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Skyline in My Veins

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The wood of the door was cool against his forehead as he leaned against it, savoring ten stolen seconds of silence, of peace, before the storm hit.

 

Seriously...being late is not the way to start class. You’ve done this a million times. It[s fine.

 

He sighed and decided another ten seconds spent with the door and the silence of the hallway were totally okay. He was the teacher, after all.

 

You should quit. You should finish your degree and be happy.

 

Now that his thoughts had decided it was time to berate him for his haphazard life choices, he decided it was time to firmly shut that down and go in. Setting his hand on the door handle, he took a deep breath, counted to three and pushed it open.

 

The students were all seated, mostly. One guy was sitting on someone’s desk, with his head thrown back laughing. There were the raucous noises of chatter and stories echoing around the room, averages and boasts. Patrick hoped desperately that they would see him and get the message, but he wasn’t so lucky. Setting his books down on the desk at the front of the room, he looked up to see that nearly everyone had taken their seats. The only people still talking were the guy sitting on top of the desk and the desk’s occupant--a tall guy from the looks of the way his legs stuck out a solid foot from under the desk--they were still going strong.

 

He cleared his throat once, hoping they would get the memo, but with no success. He sighed and wiped his glasses clean, resettling them on the bridge of his nose as he called out,

 

“If everyone can please notice what’s going on around them and sit down, we can get started.”

 

The guy turned around from where he was perched, and Patrick’s breath caught in his throat Dark eyes, dark hair bleached at the tips that somehow looked hot not stupid, and the prettiest tanned skin he’d ever seen. Fuck .

 

“Welcome to the party!” Hot Guy said as he slid into his seat next to Tall Guy, and he gave Patrick a smile that was so bright it nearly bowled him over. Nearly.

 

“Well, this is my party, and I expect everyone to be quiet and pay attention for it.” Patrick said, pulling out the folder with the stapled syllabi.

 

“Somebody’s pissy on their birthday, shit.” Hot Guy said loud enough for him to hear but quiet enough to communicate that he knew he was being a brat. Patrick glared and walked around the desk to hand the stack to the first student and looked around the classroom. Sixteen students looked back at him, and he took a deep breath before launching into the First Day Speech that he’d given a hundred times and still hated.

 

“Alright then, my name is Patrick and I’ll be your instructor for the next eight weeks. This is Introductory Instrumentation and hopefully that isn’t a surprise to anyone. Now--”

 

“Well shit!” Hot guy leaped out of his seat and grabbed at his backpack. “I thought this was advanced pottery!” He froze, looking around the room. “Oh come on, someone had to think that was funny!” A few people grinned and Tall Guy chuckled as Hot Guy sat back into his seat.

 

“You’re hilarious.” Patrick glared. “Now that the comedy show is over, can we please actually learn something? Or do you want to pull a rabbit out of a hat before we start radar phenomenology?”

 

The hot guy shook his head, wide smile on his face. “Don’t tempt me! Lucky for you, phenomenology is my thing.” Patrick sighed and looked down at his well-worn textbook, cursing his luck that the student who was probably going to be the most difficult also happened to be the hottest.

 

This is going to be a long eight weeks.

 

~//~

 

Taking a deep swig of his beer, Patrick settled the paper into the happily-growing stack of “done” worksheets and grabbed the next. He grimaced when he saw the name at the top.

 

Pete Wentz .

 

Predictably, there were hearts, what looked like a crude unicorn and slices of pizza doodled all around the margins of the worksheet. Patrick grabbed his beer and sat back, thinking... why did Pete Wentz have to take his class? Why, why, why? It was like the universe knew that Patrick Stumph had a thing for tanned guys with lots of tattoos and big smiles...but then thought it would be hysterical to make him incredibly annoying. Shaking his head, he took another drink and quickly graded Pete’s worksheet, surprised to note he had gotten it all right. He resolutely ignored the urge to look at whatever he had doodled on the second page too close and reached for the next one.

 

His cell phone started to play Life on Mars and he picked it up. “Hey Joe.”

 

“Patrick! Wanna go listen to a spectacularly horrible band and drink shitty beer?” He could hear the smirk in Joe’s voice, and couldn’t help but smile too.

 

“You sure know how to show a guy a good time, but I’m only halfway through the gradesheets.” He looked at the stack and sighed, wishing for the thousandth time he had finished his degree and not somehow ended up going down this rabbit hole.

 

“You can totally finish them tomorrow while you’re doing simulators. I know you, you have a spidey sense for when students are messing up, just turn that on and grade the rest! It’s perfect.”

 

For a long moment, his brain told him that he should be responsible and that every student deserved his undivided attention . But then he shrugged, deciding he really should live a little.

 

“Fine, where?”

 

“Yes!” Joe cawed from the other side. “Joe Black’s, in an hour. Want me to pick you up?”

 

Patrick groaned. “Oh my God, why do you always have to pick bars so close to the college? Can’t we be adults for once and go to an actual bar that plays actual music and isn’t filled with kids with fake ID’s?”

 

“Now where’s the fun in that?” Joe sneezed. “See you then.”

 

Hanging up, Patrick decided he could grade for twenty more minutes and still have time to change out of his TMNT pajama pants and get to the shittiest bar this side of the campus on time.

 

~//~

 

The music was loud and pulsing as Patrick pushed his way through the sea of people and prayed that he didn’t teach any of them. Catching sight of Joe’s curly mop, he angled that way, slipping under the arm of a tall kid with plugs in his ears who was dancing with a girl whose platinum-blonde hair glowed in the lights. Finally making it, he glared at his friend, raising his voice to be heard over the pounding music.

 

“This band had better be so horrible my ears bleed.”

 

Laughing, Joe slid a bottle of Heineken to him and took a swig of his own. “I’ll tell them they’d better mess with their amps just for you.”

 

Patrick took a drink and felt himself relax. Leaning closer so he didn’t have to shout, he started to ask Joe what time they were supposed to start, when someone jostled him hard and he face-planted into Joe’s shoulder. Unburying himself, he spun around ready to give whoever it was a piece of his mind, when he saw someone picking themselves up from the floor at his feet.

“What the fuck, are you alright?!” Patrick bent down to help whoever it was up, visions of having to carry some bleeding kid through the crowd flashing through his head. However, that was instantly swept away as eyes he realized were a lovely honey-brown met his own, and he groaned. “Pete?”

 

“Mmrghh.” Pete was shaking his head, rubbing his neck as Patrick helped him stand up and out of the press of Doc Martins and Converse. “Yeah, nothing worse than normal.” He had on a red polo shirt with the collar stupidly popped and was that eyeliner?? “Sorry for banging into you.”

 

Taking a deep breath and shaking his own head to clear it of the sudden irritation with Joe for picking the only bar in town with someone he didn’t want to see, he tamped down on his earlier fury at being knocked over and gave Pete what he hoped was a placating smile. “Don’t worry about it.” Pete grinned and noticed Joe staring at them, and reached around to shake his hand.

 

“Hey man, I’m Pete. Sorry for the car accident.” Joe shook his hand and smiled, his eyes sliding to Patrick in a way he knew meant he was totally going to have to explain this later. Cursing his luck that the fucking hot student he totally thought was beyond annoying and couldn’t help but enjoy looking at was here being all friendly, smiling like he was actually happy to see them.

 

“No worries dude.” Joe said easily. “You here to see Twelve Car Death Crash too?”

 

Pete nodded and Patrick gaped at the person he formerly thought was his best friend. “You made me change out of my pajamas to hear a band named what?!” But before Joe could defend himself, Pete was bouncing on the balls of his feet and gesturing with his hands.

 

Ohmygoshyes , is that why you’re here? I love them! Just the right blend of punk and hardcore, seriously brilliant fucking guitar too--” Joe and Pete started yammering about the idiotically-named band that apparently was the reason Patrick was no longer on his couch watching Bones reruns, and he sighed. Grabbing his beer from where it had thankfully escaped the worst of the jostling, he took a long drink, cursing his luck and his life for what seemed like the twelfth time that day.

 

“--You want a drink, man?” He was pulled out his mental complaining session by Joe leaning around him to holler at the harried-looking bartender (who had at least six piercings on his face) for three more beer. Patrick gave Pete a skeptical look.

 

“Are you even old enough to drink?”

 

Throwing his head back he let out a loud, braying laugh. Taking the offered beer from Joe, he grinned at Patrick. “Are you asking me if I’m legal?”

Trying not to sputter at the salacious way the words came out of Pete’s mouth, Patrick shook his head vigorously. “No, I’m saying considering your noted lack of maturity in class, you could very well be eighteen.”

 

Still grinning, Pete shook his head. “You say the sweetest things, but yes, I’m more than legal. Betcha I might actually be older than you.”

 

“Prove it.” Patrick didn’t know why he was still talking about this, he didn’t really care how old Pete was, and if he really wanted to know he could always look it up in his registration at the school. But Pete just shrugged, digging out his wallet and handing Patrick a beat-up Illinois driver's license that proclaimed his age in bold, black letters. “You’re twenty-nine ?” He couldn’t help the way his voice rose at the end, and Pete shrugged as he took back his ID.

 

“Yep. So, am I older?”

 

Before he could evade, Joe’s laughter was in his ears. “Yeah man, you’re definitely older. So you’re one of Patrick’s students, huh? Surprised he hasn’t told me about you.” Patrick wanted to run away at the glimmer in Pete’s eye at that.

 

“Awhhh you didn’t tell him about your favorite student? I’m hurt!”

 

Voice dark with annoyance, Patrick glared. “More like most annoying .” Pete just laughed at that, which didn’t make him feel any more vindicated, and he promised himself that he was going to do something ridiculous to Joe for this...like reprogram the simulators to crash the plane five minutes in, or change all the colors on his computer so that his toolbars were pink. The sound of the band starting to pick up guitars and drumsticks cut in, and they all looked up towards the small stage. Pete’s eyes lit up, and he downed the last of the beer before setting it down on the bar.

 

“Thanks for the beer, Joe, super cool to meet you. Patrick, I’ll see you later.” He actually winked at Patrick, and he felt the way his cheeks flamed and cursed him german ancestors for not getting in the sun more. But then Pete was gone, wading through the crowd and he could hear Joe laughing low under his breath.

 

“I can see why you didn’t tell me about him.” Patrick glared and punched Joe in the shoulder.

 

“I pick the bar next time, asshole.” They waded into the crowd as the band started, and Patrick was caught up the the swell of guitars and the thrumming of the bass, the beating hearts of the bodies around him and the swell and ebb of the indescribable thing that made music so awesome . Once he glimpsed Pete through the crowd and his eyes were wide, eyeliner smudged perfectly and a carefree smile on his face. Swallowing, he cursed the universe for his weakness for dark skin and tattoos, and resolutely looked at the stage for the rest of the set.

 

~//~

 

The next four classes were taken up with simulator work, Patrick’s least favorite part of teaching. He enjoyed lecturing and explaining things to students, he liked finding a way to make challenging concepts make sense. It was the only part of this ridiculous job that made him actually feel like he was doing something with his life. When he could see a student looking confused at the presentation, and he explained doppler shift or VFR procedures in a different way and understanding blossomed across their face... that was satisfying.

 

But this? Simulator time was absolutely necessary, but God was it boring. It was the same thing, over and over, running each of the students through the same training profile. Talking them through the same radio calls to the tower, walking them through the same checklists over and over as they stumbled through techniques that he had done and instructed about six thousand times...he wanted to scream. But it was the last two weeks of the class, so he just had to get it over with. He spilt the students between himself and Joe, they both helped each other out with their classes’ simulator sessions so they could get through all the student’s required events in the allotted time. He had purposely assigned Pete to Joe so that he wouldn’t have the temptation of distractions.

 

Yawning, he turned to push through the simulator bay doors with his back, hands full of binders, notebooks, his bag and a huge thermos of coffee. Fuck the first sim of the day was the worst--six in the morning was too early to be awake, much less doing hands-on instruction.

 

“Morning.” Patrick’s head shot up from where he was craning his neck trying to find his keycard, and he blinked at the student who was not supposed to be there.

 

“What are you doing here?” Inwardly he winced at his less-than-smooth delivery and pushed his glasses up his nose with the back of his wrist. “Travis is supposed to be simming with me.”

 

Shaking his head, Pete grinned. “Travie isn’t a morning person, and I never sleep anyways, so we traded session times.” The first bit of hesitancy colored his features, and Patrick decided that maybe the universe really did hate him. “I hope that isn’t a problem?”

 

Blowing out a breath as he thought, Patrick set his things down at the small instructor station. If he threw a fit and tried to get Travie here, who knowing college students wouldn’t even be awake yet, that would blow his carefully-crafted simulator schedule, which already had him cramming students in like anchovies. He flopped down in the chair and gestured for Pete to sit. “No, it’s fine. I’m just not a morning person, sorry.” He poured himself a cup of coffee and took a deep sip. “Let’s go ahead and get started, by the time I get this thing booted up and drink this I’ll try to actually be a human.”

 

Pete’s smile bloomed across his face in a way that Patrick found entirely too enticing, and he started yammering about some new Rise Against album and this new brand of whiskey he had tried as Patrick got his keycard inserted into the reader and typed in his login. He fumbled it and the simulator screen buzzed angrily at him, and he looked up at Pete with thinly-veiled grumpiness that he knew wasn’t strictly professional but he couldn’t quite care. “No talking until I finish my first cup, please. ” Pete gave him puppy-dog eyes that Patrick sternly told himself to ignore, and turned back to the screen. He typed in his password again--correctly this time, thank God, he did not want to have to call tech support this early in the morning--and started getting things set up. Pete started whistling something that definitely didn’t deserve to be called a song, and Patrick resisted the urge to punch the screen.

 

It was going to be a long day.

 

~//~

 

Pete shut the door behind him and Patrick looked up from where he was just about done writing the gradesheet. Pushing aside his binder and now-empty thermos, he motioned for Pete to pull up the extra chair and sit down.

 

“So...that was kinda rough.” He had given this speech so many times he knew perfectly well how to pitch his voice so it was serious but not intimidating, straightforward but not disappointed. “Are you doing alright? You said you weren’t really sleeping a lot…” He trailed off, hoping Pete would finish the sentence. Nearly three years of teaching was proved right as Pete rubbed his neck.

 

“It’s not a new thing. I’m not really...I’ve never really slept more than four or so hours a night.” He looked up at Patrick and gave him a grin that he could see was more an act than anything else, a move that was practiced enough times to seem real. “So lay it on me, how bad did I do?”

 

Looking down at his gradesheet, Patrick bit his lip as he looked at the little boxes next to “Pass” and “Fail.” He hadn’t checked one yet, and he knew he couldn’t leave them blank. “Well, you definitely have room to improve, but don’t we all.” He slid the paper so that Pete could see what he’d written and debriefed him, point by point, referencing his notes when he needed. He was careful to tell Pete the things he had done well--good critical thinking skills, very good job remembering what he had learned in class--as he told him that his checklist discipline was poor, and that his radio calls were entirely not up to par. As he reached the end of the gradesheet, he saw Pete’s eyes light on the unchecked boxes.

 

“So...are you going to fail me?”

 

Patrick took a deep breath and held it, considering. He would be solidly within the grading criteria to fail him, but they both knew that had consequences. It would be a mark that would follow Pete all through his flight training, and Patrick hated doing that to students. Blowing out through pursed lips, he made his decision.

 

“No. I’m not... if.” He looked at Pete sternly. “You’re not bad at this...just not very good at it, but I know you can be. You definitely have all the skills, especially considering how you didn’t panic at all. That’s the hardest thing to teach someone--that confidence to just look at the situation and make the best decision in the heat of the moment.” He could see Pete’s shoulders tensing, waiting for the hammer to fall. “But you definitely won’t pass your next simulator ride with that kind of performance, so here’s what I’ll do. I won’t fail you, if you schedule one more sim with me after hours before your next event.” He grimaced, hoping Pete wouldn’t make a salacious comment about the after hours bit, but he saw only relief in the other’s eyes.

 

“No, I--” Pete looked down at his hands, his shoulders relaxing. “--I can definitely do that. Thank you, really.” He gave Patrick a small smile, so unlike his usual wide grins, and he wondered why he liked that one so much more. Maybe because it was real. Pushing that line of thought away, he nodded, not ready to let Pete go. He glanced at the digital clock on the wall--fifteen more minutes until his next student would arrive.

 

“Pete--” He pursed his lips. “Are you doing okay? I know flight training is intense, and you add insomnia to the mix, that sounds rough.”

 

Wide brown eyes met his and Pete sighed. “I…” He trailed off, and shrugged. “Yeah, I’m okay. It’s just a lot to remember all at once, you know? My dad, he was a private pilot and so I’ve flown a ton...I thought I understood it. And being here and learning it, I guess I realize how much I don’t know.” He grinned, that smile that seemed entirely fake now that Patrick had seen the real thing. “I’ll be fine, I promise. Plus calc is kicking my ass.”

 

“Pretty sure that’s what calculus is designed to do.” Patrick checked the “pass” box, feeling like he had made the right call. “Well, if you need anything, we’re all here to help. Just send me an email with some times that work for you and we’ll arrange your extra sim...we should only need two hours or so.” Sticking Pete’s gradesheet into the file folder with the rest of them, he gestured for Angela to come in from where she was looking in through the glass window in the door.

 

“Thanks.” The small, sincere smile was back just for a minute, and Patrick couldn’t help but smile back. “I’ll shoot you that email after my next class.” Pete promised as he gathered up his things and gave Angela a high five, wishing her luck as he swept through the doors.


“Hello, Angela. Come on in and get settled.” Patrick pulled a fresh gradesheet out and wondered if he had time to grab a soda.