. 

Infuriated, Patrick reached for his bedsheets. Violently, he tore one away from the mattress and flung it over the mirror, hiding the glow again, before exiting the room on uneasy, adrenaline-burned legs. Patrick slept by the fire in the living room that night, cursing himself for being a fucking twat and telling himself that it was only to stave off Chicago's winter chill from the large windows in his room. 

Despite his efforts, he still ended up dreaming a gut-wrenching dream, based on tan arms and warm hotel rooms and silent conversations; based on what he wanted more than anything. 

///////

A full night of Google searching anything related to "haunted future mirror" had only brought back results for Harry Potter and ghost investigations, nothing at all helpful or conclusive. Certainly nothing on golden mirrors coming with your new house and showing a vision of you with the love of your life that you hadn't spoken to in months. Definitely not. 

The more Patrick thought about it, though, the more that the Harry Potter connection made sense; there was some sort of plot device called the Mirror of Erised, which showed whoever looked into it their deepest desire. Maybe that was how the mirror was working for him, Patrick tried to convince himself. But things didn't add up; he wasn't even sure that it even happened in the first place. 

When Patrick finally built up the courage to go back into his room, the mirror seemed to loom over the whole space. It still glinted underneath the thin, grey bedsheet, demanding Patrick's attentions be on it and solely it. Hesitantly, Patrick peered beneath the sheet, surprised to meet his own eyes. Not Mirror Patrick's (which were older around the edges, yet brighter), just his own. His own real reflection, which stood awkwardly holding his bowl of cereal, drowning in a big t-shirt, and not wearing any pants. Unremarkable and normal. 

Surely, Patrick had imagined the whole thing. Maybe the house had a gas leak or some shit. Obviously an asbestos-induced hallucination.

Totally.

But all through the night, he had tossed and turned on the couch. Thoughts of Pete, of what he missed, what he wanted, all bounced around in his head and cursed him between his restless sleep and, even worse, his time spent laying awake. Patrick felt like he'd been scooped hollow after the experience, as though even looking at Pete, even more gorgeous than the day Patrick met him, was a dirty, vile act. Patrick truly felt unclean, he was spying through someone else's proverbial windows. 

But again, surely, Patrick must have imagined the whole thing. 

Just like the day before, the concept of spinning the hourglass nestled itself firmly into Patrick's mind. It caught him off guard, the way the thing seemed to decide what it wanted, independent of Patrick's own whims. Initially he resisted, opting to just do what he had meant to while he was in his room, and find an actual pair of pants so he could leave the house and do some Christmas shopping. But, the mirror insisted. It kept pushing. The hourglass called.

So, the hourglass was sent spinning again, whether Patrick felt secure in the decision or not.

The mirror's surface rippled like water, each new wave sending golden shimmers out from the middle towards the edges of the glass. It was hypnotic, but ended all too soon. When all went still, and the hourglass stopped, the reflection was once again not his own. 

To be fair, it was actually in his room, this time, at least, but it was so much fuller. The mix of belongings strewn around the room showed life and domesticity in a way that his current, sterile space didn’t. Mirror Patrick was back, too, dressed in snowman pyjama pants and far more tired than he looked the night before.  

It appeared to be early morning in the reflection's world, the sun just peeking into the windows of the bedroom. Mirror Patrick waved half-heartedly, bleary as he looked into the mirror. He was obviously still asleep on his feet, and for a moment, Patrick felt bad for possibly waking him up. But, then again, he didn't even know how the mirror worked (or why it did), so he swallowed that down. 

Mirror Patrick stepped out of view, scratching his beard absently. Patrick was left looking back at the bed, still in the same place as it was in the present. In it, buried under soft, white sheets, lay Pete. He was the picture of peace, the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes and around his mouth smoothed by sleep. His long hair was fanned out across the pillow, looking so soft, and a small section of Patrick's brain screamed to be able to touch it, to run his fingers through it and remember how it had felt to do that before...

(Before everything went to shit.) 

Drowsily, Pete stretched an arm across the bed, searching for Patrick. He patted the mattress a few times futilely, before opening his eyes and reaching out dramatically. Patrick watched as his future self came back into view, chuckling silently before sweetly caressing Pete's head. He kissed him, quick and chaste, and only then could Patrick bear to tear his eyes away.

He was a voyeur, and he knew it, but he couldn't seem to stop himself from glancing back again and again. Though Patrick couldn't explain how he knew, he was certain that the mirror wanted him to see these scenes. There was a reason for the torturous glimpses into a future he could never have for himself. And perhaps, Patrick thought as he watched Pete, half-awake and awkward, stumble out of bed, it was because he really could. 

Patrick stared holes through their walls for a long time after the visions had left, his mind racing with this new information. Last night was real, the mirror was real, that future was probably (hopefully, terrifyingly) real. Magic? Time travel? Love? Pain? There were too many implications and Patrick shook his head, as if snapped out of trance. He hurried to his dresser and grabbed the nearest pair of jeans, slipping them over his legs in a clumsy manner before making his way to the door. He tried to will himself not to look back at the mirror, too shaken by the way it had jarred his reality.

His wills weren't strong enough. That Pete and Patrick were gone but their room, full to the brim with proof of their lives together, stayed reflected in that glass. With one last harrowed glance at his own, empty space, Patrick dashed down the hall. 

///////

The mirror became his new obsession. 

It sure as fuck wasn't healthy, but Patrick couldn't help it. He checked on it throughout the day, spinning the hourglass as often as it needed. He ate in front of it, wrote music in front of it, fell asleep watching it, more often than not staring awkwardly at an empty bedroom that his future self would wander in and out of. It showed him different scenes, too. Anywhere a mirror could conceivably be found in his counterpart's daily life, the mirror could reflect that instead, giving Patrick variety in his viewings (not that he had any control. And not that this "viewing" was a luxury). 

Once, the mirror had shown them inside a car. Pete was driving, a serene grin on his face as Patrick's counterpart sang in the passenger's seat, silent to Patrick's own ears, as they oh-so-domestically went out for groceries.

Another time, it peered into the living room from a mirror hung in the front foyer, giving view to Patrick and Pete in their pyjamas, stumbling around each other and laughing as they hung their Christmas decorations way too early for any normal person. (But the real Patrick remembered. He knew how much Pete had always loved Christmas, knew how insistent he was on starting the celebrations the moment November 11th had come and gone, and grew to know that pain that was settling behind his ribs as he sat and watched them go through their motions.)

It was so goddamn mundane, it made Patrick want to vomit. It was so much like they used to be.

He tried to convince himself he was simply going about his life, tried to pretend that his passing November days didn't melt into December's. Before he knew it, it was a week before Christmas, and here Patrick was, sat against the bed with a bottle of whiskey, wishing he wasn't forced to sit there and yearn for a distant time in which he and Pete could just do things, like some sappy, gross, married couple. 

Around the time he'd drank to the top of the Jack Daniel's label, Patrick had the horrible, horrible idea of pulling his photo albums out from underneath the bed. By about the word "Tennessee", he'd mustered up the sullen energy to do so, crawling over to the box and only taking his eyes off the mirror long enough to lug them out from their hiding place.

And by the bottom of the label, he'd gone and strewn them open all over the floor, and something deep inside of him regretted every second of it. But, Drunk Patrick was a little more self destructive than Sober Patrick, so a sea of snapshots surrounded his feet whether it was the healthy decision or not. 

Every single photo was crumpled up, or sun spotted, or out of focus in one way or another. They'd all been taken on disposable dollar store cameras, so by that very nature, they all looked like shit. But they tugged on Patrick's heartstrings all the same, as he looked down at the memories stained into high gloss paper. 

There was a snapshot of Patrick from the back, when he'd covered on drums for My Chem during the Summer of Like (Pete had taken the photo on Patrick's camera from the rear of the stage, as he'd frantically kept time with It's Not A Fashion Statement). A few pictures to the left of that was one of himself, Andy, Joe and Pete, dressed up as the main Mario characters (Patrick could practically still hear Pete's hyperactive laughter directed at Andy and his ""beautiful"" dress).

He drained his bottle as he gazed down at his past silently, feeling each photo in his chest as if he were right back in that moment. Reminiscence could be a hell of a drug, and just as he'd begun to slump against the bed into a hazy sleep, Patrick's eyes caught on one particular photo that felt like the sting of the needle in his veins. 

It was of Pete, all blurry features and red-pupils, with his face pressed flush to Patrick's. Patrick was side eyeing him grumpily, a Santa hat yanked down over his trucker hat. Beside him, Pete's smile was like the sun, dazzling enough to take Patrick's breath away at any time, past or present. The date seared into the corner read 12/18/03.

Clumsily, Patrick slid the photo free from underneath the plastic of the album. His fuzzy brain fumbled around the math; 2003 meant it had been eight -- no, seven -- yeah, no, eight years since that photo was taken. To the very day. Judging by the lighting in the photo, maybe even to the hour.

And foolishly, just like always, Patrick appeared to be pissed right off. He looked like he hated Pete, he always seemed to in old photos. He never had, of course; he loved Pete more than he could ever hope to put into words, ever since the moment they'd met. And yet, Patrick had never shown it.

Taking the photo into two shaking hands, Patrick sat back against the bed, letting his head loll to the side as his eyes slipped shut. Pete was never one to hide his affection from anyone. If he loved you, Pete was the kind of man to make damn sure you knew it. And with Patrick, he had always seemed to go above and beyond, no matter how Patrick would respond in return. And Patrick had always responded the wrong way, without fail, because he never showed Pete that he cared enough.

Patrick felt his eyes and throat burning, and he swallowed dryly, cracking his eyes open enough to stare into the still image of the mirror. His reflection was fast asleep in bed, Pete tucked in to his chest. He held him so tightly, and so close... the mirror Patrick did all the things that Patrick had never done while he'd had his chance. Mirror Patrick treated Pete properly. He gave Pete back all the love he had poured out over the years. Mirror Patrick seemed like a good man. 

That was evidence that it wasn't a vision of the future, because someone who seemed so loving could never be him.

Patrick fell asleep to that thought, with that hazy photo clutched to his chest.

///////

If the mirror had a message, it wasn't being clear enough. It showed a man that looked like him but seemed too kind to be him, in a relationship with his former best friend who had never shown any indication of being in love with him, and beyond that there was nothing profound to be gleaned. It was a looking glass filled to the brim with lies, and it never gave Patrick an inkling as to why it was even lying in the first place. If the mirror was going to go ahead and be magical, it could at least drop a hint or something. 

Patrick was beginning to get pissed, sitting listlessly around all day as he waited for any sort of sign from the image. Truth be told, he didn't even know what he would be waiting for; maybe Mirror Pete would speak to him? Maybe the damned thing would just up and shatter, and Patrick would be free from whatever stupid fucking lull it had him in. Maybe he'd break it himself. 

He'd actually tried to, one night, but he wasn't strong enough. He was curled up in his usual spot on the floor, comforter shrouding him. His eyes burned from exhaustion as he watched the reflection. His future self and Pete were in their music room, Patrick perched on the piano bench and Pete leaning on the lid. From where he was sat, Patrick couldn't see the keys, but as the mirror Patrick turned to look at Pete while singing, he knew exactly which song it was by the way his lips were moving. 

I'll be home for Christmas, you can count on me....

"Please have snow, and mistletoe, and presents on the tree..." Patrick continued aloud, his throat constricting around the words. He could almost imagine how the scene before him would sound, how he would sound, clear and confident and joyful. It would be such a contrast to how he sounded now, croaking out one of Pete's favourite Christmas songs into his empty bedroom at midnight. It was near cruelty, this self punishment, of watching an older version of himself experience happiness so openly, when all Patrick currently felt like was a shadow. 

Inside the glass, Pete smiled, megawatt bright like Christmas lights, and all at once that deep dark rage swallowed Patrick up whole. 

There was that empty whiskey bottle at the foot of the bed from the other night. It glared at him invitingly in the honey glow coming from the mirror, and with a trembling hand, he grabbed hold of the neck.

Christmas Eve will find me....

In a split second of awareness, mirror Patrick looked back at him. Eyes met eyes and all Patrick's unsure rage was met with was concern. But more than that, there was that goddamn sense that his reflection knew something that he didn't, and that he was fucking sorry for it. Like Patrick was meant to feel like this. It made him bubble over and he stood, the comforter falling from his head and shoulders like the cape of a weary king.

Where the love light gleams....

Summoning any iota of energy he had left within him, Patrick reared back. His grip tightened on the neck of the bottle 'til his knuckles went white. He trembled, in striking position, eyes burning with unshed tears as he stared at Pete. He'd aim right over where Pete was standing. Stupid fucking Pete, who he could never see again, who he would never see like that, all because of his own fucking ego and temper and tendencies towards being an absolute fucking cunt. 

I'll be home for Christmas....

Pete looked straight at him. His sweet gaze was wholly innocent, and confused, and it seared right through Patrick and felt like it left burns in its wake. Pete said something, probably asking his own Patrick what he was looking at. Though indirect, Patrick looked Pete in the eyes for the first time in what was soon to be a year.

The bottle shattered on the floor. Patrick shattered after it, tears flowing freely as his knees landed on glass shards. Patrick couldn't care. Wordlessly, Patrick and Pete carried on before him, their gentle comfort undisturbed by the meltdown on the other side of their mirror. 

If only in my dreams....

This was his fault. That was the one thing the mirror had told him so far that was true. Everything was his fucking fault. 

///////

Snow drifted lazily past the living room window. Big, fluffy flakes, that were lit up white against the night sky by the streetlights. Christmas Eve had come upon Patrick silently, and he'd barely even remembered to buy any gifts for anyone, much less send them out, but he had managed nonetheless. (He had wrapped them in front of the mirror, while his reflection did the same, and for a brief moment it had almost felt like real, human company. That notion, albeit stupid as fuck, had prompted Patrick to haul the mirror into the living room that evening. Everything was fine, and Patrick was sane. Depressed, but sane.)

In the spirit of Christmas, he'd decided to make hot chocolate, instead of busting out the liquor for the umpteenth night in a row. And so there Patrick was sat, burrowed into his couch with a blanket over his lap and his mug warming his hands, bouncing back and forth between keeping an eye on the mirror and watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. 

In the reflection, the couch was still in the same place. As usual, the future Patrick was curled up on it with Pete, a throw blanket tucked neatly over the pair of them. A bowl of popcorn rested on Patrick's thighs, and Pete dug from it mindlessly, mesmerized by whatever they happened to be watching themselves. Stubbornly trying not to just openly stare at Pete, Patrick turned his focus back to his own TV. 

His gaze drifted, though, and he found himself glancing back over to the mirror again and again. Their home looked so beautiful, with the Christmas tree standing proudly beside the couch, all lit up and decorated in silver and gold. Patrick had no decorations to speak of for himself, not even lights for the porch outside, and up until that very moment, he hadn't considered how much he actually wanted them. Maybe he'd pick some up for Boxing Day sales in a few days and take advantage of those--

Any thought Patrick had been lost in was disrupted by the old, hand-me-down clock in the hallway singing to him. Twelve chimes rang out into his otherwise silent house, and midnight had been struck. It was Christmas. Spurred into motion by something (possibly by that same clock), Pete in the mirror suddenly grew alert, like he'd just remembered something. Laughing silently, mirror Patrick turned to him.

What's wrong? He asked. Pete turned to him to quickly reply, before hopping off the couch and jogging just out of view. Patrick's brow furrowed in confusion and he leaned forward, all previous thoughts and activities abandoned in favour of watching. Pete came back within a few seconds, visibly freaking out (in that way he always tended to). In his hands, he held a tiny, poorly-wrapped box. Patrick felt his heart do a backflip, his brain moving faster than the scene before him. 

What's this? asked Mirror Patrick, with a chuckle. Pete closed his eyes, drawing a deep breath as he gripped the box tighter. Perching on the couch beside mirror Patrick, Pete took his hands gently, placing the box in the centre of his palm and closing both of his hands around it.

He was saying something, giving a grand, imperfectly perfect speech, but he went too fast for Patrick to read his lips. He didn't even have to, though; Patrick knew what was coming. He stood up from the couch, nearly spilling his hot chocolate all over the rug. He didn't even dare to blink as he watched his confused counterpart tear at the paper of the box. As the shreds fell away, Patrick swore he could hear the gentle gasp on the other side of the glass.

It was a ring box. As Mirror Patrick reverently opened the box, Pete dropped from the couch to the floor, bracing himself on one knee.

Patrick had fucking had enough with this lying ass bullshit future mirror. Rage licked up through his bloodstream, fire and ice all at once as he watched the Patrick in the mirror's eyes well up with tears, as he watched him pull out a simple silver band that glimmered in the firelight, as he watched Pete surge up from the floor to capture Patrick's lips in an emotional, tender kiss. It scorched his insides, made him see red, brought adrenaline lapping up his legs and arms from the floor, from hell, or somewhere else.

He couldn't deal with this bullshit torture anymore. He had to prove it wrong.

In a flurry of rage, mirror abandoned, Patrick scrambled to his bedroom in search of his cellphone. He'd show that stupid fucking mirror. He'd call Pete and get rejected just like he always knew he would. Patrick would prove once and for all that the mirror wasn't showing him the truth, that it never could have been, because the men inside were happy and in love and apparently fucking engaged, and that was never something that he or Pete would get to be. Especially not together.

They weren't the people who got that sort of thing; nearly a year ago, Patrick had managed to fuck their chances of that forever, with his ego and his arrogance and the way he never really bothered to tell Pete how much he meant to him and godfuckingdammit, where was his phone?

It clattered to the rug after a particularly rough shake of the comforter, and Patrick swiped it up eagerly, rushing back down the stairs. His heart thundered in his chest and rushed in his ears as he plopped himself back down on the couch, met once again with the image of his older self and Pete, tangled together, now with engagement bands fit snugly to their left ring fingers. With a strange sense of satisfaction, Patrick caught his reflection's eye, waving his phone menacingly. His reflection peered back at him over Pete's hair, cocking an eyebrow in challenge. Patrick felt his face flush. 

Pete wasn't in his contacts anymore, but he still knew his number off by heart (and the thought of that hurt somewhere inside, but Patrick was too angry to care). He sat back and dialed, staring himself down defiantly. He planned to use the ringing time to figure out what to even say, before he was inevitably sent to voicemail and the regret had a chance to set in. Any hope for prep time was dashed instantly.

The phone rang once.

"Patrick?" 

Pete didn't sound angry, or spiteful. He didn't come off as hurt, or disgusted. His voice held nothing but curiosity, and sincere confusion. Fuck. Patrick paled, eyes still locked on Mirror Patrick's. 

"Oh, shit," Patrick whispered, all of the fight draining from his body, "You answered."

A tense moment of silence crackled over the phone, echoing in Patrick's brain as his reflection smiled at him, before letting his wise eyes drift shut as he held onto his Pete a little bit tighter. On the other end of the line, Pete sighed heavily. Something like fabric rustled on the other end, and he heard Pete groan as he stood up.

"What's your new address?" Pete asked, his tone devoid of anything negative. Patrick blanched, mouth working without words.

"Uh, 6212 North W-Wellington, in Chicago," he stuttered. Pete was silent on the other end for a moment. Patrick stared into carpet at his feet, wondered for a moment if Pete could hear his pulse thundering into the microphone. Seconds ticked by like hours before Pete spoke another word. 

"You know my address. I'm a five minute drive away." After a moment of hesitation, Pete's voice dropped to a whisper, something raw and desperate that almost sounded like it was tearful. "Come home for Christmas, please."

Patrick couldn't even reply before Pete hung up the call. When he managed to tear his gaze off the carpet, the hourglass had skidded to a stop. The mirror was his regular reflection; bleach blonde, sweats, old t-shirt. The only difference was hope, a colour that stained his cheeks and a light that made his eyes seem less grey than they had been for who-knew-how-long. Kicked into gear, Patrick rushed to pull on his boots and coat, clamouring for his keys and sprinting to his car.

The mirror had never lied to him. It gave him a gift instead. 

The best he could've asked for.

///////

Patrick mussed his hair in the hotel room mirror, chewing on the inside of his cheek. Pensively, he fiddled back and forth, fedora on and off, trying to find a look that suited the day. 

It was only a morning show, an interview or two, and then he and Pete were done. They had just come from some other city where they did a publicity thing, and before that, they'd be off in LA to film for the Bob Dylan video... it never ended for them, it seemed. Never had, not since the very beginning. 

But it was okay, Patrick liked the pace. It kept things interesting, kept the magic in life alive, or some other cheesy shit like that. In any case, he and Pete would get to go home soon enough (their house, which Pete had so affectionately nicknamed the Grape Juice Stand, because he was just fuckin' weird like that), and they'd get some rest, and they'd get ready for Christmas. Sighing happily, Patrick settled for fedora on, absently scratching at his beard. 

Déjà vu flitted through Patrick's head, the feeling nestling itself into his spine and making the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. He'd seen this scene before, he could feel it, except.,. it wasn't from his own perspective. It was disorienting, and the sensation came upon him so suddenly, Patrick was sent reeling, gripping the sides of the mirror as he closed his eyes against it. When his skin made contact with the frame, all of a sudden, his mirror's glass began to ripple, like golden water. 

And at once, he knew what was up. When Patrick dropped his hands back to his sides, the reflection in the mirror was not his own.

The man was the same height as he was, but more thin, almost gaunt. His bleached hair was sticking up every which way, and he was clean shaven. His sweats were coated in grey dust, and his t-shirt had holes in it, well worn over the years. Even the room he was standing in was different, an empty, lifeless bedroom as opposed to Patrick and Pete's warmly lit hotel room. He was younger, and his face was frozen in shock and horror. Staring deep into his eyes, identical to Patrick's own, Patrick could almost read his thoughts. The reflection stared back, mouth falling open in a way that caused Patrick to smile fondly.

The reflection was still him. 

It made no fucking sense, of course it didn't. But Patrick knew what he had to do now. It was his turn to play this role, as mean as he felt for stringing his younger self along like this. But, if he wanted time to carry on like it was supposed to, he'd play the game. It was a lesson he was grateful to have learned every day. 

On cue, he waved at the younger Patrick, motioning for him to "calm down". That really didn't help. Slowly, his reflection sank to the floor cross-legged. He looked like he was going to have an asthma attack, or pass out, or both. Again, Patrick signalled for the poor boy to calm down. This time, he managed to suck in a silent heave.

What the fuck is going on? His reflection mouthed desperately, hands tangled in his hair. Ah fuck, that was right, no sound. With a frown, Patrick pointed to his ears. 

"Can't hear you," Patrick said aloud, hoping his younger self could read his lips. 

"What was that, 'Trick?" Pete called, stepping out of the bathroom. He made his way across the hotel room, coming up behind Patrick in the mirror. With a little flourish, Pete pulled the elastic out of his hair, letting his long hair cascade down his shoulders. Sweetly, he curled himself around Patrick, linking his hands together around Patrick's waist. "Or were you just talking to yourself again?" Pete asked, kissing the back of Patrick's neck. Patrick giggled at the way it tickled as Pete hooked his chin over his shoulder. 

The poor Patrick in the mirror looked positively gutted. Patrick looked at his knowingly, wishing he could convey how sorry he was for the month long emotional asskicking his younger self was about to receive. 

"Yeah, just kinda talking to myself," Patrick replied, conversationally, "I'm actually thinking about Christmas." He leaned his head against Pete's, and Pete started swaying them back and forth. Unbeknownst to Pete, Patrick watched his younger self crumble, watched the rage come over him like a tidal wave as he searched for an outlet.

"Christmas, hmm?" Pete prompted, squeezing Patrick's waist a little tighter. "That's a little out of character for you, isn't it? I thought I was the one who was supposed to start thinking about Christmas obnoxiously early." Patrick laughed lightly, as he watched the furious reflection disappear behind the bedsheet he threw over the mirror. 

"Well, yeah," Patrick sighed, turning in Pete's arms to face him. "But I dunno, I just got thinking about the music, and the decorations and stuff." After a moment's hesitation, he added, "What Christmas means to us, too. I just love it. I can't wait to start everything." Pete smiled serenely at him, raising a hand to cradle the side of Patrick's face.

"I love it too, 'Trick, I get you. We can make this one the best Christmas yet, if you want. I already have some plans," Pete offered. Patrick grinned slyly.

"I'm sure you do," Patrick replied. "I'd love that, Pete."

"Good, we got it then. Soon as we're home, a very Grape Juice Christmas begins, I promise." Pete leaned down into Patrick's space, sealing his words with a kiss before squeezing Patrick tightly again, transforming their sweet embrace into a bear hug just make Patrick wheeze. "Now come on, or else we're gonna be late!" Heading for the door, Pete muttered something about it "being a wonder we aren't late for once anyways, you got up before noon", and how it was a "November miracle." 

With a chuckle, Patrick watched him go, before casting one last glance back at the mirror. The visage was still shrouded in grey, but surprisingly, he wasn't worried about it. In fact, he felt content in his role. He knew his 2011 self would be back soon enough; it would be a while yet before that version of him found his way home for the holidays.

Sighing once more, Patrick brushed his fingers along the mirror's cool glass before leaving the room. He made his way towards Pete, who stood by the elevators, and when he shoved his hands into his pockets, he couldn't help but smile at the small hourglass he found in there, right where it always was.