It's great when you bump into old school friends...
"Please, Patrick. I wouldn't ask if I didn't know you would be there for me."
"Oh, man. You will be the death of me." Patrick groaned. "Okay, what ward is it?"
"Uh, the maternity ward?" Pete pointed out.
"Oh, haha very funny."
"Just look around for her."
"Alright. You owe me even more."
"I know I do, thank you Patrick. Really, thank you."
"You're welcome. Now go... go off to your meeting. We'll call you later."
By the time Patrick had persuaded Andy to drop everything and look after Danielle and Josh, managed to prise Danni off his legs when he was about to leave, and ignore Josh's cries from upstairs about how he didn't want Patrick near the baby, he was late. He desperately searched the floor for any sign of Rachel, and waited at the reception when he'd circled it twice. He scanned the posters and read the flyers before a woman in light pink scrubs came behind the counter.
"Can I help you?"
"Yeah, uh, I'm looking for someone."
"My God! Patrick Stump, right?"
Oh, great. A fan. And he was in a maternity ward? Perfect.
"Uh... yeah." He said.
"It's me, Libby. You know, Libby Austin?"
"My God! Libby! Fuck. Talk about fate." He laughed. Libby had been an old school friend who occasionally hung out in his group of friends. She had been a sophomore when he was a senior, but they talked sometimes and they usually got on very well. Naturally, they'd lost contact after high school, when Patrick was touring and she was finishing her studies.
"I know! So how've you been?"
"Good, thanks." He nodded. "What about you?"
"I'm good. I'm an intern." She nodded back, pointing at her badge.
"No need to ask what you do!" She said.
"Yeah, about that. I'm sorry we lost touch, it's just..."
"Hey, don't worry about it. Everyone loses touch after high school. Plus you had a busy schedule." She said.
"Right." Patrick said. "Um, can you take me to someone?"
"I'm looking for Rachel Hedley."
"No way." Libby said. "She's Australian, right?"
"Yeah." Patrick nodded. "I feel a cliche situation coming on."
"You sure do. You're in luck, I'm attending her today."
Patrick groaned to tease her and then grinned.
"I'm kidding. That is totally cliche but cool. At least I won't get lost."
Libby smiled ad waved him down the corridor.
"Come on, I'll take you there." She said, turning around. Patrick noticed she was wearing a small earpiece. It looked oddly like the one Patrick used to stop his ears from hurting when he was on stage. Was that a new regulation for interns or something?
"So what's new with you?" Libby asked, as they rounded multiple corners.
"Nothing really. Well, the band... obviously you know that's going real well."
"I sure do."
"So, you've gotta be married, with kids, the whole shebang, right?" Libby asked him. He cocked his head.
"You were never one to share your personal issues." Libby said. "That's a good thing. So you're married?"
Libby stared at him.
"You have kids?"
"Yep." He said, the mention and thought of them bringing a smile to his face.
"Wow! Congratulations. I never knew."
"Yeah, well. I never really share that with the public." He replied.
"Boy or girl?"
"Both. Twins." He grinned.
"Fuck. That's a handful."
"You can say that again."
"So you have another on the way, right?" She winked.
"Actually, no. My best friend's the father, I'm just a stand in 'cause he's at a meeting." He laughed.
"Pete! Jesus!" She said, shocked.
"I know! He's engaged, too."
"Wow. To the same woman, I hope?" She teased.
"I hope so too!" Patrick joked. "No, yeah, it's the same woman."
"So, you have kids... I can't get over that. I always thought you'd make a great dad. How's Christina?"
"Um, that ended when we were 23."
"Aw, shit. I'm sorry to hear that. Is she...?"
"The mother? Yeah, she is." Patrick said. "It's a long story, you're gonna have to take me out if you want to know the story."
"You know, I might just." Libby said, flashing him a smile as they stopped at a door and she opened it.
"Ladies first." Patrick said.
"You're still just as sweet as high school."
"Patrick! What the hell are you doing here?" Rachel was immediately down his throat as he entered the room. He adjusted his hat nervously and shoved his hands in the pockets of his hoodie.
"I... uh, Pete was..." He stopped. "He had a meeting."
"He blew me off for some fucking meeting?"
Patrick blushed, Rachel was sort of frightening him and he was in front of Libby.
"Calm down, Rachel, Patrick will hold your hand." Libby said. Patrick spun round to look at her as if she were sending him to hell. Libby nodded instructively at him and he resigned himself. He sat down on the stool next to the bed and took Rachel's hand, flashing her a nervous smile.
"I'll be just as good as Pete, I promise. I'll make really bad and offensive jokes, if you like."
"Just shut up." Rachel said.
"Okay, Rachel, now we're gonna see your baby, are you ready?"
Rachel nodded as Libby spread gel over her stomach.
"So you're pretty uncomfortable now, I'm guessing?" Libby asked her.
"Just a tad." Rachel and Patrick said simultaneously. Patrick grimaced into his shoulder as she dug her nails in harder than necesarry.
"Ow. Rach! You know... you're only meant to crush the guy's hand when you're in labor. And... then, it should really be Pete's hand you break."
"Is it alright?"
"He's fine." Patrick said, pointing to the monitor. "See? He's sleeping."
"I'm scared, Patrick. What if something goes wrong?"
"Hey, it won't." Patrick said, nudging her gently. "Everything will go perfectly. And you'll be a great mom. Trust me."
He turned to look at her, a smile on his face and his eyes sparkling, and Rachel couldn't help but trust Patrick.
"Everything looks good. You want a print out of the scan?"
Rachel nodded. Patrick leant forward to Libby.
"Can you print one out for me, please?"
"Sure." She said.
"Thanks. I want to show it to my son. He really paranoid that Pete will push him away for this baby."
"Aww. He sounds cute."
"He is, but there's times I want to strangle him. In a nice way." He added, flushing crimson red.
"There you go." Libby handed them both printouts. "Alright, next time we see you it'll be be the big day."
"Thanks." Rachel said. Patrick helped her up and turned back to Libby.
"It was great seeing you." He said.
"Yeah, you too." Libby replied. Patrick turned away and then turned back.
"You got a pen?" He asked.
"Sure." She handed him one from her pocket and he pulled out an old receipt from his pocket, scribbling on it.
"Don't lose touch this time, alright?" He asked, handing the paper to her. "Let's meet sometime. And by sometime, I mean soon."
"Sure, that would be great." Libby said. "See you later."
"Bye." He said, tipping his hat jokingly and following Rachel out the door.
"Great. I'm even more unfuckingcomfortable and you pick up some girl." Rachel moaned when they got outside.
"That wasn't 'some girl'." Patrick told her. "She was an old friend from high school. We used to hang out and we always had a gr..."
"Look at my face, do I look interested?" She asked, turning towards him.
"I was just..."
"Are you gonna take me home or what?"
Patrick looked at her, ready to object, but gave up and pulled out his car keys.
"Sure. Over here."
"You're like, exactly the same as high school." Patrick smiled, taking in Libby's appearance. She had deep brown eyes, and she still had a scar on her eyebrow from some stupid game of frisbee they'd all played back when they were 16. Or when Patrick was sixteen and she was 13. Her smile lit up her face and her eyes, and her brown hair fell over her eyes so she kept flicking it out the way. Patrick's words flowed easily, it was as if they'd never missed a thing the 9 years they had lost contact.
Libby had called him the following weekend and Patrick had somehow arranged for Pete to look after Josh and Danielle for a few hours, while he and Libby had dinner in one of the best restaurants in downtown LA. He used the excuse that Pete should 'get the practice in while he could', and also, it was a relief for Patrick not to be around Josh, who had taking to sulking around the house after Patrick had showed him the scan of the baby. He was just like a little kid who was jealous his parents were going to have another baby, but Patrick couldn't for the life of him figure out why he was so jealous.
"I practically am. The only thing that's changed is that now an intern and I'm half deaf." She said. She said it so casually Patrick wasn't sure he'd taken it in.
"What?" He asked.
"Is that some kind of joke or did you genuinely mishear me?" She laughed.
"Oh, God, no. I wasn't making fun of you." Patrick said, quickly, hoping he hadn't offended her. "I just wasn't sure if I'd heard you right."
She laughed and he closed his eyes.
"Damn it! Sorry, I didn't mean that."
"So does it hurt?"
"Not at all. I can hear perfectly with this, so if I say 'huh' or 'what?', most of the time it's a figure of speech, like you say." She said, pulling off her ear piece.
So that's what it is. Patrick thought to himself.
"You have a flaw. I like it." He smiled. She looked at him, confused, but smiling.
"You like it?"
"Yeah." Patrick nodded, still smiling. "People who are perfect make me feel really weird. But I'm totally comfortable around you."
"I guess that's a good thing." She laughed. Patrick loved how she laughed, throwing back her head lightly and smiling softly as she did.
And then something happened that he hadn't felt in three years.
His stomach flipped.