Patrick/Pete | Multibandom | Saddle Club AU | Sequel to Featuring Murray…
At sixteen, Patrick might still have horse posters plastered all over his bedroom walls, might still sleep on cowboy sheets and have a sagging bookshelf full of riding mags, worn Marguerite Henry books, but none of that is half as embarrassing as his enormous crush on Pete Wentz.
A/N: BOYS AND HORSES. I’m not sure how much more awesome it gets than that. This is uber fluffy and Christmasy, and takes place about a month after Featuring Murray…. Many thanks to wicked_socks for horse-checking this! HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!
The Monroeville Farms Starlight Ride
Patrick gets shit from Kevin about secretly being a twelve-year-old girl, but Patrick takes it, because he figures if Kevin even knew, fuck, he’d, like, never let him live it down.
At sixteen, Patrick might still have horse posters plastered all over his bedroom walls, might still sleep on cowboy sheets and have a sagging bookshelf full of riding mags, worn Marguerite Henry books, but none of that is half as embarrassing as his enormous crush on Pete Wentz.
“Dude, you’re so lucky,” Joe says, leaning his chin onto his hands overtop the stall door.
Patrick ducks his head, feels his cheeks flush. He doesn’t say anything, because he knows he’s lucky, he’s got, like, some sort of sunbeam watching out for him, and the grin pulling at his lips is almost giddy. “It’s not definite.” It isn’t, but he’s been dropping hints for months, and Kevin got a car the Christmas after he turned sixteen, so. He knows it’s likely.
His dad’s been giving him these looks over his glasses and his mom’s been cutting off conversations when he walks into the room, not to mention all the paper hiding, the quick shuffles and cleared throats.
Patrick tugs Sinjin’s – short for St. Joan - girth tight, pats her flank. She’s Mikey’s old mare, before Gerard bought him Munch, and Patrick shares her with the rest of the stable, thinks Greta usually rides her in the mornings.
Joe laughs. “Are you kidding? This is all you’ve ever wanted. Of course you’re getting one.”
“Yeah, well.” Patrick shrugs. He tips his hat up a little with his thumb, catches Sinjin’s bridle as she snorts, stamps back a few steps. “It would be pretty cool.”
“It’d be awesome,” Joe says, and then Pete pops up behind him and asks, “Awesome? What?”
“Um.” Patrick bites his lip.
“Patrick’s getting a horse for Christmas,” Joe says.
Pete grins big, corners of his eyes crinkling. “Patrick, cool.”
“Yeah. Kind of.” Patrick feels a little like he can’t breathe. His crush is totally going to make things weird.
Pete is Patrick’s best friend in the whole world. Pete graduated from high school two years ago and he’s super smart, but he’s taking courses at the local community college because he didn’t want to leave Patrick all by his little lonesome self. Patrick wouldn’t have actually been all alone if Pete had gone off to Penn State or where-the-hell ever, because Patrick, despite his geeky affinity for equines, is not actually a loser.
Pete gets things stuck in his head, though. There really hadn’t been any point in Patrick trying to argue him out of staying.
So Pete is Patrick’s best friend in the whole entire world, and he has a girlfriend. Or a couple girlfriends, maybe, and Patrick thinks he fools around with Mikey sometimes, too, so Patrick’s, like, completely screwed by this crush business. He’s pretty sure it’s going to ruin everything.
At night, Patrick daydreams about what kind of horse he’ll get. He lies on his bed and folds an arm behind his head and stares up at his ceiling, thinks about rereading King of the Wind for the tenth time, thinks about the Godolphin Arabian, and how he’ll probably be happy with anything, really, even if in his heart of hearts he’s hoping for a bay. A pretty bay like Flash, only smaller, maybe, and Kevin can go screw himself if he thinks wanting a small dark mare makes him a girl.
Sometimes Patrick really just wants to beat the shit out of Kevin, but he thinks it’ll hurt his chances of actually getting a horse. He’s resolved to being on his best behavior for at least the next month.
A spray of pebbles hits his window and Patrick rolls his head to the side, considers ignoring Pete. It’s late, cold, and Patrick’s in this wistful-calm place, a place with ponies and sunlight and Pete and drowsy summer kisses and oh, hey, there’s Pete at the window, fuck, and Patrick really hopes it’s too dark in his room for Pete to notice Patrick’s got a hand down his shorts.
Pete just jimmies open the window, though, and hisses, “Dude, midnight ride, come on. I left you, like, fifteen text messages.”
It hasn’t snowed yet, but the grass is frozen, crunching under their horses’ hooves. Pete’s been dragging Patrick along on midnight trail rides for nearly as long as he’s known him - three years, at least - and while it’s not exactly allowed, there’s no way Gerard and Frank don’t know about it, and they’ve never told them to stop.
Pete leads them out, follows the same route they always do, and Pete likes to shake things up, but he’s responsible enough not to risk one of their horses breaking a leg in the dark. He never deviates from the well worn path winding down to the creek, and Buck’s been a stable horse so long he knows exactly where to step.
Behind Patrick is Joe, and behind Joe is Andy, who grumbles the most about getting pulled out of bed, but is always the most awake when they stagger into Denny’s for hot chocolate and muffins hours later.
Patrick tugs his hoodie up over his knit hat, curls into himself a little and wishes he’d worn a parka, because, god, it’s suddenly so cold. Frigid cold, like the tip of his nose might fall off, and maybe if it still worked he’d smell snow on the air.
“Shit, it’s fucking freezing, Pete,” Joe says.
Patrick says, “I can’t feel my hands,” and flexes his gloved fingers around the reins.
“I vote for going back,” Andy says.
“Pussies,” Pete calls over his shoulder. “Seriously, what? It’s December first!”
“I don’t know what that means,” Patrick says, and he’s honestly starting to not care. The wind’s picked up, slipping craftily into every exposed nook and cranny.
“We always go out on December first,” Pete says, and Patrick says, “Huh,” and, “We do?” and he can hear the pout in Pete’s answering, “Yes.”
Pete pulls up, turns a little, waits for Sinjin to bump her nose against his thigh. “It’s our anniversary, pumpkin,” Pete says, white teeth gleaming in the moonlight.
Patrick’s neck is suddenly hot, and despite his pure embarrassment it’s kind of welcome in all that cold. “Pete.”
“Why are Joe and I here, then?”
“Oh, hey, our anniversary. The four musketeers.”
“That’s three,” Andy points out.
“Whatever.” Pete waves an expansive hand. “December first. Joe brought Patrick in and Andy made him change his shoes and I gave him his very first baby kiss.”
“Pete.” Patrick slaps a hand over his face, grateful for the darkness.
“It was awesome.”
“I’m turning around,” Andy says, and does just that.
Patrick really wants to turn around, too, but Pete’s frowning at him, and the part of Patrick’s brain that isn’t completely ice encrusted is hoping for hugs and warm snuggling in the Denny’s booth afterwards.
Joe jostles Stinky’s reins. “Hey, hey, let’s keep moving here so I don’t die, okay?”
Patrick had moved to Monroeville when he was thirteen. He’d had an early, encouraging growth spurt that left him at his current height and with a dwindling hope that he’d ever get any taller than five three. Pete had called him conveniently pocket-sized, though, and said, “Hey, wow, Andy’s gonna make you get some boots,” and, “Are you serious about that sweater?” and, “This is Buck. He only likes cool people,” and he’d grinned this huge-ass dorky grin.
Buck had loved Patrick. Patrick’s pretty sure that had something to do with the carrot Pete had Patrick bribe him with, but whatever. He’d take it.
“Do you ride?” Pete had asked. “Seriously, there’s fuck-all to do out here except ride.”
Patrick didn’t say that he was kind of afraid of heights. And getting donkey kicked. And getting bitten by those big square teeth. Instead, he’d said, “Okay.”
“Patrick, Patrick.” Brendon hops up on the arena fence next to him.
Patrick’s watching Pete’s class, which usually just consists of Pete and Gabe, led by Gerard. Gabe’s horse keeps walking backwards. Patrick can’t figure out if it’s on purpose or not.
“Brendon,” Patrick says.
“Patrick, I’m totally going to ask Spencer to go steady on Christmas Eve, on the Starlight Ride.”
Patrick half turns towards him, arches an eyebrow. “Yeah?”
“It’ll be magic.” Brendon nods. “There will be hand holding and sweet kisses and it’ll be the best Christmas ever.”
“Aren’t you already dating?” Patrick asks, because he’s sure they’re already dating, have been dating for the past month.
“Not, like, exclusively. I’ve gotta stake my claim, Patrick, so all the ladies’ll leave my kitten alone.”
Patrick bites his lip to keep from smiling too wide. “You don’t call him kitten to his face, right?”
Brendon blanches. “Once,” he says, then brightens again with, “I’m giving him a pretty bracelet,” and Patrick can’t wait, because he knows Spencer’s reaction to that is going to be hilarious.
”You.” Patrick shakes his head. “Maybe you shouldn’t have gotten him jewelry.”
“Shut up. He’ll love it.” Brendon knocks his shoulder, grinning.
“Right, sure, because he’s secretly a girl?”
“Shut up.” Brendon laughs a little, ducks his head.
Brendon and Spencer are actually pretty adorable together, Patrick thinks. They lace fingers and sit so close and rub noses and it’s hard not to be envious, especially when all Patrick gets from Pete are sloppy kisses on his cheek and his face smushed into Pete’s armpit.
Patrick thinks maybe he should make some sort of effort, get himself a girlfriend. It’d make him seem a little less pathetic, at least.
It snows the second weekend in December. Fat, wet snowflakes that cling to everything, and Ashlee tips her head back and laughs into the hazy gray sky.
“Are you going to help?” Vicky asks her, swinging down off Rabbit.
Patrick’s already on the ground, unhooking ropes of twinkling holiday lights from Sinjin’s saddle. It’s a big job, getting ready for the Starlight Ride, but Patrick kind of enjoys it even more than the haunted hayride. It makes a difference, too, that it’s something just for them, just for the riders of Monroeville Farms.
“It’s snowing, V,” Ashlee says, and Vicky stomps her feet, tugs her jacket more firmly around her.
“It’s snowing, it’s cold, and Jon and Brendon are going to beat us,” Vicky points out, because Jon and Brendon are starting on the opposite end of the trail so they can meet in the middle - Patrick foresees several problems with this plan, but no one had wanted to listen to him. Whatever. If they end up with two male plug ends in the middle of the woods, he certainly isn’t going to help fix it - and Vicky’s kind of competitive.
Ashlee usually is, too, but apparently the arrival of the first snow of the year turns her into a little kid. She tugs off her gloves and holds out her hands.
“Ashlee,” Patrick says. “Come on.”
Ashlee sighs. “I wish it was Christmas already. It’ll be so pretty here tomorrow.”
“It’ll be brown sludge by tomorrow,” Vicky says, helping Patrick lay out a line of lights.
“Oh my god, V, enjoy this, geez,” Ashlee huffs. She gets down off Starshine, though, pulls her gloves back on and says, “Patrick, hey, Patrick, what are you doing about Pete?”
“Uh.” Patrick scratches the back of his head, resettles his cap.
Ashlee grabs his wrist, shakes his arm a little. “So I’m asking Zack, right?”
“Seriously?” Vicky snorts. “Brendon’s Zack?”
“Zack’s cute,” Ashlee says, shrugging. She lets go of Patrick, gathers up a strand of lights. “He’s a total pushover, so it’ll never last, but whatever, you know? He’ll be fun to cuddle with. Here, look, I’ll hold this and you—” Standing on her tiptoes, she pushes the lights up a bare maple. “Are we tying these?”
Patrick hands a few zip ties to Vicky, because there’s no way Patrick can reach any of the branches. He tries not to be bitter about that.
“Anyway,” Ashlee grins over her shoulder at him, “I’m asking Zack, because I heard from Andy that Pete was totally going to ask me, and I love Pete and all, but seriously. Seriously, this is getting a little ridiculous.”
Patrick blinks. “What?”
Pete did not actually give Patrick his first kiss, no matter what he claims – that honor had been bestowed on Stefanie Garber some three months previous, when Patrick had cleverly displayed the I’m-moving-away-forever-and-ever card - and, anyway, it wasn’t much of a kiss. Sort of like one of Pete’s sloppy cheek kisses, only their lips had touched, and Joe had pulled a face and scrubbed Patrick’s mouth with his sleeve, saying, “Pete, come on, try not to give the kid any diseases on his first day,” and Pete had just shrugged and tugged Patrick in for an armpit hug.
“We’re going to be awesome together,” Pete had said grandly, arm wrapped around Patrick’s head.
Awesome at what, Patrick had no clue, but his response was a t-shirt muffled, “Okay.”
They’re out on the trail for hours putting up lights - they don’t get even close to finishing with only the five of them helping, but they’re not really in any rush - and Patrick doesn’t realize how frozen he is until he’s back in the relative warmth of the stable.
“‘Trick.” Pete bounces up close, presses his palms over Patrick’s cheeks. “You’re cold, dude.”
“It’s snowing,” Patrick says dumbly. Patrick can’t feel anything except Pete’s hands, heat prickling his skin. And then he sneezes, and Pete laughs, dropping his arms and backing up a step.
“Your mom’s in with Gerard,” Pete says, waggling his eyebrows.
Patrick’s chest tightens as he sucks in a breath. “Yeah?”
“Yeah, man, this is. This is it, right?” Pete asks, grinning, so obviously happy for Patrick, and Pete doesn’t have his own horse, even though his parents would buy him one in a second. Pete loves Buck and Pete’s, like, incredibly loyal when he wants to be, and Gerard’ll never sell Buck to Pete. Buck was one of the first horses he and Frank ever bought together.
Sometimes, Patrick feels a little guilty about wanting his own horse when Sinjin is so great.
But then he thinks about having his own horse and it’s. It’s so cool. It’ll be so cool, and Patrick seriously can’t wait.
Pete’s been riding almost his entire life, but he’s sort of lazy about it. He’s got no real aspirations beyond buying a horse farm someday and growing old with Patrick by his side. He’s told Patrick this several times, and Patrick dies a little bit inside whenever he brings it up, because, god, Patrick wants to hold Pete’s hand and sit in his lap and sleep curled up next to him and he wants to grow old with him on a horse farm, yes, but not, like, in this imaginary platonic world Pete’s dreamed up; Patrick’s pretty sure that’d kill him.
Patrick has been riding for nearly three years, and he’s already in classes with Travis, Joe and Vicky, and they’ve all been riding for at least twice that. Once Patrick got over his fear of tumbling to his death, it turned out he had a real affinity for the sport.
Pete likes to call him his tiny horsey genius, and then Patrick likes to kick him in the shins.
“Patrick,” Pete says, climbing the paddock fence. “Patrick, my tiny horsey genius.”
He’s too high for Patrick to kick him, probably part of the plan, so he punches him in the kidney.
“Ow, fuck, the hell.” Pete slumps forward. “I think I’m dying.”
Patrick rolls his eyes, leans into the wooden plats. The fields are still covered with snow, and Patrick hopes it’ll last until Christmas. “You’re fine, Pete,” he says. He didn’t even punch him that hard.
Pete pouts. “Whatever, like I’m going to ask you now.”
“Ask me what?”
“Ash is going with Zack, dude.” Pete shakes his hair out of his eyes, pulls himself up to sit on top of the fence. “You’re kind of stuck with me.”
Patrick cocks his head. “Was that a question?”
“The Starlight Ride, ‘Trick. Where everyone pairs up under the sparkly moonlight and makes cow eyes at each other and wishes on Christmas stars. You’re totally stuck with me.”
Patrick tries to make sense of that while not, like, flailing out of control like a little girl. The fact that he’s apparently second choice doesn’t seem to matter to his pitter-pattering heart. “What if I’m taking someone already?”
Patrick’s expecting some elaborate eye-rolling, some scoffing, but Pete actually looks a little stricken. Patrick’s maybe not a complete pushover like Zack, but he’ll pretty much do anything to make Pete happy.
When Pete slips down to the ground, stumbles over, “Hey, yeah, that’s. I mean,” Patrick reaches over and hooks a hand in Pete’s elbow and reels him back to his side.
“Wait. Wait, Pete, I’m not.” He shrugs, smiles a little. “I’m stuck with you, right?”
It’s really fucking pathetic how much Pete’s answering grin means to him.
“So,” Patrick echoes, staring at Spencer. He doesn’t talk to Spencer a lot. Spencer’s sort of unbelievably pretty for a boy, Patrick thinks, and he can see why Brendon likes him so much, wants to, “—have his babies, Patrick, oh my god, or, like, he can have mine, what with those hips and all.”
Spencer flushes a little, says, “Um. The stall next to Flash? Frank’s sort of. I think they’re cleaning it out?”
Patrick feels a little thrill go through him, but. “Wait. Wait, why are you blushing, Spencer?” he asks, because Spencer’s got fair skin – though not as fair as Patrick’s, and god knows Patrick can get bright red at the drop of a hat – but there’s really no part of that revelation that’s embarrassing, as far as Patrick can tell.
“Um.” Spencer shifts on his feet, cups the back of his neck, ducking his head, cheeks still so pink, and Patrick remembers that he’s just turned fifteen, and Patrick’s still a kid, maybe, but he’s not as much of a kid as Spencer is.
Patrick laughs. “Frank and Gerard?”
Spencer covers his face on a laugh-groan, fingers splayed. “Oh my god. It was. I should’ve been gone, Patrick,” he says, voice muffled by his palms, “but Flash was restless and the stable wasn’t closed yet, and I—”
“Dude, breathe. It’s Frank and Gerard, it’s fine.”
“It’s.” He glances down at Patrick through his fingers. “My eyes are burning.”
Patrick pats his shoulder. “You get used to it.”
“I’ve got balls,” Joe yells, walking down the path towards them, a big box in his arms. “Silver balls and candy canes.”
“It’s Christmas time in the—”
“Oh my god, Brendon, seriously, those weren’t even the right words,” Vicky says, slapping the back of Brendon’s head.
“Hey,” Brendon pouts, “I’ve got Christmas immunity, Pete said so. I can totally sing all I want.”
“He can sing all he wants,” Pete says absently, tugging on a shank of his bangs. They’re red and green for Christmas. Patrick likes the way they fall across his eyes.
“Are we decorating or not?” Joe asks, dropping the box at Patrick’s feet. Although Patrick doesn’t spy any candy canes, there are many, many silver balls inside. Gold, too.
Patrick hums under his breath, can’t help it, and Vicky groans, says, “Not you, too.”
“Hey, hey, it’s Patrick,” Pete says, wrapping an arm around Patrick’s neck and leaning in - making it sort of half an armpit hug, and it’s pretty sad that Patrick totally looks forward to armpit hugs, but that’s probably the least worrying aspect of his tremendous Wentz-crush - “Patrick doesn’t need immunity, Vick, he can sing his little heart out every day for the rest of my life.”
“Whatever,” Patrick mumbles. He kicks out at the box, bells jingling.
And then Joe says, hands on his hips - proudly displaying a blue and white Chanukah sweater that maybe fit him when he was eight, but now sort of gapes at the waist, sleeves stretched halfway up his forearms, neck-hole looking close to strangling him, throat red and raw from the rough wool - “If I don’t get my giant blow-up menorah this year I’m boycotting Christmas Eve.”
“You wouldn’t,” Patrick says, because Joe loves the Starlight Ride, and he’s even got Marie this year, plus Frank’s permission to let her ride Bella.
“I totally know the dreidel song, Joe, let me sing it for you so sweetly,” Brendon says, blinking wide puppy eyes, and Joe is no match for Brendon’s puppy eyes, is possibly less immune to them than Zack, even.
Patrick hides his grin with a truly hideous, sparkly gold ball, and bites his lip to keep from singing along. He doesn’t like to encourage Brendon.
Two days before Christmas, Brendon calls after his afternoon class to tell Patrick that a horse trailer’s pulled into Monroeville Farms, and Patrick’s so excited he has to sit on his hands. And then he feels stupid for sitting on his hands, so he speed-dials Pete and just breathes heavily into the phone.
“Pete,” Patrick whispers. He’s not sure why he’s whispering, but his throat seems to be malfunctioning a little.
“Patrick, what—hang on.” Pete does a half-ass job of covering the speaker, so his exasperated, “Mom, what?” makes Patrick jerk back a little, blink down at his cell. “I’m on the phone with Patrick,” he shouts, then, “Fine, okay, I’ll, soon—right now, fine,” and then his voice settles close to normal on, “‘Trick, sorry, my mom wants me right now, so I’ll call you back in, like, an hour?” and then he’s gone.
Patrick blinks again. Then says to the dead air, “Okay.”
Two days before Christmas, Patrick’s mom calls him downstairs and beams at him. Kevin’s playing video games in the den, doesn’t even look up as his parents usher him outside the front door.
There’s a hybrid Honda with a red bow parked at the top of the driveway. Patrick thinks he might start crying.
“It’s just not practical, Patrick,” his mom says later, after his dad’s eyebrows went flat, after Patrick pulls the most embarrassing tantrum of all time, after he gets lectured about respect and gratitude. “You only have one more year at home until college.”
“I’m not—” Patrick stops himself, because he can’t say he’s not going to college. He’s going to go, that’s always been the plan, but Pete won’t be there and he won’t have his own horse, and maybe it’s practical, maybe it makes sense, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. “Mom.”
“Oh, honey.” She wraps her arms around him, but he holds himself stiff, hands curled into fists at his sides. “I know, I’m sorry.”
“What the fuck, dude,” Pete says. “That’s bullshit.”
“Yeah, well.” Patrick hitches a shoulder, head bowed. He kind of doesn’t want Pete to notice he’s been bawling his eyes out. His fingers tighten around the car keys.
He’d driven to Pete’s house, but Pete’s sister said he’d left for the stable, and the stable isn’t exactly a place he wants to be right then, but more than that Patrick just wants to be somewhere not home, the closer to Pete the better.
Pete leans up against him, arms flopping over his shoulders. “Hey. Hey, it’ll be okay, right?” He presses their foreheads together, and Patrick squeezes his eyes shut, wills his freaking tears away, because seriously.
It isn’t the end of the world, Patrick knows, but it’s still shaping up to be the crappiest Christmas ever. “I know,” Patrick says finally, voice hoarse.
“And I’ve got.” Pete lets him go, shuffles back a few steps, takes a deep breath. “I’ve got a surprise?”
“A surprise,” Patrick echoes.
Pete nods, grins at him, even if his eyes are a little nervous, uncertain. He grabs Patrick’s hand, pulls him into the dim stable. “Come on,” he says.
“Pete, what are you—?” and then he’s swallowing his words, because Pete’s taking them down past Stinky and Starshine, past Murray and Flash, and Patrick absolutely does not want to see, he doesn’t. He tugs on the hand Pete has trapped, hard.
He digs his heels in, and Pete tightens his hold and tosses over his shoulder, “I know, I know, just wait, okay?” and Patrick gives in.
The stall next to Flash’s has a giant chestnut in it. The horse whinnies, shakes his head, ears flicking, and Pete wriggles close to Patrick and whispers, “He’s kind of a goofball.”
Patrick smoothes his thumb over the brass plaque on the stall door. “Hemmingway.”
“Hemmy,” Pete says, and Patrick says dully, “You’re keeping him.”
“Patrick. ‘Trick.” When Patrick finally looks at him, Pete’s got a hand on the back of his neck, elbow high. If Patrick were in a better mood, he’d appreciate the strip of exposed abdomen as Pete’s shirt rides up.
“Patrick,” Pete says again, and sometimes Patrick thinks Pete just really likes to say his name.
“Yeah,” Patrick says.
“I thought. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to stop riding Buck, right?” Except that’s exactly what it should mean. To anyone but Pete, apparently.
“You.” Hemmy sticks his nose out of the half door, butts Patrick’s shoulder. “You seriously—”
“Someone needs to ride him, though,” Pete continues, and then he’s looking right into Patrick’s eyes, and he’s serious.
“Pete, I can’t. He’s. He’s yours.” Hemmy knocks the brim of Patrick’s hat, and Patrick relents, rubs his fingers over Hemmy’s velvety nose, cheek, reaches out to pat his neck.
Pete curls up behind him, presses his face into Patrick’s neck. “Patrick. Hey, Patrick, what’s mine is yours, man. Always.”
Patrick realizes Pete’s in love with him when he gives Patrick Hemmingway, and Patrick promptly freaks the fuck out.
It’s sort of unexpected, considering all the pining he’s been doing. But he freezes up. He coughs into his fist and won’t look Pete in the eye and he gets the hell out of there as quickly as possible.
Vicky and Ashlee find him at Coldstone stuffing his face, because chocolate has solved a lot of his problems over the years. Good old chocolate ice cream never gives him gorgeous thousand dollar animals or pledges its undying fealty. Granted, Pete hasn’t actually done that. Not in those exact words, anyway.
Ashlee slides into the booth across from him, and Vicky boxes him in on his side, a hand braced on the cracked vinyl, one eyebrow arched expectantly.
“Pete’s in love with me,” Patrick blurts out.
“Duh.” Ashlee rolls her eyes. “Only since forever.”
Patrick bobs his head. “Right.” Right. Shit.
The day of the Starlight Ride dawns gray and cold.
Gerard calls Patrick into his office and watches him over steepled fingers. “So I got this really weird note from Pete,” Gerard says.
“I’m not sure, but I think he’s bequeathing you all his earthly belongings.” Gerard grins, and Patrick feels that tight-chest feeling again, like maybe his heart’s stopped. “There’s a lot of misspelled words, so it’s kind of hard to tell.”
“Pete, uh.” Patrick pinches the bridge of his nose. He’s not sure whether he wants to laugh or cry. “I might be freaking out.”
“Understandable. I think maybe you should tell Pete I can’t actually say,” he picks up a slip of paper, reads, “‘by the power of Monroeville Farms, I hereby let Peter Lewis Kingston Wentz the Third officially go halvsies with Patrick Martin’—are you sure Pete’s nineteen?” Gerard makes a face.
Patrick bites his lip. Pete’s a moron, but Patrick’s ninety-six percent certain it’s on purpose.
The problem is not that Patrick doubts Pete’s love and commitment. The problem is that Pete’s never had any physical interest in Patrick, and Patrick’s pretty sure he can’t live his entire life without having sex. He’s hasn’t had it yet, but he’s certain it’s an important and awesome part of a successful relationship.
Also, Pete’s an asshole who’s crossed Patrick’s name off the Starlight Ride list, so Frank’s already told Greta that she could ride Sinjin on the trail, leaving Patrick without a horse. He’s kind of stuck, because no matter how upset he is there’s no way he’s missing the Starlight Ride.
So Patrick’s having some sort of staring contest with Hemmy, hands on his hips. Hemmy has his head hanging over the stall door, ears pricked.
For a short kid who’s afraid of heights, Hemmy’s a little daunting. Patrick thinks maybe he’s going to need some steps just to get him tacked up.
“Are you making friends?”
Patrick glances over his shoulder at Pete, half shrugs. “Maybe.”
“Okay,” Pete says. He looks like he wants to say more, but he just presses his lips together, brow furrowed.
Patrick takes a deep breath, turns all the way around and gives Pete a go-ahead look.
“Okay,” Pete says again. “So what freaked you out?”
“Oh, I don’t know, Pete,” Patrick says, flapping a hand. “Maybe the whole part where you love me?”
Pete blinks. “That’s not exactly news, dude.”
“You’re in love with me,” Patrick says, hand still doing this stupid fluttering thing, and he thinks he’s a little screechy on the end there, like maybe only dogs can hear the, “oh my god, Pete.”
“Patrick, Patrick, pumpkin, this isn’t. I thought.” Pete scrunches his face up. “Seriously? You didn’t know?”
Patrick resists the urge to bang his head on the stall door. “You’ve been trying to get Ashlee to go out with you for months,” Patrick points out.
“Hey, it’s not like we’re dating, ‘Trick,” Pete says, and he’s scowling now, petulant, and suddenly Patrick feels like a shit, and none of this is his fault.
“Look, if it bothers you, I’ll. Well, I don’t really know,” Pete says, dropping his gaze. He kicks at the ground, still frowning, and Patrick realizes they’re essentially arguing about being in love with each other, and it’s ridiculous.
“I’m not not having sex,” Patrick says, crossing his arms over his chest.
Pete’s smile stops half-way to being blinding. “Wait,” he says. “Wait, does that mean we can’t have sex?”
Patrick has a new car and half ownership of a horse – Pete drew up a certificate and everything and had Gerard sign it, even though Patrick’s pretty sure it isn’t legally binding - and an awesome best friend who might actually want to touch him in sexual ways.
Patrick thinks maybe this is the best Christmas ever.
The trail looks magical, white twinkling lights strung in the bare trees, making the thin layer of snow still on the ground glow, reflecting the silver and gold ornaments. The horses jingle with each step, sleigh bells draped around their necks. Up front, Ray’s leading them in a medley of holiday carols, the littlest riders right behind him, and at the end of the trail they’ll have cookies and hot chocolate and Gerard and Frank and Instructor Bob’ll hand out presents – little things they’ve picked out for each of them.
“I’m wishing on Christmas stars, Patrick,” Pete says grandly as they enter the woods, doubled up behind Jon and Cassie.
“That’s nice,” Patrick says. Hemmy’s a handful. He’s trying desperately to go exploring through the bushes.
“I’m wishing on Christmas stars that you’ll kiss me,” Pete says, and Patrick’s stomach flips, sort of staggers around like a drunken bum. Patrick has never so much as instigated an armpit hug with Pete.
Then Brendon gasps from behind them, says, “If you tell someone your wish it doesn’t come true, Pete Wentz,” in this half-horrified voice.
Spencer laughs, and Spencer’s been suspiciously giggly all day, so Patrick thinks maybe the whole going-steady bracelet thing went pretty well. He has to tell Pete about it later, so he can tease them mercilessly.
Pete says, “Patrick needs to be told these things, Brendon,” and Patrick feels like maybe he should be insulted, but on the other hand it’s nice to know exactly what’s expected of him.
Kissing. Him kissing Pete. He can totally do that.
“Okay,” Patrick says.
“You can’t see it,” Pete says, “but I’m totally making cow eyes at you.”
Gerard and Frank are dressed like demented elves. Frank refused to remove his skeleton gloves, and he’s got a jaunty green Peter Pan hat on and a lime green hoodie black magic-markered with GAY FOR RUDOLPH on it, which is kind of disturbing. Patrick knows why Gerard’s the one who usually deals with parents.
Gerard’s an elf in a much more traditional sense, if Legolas were one of Santa’s little helpers. And wore a mistletoe hat.
Instructor Bob makes a really terrible Santa. He just stares stoically out from behind the white beard Frank had tackled him into wearing – he’d actually taken Instructor Bob down with a flying tackle, Patrick had witnessed it, and there’d been a mustache, too, but that had ended up a casualty of Instructor Bob’s well-known ‘bite Frank first, ask questions later’ philosophy. His eyes say he’s considering killing everyone within a twelve foot radius. Except Greta’s attached to his leg, fingers clutching the bright red velour, and Patrick thinks it’s pretty adorable. He’d never actually say that to Instructor Bob’s face. Patrick doesn’t want to get punched in the head.
Pete says, “Awwww,” though, and clasps his hands in front of his chest, because he clearly has a death wish.
Instructor Bob’s stare turns into a glower.
“Santa Bob,” Greta pipes up. “Santa Bob, pick me up?” She makes grabby hands and pouts until Instructor Bob sighs and hefts the six-year-old into his arms, fits her onto his padded hip.
“Me next, Santa Bob!” Darren practically screams, and Pete snickers.
“He’s going to kill you,” Patrick whispers in his ear.
Pete turns his head, so close their noses brush and Patrick nearly goes cross-eyed. “He totally still thinks it’s Brendon’s fault,” Pete says, grinning huge.
Patrick grins back, grins wider when he hears Chris say, “Santa Bob, we haveta sit on your lap an’ tell you what we want,” and then Brendon say, “Oh, hey, I totally want in on that action,” because Brendon’s occasionally worse than Pete at Bob-baiting.
Instructor Bob growls at Brendon.
Patrick just hopes Zack’s around somewhere to save him.
Patrick has fortified himself with hot chocolate and taken courage from the handmade Tiny Horsey Genius pin – complete with a tiny horse head that Patrick knew Gerard had drawn – which Frank had given him out of Santa Bob’s sack with a sly smile.
He sits down next to Pete at the bonfire, and Pete plasters himself up against his side, and that’s not so different from usual. Pete’s always invading all his personal space. Although Patrick suspects that if he wasn’t holding a half-full cup of scalding hot liquid Pete would be in his lap, and that’s new.
“Hi,” Patrick says.
“Do you like your pin?” Pete asks. He tilts his head a little and in the firelight Patrick can tell Pete’s still making these huge eyes at him, all fluttery lashes, and Patrick can’t help but laugh, some of the tension melting away.
Patrick nods. “I kind of love my pin.”
“Good, good. Are you going to kiss me?”
“Maybe,” Patrick says.
It’s sort of easy after that, Pete makes it easy, because he tugs Patrick’s hot chocolate out of his hands and then gets even closer, expression all eager and expectant and Patrick has kissed a couple of people – after Stefanie and Pete – so it’s not like Patrick’s going in blind or anything. He knows how to cup Pete’s face, curl his fingers under his jaw, press his thumb lightly against the side of his chin, other one slipping up to touch the corner of Pete’s mouth as he tilts his head. He knows how to tip in, lips parted, knows how much pressure to give until Pete relaxes, hands scrabbling up to grab at Patrick’s wrists.
And then Pete seems to lose all patience and pushes forward, toppling Patrick off the log and straddling his waist. There’s a great deal of tongue involved that Patrick was maybe not ready for, but he goes with it. He goes with the biting, too, because Pete’s sort of awesome at that, and Patrick finds himself gripping the back of Pete’s hoodie with both his hands.
When Pete pulls away a little, Patrick takes in an embarrassingly loud gulp of air, and he can so tell Pete’s grinning down at him all smug, even though his face is almost entirely in shadow.
Somewhere over their heads there’s a wolf whistle and a strident, “Keep it clean!” from Gerard, and Pete laughs, moves back even further, manhandles Patrick up onto the log again.
It isn’t until after they’re resettled in front of the fire, pressed together, shoulders, hips and toes, that Patrick realizes his entire back and ass are wet from the snow. He shivers, snuggles in even closer to Pete. He fiddles with his new pin, rubs his thumb over the slightly raised lettering. “Hey,” he says, and Pete murmurs, “What?” into his neck.
Patrick jostles him with his elbow. “Hey, what did you get tonight?”
Pete says, “I got you.”