He never was a fighter, until she lay beside him, and gently whispered; "hope".
The next day, Joe and Andy had taken Danielle and Josh out for the day, it was an agreement Patrick had had with them for the past two years. It was the anniversary of Amanda's death, and the past two years Andy, Pete and Joe had distracted Danielle and Josh by taking them out for the day, telling them Patrick had a headache or that he was sick, so Patrick could grieve in peace, the one day of peace he got a year. Danielle, of course, was certain that she could "make daddy better", and hated leaving him, while Josh became hyper active and excited at the prospect of a day out away from the suburbs. Seeing as Pete was still at the hospital with Rachel and Pete Jr, or "Petey", as Pete had nicknamed him, it was left to Andy and Joe to entertain Danielle and Josh for the day.
"Thanks, you guys."
"No problem. Just call us when you want them returned." Joe said with a smile. They always understood Patrick needed the time on his own at this time of year. Patrick nodded as he got in the car and he waved Danielle and Josh goodbye as the car turned the corner out of the street. He walked back inside and picked up his car keys, walking out to his car and driving to an all too familiar, heart wrenching place.
He approached Amanda's grave, a bunch of white lilies in his hand as he shivered.
"Hi, baby." He said quietly, standing facing the gravestone. It was so beautiful. The white marble still shone in the early morning sun, and the golden writing sparkled almost as brightly as Amanda's eyes had used to. A small rounded photo of Amanda was engraved onto the headstone, her red hair a beautiful contrast to the stone. No one had visited the grave so far today, he was the first.
"I bought..." Patrick stopped, and held the flowers up. "I bought these for you."
He laid them down and sat on the grass, despite the sun shining he felt cold and as though he were being watched. A gentle breeze rocked the trees, and they swayed as though they were dancing in the wind, or waving to him.
"I can't believe it's been three years." He said. "I still feel as sick as I did when I found out."
"I know you probably can't hear me... I hope you can, though. I just want you to know I still love you, and I still think about you all the time. I've never forgotten you. I hope you haven't forgotten me."
He looked around at the dull graves around, some recently visited with fresh flowers and teddies laid by the stones.
"Danielle was asking about you a few weeks back. She said you were really pretty, and that you had a pretty name. That girl knows her stuff." He said, with a small laugh. "And Josh - well, he has too much Pete in him for my liking. He copies everything he does. He even does air guitar stuff like him, you know? The spinning and the flipping? One day he's gonna hit his head and I'm not going to feel sorry for him, because I keep telling him not to..."
He paused and shook his head.
"Who am I kidding? I can say that all I like but we all know I would cave. I always do, do you see how they have me wrapped around their fingers?"
He picked at the grass and bit his lip.
"I wish you could see them, 'Manda. They're beautiful. They really are. I'm so proud of them. I just wish you could see them in a different way, instead of watching from the outside, you know? I wish you were a physical part of it all. Who knows, maybe we'd have our own baby by now... if you'd..."
He broke off and swallowed.
"Speaking of babies... did you see Pete? He's a dad. They had a baby boy yesterday. He's gorgeous. That was pretty obvious though, 'cause Pete's a good looking guy, and Rachel's Australian. And they're all pretty, aren't they? Australians?"
He laughed and lay on his back in the grass, his head by her headstone.
"I bet you don't miss the times I say really stupid stuff, huh?"
He took his hat off and ran his hands through his hair, and as he did the breeze blew faster, ruffling his hair, and within seconds, it had gone.
"Are you saying you do miss my stupid sayings?" He laughed. "Or maybe you're telling me to put my hat back on." He shoved it back on and smiled.
"It's so strange... everyone's getting on with their lives, I mean, Andy's thinking of proposing to his girlfriend, Pete's a dad, and Danielle and Josh are three... but every time I think of you my life just stops. It's like... when you passed... a part of me did. I know that sounds really lame. But it's true. That part of me that was loyalty driven... you know? Wanting to be a husband and all that. I mean... it's gone. Yes, I have my kids but... I can't see myself being married. Sometimes I can. I see this big wedding with happy people, dancing, drinking... everything's perfect. But... my bride is you."
He turned over on his side to face the headstone, his head resting on his hand.
"I guess that's why it's so perfect."
He took a deep breath and looked at the ground.
"I can't hide this from you... last month I met one of my old school friends. And she's... well, she's different from everyone else. She's sweet, she's smart and funny, but to be honest... I don't know if I'm ready for the whole dating thing again. I could do it, sure. But if I ask myself, do I see myself with her? I can't. Do I want to be with her? Honestly? No. Because... even though you're not here, you're still my girlfriend. You're still the one I love, and you will be until I join you."
"I always thought, back when you were still here, when Danni and Josh were about this age we would maybe be married. And, like I said, have our own kid. I'd love another kid, I would. But I'd also love to be married to you."
"I'm sort of scared, 'Manda. Ever since Danni found that photo of you, I've been scared of what I'll tell them when they're older. I'm gonna have to tell them what happened, one day, right? And... maybe when I do, we can come visit you? Danni wants to now, but I told her you were with the stars. What are they like close up, by the way? I bet they're not one inch as beautiful as you."
"I know it seems like I don't think about you, or talk about you. The guys know I don't really like to talk about you. Not because I'm a jerk, it just... it hurts so bad. But in all truths, there isn't one hour that goes by that I don't think about you. I still think about our future. Like, if you were here, obviously. I can see us at the weekends. And we'd be lying in bed and Danni, Josh and our other kid would wake us up in the morning. Then we'd fall asleep again while they either played on the bed or fell asleep with us. Then it would be hell giving them breakfast afterwards."
He laughed again and shook his head.
"It's hell giving them breakfast /now/. Danni's too busy whining about the TV to care, and Josh is too busy trying to throw food at me. I could use the help. Come give me a hand someday, huh?"
"I know you visit me. It's those nights..." He broke off, and couldn't help the lump in his throat or the tears that threatened to build up in his eyes. "It's those nights when Danni and Josh are in bed, and the guys are actually at their own homes for once, and I'll just be sitting reading the paper or ironing or something and... I feel you. I feel like you put your arms around me and whisper in my ear that it's okay. It's the greatest feeling and the strangest, because as soon as I focus on it, it feels like you go away. Like you're playing hide and seek and you run before I find you."
"I do miss you, hon. I really, really do. Don't forget how much I love you."
He stood up and brushed the grass off his pants.
"You should go and see Pete's baby. I know you'd like him." He said with a smile. "It's gonna be real fun watching him grow up."
"Don't stop coming round. And sometime, talk to me, kay? 'Cause I miss your voice. I miss anything and everything about you."
He turned away and then turned back, leaning closer towards the headstone.
"I love you. You'll always be the one."
"Hey, little guy." Pete whispered to his son, while Rachel slept in the bed. He leant forward in the armchair and looked over the crib.
"You totally exhausted your mom. Forty five hours. She's a saint." He said with a smile. "I got real worried for a while, I thought you weren't gonna come. That would have been hell."
He stroked his cheek gently and his smile turned into a grin.
"I know what Patrick means now. I love you beyond anything. Oh, wait until you actually meet Patrick. You'll love him. He's amazing. He's much better at looking after little people than I am. So maybe you'll see him trying to help me."
He couldn't take his eyes off his son. He was going to have to get used to calling him the same name as his, as well.
"I never thought I'd be here." He said quietly. "And I know you could care less what I'm talking about, but if you knew me a few years ago... you would have said 'Pete Wentz? A dad? Yeah, right!'. Mind you, no one could see me engaged and it lasting, anyways."
He rubbed his eyes and sighed.
"You can be my best man." He laughed. "Nah, the guys will be my best men. 'Cause they are. And you can be my pageboy. And... Patrick's daughter's quite a looker for her age. Three years isn't a big gap, is it? You guys could get married one day and have your own kids."
He laughed again.
"Thank you for coming." He whispered. It was then he realized how tired he was. He sat back and curled up in the armchair, resting his head on the arm rest, and within minutes, he was asleep.
Pete awoke a few hours later, and looked around the room to see Rachel still asleep, and Patrick sitting in another vacant armchair.
"Good evening, Daddy." Patrick smiled.
"Hey." Pete said sleepily, sitting up. "Where's Petey?" He asked, noticing the crib was empty. Panic spread throughout his chest and he sat up fully straight, looking around the room.
"Relax, Pete. Libby took him away about an hour ago." Patrick said, soothingly. He recognized the panic in Pete's eyes and the terror in his voice. He'd been exactly the same.
"Why? Why, why did she take him?" Pete asked.
"So he can sleep in the nursery. 'Cause if he cries, then they can attend to him. You two are exhausted. At this point you'd probably sleep through his cries."
"Okay." Pete said. He relaxed and lay back, looking at Rachel, who was still fast asleep.
"Has she woken up at all?"
"Once. She didn't notice me though, 'cause Libby turned the light out."
"You've been sitting here in the dark?"
"I have nothing else to do. Andy and Joe are still out with Danielle and Josh."
"Oh." Pete said, slowly. "How are you?" He asked.
Patrick inhaled deeply and shrugged.
"I'm okay. Not great. But I'm okay."
Pete nodded. He didn't want to push him any further. It would just upset him, and there were enough emotions in the room as it was.
"You look beat." Patrick said. Pete nodded.
"I am. I really am."
"So how did she do?" Patrick asked, indicating Rachel.
"She was amazing." Pete said with a smile. "Honestly, I don't know how they do it."
"You're telling me. So you've been here for...?"
"About fifty hours."
"Two days. Fuck." Patrick said with a laugh.
"It's worth it, though, huh?" Patrick asked.
"Oh, totally. I would say you have no idea, but you do." Pete said.
"Yup." Patrick agreed. He watched Pete for a moment.
"Pete the fourth. Wow."
"I know. It's crazy!" Pete laughed. His face suddenly turned serious.
"I'm gonna be useless."
Patrick shook his head and laughed fondly.
"Don't be stupid. You'll be brilliant. Trust me. Yes, you mess up sometimes but that's part of it all. I did. You just learn to adjust to it."
"How do you do it, Patrick? I mean, I have Rachel to help me if I mess up. How did you do it on your own?"
"I didn't really. I always had you guys. And Amanda." He said, trailing off and breaking eye contact. Pete bit his lip.
"You're not gonna go out with Libby again, are you?"
Patrick shrugged again, half heartedly this time.
"As a friend, yeah. At first, I thought, maybe it would work. But I just sort of realized today how much I love Amanda." Patrick said, his heart aching. His face was aching to, due to the nervous smile he was wearing while he talked.
Pete didn't reply, he just nodded. He hated how he had to just sit back and watch everyone in pain. He'd just done it with Rachel for two days, and now with Patrick. But his pain had been lasting the last three years.
"You're one of the bravest people I know."
Patrick waved off the comment.
"Yes, you are. All the loud, "out there" people get credit for being brave, people who speak out. But it should be the quiet ones who get the credit. Like you. You never get enough credit. In more ways than one."
Patrick raised his eyebrows as Pete's voice began to break.
"I mean it." Pete said, noticing Patrick's response. "I always get credit. But you're the one who keeps quiet. You hardly say a word about Amanda and you're aching inside for her, I can tell. And in the band, it's the same."
"No, it's not. I like it that way." Patrick said firmly. "Honest. I don't say a word about Amanda because that's the way I am. I don't want attention. I want her here, yes. But I can't fret about something that happened and won't change. If there was some way to change it, I would. But I can't. That's life."
"Okay." Pete whispered.
They sat in silence for a while, and Patrick eventually looked out of the window at the sun setting. He looked at his watch. 7:13PM.
"I better go. I better collect the kids and then put them to bed. That'll take me an hour in itself." He said with a laugh, standing up.
"Okay. Thanks for coming Patrick."
"No problem. And, hey - you need anything... just call me. Advice, help, company, whatever. You know where I am."
"Thank you." Pete said.
Patrick checked his messages when he exited the hospital and walked to the car park. Today had been emotionally draining for him, in several ways. Now he got to go home to either two very excited children, or Josh being extremely sulky because Pete wasn't there.
"Hey, Patrick. It's Andy. We've got Danielle and Josh at your house, I hope you don't mind. We'll be there when you get home."
"You'll have to pay one hundred million dollars if you want your children returned safely." Joe's voice interrupted Andy as he was about to speak again. Patrick laughed as he heard Andy sigh on the other end.
"You're such a dork, Joe. Just go. Go and sit in the hall!"
"No buts! Go! Sit in the hall." Patrick shook his head, still laughing as he heard Joe sigh and slope away.
"Man. Please come home. I love your kids but Joe is even harder to handle."
"Hey, tyke. Did you have a good day?" Patrick asked, scooping her up and hoisting her over his shoulder.
"Yeah! We went to the park!" Danielle said excitedly, covering Patrick in kisses. He laughed and put her down.
"That's awesome. Where's Uncle Andy and Uncle Joe?"
"We put Joe in a closet! He was bad." Danielle said.
"So I heard." Patrick said, taking her hand as he went into the living room to find Andy trying to beat Josh in building a brick tower.
"Which one of you is the child here?" He asked with a laugh. Andy looked up and in his lack of attention, Josh punched his tower of bricks and sent it crashing to the ground.
"Awww, man! You're such a meany." Andy whined. Patrick flopped down with Danielle climbing onto him.
"You look tired."
"I am. My emotions are like..." He waved his hands about in an uneven fashion to emphasize his emotions were up and down.
"I'm sure they are. You want me to make us some tea?"
"Please." Patrick nodded, lying his head back and closing his eyes.
"Daddy?" Danielle asked, pulling at his hat.
"Yeah." Patrick said tiredly, raising one hand to keep his hat on.
"Were you sick today?"
Patrick opened one eye and looked at her. Obviously he couldn't tell her the real reason. Even if he did, she wouldn't begin to understand how much he hurt.
"Mmm hmm." He mumbled, nodding as he closed his eyes again.
"Daddy?" Danielle asked again.
"What?" He asked slowly.
"Joshy's looking at you strange."
Patrick opened his eyes to find Josh scowling at him, his arms crossed over his chest.
"Why are you looking at me like that?"
"Joe said you're having a baby." Danielle giggled, poking Patrick's stomach. Patrick glared at thin air.
"He did, huh?"
"Yeah. He said you look like Auntie Rachel."
Patrick rolled his eyes.
"Right. Well he can stay in the cupboard for another hour, then." He looked at Josh. "There is no baby." He pointed out.
"Sure." Josh said. He sounded so much like Pete, that Patrick did a double take.
Josh suddenly grinned and shook his head.
Andy came through a few minutes later to find Patrick lying on his stomach, taking Andy's place at trying to beat Josh build a tower while Danielle sat on his back.
"Aha! I win!" He said, poking Josh.
"No poke!" Josh said.
"It's pointing that's rude." Patrick pointed out. "But yes, poking is rude, too."
"Don't do it!" Danielle added.
Andy cleared his throat and raised his eyebrows.
"Yes, this is the type of conversations I get to half almost every hour of everyday." Patrick sighed. "You guys wonder why I'm so glad to see you and have decent conversations?"
"Now I see why." Andy said, sitting down.
"How did it go today?" He asked quietly. Patrick made an indecisive noise and rolled onto his back, causing Danielle to turn onto his stomach. He picked her up and sat up.
"I'll tell you after I put them to bed.' He replied.
"Can I come out now?" A murmur from the closet sounded.
"My God, you actually did put him in a closet!"