The Attic Room

Starbucks and studying

It was one of the coldest winter days that Chicago had experienced in years when Pete stepped into the attic and saw Patrick sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the window.

The words “What are you doing?” were poised on Pete’s lips, already saturated with amusement, but something made them die on his tongue. Not only that, but he paused in his tracks, framed by the lopsided doorway that was a smidge too small for most of the house’s residents, but fit Pete and Patrick perfectly. That’s why Patrick had “taken one for the team” and claimed the attic as his bedroom, letting the other six boys in the house share the remaining four rooms while he was forced to trudge down and up two flights of stairs just to get a glass of water from the kitchen.

Patrick wasn’t the type to complain, though. He had taken on this role cheerfully, joking that these stairs would prevent him gaining back any of the huge amount of weight that he’d lost over the summer, and never once did any of the housemates hear a hint of a grumble from him over how chilly and drafty the attic became in the fall and winter. Patrick never brought up the pathetic smallness of his “room”, which was about a third the size of the others’. He never mentioned how the dust of the long-unused attic made his asthma flare up, although Pete could hear him coughing into the night from his room one story below that he shared with Andy.

No, Patrick was a trooper, and everyone in the house had an unspoken respect for the small man’s resilience.

Now, as Pete stood at the top of the stairs looking at his friend, for the first time he couldn’t help but feel that maybe there was another motivation behind Patrick’s volunteering to take the attic room, besides the redhead’s ever giving heart, God love him. For as he gazed at Patrick, who now served at the perfect centerpiece of the room, facing away from Pete and still unaware that his friend was watching him from the doorway, Pete was suddenly struck by the impeccable harmony that existed between Patrick and the attic.

Maybe it was just that Pete wasn’t up here in the attic enough, but he hadn’t noticed in the four months that they’d been living here that Patrick had put in some time and hard work to spruce up the place. The whole room still had a faintly stale feel to it, like it had been abandoned simply too long to be inhabitable, but it was definitely cleaner than Pete had given it credit for. The slanted walls were still worn and unpainted, but had now clearly been dusted, and best of all were covered extensively with posters; glam rockers stared down at the scene dramatically, along with some old TV show and movie characters. On the desk in front of the window sat four flower pots, one of which held pens and pencils. The other three hosted the beginnings of a garden, washed in the pale winter sun. An acoustic guitar stood proudly in a corner next to a coat rack, on which hung the contents of a hipster’s dream wardrobe, which somehow seemed so much less pretentious when Patrick was the one wearing them. The quilt and sheets on Patrick’s bed were rumpled, and Pete’s heart warmed a little when he noted the slight indent on the mattress where he knew Patrick’s small form curled up each night. The floorboards had been scrubbed and adorned with three small rugs spread evenly throughout the room, one of which Patrick was sitting on at the moment.

If the room were for some unimaginable reason being advertised in a magazine, and a model was needed to enhance the atmosphere that the designers were aiming for, there was no doubt in Pete’s mind that what he was seeing right now would be the winning image. It was a scene pulled straight from a novel; the walls jutting outwards from their peak up top as if to embrace the perfect man centered perfectly on the floor below, his porcelain skin that Pete constantly teased him for almost glowing in the pale light, legs curled modestly in front of him, leaning back and propped up on his hands, unbuttoned cardigan draping to the floor behind his back like a navy blue waterfall. And, though Pete couldn’t see Patrick’s face from his current position, he could picture perfectly the latter’s tranquil, thoughtful face, simply enraptured by the sight of the fat snowflakes drifting down past the window.

Having fully taken in the admittedly breathtaking spectacle before him, Pete finally broke the silence. “What are you doing?”

Patrick started ever so slightly in surprise, but when he twisted his body around to meet Pete’s skeptical look, complete with one eyebrow raised judgmentally, the younger man broke into an easy smile. “Watchin’ the snow.”

Pete was at this point putting considerable effort into keeping a smile off his own face, but he persisted in his aloof, tough-guy persona. Rolling his eyes and allowing only a mere smirk to shape his mouth, he entered the room casually and tossed an envelope onto the desk. “I got our tickets for the game on Saturday.”

“Aww, you shouldn’t have.” Damn, Patrick was cute when he was in such a good mood.

Pete stared down at him. “How long have you been sitting here, anyway?”

“What time is it?”

Pete checked his phone. “Four thirty-one.”

“Then . . . I dunno, an hour, hour and a half?”

At this, the older man’s face finally cracked into a gentle grin, and God was it worth it. Everyone, including Pete himself, was so accustomed to his typical stoic look that when someone or something did manage to pull a smile from the depths of his endlessly intricate soul, the beauty of it stole the breath of anyone who was lucky enough to see it. Patrick was no exception—although admittedly he was perhaps the most consistent reason for the rare smiles in question—and when he saw this particular inkling of happiness shining from his friend’s face, his own smile grew even wider and he beckoned Pete to come sit next to him.

Now that Pete’s icy exterior had been shattered, he was more than happy to join Patrick on the brick-red rug woven by Patrick’s aunt from long strips of old fabric. He settled himself comfortably on the floor next to his best friend—close to him, very close, closer than even the best of bros allow themselves to get to one another without at least one utterance of “no homo”, so close that Pete’s nostrils detected the familiar, soothing scent of Patrick’s shampoo. He let it wash over him; he closed his eyes and thought only of the man sitting next to him, and of the attic, and the snow, and the feel of the bumpy, knotty cotton rug beneath him. He felt his breathing slow to a calm, steady pace. For the first time all day, he felt at peace.

This was why Pete loved being around Patrick so much. Something about the young redhead took away all of the chaos that cluttered Pete’s mind relentlessly; all of the paranoia, the stress, the pangs of painful anxiety in his chest, all of it melted away like a massage to his brain when he was with Patrick. It was more than therapeutic; it was a healing process, a routine that enabled Pete to rest, to finally fucking rest, from the turmoil of his daily life.

They had been two peas in a pod for years now, from the moment they met in a required English 101 class, to all the concerts that they’d attended together after discovering they were into the same local unheard-of bands that no one else seemed to care about, to their decision to live together along with some other close friends of theirs, to this quiet moment now in Patrick’s attic bedroom.

Sure, the two of them had other friends, very good ones—in Patrick’s case, practically a horde of college kids that he’d somehow managed to charm the hell out of. And Pete had his own group, few but close, most of them moody art students who were a year or two older than him. But everyone around the two men recognized the unspoken connection between them, and respected it completely. They were Pete and Patrick. No one could stand between them.

Pete buried his face in Patrick’s hair and moaned, more out of exhaustion than anything.

“What?” asked Patrick, sounding amused.

Pete didn’t reply until he felt Patrick shift so that he was sitting forward, and then Pete felt another set of fingers being intertwined with his own. He curled his fingers around Patrick’s and mumbled, his voice muffled and his breath disappearing into the younger man’s hair, “I’m tired.”

“Me too,” said Patrick softly.

“I have literally so much shit to do.”

“Me too.”

Patrick leaned into Pete a bit, making a whining sort of sigh as if in echo of Pete’s earlier sound. Neither of them even attempted to make a move to tackle the impending pile of schoolwork that loomed in equal formidability for each of them.

“You’re freezing,” Pete grumbled, wrapping am arm around Patrick’s shoulders and rubbing his upper arm to get the blood flowing despite the exasperation in his complaint. “Don’t you get any heat up here?”

Patrick separated himself from Pete a bit and nodded towards the space heater in the corner. “As much as that baby can muster up.”

Despite having asked after it, Pete suddenly lost any interest he’d had concerning the room’s temperature as his gaze zeroed in on Patrick’s face, still looking obliviously in the opposite direction towards the heater; he felt warmth and electricity tingling through his body as he studied the sophomore’s features, everything about him so soft and gentle, the beauty of an angel balanced perfectly with the vulnerability of a human. Suddenly the only thing that seemed to matter to Pete was that he kiss Patrick’s face, any part of it, immediately.

So he did. He placed his fingertips under Patrick’s jawline, the opposite side from where Pete was sitting, and then laid his lips slowly but certainly on Patrick’s cheek.

Pete pulled back just in time to see the small smile and perfectly pink blush that had come to adorn Patrick’s face before Patrick had his mouth on Pete’s, exploring unhurriedly, tentatively, as if this were the first time. Pete closed his eyes and kissed back, relishing the taste of Patrick’s lips, the small, warm breaths he felt puffing onto his face, the steady repetition of Patrick’s thumb stroking his own where there hands were still laced together. Most of all Pete loved the way he was able to focus on something without worrying about the outside world—though said focus was definitely hazy, when its object was Patrick and the younger man’s unquestionable allure.

Truth be told, this wasn’t the first time, far from it in fact. They’d actually made quite a habit of it, though the “it” itself lacked definition. Touching. Kissing. Closeness. Without either of them noticing it, they’d somehow made a seamless transition from friendship to something more, starting with a drunken kiss one night three months ago and continuing on as such.

The mysteriously strong bond that had always existed between the two men just seemed to make so much more sense, at least to Pete, when all the walls had crumbled, when both their guards had been let down, and they finally allowed themselves to be genuine with each other. Pete couldn’t even remember now how long he’d been attracted to his best friend, whether it had always been there but disguised as something like fondness, or whether it was dawning on him slowly, strengthening with every touch, every breath, every ghost of a kiss they shared in the privacy of a lonely room, and he didn’t care. All Pete knew was that Patrick made him happy, and Pete wanted to make Patrick happy in return. With all the messiness that life was more than happy to provide, he wasn’t about to let one of the few simply wonderful things that he had be overcomplicated.

It had never bothered Pete, but he knew that their relationship’s ambiguous nature plagued Patrick. Were they dating? Were they boyfriends? Or were they simply lonely, and using each other to supply some much-needed affection? The latter was certainly untrue on Pete’s side of the equation, but he could tell that Patrick was beginning to yearn for clarity.

Now Patrick reached his hands, half-covered by long sleeves, up to rest casually against the back of Pete’s neck, fingers playing lightly in the short strands of hair. A millisecond later, his tongue darted out to touch Pete’s lip so quickly that Pete would have doubts that it had even happened, were it not for the slightly increased speed of his heart.

Pete’s hand, exploring its way from Patrick’s jaw down to his neck, now wandered over to his shoulder and crept underneath the fabric of his cardigan to find solace in the feel of the soft, hot skin of Patrick’s arm against Pete’s palm. Patrick tensed as the hand retreated out again only to softly grasp the edge of the fabric and begin pulling it gently away from his body, over his shoulder and down his back and arm.

Patrick broke the kiss. Leaning slightly away from the other and trying to keep the questions out of his eyes, Pete let his hand drift respectively down to Patrick’s knee.

Patrick smiled apologetically. “It’s cold,” he offered as a mumbled explanation, shrugging back into his cardigan.

Pete smiled and nodded. He couldn’t allow himself to be too disappointed by the rejection, if you could even call it that; in fact, he wasn’t even surprised. Naturally, one wouldn’t want to cross into uncharted territory with someone when their relationship was as of yet undetermined, when no boundaries had been set. They didn’t know what the hell they were doing, and both of them knew it.

Patrick leaned in again for a kiss, but it felt different now. A little awkward, a little fake, and they must have both realized it because they only touched lips once or twice more, very lightly, before breaking apart. Pete opened his eyes to see Patrick already gazing at him, unreadable green irises flicking across his face and pale lips parted slightly, and Pete’s heart twisted with an emotion that he couldn’t place. He squeezed Patrick’s knee tenderly, circling his thumb across the denim of Patrick’s black jeans, and lowered his gaze as Patrick leaned up and pressed a kiss to his forehead.

As Patrick settled back against Pete’s side, a little ball of warmth that Pete couldn’t help but wrap his arms around fondly, Pete was surprised by the peace that had settled over his mind like a layer of soft snow. He felt Patrick breathe a little sigh and lean his head down into Pete’s neck, and Pete continued to stroke his knee in a regular, rhythmic motion. Pete knew that he should be as worried and conflicted as Patrick apparently was about the state of their relationship; he knew that there were a lot of decisions that needed to be made, and questions that needed to be answered. He knew that he and Patrick were what most people would call “confused” at this point in their lives.

But what he was more sure of than anything was that he simply didn’t care. Not right now.

For how could anyone, even someone like Pete who had struggled with anxiety his whole life, feel an inkling of worry or fear when he was sitting in the attic room—a room Pete was growing more attached to by the second—this simply beautiful space that seemed to whisper bits of Patrick’s personality wherever he looked? It was impossible to stress about the outside world when here he was, watching the snowflakes fall in slow motion like winter fairies floating down from heaven, a comfortable silence permeating the room that allowed each man the space to revel in his thoughts, and, best of all, Patrick at his side.

Somehow, this was the life. Finding nirvana amidst the hectic college life was something Pete had never seen coming, but now that he was here he wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Maybe it was dumb. Maybe Pete was just too ruled by his emotions, too invested in the peaks and valleys in his heart that formed like roller coaster tracks, a ride that he was unable to get off as much as he wanted to. But he couldn’t afford to think like that. Not when he was happy. And he was. Happier than he’d been in a long time, and he wasn’t going to let needless doubts ruin that for him.

Patrick straightened up and raised his arms above his head in a stretch, groaning slightly as his sleeves fell down over pale wrists. Pete let his arms fall from where they’d been circled around the younger man’s shoulders.

Patrick turned to his friend. “Man, I could use some coffee. You wanna hit up Starbucks with me before I head to the library?”

And Pete couldn’t even describe the relief he felt when his best friend turned to him with nothing but casual questions of Starbucks and studying in his eyes, something shiny like a smile beginning to twinkle on his face.

Pete nodded happily, the smile on his own face fueled by satisfaction and hope.

“Yeah,” he said as Patrick stood up and helped him to his feet. “That sounds great.”
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Whoa, this is the most mainstream pairing I've done haha. Sorry the fic was so pointless, like I know literally nothing even happened haha. Idk, it was just a fun little thing.

Thank you so much for reading, and please leave comments! There will probably be more of this pairing, and this universe, in the future :) Love ya!