rosiedoes: (FOB: Patroh.t.p)
[personal profile] rosiedoes posting in [community profile] damagereport
Title: Fairytale of New York
Summary: for the [profile] bandomrarepair challenge; stuck in New York over the holidays, there's nowhere Joe can go to escape Pete's attempts at matchmaking.
Author: [profile] icedmaple
Betas: [profile] supercasio; [personal profile] likethepaint was involved in the early stages.
Rating: PG for language.
Pairing: Joe/Patrick
Words: c. 11,300
Author's notes: I have a confession to make. I started this fic on NYE 2008/9, based on a prompt generator. I only wrote a couple of thousand words at the time and decided to continue it for this challenge. As a result, it's 2009 AU. Joe never moved to New York with Marie and the break hasn't begun, yet.

Fairytale of New York
What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?

There was something about New York in the snow that brought out the Christmas spirit even in Joe. It wasn't the same as winter in Chicago, somehow. The streets were crammed with tourists rushing back and forth with shopping bags, under miles of lighting displays and winter wonderland window dressings. People seemed to enjoy the commotion of preparing for the day as much as opening the gifts on Christmas morning, and he couldn't really help but be caught up in the mood just a little.

Wrapped up in his coat with his hair stuffed inside a hat to keep his ears warm, he didn't even mind the cold; that he was used to, after years of Midwestern winters. He'd be back there on Christmas Eve, but with the band booked for shows and appearances in New York, four days apart, it was hardly worth going back to Chicago in between, so they'd decided to take a little break and meet up with friends or gather the last of their holiday gifts to take back to their respective families.

Joe didn't really have anything to buy, being Jewish; nobody ever expected presents from him, he was just always especially generous for people's birthdays. But this did leave him with more free time than his friends and although he'd tagged along to provide second opinions on gifts for mothers and sisters, he'd never planned to squander his free time chaperoning everyone else. Days off were few and far between, these days, which had been good at first – it gave him less chance to think of Marie and the fact that she wasn't there anymore; less chance to consider the reasons why – but he was getting used to it, now. It had been nearly a year, after all, and it had been his decision. She deserved better than second best.

Instead of allowing himself to be dragged around department stores again, he was spending the afternoon wandering through the narrower side streets of Greenwich Village, enjoying the comforting feel of a more local area, away from the rush of Times Square and the tourist traps of huge stores and bright lights. Here, he passed boutiques and specialist shops; cafes and tiny, welcoming little restaurants. It felt a little like home and he would have liked to stay longer, but he'd promised to catch up with Patrick at three thirty and he didn't have much time to get back, even following Pete's directions.

It was outside a small, lilac-painted chocolatier that he met a young woman, wrapped up in her coat and mittens with an apron and tiny white angel wings tied over the top and a small tray in her hands.

"Would you like a free sample?" she asked as he approached, pushing the tray gently in his direction.

"Sorry – I'm like, kind of in a rush – but thank you..."

"It'll only take a second," she assured him, smiling encouragingly and Joe realised to his surprise that her eyes matched her apron and the storefront behind her.

"Wow – your eyes..." he began, stopping almost involuntarily. "Are those lenses? They're awesome..."

"Thank you – would you like a chocolate?"

"What are they?"

"They're our specialty; chocolates with thoughts inside," she told him with the sort of smile which suggested she knew he'd be puzzled by the answer. "They each come with a little piece of paper inside – kind of like a fortune cookie – except they could say anything."

Joe smirked and peered at the small round parcels wrapped in coloured foil, "Anything, huh?"

"Yep. And they taste pretty amazing, too."

"Well, I'm not so much of a chocolate guy, really..."

"You could always give it to somebody close to you. They make sweet little gifts."

"I guess that's why they're like, paying you to stand in the snow and give them away, right?"

The girl just chuckled and handed him one, watching as he tucked it into his pocket with a smile and a nod.

"Well, thanks."

"Happy Holidays, Joe!" the girl called as he walked away.

"Yeah... maybe next year."

Maybe next year he would have found the balls to at least try to make something of his decision to leave his fiancée and follow his heart. Maybe next year.

It wasn't until he reached the end of the street that he realised she had called him by name, but when he turned back the girl wasn't there.

He was still musing on his odd little encounter as he sat in the window of a small Italian cafe, waiting for Patrick to join him so that he could show off his purchases. He pulled the chocolate from his pocket, thumbing the light green foil absently. Maybe he'd save it and give it to Patrick when he arrived; but then... he couldn't help wondering what the message inside would be. And after all, it was meant for him – he'd been the one she gave it to at first. Passing it on to someone else might be messing with fate. Or something.

He didn't make a conscious decision to open it, but the next thing he knew, he was peeling away the wrapper and breaking the small, white-chocolate ball onto his saucer.

Inside, on a tiny slip of mint pastel paper with a shower of edible lilac glitter, was his question – the one which he seemed to have appointed as the key to his future.


What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?


He was still staring at it when somebody dumped several large bags onto the spare seat opposite and slumped down onto the couch beside him with a satisfied sigh.

"Mom. Dad. Pat. Kevin. Megan. Paul. Pete. Ashlee. Bronx. You. Andy... or, half of Andy's... My gran, my gramps and something between my mom's parents. And Pete says 'hi'."

Joe blinked and looked up from the message in his hands, barely understanding what Patrick was telling him at first. His face was flushed under the woollen hat pulled down around his ears, but not quite low enough that strands of red couldn't protrude from beneath it, and his glasses were steaming up from moving into the warmth of the cafe out of the chill of the street.


"Presents, dude. I don't know if you'll like it, but y'know... it's just a token, really. I hate getting everyone something and leaving you out. But Pete pretty much walked me here because he thought I was gonna get lost or something... I dunno."

"Oh. So, what did you get me?"

Patrick laughed and clamped his hand over one of the bags. "I'm not telling you that! I know you don't do Christmas, but you definitely understand the concept of a surprise, you sneaky asshole... What's that, anyway?"

He didn't really know why, but Joe found himself hurriedly stuffing the slip of paper into his pocket, not wanting to share it with anyone else; least of all Patrick.

"Nothing. Just, um... like, a promotional thing from this shop... They gave me a chocolate," Joe explained, reaching out and pulling Patrick's glasses off to wipe away the condensation with the sleeve of his sweater, for him.

Patrick just waited with an amused little smile on his face until Joe slipped them back on his nose; being extra careful not to poke him in the eye, this time.

"So, d'you want another coffee or something?" he asked, climbing to his feet and checking his pocket for his wallet.

"No, I think I'm good..."

"Okay, well – don't touch that bag. I'll be watching and if you do..." He pointed a warning finger in Joe's face and jabbed him in the cheek playfully.

Smiling to himself, Joe settled back in his couch and watched him go, adjusting his hat so more strands of his sparse little fringe slipped out and settled on his forehead. The others were probably not far away – Pete clearly wasn't – but they hadn't arranged to meet up because they saw them every night at the hotel. Pete had Ashlee and Bronx to occupy his time, Andy had Matt and Tyler and they spent most of their time gallivanting and having less family-friendly fun. It had left Joe and Patrick to spend most of their time together in the evenings and somehow, the days had naturally followed.

They joked that they were the sad old men with no wives and no friends to spend their time with, but in truth, Joe wouldn't have chosen anything different.

"Hey, so I was thinking," Patrick announced, carefully climbing over Joe's extended legs to put down his cappuccino, "do you want to go out tonight?"

"Out where?" Joe asked, belatedly drawing his ankles in.

"I was just thinking about dinner or something, y'know? I've been through every vegetarian option on the hotel's menu, now, and it pretty much sucks on all counts, so... I just feel like getting out a little or something..."

Shrugging, Joe nodded and murmured, "Sure," because Patrick could pretty much have suggested anything from a movie to skydiving and Joe would have agreed.

"Cool," Patrick smiled and sipped at his coffee self-consciously. "I'll try to think of somewhere."

Joe didn't say anything, he just slipped his hand in the pocket of his jeans and felt around to check his little slip of green paper was still there.

What would you do if you knew you wouldn't fail?


"You going somewhere?" Pete asked, walking into Joe's room uninvited; he'd left the door latched so Patrick could get in when he was ready, which in retrospect wasn't all that smart given that the he'd had strangers wander into his hotel room before.

"Uh... yeah, dinner," Joe told him, trying to find a respectable shirt that at least didn't appear to have been worn already.



He saw the smile creep across Pete's face in his reflection in the mirror, even though he tried to hide it. "Right. 'Cause I was gonna ask if you wanted to come get something with us, or whatever... but I'm guessing not."

"Um, well. I kind of like, promised, dude."

"Yeah, and we wouldn't want to intrude or anything."

Joe snorted and sat down on his bed to pull his shoes on. "Yeah..." There was little point hiding any of this from Pete; he was far more astute than people gave him credit for.

"So, it's a date or what?" Pete asked bluntly, leaning against the dressing table and folding his arms.

All Joe could do was shrug and shake his head; he hated talking about it, and he was pretty sure it was just friends getting some food together, anyway.

"Are you ever gonna say something, man?"

"Probably not."

"Why the fuck not, though? He's looking, you're interested..."

"'Looking' and 'desperate' are like, totally not the same thing, though, dude."

Pete snorted and shrugged as he leaned away from the table; "He could do way worse. Figure out how dudes can have babies and you can't fail..."

For a moment, Joe stared at him, suddenly reminded of the incident earlier that day and the scrap of paper in his pocket.


"Nothing... just, like... I met this girl earlier, and she like, called me by name and stuff and it just kind of weirded me out... but... what you just said kind of tied up with it, basically. It's probably nothing, but it was seriously weird, though. I mean, I've been thinking about this all day, dude – she knew my name..."

"Yeah, welcome to my world, man. About five years late, but whatever."


"Dude – you're famous. She was probably a fan or something... it's not like, magic or anything..."

Joe suddenly felt remarkably stupid. Of course she knew his name. They were in town to play shows and appear on primetime television, there was every chance she was aware of that... What a complete dick.

Pete was laughing at him. "What, did you think she was the tooth fairy or something?"

Joe blushed and ordered him out of his room. This whole damn thing was stupid. As soon as he closed the door, he scrunched the scrap of paper up with the rest of the trash from his pocket, and threw it away.


The meal with Patrick was unspectacular; he took Joe to a quiet little restaurant in Little Italy, which reminded him of the place around the corner from his house in Chicago.

He couldn't help feeling somewhat glum, even though Patrick tried hard to engage him in conversation the whole time. It wasn't that he'd ever really believed anything magical was going on – but he'd kind of hoped that it was one of those great cosmic accidents that wasn't supposed to be called a 'coincidence' because coincidences weren't really supposed to exist. Or so he'd been told.

If it had been a great cosmic accident, then maybe it would have meant something – but in fact, it had been a series of little nothings that he'd made into something entirely different. All his optimism for the evening and anything he could have made of it, was thoroughly dead.

"Look, are you okay?" Patrick asked, after the waiter had cleared their entrees, leaning across the table and apparently concerned. "You've been kind of weird, tonight..."

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine..." Joe nodded, lifting his wine glass to his lips to buy time to invent an excuse. "I just kind of needed a cigarette and I can't smoke in here, so..."

He didn't like the look on Patrick's face as he asked, "You're smoking again?"

"Uh. Yeah." Since about five seconds ago.

"I thought you'd quit..."

"Yeah, I did. It's just like... stress or something, I guess." Never mind a total fabrication and a pathetic excuse.

"Oh... well, if you want to go outside and have one I can wait right here... I mean, that's assuming you don't just want to leave or something, because it's not like we have to stay for dessert..."

"No – no, it's fine, I'll just wait."

"Seriously – if you want to take a minute outside, I don't mind."

"Okay, then um, I'll be right back or whatever..." Joe told him, getting up and collecting his coat from the back of his chair to make a swift exit. He had no intention of smoking anything – he didn't even have any cigarettes with him – but he'd had a really weird day and he almost wished he'd never agreed to go out for dinner in the first place; but at the same time, even if he wasn't really enjoying himself, he didn't want to let Patrick down. The poor dude didn't have a clue what was going on in Joe's head and it hardly seemed fair to foist it on him; not now, or probably ever.

He'd thought about it; he'd been thinking about it for months, but he couldn't bring himself to just come out and say it. So, by the way, I left my fiancée because I happen to be like, crazy in love with you or whatever. No pressure. They were close and with Pete so occupied with his family and Andy growing more and more involved with Fuck City, they had naturally grown closer – especially after Patrick left Elisa in LA and moved home to Chicago. In fact, it had been that which had forced Joe to face his feelings; they were seeing each other most days, outside of band activity, being themselves again, the way they had when they were kids and it had simply gotten too intense for Joe to ignore it or pretend it didn't exist, anymore.

Standing in the street under the little awning outside the restaurant, watching a few idle snowflakes drifting down from the darkened sky, between trees wrapped in white, twinkling lights, the last thing he expected was for someone to call his name.

He looked up, sure that the voice had come from the far end of the street, and nearly jumped out of his skin when a small white hand was rested on his elbow.

"Hello, again."

Somehow, he knew even before he raised his gaze whose hand it was, and the same lilac eyes were looking back at him.

"Oh – um. Hi. Again."

"Sorry if I startled you."

"No, no, it's all good... I was just getting some air. But, this is kind of a co-incidence..."

The girl laughed. "I guess you could call it that... it's the festive season and all... everybody's out being social."

"Yeah, I guess," Joe nodded back, starting to feel a little awkward as he recalled what Pete had said about her being a fan. "You heading out someplace like, nice, or whatever?"

"Oh, you know... around. Places to be, people to see."

"Right. Yeah... I actually um, I guess I should be like, getting back to my meal before my friend eats my dessert or something..."

"Okay," she smiled, with a light shrug. "Tell me, though – what did you make of the chocolate I gave you earlier?"

"The chocolate?" He hadn't even eaten the chocolate after he'd smashed it for the note inside. "It was um, pretty good, yeah. Thanks."

Somehow, the knowing look on her face suggested she already knew what he was thinking and she reached into her pocket to produce another foil-wrapped ball. "Well, take another," she said, dropping a blue foil ball into his hand. "And hey, why not take one for your date?"

"Oh – it's not – "

"Happy holidays," she said, cutting him off and pressing another chocolate into his hand; lilac, this time. "Good luck for New Year."

Joe opened his mouth to say something – to ask what she'd meant by that – but he glanced down at his chocolates for a moment and when he looked up again she had disappeared around a corner. It was then that he remembered that he didn't believe in co-incidences.


He didn't open the chocolate until he was back in his hotel room, flattening it with his palm on the carefully spread foil.

Does honesty pay?

Well, did it? He hadn't even given Patrick the chocolate the girl had left for him, because he was afraid of having to explain all the events of that day and how ridiculous they'd been. And if he did that, he would have to make up some excuse for why it mattered. He simply couldn't face that; not now. Patrick already thought he was behaving oddly because of dinner – the last thing he needed was to stir it up further. It was only a matter of time before Patrick asked Pete if he'd noticed anything strange about Joe, lately, and Pete inevitably opened his mouth with the truth.

Regardless of what Pete expected, Joe couldn't see that ending well.

Honesty was the reason he was in New York ultimately alone; unlike Pete, who was in New York with his entire happy little family. The wife, the toddler and the very subtle bump. Honesty had taken all that right off of Joe's agenda for the foreseeable future, and as far as he was concerned: no, honesty ruined things.


Pete was not amused; it almost seemed like he thought the poor weather was deliberately arranged to piss him off and strand them all in New York.

"It doesn't matter, honey," Ashlee was telling him, the baby tucked onto her hip and busily chewing at a toy. "We'll just stay right here – we have B's presents with us, we could just wrap them right here..."

"That's not the point!"

On the couch in the foyer, Joe drummed his fingers on his carry-on bag and looked at Patrick beside him as his friend spoke.

"How depressing is it that there's nobody who's really going to care if I'm home tonight or not?" he asked, adjusting his cap despondently.

"About as depressing as the fact that I've never actually wanted to like, be home for Christmas so much as I do right now?" Joe offered.

Patrick looked at him sidelong for a moment and frowned. "Why do you want to be home?"

"Well, there's kind of not a lot keeping me here, dude," he shrugged, fiddling with the zipper on his bag.

"No, but..." Patrick trailed off and tugged at his hat again. "If you don't have anyone at home, and you don't do Christmas anyway, then... You could be spending it with friends or something, y'know?"

"If we're like, stuck here because the planes are grounded then I pretty much will be," Joe assured him, poking his tongue out at Bronx as he gazed at him from his mother's shoulder. The toddler laughed and threw his toy on the floor.

"Well, I appreciate that, dude. It'd suck a whole lot more if I was stuck here by myself, so..."

"It'd suck more if you were stuck here with just like, them, or something."

Patrick snorted. "They wouldn't be so bad..."

"Nah, not like... bad, dude, but seriously... sitting opposite their happy little family isn't going to rubbing salt in the wound much, or anything..."


"I mean... I guess this place is gonna like, actually stay open and be serving food on Christmas, right?"

"Well... I hope so. I guess they have to if they're keeping the hotel open for guests..."

"Yeah, and like... this is New York City – there has to be a Chinese place open on Christmas Day."

Patrick laughed and shrugged. "I was never that into the big traditional dinners, honestly."

"We just always had Chinese because nothing else was open on Christmas. It kind of ended up being a family tradition."

"Well... I'll get Chinese with you, if we can't get out of here."


"Sure, I'd be honoured to eat bad noodles with you on a holiday you don't celebrate."

"That would be kind of awesome..."

"Well, that's because I'm kind of awesome," Patrick informed him with a winning grin.

Joe laughed and nodded absently. "Yeah... you kind of are."


On Christmas Eve, right before he got undressed for bed, Joe was brushing his teeth in the en suite when he looked up at the mirror and found a small scrap of green paper tucked into the corner.

What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?

"I thought I threw you out...?" he muttered to himself around his toothbrush and felt around for his wallet to pull out the little scrap of blue from his second chocolate.

They were definitely stuck in New York, and it seemed – according to Pete, at least – that they would be for quite some time yet. The snow was too heavy to fly in, planes were being coated in sheets of ice before they could even leave the runway and everything in the area had been grounded. They simply couldn't take off and nobody wanted to risk twelve hour drives on icy roads to get home, even if the already inundated car hire companies had been prepared to let them.

They had all resigned themselves to Christmas in New York – from band to families to the dwindling mob of crew, a lucky few of whom had slunk off home when the few opportunities arose, knowing they wouldn't be needed after the live performances were done with.

Joe thought he may be the only one who was almost looking forward to it. The others were having a meal in the hotel's restaurant and he knew Patrick had kind of wanted to join them – if only for the family atmosphere – but he'd insisted, when Joe asked, that he'd rather spend the day eating Chinese and hanging out in Joe's room.

He was trying not to be too hopeful about it or read anything into it – Patrick was one of his closest friends, after all, and not the kind of person to go back on a promise without reasons of life-or-death – but he was still a little excited. It was nice just to have Patrick's undivided attention, sometimes, and although it had been much more readily available since Pete had stopped hogging it and they'd both become single, the novelty had never worn off.

He was just kicking off his jeans when there was a soft knock at the bedroom door and Patrick's voice called, "Hey – Joe, are you still up?"

Joe didn't bother getting dressed again; Patrick had seen him wearing far less than this in the past. Instead, he folded his jeans and dropped them on his bag before heading over to answer the door.

"Um, hi," Patrick smiled, scratching the back of his neck and glancing down the corridor nervously.

"Hey... You okay?" Joe asked, dropping a hand on Patrick's elbow for a moment, convinced that he was going to tell him he was pulling out of their plans.

"Uh – yeah, yeah, I'm fine... I was just heading to bed, so I thought I'd stop by and y'know... say Merry Christmas, or something..."

"Oh..." Joe found himself grinning and leaning against the door frame. "Merry Christmas, dude."

Patrick didn't seem to know what to do with himself for a moment; he glanced down the corridor again and cleared his throat. "So... were you just heading to bed or something?"

"Yeah, pretty much. Need to be all tucked up before Santa comes, right?"

"Heh... yeah. That's what they say..."

"I mean, you'd know better than me, basically, so..."

"Right. You'd think."

For a few, awkward seconds they just stood there, smirking at each other; Joe had no idea what he was supposed to be saying at this juncture, so he shrugged and offered, "I guess I'll let you get to bed too or something, then?"

"Um. Yeah. Okay..." Patrick nodded, stepping forward unexpectedly and wrapping him in an abrupt hug. "I'll, y'know: see you in the morning or something..."

"Uh – yeah, yeah, of course."

He didn't really know what was going on, but he was pleased that Patrick had taken the time to stop by and he hugged him back tightly. He was convinced though, as he closed the door and Patrick walked away, that he could hear Pete's voice in the hall outside.


When Joe woke up the next morning, it was to a gurgling squeal and a one-year-old's hands slapping at his face happily.

"Bronx – no..." Patrick was chuckling somewhere at the foot of the bed. "No – be nice to Uncle Joe..."

"What's going on?" Joe asked, picking up the baby and sitting up with him in his lap.

"MON!" the baby giggled, slobbering on Joe's face – which was supposed to be a kiss, from what he could gather.

"Yeah, morning, Bronx, how much coal did you get in your stocking?"

"He wanted to come and see Uncle Joe, so I thought I'd leave Pete and Ash on their own for a while..."

"How did you even get in?"

"The chamber maid had a universal access card thing... and who could resist this adorable little face?"

Joe snorted and smoothed Bronx's hair. "His or yours?"

"Oh, mine. Obviously."

"Obviously," Joe grinned, watching Patrick climb onto the bed beside him. "You wanna like, take the dial-a-drool for a second? I kind of need to pee..."

When he returned, he paused in the doorway to the bathroom, the door open just a crack, and watched Patrick sitting on the bed with Bronx on his knee, bouncing him playfully and holding his tiny hands to keep him upright. He couldn't really hear what he was saying, but he'd been talking to the toddler continuously the entire time Joe was in there. It was deeply sweet and just another reason that Joe wasn't about to push his luck with Patrick. Nobody wanted to be a daddy as much as Patrick did. There was no way he'd settle for anything else.

"So, how are my two favourite little dudes this fine Christmas morning?" Joe asked, pointedly announcing his presence as he walked back into the room and climbed back into his bed. He was only wearing his boxers and last night's shirt and it was a little chill, still.

"We have a present for you, don't we Bronx?" Patrick said, trying to hold the baby's attention. "Bronx, do you remember? What do we have for Uncle Joe?"

Bronx stuffed a fist in his mouth for a moment and then pointed his whole hand, fingers splayed, at something down beside Patrick's leg.

"That's right! Clever little boy..." Patrick beamed, picking up the parcel beside them and holding it out for Bronx to take; which he did – immediately stuffing a corner in his mouth. "No – no, you give that to Joe, Bronx. Give it to Joe..."

Bronx stared back at him with an innocence Joe was fairly sure he'd been feigning from day one, and continued to slobber on the red and gold Christmas tree paper.

"Joe – would you just take it from him?"

"Thank you, Bronx," Joe smiled, pulling the soggy parcel from the baby's hands and glancing at Patrick. "Is this from you?"

"No, this is from Pete and Ashlee. I come later..."

Joe laughed nervously and peeled the paper from his gift. "An Encyclopaedia of Immaturity and..." he picked up the small slab of chocolate in its plastic case and stared at the picture made of frosting on its surface. "Is that supposed to be a menorah or something?"

Patrick leaned closer and rested on his shoulder to look. His first reaction was to laugh. "I think it is, dude."

"Chanukah was like, almost two weeks ago..."

"Well, it's the thought that counts... and if you don't want it, I doubt Bronx would turn it down."

Joe shrugged and pulled the chocolate out of its box, breaking off a corner and holding it out to the toddler on Patrick's lap. "Here you go, little dude."

Bronx eagerly snatched the chocolate from Joe's grasp, opening his mouth in anticipation before he'd even taken hold of it.

"What about you, other little dude?" Joe asked, breaking another piece off and holding it out for Patrick to take. He tried not to blush like an idiot as Patrick opened his mouth to be fed, his hands both occupied in trying to ensure Bronx didn't bounce off of his knee and onto the floor.


"You're welcome. Don't spoil your appetite, though, dude – you're getting like, a massive Chinese dinner, later..."

"It's fine," Patrick grinned, reaching out to break off a little more, "I'll just save the rest of this until like, an hour afterward, when I'm hungry again..."


They opted to go out themselves to get their food, that afternoon. It was an excuse to get out of the hotel for a little while, and the city itself – while far from deserted – was at least a little quieter than it had been for the past few days that they'd been there.

A bellhop at the hotel had recommended a little place close enough to the hotel that their take out wouldn't get cold by the time they brought it back, and they set off together just after one o'clock, when the others were heading down to the hotel's main restaurant for their traditional roasts.

"You sure you don't like, wanna go with everyone else?" Joe asked again as they stepped out into the street, just to be sure. He didn't want Patrick to miss out and feel bound to his promise just for Joe's sake.

"Nope. I'm good."


"Yep," Patrick nodded resolutely, pulling his arm to draw him in the right direction. "I wouldn't have offered otherwise."

It was as they were standing in the restaurant, waiting for their order, that Joe stuck his hand in his coat pocket and pulled out the forgotten chocolate he'd been told to give to Patrick. As hurriedly as he tried to put it back, out of sight, he wasn't fast enough.

"What's that?" Patrick asked, catching his wrist.

"Nothing. Just like, one of those promotional chocolate things..." Joe told him quickly, but Patrick was already peeling it out of his grasp and examining it.

"Oh, cool..."

"Yeah... um, kind of."

"So, how come you didn't eat it already?"

"I just forgot about it, I guess."

Does honesty pay? a little voice in the back of his mind asked and Joe very nearly cringed.

"Are they nice?"

"Uh. I never actually, like... ate any."

"Yeah... you've never been hugely into chocolate..."

Joe shook his head in agreement, wondering if there was any way he could resolve this predicament without seeming mean for not offering Patrick the chocolate they both knew he had no intention of eating – and which had been intended for him in the first place – without snatching it from his hand, either.

"They're um... full of this glittery shit, dude."

"Cool! Where did you get them, again? Maybe I'll pick some up myself..."

"Uh. I don't know... just this little chocolate place in the Village... there was a girl giving them away, basically. You might not get them there, now – it was kind of a promotion thing."

"Oh," Patrick nodded, sounding slightly disappointed and holding the small foil-covered ball out for Joe to take back. "They sounded awesome, too."

He wasn't sure what possessed him to do so, but then next thing he knew, Joe was closing Patrick's hand over the chocolate and telling him to keep it for dessert.


Joe was oddly paranoid by the time they came to cracking open their fortune cookies, still sitting on his bed in the hotel, cardboard cartons stacked on the floor and bedside cabinets either side of them. He had to keep reminding himself that there was nothing supernatural about the chocolates and there was no way in hell there was anything supernatural about fortune cookies, for crying out loud.

Patrick laughed at little as he opened his and pulled the slip of paper out of its crumbling confines.

'Make a wish, it might come true' Joe's suggested, and he snorted to himself, doubting that all the wishing in the world would get him what he wanted.

"What did you get?" he asked Patrick, reaching out and pulling his hand toward him to read it.

"Um... 'To one who waits, a moment seems a year'," Patrick mumbled, leaning toward the floor to pick up his drink.

"Same crap as usual, then, huh?"

"Pretty much...."

They laughed the moment off, but even as they sat there for the next few hours, slumped against each other on the bed, watching Cloverfield on pay-per-view, Joe couldn't help running it over and over in his mind: I wish I knew if this meant something to you...

He didn't even mind when Patrick fell asleep on his shoulder, halfway through Karate Kid; he was still just glad that Patrick had wanted to be there at all. And if he wrapped his arm around Patrick while he was sleeping, then he was just being warm and making sure his friend was comfortable.

It was later that night, when they headed down to the bar to meet the others for Christmas drinks, that Joe truly started to wonder what was going on. They stepped through the glass doors into the lounge and were immediately met with a delicate jingling above their heads. They paused in surprise, looking to the ceiling, and Joe's heart skipped a beat; there, tied with lilac ribbon, was a small sprig of mistletoe.

"What the fuck?" he muttered, frowning at it. All the other decorations in the entire building had been red and gold. Not one had been lilac – except for this solitary piece.

Nobody answered his question, but he was so distracted by his private conspiracy theories that the quick press of a kiss to his cheek came as a total surprise; he'd barely registered it before he was being pushed into the bar with a hand on the small of his back.

He was pretty sure he was still blushing as he sat down at the table, sliding into the large circular booth beside Patrick, to little peals of laughter from those who had seen what happened.

"You guys are like, so fucking funny..." he deadpanned, snatching up the drinks menu for something to stare at.

"I'm gonna start a rumour," Pete snorted, pulling out his phone.

"Don't be a dick!"

"Aw, I don't think he loves you anymore, Rickster..."

"I knew there was a reason I like, totally fucking avoided Christmas..." Joe muttered, dropping the menu back onto the table and sitting back in his seat. He only glanced up long enough to catch the expression on Patrick's face, reflected in the mirrored wall above the booth; he looked wounded... maybe a little embarrassed... and he looked away the moment Joe caught his eye.

Joe skipped out early, wishing he was back home in Chicago, safe from Pete's far-too-near-the-mark wit and Patrick's soberness in the face of his interest.

"Merry fucking Christmas, man," he muttered to himself as he broke off a piece of the chocolate left on his bedside cabinet and chewed on it morosely. He'd barely thrown himself onto the bed and switched on the TV before there was a knock at his door.

He contemplated ignoring it, pretending he was already asleep, but then Patrick's voice softly called out, "Joe? Have you got a second?"

Even then he hesitated, not sure that he really wanted to hear what Patrick had to say.

"Look, I have your Christmas present and I don't wanna leave it out here – I can just hand it to you or something... it's... y'know. It's fine."

Patrick was gazing at the small, wrapped parcel in his hands when Joe cautiously opened the door. He didn't even notice Joe was standing there, at first, but continued to worry the paper with his nail and his lip with his teeth, pensively.

"You gonna like, unwrap it yourself?" Joe asked, offering him a half-smile.

"What? Oh. No. Um. Happy Christmas." He held out the package slightly, like he didn't really want Joe to take it.

"Thanks... Do you want to come in or something?"

"No. Well. I mean, not if it's disturbing you and you want to go to bed or something. Like, by yourself, I mean. Obviously."

Joe didn't bother replying, he just stepped back and held the door open to allow Patrick past, but Patrick looked at the present for a moment and then backed away.

"Actually... I'm kind of tired myself. I think I'm just... y'know... I'm just gonna go. But, um. You're gonna want to plug that in."

By the time Joe looked up from the gift in his hand, Patrick was swiping himself into his own room, down the hall.

The gift inside the carefully-secular snowflaked wrapping looked like a tiny flat-screen TV, but the box claimed it was a picture frame. When Joe plugged it in and the screen blinked on, it began to play the familiar strains of a Morrissey song from years ago and scroll through a plethora of photos of the two of them. Some of them he'd forgotten had ever been taken, like the one of them playing pool at some venue in St Louis when they were kids and Patrick had jumped on his back in celebration after they'd beaten the 504 guys by sheer fluke; or the one of them sitting with their arms around each other and glasses raised at Pete's stag dinner. The more he looked and listened, the more he realised why Patrick was so embarrassed about the gift; the song he'd chosen was probably intended as a joke, but begging "give a little something to my love life" was more than slightly awkward after the tension from earlier.

It was hardly surprising he'd bailed.

Joe fell asleep to the gentle blue glow of the picture frame, that night; he hadn't intended to, but he'd lain awake so long, listening to Morrissey's maudlin pleas and ruing the day Pete Wentz had ever been born, that he'd lost track of time and drifted off. When he woke, it was to the sound of pounding on his hotel room and Pete's voice telling him to get up.

Joe stumbled to the door, one eye half-closed and grumbled, "What?"

"What the fuck are you doing?"


"Get dressed."

"I am dressed..."

"Yeah – in the same thing you feel asleep in, kind of... We're going out. Get dressed. In something clean, dude."

"Why? I haven't even – "

"We're going to brunch. Get fucking dressed!"

Pete's voice was uncharacteristically harsh as he ordered Joe into the bathroom, throwing a t-shirt at him as he went. Joe was barely awake enough to turn the shower on, never mind work out what was wrong with Pete.

When he re-opened the door, Pete was standing by the bed, holding the picture frame in his hands and watching the photos rotate.

"Patrick got me it," Joe mumbled, sitting down on the bed and looking for his boots.

"No fucking shit."

"I'm still pissed with you, by the way."

"For what?"

"Humiliating me in front of everybody. And Patrick."

"Oh, obviously. Because I made you freak out about the fact the dude kissed you under the mistletoe. That was like, all me."

Joe glared at him as he waved the picture frame emphatically and almost smashed it against the cabinet; he snatched it from Pete's grasp and placed it back down before he could break it. "Can we just go, if we're going?"

The eatery Pete chose was a few blocks away from the hotel and they sat in wooden booths while Pete drowned his waffles in maple syrup and Joe poked at his strawberry pancakes with his spoon, making no attempt to hide his sulking.

"Y'know," Pete began, licking ice cream off the back of his spoon, "I never figured you'd been this much of a pussy about it. I mean, you've never totally had balls like grapefruit, but this is getting pretty lame, even for you, bro. Seriously."

"Whatever, man. Whatever."

"I'm not even trying to piss you off, now. How are you ever even gonna know how he feels, if you don't ask? Magic?"

"I can tell. I don't need fucking magic, dude. I've known him since he was like, sixteen or something..."

Pete snorted. "Yeah. Oh yeah, you've got him nailed." He rolled his eyes and poured his spoon full of chocolate sauce. "It's like you're reading his mind, man."

"You didn't see his face, okay? It was like... I dunno. He can't even look me in the eye since you said that shit last night... It sucks. I don't wanna just like, mess everything up, Pete, it'd be a total fucking waste..."

"But how do you know you're gonna mess it up? Jesus. You are totally not getting it."

"No, I'm not, and I'm not gonna get it with you fucking it up."

"You're not gonna get it at all, acting like an emo kid about it."

"Thank you, Mr Pot."

"Uh – which guy here is married with a kid and a half, and which one is acting like a martyr over something he could totally have, if he could suck it up long enough to actually like, grab it?"

Joe sighed and twisted his coffee cup in his saucer, because Pete clearly just wasn't listening.

"Didn't it kind of occur to you, or whatever, that maybe he looked bummed out because he kissed you in front of everybody and you acted like an asshole who just got punk'd?"

"That's ridiculous."

"No, dude. Ridiculous is that he asked you out with Morrissey and you still don't get it."

"Has he even said any of this stuff to you?"

Pete opened his mouth and closed it again. "It's not about what he did or didn't tell me, man..."

"So, basically he didn't and you're speculating."

Pete just shrugged and slumped back in his chair, wearily.

"Can't you just like, stop meddling, or something? I'm stuck in this shitty hotel for this shitty holiday and it's like, totally fucking miserable and the last thing I need is you 'helping' me screw things up more."

"I'm trying to - ! Okay, you know what? I'll stop 'helping,' man. You figure it out." Pete pushed his plate away and tossed far too much money on the table. "I'll see you later or something."

Joe sighed as he watched Pete pull the hood of his coat up over his head and duck out into the snow. Two friends in two days. Excellent. Maybe he should go find Andy and alienate him, too.

He didn't go back to the hotel right away. It was getting too claustrophobic, cooped up in there. He needed some time to himself, to ruminate upon his situation and figure out the best way to smooth things over. Maybe he should just deny all knowledge, claim that he didn't know what Pete was talking about and let Patrick pretend it was all Pete's overactive imagination. He found himself walking to the park as he considered it, quite enjoying the little snow flurries that dusted his hat and shoulders as he walked.

The further he wandered into the park, the less familiar he was with the pathways which ran through it. He'd explored the corner closest to their hotel, but this wasn't the way he'd walked before and the next thing he knew the snow was so heavy he was stuck standing where he was, barely knowing which way was up, never mind how to find his way out of the snow and back to the hotel. Everything around him was smothered in a fuzzy rush of white, as if he was standing in the middle of a shaken snow globe.

"I am so fucked..." he grumbled to himself, wondering if it was more sensible to stand still and wait for the moment to pass, or if he should carefully move on and see where he ended up. After all, he was in the centre of New York City – he couldn't go that far wrong, short of falling in the pond – and he could still hear the distant sound of traffic beyond its deserted borders.

Maybe he'd just try to feel his way to the edge of the path and walk until he found a bench to settle on for a few minutes.

He wasn't sure how far he'd shuffled before he saw her. She was a patch of purple, at first, but gradually he could make out her shape, sitting on a bench and smiling up into the falling flakes with her eyes closed, a long purple coat wrapped around her and a woollen, lilac hat tucked over her hair.

"H-hey?" he began, spitting out a cluster of flakes as it landed on his lip. "Excuse me?"

The girl opened her eyes and turned to look at him. "Joe! Hey."

"What're you doing? Won't you like, catch a cold, or something?"

"No," she chuckled. "I'll be fine. Just waiting for this little storm to pass..."

"Tell me about it," Joe muttered, sweeping away some of the snow from the bench and stuffing his hands back in his pockets as he perched on the edge. "You think it's gonna last?"

"You tell me..."


"These things blow over. You just have to be patient and wait it out, sometimes, that's all."

"I guess," Joe nodded, kicking up the snow drifting at his feet.

"How was your date?"


"Your date. With Patrick."

Sighing in exasperation, Joe corrected, "That wasn't a date."

"Really?" The tone of her voice was quietly amused and she looked at him sidelong for a moment. "Looked like a date."

"Well, it wasn't."

"Does he know that?"

"What's that even supposed to mean? He's my friend, dude, can't I even hang out with my friend without it being made into this whole big... thing? It's totally fucking stupid, basically. First Pete, now you – I don't even know you and you're making assumptions about this stuff..."

The girl just kept smiling to herself. "Well, then I guess I'm completely objective on the matter."

"Y'know what? I think I'll just, like, try to find my own way out. Bye." Joe got to his feet and took two steps into the blizzard before she appeared beside him and took his arm.

"This could go on forever. Let me at least guide you to familiar ground, okay?"

"What, you think you can see this stuff better than I can? It's a total white out!"

"I've done this a million times before, trust me."

Reluctantly, Joe let her link her arm through his and carefully crunched his way onward. He barely even noticed the snowfall easing as they walked, but before he knew it he could see the glittering lights from the street ahead and he instantly recognised where they were.

"I think you can manage from here," she said, unlooping her arm and patting his shoulder. "Just go with what's right in front of you and you can't go wrong."

"Thanks. Seriously. Thanks. I'm sorry I was kind of a dick... I'd have been like, stuck in there for days or something, walking in circles, if I hadn't met you."

"Well, I thought you were just about doing that already..." She smiled at him again and turned to walk back into the park.

"Hey – what's your name?" he called after her, but her only response was to chuckle and keep walking. She disappeared a bend in the path before he turned back to the street and there, peering down the narrow sidewalk from the top of the slope, was a familiar silhouette huddled in a winter coat, with a woollen hat tugged down over his ears.


"Patrick? Dude – what the fuck are you doing out here? The snow's been like, totally insane..."

"Ash said you guys had gone for brunch and I thought I'd catch you up, but you weren't where I thought and then the weather kind of went crazy and... well, I guess it was just luck that we got here at the same time, I mean... This is a big city, you could have been anywhere."

"We're five minutes from the hotel, dude."

"Yeah, but, y'know..." Patrick trailed off, shrugging. "Whatever. I found you eventually."

"If I'd known you were looking, then I'd have like, come right back to the hotel..."

"It's not that I was looking, I just... Right place at the right time, I guess."

They walked back to the hotel almost in silence, chins tucked into scarves and coats against the chill and hands stuffed inside pockets. It wasn't an awkward silence, it was just that Joe didn't really know where to begin or what he needed to say. For all he knew, Pete could have gone back to the hotel and tried to make things 'better' and he still had more than enough time to try, because fuck knew when they'd be getting out of New York...

Patrick didn't follow him into his room, the way he usually would. Instead, he hovered at the threshold, unzipping his coat and pulling off his gloves, as if he was waiting to be asked.

"Are you like, coming in, or what?" Joe asked, kicking off his boots, because maybe they could pretend whatever they had to in order to make things go back to normal. Because normal was better than nothing, wasn't it?

"Um. Yeah! Yeah, I was just... I didn't know if you totally wanted company, right now."

"I always want your company, dude," Joe told him with a grin, shuffling back on the bed to find the remote for the TV.

"I wish I had kept my guitar here so bad," Patrick complained, closing the door and joining him. "There's only so much pay-per-view a guy can take..."

"At least we're not in Chile, this time."

"Chile ruled."

"Yeah, but like... at least we don't have a bunch of little kids coming between us and food."

"Dude, you're starting to sound like me."

Joe chuckled and absently patted at Patrick's belly, withdrawing his hand a little too quickly when he realised that it may no longer be totally appropriate to behave like that. Beside him, Patrick smiled a little.

"So, um, did you like your present?"

"Oh! Shit. Yeah, yeah it's like... it's awesome, dude. Thanks."

"Yeah, I just wanted it to be something that like, meant something, y'know?"

"Well," Joe began, nodding slowly, "it meant a lot."

"Cool. Cool, man, because I was kind of afraid you'd think it was weird or something."

"Aren't I pretty much defined by how 'weird' I am, anyway?"

Patrick gave an unexpected burst of laughter and leaned against him for a brief, affectionate moment. "You're not weird, you're unique."

"Unique in my weirdness..." Joe amended.

"Well, I love your unique weirdness, okay? We all do."

Joe looked down at him for a moment, but Patrick was gazing at the TV. "Yeah, I love you, too, man."

Patrick snorted. "We sound like we're on Lifetime or something..."

"Nah, I don't think those dudes would let us do that."

They sat together for hours, not really doing anything except talk nonsense and watch TV. Nobody joined them – no one even knocked on the door except room service when they ordered a late lunch – and it was almost like it was just the two of them, stuck in a hotel room in their own privately-imagined siege.

"Hey – are those things on the mirror in there from the chocolates?" Patrick asked him, as he walked out of the en suite, adjusting the zipper on his jeans.

Joe's heart skipped several beats, "Uh. I think so."

"Cool. I wondered what yours said."

"Why, what did yours say?" Joe asked carefully, his stomach twisting as he remembered his own.

Patrick responded by pulling his wallet from his pocket and opening it up; he handed Joe the pale yellow strip of paper, still slightly dusted with glitter.

Is a chance better given, or taken?

Joe handed it back to him without saying anything, remembering the way she'd insisted he give the chocolate to his 'date'.

"Makes you think, huh?" Patrick said, taking the message back and slipping it into his wallet again.

"Guess so."

"So, what would you do if you knew you wouldn't fail?" he asked, sitting back down on the bed and reaching for his drink.

Joe shrugged, forcing a smirk because he seriously did not want to have this conversation. "Go over Niagara Falls in a barrel or something... You?"

"Oh, I dunno... I'm not exactly familiar with the act of not-failing, so..."

Joe gave a huff of indignation and muttered, "That's crap. You're totally like, 'made of win' or whatever the kids are saying."

"Oh, yeah. Yeah, if it's an award, I can win it. Sure. Unless it's a Grammy... but y'know: peaking too soon and all that. But yeah. Give me an award to win and I can win it. Anything I actually want to win I screw up."

"Dude, you're twenty-five, you'll find her one day – there's no rush. You'll get your family."

Patrick dropped his head back against his pile of pillows and rolled his eyes. Joe was quite sure he muttered, 'Is honesty the best policy?' to himself, but when he asked him what he'd said, Patrick sat up and insisted it was nothing.

"You know what?" Patrick told him, after a while. "I think I just made my resolution for next year."

"Yeah? What's that?"

"Take more chances."

"Cool," Joe nodded, getting up and getting himself some juice from the mini bar.

"What about you?" Patrick prompted, holding out a hand for the can Joe offered him.

Joe shrugged and sat back down. "Try not to fail so hard."

Patrick fell asleep in Joe's room, that night, and Joe wasn't entirely sure what to do about it. Any time in the better part of the last decade it wouldn't even have been an issue up for debate, but it took him a long time to reconcile that with the last few days. Things had changed, but at the same time, he wasn't sure they'd changed at all. In the end, he pulled the extra blanket from the closet and draped it over Patrick's sleeping figure, then carefully took his glasses and placed them on the night stand beside the bed. Finally, he draped his jeans over the chair and climbed under the duvet Patrick was curled up on top of.

By the morning, Patrick had apparently woken and decided to stay; his own jeans and sweater were in a pile on the floor and the duvet was pulled all the way over his head.

They actually went out and scouted for guitars, that morning, mostly to get away from Pete's teasing and give them something else to do. Spending all the time cooped up in the hotel may as well be at least moderately productive. They'd written some of their best stuff by accident when they'd been forced to spend time together like that, in the past, and they spent much of the week after entirely by themselves. They hardly even saw Andy, Matt or Tyler and had dinner with Pete and Ashlee a grand total of once.

It wasn't that they were avoiding them, or that they even had better things to do, it was just the way it was.


Joe wasn't entirely sure why Pete was so excited for New Year. It was like he'd eaten twenty bags of gummy bears and he couldn't stop bouncing on the balls of his feet. He was desperate to usher them out of the hotel, then out of the restaurant, as though he wasn't the one who usually made them late.

"What's flown up his ass?" Joe half-whispered to Patrick as they shuffled out onto the street.

"I don't know, but I'm keeping out of his way, tonight."

"Count me in..."

Weaving their way through the gathering throngs of revellers, they tried to stay close, using Mix's striped beanie as a reference to follow, but when Patrick's jacket got caught on a stroller some genius had thought it wise to bring, they paused for a moment and suddenly found the others had vanished.

"Aw, shit – sorry, Joe," Patrick sighed, standing on tip-toes in a futile attempt to see over people's heads.

"It's cool, man, we can just call them and tell them to wait by something obvious..." Except when Pete answered, they couldn't hear a word that he was saying over the music from the stage in the Square. "Okay. So, I guess we'll just have to look in like, the old-fashioned way..."

"Yeah, because there's about four trillion people, here, so that'll be easy."

"It's not like you don't have amazing company already, or anything," Joe reminded him, grabbing his sleeve and pulling him through the crowd so that they didn't get separated from each other, too.

"It's already nearly eleven," Patrick told him, yanking his sleeve free to check the watch underneath and switching to catch Joe's with his free hand. "We have an hour."

"It's not like the world's gonna end or anything when the clock hits midnight, man."

"No, but this is our decade! This is like – we were all supposed to end it together, y'know?"

"We'll find them – we can just try texting or something..."

Texting didn't work, either, because Pete didn't respond and Andy's reply just said, "We're under the middle street light."

"Well, that's helpful. Thanks, dude," Joe muttered, holding up his phone for Patrick to read.

"Middle of where?"

"No idea. Looks like you're stuck with me for now... Sorry."

Patrick laughed a little and tucked an arm around him. "It's fine... I'd rather be stuck with you than anyone else, anyway."

"Aw, thanks, dude," Joe grinned back. "You too. Assuming that like, Morrissey is unavailable and everything..."

"My God, you are such a homo, sometimes..." Patrick teased, pulling away and grabbing his hand as he decided to move off into the crowd again.

"That's a little rich, Shoe Boy."

Joe didn't pay much attention to where Patrick was dragging him; he was too busy looking out for a familiar face in the crowd and attempting to figure out who was on stage at the front from the sound of the revellers around them singing along; rather poorly as it turned out. Being there, though, in the middle of the happy, drunken crowd, the air felt like it was crackling. The noughties were almost over – a whole decade gone already... It made him feel so old. The last ten years had gone way, way too fast. He could never have that time back, and as he looked around he saw streets full of happy people living in the moment with the people who mattered to them, and the hand wrapped around his, he wondered what the fuck he was doing.

Somewhere ahead of them, the host on the stage announced that it was two minutes to midnight and Patrick tugged him through the crowd to the edge of the street, hopping up onto the curb to get a better view of the countdown screen.

"Looks like it really is just us, dude," Joe told him, giving him one-armed hug and letting it linger.

Patrick wrapped his own arm around Joe's shoulders and smiled. "Good, because I wanted to ask you something."

"What?" Joe asked, having to raise his voice a little over the increasingly excitable audience.

"If I asked you something and you weren't into it, could we like, write it off as totally last decade?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean it's New Year! And it's a new decade and I don't want to wait ten more years to take a chance on this..."

Joe gazed at him, his heart thumping in his chest. "On what?"

"No, I need you to promise that if this is totally off the mark that you'll just... you'll let it stay in the past if I screw up, here."

"Patrick – " All around them, people began shouting – ten, nine, eight... "Okay, I promise – whatever it is, I promise."

"Well, it's just that I've really liked this, y'know? Spending all this time with you... I was kind of hoping we could do this more."

"What, spend time together? Sure! I can't even... of course we can spend more time together, dude – "

"Yeah, but, I don't just mean that. I don't mean like we spend time with the others, I mean us – I don't know if you feel it, but – " Patrick flinched and ducked a little as fireworks burst above them, marking the turn of the decade. "Shit. Well... that's it, I guess, happy New Year..."

Joe had barely opened his mouth to ask him to finish when he saw her, over Patrick's shoulder and along the street, laughing and holding her hands up in a heart shape. She was only there for a second before she'd vanished back into the jostling crowd of strangers hugging each other, but Joe knew what she meant. If there was ever going to be a moment when he wouldn't fail, it was now and he could either take his chance or he could waste it.

"Dude, I want it."


"This! The 'us' thing, I want it – I didn't think... I mean... Pete kept telling me he thought you wanted something, but I didn't believe – "

"That son on a bitch told you?"

"What? No – he just like... I thought he was just like, speculating and trying to be cupid or something..."

"I told him not to say anything!"

"Well, he technically didn't, he didn't tell me for sure he just – "

"I'm gonna kill him. I actually am. I'm gonna kill him so hard."

Joe laughed at Patrick's outrage and without even considering what he was doing, he ducked in and pressed a small, quick kiss to his lips. For a moment, Patrick blinked at him, like he was slightly stunned and then he frowned at him instead and indignantly demanded, "That's it?"

There wasn't much Joe could do except kiss him again and they were still kissing when a loud whoop from behind them almost knocked them both of their feet.


"For fuck's sake, Pete!" Patrick snapped, stepping back onto the curb while Joe grinned sheepishly.

"I fucking knew if you two actually had to like, spend some time together you'd work it out. I totally knew it! Didn't I say they'd totally like, end up fucking if we left them long enough, Ash? Didn't I? I fucking did!"

"Yes, Peter, yes, you said it," Ashlee agreed, patting him on the head and shifting Bronx to the other hip as he flailed his hands up at the fireworks overhead.

"They're not fucking," Andy corrected, absently playing with his phone.

"May as well be! And y'know, you like, really ought to stop that. People might see."

Joe couldn't help laughing as Patrick buried his face in his shoulder and begged, "Hit him. Please hit him."

"You hit him!"

"What did you even actually do that was so helpful, anyway?" Patrick asked, straightening his glasses and catching Joe's hand again. "You fucked off and left us!"

"Um, all I did was sprinkle a little bit of Petey magic. It's not my fault you're gullible..."


"You actually believed that no plane has left this city in two weeks, or whatever, didn't you? All you had to do was get online and find out if you didn't believe me."

"But they didn't – the snow – "

Patrick stopped as Pete cackled and Matt reached out and rubbed the top of his head, sending his hat askew.

"You dick."

"Honestly? I set all this shit up for you and all you can do is yell at me? That's gratitude, right there..."

"You're still a dick. I thought I told you not to tell him anything – "

"Hey, what's it matter?" Joe soothed, squeezing Patrick's fingers and patting Pete on the shoulder. "It worked out okay, didn't it?"

"Yeah," Andy added, "you're gonna get nailed, stop bitching."

"I'm just like... I'm actually kind of impressed, basically," Joe told Pete as they started on again, moving away from the centre of the Square to find their way to Angels and Kings, Patrick's hand still firmly clasping his. "I mean – you can totally like, kiss my ass if you think you're getting all the credit, but like... that whole thing with the girl... How did you even get her to be exactly where I was every time? That was totally fucked up. You completely had me going for a while... I was like, thinking it was all magic or something... I hope you like, paid her a lot for that."

Pete gave a short laugh and frowned a little. "I have no idea about any 'girl', man..."

"No, I mean, like – the girl. The one with the chocolates and the eyes and stuff, dude. Ash – did he get one of the girls from AK47 to do that, or something?"

Ashlee gave him the same puzzled look and shrugged. "I... really don't think I'd be letting him hire girls for money, Joe."

"Okay. We can drop the act now – you get the credit, it's like fine, I just wanna know how – "

"Dude, I think you imagined it."

"No, he didn't – he gave me one of the chocolates."

Joe stopped in his tracks and pulled Patrick with him. "Hey, can you like, get that little piece of paper?"

Patrick nodded and fumbled through his wallet but as he did, his frown deepened. "I can't... it was right here. I saw it earlier, I know it was here. Give me your hands, dude..."

The others huddled closer and watched curiously as Patrick up-ended his wallet into Joe's hands, but nothing fell into them except a small pile of change and a dusting of lilac glitter.

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