Rating: PG-ish, even
Summary: Peter looked down once more at the box in his hands, at the seventeen individually labeled volumes of the world’s longest mix tape, and, for the first time in a long time, felt like smiling.
Author’s Notes: Very fake. Also, these boys have eaten my brain.
Patrick felt like he should call Peter. Actually, Patrick felt like he should be there with Peter instead of out on tour desperately trying to pretend that one fourth of the band—to be honest, the heart of the band—wasn’t missing. He knew Peter was pretty fucked up and had heard from his mother that Mrs. Wentz called her every other day sobbing about how Peter wouldn’t leave his room, wouldn’t talk to her, wouldn’t eat. So Patrick knew, logically, that his presence almost certainly wouldn’t make a bit of difference, and that if Peter’s own mother couldn’t help the boy out, if Chicago’s finest therapists couldn’t fix him, little old Patrick sure as hell wasn’t going to do much good. But Patrick still felt like he should be there, curled up in the hall outside of Peter’s locked door next to plates full of untouched cookies and stale sandwiches so that, just in case Peter ever did decide he wanted to open up to someone, it wouldn’t have to be to someone getting paid to listen.
Peter had insisted, though, that they go through with the tour. It had been the first real conversation they’d had in months, and Peter’d held up his end of it from a hospital bed, looking pale and impossibly small. Peter had insisted that the band couldn’t let down their fans, couldn’t beak their promises, and even though Patrick had wanted to scream at him that without Peter there was no band, he’d nodded and said he’d understood and fiddled with the cuff of his jacket to avoid looking Peter in the eyes. Peter had insisted, but Patrick had noticed his hands fist themselves into the bedsheets, and he’d felt like the worst kind of betrayer for agreeing.
So now that he was on tour, not so much performing as going out on stage every night and doing his best Peter impression, Patrick really felt like he should call his best friend. The thing was, though, that Patrick had never been very good with words. He’d always considered himself a reasonably intelligent guy, but for some reason, words had just never come easily to him. That was why Patrick had long ago stopped trying to write lyrics to accompany the melodies he came up with. It was much easier—and made for much better songs—when Peter wrote Patrick’s words for him.
The only problem with this system was that now, when Patrick needed the right words more than he ever had in his life, Peter wasn’t there to provide them.
The first three times Patrick called Peter, the other boy had been merciful and not answered his phone; Patrick had been cowardly and hung up before voicemail kicked in. The fourth time, however, Peter had picked up. He’d picked up and said, “Hello,” in that faintly questioning tone that people employed to shift the word from a greeting into a demand for identification and purpose, and though Peter hadn’t sounded particularly sick or upset, Patrick hadn’t been on the receiving end of that impersonal “hello” since, well, ever, really, because he’d been listed in Peter’s phone under one ridiculous nickname or another since the day they’d met and he’d occupied number one on Peter’s speed dial since not long after. In the face of that cold, cautious “hello,” in the absence of “Hey Trickster!” or “Motherfucker! What the hell do you want?” or any other of a thousand things Peter could have said to let Patrick know he was fine and they were fine and everything was fine, what few words Patrick had managed to gather to him fled entirely. So Patrick just cradled the phone against his ear and opened and closed his mouth a few times, looking like a dying fish and sounding, he was fairly certain, like an obscene phone caller, trying and failing miserably to think of anything to say. Peter, for his part, kept quiet, even though he knew—he had to know—that it was Patrick on the other line and not some middle-aged pervert. Peter held out a good five minutes before hanging up.
After that, Patrick didn’t call anymore.
* * *
It wasn’t like Peter had been counting down the days until the end of the band’s tour—his band’s tour—but when the square on his wall calendar highlighted in pink and outlined in red had come and gone and he still hadn’t heard from anyone, he started to get just a little bit worried.
Oh, they’d all checked in with him during the tour: Joe had called him every day for the first two weeks, Andy had e-mailed him fairly regularly, and their manager had called him every Saturday like clockwork. Patrick…Patrick had called a few times, but Peter had sensed, instinctively, that it would be different with him. Harder. So he didn’t answer his phone, and even when he did he didn’t acknowledge it was Patrick, and Peter was nothing but relieved when Patrick stopped trying.
But now that the tour was over, Peter was worried that maybe they’d all finally realized what a fuckup he was, how he didn’t really do anything but write shitty lyrics and play bass—and even that not very well—and cause drama and, apparently, have complete mental breakdowns. Maybe this last had been the best tour ever because they didn’t have to put up with his silly emo mood swings or his not inconsiderable ego or his stupid pranks and constant videotaping.
Then, exactly a week to the day Fall Out Boy’s 100% Peter Free Tour ended, Patrick showed up on his front porch looking nervous and clutching something under one arm.
“Here,” Patrick said without preamble, handing him a shoebox. “I made you something on the, uh. On the last tour.”
Peter accepted the box with a questioning glance, clued in by Patrick’s stuttering that the innocuous looking Saucony label hid something Truly Important. He opened the lid. And stared. In his hands, Peter held exactly seventeen cassette tapes, each one neatly labeled “Mix for Peter,” followed by a volume number in roman numerals.
“It’s, um, you know, it’s a mix tape. It’s kind of old school, I know, because they’re actual, actual tapes and all, but it just seemed more, you know, appropriate. Like, like it was more real that way, and, uh.”
Peter’s suspicions about this shoebox and its contents were being further confirmed by the minute. Patrick was fiddling with his ever-present hat and sweating almost as much as he did on stage and studying his fingernails intently, so Peter decided to put him out of his misery.
“A mix tape?” Peter asked skeptically. “As in, one single mix tape? Because I see here, and the volume numbers are really coming in handy on this one, that there are seventeen cassettes, which would imply that you have just given me seventeen different mix tapes.”
Patrick blushed. Or, at least, the tiny sliver of Patrick that Peter could make out through the hat, the fluffy blonde-ish fringe, the thick-rimmed glasses, and the increasingly untamed facial hair seemed to get a bit pinker.
“No, it’s just one tape. I just, uh. I started it that very first night, I started making it, that first night. You know.” Peter could hear what Patrick wanted to say as clearly as if the younger man had come right out and said it: I started it the first night we played without you. “And I kept adding to it. Every night, after every show we did, I would add on to it. And it just kept growing, I guess, but I couldn’t find a song on there that shouldn’t be on there, you know, so, uh. There it is. World’s longest mix tape.”
Peter looked down once more at the box in his hands, at the seventeen individually labeled volumes of the world’s longest mix tape, and, for the first time in a long time, felt like smiling.
“And how am I supposed to keep track of all of the, uh, volumes? ‘Cause that’s a lot.”
Patrick blushed yet again and reached a hand into his jacket pocket. It emerged a few seconds later with a stack of thirty or so index cards, the kind Pete had used to study Spanish vocabulary back in eighth grade. Instead of helpful everyday phrases, however, these cards contained line after line of album titles, song titles, artist names, copyright dates, all written with painstaking neatness in blue ballpoint pen.
“I. Well, I wasn’t sure if you’d want the songs listed in the, um, in the order they appear or by band name or, you know. I didn’t know how you’d want to keep track, so the blue notecards list the songs in order by volume, the yellow ones list them alphabetically by song title, the red ones go alphabetically by band name, and the green ones go chronologically by album release date.”
It was only after Patrick had explained all this that he seemed to realize how incredibly dorky and possibly indicative of OCD his actions were, so he returned to a careful study of his shoes and began to desperately ramble out a preemptive defense.
“It’s just that, you know, I really wanted to call you on tour—I really did, and I tried to a few times, but you didn’t answer, and then you did, and I just didn’t know what to say. I’m not, I’m not like you, Pete, I’m not, and I can’t just say things in a way that people can understand. I wanted to talk to you, to help you, I mean, I still do! I want to be here for you, and I want to make everything all right, and I want to just say something that will make it all better because I care about you so much, and you’re the one person I know who probably truly deserves to be happy, but the only thing I know is music, and— ”
Peter interrupted the stream of babble by setting the shoebox full of mix tape down on the doorstep and launching himself at Patrick.
Then, suddenly, Peter was crying and laughing and trying to tell Patrick everything, all of it, all at once. He gave up when he found himself getting dizzy from lack of oxygen and settled for kissing Patrick, full on the lips, right there on his front porch in front of God and the lady from next door who was out walking her dog and the nosey woman across the street who always told his mom when he’d had people over, even though he was twenty-six, for fuck’s sake.
When Peter finally pulled away, he met Patrick’s wide-eyed look of shock with a small smile and a preemptive defense of his own.
“I think you’re giving me too much credit here, Patrick. Sometimes, I’m not that good with words, either. So, I guess, if you want, you can consider that volume i.”
And Peter thought he’d probably never been happier in his life than when Patrick didn’t say anything in response, only let his lips twitch up into a grin and grabbed the shoebox off the ground and followed Peter up to his room.