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He picks out a variety. Joe really knows absolutely nothing about apples beyond the basic facts that he likes them crunchy and they can be both sweet and tart. There are nine varieties in the Trader Joe's Joe hits up, and he buys two of each, just in case. He's pretty sure there's no way the four of them are going to make it through eighteen apples, but Pete can pack it away, so maybe. Doesn't hurt to be prepared.

He debates over the honey issue, but ends up going with the organic clover offering. It seems fairly safe. When he buys the stuff, the girl at the register says, "Shana Tova," and he smiles, says, "Yeah, you too."

Joe grew up in a place where being Jewish was a lot like being normal, so it doesn't really throw him, people reading the signs correctly. LA's like Chicago and suburban Cleveland in that way, except a little bit better, since the scant times when he does throw off cultural signifiers, the people who catch them are less likely to eye his ink judgmentally.

He has a couple of other errands to run, but he doubts any of the guys will show up until at least five. They said they would hang out in the afternoon, which, in Joe's experience, means evening. When he gets back, though, Patrick is on his floor, playing with Sokka. Patrick looks up, says, "I let myself in."

That's why Joe gave them all keys, so that works for him. He asks, "Wanna help me cut apples?"

Patrick says, "Sure," and doesn't ask. Patrick's excellent at just letting them all be, which is one of Joe's very favorite things about him. Joe roots out a joint, but Patrick takes it from him, setting it aside. "Maybe after we handle the sharp objects, huh?"

Patrick has a point, so Joe leaves off. They slice together, the semi-rhythmic thudding of the knives falling against the cutting boards the only noise between them. Joe has a bit of a headache, but mostly things are just a little harsher than they usually are. The smell of the apples is strong, and Joe eats more than he probably should while they're slicing. Patrick laughs, but doesn't say anything. He doesn't really have much room to talk, since he's not exactly keeping his hands off.

Andy and Pete show up together. Andy likes to carpool when possible. Joe throws all the apples into a bowl, squeezes the honey into another and puts them both out. He says, "Like this," takes a slice, dips it, and eats. Pete follows suit immediately, as does Patrick. Andy takes an apple.

"Andy," Joe says.

"I don't eat honey," Andy says.

Joe knows, he knows this. But, "It's organic. Whoever harvested it, they love their bees, their bees are like their children, their bees are--"

"Seriously, Joe, I don't eat honey. If you didn't eat pork I wouldn't--"

"You don't eat pork," Joe points out. "I can't really envision a situation where that would be an issue."

"I'm saying, hypothetically--"

"Andy, it's fucking--" Joe breaks off, goes to find himself the joint Patrick set aside. Two inhalations in and this is easier, easier to talk about, easier to handle, muted, just far enough from real to be able to frame reasonably. Andy's watching him, munching on a second apple. Joe says, "I don't do anything else. Nothing, really. I don't even eat matzoh at Passover time."

Pete steals the honey for himself and Patrick smacks his hands, putting it back in the center. Joe smiles a little. "It means a sweet year, the apples and the honey. I remember that from Hebrew school, I think it must have been one of the only days my parents actually got me to go. It means a sweet year, and you share it with your friends and family. And if you guys aren't that, I really don't fucking know who is."

Pete smiles at Joe and roots around for another green apple. Patrick hands him one, keeping his eyes on Joe. Andy finally asks, "Why this year?"

Joe shrugs. "Because we were in one place, because I remembered, because I've thought about it every year and I knew we were going to have this fight and it seemed like a stupid thing to fight over."

"But you did it anyway this year?" Andy asks.

Joe swipes an apple in the honey pointedly, angrily. "I want-- I want things to be fucking sweet this year. I want things to work out for Pete, and Patrick to validly get over the Anna thing, and you not to feel like you're always being hypocritical, and I just-- Maybe it's stupid or superstitious or both. Maybe. But maybe it's just hedging our bets or whatever. Maybe it's just-- I don't know, it's what I want for us."

Andy looks at the honey bowl. Joe says, "Nevermind."

Andy says, "Eh, what's another moment of hypocrisy?" He takes the apple that Patrick's been holding while watching the two of them have it out, swipes it in the honey and bites down. After a second he says, "Sweet."

Pete laughs, and gives Patrick another apple. Joe says, "Yeah, sweet."

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