Status: One-shot.

Fool's Holiday

nobody's perfect, babe

i. goner

When Kellin is nineteen, he has sex with Alex Gaskarth.

It’s truly a stupid idea, a terribly stupid idea, but Kellin is a terribly stupid person, so it only makes sense. There really isn’t much thought put into it; it’s just that Kellin is mildly drunk at this random dude’s Christmas party, and Alex has been looking so damn fine, and he can’t help himself; he just has to act on this crush that he’s had for what feels like a while now. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately, in retrospect), Alex can’t seem to help himself either, and that is why there are two sweaty college boys—Kellin nineteen and Alex having just turned twenty—stumbling into the empty guest bedroom and shutting the door behind them.

Alex guides Kellin to the bed like a pro, like he’s done this a hundred times before, because let’s face it: he has. Alex sleeps with everybody. Kellin’s really not that special, and he knows that. He doesn’t care. He just thinks Alex is sexy as fuck and wants to get laid.

Everything is messy and hazy when Kellin falls down into the bed on his back, Alex positioning himself on top as they kiss sloppily. Their hands are all over each other, Kellin reaching up in an attempt to unbutton Alex’s shirt. The rest of the world is falling away as they undress, as Alex’s lips trail their way down Kellin’s neck and along his collarbone.

“Holy shit,” Alex breathes when Kellin’s shirt is off, his gaze wide and bright as he glances down, his voice simultaneously soft and rough.

“What?” Kellin squeaks out, biting his lip.

Alex shakes his head, part of his hair falling into his face. “You’re just…you’re kind of beautiful.”

From that moment forward, Kellin is a goner, drunk on the feeling that Alex gives him every time they touch. He can’t laugh about it anymore, can’t shrug it off. It’s cold and dark and quiet outside, but in here it’s all heat and light and moans and Kellin’s heart pounding in his chest. He gasps out Alex’s name, whines it, breathes it, lets it take a permanent hold of him. He knows deep down that they’ll never get this close ever again.

ii. homecoming

Alex loves traveling, but there’s nothing like returning to Baltimore.

This is where he grew up, where he went to college because he wanted to stay close. Of course, four years after that decision, “close” seemed too close, so close that he felt the need to flee to the west coast as soon as he graduated. But his family has missed him, and even if he doesn’t want to admit it, he’s missed them, too, which is why he’s back: he’ll be visiting them over the holidays, living with some close friends. It’s just a temporary stay—for now, at least—but the nostalgia that hits him when he sees the familiar buildings and landmarks almost feels like enough to convince him to move back. Almost.

When he reaches Rian’s apartment, the first thing he’s greeted with is three guys practically tackling him, all shouting, “Happy birthday!”

Oh, yeah—on top of everything else, it’s his birthday today, too.

“Rian!” Alex yells, grinning as he’s led inside, dragging his suitcase along and closing the door behind him. “Did you guys plan a surprise party or something?”

“No,” Rian replies, even though there are streamers and balloons everywhere, along with standard Christmas decorations. “We planned a welcome back surprise party.”

Alex just laughs. God, he missed his friends. They kept in touch, obviously, but in his desperation to escape Baltimore, he sort of forgot just how much they mean to him. Now he’s starting to seriously consider moving back, and he hasn’t even been here an hour yet.

The guys insist on Alex opening birthday presents—they believe in both Christmas gifts and birthday gifts when they can afford both, instead of just lumping it all together. Rian’s birthday is only a few days after Alex’s, so he understands the December birthday curse. They’re all fairly small things, but they’re nice, and holy shit, Alex missed Baltimore.

“We’ll have cake later,” Jack says. “As for right now, there’s one more thing.” Casually, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out thirty dollars. “From all of us. There’s a new record store downtown that opened a few months after you left. Go buy some new jams.”

This is how Alex, shortly after unpacking and catching up with everyone, ends up strolling down the streets of downtown Baltimore in search of the new record store in question. The sun has begun to set, casting a sort of gray light over everything as the colors start to fade from the day. There are a few other people milling around in the surprisingly warm late afternoon weather, and Alex takes the opportunity to just look at everything, even though he’s memorized it all by now. Some things have changed—some places have moved, some have gone out of business, other places have opened up—and besides, sometimes he just needs to take it all in again. He kind of loves this city, with all its flaws and hidden treasures. He can’t remember why he wanted to leave.

Alex knows the record store when he sees it, even before he reads the sign. He can feel its quaintness and its homeliness, its vintage vibe and its undiscovered wonders. The glowing neon light in the window just adds to the effect, along with the way the bell rings when he opens the door and steps inside. With one glance at the collection of records and vinyl and all the decorations on the walls, he can tell that he loves this place already.

He takes way longer than he should to figure out what to spend his precious thirty dollars on, but when he’s finally made his decision (it’s pretty much dark outside at this point), he’s fairly confident—about his choice, and just about life in general—as he makes his way up to the front of the store to pay. He’s confident, that is, until he sees the person standing behind the counter, someone he didn’t even notice before.

Alex noticed the other worker who’s been walking around and reorganizing things, asking people if they need help finding anything in particular—the dude is young, with short blond hair and stretched ears—but he didn’t pay any attention to the guy up at the register. As he’s walking up, though, something catches him off-guard, and the funny thing is, it’s not even a defining feature that he notices first. It’s the ripped Fleetwood Mac shirt.

Fleetwood Mac reminds him of something, but before he even has time to figure out what, his brain processes the familiar hairstyle and the even more familiar face, and—oh. Oh.

Kellin Quinn, he remembers, really likes Fleetwood Mac.

At this point, he’s too close to the counter to turn back, and besides, he kind of has to pay. He only makes it a few more steps before Kellin finally locks eyes with him, and then everything feels like it freezes. All their history feels like it’s just come crashing back, and it’s not a history that Alex likes to remember.

“Um…I’m ready to pay,” Alex says, because he really can’t think of anything else. What is he supposed to say?

Kellin nods slowly, looking like he’s in shock, before seeming to pull himself out of it and get down to business.

“Did you find everything okay?” he asks as he’s ringing up Alex’s purchases. It’s a standard question, but it’s clear by how much his voice shakes that he’s just as disconcerted as Alex is.

“Uh, yeah, definitely,” Alex replies, trying to just keep his cool and get through this interaction alive. “I, uh, might be coming back again here sometime.” He feels like he has to say something to acknowledge their past, but he really can’t think of anything. Oh, hey, there, dude from college whom I never treated right and had a horribly complicated relationship with because I couldn’t figure out what I wanted. Long time no see. How are you? Have you recovered from how shitty I’ve been to you? Yeah. No. That probably wouldn’t go over very well, especially since they ended their connection with each other on awkward terms when they graduated. It’s not an appropriate time for them to reunite (then again, there probably won’t ever be an appropriate time for them to reunite).

“Well, then,” Kellin says softly, handing Alex’s things back over to him, “I can’t wait to see you again.”

The lump in Alex’s throat is the only thing stopping him from pointing out that Kellin has always been a terrible liar.

iii. history

“Dude, are you okay?” asks Kellin’s coworker, Justin, making his way over to the front of the store. “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

Kellin laughs bitterly and looks down at his hands. “You’re not too far off the mark there.”

Justin glances out the window, narrowing his eyes in confusion. “Who, the guy that just left? Is that your ghost?”

Kellin sighs and doesn’t respond, giving Justin his answer. He honestly can’t believe it. He thought Alex was gone. Alex was gone. Alex has been gone since they graduated. Now nearly a year and a half has passed (and about four years since their first…endeavor), and, as it turns out, Kellin still isn’t completely over this dude. For the record, though, Alex didn’t really seem to be “over” Kellin, either. They can barely hold a civil conversation with each other, and even then, it’s strained.

Justin raises an eyebrow. “What’s the story, then?”

Kellin snorts, shaking his head at the thought of all the history that he and Alex have between them. “It’s, uh, kind of a long one.”

Justin shrugs and leans against the counter, scanning the mostly empty store. “I got time. There’s nobody else in here but us now. So. Tell me. What happened between you two?”

“What didn’t happen between us?” Kellin says. “Other than, y’know, a stable relationship.”

“Ooh. Ouch,” Justin replies, putting a hand up to his chest as if in pain. “Drama, huh? Something worth putting in a soap opera?”

“Oh, absolutely,” Kellin agrees. “We’d be the stars of the show.”

Normally he wouldn’t bring these memories back up, but they’re already here after Alex’s unexpected reappearance, and plus, Justin is one of Kellin’s best friends, someone trustworthy, someone that he’d feel comfortable spilling his guts to. So that’s kind of what he does: with little interruption (other than a stray customer here and there), he proceeds to tell Justin the story of his and Alex’s roller coaster of a relationship.

It all started, of course, with that first time having sex in their sophomore year of college. Kellin thought it would be a one-night stand and nothing else, but Alex had other plans and continuously flirted with him for weeks afterward, even going as far as taking him to Starbucks and buying him a holiday drink as if it were a real date. In the wake of the new year, however, a friend of Kellin’s informed him that Alex was actually “kind of” dating this other girl.

Kellin, rightfully, was pissed. Here he’d thought they had something, but no, Alex was just leading him on. But he didn’t want to give up, and so, playing dirty because he knew that dirty was what Alex liked, Kellin worked on making Alex jealous, kissing and flirting with other people without at all being secretive. It worked, of course, because Alex can never resist a good fuck (and by that point in time, he’d broken up with his “kind of” girlfriend anyway). And that was what they did: they fucked. And then Alex left again and continued to sleep around like he always did. Typical.

For a while, Kellin kept trying, flirting and teasing in the most obvious and most irresistible way possible. Sometimes they got somewhere, but it always ended with Alex leaving again, pushing Kellin away—so Kellin started ignoring him completely. He had more important things to focus on, he figured, and Alex was probably never going to make up his mind. That strategy worked for a while, and they kept away from each other, but then, lo and behold, they found themselves drunk at a party. Again.

After a hot make-out session, Alex asked Kellin if they could start over. Kellin agreed (obviously), though in his defense, they were both smashed, and that decision was not a decision to be made while smashed. However, even afterward, when they were both sober, they still wanted to see if they could try again, which led to a long period of weird mutual pining, amateur dates, and general uncertainty before they finally found themselves in an actual relationship.

That was probably the high point of their history (other than the bliss of their first time together). Things felt good, and Kellin was truly in love, even with all the bullshit they’d been through. Alex didn’t seem to feel the same way, though; at least, he didn’t act like it. He was insecure, unsure of what he wanted, and he even admitted it at some points. The happiness and puppy love fell away quickly once Kellin started to realize that Alex wasn’t nearly as invested in the relationship as he was, and he’s not going to lie: it stung. He thought that maybe, after everything, they’d actually be able to have something mutual and stable and beautiful, but it wasn’t turning out that way. Even if Alex did try, even if he did want Kellin in the same way, it was clear that his insecurities about the relationship were getting the best of him, eating away at him.

They broke it off a few months before their graduation, an agreement between the two of them that it wasn’t working out. It left Kellin feeling strangely hollow, like he’d just been pushed aside once again. They left on weird terms, and then Alex moved out of Baltimore on a quest for adventure on the west coast, desperate to get out of the city that had been keeping him captive all his life. Kellin assumed that they’d never see each other again. And he assumed incorrectly, of course, because this is exactly the kind of thing that would happen to them. Perhaps God is a secret lover of soap operas and shoved them back together simply so he could watch their drama unfold while eating a bag of heavenly popcorn.

It seems that there aren’t enough words in the English language for Justin to be able to accurately describe his feelings after hearing Kellin’s entire story, since he just seems to be babbling and saying things like “That’s just—holy shit—I can’t believe he—I can’t believe you—holy shit.”

“‘Holy shit,’” Kellin quotes. “Yeah, same. That was pretty much the only thing going through my mind when he walked up to me today.” He sighs and pushes his messy hair out of his face. “God. What do I do now? Just ignore him? Hope that I never see him around?”

Justin shrugs, shaking his head in disbelief. “I don’t know, man. What do you want to do?”

Kellin doesn’t even know how to respond to that. “Um,” he says slowly. “I think I wanna never see him again.”

Justin claps his hands together. “Okay. Great. Then do that. Forget this ever happened. Hey, do you wanna go get a drink after our shift’s over? That might help.”

“Yes,” Kellin replies immediately. The word falls out of his mouth with no hesitation.

iv. habits

When Alex comes back from his dramatic record store trip, Jack suggests that they all go out for a drink later to further celebrate Alex’s birthday and return. Alex is never one to turn down a drink, especially not at a time like this, so before they know it, the four are out on the darkened Baltimore streets, loud and rowdy and “ready to fuck shit up like shit’s never been fucked up before” (Jack’s words, not Alex’s).

The club is amazingly familiar, just like everything else; it’s one of their favorites, the club that Alex always used to go to in college when he had the chance. He welcomes the warmth due to all the people close together and dancing, the colorful lights surrounding him and pulling him in. It’s just what he needs to be able to let loose—and, more importantly, to forget about Kellin Quinn.

It’s not that Alex doesn’t like Kellin. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: he’s missed Kellin, a lot more than he’d ever like to admit. But he’s the one who fucked up, over and over again, and he knows that Kellin is probably better off without him. It’s for the best if he just pretends that Kellin doesn’t exist. What Alex really wants to do is sweep his gorgeous ex-lover off of his feet and start it all over again, but that probably wouldn’t end well. Kellin probably hates him at this point, not that he would expect anything different. He’d hate himself, too.

Their first move is to slide up to the bar, all four of them. Luckily, the club isn’t too busy—not as busy as it would be if it were a Friday or a Saturday, at least—so they each end up with a barstool. Jack is probably going to run off soon, though, once he’s got enough alcohol in him, and Rian might end up on the dance floor at some point. He usually dances with his girlfriend, but sometimes, after a few drinks, he instead dances with Zack (who claims not to be much of a partier, but he’s a fucking liar, and some of the group’s funniest party stories involve him as a major player). Alex likes to go fairly hard, too, but as for tonight, he thinks he’s just going to see how it all unfolds.

The guys all chat amiably with the bartender, a man named Matt Flyzik whom Alex has also missed more than he’d like to admit, and then, just as Alex predicted, Jack announces that he’s going to go find some girl to seduce. “Typical,” Matt says with a laugh, turning to Alex. “So, how’s Baltimore been treating you so far? Think you’ll move back?”

“I don’t know, I’ve only been here for half a day,” Alex replies, taking another sip of his drink and trying to keep it light and casual. “I’ll update you in about two weeks.”

Matt says something else, but Alex doesn’t really hear it, because that’s the moment that he lets his gaze wander around the club—and there, sitting at the far end of the bar, is Kellin Quinn, along with the other record store worker that Alex noticed earlier.

He’s pretty sure that neither of them have seen him (or, at the very least, Kellin certainly hasn’t), judging by their carefree mannerisms. They seem to be talking comfortably with each other, both smiling and laughing as they sip on their own drinks, but that doesn’t last very long, because as Kellin is turning to talk to his friend, his gaze seems to shift, too, the same way that Alex’s did. And now…well, now Kellin’s mouth has stopped moving, his eyes clearly fixated on Alex, and Alex can’t bring himself to look away.

“What is it?” Matt asks, snapping Alex out of it.

Alex sighs and runs a hand through his hair. “Uh, nothing, really. Just…saw someone.”

Matt looks like he’s about to say something else, but then someone calls him over asking for a drink, and he turns back to his job. In a way, Alex is kind of glad—he doesn’t want to have to explain.

When he sneaks a glance back over at Kellin, he finds that the other worker seems to have left (of course he has; that’s just Alex’s luck), leaving Kellin to sit alone, staring pointedly at his drink as if it’s the most fascinating thing in the universe. Alex has a feeling that he’s only doing it so that he doesn’t look up.

“Hey,” a voice says, and Alex turns to see Rian with a concerned look on his face. “Zack and I are headed out to the dance floor. You wanna come? You look like you could use a little loosening up.”

Without hesitation, Alex downs the rest of his drink and hops off the barstool. “Absolutely.” He can’t bear to see Kellin and those sad doe eyes; the guilt will eat him alive.

Less than an hour later, Alex has almost completely forgotten about Kellin, lost in a sea of loud electronic music and sweaty people dancing and grinding (along with a bit of alcohol to loosen him up a little more). He’s been messing around with the guys for a while and even eyeing up a few potential lovers for later in the evening, though he kind of doubts that anything will ever come of it (he can’t help it; he was known for sleeping around in college, and it seems that old habits die hard). Really, though, it’s all to distract from the inescapable fact that his only serious relationship was a failure because of him, and now the dude whose heart he broke over and over again is here as a reminder.

At some point, Alex gets out of the crowd and stands on the side of the dance floor, his back against the wall as he watches everyone else get smashed. He’s not at that point yet—really, it probably isn’t much more than a buzz—but it’s just enough for him to be able to let loose. Well, up to a certain point.


When Alex turns around to the sound of the voice, he’s greeted by Kellin’s friend, who looks slightly drunk and slightly pissed. “My friend Kellin,” he says slowly, “really liked you, you know? When you were together. He really liked you. And you just fucking hurt him.”

Yeah, definitely drunk. “Um, I’m…aware,” Alex responds, shifting uncomfortably. He really isn’t sure what else to do or say.

“You’re an asshole,” the dude says bluntly.

Alex is about to say that he’s aware of that, too, when he hears another voice, this one much more familiar: “Justin! Where did you…? You know, you’ve really gotta stop running off like that—”

The minute that Kellin comes into view, he stops talking, seeming to notice Alex the same moment that Alex notices Kellin. “Um,” Kellin says, more quietly, “Justin, bud, I think you need to let me handle this one.”

Justin rolls his eyes but doesn’t argue, stumbling away and off into the crowd somewhere. Kellin shakes his head and turns to Alex, biting his lip and playing with his hair, both things that he does when he’s nervous. (Alex should know.) “So, um,” Alex says slowly, suddenly breathless at the sight of Kellin up so close. Maybe it’s just the neon lights making everything look prettier, but he honestly can’t look away, can’t stop staring in wonder and longing. “So you’re, um…here, I see.”

Kellin leans against the wall next to him, nodding a little. “Yeah, I am,” he replies awkwardly. “Justin suggested going out for a drink after our shift. So.”

Alex nods, too, trying to figure out what to say. “We’re here because we’re, uh, celebrating me coming back. Well, and my birthday, too.”

Kellin seems to perk up slightly at that. “Oh, that’s right,” he says, sounding surprisingly genuine. “Um, happy birthday.”

“Uh, thanks.” Alex doesn’t really know what to say after that, but the tension between them is almost unbearable, and maybe part of it is the alcohol dimming his ability to think rationally, and maybe another part of it is just the fact that he’s missed his old ex, but whatever it is, there’s something causing him to really, really want to kiss Kellin.

Kellin just stares back at Alex, his gaze soft and unsure. The club lights shining behind him make him look like he has a halo, and Alex can’t help but think that that’s oddly appropriate. Kellin’s always been the good one in his eyes—the innocent one, the one who didn’t deserve to be ignored or mistreated—and Alex has always been the bad guy, the one who would definitely be on Santa’s naughty list if Santa were real. This is further proven by just how much he wants to kiss Kellin—if he were a more decent human being, he’d just let go. But he doesn’t want to let go. He wants to make things right somehow.

“Oh my God,” Kellin says, so quiet that Alex can’t even really hear him. “I missed you.”

Alex can’t take it anymore. Slowly, almost as if he’s in a dream, he turns toward Kellin and leans forward, his gaze flicking down to Kellin’s soft lips. The strangest and most unexpected thing about it is that Kellin is the one who lightly pulls Alex in by the shirt and closes the distance. Alex doesn’t have time to think about that, though; his entire brain has gone fuzzy, and all he can focus on is the fact that they’re kissing again.

It doesn’t stay sweet and innocent for long, because that’s never been their style. Soon enough, they’re making out and grinding, giving Alex flashbacks to when they’d drunkenly make out at parties in their college years. And, just like in their college years, they both seem to know deep down that it’s a bad idea, but they’re not willing to stop. They go as far as calling a taxi to come pick them up and drop them at Rian’s place—Alex has a key, and plus, the other guys probably won’t be back for another few hours—and as they’re stumbling into the apartment and pulling each other’s clothes off, he can’t help but think briefly that old habits really do die hard.

v. drunk

Kellin doesn’t mean to fall asleep there, but tiredness wins him over before he can even think about gathering his clothes and leaving. The two pass out immediately after their little adventure, neither of them wearing anything more than boxers. This is unfortunate for when Kellin wakes up in the morning and thinks to himself that his apartment isn’t usually this cold and drafty—and then he remembers that this isn’t his apartment. And then he wants to slap himself.

He can’t believe he did that. He can’t believe that he and Alex escaped from a club together and had sex (not that they haven’t done similar things before). He wasn’t even that drunk, and he can’t really blame it all on Alex, either, considering that he was the one who kissed first, technically. It’s not like he didn’t want it last night, because he did. He really did. But now he’s gone and had sex with Alex Gaskarth for the first time in a long time, and he has no idea what this means for them now. They’ve still got a lot of unfinished business and a lot of things to talk about, and if Alex thinks that he’s going to get Kellin back with good sex alone, then he’s got another thing coming.

Alex is still sound asleep when Kellin wakes up, and although a part of him doesn’t want to, Kellin ends up getting dressed and leaving, mostly out of fear. He knows it’s an asshole thing to do, but he thought it was pretty clear when they had sex that it was only sex, and he figures it would make things easier for both of them if he just left without a word, sparing them an awkward conversation. They’ve had enough of those to last them the rest of their lives.

He decides not to check his phone until he’s back in his own apartment and when he does, he finds a bunch of angry texts from Justin, the most recent one having been sent ten minutes ago and reading, Answer me!!! I know u had sex with him!!

Kellin sighs and flops down onto his bed face-first, briefly burying his face in his pillow and resisting the urge to toss the phone across the room. After about a minute of dramatically wallowing in self-pity, he rolls onto his back and opens up his messages, responding with a quick Hi I’m back what do u want from me and pressing the “Send” button before he can think too much. He’s really not interested in having a conversation with anyone right now. He’d rather just crawl into a hole and never come back out of it. Then he wouldn’t have to face Justin, or Alex, or the fact that he missed Alex. He really doesn’t want to admit that he missed Alex, even though he’s pretty sure that the words “I missed you” came out of his mouth last night, and of course they were directed at the last person he’d want to say them to. It’s too late now, obviously, since he’s already gone and said them like the fucking fool he is.

Justin responds sooner than Kellin would like: You abandoned me u little shit… He better have been good

Kellin snorts. I knew I never should have told you, now you’re gonna be all up in my love life..

HA!! Love!!

That’s not what I meant

To be completely honest, Kellin doesn’t really know how he feels about Alex. Everything is swathed in uncertainty and mixed emotions. Part of him wants Alex to leave so that he doesn’t have to deal with this anymore. Part of him wants Alex to fully come back into his life and start their relationship over again. And, frankly, part of him is still hurt. No matter how much he misses Alex, he still can’t forget the way he was treated, and he’s not sure if he’s willing to risk being treated that way again. He’s just a fucking mess, and when he’s a mess, his automatic response is usually to just ignore the problem in the hopes that it’ll eventually go away.

And, well, that’s what he does.

Fast-forward about a week. Kellin has not spoken to or about Alex to anyone, even refusing to discuss anything with Justin (though Justin takes the hint soon enough and stops asking about it). He doesn’t even see Alex around anywhere, which is funny considering that they ran into each other twice in one night last week. Kellin tries not to question it, though, telling himself that it’s for the best if they never interact ever again. Of course, part of him believes that, but another part of him disagrees. It’s annoying. He wishes he could just make up his mind already, and he hates feeling this way all because of one person. Alex isn’t even here to actively fuck things up, and he’s still fucking with Kellin’s mind. Could he chill? Kellin’s trying to ignore him and forget about him, for fuck’s sake.

At the end of their shift at the record store, Justin bounces up to him with even more pep than usual and says, “Christmas is in four days, dude!”

Kellin nods slowly as they’re walking out the door together. “Uh huh.” He’s really not all that excited for Christmas; he hasn’t been for a few years now. He doesn’t have that much family to spend it with, nor does he have any particularly close friends the way that he knows Alex does. In fact, he considers Justin to be his closest friend.

“Someone has to take the Christmas Eve shift,” Justin continues as they fall into step next to each other. “Like, the evening shift. On Christmas Eve. Preferably more than one person, obviously, but I’m not scheduled to take it, thank God. That must suck.”

“I have it,” Kellin replies, monotone. “I forget who else is with me. But I remember volunteering to take it, and I know I have it.”

Justin just kind of shakes his head. “Oh, wow. Are you serious?”

Kellin shrugs. “It’s not a big deal. It’s not like I’m gonna be doing much on Christmas Eve anyway.”

Justin makes a low whistling sound. “That’s fucking depressing, dude. I’m gonna try to visit you. Get some Christmas spirit going.”

Kellin laughs a little. “You don’t have to do that—”

“Nope, I’m doing it. It’s been settled, Kellin Quinn.”

Kellin laughs again and doesn’t argue. It’s weirdly heartwarming to have a friend like Justin.

They continue walking aimlessly down the streets, neither of them particularly sure where they’re going; just that they’re going somewhere. Kellin has every section of Baltimore memorized by now, so it’s not like they’re going to get lost. It’s kind of nice to just walk around and talk about things that aren’t too serious.

This blissful bubble of relaxation, however, is promptly popped by a couple of Justin’s friends, Jack and Gabe, who seem to have appeared out of fucking nowhere (and who also both seem to be fairly drunk). “Yo, Justin, dude!” Jack yells, swinging an arm around him and waving at Kellin. “Hey, Kellin!”

Kellin waves awkwardly, feeling as though the Kill Bill sirens are going off in his head. With a quick glance at his surroundings, he already knows where this is headed. They’re standing right outside a nearby club—another fucking club, Jesus Christ, he’s going to die—and Jack and Gabe are kind of dragging Justin towards it, therefore also dragging Kellin along with them because he doesn’t really want to be alone (and he’d also feel kind of bad leaving Justin). This is going to be bad, he can already tell, because nothing good ever happens at a club. His encounter with Alex last week only serves as more proof (even though, yeah, the sex was really good, because with Alex it’s always really good).

From the second he enters the club (which he soon realizes is not “another” club, but the same club that they went to last week), the night becomes a blur of lights and drinks and movement. When did he agree to drinking (as if he hasn’t done so many times in the past)? How many shots has he had? Has he even had a logical conversation with anyone? Do his statements even make any sense, or has he reached the point of word vomit? Who’s that really cute, familiar looking guy whom Kellin always seems to run into at the worst possible moments—?


“Justin!” Kellin calls, slipping ungracefully off of his barstool and desperately scanning the crowds of people.

Fortunately for him, Justin pops up a few seconds later. “What? What happened?” He’s definitely drunk, but he still seems to be able to process information.

Kellin leans in. “Alex,” he says, drawing out the name. “He’s here. Why.” He says the word “why” as if it’s a statement.

Justin makes a face and then shrugs helplessly. “I don’t fucking know, dude. It’s not like he could’ve known we were coming here. We just sorta ended up here. And I wouldn’t plan it, either, ‘cause I still kinda wanna punch the guy. And Jack and Gabe have no fucking clue who he is. Why don’t you go investigate?” He lightly shoves Kellin forward.

Kellin rolls his eyes but doesn’t really blame Justin, 1) because he can’t think hard enough to blame anyone right now, and 2) because Justin also has a point (he knows that much). Sighing, he maneuvers his way back to his barstool, looking back and forth across the bar. Sure enough, Alex is still there on one side, chatting with the bartender like they’re old friends or something.

Without thinking, Kellin hops back off the barstool and pushes his way past a bunch of people, recklessly calling out, “Alex!”

Alex stops talking mid-sentence and turns around, and suddenly the two are immediately facing each other, Alex looking like he could be sober and Kellin…well, not sober.

“Kellin?” Alex says incredulously as Kellin pulls himself up on the stool next to him. “What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here?” Kellin repeats. He’s starting to get a slight sick feeling, but he ignores it. He still wants to know why Alex is here, even if it isn’t that relevant.

“Um,” Alex says slowly, “I’ve been coming here fairly often since I’ve been in Baltimore. And I’m friends with Matt, the bartender.” He gestures vaguely to where Matt was standing a few seconds ago (he has since left to make a drink for somebody).

“Oh,” Kellin says, nodding. Now he’s not quite sure what to do. Any nervousness has left him as an effect of the alcohol, but he really doesn’t know what he wants to say to Alex. If sober Kellin can’t even figure out his feelings for Alex, then how the hell is drunk Kellin supposed to?

“You look, um…” Alex says, narrowing his eyes in what seems like concern. “Not good. And you kind of have that look on your face like you’re about to throw up.”

“I do?” Kellin says, and, yeah, as much as he’s trying to ignore it, he does feel kind of sick—more and more by the second. “I mean, maybe, but…”

Alex takes a moment to just stare at him incredulously before he slides off his seat and pulls Kellin down with him. “You’re gonna puke in less than three minutes,” Alex says, very matter-of-fact. “Trust me. I should know. Time to take a fun journey to the bathroom.”

Kellin complies and lets Alex lead him along, barely aware of his surroundings at this point. He doesn’t even know how he allowed himself to get this smashed. All these thoughts just crowded in his brain, thoughts of Alex and Christmas and how he just really didn’t want to be there, and he wanted to make them go away, so he drank (and drank, and drank some more). Not his best idea.

Alex practically shoves Kellin into one of the stalls, prepared to crawl in with him. “I’ll be here to hold back your hair,” he says casually, but in the back of Kellin’s alcohol-clouded mind, it brings up college memories. When they were on good terms, he remembers, they always used to be the ones pulling each other’s hair back after one of them got too drunk at a party.

Sure enough, less than a minute later, Kellin’s stomach lurches, and then he’s spewing up his guts (not really, but it feels like it). Alex takes as much of Kellin’s hair as he can hold and pulls it back so that it doesn’t get in Kellin’s face, and after what feels like an excruciatingly long time of throwing up, Kellin pulls himself back up to his feet. Only then does it really wash over him just how much he feels like shit. “Fuck,” he mutters to himself, his voice coming out all weird and raspy.

Alex shakes his head. “That’s it, I’m taking you home,” he says decisively before turning and starting to walk out of the bathroom. Kellin can do nothing but clumsily follow him, focusing a lot of his attention on not tripping and not passing out.

Before he knows it, they’re out of the club, Alex flagging down a taxi once again, meanwhile talking to Kellin, almost trying to calm him down, though he really doesn’t have the energy to even try to comprehend what Alex is saying. All he can decipher through the buzzing noise and the pounding of his head is a soothing voice, kind hands, warm eyes that give off an oddly sympathetic vibe. All these things are coming from Alex Gaskarth, which confuses Kellin in his intoxicated state—Alex Gaskarth is supposed to be an asshole. He’s practically unrecognizable.

vi. talk

Alex is kind of a mess.

Kind of. Not a total mess, but also not very far from it. He still has some Christmas gifts to buy for his family and friends (though he already has a few of them down—west coast souvenirs were a great idea on his part), he’s still trying to figure out his weird romantic crisis with his ex, and—oh, yeah—said ex is currently passed out in Alex’s bed.

It’s not like he could turn Kellin away. The thought didn’t even cross his mind last night; all he could think was that Kellin was hopelessly drunk and needed someone. Yeah, Kellin was probably there with a friend who could’ve taken responsibility, but Alex didn’t think he could just leave Kellin like that, especially not when they’ve always sort of been there for each other back in college. So now it’s the morning of December 22, and he’s the one who slept out on the couch because he wanted to make sure that Kellin had an actual bed to sleep in (even though it’s really not his bed; it’s just a spare that he’s been using).

Even after he wakes up, he really doesn’t do anything and just kind of lies there, as if he thinks that by ignoring the rest of the world, he won’t have to face it. He’s proven wrong, of course, when he hears footsteps and is suddenly greeted by some random girl he’s never seen before, walking out into the living room and leaving the apartment without a word. A few minutes later, his unspoken questions are answered when none other than a shirtless Jack Barakat pops out of Rian’s room and trips his way down the hall. “Hey, Alex,” he says casually, yawning as he passes the couch and makes his way over to the kitchen.

Alex rubs his eyes, shaking his head incredulously. “You slept with some girl in Rian’s bed? Where did Rian sleep?”

Jack snorts. “The floor. He’s still there, too. Zack left because he wasn’t that drunk, said he’d come by later today. But Rian was pretty shitfaced.”

“As if you weren’t, probably,” Alex replies, sighing and slowly standing up, though he’s not really sure where he’s planning on going. “Who was that girl, anyway? I thought you said a couple days ago that you thought you were going steady with someone else. Or was that her?”

Jack waves his hand vaguely. “No, that was a different girl. The girl I’m going steady with doesn’t know.”

Alex just kind of stares, trying to process what he’s hearing. “She doesn’t know? So it’s not, like, an open relationship or something?”

Jack shakes his head, still frustratingly casual as he digs around in the fridge. “No.”

“So she thinks that she’s, like, your only one?” Alex concludes. He doesn’t mean for his voice to rise; it just sort of happens on its own. “And meanwhile, you’re sleeping around with other girls who probably don’t even realize that you’re already, y’know, taken?”

Alex really shouldn’t be surprised—they’ve all been known to sleep around a lot, and long-term relationships usually aren’t much of a thing for them (except for Rian, who has since stopped sleeping around since he met his girlfriend Cassadee, otherwise known as “the love of his life and probably his future spouse”). But the way that Jack talks, the way that he seems to be treating his girlfriend—it’s actually pretty appalling.

“Yeah,” Jack says in response to Alex’s words. “I mean, when you put it like that, it kind of sounds bad, but—”

“But what?” Alex interrupts, taking a few steps toward the kitchen. “But what, Jack? It sounds bad because it is bad!” He shakes his head in utter shock and disbelief at his friend. “Fuck. I shouldn’t have to tell you this. Leading someone on, acting as if there’s nobody else in your life, then going off with other people? You can’t treat people like that. Trust me, I know.” At that, it feels like a small lump has formed in his throat. “From experience. I know people don’t like to be treated like that. I mean, duh. I wouldn’t, either.”

In the middle of taking a deep breath, Alex hears a soft rustling sound coming from the hallway. He turns his head in that direction, and there, peeking his head out from behind the door of the spare bedroom, is a wide-eyed Kellin, whom Alex had almost completely forgotten about up until a couple moments ago. He barely has time to grasp that Kellin must’ve been listening to his and Jack’s conversation before Kellin has abruptly left his spot, presumably rushing back into the room. It’s a fast enough reaction for Kellin to probably be able to convince himself that Alex didn’t see him, but it’s slow enough for Alex to have actually seen him.

Instead of waiting for Jack to respond, Alex makes his way back down the hall without another word—he’ll deal with that later—and opens the door to the spare room. Kellin has resumed his position in impressive time, the sheets looking just about as messed up as they were last night and Kellin himself looking like he’s probably in an even worse state than he was before.

Alex awkwardly clears his throat. “Um, hey.”

Kellin makes a genuinely tired whining noise, rolling over and rubbing his eyes. “I’m fucking dumb,” he says helplessly.

“Y’know, ‘dumb’ is actually not a word I would use to describe you,” Alex replies, laughing a little, though he’s only half-joking. “Right now, I’d describe you as ‘horribly hungover and ready for death.’”

Kellin makes a noise somewhere between a laugh and a groan. “Okay. Yeah. You’re right. That sounds a lot better.”

Part of Alex wants to bring up his conversation with Jack, but eventually he figures that if Kellin doesn’t bring it up, then he won’t, either—it probably didn’t mean much to Kellin anyway. Instead, he says, “You, uh, had a pretty rough time last night.”

Kellin closes his eyes. “Yes. I can remember that quite clearly. Unfortunately. I bet I looked super attractive puking my guts up.”

Alex shrugs. “I’ve seen worse. And plus, we’ve both seen each other in that same situation multiple times before. The worst part of it is that I think you got some puke on your Aerosmith shirt.”

What?” Kellin says, sitting up immediately and looking down to inspect the shirt that he fell asleep in.

Alex laughs and puts his hands up. “I’m kidding, I’m kidding!”

Kellin glares at him for a brief moment before flopping back down on the bed. “I hate you. That was so uncalled for.”

Alex laughs some more, and it quickly crosses his mind that maybe there’s hope for them if they can get past their history, if they can start it over again. That’s not his main concern right now, though—there’s probably a better time and place for a conversation like that, when Kellin is significantly less hungover.

After a few more minutes of surprisingly casual chatting, Kellin crawls out of the bed and makes his way out of the apartment, probably to go back to his own place and deal with his no doubt horrific hangover. Only then does Alex make a decision: he’s going to visit Kellin later at the record store and confess his feelings (read: “make a total fool out of himself without caring in a desperate attempt at winning Kellin back”). Looking at him last night, all drunk and sick and hopeless and maybe even sad—it practically shocked Alex into realization. He’s far from over it, and if Kellin will let him, he’ll do anything to fix what he’s broken.

The day passes in slow motion. Jack and Rian are both suffering from hangovers, and Alex and Zack (who, as promised, comes back over later) spend their time joking about their friends’ misfortunes. At some point, Zack suggests going out to finish some Christmas shopping, since he doesn’t have work today, and Alex is grateful for the distraction, paired with the opportunity to actually be productive for once.

The sun has started setting when the two decide to call it a day, the sky stuck between late afternoon and early evening. All of the Baltimore streets are familiar to Alex, but the street that they’re walking down right now feels particularly familiar, and a few seconds later, he understands why: they’re about to pass by the new record store.

Once they get closer, Alex slows his stride, peering in through the windows to try to catch a glimpse of what—or, more specifically, who—might be inside. Zack pauses, and Alex glances back over his shoulder at him. “What?” he says as he comes to a complete stop.

“What are you looking for?” Zack asks.

Alex doesn’t answer for a moment, turning back to the windows. Without looking back, he explains, “Kellin works here. I want to see if he’s in. I was gonna…talk to him.”

Zack nods slowly. By now, all of the guys have heard about Alex’s romantic struggle, mostly because Alex has been lamenting over it all week and also hasn’t been able to keep his mouth shut because he loves to complain. “Is he in there, then?” Zack says, immediately understanding (or, at least, not openly criticizing him, which is close enough to understanding in Alex’s book).

After a few moments of looking around, he spots the counter at the front of the store, and, yes, he can see a very familiar silhouette standing behind it. “Yeah, he is,” he says, voice automatically hushing in anticipation, excitement, and nervousness. This is it. He’s about to waltz right into this record store and basically just spill his heart out and beg Kellin to take him back. Or something like that. He’ll see how it goes.

“What’ll you do if you guys get together?” Zack says suddenly, startling Alex out of his mild trance, and he turns back around to face his friend. “I mean, you don’t live here anymore,” Zack points out, brutally logical. “You’ll be leaving in about a week.”

Alex bites his lip. He’s been contemplating this for some time now. “We could still keep in touch,” he says, though it sounds kind of weak right now. “And, y’know…I’ve actually been thinking about moving back.”

At that, shock and excitement seems to briefly cross Zack’s face. “Really?” he says, keeping his tone casual.

Alex shrugs. “I mean, nothing’s been finalized, obviously; I’ve just been thinking. I don’t know. I miss it here. And I miss you and the guys. California’s cool and all, but this is kind of my home. If I found a good job and everything, then…maybe.” He sighs and pushes his hair back, even though there’s really nothing wrong with it. After pausing briefly to insinuate that the subject has been dropped, he nods at the record store and says, “Uh, this might take…some time. Maybe. Possibly. You can start heading back awhile, if you want.”

Zack looks like he’s having an internal struggle, half of him wanting to be a good friend and insist that he’ll stay anyway while the other half of him wants to take Alex’s advice and head back to Rian’s place while Alex figures his love life out. (At least, that’s how Alex interprets the look on his face.) “Zack, just go,” Alex adds. “I promise I’ll update you guys later, but I don’t want you to be waiting around for me.”

Zack doesn’t argue with that, simply offering to take Alex’s bags from other stores home with him and then leaving with a genuine “Good luck, bro.” Alex’s lips turn up in a brief smile, and he waves.

After about thirty seconds of mental preparation, rehearsing what he thinks he wants to say even though he knows he’s probably going to forget it all anyway, Alex braces himself and then walks unwaveringly into the store. The bell rings when he opens the door, of course—damn that stupid fucking bell; no chance of being stealthy now—and he pauses to take it all in again, pretending to be extremely interested in the decorations on the walls so that he doesn’t have to look over at the counter where Kellin is standing. Eventually, though, he forces himself to turn around because the entire reason that he came here was to talk to Kellin, who, Alex discovers, is staring at him with an utterly unreadable expression. This is abnormal for Kellin—Alex can usually figure out his emotions quite easily just by looking at his face. It’s as if Kellin’s feelings are so mixed up that even he can’t figure out what he’s feeling, and if he can’t figure out what he’s feeling, then there’s no way Alex will be able to tell just by looking at him.

His heart pounding dramatically in his chest, Alex makes his way over to the counter. Just like the last time he was here, he’s pretty much the only person in the store other than Kellin and Justin, who is organizing something near the back. Once he’s standing right in front of the counter, as if he’s about to pay for something, Alex takes a deep breath and says, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you. Like…really talk to you.”

Kellin nods slowly, narrowing his eyebrows but not looking completely repulsed, so that’s a good start. “Okay,” he says, his voice not giving anything away except confusion.

Alex hesitates for a moment in a desperate attempt at gathering his thoughts, but alas, they’ve fled his mind just like he predicted. “Kellin,” he says, throwing everything out the window and deciding to just go with his gut, “so, I know I’ve been…a pretty bad guy.”

It all spills out from there.

“I know I have. Trust me. I’ve been dwelling on it pretty much ever since I left Baltimore. I didn’t know what I wanted. That’s not an excuse at all, but—whatever. You know that I didn’t know what I wanted. I didn’t realize that I wanted you until I didn’t have you anymore.” He sighs. Part of him is afraid to look at Kellin, but he resists the urge to look away. “Stereotypical, right?” he adds with a bitter laugh. “I was doing a pretty good job of forgetting about you, y’know, telling myself that it’s too late to make amends, that it’s all said and done now. But I’m—and I’m just gonna say it—I’m not over it at all. Okay? I fucking missed you, and I still do.”

Kellin’s expression has changed now, ever so slightly. There’s shock and wonder, Alex thinks, paired with uncertainty. Understandable.

“You don’t have to take me back,” Alex continues. “You don’t have to give me a second chance. If you, like, lit a candle or something for every bad thing I’ve done, and every bad thing I’ve done to you—I don’t even know how many candles that would be. I don’t even want to know. Enough to burn down a small church, probably. Enough to be able to line them all up in a row and it would stretch the entire length of the longest street in Baltimore.” He waves a hand. “Whatever. Metaphor aside, I sucked, basically. I probably still suck. I was an asshole to you, and I pushed you away. I know I did. And I came here to say that I’m sorry. Truly.” He holds his hands up. “But I don’t want you to say anything back to that! Don’t. Because I always feel like whenever someone says they’re sorry, the other person always has to be like, ‘Oh, it’s okay.’ But it wasn’t okay, so don’t give me that bullshit. I didn’t come here for you to dismiss what I did to you by saying ‘It’s okay.’ I’m sorry that I hurt you, but that doesn’t change the fact that I hurt you.” He shakes his head. He doesn’t even quite know what he’s saying now; he just knows that he means it. He’s never felt so vulnerable before in his life. “So…God, I don’t even know. I miss you, and I probably don’t deserve you, and I want you to know that I’ve tried to be better. I’m not the indecisive asshole you met in college, and I’ve tried to be more than just the promises I’ve broken.”

He doesn’t know what to say after that, and Kellin doesn’t seem to know what to say, either—again, understandable—so for a moment they just stare at each other in shocked silence. Kellin bites his lip and plays with a few strands of his hair, and then he says, very softly, “I need…I need some time to think.”

Alex doesn’t even question it, quickly nodding. “Okay,” he says. “Okay. Yeah. Definitely. Take, uh, take all the time you need.” He waves awkwardly. “If you want to talk to me…well, you know where to find me.”

Without another word spoken from either of them, Alex turns and makes his way out of the store, trying to process everything that just happened. He almost can’t believe himself. The only question left is a question that will be left up to Kellin: What now?

vii. try

Kellin supposes that responding to Alex’s long speech with nothing but “I need some time to think” might have been a bit of a dick move, but it wasn’t a lie; he really does need some time to think, to absorb everything that was said. Only seconds after the door has shut behind Alex as he walks out of the store, Justin drops whatever records he was previously holding and practically sprints up to the front, slamming his hands down on the counter. “What—the fuck—just happened there?” he says in dramatic fashion, fixing Kellin with an intense stare.

Kellin makes a face, because honestly, he’s not quite sure how to answer that. He doesn’t even know what just happened here. “Um, Alex acknowledged the shit he put me through, and then apologized, and then kind of asked me to take him back while also basically saying he completely understood if I didn’t take him back.”

Justin’s eyes widen in shock—he’s about as invested in this whole crisis as someone watching the newest episode of their favorite weekly soap opera. “Holy shit, are you serious? What did you say to him?”

Kellin shakes his head, now feeling kind of stupid and horrible for the way he reacted. Alex pretty much spilled his heart out, and Kellin barely said one sentence back to him. “I just…I told him that I needed some time to think.”

Now Justin is looking at him the way that Person Watching Their Favorite Soap Opera would look at the TV after the main character makes a particularly cringe-worthy mistake. “That’s it? Really?” He sounds almost disappointed.

Kellin shrugs, deciding in that moment not to dwell on his decision. It’s all said and done now. “Well, it was the truth. After everything he said…I couldn’t properly respond to all that immediately. It was kind of overwhelming. Sorry I don’t have any more hot gossip for you.”

Justin laughs a little. “Alex’s big confession or whatever is hot gossip enough.” He waves a hand casually. “Should I leave you to your thinking, then?”

Kellin kind of laughs, too. “Yeah, um, that’d be nice.”

The memories of the past fifteen minutes or so return to the front of his mind almost as soon as he stops talking and Justin starts walking away. Alex’s words keep replaying over and over again in his head, self-deprecating truths and desperate promises, startling confessions and shamelessly shameful apologies. Part of Kellin is still horribly suspicious, horribly distrusting after all the drama and angst of their college days, but a larger part of him wants to believe Alex. There seemed to be nothing but sincerity and regret in those eyes, and maybe he’s too soft or too willing to give others a second chance, but God, he really wants to. On top of all that, there’s the conversation between Jack and Alex that he overheard just this morning, where Jack described his questionable current relationship status. Alex didn’t even seem to realize that Kellin was listening, and he still objected, still told Jack, You can’t treat people like that. Trust me, I know. Is it too much to think that people can change, can learn? Is Kellin willing to believe that Alex knows what he wants?

I didn’t realize that I wanted you until I didn’t have you anymore, he said. And then, later, his last words, his big finish: I’ve tried to be more than just the promises I’ve broken. His voice was soft and cracking when he spoke, defenselessness and seriousness that would take a pretty damn good actor to try to replicate.

Alex has never been a very good actor.

Not even in college—he wasn’t faking his interest in Kellin, and he certainly wasn’t faking it when he was unsure and disconnected. Kellin knows this. He knows all of this. He knows what Alex is like, and he knows that Alex wouldn’t be so desperate to get someone back, wouldn’t make such a fool out of himself, if he didn’t mean it.

The real question now is whether or not Kellin cares, and he thinks he knows the answer to that one already.

He totally could tell Alex that he doesn’t have any feelings left for him, that it’s too late; he could even say that he’s got his eye on someone else. He could leave Alex to mourn over him the way he mourned over Alex, but he’s not that kind of person. Besides, it would all be a lie, and he and Alex both know that he is a terrible liar.

Near the end of their shift (Kellin thanks God every day that he and Justin have such a similar work schedule, because whenever one of them has a shift that the other one doesn’t, it’s always so much harder), Justin comes back up to the front counter and asks, “So, how’s your ‘thinking time’ going? Have you reached a conclusion yet?”

Kellin smiles a little, shocked and nervous but also kind of excited. “I have, actually.”

Justin raises his eyebrows, as if he’s surprised and didn’t really expect Kellin to actually make up his fucking mind. “You did? Spill, dude! I wanna see how this soap opera ends, ‘cause it should totally be nominated in some awards show for the best drama of 2015.”

Kellin snorts, his mouth now quirking up in a mischievous half-smile. “So, listen,” he says quietly, leaning in conspiratorially even though there’s nobody else here. “You said you were gonna visit me here on Christmas Eve, right?”

Justin nods. “Yeah, definitely.”

“Well,” Kellin says slowly, pulling out a small slip of paper that he wrote on earlier and sliding it across the counter like they’re in an old movie, “why don’t you bring a certain someone along with you?”

Justin picks up the paper and studies it intensely. Scrawled in Kellin’s messy-yet-neat handwriting are the words “HOW TO FIND ALEX GASKARTH,” and written underneath are the directions to the apartment that Alex is staying at.

Justin looks back up and simply raises his eyebrows once again, a gesture that Kellin interprets as a mix of Are you serious? and Oh, you’re serious. I’m so glad I’m your friend. Kellin just gives him a thumbs-up sign, and with that, the plan is in motion.

The next two days simultaneously go too fast and too slow. They go too fast because Kellin still isn’t quite ready for Christmas—he has his last-minute shopping to do, and what the hell, wasn’t it Halloween just yesterday?—but they go too slow because he’s kind of impatient when it comes to seeing Alex again. He’s excited and anxious and terribly impatient, but that’s just the way he rolls, and besides, this is the most dramatic thing that’s happened to him since that time in high school chemistry when he caused a mild explosion during an experiment.

Eventually, though, he finds himself turning up for work on Christmas Eve, his shopping completed and his bullshit with Alex soon to be solved. A fair amount of people come in while he’s working—more last-minute shoppers, he figures—and for a couple hours, he’s almost distracted. Almost.

A bit later in the evening, though, at around eight, as the activity is slowing down a little, Justin sends a text to inform Kellin that he’s pretty much right outside the store with “a few special things.” Sure enough, a few seconds later, the door opens and the bell rings, and Justin shouts into the characteristically-quiet shop, “Merry fucking Christmas!”

A chorus of cheers follows the proclamation, and Kellin’s jaw nearly drops. Justin has brought not only his own friends (Jack, Gabe, and another dude named Nick); he’s also brought Alex (as planned) and his friends, too (even Jack Barakat). A couple of them are carrying various things, including a container full of cookies on Gabe’s part. “We’re having a party in the record store,” Justin says proudly before Kellin even gets the chance to ask what the hell is going on. “I talked to Hayley and she said it was fine as long as we didn’t break or ruin anything and as long as it didn’t disrupt your working experience.”

Kellin just laughs in shock and amusement. Hayley Williams, their manager, is cool with most things (she’s pretty cool in general), but he still can’t believe it. “Well, I mean, there’s hardly anyone in here now, and we’ll be closing in a couple hours anyway, so…” He shrugs, glancing over at the group, who have started wandering around the store. “Here’s what I’m still wondering, though: one, how did you get all these people together? Two, why are they all not busy doing anything else on Christmas Eve? Three, how the fuck did you convince Alex’s friends to come?”

Justin grins. “Well, one, I called a bunch of people up. Two, a couple of them had things to do earlier or are going to gatherings later; we just happened to make it work. Three, I uttered the phrase ‘small party,’ and they pretty much invited themselves along. Rian said he’d bring leftover cake from his and Alex’s birthdays, Gabe was already bringing cookies because why the hell not, and I brought you your gifts awhile.”

“Aw, dude!” Kellin says, feeling his face heat up mildly—he’s never been very good at the whole “gift” thing. “You should’ve told me! Your present’s still at my house. I’ll give it to you then. Also, you said ‘gifts?’ As in, plural? You’re way too good to me, holy shit; I don’t deserve you as a friend at all.”

Justin waves his hand nonchalantly, as if it’s no big deal. “Well, I only bought you one gift,” he says, holding up a single gift bag. “But I brought you two gifts. Your other one is standing over there like a lost puppy.” He gestures over at Alex, who does kind of look like a lost puppy with the way that he’s awkwardly standing on one side of the store and watching silently.

Before Kellin has a chance to say anything else, Justin immediately adds, “I’ll, ah, give you two your space for a couple minutes.”

Almost as soon as he leaves, Alex slowly makes his way up to the counter, which Kellin walks out from behind so that he’s standing in front of it. Now that there isn’t a barrier (or alcohol, or a hangover) between them, Kellin can clearly see every intricate detail of Alex’s form up close, things like his scruff or his hair, which has probably been dyed multiple times. “Um, hi,” Alex says softly, seeming to take a deep breath and brace himself. “So…?”

Kellin bites his lip, his heart rate suddenly speeding up now that it’s all actually happening. “Did you mean everything you said?” he asks, because he has to know, has to double- and triple-check that there is not an ounce of insincerity. He’s already pretty sure about it deep down, though, and he knows that he’s going to take the risk and see if he and Alex can truly start over. “When you and Jack were arguing that morning, and then later, when you…practically spilled your heart out to me. I need to know that I can trust you.”

Alex nods, retaining eye contact the whole time. “Of course,” he says. “I know it’s scary. I know. But if you’re willing to try it, if you want to try it…” He shrugs, a faint smile on his lips. “Let’s just say that there’s a lot I would do for you, Kellin Quinn.”

He’s sincere and he’s sure, two things that Kellin used to always call into question back in college. Now, though, it’s pretty much undeniable, and it’s breathtaking and terrifying, all making his heart flutter and his breath catch in his chest. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed: the way Alex makes him feel.

As much as he wants to say “yes,” there’s one last thing that he keeps forgetting about in the midst of everything that’s happening: one very important aspect about Alex’s…living situation. Sighing, he says, “You’re leaving in a week, Alex. For the other side of the country. Where you live. What then?”

Alex sighs, too, though it’s clear that this has also crossed his mind. “We’ll keep in touch,” he says definitively. “We can do that. And, honestly…I haven’t made any decisions yet, but if I can find a job here, I’ve been thinking about moving back. We can figure something out.”

Kellin raises his eyebrows in mild surprise, a part of him now kind of excited. “I…wow. Okay.” He nods, part of him still in disbelief that this is actually happening. “Then…listen. I want us to, uh, start over,” he says, his mouth starting to shape into a slow but sure smile. “I want to try again.”

Alex takes a small step closer, almost hesitant, which is new for him. “I pushed you aside for so long,” he says, sounding as if he can’t believe his past self would do such a thing. “But…never again, Kells. Never again.”

At the use of his old nickname, Kellin can’t help it; he breaks into a grin. “God, kiss me,” he blurts without even thinking, utterly overwhelmed.

Now Alex doesn’t hesitate, leaning in and pressing a soft but sure kiss to Kellin’s smiling lips. Kellin kisses back almost immediately, and on Alex’s tongue, he can taste the promise of something new, something so much better. He can taste the promise of maybe, of starting over, of two fools trying to figure out both themselves and each other. Around them, he can hear a bunch of people clapping, and the two pull away, glancing around to find that pretty much the entire store has started giving them a round of applause. Justin is pretending to be crying, and Zack acts as if he’s throwing roses at them.

Alex doesn’t pay them any mind, though, and turns back to Kellin, eyes wide. “Holy shit.”

“What?” Kellin asks, suddenly modest, and he can’t help but remember the very first night that they had sex together, back when he thought he’d never get to feel like this with Alex ever again.

Alex must be thinking the same thing, because he smiles and says, staring at Kellin in wonder, “You’re just…you’re kind of beautiful.”

And from that moment forward, Kellin is a goner.
♠ ♠ ♠
hey hello this is the giant 12k quinnskarth mess that i've been screaming about on my tumblr and putting all my time and energy into these past few weeks!!! this isn't a very popular ship but i dont Care (also everyone going "omg but what about kellic!!!" can stfu bc 1. vic doesn't exist in this fic 2. if he did exist, you know what else exists?? healthy polyamory. let me live my dreams). i put my heart and soul into this fic and its my literal Baby so yall better appreciate it omg. also as u can probably tell it was inspired by "fool's holiday" by all time low (idc that its not christmas anymore ok just humor me here) and i liked to think of it as alex talking to kellin and then this happened. i did not expect it to get as long as it did but drama just kept HAPPENING. also sorry i made jack barakat kind of an asshole it was for Plot Purposes also justin is the best friend anyone could ever ask for even if he fucks up sometimes he's my fav

ANYWAY i hope some of yall have actually read this even tho its kind of a different ship (congrats if u made it to the end oh my god) bc like i said i worked rly hard on it and im rly proud of it and passionate about it and yeah thx !!!