Summary: "Let me get this straight," Patrick says slowly. "You're a ten-year-old trapped in an adult's body?" Gen, angst, fluff, crack.
Warning: Premise makes very little sense.
Author's Note: Man, I don't even know. This was mostly inspired by photos like this in which Pete looks like a small child.
Disclaimer: Really, really not true. You know how some fics make you think, "Yeah, this could've happened"? This isn't one of those.
Joe and Pete are arguing. Patrick's not sure about what. It seems to have started on the bus, continued at the venue, and kept going all the way to the hotel. Patrick can hear them through the wall between Pete and Joe's room and the one he and Andy are sharing.
Currently, Pete is shouting, "Well, maybe if you weren't so anal retentive...."
"It's called having standards, Pete. It's called not living in squalor."
"It's also called 'acting like my mom.'"
"Yeah, well, maybe your mom should be here, because you are fucking twelve years old, you know that?"
Pete mumbles something that Patrick can't make out.
Joe, incredulously: "Did you just say 'try two years younger'?" A few seconds of silence, then: "Oh, fuck--Pete...."
Andy glances up from his comic book. "Think we should go in there?"
Patrick sighs. "Yeah, maybe we'd better."
When Joe lets them in, Pete is curled up on the bed, looking as though he's trying to burrow inside his hoodie and hide there. "Um," Joe says, "I think we've got kind of a situation here."
Andy sits down beside Pete and places a hand on his shoulder. "Hey," he says gently. "Why don't you tell us what this is all about?"
Pete sits up and looks at Joe and Patrick. "You guys should probably sit down." They do. Pete takes a deep breath. "It all started when I made a wish on a falling star...."
"Let me get this straight," Patrick says slowly. "You're a ten-year-old trapped in an adult's body?"
It makes a startling amount of sense, when he thinks about it. Pete's fondness for PBJ and mac and cheese, his obsession with kids' movies from the '80s, the way he gets twitchy if he goes for too long without calling his parents.
"I'm used to it, mostly," Pete says, deliberately not meeting any of their eyes. "I mean, I can drive and balance a checkbook, and I don't cry easily anymore. There are a few things I can't deal with, but mostly I'm doing okay."
Patrick suddenly remembers an incident from a few weeks ago, when Ashlee came to stay on the bus for a couple days. They'd stopped at a rest area, and Pete had gone off to sulk somewhere, and Ashlee had asked Patrick if he knew much about Pete's childhood. "Like," she said, "if anything, you know, happened to him."
"Like if he was...if anyone hurt him." She gestures vaguely. "Touched him."
"Oh. You mean...oh."
"Not that I know of. Seems like he would have told me. Why do you ask?"
She sighs. "It's just...we were making out in his bunk, and everything was fine, and then...I tried to touch him, and he freaked out. And now he won't talk to me."
Patrick hadn't known what to tell her then, but now he thinks he understands.
Pete's talking again. "You remember the...the thing?"
They nod. "The thing," with Pete, only ever means one thing.
"I thought maybe, if I went to sleep for a long time, I could wake up and be back to normal," he says. "Like when I'm having a nightmare, and if I close my eyes, I open them and I'm awake. I thought it would be like hitting a reset button. It didn't work, and mostly I'm glad it didn't, because I don't want to give all of this up, but sometimes I still want to go back. Maybe just for a little while. Just for one day."
Just for one day. The words ring in Patrick's mind, and when he goes to bed that night, he's still thinking hard.
The next time they have a day off, Patrick rents a car and lures Pete into it with the promise of adventure. Pete bounces in his seat as they head off down the highway. "Where are we going?"
"You'll see," Patrick says. "It's a surprise."
When they get out of the car and Pete sees the sign above the gate, he squeals and tackles Patrick into an enormous hug. "But you hate roller coasters."
"You don't," Patrick points out.
"Well, yeah, but--"
"Don't go all self-sacrificing on me now, Wentz. I've been planning this out for way too long."
Patrick buys their tickets, and they head into the amusement park. Pete wants sugar, so Patrick buys him a sno-cone. Within minutes, it's all over his face. Patrick attempts to clean him up with napkins, but Pete refuses to stay still, and he runs off toward the nearest ride with a smudge of blue still on his chin.
On the coaster, Patrick keeps his eyes closed and his mouth clamped shut, but it's worth it for the way Pete laughs wildly and clings to his arm.
Once they get off, Patrick's knees weak and his head swimming, Pete dashes toward the skee-ball booth. When Patrick catches up with him, he's staring wide-eyed at a four-foot-tall stuffed giraffe.
"You want it, huh?" Patrick buys a load of balls. "Stand back and watch a master at work."
He doesn't win the giraffe, but he does get enough points for a small, neon-orange dog. It's hideous, but Pete doesn't seem to mind. He names it Francis and cuddles it as they walk across the park.
Pete seems to have ADD. He darts from one ride to the next, his eyes flicking indecisively between them. Patrick pats him on the shoulder. "Easy, kid. We've got all day."
They ride, in rapid succession, the tilt-a-whirl, the chairswing, the gravitron, and a wooden roller coaster that makes Patrick's teeth vibrate uncomfortably. He collapses onto a bench to wait for his legs to start working again, and Pete tugs on his sleeve.
"Food," he demands. "Now."
"Hold on," Patrick groans. "I think my stomach is still somewhere in the air above that last hill."
Eventually, he staggers to his feet and finds a food stand, where he buys Pete a hot dog (nothing for himself; he doesn't trust his digestive system right now).
"What d'you think's in these things?" Pete asks between bites.
"Stop. Just stop. Wherever your train of thought is headed, I want no part of it."
"Hey, look, a haunted house!" Pete scampers off, leaving Patrick jogging futilely in his wake.
Patrick suspects that Pete acts more scared than he really is as they walk amongst the plastic glow-in-the-dark skeletons and mechanical bats. He holds Patrick's hand the entire time, squeaking as they round each bend to meet the next half-assed attempt at horror.
"You were terrified," Pete says as they step through the exit. "Admit it."
Patrick steps sideways, intentionally bumping into him. "Maybe if you hadn't been there to protect me."
They watch the sun set from the top of the Ferris wheel. Pete stares off into the distance, silent.
Patrick nudges him. "What're you thinking?"
Pete's face breaks into a grin as he turns to face him. For the first time in ages, he looks happy--really, genuinely happy.
"Thank you," he says quietly. "I mean it."
"Anytime," Patrick replies, and pulls him into a hug. They stay like that for a moment, listening to each other breathe. Pete's eyes look a little too bright when they move apart, but Patrick pretends not to notice.
Later, in the car, Patrick says, "We can do this again, if you want. I mean, not exactly this, because I don't know if my stomach can take another day of roller coasters, but stuff like this."
"Playgrounds?" Pete asks sleepily. "Water parks? Toy stores?"
"Whatever you want," Patrick assures him. "Just let me know when you need a break from being grown up, okay?"
Pete nods, then leans his head against the window and holds his stuffed dog close against his chest. As his eyes slip shut, he mumbles something that sounds suspiciously like "I love you." Patrick watches him sleep whenever he feels safe taking his eyes off the road.