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Erika

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"Keep moving- c'mon, keep moving kid, don't start cr-"

 

The sounds of a kid sobbing, desperate, hard, remorseful. A kid way too young to be here; Probably thought he could be a hero, maybe he wanted to copy his big brother, maybe he wanted to make his folks proud-

 

"You good Wentz?"

 

Shaken from his thoughts, Pete glanced up to his side, and in the process, tore his gaze away from the ever present, sandcastle-beige, slimy, swamp of mud, that made his soles squelch in a way that made his bones tremble with disgust.

 

Pete’s eyes were relaxed and lidded, holding a note of irritation as he glanced up at the man beside him. There he was, breathing down Pete's neck- just like always; Corporal Watts, face like a tomato, and shoulders like a sack of flour. Always breathing just a little too heavily. Family man, four kids- three girls, one boy. And everyone knew it too, talk to him for more than five minutes and you'd get flashed with a picture of the four sprites, grinning and red-faced- just like dad. Must run in the family.

 

With a curt nod, Pete said nothing, and instead, cast his gaze to the sky for a moment. Anchor grey streaks hiding pale, chiffon white, blocking any beams of light the morning had to give.

 

The quiet, subtle, yet familiar noises of a cigarette case. And as Pete's eyes shifted to the side, he caught a glint of shiny metal that confirmed all suspicion.

 

"D'you want one?"

Watts pushed the open case in front of Pete's nose, voice light, and friendly enough.

Usually Pete smoked like a chimney, but, something was telling him to abstain today; Sure, he hadn't smoked for about a day, and there was already an itch settling under his fingernails, his mouth felt dry, and the inside of his cheek was all bloody and torn from his teeth worrying it.

But, regardless, something told him not to. And Pete trusted his own gut more than God.

 

"I'll pass." His heart felt heavy when the offer of daisy white cigarettes retracted, and he tried not to watch as Watts performed the short, speedy ritual to finally light one of the damn things.

 

Powdery, fossil smoke blew out a second later, and it drifted ahead of them as the wind displaced it. It was sweet-smelling, and the scent made the itch under Pete's teeth quadruple.

Chewing on the inside of his lip to ignore content sounds and the proximity of his vice, Pete's eyes dropped back down to the sticky mud. He watched the way it coated his boots, leaving layers, upon layers of quick-dry dirt on the toes and heels. Pete exhaled deeply, eyes stuttering shut for only a second.

 

The itching was unbearable. His wool uniform was itchy against every expanse of his skin, rubbing and chafing flakes of skin away until he was left red raw. His hair was itchy, and knowing the trenches far too well, it probably meant lice. His ears itched with the insufferable, and constant squelch of stagnant mud under his boots, and with that stupid kid's bawling. And his cravings, fuck- he was about to reject his own refusal and beg Watts for a cigarette.

 

And another thing, the weight. The weight of the rifle strapped to his back, long and solid as it restricted is shoulder blades in an infuriating way. The shovel that patted the side of his thigh with each step he took. The ammunition pouches and the empty grenade pockets that slotted into a belt which tightened around his waist, and that was probably leaving currant-red lines and splotches engraved into his flesh. The haversack around his shoulders, weighty and stiff as it almost floored him forwards every time it jolted when he ran. The blanket roll that pressed into the base of his spine- a steady, constant pressure that drove him near insane. The subtle, yet extremely annoying, repetitive clatter of the water canteen and the gas mask. Fuck, all of it was infuriating, and Pete was sure they couldn’t have designed something more obnoxious and loud if they'd tried.

 

There was a sudden stutter that rippled through the men, coming from the end of the line, and Pete glanced over his shoulder to spot 1st Lieutenant Parks; The drab grey skeleton of a man was turned towards his left, peering into an open tunnel that was emblazoned with a dirty, wooden sign, reading a series of faded numbers, and the clear word 'Ypres'.

 

Parks was frozen stiff, feet digging into the mud as he stared, brow furrowed with wide eyes, and trembling fingers and shoulders.

 

Something was wrong, and Pete quickly snapped his gaze forwards, eyes narrowing in persistence as he kept filing forwards.

Faint, yelled words made other soldiers stop and stutter, as men began glancing between themselves, eyes wide, frames skittish, and spines curling along with toes. With a push past the masses of both, the doughboys, and grizzled soldiers that blocked his path, Pete kept slogging forwards through mud, ignoring Watt's lilted calls of his name as he let them fall on deaf ears.

Something was wrong, Pete knew it. Of its own volition, his heart had set a brutal pace, aching against his ribs with every beat. His gut swirled with a maelstrom of eels, and as he kept pacing forwards, Pete's legs started feeling less and less like muscle and bone, and more like overcooked noodles. The snakes writhing in his stomach crawled up to the base of his throat, and the sickly-sour taste of bile pooled in the base of the cavern. Something was wrong, something was-

 

"Werfen Sie es! JETZT!"

 

A voice. Loud, young and harsh, and suddenly emerging clearly from the thin blanket of gunfire, chattering, breathing, and squelching.

 

Pete didn't look back when he heard the familiar hiss of gas.

 

Instead, he scrambled forwards with a lurch, legs shaking like jelly and arms that felt like tungsten weights, all while the acid that lapped at his tongue threatened to spill free.

Screams. Thundering, despairing and pained keens of utter desperation burst forth from every tongue in that lane, as distant gas rattles crackled through the air, alerting every soul in the submerged lanes of what was coming for them.

 

"OH SHIT IT'S NOT MUSTARD GA- IT'S CHLORINE, IT'S CHLORINE, GET-"

 

Pete heard the wailing screech, haunting and echoing, and he made the mistake of glancing back.

 

A tidal wave of pale lime smoke was rushing forwards with a vengeance, grappling and clawing along the muddy walls, and swallowing everything and everyone alive. The smell of bleach was flooding into his nostrils before he even had time to move, or to think, or to breathe-

 

The cloud ate Watts alive.

 

And when the gas hit the flame of his cigarette, an explosion of heat butted at Pete's skin, the sensation burning through his clothes and making his skin redden. The smell of charcoal, beef and fat rushing his nostrils as Watts burnt alive in the instant, just before the violent burst of furious fire was instantly smothered by the cloud, disappearing immediately as though it had never been.

 

Pete couldn't outrun it.

 

With keens and choking clattering through his skull, Pete's fingers scrambled to his gas mask as his feet took rapid, constant steps backwards, edging away from the rapidly approaching fog. In a sudden moment of clarity, he tugged the mask over his face, eyes still locked on the lime gas as they were shielded behind hoops of tinted glass.

Hands tugged at his ankles and Pete jumped backwards, breaking free with a shake and a muffled, indistinct yell. He looked down, and his chest instantly constricted at the sight; A kid, couldn't have been more than eighteen. Face slate blue, and mouth burbling with thick, heavy bubbles of cotton white, slipping and drooling down his chin and up into his nostrils. The kid's neck was torn open with scratches, and his fingers were bloody and stiff with something like early rigor mortis, digits poised over his Adam's apple. Light eyes were bloodshot, glassy, and tearing up as the last ember of life was smothered out, escaping with a final pitiful, strangled, and clicking whine.

 

Pete couldn't look away, even when the gas finally embraced him, surrounding him with warmth and a burn that edged under his clothes and turned his skin splotchy, aching and red.

He stood there for what felt like years, entranced and staring at the corpse. Then Pete took a step forwards, and then another, and another.

More and more bodies crossed his path, and he found himself having to step and stumble between the gaps their limbs left, as to not feel bones and organs crunch and splatter under his soles. It was the same, they were all the same. Blue-faced, mouths fizzing, necks red with the tries of scrambling fingers, and the same, glassy eyes- dull and gone, leaving nothing but shells behind.

 

Only one corpse was different.

 

Charred, ashy and flaky, pieces of what was once skin, burnt sable black and dropping away to merge with mud effortlessly. It’d have to be a closed casket funeral- if he ever made it home. Behind the soot and ash, Pete could see eyes. Melted a little, and disfigured into ovals rather than spheres. Wide, blank and terrified. Terror. The last thing Watts ever felt. The last thing they all felt.

 

It was quiet now, but Pete idly suspected it was a trauma-induced illusion cast by his own ears and shocked mind. He knew the gas was hissing, he knew the rattles were spinning and cracking, and he knew there were yells, both of warning and ordering- but they all fell on deaf ears.

 

When his senses calmed from the suddenness of it all, and his brain finally caught up with the situation, the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the feelings- they all rushed back all at once, crashing and rumbling through him like earthquakes.

The itchiness had increased tenfold, it was under his nails, under his clothes, under his gums.

His dry mouth had flooded with bile again, and he forced himself to swallow the sour acid rather than let it flood the mask. His raw throat ached with the tartness, but he kept still, mouth pulled into a straight line, eyes still and face set still.

Pete sniffed, shuddering as cold, sparse waves of oxygen reached his nostrils, carrying the pungent, rank, sickly-sweet smell of both, fresh corpses, and chemical gas, along with it. It triggered memories of the cheap perfume his aunt used to wear on Christmas.

 

"Hier drüben. Bewegung- bewegung!"

 

Pete's head snapped up at the yells, neck spiking with stiffness at the sudden shift. His eyes widened, his heart sped up again, and the pythons crawling in the pit of his stomach were larger, and faster. Out of some automatic reaction, his hand leapt for the pistol at his side- completely forgetting his rifle for a moment. He unhooked it from the holster in one, swift move, and outstretched his arm, gun settling snug in his hand.

The cold bumps of metal pressed into his palm and fingers, leaving indents as he tensed his arm. The muscle trembled for a moment, and so did the gun, and Pete felt his heart flare with heat and quick, painful thuds.

Through the thick fogs of gas, Pete saw figures; Tall, hazy and blurred through the cloud, heads clad with distinct, spiked helmets.

 

"Hier drüben! Hier ist einer!"

 

Pete inhaled and exhaled deeply and shakily. This might be it. This might be how it all ended. Just another corpse in the deep sea of the dead. Just another blue face, just another foamed mouth, just another scratched neck, just another set of stiff fingers, just another pair of glassy eyes.

A wave of calm washed over him as he accepted the probability of his own death, heart slowing down to a constant, deep thud, shoulders relaxing, arm, aim and eye focusing. When he’d been conscripted, he never imagined he’d actually die. It was odd, he knew what he’d been signed up for, his captain had told them all that they 'were not expected to survive' more than a few months, and, sure he’d heard the stories of the fearsome enemy, but-

Pete supposed it was some arrogant, core assumption that every human had. It’ll never happen to them, they’ll never die, they’ll survive ‘til the very end, they're untouchable-

The yells got louder, and closer, and Pete’s aim settled deadly still.

Well, if he was gonna go, might as well take some sons of bitches with him, right?

 

As the spiked helmets cleared through the cloud, Pete realized his gun was too light.

 

It wasn't loaded.

 

It wasn't fucking loaded, they'd been out of supplies for a month, there was no clatter, no weight- just an empty shell of metal.

The sweet smell of dead bodies, the smell of bleach, the smell of mud, the sounds of gunfire, the sounds of gas, the crackling of the rattle, the yelling, the enemy- all of it writhed and crashed around in Pete’s head like a tumbleweed made of barbed wire. His legs shook, and so did his arm. His lip trembled, and breath escaped him in short, sudden gasps.

The tranquility that had set over him melted away, and Pete's chest constricted as his knees trembled. He didn't want to die. He didn't want to die, oh god-

 

And then Pete woke up.

 

Chapter Text

 

Daylight brought warmth, and it beat back the shadows of the bedroom as it seeped in through the janky, lopsided blinds, that Pete still hadn't bothered to replace or fix.

So when said beams of yellow light invaded his eyes, pushing past his eyelids to smear his sight with streaks and static of bone white- he really only had himself to blame.

 

Face shoving back into the tough pillow, Pete let himself mentally groan and complain about having to get up, but after self-pity had gotten a little tiring, the man finally slumped out of bed. He'd managed to fall asleep again after the dream- only out of pure exhaustion after screaming his throat raw. That night, he'd been back in the trenches, back in a French winter, surrounded by corpses of friends and threats of living enemies.

 

It was a sad thing when your nightmares were memories, rather than fabrications.

 

Soles padding across the wooden floor, Pete paced out of his bedroom with a weak push at the door, before stumbling across the hall to walk the familiar path to the bathroom.

 

 

His reflection was never at its best in the mornings, and Pete spent a few moments reviewing, whilst his hand squashed and distorted the side of his face idly.

Hazel eyes, which leaned a little more towards the 'brown' side of the scale, were lined with blush red, that almost hid streaked lines that danced along lower eyelids- making the man look perpetually tired, or just plain disinterested. Good job too, considering he was most of the time.

Leaning down a little, as to not splash water all over the floor, Pete clawed the taps open and watched the cold water stutter for a moment until it flowed freely.

Pete cupped his hands, trailing water over his face to clear away the sleep sand in his eyes, and the heavy, sleepy feeling on his skin that always settled during the night. When his fingers dragged water behind his jaw bone, Pete freely exhaled tiredly with a roll of his eyes; His completely out of control five o'clock shadow was the bane of his damn life, and the whole process of shaving only made him whine in frustration.

 

With water clogging his eyes, Pete blindly reached over for the towel rack, hand curling around flax linen as he tugged it towards him. Pete dried his face, eyes crooking open over the folds of fabric to glance at himself one last time; His dark hair looked akin to a bird's nest, and when combined with the beginnings of a beard covering the bottom half of his face, Pete looked positively homeless- or like an alcoholic. But Pete didn't care at this point, it wasn't like he was an upstanding member of the community, or had some glittering, flawless reputation to uphold- And besides, people were always a little more lenient to veterans.

 

Tossing the damp towel onto the counter, Pete moved back to his room and made a beeline for the dresser, hands instantly clamping around metal knocker-type handles.

Mahogany wood scraped a little as Pete carelessly towed the drawer open, and his nails scraped at base of wood as he quickly began rooting around for clothes that would still pass for clean.

 

 

White shirt, suspenders, and decidedly black pants because Pete was just a monotone guy, and he finally found himself tying string laces of the only Oxfords he owned that weren't completely busted. Sure, his mom had insisted on giving him Brogues, but they were firmly stashed away and decidedly, would never see daylight again- Pete would rather walk around barefoot.

 

Pete shuffled out of the front door, clad in the dark peacoat he'd 'borrowed' and had completely forgotten to return to one of his, now-dead, navy buddies. Suicide, rope noose and a chair. Thankfully though, these old navy jackets were shrouded with tens of both hidden and visible pocket. His hands were stuffed into the deep ones by his hips, and Pete's mouth twitched upwards as long, calloused fingers trailed over the edges of his very needed, cigarette case. You'd think watching men burn alive from smoking cigarettes at the wrong time would've gotten him to quit, but Pete was a bonafide slave to his vices- not that it bothered him none.

 

 

The walk was relatively short from his cramped apartment to his place of employment, and Pete really appreciated that tiny blessing- especially on winter days.

It was only fall now, thankfully, and it was Pete's favourite time of year. The trees were unnatural for a few months, everything carried a vibe of warmth and spice, and he downright loved that musty, earthy smell of the cider coloured leaves that fell on the sidewalks in blankets. Cider coloured leaves to match that cider-coloured tint behind his skin, and while the colour reminded him of pleasant things, it always made his tongue dry and itch with the urge for alcohols that carried the tone. It wasn't a great thing to be craving all day, and it only intensified at every look down at his hands. It was partially why he’d made the effort to cover his arms, torso and fingers in black ink. Not coloured. Pete was a monotone guy, after all.

As much as Pete would have liked to just become the town drunkard, and just spend all day gulping down pints of whiskey, he had a job to do. And as he approached the furniture store, clad with a sign reading 'Folie's' in canary yellow cursive on a scarlet board, Pete readied himself for the long day ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I knew it, I just knew it- It's felt too much like a holiday so far."

 

A twenty-something, redheaded private, who was old enough to know better, whined his words in a high, lilted voice, sounding on the edge of either bursting into tears or going on a rampage.

 

It was a navy blue night, and the stars were hidden away under layers of inky smoke and thick, dark slate clouds. The soldiers were sat on all kinds of impromptu, makeshift chairs, everything from stacked sacks of sand, to empty crates, to ammunition cases. They all sat around a blazing, warm fire that sat in the deep fire pit that a couple of cadets had dug out a week ago.

 

Another young private, hair like straw and tanned face set into a perpetual sly, excited grin spoke up, shoulders hunched as he glanced around at the others, making a point of keeping his southern voice low.

"My brother's in Amiens, he's fought 'em already, and y'know what he told me?" Some wide-eyed doughboys shook their heads nervously, as though they were being told a campfire ghost story. The older soldiers just stared with lidded, or rolled eyes, despite some men subconsciously leaning forwards with pricked ears to catch every word.

"He told me they've got guns the size'a houses-" Hurried chatters flared up immediately, while some huffs and low mocking settled steadily underneath. "Y'all better believe it- He saw it. Those Huns got, mustard gas, steel bunkers, guns that spit fire- and a moving castle!"

 

"Moving castle my a-"

 

"It's true! It's all the truth, God be my witness-" The blonde pressed a hand to his heart, before continuing his verbal rampage which left kids trembling in their boots. "They're devils. My brother told me dozens of us got blown to dust by a shell. The spirit of Liberty ain't got no protection against those things."

 

One of the older, more grizzled soldiers, with a scar across his nose, huffed out a puff of air, which steamed in the dark and cold. Arms crossed, leaning back and voice steady, his words cast a spell of tranquility over the men.

"I say it’s time us greenhorns put old Hun out of his misery."

Some murmurs of agreement rose up like the glowing embers that spat from the fire. "Now, I got my bayonet fixed, my rifle loaded and I’m ready to kill every last one of them bastards- And I suggest all’a you be ready too." He cast one last glance at the other soldiers, and gave a final, curt nod of his head, "'Night."

And with that, the scarred man left his crate, marching over through the mess of boxes, supplies, injured and tents.

 

 

 

Pete reminisced on the words that night, and their gravity didn't let his eyes close, his muscles relax, or his mind rest. So, in the dead of night, swamped in enemy territory, Pete left the safety of the tent to pace around in the uncertainty of the Argonne forest.

 

They'd made fortified camp just a little behind the first, duck-egg blue bunker, and things were peacefully still, for now. A few cracks had been beaten into that peace when a knock kneed runner had been sent out to survey the surrounding area. The kid had found a supply cabin in a rocky clearing in the woods, and long, metal train tracks, shrouded and hidden by crunchy, brown leaves- along with the stranded, toppled compartments of a red and black steam train, lying on a bed of suitcases, clothes and dolls that had been left in a hurry. The runner had also found a few trenches, a concrete bunker, a few underground tunnels which connected a sniper's ridge to blocky church ruins- which were shrouded in healthy green moss.

 

And the German empire's flag, tethered to a proud flag pole and cracking in the wind.

 

The German Empire's flag- Or, their war flag to be more precise; A black and white cross, top left hand box filled with three even black, white and red stripes- the white emblazoned with an iron cross. Both lines of the cross joined with a circle- in which sat a black eagle, proudly wearing a crown.

 

The runner had sprinted home to camp, knees shaking, tears pouring, and mouth burbling nothing coherent. The captains and generals had tried to keep things quiet, they really had, but nothing was secret in a US squadron, and every soldier knew by sunset.

Panic had set in at first, there had been frenzied letters home, rants about wives, girls and kids they'd never see again, and there had been a fair share of partaking in drink- with some of the more organized, shady and displeased organizing, and had almost succeeding in, riots and desertion.

 

However, through keeping quiet, the US army had managed to retain their element of surprise, and the enemy on their doorstep hadn't learnt about their presence yet. Or so, everyone assumed when no artillery barrage, behemoth, or pack of bombers came.

Tomorrow, after meticulous weeks of planning, they were finally going to reveal themselves, all tooth and nail. Pete was nervous- of course he was, it was natural to be. Tomorrow would be his first endeavour into real-life combat. It was the first time he'd feel a repeater click under his hands, it'd be the first time his finger poised on a trigger with an intent to kill, it'd be the first time he'd hear the satisfying pops of bullets filling the air, and it'd be the first time he'd ever see a German.

 

Pete wasn't sure what to expect. On all the enrolment posters he'd seen pasted to the walls in Chicago, he’d either seen: A rabid gorilla wearing a spiked helmet, bloody club in hand and distressed damsel in the other. On another, he'd seen a boot stamping out a cowardly looking man, who was running for his life, and who was wearing the same distinct spiked helmet. And finally, he'd seen Uncle Sam staring him down, finger pointed at him sternly, with the clear claim of ‘I want you’.

 

More experienced soldiers that had caught a glimpse would tell stories of men who were ten feet tall, and had stony faces and broad shoulders. Some said the Germans had white hair, with snow pale skin to match, all paired with ice blue, glowing eyes.

 

So, as depictions of Germans went, Pete was honestly either expecting an army of angry, talking gorillas wearing spiked helmets and kidnapping women, or, soldiers who looked like yetis come to life. Either way, Pete wasn't looking forward to going over the top tomorrow.

 

 

"Pete, what are you-?"

 

 

Joe Trohman, the ever sleepy and chilled out, yet somehow always complaining, man. What he insisted had once been a bushy mess of curls had been hacked away to leave army standard groomed mousey hair, and Pete could tell the fella was still a little bitter about it.

In a sleepy stupor, Joe stepped forwards, taking a seat next to Pete on a wooden verge, and letting his eyes settle on the baby-blue bunker ahead of them.

 

"I couldn't sleep."

 

Joe only nodded, rubbing fingers across his eyes and yawning. "Well you should try, you're gonna wanna be sharp tomorrow."

 

Pete had never had much luck in the sleep department. His own toxic, yapping mind would keep him awake with fake croons of harsh, passive-aggressive judgement. How his own mind could speak like his grandma was a mystery to him.

 

Comfortable silence fell between them. Joe knew nothing he could say would convince Pete to sleep by now, he'd made too many tried and failed endeavours that had ended in Pete just distancing, and isolating himself until the pleads stopped. Pete was grateful Joe was a quick learner, he'd never liked getting bossed around. Kinda ironic he'd joined the army then, when he thought about it.

 

"What in God's-"

 

Both men glanced over their shoulders, faces splitting into grins at the sight of their third musketeer. Andy Hurley, broad, shaved cheeks and covered head to toe in colourful tattoos which were very decidedly- not army regulation. The general's face had been as red as a cherry after he'd given Andy an earful on the subject of the ink, but the soldier was so damn good with a shotgun, they'd just had to keep him.

 

"We're just catching up on all the juicy trench gossip, come join." Notes of laughter rang as Pete spoke, motioning his head at the inked man.

 

With a murmured word to himself and a quick shrug, Andy strode over with uneven footsteps, slowly taking a seat next to the other two soldiers, but not quite managing to set his gaze forwards like the other two. Instead, he leaned forwards, forearms settling just above his knees as his brow furrowed at the other two.

 

Joe noticed first, turning to bore into Andy with lidded Carolina blue eyes, paired with raised eyebrows. "What?"

 

"Oh nothing," Andy's voice was already thick with sarcasm, and the other two men huffed with sudden, broad closed smiles that already made their cheeks ache. "I was just wondering why you two fellas were sitting in a forest at-" The man pretended to look at a watch that wasn't there, "Three a.m."

 

Pete chortled openly, eyes squinting to a close, but Joe only gave short, amused puffs as his frame shook. Joe shook his head, eyebrows raising at Andy again as he shrugged, "This idiot couldn't sleep, heard him bouncing his leg out here- drove me crazy." Pete's mouth twisted into a broad, grimacing grin, eyes shining with damp as his fingers went cold. "Yeah uh, sorry about that Joe."

The other man rolled his eyes, nudging his friend in the ribs with his elbow and a small smile, "If I get shot by a Fritz tomorrow 'cause I'm too out of it- I'm coming back to haunt you."

Chuckles from the trio rose into the air, quickly evaporating like smoke after a few moments as three faces fell blank, and sudden silence took them over.

 

Between all the jokes and chortles, they all realized that this was a grave situation- and a damn scary one too. At first light, they'd be going up against an enemy they'd heard nothing but nightmarish things about, and it was a certainty that many of them would die. It was inescapable, and the entrapment of it all made Pete's heart thunder in his chest. Part of him wished he was a kid again, and that his mom and dad would come rescue him from the shitty summer camp he'd stupidly enrolled in. But no, this was a war, and Pete was a twenty-three year old man. Fully grown, and definitely not about to be rescued by his parents.

 

"I'm gonna marry her, if I- if I make it back."

 

Pete and Andy's gazes, followed by their heads, flicked up towards Joe at those words, and two pairs of brows furrowed softly. Andy hazarded a word first, voice quiet at Joe's blank expression and idle gaze, "Marie?"

With a solemnity Pete wouldn't have thought the man was capable of, Joe nodded deeply, eyes almost narrowing. Pete gazed at him with soft eyes, before nodding just as gently. "You'll make it back."

 

More silence, although it was a lot more comfortable this time, and Pete felt no heavy, unspoken air between them. Since they were getting into some serious, deep waters, he might as well voice his concerns, right?

 

 

"What d'you think they're like?"

 

 

Joe and Andy's wide-eyed faces turned to Pete, before the gazes moved away, staring forwards as the men scratched behind ears, or chewed on lips with squinted eyes.

 

"I was kinda imagining gorillas with clubs, to be honest."

 

A sudden guffaw spluttered from Pete's mouth, and he clapped a hand over his eyes as he hunched over, back still shaking with jolts of laughter. Joe only laughed at the man's reaction, shrugging with a broad grin and a murmur of ' I dunno '. Even with a smile at his dumb friends, Andy's eyes were still shrouded in something darker, and his gaze dropped to the muddy ground as he leaned over to idly tug at the sides of his boots.

 

"...Booth, that uh- that old guy, you fellas know him right?" With final, breathy sighs of laughter, Joe and Pete glanced up at Andy, with small head motions and eye squints at the name. Andy huffed with a ghost of a smile, but continued, voice steady. "Well, he uh- he's fought 'em. Like, for real."

 

Pairs of blues and browns widened at the claim, and two pairs of spines straightened up, ears pricking to catch every snippet of new information.

 

"And?" Pete's voice was breathy, and paired with a slack jaw and wider-than-usual eyes. Andy's face dropped completely blank again, wiping the slate clean of any positive emotion as he shrugged, eyes casting downwards.

 

"And...they're kids."

 

Joe visibly jolted back at that, brow instantly furrowing and lip curling into a small scowl. "Kids? What d'you-?"

 

"Kids. Just like ours- some are younger, actually." Andy's eyes were set like dull stones, and he nodded idly and continually with his words, both of his hands lacing tattooed his fingers together as he looked between both slack-jawed men.

 

"Not gorillas with clubs then." Pete blinked, voice steady and quiet as his gaze grew focused on the floor and blank.

 

Pete's head swam with questions, but all words died in all three throats, as eyes cast up to see butterscotch light rapidly shining through ash clouds to spill like liquid gold into the coral tinted sky.

 

First light, and they'd be going over the top to fight...kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Pete pushed past the tawny, wooden door, the crisp ring of a delicate silver bell announced his arrival into the store.

Before Pete even had time to blink, a woman shot up from behind the counter, pushing a strand of frizzy jet hair into place, tucked behind her ear, as the brightest, most daisy-white grin Pete had ever seen split onto her round face. Her voice was laden with a tone of amused familiarity, "Good morning sir, and how're you doing today?"

 

Pete mustered a half-grin back, before pouting and shrugging with a dramatic flair. "Well, I just can't find that Louis fifteen armchair the missus is hounding me for, and I've tried every damn place in Chicago- she's divorcing me if I can't find it."

 

The woman struggled back a laugh, tutting with faux-sympathy, and shaking her head. "Well, aren't you lucky, we've just had a few delivered from France." Both struggled back laughter, and the woman spoke again, "Come with me, sir."

She slinked back into the back of the store through a chiffon white door, and Pete followed with a nod and a broad smile.

 

The back room was dim and flooded with blonde light, and the woman sauntered over to a wall at the back of the room, made of crumbly, berry-red bricks, all held together by sand dollar cement. Pete leaned a hand against a shiny white dresser, idly scanning over the metal handles between glances up at the woman, who was searching through a small box that had been stuffed away in a dresser.

 

"So, how've you been Ida?"

 

Skin shining dark like hickory wood and coffee beans in the dim, yet hot lights, Ida looked over her shoulder, porcelain white teeth still on happy show. "I'm doing just fine, Pete. Store's keepin' busy, I got a few repair orders to fill-" She snapped her fingers, umber-dark eyes widening suddenly. "-and Bailey found me a couple'a couches- good too, all the way from this factory in Austria." She finally found the metal key she'd needed, and clicked the box shut, moving over to the dresser to put it away. "It's all dirt cheap nowadays, considering."

 

Pete huffed, smile settling on his lips as he nodded once. "You're gonna start beating me at my own game."

 

The woman laughed heartily, before pushing her palms down onto certain spots in the brick wall. With just a small shove, a rectangle of wall shoved backwards, and with fingertips gripped into seams, Ida pushed the clump of bricks to the side, revealing a small hallway, ending in a cornflower blue door. She grinned, turning to Pete with a flourish of her right arm towards the new entrance.

 

Pete nodded and shoved off of the dresser gently, moving to the mouth of the hall, but not without a last glance at the woman. "Thanks Ida, good luck out there."

 

Ida only beamed, before shaking her head with a raised eyebrow, "Good luck in there, Pete."

 

With one last chuckle filling the air between them, Pete moved down the hallway, trying to stifle a constricting chest, and trying to calm himself at the sounds of scraping bricks as the lemon light behind him was cut away into iron shadows.

 

 

Pete didn't work at a furniture store. No, that would be lame.

 

 

His fist poised over the door, Pete gave a warning knock before pulling the key- that sat on a cotton strand that hung around his neck, out from his shirt. In a deft and practised move, Pete slotted the key into the door, and turned it, mouth turning upwards as the door clicked open.

 

Key safely around his neck again, door locked, and heart restored to calm deep beats, Pete strolled down stone steps, that quickly became, and flowed into a wooden, panelled floor- colours varied from light to dark, and dappled with dark knot marks.

His soles settled on the wood, and there Pete was- stood in the best damn speakeasy in Chicago.

His eyes drifted over to the wooden sign that hung on the wall behind the bar, words engraved in white cursive against rich pecan wood- 'Cooperstown', along with an eye poking through a lock- their symbol, of sorts.

 

Cooperstown, the illegal bar. Or also known as Pete's place of employment. Much cooler than a furniture store, if he did say so himself.

 

The whole place just exuded coolness, yet warmth, and nothing but camaraderie.

Walls clad with consistently red paper, and at different ends of the room, either adorned with white vertical lines and tiny golden crests, or just covered in daisy-white fleurs de lis.

Small chandeliers glowing with calming marigold light, that lit up the matte, patterned metal that lined the ceiling and blocked out all noise. The dream-like lighting, along with the lack of windows, gave the whole place a pleasant dazed, dreamy feeling- absolutely perfect for drinking. Framed and hung along the walls were also posters, and old pictures of the city; It gave people who were alone something to look at, while they sat at the cinnamon brown stools, chairs and round tables, boozing away their sorrows.

A couple of wine red couches, not carved or antique but definitely comfy as hell, were strewn in a few booths in the darker side of the bar, separated by walls, warmed with fur rugs, and lit by crystallised bulbs.

 

And then, the most important part- the bar. The wood looked like swirling liquid caramel under the lights, and the way it shimmered and shone showed just how clean Andy kept it- no marks, scuffs or sticky rims of beer glasses were visible to the naked eye. The straightedge bartender always insisted on making people use the coasters, and most did so, intimidated by the title of veteran he carried, and by the tattoos that marked him all over- poking out of his sleeves and over his buttoned collar stubbornly.

Behind the bar however, was all of Pete's work. Squeaky clean cupboards, ridges and shelves all backed with immaculate, shiny mirrors, and filled with bottles upon bottles of the finest alcohol money could buy in the country right now.

 

And no, Pete wasn't the mirror cleaner.

 

No, Pete's job was to meet with the suppliers, whether they be smart fellas, honest brewers, bootleggers, or men with obvious ties to the mafia- and to Capone himself. Pete tried to stay out of that fella's sight for sure, and instead, tried to keep quiet and just get the best prices he could- in order to avoid Joe's yapping in his ear for 'Balvenie whiskey at seventy bucks each? I'm gonna kill you one day, I swear.'

 

Balvenie whiskey was worth it, he didn't care what Joe said.

 

 

"Morning."

 

Pete slinked onto a bar stool, cheek smushed against his fist as he idly stared at Andy, who was meticulously polishing glasses until they shone like diamonds.

The man glanced his friend's disheveled self up and down, corners of his lips quirking upwards as he spoke in his ever soft and high voice, "Well, aren't you just an egg today."

Pete gave a fake guffaw, paired with a roll of his eyes, before speaking slowly and practically drooling with sarcasm, "You slay me, Hurley."

The dark-haired man made a grabby hand at a bottle of Jack Daniels that was sat precariously close to him, and Andy's gaze followed. He only quirked an eyebrow but said nothing, dropping his clean white rag for a second. Andy moved to unscrew the lid and then proceeded to pour his friend the tiniest drink in the tiniest shot glass he could find.

There was no point in just flat out denying Pete. The fella could fight when it came to whiskey, and Andy had sworn never to be on the receiving end again. Pete could be controlled however, and regulated, and contained-

 

"This is a baby's shot, are you kidding me?"

 

Andy shrugged, going back to polishing glasses, "We don't want you half-seas over before noon, do we?"

 

Pete knew Andy was right, but he still allowed himself a dramatic, heavy sigh as he took the shot with a quick murmur of 'such a wet blanket', that only served to make Andy chuckle.

 

"How're you doing today? Things been good?"

 

Andy nodded, brow furrowing as his mind spun with a quick recollection of the morning he'd had so far. "Yeah, only-"

The man nodded deeply for a second, before motioning his head back at a small, dark hallway to the side of the bar. Pete knew that hallway, he knew every inch of this bar. It led into sweet-smelling cedar wood doors and red wallpaper, which would then lead into offices, storage rooms, and bedrooms- for people who got too knock out drunk to drive home, or even to remember where home was.

 

"Joe's been yelling on the phone all day- something about cops, I dunno."

 

Pete's brow furrowed at that, and he leaned forwards, fingertips grasped onto the rim of the glass as he trailed it from side to side. "But, we're- we're good, right?"

The other man shrugged, and Pete's stomach writhed at the uncertain answer, brow only furrowing deeper as he subconsciously eyed the bottle of Jack that was so close, yet so far away- and not to mention, under the protection of a bona fide bridge troll who only wanted the best for his friend.

Before either could press the conversation or the topic forwards, Joe stalked out of the office, steam practically whistling out of his ears.

Without a word, Joe stormed over to the bar, taking a seat next to Pete and nodding his head at a bottle of gin. As Andy moved to work, Pete leaned on his forearm, squinting at Joe, and practically spotting the crackling black cloud above his head.

Andy slid the drink over, and Joe took it with a murmur of thanks, before necking the whole- relatively sizeable, glass.

 

"Whoa, hey-"

"Holy-"

 

Joe grimaced and shook his head with a hiss, before pressing hand to short, brown curls and glancing over at his friends. "We're in a...situation."

 

Pete and Andy furrowed their brows, glancing at each other before staring back at Joe, eyes shining and brows knitted together.

 

"The cops-"

 

"Fuck."

"Oh God-"

 

"It's not that bad, they just...they're tracking down bootleggers, and- and bribing 'em for client names." Joe clattered his glass down, and Pete furrowed his brow, full body turning to his friend as his mouth opened to speak, just before Joe beat him to the punch. "And that’s not to say I doubt you- I know you pick 'em well, Pete, but the only way to-" Joe made inverted commas with his fingers, raising his eyebrows at the other two, "'resolve it', is to...consult the...the-"

 

"Capone. We need Capone, don't we?"

 

Pete's words were laced with bitterness, lip curled and eyes blank, although he could feel his fingers going icy cold, and his heart jolting a little.

Joe said nothing, lips pressed together as he made a lazy gesture with his hand. "I- I don't…" The curly-haired man turned to Pete, eyes serious and smile apologetic. "I know you don't like that...'scene', Pete, but- but, who else can deal with the cops? Really, who else?"

 

Pete glared at the Jack Daniels, and Andy didn't even argue or raise a brow. With a deep exhale and a nod of his head, Pete tipped back the new shot, withholding the grimace he wasn't sure was the result of the whiskey.

 

"I'll do it. For you guys. For- For this goddamn…" Pete huffed and a slow grin spread on his face as he massaged his temples, "For this goddamn juice joint."

The three laughed, and Joe promptly clapped a hand on Pete's shoulder, squeezing it and narrowing his brow with a heartfelt smile and a genuine nod. "Thank you Pete."

"You're a braver man than I." Andy quipped, rag flicking over his shoulder as he moved to reseal the early morning drinks.

"Thank you, thank you." Pete bowed, standing from the stool, and stretching with a groan for a moment, before shaking himself sober and nodding at his friends quickly. "Well, if you'll excuse me, I've gotta go see a man about a dog."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"D'Elia."

 

"Ah, there he is." The sharp featured man grinned, holding out a hand and patting Pete on the shoulder. "Pete L. K. Wentz number three- How've you been?"

 

Leo D'Elia, part of the Chicago outfit, and one of Pete's old, rarely used suppliers. He only really consulted the man built like a toothpick when he needed something good tracking down. The man was skinny, but relatively short, and he always insisted on wearing suits that were too big for him, leaving his sleeves and pant legs to puff up with air on windy days.

 

"I've been good, yourself?" D'Elia's grin stayed intact at the purposefully vague answer, and led Pete further into the warehouse; Disguised as meat wholesalers, 'Perry-Newman ltd.', was actually a neat little money laundering scam, used to both sell, and hide the profits of, vending illegal alcohol.

 

"Oh I've been fine," D'Elia, and a few of his unnerving 'friends' led and surrounded Pete as they headed into a back 'freezer' room. "My niece got married last month, that kicked me the day after- lemme tell you."

Pete gave a short, appropriate laugh, trying to ignore his aching ribcage, the steady stares from the 'friends', and the weight of the colt pistol in one of his many hidden pockets- just in case things went pear-shaped. They came to a pile of what looked like dark green boxes of packaged meat- if the labels were anything to go by.

 

"Send her my best." D'Elia nodded at Pete’s words with a beam, and he nodded at one of the heavyset men at his side. The sudden flare of writhing in Pete's stomach settled down as the man pulled back the lid of a box with the telltale dull scrape of cardboard, revealing shimmering bottles of vodka.

 

"So," D'Elia turned to him, leaning back with his hands linked, "How much beef d'you need exactly?"

Pete scratched at the back of his neck, squinting at the bottles in thought as he recalled their stocks. "Six should do it, but uh...d'you have lamb? And pork?"

D'Elia nodded, leading Pete over to admiral blue boxes this time, and pulling the lid open himself, to reveal whiskey, "Lamb."

The man nodded towards a mountainous clump of yellow boxes, "And pork." Pete glanced at D'Elia cautiously, "Can I-"

"Oh of course, I'm sorry- Izzo, go." The skinny man clicked his fingers, and a black haired man paced forwards with quickened footsteps, tugging open a yellow box to reveal pear bottles of Carlsberg. Pete nodded quickly, eyes focused as he chewed on the inside of his cheek, before he turned to glance at D'Elia with slightly squinted eyes, "I need six beef, eight lamb, and nine pork."

D'Elia nodded with a grin, voice cheery as he said the least cheery thing Pete could have imagined. "That'll be eight- Plus, thirty-one cents."

Pete stifled a whine, and spine stretching as his mouth contorted into a pained hiss, all before he slouched back lazily, hands worming into pockets as he tilted his head at D'Elia with a smile.

 

 

"Six."

 

 

Pete knew he wouldn't walk out of here only paying 600 dollars, but that was the trick with haggling- start stupidly low, and anything up from there, and below what they're asking for- is an improvement.

 

D'Elia grinned, and Pete mentally cheered for himself- he knew Leo was a sucker for haggling.

The man's voice was high and excited as he bounced up onto his toes once- clad in brogues which Pete shuddered at. "Seven-eight."

 

"Six-one."

 

"Seven-seven-five."

 

"Six-five-nine."

 

D'Elia laughed heartily, nodding deeply before clapping an amicable hand on Pete's shoulder, whilst the other extended in the offer of a handshake. "I'll tell you what, for your best to my girl, and for your service- seven."

 

Gotcha.

 

Pete nodded, taking the hand and shaking firmly, smiling broadly, "Deal."

 

 

 

 

 

The sky was duck-egg tinted, but still far too grey for his liking when the 'workers' started packing the 'beef', 'lamb', and 'pork' into the back of a delivery truck- due to arrive at Cooperstown before he did.

D'Elia was stood beside him, hands nestled together, and now clad in leather gloves. Pete glanced at him, catching the man's shrewd attention instantly. Pete spoke in a low voice, leaning towards D’Elia little, "I uh…I need a shirt stitched. A blue one." D'Elia's face remained light as he nodded, tilting his head at Pete as his coin-grey eyes flashed. "One."

 

Pete said nothing- this wasn't something you haggled over. Instead, he reached into his pocket and fished a one hundred dollar bill into the palm of his hand, before extending a final, parting handshake to D'Elia.

The man took it, and Pete felt the crumpled paper deftly and gracefully leave his grip.

 

"It's all jack." And with those low words, all the brightness flooded back into the world. "Good catching up with ya, Pete-" D'Elia's face dropped into fake seriousness, and he poked Pete in the chest as he spoke with raised brows and wide eyes, "And stay in touch this time, don't disappear on me."

Ignoring the thumping of his heart and the twisting in the pit of his stomach, Pete nodded with a smile, clapping a hand on D'Elia's shoulder as he glanced back towards the delivery truck, now being clamped shut as a few men moved to get in, intent on driving it to Cooperstown (or, better said, 'Folie's').

 

"See ya around, Leo."

 

"Sooner than you think Wentz."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"You. Are-" Joe's eyes were wide, and Pete grimaced slightly as he waited for the next string of stuttered words, bracing himself for the worst. "A genius. And I love you- holy shit, Pete-" Pete spluttered a laugh as Joe gave him a tight hug, hands squeezing as he shook the dark-haired man from side to side.

 

"I knew there was some reason we kept you around."

 

Andy's voice chirped out as he stared down at the masses of boxes at his feet, fingers gripping his hips as he nodded proudly. "Oh go chase yourself, Hurley." Neither of them could get through the sentence without bursting into chortles, eyes squints and hands running over faces.

 

"Well, let's get this joint tidy 'fore the beloved patrons arrive."

 

With a final laugh at Joe's words, the trio moved deftly with practised actions, and soon enough, all the boxes had been stacked and hidden away in a backroom- with a promise to be burnt or disposed of before the night was through.

 

"So, we're good?"

 

Pete nodded at Joe quickly, grin settling on his features. "S'all jack." The younger man let out a deep whistled sigh, once again raising his eyebrows and nodding at Pete in a gesture they all understood meant 'thanks'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The night brought customers, and customers brought noise, music and the smell of alcohol flowing through the air like a silk river.

Andy had been glancing skittishly the whole night. Glancing at Joe, at Pete, at the wallpaper, at the posters, at the customers- and finally, Joe and Pete had had enough, and with a nod at each other from across the bar, they’d made an unspoken agreement to get to the bottom of it.

In a few swift strides, they both moved over to the bar at once- settling on their forearms in sync, right next to an old regular named Harvey, who insisted on only drinking Mary Pickfords and smoking all night.

 

 

"What's wrong, Andy?"

 

 

The inked man blinked suddenly, head bobbing upwards as the question. The drawled, knowing tone took him aback, and as he met two pairs of dull, yet mirth-filled eyes, Andy could only sigh. There was no point in lying. It wasn't that Andy wasn't good at it- he was an adequate liar, just like everyone else, it was just that Pete and Joe knew him far too well.

 

"I uh...I didn't wanna really, bring it up- 'cause I know it'll probably stress you out, y’know- with the kale, but I kinda, really need-"

 

"Spit it out."

 

With clamped eyes and an exhale, Andy stared at both of his best friends seriously.

 

"I need a barback. And a busser- well, both actually-"

 

Joe stifled a groan, and Pete's brow furrowed as his mind whirred. A barback and a busser, someone to keep the bar clean, and someone to keep the tables clean. Shit, two more employees. They might not be able to keep up stocks, or pay Ida, or-

 

 

 

"Just go pick up some Eurotrash from the docks."

 

 

 

All three heads snapped towards the voice, to find- Harvey, on the calling end. Joe hazarded a try first, brow furrowed as he spoke in a quiet voice, "...Eurotrash…?"

Harvey looked between all three of them with wide eyes and a furrowed brow, tapping the grey ash from his cigarette into a clear ashtray. "Don't tell me you haven't seen 'em. Crawling onto the docks- all fresh off the boat from Ellis island." The old man's voice was both disgusted and high, as pure disbelief clouded his eyes at the three soldiers’ blank stares.

"Well, they're desperate- they'll take anything if it pays more than a cent. You could probably get one to do both jobs."

 

Joe looked thoughtful, Pete looked interested, and Andy looked sad. Their personalities could not have been more perfectly outlined in their reactions to the news of masses of hungry-for-work, starving immigrants.

 

"The docks, eh?" Joe's eyes were squinted as he leaned on his forearm, gazing at Harvey thoughtfully. With a sincere, solemn nod, the old man took a swig of his Mary Pickford, before speaking again as he took a drag of his cigarette and shaking it at Joe. "Navy pier- that's where you'll find 'em."

 

Joe nodded deeply again, turning to Pete with a slowly spreading grin. Pete already knew what that look meant, and despite Andy's desperate, distressed and pleading look, he grinned back.

 

"Say Pete?"

 

"And how, Joe."

 

 

 

Chapter Text

                    

"Boys, stay close, alright?"

 

"Yes dad."

"Yes dad."

 

"And- please, God just- be careful, please-"

 

"We'll be fine, dad." Gerard's tone was shaky as he moved forwards, putting a hand on his father's shoulder, and giving him a tight smile as both pairs of hazel eyes grew watery.

The older man exhaled shakily, almost biting his tongue as he lurched forwards, arms wrapping tightly around his oldest son. Both pairs of eyes closed with shaky sighs and over his dad's shoulder, Gerard wiped at his eyes with trembling pale fingers, trying to hide the fact that beads of tears had slipped through. His heart was thundering in his chest like a drum, aching against his ribs, and the despairing glints in his father's eyes did nothing to calm it.

 

The Alps, Gerard's mom had always wanted to see the Alps. And so had Gerard himself, in a way.

 

They were stood in a small, fortified camp surrounded by allied tanks and cars. The friendly boundary ended beyond an empty, stone church- which was surrounded by a few gravestones reading names Gerard's tongue couldn't pronounce; Gerard’s squadron were one of the three US squadrons that had been sent to help the Italian forces against the Austro-Hungarians, who had taken possession of the best vantage points and aircraft grounds all of Europe had to offer.

 

And while Gerard had been nothing but a bundle of nerves for the week of preparation, every time his wide eyes found themselves drifting over the view- Gerard was astounded.

 

Chartreuse green grass, and a French blue sky- and they were the brightest, most beautiful, most vivid colours that had ever graced Gerard's eyes.

Proud, dynamic, and snowy mountains guarded all sides of the hills in the center- which sloped down into a valley, making a 'v' shape.

 

And even with the ugly fortifications, trenches, concrete bunkers and rumbles of planes in the air, the place still retained that childlike, naive purity of raw beauty, peace and nature.

 

The hills were void of animals, as most farmers had taken their livestock with them when they’d fled their homes- to avoid them getting stolen, shot or eaten in the heat of battle. The lack of animals however, meant the flowers had been allowed to grow recklessly, and now, flourished in neat bundles of orchid purple, cobalt blue, punch pink, and bumblebee yellow. And the smell they gifted to the air was strong, but sweet in the best possible way. The soft, sweet smell that reminded Gerard of the candy shop in town him and Mikey would always beg mom to go to when they were kids.

 

If in any other time, and in any other situation, Gerard would have loved to have existed here . He would've loved to have spent hours, days- weeks even, sat on verges, stones and ridges, just looking at it all.

He would’ve loved to paint it too. In acrylic paint, definitely- as to capture and respect those God-given, blessed colours. Watercolour would have dulled it down, and oil would have made it too murky. And a place like this didn’t deserve any darkness.

 

Generals and message runners were darting back and forth down the lines of trembling men, shoving or deftly prancing past- depending on how polite they were feeling, and the soldiers were given some time. Time to settle themselves, time to accept what was coming, time to cry, time to scream, time to think, time to pray, all before a whistle would send them running into the lion's den.

 

With a shaky sigh, Gerard and his dad separated, strained smiles still marring any facades of happiness they tried to fake.

They glanced over at a distant cloud-grey anti-aircraft bunker that had suddenly started making noise; It sat on top of a tall, rocky hill, surrounded by metal wire and a butter yellow and crow black flag- marked with a two-headed black eagle.

It's long guns moved slowly and robotically as it aimed its sights up into the sky, loud metallic clangs and scrapes filling the air as they shifted and rolled. Gerard heard a small gasp come from behind him, and he glanced over his shoulder to stare back at Mikey.

 

Mikey. His little brother. Wide-eyed, jaw slacked, and 21 years young.

He definitely shouldn't have been here. He should've been at home. He shouldn't have been wearing a uniform. Not carrying a rifle. He should be home. He should be safe. Not in Italy. Not in the Alps. Not here.

Gerard had only sacrificed himself at conscription because he thought the government would spare Mikey, but, apparently not.

 

With a silent exhale, Gerard placed a hand on Mikey's hunched shoulder, startling his gaze from the anti-aircraft guns, that were jolting with the intent on destroying Italian planes.

With a sad smile, Gerard shifted to push Mikey over to their dad, but the boy only feigned ignorance.

Mikey had been trying to keep a brave face, but Gerard knew his brother far too well, and just as he’d suspected, the minute Mikey had met eyes with their father, the youngest Way had collapsed into frantic breathing and uneven, sharp jolts that shook his skinny frame.

 

With a sad, almost whined, lament of Mikey's name, their dad pulled his youngest son close, one arm linking around his back, while the other carded through light strands soothingly.

 

Gerard's heart was heavy. It felt like a boulder and every deep beat it gave made his chest ache. The hot blood in his veins hurt as it coursed through every inch of his body. And it looked like his dad- and Mikey for that matter, were feeling something similar. Well, that was if the, clenched eyes, white knuckles and rapidly shifting nostrils, were any indication.

None of them could rest easy, because up and over the hills- the enemy awaited them.

 

Mikey shuddered into his dad's shoulder, and the older man could only stutter out shaky, teary words of comfort before a few US captains marched down from the camp tents, barking orders to 'get into line', and to 'arm yourselves'. All three men pulled away from their huddle. Mikey wiped his eyes, Gerard glanced around at other shaking frames, and their dad exhaled shakily, before his eyes narrowed fiercely protectively.

 

The lolling buzzes of aircraft grew deafeningly loud, as a flock of planes passed overhead; Peanut brown planes, each one marked with a red, white and green layered circle to mark them as Italian, flew over them, wings lilting to their sides as they maneuvered.

 

And with that, the battle began.

 

Gerard's hands leapt to his ears, Mikey tensed, hunched and hissed, and their dad's eyes clamped shut as the thundering booms of bombers, that carried promises of nothing but death and destruction, rang through the sky.

 

Gerard didn't even have time to spot the pebble grey shells skimming across the powder clouds, before thunderous explosions rang out, accompanied by bursts of tiger fire on the hills, burning once flawless green grass to sable, and between it all- the distant layered screams of the enemy rang through clearly.

 

A whistle cut through the air.

 

Sharp, high, and oddly clear against the sounds of panic, and it was the signal for everyone to start moving.

 

With a quiet, deep exhale, Gerard pulled his rifle into both hands, eyes wide and ready as he started stepping forwards. Mikey was beside him, and their dad was a few inches ahead of them both, stance wide and protective of his offspring as all the soldiers started cantering forwards, guns in hands and boots thudding with every footfall they took.

 

Gerard's heart was beating against his ribs furiously, and his bones ached with the stony palpitations, but he tried to put it out of his mind. As they padded up a marked dirt road, that took them past some deserted stables, Gerard could feel his chest getting tight, as something that felt alive squirmed in his stomach, pleading for freedom.

 

There was a tunnel ahead, dark and carved into a mountain as a quick, and easy passage across the natural barrier. Bright light shone from the other side, and a few cars and tanks moved past them, gliding through with ease as the pattering footsteps of soldiers' boots followed them.

 

A cavalry general, who was leading his own squadron on horseback, pulled his white horse to a sudden stop, which made the animal whine and squeal in pain at the metal bit which dug into its tongue.

The man looked out, brown eyes wide and nervous, before he turned to look down at the foot soldiers, brow furrowed and serious. "La metà di voi scende- Alle trincee."

There were some chatters of understanding, and some noises of confusion from foreign volunteers, but thankfully, Gerard had just learnt enough to understand the order. "E gli altri, salite sulla collina."

 

Mikey's voice chimed in first, uncharacteristically quiet and stuttered.

 

"W-What-?"

 

With his gaze tearing away from the cavalry, Gerard turned to his father and brother, "Half go down, the others go up."

Their father nodded deeply, eyes set in a firm stare as he spoke in a low, serious voice. "Mikey. Gerard." Both brothers' heads flicked to their father "Go with the cavalry."

 

The cavalry was as safe as you could get, they both distracted- as enemies would usually try to kill the horses as quickly as they could, and killed- a slice from a sword, or a shot from a pistol on horseback could send any soldier to the ground in a second flat.

Mikey and Gerard however, shook their heads quickly in indignation, brows furrowing identically and forcing their father to bite back a sad, amused smile at just how similar the boys were sometimes.

 

"Dad- no-"

"I'm not leaving you-"

 

Their father's face dropped again, and his voice lowered, eyes narrowing deeply. "You are my children, and you'll do what I say-"

 

"I'm not a child-"

"Dad-"

 

Fisting a hand into Mikey's collar, their dad pulled the boy outside, stalking past the rocky wall of the mountain, before pushing the youngest Way child down a covert, dusty path to a barn and a few trenches- right after the cavalry, who were cantering away with rhythmic hoofbeats. "Go, and-"

 

Suddenly, gunfire rang out, as Austro-Hungarians, clad in navy, crimson trimmed uniforms, rushed down the verge, guns up and shouting in their mother tongues. Their father’s eyes burst widely open and he glowered between both of his sons desperately, "GO- GO- BOTH OF YO-"

 

With a pained grimace and a yell of frustration, Mikey turned tail after the cavalry, footsteps kicking up dirt clouds as he was quickly joined by other soldiers- Italians clad in dull beige, crocodile-green.

 

Gerard didn't leave his father's side- much to the older man's dismay and pleading. The furrowed browed looks his dad gave him only made Gerard narrow his eyes in response.

 

He wasn't leaving.

 

They were crouched behind rocks and jutted mounds of dirt with other soldiers, heads peeking out, but only retracting back under cover when storms of bullets burst towards them.

 

"Lass sie nicht durch! Stoppe sie!"

 

The yell fell on deaf ears as a sudden moment of silence goaded the Italians, sudden looks and exhales of bravery and courage lacing through the soldiers, spreading like a plague.

 

"AVANTI SAVOIA!"

 

One of the footsoldier generals’ voices rang strong, inspirational and booming as he raised his rifle as a sign for attack. A chorus of screamed, furious voices filled with pride answered him.

 

"O LA VITTORIA, O TUTTI ACCOPPATI!"

 

With those fiery, ardent and passionate shouts, the Italian soldiers sped forwards.

Gerard and his father gave each other a glance, and loving, watery-eyed smiles, before they followed at the back of the pack.

 

The gunfire started again, and Italians dropped like flies.

 

The bursts of patriotic passion had done nothing against the well trained Austrians.

 

Spurts of blood shot across soil, grass and flowers as bullets pierced foreheads, temples, stomachs, legs- every piece of flesh and bone that a human possessed.

Those who had survived kept pressing forwards, and Gerard and his dad were amongst them.

His father couldn't keep his glancing eyes away from his firstborn son, and that protective, guardian-like fire in his eyes was-

 

Gone.

 

It blanked away into pain, before melting into blankness, as a bullet pierced the man's neck.

 

His dad fell, landing with a crunch, head clattering backwards onto the leg of another corpse- that had been shot in the right eye and was long dead by now.

 

Time slowed down. Everything went grey.

 

Gerard's legs went to noodles beneath him, and he crashed to his knees, hands hovering in the air helplessly.

His mouth was open, yet his jaw was tensed, and his eyes were wide.

 

Hazel was hidden by blown shiny black, and Gerard’s pupils wide in fear and nothing but pain.

 

Gerard's heart felt like a pounding, stuttering engine, smoky and intoxicating, poisoning his bloodstream with every beat.

 

A monster writhed and clawed at his insides from his chest, to his stomach, to his mind, and Gerard felt like he couldn't breathe.

He couldn't think, his mind was fuzzy and blurry. He couldn't hear, everything was a low, static buzz. He couldn't feel anything, his skin was numb and red, and he couldn't even feel the sharp, jagged rocks digging into his knees. He couldn't see anything but the blood. Or his father's face.

 

Gerard's wildly trembling hands reached forwards, fisting into his dad's uniform and pulling him closer, hoisting his father into his cradled arms. One arm hooked around his dad's shoulders, and the other desperately tried to stop the pouring, spluttering blood. It only seeped through his long fingers as he pressed his hand to the severed flesh, and as time sped up again and colour flowed back into the world- Gerard screamed.

 

Long, desperate, and haunting, Gerard keened over his father, falling forwards in a weak, hunched heap over the dying man in his arms.

The screams kept coming, each one louder, more heart-wrenching, and more piercing than the last.

They slowly began lacing with sobs, as Gerard's throat struggled to take the strain of the utterly ravishing pain of screaming is vocal chords rough.

His heart felt as though it had torn in half, and a part of him wanted to look at his dad in the eyes. He wanted to coax last words from his mouth, he wanted to tell his dad he loved him, he wanted to promise him he'd look after mom and Mikey.

 

But instead, Gerard wailed.

 

Sobbing and screaming like a child, pulling his dad into his chest, cheek squished against the crown of his head, and struggling for breath between the drool that escaped his open, hanging mouth. Every muscle in his entire being tensed and shook with pure agony, and Gerard felt broken.

 

What felt like hours, but had probably been minutes, passed in the blink of an eye, and much to Gerard's surprise- no bullets came for him.

 

His lap, hands, face and chest were all covered in merlot blood, darkening and turning pitch and thick as it clotted in a vain attempt to shut a wound that wasn’t there.

 

With all the pitiful, meager amounts of strength left in his soul, Gerard pulled his head up, spine straightening as he leaned up to look down at the cold corpse in his arms.

 

His dad's eyes were glassy, his skin was cold, and his neck was swamped in blood.

His dad wasn't there anymore, but Gerard wasn't going to let go. He'd drag this body back to America if he had too, but his dad was not going to stay in these goddamn mountains.

 

"Mikey."

 

A voice. Low, breathy, and almost ethereal, whispering into his ear with a resounding echo.

 

Mikey.

 

He needed to find Mikey, but- he couldn't leave his dad. Not like this. Not here.

 

With salty, acidic tears making his eyes blurry, Gerard tried to stand, pushing back onto his heels- but only flopping forwards onto his hands again with a grunt.

 

He felt so weak. So, so weak- he couldn't.

 

Gerard's head glanced to the side, before freezing as he stared, brow furrowing at the sight half-heartedly.

 

A boy, couldn't have been more than fourteen, was clad in Austro-Hungarian colours, and his pale hands were gripped around a wooden factory rifle, as he stared at Gerard with wide, Prussian blue eyes.

 

The kid was trembling, and by the way his knees shook, you'd think there was an earthquake going on.

 

Gerard said nothing, gaze moving back to his, now dead, father, before he buried his palms into the soil and pushed himself up to his feet, slowly, but surely. His ears pricked up at frantic, speedy clattering, and Gerard saw the boy had started sprinting away, haversack bouncing with a gas mask, a canteen and a shovel as his legs sped him away.

 

Slowly, Gerard looked down at the hazel eyes, identical to his own- only, they were frozen in death.

 

He'd put his father somewhere safe, and he'd come back for him after he'd found Mikey.

 

With a shaky exhale, whilst trying to control his emotions and keep himself sane, Gerard leaned down, arms hooking under his dad's as he pulled him away from the muddy, dug out trench.

 

They’d have a funeral, mom would get to say goodbye for real.

 

Gerard dragged his father to lie behind a grey rock, and he made sure to hide him as best he could from view. His hands drifted over his father’s face for a moment, shutting his wide, glazed eyes with a trembling lip, and sighing when he saw just how peaceful the man looked now.

 

With a final sob, and a reluctant glance, Gerard left his father.

 

He hopped down into the trench again, rifle positioned ready on his shoulder as he blinked away tears that clouded his vision, wiping his eyes with his shoulders, and giving short, frustrated grunts.

 

Gerard rambled down the muddy paths with heavy, uneven footsteps. The barn and shallow trenches Mikey had disappeared to were finally in view, but they were a long way down. Gerard just needed to-

 

The buzzing of a plane rang in his ears, and in a slowed-down moment, Gerard turned to see a plane heading straight for him, trailing filthy black smoke into the pure, crisp air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gerard was in Hell.

 

He had to be.

 

The fire, the darkness, the screams.

The men that ran passed him, lit on fire and trailing the smell of burning beef behind them.

The horses that galloped and screamed desperately as they too, carried riders of burning, spitting flames on their backs.

 

With shocks of pain stabbing into his body, hazel eyes blinked open, and lazily scanned his surroundings. Groaning in the pain that had settled into his left hand, straight through the palm- which was caused by a gaping hole that was tight and tensed around a splinter of metal, Gerard hoisted himself upwards, toes struggling to dig into loose, charcoal soil.

 

After labouring and moaning in pain for a few moments, he finally stood up straight, and Gerard took a few moments to look around, stumbling in a circle as wide, disbelieving eyes surveyed- what he was sure, was Hell itself.

 

The skies were soot black, all daylight blocked out by dark, toxic smoke. The grass, the flowers, the soil- all of it was burst crispy, mocha brown, and grease black.

 

And the smell. God, the smell, Gerard fucking hated that smell.

 

His nostrils ached with the smell of dead bodies, the sickly-sweet stench of rotten meat. His nose burned with the smell of oil, grease and petrol, and the tip of his nose had started glowing candy red from the abusive scents it was taking.

 

"Mikey."

 

There was the voice again.

 

Ethereal, echoing, and not entirely from his own head.

 

Mikey. He had to find Mikey.

 

Suddenly, Gerard kicked into full action, shoving the metal splinter out of his hand without a second thought, and a hissing grimace. He neglected to look around for a gun in the burning, metal wreckage of an Italian plane, and instead, bolted over to the ridge of the hill.

 

One foot on the edge, while the other stood firmly behind, supporting Gerard as he squinted down. He coughing into his forearm, breathing heavy at the poisoned air, as he struggled to spot the barn in the dark fog of crashed planes.

 

And then- an ebony cloud moved just enough for a ray of light to drift over the charred land, and Gerard saw the barn, heart shuddering in relief as goosebumps popped up all over his skin.

But- wait, it was- no, it was- it was burnt. It was collapsed- and the trenches were flattened by chunks of rocks that had dislodged after smoky planes had crashed into them.

Gerard needed to find Mikey, but the path he'd come up from was blocked, both by masses of bodies, and by raging fires.

 

With a stutter in his step, Gerard turned on his heel, jogging away from the ridge, and back to the trench alley where his father had died.

The jog turned into a sprint, legs tensing, deft and a blur as his whole body, shoulders, arms and hips, all laboured and swivelled with the bolting.

It hurt, it all hurt. His muscles, his skin, his ears, his heart, his ribs- but he had to find Mikey, he had to.

 

Sliding, slipping and jumping down steadily dislodging rocks, and loose waves of sandy, black soil, Gerard ran over the high of the hill, past the anti-aircraft guns, past the bunkers, past the barbed wire, and he finally clattered down to the dirt path they'd first taken, just past the empty stables.

Gerard's whole body felt like jelly and titanium at the same time, weak but heavy, tired but strong. Scraped palms and knees stinging, Gerard finally returned to the tunnel, racing through to the light, and still unarmed.

The sudden white light that had struggled through the clouds blinded him, making his eyes blurrier than they already were. Gerard's forearms shielded his eyes as he found himself stumbling forwards, blinking slowly until they adjusted to the new stimulation.

The air was sharp and thick in Gerard's nostrils, smoke, oil and salt all swirling through as he couldn't help but sniff, before looking out at the view.

 

On level ground, the barn was farther away than it had initially looked, and the direct dirt path was blocked by fire and a plane wreck, so instead, Gerard started towards an underground, concrete bunker that sat a few meters away.

All these bunkers were usually connected, so it was likely there'd be a door which led to the barn's trenches, a door which led to Mikey, or maybe, just maybe- his brother had sought refuge in the bunker, yes- that was logical. Mikey was a smart kid, after all.

 

With quick paces down the stairs, and hands wrapping around wall edges, Gerard ducked inside, head flicking around and eyes scanning the drab, stone interiors for any signs of his brother.

 

Cries, demented mutters, and panting, ricocheted off of the walls, as men were curled up into fetal positions, while some lay on their backs. Grimy hands pressed to faces, to ears, to bleeding wounds, to mouths as they shivered, but there was no sign of Mikey.

 

But if Mikey had passed through here, even for a second- Gerard needed to know.

 

Gerard feverishly paced the halls inside, trying to orient himself towards the barns as his tongue reeled off shoddily pronounced words, "Mio fratello?"

 

No answers, just cries and a few glances, but it didn't deter Gerard, feet still pacing on the ground as he kept crying out. "Qualcuno ha visto mio fratello?"

He idly noticed one of the least traumatised looking men- who was simply sat with his knees to his chest, as he spoke again, voice growing progressively more desperate. "P-Per favore? Qualcuno lo ha visto?!"

 

"Il fienile."

 

The man's voice was blank, low and grounded, and as Gerard's eyes lingered on him for more than a second, he realized just who the blank man was; The cavalry leader, the one who had shouted the orders. The one responsible for-

 

It wasn't his fault. Gerard knew that, deep down somewhere.

 

He said nothing as he darted away, legs working frantically as he ran to search for Mikey at the barn.

Bursting through a heavy metal door with his shoulder, that was certainly going to bruise under the impact, Gerard's eyes were wide as he looked out at the scenery.

 

The barn was right there, just beyond a few trenches and tents. With a deep inhale and exhale to and from his abused lungs, Gerard sprinted forwards.

 

The roof was collapsed, and the ground around it was strewn with fallen planks and fiery embers that hissed and spat every time he trod on them.

 

His sprint stumbled to a stop at the huge dark barn doors, and Gerard instantly looped his hands into the handles, pulling with a grimace of heavy strain, before a tidal wave of thick grey smoke hit him square in the face as the doors open.

In an instant, Gerard collapsed into a hunched figure, coughing, retching and wheezing into his arm, before- Mikey.

 

Motionless, spreadeagled, and stomach squashed down by a huge plank of ember and flame-ridden wood.

 

"M-M-" Nothing else could escape Gerard as he lurched forwards, hands wrapping around the burning wood as he desperately pulled it off of his brother. He cried out as the boiling heat scalded his skin, and with a grunt, he tossed the plank aside, before crouching down to pull his brother into his aching arms. He carried him outside, away from the masses of toxic smoke, just as another plank clattered down from the ceiling- just onto where Mikey's head would have been.

 

If Gerard had been a few seconds late-

 

"Mikey, Mikey please- Mikey, wake up- I'm begging-"

 

Gerard's rapidly blistering palms were pressed over Mikey's heart, pressing down with intervals of three.

His eyes were tearing up, droplets falling onto Mikey's uniform as his whole frame trembled. His heart burned, and it felt tiny, and pathetic. He felt tiny and pathetic.

The writhing in his stomach, the slippery eels of fear that coiled and hissed in there were slowly killing him, and everything inside him felt heavy and toxic. His tongue was covered in the taste of iron, and Gerard could hardly stand not breaking down anymore before-

 

With a violent splutter, Mikey descended into a coughing fit, lungs struggling to bring air and oxygen into his system. Gerard turned his brother onto his side, one hand carding through light hair, and the other refused to let go of the fisted fabric of his brother's uniform. "Mikey, Mikey can you hear me?"

 

"Dad- where's dad?" Mikey's voice was far too clear as he sat up, and suddenly looked devoid of pain. Gerard blinked, back shuddering as he gave sharp, deep jolts of breath, trying to hold back tears, and trying to break the news to Mikey softly.

 

"H-He's d-dead, Mi-"

 

Mikey suddenly descended into his coughing again, now paired with agonizing screams, keens and sobs for his dead father.

The wails made Gerard's skin prickle cold as he pulled Mikey into his chest, just letting the boy cry. Those screams would forever haunt him, they'd always be in the background of his dreams, they'd always hide in the shadowy corners of his mind. He'd never un-hear them.

Gerard felt spit, tears and their father's blood dampening his shirt, but he didn't care. He only cradled his brother, whispering and sobbing, shaky words of comfort, before-

 

"It's your fault."

 

Mikey suddenly towered above him, eyes lidded, and face dark, as his lip curled into a scowl.

Gerard's lip trembled as the pythons in his stomach began biting and writhing, and he shook his head furiously, hands scrabbling at his brother's leg. "I-I-I c-c-cou-"

 

"You killed him."

 

Gerard was sobbing now, staring up at his brother desperately as screams still rang in his ears. He shook his head again, pleading with Mikey. "I-I d-di-didn't-"

 

Mikey crouched down, sitting on his heels as he stared at Gerard with a blank, aloof face. He put a hand on his brother's bloody cheek, hazel green eyes- with that distinct dark little line in the left, burning into his own. Mikey spoke, voice soft and blank.

 

"And you killed me."

 

And with that, Mikey disappeared from above him, and instead, was cradled into his arms again, shaking as he choked on a mouthful of blood.

Gerard's eyes were wide and his whole frame trembled, as he stuttered. "Mikey, Mikey- No, no, no- p-please, I-I-" Gerard hoisted his brother closer, breathing frantic and impossibly wide eyes flowing freely with rivers of burning, hot tears. "I can't lose you- I c-can't lose y-you too- Mikey- Mikey- please - I-I can't-"

 

Mikey retched, a chunk of something slimy and fleshy covered in tubes- something that looked like a piece of heart toppling from his mouth, before hazel-green eyes went glassy, freezing over with a final, clicking, choked whine.

 

And Mikey died in his arms.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Gee? Gee, are you okay? Gerard, calm down-"

 

Gerard's eyes shot open to the voice, and all he could see was light hazel eyes staring down at him, a few strands of dark hair toppling into them.

With a gulp, and a subsequent grimace at the feeling of a raw throat, Gerard instantly knew he'd screamed Frank awake, and waves of guilt washed over him as he grimaced heavily, hands pressing down onto the clammy skin around his eyes.

 

"Hey, c'mere-" Frank practically manhandled him upwards, hooking his arms around Gerard tightly, as the older man stiffened, but quickly buried his face into the offered shoulder. Frank’s voice was soft, sympathetic, and cautious.

 

"...The Alps...again?"

 

Gerard could only nod as a fearful sob escaped him, and as snakes began writhing in the pit of his stomach, but Frank's arms only tightened, as he pressed a kiss to Gerard’s shoulder.

 

It was a reoccurring dream that began always as the, very real , memory of losing his father.

 

Screaming, fire, planes, bodies, the search for Mikey- that was all real.

 

...But then, Mikey would become demonic, and demented, and he'd blame Gerard for their father's death, before coughing up his own heart, and dying in his older brother's arms.

 

Whereas, in real life, Gerard had, completely unasked, spluttered out the news, and Mikey had screamed awful screams. Screams that would always haunt Gerard's dreams, his life, his soul, and his very being.

 

Gerard's hands were still scarred from that day. A puncture and stitches in the center of his left hand, and old marks of scalded blisters all over his hands, from when he'd moved the burning plank off of Mikey.

 

His brother was alive, in real life.

He'd saved him just in time, but even so, the distorted dream of what could have been always haunted him.

 

Frank's tattooed fingers were carding through his hair, soft and careful as he murmured calming words into Gerard's ear.

 

The older man always felt guilty. Frank had suffered in the war too, and yet, only Gerard disturbed their sleep with sobs and wails of things that had already passed.

 

After a few moments, Gerard had finally calmed himself enough to be able to shirk away from Frank, ears flushed red and fingers cold, as his shoulders hunched in shame- Only, Frank pulled him back, and said those gentle, familiar words he always said when Gerard's guilt tried to consume him.

 

"It's not your fault."

 

And then Frank pressed a sweet kiss to his mouth, and everything dark scurried out of his mind, only to be replaced by brightness. Frank was a fucking angel.




 

 

 

 

 

 

"Mornin'."

 

Frank strode into the underground speakeasy, Gerard stumbling behind him as he was still rubbing sleep out of his eyes.

 

Ah yes, their speakeasy. A fun little project that Frank had suggested when the prohibition had been announced.

 

It was a classic joint; The walls were painted streaked onyx black, and were covered in strewn black and white paintings and photographs of random, both everyday, and rare subjects. From a woman smoking on a Parisian balcony, to an artistically framed half-empty cup of coffee.

 

The ceiling was deep and dark, and only a few, brick red beams and shiny metal ridged tubes were visibly streaked across. Black caged chandeliers hung down from the ceiling, casting white light around the room in inspired streaks that lit up the place perfectly.

 

Light oak rectangle tables were surrounded with black, leather armchairs and brown leather, stitched couches. And in the ridged ceiling corners, almost carved into the walls, were red-wallpapered booths, lined with dark couches and black coffee tables.

 

In the center of it all, was the main attraction- the bar.

 

A sign hung over it, reading 'House of Wolves', or, the name of the best damn speakeasy in all of Chicago.

 

As for the bar itself, it was made of panther black wood that was marred with a couple of tiny scratches, which displayed light wood underneath, and had usually been caused by the...slightly inexperienced, bartender- Michael James Way.

 

Mikey didn't have much interest or love for bartending, or just for working in general, but Gerard had always made sure Mikey had a secure, and more importantly- safe, job.

 

The disinterested bartender glanced up from his annoyed glass polishing, eyes growing dim at the sight of the visitors as he dropped his gaze again with a mumble. "Morning."

 

Gerard slid over to the bar, while Frank marched off to find Ray.

The two were most likely heading out for some business today, although, Gerard wasn't too sure what exactly it'd be about; Yesterday, they'd gone to see D'Elia, one of Capone's lower guys, and they'd fully re-stocked the bar- paying just over 700 dollars, which had only been knocked down from 900 after Frank had used the brief, yet kinda convincing, Italian phrases he knew.

Besides, the Iero name carried some weight in Jersey, and while perhaps not so powerful in Chicago- it was still well respected.

 

"You okay Mikey?"

 

The light-haired man said nothing in response, pouring the customary shot of whiskey he'd become accustomed to his brother ordering way too early in the morning. Gerard took it, but his brow furrowed at his little brother's appearance; Eye bags, dark circles, gaunt and tired, just plain tired.

 

Gerard took a swig, before opening his mouth to keep pressing, but the words were swiftly interrupted as Frank and Ray strode in, both clad in dark, Dalcuore ulster coats, and chattering quietly with nods that promised agreements.

 

"Where're you fellas off to?"

 

Mikey's voice rang out, suddenly interested and enthusiastic as a ghost of a smile played on his lips, and his eyes followed the other men.

 

Ray's eyes locked onto Mikey, and he smiled, voice ringing out in the high, lilted way it always did. "We're going down to the docks, see if we can't find you that busser."

 

Mikey grinned, and Gerard was truly taken aback by the cheery look on his little brother's face. "Jeez, finally - It's not easy keepin' all'a this clean, y'know."

 

Frank shrugged with an easy beam, voice good-natured, yet teasing. "I dunno, Hurley does it just fine."

 

At the mention of a rival's name, Mikey tensed and scowled, before shrugging irritably, and going back to angrily polishing a streaky shot glass. "Well that guy's just a neat freak, at least I'm normal."

 

"You sure are, Mikey."

 

"Go chase yourself, Frank."

 

Short, sober laughs rang from Ray and Frank, and both men left the speakeasy, jogging up the stairs as their voices got further and further away.

 

As soon as the bar was quiet, Gerard tried a subtle glance at Mikey, eyes widening softly, before falling as he realized the look on the man's face; Mikey was hunched over, hands hardly working the rag as his gaze was firmly fixed on the stairs, eyes dim and longing.

 

Gerard knew Mikey wanted to be like Ray and Frank.

He knew Mikey wanted to go out and stroll around Chicago with the shit-eating grins everyone who was 'in' with the mafia had.

He knew Mikey would give anything not to be the damn bartender.

 

But Gerard couldn't let him.

He couldn't lose Mikey too. He had to protect him- he'd promised their mom that back when they'd left Jersey. And he'd be damned if he didn't keep that promise.





 

 

 

 

 

 

"So, what's the plan?"

 

"Find one that speaks English, ideally."

 

Ray nodded with a tight mouth, scanning the crowds of disheveled immigrants huddled on the docks; There were women soothing and bouncing screaming and freezing babies. There were men trying to find jobs, begging for work in broken English to anyone who would listen.

There were kids covered in their father's huge coats, sick, noses red and sniffing as parents held them close. There were men missing arms, men missing half their faces, and some were even missing legs, only managing to hop around from place to place.

 

"Hey, uh...Frank?"

 

"Yeah Ray?"

 

They watched a woman carrying an infant girl speaking a sharp and slurred language, brow furrowed and voice raised at a man who was stood near them. The man yelled back, and soon a small fight between random extended friends and family had broken out.

 

"That may be easier said than done."


 

 

 

 

 

"Anyone speak English?"

Frank tried speaking slowly and loudly, eyes wide and almost crouching at people as though they were children. Ray on the other hand was taking a friendlier, less patronizing approach.

 

"Hello? Anyone need work?"

 

As Ray turned back towards a crowd that stood near the dock edge, peering over at the sea- he bumped into a man, and being the polite sort he was, launched into a thousand apologies.

 

"Oh I'm so sorry!"

 

"It's okay. I'm fine."

 

Ray's brow furrowed at the man's words, before it only got deeper at the man himself; Light blonde hair, straw-like and flopped down over his forehead, while paired with strands of long stubble all over his lower face. The gaze moved down a little, and tired icy blue eyes that stood out against pale skin. He was a little dirty, and disheveled, but then again, everyone on this damn dock was.

 

"Hey, uh- What's your name?"

 

The man blinked quickly, brow furrowing before he answered in a cautious voice. "...Robert. Bryarmann." Ray nodded, a slight grin spreading onto his face. "And, where are you from?"

Robert instinctively hunched a little at that, face falling blank as he whispered the answer in a voice heavy with shame. "...Austria."

 

Ray couldn't believe his luck.

 

He'd found an immigrant, that they could totally underpay, and that actually spoke English. Sure, there was the whole 'Austrian' complication, but hey- it was cheap labour, Gerard and Mikey could just put their anger aside for this guy. They'd only have to pay a few dollars a week, holy- Jackpot.

 

With a friendly grin, and a pat on the shoulder Robert had visibly, not been expecting, Ray spoke with, what he considered to be, an amicable, trustworthy voice.

 

"How about a job, Robert?"




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I can't believe you-"

 

"We're keepin' him."

 

"Frank. He's Austrian. Austrians ki-"

 

"Gee, I only have to pay him five clams a week- he stays." Frank shook his head idly, hand subtly running over Gerard's shoulder blades. "It'll be fine, just ignore him." The younger man pressed a soft kiss to Gerard's cheek, but the older only glared at thin air, trying to ignore the warmth flourishing in his chest at Frank's touch.

 

"He's gonna be with Mikey- every single day, I'm just not-"

 

"Gerard."

 

Frank put a hand on his boyfriend's jaw, thumb tracing the flesh of his cheek softly, before he pressed a solid kiss to Gerard's lips, that assured the older man in some unspeakable, primal way.

With an easy smile, Frank pulled back, tilting his head a little. "It'll be fine, Gee. I promise." Another kiss, to the crook of his neck this time, before leaning his warm mouth over Gerard's ear. "And if he does, or says anything to Mikey- I'll deal with it."

 

Gerard knew what 'I'll deal with it' meant by now.

 

It usually entailed a gun and a ditch, or concrete shoes and a lake, but at the promise of Mikey's assured protection, Gerard visibly relaxed, exhaling softly as Frank's mouth worked a little faster. "I uh- I need to-"

 

At the hesitant words, Frank stopped, blinking at Gerard, but letting him leave the bed without an argument.

 

With soles making soft noises against the wooden floor, Gerard crossed the hallway into a bathroom.

The room was white and light, but the mirror didn't fit at all, as it was oval, carved, and black- Frank always joked it was the 'magic mirror', and would always make said dumb joke every morning while they brushed their teeth in tandem.

Gerard would roll his eyes every time.

A small smile coaxed from the man at the memory, but it quickly faded away as the thoughts of Robert Bryarmann, the new Austrian busser AND barback.

 

With hands trailing down his cheeks, pulling them gaunt as he groaned, Gerard stared at himself in the mirror seriously.

Scarred hands moved down to grip the ceramic sink basin, and he almost glared at himself as he reeled off deadly words in a low, whispered voice- trying to keep out of Frank's close earshot.

 

 

"You've killed Austrians before. You can kill Austrians again."

 

 

Chapter Text

 

"You do know that pilots, uh- they only survive two days, on average."

 

With the sweetest smile he could muster, cheeks puffed out and eyes squinted, Josh passed the man his rations.

 

"Tyler's not average."

 

The man gave him an odd look, head bobbing back a little and brow furrowing, but as Josh's smile remained, the man nodded slowly, before turning, and pacing away through hot, tuscan-sun sand.

 

That's what Josh always said when people doubted his friend.

Whenever they'd reel off statistics, or recount stories, with the intention to cause distress- Josh would smile with a face like sugar, and would just speak those words that would shut them up in a second.

‘Tyler's not average’. And it was the truth, Tyler wasn't average. He was better, so much better.

 

To even get here in the first place, Tyler had lied about his age. He was thirteen years old, homegrown from Ohio- just like Josh, but had somehow passed himself off as a sixteen year old, to a conscription officer Josh was sure must've been blind or delirious.

 

When President Wilson had announced that the country was going to war, Tyler, nor Josh for that matter, had been eager to sit around and wait for the Huns to land on their shores.

 

Out of some twisted sense of patriotism, Tyler had snuck out of home with only a rucksack and the clothes on his back, and he’d made it to the conscription office all by himself.

He'd lined up, and had waited with men a whole foot taller than him, all while looking around for his parents skittishly, in pure paranoia.

Tyler had successfully managed to lie himself a ticket straight into Hell, whereas Josh's situation hadn't been so...voluntary.

 

It wasn't a secret that soldiers got paid, in fact- that was a pretty big reason why so many unemployed men had signed up. But, more than the payment- it was actually about the life insurance; 10,000 big ones to a soldier's family if he died, and well, that was why Josh was here.

 

His parents hadn't been too wealthy back in Columbus, and with four kids to maintain, including Josh, the war had actually been a godsend.

One day, Josh and his siblings had come home from school to find mom and dad sat at the kitchen table. They’d made them all sit, and calmly explained the situation.

 

One of them, and they had to decide who between themselves, was going to war.

No ifs or buts about it, that was it.

If a girl went, she'd be a nurse. If a boy went, he'd be a soldier.

The girls had just cried, collapsing away into sobbing, wailing wrecks that their parents made no effort to console. Jordan, his brother, had kept quiet, eyes trained on the scratched kitchen table, and Josh knew what he had to do. To stop them sending Jordan away, Josh volunteered.

 

Hand flat and straight up in the air, eyes blank, and mouth pressed into a line as he tried, and just about succeeded, at keeping the thunder in his chest tamed.

 

His parents had nodded, ushering him down to the conscription office almost immediately, and so, Josh had gone to war.

 

They hadn't expected him to survive, that had kinda been the whole point.

Sure, they received all his wages- they'd made sure to clarify that little detail when he’d signed up, but his parents had been licking their lips and rubbing their hands at the ten thousand they'd receive if Josh got shot through the heart.

 

Oddly enough, or, perhaps not so, being small and skinny was more of an advantage than anything.

 

Before being sent to Al-Ajdar, Mesopotamia- a place he hadn't even known existed, to fight with the British forces against the Ottomans, Josh had been serving in sunny Amiens with the US, and he'd been one of the few to survive the spring offensive.

 

Many had given him dirty looks and side-eyes as he'd marched away in the end, plodding behind a slow-moving tank, as his squadron departed for the Middle East, and he completely understood why. In the death and destruction which had claimed and swallowed men much stronger, smarter and better than him- he'd survived.

 

Josh wasn't the strongest, being a fourteen year old, but by learning passages, shortcuts and by just keeping his wits about him, he'd managed to consistently dart out of danger's fiery path, just like a rabbit darting through fences and cabbage patches to escape a farmer.

And, seeing as Josh was only getting stronger, faster, and better with a rifle by the day, it looked like his parents would be waiting for that life insurance for a long time.

 

A sudden familiar buzz of a plane motor shook him from his thoughts- and made him look up from the box of rations he was steadily handing out (after double and triple checking that nobody was trying to score two ).

A proud, satisfied smile wormed its way across Josh's face as his eyes locked onto the latte Bristol scout, painted with RAF colours as it dove past, making the sand below it powder.

 

Tyler.

 

Josh huffed with a broad smile, finally tearing his eyes from the plane, and moving over to hand out more boxes of stale biscuits and lumps of bread you could chip a tooth on- along with canned meat that was more fat than anything else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I saved you this."

 

Josh handed Tyler a small, card box, and the boy took it with a smile and a nod, mumbling his thanks as he opened it. Between a mouthful of stale crumbles, Tyler looked up at Josh with tired, tawny eyes. "How'd you do today?"

 

Leaning back, and shifting over the sand-polished rock he was sat on, Josh shrugged lightly, eyes moving upwards to look at the frozen, impossibly dark desert sky. After another glance back down at his expectant-faced friend, Josh launched into a brief overview of the day's events with a disinterested voice.

His life down on the ground wasn't very interesting, but Tyler's- up there, up there flying in the skies like a bird...Josh could hardly imagine it.

 

"Practised some drills, handed out rations, read a book. You? How'd training go?"

 

A few moments of silence cast over them as Tyler's eyes went glassy, hand visibly trembling as he fiddled with the corner of the fragile box.

 

"...I'm uh...I'm fighting, tomorrow."

 

In an instant, Josh's eyes widened and his mouth fell open, corners quirking it into an open grin, "I-I t-th- that's amazing!" Tyler only nodded silently, head bowing as he chewed another mouthful of old, blue speckled bread.

Josh knew Tyler well. He knew him like the back of his hand, and he could always tell what Tyler feeling- and when he was hiding something.

 

With a furrowed brow and weak frown, Josh chased his friend's gaze. "...What's wrong Tyler?" Tyler said nothing, eyes locked onto the sand between his scraped boots. Brow only furrowing even more, Josh leaned back as his frown became deeper.

 

He didn't understand. When he'd first met Tyler, all he'd wanted to do, all he'd talked about, was flying a plane into battle. It was what drove him to the conscription office, it was what he always rambled and giggled about in the dim tent to anyone who would listen.

When General Simpson had agreed to let him join the airforce, Tyler had been so happy ; Josh had never seen a beam that large, and to celebrate, they'd stolen a flask of suspicious-looking, strong-smelling liquor from private O'Neal- who always hiccuped, limped, and had a red nose, no matter the hour.

 

But now, Tyler was sad. And Josh couldn't begin to fathom why, unless-

 

"...Are you scared?"

 

A weak nod and a queasy smile was his response, and in an instant, Josh dissolved into his friend, arms wrapping around him tightly as he let the younger boy tremble and give sobbing exhales into his shoulder. "You'll be fine, Tyler- I know you will." Tyler nodded quickly but said nothing- and he didn't pull away either.

 

"You'll be okay."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bed was cold, and Josh knew he’d woken up alone.

He blinked softly, groaning as his hands automatically moved to his eyes, and began rubbing the prickles of sleep sand out of them. With one, slightly dim look at the empty side of the bed, Josh pulled himself away from the mattress. He tended to think just doing things was much better than dragging them out with complaints and whines.

 

Before hiking over to the bathroom, or even getting dressed for the day, Josh instantly patrolled over to the living room.

The lightly furrowed brow and bitter taste at waking up alone instantly melted away as his eye caught strands of sandy brown hair, poking up over the couch's back.

With softer eyes, and an even softer smile, Josh crept forwards, being careful not to trigger any squeaky or loose floorboards as he moved over to Tyler.

 

The younger man was curled up on the couch, and the coffee table was swamped in mountains upon mountains of important-looking papers, notes, and frantically scribbled numbers, along with an ashtray with a few too many stubs in it.

With a slow inhale at the smoke, Josh crouched down, hand moving to hover over Tyler's head as his eyes traced the small, but deep, scar under Tyler's chin, just in the center and behind his jawbone. That scar always put a frown on Josh's face; The scar from the day he'd almost lost-

 

Tawny eyes opened, catching on fire as sunbeams which fought through blinds caught them, and everything dark fled Josh's mind.

His hand moved through the soft strands then, no longer feeling any guilt at waking the younger man. Tyler groaned, eyes clamping shut as he tried to chase sleep again, despite his head moving back and pressing into Josh's fingers eagerly.

Unlike Josh, Tyler preferred dragging unsavoury tasks out until they could no longer be stood. They'd always argued and differed on that, but Josh could never stay mad at Tyler's childish reasoning and resolutions.

 

"Sleep okay?" Josh's voice was still gravelly from sleep, vocal chords still warming up from hours upon hours of inactivity. Tyler shrugged, still pretending to chase sleep, before he gave a quiet exhale of defeat, and lifted his eyes to Josh with the ghost of a smile. "You?"

 

Josh had slept well, actually.

 

His mind, or at least his subconscious, had seemed to have healed pretty after the war, and his original, natural personality and self had remained, despite the horrors he'd seen at such a young age.

Tyler was the same, he hadn't changed at all, and Josh felt thankful.

He'd seen some fellas that- god. Josh couldn't be more grateful that he or Tyler had become that. Dark eyes which held no humanity anymore, just shadows and husks of the men they once were. They were usually patrons actually, down at their humble little speakeasy in downtown Chicago.

It'd been Tyler's idea, at first, but, after realizing he had no education or family to fall back on (seeing as his parent's hadn't been too happy about missing out on 10,000 dollars), Josh had started liking the idea more and more.

 

Sure it was illegal, and sure, it freaked Josh out a little, but Tyler dealt with those sides of things, and he kept it all secret, all under wraps from Josh. And he was pretty good at it too, not just the lying of course, no- the actual ' running ' as such; They never ran out of stock (sure, Tyler would come home cursing someone called ' Wentz ' under his breath every now and then, but Josh didn't really know what that whole beef was about), they were pretty popular, and they actually made some decent cash. Josh didn't know how Tyler did it, but he did, and he always left the more legitimate, less scary side of things, down to Josh.

 

The bartending, the talking, the friendliness- all of that was left to Josh, and he wasn't too bad at it either.

 

Yes, their little business. Josh was proud of it, and he knew Tyler was too. Their little 'Slowtown', the fruit of their labour and friendship, as cheesy as it sounded.

 

"You ready to head out?" Tyler's voice shook him from his thoughts, and he blinked quickly down at the younger man, before huffing at his best friend's disheveled self. "I'll be good in five, but I think you need a little longer."

 

With a furrowed brow and a dramatic huff, Tyler slogged to his feet, socks slipping across the floor as he moved over to the bathroom, but not without a yell back at the other man. "You're out of the business, Josh."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Three clams."

 

Josh's voice was light and amicable as he gracefully slid the full glass over the rich, glossy wood to a fancily clad woman, who held a long cigarette holder between two fingers, as her mint glazed eyes flitted over him idly. A moment later, and she'd fished three, perfectly straight and neat rectangles of dollars from her onyx, fur lined coat pocket.

Josh took the offered bills with a sweet smile, and put them away with a word of thanks, before his eyes flitted over to the stairs, which were hidden behind bookcases in the local library. A pretty nice hide-away, if you asked him.

 

Stone, warm and bricked- just like the rest of this place.

The bar and tables were all separated by a series of oyster grey brick arches, a little crumbly, but still completely sound thankfully. The whole speakeasy wouldn’t randomly collapse anytime soon.

To make the whole thing just a little cosier, collections of sofas, armchairs and tables were strewn across the room, in prime position for gazing at the old pictures which lined the walls. Most of them had been found on the cheap, at markets and such, but a few were old wartime signs, and Josh was always been intrigued by a few. He hadn’t seen many trench signposts, pretty much because most of his time had been spent in the desert, not in Europe. There were very interesting signs however, particularly one that read 'Death Valley', and another that was scratched with 'Kaiser's Ridge'.

 

Josh heard familiar footsteps, and a smile flourished on his lips as he turned over to glance at the stairs. Tyler strode down them, peeling on dark leather gloves, and letting them hang on his fingers oddly.

Something looked wrong, and Tyler didn’t even stop to say ‘hello’. So with a quick glance and a speedy, ‘Just excuse me a sec’, to surrounding and waiting customers, Josh rushed after Tyler- who had swiftly ducked away into a back hall.

 

With quickening footfalls, Josh followed Tyler with a furrowed brow, and eyes that stubbornly stayed on the younger man.

 

In a split second, Tyler made a sharp right, pushing through a door.

With a sharp breath, Josh lurched forwards and shoved past, just in case Tyler tried to lock him out, but the younger man seemed to have no intention to do so.

 

Instead, he'd inadvertently led Josh into the bathroom, and he was stood in front of a mirror, pulling off sticky gloves with a lightly wrinkled nose.

With a cocked head and wide eyes, Josh side-stepped towards him, eyes flitting from Tyler's face to his, now bare hands- running under streams of water in a sink, before he gave a sudden gasp in shock.

 

Blood. Blood everywhere.

 

Under Tyler's nails, clotting and going sable. Staining his skin with tinges of pale, blush red. Smeared in streaks all over palms, backs and long fingers. Soaking the insides of his gloves, making them sticky and heavy. Josh couldn't believe his eyes. He knew Tyler's work was admittedly a little... illicit, but- but, blood? That was too much, that was-

 

"Tyler," Josh cringed at his own weak, rough voice, before he glared firmly, hand twitching with the urge to push his shoulder to make the man face him. But he kept it still and steady, the sight of the blood was admittedly changing his perception on Tyler a little.

He loved Tyler, that was no secret, and he trusted him too...And he knew that, for whatever reason there was blood on Tyler's hands- it had to be justified. It just had to be.

 

"Tyler," His voice was steadier now, and Josh's heart jolted with a spark of pride at his own firm tone. He sounded a little like his dad, that firm, commanding tone that coaxed information and demanded respect. "What happened?"

 

No response, and fear ate Josh's thundering heart alive.

 

No longer fighting his urge, Josh pushed Tyler's shoulder back, glaring at the younger man in the eye, but not without a glance down at the crimson streaked sink. Shit, blood stains were hard to-

 

"There was a problem. And now there isn't."

 

Josh's blood went cold at the blank, apathetic tone. It didn't sound like Tyler, not at all. His eyes froze on tawny browns again, before he hardly held back a shudder, and kept pressing. " W-What, problem ? And- and what even happened to the problem?"

 

Tyler said nothing again, and Josh instantly knew why, eyes widening softly with a quiet sigh of realization.

 

Tyler kept the dark side of running a speakeasy to himself, he never shared it with Josh, never troubled his mind with the mafia, or rivals, or bootleggers. And while Josh appreciated it sometimes, as he was pretty sure he really wasn't cut out for that kind of scene...at others, it scared him.

It scared him when Tyler came back home with bruises, dark eyes, or bloody lips. It scared him when Tyler gave suspicious-looking people knowing nods and glances on the street. It scared him when Tyler came back from a day of work with bloody hands.

 

But Josh knew not to press him by now.

 

So, without another word, he stepped backwards with shaky, uneven footfalls. With one last, almost disappointed, shake of his head, Josh turned fully. He finally stalked out of room, but he gave himself the small pleasure of letting the door slam behind him.

 

Josh moved back to the bar with a face like thunder, roughly polishing a few streaked glasses that, while already washed, still hadn't been polished.

Josh understood that it was for the best that Tyler keep things secret, but fuck, if it didn't piss him off. Josh was a man too. Josh was strong too. Josh had survived a war too…But no, Tyler insisted on treating him like a child. Tyler just insisted on keeping him in the dark, and endangering himself, because he was too damn stubborn to-

 

"How much?"

 

A man with a folded trilby perched on his dark hair approached, nodding at a bottle of smirnoff at Josh's side.

Josh only stared, eyes blank as the rage sparking his stomach refused to let a smile flourish.

 

"Three clams."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Josh had almost been asleep, fully resigning himself to a night of being alone, when a hand had ran through his hair, and a mouth had hovered down over his ear.

 

"It was one of Ross's fellas. I had to do it."

 

Josh said nothing and kept his eyes shut coolly as he felt the mattress dip beside him.

 

He idly wondered if it was odd they slept together.

 

They'd picked up the particular habit over years of sleeping in a tent together, and when they'd finally come back home, and had just about re-installed themselves into everyday life, sleeping in the same bed had seemed like a totally natural progression.

There was nothing...between them, they were both men after all. And besides, Josh loved Tyler, but it was in a brotherly way. Nothing more, nothing less.

And besides, he wasn't even sure if Tyler felt the same, to be honest, but he knew the younger man at least cared for him too.

 

Tyler said nothing either, and silence descended over the house again. Josh felt the siren call of sleep lapping at his mind, almost completely washing over him, when a soft, quiet voice that fell on almost deaf ears cut between them.

 

"I love you."

 

Josh didn’t understand the gravity of the words in his sleepy stupor, and only mumbled back, cheek squished against his pillow as his right hand splayed out against the mattress, subconsciously chasing warmth.

 

"I love you too, Tyler."

 

Tyler was hiding something, and Josh could feel it.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

"Are you fuckin' serious? Who did this to you- no- who did this?"

 

Dallon glanced up from the staring contest he was having with his brogues to furrow his brow at the steps. Ryan stormed down the stairs with a face like thunder, stalking into empty speakeasy whilst he dragged a-

 

"Holy shit- what the hell-?" Jon's eyes were wide as he leaned his palms on the bar's surface, body bracketing forwards as his jaw slacked a little.

 

"Joseph- that fucking psycho."

 

Ryan's answer was only a harsh mumble as he dragged the beaten and bloody worker to a bar stool, propping him down. With a squinted, critical glare, Ryan grabbed the man's jaw, inspecting his face as his fingers dug into blood streaked skin.

The kid's face was a pulp, eyes puffy and dark, teeth missing, ear sliced- a mess. A total mess. Spencer rushed over with a few rags and a first aid kit; He'd been a field doctor, a damn good one too- and he always seemed to stand to attention at the sight of blood.

 

A laugh rang out across the room, travelling and ricocheting off of the billowing red curtains that slung across the ceiling and walls. Most heads turned, Dallon's included and Spencer's excluded, to see Brendon- waltzing into the room with a placid grin, chocolate eyes locked onto the bloody worker.

"Lucas- holy- what the fuck is going on?" Brendon's words were laced with breathless laughter as the man practically doubled over as he fell onto a brown leather couch next to Dallon.

 

Ryan's hickory eyes were narrowed and fuelled with petrol as Lucas whimpered in pain, "It's not funny, Brendon."

Brendon said nothing, but his face remained split into an open, chortling grin and his eyes remained squinted as his face turned crimson. After watching Brendon shake and cry with silent laughter, Dallon glanced at Spencer with furrowed brows, all comforting whispered words and quick, deft hands as he treated the practically deformed man.

 

"What happened?"

 

Kenny, out of the loop as ever, popped his head out from behind the bar's corner, pacing into the hub of activity. His jaw dropped almost instantly at Lucas, brow furrowing as he helplessly pointed to the man, then to Ryan, as he made small noises of shocked confusion.

 

"He got beat up Kenny."

 

"Well, no shit, Jon."

 

Before a spat broke out, Dallon decided to step in with the most pressing question, the elephant in the room, as it were.

 

"Lucas, what happened to you?"

 

The kid panted heavily for a moment, small, croaking whimpers escaping him through the hot streams cascading from his cornflower eyes.

 

"J-Joseph, J-Joseph- I-I-I t-tracked down t-the Jenever, f-first, a-and-"

 

"And that pill beat you up for it."

 

With a breathy, pained gasp at the rubbing alcohol being dabbed across his cheekbone, Lucas nodded shakily, eyes finding the slate floor.

 

"...Did he take the Jenever too?"

 

Hunched shoulders and sheepish eyes, Lucas nodded. Ryan visibly shuddered with a stifled sigh, spine quaking as his hands balled into white-knuckled fists. "That goddamn-" Ryan cut his own words off with a heavy sigh, eyes narrowing as he chewed on his lip, squinting his gaze up at a light fixture.

 

Dallon glanced between his friends awkwardly; Brendon was still giggling, Spencer was still working, Jon was still slack-jawed, Ryan was still cursing under his breath, and Kenny was still confused. Dallon wasn't confused, or shocked, or even horrified.

He'd met Joseph before, and from once glance at the kid, it was obvious something was wrong with him. Dallon was more of a publicity guy than Ryan was. Ryan dealt with the shady, illegal side of things, while Dallon found customers, while being careful not to invite a not-so-obvious cop down to 'Camisado' in bustling Chicago.

So, seeing as he spent most of his days trailing from place to place finding customers, and gathering intel on rivals, he saw a lot of their competitors.

 

Dallon had met the infamous Pete Wentz; Dark hair, dark eyes, and a dark smile. The fella was talented, Dallon could give him that. He could bargain hundreds off of a given price, even to the scariest faces and names in all of the state. Those cheap prices, coupled with a natural, inborn charisma, really gave ol' Cooperstown the edge. It also didn't hurt that he'd bagged Andy Hurley- best bartender in the country, complete offense Jon, and Joe Trohman, a man that could run a dynasty company on a shoestring budget.

 

Frank Iero, that was another big fish in the speakeasy business pond. More respected in Jersey, but he did a good job of keeping himself clean to the cops, while living up to the 'Iero' name. He had a reputation for snapping, and losing his temper occasionally, and there was an infamous urban legend about a body buried in the foundation of House of Wolves, but Dallon wasn't sure if he believed that little tidbit.

Iero was smart, and his actions were somewhat collected. Besides, Ray Toro, second-hand man, usually cleaned up his fuck-ups and kept him on a good strong leash.

 

Tyler Joseph however. Nobody kept Tyler Joseph on a leash. He was totally alone in his actions, no workers under him, no small, trained gang, or little birds that sat around the city like Ryan had. Nobody at all- well, unless you counted that smiley kid that tended the bar. Josh, Josh Dun- that kid was nice enough. Joseph though. God, something in those gaunt cheeks and gormless, blank eyes scared Dallon half to death. That kid had seen something, or-or had done something, that had completely destroyed him. That was the only explanation for those...eyes.

And here was yet more proof of the fact that there was something wrong with Joseph- a beaten and bloody kid, who'd had his supply stolen after weeks of work.

 

"I'm gonna get that psycho. Joseph's gonna get what's coming to him."

 

"Ryan-" Jon's voice was splitting and sudden, but before his thought could reach its fruition, Spencer stepped in with a nod. "It's too risky- I mean, d'you want a war?"

 

"Joseph started it." Ryan's voice was low, but deathly serious in a way that made skin prickle with goosebumps.

 

"And there is no way he's getting away with it."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brendon had a perpetual grin on his face, it was odd, really. Even at the bleakest, darkest times, there was always a giggle, a beam, or even a full-blown laugh. Dallon could never judge, or figure out what was swimming in those eyes- because, even when there was a grin on his mouth, something was...up.

Dallon didn't know what, but sometimes, just sometimes, Brendon would 'zone out', as it were. And as Dallon glanced around at the brunette, leaning against a hallway wall, arms and legs crossed and brow furrowed- but eyes blank, Dallon knew Brendon had zoned out.

 

Brendon had seen some stuff in the past, awful stuff, sure. And Dallon knew zoning out at times was a natural thing, but seeing Brendon's face so gaunt was unnerving, to say the least.

With one last stare at Brendon, Dallon moved back down to his glass-polishing duties. Dallon considered himself to be a pretty good barback. He kept stuff clean and tidy so that Jon could flit around from place to place, fixing drinks with practically perfect precision- and a bored stare, but hey, that was Jon.

 

Scarred hands worked a clean rag into a water splattered glass, and Dallon let his mind wander back to the place it always, without fail, went.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apple red poppies, and tall, flaxen grass that came up to your waist. The smell was sweet and rich, and along with mocha soil, Dallon felt at peace.

The skies were so blue that the sight practically drowned out the distant gunfire, and the burning pain in his thigh.

The strands drifted above him, and he could feel them writhe beneath him, brushing his ears, cheeks and nose as his thigh ached with warmth.

Dallon kept his eyes open, despite the drowsy feeling that washed over him, begging for sleep. He was so tired, and this place was so...angelic, he just wanted to sleep, to dream, to fade away to a better place.

The daisy white clouds were so beautiful, and soft, like candy floss, or cotton against the sky. And then, disturbing his peace, Dallon's head turned automatically at a distant yell, his brow raised and his eyes lidded as the shouts kept coming.

 

He felt the grass at his feet disturb, and his nose wrinkled at the further disruption of peace. It had been so tranquil, but, now it was all ruined. All tainted and smeared with-

 

Dallon's eyes blinded with a glint of metal, white and bright as it flashed his eyes. When his vision adjusted, he saw a man stood above him; Dressed in dark, anchor grey, lined with garnet. Light hair, light eyes, light skin- and a high, panicked voice, trembling all over as the harsh, hard tongue flowed from his mouth.

 

And then, he was gone as quickly as he'd came.

 

Another figure, only a blur to Dallon's dazed eyes, tackled the light man by the waist, shoving him to the side with a muffled yell. A bang rang in his ears. The gun- was it-?

 

Brendon.

 

Brendon fell next to him, lying on his side, panting in his ear. Dallon's neck spiked as he turned, cheek pressing against sharp strands of grass and flattened poppies. Chocolate eyes were wide, something frantic settling into them as rough hands scrabbled over a bleeding stomach. Dallon couldn't speak. His eyes only locked onto the gouge as he moved a pale hand over Brendon's, pressing down on the wound as he glanced up to dark eyes.

Brendon's breathing calmed, and he shifted his head down, forehead leaning against Dallon's as his breathing got slower. Dallon's heart wanted to thunder, it wanted to beat like a drum against his ribs, but...but he was so tired.

Instead, he rubbed his forehead with Brendon's, nose tips almost touching as his fingers curled around Brendon's trembling hand.

They were both dying. And they both knew it. Might as well die with a friend, right?

 

Noses millimetres apart, Dallon's eyes crossed as he glanced at Brendon; The younger man's eyes were closed, white peeking out from under dark eyelashes. Dallon didn't want Brendon to die first. He couldn't bear it.

 

"Brendon."

 

It hurt to speak. It felt like metal strings dragging on sandpaper. Dallon's mouth filled with something sour, and something irony. Blood and bile, he supposed. With eyes clamping shut for a second, Dallon swallowed, before forcing himself to form words again, before-

 

"Dallon- I-"

 

Brendon's voice sounded as rough as Dallon's felt, and his face shifted up, sniffling nose tip touching Dallon's as he panted through plump, parted lips. Lips that were now mere atoms away. Dallon's mind idly drifted over thoughts of his girlfriend, waiting for him at home; The woman he was gonna marry, the woman he'd have kids with. But, despite her...here he was. Not even inches apart from Brendon.

The younger man sighed for a second, and the warmth of his breath, which carried that familiar irony scent, washed over his own mouth.

Dallon's head tilted against the soil, edging impossibly closer. Only electrons separated them now. Fuck, they were gonna die anyway, right? It didn't really matter anymore- it was just-

 

 

"Over here! There's two over here!

 

 

With the last remnants of strength in failing bodies, hands, lips and eyes moved away from each other, putting as much distance between them possible, before a field doctor and a scout practically jumped on them both; Hands scrabbled over wounds, the sounds of clicking cases, ripping fabric and squishy, blood-flooded tears filled the once peaceful air, and Dallon let his eyes close.

 

Maybe he wasn't going to die after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"You good, Dal?"

 

Dallon's eyes blinked quickly in a stuttered interruption, and his head flicked up towards his side, as the colours of the present faded in. Red, brown, black, white- paired with the sound of smooth jazz, live of course, all blurring back to reality as the memory ended briefly.

He hadn't recognized the voice at first, but his brain had quickly registered it as Jon; Jon stared at him with raised eyebrows, head tilted awkwardly as he poured another glass of Famous Grouse.

 

Dallon had always wondered what Brendon had meant to do in that poppy field.

 

"Yeah Jon, everything's jack."

 

Jon nodded instantly, head moving down towards the glass as he slipped it over to a fiery-looking woman, red all over- from her hair, to her lips, to her gloves.

 

A stare was burning into him, constant, steady and intense. Dallon had gotten pretty good at feeling stares over years of fighting shadowed enemies. Maybe the Huns had been smarter after all- dark uniforms to hide in dark shadows.

With a softened brow, his head shot up, eyes narrowed in a quick glower at where the stare was coming from.

 

A corner, shadowy and near the back hall. Where Brendon had been actually, before Dallon had zoned out for a moment.

 

But, there was nobody there anymore. Brendon was gone, leaving a dark corner behind. Dallon's brow furrowed, and his lips twisted into a slight, pouted frown as his gaze moved back down to his, now very clean glass. He cast that one aside, and fetched another dirty one, setting to his deft work as long, nimble fingers dragged fabric into crystal corners and clear crinkles.

 

 

The stare was still there.

 

 

Maybe this place was haunted or something.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Navy pier was a pretty impressive place; A long strip of yellow-tan brick floor, brick red columns that ran across the entire expanse, and all the bottom halves were finished off with porcelain white paint. And at the foot of the distance was a huge, red, white-trimmed building, that served as a station for incoming and outgoing boats and ships.

The pier almost looked as though it were floating on the teal waves. The whole thing was lined with sable, wrought iron and chained fences, and the docks themselves were highlighted with brightly coloured, or just plain wooden, seafaring vessels from all over the country.

 

A few months ago, it would've been packed to the brim with families; Moms in beautiful dresses and sun hats, men in crisp suits and holding cigars, kids stuffing their cheeks with sweets and running around as giggles, music and the smell of saltwater, along with general human bustling, filled the air.

 

But now, the sounds of waves were instead drowned out by children crying, being bounced and comforted through illness and injury by their parents. Women pleading and praying as they paced yellowy brick, holding red-nosed babies or snot-nosed infants. Men holding signs written in broken English, pleading for jobs, for money, for help. Elderly couples, or elderly widows and widowers, looking forlorn and tired of life.

No more families enjoying sunny days, just the bottom of the barrel of pure human misery.

 

It was pretty hard to look at, but Pete was a tough guy; He could deal with seeing a few amputees, seeing some melted and disfigured faces, and he could totally deal with toddlers tugging on his pant legs as he shuffled past them.

 

Pete was here for a specific reason; He had to find someone that spoke enough English to work with them properly, but one that spoke little enough to not understand that paying someone six dollars a week for doing two jobs- is illegal.

It wouldn't do if Pete hired some doctor with a masters degree that spoke seven languages fluently. A guy like that couldn't be held off on a few petty dollars and a dusty room in the back of the speakeasy.

 

No, he needed a young one. A naive one. But one that was still quick and smart. He didn't want to stick Andy with a slow-moving idiot after all. The idea was that whatever piece of Eurotrash he dragged home, would actually help Andy- not slow him down.

 

Hands swiftly shoving into pockets, Pete bounced up on his toes, leaning around in different directions to surf his eyes through the crowds.

 

He watched a gaggle of women for a moment; Heads wrapped in headscarves that kept filthy, thin, wind ruffled hair hidden. Most of them bounced infants in their arms, but some had children or toddlers hanging off of their skirts, crying and red faced as their mothers struggled to pay them attention.

Pete squinted, mouth pressing into a tight line.

A man would be ideal, women usually came with babies- and a speakeasy wasn't a great place to raise one of those.

 

With a few more steps along corn brick, and Pete found another, albeit much louder, group.

Men, all ages, from teenagers to fellas on death's doorstep. There were pointing, accusing fingers, furrowed brows, narrowed eyes, and soon enough, it all began escalating into screaming and shouting. It climaxed with punches and kicks, and a grimace settled on Pete's face as one of the younger, redheaded fellas took a right hook to the eye, falling to the ground with a yell and an obvious, language-crossing curse.

 

Okay, so, men weren't a safe bet either. They could be too childish and weak, or they could be too confrontational and just, angry, at life in general.

 

Pete's mouth formed a twisted pout as he kept walking, brow furrowed as he kept scanning for someone decent-looking.

He just needed a strong-silent type, ideally a man, ideally calm. Pete passed a fella that was berating a woman holding a white-haired, red-blotched toddler. She was probably his wife, from the rings on their fingers, and from their obvious familiarity with each other. As his rant ended, she hissed back, slapping him across the face with a loud, audible smack. There were jeers and laughs from others in the crowd, and the man’s eyes narrowed, and in a moment, another slap rang out, only, across the woman’s face this time.

The infant’s cry rang out as his parents started screaming at each other again, and Pete winced.

 

Finding someone was easier said than done apparently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He'd reached the end of the pier without finding a soul that fit his requirements, and Pete was about to just grab some random guy and pull him away, English skills or temper be damned.

 

Pete's hands wrapped around a cold, iron fence loop, and he leaned back on his heels, arms tensing to keep him standing.

As he leaned back, his gaze drifted over the peacock blue sea; It was still pretty, despite the miserable sounds pushing into his ears like uninvited guests.

A grimace crossed Pete's face. Maybe Harvey had been right about his obvious dislike for these immigrants; They were loud, filthy, and came in swarms, like the locusts that ate Egypt alive.

 

But still, it was cheap labour, and even though Cooperstown was successful, cheap labour never hurt- especially when you had to shell out on heaps of very expensive, illegal booze. And besides, Pete was a stickler for the rare and expensive; He’d recently tracked down a bottle of platinum Pasión Azteca- the best tequila in the world, rarer than red diamonds. While Pete had been immeasurably proud of himself, that had cost a definite bomb, and Joe hadn’t been too ecstatic.

 

With a final resigned sigh, Pete pulled himself onto steady soles, let go of the railing, and turned, sweeping his head along the huge crimson, white featured building that served as a station. He looked over and through the swarms and gaggles of people, and just as he'd practically given up, and had accepted that he'd be scouring through angry men, whimpering women and crying children all day- he saw it.

 

Or rather, him.

 

A figure, looked kinda skinny, but the thick grey wool, full-length and oversized overcoat slung over his shoulders made him look like a kid who'd stolen dad's coat.

He was wearing a newsboy cap, dark brown and ratty.

The figure's hands looked pale as paper, as their pink cold-blushed fingers gripped around the folded handle of a mahogany coloured leather briefcase; It was a solid box, dusty and topped with rusted, metal clamps. The bag hung down over the figures knees, whose legs were clad in black pants, that were patched and stitched with dark blue fabric at the left thigh, obvious and alarming against the original anchor grey fabric. A bona fide quick fix if Pete had ever seen one.

 

The figure had been facing the sea at first, but had slowly turned to unknowingly give Pete a side view. Skinny, definitely, just as Pete had assumed. Bony knuckles, sharp jaw, and knees that were prominent, even under baggy fabric.

And his face, it already was so perfect and Pete had only seen the side of it.

 

Truth be told, Pete wasn’t a very average guy. Sure, there was the veteran, speakeasy worker, thing, but he was...different in other ways too. He liked women, of course he did- just like any other red-blooded male. But then, there came the hitch- Pete liked the males too. Joe and Andy didn’t judge him for it, they’d been curious at first- and then worried, but Pete was quick to assure them that they weren’t his ‘type’. Andy had been relieved, and Joe had mock-sobbed over his shoulders, reeling off pleads of marriage- at which the other two had almost broken their ribs from laughing at.

 

But this fella- the pale man stood a few meters away...now that was Pete’s type, through and through.

 

A perfectly sloped forehead, ending in a slight bump as it reached light, fair eyebrows.

An upturned nose with an outwards curved bridge- something Pete had never seen before, but was definitely a fan of.

Level, soft, plump rouge-coloured lips and a round, upturned chin, skin all pale and flawless as the curved line of his chin led into a shadowed jawbone.

And as Pete's eyes drifted upwards a little, he realized he'd missed the goddamn main event; The man's eyes, oh god, they were so clear and blue. But, blue tinged with something else, and goddamn, if Pete didn't want to find out with what.

 

The still image was disrupted as the man scratched at his neck, taking a rose petal lip between his teeth as he chewed, brow furrowing lightly.

Pete snapped to his senses as his muse moved, and- shit, he'd kinda been staring at the fella like some art critic gawking at the Mona Lisa.

Now, the guy was... interesting, definitely very interesting. Pete was about to march over and offer him a job, but, a small part of Pete was unconvinced.

 

What if the guy was a-

 

No, no- there was no chance. There was no way.

 

The swamps of immigrants came from all over Europe, but most came from small, poor countries that had been properly fucked over by soldiers and treaties bestowed upon them by empires.

There were Poles, Irish, and some sharp-tongued people that Pete couldn't pinpoint.

Those people from the big dogs however, especially those from the winners, hadn't left their nations. Indeed, if you looked around at the crowds there weren't many Russians, Brits, or, God forbid- Germans.

 

So, this fella. He was probably from the east or something, right? Some baltic fella trying to escape the ‘Tsar’ whole fiasco going on in Russia, right?

 

That's what Pete kept telling himself as he stepped towards the pale stranger.

 

With hands in his pockets, shoulders hunched and eyes wide as he tried to give off an air of friendliness and calmness, he chased the man's blank gaze.

 

"Uh- Excuse me?"

 

With a jolt of surprise, the man's whole body turned towards Pete in an instant.

Pale nails fidgeted and raked the leather handle of his old briefcase, and light blues were wide as they raked over Pete awkwardly, fair eyelashes that burned with red as the light caught them hiding the iris colour periodically.

 

"Oh- uh, uh…" The man's gaped mouth twitched, and his eyelids flinched as his posture curved into a hunch. His mind seemed to be working at a hundred miles per hour as he tried a few, janky words. "H-Hello, wha-"

The man's white teeth clenched, and his whole face twisted into a grimace. Pete’s eyes flicked down to notice the fella’s left leg was bouncing with quick thuds against the brick floor. A nervous habit, perhaps.

 

"I uh- well, I was just wondering if you needed a job?"

 

Might as well just dive in, something about the fella felt right to Pete.

 

And that wasn’t just his dick talking, really- it wasn’t.

 

Blue eyes widened and teeth disappeared as a gaping mouth almost shut with a clatter. Open lip corners twitched upwards as he nodded eagerly, a few strands of light, fair blonde-looking hair, escaping from the corners of the cap.

 

Pete couldn't hold back a small grin at the enthusiasm, and huffed a little as he dove into a few short questions, eyes still fixed on the man's.

 

"So, what's your name?"

 

A small, unsure blink came first. Then, a shy glance over at the red building and crowds followed. And finally, a quiet voice spoke out.

 

"Patrick."

 

Patrick. That sounded right somehow. Pete was sure a name had never fit a face so well.

 

"Okay. Patrick." Pete nodded assuredly, trying out the word on his tongue. He liked how it felt. His mind recorded the name in permanent, dark ink, tattooing it onto his brain. The placid expression painting Pete’s face coaxed a tight smile from Patrick, and Pete’s heart fluttered at the way the soft mouth moved and shifted.

Eels were writhing in his stomach as Pete prepared himself for the next question- the question he was completely dreading.

 

"Where are you from?"

 

The man gulped awkwardly, and the creatures in Pete's stomach only got sloppier and angrier as they began thrashing around, trying to climb up to freedom through his mouth. His heart joined in with the raucous symphony, thundering and thrashing in panic as Patrick's eyes averted their gaze from him, preferring to look down at yellowed brick instead.

 

 

"...Germany."

 

 

And everything inside Pete came crashing down.

His bones toppled weakly against their sockets, almost refusing to keep him straight and upright as his whole posture sunk. A heavy, tungsten weight pressed down in his stomach, along with the weak bones.

Pete's mouth released an involuntary sigh, that almost made Pete himself wince at the heavy disappointment and resentment that laced the noise.

Patrick shirked, eyes squinting to a close as fingernails grew desperate over leather.

 

Pete let his mind clear for a moment, and he looked the German over. Head to toe.

 

Okay, Pete was the bigger man here. He was the one in control, he was the one who could determine this fella's whole life. Pete had to use this Hun, he had to use him for his own devices. Besides, he was pretty to look at, maybe Pete could get something more...enjoyable out of him after all. And anyway, it wasn't like he'd be sat on a golden, jewelled throne at Cooperstown. He'd be worked so hard that pretty blushed fingers would fall away into rough, splintered and greying bone. So, despite the face, despite the skin, the hair, the eyes, the lips-

 

This fella wasn't getting away with being a German.

 

"Alright, so, you want a job? Or are you just gonna keep gaping at the bricks?"

 

Patrick jumped a little, both at the volume of the voice, and at the obvious shift in tone. But, as his shoulders drooped again, and he gave a little nod, cap firmly stuck in place, it was obvious he was used to the sudden change.

 

"Good. Follow me." With one last aloof nod at Patrick, all topped off with cool, brown eyes, Pete started away down the pier. He heard unevenly paced footsteps behind him. Sudden quick, hard spurts which then flowed into long, soft and quiet pads. The awkward footfalls were becoming very grating, very quickly, and at the middle of the pier, Pete turned with a furrowed brow and a scowling mouth.

 

Patrick was pushing his way through a crowd, words of apology paired along with hunched shoulders and a drooped head to every Tom, Dick and Harry he shoved past. Pete couldn't help but roll his eyes as the German finally tottered towards him, smiling weakly with queasy eyes.

Pete blinked, face falling completely blank as he gave a heavy sigh, and turned with one, final eye roll.

 

"Just- keep up. And try not to get lost."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"So uh, keep the dutch to a minimum, okay?"

 

Patrick blinked with a furrowed brow, head tilting a little as he paced after Pete- who was stalking towards Folie's with a bad attitude. "Do- Do you mean 'Deutsch'?"

Pete bristled at the language that flowed off of Patrick's tongue, but he shrugged irritably, eyes rolling for the hundredth time. "Dutch, Deutsch- Eurotrash, s’all the same. You're all just-"

 

"Afternoon Pete- say hello Leon, June."

 

"Afternoon Mr. Wentz!"

"Good afternoon sir!"

 

Pete's face split into a grin at the two small kids, whose noses peeked up over the counter. Dark hands struggled over the border as the children tried to lean up, bouncing on their toes as two pairs of wide, umber eyes quickly found the newcomer.

 

"Who's that? "

 

"Leon, manners."

 

"Sorry, ma."

 

Pete huffed a chuckle, glancing back at Patrick. The German’s eyes were wide, his mouth hung open, and he was even paler than Pete had even thought possible.

Brow furrowing quickly, Pete squinted at Patrick, before looking back at Ida and her brood; Leon, spirited kid who always rambled on about being a soldier. Poor kid, born a couple of years late, and if he only knew.

June, sweet and the kindest, politest kid Pete had ever met. He didn't even know it was possible for a kid that young to be so well-trained. Well, maybe 'well-trained' wasn't...right.

And the third of Ida's kids, the youngest, bouncing boy- James. The boy was usually in her arms, and he never cried, rain or shine.

They were all spitting images of their mom, with little to no hint of their dad, but, regardless, they had the good spirits of both their parents to match, but by Patrick's face...Damn, by Patrick's face, you'd think he'd seen a ghost.

 

"This is the new barback- Patrick."

 

Ida grinned a sweet smile, and along with the bright, interested eyes of the kids, Patrick was only looking more and more disturbed, yet intrigued, as each second passed.

 

"It's great to meet you Patrick, I'm Ida." The woman extended a hand, and Patrick's eyes shot impossibly wider. Hiding a grimace, the pale man took Ida's hand, shaking with an awkward, open smile, a furrowed brow, and wide eyes, before retracting his hand, and staring down into the palm and across the fingers with searching flicks of his eyes.

 

Ida raised a brow, glancing over at Pete, who had just about gauged the situation. "He's ah- he's German."

 

The woman's eyes widened in both shock and realization, and she nodded curiously as both June and Leon clambered over the counter, wood cutting into the fabric just below their navels as they stared with wide, impressed eyes.

 

"A German? "

"Whoa, I ain't never seen one of those before."

 

"Leon, June- be polite." Ida's voice was hard and stern, and both kids shirked off of the counter and gave silent sighs, along with two chimes of- 'Yes ma'.

Pete’s grin shifted under his skin as he shook his head lightly, eyes fluttering shut for a split second.

 

"Well, I gotta get him to work. See ya kids."

 

"Bye Mr. Wentz!"

 

"Bye sir!"

 

"You know the drill, Pete."

 

With a smile and a nod, Pete glanced back at Patrick as Ida moved to the back room.

Pete’s face fell instantly at the confused, and slightly alarmed, blue eyes. He fisted a tanned hand into Patrick's wool lapel, dragging him over to the back room as Ida led them through.

 

As Ida completed the short ritual of opening the passage (although, it did take a little longer due to the baby propped against her hip), Patrick had been staring with wide eyes the whole time. His head bobbed backwards and forwards, eyes squinting as though he couldn't believe them.

 

"W-Were you- ver- Scheiße- verbrannt? V-Verbrannt?"

 

All parties turned to furrow their brows in confusion, tilting their heads at Patrick's half-foreign words. The blonde clenched his teeth, gesturing in hopeless motions with his hands. "Verbrannt? No? Uh, Asche, oder?"

 

Pete shrugged with a roll of his eyes; The language truly got under his skin. But Ida only tilted her head with a nod, and a slow spreading, knowing smile. She spoke with a sweet laugh lacing her words, "No, sweetheart." Patrick's eyes only widened even more, but he nodded quickly, mouth corners turning upwards in something that looked akin to relief.

Pete furrowed his brow at the German, before glancing over at Ida. "What did he-?"

 

"Good luck in there boys." With a broad, eye-squinted smile, Ida waltzed out of the back room as she bounced her giggling son.

 

"Tschüss Fräulein!" Patrick's voice was light and happy.

 

Too light and happy.

 

Pete grabbed him by the scruff of the collar again, dragging him down the stairs with a face set in stone.

"Right-" Pete glanced over his shoulder to glare at Patrick, who grunted and whined at every harsh tug at his coat. "What part of 'keep the 'dutch' shit to a minimum', did you not understand?"

"Es tut mir- S-Sorry, I am sorry."

 

"Goddamn right you're 'sorry'."

 

Patrick said nothing, but his head lowered as they finally hit wooden slats instead of stone stairs.

In an instant, Andy's head peeked up from over the bar surface, and he quickly stood, ushering himself into full view. His head tilted a little, and his eyes flitted from Pete, to Patrick, promptly continuing the back and forth.

To end the confused glances, furrowed brow and quirked head, Pete stepped forwards, dropping Patrick at the barstools before moving to find Joe in the back rooms, but not without a mutter of explanation.

 

"Here's your busser, feed it once a day."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Here- it's okay, you don't have to-"

 

"Andy." Pete leaned on the bar surface with lidded, almost rolling eyes. He rubbed his temples as he watched Andy begrudgingly leave Patrick with the task of cleaning tables.

As the blonde jittered away with damp rags in his hand, Andy turned to furrow his brow and shake his head at Pete- who just looked indignant in response, brow furrowing, nose wrinkling and mouth opening.

 

"Oh, don't give me that look- You brought one guy, to do two jobs."

 

Pete rolled his eyes then, finally disregarding any sense of politeness he'd still retained. "He can do it, it's fine-"

 

"I, for one, don't see him- or any of 'em, as cheap labour, Pete." Andy looked legitimately angry, and Pete was admittedly taken aback; Andy Hurley was the calmest human being on planet Earth, and to make him mad, well…it was hard work, but Pete had seemed to have managed just fine.

 

"He's a human being- that we're gonna overwork and underpay, just 'cause-"

 

"He's just a Fritz, Andy." Pete gave a breathy chuckle with a shake of his head, before Harvey, the old regular, voiced the very words that were about to ring out from Pete’s own tongue.

 

 

"They're barely human."

 

 

The old man chewed on something invisible, before speaking through a gulp of his Mary Pickford. "You've seen the news, you've read the stories. Hanging men of God from bell towers, killing babies- one of 'em even shot ninety of our boys, all while he was cowering up in some window like a coward."

Harvey turned to Pete, waggling his cigarette and spreading smoke all across his face, making the younger man stifle a cough.

 

"I was surprised by you, Pete. When I saw you'd hired one of…" The old man's lip curled and, with aloof, yet judging eyes, he glanced over at Patrick- who was wiping a wooden table down with care, all while being jeered at by a group of 'raucous' friends that sat at a booth. Patrick only looked confused.

 

"...those." Harvey turned back to Pete, shaking his head a little. "Well, at least you're working 'im to the bone- that's all what they deserve, after all the trouble they've caused."

 

Andy's face was set in stone, and he seemed to be holding back a tidal wave of ranting, or a right hook, as he looked away from Harvey and glanced over at Pete with a cocked head, a curled lip, and squinted eyes.

 

"And, you agree with that, Pete?"

 

Pete knew Andy was mad- that passive aggressive tone, along with the irritated glint in his eyes was indication enough. Regardless, Pete had his own set of morals and beliefs, and yes- he did agree with Harvey, as a matter of fact.

With a relaxed smile, Pete leaned forwards on his forearms, tilting his head with crinkled eyes.

 

"Yes I do, Andy."

 

Andy gave him a sweet smile, and Pete instantly knew he'd fucked up.

 

"Patrick, c'mere a sec!"

 

The German's head perked up, and he tilted it, eyes squinting as he seemingly tried to process the words.

Andy only smiled kindly, gesturing with his hand and nodding reassuringly. "C'mere, I gotta talk to you for a sec."

 

Patrick blinked. Slowly, and almost robotically, he straightened up, before stepping over behind the bar with quick blinks and hunched shoulders, along with a face scrunched up in mild caution.

 

"Idiots."

 

Harvey's mumble was tiny, but noticeable, and Andy had to visibly hold back a furious retaliation. Instead, the bearded man clapped an amicable hand on Patrick's shoulder for a moment, before turning towards the- oh Hell no.

 

"Andy- what are you-?"

 

But Andy had already pressed a shot of Pasión Azteca- or, the rarest and most expensive tequila ever made, that had taken Pete close to a whole year to track down, into Patrick's hand. The blonde's wide eyes blinked, and he glanced between Pete- who's face and general posture screamed 'No', and 'Don't you dare', and Andy, who simply smiled and nodded with a happy chirp. "Go ahead, everyone gets one when they start."

 

Patrick nodded slowly, before a slow smile spread onto his face, and with one, almost invisible, glance at Pete, Patrick spoke old, ancestral words as he raised the glass, both to Andy and to himself. "Prost."

 

Andy nodded with a smile, and Patrick tipped the shot back in a second. Pete made a pained, strangled noise at the sight, arm tensing and hand splaying out with the urge to stop him.

As Patrick’s head and the glass lowered again, the German grimaced and shook his head as the alcohol hit him, before giving a long, melodious low whistle and grinning with raised eyebrows.

He nodded at Andy with a grin, and a final jostle of the empty glass."Das ist...etwas."

Pete's jaw was clenched, and his teeth ached as they pressed together. His eyes were narrowed and dark, and his tanned hands were curled into tight fists that made his knuckles pale, and that made his nails leave crescent-moon indents in his palms. He spoke in a tight, rasped and downright furious voice.

 

"Cut it out with the dutch, you goddamn Hun-"

 

"Don't listen to him, Patrick." Andy crossed his arms with a sweet smile and leaned back on the counter, tilting his head at Pete before glancing up at Patrick. "Feel free- I'd like to learn actually."

Patrick's eyes grew watery as he smiled broadly, yet tightly, and nodded deeply, Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed something back. His voice, heavily broken and accented, was shaky as he answered in shattered English, nodding his head and awkwardly averting his tearing eyes as he did so. "Uh- Danke- no, uh- Thank- Thank you, a lot- uh-"

 

 

"Get back to work."

 

 

Pete's growl was almost animalistic, and without even hearing Andy's defence on his behalf, Patrick's gaze fell to the floor as he nodded quickly and shamefully, brow furrowing and shoulders hunching on instinct as he rushed away. His hand was still curled around the clear glass in his palm, and he moved to wipe at it with a damp rag, before-

 

"No, don't clean it."

 

Patrick looked back towards Pete, equally sheepish as confused. Pete let himself have a rueful, smug smile, and he straightened up from the bar, giving Andy a quick, squinted glance, before staring at Patrick with a fake smile.

 

"Throw it out."

 

Patrick blinked rapidly, head only cocking further as his mind whirred with confusion, no doubt wondering if he'd misheard, or misunderstood, in that doubtful way he always seemed to do.

The soft pink mouth parted, gaping for a second with a furrowed brow, before a small squeak of noise escaped him as he tried to begin a few words, before Pete cut him off with deadly swiftness.

 

 

"Nobody wants to drink out of that glass anymore."

 

 

Patrick understood those words. He visibly flinched at them, looking as though his limbs weighed a hundred pounds. Patrick nodded quickly, teeth digging into his lower lip as his watery gaze moved to the tiles.

Harvey nodded deeply, raising an agreeing glass to Pete.

Andy didn't even have time to fix Pete's insult before Patrick had scurried away to throw the shot glass away, out of sight, but not out of mind as Andy turned to his friend with a face like thunder, lightning and a tsunami- the whole damn storm.

 

"You're an asshole, Pete."

 

Pete only grinned, moving away from the bar in one, swift and graceful move, waltzing away to the backrooms.

 

"I know."

 

Chapter Text

               

"Heil dir im Siegerkranz,"

 

Patrick's voice was quiet and low as he said the words. He let a light, stifled tune follow them as he pulled the comforter, splayed over the small, rickety bed, straight and taut.

With wide eyes, Patrick glanced to the far end of the cramped, shoebox of a room, quickly finding the dresser and moving over, all while continuing soft words, but while being extremely careful that they wouldn't travel through the bricked walls.

 

"Herrscher des Vaterlands," A pale hand looped around a wooden handle, and Patrick sighed deeply between the words of his song. "Heil, Kaiser, dir."

 

If he was honest, Patrick was slightly anxious about his decision to come to America; But, he didn’t regret it, not at all. He needed to be here, he needed to find...he couldn't have just stayed in...not without kn-

 

"Fühl in des Thrones Glanz," Patrick's voice suddenly tinged with a note of shakiness as he tugged a clean shirt out of the dresser. "Die hohe Wonne ganz,"

 

Yesterday hadn't been easy. Not in the slightest.

 

His soles were red, hard and achy from darting around from place to place, his legs were tense, and they ached from standing for hours on end.

His nose had been constantly assaulted with the thick smells of debauchery, and the scents had left stains in his nostrils, making sure the offending memories remained even now. The attacking smells were stuck in his hair too- which, admittedly, hadn't been sparkling clean to begin with.

 

Indeed, the last time Patrick had taken a bath...must've been about a month ago now, maybe more, maybe less, everything was a blur to him now.

 

"Liebling des Volks zu sein," Patrick inhaled through parted lips, before sighing out with a puff of his cheeks, eyes rolling up to stare at a sloped, cracked, and draughty ceiling.

 

"Heil Kaiser, dir."

 

Patrick was lucky, he supposed.

 

He'd seen, and had talked to, so, so many of his compatriots back at the dock; So many of them had been stuck there for days, weeks- even months.

Yet Patrick, no, Patrick hadn't had to wait there at all. Just as he'd been resigning himself to a night on the cold bricks, using his briefcase as a pillow, and guarding his valuables from small children with deft, sticky hands- the man had approached him, shoulders hunched and eyes wide.

They were pretty eyes, that was the first thing Patrick thought when he saw them. They were actually the first thing he saw. A nice first impression, honestly.

They reminded him of the caramel slates that covered the roof of his house back in Wernigerode. He liked looking at them, the fact that they reminded him of his childhood home comforted him.

 

"Nicht Roß und Reisige,"

 

The man had liked him at first, or at least, Patrick had assumed he did. The man had smiled a lot at first, and Patrick had caught himself staring at the bunches of lines that gathered at the corners of his eyes. They were adorable, and Patrick had grown very fond of them, in a very short amount of time.

 

"Sichern die steile Höh',"

 

Patrick pulled a pair of pants on, almost toppling to the ground as he wiggled his left foot through the sleeve with clenched teeth and small grunts of the anthem.

 

"Wo Fürsten steh'n:"

 

The man was unlike any man Patrick had ever seen before.

 

"Liebe des Vaterlands,"

 

His skin, for one.

It was dark- not as dark as the lady at the store, now that had truly shocked him.

Patrick had never really left his little town before, it was idyllic, and there was never any reason to. The farthest he'd ever travelled was to Hopfgarten, in Austria- just to visit his mother's family.

 

Pale digits worked to fasten clear buttons, tugging and pulling at wrinkled, daisy white fabric as they did so. His dad would slap him over the head for the wrinkles, if he could see them, but Patrick had left Germany in a rush, and the clothes had been provided by the government as a last smidgen of relief to those who piled onto boats heading for the New World.

 

"Liebe des freien Manns,"

 

Hopfgarten was really beautiful. Shrouded by the snowy alps, lush green hills covered in Erika flowers, and skies as blue as the sapphires on King Wilhelm’s crown.

Patrick had always loved harassing the brown cows with his brother and sister. They'd gotten boxed, red ears for filthy clothes and knees afterwards, but it was always worth it.

Grandma Anja never got angry at them, though. Instead, she'd just bring them milk and Linzer torte cake after they'd been thoroughly scrubbed clean by their furious, scolding mother.

 

"Gründen den Herrscher Thron,"

 

Patrick's lips quipped upwards as he buttoned his fly shut, before, once again, awkwardly balancing on one foot as he fought black socks onto his clumsy feet. Teeth gritted as his jaw clenched, and he grunted out the next line, yelping a few times as he almost toppled over.

 

"Wie Fels im Meer."

 

He'd probably never see Grandma Anja again. He'd probably never see Hopfgarten again.

 

Patrick tugged dark, worn desert shoes onto his feet, grimacing at the bumps and ridges on the soles that would cut into his skin, and leave holes and lines across his flesh. They were old, but Patrick couldn't afford to buy new ones. Especially not on six dollars a week. Patrick wasn’t stupid- he knew that pay was way too low, and not to mention, probably illegal.

 

"Heilige Flamme, glüh',"

 

He didn’t care though. A bed, a few crusts of bread, and work was enough for him.

 

Patrick bit back feelings of twisting and writhing snakes in the pit of his stomach, and he exhaled heavily, blinking at the collapsed blinds with squinted eyes. He should fix those. He'd always been pretty good at fixing things.

 

He scratched behind his neck, standing and stretching his arms one last time, feeling the bones click and pop under his skin, sighing out the next line with a pleasurable roll of his neck and shoulders.

 

"Glüh' und erlösche nie,"

 

Patrick liked singing this song. It was his little ritual, stuck in place after years upon years of singing it at school, and, later, in the army.

Hand on his heart, stood behind his desk, shoulder to shoulder with his friends. It had always made him feel unstoppable. A powerful nation with powerful people. Nothing could stop them.

 

"Fürs Vaterland."

 

He'd first sang it in the town bricked and spired church back in Wernigerode, on those days when the whole country would celebrate births, or would mourn deaths of their Kaiser and his family, all in unison, all voices singing out in a roar which rippled across the land, all old, kinsmen's hearts beating as one.

Cheery and upbeat, played with trumpets, when children were born, or when princes and princesses married.

Low and solemn, played with rhythmic drums when somebody died, or grew ill with a fever.

 

Patrick paced over to his ratty coat, which lay splayed across the back of a tiny, rickety wooden rocking chair. With deft, poking and searching fingers, he fished small, wrinkled and yellowed square pictures out from the breast pocket of his old, woollen coat.

 

"Wir alle stehen dann,"

 

And now, he'd never hear that song again, apart from when it left his own tongue.

 

Patrick's eyes teared of their own accord as he glanced over the images. Old, beautiful memories. All lost to time now. He sniffed lightly, giving a sad, rueful smile, before Patrick pushed them into his shirt pocket, flat hand settling over his heart for a moment.

 

"Mutig für einen Mann,"

 

It hurt. It hurt somewhere deep and unreachable.

 

Patrick wiped his watery eyes with the back of his hand, and sniffed deeply again, promptly feeling his nostrils burn with the lukewarm air of the stifled room.

Patrick slapped the newsboy cap over his head. It had belonged to his father, and to his grandfather, before him.

 

"Kämpfen und bluten gern,"

 

Patrick missed home. He missed Germany. He missed his mom, and his dad, and his sister, and his brother, and Grandma An-

 

Patrick exhaled deeply, brow furrowing sternly at himself.

 

Fuck- he had to stay calm. It wouldn't very well do to just have a break down all of a sudden- he needed to be strong. Patrick coaxed his father’s stern, rightful voice, reeling off a virtue as Patrick felt a, very real, pat on his head.

 

Lerne leiden ohne zu klagen, Patrick.’

 

He exhaled shakily, palms pressing against the dresser's dark wood as he let himself breathe, but forced himself to continue the words with stubborn diligence, along with narrowed eyes and determination coursing through his blood.

 

"Für Thron und Reich."

 

And now it was all gone.

 

A series of harsh thuds clattered on the bedroom door, making the metal handle jostle, and making the hinges tremble with every thump.

The man's voice- distinctive, nasally, low. Patrick liked that voice...When it wasn't yelling at him, or insulting him, of course.

 

"Shut up you fucking Kraut! I can hear you fuckin' whimpering from-!"

 

Patrick felt alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"So, how'd you say, ' America '?"

 

Patrick gave a short laugh, before answering with a nod, despite furrowed blue eyes remaining stuck on the clean rag that he swivelled around in a glass base.

 

"Amerika."

 

Despite it being practically the same word, only, spoken with a different tone, Andy made a small, genuine noise of interest. His gaze moved away from Patrick, and instead, focused on the bar's surface as he dragged a blue rag in methodical circles. Andy looked up ahead into thin air for a second, squinting, before nodding over at Patrick. "What about ' Germany '?"

 

"Deutschland."

 

The word flowed from Patrick's mouth effortlessly, laced with a happy sigh, and a small wave of satisfaction shuddered over him at the sound. It always felt right to say. The way his tongue twisted, the way his teeth clicked together, the deep sound his throat made- He loved the word itself just as much as he loved home.

 

Steps clattered across the speakeasy slatted floor, pacing in from the back rooms, and Patrick's head shot up on skittish instinct, whilst Andy's remained down as he called out.

 

"Morning Pete."

 

The man's name was Pete. Huh.

 

Pete slunk over to the bar, taking a moment to give Patrick a blank glance, lip curling and nose wrinkling as though he'd seen something disgusting.

 

Patrick knew he wasn't very pretty, but, well, he didn't consider himself that bad.

 

He hoped.

 

Andy slid a small shot glass over to Pete, and the man rolled his eyes, but tipped it back anyways. "You're gonna have to give me bigger shots sometime, bud."

 

The bearded man only huffed with a broad smile, rag flicking over his shoulder as he turned away and put the bottle away again.

 

Patrick's ADHD had always been an issue for him; It was hard to sit still, to concentrate, and it was damn hard to keep his thoughts from spilling away like waterfalls.

His dad had more or less beaten that out of him, as he'd raised Patrick and his siblings with Prussian values, and had practically encoded them into their very DNA.

Patrick was sure his children would come out of the womb punctual, brave, loyal and stone-faced. It was that ingrained into him.

 

So, when he toppled out words, in retrospect, he probably should have held back, he could only slap a hand across his mouth and shirk back as soon as they filled the air.

 

 

"It's a bit uh- e-early, to- to drink, no?"

 

 

Pete's glower said it all.

 

Patrick grimaced a little and shifted his eyes back to his glass, hand dropping from his lips to polish a little more frantically.

There was silence for a few moments, but Patrick noticed Andy shaking his head at Pete out of the corner of his eye.

 

"I think that one's clean already."

 

Patrick's head shot up, so quickly that it made his brain jitter and whirr. He squinted and swallowed at the sudden blur, although, Patrick's eyesight never had been too good, but he'd broken so many glasses over the years that his parents had stopped buying them for him. And he definitely couldn’t afford them now.

 

"Yes, y-you, you are right- I uh-"

 

Patrick practically tossed the clean glass onto the bar, before grabbing one that was definitely still dirty, and working on clearing away sticky droplets and stains from the crystal-like glass.

 

Patrick could feel a gaze on him; Running back and forth through muddy trenches had forced him to perfect and heighten his senses to painful levels.

It was hard to sleep at night, especially in a city like this one, he could hear everything. The cars, the footsteps, the drunken laughs. All of it felt inches away, and loud, so, so loud.

 

Baby-blues glanced up to catch Pete, unashamedly staring him down. Patrick liked Pete's eyes, even when all they held was contempt or horror, fully directed at himself.

Pete gazed at him from over the rim of his glass, before a man poked his head around the corner of the bar. Patrick hadn't seen him much, but he seemed important. "Andy, gotta talk to you for a sec."

 

Andy looked reluctant.

Brow furrowed, head bobbing and teeth clicking, Andy glanced over at Patrick, raising his eyebrows in a silent question Patrick somehow understood.

 

The blonde nodded with a twitchy smile, "Y-Yes, i-it's okay, you- can uh, gehen- uh- go?"

 

Andy smiled kindly, leaving with a pat on Patrick's shoulder, and a stern, warning glare at Pete- who only rolled his eyes and mocked scolding with a gesture of his hand. Patrick's lips twitched upwards at the action, but his face quickly dropped blank as Pete glared.

As soon as Andy had left, and as soon as the office door had clicked shot, Pete stood slowly, leaning over the bar on his forearms.

 

He tilted his head, and Patrick glanced up nervously, letting his eyes drift over Pete's features. Oh fuck, Pete was really pretty. The eyes, the mouth, the skin- It was unlike anything Patrick had ever seen, but he liked it, he really did.

Pete cocked his head to the other side, and Patrick felt his skin prickle. For only a split second, he glanced down at the pale, almost invisible hairs on his arms standing on end. Patrick cleared his throat as Pete shifted closer, breathing quietly through his nose and squinting slightly.

 

"D-Do, you- uh- do you- brauchst du- Scheiße- uh, I mean-"

 

"Why'd you come here?"

 

Pete's voice was low, almost rasped, almost pleading, but his eyes remained aloof and lidded. With a deep gulp and wide eyes, Patrick blinked rapidly, before shrugging lightly and gaping while making small, trying noises.

 

English was hard. His tongue didn't like the way it moved and contorted with the dull words.

 

"I, I was- I- I needed, a- a- ein Beruf?" Patrick grimaced as he watched Pete twitch and bristle at the German, but the dark-haired man glanced around and chewed his lip with an understanding nod.

Patrick barely had time to process what had happened before Pete's hand had shot out, gripping Patrick's jaw with deadly force and accuracy. As Pete's fingertips squished into Patrick's skin- definitely leaving red marks, he wagered, Patrick yelped in the back of his throat, eyes wide as Pete shifted close. Way too close.

The American tilted his head, right corner of his lip twitching upwards as he settled mere atoms away from Patrick.

 

They were both men. There was no way- No, it just- No.

 

Pete said nothing, however, and only surveyed Patrick closely, before breaking his hand away and leaning back with a slow, smug smile.

 

"Nice face, Kaiser."

 

Patrick flared up with rage at the word.

Kaiser- and the tone it was said in- fuck, it just made Patrick's blood boil and bubble in his veins.

And, God, comparing Patrick to the Kaiser? That was a sin, Patrick was nothing next to the Kaiser; The king was sent from Heaven, and Patrick was just from a speck of German soil. It wasn't- The pure disrespect killed him, it made him want to scream-

 

Patrick couldn't hold back.

 

His father’s words rang through his skull.

 

‘Seid gehorsam, doch nicht ohne Freimut.’

 

"Du Bastard. Du bist so- so, ärgerlich. Wie kannst du es wagen?"

 

Patrick slammed his rag-clad hand into the bar's wood, heart only speeding up at the sly grin that now took precedence on Pete's face.

"Warum hasst du mich so sehr? Was habe ich dir getan?" Patrick was panting now, and his mouth was spit slicked from all the hanging open it was doing. His hands were balled into white-knuckled fists, as his eyes stayed wide, and angry at Pete.

His voice was high and loud now, eyes tearing up as his left leg jolted and stamped in frustration at Pete's laughter.

Why wouldn't Pete take him seriously? He wasn't a child. He was a man. He was a soldier. Patrick had killed hundreds of insignificant Americans like Pete, he could kill one more-

Patrick's voice was a low growl, a tone of voice only reserved for moments of true rage.

"Gib mir eine Antwort- Was habe ich falsch gemacht?"

 

Pete's grin was infuriating.

 

"You didn't like that, did you, Kaiser? "

 

"Du bist böse-"

 

The older man only laughed at Patrick's outburst, and at his following, shaky hisses. Pete shook his head as his hand released Patrick's jaw, before they shuffled into his pockets, and he leaned back, grin not faltering once at Patrick's red face. "Too bad, I kinda like it. You're stuck with it, Kaiser."

 

"Fick dich. Ja wirklich- fick dich."

 

"Fick- that sounds familiar." Pete's grin grew a little darker in tandem with his eyes, and Patrick felt pythons crawling up his throat, writhing desperately for freedom.

 

"Maybe you will, Kaiser. Maybe you will."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grey.

 

Grey was all Patrick could see.

 

Charred buildings, charred streets, charred bodies.

 

Patrick's nose ached from the ashes it breathed in, his nostrils struggled to fight down the dark flakes that flitted through the air, sucking up into his nose with each inhale.

 

His eyes hurt.

 

They were still sore from the mustard gas that had blinded him for a few months prior.

 

His heart hurt.

 

It was heavy, and felt like a tonne weight in his chest. It also hurt from when he'd been shot in his right lung. Of course, only a fresh, weeping scar now.

 

His ears hurt.

 

They always ached, ghosts of gunfire and screams clouding them constantly, in the background, like a reminder of everything he'd done, a reminder of all the blood on his hands. As well as the violent ringing that only got louder in the silence.

 

 

They also ached with Eckhard's sobbing.

 

 

He couldn't glance down at Eckhard, but he knew what he'd see if he did; He'd see Eckhard Wächter. His brother-in-law. He'd see him sobbing, keening, screaming. Mourning the death of his wife and child. Or, of Patrick's sister and nephew.

His niece was gone, however. Three years old, white hair always braided into pigtails, rosy pink cheeks, and piercing ice blue eyes, all topped off with the sweetest laugh Patrick had ever heard- enough to rival his sister's.

Maybe some Russian, or American had taken her. General Sulzberger had told them that they'd return home to find children missing, 'adopted' by soldiers who'd steal the cutest children away to sell back in their own countries. Sulzberger had also told them that any wives, daughters and sisters they had, were either raped, dead, or taken as trophy wives- if they were pretty enough.

 

Eckhard had never moved so fast, Patrick was sure of it.

 

Patrick stared at the bodies.

 

The tall one at the start was his father, no doubt about it. His face was gone, there were only sable flakes and teeth left.

The next one, a little shorter, must've been his mother. How neat of the British and American soldiers to put the couple together.

Then, came the mess that Patrick supposed was his brother. Then the slender skeleton of his sister, and finally, small, white, nine-year-old bones, poking out from leaking, burnt flesh.

 

Eckhard's screams of Patrick's sister's name, of 'Bruno', and of 'Erika' made the blonde shiver.

But, Patrick couldn't cry. Tears refused to show themselves, and Patrick's heart, stomach and chest remained steady and calm. He wanted to scream. He wanted to tear his hair out. He wanted to collapse into a wailing heap with Eckhard.

 

But he couldn't.

 

So he only stared at his burnt family, hanging from nooses from a bare, snow-dusted tree.

 

And Patrick didn't cry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A jolt and a scream woke Patrick, everything inside and outside of him convulsing as he shot up in bed. With a groan and a grimace, Patrick looked around, throwing his hands up in defeat as soon as he noticed his drenched sheets and clothes.

Sweat, pure sweat. The fat beads on his forehead, the damp in the dip of his spine, the clammy fingers- it was all there.

 

A night terror that was really a memory. Fuck.

 

The door crooked open, and Patrick shuffled backwards with a yelp, wide eyes, and a heavy, settled pace of panted breathing. Maybe Andy, or- or, someone, was checking up on him, yeah, that would be the natural course of action when you heard a scream, right?

 

Instead of Andy's mousey hair, beady blue eyes and red beard, though, it was dark hair, dark eyes, and dark skin.

 

It was Pete, of all people.

 

Patrick felt a sting of guilt hook his heart; He'd been so rude to Pete, sure, the man probably hadn't understood any of it, but still. Patrick's mother and father had raised him to be polite, while teaching him to stand up for himself at the same time- he would disrespect their memories if he did anything else.

 

"God- what the hell's up with you, Kaiser? Can't a guy just mope at the bar for-" Pete flicked the buzzing, yellow-tinted light on, and his words died away in an instant. Instead of the scolding or yelling, as Patrick had expected, the American's eyes widened softly and he gaped for a moment, gaze running over Patrick's soaked self.

 

There was silence. It was agonizing. Patrick was pretty sure Pete was going to toss him out onto the street. He'd disturbed Pete, he'd dirtied the bed with sweat, he'd-

 

 

"Nightmare?"

 

 

The voice was soft and quiet, and it wasn't what Patrick had been expecting at all.

 

A light, shaky nod came from Patrick, and a nod and exhale was Pete's response.

 

"Memory?"

 

Patrick blinked, head tilting a little, before he shivered subtly and nodded. That was odd. How did he know- Shit, these damp sheets and this cold night were going to give him hypothermia, or a pretty bad cold, before he knew it.

 

"You, uh- You can take a bath- if you need to. Water closet's, uh- fourth door on the left."

 

Patrick was taken aback, if he was completely honest. Pete hadn't been very friendly until now, and Patrick hadn't been very amicable either, so, this small, random act of kindness was...odd.

 

Patrick was suspicious.

 

But, regardless of the warning yaps that snapped through his mind, Patrick nodded, shifting out of bed and pacing over to the dresser. He fished up another old, white shirt, and another worn, stitched pair of pants- the old day-clothes were his pitiful excuse for pyjamas, but Patrick had nothing else.

 

Pete only gave him a light, amused look as he leaned against the doorframe, and Patrick glanced at him nervously, before ducking past into the lit hallway. He awkwardly stepped over to the fourth door on the left, before, on a hunch and the feeling of a gaze, he glanced back at Pete, and, while the man had started retreating back to the bar, he'd also taken a moment to glance back, eyes burning directly into Patrick.

 

"Sleep well, Kaiser."

 

Patrick ignored the rage that spiked inside him at the 'pet' name.

 

But then, he smiled, remembering the one and only, tiny pleasure he could take with Pete. The one upper hand he did have.

 

 

"Süße Träume, Arschloch."

 

 

Pete bristled.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

"No way."

 

"Dallon," Ryan sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose and clenching dark eyes shut. "You gotta help me out here."

Dallon's arms remained firmly crossed, and his eyes remained stubbornly blank. Ryan stared, eyes just as blank as Dallon's, if not more so. The taller man let out a heavy sigh, distracting himself with the shape of a small scratch in the wood of the booth table, finger tracing over it idly.

 

"You- I mean, Ryan, you literally said he was a ' psycho '- I don't wanna deal with a pill like that-"

 

"Dallon," That tone, that damn, ' mom-asking-you-to-set-the-table ' tone. "I trust you-"

 

"No, I really don't think you-"

 

"Don't be ridiculous, of course I-"

 

"Tell me the truth."

 

"Dallon-"

 

"Tell me the truth, and," A heavy sigh punctured the air, along with a heavy heart. "I might consider it."

 

Ryan's brow raised at that, although his eyes remained perpetually dull.

Thoughts swimming through his eyes, Ryan clicked his teeth together as he stared at nothing in particular, eyes becoming glassy in the process.

The sudden snap of Ryan's gaze made Dallon jump, and the sigh and low voice that followed made him lean in over the table to catch every word.

 

"My uh- my ' fellas '-"

 

"Your spies, you mean."

 

Ryan's blinked slowly, eyes rolling white under his thin eyelids, before he sighed deeply and collectedly, hands clasping together as he furrowed his brow at Dallon seriously.

 

"...Joseph knows about them."

 

Jaw dropping, Dallon's whole face scrunched up in raw disbelief and pure shock as he began shaking his head, making futile sounds that meant to become words, but that refused to escape him.

Ryan's spies were the best in Chicago- No, in the whole damn country - government's excluded, of course.

But if Joseph had found out about them, God, Dallon didn’t even wanna-

 

"Well?" Ryan's shook his head lightly, eyes wide, but holding no surprise as he waited for his slack-jawed friend's answer.

 

"I-I…"

 

Fuck, if Joseph had found out who Ryan's spies were...The kid might have been smarter than had initially Dallon given him credit for.

 

"Hey!"

 

A loud, cheery voice that gave them no time to process, before it's owner had slipped into the bar next to Ryan.

 

Brendon; Dark hair falling away from its slicked back place, and instead taking precedence over his forehead. A distinct, wide grin was set on his face, of course, just like it always was, and it only broadened impossibly further as he leaned forwards with narrowed brows, eyes glinting mischievously. "So, what're you fellas whisperin' about?"

 

The ever exasperated mother-hen, Ryan, only stifled a sigh, taking his sweet time to blink at Brendon slowly, practically exuding- ' This is important, and doesn't concern you. Please leave. '

 

Brendon didn't get the message.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"So, where we off to, Dal?" Brendon's light, bounced footsteps rang across the sidewalk as he paced beside Dallon.

The fella was really just a golden puppy, too pure and enthusiastic for the world. He'd somehow, with that happy beam Dallon could never say 'no' to, convinced Ryan to let him tag along, and he was seemingly enjoying the walk to the outskirts of the city.

The older man just glanced at him from the corner of his eye, holding back a sigh at the bright, toothy grin that dominated Brendon's face.

 

"We're uh- We're going to Slowtown."

 

Brendon nodded, wide grin staying in place as his hands buried in his pockets, skinny legs treading the ground, whilst struggling to keep up with Dallon's speedy, spider-like legged pace. Dallon was certain Brendon hadn’t fully realized the gravity of their journey- or their destination, but he found it odd that Brendon didn't question it, the man seemed to just... go along , with stuff nowadays.

He couldn't complain too much, at least he'd act natural.

Even if, acting ‘ natural ’ was being over-the-top cheery; The other fellas, on bad days, or when hangovers plagued their skulls, would sometimes snap at Brendon. Hissing and doubting his happiness, questioning his every beam and every note of his laughter.

Brendon would just laugh, further irritating just about everyone- even Dallon, on really shitty days- Even though the tall man usually had the patience fucking saint when it came to Brendon.

Maybe it was their friendship, maybe it was their shared history, or maybe it was that day in the poppy fiel-

 

"A library? Why are we at a librar-?"

 

"Keep it down." Dallon moved past Brendon swiftly, striding over to the front desk. The library was big and spacious, dark green carpet and sky blue walls. Quite sparse, but filled with bookcases that trailed the walls, filled with all kinds of knowledge that so many people would never even bother to learn.

 

There was a tired-looking thin man at the wooden table, eyes dark and bagged as he blinked slowly, head resting on his hand as he pressed date stamps into inner book covers.

 

Bored, dark, mossy green eyes moved up to Dallon, then to Brendon, and the bluff remained in its stoic place.

 

"Uh, d'you have any books on ' semi automatic ' shotguns?"

 

Dallon's voice was low as he leaned over the desk, practically physically holding the bouncing Brendon back with an arm.

 

The man nodded quickly and instantly, taking no time to lead them from the large, light, bookcase ridden library, to lead them towards a shrouded staircase that sat a few meters away.

 

The two Camisado men followed, and Brendon only glanced around with a noticeably flitting head. Dallon tried to ignore the gestures, digging his fingernails and cold fingers into his palms as he followed the bony man, who only yawned heavily, and periodically.

 

The man hadn't spoken much, and he seemed so tired...maybe he was an immigrant; Dallon had heard rumours about speakeasies- and other, legal businesses, hiring European immigrants. They were cheap labour, hard-working, and they didn't speak much- although, many considered that a positive, more than anything.

 

The staircase led down into a hallway- that looked particularly like a murder den, but the skin and bones man quickly dispelled all fears of getting hacked to death with an axe, as he led them to a rich, wooden door. It was inconspicuous enough. Joseph was clever, after all.

 

The door opened to more stairs, at which Brendon gave a small whine and mutter into Dallon's ear. "These are gonna be a bitch to climb, when we're ready to ankle." The taller man only sighed, chancing a glance at the dead-eyed bony man that led them down the stairs, shoulders drooped and dead gaze exhausted.

 

"And how, Brendon."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Josh was a nice kid, Dallon had always thought so.

The two Camisado men, or 'spies', as Brendon had insisted, sat at the bar, gulping down glasses of Jack Daniels, all while keeping an eye on Josh- and looking out for Joseph.

 

Two more of Ryan's fellas had come back beaten and bloody- all Joseph's handiwork, and Ryan had been, understandably, pissed. Dallon would be pissed too, if he'd spent years gathering and training the best of the best, only to have them beaten and bloodied by some psychotic kid.

 

The kid was elusive however, Dallon could give him that. As well as smart, and ruthless- and that, unfortunately, was only a plus in this business.

He watched Josh pass a few shots of vodka to some suited and booted men, and he couldn't help but feel some melancholy at Josh's bright smile, as he pocketed a few crumpled dollar bills.

He somehow seemed too innocent for all of this, too young, perhaps; He'd done some research, and the kid had only fought in Mesopotamia. Sure, war, wherever it took place, was never easy, but the Middle East hadn't been all too bloody. The pilots had suffered the most, but those soldiers had still had an easy time of it- when compared to all those men stuck in trenches, feet soaked, cat-sized rats that got cocky enough to try and eat live humans, lice everywhere, and septic shock from tiny scrapes and cuts. Now that was Hell.

 

"Holy- Wait, is that-?"

 

Brendon's voice shook Dallon from his dark thoughts, and his head flicked to the younger man, before following his steady, wide gaze.

 

Fuck, no way.

 

Iero.

 

Goddamn, Frank Iero- and shit, that was Ray, fucking, Toro too.

 

Their heads turned-

 

"Shit," Brendon tugged on Dallon's sleeve, ducking his head as a gaggle of women wearing extravagant hats hid them from view. "Did they see us?"

Dallon's eyes were wide as he ducked over the bar, gaze fighting past feathers and lace to catch a glimpse of the other men. "I don't know."


Iero and Toro, sat at a booth, just a few meters away- Shit, they were completely screwed.

Brendon tugged on his sleeve again, and Dallon shifted his head to meet his eyes; Brendon looked genuinely worried for once, most, if not all, semblance of cheeriness had vanished from his trembling frame. "Should we get outta here? Ankle it as fast as we can?"

 

Dallon exhaled deeply, eyes clenching shut for a moment. Fuck, this was a tricky situation; House of Wolves were rivals too, but maybe...maybe they were here for the same reason Camisado was. Maybe Joseph had-

 

"Dallon, Brendon- good to see ya, fellas."

 

They both turned, eyes wide and blinking quickly as they swivelled on smooth bar stools to see-

 

Iero's smile, kind, but Dallon assumed, fake. Toro paced up to join his friend, smiling too, despite his eyes glinting nervously.

Iero was better at Toro than holding his facade, and he was much better than Dallon- and not to mention, better than Brendon. Who was currently glancing between the three other men with eyes the size of full moons. Dallon should've fought a little harder to leave Brendon under the watchful eye of Jon- the fella really shouldn't be here.

 

"I think we've got something to discuss- you and I."

 

Dallon gulped, and Brendon whined.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"So," Frank clicked the lighter, letting a small, tiger flame burst free with a spark and a sharp, satisfying hiss. He lit Dallon's cigarette, scarlet red end glowing as the man took a drag, before Iero moved to Brendon's, lighting it up and huffing a laugh as Brendon brought it too his mouth in near desperation.

 

"I believe we have a common enemy."

 

Enemy.

 

That word was so strong. Dallon had only really used that word to refer to the grey-clad soldiers that stalked their shadows and dreams, not to refer to some kid who could barely grow a beard.

 

And yet, Dallon nodded sagely, taking another long, heady drag as he stifled a sigh. "I believe we do."

 

Frank smiled with a quick nod, lighting his own cigarette, before moving to Ray- who was ten steps ahead, and was already flicking ash off of the end with a smile and a shake of his head.

 

"...We could...collaborate." Iero tilted his head, taking a drag between his words as he waited for Dallon's answer; The taller man was only stone-faced, trying his hardest to give nothing away. House of Wolves were rivals, not friends- they couldn't be trusted either, Iero had fully earned his infamous reputation.

 

But, Ryan had sent him here to gather information, to solve problems, to get revenge for those beaten inches from their lives.

 

"...We could."

 

Frank smiled again, and Dallon felt something twist in his stomach. He chanced a glance at Brendon, nervously tearing his eyes from Iero; Brendon looked nervous. He leaned against the wall, bouncing his leg and staring determinedly at thin air.

 

Dallon looked back to Frank. That smile was still there, and Dallon didn't trust it in the slightest. "Then, let's solve our little problem. Whaddaya say?"

 

His gaze moved East, to Ray; Now that was the definition a good man. And while he may not trust Frank, Toro was a safe bet.

 

Dallon should've talked it over with Ryan.

 

Dallon should've asked everyone's opinions, everyone's advice.

 

Dallon shouldn't have been so damn reckless.

 

A steady, slender and flat had was held out in an amicable offer, and it was quickly taken by another. They shook hands, whilst Frank only smiled. Dallon felt bile pooling in the base of his throat.

 

 

"And how, Frank."

 

 

 

Chapter Text

               

"They're ganging up on Slowtown."

 

Pete leaned over the desk, taking his time to stare seriously at Joe, then Andy, while completely ignoring Patrick; The German didn't mind much anymore, he'd gotten used to it.

 

The offer of a bath, and the direction to the bathroom had been the last, and only act of kindness Pete had shown to him. Patrick couldn't bring himself to just be stoic about it, however. It stung a little, he had to be honest about that. He'd learned to bury it, however, and now, he only tried to stay out of the man's path- and shouting range.

 

"What should we do? I mean- Joseph's-"

 

"We stay out of it." Joe nodded his head deeply, eyes flitting firmly between both of his friends. Andy sighed, scratching the back of his neck as he clicked his tongue, eyes narrowed in deep consideration, "But, we- we know them."

 

"Hurley's right." Pete nodded, staring at Joe with a solid, furrowed brow. "I know Joseph, and I know Dun. I mean- I know they're competition, but-" The dark-haired man sighed, rubbing his temple for a moment, before holding his flat hand out in a lazy gesture. "They're good kids. Smart too."

 

Joe shook his head, exhaling deeply with a subtle eye roll. "We can't afford problems, right now, we-"

 

"Joe, they're good kids- they don't deserve to get, well fuck, I dunno what Iero's gonna do to 'em. But it’s gonna be bad- we all know that ." Begrudgingly, Andy nodded along with the beats of Pete's words, arms crossing loosely as he stared down at flawless wood intently.

Joe pressed his mouth into a thin line and huffed at his friends’ gestures, fingers taking to rub small circles over his jawbone, instead of thrumming on the wood. "...We can't go against Iero and Ross- Pete, just-" With eyes screwed shut in irritation, Joe's hand splayed, hovering in the air over Pete's gaping, indignant face. "There are more of them than there are of us , fuck- Ryan has a whole damn network of- it’s basically an army -"

 

"Joe."

 

Pete shoved Joe's hand down, voice steady and firm as his brow furrowed and his eyes glinted determinedly. The dark-haired man exhaled deeply, eyes shutting for a second before he nodded to himself sagely.

"If I find a way...If I find a way to help them-" He groaned at Joe's pending outburst and waved his hand dismissively, brushing the words away as soon as they’d came. "Without Iero, or Ross finding out it was us. Will you let me do it?"

 

Andy blinked curiously, and Patrick even found himself glancing over often, ears pricked as he tried to understand the strings of words; A few stuck out like bright, life-saving beacons in a sea of confusion, but rest buzzed like faint hornets.

Pete was one silver-tongued bastard, because immediately Joe descended into serious silence, contemplatively staring into thin air as his foot tapped against the wooden floorboards weakly.

 

A long moment of silence later, and Joe's hands trailed over his face as he groaned. Pete knew the battle was won, and he grinned, leaning back in his seat with a wiggle as he caught Andy's eyes, who were bright as he smiled broadly with quiet trembles of laughter and a shaking head.

 

"Fine."

 

Clapping a hand on Joe's shoulder at the words that confirmed what he already knew, Pete grinned broadly and held back a laugh, before Joe's head shot up from his palms, and he took a moment to glower at Pete with a scowl. "But if you fuck this up, you're on your own."

 

"Keyword is 'if' there, bud."

 

Joe gave an involuntary huff of laughter, but he looked as though he hated himself for it. His long fingers dug into his short, dark curls again as he sighed. Patrick wasn't too sure what was going on, but if he had to guess, he'd assume Pete had convinced the others to do something very stupid.

But it wasn't Patrick's place to complain or say anything, so instead, he excused himself to the bathroom for a breather from the tension that hung in the room.

 

He felt a gaze burning into him as he paced down the hall, and Patrick tugged on his collar with a gulp- nervous habit, before he pushed through the door into the public's bathroom, rather than the one he'd bathed in a few days ago.

The other bathroom didn't hold many good memories for him, and he'd made a point of avoiding it if possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick dragged a cupped handful of water onto his face, exhaling quietly as his fingers worked small circles over his forehead and his hands moved, cleaning away dry sweat, and that heavy-feeling layer that always settled onto his skin throughout the day.

Blinded by pooled water invading his eyes, Patrick's hand splayed out along the counter, vainly searching for a towel along stone surfaces as he side-stepped along. Shit, he should've grabbed a towel before he impaired his own eyesight, he was such an idiot sometimes.

 

 

"What are you doing?"

 

 

The voice was bored, aloof, and slightly judging, yet tinged with a faint note of amusement. Patrick froze, jaw falling open as his head flicked towards the voice's source, despite his eyes remaining firmly clenched closed. "Uh- I uh- needed a- H-Handtuch, ich- I uh-"

 

Patrick heard a tut, before something a little rough hit him in the face. On instinct, his hands leapt up to catch it, and as soon as he felt fabric in his hands, he wiped his eyes with a sigh, relief finally flooding through him as his eyes were freed from their watery graves.

 

"Dan- Oh, uh- Thank you, t-thank you-"

 

"Yeah, yeah, just shut up." A hand wrapped around Patrick's arm, dragging him into a stall as the door clattered shut with a shove from Pete's fist. It had been so sudden, Patrick had only managed to process half of it before Pete's lips were on his neck.

Patrick gave a stuttered jolt and a sharp exhale as his brow furrowed slowly with lagging blinks. What was- This couldn't- This was-

 

"Ah, scheiße-" Patrick hissed as a shudder ran across his skin. A shiver trailed down his spine as soon as Pete licked a stripe along the length of his jaw. The man wasn't kissing, no, he was biting; Leaving light grazes and indents of his teeth along the skin of Patrick's neck as he stayed silent, only leaving Patrick's involuntary sighs to fill the air, much to the blonde's shame.

 

A few moments later, and Pete's face was buried against Patrick's Adam's apple instead, pressing on it with the flat of his tongue to make the younger man's breath hitch, as the simple action choked the air away from his mouth.

Patrick felt hands running up his sides, tight, squeezing, and thumbing over his bones as they made their journey's downwards, before-

 

Blue eyes widened fully, and Patrick exhaled shakily, blinking quickly as squeaks of words died in his throat.

Pete's hands were gripping his hips, and Patrick was sure Pete's knuckles must've been white; The fingertips were bruising, even through the layers of clothing as Pete kept assaulting the crook of Patrick's neck. If Patrick's heart hadn't been on the verge of failing before, it definitely was now; It thundered like a drum in a storm, the painful feeling all coupled with a writhing creature in his stomach that made him feel as though he were drowning.

Heavy, stuttered exhales were all Patrick could give as Pete rocked his hips forwards, caging Patrick against the wall with his arms. More shivers, more shudders, more goosebumps as Patrick groaned quietly at the feeling. He felt ashamed, but-

 

Patrick felt something hard brush at his thigh, and everything snapped back into place.

 

"Weg von mir-! Gott-" With a hiss and a grimace, Patrick shoved Pete away, forearms braced and pressing his shoulders away. The older man clattered back into the opposite wall of the stall, and his eyes twitched and darkened.

In a split second, Pete had surged forwards again, one hand pressing around Patrick's neck and the other gripping a hip as his mouth formed a subtle, twitchy snarl. Patrick felt his stomach drop as Pete's hands tightened, making the younger man gasp for breath as the skin went red around Pete's fingers.

 

"Bitte- D-Das wollte ich nich-"

 

"Shut. Up."

 

Patrick obliged, forcing his mouth into a straight line as his chest laboured, eyes clenching shut as both adrenaline and fear paralysed his system. His heart felt like it was about to explode, his stomach twisted and turned, he couldn't stand it.

 

"Look at me."

 

Patrick whimpered, and he was ashamed of the noise that had escaped him as his eyes crooked open. Pete was imposing, everything about him radiated intimidation, aggression; From tensed shoulders, to his pushed hips, to his white knuckles and glaring eyes.

 

"Listen here, you fucking Kraut ."

 

The voice. God, the voice was worse. Worse than what Patrick had imagined, worse than he'd ever heard it before. Tense, strained and rasped, all while holding back tsunamis of pure rage. Patrick was honestly expecting a fist to the face, but it didn't come, and instead, only infuriated, whispered words took its place. "I gave you this job, and I can take it away just as fast, you get that?"

Patrick said nothing, head turned to the side, eyes blank and staring, all while his chest heaved and his neck tensed under Pete's grip. He swallowed, and promptly whimpered as he felt Pete's palm hold the button of cartilage down.

 

"Do you get that? Answer me."

 

"J- Yes, y-yes I-"

 

"Think it over, Kaiser. You've got 'til eleven."

 

Patrick held back a miserable whine as his skin peppered with bumps, shivers plaguing and tingling under his skin.

Pete's hands moved away, and before Patrick had even turned his head, the stall door had slammed open, and the bathroom door had slammed shut.

 

Chest jolting with silent, shameful, and terrified sobs, Patrick wrapped a hand around his own neck gingerly. Pale fingers tried to soothe the reddening skin, the ache that would no doubt become a bruise, and Patrick let himself breathe. He couldn't cry. He wouldn't cry.

One shaky hand trailed over the ridges of his features as he exhaled breathlessly, frame shaking and jolting with quiet jumps of lagged surprise, that had remained stifled with shock earlier.

Patrick brought his knees up to his chest, letting his forehead rest on the bones and running a hand through his own hair softly, trying to imagine it was his mother's.

 

Eleven. It was eight am. Patrick had 15 hours to decide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swipe, wipe, poke. Patrick polished glasses in a repetitive, almost robotic pattern. Swipe the rim of the glass, wipe the droplets and stains away, poke liquid out of the ridges. He was in autopilot, eyes blank and dull as his mind surveyed much more important matters than polishing glasses.

More important matters like the dark-haired man who had been staring at him from the corner of the room all night. Gaze firm and unwavering, it burnt into Patrick's skin, it made him feel filthy somehow.

 

Patrick had been agonizing over his decision all day, mind wracking, thoughts going back and forth, and back and forth, in a never ending cycle. Patrick felt like a dog chasing its own tail. Stuck in the same pattern, only, and he had no real escape, his mind refused to quieten down.

 

If Pete kicked him out, he'd be completely alone again. No bed, no money, no nothing. And, besides, he'd actually made a friend here; Andy was a rare soul in an ocean of people who hated Patrick for his blood.

Patrick couldn't go back to the dock. Patrick couldn't pace the streets holding a sign that pathetically begged for work. Patrick couldn't go back to Germany.

 

"Lerne leiden ohne zu klagen." Patrick's mutter was quiet, almost silent as it was lost between the sounds of jazz, laughing and clinking glasses. However, Andy's fox-like ears picked up the words immediately, and he glanced up at Patrick with a raised brow and a helpful voice, "What was that?"

In an instant, Patrick shook his head quickly, "Es ist in- Okay, it's okay." Andy looked unconvinced, but opted not the press the man of few words as he returned to serving a couple, with a few different, fruit laced shots.

 

Patrick craned his neck, twisting his torso to glance up at the clock behind the bar; Sat on the wall timidly, just below the proud sign that read 'Cooperstown'.

It was ten thirty. Patrick had thirty minutes to decide.

 

 

He didn't need thirty. He'd only needed one.

 

 

"C-Can I go t-to, the uh- Badezimmer? Uh- ne- no, uh- the, the, w-water-?"

"Of course-" Andy gave him a quizzical look, brow furrowed as he tilted his head and shook it softly, "You don't have to ask, Patrick."

The blonde nodded, strands of hair bouncing into his face as he shifted away with a strained smile and a mumbled thanks. He could still feel Andy's stare on him, but as soon as it dropped, the German raised his eyes to Pete.

 

The dark-haired man was leaning on the wall, arms crossed and eyes lowered with a carpet of blankness covering his entire being.

Patrick motioned his head subtly, masking it with a cough as he side-stepped between crowds and patrons, heading down the hallway to the bathroom.

 

There was a lot of noise, but Patrick could still hear the footsteps behind him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick groaned as the back of his head hit the of the stall wall. Pete was on him in a split second, all hands, mouth, teeth and growls.

Jaw shifting and clenching, Patrick shut his eyes, going limp as he tried to stifle the warmth pooling in his stomach at Pete's ministrations.

Moans were pushed down his throat desperately when Pete's mouth moved over his ear. His teeth nipped and grazed the flushed shell, tongue poking out to line the ridges. Patrick's head tilted and a breathy sigh escaped him, before he promptly pressed his teeth into his bottom lip, squirming and tensing, hands balling into fists as he felt himself twitch.

Pete's tongue was lapping across his neck and jaw, mouth working its magic as his hands rocked Patrick's hips into his own. The older man was rutting against him, dragging himself against Patrick as he exhaled sharply into his neck.

 

Patrick felt something hard against his thigh. Some part of him wanted to shove Pete away again, some part of him wanted to yell out every obscenity his tongue knew, but some part of him wanted this. That part made Patrick feel sick, so he stifled it, mind whirring and spinning, chanting to himself; You have no choice, he's your boss, you need the job, you need to find h-

 

A stifled grunt rang out as two firm hands on Patrick's shoulders shoved him down to his knees, and blues eyes crooked open to a rude surprise; Pete's hand deftly unbuttoned his own fly, hand delving past the edge of underwear to tug-

 

It made Patrick shudder, and it made bile crawl up his throat.

 

Pete's hand was clasped around his own cock, long, hard, veined, and flushed with blood. It was darker than Patrick's, it was a little surprising if he was honest- Although, it wasn't as though he'd seen any but his own before.

 

A moment later, and Pete's free hand was threaded into light strands, holding the German steady as he pressed the head against closed, plump lips. Patrick blinked, shivering again as he closed his eyes, and opened his mouth, tongue lolling out over his lower lip.

He heard a small, stifled curse in Pete's distinct voice, but it was blurred to his numb ears. If his parents could see him- God, if his father knew what he was-

 

Pete's cock shoved into his mouth, and Patrick jolted violently, throat closing as he coughed around the shaft. A hand pushed him forwards, threaded into his hair and delivering sharp, electric tugs that made him wince, yet shiver. He made his throat relax, he made himself calm, begging with his heart and pleading with his stomach as his nose pressed against Pete's base.

Against his better judgement, Patrick let his eyes flutter open, and he was faced with oddly shaped lines, drawn into Pete's tanned skin with black. His eyes crossed as he tried to make sense of it, curiosity taking the best of him, despite the situation.

 

And then Pete thrust forwards. In an instant, Patrick collapsed into coughing, pulling back against an insistent hand as he desperately tried to feed air into his lungs. The hand didn't let him, it kept him still, pressed against Pete as his throat moved and twitched with the intrusion.

 

Calm, stay calm, stay calm- Patrick glanced up at Pete, neck straining to tilt upwards. All he could see was Pete's chin, and the dark gap between his jawbones as he stared forwards, one hand braced on the stall wall.

Patrick swallowed, a nervous habit, but it only served to make Pete buck forwards with a shaky, breathy growl. The blonde whined, and Pete moaned, hips shifting and squirming as they started rocking slowly, moving in circles and pulling Patrick's head with him over the spikes and waves.

 

All Patrick could do was relax. He couldn't escape it, and to be honest, he didn't really want to. Throat growing lax, he bobbed his head, tongue working clumsily as he tried to manoeuvre it around the vein-ridged, thick, velvety shaft. He leaned his head back, eyes opening as he stared up at Pete; The older man didn't look down, he only took Patrick's hair in both hands, before thrusting forwards with a vengeance.

Patrick groaned, and while he wasn't sure in what, it made Pete moan and speed up. The thrusts were shallow, dipping centimetres up and down his throat as they came mercilessly. A shaky hand moved up to his neck, and Patrick whined again as his fingers traced the swell under his skin.

 

He ought to get this over and done with, end it as quickly as possible. Patrick had never been in this territory before, it was new and unexplored, and while he would've preferred it remain that way, life had taken the reins completely.

Mind buzzing and ears ringing, Patrick swallowed, sucked, and tried to work his tongue, in some sense of vain. The drags along Pete's dorsal vein seemed to have done something, as Pete hunched over, hands burying further into blonde hair, and forehead leaning against the wall, exhaling deeply as he pushed Patrick closer.

Patrick's eyes screwed shut, nose wrinkling as Pete's head jabbed into the back of his Adam's apple, coaxing a gag reflex that Patrick just managed to stifle. Patrick tilted his head a little, suckling as best he could. What would feel good? If he was in Pete's position, what would send him moaning and shuddering?

Pale hips bucked forwards, and Patrick's brow furrowed as his hand moved down to his own cock, still shrouded in layers, but- Fuck, he was hard. This was just insult to injury, at this point.

 

He really wanted to get this over with, he needed to go mope and deal with himself.

 

Patrick suckled, bobbing his head, flicking his tongue, all while drool poured down his chin and his gag reflex lurked in the shadows, ready to make him retch all over Pete.

He exhaled shakily and deeply as his lips dragged over Pete's shaft, tongue trailing along with the movement, before he pulled his mouth away with an obscene pop. Pressing the soaked member to his cheek, Patrick lapped across the side, all the way up to the head as his wide eyes stared up at Pete.

The older man was finally looking down, and he groaned at shuddered as Patrick's tongue dragged over a prominent dorsal vein. Patrick's eyes flitted from Pete's down to the slit, and he huffed, holding back a smile at the clear liquid that fell from the tip.

 

Almost. Pete was almost there.

 

Without a word, and with only small, wet sounds, Patrick sank down again, grimacing and eyes screwing shut as his gag reflex pleaded from his abused throat again. He ignored it, and only prepared himself as Pete's hands wrapped into his hair again. Hips bucked forwards. Hard, fast, deep- a combination Patrick hadn't really thought possible.

Patrick felt warm all over, blood pounding through his veins, pulse thundering in his ears, and cock straining against fabric. Every tiny shift, every tiny buck made him shudder and moan around Pete, and his hand fumbled with his own fly desperately when-

 

A long, low, heady groan filled his ears, and Pete stuttered impossibly close. Patrick felt Pete twitch and pump against his tongue, and soon enough, he felt something hot and salty join the bile that had pooled in the very base of his throat. It spilled into his mouth, threatening to escape with spit, before Patrick blinked and gulped timidly, a nervous habit that was really fucking him over right now.

 

Patrick felt Pete shudder under him, whole frame twitching and tensing, before he slipped out of Patrick's mouth. Watery, thick strands of clear and white linked them together, but Pete paid it no mind as he shoved his cock back into his underwear, buttoning his fly as he wrinkled his nose at Patrick, pushing the blonde back onto his shaky heels with a nudge of his foot.

Pete's eyes were blank, but somehow, all Patrick could feel was judgement and disgust radiating from the man like heat.

 

"Get back to work, you lazy Fritz."

 

And with those harsh words, Pete paced out of the stall, door swinging and clattering against it's frame, leaving Patrick in a puddle of his own shame.

With a shaky sigh that stung his neck, he slumped over, back pressing against the wall as he swiped the spit from his chin with the back of his sleeve. His throat ached, and he felt as though his voice would be gone for days as he trailed fingertips over it.

Running a free hand over his face and sniffing, Patrick buried his face in his knees, just as he'd done in the morning, both hands moving to run through his hair, as he desperately tried to pretend they were his mother's.

Shame. Shame was all he felt, shame that made his heart heavy, that made his bones ache, that made his breath hitch in his throat and nostrils.

 

Seems like this bathroom would hold some pretty bad memories too. Patrick glanced up over the top of the stall, blinking watery eyes at a clock, the quiet ticking loud like gunshots in his ears.

 

Eleven o'clock.

 

 

'Kenne deinen Platz, Leutnant Stumph.'

 

 

Chapter Text

 

"So, here's the plan,"

 

Frank leaned over the table, hands splaying on the wood, just below masses of papers, pictures and notes that were tossed around haphazardly.

Everyone who would be concerned in the feud was stood around the table, brows furrowed and eyes clear- well, Brendon, who was grinning and bouncing on his toes, excluded.

Gerard hadn't let Mikey attend, and instead, his little brother was moping at the bar, accompanied by Robert, or 'Bob', as Mikey had insisted they ‘anglicise’ his name.

 

Gerard still didn't like the idea of the Austrian, he didn't like it one bit, but Frank could convince him to just about anything.

He let his eyes drift over Frank. The man looked tired; Those dark eyebags, the gaunt cheeks, the bloodshot eyes, it would've been obvious to the most oblivious being. Research, information, and planning had all taken its toll on Frank, and while Gerard was worried, he knew better than to ask him to stop.
Frank would do just about anything for him, but that, in turn, also meant Gerard had to respect his wishes...But it was still hard to wake up alone, it was hard to find Frank at his desk in the small hours, it was hard to catch him dropping asleep at the bar.

 

"We cut off suppliers," Frank's index finger jabbed down across the pictures of suppliers; D'Elia, Margot, Fletcher-" More pictures, more names. The most influential, the best stocked, the most reliable suppliers, and they were gonna cut Joseph's supply dry-

 

"How do you plan on getting them to stop , selling to Joseph?" Jon's head was tilted, and his brow remained firmly furrowed. "He's just a customer to them. They don't care about-"

 

"I've got that sorted."

 

The terse tone made Jon quieten down, and nod. Frank's eyes didn't leave him for a moment, before he stood up straight, and looked around at the men present. "And then, we find Joseph and Dun- where we discussed." He looked around again, eyes wide and searching. "Well, anything else?"

 

Ryan, who had been casually fiddling with his lighter, flame clicking on and off periodically, suddenly looked up. His hand moved deftly to make the orange stripe disappear, before he spun the metal lighter between his fingers, and shoved it back into his pocket, eyes not once leaving Frank.

 

 

"Cooperstown."

 

 

The voice was relatively quiet, but the words made everyone lax with varying sighs and nervous jitters- everyone but Frank, who just stared with blank eyes, before gesturing for the man to continue.

Ryan nodded, tongue swiping across his teeth as his head drooped, eyes squinting down at papers he wasn't really reading.

 

"We should find out what Cooperstown is doing." Ryan glanced up with wider eyes, posture relaxed, yet tall as he kept speaking convincing words. "We don't need another rival in this. There are only three of ‘em, but we all know…” Ryan’s words trailed away as everyone’s eyes flashed knowingly. There were only three of them, but they’d won some hard victories before. “And besides, Wentz knows Joseph."

 

Gerard glanced between Frank and Ryan; Both were stood tall, both had blank eyes, and both let their features give nothing away. While the issue with Joseph had united their speakeasies, it was obvious the two still didn't like each other. Perhaps, respected , was the right word, rather. They respected each other, but they didn’t like each other.

 

"How'd you wanna do it?" Frank's tone was quiet too, and his hands quickly dug into his pockets as he shook his head at Ryan subtly, eyes wide.

 

Ryan shrugged, finally giving into his urges and pulling a daisy white cigarette out from his breast pocket, promptly joined with the shiny glint of the cool, metal lighter. He lit the end, taking a quick drag, before glancing over at Frank. "I'll sort it out, just need your permission."

 

The dark-haired man exhaled deeply through his nose, reluctance practically dripping off of him, but instead of refusing, Frank nodded, eyes closing for a beat. "Sure, knock yourself out."

 

Ryan smiled, for once, as he nodded back.

 

"Copacetic."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Ah- agh-"

Patrick moaned, chest heaving as he tipped his head back against the stall. His legs were wrapped around Pete's waist as firm hands dug into his hips, and as wet mouth moved on his neck, all while Patrick was putting the very faint shame that still haunted him to the back of his mind.

Pale hands gripped at clothed shoulders, then at dark strands as Pete's hips became brutal. A surprised, overwhelmed whine threatened to escape Patrick's throat, but he dropped his head into Pete's neck the instant it tried, successfully muffling the sounds as he bit his lip.

 

Shivers ran rampant all across his spine, and goosebumps popped up all over his skin as Pete mouthed over his neck, tongue running along expanses of skin. Patrick’s teeth pressed into his lip harder, and he promptly leaned his cheek on the crown of Pete's head, as the older man grunted into his ear, thrusting into the blonde deeply, rather than quickly, now.

 

In a movement Patrick didn't even have time to process, Pete shifted back, hips still flush forwards into Patrick's as he hooked his hands around bare thighs; In the moments of rushed, half-undressing earlier, Patrick had only managed to push his pants to his knees before Pete was against him, already hard, panting and biting.

 

Pete's forehead pressed against Patrick's as his eyes screwed shut, fingers digging into flawless skin as he began thrusting again, hard, sharp and deep. Patrick's head fell back again with a long groan, and Pete's mouth moved to his Adam's apple like a magnet, suckling and biting skin as his hips became stuttered and uneven.

 

The warm, tight knot in Patrick's stomach was unbearable, and the way his painfully hard cock brushed his own shirt with every bounce on Pete made him groan desperately, arms wrapping fully around the older man’s shoulders as his face fell into the crook of his neck, and as blue eyes clamped shut.

Heavy breathing, twitching hips, tensing shoulders, and finally Pete pressed into him fully, and deeply, with a long, raspy groan right into his ear.

Patrick gave a broken moan into Pete's neck, hips rutting forwards wildly as he came ropes in the space between them, narrowly missing Pete as white droplets dripped to the floor. Patrick was infinitely glad that he'd missed the older man, if he’d stained Pete’s shirt, well- that would've probably earned a slap to the head.

 

Patrick shifted back, letting his head rest on the stall wall as Pete remained buried inside him, but in a motion that confused the German infinitely, Pete pressed his forehead to Patrick's.

Out of some, odd, wanting instinct, and from the sleepy, content feeling of post-sex clouding his mind, Patrick shifted his lips forwards, trying to catch Pete's between the millimetres that held them apart.

Pete jerked his head away instantly, burying his face in Patrick's shoulder instead, as his back laboured with slow, deep breathing.

 

There was silence for a moment, and Patrick let his eyes shut, feeling content and warm with Pete near him. It was odd, and it really didn't make sense- due to past experiences, but he couldn't force himself to react the way he should; He should’ve felt fear, anger, and defensiveness, not just plain acceptance, he shouldn’t have just collapsed into shudders and whines at every breath and lap Pete pressed to his neck. It made him mad, in a way. Like his own self had betrayed him.

 

Patrick dropped his head again, sighing defeatedly as Pete moved away, pulling out of Patrick and propping him back on the floor, letting him stand with shaky legs as he cleaned himself, and the floor, as best he could with a piece of toilet paper that he'd scrunched into a ball.

 

"You're getting better at that."

 

Tossing the ball away, Patrick stood straight, and glanced up at the now, perfectly composed Pete. Patrick tugged his pants back into place, ignoring the discomfort of sticky warmth leaking out over his thighs. He cleared his throat, biting his tongue and dipping his head to hide a flush of red as he nodded, with a small mumble of thanks.

 

 

Pete didn't stick around long, he never did.

 

 

Fly fastened again, the dark-haired man strode out of the stall, Patrick thought he heard some taps twisting for a moment, but everything was a blur to him in the dreamy state Pete had left him in.

Shaking his head to drift the dazed clouds away, he rubbed a hand over his face, stepping out of the stall on trembling knees. Practically collapsing against the sink, Patrick turned the water on, quickly washing his hands and face as he tried to ignore the pain that shot all the way from his backside up to his spine.

 

Pete hadn't been taking it easy on him, and Patrick got dragged into a stall practically every day.

Patrick would be lying if he said he didn't enjoy it, in some respects. Sure, it wasn't very fun to be left, filthy and ashamed, immediately after, and in that clear state of mind when regret and embarrassment would flood in like sudden tidal waves. Patrick always needed a few minutes to recover after that.

He didn't mind though, not anymore. He always tried to relax, to enjoy it, and to put shame out of his mind. And, much to his deep annoyance, Pete was good. Really good.

 

Glancing up at his dishevelled, lidded-eyed self in the mirror, Patrick sighed one last time, straightening and tugging his collar to hide bites and bruises, and making sure his fly was buttoned, before making his way back to the bar, hand idly flattening his ruffled hair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"You sure you're gonna be okay?"

 

Patrick nodded with a smile, all aspects of his posture and vibe trying to convince Joe that it was, indeed, okay.

 

It was the first time Patrick would be left alone at Cooperstown; Andy, Pete, or Joe, would usually stay the night, either sleeping, drinking, or working, in that usual order.

 

Patrick had never really liked sleeping alone, but he could deal with just about anything, with no complaints while doing so.

Any order, any unpleasant task, Patrick was ready for it. So, when Joe had explained that he needed to go home to see his wife and daughter, and when Andy had chimed in that he had to go home too, and when Pete had just shrugged and left to his apartment without a word, Patrick hadn't been too distressed.

 

If anything, Joe and Andy were more worried than he was; Eyes wide, brows upturned, and voices lilted and reassuring.

Patrick could only smile and roll his eyes as Andy asked him if he 'was sure', for the hundredth time. "I will be fine. You can go, komm schon."

 

The two other men glanced at each other, but nodded with varying degrees of worry in their exhales. Patrick watched them both trot up the steps, and he stayed at the base of the staircase, eyes locked on the cornflower blue door as it shut, and clicked locked.

 

And Patrick was alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When alone in a new place, Patrick always liked to explore. Sure, that had almost gotten him killed before (The Château de Chantilly had just been too fucking beautiful not to look around in, snipers be damned), but what was life without a few brushes with death, right?

Sure, this speakeasy wasn't the Château, surrounded by marble statues and green fields, but it was still interesting enough. So, he'd made a plan; Look around where he'd never looked around before, read through any papers, notes and books he found, and sing, talk to himself, and whistle as loud as he wanted to.

 

 

"Was haben wir hier?" Patrick mumbled to himself with interest as he glanced over the tall, coloured alcohol bottles that sat in the back room- and that barely saw the light of day. Fancy, long names Patrick could hardly read clouded his vision as his fingers trailed over both, old, and new labels.

 

Patrick wondered if they would notice a missing bottle.

 

Patrick had never really gotten blackout drunk before, but he'd always been curious as to what it was like. And now, he was alone in a bar, surrounded by everything he needed to reach that state.

A couple clicks of his tongue, and sense reasserted itself.

Patrick sighed, shaking his head at himself as he moved away, pacing over to the bathroom. Getting drunk wouldn't be a good course of action here, and it'd definitely set any trust he'd gained from the other men back to zero.

 

Pushing open the bathroom door, Patrick glanced over at the bathtub. His nose wrinkled, and he promptly fully grimaced, at the sticky, almost crusted skin on the back of his thighs. He really needed a bath, he needed every trace of Pete off of him.

With one, final sigh, Patrick stepped into the room, shutting the door behind him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick always had trouble sleeping.

It was the tragic, old, long tale of trauma; The teary accounts of hearing ghosts of gunfire and screams. Of seeing rats scramble out of a corpse's eye sockets when he shut his own eyes. Of hearing men scream as they were tossed across the field after stepping on a shell, of seeing them clutch bloody, bony stumps while they screamed bloody murder. Of seeing men who had been blown in half, pulling themselves along the dirt, entrails dragging in the mud behind them as they groaned for their mothers in repetitive pleads while they slowly died.

 

Patrick remembered one sound, and sight, in particular.

 

They were the ones that never let him sleep.

 

It was a Frenchman. Patrick's squadron had just been transferred to the huge, abandoned asylum, and hospital: Fort de Vaux.

It was terrifying, in its own way. Some men had insisted it was haunted, others had dismissed it as kids' stories- But then, they'd found something very real.

 

Screams, horrible, inhuman screams coming from the isolation chambers. Men would stand outside of the crate barricaded, metal door, gaping with wide eyes as they listened to the feral growls and screeches.

 

Some field doctors had theorized that it was a man suffering from shell shock, but the French doctors that’d worked there had a tendency to just put troubled people in isolation, rather than actually help them.

Instead of being treated, and instead of receiving therapy and medication, the man had been locked in a dark room, completely alone with the poltergeists of dead friends and foes. He’d dissolved into something less than human. And that had only been completely confirmed when they'd finally prised open the door.

 

It was the worst thing Patrick had ever seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A light sleep had finally washed over him, and Patrick felt the buzzes of pleads for mercy growing faint in his ears, and the picture of a young, begging British soldier, hands out as he blubbered, was growing blurry and dim.

 

 

Patrick had almost fallen asleep, when he heard footsteps.

 

 

Sensitive ears prompted him to shoot up in bed, face stone as he tensed all over, his ears pricking as they shifted in their locked positions, he strained to hear-

 

Footsteps, breathing, a door clicking open, a door clicking shut.

 

Someone was here, and Patrick had a feeling it wasn't Pete, Joe or Andy.

 

Stepping out of bed with splayed, quiet footfalls, Patrick pushed himself to his feet, grimacing when the springs creaked. He stood still, frozen as he waited for a few moments to pass. Nobody came, and so, Patrick moved forwards, keeping his body lax and deft as his mind cleared.

In the past, he would have been sweating a waterfall, trembling like jelly, and bumping into everything, just generally making, and being, a huge, noisy mess.

 

But sneaking around in chateaus, trenches, camps, and houses, had rendered him blank and emotionless when delving into stealth. It always scared him a little, when he reflected on it later;

His heart would be slow and steady, his stomach would be calm. Every footstep, every movement, every breath- they would all be quiet, deft, and undetectable.

 

Everything, every quirk that made him a fallible human- the nervous gulping, the itchy neck, the red face- it would all melt away in a matter of seconds, only leaving a cold, emotionless husk behind.

It was like the real Patrick was in a cage, screaming and banging on the bars while he watched himself move like a snake in the shadows, unable to control his own body, or his own will.

 

With the cover of darkness shrouding him, Patrick slunk along the hallway, footsteps only silent pads as he moved forwards.

He reached the open, public area, where the bar, and all the tables and booths were; Along with Joe's office, the first door at the start of the back hall.

 

There was yellow-tinted light flooding out from the gap, flowing like a golden river, and casting light over Patrick's sock clad toes. He blinked robotically, before opening the door with nothing but casual moves.

A man, who had been rooting around in Joe's files and papers, glanced up in panic. He instantly stoned himself and fished a gun from his pocket, holding it firmly at Patrick as his eyes narrowed.

 

 

"Don't move."

 

 

Patrick didn't move.

 

The man seemed genuinely surprised by that, but cleared his throat and straightened up, shifty eyes darting around between the pages and the German wildly.

 

The man was nervous. Patrick could feel it. He hadn't meant to get caught, maybe he'd been told the bar would be deserted, not many people knew Patrick worked there yet.

 

"J-Just- c'mere- And put your damn hands up." The second string was added as an afterthought, after a concerned glance at the deadpan expression and dull eyes that shrouded Patrick entirely.

 

Without a word, Patrick held his hands up weakly, blinking slowly, and practically dripping with boredom as he moved forwards into the room.

 

"Turn around. Face the wall."

 

He followed the order, and promptly felt the cold muzzle of the pistol pressing into the back of his head. It was a Colt. An M1911.

Patrick's heart was as calm as it was before, despite now being threatened with death. His brain spoke to him, relaxed and rational. Wait for a window, don't rush it, don't force it, just wait.

 

Patrick heard laboured breathing, and as soon as he heard the rustle of clothes, and as soon as the muzzle faltered on his skull, Patrick blinked.

A side-step away from the gun, an elbow to the jaw, and kick to the knee, and the man was crumpled on the floor, with Patrick holding his own gun to his head.

 

"Don't move."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pete loitered outside of Folie's, every once in a while chancing a glance and polite smile at Ida- who’d grin back as she jotted down stock in a notebook, whilst bouncing her baby with her free arm.

 

Taking a drag of his cigarette, Pete moved to lean against a window beam, blinking up at the early sky; The whole city was in that sleepy morning daze, people were still waking up, light was still spreading, and their part of the world was slowly jolting into action, one minute at a time.

 

Pete took another inhale and decided to play a little game with himself, making a bet on who would arrive first; Joe or Andy?

 

He considered both seriously; Joe- nah . Pete couldn't do it without his face splitting into a grin and a laugh. Andy would arrive first. That was a given.

 

Pete sighed, watching the breath steam in the chilly air. The sight made him pull his coat tighter, and nuzzle into his scarf. Pete blinked and rolled his eyes, pushing off of the beam with a foot as he opted to pace around, in an effort to keep himself warm.

 

He wondered how Patrick was. He'd spent the night alone in the bar, for the first time ever. God, Pete could only hope he hadn't chugged every bottle they owned and had completely wrecked the place-

 

"Morning."

 

Pete was snapped from his thoughts by the all too familiar voice, and he instantly flicked his head to the side, eyebrows raising nonchalantly. Andy stepped over to him across cobbled floor- just like Pete had bet. The dark-haired man nodded in a simple greeting, "Morning, Hurley."

The bearded man was bundled up in a similar way to Pete; Scarf, coat, gloves- only, they both drew the line at hats, it seemed.

 

"Joe here yet?" Andy took to leaning on the same window beam Pete had evacuated a few moments prior, and Pete only shrugged with a breathy laugh, bouncing on his toes and heels alternately as he buried his free hand in his pocket. Fuck, it was cold.

 

"D'you think I'm freezing my ass off for fun?"

 

Andy chortled, hands shoving into his pockets as he tipped his head against the wood, "Fair point." They fell into an easy, comfortable silence; Pete paced up and down irritably, taking occasional drags and muttering 'Trohman', along with strings of insults and curses, under his breath.

Andy only watched the sky, huffing in amusement whenever he saw birds crash into each other- or whenever one of Pete's curses was particularly loud.

They could've just gone into the store, they could’ve just warmed themselves up inside while they waited for Joe, but that just wasn't their style; It was a little ritual, and without it, the day would be off to a bad start. They'd feel uneasy, for some odd reason.

 

Pete always wagered it was some attachment bullshit they'd grown towards each other after years of fighting a war, where you really tended to be alone, good friends or none. Close brushes with death that came daily could really bond people together, Pete supposed.

Whenever one of them got called to the general, or whenever one had been separated- for whatever reason, the others would wait. Rain, sleet, or shine- they would always wait.

 

He glanced up to the street, rolling his eyes and sighing heavily as there was still no sign of Joe; Andy only laughed at him.

 

Looks like he was stuck with these assholes forever...Not that he minded too much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Jeepers creepers, finally ."

 

"Don't even start, Pete. I got here as early as I could-"

 

"Oh God, dry up, Joe."

 

"You're such a- Holy shit."

 

All three jaws fell open, and all three sets of eyes widened as they reached the wooden slats, stepping off of the final stone step.

 

A man, tied up and lying on the ground, along with-

 

"Patrick- what-?"

 

Joe's voice was strained, as Carolina blue eyes moved from the man, to the German- who was nonchalantly eating oats out of a can, rubbing his eyes with his fingers as he brought another spoonful up to his mouth. There was a gun next to him on the bar, and Pete felt himself freeze. Fuck.

 

"...He broke in, didn't he?"

 

"W-What, d'you mean a caper?"

 

"Coulda been, or, unless-"

 

Pete's eyes shot wide again, and his nose twitched as he strode forwards, crouching down to the tied, curled up man.

 

"Hey- c'mon you idiot-"

 

Pete poked and prodded at the man's cheek, and in turn, the fella spluttered awake, collapsing into shuddering and panting almost immediately, as he no doubt realized the gravity of his situation.

 

His words were muffled under the belt in his mouth, and Pete's eyes drifted the knot tied behind his head; Goddamn, that was expertise if Pete had ever seen it.

His gaze cast up at Patrick nervously; The blonde was still contentedly eating oats, although, he occasionally stared down to catch a glimpse of the tied man.

Blue eyes met brown, and Pete shirked his head down again, brow furrowing at the stranger immediately.

 

He moved both hands over to the knot, struggling with the ends of the belt, before it finally sprung free, and the man spat the leather out of his mouth with a grunt and a laboured breath. The stranger tried to tilt his head, squirming to catch a glimpse of Patrick with a snarling mouth.

 

"You motherfucker- You fuckin' Kraut, I'll kill you -" The voice was exhausted, yet the notes of rage, and sincerity they held, made Pete's jaw clench. His hand shot out to wrap around the stranger's neck. The man gave a choked breath, and Pete wrinkled his nose before loosening his grip- he wasn’t trying to kill the fella, after all. Eyes blank and holding back fury, Pete spoke in a tight voice, holding back the urge to beat the bastard bloody.

 

"Who are you?"

 

The stranger refused to answer Pete's question, only squirming further, with wild eyes as he tried to keep his glare on Patrick. "You fucking Ethel!"

 

Pete huffed a laugh, glancing up at Patrick- who obviously hadn't understood the insult at all; Head cocked like a puppy and brow furrowed as his mind audibly whirred.

 

"Well," He couldn't hold back a smirk as he shook his head down at the man, "That Ethel beat the shit outta ya."

 

" Fuck you -"

 

"Who sent you?"

 

The man only tried to spit at him. A speck landed on Pete's chin, and the dark-haired man bristled, jaw writhing as he wiped it away with the back of his sleeve, before-

 

"NO, no no n- I didn't-"

 

A sickening crunch rang out as Pete's knuckles collided with the man's nose, and he was still whining and pleading when Pete grabbed him by the shirt, pulling him upwards with a serious glare in his eyes.

 

Joe and Andy only watched, they made no move to stop him. They knew he wasn't irrational or stupid, they knew he'd only scare the man within an inch of his life- but nothing further than that.

 

"Who. Sent. You?"

 

The man's mouthed twisted, trying to collect saliva again.

Pete sighed and dropped him with a yelp and a thud, before rolling his whiskey eyes.

 

His head flicked up at a quiet sigh from the bar; Patrick put down his can, shoving the spoon inside before deftly taking the gun in his right hand, all with a practised move.

 

He moved away from the bar, soft, sure footsteps making little to no noise as he approached the man, crouched down, and held the gun up by his own head, muzzle pointing at the ceiling.

 

The safety clicked off, and Patrick moved the pistol to the man's head.

 

And in that instant, the stranger began screaming and sobbing, pleading for his life to Patrick's dull stare. "PLEASE- NO- GOD- I h-have KIDS, I have a w-WIFE- please, please, PLE-PLEASE- I d-didn't, oh God- PLEA-"

 

Patrick only looked up at Pete with a blink.

 

Pete felt his heart stop for a second, breath hitching as he stared at Patrick, wide-eyed and brow raised.

 

Patrick looked cold. Like his soul was gone, only leaving a shell that looked like Patrick behind.

Pete had seen all kinds of things throughout his life, things that would traumatise and horrify most people- But that look in Patrick's eyes, that dead, blank, dull stare...It terrified Pete. It was the first thing that had truly struck raw terror into him.

 

It was like he wasn’t human anymore.

 

A shiver, result of a cold bar and of a cold stare, brought him back to reality, and he blinked slowly as his gaze moved from Patrick's dead eyes, to the stranger. Steeling himself, and trying to ignore the dull gaze boring into him, Pete swallowed, and narrowed his eyes at the man again.

 

"Who are you?"

 

"Ellis- E-Ellis Barrett- please- I'm begging you-"

 

"Who sent you?"

 

The stranger hesitated, eyes flashing fearfully. Pete already had a hunch of who had sent him, but he wanted to hear the man say it , he wanted to hear it , he wanted his inkling irrefutably confirmed.

 

He leaned down a little, face twitching into a sudden, slightly demented, smile for only a split second.

 

 

 

"Whatever he'll do to you- I'll do worse."

 

 

 

The man whimpered, wide pale eyes looking truly afraid as his whole frame trembled. The muzzle was still steady and still against his head, unmoving as though it were a picture. Pete's eyes flicked up to the pale hand holding it, then to its owner; All of Patrick was still, it wasn't just his hand. That unnatural calmness, that calmness that shouldn’t have been there at all as he held a gun to somebody’s head.

 

Ignoring the fear that made his head thrum and beat like a drum, along with the twisting in the pit of his stomach, Pete's eyes fluttered for a second as he leaned back up.

 

"Who sent you?"

 

"...R-Ryan Ross."

 

Pete huffed, face breaking into a rueful smile as he glanced up at Joe and Andy, entire being radiating 'I told you so'.

Just in case they hadn't heard the pitiful whisper, Pete pinched his nails into the man's ear, twisting it as he lifted him from the ground via the flimsy appendage. The man cried out and sobbed as Pete asked again.

 

"Who sent you?"

 

"R-r-r-" Ellis had developed a stutter, apparently.

 

"Who sent you?"

 

"R-r-RYAN ROSS- R-RYAN ROSS- IT WAS-"

 

Pete dropped him again, face crunching with the floor as Pete stood, dusting his hands and completely blanking out the man's pathetic sobs and moans against the floorboards. Patrick stood too, moving back over to the bar, placing the gun down, and resuming his oats, all life suddenly flooding back into his baby-blues.

 

Ignoring the urge to confront Patrick about the blank stare, Pete stepped over the twitching, squirming man, and promptly waltzed over to Joe and Andy. With a smile, he held his hands up like silent questions, but he quickly dropped them as he glanced back at the moaning, fetal-curled mess.

 

The moment he looked back, Joe had already moved towards him, hand clapping on his shoulder, and face blank, as well as deadly serious.

 

"Do what you have to do."

 

Pete nodded, smile growing soft rather than smug.

 

"Thank you Joe."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Ah- uh- g-gottverdammt- ah-"

Pete listened to the blonde's groans as he watched Patrick's back arch with lidded eyes, head cocking as he glanced down to where their bodies met; It was obscene, of course it was, but watching himself slide in and out of Patrick only served to intensify the shivers that crawled over his spine.

Hands gripping pale hips, Pete swallowed, trying to keep his breathing calm as he glanced back up at Patrick; The German's hands were fisted into the comforter, both hands trembling beside his head as his soft mouth parted in moans and sharp, hissed curses.

Pale legs were spread widely and beautifully, and milky thighs rested over Pete's own as their hips clashed together, again and again and again. The sound of skin crashing together was music to his ears.

Pete had never seen Patrick completely naked before, and now that he finally had, he'd decided he liked it. A lot.

He didn't understand how a man's skin could be that soft, especially one that had probably fought in a war- if the way he'd handled that gun was any indication.

 

Pete let his eyes trail over his newest favourite sight; Milky thighs that led up to a creamy stomach. Faint, pale, and almost invisible hair that made a trail, leading onlookers upwards, towards a pale chest, smattered with pale tan freckles.

 

There was a line, pale red, and that looked like a scar, situated just over his heart, leaning towards the right.

Pete idly wondered about the cause, but it was hard to focus or make a clear string of thought with Patrick under him, writhing and moaning sinfully.

 

Pete glanced down, eyes quickly finding Patrick's cock; Flushed red, straining and bulging against his stomach.

Hands gripping a little too hard as he gave a particularly rough thrust, Pete took pity, moving one hand from a prominent hip, and instead, wrapping it around Patrick's shaft.

 

Patrick gasped for air and arched limply as Pete jerked him with a twist of his hand. Brown eyes shifted, staring down at Patrick's cock, twitching in his steadily moving fingers.

 

He had a birthmark, and it only made Pete huff a small smile- it was an oddity, that was for sure; A tan smudge on his head, towards the left, just by his slit.

It was endearing, in a way. Some tiny feature he found different and soft, and that helped him completely push Patrick's dead, haunting stare from earlier, out of his head.

 

Patrick's moans were getting higher, and louder, and Pete found himself extremely glad that Joe and Andy had both opted to go home tonight.

 

Only a few more thrusts, hard, quick and deep, and Patrick came undone with a silent scream, coming in ribbons over Pete's knuckles, and over both their stomachs.

Pete couldn't bring himself to be annoyed, and instead, fell over Patrick, hands beside the blonde's head holding him up as his speedy hips stuttered to a slower pace. He groaned, face burrowing into Patrick's neck as he felt Patrick gripping him, so tight, and so willing- it only made him shudder.

 

Open mouth pressed to Patrick's pulse, Pete lazily grazed his teeth on pale skin, before thrusting forwards one last, violent time, and finally spilling thickly into Patrick. He groaned deeply, falling from his hands to his forearms with a deep, shaky sigh.

He hardly registered hands burying themselves in his hair, pushing back strands that had fallen into his eyes.

 

Patrick- Soft, dazed and sleepy.

 

Pete leaned up with a deep, calming exhale, eyes crooking open to look down at Patrick, who's face was only millimetres away; God that mouth. Pink lips, fuller than any woman's, Pete had never seen, fuck, he just wanted to-

 

No. No, he couldn't.

 

Kissing meant something.

 

A kiss meant fondness, and Pete had none for Patrick- just how he knew Patrick had none for Pete.

 

This was an agreement, nothing more, nothing less. Whenever Pete needed a mouth or a hole, Patrick was there. And Patrick's reward was getting to keep his job, getting to keep his bed, and getting to keep his money.

 

Dropping his face in Patrick's neck again, he heard the blonde sigh contently, fingers still threading through dark strands. Pete wondered how it looked; Pale, almost totally white, fingers, laced with dark, almost completely black, strands of hair. The contrast must've been something to behold.

 

Pete let himself have a few moments of peace; Face pressed into soft skin, buried inside tight warmth, and Patrick's fingers in his hair, soft and soothing, although he'd never admit it.

 

He stopped himself leaving a peck on Patrick's shoulder as he leaned up, towering over the German once more, before he pulled out with uncharacteristic care. Pete would be the first to admit he wasn't a gentle guy, but those sudden bursts of harshness and rage did him no favours, they might even be his undoing someday.

 

Without a word, Pete slipped away from Patrick, biting back a frustrated, discontent grunt as Patrick's hands dropped from his hair weakly.

He move to sit on the edge of the mattress, quickly redressing as neatly as he could. He tugged his pants on first, before snatching his shirt from the floor and pulling it on, long fingers working to fasten buttons.

 

Yes, those bursts of anger. All narrowed eyes, whispered hisses, and twitching lips. Just like that morning he'd practically choked Patrick.

 

He glanced over at the blonde, who had silently shuffled under the comforter, and had curled up inside it.

Pete hated the small smile that grew on his face at the sight; The mussed blonde hair that looked like pure sex, the pale skin that almost glowed in the dim light, the eyelashes that subtly twitched as his eyes stilled under delicate eyelids, and of course, the blush pink lips, curled into the ghost of a content smile.

Pete looked away from the downright angelic sight, and pulled on his socks, followed by his shoes.

 

He regretted the way things had started between them.

 

When he'd calmed down from Patrick's initial rejection, he'd spent a good three hours pacing around outside of Folie's, gripping his hair, gritting his teeth, and cursing himself to Hell.

 

Even later, however, Pete hadn't been able to take his eyes off of Patrick, and when the blonde had motioned him to the bathroom, masking the move with a cough and all the subtlety in the world, Pete had felt as though he was in a dream.

 

He also regretted their first...intimate venture. Pete had been too rough, too damn rough, and fuck, had he felt like shit for it.

He'd arrived late the day after, cowered under his comforter at home, cursing himself and lamenting what he'd done to Patrick. That anger. That anger at himself for scaring Patrick, had been completely misdirected into what had happened in the bathroom stall.

He’d literally taken a hundred steps back, he’d screwed himself over completely.

 

Part of Pete had assumed that Patrick had gone to Andy, or Joe- or both, for help. Part of him was sure Patrick had told them everything, part of him knew that he'd step into Cooperstown, only to get socked in the jaw by Andy.

 

But Patrick had said nothing.

 

And Pete had waltzed into Cooperstown as though nothing had ever happened.

 

Patrick had motioned him to the bathroom again, that night. He'd let Pete do what he needed to, and he'd stayed quiet- although, Pete wasn't sure whether that was due to the obstruction in his mouth or not.

 

Pete still wasn't sure what to make of Patrick.

 

Half of him saw an inhuman being, less worth than a dog, or a rat. An enemy, a villain, a demon who killed men of God, and murdered babies, and shot ninety men while he cowered in a tower.

 

...And the other half only saw the angel that was sleeping soundly, bundled in a comforter; Inhuman again, but better than human. Angelic, flawless, and terrifying, if needs be.

 

Pete hated how the former was louder than the latter.

 

"You...You did a good job, with- with Ellis. You did good."

 

Pete wasn't sure if Patrick would hear the quiet mutter of praise, as he'd believed the German to be asleep. He could only straighten up in surprise as Patrick's broken English, spoken in a heavily accented voice rang out in the dim room. "Thank you. I- I try- i-ich versuchte mein Bestes- sch- I-"

 

"It's okay, Kaiser." Pete's eyes shut for a second as he tried to stifle the bile that poked at his throat, all triggered by those foreign words and sounds that only reminded him of death and destruction. Associated with fear, with terror, with the hissing of gas, with the sickly-sweet smell of corpses-

 

"Goodnight."

 

With that, Pete cut through the silence, as he stood, now fully-clothed and paced over the door. His hand twisted the handle, and he opened a small gap, before, just- hovering , there. He couldn't bring himself to go back, but he couldn’t bring himself to go forwards either.

Pete stared out into the dim hallway, only lit by a few table lamps that were flicked on in the bar.

 

"Gute Nacht."

 

Pete nodded, feeling bile and bristles shake him again. He chanced a glance back, desperately holding back a smile at Patrick's face poking out from a cocoon of blankets. With a sharp, determined exhale, Pete forced himself forwards with a nod to himself, stepping out of the room and clicking the door shut behind him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That night, Pete left Folie's with a furrowed stare, and with his hands dug into his pockets as he idly noted the steam that formed from every exhale he gave into the cold air.

He glanced up at the sky, praying for a lack of storm clouds, and sighing with a slight smile as he only saw a clear, dark navy blue, dotted with the white, twinkling pinpricks of stars.

He'd like to take Patrick to see the stars one d-

 

Pete moved his drifting thoughts to more steady, explored territory, rather that risk wandering over ideas that would take root, and eat at him until he realized them. He couldn’t just take Patrick out to look at the damn star-

 

Ellis Barrett, one of Ryan Ross' spies.

 

He'd been beaten bloody and tossed into a gutter by yours truly, and now, Cooperstown was considering its next step.

Joe had given Pete the go-ahead to 'do what he needed to do', and Pete was gonna take that liberation with both hands and never let it go- well, at least, until Joe told him to let it go.

 

The curly-haired man usually kept him on a short leash, but when he let Pete run wild...when he let Pete run wild, terrible things happened- But, terrible things that benefited them in every way, and that just... inconvenienced, others.

Pete had made his plan, and the first step was to head over to Slowtown tomorrow evening.

Pete glanced up at the sky, smiling lightly at the stars.

 

 

Ross was gonna pay. They were all gonna pay.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Cleaning the bar was, by far, not the most interesting task, but it had to be done.

 

Josh yawned a little as the white cloth in his hand dragged along glossy, slightly scratched, wood.

He glanced up and around at the deserted room, stifling another yawn that had tried to crawl up his throat; The bar was empty, naturally, seeing as it was seven am.

That dim, rainy morning, Josh had woken up alone. The hard pitter patters of rain and hail clattering against the ceiling of their small apartment, being the only sounds in his ears. No breathing, no mumbling, no yawning.

He had lay there for a while, lamenting the lack of warmth and sound of Tyler’s voice as he gazed out through thin curtains, watching blurred shapes of dark clouds hovering and swirling lazily in the graphite sky. Pale cloud light struggled to shine through, and Josh decided that he definitely did not like waking up alone.

 

But he knew he couldn't demand anything from Tyler; The man had no obligations to Josh, they weren't family, they weren't-

 

A door clattered open, and Josh's neck craned as he tried to catch a glimpse of the stairs through ash stony, bricked arches.

He spotted a pair of distressed black, Balmoral boots, and he immediately recognized the bony legs that followed as Mislav, a Croatian fella, ‘round about in his mid-twenties. Tyler had hired him as a ‘librarian’, a man to keep their cover of the fake library firm and believable.

 

Cheeks gaunt and eyes dull, Mislav came fully into view, and two other pairs of Oxfords, and a pair of brown Deserts, followed.

Josh knew one of the brogues was Tyler, but the others had been a mystery to him- until they'd all descended to the dark slats.

 

The group moved out of view- damn arches, God .

 

Josh squinted, leaning on the bar with his palms and bouncing up onto his toes; Mislav had trudged back up the stairs, but three pairs of footsteps, along with a quiet mutter Josh hardly heard, got closer, before three figures ducked under an arch, and they glided towards the bar.

 

Pete Wentz- one was Pete Wentz. One of their notorious rivals. Why was he here? Tyler hated him. He’d literally cursed his name bef-

 

With a furrowed brow, Josh's gaze shifted to the third man, the one he’d never seen before; He was short, and was wearing black, fingerless, driving gloves. He was blonde, blue-eyed, and pale- paler than a ghost, paler than any snow Josh had ever seen.

 

They were all clad in some variants coats and gloves- no doubt, the response and solution to a violently wet and windy day.

Josh cocked his head a little as they both approached, and Tyler promptly turned him with a nod.

 

"Meeting. Now."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"T-They, they wanna- wait- are you sure? I mean-"

 

"I'm completely sure, Josh."

 

"'Cause, if this is all wet, we're screwed- we're totally screwed-"

 

Pete huffed with the ghost of a smile playing on his lips. Josh noticed him glance at the blonde- who he'd learned was a German, and who he’d learnt was named Patrick.

 

Josh had never met a German before.

 

He'd also never met a 'Patrick' before, but the first feature was much more interesting.

 

He'd fought them in Amiens, but that was different; Darting away from a fella holding a flame thrower wasn't the same as shaking hands and sharing greetings.

 

Despite all the stories, despite all the news, and despite the legend of 'Der sachsen'- that crazy fella who'd shot ninety soldiers with a sniper rifle- Patrick seemed nice. His accent was kinda funny too, but not in an unpleasant way, and he seemed pretty frien-

 

A human ear was tossed to the center of the desk, crusted with dry, dark blood as it landed with a thud.

 

Tyler and Josh stopped their bickering spouse exchange to stare at the ear; They froze, icing over in shock.

 

Josh managed to crack his head free to glance over at Tyler; His face would've looked blank to anyone else, but to Josh, it looked shocked. His eyes were a little wider than usual- but, it was only a fraction.

To anybody else, Tyler would've looked apathetic and disinterested, but not to Josh. Never to Josh.

 

 

"That's Ellis Barrett. One of Ross' spies."

 

 

Tyler leaned up from the desk, spine straightening as his toe jittered against the wooden floor- a nervous habit he'd never quite shaken since the cras-

 

"What'd he do?"

 

"He broke in, looked around in Joe's office- Kaiser here got him ‘fore he found any goods though."

 

Patrick only stared down at the ear, eyes glazed over in...something, odd. And blank.

However, the moment he glanced up to look between the three Americans, a small, easy smile settled on his features, and it dispelled any worry Josh had harboured from the glassy stare prior.

 

Tyler blinked, canine very subtly worrying the inside of his lip; Yet another gesture only Josh could spot. The little bulge under the skin, the trembling seam of the lips, the subtly bouncing foot.

 

"He still alive?"

 

Pete nodded quickly, brows raised and eyes aloof, while Patrick stifled a broken nod, immediately stopping his response when he realized that the question was, most likely, not aimed at him.

 

Tyler's subtle lip worrying continued, and Josh chanced a grimacing look down at the ear; They'd made enemies. Enemies that were willing to cut off their supply, beat them bloody- God. What the hell had Tyler been doing?

 

Josh felt the familiar twists of rage curl in his stomach, and he felt his chest and face heat up as he tensed, hands fisting into white-knuckled balls. What was Tyler keeping from him? Fuck- What the fuck was-

 

"...House of Wolves, and , Camisado?"

 

Pete nodded again, hands burying in his pockets as he glanced back at the two younger men. With a quiet exhale, Tyler’s brow furrowed as his gaze narrowed at the dismembered ear.

A few moments of contemplative silence passed, and Tyler finally glanced up at Pete, head a little ducked in a gesture that truly surprised Josh; Tyler wasn't one for being timid. Quiet, sure, but that wasn't the same as timid .

 

Tyler began with a heavy sigh, fingers moving to rub as his eyes, "I'll level with you, I uh- we can't-"

Stifling another sigh, Tyler shifted onto his other foot, leaning back with his hands in his pockets. "There's only two of us, but there's, like, what- ten of 'em?"

 

 

"Eleven, actually."

 

 

Patrick's voice was sudden, and coated with an accent as thick as butter.

The blonde was rubbing at his neck gently, perpetually gloved palm lying over his pulse point. Josh squinted; He swore he could see...some splotches, or something. Kinda like bruises-

 

Pete squinted for a moment, shrugging with a tilt of his head. "Well, not counting the spies."

 

Eyes clenching for a split second, Tyler blew out a long breath. Josh had hardly ever seen him this animated around other people, and he'd caught himself staring, with raw shock painting his features, a few too many times.

 

"What'll it cost us?"

 

Pete raised an eyebrow, but his eyes held glints of knowing. Tyler exhaled through his nose, gaze vainly searching the room as he tried to retain his dignity. Josh knew Tyler hated asking for help- much less paying for it.

 

"...For your joint, to help ours. What'll it cost?"

 

"I'll level with you, fly boy.”

 

Pete's mouth was trying to twist into a grin, but the man was consciously keeping the curve faint, trying to keep a pointless, aloof facade in place.

 

“I'll do it for free, just-" Josh's eyes flicked to the German as Pete’s voice rang out again; A soft stare from blue eyes over at Pete, and the ghost of a laugh on his pale features at Pete’s struggling twitches of stifled laughter.

Odd. That was pret-

 

 

"Quit being a brown plaid hog, and you got a deal."

 

 

Tyler gave a practically silent, breathy laugh, holding a hand out with a nod and a shrug. "I'll give you half."

Pete's broad smile reached half of his face as he took the offer of the handshake, and both men shook firmly with sharp nods.

 

"Deal."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"One day they're gonna find out those things kill ya, I swear-"

 

"Dry up, Hurley."

 

"Those doctors are wrong, Pete. I swear-"

 

Pete only rolled his eyes with a broad smile, taking a drag from his cigarette and making a fair point of it to the disgruntled bartender, who coughed at the powdery smoke with a weak glare.

 

Another cloud of smoke at his side, and Pete glanced over to his right; Cigarette perched between two, driving-gloved fingers, Patrick took long, silent drags, exhaling through his nostrils. Pete smiled a little, the smoke made him look kinda like a dragon- huh, that might be an annoying nickname. So much potential -

 

Clipping the cigarette between his teeth, Patrick glided up from the bar stool, and instead, moved to the back of the bar. He quickly started stacking clean glasses- as that was his actual job.

Unbeknownst to Andy, for a short period of time until the two had waltzed in at two pm, Pete had stolen Patrick away to help him at the Slowtown meeting.

After seeing the ease with which Patrick had handled Barrett's pistol, and after witnessing the cold stare of a probable killer, Pete had decided that Patrick's skills would be better suited to the streets, rather than the bar.

Patrick hadn't been...too willing, actually, now that he thought about it.

With a squint, Pete tilted his head, staring into thin air as he recalled the early small hours' events.

 

 

 

Pete panted into Patrick's shoulder, groaning quietly as he felt fingers thread through his hair. Everything was soft, tired and lax, and Pete’s whole body buzzed with pleasant drowsiness. Glancing down between their flushed hips, his nose wrinkled as he tutted at the white, sticky mess they'd have to clean up- well, that, Patrick , would have to clean up.

 

He nuzzled past Patrick's dishevelled, spit-stained collar, nose pressing down against pale skin that was littered with teeth marks and bruises.

Pete always made a point of keeping the marks below sleeve and collar level, it would save them both a lot of embarrassment.

 

...But, Pete would be lying if he said he didn't want to suck a dark bruise onto the sharp, milky jawbone, or leave bites and welts all over Patrick's neck- all along the whole length, not just in the crook. Show everyone who the blonde belonged to, mark him out, to make a point, to make a statement .

 

Maybe one day.

 

As they both straightened themselves up again, tugging clothes, collars and strands of hair back into place as they tried to look respectable, Pete chanced a glance at the German- who was squinting down at his fly, as pale digits worked to button it closed.

 

"You should...You should come with me, to Slowtown."

 

Patrick looked up with a wide-eyed blink, which quickly retracted into a suspicious furrowed brow and squint. "Why?"

 

"You can handle a gun, can't you?"

 

A deeply furrowed brow was his response, along with a slightly curled lip. "Yes, aber , what-?"

 

"I just need some backup, just in case."

 

With a long stare, Patrick tilted his head up, face blank and eyes aloof as he stepped towards Pete. The dark-haired man pressed back against the wall at Patrick's, slightly imposing, advance, until the blonde stopped mere millimetres away from him, blue eyes boring into brown and lips mere electrons apart.

 

"Ist das ein Trick?"

 

Pete shuddered painfully at the language, but blinked rapidly with squinted eyes, shrugging desperately and roughly, all while trying to ignore the warm knot in the pit of his stomach. "I don't know what that-"

"Weil," Patrick tilted his head lightly, tongue darting out to his own bottom lip for a moment. Pete was really struggling to ignore his urges right now, goddamnit, he was a human man, he was weak. "Wenn es ein Trick ist,"

 

"Du wirst es bereuen, dickkopf."

 

It sounded like a threat, if Pete was honest. And coupled with the aloof, yet twitching, gaze, Pete shrunk back on himself, sliding down a little as his shoulders hunched.

"In Ordung?"

Patrick's hot breath was steady on his face, and the unwavering stare made goosebumps rise all over his skin, joining the unbearable twisting tie in his stomach. Pete really had no idea what the fuck Patrick had said, but he nodded anyway, blinking quickly as the ghost of a smirk drifted over Patrick's face.

 

With a huff, Patrick moved away, moving to pace out of the bedroom without another word. For a moment, Pete blinked into thin air, before lurching up to grab Patrick's arm, pulling him back with wide eyes as the younger man's nose wrinkled. "Wait, so, are you coming?"

 

Patrick sighed, squeezing his eyes shut for a second, before nodding irritably. Pete's hand loosened, but Patrick's shot up to Pete's chest, hand fisting into his shirt and pulling him close with a glower. "Only one hour- I will still help Andy."

 

Holding back a grimace at the heavy accent, Pete nodded lightly, prompting baby-blues to soften, and causing the pale hand to release his shirt.

 

 

 

Pete had been a little... surprised , at Patrick's sudden attitude, to put it mildly.

He took another drag of his cigarette, idly watching Patrick sort a few bottles, pale hands moving deftly over glass necks and metal lids.

He was talented, Pete could tell. And he'd definitely put him to use... in more ways than one , but streets. He was thinking streets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I'd never met a German before."

 

Josh's remark was quiet and almost whispered, as the duo made a joint effort of cleaning the filthy glasses, the aftermath and only evidence left after a night of debauchery had taken place under their roof.

Flipping his rag over his shoulder, Tyler glanced at Josh idly, before moving to stack a few clean glasses. "You have. Amiens, remember?"

 

Josh shook his head quickly, lip corners twitching into a smile as he pointed at Tyler with a free hand, "No, I didn't , 'cause- I mean, it's not the same, really -"

Tyler nodded, opting to cut a directionless rant short with a question. "What did you think of him then?"

With a shrug, Josh tilted his head down at the glass in his hand. "Nice."

 

Two quiet huffs of air, and they both fell into an easy silence, far too tired and far too busy to make full, boisterous conversation.

Josh's eyes darted around nervously, a result of two clashing hands that would try to reach for the same glasses over and over again. Tyler only seemed more and more amused with each clash, eventually letting quiet laughs escape him, while Josh tried to force the same.

 

It was weird, Josh's stomach always twisted, and his chest always constricted, around Tyler. He'd only remembered feeling that way once; A girl in middle school- a crush that did not end too well for him.

Josh glanced over at Tyler; The man's back facing him as he re-sealed and re-ordered three different bottles of whiskey. It was a weird feeling, but Josh wasn't going to explore it any further. He couldn’t. It wasn’t normal, so he'd leave it at that.

 

His head flicked back down as Tyler shifted, turning back towards the stacks of dirty glasses they'd neglected to continuously clean throughout the night. Josh was kinda regretting letting it all pile up now.

 

"Hey Josh?"

 

Josh glanced up, one eyebrow raised, and Tyler only smiled, knowing it was the go-ahead to continue. "I'm glad we uh- I’m glad we both got transferred to," Tyler huffed, brows raising to his own incredulous words, "the desert ."

 

They both collapsed into easy laughs, and through them, Josh nodded, clattering down a newly spotless glass. "So am I, Tyler."

Tyler's frame shook with another jolt of soft laughter, and Josh glanced up to find a pair hickory brown eyes locked on him.

Two flashes of awkward smiles later, and two heads dropped back down towards their tasks, cloth-clad fingers working at glasses a little more intently, and a little more shakily , than before.

 

A small, quiet, and faint yell reached Josh's ears, ringing out from the top of the stairs.

 

His head flicked up, brow furrowed deeply as Tyler dropped the glass and cloth on the bar, cautiously, yet quickly, starting towards the base of the staircase.

Posture tall and tense, Tyler stood there, head leaned forwards when-

 

 

" Jebi se, pusti me! "

 

 

That was Croatian- Mislav- but- wait, it was-

 

With shaky footsteps, Tyler backed away in an instant, before fully breaking out into a panicked, cantering pace. He grabbed Josh by the arm, dragging him out from behind the bar as his breath laboured a little, pants leaving his nose in quick succession.

 

"Tyler, what-"

 

"We have to go."

 

The answer was calm, collected, and nothing like what Josh had been expecting...But he knew when to bite his tongue, and this was one of those times.

 

Keeping his head low and his footsteps quiet, he followed Tyler into the back room; Boxes, crates, cases, barrels and shelves, anything and everything lined and withholding ridiculous amounts of alcohol.

The room was dim, lit only by a buzzing, blue-tinted light, and Josh had to squint and labour to spot Tyler's figure shifting around in the darkness.

Scraping bounced off of the walls, but then, something that made his heart race pushed its stubborn way into his ears.

 

The sound of a door being kicked open, the sounds of masses of footsteps clattering down steps, and finally-

 

"CHICAGO PD, SHOW YOURSELVES."

 

Everything inside Josh froze, before a whispered voice which always, without fail , calmed him down, spoke into his ear, as a hand wrapped around his bicep. "Trust me, okay? Just, c'mon."

 

"COME OUT- SHOW YOURSELVES-"

 

"WE HAVE AN ARREST WARRANT FOR THE ILLEGAL DISTRIBUTION OF ALCOHOL-"

 

"TYLER JOSEPH, AND JOSH DU-"

 

Josh gave a lagged, stuttered nod, as Tyler flicked his lighter on, lighting the dim, blue room up. There was an open hatch on the ground, and Tyler's foot was holding the lid open as a wooden crate tried to press it down.

 

Josh didn't even know they had an escape hatch.

 

God, Tyler had kept so much shit from him, he couldn't believe-

 

"You go first, just keep going forwards." The voice was urgent and pressing, despite only being a mumble. With a shaky inhales and exhales, Josh looked down; The hole was pitch black, and he couldn't see a thing. "It's fine, I'll follow you. Josh, you gotta-"

 

A hand splaying on the floor, Josh crouched down and pushed his legs through first. With a shove, he dropped himself down into the hatch, falling a short distance, and landing with a clatter to his knees. Josh stifled a yelp, pulling himself up and forwards into inky darkness, hands splaying on stones walls before another thud rang out behind him, and he felt the warm glow of a flame on the back of his neck.

 

With wide eyes, Josh swivelled, shuddering in relief as he saw Tyler- who was straining the clamp the hatch shut again.

 

"FIND 'EM"

 

-Was the last shout they heard, before the lid of the escape route shut with a slow, quiet thud, held by Tyler's trembling, splayed, and strained fingers.

Arm dropping again, he nodded at Josh with a furrowed brow, and a determined sigh.

Pushing past his friend, Tyler paced forwards through the tunnel, holding the lighter up as a torch ahead of them, as he lit the way.

 

A few moments of quiet, echoing trudges, ricocheting from stone walls, and Tyler craned his neck to look back at Josh.

 

"Just a warning, this leads into the sewers, so-"

 

Tyler pulled his shirt collar over his nose, and with wide eyes, nodded at Josh to do the same. The other man groaned, fiddling with his shirt collar as he scowled. " Fuckin' bushwa , Christ-"

 

Despite the predicament, Tyler laughed, the light, cheery ring bouncing off of the walls.

 

Josh smiled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Oh- Jesus- Agh -"

They both spluttered into violent coughs as Tyler jumped up out from a manhole in the middle of the street, before offering a hand down to Josh, and pulling his friend up to the, thankfully deserted, sidewalk.

 

"Fuck- that was- that was the worst- ugh-" Josh allowed himself a retch, goddamn, the smell- Josh had smelled some awful shit in his life, but that was definitely up there.

 

"I'm never trusting you again, AGH-"

 

Josh's hands were on his knees as he hunched over, dry-heaving dramatically as Tyler only gave a breathless laugh, slamming the metal lid closed with a weak hand.

Standing up straight, Tyler clicked the lighter off and Josh composed himself.

They glanced at each other, quickly breaking into grins and giggles, as the gravity of their situation neglected to sink in.

 

"Oh shit- ugh, let's ankle." With a rapidly wrinkling nose, Tyler stepped away with a stutter, pacing down the concrete, and leaving a very confused, and bewildered Josh behind; Josh’s head was cocked, and he was still panting to get clean air into his lungs, before a shout prompted a groan, and a jolt forwards.

 

"Get a damn wiggle on, Josh."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was raining.

 

God hated them, apparently.

 

Josh was cold, and he was pretty sure Tyler was too; Hunched shoulders, chattering teeth, and trembling frame as they reached, yet another, dark, cobbled, dead end.

 

"Goddamnit- Tyler-" Josh grabbed his friend's shoulder, forcing the man to stop and face him. Josh shook his head at him, eyes narrowed and jaw gaping, "I- like, what are you- where the hell are we even going?"

 

"Cooperstown." Tyler motioned his head towards the building that sat at the end of the closed, cobblestone road.

 

Folie's. Canary writing on a scarlet board.

 

"That's a furniture store, Tyler."

 

Tyler huffed and rolled his eyes a little, "Yeah, and we run a library."

Josh's mouth formed an 'o', and he nodded slowly, letting Tyler jerk away and continue his path through the heavy pelts of rain.

Jogging a little to catch up, Josh reached Tyler at Folie's door. His friend crouched down instantly, face to face with the lock, and fishing a few different pointy, metal sticks from his- oh for God's sake-

 

"You just carry those around with you?"

 

Tyler blinked up, shrugging and wincing as a raindrop hit a little too close for comfort to his eye. He dropped his head back towards the lock, picking two thin sticks from the bundle, and working them into the lock, while the others took their old place in his pocket.

Twisting one in a circular motion, Tyler tilted his head and squinted in concentration, before moving the other stick, until-

 

"Abracadabra."

 

No longer wincing at the rain, Tyler sprang to his feet, pushing the door open and waltzing inside like he owned the place, all while Josh followed his with tentative steps and nervous glances. "Uh...Tyler, are you- are you sure -?"

 

"Back there."

 

Gaze freezing on a door behind the counter, Tyler paced forwards with a still, locked head, pushing the door open, before motioning for Josh to follow.

Begrudgingly, Josh stepped over after his friend, head poking around the door to spot Tyler flitting from place to place, seemingly searching for something.

Shifting from one foot to the other on the spot, Josh's eyes flitted from floor, to ceiling, to brick wall, to door.

 

"Uh- Tyler? "

 

No response. Tyler only dug through a dark dresser's drawers, slamming each empty one shut with a sigh and a mutter Josh couldn’t make any sense of.

 

"A-Are you sure this is-"

 

Tyler's head twisted towards a shiny, snow white dresser, and without a word, he shot to his feet, scrambling over to it. He straightened up, opening the doors and rooting around in shelves as Josh grimaced.

"I mean- Pete said- They promised they were gonna help- I don't think breaking in -"

 

"Bingo." Tyler was holding a small metal box, but his face quickly fell as he shook it, fingers hooking over the lid as he heaved with a grunts, trying to prise the box open.

 

"Like- they're not gonna be -"

 

"Josh," Fishing tiny metal rods from his pocket again, Tyler didn't even glance up to his friend as he spoke. "There are two possibilities here."

 

Josh blinked, mouth opening to argue, before Tyler cut him off with the swiftness of a knife.

 

"Possibility one," Tyler set the box on a table, kneeling on the floor to twist the picks into the lock. "House of Wolves and Camisado called the coppers."

 

The box clicked open, and Tyler smiled lightly, metal sticks retreating into his pocket.

 

"Or possibility two," The man stood, taking the box in one of his hands, and fishing out a metal key with the other. He twisted the cool metal in his fingers, watching it glint under dim, yellow-tinted light.

 

 

"Cooperstown did."

 

 

Josh gaped, shaking his head with the beginnings of stutters leaving his lips. Tyler glanced over at him with blank eyes, before he put down the box, and moved over to the red and crumbly brick wall, held together with sand dollar cement.

Light fingers traced a few janky looking edges, and a small smile weaved its way onto Tyler's face.

 

Josh felt sick. God, he couldn't comprehend a betrayal like that. There was no way Pete, or even Patrick, would've-

 

Josh's head shot up at loud scraping, and his eyes widened as soon as he spotted Tyler pushing back a rectangle of joined bricks, revealing a dark hallway, with a cornflower blue door sat at its end.

 

With a confident smile back at Josh, Tyler started forwards, lighter bursting from his pocket as he lit it, and held it aloft like a beacon.

All the remorse and guilt in the world weighed Josh down as he moved forwards, his limbs were iron, and his stomach and chest were lead, all paired along with his light, feathery head.

 

A lot had happened in such a short time, so much Josh hadn't been prepared for, so much that had taken him by surprise- he felt sick. He felt nauseous. He might throw up on the floor at any moment, maybe he should give Tyler a heads up-

 

Tyler led them to the end of the hall, and without a second thought, or a glance back to his friend, he shoved the metal key into the blue lock, and pushed the door open.

 

Key back in his pocket, Tyler's hand moved to his holster-

 

"Tyler- you-"

 

No response as Tyler took the cold, shiny colt pistol in his hand, finger on the trigger as he crept down the stairs.

 

Chest heaving and mind arguing with itself, Josh watched Tyler disappear down to wooden slats, moving out of view across the shiny floor.

 

Josh had resolved to stay there at the top of the stairs. He’d wait for Tyler to change his mind. He’d wait for Pete to calm him down. He’d wait for him to come back.

 

It hurt to admit it, but Josh was starting to fear his friend.

 

He knew Tyler would never hurt him, he'd never even lay a hand on him, but- between the blood and bruises he'd come home with on different nights, between the lock picking and the gun, between the itchy trigger finger and the ice cold stare-

 

Josh was scared.

 

And then, his fear quadrupled when he heard grunts, yells and clatters.

 

"T-Tyl-" Josh's voice died as he practically ran down the stairs, crashing down to the wooden floor, and gaping up at-

 

"Hey Leute, kommt her!"

 

Patrick called back into the back hallway, as his arm was secured around Tyler's neck tightly, leaving the red-faced, slightly choking younger man to scrabble at the pale arm trailing red scratches and spots of blood under the skin- which didn't seem to faze the dead-eyed blonde in the slightest.

 

Tyler's pistol was also in Patrick's grip, pressed to the dark hair, and Josh froze.

 

All he could do was breathe shakily, but as soon as Patrick's cold gaze fell over him, he hunched with a wince, a visible tremble casting through him, at the dead glare.

 

A few pairs of footsteps rang out, and all three of the other Cooperstown members emerged from the first door in the hallway; Pete instantly sighed deeply, eyes rolling slightly as his posture screamed 'disappointed parent'.

 

Joe looked a little angrier, but he only glanced at Pete with a nonchalant sigh of, "Clean up your mess." Before pulling his coat tight and heading up the stairs to the open door, audibly still complaining as the voice faded away.

 

Andy only glanced between Tyler, Josh, and Patrick, shifting to lean on the bar edge as he watched Pete edge forwards to squint at Tyler.

 

A few moments of tortuous silence passed, and Josh mentally prepared himself for his execution, no doubt carried out by Pete- or Patrick, perhaps.

 

Tyler's eyes were wide, and a prominent vein poked out under the skin of his throat. He was red, all the blood rushing to his head from the grip of Patrick's arm, but his hands were white and trembling as his nails dug into pale skin, coaxing absolutely no reaction from the German.

Josh bowed his head, knees aching from pressing against the wooden floor. He breathed deeply, back and shoulders trembling as he readied himself for the gunshot that would take Tyler away-

 

"Let him go, Kaiser."

 

A few footsteps, and then, Tyler gasping for breath through choked coughs.

 

In an instant, Josh's head shot up as he gaped, almost sobbing with relief as his friend only fell to his knees, both shaky hands gripping his dark red neck.

 

Pete nodded at Patrick- who only idly spun the gun in his fingers, moving back from Tyler a little. With a relaxed stare, that felt far too calm for the situation, Pete looked between the two younger men, both on their knees and panting from very different causes.

 

"Now," Pete shoved his hands in his pockets, head tilting nonchalantly, as a disappointed, yet lax smile threaded onto his features.

 

"Let's talk."

 

 

Chapter Text

 

"I can't fuckin' believe-"

 

"Oh God, just dry up, Frank-"

 

"I bet Joseph- No, I bet Wentz did this-"

 

"For God's sake-"

 

"That sneaky son of a bitch-"

 

Gerard rolled his eyes for the hundredth time that dark morning. The group of five were stood on a street corner, watching masses of cops rolling barrels, and carrying crates of hard-won alcohol, out onto the street.

Every time they dumped one of the caskets' contents into the gutter, they all grimaced- even Bob, who despite the language barrier, and initial confusion, had eventually cottoned onto the severity of the situation.

They watched the police come and go, loud chatters and heavy footsteps pounding on the sidewalk. Warm streetlights, and the flashes of journalists' cameras lit the dark street, casting light under the charcoal night sky.

Stacked cases, barrels, and bottles, all being destroyed and disposed of. A significant portion of their life's work. So much effort, all gone in an instant. Gerard's heart was heavy, and by the look in Ray's, his brother's, and even in Bob's, eyes- he could tell they felt just as low. But Frank-

 

"I'm gonna find out who did this."

 

Frank was furious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"So, you- you didn't...doublecross us?"

 

"No, I- we, didn't."

 

Tyler's face was blank, yet soft, as he leaned back in his seat, but in huge contrast, Josh was hunched over the desk, forearms braced against wood as he gaped at Pete.

The Cooperstown fellas were packing their final belongings up; A lot of their supply had either been sold, or packaged away, sent back to suppliers for safekeeping.
Through snippets of hurried conversation, apparently, one of their regulars- Harold, or maybe, Herman...wait, Harvey?

Well, whatever the guy's name, he was a cop- a senior, in the force for more than forty years. He was also an avid fan of Cooperstown, and just couldn't bear seeing his regular speakeasy, and its workers, be destroyed and arrested.


Apparently, one of the main suppliers for the Chicago speakeasies, was a rat. A rat placed there by the force to find out names, addresses and identities of all speakeasies in Chicago.

 

Margot. Charlie Margot.

 

Tyler's face had fallen at the name. He'd confessed to Pete that he'd bought crates of whiskey from a 'Charlie Margot', and, that he knew for a fact, that House of Wolves had too.

And if House of Wolves had done business with Margot, it was an almost certain possibility that Camisado had too.

 

With wide, slowly blinking eyes, Josh shifted in his seat, turning to watch Andy and Patrick, striding back and forth as they carried stacks of papers, books, and the odd bottle away.

Footsteps still ringing in his ears, Josh turned back to Pete, who was disinterestedly watching the other two as he slid a coat on, buttoning it shut with deft fingers.

"So," Pete glanced up from the shiny black circles to glance between Tyler and Josh- both younger men looking dishevelled and defeated. "You still wanna come with us?"

The two younger men were quiet, blinking slowly as they tried to recover from the night's flurry of events.

 

"Well, aren't you two regular milquetoasts?"

 

Tyler's eyes were dull as he nodded, "Yeah, we'll come with you." With a small smirk and raised brows, Pete's eyes flitted between both men. "...You, don't wanna...discuss, that...at all?"

Tyler shook his head, and Josh said nothing. That was just how things worked between them

 

In a sudden jolt, Tyler stood, and Josh automatically followed suit, as though he were a puppet on a string. With a final nod, Pete motioned his head towards the bottom of the stairs, moving over, before freezing, hands stifling in pockets as he craned his neck at the dim hallway.

 

The click of a light, followed by that of a door, and Patrick paced out into the main bar, bundled in a jacket, scarf and fingerless driving gloves. Fingers clasped around a leather briefcase, Patrick glanced at Pete with a final nod, before looking back at the bar with dim eyes. He seemed...melancholic, Josh thought, but he hardly had anytime to truly analyse, before-

 

"C'mon Kaiser, 'fore we all get pinched."

 

The ghost of a smile threaded over Patrick's lips as he rolled his eyes, before darting up the stairs with light, silent, and cat-like footsteps.

Andy followed not long after, duffle bag slung over his shoulder. Pete had no smug comment for the bearded man, and they only exchanged sad smiles as Andy gazed back at the bar with a quiet exhale.
As soon as Andy started up the steps, Pete flicked the lights off, letting darkness engulf the entire speakeasy.

 

Pete didn't glance back.

 

Leading Tyler and Josh behind him, Pete climbed the stairs, one heavy step at a time. Hunched shoulders, white knuckles, and a popping vein in his neck, Josh could tell Pete wasn't doing too good. But the fella was strong, or so it seemed, and refused to show any slithers of weakness. That was a good thing, he supposed, it wouldn't be very helpful to just break down into a depressed or enraged mess.

As soon as they reached the cover furniture store, Josh glanced guilty at the front door's lock, before his gaze drifted up a little, towards the windows instead.

 

There was a car, headlights on and and rumbling quietly. The driver's seat door was open, and Joe sat in the chair sideways, legs out, and feet flat against stone floor as he sat hunched over, rubbing his temples with long fingers.

Andy was stood, posture a little tense and guarded, as he shivered with a few gusts of cold air every now and then. His hands were firmly in his pockets, and he often sighed out, entertaining himself with the sight of steaming breath.

Patrick was leaning against one of the back passenger doors, legs crossed and hands in his woollen jacket's pockets. Steamy air left his nose in steady streams, while his eyes gazed down at the cobbled street coolly.

They all seemed tired.

 

"You fellas got everything?"

In almost odd synchronisation, all three men nodded, strings of yawns escaping them in turns. With a small squint, Joe looked up from his hands, eyes locking on Tyler and Josh. "You two in the Struggle Buggy."

The two younger men glanced at each other, before Tyler quickly glared between all four, Cooperstown men. "Where are we going, exactly?"

 

"Mind your potatoes, Joseph. Just get in the damn car."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Why's your apartment so damn small-?"

 

"Oh God, lay off, Joe."

 

Pete rolled his eyes with a slight laugh, shrugging his coat off of his shoulders, and prompting the others to follow suit.

With a flick of his lighter, Pete lit a cigarette he'd fished from his pocket, taking a drag before clamping it between his lips. Pulling at his right suspender, and rolling his sleeves up, Pete paced over to the small, wooden table that sat between a couch and an armchair.

A few papers, shuffled into folders, sat on the table, and Pete quickly fished them up, opening them, and squinting as he read through.

 

"So, gentlemen," Cocking his head and taking another drag, Pete smiled ruefully. "We're fucked."

 

"Nifty."

 

Joe's eyes were blank and rolling a little, before he sighed with a shadow of a smile and shook his head, moving to clatter down to the couch. Eyes quickly locking on the curly-haired man, Pete quirked an eyebrow. "Marie and Ruby gone?"

The younger man nodded, eyes closing as he rubbed his temples with exhaustion, "Yeah. Put 'em on a train yesterday."

With softer eyes, Pete nodded, face slowing breaking out into a crinkle-eyed grin. "Attaboy."

 

"Dry up."

 

Andy paced over to the couch, sitting down next to Joe and crossing his arms as he leaned back into the cushions. "Can we go over the actual plan, then?" At the words, Patrick shifted back, leaning against the wall while keeping his eyes trained on Pete.

 

Pete had to admit, the stare was making him feel a few...interesting things, but now was really not the time to address them.

 

"Ladies and gentlemen, we're all gathered here today-"

 

"God, we're not getting Middle Aisled, Pete."

 

Pete only laughed, teeth pressing into his cigarette as he brought it back up to his mouth again. "Get on with it, smoke-eater." Andy shook with a broad, closed smile and silent laughter, pressing the dark-haired man to speak.

 

"Alright, alright- God, couple'a regular bluenoses-"

 

"Pete."

 

"Okay, okay!" With a sigh, Pete straightened his spine, and leaned back on his heels as he cast a sweeping gaze around at the other men in the room. Fishing a picture from a folder and holding it up, Pete continued the long-awaited explanation.

 

"Charlie Margot. Rat for the Chicago PD." He tossed the picture down on the table, prompting Josh's wide gaze to follow it attentively.

 

"Basically, that motherfucker-"

 

"Keep it civil."

 

Pete squinted. "...Basically, that motherfucker-" Joe only rolled his eyes. "-was getting the goods on all of us; Us, you-" Pete nodded towards Tyler and Josh, "On Camisado, and on House of Wolves."

Patrick had started pacing the wall silently, almost blending in with the shadows as the baby-blue gaze chased the specks of dust caught in the beams of light that lit the room. Pete tried to keep his stare away. Patrick was irresistible at the best of times, let alone when he was wearing those damn gloves-

 

"They know our names, and our joints' names," Pete forced his eyes away from Patrick, glancing around at the other men. "They know the regulars, and they know our suppliers."

Tossing the folder onto the small table, Pete exhaled with a puff of his cheeks, flicking his cigarette which sat perched between his index and middle finger. "Our only real option- unless we all wanna get pinched," All of them- bar Patrick, who still hadn't completely cottoned onto their way of speaking, visibly bristled at the words.

 

"-is to move."

 

"To where-?"

 

"I was just getting to that, Josh- hold your horses."

 

With a sheepish look about him, Josh nodded and let his shoulders slink down, promptly falling silent again.

 

"To New York; It's the only other wet city, and honestly, we need to hide for a while, bribe some cops, earn some kale- we gotta rebuild."

 

Silence fell over them, and Pete took the chance to take long, shaky drags of his cigarette, eyes falling still on the papers strewn across the table.
A soft thud rung out from behind him, and Pete jolted around to find-

 

"Goddamnit Kaiser- stop doing that."

 

Patrick only tilted his head at Pete's whine, blue eyes soft and genuinely bewildered. "Doing what?"

 

"Just- jus- God, never mind-"

 

A loud knock rang through the room, cutting off conversation and bouncing off of the walls, all while making the dark front door clatter against its hinges.

 

All heads turned to stare, as eyes, jaws and fists all fell open. With something twisting in his eyes, Joe turned to stare at Pete. "Were you expecting, anyone?"

Pete only shook his head, brow furrowing as he stubbed his cigarette against the table- prompting a mutter and shake of the head from both Joe and Andy. Pete only smirked and rolled his eyes; Those goddamn neat freaks.

Slinking over to the door with a ducked posture, Pete peeked up through the glass peephole.

 

"Fuck."

 

"What-?"

 

"God fucking-"

 

A cacophony of exhausted questioning burst from the other men in the room- even from the newly timid Slowtown fellas. No words came of response, but as another knock- harsher than the last, rang out, Pete swung the door open, finally at his wit's end.

Before he even had a chance to speak, a hand was on his neck, thumping him against a wall-

 

"YOU MOTHERFU-"

 

Frank's curse faltered as he jolted, wide eyes flicking over from the man against the wall, to his right.

 

 

"Calm down."

 

 

Patrick, in some insanely silent and instant movement, had appeared at Frank's side, with the pistol he'd...'confiscated', from Tyler, pressed to dark hair as his eyes blanked into that terrifying stare.

"Easy there, Kraut." Despite the slur, Frank gulped, shifting under the metal muzzle, but still refusing to release Pete's rapidly reddening neck.

"Let him go." Patrick's voice held back a tidal wave of pure fury, and a note of panic. Funny. It was almost like he actually care-

"Or what?" Frank's voice held too much confidence for the situation he was in.

 

"Or I'll shoot you in the head."

 

Silence. Pure silence as hazel and blue eyes tested each other.

 

 

"...Patrick? Sind- Sind Sie das?"

 

 

Patrick's dull gaze melted away, and a mixture of disbelief, shock, and even a few drops of joy, swirled around in powdery depths.

Head tilting, despite the colt staying put, Patrick craned his neck around Frank. His eyes shot open, jaw falling slack as he stuttered out shocked words.

 

"Rob- du- du bist lebendig?"

 

In an instant, Frank let Pete go, shrugging away from the gun without a care in the world as he turned to glower at Bob. His voice was tight, strained, and rasped, as his eyes held nothing but betrayal and rage.

 

"Explain."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Ich kann es nicht glauben- Gott- ich war sicher-"

 

"Ich auch! Ich dachte du bist gestorben-"

 

"Ich bin schwer zu töten, Sachse."

 

"Also du bist-" Patrick's beam faltered a little, and his eyes flashed with something Pete couldn't quite pinpoint. "Sachse. Das ist alt."

Bob punched him in the shoulder lightly, laughing along with a fond roll of his eyes, "Gott, sei nicht albern- es war erst vor ein paar Jahren-" Both blondes dissolved into easy, familiar laughter again, and Pete tried to stifle the twisting cobras in his stomach.

 

So...surprise surprise, the Fritz and the Boxhead knew each other.

 

The Americans had resolved to stand and sit around the room, glaring at each other with passive aggressive postures as they chanced stares at both teutophones.

If he was honest, Pete didn't appreciate the frequent, squeezing hugs they shared. Or the laughter. Or the grins. Or-

 

Okay. He didn't like any of it, but despite his urge to drag Patrick to the bedroom like a caveman, Pete held his tongue, and his whole self, still. Instead, he watched with lidded, slow-blinking, and irritated eyes.

 

"So."

 

Mikey, of all people, spoke up with a bored drawl. "You two finished, or?"

Both blondes stopped all of a sudden, brows raised as they glanced at each other. Stifling snickers, they both nodded with a stutter, before opting to lean back against the wall, pressing back with oddly synchronised thuds.

"Now that that's over with..." With dark eyes, Frank curled his lip over at Pete, chin tiled up as he stared at Pete with aloof eyes. "What's your stupid plan?"

 

Just as Pete opened his mouth to explain his, 'stupid' plan, begrudingly, of course; Iero was such an asshole, it was-

 

 

"OPEN THE FUCK UP, WENTZ."

 

 

A hiss and a thud on the other side of the front door, and a collective groan rang out from the group.

Pete trudged over to the door again, posture hunched and muscles lax as his eyes drooped into pure irriation.

 

"Why does everyone blame me?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Alright, let's be frank here-"

 

Pete, using his most diplomatic, and easiest voice, swept his gaze over the members- all in the same room and somehow not trying to murder each other, of: Camisado, House of Wolves, Slowtown, and Cooperstown.

Quite a gathering, and one Pete would have previously believed impossible. Cops really knew how to bring low-life criminals together.

 

"None of us like each other."

 

There were no arguments, only aloof, and often, distrustful stares, and even small, agreeing grunts, shared between those present.

"But-" Pete's eyes were wide, gesturing with a flat hand as he spoke in his most convincing voice; The 'idiot' voice, as Joe fondly referred to it.

 

"We're all, collectively, fucked."

 

A small rumble of chatters rang out between them all, but Pete quickly spoke up again, trying to keep putting his, albeit crude, points across.

"Fellas- fellas- just-" The words died, and several pairs of only slightly annoyed eyes burned into him. Stay calm, no pressure. Pretend Ross isn't counting the ways he could kill you with his goddamn shoe right now.

 

"But, there is a solution."

 

Stifled chatters, and Pete's lips quirked upwards. Good. They were learning to shut the fuck-

 

"And, the big 'solution' is?"

 

Pete squinted, letting a small scowl settle on his features. "Y'know, I'm not appreciating the tone, Iero-"

 

"Deal with it, Wentz-"

 

"God, both'a you, lay off." Ryan's voice was muffled as his face was buried in his palms, rubbing skin and soothing his , no doubt, thumping, temples. With glances at Ryan, Pete and Frank cleared their throats, spines straightening as the tanned man continued.

 

 

"We all join together, and start a speakeasy in New York."

 

 

A sudden, untuned symphony of loud, angry, and shocked chatters, which were all speedily leading up to a crescendo.

Pete rolled his eyes, thudding back against the wall with index fingers rubbing small circles over his temples. God, they were so fucking loud.

Eyes crooking open, his gaze moved to Patrick like they were magnetised together; Patrick, who was in avid, foreign conversation with Bob, rolled his shoulders as he visibly shivered a little. On some kind of instinct, baby-blues flicked upwards, staring Pete down for a split second as blush pink lips curled into the ghost of a smirk.

Moving his eyes away in an instant, and holding down a red flush that begged to crawl across his skin, Pete's gaze swept around the room; Gerard was physically restraining Frank, and Josh was holding Tyler back, as both low-lifes snarled insults at each other.

 

Pete gave up. He fucking gave up.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Patrick wasn't too sure what was going on anymore.


That dim, rainy morning, he'd stepped into the living room of Pete's cramped apartment only to find just under twenty men sleeping on various pieces of furniture- or on the floor.

Patrick had been quite lucky in that respect; Instead of leaving him to sleep in the corner of the room, Pete had, very subtly of course, shepherded him to the bedroom.

It had been small, cramped, and disorganised, just like everything else in the apartment, but the bed had been comfy as hell, he couldn't deny that. And sure, Pete had been a little clingy, and then a little quiet- even when Patrick had been straddling his lap, rocking hips back and forth, and muffling moans into his shoulder.

And while Patrick was curious as to Pete's sudden vow of silence towards him, and only him, there were more important matters at hand-

 

"Get the hell up you goddamn dewdroppers- fuck-"

 

Pete, still in a state of dishevelled dress (wearing the crinkled shirt, pants and suspenders from the hectic day before), wandered into the room, completely half-asleep as he paced around the room, softly kicking his toe against furniture or ribs- or just, any part of the human body he could reach.

As people started stirring awake, either with grunts, insults, or pleads for 'Just five more minutes, mom', Patrick leaned back against the wall, arms crossing loosely as he watched them all unfold their cramped, tangled limbs.

 

"Alright, we've got shit to sort out- c'mon, get the hell up."

 

A few more minutes of avid poking and shoving, and everyone was, more or less, awake; Some rubbed at their eyes with pouts, some glared at Pete with bags under their eyes, and some only stretched, yawning and shaking themselves awake. As they all worked out cramps and knots from sleeping in awkward, crushed positions, the group started slowly rumbling to life.

 

"I'm gonna be useless 'til I get some joe-"

 

"Oh you poor little bunny."

 

"Screw you."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"So, remember- whoever has a wife, or a kid- get 'em on a train to New York, then get back here. Stat." Pete took a drag, before his eyes widened, and he spluttered words through smoke.

"Oh- Keep your goddamn faces hidden too- and just, avoid the coppers-"

There were mutters of understanding, although some were a little more exasperated than others, as those who met the criteria of wives and children shrugged coats onto their shoulders, covered their hair and eyes with hats, and wrapped scarves around their faces.

Dallon and Brendon left together, as they were only two Camisado members that had wives, and/or children. Cold hands shoved into pockets as they padded down the stairs, soles tapping on the floor, before Brendon glanced up at his tall friend.

 

"So, Knox and Amelie- they gonna be okay?"

 

Brendon's question was only met with a raised eyebrow and a nod, "Sure, I mean-"

"I just mean, it's a long way, like, and they're so young, it's a whole day-"

At the clarification, Dallon stifled a sigh, nodding deeply as full understanding reached him.

"I hope so."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Brendon, I don't understand why-"

"Sarah, just trust me, okay? I'll take care of you- I'll take care of us. Don't worry about a thing, baby." Brendon's beam- which was covered by a scarf, faltered a little, but it just managed to stay in place as he held Sarah by the waist, hands firm, but gentle.

 

The train station was busy- as it always was. Filled with the sounds of swarming travellers, and their loved ones bidding them farewell, the station was a cacophony of footsteps, chattering and the shrill tunes of shiny silver whistles which announced leaving trains.

The couple stood beside a dark, yet remarkably clean, passenger train, and Brendon felt spikes pinch him all over as his eyes tended to automatically follow those who boarded.

He'd been watching a couple with three, half-asleep kids, lifting luggage and their own children onto the train, before the man gave his wife a hand inside, promptly following her into the vehicle himself.

 

Brendon's own wife only blinked at thin air with a quiet exhale, head dropping a little as dark strands came loose from their places behind her ears.

His eyes moved back down to Sarah. He didn't feel any better about this than she did, but nothing about his appearance betrayed his true feelings; A beam Sarah couldn't see, squinted eyes which she could- all giving him an air of cheeriness, as his mind instantly smothered any notes of sadness which crossed his mind.

With a fond smile and a tilt of his head, Brendon pushed a loose strand back behind her ear, before cupping her cheek and swiping a thumb over her cheekbone softly. She smiled into the touch, but it held a hint of sadness that made the man's heart clench.

 

"Okay."

 

With all the reluctance in the world, Sarah sighed and nodded, before glancing up at her husband. In a gentle, slow move, Sarah stood on her toes, pulling Brendon's scarf down a few inches.
Brendon visibly tensed, squinted brown eyes darting around, filled with paranoia at the sight of just about anybody in a uniform.

Sarah pressed a soft kiss to Brendon's lips, one hand trailing fingertips over the base of his neck. Brendon exhaled, tilting his head a little, but ultimately opting to keep it chaste- they were in public, after all.

 

Pulling away with his perpetual grin, Brendon shoved the scarf back over his nose, smile only broadening as Sarah laughed quietly at the gesture.
Her cobalt eyes grew watery as she gave a sad, closed smile, and the hand that had been on her husband's neck, shifted over to his cheek instead. With a light pat from slender fingers that coaxed a laugh from the man, Sarah pulled her coat firm and moved over to the train, Brendon trailing behind her.

Coming face to face with the step and the door, Brendon held a hand out for his wife, a gesture that she took with a small smile and a nod.

As soon as she was safely inside, Brendon stepped backwards, hand raised in a wave as Sarah shifted away from view, before she was quickly displaced by three young men, suited and booted as they conversed loudly.

 

He'd wait for the train to leave, he'd make sure she was on her way, he'd make sure she was okay.

Gaze dropping to the stone floor, Brendon entertained himself with the patterns, pacing and lining his soles up with the lines in a little game that had no rules.

 

"Brendon!"

 

His head shot up, eyes widening as he saw Sarah; She was hanging out of the open window, hands clasped around the edge, and eyes teary with a smile as she looked down at her husband.

The man's eyes only squinted further as he laughed, brain instantly stifling his melancholy thoughts by its own accord.

 

"It'll be okay, I'll see you in New York, I promise-"

 

"No, Brendon, it's not that-"

 

A cloud of white steam separated their gazes, and Brendon fell back onto his heels with a fist to his mouth, spluttering a cough at the sudden invasion of foreign, misty, and foggy air.

He was still wafting the snow white vapour away, when-

 

"Brendon!"

 

He forced his eyes to crook open, looking up at the train, which had steadily started speeding up, wheels turning slowly as they gradually built up momentum as they glided along the tracks.
Sarah's smile broadened into a grin, but her gaze held something nervous, before she dropped her head with a determined nod to herself.


With some odd urge to follow her, Brendon paced along the concrete, eyes squinted and head tilted as the train departed. The distance made it hard for him to find Sarah's words between the whistles, the steam, and the thunking wheels, but he strained his ears anyway, trying to catch every syllable.


The woman looked up again, admiral eyes finding her, soon-to-be estranged, husband. Sarah smiled with teary eyes, knuckles going white around the edge before she gave a breathless, bewildered laugh at herself, looking up to Brendon one last time.

 

 

"I'M PREGNANT!"

 

 

Everything inside Brendon froze, and he could only stare after her with an open jaw she couldn't see.

 

She- She couldn't-

 

Chest and heart frantic, pulsing against his ribs, Brendon stumbled forwards, vainly pacing after the train, and keeping his eyes locked on Sarah- who was only beaming, wiping her eyes and still leaning out of the window as she waved him goodbye.

Brendon's footsteps came to the end of the station's platform, and he jolted to a stop, panting with nothing but shock paralysing his mind as he stared after the train.

 

He was gonna be a father.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"So, boys and girls," Frank handed out folders with a lax stare, "These are the new 'you's, until we pay the right guy enough to get our names off of whatever list the coppers've got."

 

"Leonard? You called me fuckin' Leonard?"

 

Mikey held up his folder with a curled, open gape and wide eyes.

Obviously holding back a chortle, Frank pressed his mouth into a line and nodded slowly.

 

"Richard? Are- Richard?"

 

Pete's voice this time, but there was less shock, and more irritation in his voice and eyes.

 

"Walter, fuckin' Walter?"

 

Kenny's voice, just as indignant and shocked as Mikey's.


"Alright- all'a you, dry the hell up, and just deal with your goddamn names." Frank swept his firm gaze around the room, finally finding the complaints, either voiced or obviously lingering unsaid, beyond annoying.


"...Suck my Richard, you-"

 

"Oh fuck you-"

 

"Hey fellas?"

 

"Yeah Kenny?"

 

"I get travel sick."

 

"...Just...oh God, strike me down."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"C'mon Richard, get a wiggle on." Joe and Andy stifled laughs as Pete rolled his eyes, "Dry up, David."

Hooking his bag over his shoulder, Pete locked his apartment door shut for good. He really tried to keep sentimentality out of it. It hurt to leave. It had hurt to leave Cooperstown, and now, it hurt to leave his home...all because of Charlie Margot, that son of a-

 

"C'mon Lloyd!"

 

"Dry. The fuck. Up-" Ryan's curt words died as his mouth twisted into a smirk, "Albert."

 

Brendon's face fell, "Oh okay, is that how we're playin' it, Lloyd?"

 

"Will you all just lay the fuck off?" Frank, obviously still not best pleased at the mockeries of the new identities he'd paid a lot for. "I did my best with what I had, alright?"

Gerard only clapped a hand on Frank's shoulder, "There's nothing wrong with the names, they're just being dumb," The older man pressed his mouth into a line, holding back a chortle with a trembling frame, "Louis."

Frank's eye twitched at the laughs which burst and spluttered from the others.

 

"Let's go. Before one of you 'goes for a ride', alright?"

 

Pete snickered as he pushed past Frank, completely unfazed by the low threat. Glancing back up as Patrick, Joe and Andy followed him down the curled flights of stairs, Pete grinned up at Frank, nothing but smug and impish mirth all over his features.

 

"Get a wiggle on, Louie!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Just, be normal- alright?"

The words were low, and whispered between them all as they strode into the train station. The group, who were all making conscious efforts to hide their faces, paced towards the ticket booth, where a bored, and tired looking man, sat, with a newsboy cap perched on his head. He looked up with a slow blink and a sigh.

 

"Tickets?"

 

They all froze in silence, before Frank elbowed Pete in the ribs, smirking when the other man hissed and glared at the sharp jab. With a cough into his fist, Pete stepped forwards, smiling tightly at the worker and trying to ignore the burn in his ribs.

 

"Uh, hi, yeah, we need- uh..." Pete turned his head, squinting as he struggled with the headcount.

 

"Uh...fourteen...tickets...?"

 

"Seventeen, P- Richard." Ryan's eyes burst open at his slip up, before he smiled tightly at the worker's squinted stare and nodded. "Richard."

 

"Yes, thank you, Lloyd." Pete stared for a moment, before turning back to the man behind the ticket booth. "Seventeen to New York."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Wie soll ich wie ein Russe handeln?" Bob shook his head, glancing up at Patrick- who only stifled a laugh behind his fist.

 

It was safer to be just about anything, than it was to be a German, so in order to excuse their accents, but to still keep them relatively safe, Frank had firmly explained to the counterfeiter that Patrick and Bob's new identities had to be that of Russians.

The two hadn't taken it too well, and both were still unsure on how exactly to be Russians, rather than Germans and Austrians.

 

The blonde leaned over to Bob's ear, grin firmly in place. "Kamerad, es ist einfach- nur reden- Handeln Sie wie Sie betrunken sind, und-" He gave a breathless laugh, powder blue eyes struggling to stay open, before he finally spoke in a low, slurred, and obviously mocking, voice.

 

"Ey, cyka blyat."

 

Bob spluttered a laugh, which made some of the anglophones turn to him with glowers or raised eyebrows. The man calmed himself, trembling with silent laughter as he followed Tyler- or the newly dubbed, 'Fred', onto the train.

 

"Cheeki breeki."

 

Patrick pulled himself up to the train with a heavily stifled burst of laughter, he exhaled shakily with a beam that was covered with his fist, before looking over at Bob with the upmost seriousness. "A nu cheeki breeki i v damke-"
Both blondes spluttered loud laughs, Bob burying his face in his hands and Patrick practically collapsing against a wall, before-

 

"Will you get a move on, Feliks?"

 

Pete quickly gripped him by the lapel and pulled him along with the rest of the group, in turn, coaxing Bob forwards too.

They all stumbled into a large compartment; Red walls, two couch-like benches on either side, and a small, square table stuck just under the curtained window. Brendon and Josh instantly dove forwards, grinning as they crashed down by the window seats with yells of 'Dibs!', and 'Dibs on the window!'.

 

Everyone else only muttered, rolled their eyes, or just wordlessly took seats beside the others.


Tyler claimed the seat next to Josh, squishing next to his friend as the bench filled up.

Pete pulled Patrick down next to him on his right- as Joe and Andy, along with some of Camisado's fellas, were already sat to his left.

The dark-haired man stifled a scowl as Bob- still shaking with quiet laughter, took the free seat on Patrick's other side. The blondes glanced at each other, and instantly broke out into quiet laughter and snickers, stifling behind wrists and palms as they tried to calm themselves.

Both blondes had just about shakily exhaled all of their laughter out, before Patrick jolted with another silent laugh, and leaned over to Bob, eyes clenching as he bit his lip to calm himself enough to speak.

 

"MIR, KHLEB I ZEMLya-" Patrick dissolved into laughter again, along with Bob who clapped a hand over his eyes and fell back into the bench, furiously muffling wild laughter behind his hand.

 

Pete's nose wrinkled. He'd definitely have to...talk, to Patrick, once they reached New York.

 

"So, Samuel," Brendon snickered at Dallon, drawing out the name for emphasis. "How're you doing?"

 

Brendon had been cheerier since he'd come back from his first visit to the train station that morning. It was a kind of cheeriness Pete had never seen before, how someone could wear a constant grin without pulverising their facial muscles was beyond him. He had no idea where the hell Brendon got the energy from; Pete wasn't a miserable guy by any means, but even he couldn't manage a grin for that long-


Dallon only shook his head with a small smile, "I'm fine, Albert."

Brendon nodded and leaned forwards, catching Kenny's eye; The man looked queasy. He was pale, and hunched over, keeping his eyes away from the moving view that lay behind the window. Damn, he really hadn't been lying about the travel sickness.

 

"And how're you, Walter?"

 

Kenny only stared at thin air with dull, sick eyes, jaw clenching as he looked as though he were holding back bile. Frank shook with quiet laughter, "Yeah Walter, you good?"

 

"...Peachy."

 

Ray shook his head with a smile, before glancing over at Bob- who'd just about fully calmed down. "You okay, Pyotr?"

With a serious expression, and firm, quick nods, Bob crossed his arms and spoke in his best, slurred Russian impression, "Vodka. Moloko, uh...Kartofel'?" Patrick spluttered a laugh again, and Bob joined him in earnest, both chortling and pressing their faces into their hands.

Andy leaned forwards, bracketing his forearms on his knees and glancing over at Patrick. "You good, Feliks?"

Patrick nodded, "Babushka. Lenin. Uhh...Was ist noch Russisch?" Bob started laughing again, but Patrick just about managed to keep his cool, pinching the bridge of his nose with a tight-lipped smile.

"How uh- how are you, Carl?" Patrick's words ended on a tone of lilted questioning, but Andy nodded with a quiet laugh. "Good thanks."

Spencer shifted around, gaze a little too sweeping, "You okay, Phil?"

 

"Yeah-"
"Fine-"
"Good-"

 

Josh, Mikey and Jon all furrowed their brows at each other.

 

"I thought, I was Phil?"

 

"No, weren't you Donald?"

 

"I was Phil, what the hell?"

 

"Wait- Gee, who were you?"

 

"Harry."

 

"Wait, so, who am I?"

 

"Lenny?"

 

"Hang on-"

 

"You're so stupid, it hurts."

 

"So's your old man!"

 

"It's a day to New York-"

 

"Twenty-four hours of this bush-"

 

"TWENTY-FOUR HOURS?"

 

"Copacetic."

 

"I'm gonna pull a Daniel Boone."

 

"Oh God, please-"

 

"I can't do this-"

 

"Das wird Spaß machen."

 

"Oh Mann, total."

 

"OH FUCK HE'S LITERALLY GREEN-"

 

"I GET TRAVEL SICK-"

 

"WAIT SO WHO THE FUCK IS PHIL?"

 

"OH GOD, DRY THE FUCK U-"

 

Frank's eye twitched, before-

 

 

"ALRIGHT, JUST GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER, FUCK."

 

 

Frank- who had shot up to his feet, pointed and glared at the pale-faced Kenny first.

 

"KEN- UGH, WALTER- JUST PUKE OUT THE WINDOW."

 

He turned to point at the younger Way brother, "MIKEY. YOU'RE NOT PHIL- JON-" He pointed an accusing index finger at Jon, "YOU'RE PHIL."

Frank moved his glare to Josh in a split second, "AND YOU'RE GEORGE." Before he finally turned back to Mikey:

 

"YOU'RE LEONARD."

 

"Leonard, God that sucks-"

 

"DEAL. WITH. IT."

 

Frank glared at every single one of them, before giving a faux smile, paired with Hazel eyes full of murder.

 

"Now. All of you."


All eyes were on Frank.

 

 

"SHUT. THE FUCK. UP."

 

 

 

 

Silence.

 

 

 

Blissful silence.

 

 

 

 

"...So who am I again?"

 

"I'm gonna throw you out the window."

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Mud.

 

Patrick hated mud.

 

Beige, slimy and quick-drying; It stuck to every inch of him.

 

Lying on his front on the rise of the trench wall, rifle in his hands as he winked an eye down the scope, his chest, stomach, legs and arms- even his face, were all smudged with the sandcastle slime.

With a blink, and a wipe of his eyes on his shoulder, Patrick shifted his gaze back through the scope...but he just couldn't help a glance down at his fingers; White nail edges lined with dark dirt, some pink, shielded flesh purple and black with bruises, and as for the digits themselves, they were coated with dry, powdery dirt, that left ghost fingerprints on anything and everything he touched.

Patrick scowled, but instead of staring down at the very stuff that pissed him off the most, he blinked up at the sky with squinted eyes.

 

It was dark and dull, just like everything else. What would have been a pleasant, clear, crystal-white day, was now a muggy and black smoke streaked mess. It looked as though paint had been smeared and smudged all over the clouds, and Patrick could only drop his head back to the scope with a sigh.

 

Watch duty was his least favourite task- only second to trench expansion.

 

As Patrick sighed and resigned himself to staring out over No Man's Land- keeping an eye on the enemy across the dark, burnt dirt and barbed wire- he felt a hand tugging at his leg.

He jolted, and with a harsh shift, he dropped his gaze to his side with a furrowed brow, before-

 

Patrick's gaze softened, and he gave a small smile, speaking in a gentle, quiet voice.

 

 

"Wie geht es dir, Max?"

 

 

Max Baer. What had once been a boisterous, cheery, and annoyingly 'glass-half-full' sixteen year old, had been reduced to...a shell, of a human being.

He'd watched his brothers die; One had been blown to pieces by a tank, one had been burnt alive, one had been speared by a bayonet. That, along with watching death and destruction every day, had turned Max into a wordless hermit. Some took war worse than others.

 

Max was huddled into the foetal position, sat a few inches below from where the toe of Patrick's boot dug into an edge of mud and a wood slat.

His russet hair was caked in dirt and Patrick swore he could see fat lice swarming over and between the strands. Patrick knew his own sandstone blonde hair was exactly the same below the heavy, metal helmet he wore.

Rocking himself back and forth, in a weak effort to comfort himself, Max's stuttered, dull gaze moved up from a dead body that sat a few meters away- that still hadn't been disposed of, God, cleaning duty was lazy as hell.

Pale grey eyes found Patrick's face, and the blonde grimaced slightly, panickedly trying to share his attention between Max and the scope.

 

"Was brauchst du, Max?"

 

"M-Mir t-t-tut der Hals- weh, P-Patr-"

 

Frantic thuds of footfalls, along with the clattering of a uniform, made Patrick's head shoot up.

 

A soldier. Beige uniform, union jack- A British soldier. Running across the top- God, what the hell was he-

 

Patrick's eyes widened as he saw the man reach for a grenade, one hand moving to unhook one from his belt.

 

Forcing his thundering heart to still itself, and ignoring the shakiness that had overtaken his hands, Patrick winked an eye down the scope, fingers tightening as his right index moved to the trigger.

 

He made sure the sights were steady. Gravity. A little above the target. Wind. A little to the left.

 

The rifle kicked back into the empty space his shoulder, whole weapon jolting backwards as a bullet flew out with an ear-splitting bang.

 

The American fell limp, crumpling backwards to the ground with a grenade cupped in his hand.

 

Patrick stared at the man's corpse with wide eyes, head tilting up over a few clumps of destroyed grass to check he wasn't going to get back up.

 

It was insane. It was completely insane. What kind of idiot just runs across No Man's Land, with no cover, with no whistle-?

 

Maybe he'd wanted to be hero.

 

Maybe he'd been crazy.

 

Maybe he'd been traumatised, maybe he'd lost everything, and maybe the world hadn't made sense to him anymore.

 

 

"Patrick!"

 

 

Wide eyes staying the size of plates, Patrick's head shot to the side; Rob. Rob Bryarmann. His best, and one of his only, friends in this hellhole.

They'd only bonded over their shared Austrian ties; Patrick's mother, hailing from Hopfgarten, whilst Rob came from Salzburg. They'd talked, sharing memoirs and memories of Austria, all while cursing French land, and they'd become fast friends over night. The year had been more bearable with Rob.

Patrick was glad at least one good thing had come out of the war.

 

Rob was running towards him, stepping down the small, muddy alley, with a hand securing his helmet. The damn thing's strap had been broken for two weeks, and he still hadn't fixed it. It was gonna get him killed, Patrick made a note to nag Rob until-

 

"Bist du in Ordnung? Ich hörte einen Schuss- Was-?"

 

"Ein briter." Patrick's voice was quiet, and rasped from the cold that lined his throat, and from not speaking for such a long time that morning- well, before Max-

 

Max.

 

With a glance to the russet-haired kid, Patrick pushed himself off of the trench's side, and he quickly crouched down to his friend.

 

"Max, was brauchst du?" His hands were soft on Max's shoulders, leaving dusty streaks of beige, but the pale grey stare was blank and dull as he shuddered. Patrick's eyes were wide and pleading as he shook his head, "Max, bitte, was fehlt dir?"

 

"M-M-Mein- M-Mein- N-n-n-"

 

Rob pushed against Patrick's shoulder as he leaned down to Max too, one hand gingerly drifting over to Max's collar. With a grimace coating his features, Rob pulled the collar back.

 

They both gasped, both faces falling, and both pairs of blue eyes growing teary.

 

A translucent sac, filled with something black that sloshed every time Max so much as breathed.

 

Dark red webs of puffy, murky lines that ran all over his skin in intricate patterns.

 

Septic shock.

 

Patrick glanced at Rob with a slack jaw and a shudder. Rob only exhaled shakily in response.

 

Max was dying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Bitte, mutter- es schmerzt- ah- es tut so w-weh-"

 

Patrick shut his eyes, letting his face fall into his hand as Max's death whines rang through the freezing air between them.

 

The dark, charcoal night had brought a blanket of daisy white snow with it. A blanket which froze, rather than warmed, and as men paced back and forth- rubbing their hands, cold air steaming from their noses, and huddling up with coats and rags, Patrick could only shiver.

Rob was sat at his side, knees pulled up to his chest as he kept his forehead against one of the bones, lidded blue eyes staring over at Max.

 

It had been a week since they'd seen the faint red webs, and the black bubble on his neck, but it had only gotten worse. They had no medicine to treat Max; All of it had been exhausted on men who were dragged back from No Man's Land with legs and arms missing.

So, instead, the nurses and the field doctors had suggested that Rob and Patrick soothe him as much as possible during his final few days of life, to ease him into death. He was estimated to last for three days, but he'd fought past seven.

 

Patrick glanced away from his hand, opting to let his eyes drift over Max; He was trembling, curled into a foetal position and resting his upper half on Patrick's thighs.

 

Blue eyes moved to his neck.

 

The sacs had spread, bubbles and boils popping up over every inch of Max's body.  And the reason for it?

 

The tiny strand of bandage tied around Max's index finger.

 

A cut. Tiny, and caused by his own switchblade when he'd been polishing it.

 

Bacteria had flooded in, infecting his blood, corrupting his organs, making everything burst, slow down, and die.

 

"Mutter- agh- mutter, bitte hilf mir- mutter- es schmerzt mutter-"

 

"Bist du in Ordnung?"

 

Patrick raised his head to Rob; The blonde stared at him, flickers of smothered despair and pity flashing in his eyes. Patrick only shrugged, fingers scratching through itchy, lice-infested hair.

 

"Ich kann-"

 

"Es ist okay." The words were laced with exasperated sighs as his friend nodded in understanding.

Automatically, both blue eyes moved down to Max- face pale, lips trembling and still stuttering pleads for his mother's help.

 

"...Es wird nicht lange dauern."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick didn't know what had gotten into Pete, but hey, he wasn't complaining too much.

 

As soon as they'd all arrived at the train station, Pete had subtly ushered Patrick to the bathroom, and the German had promptly been shoved into a stall.

 

Bathroom stalls- Ah, so many memories.

 

Pete's mouth was latched onto its favourite spot, just in the middle of Patrick's neck, and the older man was sucking and biting through rough bucks of his hips.

Patrick shook with quiet laughter as he threaded a hand through dark hair, carding through as he tipped his head back against the wall.

With a light amused look on his face, Patrick quirked an eyebrow down at Pete; The man hadn't really...made a move, yet, instead opting to just lap and bite at Patrick's neck and shoulder.

 

A small, quiet laugh escaped him, before Patrick wedged a hand between their flush hips, and started tugging buttons open.

 

Pete didn't notice, and Patrick could only hold back a broad, amused smile, as he reached under the hem of Pete's boxers, wrapping a hand around his half-hard cock.

The older man groaned in the back of his throat, pushing forwards and biting at Patrick's ear as his hips urged forwards.

Pete was hot, firm and long in his hand, and as Patrick's head tilted a little, he had a sudden spark of inspiration.

 

Ignoring Pete's discontented whine, Patrick undid his own fly in mere seconds. If he was honest, he was feeling a little eager too.

The train journey had been arduously long, and between the arguing, insulting and sarcasm- all topped off with Pete's long, dark, and promising stares, Patrick had been a little tense.

 

Biting his lip, Patrick jerked himself slowly, before pulling himself out over the hem of his own boxers, and taking them both in his hand. Pete groaned, forehead instantly pressing to Patrick's as his eyes screwed shut.

His fingers strained around them both, but the want burning in his veins took full priority.

 

Pete didn't even complain when Patrick's hand moved away again; The blonde lapped at his own palm and fingers, making a point of keeping his eyes locked on Pete's.  

The dark-haired man was bristling, but as soon as Patrick's hand retook its place, brown eyes closed once again, and the older man released a shaky, warm exhale.

 

Their lips were inches apart, but Patrick knew better than to try and catch them with his own.

Kissing wasn't Pete's thing, apparently. The amount of times Patrick had been pushed down into a mattress, or against bricks, or just into a bathroom stall- and Pete had never kissed him.

 

Patrick squeezed and twisted his fingers around them both, revelling in the feeling of velvety skin and popping veins brushing together in slow, deranging friction.

 

Patrick had tried to kiss Pete before, of course; He'd actually often find himself just staring at Pete's mouth with soft, blown eyes, and whenever Pete caught him, all he'd do was drag him to a secluded room.

 

Pete panted, jaw clenching as his hands linked around Patrick's hips, urging him to go faster. Patrick rolled his eyes a little, despite the minuscule smile on his face, and obliged, picking up the pace of his hand with a stifled groan.

Breath heavy and hot against his lips, both of them painfully hard in his hand, and fingers digging into his hip bones, and Patrick gave a broken moan, hips stuttering unevenly as he rocked up onto his tiptoes.

 

Patrick idly wondered if Pete still hated him. He couldn't be too sure- Pete had only been neutral, and indifferent to him lately. Patrick supposed it could be good, or bad, but there wasn't much he could do to find out; Pete shared nothing.

 

Head tipping back, teeth pressing into his lip, and Pete's mouth nipping and licking at his Adam's apple, and Patrick came with a mewl, voice cracking at the end as his hips bucked forwards automatically.

He felt warmth and stickiness coating his fingers, and looked down between them to find Pete's blood-dark head beading with white. Just a little more.

Nuzzling at Pete's neck, Patrick ran his tongue along the length, and made a point of teasing the puffed vein there with his teeth.

Hips pressed flush against his own, and Patrick glanced over to Pete; His face was buried in Patrick's shoulder, and his moan- that suspiciously sounded a little like 'Patrick', while a little muffled, was music to the blonde's ears.

 

Pete, just like always, took a few moments to recover from the aftershocks, before promptly shoving his pants back into place, buttoning his fly, and marching out of the bathroom stall diligently.

 

With an absent shake of his head, Patrick buttoned his fly, flattened his hair, and followed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"DADDY!"

Joe grinned and huffed as he caught the little girl that leapt up to him. He propped her up and kissed her forehead, before moving over to his wife. Patrick watched him speak a few quiet words into her ear, and her face flashed with worry, before she nodded with a smile and embraced her husband as well as she could around their daughter. Patrick supposed the confusion was due to being informed that Joe should now be called 'David' in public, and the blonde had to admit, the woman was brave to not question or press her husband about it.

 

Patrick glanced over to the right of the station in front of him, gaze quickly finding Dallon; The tall man was ruffling his son's hair, and kissing his daughter's forehead, all while explaining silent situations to his wife; 'Samuel', not Dallon- at least, not in public.

 

 

"Bist du in ordnung?"

 

 

With wide eyes and a jump, Patrick's head snapped to his right; Bob was stood there- that motherfucker had ridiculously silent footsteps...but so did Patrick, so he couldn't complain too much. One brow was raised as his eyes trailed over Patrick's neck.

The German gulped, and quickly pretended to scratch at his neck, while the Austrian squinted suspiciously. As his nails traced his skin, Patrick realised just how achy it was- Oh fuck, Pete- That motherfucker had left a bruise, goddamnit.

 

"Du hast einen blauen Fleck. Bist du sicher-"

 

With a grin, that in hindsight may have looked suspicious, Patrick nodded frantically, before awkwardly excusing himself, and waltzing off to find the cause of all his problems right now, when-

 

Ryan was playing with his lighter, flame flickering on and off periodically as brown eyes stayed locked on the orange flicker.

 

Ryan had...connections, right?

 

Hypothetically, Ryan could...find things, right?

 

With a squint and slow steps, Patrick moved over to Ryan, making sure to keep the apparently bruised side of his neck hidden. "Uh, Ry- ah-" Patrick gave a strained smile, "Lloyd."

Ryan huffed with a small smile and nodded, raising an eyebrow at the German, and purposefully squinting at the awkwardly hidden side of his neck.

 

"I uh..." Patrick's gaze dropped to the floor, and he kicked slightly with squinted eyes. "I was, uh- gefragt- uh-"

 

Why was English so goddamn hard?

 

"...Can you...find, something?"

 

Ryan raised his brows, but he ultimately nodded, and Patrick's chest felt lighter than it had in years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Sie ist so klein."

 

Babies were tiny, holy shit- how were they so tiny?

 

Patrick gazed down at the newborn in his arms with a slack jaw, and amazed eyes, before glancing up at his sister; Disheveled, tired, but still smiling and glowing with love at her newest child.

She was sat at their parent's kitchen table- head on her hand and eyes soft, her free hand carding through her son- Bruno's, light hair; The boy had been both amazed by, and painfully jealous of his new sister. Amazed by how small, yet how loud, she was, but jealous of all the attention she was getting.

In the swaddle of blankets, the pink flushed baby with wispy strands of white hair started mewling, tiny hands that were curled into tight fists shifting around as she squirmed in her uncle's arms. Bright blue eyes quirking open and squinting slowly and curiously as a tiny hand stretched up to Patrick's face.

 

"Nicht ausflippen-"

 

His sister laughed sweetly, shaking her head and rubbing her eyes with a yawn; Childbirth must've been exhausting, Patrick was impressed that she was even walking around right now. If he had to give birth to a kid, he was pretty sure he'd stay in bed for the entire year- honestly, screw that.

 

"Es ist okay, Patrick- Sie ist nur neugierig."

 

Patrick nodded, letting himself smile easily as the baby gurgled happily, both hands reaching up towards him as she nuzzled her cheek against the soft blanket that engulfed her.

The blonde laughed quietly, bouncing the newborn softly and beaming happily when she giggled with a laugh just like her mother's.

 

He glanced up to his sister, gaze soft but eyebrows raised. "Was hast du sie genannt?"

 

His sister smiled broadly, chest puffing up with pride and love as she let her eyes lock on her new daughter, safely bundled in her uncle's arms.

 

"Erika."

 

Patrick smiled broadly with a nod, looking down at his niece and laughing as she insisted on reaching for the short strands of his hair.

 

"Das ist ein guter Name."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick woke with a jolt, before groaning at himself and burying his face in the nook of his arm.

 

Those dreams hurt the most. The memories of his family, the memories of his friends; Being chased after, cowering in trenches, and bleeding out from a wound- he could deal with that...but, his family...it killed him. His sister, his brother, his parents, his nephew, his niece- God, it made his heart ache. It made everything ache.

Pushing himself to sit up, Patrick instantly hunched over, and buried his hands in his hair, keeping tears back as he stubbornly inhaled and exhaled calmly.

 

 

"Kaiser?"

 

 

The voice was sleep-rasped and surprised, but Patrick didn't turn towards it.

...But a few moments later, and he felt a tentative hand splaying on his bare back, gingerly rubbing over the skin with care.

 

"Are you okay?"

 

Patrick exhaled shakily, and with water finally breaking out from his eyes, he shook his head with a sob.

 

A pair of arms wrapped around him in an instant, and Patrick didn't fight it, letting his face drop into a taut shoulder as he whined with desperate breaths. 

Pete's fingers carded through his hair, and his free hand soothed over Patrick's back. The older man said nothing, and instead, only let the blonde tremble and sob, freely crying for the first time in a long time. It felt like he was drowning; Heart aching, bones heavy, and every inch of him twisted and writhing.

With a tenderness Patrick hadn't thought he possessed, Pete shifted them both back down to the springy, cheap-motel mattress. He pulled Patrick into his chest, chin propping down on his hair as the German sniffed and shuddered.

 

The tears dried on his cheeks, and Patrick became painfully aware of just how long he'd been crying against Pete.

He screwed his eyes shut, and a grunt of frustration pierced the back of his throat.

Showing weakness was never good, especially not to someone like Pete; Someone who didn't really respect him, someone who he'd had to earn every kind word from. He shouldn't have let himself be so weak-

 

"What was it?"

 

Patrick blinked, but felt in no mood to fight back. So instead, he shuffled closer to Pete and pressed his cheek against his chest. If Pete was offering warmth and kindness, he really wasn't going to turn it down right now.

 

"My family."

 

Long fingers ran through light hair, and Pete breathed quietly, before speaking in a gentle voice.

 

"What about 'em?"

 

With a sigh, Patrick only hid his face in tanned skin. Crying was embarrassing enough, but having an impromptu therapy session was infinitely worse.

 

"...Nothing."

 

Pete hummed, and Patrick knew he didn't believe a word. But instead of pressing it, the older man only trailed a hand over Patrick's bruised neck; The blonde had learnt that Pete had completely meant to do that- turns out it hadn't just been a mistake. And while he'd been absurdly pissed, Patrick eventually resolved to just hide the mark with his collar as best he could. Complaining and yelling weren't gonna make the bruise fade faster.

 

As Patrick drifted into sleep, the gentle hand trailing through his hair stopped, threading itself in, when-

 

The soft sound of a kiss rang in his ears, and he felt warm lips against his forehead.

 

Patrick's lips quirked into a small smile as he fell asleep, one arm linking over Pete's ribs, and the other curled between them both, as the wave of peace consumed him.

 

That night, Patrick slept like a baby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"This is it."

 

It was more of a skeleton, than it was a speakeasy, if you asked Pete. He tilted his head, eyes skimming over the dimly lit- yet immense space. It was dark, wasted away, and pretty much coated with spiderwebs- which were doing some of the fellas no favours.

 

He glanced over at Frank, who was quietly running fingertips along the dusty bar. This was the best they were gonna get. Underground bars were hard enough to come by, and besides, there were enough of them to form a small army- they could clean it up in no time.

 

Pete shifted from his left to his right, eyes scanning all over the bar.

 

Rundown walls, scraped, chipped and faded paper. Scuffed, dusty wooden slatted floors. Powdery chandeliers with broken bulbs, and a general heavy smell of water and damp.

 

People split away into groups as they poked and prodded around the place.

 

It was huge; Wooden stairs that led down to the ground floor, wooden beams that linked with the beams that crisscrossed over the ceiling. Tables, chairs, booths and couches- all dusty, some ripped, and some rickety-looking.

Back rooms; Bedrooms, offices, storerooms, and bathrooms. There was enough to house them all under one roof.

 

Wordlessly, Pete paced around, eyes relaxed and fingers occasionally trailing as he stared. But, after a few minutes of exploring, Pete retired back to the main hall, as it were.

He looked up, squinting around at the high ceiling and at the long stairs, before his head dropped to something more...suspicious.

 

Patrick and Ryan, both huddled in the corner and talking quietly, the German glancing around nervously as the American only took drags of his cigarette.

Blue eyes stopped on Pete, and Patrick awkwardly cleared his throat and excused himself. Ryan only nodded and left as Patrick shifted towards Pete, hands in his pockets as he gave a strained smile.

 

"How uh- how are you?"

 

Pete nodded with a light shrug, eyes and mouth staying blank as his eyes retook to drifting around over the bar. "I'm fine."

With a little too much enthusiasm, Patrick nodded deeply, grinning tightly as he looked around at the ceiling, absently bouncing on his toes.

 

"It's uh...interesting, no?"

 

Pete shrugged, squinting as he tried to ignore the writhing crawling up to his throat; He wondered why Ryan and Patrick were talking so suspiciously. If they'd just been chatting, he wouldn't have minded- he wasn't a control freak or anything.

 

But, then, why had Patrick been acting so nervously? Why was he being suspicious? Why was there a fake, strained grin, and why were there flitting eyes?

 

Pete glanced at Patrick; The blonde was shuffling his shoes, craning his neck and glancing up at the back halls with interest.

 

"You're right."

 

Patrick turned in an instant, eyes wide and head cocking of its own accord. Fuck, that was cute- God, he was so screwed. Pete smiled softly and nodded, both knowing and accusing glints in his eyes. "It's interesting."

The German's lips quirked up, and Pete knew he'd caught the underlying tone of doubt. Instead of addressing the tension that was stifling the air, eating them alive- Patrick leaned up, standing up on his toes and swiftly pressing a quick kiss to Pete's cheek, before dropping away again, and marching away to a back room.

 

Whoa.

 

Pete's eyes were wide as his hand came up to brush the stubbled cheek where Patrick's lips had been not too long ago. His heart thundered against his ribs, and the telltale twisting of a goddamn crush writhed in the pit of his stomach.

 

Goddamnit it.

 

He blinked, a tiny smile that steadily grew broader and broader, weaving onto his mouth. His eyes drifted around the room as he exhaled a content, happy, yet stifled, sigh. He supposed...Maybe...just...fuck it.

 

 

It had potential.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

"Not a fuckin' maid, sons of-"

 

"Will you just dry up?" With a snap of irriation, Spencer shook his head with a roll of his eyes, before nodding his head at the scowling Jon. "And pass me that goddamn bucket."

 

Cleaning duty. Admittedly, not what Dallon had expected to be doing on his first day of work.

 

Sure, the speakeasy had to be cleaned, and repaired, and made decent for human habitation, but goddamn, if it wasn't boring.

 

Wiping his damp beaded forehead with his hand, Dallon blew out a hot breath and leaned up, elbow resting on the blunt end of the broom he'd been dragging along the floor all day.

He smiled broadly, eyes flitting around the room; It was better. It was a lot better. Damn, they could open it up in no time, it was already shaping up to be even better than Camisado- not that Dallon would ever say that out loud, lest he get shanked by Ryan.

 

"Alright, we'll be back in a little while, ladies."

 

"Go chase yourself, Frank."

 

"Feisty-"

 

"C'mon, leave 'em be." Ryan rolled his eyes as he flicked his lighter absently, eyes locked onto the flame. With a soft huff, Frank sighed quietly and nodded, "Yes ma'am." Ryan said nothing, and only rolled his eyes again as Tyler gave a quiet, weak laugh.

Dallon smirked, if the fella kept doing that, his eyes would definitely pop out of their sockets one day.

 

"You fellas ready?"

 

Pulling on a pair of gloves, Pete stepped out of the hallway into the main bar, along with Patrick at his heels, while he glanced up between Frank and Ryan. The other three looked back to the dark-haired man, and three nods of varying strength and speed were Pete's response.

The German's head poked out from his side, wide eyes flitting around the now- sparkling room, with profound interest in the baby-blues.

 

"Well, let's go then, no point delaying it." Ryan shrugged and stepped towards the stairs, cantering up the steps as Tyler nodded to himself and followed, with a quick and final smile at Josh- who was wiping the layers of grey and purple dust off of a table, beaming back up at his friend.

Raising his brows at Pete, Frank turned back towards the stairs, and paced after Ryan and Tyler.

 

Pete and Patrick only glanced at each other, before nodding with tiny smiles and finally leaving, along with quiet words of farewell to the unlucky souls who'd have to stay and clean.

 

Honestly, Dallon didn't mind too much.

 

Dallon would rather clean than have to go meet up with all kinds of shady people- it was safer, more clean, and besides, Dallon had others to live for; Kids, a wife- people who needed him.

He took the brush back in his heads, and dragged the sharp bristles against the floor, making sure to clear the blue-tinted dust from the corners, nooks and crannies of the room.

 

"FUCK-"

 

Hands clapping over his face, Brendon sneezed violently into his palms, standing from where he'd been polishing wooden slats to stumble away to the back rooms. Dallon grimaced, brow furrowing as he tilted his head at the suddenness with which the man had left, but Kenny only shook his head, "It just hit him the wrong way, he'll be fine."

 

Dallon nodded, still not fully believing the odd reasoning, but only blinked quickly before shrugging lightly, and going back to his duties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark.

 

It was dark, and it smelt. It smelt so weird. It wasn't bad. It definitely wasn't good.

 

It was sweet, in a sickly way. Like cheap perfume, or old boiled sweets that had melted in their wrappers.

 

He couldn't breathe; Soft, hard, squishy, firm- it all pressed against his face, smothering him within an inch of his life.

 

They were bodies. Brendon knew they were- he'd moved them himself, after all.

 

A beach, dead friends, men screaming, red waves.

 

His ribs hurt.

 

He'd been shot, he could feel it, but it hadn't hit anything important- or he'd have died nine days ago.

 

Nine days. Or what felt like nine days, anyway- if the cycles of light and dark that cracked through the gaps of the corpses were anything to go by. Nine days stuck under the bodies. Nine days of ears swarming with flies. Nine days of hearing maggots chewing at skin. Nine days of rats squeaking. Nine days of teeth chewing at his fingers and ears. Nine days of darkness. Nine days of the smell.

 

But it might all be coming to an end soon.

 

"Verschieben sie- Überprüfe sie alle."

 

"Jawohl Kapitän!"

 

Hands, hands brushing against him as they wrapped around dead men's limbs, dragging them away and to the side.

 

The wet, rot-stained sand soaked and scratched through Brendon's uniform as he closed his eyes, trying to hold his breath as he felt daylight hit his face.

Brendon tried to think of something better, of a memory, of something, or, of someone he loved- he didn't want to think about the German soldiers surrounding him. Staring him down. Checking for his pulse and breathing. Wondering if they should shoot him.

 

Blue eyes. Cobalt, bright- the most amazing eyes Brendon had ever seen in his whole life. They were all he could see under his eyelids.

 

"Erschieß sie. Stellen Sie sicher, dass sie tot sind."

 

"Jawohl Kapitän!"

 

A gunshot.

 

Brendon struggled to keep himself still, but he just managed it.

 

Dark hair. Those soft strands Brendon always wanted to run his hands through.

 

Gunshot. Blood on his hand.

 

They'd turn tawny brown when the sun caught them, and navy when the moon did. Brendon could've just looked at them for hours, for days, maybe even for weeks.

 

Another. Blood on his cheek.

 

He'd give anything to see that hair again.

 

Another gunshot. A splatter of blood from one of his dead comrades on his leg.

 

Pale skin. Almost white, but holding a rosy tint below the surface. Soft, flawless, Brendon just wanted to touch, to kiss, to feel every inch of it.

 

The click of a gun reloading, the feel of a shadow over his face, the certainty of death he still hadn't accepted eating him alive-

 

"Das ist genug."

 

"Jawohl Kapitän!"

 

Footsteps, all moving away. Pacing, walking, jogging. They were gone, and Brendon's eyes opened.

 

The sky was smoky, dark and hiding what should've been a blue sky- had it not been for the ships, the planes, the tanks and the fire.

 

With involuntary groans at the hole in his chest he'd forgotten about, Brendon pushed himself up to his forearms, eyes neglecting to look around at his surroundings as he sat up.

 

As soon as his back hit the air, and as soon as he was fully sat up, Brendon's screwed eyes opened.

 

A shudder, a gasp, a despairing moan he didn't mean to make.

 

Bodies. So many. Too many.

 

He'd only moved a few, he'd only moved five. They hadn't looked like that- they hadn't been chewed, they hadn't been ripped, they hadn't been crawling with rats and maggots, they hadn't been lined with fly eggs-

 

Their eyes hadn't been eaten by rodents, their lips hadn't been sliced raw by the sand, their skin hadn't been rotting, their limbs, their chests, their stomachs- they hadn't been bloated like some kind of sick balloons.

 

But now they were.

 

They were dead, destroyed, and they'd never see home again.

 

Brendon looked around with shaky, wide eyes and a frame that just wouldn't stop trembling.

 

Germans. Austrians. Italians. Everywhere, on every hill, in every tent, in every-

 

He was going to die. He was going to die, he'd never see home again, he'd never- He'd never see those blue eyes, that dark hair, and that pale skin again. He'd never see-




"Dallon?"

 

Dallon raised an eyebrow as Brendon squinted up at him, wiping his watery, bloodshot eyes and leaking nose. The taller man squinted at his friend, "Uh, yeah, didn't you hear me?"

 

With a heavy sniff, Brendon tried to push himself up from the sink, but he only clattered back down with a heavy, shaky sigh, as his elbows folded in on themselves.

Dallon watched his spine rise and fall as the man heaved, and Dallon could only reach a pale hand out to his shoulder. Rubbing the back of Brendon's neck, Dallon tilted his head and watched his friend attentively.

 

Brendon had been gone for a good twenty minutes, and, due to complaining that the man was shirking his share of work, Dallon had rolled his eyes at the others of the ragtag cleaning group, and had paced away to find his friend.

He'd eventually found Brendon in the bathroom, leaning over a sink with dripping wet hands and red eyes.

 

Dallon grimaced a little, worry and fear clawing at his chest; He didn't know what was up with Brendon, and while he wanted to find out, while he wanted to question and interrogate, Dallon knew Brendon was in no state to talk-

 

"She's pregnant."

 

Dallon froze. The voice was rasped, deep and quiet. Blue eyes shot wide and his jaw gaped open, before he spoke in soft, stuttered and wholly involuntary words.

 

"S-Sarah?"

 

Dallon knew the question was stupid. Of course he was talking about Sarah- he wouldn't have blamed his friend if he'd pushed away from the sink and had slapped him over the head for the idiotic-

 

Brendon nodded deeply, weight shifting from his right foot to his left as he breathed shakily.

 

Brendon didn't chastise him, make fun of him, or even slap him over the head, because he wasn't that type of per-

 

Dallon's mind blanked and he grunted as a weight clattered against his chest, crashing into him in a split second. As soon as his thought process had caught up, he stuttered his gaze down; Brendon was pressed against him, face in his chest and arms around his ribs, squeezing Dallon as though he'd float away at any moment, and as though his grip was the only thing keeping him on Earth.

 

"Brendon-?"

 

"I love you."

 

Nothing. Dallon said nothing. He was paralysed, paralysed in- in- he didn't know in what, but-

 

"I love you- I love you, I God- I love you-"

 

Dallon pushed him away, hands gripping the shorter man's shoulders as he stared him in the eye; Brendon's face was red, screwed up in pain and desperation. His eyes were webbed with crimson, his nose was sniffing, his drooled mouth was parted in violent sobs and gasps for air. Dallon could practically see the insanity, the derangement, swirling in his eyes like disturbed maelstroms and whirlpools.

 

Dallon didn't know what to say. His brain still hadn't fully processed Brendon's words as he started speaking, but he forced himself to think clearly. To put his feelings aside. To do what was right. Not to be selfish, not to deprive a woman of her husband, not to deprive a child of their father.

 

"No. No, Brendon."

 

The younger man sobbed again, whining and trying to fight his way back to press against Dallon, but the older man held steadfast, pushing the brunette away with a burning glower.

 

"I have a wife-"

 

"Dallon please-"

 

"I have children-"

 

"I-I'm begging you-"

 

"You have a wife-"

 

"No- Dal- Dallon- please-"

 

"You have a child-"

 

"I LOVE YOU." Brendon jerked away from Dallon fully, neglecting to wipe his eyes as he panted, the desperate, deep and trembling breaths sounding on the edge of a heart attack. Dallon could physically see his heart break, the once-dim light in his eyes fully smothering out.

 

Dallon could only shake his head. "Brendon-"

 

"I can't do it- I can't-" Brendon buried his face in his hands, fingers pulling out his hair in pure frustration, untampered fear, and raw anger. He trembled all over, pacing and grunting like a lion in a cage.

Dallon grunted and tried to pull away when Brendon lurched towards him again, hands gripping at his shoulders as he shook them with wide eyes.

 

"Dallon- Dallon, listen to me-"

 

"No- NO-"

 

"I saw the baby."

 

Dallon's face screwed up; His nose wrinkled, his lip curled and he shook his head lightly with a faint scoff that crawled up to scratch at the back of his throat. Brendon was delirious, he had to be-

 

"...Wha-?"

 

"I saw the- t-the bump- Sarah's-" With pure disgust, Brendon shuddered as though he were talking about a filthy sewer, and not his unborn child. His eyes screwed shut for a moment, before he stared up at Dallon again, eyes dark and dull.

 

Dallon just couldn't understand how somebody could harbour that emotion for a baby. Let alone for their own child.

He thought about his own- about Knox and Amelie. He'd been so happy when they'd been born- no, he'd been overjoyed when he'd first seen Breezy's belly swell with them.

 

The look of disgust, of horror, of regret- the look in Brendon's eyes, it revolted him.

 

"I can't do it- I can't-"

 

Dallon jerked away, the curl of his lip flourishing into a whole sneer as he backed towards the door, shaking his head with a glare. Brendon only sobbed, knees trembling as he tried to step forwards, hand weakly reaching out for the taller man.

 

"Dallon-"

 

Dallon's knuckles paled as he gripped the door handle, glaring into thin air towards the golden brass. He glanced back over his shoulder, eyes dark and uncaring.

 

"Man up, Brendon."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A booming laugh which steamed in the cold air rang out from the red-faced, Stewart Bailey's, mouth, as he clapped a hand on Frank's shoulder.

 

Pete smiled broadly, eyes crinkling and casting shadows under the yellow-tinted streetlights.

 

A nice little café, that inexplicably opened at night, was apparently the biggest hotspot for bootleggers; With Ryan's information, they'd headed out to the place, and it hadn't really been what they'd been expecting.

Men drinking coffee; Tipping back shots of espressos rather than shots of vodka. Talking calmly and quietly about family and business, rather than slurring drunken songs and declarations of love. All in all, it had been a lot more business-like than any of them had been expecting- but then again, an innocent little café wouldn't really serve alcohol, in truth.

 

Pete glanced to his side, lips quirking fondly as he watched Patrick blinking and yawning into the cold night air with a content air about him. Tonight, Pete had learnt the German had a slight penchant for coffee- the fella had downed around six lattes over the course of four hours.

 

Another voice rang out from his left, and Pete's head flicked back to see Isaac Fletcher- a skinnier, paler and a general beanpole of a man, gliding along next to Bailey.

 

A tiny figure- a regular ragamuffin, clothed in filthy, tattered clothes, ducked between Fletcher and Bailey. Pete watched with a raised brow as they tried to shove past the large man's legs, but before they'd even made a strong attempt, Fletcher kicked them away, toe landing sharply between the kid's ribs. "Go chase yourself- damn beggars-"

Pete winced, and glanced back over his shoulder at the tattered kid who, once again, tried to stumble forwards, despite the pained grip on their ribs, before-

 

"So, you fellas in from Chicago?"

 

Pete's full attention moved back to the suppliers as Tyler nodded amicably, but Frank spoke again, "Yeah, they've just done a pretty big bust up there, so..."

 

"So you were forced out?" Another voice with an accent as thick as butter, and another fella, another supplier; Mateo Estrada, just as brown as Pete was, and carrying a similar darkness in his features.

 

"M'afraid so." The words were mumbled around the cigarette in Ryan's mouth, but the three suppliers only nodded, both in understanding and in sympathy.

 

"Well, we should be getting back." Frank blinked at Pete, and the man understood, nodding in agreement and prompting Ryan, Patrick and Tyler to do the same.

"Hmm," With a hum, Fletcher nodded back, but only Bailey spoke again, voice booming and laced with hearty laughter. "Yeah, ya don't wanna get pinched on your first night!"

 

 

Well-faked grins and laughter, followed with handshakes, nods and promises of 'We'll meet again', and Pete led the charge home, before-

 

 

"Shit."

 

 

The others turned with furrowed brows, some releasing annoyed sighs at Tyler; The kid was stood on the sidewalk, eyes squinting as he stared over at the other side of the street, before he tore his gaze away and hurried to catch up to the others. He tugged on Frank's sleeve with a low, panicky word of warning. "That was Margot's guy-"

 

Frank's face fell, but anger quickly replaced shock. "Margot- what the hell are you-?

 

"Margot's guy- he was with him when I bought plaid from them-" Tyler shook his head with wide eyes, searching the other's' gazes, "Please, you gotta believe me- M-Maybe they saw us at the station, maybe they sent him after us-"

 

"That's ridiculous- D'you how well we hid ourselves?" Ryan furrowed his brow and glowered with his words, releasing a puff of smoke with each sharp sound.

 

"Ry- Lloyd-" In nothing but frustration, Tyler's eyes screwed shut at his slip up. "That was him. I swear. I swear on my life, I swear on God-"

 

"Fred-" With a stifled sigh and a hint of a roll of his eyes, Pete stepped between

Tyler and Frank, clamping a hand on Tyler's shoulder as he stared with wide, reassuring eyes. "It'll be fine. It wasn't him-"

 

"Yes it was, I know it was- I'd know that motherfucker anywhere, please- you gotta-" Tyler looked around at the others wildly, eyes wide and feral as he pleaded with them. "It was him, and he's gonna find us- He's gonna tell the coppers- we're not gonna survive for more than a few months-"

 

 

 

"Where's Patrick?"

 

 

 

All voices stopped, and all eyes flicked to Ryan; The man's eyes were squinted as he glanced around, bouncing up on his toes every now and then.

 

Pete felt stiff for a moment, before he shook himself into action as he stepped forwards, ducking down some nearby, dark alleys; He poked his head into one curtain of darkness, only to see the reflections of cat's eyes in the inky air,

 

He stepped away, brow furrowed as the others made an effort to find the lost German.

 

Where the fuck- "Kaiser?" Pete's voice raised as he paced along the street, one hand trailing a brick wall as he strode past crowds and a bustles of people.

 

"Ka- Patrick?!"

 

Pete heard distant shouts of the same name, only from different tongues. He had to find him- God, where the hell had he gone- "Patrick?!"

 

He saw nothing along the street in front of him- no mess of ruffled blonde hair, no ridiculously short figure, no wool coat- "Goddamnit-" With a growl escaping his throat, Pete turned back, storming back down the sidewalk with curled fists.

 

He was gonna find Patrick- Fuck, where the fuck did he- He was gonna kill- Motherfucker-

 

"PATR-ick...?"

 

The yell died, crumbling away into a mere whimper of a question; Patrick was stood under the streetlight they'd been arguing under.

 

"Patrick!" Tyler skidded back to the sidewalk, obscuring Patrick from Pete's view. The dark-haired man stalked forwards as Tyler jumped back to safety, as he'd previously bolted across the street, "Are you oka-"

 

"What the fuck were you-" Frank's snarl and soldiering stance drooped with a wince, as he squinted at the German. Swallowing his pride and backing away to the side, Frank glanced back at Pete- who in turn, only soldiered forwards.

 

"Patrick, what-?"

 

"Let's go."

 

With the short, simple words, Patrick turned on his heel and marched down the street, Tyler following him almost instinctively- no longer complaining or whining about Margot's fella. Ryan and Frank fell into place, but Pete only froze in his spot, soles rooting to the ground as he stared forwards with a furrowed brow and a gape.

 

The steady clatters of footsteps shook him awake again, and Pete finally noticed just how far the group had drifted. With a frustrated grunt hooked in the back of his throat, Pete sped forwards with a glare, eyes firmly locked on Patrick as he glided up to his free side again.

 

Subtly, he let his gaze wash over the younger man, squinting and blinking as he took in the sights; Patrick's eyes were set in that blank, dead glare. His shoulders were relaxed, and his head tilted easily as he walked. Pete's eyes moved down; Patrick's hands were balled into easy fists, and- gloved.

 

Gloved. Why were they-? He hadn't been wearing gloves before, had he...?

 

Blue eyes snapped to his, catching him in the act of gawking.

 

Pete could hardly tear his eyes away as icy blue irises gave way to darkened, shiny pupils, and as plump lips curled into a smile, a smile that made his heart thunder with something he couldn't recognise.

 

The stare was promising, swearing, waiting- but Pete only dropped his head away from it, and his nervous, shaky and uncoordinated fingers scrambled for a cigarette in his pocket.

Pulling a lighter out in tandem, he quickly clicked the flame on, and swiped the heat over the end of the cigarette, taking a long, shaky drag.

 

He kept striding forwards, focusing on watching the way canary-tinted light lit the concrete as their soles glided over it.

 

 

He pretended he couldn't feel the stare.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Eyes were soft, squishy things.

 

A little too easy to destroy, if you asked Patrick.

 

As the blonde's thumbs dug into the man's eyes, he tilted his head, and watched him kick and writhe with a jaw slack in a silent scream.

When the man finally went still, and when Patrick's thumbs were up to the knuckles in the leaky and mushy eye sockets, he finally shoved the corpse to the ground with a blank stare.

 

Patrick stared down at the body.

 

It'd been so long since he'd smelt that sickly-sweet scent, it'd been so long since he'd watched the soul leave a shell.

 

It had had to be done, however- They hadn't changed their names, uprooted their lives, jobs, and families, and fled Chicago, just to let Margot screw them over again. And besides, it wasn’t just Patrick looking out for himself anymore- there were others to think of, others that needed to be protected.

 

Patrick's toe jabbed into the man's ribs, but he didn't move, instead remaining motionless and slumped against the wall with mushy, black, eye sockets, leaking crimson rivers down pale cheekbones.

With a slow blink, Patrick moved away.

 

He paced out of the dark alley, and as soon as the beams of dim light hit his face, Patrick glanced down, and promptly, noticed his hands.

 

Thumbs and fingers bloody, pieces of eyeballs under his nails, digits covered with a slimy sheen of both crimson and clear.

 

His nose wrinkled slightly, and he quickly rooted around in a pocket with tentative fingers, being careful not to smear scarlet on everything before fishing up a pair of black gloves.

As he pulled them on, Patrick praised his own choice of bringing gloves with closed fingers- rather than the fingerless, driving gloves he usually wore. It wouldn’t really do for the others to see his blood-soaked fingers.

 

He struggled  to tug the fabric into place a little, working the fabric over the viscous-covered digits, but he just about managed to slot them into place.

With a solid nod to himself, Patrick stalked back towards where he'd left the group- only to find the streetlight deserted.

 

As he walked over, hurrying across the street and raising a hand to a car that had graciously stopped for him, his ears pricked at shouts of his name, and Patrick smiled.

They were looking for him after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Patrick,"

 

Pete wasn't best pleased, although, Patrick wasn't sure what he'd done wrong exactly. But, despite the firm, warning tone of his voice, Patrick could see something familiar in those light, hazel eyes. Something he'd seen many times over.

 

Fear.

 

As Pete ranted and raved about something Patrick didn't fully understand, pacing the empty, dim bedroom, as his shoes clattered against the floor- Pete looked reminiscent of a trapped animal, restless and angry in its cage, but the blonde only cocked his head.

 

Pete was scared of him. Interesting- although, he wondered why exactly.

Patrick knew he could be intimidating; He himself knew the things he'd done- the crimes he'd committed, the atrocities he'd carried out, the amount of men, women and children dead and injured at his hands- whether it had been his own choice, or an order, given by one of his superiors-

 

"Patrick?"

 

Pete's lip was curled, and his eyes were wide and bewildered as his gaze locked on Patrick with pure indignation at the blonde’s obvious lack of attention. The German only blinked, and pulled off his gloves.

 

One finger at a time, tugging them up, before pulling the palm away, and trailing dark strings of the stranger's blood from his hands.

 

Pete froze- Patrick hadn't seen him yet, but he could feel it, he could feel that horrified stare. He only smirked as he gazed up from under his eyelashes, tilting his head at Pete coyly.

 

With steady footfalls, Patrick inched forwards- but the pace and stare only served to make Pete nervously stumble back towards the wall.

 

"Patrick- just- calm-"

Patrick lurched forwards, cutting off the older man as a hand pressed to his cheek, leaving red smears as his mouth moved over to Pete's ear.

 

He could hear Pete breathing. It was heavy, nervous, anxious- well, he’d have to amend that.

 

As his lips trailed down to hover over Pete's jaw, he idly wondered if the panic was a result of Patrick, or of the blood...Perhaps it was both, now that he thought about it.

 

With soft, wet sounds, Patrick kissed Pete's jaw softly, trailing the gentle touches along the bone, but that only served to make Pete tense further with each one.

 

The blonde pulled back slightly, nose inches from Pete's as his stare became dull, and as a bloody hand finally fisted into a crisp white shirt roughly, leaving smears and fingerprints as the fabric crinkled between his fingers.

 

Pete's eyes were dark. Pupils blown wide, with a light brown ring adorning their edges.

 

Patrick's lips curled into another smirk that didn't quite reach his eyes, but as his gaze moved to Pete's mouth, he felt his heart clench.

 

Blue eyes stared, firm but glassy as Pete's Adam's apple bobbed nervously.

 

He wanted to kiss Pete- fuck, he wanted to kiss him so bad, but-

 

Patrick's eyes flicked up towards Pete's again, but the baby-blues were darker, and held subtle notes and bright flickers of rage.

Pete didn't fight when Patrick undid his belt, free hand twisting in deft movements as the metal clinked free.

Lips on his jaw distracted him, and Pete didn't even feel leather pulling his wrists flush together, locking them together, restraining him, and leaving him at the younger man’s literal mercy.

 

And by the time he had felt it, Patrick had already pushed him onto the mattress.

 

"K-Kais- Patrick- hey- I- just-"

 

"Beruhigen." Patrick's lips trailed over his jaw, leaving soft, sweet kisses as his hands pressed lightly around Pete's neck, making the older man’s breath hitch with the slight pressure.

 

"Und halte die Klappe."

 

The older man tensed all over at the foreign words that were spoken with a firm tone, and a note of irritation. But, as his heart thundered, as his stomach twisted, and as his legs felt like noodles, Pete jolted, restrained hands pushing at Patrick to get the German away from him.

 

A blank stare was his response, followed by a smirk as Patrick leaned up, straddling Pete's lap as he towered over the older man.

 

Pete froze entirely when his eyes found Patrick's hands; Deft and graceful as they unbuckled his own belt, that until now, had been neatly weaved into the loops of his pants.

 

Seemingly testing the strength, Patrick twisted and pulled the strip of leather with a lightly furrowed brow, before a subtle smirk shot up at Pete, and Patrick leaned forwards again.

 

Shit.

 

"Patrick- No don’t you dar- don't fuckin-"

 

The belt had been shoved into his mouth and tied around his head before Pete even had time to finish his sentence, only being left to grunt the rest of his complaint into the leather.

Patrick only tilted his head to the side, fingertips trailing to Pete's chest, before working to unbutton the join, all while huffing at Pete's muffled protests- that were only become weaker and weaker as Patrick kept shifting his hips around.

 

"Patri- wha-" The words were stifled around the belt, and every time he spoke, teeth would leave indents and spit would dribble out across the leather, but Patrick said nothing at the destruction of his belt, only furrowing his brow and pouting in frustration as he realised the downside of tying someone's hands together- it was hard to get them undressed.

 

With a nonchalant shrug and a mutter to himself, Patrick's face scrunched up as he dug two fists into either side of the shirt, before tugging to the sides quickly, and sharply, and finally grinning proudly at the sound of a hearty rip. Pete only glared, "S'fuc- shir- fuc-"

 

The ripping, the tearing, and the slicing filled the room, as a carpet of scraps of fabric grew on the wooden slats- and soon enough, Pete lay before him, bare and flushed as he glared up weakly.

 

With as much speed as he could muster, Patrick tore his own clothes off- while keeping it graceful, of course. He had to establish who was in charge here, it’d wouldn’t do to act like some horny teenager.

Pete muttered a complaint as Patrick's clothes were spared from destruction, but the blonde only laughed quietly, skin prickling at the chilly air of the room.

 

Patrick idly wondered who's room this would end up being, as he moved over to kiss Pete's jaw. He felt a little bad for whoever's it would be- seeing as what was about to happen on their bed, but desperate times called for desperate measures, and having Pete under him, panting, tied and flushed, was definitely a desperate time.

 

Hands pushing him up to tower over Pete again, Patrick gazed down at Pete; Brown eyes dark, breathing soft, occasional grunts wanton, and legs pressed together, obscuring as much of himself as he could.

 

With gentle, yet stern hands, Patrick pushed the slender thighs apart but quickly bit his lip, holding back a groan at the sight; Pete was hard- painfully so. Dark with blood, swollen and fat, littered all over with bumps and ridges of veins, and practically twitching against his flat stomach, smearing something clear over the skin.

Patrick's lips curled into a smug smirk; He'd hardly even touched Pete yet, but it looked as though the older man would come if he so much as laid a finger on him. Who was the teenager now?

 

Blue eyes glanced up to a flushed face again, as a hand trailed between the dark-haired man's legs; Patrick had never imagined he'd be in this position, if he was honest. And while Pete had complained and whined at first, Patrick knew the man could have fought back at any moment- but he hadn't. Pete was stronger, after all, and whether it pained Patrick to admit or not, the dark-haired man could totally throw him off with a single, well-placed kick.

 

Patrick kept his eyes on Pete as he brought an index, middle, and ring finger to his mouth, sucking them between his lips and swirling his tongue around them. Pete whined, head tilting and eyes softening infinitely.

The blonde smirked as the fingers drew away, trailing clear strings as he moved them between Pete's legs- causing the older man's eyes to shoot wide as he shifted nervously, shoulders hunching as muffled words escaped around the belt between his teeth, stare firmly locking on Patrick’s fingers.

 

Patrick only registered a few 'Patrick's, 'Wait's, and 'What's, as he pushed his soaked index finger past the tight ring of muscle. Pete's head dropped back onto the mattress as he hissed, eyes squinting into a weak glare as his hips bucked, strained cock twitching against his stomach.

The finger moved back and forth, and Patrick watched the dark-haired man's face carefully.

As soon as the discomfort had faded, and had been replaced by a wrinkled nose and a pissy glare, Patrick's lips twitched upwards, and he pushed the other wet finger in.

 

Watch Pete, move it back and forth, watch Pete, check it's not hurting, back and forth.

 

Patrick pressed another finger in, squirming the three digits around before he found a walnut-sized bump. He pressed down on it firmly with a light stare at Pete, and for the first time that night, Pete's eyes rolled back into his skull, head dropping to its side as he groaned heavily around the belt.

The blonde's mouth twisted into a slight, twitched curl, and he quickly withdrew his fingers, spitting into his palm before noticing-

 

The blood. Patrick was pretty sure that wouldn't be too healthy.

 

Following his better instinct, Patrick shifted forwards, taking Pete's bound and slightly chafing wrists in his own hands, before spitting into the palms and laving his tongue across the digits, swirling it around the ends.

Pete whined, and his hands only splayed acceptingly as Patrick gripped the base of his own dick, rubbing it between the soaked palms and fingers.

Biting his lip and squeezing his eyes shut, Patrick held back a groan, stifling it in the back of his groan as Pete's hands eagerly stroked the velvety shaft, and teased at the slit. Brown lidded eyes were locked on the length between his hands as he smeared the clean saliva all over the skin, as blown blues froze on the older man's face, gladly drinking in the sight of pure want.

 

Once he was literally dripping with thick, clear smears and strands, Patrick shifted back down, spreading Pete's thighs open again, and taking a moment to run his hands along the toned limbs as he leaned down.

Tongue flat, and eyes locked on Pete's, Patrick lapped small stripes along the inner thighs. Teeth grazed skin, air blew over the damp patches, and skin darkened and purpled under Patrick's swollen lips, all while Pete gave spiralling, heady moans.

With a sudden surge of haste at one of Pete's particularly desperate whines, Patrick leaned up again, settling the spread, tanned thighs over his own, and glancing up to drink in the sight under him, one final time; Flushed red all over, shiny hands bound together, drool leaking from over the belt, crimson streaks left by Patrick's fingers marring dark skin, light eyes blown black, dark and damp strands crisscrossing over a tensed, beaded forehead- God, Patrick felt like he was dreaming.

 

Gripping his own base, Patrick pressed the blunt head of his cock at Pete's entrance, watching the older man's chest heave as his eyes screwed shut. Patrick knew Pete much preferred to be in his position, but that was the issue- Patrick liked being ‘the man' too.

 

With a clench of his jaw, Patrick pushed his head past the tight rim, fingers leaving scarlet smears as they dug into Pete's hard thighs. Blue eyes flicked upwards, catching Pete in all his unsure glory; Head tilted away, eyes screwed shut, and teeth vainly trying to catch his lip around the belt.

The thing was, Patrick loved being in this place too, and seeing as he hadn’t had the chance before- he was going to make the most of it.

 

The German snapped his hips forwards suddenly, and the older man beneath him cried out, eyes beading with clear droplets as he clenched all over.

Leaning back and tilting his chin up, Patrick's hands drifted to Pete's hips, and they gripped into the bones roughly as he pulled back, and slowly thrust in again- only to be rewarded with another groan.

 

Patrick really loved this too; The sight of someone writhing, moaning, a complete mess beneath him- Along with the knowledge that he, and only he, had caused it, was the best thing in the world.

 

Angling his hips, and shifting Pete's in his fingers, Patrick pounded in again, deep and hard, yet slowly, unbearably slowly. He watched Pete's back arch gracefully and he felt tanned thighs clenching around his waist as a gratuitous moan clattered into his ears.

Whines, moans, grunts, and groans- and Patrick's brain only registered half of them, blocking out the ones that came from his own mouth as all his attention focused, undividedly, on the man under him.

Patrick's pace sped up, the once steady sound of slapping skin growing faster and faster- spiking in ferocity and speed, in tandem with Pete's muffled whines. The blonde leaned over with a snarling mouth and a dark stare, hands pressing into the comforter beside Pete's head.

 

Dazed, hazel-ringed eyes met his own, watery, tear-streaked and blown dark. That goddamn mouth Patrick just wanted to devour, parted around a belt as broad white teeth dug into leather, leaving deep, straight, and stuttered marks along the soaked length.

Patrick tilted his head, hips snapping forwards with a sudden roughness that made Pete's toes curl and his back arch beautifully.

 

Patrick had never seen something he liked better.

 

He was no saint, he'd slept with people before- although, before Pete, his partners had mostly been women. And yet, here he was; A man moaning under him. Eyes fluttering and Adam's apple bobbing with every groan.

 

The blonde's lips moved to a tanned neck, kissing softly- in complete disparity to the brutal, violent, and pounding pace of his hips. "Komm schon Kleines- Scheiße-" Patrick's words were low, warm and stuttered, panted against a red-flushed ear, and they only served to make Pete's abdomen arch into Patrick's, as a slightly frozen and stuttered whine escaped him.

The hoop of his bound hands looped around Patrick's neck, pulling the younger man down and secure, beaded foreheads pressed together as blown pairs of eyes stared into each other.

Patrick's mouth twisted into a snarl as he grunted with a rough, uneven thrust, tongue laving across the belt in Pete's mouth.

 

"Du kannst es schaffen, liebling." Pete froze for a moment, tensing at the language, before he moaned, high and needy as his hips rutted with Patrick's, and soon enough, the blonde felt something long, hard and twitching brush against his stomach.

Everything was tense, yet lax at the same time, and Patrick felt positively out of his mind. The sight was maddening, the feeling was maddening, the sounds were maddening- Fuck, Patrick could hardly take it anymore.

 

Pete's muffled moans were starting to sound suspiciously like his name, and by the way his hips were bucking demandingly, Patrick could just about guess what the dark-haired man wanted.

With only a hard stare, Patrick gripped a dry-bloodied hand into dark strands, letting his fingers weave through as he tugged Pete's head to the side, neck exposing itself deliciously.

The blonde lapped at Pete's ear, before whispering the low, deep words, that he knew Pete would somehow understand.

 

"Ich werde dich nicht berühren, Schatz."

 

Pete whined, eyes screwing shut as he sobbed desperately, dark and twitching cock rutting into thin air.

"Du musst es selbst tun." Another heady sob, and Patrick leaned up again, something more vengeful taking root in his blown, blue-ringed eyes as his hips inched forwards slowly, furious pace dropping to a snail's.

 

"Es ist schwer, nicht wahr?"

 

Another whine, another arched back, another buck into air.

 

"Jetzt weißt du, wie ich mich fühlte, Süsser."

 

Pete cried out again, a muffled sob of something that was definitely 'Patrick', escaping from behind the belt. When Patrick had been in Pete’s place- a needy mess, Pete had very rarely offered him the luxury of touching him. Patrick had been wanting revenge for a while, to say the least.

"Wenn du es willst-" A low groan escaped Patrick with a gasp as Pete clenched around him, hips rocking in the most tantalising way Patrick had ever seen hips move. "Du musst dafür arbeiten."

"Pa-trick- ah- agh-" Pete's head thrashed to its side, back arching, hips bucking, and thighs squeezing, all while his painfully hard dick was completely ignored by the blonde above him.

 

Patrick narrowed his eyes; Pete was still far to coherent for his liking. He wanted the older man to feel insane, he wanted him to break around his cock, he wanted him to become nothing but a sweaty, panting mess, he wanted him to barely feel human.

Pete had done it to him so many times. So many times when the only words on Patrick's lips and mind had been 'Pete' and 'Please'. He had a chance to return the favour, and goddamnit, if Patrick wasn't going to make the most out of it.

 

Biting his lip and furrowing his brow in pure concentration, Patrick shifted his hips, and dragged Pete's right leg over his shoulder, hooking it in place.

Every thrust was rough, deep, hard, and calculated- and it was definitely paying off; Pete, in a matter of a dozen clashes, had collapsed into screaming.

The keens were desperate, long, and ear-splitting, and Patrick lamented that the speakeasy was deserted, bar anyone but them.

He'd have loved for everyone to hear what he was doing to Pete. To hear how much Pete had fallen from his facade of grace and coolness. How Patrick, the Fritz nobody expected much of, had completely destroyed Pete Wentz, turning him into nothing but a trembling, screaming and arching heap.

Writhing, clenching, relaxing, bucking, biting- and fuck, Patrick was intoxicated by every sight and sound. He wanted to see this every day. He wanted to brand this into his memory, to burn it into his eyes, to see behind his eyelids. He wanted Pete-

 

"Patr-ick- p-ple- AH- FUC-" Pete shook himself in frustration, teary eyes clenching shut as his face screwed up in nothing but the desperate need for release that eluded him.

The blonde gave a lazy, yet dark smile, as he shifted forwards. His arms wrapping around Pete’s waist, keeping him suspended and firmly in place as his fingers dug into Pete's sides. With a tanned, toned right leg on his pale shoulder, and eyes dark as he hovered his lips inches away from Pete's, Patrick smiled.

 

"Kommen Sie."

 

Patrick didn't know if Pete had understood, but-

Pete screamed.

Raw, incoherent, and ear-splitting- despite the belt in his mouth. Pete's back arched impossibly, spine bending into a crescent moon as his thighs trembled like an earthquake, entire body convulsing and clenching under Patrick.

The younger man gasped, head tilting back as his hips pounded forwards one last time, with a short grunt. "Oh, G-Gott- agh-"

Bones pressed flush together, Patrick fell limp over Pete, panting against his neck, as the older man trembled with aftershocks beneath him, coming in thick ropes all between them both. The blonde's teeth gritted as he felt himself spill into Pete deeply, filling him up as his cock twitched and pumped, white falling out over Pete's thighs.

Shaky and weak, Patrick leaned his head up, eyes quickly finding Pete's.

 

The older man looked shattered into pieces, eyes dull and dark, yet satisfied, staring into Patrick's as he moaned softly around the belt. Patrick watched with a dark look as the tip of a pink tongue darted over the leather in his mouth, and the German took the hint.

One hand moving to the sturdy knot on the side of Pete's head, his digits deftly undid the tangle, letting the leather fall free with thick clear strings dragging away like glue from Pete's swollen lips.

The pale hand moved to the older man's wrists, and soon enough, Pete's arms had sprang to wrap themselves around Patrick, pulling him close and flush to his own chest.

 

Their faces hovered mere atoms from each other, but Patrick quickly pressed a cheek to Pete's cheek, before dropping his head into the crook of the tanned neck.

With pants from the ordeal a few minutes prior, they both shifted up the mattress, somehow pulling the comforter out from beneath them, and opting to wrap it around them both, letting themselves fall warm and snug in the blanket.

Pete's arms were still tight around Patrick as his breathing calmed, clinging the the pale man as though he were a buoy in a stormy sea, but soon enough, the breathing became deep and soft as Patrick nuzzled into his neck.

 

The German only heard a few, shocked, yet impressed, words as he drifted asleep, and his lips quirked at them as he made a note to definitely try it again one day.

 

 

"Jesus Christ, Kaiser."

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Pete awoke with a groan wracking his chest, and painful acid swirling in his limbs.

He froze on the mattress, eyes screwed shut and hands clenched into fists as he lay still, grimacing and scrunching his nose up at the achy feeling that ran rampant all over him.
Rolling his shoulders and turning his face away from the invading light of the still lit bedside lamp, Pete grumbled and stiffly turned onto his side, only to be rewarded with creaky springs pressing into his rib bones.
He winced at the sudden spike that shot through his spine at the movement, before dropping his cheek back against the pillow and sighing out a heavy breath, finally letting his eyes flutter open. He squinted and glared at thin air with a curled lip, before stiffly shifting up to glance around the room.

 

It was empty- Patrick was gone.

 

The lack of the blonde's presence made his heart feel like a weight in his chest, pulling and dropping down to the cold pit of his stomach. Looking down into his lap, Pete blinked and ran a hand through his hair; That salty, stiff feeling clung to it, the familiar feeling of dried sweat.

Rolling his shoulders and crooking his head side to side, Pete resolved to drag himself out of the bed, legs swinging over the side before-

"For God's- ugh-"

Pete rolled his eyes in exhaustion as his eyes found his naked thighs, and all the memories of the night before came rushing back into his head like a tsunami, leaving him physically dazed, and with the irony smell of blood in his nostrils. Goddamnit, Patrick-

 

Okay. No, it was okay- Pete just had to...consider...a few things, but-

 

"Fuck-" Pete's face dropped into his hands as he exhaled heavily, shoulders rising and falling with a heave as he rubbed circles onto the skin of his forehead. He couldn't think about the night before without flushing cold. God he'd let his guard down- Patrick had completely destroyed the reputation he'd established between them both.

But, in some, weird, almost insane way, Pete had liked it. He'd really liked it.

The mere memories of it made him flush red, the presence of the bruises, of the blood, of the- wait, the blood?

 

Pete's nose wrinkled as his eyes widened, checking his arms and hands, before shifting his gaze to his bruised hips and thighs. His spine curled as he groaned at the dark, dried blood smears- goddamnit Patrick, that wasn't hygienic.

With a sigh and a push up to his feet, Pete moved to grab his clothes from the floor before-

 

Pete's eyes shut. He exhaled. He cursed Patrick.

 

All that remained of his clothes was a pile of ripped and tattered fabrics, so with a heavy sigh, Pete swept over to the dresser and prayed that there would be decent clothes- or at least, decent enough to get him back to his own room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pete found clothes- more than decent ones too.

He swore that someone was looking down on him from- actually, no, he really hoped they weren't.

They'd see some pretty...interesting things if they were- "Goddamnit." Pete muttered with a clenched jaw as he shook his head, clearing the thoughts of some elderly relative watching his every move.

 

Stepping into the main bar with gliding footfalls, Pete paced into the main bar, glancing around with blinking eyes, as the final spikes of sleep left them.

His eyes found Brendon first, but caught a familiar muss of blonde hair at the far end of the room. Pete's gaze flicked over to the brunette first, however; The man was hunched over the bar, feet still on the stool's rim as his shoulder blades were pulled sharp and inwards.

He was quiet, and a black cloud buzzed around him like a warning sign to all others.

That perpetual grin that never quite reached his eyes was completely gone, and from what Pete could see, Brendon looked tired.

 

As he walked past, Pete considered laying a hand on his shoulder, greeting him with soft words of worry- but, something about the aura, and something about the darkness, made him refrain.


Instead, Pete walked past Brendon with a glance, and shifted his gaze upwards to Patrick, a yell of greeting dying on his tongue as he saw- Ryan, of all people.

 

Over the few weeks they'd been residing in New York, Pete had been catching the pair alone together; Patrick would always glance around nervously, as though he were participating in something illicit, but Ryan's dark eyes would always be soft.

 

Pete furrowed his brow; Ryan's eyes, being soft- it just didn't add up.

 

Ryan had NEVER smiled at anyone- as far as Pete had seen, but there he was, the smarmy motherfucker, smiling gently, tilting his head with wide eyes, and putting a hand on Patrick's shoulder- fuck, that dick was just asking for a sock in the jaw-

 

"Pete."

 

Ryan's hands moved into his pockets as he bounced on his heels, smile fading back to his blank mask as he nodded amicably. The man twisted to Patrick for a moment, and the corners of his lips twitched upwards in the ghost of a smile. "Patrick-" He smiled again, and Pete only felt his brow furrow even further. This was seriously weird.

 

"Good luck."

 

With a timid smile to match, Patrick nodded gratefully with wide eyes and a light disposition as he spoke in his heavily accented voice. "Thank you, Ryan."

With the simple words, and with a nod and a tiny smile, Ryan deftly turned on his heel and began to pace away before he stopped. Head turning in the direction of a miserable-looking Brendon, who was slinking away from the bar with a stolen bottle of vodka, Ryan finally exhaled and marched after him, quiet calls of 'Brendon' ringing out as they became further and further away.

 

Pete glanced at Patrick, and Patrick glanced at Pete, room falling completely devoid of sound.

 

Desperate to clear away the aching silence, Pete cleared his throat and raised his eyebrows at Patrick- who instantly sobered from his daze, eyes widening in realisation. "I have uh- s-something to- zu tun- agh- uh-" The blonde shook his head, eyes screwing shut for a moment before he awkwardly nodded towards the stairs.

He glided backwards towards them, and Pete- despite having a ridiculous amount of questions, followed, without question or complaint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In hindsight, maybe not asking the slightly homicidal man, where they were going, had been a mistake.

With footfalls falling on the cracked sidewalk, both men paced down the street in the heart of the lower east side- or, 'the slums', if you asked anyone else.

Men sitting on steps and corners, the smell of alcohol clinging to them as they drank from bottles hidden in brown paper bags, women hanging up clothes on washing lines that spanned over the narrow balconies of the small apartment towers, and finally, children.

 

There were two types of children: There were the ones who had parents.

They were dressed in relatively clean clothes, bar a stain or two, and they generally had shoes, hats, coats and even scarves, to protect them against the cold afternoon air. They looked happy. They'd run along the street, playing tag, hide-and-seek, rolling a hoop along the pavement, giggling at all manner of childish games Pete had long forgotten.

 

And then, there were the ones who didn't have parents.

 

Grimy, dirt streaked cheeks, red noses and bloodshot eyes, and straw-like, filthy and infested hair.

Some, the luckier and smarter ones, wore tattered clothes, whereas the younger and dumber were practically bare, showing off disgustingly prominent ribs that would've made the most stone-faced man wince.

Pete struggled to wipe the grimace from his face, and he laboured to smother the sparks of pity that flared through his eyes and skin.

Tearing his gaze away from a huddle of shivering, skin-and-bones children, Pete glanced over to Patrick; The blonde's brow was narrowed in pure focus as baby-blues scanned every face, every pair of eyes, and every tangle of hair.

 

Pete, once again, regretted his lack of questioning; It'd be handy to know what exactly Patrick was looking for- or, for starters, why they were even here.

 

The duo received odd, suspicious looks from the more disgruntled members of the lowest class in the city, whereas others only plastered helpful grins on their faces and offered themselves as workers- ranting on and on about their service in the war, and about their quick aptitudes for learning. With more effort than he'd of liked, Pete just about managed to dismiss and usher the thin masses away from them both, giving Patrick the space and silence he needed for his avid searching.

 

 

When what felt roughly like an hour had passed, Pete had had enough.

 

The older man glared up at the shifting sun, before he finally snapped a critical gaze down onto Patrick.

 

"Patrick."

 

The blonde only gave an absent hum in response, craning his neck around a rickety stall as he squinted back and forth across the sidewalk.

Pete rolled his eyes and tried again, irritation lapping in rocky waves at the base of his chest. "Patrick."

The German said nothing, and Pete's jaw clenched as his teeth gritted together roughly. A hand lurched forwards, fingers hooking and digging into Patrick's shoulder as he forced the younger man to face him. The blonde tried to jerk away, face flushing with something like distress and desperation to keep looking for...whatever he was looking for.

Pete only locked another hand around another shoulder, willing blue eyes to meet his own as he glared lowly, a growl resting in the back of his throat, reserving itself for emergency.

"Patr-"

 

 

"GET BACK HERE YOU LITTLE BITCH!"

 

 

Both heads- along with the gazes of just about everyone in the street, snapped towards the furious yell.

A heavyset, red-faced, puffing man was sprinting down the street as quickly as his legs and heart allowed him to. But to see what he was chasing, Pete had to squint, and quickly flick his eyes to keep up; A skinny, deft figure bobbed and weaved along stalls, past women carrying baskets, and over parked cars. A thick coat that looked a little too big for them was pulled shut tightly by two, pale hands. The odd, large lump in the front made Pete assume that the kid was a thief.

They looked like one of the orphans, more than one of the privileged.

Grazed, red knees just covered by a skirt, torn and hole-ridden socks than slid and slipped down stick-thin legs, and a torn newsboy cap firmly stuck on light hair.
Pete's head tilted a little as he watched the scene unfold in front of him, and as a tinge of familiarity he couldn't quite place struck him like a whip.

The kid- that Pete assumed was a girl, easily outpaced the huffing man- but, due to the scene his shouting had caused, another, only this time, skinny man- who had previously been keeping a lazy eye on his brood of three sons, darted forwards as she ran past. He gripped the scruff of her collar with a firm hand, dragging her back as she writhed and grunted. The man's arms encircled her, keeping her steady as he yelled assurances to the crime's victim.

 

"AGH-UH- LEMME GO, YOU FUCKIN' BOOZEHOUND-"

 

With an amused scoff, Pete's eyes widened at the string of furious, raw strings of curses that came from the kid's mouth, heavy with an east side accent as she kicked and screamed like a wild animal.
The red-faced man, which wore a baker's garb, approached, taking a moment to pant with his hands on his thighs before-

 

"YOU LITTLE-"

 

The bean-pole of a man dropped the girl as her booted heel landed in his groin, and as she clattered down to the concrete, she sped to her feet with her hands pulling her up as her legs worked at a hundred miles per hour.

With a sudden second wind of speed and strength, the baker lurched forwards, grabbing the girl by the fabric of her jacket, and dragging her back into range. She convulsed and twisted, all while she hissed like a python and screamed like a fox.

The stares, bar Pete and Patrick's, had died away some time ago, as soon as the obvious culprit had been revealed to be some grimy kid. Maybe they'd been waiting for some drama, instead of a kid being restrained and insulted by adult men.

"LEMME GO- AGH- FISCH FEHLER-"

Pete's eyes snapped to Patrick as the blonde seemingly grew two inches taller; Spine straightening, chin lifting and eyes widening with a slack jaw, Patrick stuttered words Pete could hardly make out.

 

"D-D-"

 

"Patrick?"

 

"AGH- FIS- FEHLER-"

 

"Er-" Patrick exhaled deeply and shakily through his mouth, painstakingly tearing his eyes away from the girl to gaze at Pete with urgency flickering and flaming in the familiar powder blue. "P-Pete- Das ist sie-"

"Patrick, what are you-"

"Pete, du verstehst nicht, Pete- das ist sie- Sie lebt-"

"LAY OFF- GAH- DAMN MUGS- FUCKIN' PALOOKA-" At the insults, a pained yelp rang out as Pete's eyes flicked towards the sight; The girl was cradling her head, curling up on the pavement as the skinny man kicked back a leg- Shit-

 

"LASS SIE IN RUHE." Patrick, in a move so fast, deft and silent Pete had hardly noticed it, had stalked over to the other side of the street.
Both mens' noses wrinkled in disdain, "And what the hell'er you? Some kraut or somethin'?"

 

"Hör zu, flachwichser-"

 

With a final, cautious glance up at Patrick and the two men, he edged towards the kid- who was subtly crawling away, making full use of the distraction. Pete shook with quiet laughter as he leaned down and offered a hand; The girl only stared up at him for a moment.

It was the first time Pete had seen her face, and now that he saw it in its entirety, it looked oddly familiar. Some feature he couldn't quite pinpoint, the pale skin against the woollen coat, the spark in striking blue eyes he could scarcely analyse, the way ruffled light hair poked out from under her cap- there was something there, but Pete shook it away as a smaller, grimier, and pale hand took his own.

With a hiss at her bloodied knees, the girl came to her feet, eyes shifting up at Pete with a slightly suspicious squint.

 

"You okay, kid?"

 

"Yeah, just copacetic."

 

The tone, paired with the air in her voice and the slight, good-natured roll of her eyes, only served to make Pete laugh quietly, before another furied yell cut across their calmed exchange.

"I DON'T CARE YOU GODDAMN FRITZ- THAT FUCKIN' PILL-"

As an accusing finger and a raised voice came her way, the girl ducked behind Pete with a light squeak, eyes wide and hand moving to fist into the dark-haired man's sleeve before- she stopped herself, and smiled nervously up at Pete.

The girl cleared her throat, peeking around the man to cock her head at the blonde and the men- who were still arguing furiously.

 

"Who's that fella?"

 

The girl's words were soft, and her eyes were even softer, only, set under deeply furrowed brows. Pete glanced down at her, only to find the kid's eyes were firmly on Patrick, as though they were magnetised to every slightly movement the German made.

"That's my- that's Patrick, he's uh- he works for me." Nodding quickly, the girl kept her stare steady.

"Ja, und verpiss dich." The final hiss rang through Patrick's teeth as the skinny man paced off with a shrug- but the baker wasn't so easily sated. "That goddamn kid's gotta give back what she stole-"

 

Sighing deeply, the girl hunched her shoulders, but quickly paced forwards, hand reaching under her coat as she- albeit, reluctantly, handed the small, stale-looking loaf of bread over. Both Patrick and the baker froze, both pairs of eyes locking on the kid, before the heavyset man took the miniscule loaf with a huff and marched away, posture screaming shame as onlookers gave him quirked eyebrows and sniggers, whilst others tutted at how petty he'd been.

 

Pete tilted his head as his eyes froze back on Patrick.

 

The blonde crouched down carefully, eyes wide and jaw a little slack, as Pete noticed his fingers trembling. "I, uh- ich- am- schei-" Patrick sighed deeply as himself, holding back a tidal wave of anger and raw frustration at his stuttered, unsure words, that felt heavy and wrong on his tongue.

 

"I remember you."

 

Patrick's eyes cleared with relief, and the girl cocked her head, one hand splaying as it hovered over the side of his face. The blonde ducked his head, eyes squeezing for a moment before he nodded, glancing up as he prepared himself to try the words again. "I, am-

 

"You're my dad, aren't you?"


The girl's eyes were shot wide as she nodded, and they'd began watering before Patrick even had time to argue. "N-" Arms pulled around Patrick's neck, and the kid's face dug into his shoulder, as her back and shoulders trembled in shock.

"Nein- No- uh- I-I-" Patrick faltered as the girl sniffed, eyes wide and lip trembling as though all her dreams had been shattered into a million shards.

 

"Uncle- I-ich-"

 

"You're my-" The girl exhaled shakily, smiling broadly through tears as she nodded, almost confirming the statement to herself, before diving back over Patrick's shoulders.

"D-Do you- merken- uh- k-know, your-" The girl only blinked, head tilting as she hesitant pulled back, as the man held her a distance away and looked her in the eye seriously.

"What's your- your name?"

She smiled, wiping her eyes on her sleeve with a sniff.

 


"Erika."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Being pregnant wasn't easy, not in the slightest. Sarah groaned as she rubbed her spine with strained fingers, hissing at the sharp, yet dull pain that nestled there in lumps.

And it was even harder when your husband disappeared to work all day, every day.

 

A kick jolted her from her disgruntled thoughts about Brendon, and her hand shot over her swollen belly, feeling around with pure happiness lighting up her face.
Another kick- strong and quick. Sarah was sure the little one was gonna be just like his dad- Energetic, fast, and completely hyperactive.

The thought of a bouncing, giggling toddler both made her heart light up with love, and made her brain cloud with dark thoughts.

 

Sarah didn't know if Brendon really wanted the baby.

 

He hadn't complained, or implied anything, but, he was never around- and whenever she did chance a glimpse at him, his shoulders would be hunched and he'd be so quiet. He'd flinch away from Sarah's hands, and he'd jerk away from her kisses, and well, Sarah was trying to be strong, for her child, if not for herself...but...

 

It hurt. Of course it did.

 

Brendon never spoke to her anymore, and his grin never quite reached his eyes anymore. Sarah blinked up at the ceiling, hands smoothing over her dress-clad stomach as her mind drifted over thoughts of her husband.

They'd known each other for so long- they'd met a few years before the war. And, when he'd left, he'd left her with the delicate, silver necklace that she still wore around her neck at every opportunity of the day.

The war had been torture. The uncertainty, the tension, the fear- and every week, Sarah would make the long walk to the town hall, and she'd wait for the letters from the trenches to arrive.

Every time she'd receive one from Brendon, she'd curl up in bed and read it until her eyes ached and until the words had been burned into her mind. And then, she'd write one back, words as long and as loving as she could muster them- and, if she'd saved up a few dollars, she'd send him something from home too.

He'd been so handsome the day he came back. Dressed in uniform, uninjured- unlike so many others, and beaming as he'd walked towards her.

They'd gone to Sarah's house that night, after finally escaping his parents and their eager embraces and sobbed words of relief.
So many kisses, so many whispered words, and so many moans, and finally, they'd woken up together for the first time. Brendon had trailed a hand over her cheek, and he'd grinned, before finally speaking the words Sarah had only been daydreaming about hearing for those years of waiting for him to return.

The three words that had put a ring on her finger, and a baby in her belly. The words that had bonded her and Brendon together, under God and the law.

 

...But, now, despite the ring, despite God, despite the law...Sarah was alone.

 

Another kick, and Sarah laughed quietly, wiping away the tears that had rolled down her cheeks with deft, light fingers. Trying to keep her dark thoughts and tears at bay, Sarah opted to run a hand over the swell of her stomach, and muse about the baby that would be joining them in the world soon.

A boy, or a girl- What would Brendon prefer? Sarah's blue eyes, or Brendon's chocolate ones? Black hair, or brown? Pale skin, or a warm glow under the surface?


...Despite what Brendon's preferences might be, Sarah didn't care.

 

She loved them already.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pete, admittedly, had not been expecting a...niece.

When they'd come to the lower east side, he'd expected they'd leave with some rare whiskey bottle, or with some questionable drugs- not a kid.

And yet, here they were- sat in a speakeasy, and cleaning up and feeding a little girl, that also happened to be Patrick's blood.

 

Finding a long-lost family member, that made for a pretty productive day, he supposed.

 

Patrick, and the girl herself, had taken care of the cleaning business, and she'd been given a provisional shirt and coat until they actually bought her clothes. Patrick had been horrified to find just how skinny the poor kid was, and had fed her as quickly as possible. Choice was usually limited in a speakeasy, but seeing as so many of them would stay in the back rooms entire months, they'd always made sure to have stocks for said people.

Pete was still struggling to take it all in as he watched Erika eagerly eat heaped spoonfuls from a can of oats, bringing them to her mouth as though someone might steal them away at any point; So far, that was another feature the uncle and niece shared- an odd love of oats, that Pete could very decidedly, not relate to.

 

"So- uh-" Swallowing deeply, Erika calmed her pace for a second, glancing up at Patrick- who she'd insisted on sitting mere centimetres away from. "Where'er you from?"

Since they'd found the girl, kind of alive and well, Patrick had been beaming like an idiot- and so had the kid, for that matter.

Pete supposed that it was something to hold onto; For Patrick, it was a memory, a relic from his old life, and a vow of familial protection that he perhaps owed to Erika's parents. For Erika, it was a family member that could rescue her from the streets, and deliver her from a bleak future.

 

"Deustc-" Patrick stopped himself with a clear of his throat, before nodding deeply. "Germany."

Erika looked positively inspired by every word that left Patrick's mouth, and she only cozied up to his side further as she chewed on another spoonful of oats with a contemplative hum that was all too familiar.

Wide blue eyes moved up to Pete- oddly enough. "Where'er you from? Like, you're not from here, right?"

The dark-haired man blinked, but nodded with a light look about him, "I'm from Chicago."

There was another hum, followed by a few moments of silence, before a confident voice chirped up again.

 

"You fellas are trouble boys, ain't ya?"

 

"That's a bold accusation, kid."

 

The three heads craned around to catch Ryan striding forwards from the bar, having left Brendon hunched over with a glass of water and a simple looking sandwich.
Erika was unapologetic, only shrugging and gesturing with her licked-clean spoon. "But, you are. And this place-" She motioned around at the speakeasy, "This is a drum, ain't it?"

Patrick only blinked, and Pete knew the German had only understood around three of his niece's words.

Ryan, however, only laughed quietly as he moved back towards Brendon- and Pete was sure the light sound of Ryan's laughter had never graced the earth before. Pete glanced back towards Patrick and Erika, lips quirking into an involuntary smile at the captivated exchange that rang between them- both pairs of similar eyes never leaving the other for a second.

Pete could only smile, shove his hands in his pockets and lean back in his chair, as Erika's hands jumped away from the can and the spoon, and instead, were thrown around Patrick as she leaned up, pulling her uncle close with a broad, content and relaxed smile.

 

 

A niece.

 

Just as he'd thought Patrick couldn't get any more secretive.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

"Nein!- Iss das nicht-"


With a jolt forwards and a panicked yelp, Patrick's fingers leapt to small, chubby pale hands, that were clenched around something suspicious the child had picked up from the edge of the field.

The toddler only giggled wildly at her uncle's desperate attempts to stop her eating-

 

"Ein Stein. Ja wirklich?"

 

She grinned but made a grabby hand at the rock, which Patrick promptly tossed back into the lush, green field, where a few cows lazily chewed on grass.

"Der Stein- dieser da- ich will ihn." The girl pouted at the field, speaking in her stuttered, yet confident, babbling way, before Patrick swiftly grabbed her hand and pulled her down the road, nodding at a few neighbours with a smile as he carried out the tricky task of explaining that rocks were definitely not for eating.

 

"Onkel Paaatrickkk?"

 

The blonde glanced down with a shift of his eyes, and stifled an exhale at the all too familiar lilted tone.

"Ja?"

The girl's head dropped as she fell silent, clinging onto Patrick's arm like a monkey as she kept bouncing forwards. A few moments of silence that made Patrick dubious passed, before the little voice chirped up again. "Warum gehst du weg?"

Patrick blinked, a slight jolt of surprise shocking him, before a slow, melt of guilt cascaded over him. With a sad smile, Patrick tugged on Erika's hand, and the girl only looked up with a slightly jutted lip, and wide eyes.

 

She wasn't stupid, far from it, actually.

There was no point in distracting her, or lying to her.

 

Patrick's eyes drifted to the road ahead of them; The cobblestone path's winding journey was lined and graced with trees, flowers, and grass, all while the delicate squeaks of birds and bees buzzed through the air pleasantly.

Patrick had walked this road so many times, most of them when he'd been a kid, travelling home from school, and despite everything he had, and would go through, he'd always remember the way- he was sure of it.

 

Patrick smiled down at Erika again- who had patiently been waiting for an answer. "Ich muss helfen, kleiner."

 

"Wem musst du helfen?"

 

This kid just did not run out of questions, and Patrick was slightly regretting opening the floodgates.

The man's response was decided, yet gentle, and it only made Erika tilt her head.

 

"Das Land."

 

She hummed quietly, absently swinging their joined hands back and forth as she trotted beside her uncle- who was dutifully leading her home after a day spent traipsing around the castle- old and grand, and that sat on the top of the hill in the center of the town.

 

"Hilfst du dem Kaiser?"

 

"...So'ne Art."

 

The girl rocked her head from side to side, eyes flitting over a squirrel that was shifting around in a tree. She glanced back up to Patrick, but the blonde only smiled tightly, eyes still soaked in something miserable.

With a furrowed brow and a spark of determination to cheer up her uncle, Erika jerked away from the larger, pale hand, and quickly burrowed into Patrick's side, catching him in a side hug her tiny arms struggled to complete.

"Ich liebe dich, Onkel Patrick."

A hand patted her back, and between the muffled noises of the park, Patrick's voice rang out clearly.

 

"Ich liebe dich auch, Hase."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Also, Russland."

 

Eckhard offered Patrick his lighter's flame, which the adolescent took gratefully, as he lit the end of a white cigarette on the orange flicker.

"Ja." Patrick's words were only a breathy sigh as he leaned back in the chair, taking a drag and exhaling smoke through his nose.

 

"Es wird Dir gut gehen."

 

Patrick's father- David, the ever calm yet prude German man, wrinkled his nose at the smoke from both of the younger men, but kept his complaints silent.

"Ich weiß nicht." Eckhard flicked the end of his cigarette, casting a few grey ashes to the floor. "Ich habe viel über sie gehört."

 

"Wie was?"

 

"Dass sie nicht sterben."

 

Patrick tensed as David scoffed, shaking his head and tapping on the table to get his youngest son's attention. "Hör mir gut zu, Patrick."

The blonde froze, eyes flicking up and staying on his father. The older man kept his hunch forwards, powder blues reassuring and stern, in the familiar orderly, parental way that made Patrick feel safe and warm.

 

"Alle Männer sterben."

 

Patrick's heart calmed at the words, and he felt disgusted that it had.

"Die Russen sterben. Die Engländer sterben. Die Italiener sterben. Die Franzosen sterben."

With a final, crisp word, David leaned back in his chair, before his eyes grew dull and they glazed over in something somber.

 

"Aber wir sterben auch."

 

Patrick's Adam's apple bobbed at the words, and in the corner of his eye, he noted Eckhard's shoulders tensing.

"Also die Österreicher. Also die Ungarischen."

Patrick's gaze dropped to the familiar table, as his fingers trailed over the shallow scratch he'd caused back when he was six years old.

Patrick wondered if he could've ever guessed how his life would turn out back then.

Instead of going to Vienna or Salzburg to study music- just as he'd always assumed, he'd been plucked out of school at the tender age of fifteen, and had been sent to the deepest, and darkest trenches on the western front.

Patrick wished he could've gone back.

 

"Jeder von ihnen, gegen jeder von uns."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pete might have underestimated the kid.

Admittedly, she was smart- and picked up on the most subtle bullshit Pete didn't even notice; Body language, whispers, twitches- and the girl picked them all up like a goddamn detector.

She was quiet too; Soft, quick, and silent footsteps- just like Patrick's, once again.

Pete hadn't really thought nieces and uncles could be so damn similar, and it made Pete a little curious about Patrick's family, but he knew the blonde would never give that up...Or maybe, maybe Pete could try to-

 

"Hey, what's your name?"

 

Successfully shaken from his thoughts, Pete glanced up at Erika; The girl was sat cross-legged in a chair, another can of oats below her chin as her other hand brought heaped spoonfuls to her mouth. She'd eventually gotten clothes- Ryan had taken care of that, and the girl, over two days of waltzing around the speakeasy like she owned the place, had finally settled in.

Only, tonight, she'd have to stay in her room- much to her frequently voiced displeasure.

And that was because, tonight, finally, after long weeks of cleaning, supplying and repairing- they were opening the speakeasy.

 

"Hey- did ya hear me?"

 

Pete blinked, shaking his cloudy head clear as he coughed lightly, before nodding. "Uh, Pete, my name's-" He furrowed his brow suddenly, "Did you not kn-"

She shook her head before Pete had even finished his question, shoving another messy spoonful into her mouth- which only made Pete huff in amusement.

"Nah, I didn't." She tilted her head with a subtle squint, but before she could open her mouth with a question, Pete beat her to the punch.

 

"Hey, uh- Do you- What was it like, back in Germany? D'you remember much-"

 

"Nah, I don't really."

 

Pete furrowed his brow with a blink, "But, then...how'd you know Patrick?" Erika shrugged lightly, eyes flickering with something thoughtful before she glanced over the table, eyes meeting Pete's again. "Look. Pete. I'm gonna level with ya."

The man stifled a smile at the serious tone coming from the tiny girl, as she leaned back in the chair that was far too big for her.

"There were only two things I coulda done- if I couldn't get outta the east side."

Pete raised his eyebrows but nodded, gesturing for the girl to continue as she straightened her spine.

 

"One- I coulda become a whore."

 

Pete choked on his own breath at the sudden, brutally honest words, and his eyes widened as the fact that a child had said them only sank in further. Erika, however, looked unfazed, and kept speaking.

 

"Or two- I coulda married someone, had a bunch'a kids, and been poor for the rest'a my life."

 

The man's brow was a little furrowed, but he knew she was right; There were no options for kids like her, no salvation, no education, no relief-

"And, lotsa people show up, saying they're your mom, or your dad- or your brother, whatever, and- well, I had to take the opportunity, to get out- y'know? S'the first time someone's come for me. And I- And I thought that, I dunno- I thought I could steal somethin' and leave, before- before..."

Words trailing into silence, Erika sighed quietly as her head drooped, before she nodded deeply and looked up again.

 

 

"But I recognised him."

 

 

Pete blinked, but stayed silent. Erika glanced up at him, "I know- I know you might not believe me, but-" She furrowed her brow determinedly, eyes screwing shut and hands gesturing into thin air as she painted a picture with her mind's eye.

"I got this one picture in my head." She exhaled quietly, "It's- It's a tree, and there's a squirrel in it- and, and- I'm holding somebody's hand."

Tilting his head, Pete subconsciously leant forwards, eyes focused as he tried to catch every snippet of memory from her, and by extension, Patrick's, past.

"I asked him somethin'- I dunno what it means anymore, but- But it's...it's a real pretty day, and the voice- I just-"

Eyes snapping open and hands dropping, Erika sighed and rubbed a hand through her, now thankfully clean, white-blonde hair.

 

"I know it was him." She shrugged, smile genuine but tight. "I just know."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Alright, bearcat- stay in your room, remember?"

"Yeah, yeah, copacetic- just drift already."

Pete laughed quietly, but nodded, and turned on his heel to move away from the doorframe, as Patrick took his place with a gentle, yet somehow timid smile.

 

"Are- uh- Are you okay?"

 

Erika beamed, nodding eagerly, "Yup, I'm jake." Patrick only looked a little confused, before he nodded back with a stilt, smile broadening slightly of its own accord.

"Uh- I uh- muss gehen- uh-"

Erika only grinned, "Yeah, s'okay. I'll be fine here." With a final smile and affirming nod, Patrick turned to leave, before he faltered, and met her eyes again. "If- if- you need, etwas- uh, something-"

"I'll come find you, it's jake, don't worry." Erika's smile only broadened as she stepped forwards, with a slight air of nervousness, before she quickly dove her arms around Patrick's waist and hugged him tightly.

 

Don't cry, Patrick. Don't cry, don't- god fucking damnit-

 

The blonde subtly wiped the dampness from his teary eyes dry, before patting Erika on the head and letting her step back. "Pass auf dich auf, Hase."

Something reminiscent flashed in a wide pair of blue eyes, before the girl grinned and nodded happily.

As Patrick left, stepping down the hall and preparing himself for the busy night ahead, a joyful voice chirped from behind him. One that made everything feel just that little bit lighter.

 

"Good luck!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick chanced a glance at his right side as he slid a shot over to a red-cheeked customer, who had an equally red-nosed woman hanging from his arm as she giggled drunkenly in his ear.

 

Blue eyes found Mikey- Gerard's little brother.

 

Patrick had been surprised to learn the man was actually older than him, by three whole years.

And yet, Mikey seemed so quiet, and extremely sheltered- despite his career choice.

 

Patrick's gaze shifted back down to a bottle as he deftly screwed the lid off. Mikey never seemed happy behind the bar. He'd always have a sour look on his face, and he'd often excuse himself as much as possible, just to get away for as long as he could.

Eyes locked on the clear glass in his hand for a moment, before Patrick poured another shot out for the red man, who was waving a few dollars in his direction. He slid it over the wood, but this time, chanced a glance to his left; Andy had really stepped up his game since Cooperstown. Between teaching two new apprentices the very complex ropes in every aspect of bartending, and between generally dealing with all their drunkard co-workers, who liked nothing better than sitting at the bar all damn day- Andy had been doing admirable work.

 

The blonde handed the notes to Mikey, who blankly put them away in the register with blank eyes and a quiet sigh- all while Gerard's stare hovered over him like a stormy and lightning-crisped cloud.

Patrick shook his head lightly, before his lip corners quirked upwards, and he twisted, glancing up at the wall behind him.

 

'Take This To Your Grave'

 

Both a quirky name, and a very real threat.

A warning that rang off the tongue, and an ultimatum that would most definitely be carried out by either Pete, Ryan, Frank, or Tyler- or, all of them, together.

With a content sigh and a light smile, Patrick turned his gaze back over the bar, smile broadening at the next customer- who was still very sober.

 

"A French 75."

 

Well, that wouldn't last very long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Pass me- das Glas- agh-"

 

"Yeah, I gotcha, Kaiser."

 

With a light half-smile, Pete handed the glass over to Patrick; The blonde only ducked his head and laughed quietly, starting to wipe the glass clean with a damp rag.

The night had been a complete success. There hadn't been a moment in which Patrick hadn't been serving a drink, or handing money to Mikey.

'Take This To Your Grave' had gotten off to a flying start, and Patrick knew that the others would make sure it kept its momentum- and its safety. They were never going to get chased out of a city again.

 

"Hey, uh...Kaiser?"

 

The blonde quirked an eyebrow as he glanced up from the glass and rag. He didn't say anything, but Pete took the wide eyes as a gesture to continue.

 

"...Where are you from?"

 

Patrick furrowed his brow in an instant. Pete knew where he was from- or...or, had he forgotten? Oh shit, did he have Alzheimer's, or-?

"And, I don't mean 'Germany'," Pete rolled his eyes at the country's name, and Patrick tried to ignore the tinge of discomfort that prickled at the back of his neck. "I mean, where are you really from?"

Patrick blinked, before huffing lightly and shaking his head subtly. "Where are you from?"

Pete tensed as his own question was fired back in his own direction, before he sighed deeply

 

Patrick knew, that Pete knew, that there was no point in arguing or bickering about who should go first- if they did that, neither of them would learn a thing, and they probably wouldn't even speak to each other for a whole week.

 

"...I'll make a deal with you." A sly grin was stuck on Pete's face, and it made the corner of his eyes crinkle as they locked exclusively on Patrick, a hand sliding across the bar surface to impose over the German.

The blonde raised an eyebrow, and Pete leaned forwards a little. "I ask a question, and, if you answer it, you get to ask me one." Pete's grin only broadened as his head flicked to its side. "But, if you can't answer it- or, if you just don't want to, I get to..." Pete trailed off, eyes flicking up and down the blonde.

Patrick knew what he meant and he nodded his agreement.

It meant a bathroom stall, it meant bruises that wouldn't go away for weeks, it meant sticky thighs.

Pete grinned, before nodding and musing for a moment. His eyes lit up as he snapped his fingers, and pointed at Patrick. "Where were you born?"

 

Shit, he was gonna be sore tomorrow.

 

No, no- he could answer that, it was fine.

 

"Wernigerode."

 

Pete only blinked, brow furrowing lightly as the German laughed, knowing full well the American hadn't understood the word or had known its meaning in the slightest. The blonde mused for a moment, head cocking from side to side, before he smiled lightly, shrugging as he opted to be kind.

"Where were you born?"

Pete smirked, but Patrick could tell the mundane question had made his shoulders grow lax. "Wilmette."

They glanced at each other, catching each other's eyes and instantly collapsing into quiet laughter and shaking heads, chastising themselves for the childish game, with the not-so-childish forfeit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"What's your favourite colour?"

 

"Orange."

 

"Really?"

 

"Well, what's yours?"

 

"Purple?"

 

"Und- that is not- selsam- uh-"

 

"Yeah, yeah, whatever, Kaiser."

 

The night brought silence, dim lights, and questions.

They'd covered everything from favourite weather, to most embarrassing memories, and Patrick was actually enjoying himself- not that he'd actually admit that to Pete, of course. That would make him way too insufferably smug.

 

"Will you teach me German?"

 

Patrick froze at the question, only furrowing his brow at Pete, deeply and in raw confusion. Pete...hated...German. So, why was he-?

The dark-haired man looked a little timid, shoulders hunched and smile tiny and nervous as he shrugged. "I mean- I dunno- you don't have to- I just-"

"No!" Patrick shook his head, "No, I'd uh- I'd like to- love to-" Any opportunity he was given to let his mother language roll of his tongue was valid enough for Patrick- and if Pete, for some, unimaginable reason, wanted to learn, Patrick would grasp that opportunity with both, firm hands.

But, if Pete was making the effort, Patrick should make it too.

 

"...Will you teach me English?"

 

"But your accent's so cute!"

 

"Pete."

 

"...Fine."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"First girlfriend?"

 

Patrick only scoffed amusedly, shaking his head lightly as he put more and more clean glasses away.

 

"What?"

 

"Don't be blöd- uh-"

 

"Patrick," Pete's voice carried a forefront of amusement, but something more concerned and something darker lingered behind the words. "Like, I dunno what you meant with that tone, but you're- you're great- like, fucking amazing, I mean-"

The blonde's freeze and his contracting shoulders made Pete's words die as he gulped, but Patrick only glanced over at him carefully; The older man's eyes were a little dull, but glazed over in something intense that made Patrick shirk under the gaze.

 

"Patrick?"

 

"Yes?"

 

"What's your favourite animal?"

 

"Fahr zur Hölle."

 

Patrick's voice was breathy and quiet, and it was just the answer Pete and been waiting for.

The silent room was filled with breathing for a few seconds, and Patrick could only fall limp and still when Pete swept forwards, hands deftly laying on Patrick's cheeks, before-

 

Patrick's mind when blank as his eyes fell shut, and for a moment, Pete was only thing that existed in the entire world.

Pete. Pete's...mouth. Pressed against his own, both slotted together, moving tenderly, yet with a spark of electricity that made Patrick's spine tremble. Smoke, ash, whiskey- but, coffee, caramel and mint.

 

He felt a hand card through his hair, as soft, yet somehow chapped, lips moved against his own, open mouths fully slotting together as Pete tilted his head. Smoke, ash, earthy, cologne, whiskey- all, fundementally, Pete.

As Patrick's thoughts came back down to earth, he fisted his hands into Pete's shirt, pulling the older man further down and further flush against him.

 

It was so soft, so gentle- and just so...unlike, Pete.

 

The quiet sounds of damp lips shifting together filled the air between them, and Patrick moved his hands to tangle through dark hair for a moment, before Pete pulled away mere inches. A tanned hand cupped a pale cheek, thumb drifting over a sharp cheekbone as the older man gave a tiny, quiet smile.

 

"How'd you say 'I love you'?"

 

Patrick blinked, voice freezing on his vocal chords, before he moved a hand to glide over the back of Pete's neck, and spoke in the quietest voice he could muster.

 

"Ich liebe dich."

 

Patrick wasn't too sure if it was an answer or a statement.


But Pete only nodded with a hum, before his mouth crashed back towards Patrick's, slotting against his like a piece of a puzzle. Hands mussing through hair, pulling and tilting Patrick's head back and to the sides to get better access, soft lips, teeth grazing- and Patrick was positively dreaming.

Gasps for air were few and far between, as everything faded into blurs and buzzes once again, until only the two remained. Pete pulled back with a quiet exhale, before nudging the tip of his nose with Patrick's. The blonde grinned as Pete spoke again, tanned hands subtly moving to grab at Patrick's waist.

 

"What was that again? The- the word-"

 

"'Ich liebe dich'...?"

 

Pete nodded with a grin, pressing a sweet, soft kiss to Patrick's lips before leaning back to admire the pink-flushed man in full. "I like that, you should say it more."

Patrick bounced onto the tips of his toes, arms looping over Pete's shoulders as he tilted his head. "So should you."

The older man only laughed, eyes crinkling and teeth sparkling as he pressed a gentle kiss to Patrick's forehead, taking full advantage of being just that little bit taller.

 

"I think I- I love you."

 

Patrick shivered at the words, the pleasant rise of goosebumps and the buzz in his skin warm as Pete's voice rang through his ears. Lips slotted together once again, tilting, rubbing, and caressing, all before-

"I think I've loved you for a while." Pete pressed a long, insistent kiss to Patrick's mouth one last time, before carding a hand through his pale hair. The blonde only laughed quietly, kissing the tip of Pete's nose.

 

"I know."

 

Pete furrowed his brow, cocking his head like a puppy. "How did you-?"

 

"Du bist wirklich offensichtlich."

 

"...Whatever."

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Patrick was so fucking cold.

 

His whole frame trembled as goosebumps broke out on his skin, forcing pale hair to stand on end.

The room was dilapidated; Broken slats that lay toppled from the ceiling, glass shards that crunched under his boots, and a thin carpet of powdery snow that covered the whole place- and that only kept falling in quickly drowning blankets.

 

Patrick had been crouched at the window for six hours today. One hand clasped around the barrel, the other wrapped around the guard as his index finger lightly pressed over the trigger.

His eyes hurt from squinting for so long, but with a grit of his teeth, Patrick kept one wide and achy eye down the scope.

 

A figure, tiny like an ant, and dark against the bright snow, scurried across the thick powder. In a split second, Patrick lined the crosshair up to the man's head, and pulled the trigger.

 

"Vierundsiebzig."

 

A gunshot rang out, and Patrick sighed quietly, grimacing at the tiny shudder that crawled over him at the sight of the crumpled figure lying against a white background, as almost fluorescent crimson blood poured out over it, marring the once pristine cotton white.

 

It had gotten easier over the few weeks he'd been stuck in this goddamn tower, but that was precisely what made Patrick's throat pool with bile.

If he lost the shudder, the sinking stomach, and the heavy heart every time he killed someone...God, Patrick didn't even want to think-

 

Another figure, trying to drag the corpse behind cover. Through the whimpers of a name, and through the pleads for mercy, Patrick lined the crosshair over the moving man's head, and pulled the trigger without a second thought.

 

He watched red pour over white, and Patrick didn't feel a thing.

 

"Fünfundsiebzig."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morning sex was definitely Pete's new favourite thing.

 

His hips bucked into Patrick's rhythmically, setting a steady beat that had both of them gripping skin and moaning into shoulders.

Patrick shivered and shuddered under him, and every time the blonde trailed fingernails down Pete's back, the older man lost another little piece of his mind.

 

Their mouths were slotted together sloppily as they rocked back and forth, and they had been since the beginning of their sleepy morning endeavour.

 

Pete had to admit, he felt a little stupid; He really should've kissed Patrick a long time ago.

 

Sex with the blonde was amazing, it always was, but having that soft pink mouth pressed against his own during? It was better than anything Pete could've ever imagined. It made the whole thing heartfelt , and deeper , and just, more ; Everything felt amplified and magnified. Every single one of Patrick's moans rippled through his nerves, every slide into the blonde felt deeper, every tiny graze and scratch felt rougher, and they stung in just the right way.

 

Patrick's legs wrapped around his waist, pressing him closer as he gave stifled, needy moans against Pete's lips. The older man broke away, ignoring the spike that pierced his chest at doing so, and instead, kissed at Patrick's neck, as the German dropped his head to the side with a mouth curled into a perfect 'o'.

 

Patrick's neck, just after his mouth, was one of Pete's favourite things. Pale, unmarred, and soft, Pete's lips and nose dragged over the skin as he revelled in Patrick's high-pitched whines.

 

With a groan and a particularly rough buck forwards, Pete leaned up over Patrick, hands splayed out beside the blonde's head. Patrick's eyes moved to Pete's, attaching themselves and gaze completely unwavering as though they were attached by a string.

A shaky, pale hand moved to Pete's shoulder, fingers digging and scrabbling as he mewled softly, eyes fluttering helplessly.

Goddamnit, Pete loved seeing Patrick like this- no, he just loved Patrick -

 

Pete sighed out a deep breath, and leaned down over Patrick's pink ear. Trailing a wet tongue across the shell and leaving a hot stripe that had the German shivering, Pete muttered low, firm words that made Patrick whine in the back of his throat. "Komm schon, liebe."

 

With a sudden silent scream that only escaped in quiet choked sounds and hot tears, the blonde arched and convulsed, whole body contracting and tensing as he trembled. Pete only smiled lazily; Patrick went crazy whenever Pete would whisper the word into his ear. Pete didn't know, or even understand why , but if it reduced the German to a puddle of writhing and moaning, who was he to complain?

 

Pale hands helplessly gripped at tanned skin and dark strands, and Pete moaned quietly as his gaze firmly locked on Patrick's dick; Pink, hard, and spurting thick ropes over his own stomach.

Eyes screwing shut for a moment, Patrick's moans and mewls of recovery clattered through the older man’s skull, and with only three hard thrusts, Pete tipped his head down to Patrick's shoulder.

The older man moaned as his hips flicked forwards involuntarily, and he rode out the wave of ecstasy that coursed through him, spilling fully and deeply into the blonde.

When he came to, Patrick's hands were carding through his hair- just as they always were.

 

Pete smiled broadly against damp pale skin, and with no preamble, he shifted over to Patrick, pressing their mouths flush together. The blonde smiled into the kiss, and the feeling coaxed a grin from Pete as well. Yeah, he really should’ve kissed Patrick a long time ago .

 

Tilting his chin upwards, Patrick pulled away from Pete's mouth, but quickly kissed his cheek to make up for the loss. Soft hands pressed over the sides of Pete's head, and as the older man met blue eyes, Patrick only grinned. "Ich liebe dich."

 

Pete was pretty sure he'd never get tired of hearing those words.

 

Nuzzling down into Patrick's hair and wrapping strong arms around a soft waist, Pete smiled and kissed blonde strands. "Hab dich auch lieb."

The German laughed quietly, kissing the crook of Pete's neck- happily, the only part he could reach.

 

"Dein Akzent ist immer noch schrecklich."

 

"Sei nicht gemein ."

 

Patrick only laughed at Pete's dramatic pout and scrunched up eyes. Pale hands carded through dark hair tenderly as their owner shook his head with an easy smile, "Du bist so ein Idiot." Pete hummed, burrowing into Patrick's neck with a tiny smile

 

"An idiot you love."

 

"...Unglücklicherweise."

 

"Shut up."

 

Patrick's eyes scrunched closed as he laughed again, head tipping back against the pillow as Pete's laughter rumbled against his neck. As the laughter faded, they fell into an easy, sleepy, and dazed silence, only basking in the dim room's light, and in each other.

 

With a small smile, Pete leaned up again, shifting upwards to hover over Patrick, forearm supporting himself against the mattress. He carded long fingers through light hair and tilted his head down at the blonde, eyes soft and slowly blinking as he drank in the sight; Swollen, bitten red lips, ruffled hair- messy from both sleep and sex, pale skin that glowed with pink, and powder blue rings around huge, pitch black pupils.

 

"Du bist-" Pete rolled his eyes with a smile at Patrick's sniggers; Admittedly, Pete knew his pronunciation wasn't the best , so he couldn't blame Patrick too much.

 

Oh, but when their English lessons came around...Pete got his revenge. He always got his revenge.

 

Kissing Patrick's nose, Pete decided to cut his rant about how fucking beautiful Patrick was short. "-pretty."

The blonde only quirked an eyebrow and scoffed a laugh, but regardless, he pressed a short kiss to Pete's mouth. "You're not so bad yourself."

 

Pete held back a laugh at Patrick's accent; It had been thicker before, and while it was slowly and surely improving, it always served to make Pete grin like an idiot.

He didn't hate it though- far from it actually, if anything, he loved it. And while he was going to teach the blonde English, Pete secretly hoped the funny little accent would stay.

 

Silence and beams fell over them again, as they postponed and fought away the prospects of untangling from each other, getting out of bed, and going to work.

They'd just about blocked out the world again, when a loud yell shook the sleep out of them both.

 

"FUCK YOU- I CAN'T LIVE LIKE THIS ANYMORE-"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Mikey-"

 

"NO- NO-" The younger of the two brothers snarled, an accusatory finger pointed towards the older. "I CAN'T DO IT, GEE- I CAN'T JUST HIDE AWAY FOR THE REST OF MY-"

 

"You're not hiding - you're just-"

 

"I'M TWENTY FOUR." Chest heaving and shoulders hunched, Mikey glared at Gerard through watery eyes. "D'YOU GET THAT? TWENTY. FOUR."

 

"Mikey-"

 

"I'M NOT A KID- I'M A MAN, ALRIGHT?" Gesturing at himself with a shaky, yet violent, hand, Mikey tore his eyes away from Gerard's shattered gaze, instead, snarling at thin air. "I SURVIVED THE FUCKING WAR TOO."

 

"Mike- look, just listen to me-"

 

Gerard's hand tried at his shoulder, but Mikey only jerked away with a frustrated and infuriated yell. "DON'T- DON'T TOUCH ME-"

 

"What the hell's going on in here?"

 

Jon, shadowed by Spencer and Kenny, raised an eyebrow at the duo, but as Gerard tried a word of explanation, Mikey only scoffed and turned on his heel, stalking away towards the back rooms.

 

A feeling of panic taking root deep inside him, Gerard cantered after his brother, hand curling around his shoulder before-

 

"GET OFF ME." With a shove, Mikey tore away from the older man, before he turned to scowl at him, hissing in a poisonous voice.

 

"You're not dad."

 

Everything inside Gerard froze, before everything began throbbing and aching, and he struggled to move his eyes away from Mikey; Regretful. Mikey looked regretful, but stubborn at the same time. Gerard idly wondered which of the two would win. Would Mikey start crying and beg for forgiveness? Or would he scowl and leave, nodding at his own words?

 

As Mikey exhaled quietly and nodded, Gerard felt bile in his throat; Stubbornness had won.

Hazel eyes with an odd streak through them met his own, and Gerard saw nothing but pain and coldness in them.

 

"And you never will be. So just leave me alone."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gerard had joined Brendon at the sad end of the bar.

 

Both men sat, shoulders hunched and heads drooped, nursing quickly vanishing glasses of strong-smelling liquid.

 

Andy, Josh and Patrick- the only remaining bartenders, since Mikey had promptly ' fucked off '- as Frank had put it (much to Gerard's displeasure), stood behind the bar. Awkward glances between the two, miserable men, which promptly lead into concerned glances at each other, filled the room, and Patrick soon found himself sighing defeatedly, instead focusing his attention on the happier sight in one of the booths.

 

"Okay, so-" Pete slid a few wrapped sweets over the table, before glancing up at the obviously- now extremely captivated, Erika.

 

"Say, you wanted all seven."

 

Erika did want all seven- if her tilted, wide, and pleading gaze was any indication.

Pete only laughed quietly at the gaze, but continued his explanation of basic haggling; The girl had some street smarts, but she was still lacking in the finer departments.

 

"But, I was only giving you three."

 

Pete cupped his hand over four sweets and drew them back, coaxing a furrowed brow, pout and whine from Erika.

 

With an easy smile, Pete tilted his head, stare squinted and questioning. "What would you do?"

 

Erika squinted thoughtfully, nose wrinkling as her face scrunched up in thought; Pete had seen that look a few times before.

He chanced a subtle glance over at the bar, catching Patrick staring in his direction. With a flashed grin at the German- who cleared his throat and promptly went back to polishing glasses, Pete shook his head and he turned back to the girl- who had finally beamed and had snapped her fingers.

 

"I'd cool ya!"

 

Pete could only laugh, fingers pinching the bridge of his nose as Erika whined and questioned his amusement. "No, Erika- no, you don't-" He only fell into chortles again, and the girl crossed her arms and gave him a faux-petulant look.

 

"C'monnn, jus' tell me -"

 

"Alright, alright, punk-" Still grinning, Pete uncovered the four wrapped sweets again, and the girl's wide stare moved back to them like a magnet. "If you wanted seven, but I was only giving you three..."

 

Pete reached into his pocket, tossing three more of the wrapped lumps onto the table.

 

"You ask for ten ."

 

Erika furrowed her brow and cocked her head, but nodded along at Pete's words as the man explained.

 

"You ask for ten, and then ," Pete slid the others over to the three, "I'd offer you more than you actually wanted."

 

Mind visibly whirring, Erika's face steadily split into a grin as she nodded, things and pieces quickly clipping and falling into place. Pete smiled as soon as the spark of full understanding clapped through shiny cobalt eyes, and the girl nodded eagerly, tied back hair bouncing against its tie.

 

With a curt nod, Pete splayed the ten sweets out over the table evenly, before he clasped his hands together and tilted his head at the girl with the blank facade she'd have to learn to lie to.

 

"So, miss, how many d'you want?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"So, Mrs...Urie!- that was it," The doctor glanced up from his clipboard, to the shakily panting and sweat-beaded woman. "How are you feeling? Much pain?"

Sarah parted her trembling lips to speak, but only a long, pained whine escaped her, as her head tipped to the side against the hospital pillow. A nurse moved to fret over her, asking about the pain with a soft voice, reiterating the doctor’s questions, but once again, only receiving loud, sobbing yells in response.

 

"Mrs Urie?" The doctor leant forwards a little as the woman's sobs subsided slightly, only to be replaced by quiet, robotic whines. "Would you like us to call your husband?"

 

With a sudden sense of clarity, Sarah nodded eagerly, blue eyes wide as she sniffed and whined in the back of her throat, as one protective hand pressed over her round stomach.

 

"His name? Where can we reach him-?" The question was lost as Sarah cried out again, spine curling as pain wracked her entire body. The baby was impatient- eager to be born, eager to see their parents.

 

"B-Brendon- agh-" Her mind ached and her temples thrummed with her deep, quick pulse as Sarah struggled to remember where Brendon worked; She wasn't stupid, she knew he worked at a speakeasy, but, she just couldn't remember what the cover for it was-

 

"Co-Cork tree- The- Cork-"

 

Another cry- only, it sounded more like a scream this time. Sarah convulsed and writhed as though she were possessed, hands pressing over her stomach as an unbearable pain attacked every nerve in her body.

 

"D-Doctor- S-She's-"

 

Panic. There was panic in the nurse's voice. Along with fear, and horror. It made Sarah's heart speed up to an impossible speed, and it made her stomach writhe and pool with fear. She tried leaning up, craning her neck to look between her legs- where the nurse and doctor were staring with wide, trembling eyes, before-

 

"AGH- FUCK -" Sarah's jaw clenched as she screamed, long, desperate and pained. She felt warmth between her legs, and as her neck craned up again, her eyes fell wide- along with her jaw, at the scarlet that soaked through both her dress and the bed.

 

Shocked stuttered and sobs fell from Sarah's mouth; Was she losing the baby? God- please- no-

 

Another sobbed cry wracked her entirely, back arching and muscles clenching as spikes and blunt force crashed into her all over; It felt like being ripped in half, like pushing a fucking watermelon out of a lemon.

Her hands clapped over her eyes as another sob, which quickly evolved into another scream, bubbled from her lips. Distant, panicky yells grew muffled and distant in Sarah's ears as her eyes fell shut, feeling as though they weighed a thousand pounds.

 

Sarah heard hurried footsteps, the sounds of boxes clicking open, and she felt a hand on her forehead, as the nurse spoke soft words of comfort.

 

But despite the fuss, despite the doctors, and nurses, and medicine- Sarah just wanted Brendon. She wanted her husband. She wanted him here, with her, and with their baby. She didn't want to be alone; She was scared, she was so fucking scared , but she was alone.

Another sudden scream tore through her throat as she thrashed on the bed, legs kicking out weakly as something dazing and heavy flooded over her mind and body.

Sarah was scared.

 

 

And Brendon never came.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"She's smart." Pete nodded over at Patrick over his mug of cheap, bitter coffee. "Smarter than you'd think."

Patrick huffed with a broad, proud smile and nodded, taking a sip from his own mug.

 

Coffee before bed admittedly wasn't the best idea, but by now, Patrick knew they'd burn the excess energy off somehow .

 

"You, you never really told me..." Pete blinked softly, eyes wide at Patrick's as he tried to coax an answer to his gentle words. "...like, about what you...in the..."

Patrick knew what he meant. But it only made him sigh and drop his head a little.

 

They'd made so much progress, and if Pete ever find out-

 

If Pete ever found out what Patrick had done, they might just slip back down to square one.

 

Patrick had heard a lot of people- Pete included, sharing in the urban legend or the war story of ' Der sachsen '; A German soldier who had 'cowered' at the top floor of a hotel, and, who had shot ninety men dead with a sniper rifle.

 

...It had been ninety-two , not just ninety - Patrick deserved a little credit.

 

The blonde blinked over at Pete, who stared back with nothing but lovestruck eyes, and the German sighed, finally nodding and shifting over to look at Pete square in the eye.

 

"I- I'll tell you-" Pete's grin made Patrick feel sick; It wasn't that he didn't adore that smile- because he did, he could make a whole fucking religion based on Pete's smile, but-

 

God, Patrick was terrified that it'd fade once he knew-

 

No. No, it would be fine. Pete loved him, and Patrick loved Pete. They understood each other, they liked each other, they trusted each other- it'd be fine .

 

Hands wrapping around the mug, Patrick warmed his digits as he gazed down into the dark, rich and steaming liquid.

 

"I was fifteen, when the war started."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The room was quiet, bar soft breathing from both men, and it was dim, lit only by a yellow-tinted bedside lamp.

 

Patrick couldn't bring himself to look at Pete.

 

Instead, he stared down at the floorboards- like a coward. He'd always been a coward, he supposed. He'd always hated confrontation, he'd always hated fighting. It wasn't natural to him, it didn't come easily- but it had been beaten into him by the circumstances of his childhood, whether he'd wanted it or not. It had been violence, or death, and Patrick was too much of a coward to die.

 

He'd told Pete everything- avoiding the whiskey-brown eyes the entire time, of course. He'd told Pete about his home, his family. He'd told Pete about being drafted, about the western front, about the trenches, the rats, the bodies, the sniper rifle, the gas, the blindness-

 

...He'd told Pete about Russia.

 

The cold, the frostbite, the frozen soldiers, the snow, the gutters, the bodies, the undead Russians that crawled forwards as they spat up pieces of their lungs.

 

He'd told Pete about the fear.

 

The fear. The fear of sneaking through muddy, flooded trenches. The fear of death. The fear of losing everything. The fear of being alone with nothing but the rumbling of tanks, the buzzing of planes, and the rings of bullets filling the air. The fear of the British. The fear of the French. The fear of the Italians. The fear of the Americans.

 

And finally, he'd told Pete about the tree.

 

The snowy, clear day, marred by ashes and grey flakes that spun in the air in a graceful, practised dance.

The houses, the shops, the parks- the places that had defined his childhood, all burnt and razed to the ground.

The charred bodies of his family hanging from nooses.

Finding Eckhard hanging from a similar noose a week later.

 

And Pete had said nothing.

 

 

Blue eyes glanced towards Pete's hands; The tanned digits were tenderly wrapped around Patrick's most valued possession, the one thing he placed above all others- well, if people didn't count.

 

His iron cross. First class, awarded for bravery. Signed by Kaiser Wilhelm himself.

 

Funny.

 

Patrick was awarded for bravery , even though he'd killed all those men from a distance, like a coward .

 

His heart ached, and the pain only got worse with every silent second that passed. Patrick clenched his eyes shut, feeling dampness pooling at their seams, before he exhaled quietly and shakily.

Placing his now empty mug on the floor, Patrick stood from the edge of the mattress, intent of leaving the room in order to run away- instead of facing his problems. Huh. He really was a coward after all.

 

"Patrick."

 

The voice was raspy from being inactive for so long, but Patrick froze as he heard no fury or tightness in it. But he still couldn't bring himself to turn to Pete.

 

A hand wrapped around his arm, pulling him back and around, forcing him to face the older man. Patrick's eyes remained squeezed as his head was drooped to the eye level of Pete's chest, but soon enough, gentle, yet calloused fingertips were smoothing over the side of his face.

Patrick leaned into the touch, a tiny smile flourishing on his face, as his eyes crooked open, the dire and dark situation escaping his mind completely.

 

Pete's gaze was still lovestruck. Nothing had changed.

 

The dark-haired man leaned forwards, swiftly catching Patrick's lips with his own as the blonde sighed out in relief, the heavy burden that had been weighing him down finally escaping like smoke in the wind.

 

A soft thud, and Pete's newly free hand carded through silky, blonde strands. Words were murmured against his lips, and as Patrick's slowly whirring brain finally made sense of them, his heart fluttered and his arms wrapped around Pete's neck.

 

"Ich liebe dich über alles."

 

Patrick gave a sob, that was coupled with a grin; Admittedly, when he'd been in those trenches that still haunted him now, Patrick had never thought he'd hear those words. Face burrowing into Pete's neck, along with inked arms wrapping around him, the blonde exhaled shakily, before sniffing his answer. "Liebe dich zu sehr."

 

Pete's lips pressed into his hair, and a few beats of silence passed, before Pete's voice chimed in again- although, much lighter, and much more amused than before.

 

"Wir sind heute so emotional."

 

A sudden bubble of laughter escaped Patrick, but it was muffled against Pete's neck as the older man joined it wholeheartedly. The blonde pulled back, sniffing and smiling at Pete broadly, and pressing a soft kiss to his knuckles. "Wir sind pathetisch, nicht wahr?"

 

"Uh- Unhöflich ."

 

They both collapsed into stifled laughter- for the sake of the others in the speakeasy that night, and with happy sighs, both men fell against each other in a lazy embrace once again.

Patrick wanted to know if Pete minded his past, but it was all so peaceful, and just so perfect, that Patrick didn't want to risk it at all. He wanted it to feel like this forever.

 

A knock at the door shook them awake, and jerked them away from each other.

 

Patrick slipped over to the door with those cat-like footsteps of his, and in mere moments- before Pete even had time to argue, the door was wide open.

 

The blonde crouched down, and Pete knew.

 

"Are you okay?"

 

Erika tried a nod, before sniffing through a red nose and scrubbing at her eye with a sad, yet broad, smile.

 

Patrick's smile matched hers perfectly, and he could only offer her wide arms as he spoke with a gentle voice. "Komm her, Hase."

With a sniff and a quiet laugh, the girl accepted the offer, quickly tangling her arms over sweater-clad shoulders, and pressing her cheek against a mass of blonde hair.

 

"What happened, bearcat?" Pete's voice was soft and quiet as he moved the sharp, metal cross to the dresser, away from the mattress, before leaning against the wood with brown eyes locked on both Germans.

The girl rubbed at teary eyes again, before she blinked up at Pete with the shaky, watery smile she'd been wearing a few moments ago.

 

"Nightmare."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick was a good singer. Pete had never really considered it before, but now that he actually listened, he had to admit- Patrick's voice was one of the damn best he'd ever heard.

 

" Morgen früh, wenn Gott will, "

 

Like honey on sandpaper, it was rough and sharp, yet pleasant and good. Pete hadn't heard many like it. Sure, he'd heard Joe singing every now and then- especially back during their camp days, but Patrick...

 

" Wirst du wieder geweckt. "

 

He'd have to get Patrick to sing more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few minutes later, and Patrick crept out from behind Erika's room's door, eyes flitting around nervously as he tried not to make a sound- avoiding waking the little girl again.

The care fell away as he met Pete's smug gaze, face dropping blank as he closed the wooden door with a soft click and turned to roll his eyes at the older man.

 

"You sing-"

 

"Yes, thank you."

 

Patrick's voice held exhaustion as he moved to trudge back to his room, but, once again, Pete's hand clasped around his arm- pulling him back and stopping his departure dead in its tracks.

 

Pete's smile was soft, yet inquisitive as he shook his head with a quirked eyebrow, and Patrick could only sigh quietly, before blinking irritably with the ghost of a smile.

 

"My mother used to sing it to us." The blonde shrugged lightly, gaze dropping from Pete's eyes with a stutter and a blink. "I thought it would help."

 

A light hum was his response, and it was quickly led up with a long, deep kiss, which drew the breath out of Patrick's lungs as his eyes fell shut; He didn't fucking care if someone saw them anymore.

 

The lips moved away, and with eyes still clenched closed, Patrick chased them a little with a tiny whine that only made the older man chuckle.

Blue eyes quirked opened to see mirth sparkling eyes, and a smug smile. Pete's voice was just as insufferably amused, and Patrick could only sigh with raw exasperation. "If I have a nightmare, will you sing to me, Kaiser?"

 

"Halt die Klappe und küsse mich wieder."

 

A light laugh, crinkled eye corners, and a beam all served to make a stubborn smile bloom on pink lips.

 

"Jawohl Sir!"

 

"Oh Gott, hör mal auf-"

 

Pete's mouth cut him off again, and Patrick could only smile.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Josh dove behind a stack of crates, boots slipping in the powdery, honeyed sand and skin burning under the fiery red desert sun. His uniform felt heavy, and his skin was all shrimpy and clammy beneath it, all nooks and crannies soaked and pooled with sweat. His fingers left wet streaks over his rifle, and Josh's stomach twisted with fear as the whistle of a train split through the shouts, explosions and gunshots.

 

Eyes wide, Josh's head flicked over to the train tracks that ran through the deserted, dilapidated village and between the outposts and water towers.

 

An ink black bulked train was speeding towards them, releasing anchor grey smoke into the once pristine cerulean sky.

The turrets and cannons attached to it swung and swivelled, making loud creaking and scraping noises as they sluggishly turned their sights towards the houses, tanks and planes that were swarmed with men clad in tan uniforms with union jacks slapped on their biceps.

 

It shined and shimmered under the sun, and as the chugging of the wheels got closer, Josh stumbled to his feet and darted away, jumping over a fence of what had once probably been a family's very arid garden. They were gone now. Their home was deserted, being torn apart by gunfire and grenades. He wondered if they’d survived, if they were all still together, if they were all still safe.

He liked to think they were.

 

Legs working as quickly as they could, Josh bolted across the town, bobbing and weaving through cobalt wooden fences, and leaping over marigold craters that hid over the ridges of the desert’s waves.

 

A loud, thundering cannon shot rang out, and as everything trembled with the shock, Josh clattered to his knees, back pressing to the white wall of a square house.

Eyes wide, Josh craned his neck around a few different tents and posts, before his stare firmly stopped on the bulky train; It was firing like crazy. It's guns and cannons flashed with white as they clattered with ear-splitting thuds and explosions.

 

And then, the buzzing of planes filled the air, drowning out the shots for a moment, as their sounds became wobbly and distorted. Josh looked up, and only for a second, his heart calmed.

 

A pack of three planes- belonging to the RAF if the red, white and blue rings were anything to go by, swept over the town and dove towards the train.

With swift manoeuvres Josh could only gape at, the aircraft skilfully twisted and gracefully dove away from the heavy cannon shots, and instead, deftly drifted over the train, firing their own attack down on the dark metal.

 

One of the larger cannons on the train's hood shifted, directly moving after one of the bombers.

Josh could only stare as a loud gunshot that kicked back into the train itself fired, hitting one of the planes square in the left wing.

 

The droning sound of a plane's engine dying rang through the air, and as the injured aircraft exploded into smoke and tiger embers, it crashed down something like a mile away- desperately trying to put some distance between it, and the cannons that had been its downfall.

 

An explosion of a collision burst through the air, along with a flash of white and a cloud of dark smoke polluted the cottony clouds.

Glancing back and forth at the now smoking train, Josh weaved through houses and alleys, narrowly missing explosions that rendered houses into debris, and men into puddles of blood, limbs and guts.

 

He came to a stop at the edge of the village with stuttered footfalls. Josh tucked himself behind the metal bars of the water tower, hiding from the searching gaze of the monstrous train, as he squinted out towards the wreck.

It was only a short distance away, slotted down between huge, misshapen, tuscan rock formations, and camps that crossed the over the gap with flimsy wood and rope bridges, but the downside was haunting; It sat across an open field. No cover, no houses, no tents, and just over and past the shiny train tracks.

 

Josh glanced over to the Ottomans' destroyer that was steadily rendering the town into rubble, coaxing agonizing screams from those caught in the crossfire. There were cannons on the back of the vehicle, and Josh knew if he made one wrong move, or if he hesitated or slowed for only a second- he'd been nothing but a pile of bloody limbs and guts.

 

He glanced back towards the plane.

 

...Josh had a hunch he hoped was wrong.

 

He felt that Tyler was there- that it was Tyler's plane. And while he prayed and hoped he was wrong, Josh couldn't just stand idly by if there was a slither of a chance Tyler was dying in that smoky wreckage.

 

With a final, furrowed glance back at the train, Josh exhaled heavily with a puff of his cheeks, and with a thundering heart, he bolted forwards.

 

His legs ached, his lungs begged for mercy, and his heart felt like a shotgun's fire against his chest, but Josh kept running.

 

He dove past the train tracks, slipping down a loose, sandy ridge and crawling forwards with all the urgency in the world. Cannon fire shook the ground beneath him, and Josh's head swivelled around to catch huge puffs of blackened sand bursting up from gunshots.

 

They'd seen him.

 

Fear forced bile up to his mouth, but Josh kept running, legs speeding through loose stand as he lurched behind a steady rock formation.

 

Crawling over to the other side of the stone, Josh's head peeked out from behind the sturdy cover to see the train rocking back and forth, still firing heavy gun and cannon shots.

 

A cavalry soldier sped past, the horse whinnying and snorting desperately as the rider leant forwards, forcing it faster. They'd missed light gunfire, before-

 

They sped in front of a cannon at exactly the wrong moment, and in a split second, the man and the horse were tossed to the side in rushes and pools of their own insides.

 

Josh gagged, head pulling back as he tried to wipe the images from his mind. He felt the bile flood his mouth, before he inhaled and exhaled deeply and swallowed it down. He had to be strong. He’d seen blood before, he’d seen death before- it was nothing new, he just had to be strong.

 

Eyes squinting open, Josh nodded to himself firmly and narrowed his eyebrows, before pacing forwards towards the plane wreckage that lay in the crib of a crater, all smoky and spitting embers.

 

Urging his body to calm his thundering chest, Josh peeked into the wreckage, and at the sight in the cockpit, his heart stopped dead in its tracks.

 

Tyler.

 

Tyler, impaled under the chin by a metal spike that had come loose from the plane itself.

 

His eyes were wide open and glassy as they stared into thin air blankly. There was no blood, but Josh couldn't make a sound- and neither could Tyler. His jaw was wide open, and his eyes matched, shooting to the size of plates as his trembling hands inched forwards.

 

Josh wasn't a doctor, he didn't know what to-

 

Tyler's eyes flicked to his own, and almost immediately at the sight of his trusted friend, he started making tiny, pathetic gagging and choking sounds, opening his mouth to show his tongue; Skewered through the join, motionless and bloody on the metal spike.

 

Josh didn't know what to do.

 

His friend's hand scrabbled over his arm, and his eyes squinted and widened as the pleading choking sounds filled the air between them, joining the hissing of the totalled plane.

 

The older boy's knees shook, and gave out from under him, causing him to topple to the ground. On his knees in boiling sand, Josh hunched over and gagged. All the images came back to him; The blood staining intricate Persian carpets, the guts coated in sand, the limbs strewn here and there, the cavalry soldier and his horse being blown to smithereens, and, Tyler- implied through the mouth like a fish, panting and whining around the metal spike from the plane that had betrayed him.

 

The bile pooled in Josh's mouth again, and with burning, overwhelming guilt for not just manning up and helping Tyler scouring his heart, Josh threw up.

Acid bile that made his throat bloody and raw, and chunks of stale bread that he'd eaten three days prior, all tossed out onto the sand between his hands.

 

Tyler's whines began to resemble his name, and they started sounding more infuriated and desperate than sad and pleading, but Josh could only press sunburnt palms to his eyes as he let himself sob into them.

 

Josh didn't know what to do, and God, he didn't want to be here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Are you completely sure though-?"

 

"Mikey." Ray stared the man straight in the eye, voice insistent, and eyes even more so.

 

Ray didn't mean to be so stern, but Mikey had been repeating the timid question every three seconds, and it was really starting to grate on him.

He was a patient person, and he was also an observant one; He knew that Gerard had been controlling his little brother far too much, and that it was only a matter of time before things reached their boiling points.

He- and Frank, even Bob, had always been ready for it.

They'd always been ready to deal with the fallout, to amend things between the Way siblings, and to just generally fix things, but now that it had actually happened, Ray felt a little lost.

So, for the moment, he'd opted to just make sure Mikey didn't get into trouble- and had a place to sleep away from his older brother. And as for Gerard- well, he'd leave that to Frank.

 

"It's fine. Really."

 

Mikey nodded with a strained smile, and Ray could see the exhaustion behind it. With a tight smile back, and a nod of his head, Ray motioned towards a few doors which sat in the hall of his apartment; He'd had a nicer house back in Chicago, but the place he'd found in New York wasn't too bad, he supposed.

The younger man trailed behind him, bags under his eyes and another slung around his shoulder- withholding everything he'd been able to snatch from his room at Take This To Your Grave, before Gerard had psychically restrained him from leaving.

 

Hand wrapping around the handle, Ray swiftly opened the guest bedroom door; It was a small room, and while he felt a little bad for Mikey, but it was all he could offer.

 

A single bed in the corner, metal frame and a slightly scratchy comforter, wooden slats that creaked under footfalls, and a plain dresser. The room was unremarkable, but Mikey's face lit up at the sight of it.

Maybe it was his first time being independent; Gerard hadn't really let him out of his sight since the war.

 

The younger man smiled broadly, despite the slight dampness in his eyes as he nodded deeply. "Thanks Ray."

Ray was taken a little aback by the soft, genuine voice; Whereas Mikey's tone was usually bored and sarcastic, it was now...heartfelt.

The older man blinked, but quickly smiled back, lips curling as he nodded back.

 

"No problem, Mikey."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Brendon, phone call for you- again."

 

The brunette only groaned, head shifting around in his crossed forearms that were propped on the bar. Joe squinted from the office, rolling his eyes before pressing the phone back to his ear.

"Hi, yeah, sorry, he can't come to the phone right now," Joe worried his bottom lip between his teeth, before subtly backing into one of their offices, and shuffling the phone firmly to the side of his head.

 

"Do you need to leave a message, or-?"

 

"Yes, it's for a..." The woman's voice on the line faded as a few shuffling papers rang through. "A Mr. Brendon Urie- yes, it's about his wife-"

 

Joe's eyes widened and his jaw fell slack, phone slipping in his hand before he gripped it tight the last second as the woman gave him the news.

He gulped deeply, before giving a nod she couldn't see and speaking with a tight, rasped voice. "Yes, thank you. I'll pass it on."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A moment later, Joe stalked out of the office with white knuckles, and a storm cloud over his head as he made a beeline for the mopy brunette that sat at the bar.

One hand gripping a shoulder roughly, Joe forced Brendon to sit up and straighten his spine; The older man groaned, but as his eyes blinked open groggily, he was instantly met with Joe's narrowed, Carolina blue eyes.

 

"Brendon."

 

A sharp inhale, a sharp exhale.

 

"Get your ass to St. Francis. Right. Now."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunched shoulders and bloodshot, shifty eyes, Brendon paced through the doors into the hospital, lazily gazing around at the doctors and nurses that paced back and forth- along with the sick, sniffling patients-to-be that were sandwiched into the waiting room like sardines.

Steady footfalls echoed across the shiny floor as Brendon stepped towards the receptionist's desk, only to be met by a woman with a ginger bob, misty clouds of freckles, and big brown eyes.

She gave a professional smile as Brendon approached, before she spoke in an orderly, business-like voice. "Good morning, how can I help you today?"

 

Brendon wasn't sure. Joe had just kinda... yelled him, out of Take This To Your Grave.

 

With a slight cough, Brendon bounced on his heels and blinked slowly, "Uh...my name is, Brendon Urie- I got a phone call."

The woman's smile dropped into a blank slate of shock, that rapidly tinged with sympathy. "Ah- uh..." With a gulp, the young woman dropped her head and shuffled through papers, all while Brendon tried to ignore the sudden flare of thundering in his chest.

 

It was odd. Why did she look so nervous? Why were her hands so shaky-?

 

"Yes, uh- You should uh..." She smiled up at him sadly, before motioning her head towards a set of doors which led into the deeper hospital's departments.

 

"You should get to maternity."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brendon stared.

 

Sarah was pale, clammy, and her lips were tinged with blue as she shivered in the layers of blankets and flannels that were covering her.

 

Sepsis. Her blood was poisoned.

 

He was stood next to her bed- he had been for what felt like an hour, and Brendon felt nothing but guilt.

He'd left his wife. He'd left his wife when she'd needed him most, and now, she was on the brink of death- ready to slip away at any time.

 

Brendon had almost forgotten about their child, until a nurse had tapped him lightly on the shoulder. Brendon didn't want to look away from his wife, almost as though his gaze was the only thing keeping her steady and alive.

 

"Mr Urie?"

 

With a watery blink, Brendon reluctantly turned his head, swivelling in place on weak knees made shaky from days of boozing at the bar, and from the horrifying sight of Sarah.

The nurse smiled sympathetically, eyes crunching up before she spoke in a soft voice. "The uh...the delivery was successful- despite her condition, she-"

 

The words faded into buzzing as Brendon's jaw fell slack.

 

He was a father.

 

Sarah hadn't lost their child- they were parents, they were-

 

 

"-You have a daughter-"

 

 

The words were the only clarity between the muffled sounds, and Brendon's heart jolted with love towards someone he had never even laid eyes on. The nurse's smile was bright, despite its sad tinge, and she nodded towards the door of the maternity ward, before she paced towards it.

 

Brendon followed without question.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Babies were so small.

 

Brendon's teary eyes scanned over pink flushed hands, curling and unfurling periodically as tiny nostrils took steady breaths. Tiny lumps that were definitely feet writhed under the blanket, and Brendon could only pull his mouth into a straight line, holding back something he wasn't sure was laughter or sobbing.

 

With a nervous glance at the nurse beside him, Brendon gulped and struggled with his words of pleading. The nurse understood, and gave him a pleasant smile and a nod, before she scooped the newborn from her crib. She gave Brendon instructions that were only muffled in his ears, so the brunette only tried to copy her arm placement, and he hoped it would be enough.

 

Tenderly, the greying woman placed the tiny, writhing bundle into her father's arms, and the moment Brendon felt the weight bracing down on his forearms, everything inside him turned to helium.

Chest rising, heart light, and eyes soft and wide, Brendon looked down at his daughter; Dark hair, more like his than Sarah's, was plastered to a blushed head in thick, yet wispy strands. Her eyes were shut as she made small noises that made spikes of anxiety burst through her father.

Brendon gave a panicked look up at the nurse as his daughter kicked a tiny, chubby leg out under the blanket, but the woman only smiled with a shake of her head, and a word of muffled assurance that only sounded like ringing in Brendon’s ears.

 

The nurse moved away after a few moments, but Brendon didn't even notice, as his eyes were firmly on his newborn child.

 

She was the most amazing thing he'd ever seen, and God, his heart hurt when he looked at her.

 

Tiny pink lips, full like his own, parted in a breathy, mewled yawn, and Brendon's face split into a watery smile; A real smile. Not that fake, cheesy grin he'd learned to hide behind over years and years of suppressing himself- a real smile, full of nothing but love and adoration.

He'd never imagined he'd have a child. Back in that pile of bodies, back in those trenches, back in those camps- he'd never imagine he would even live this long.

 

...And yet here he was; Alive, and holding his firstborn child.

 

Another small sound rang from the baby, before tiny eyelids raised, and huge eyes crooked open as her head cocked curiously. Mouth chewing on her knuckle, she squinted and sniffed as wide, chocolate eyes trailed over her father's face, seemingly analysing him for the first time.

 

"Hey." Brendon's voice was soft as he bounced her a little, and he only grinned as the jump made her giggle loudly, gurgling as she chewed her gums on her tiny fingers.

She yawned again, and Brendon laughed quietly, rocking back and forth on his heels. His eyes never left his newborn daughter, not even for a second, and he could only speak in a wobbly voice. "I love you and your mommy so much, baby."

The little girl tilted her head to the other side, cheek smushed against her blanket as her mouth curled into a lively smile. Brendon's eyes watered again, and he inhaled and exhaled shakily as he tried to keep the waterfalls of tears at bay.

 

"And, I haven't been the best recently, but..." Brendon's heart ached and his mind thrummed as he finally admitted his faults to himself, finally letting himself bathe in the dark, stormy guilt that had been niggling and nipping at the back of his mind for days, haunting him like a black cloud that never left his crown and shoulders.

 

"But, I promise you," He bounced his daughter softly, grinning at her gurgles and her smile, along with her chubby little hands that reached out towards his face. "I'm gonna take care of you- I'm always gonna take care of you, baby, I promise."

With all the tenderness in the world, Brendon pressed a gentle kiss to the baby's forehead, before sniffing and letting her wrap tiny digits around his ring finger. "I love you, and I'm so sorry-"

Brendon inhaled shakily, eyes clenching as beads of tears finally slipped through his eyelashes. Mouth pressed into a straight line, and shoulders trembling, Brendon finally found the strength to face his daughter again.

 

She was an angel, and Brendon didn't deserve her; She'd fallen asleep in his arms, nose whistling quietly as her tight grip around her father's finger remained. With all the care in the world, Brendon paced over to the gigantic window, and looked out at the swaying trees, leaves ruffling in the breeze.

 

With an inhale, and an exhale, Brendon bowed his head, speaking to his sleeping daughter in a wobbly, lilting whisper, that promised to collapse into sobbing at any moment; Promising her the world, but being cautious not to wake her.

 

"I haven't been very smart lately. I've been selfish, baby, but I- I'm not gonna be, anymore. I'm gonna take care of you, and of your mommy, I promise, okay? I-I don't deserve you, baby- I don't deserve your mom either, but...I'm gonna do my best, baby, I swear- I-I- I'm gonna...You, and your mom- you two come first, okay? Whatever I do, whatever I...say, I- You two are my priority, I promise. And- And, I might make mistakes, baby, but I- I love you, and I love your mom, and I-"

 

Brendon smiled tearfully down at his daughter.

 

"You're gonna be happy. You and your mom, you're both gonna be so happy, baby- I promise."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tyler sneezed for the hundredth time that day, and Josh's worry reached critical levels.

 

"Tyler-" His words were cut off by another, particularly violent, cough, and Tyler blinked with a sniffing nose and a gaping mouth as he groaned. "Maybe you should go to the doctor- I mean-"

Another sneeze, and Tyler's hands leapt to his nose as he hunched over with another groan.

 

Josh's hand was light as it rubbed over his friend's back.

 

"Go to the doctor, Tyler."

 

Tyler sniffed, voice nasally and congested.


He could never say 'no' to Josh.


He hated it.

 

"Okay."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"So, Mr Joseph- is it Mr Joseph?"

 

Tyler nodded with a bored look claiming his features; He really had no patience for anyone but Josh- and a few, extremely select, others, truth be told. "Tyler Robert Joseph."

 

Tyler’s sarcastic words were cut off as he sneezed weakly into the back of his hand, and the doctor took his place behind his desk, hands clasping together on and resting on the wood as he smiled pleasantly.

 

"What seems to be the trouble?"

 

With a wipe of his nose on his sleeve- that made the doctor bristle a little, Tyler's voice was chunky and groggy as his dull eyes blinked slowly. "I've uh- I've been-" Another violent string of coughs wracked his body, and the doctor held up an amicable hand. "Yes- my apologies, I can see what the trouble is."

 

"Then do something about it instead of asking me stupid questions."

 

The doctor visibly tensed, before he cleared his throat and tilted his head at the young man with a squint. There was silence as the man descended into deep thought, focus plastering his features as the gears of his mind whirred, clicked and clanked around. "...Have you...ever had any...other issues? Underlying, deeper, perhaps?"

 

Tyler furrowed his brow, eyes remaining dull as his lip curled and he shrugged irritably. Rolling his eyes, Tyler coughed again and spoke in his gravelly tone. "Will you just do something?"

 

The doctor smiled with a fake sweetness that man Tyler’s skin crawl, and he stood from the desk, instead pacing over to one of the cupboards in the examination room. Opening the door, he withdrew a folder and moved back towards the desk, retrieving and clicking his pen in an infuriating, steady rhythm, as his eyes flicked over the pages in the folder.

 

"If I could ask you a few questions, Mr Joseph...?"

 

Tyler rolled his eyes, slumped back in his seat and shrugged with a rough nod. The doctor gave his faux smile again and mumbled a strained word of thanks. Anything to get out of here quicker, Tyler supposed.


"Would you consider yourself intelligent? Charming, perhaps?"

 

With a light scoff and lips curled into a smile, Tyler nodded easily, one eyebrow quirking as the white-haired doctor drew a tick.

 

"Do you often think...irrationally?"

 

In an instant, Tyler shook his head, the aloof look on his face remaining stuck as the doctor nodded curtly. Cross.

 

"Are you often nervous?"

 

Tyler scoffed again, shaking his head. Tick.

 

"Are you reliable?"

 

The young man shrugged, letting his gaze drift around the room in boredom as he coughed into his palm. Cross.

 

"Do you tell lies?"

 

"Doesn't everyone?" Tyler's eyebrows were raised coolly, but at the doctor's blank stare, he rolled his eyes and nodded; Tyler really did not have patience for anyone but Josh- and a few others he respected, even lauded. Tick.

 

"Do you feel remorse? Shame? For say...any of your wrongdoings?"

 

Tyler quirked an eyebrow again, but his brow quickly furrowed in thought.

 

Images of rubbled, sable-burnt villages and red seas flashed through his mind; They didn't bring guilt. They only brought exhilaration.

 

He'd always felt powerful in a plane. Like a bird of prey, stalking and killing anything and everything that posed a threat, or anything that could serve as dinner.

 

He shook his head. Cross.

 

"Is your behaviour often...antisocial?"

 

Tyler smirked, remembering all the faces he'd turned to mush, all the shivs he'd stuck into stomachs, and of course, all the illegal business transactions- if that wasn't antisocial, he didn't know what was. He nodded. Tick.

 

"Do you learn from experience?"

 

Now that he thought about it...There'd been so many times he'd been caught or busted for the same dumb mistake- but he always just seemed to...repeat them.

 

Tyler shook his head, albeit, with a surprised look at his own realisation.

 

Cross.

 

"Are you egocentric?"

 

Tyler's lip curled and he squinted at the doctor with an irritated hunch of his shoulders as he leaned forwards in his seat, testing the old man carefully. "What are you implying?"

 

The doctor only smiled, "Nothing, Mr Joseph."

 

Tick.


"Do you often react emotionally?"

 

Tyler's face remained blank as only one eyebrow quirked upwards, and at the sight, the doctor smiled broadly and fairly, muttering to himself as his hand moved against the paper. Cross.

 

"Do you...lack, insight?"

 

Admittedly, he did a little; Breaking into Cooperstown without a valid reason had been a little...impulsive. With a curled nip, Tyler nodded. Tick.

 

"Are you responsive to others? Do you ever fake your reactions?"

 

Tyler thought about all the times he'd forced a laugh at Kenny's stupid jokes.

 

He nodded.

 

Tick.

 

"Do you enjoy going to parties? To bars, perhaps?"

 

"Breaking the trend are we?"

 

The doctor only smiled sweetly, and Tyler sighed with a frustrated bounce of his leg against the floor. He nodded. Tick.

 

"Do you ever make false suicide threats?"

 

Tyler squinted, lip curling as he shook his head. The doctor blinked a little, Adam's apple bobbing before he drew a cross.

 

"Is your sex life impersonal? Casual?”

 

Tyler couldn't hold back a shocked laugh at the brash question, but his brow furrowed as he thought it over; It wasn't very active, he supposed, but whenever he did...get involved with someone, it tended to be quick, hurried behind a sturdy wall or in a dark corner.

With a shrug and an amused smile, Tyler nodded. Tick.

 

"Have you failed to plan your life out?"

 

Well, the war had kinda thrown a spanner in his plans, admittedly.

 

Tyler nodded.

 

Tick.


The wrinkled man glanced up from the folder with a curt nod and a short hum. He stood from his leather seat, and smiled at Tyler with no sincerity. "Thank you for your cooperation Mr Joseph, if you'll excuse me for a moment."

 

Tyler bit back his snap of 'make it quick' and nodded lightly as he let his gaze move over to more interesting sights around the room. Footfalls bounced off of the walls as the doctor left the room, and soon enough the click of a door left Tyler all alone.

 

With a sigh and a lean back into his seat, Tyler tapped his heels against the floor, arms crossing over his chest as he thought about what he and Josh could do today.

 

They'd been working so much lately, whether it was cleaning, or general 'taking care of patrons', it might be nice to go out to Central Park- Tyler hadn't seen it yet, but he'd heard a lot about it; Green, clean, ponds, and trees, grass and flowers everywhere. He and Josh could walk around, maybe talk a little.

Tyler had been missing spending time with his friend; Whereas before they'd been peas in a pod, only having each other for company, they'd separated a little since the four speakeasies had merged into one. More people meant more company, and Josh would often be found chatting to Patrick, Andy or to Jon, whereas Tyler would usually be hanging out with Pete, Frank and Ryan.

 

He'd missed Josh, and as he sat in the examination room- waiting for the old-ass doctor, that was taking his sweet fucking time, to come back- Tyler resolved to make an effort to spend more time with Josh, confirming and solidifying the thought with a sharp nod to himself.

 

The door clicked open again, shaking Tyler from his thoughts as he glanced over to the frame.

 

The doctor was preceded by two, large, bulky men, dressed in the blank hospital's uniform.

The men were stone faced, and their dull gazes made nerves spike through Tyler's chest as he spoke in a quiet, stuttered voice. "O-On second though, I don't think I-"

 

"Mr Joseph." The fake, sweet smile was back, and behind it was a looming threat that made Tyler's throat and chest constrict. The room felt tiny, like it was shrinking. He needed to get out, he needed to leave, he needed to find Josh, he needed to get out-

 

"I regret to inform you, that-" The doctor tilted his head with eyes wide in faux-sympathy. "You've been diagnosed with psychopathy."

 

Tyler's eyes widened.

 

No. No. No, that wasn't right. That wasn't fucking true. Tyler wasn't a psychopath. He wasn't a- What the fuck was wrong with this fella? Tyler had come here for some fucking cold remedy, just some goddamn medicine, not a fucking mental exam- He had to get out, he had to find Josh-

 

"And," The doctor's eyebrows raised as his smile dropped away to a thoughtful pout. "In order for you to...reinstall, into society safely... " The smile flourished again.

 

 

"I’m afraid further treatment is required."

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Frank sighed as he flicked his lighter on, lighting his cigarette's end as he glanced over at Gerard; His shoulders were hunched and he was sat at Frank's desk, idly swivelling the leather chair from side to side with his toes as his eyes remained trained on the wooden slats.
Sighing once again, Frank paced over to the older man, offering an awkward smile as he did so. Gerard's gaze barely flitted up, but his shoulders only shook, and he offered no answer or word.

Gerard hadn't been taking Mikey's absence easy. He was worried about his little brother, Frank could understand that; For years, Mikey had been confined to House of Wolves, confined to a bar, confined to a certain kind of life.

 

And now he'd broken free.

 

Despite his love for Gerard, Frank couldn't deny his mistakes; The man had controlled and puppeteer his brother like a toy for years. Mikey was a man- a year older than Frank himself. He wasn't weak, he'd survived the war and had even outlived their father.

So, despite the dark cloud hanging over Gerard's head, Frank couldn't take his side. He couldn't tell Gerard he was right, or that Mikey was an idiot for leaving...But he could cheer him up somehow.

 

"Gee?"

 

A pale hand swept over his face, and Gerard only exhaled as he tried a tired smile up at Frank. The younger man smiled back, although his gesture was brighter. "D'you wanna talk?"

Gerard decidedly didn't want to talk, if the eye bags and the stuttered breath at Frank's words were anything to go by.

But despite his reservations, Gerard nodded. "Sure."

With caution and a nervous glance back at the desk, Frank leaned on its edge and leaned down a little to catch Gerard's downtrodden gaze. "How're you doing?"
A shrug was his answer, although it held no irritation or venom as Gerard made the taxing effort to lean back in his seat.
"...There's uh- They're saying it's gonna start snowing soon, that'll be..."

Frank's words died with a nervous flash of a grin as Gerard blinked slowly, letting his eyelids stick as he held back a roll of his eyes; Small talk was a no-go. Okay. Frank could do this.

 

"Mikey's with Ray. He'll be fine-"

 

"How did you-"

 

"Ryan." Frank smiled softly, and Gerard's wide eyes dulled as he nodded gently, slouching down in the seat. Admittedly, Frank had been relieved when he'd heard Ray had taken Mikey in- it was better than the younger Way brother just wandering the streets like some immigrant.

 

"...I messed up, Frank."

 

The younger man could only take a drag of his cigarette, before placing a gentle hand on the older's shoulder. "You...kinda did."

Gerard's squinted glare was poignant, and Frank quickly stuttered out slightly frantic words. "B-But- I mean, I get-" With another quick drag to calm himself down, Frank sighed out a breath, before resuming his words with a nod. "...If I, if I had a brother- and, if- if I-"

 

Frank knew Gerard loved him, but the topic of his father and of that day in the Alps, was always a tricky one- that usually served to put him on very thin ice.

 

"I would've done the same. I can't blame you." Frank shook his head gently and offered Gerard a gentle smile- which was returned with one just as soft.

In a sudden lurch Frank really had not been expecting, Gerard leapt up from the chair and threw his arms over the younger man's shoulder, squeezing him as though Frank was the only thing keeping his heart beating. "Oh God- I- my br- I can't-" Frank could hardly imagine the ocean of guilt Gerard was drowning in; Guilt for stifling Mikey, guilt for driving him away, guilt for his father's death, guilt for not carrying out his wishes.

 

Frank wished he could drain it all away.

 

Instead, Frank stubbed his cigarette cold on the desk- ignoring the squeak of horror that echoed in the back of his mind, and he retired Gerard's bruising embrace. "It'll be okay." With a pull back, Frank pressed a chaste kiss to Gerard's mouth, before smiling back at him with wide, reassuring eyes. "Just give him some time to- to spread his wings or somethin', I don't know how the sayi-"

Gerard's nod was weaved between a watery laugh, quickly lost and blurred from Frank's mind as the older man's lips were against his own. A few head tilts, wandering hands, and presses later, and the air had gotten hot and heavy, hanging around them and smothering the pair under its weight.
Frank's hands were kneading Gerard's waist as the other man let his face drop into the younger's shoulder. Rubbing his cheek against Gerard's hair, the younger man coaxed the older back towards his mouth.
They both groaned quietly, Adam's apples bobbing as they sighed and let their hands perform old, practised rituals; Learned over years of repetition and a copious amount of practise.

A frantic knock at the door, and both men jerked away from each other on instinct. Since their relationship wasn't...orthodox, they'd learnt to separate and tidy themselves up in split seconds, just in case they were caught in the act. Frank didn't want to risk that. Not at all.

With a soft smile, he pushed himself off from the desk and padded towards the door, trying to hide his irritation, and the snap that was already festering for whichever unlucky soul stood behind the door.
It wasn't that Frank wanted to hide what he and Gerard had- Hell, if it were up to him, he'd put a goddamn ring on the other man and call him his 'wife', but that was, unfortunately, not a viable option.

One glance back at Gerard; Who smiled back with lighter shoulder and a sleepy look in his eyes. Frank smiled too. Gerard needed time, Mikey needed time, but things would get better, Frank knew they would.

His hand twisted the handle, clicking the door open and swinging it wide, preparing himself to snap with a bored glare before-

 

"You have to help me- Tyler-"

 

Josh's eyes were wide as he panted, and his face was red, as though he'd been running as fast as his legs could will him to. Frank, blinking, wordless, and taken by utter surprise, stepped to the side. The younger man lurched inside, hands instantly gripping Frank's shoulder in pure desperation, as fear swirled his eyes. "Tyler- they- Tyler-"

Frank couldn't speak, he only stared with a softly opened mouth and wide eyes; He never was the best in dealing with frantic people.
His vision faltered as his hearing buzzed as Gerard moved over, hand on Josh's shoulder as he ushered him to sit down; The low words of comfort were lost to Frank as he turned his head to watch Josh bury his face in his hands, gesturing wildly as Gerard coaxed extensive answers to simple questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brendon followed the nurse as he pressed quiet kisses to his daughter's dark hair. He'd convinced himself they were to calm her down, but some part of him knew they were for his peace of mind.

Every footstep that rang on the floor echoed in his ears, and Brendon tried to distract himself with bouncing the girl as they passed more doors that led into more departments.
He kept quiet, eyes awkwardly drifting over people being pushed in wheelchairs, people with bandages faces and arms, and some who had empty eyes and were being led by the hand, trailing with cautious nurses.

His head finally flicked upwards as the sign that read 'Maternity' greeted them. The nurse led them through the doors, before they reached a huge, hall-like room, lined with single beds.

 

Women, some weak and pale, others bright and grinning, and all flanked by husbands, children, and parents.

 

Weaving and ducking past the masses of people and the tables that were in bloom with vases of colourful, soft flowers, the nurse paced towards Sarah's bedside, before leaving Brendon and his daughter with a quick nod and a sad smile.

 

Brendon gave a stuttered nod back, but he was pretty sure the woman hadn't seen it, as she'd rushed away before Brendon had even uttered a word of thanks. Eyes moving to his wife, Brendon stepped forwards with silent footsteps, bouncing the baby to keep her quiet as he approached his wife with reverence and caution.
She was still pale, but her lips had regained their rosy glow, and Brendon's heart leapt gratefully at the sight.
Being careful not to scrape the chair, Brendon took a seat at her bedside, and settled their daughter on his thigh as he leaned forwards, eyes wide and pleading, searching his wife's face for any sign of life.

 

Fluttering eyelashes and a soft whine was his reward.

 

"Sarah?" Brendon's eyes grew impossibly wider as he shifted to the edge of his seat, gaze scanning his wife's slowly stirring face. Blue eyes opened to a mere slice, but a stuttered sigh escaped her as soon as she lay eyes on her husband. Lips quirking into a weak smile, Sarah splayed a searching hand out for Brendon's. The man instantly lurched his hand over, weaving his fingers around Sarah's and squeezing lightly, giving her a watery grin.

"How d'you feel?"

She gave a quiet laugh, head tipping to its side on the scratchy pillow as her smile broadened. "Better."

Brendon nodded deeply, thanking every damn angel as he tried to keep his eyes from tearing too heavily; He had to stay strong, if not for himself, for Sarah.
Sarah's gaze tipped to their daughter, who was very determinedly trying to reach her father's dark strands with tiny, grabby hands. She grinned softly as Brendon's thumb idly brushed over her knuckles, and she weakly clearing her throat before she spoke again.

 

"Has she- has she been okay? Not giving you too much trouble?"

 

Brendon laughed quietly, but nodded all the same, "She's uh- she's got strong lungs, let's leave it at that." The woman laughed softly, head rubbing against fabric idly as she smiled fondly at the baby- who had successfully wrapped a hand around a clump of dark brown hair, making Brendon yelp and twist his head to escape her wrath.
"Have you named her yet?"

Brendon grimaced as he pulled his hair out of the chubby fist, swinging his head far away from the baby's reach as he gazed up at his wife. "I, I wanted to leave that to...you, really." Sarah's grin lit up her face, and Brendon's chest felt lighter than it had in years.
With reluctance, Sarah pulled her hand from Brendon's, and instead, splayed it towards the little girl. Brendon leaned forwards, shifting the baby towards his knee as Sarah's fingertips grazed over her round cheek. The girl only tilted her head and chewed on her hand- a little habit that had taken root fairly quickly.

"Mona. I- I wanted to-"

Brendon nodded with a second thought, "Yeah." He pressed a gentle kiss to Mona's head, "That's a good name."

 

Sarah smiled, and Brendon fell in love with her all over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Calm down Mr Joseph- we don't want to slip, do we?"

Tyler tipped his head back with a thud, white-knuckled fists twisting and pulling against their restraints. His eyes were teared, trailing clear down his cheeks and eye corners as he gave a heart-wrenching sob, pleading once again with the unresponsive doctors and nurses.

"Please- I swear- I don't- I'm not crazy- please-" Tyler's sob burst into frustrated, grunted screaming as he furiously shook himself against the surgery table's restraints; Leather straps that cut into his forehead, neck, chest, ribs and legs, binding him to cold metal and keeping him still.

The doctor nonchalantly wheeled over a small metal table, on which sat a shiny tray, strewn with neatly placed tools. All while a nurse swiftly moved behind his head, wheeling another table- on which sat a brown case, installed with knobs and screens, along with two cords that hung from it, with metal plates on their ends.

"Right- this will be very brief, Mr Joseph-" The doctor scooped up what looked like a fucking icepick, holding it closely and flicking its end as though it were as delicate as a needle. Tyler only sobbed again, eyes clamping shut in protest, and head struggling to turn away from the sight. "You'll be home in around three hours."

The doctor leaned over him, head tilting as he gripped Tyler's chin, and force him back to stare at the ceiling. Tyler groaned with steady intervals, chest still pounding with sobs as waterfalls of warmth trailed from his eyes and nose.

 

"Nothing to be worried about."

 

The words were no comfort as two gloved hands forced his left eye open.

 

Tyler screamed, thrashing and blubbering pleads as he vainly struggled against his restraints. He didn't- He wasn't crazy. He wasn't a psychopath- he didn't need a fucking lobotomy- He needed to get- he needed to get out. He needed to leave- he had to find Josh- or, Frank, or Pete, or Ryan- fucking anyone- God-

 

"Right- let's see if we can find the tear duct..."

 

Tyler screamed again, back arching and legs kicking out against restrains that kept him down and sedated. "PLEASE- FUCK- I'M NOT FUCKING CRAZY- I-"
The nurse's voice, light, airy and generic, as though she wasn't about to watch someone's brain get sliced up into pieces.

 

"Shh- calm down, Mr Joseph- we wouldn't want to make a mistake, would we? You have to keep still-"

 

"FUCK YOU, YOU CRAZY WHORE-"

 

"We do not tolerate abuse of our staff, sir." Another doctor, voice from his left this time. "We suggest you calm down- it'll be over soon."

"I'M NOT CRAZY." Tyler's vision was blurry with streams of tears as he tried to sit up against the belts, glower and gritted teeth locking on the lead doctor firmly. "AND IF YOU DON'T LET ME GO RIGHT NOW-" Tyler's grit became a snarl as his sobs and tears betrayed any intimidation he may have inspired. "I know people that can make your life a living Hell."

 

The doctor smiled pleasantly. Tyler felt bile spill from his mouth.

 

His eyes grew dull as a shallow layer of defeat swarmed him, and as the nurse pushed him back down to the table with a shove to his forehead, Tyler's jaw fell open. This was it. They were gonna scramble his brain. He was done for.

The doctor's gaze flicked up to the nurse's- meeting her wide attentive eyes and waiting hands. "Let's try 30."

 

Fuck.

 

If this was it, Tyler was not going out on his knees.

 

Not after everything. Not like this.

 

The man kicked, writhed and pulled at the restraints, leaning up to snarl at the doctors- who took jolts back, like a feral animal as he screamed his threat raw. Everything ached, and God, he felt so weak. He needed to break free- he needed to find Josh- he needed to-

Two cool plates pressed to his temples, and with a shock that made his body jump against the belts of its own accord, Tyler fell back and lax.


He tried to pull at the leather that held his wrists down, but Tyler couldn't move.

 

 

The shock hadn't been high enough.

 

 

His eyes were glassy and blank, staring up at the ceiling, but instead of the black that should've glazed his vision over, Tyler saw the room perfectly; His eyes trailed over every crack, every speck of dust, every light and every machine in his frozen reach.

Tyler shouldn't have been able to feel the doctor's hands pulling his left eye open, but he did.

He shouldn't have been able to hear them talking, discussing how dilated his pupils were, discussing how wide his tear duct was, but he did.

 

"No, it's too small-"

 

"What should we do?"

 

"Hmm...I think the eyelid-"

 

"Yes, I agree. It's definitely wider-"

 


He shouldn't have been able to see the icepick's sharp blade glint in the light, but he did.

 

Tyler wanted to scream. He wanted to get out- he wanted his mom- he wanted Josh-

 

 

He shouldn't have been able to feel the icepick slipping under his eyelid, but he did.

 

 

The doctor's hand moved as though he were scrambling eggs for an omelette, hand twisting and beating in quick, steady circles. Tyler's heart froze at the pain. The pain- oh God, oh Jesus Christ- It was the worst fucking thing he'd ever felt- God- motherfuc- It was cutting his brain. It was slicing through- God- oh God- Searing, burning, blinding. Tyler's vision blazed over in white as violent ringing plauged his ears.

It was worse than getting shot in the leg, it was worse than getting impaled on a spike, it was worse than- But Tyler couldn't fucking move. He couldn't-

 

"Pass me the hammer."

 

Tyler felt sick lurch up his throat.

 

A deft hand movement later, and the doctor tapped on the wooden end of the icepick with the mallet, digging in further into Tyler's brain. He smelt iron. He felt something warm running from his nose. Everything went black.

 

 

But Tyler could still feel the icepick.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

"C'mon, it's okay- you're okay-"

Brendon sighed, eyelids falling limp as he paced the dark bar floor for what felt like the millionth time. Mona had been crying all night, and Brendon had no idea what the Hell was wrong with her. He'd tried bouncing her, he'd tried feeding her, he'd tried making her laugh- Hell, he'd even tried singing to her.
Brendon shifted to squint at Mona; Her face was red and screwed up as she wailed, hands curled into fists as she slumped in her father's arms with frustrated cries.

 

Brendon had tried everything, but alas, the baby still cried.

 

The man sighed as a particularly loud scream made him wince, ears ringing violently at the sound. Kissing the top of Mona's dark hair, Brendon sighed and began pacing again, bouncing her softly in an effort to soothe her.

 

"You're okay, baby. It's okay, you're good, nothing's wrong, just calm down-"

 

"What the Hell-? Brendon- it's 2am."

 

With a start and a jump, Brendon lurched his head over to the mouth of the back hall; A tall figure stood at one of the office doors, arms crossed as a soft glow of yellow light cascaded over his side. Dallon. Fantastic- just what Brendon needed right now.

"Uh- sorry- I just-" Brendon's words were lost as Mona's cries flared up again, bouncing off of the speakeasy's walls. With a tilt of his head, Dallon let his arms fall to his side and he stepped forwards, only stopping around a meter away from the younger man.
Dallon, keeping his nervously shifting eyes from Brendon, instead leant down to the little girl in his arms. He pressed a palm over her forehead, and gave a short hum before straightening his spine again.

"I think just she's tired. Knox was like that."

Brendon blinked, one brow quirking as he nodded with a stuttered mumble, "Thanks." Dallon nodded back, smile tight on his features. "No problem Brendon."

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Sh-sh-sh- it's okay, baby." Brendon pulled the blanket snug around Mona, making sure she was well slotted into the makeshift crib he'd built out of pillows on the mattress. She sniffed, the whimper at the back of her throat dying as her big eyes drooped shut, tiny fists taking their places beside her head.

With a bright, proud grin, Brendon glanced back over at Dallon; The man was leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed and broad smile on his face. As soon as Brendon's mouth opened to speak, Dallon shot a finger over his lips, quickly shushing the younger man. His eyes widened as he nodded towards Mona, and Brendon nodded, jaw pulling shut with a clack of his teeth.

 

Okay.

 

Don't wake the baby.

 

He could do that.

 

Brendon, with a grimace and hunched shoulders, pushed himself up from where he'd been kneeling on the floor. His hands almost clattered down into the mattress as he lost his balance for a moment, vision blinding over in nothing but exhaustion. But just as Mona's sleep was about the be disturbed, a hand wrapped around his bicep, hauling him up to his feet with perfect swiftness.

Shaking his head and clearing the haze, Brendon blinked rapidly as he glanced over at Dallon with a nod of thanks. The taller man gave him a nod and a smile, and both men carefully retreated from the room. With the softest click that had ever graced his ears, Brendon pulled the door shut, before collapsing against the wall beside it with a long, pained sigh, hands dragging over his face as his knees gave out a little.
He heard a light chuckle and his eyes moved up to Dallon; His face was scrawled in empathy, smile easy and eyes kind. Since the little fiasco in the bathroom, Dallon had been avoiding him like the plague- all while Brendon had been boozing away his sorrows. He'd missed Dallon. He'd missed his smile, his laugh, his friendship.

 

...But Brendon wondered if he could stifle what he felt. Smother out the last glowing embers of what he felt- that had been previously doused with buckets of water by Dallon himself.

 

"You're doing good, Brendon." Dallon nodded, before shoving his hands into his pockets. His gaze faltered for a minute, but it quickly found Brendon's exhausted, yet wide, eyes. "You're gonna be a good dad."

 

Dallon's flat hand pushed forwards in a friendly offer.

 

Brendon stared, burnt mind whirring as he tried to process what exactly was going on. He blinked, and the second it sank in, Brendon's hand lurched forwards to Dallon's- just as the pale hand had almost faltered away.

Two smiles flourished on two faces as they shook hands, grips firm and eyes kind.

 

"Thanks Dal."

 

Dallon's smile flashed into a grin, eyes moister than they ought to be under the dim light.

 

"You're welcome, Bren."

 

Brendon could put his feelings for the man aside. He could be strong, and he could hide it; He'd live as Dallon's friend, and it would be enough for him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Okay, so-" Patrick screwed his eyes shut for a moment, before nodding with a furrowed brow and a determined flare spiking through him. "Thinking-

Pete and Erika collapsed into sniggers, hands pressing over their mouths as they glanced at each other with nothing but shiny mirth in their eyes.

 

Patrick rolled his eyes.

 

He'd been trying to nail the pronunciation of 'thinking' for the entire week, but despite the long and tedious hours of practise, it only escaped Patrick's tongue as 'sinking'.

And while Pete and Erika had initially promised to help him, they'd slowly but surely become a walking mocking party, snickering at every syllable that left Patrick's lips.

Cross-legged on the bed, Patrick stared at Erika- who was sat opposite him with what was initially supposed to be focus, before shifting his gaze to Pete- who's back was pressed against the wall as his legs hung over the side of the mattress, heels tapping a beat only he knew the rhythm to.

 

"Will you stop it?"

 

Erika's cheeky grin, while admittedly adorable, only made Patrick sigh. She spoke in the thickest, fake German accent she could muster, and Patrick couldn't help the tiny smile on his face at her squinted, scrunched eyes.

 

"I don't know, I'm 'sinking' about it-"

 

Pete pinched the bridge of his nose as a laugh escaped him, and Erika quickly followed, wiping at her eyes with her sleeve.
"Oh God-" Pete gave a final laugh, clearing himself of as much amusement as he could before leaning over to Patrick with a good natured grin. "Sorry, Kaiser- just," His eyes sobered as his hands moved forwards in blocky gestures. "It's 'th'-inking, okay?"

 

Patrick blinked.

 

He understood the theory- the goddamn execution was the hard part.

 

"I know it's 'th'-" As his accent powered through once again, Pete and Erika's shoulders only slumped back, hands dragging over their faces as they stifled violent chortles that desperately wanted freedom.

With a hidden smile and a dramatic sigh, Patrick swung his legs over to the floor, standing up straight before clicking his tongue down at Erika. "Bedtime, jetzt."

Erika dropped to the mattress with a dramatic groan, throwing an arm over her eyes with an exaggerated sigh. Patrick couldn't hold back his amused smile as Pete laughed loudly, slinking from the bed and shifting over to stand with Patrick.

 

"Erika."

 

"Ughhh."

 

"Erika."

 

"Nope."

 

"Erika Liesel Wächter."

 

"I'm not tire-" As though it were a sign from the universe itself, Erika yawned loudly as she sat up, hands smoothing over her eyes, and Pete's amused voice chimed in, ringing out over Erika's soft, sleepy noises.

 

"You're not what again?"

 

The girl pouted, before sighing as she met Patrick's unwavering and demanding stare.
She slunk under the comforter, curling up with a sniff as Pete moved towards the door and as Patrick pressed a quick kiss to her forehead.
Just as both men had almost stepped out of the doorframe, Erika lurched up with a start. "Wait!"

Both Pete and Patrick glanced back at the word, finding Erika on the edge of the mattress, almost ready to lurch after them as she spoke in her dazed voice. "Will ya just- I- both-"

Stifling a sigh, Patrick stepped back into the room, with Pete following close behind, but not without caution hovering over his shoulders.
Erika shifted to the side of the bed, patting the free space with her hand as she stared up with a jutted lip and wide eyes. Patrick sighed, "Erika-"

"I...have nightmares-" Erika curled up on her side, eyes still pleading. "I just- I don't wanna-"

With a quick scrunch of his eyes, and with one final exhale, Patrick caved, edging over to the bed and sitting beside her again. Erika's head instantly pressed into his side, yawning heavily as her eyes dropped shut like weights.
The blonde glanced over at Pete- who had taken to leaning against the dresser with an easy smile; Pete had nightmares too. And if he could avoid it, he'd never sleep without Patrick. And while he'd neglected to mention it to Pete, Patrick was the same; Pete's breathing, his scent, his warmth- Pete soothed him, Pete let him sleep, Pete relieved his mind from memories of dead bodies, of rats, of trenches, of charred corpses hanging from nooses.

Patrick hoped he helped Pete as much as the man helped him.

Erika's hand lurched up, splaying in her stupor as she spoke muffled words into Patrick's side, head shifting as though she was blindly searching. "Dad."

 

Her hand was splayed towards Pete.

 

Both men glanced at each other; Jaws had fallen open, eyes had widened and shoulders had fallen.

 

"Daaad."

 

The voice was sleepier, but tinged with begging as her hand weakly jolted towards Pete again.
The dark-haired man glanced at Patrick with wide eyes, before timidly shifting forwards. He only petted the girl's head, smiling at her content noises before he spoke quietly.

 

"G'night bearcat."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I'm gonna- I'm fuckin'-"

Ray squinted down at Mikey; The man's back was pressed to the base of the couch as his legs splayed out over the floor. He spoke with a slur as one hand gestured vaguely to thin air, while the other wrapped around the neck of a suspiciously empty looking bottle.

Admittedly, perhaps leaving Mikey in the house with not much else to distract him other than bottles of whiskey, had not been the brightest idea.

 

"Uh...Mikey?"

 

With a heavy sigh, Mikey's head tipped back against the couch cushions as his legs twitched in tiny drunken spasms. "Fuckin'- Gee- I'm gonna- never ag-" He hiccuped, and Ray finally sighed out a long breath, before collecting himself.
Closed eyes, a nod, and stubbornly earned patience, Ray paced over to Mikey, before he crouched down to the other man. "Mikey?" He clicked his fingers over Mikey's eyes, that were shifting under his thin eyelids.

 

Mikey only whined.

 

Ray sighed.

 

"Alright- c'mon Mikes." With a firm tug from his arm under Mikey's shoulders, he pulled the other man to his shaky feet. Mikey swayed from side to side, hiccuping and snickering at his uncoordinated footsteps.
Being careful to not let Mikey's head smack into any corners, Ray shepherded the younger man to the bathroom; The smell of alcohol that clung to Mikey was nauseating, and Ray assumed cold water would sober him up some.

Shifting Mikey towards the sink, Ray left the younger man leaning against the tiles that lined the walls. Mikey shifted and swayed, weakly arguing with thin air- or with some figment of Gerard Ray couldn't see.

He dampened a towel with chilled water, before moving back over to Mikey and tenderly taking the back of his head in his hand, swiping over the younger man's face.
With a splutter, Mikey sniffed and sneezed against the towel, muttering weak protests as Ray carefully scrubbed his face clean, wiping away dried drool that had settled at the corners of his lips, cleaning away the drowsiness that hung over him like mist, and ridding the younger man of the strong alcoholic smell that clung to him.

 

As soon as the towel had moved away for further dampening, Mikey lurched forwards, melting against Ray's side as his cheek rubbed against his shoulder. "T'anks Ray."
Ray only nodded, keeping his eyes trained on the stream as he tried to ignore Mikey's mutters and whines.

He turned back, armed with a damp towel and flickered with determination, before- Mikey's mouth was on his; Slotted against his own, moving sloppily but deeply. Soft, kinda chapped, oddly gentle for his stupor. Ray froze, a chill that flourished from inside of him spreading all over his body. Reaching his fingers and turning them pale as Mikey's arms tossed over his shoulders with a soft sigh.

 

Mikey's chest pressed into his own, and Ray's mind clicked back into place.

 

Sense reasserted itself; Mikey was drunk- he needed to be careful. With a slow move, Ray pulled away, leaning back as he prised Mikey's oddly strong grip from his shoulders. "Alright Mikey, let's get you to bed okay?"

With a heavy yawn, Mikey only nodded sloppily and dissolved against Ray, as the older man carefully ushered him over to the guest room.
A few door clicks later, and Mikey was finally bundled up in his cocoon of comforters, yawning and still muttering as he rocked back and forth softly.

Putting aside shocked and conflicted feelings with a breathy sigh, Ray smiled down at Mikey, before patting his shoulder and leaving with a quiet word. "Sleep well, Mikey."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They're just fetching him, Mr Iero, he'll be here soon."

Frank nodded amicably, smile convincing to the nurse, before he turned to glance over the waiting room. Josh was hunched over in his chair, eyes wide as they gazed down at the floor pointedly. His hands were pressed over his mouth and nose, and he breathed deeply in an effort to calm his bouncing leg. Gerard was sat next to him, speaking softly, hand patting his shoulder, smile tight and weak.

 

Frank felt how they looked- he was just better at hiding it.

 

Something compelled him to stay upright, rather than going over to slouch in a chair. Something that promised speed and urgency if he paced the reception with folded arms and a stern furrow on his brow.

 

Tyler. Tyler had been...taken in for treatment.

 

Frank didn't want to think about what 'treatment' meant.

 

With a vain smile, Frank paced over to Josh and Gerard. The older man smiled up at him, weak but fond. Josh however, only kept his head bowed.

 

"Hey, kid."

 

A shudder wracking his shoulders, Josh looked up towards Frank; His eyes were shrouded with dark bags, and they only held pleading. Pleading for Tyler, Frank supposed.

 

Frank wondered what he'd do if he was in Josh's place, and if Gerard was in Tyler's.

 

A freezing coldness ran through his nerves, making his teeth ache. He didn't want to imagine it.

 

 

"Mr Iero?"

 

 

Three heads turned towards the double doors that led from the hospital into the reception. A young blonde nurse had a soft grip around Tyler's arm, leading him forwards with care.

 

Frank felt his breath stop, and he heard Josh's hitch.

 

Tyler's eyes were lidded and dull- more than they had been before. His hair was ruffled, his skin was pale, and his left eye was dark. What should've been white was bruised red and black, and his eyelid was swollen as it drooped over.

The nurse left Tyler stood on shaky legs, a short distance from the trio, before she moved away, disappearing through the doors.

In a split second, Josh leapt to his feet and lurched towards Tyler. His hands curled around Tyler's shoulders, and he searched for the dull gaze with wide eyes. "Tyler, Tyler can you hear me?"

With shakiness wracking his body, Tyler looked up to Josh, and he spoke in a flat voice. "Let's go home."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One. Two. Three. Four.

 

Josh counted Tyler's breaths obsessively, ears pricked and mind attentive as he strained to hear the soft sighs. Tyler's face was buried in his chest, and his arms were curled between them- while Josh's were firmly tossed over his shoulder, pulling the younger man close.

 

Five. Six. Seven. Eight.

 

Josh didn't want to miss one. If he missed one- if Tyler stopped- if-
Tyler's arms shifted from their curled places, and instead, settled under Josh's shoulder blades, squeezing as he squashed his face into Josh's neck.
He listened to Tyler's laboured breathing, and to his desperate, afraid whines and mutters; Tyler had been muttering to figments and voices Josh couldn't see all day, and Josh could only fear the worst.

 

Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve.

 

They'd given Tyler a lobotomy. Josh knew it. Everyone knew it.

 

Tyler gave a sudden terrified whimper, violent, made his back tremble, made his spine jut out. "Just- Just let me sleep- I'm tired, just- I don't want to- I don't want to-"

 

Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen. Sixteen.

 

Josh's heart ached, and he could only pull Tyler closer, muttering words in his ear and hoping they overpowered whatever he was talking to. "It's okay, Tyler. You're safe now. You're gonna be okay." Tears prickled at Josh's eyes, making them ache and pinch as he sighed a wet breath, lip trembling as he shifted his he'd back.
He pressed a kiss to Tyler's forehead, before dropping his chin back down on his hair. "I love you Tyler."

Tyler stilled, mutters and whines halting as he melted into Josh, breathing slowing to a steady, practised pace.

 

Seventeen. Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty.

 

"I love you- I love you Josh." Tyler's voice was tiny and flat against his neck, and Josh felt warmth slip from his eyes, filling breaking loose from the dam that had been threatening to break for what felt like years.

As Tyler became silent, bar soft breathing, his grip loosened on Josh's shirt, and the older man only found himself counting breaths again- refusing to let himself rest.

 

Twenty-one. Twenty-two. Twenty-three. Twenty-four.

 

The peace broke with a screamed yell.

 

"NO- I DON'T WANNA- I-"

 

Tyler jumped and jolted against Josh, writhing and trembling all over as his grip became bruising. His eyes screwed shut as they teared up, and Tyler's breathing quickly became ragged again. With a grunt of desperation, Tyler's hands broke from Josh to scrabble and scratch over his ears, leaving red streaks and blots of irritated blood under his skin, as he sobbed and lurched up to hunch over his legs. "Please- PLEASE- DON- NO- JUST SHUT UP- STOP SCRE-"

"Tyler- Tyler, it's okay." Josh sat up, pulling the younger man into his chest again and murmuring soft words of comfort into his ear. Josh's voice broke painfully, weaving with his own sobs as he tried his best to soothe his friend. "You're safe- you're safe-"

 

"I don't want- it can see me- it can see me- Josh- hel- I- IT CAN SEE ME-"

"Tyler- it can't. It's okay. It can't-"

"IT CAN- IT'S- Oh God- agh- ah- it's b-breathing- Josh- it's loud- it's loud- it's breathing-"

 

Josh only wrapped his arms around Tyler fully, keeping him close and sheltered as he tried to argue back against his vehement claims of something watching him, of something screaming at him, of something breathing in his ear. Josh was scared, but he knew Tyler was more scared than he could ever be.
He peppered kisses over Tyler's hair, as the younger man whimpered and pleaded to something Josh couldn't make go away. "It's okay, it's okay, it's okay-"

 

 

The night faded into morning, and the sun rose with chants of comfort hanging in the air.

 

 

"Josh." Tyler's face was smushed against his shoulder, whole body lax, rampant with exhaustion, and Tyler's bruised eye twitched sporadically as his eyes lidded and drooped. "I already know how to- I don't-"

 

"It's okay, Tyler."

 

"I love you. I love you- it won't- I-"

Josh exhaled shakily, eyes tearing with damp as he nuzzled into Tyler's hair, listening to his declarations of love, interweaved with whimpers of being inadequate.

Josh was gonna find who did this; He was gonna find the doctors, the nurses, the thugs- he was gonna find everyone who had a part to play in turning Tyler into this.

So many years, so much suffering, so much strength, determination, will...just for it all to be taken away within three hours, with leather belts, an electric shock, and an icepick.

 

 

Tyler was in no state to get vengeance for himself, so, Josh would do it for him.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

"Will you tell me a story?"

 

Patrick laughed quietly, hand caressing over the girl's hair as she burrowed into his side. "What type of story?"

Erika hummed, head tilting from side to side, before she grinned up at her uncle with a bright grin. "A scary one!"

The blonde only shook his head with a smile, before he quirked an eyebrow at the girl and spoke in a warning, yet amused voice. "Are you sure? You know, German bedtime stories are the scariest in the world."

The girl only huffed with a broad, challenging smile, and a glint of competition in her eyes. "I'm sure."

 

With a nod, Patrick settled his back against the wall, hand still carding through almost white strands. "My grandmother used to tell me the story of, 'Wie einige Kinder beim Schlachten spielten'." Erika's nose wrinkled as she furrowed her brow up at Patrick, "What the hell does that mean?"

 

"Language."

 

"Sorry, Onkel."

 

Patrick only hummed with a sigh as he worked to translate the old story in his head, before he nodded to himself decidedly. He was pretty sure Erika had no idea what she was getting into, but hey, if she wanted a scary one, she'd get a scary one.

 

"It's an old story called- 'How Some Children Played at Slaughtering'." Erika gave a mock yawn, and a mutter of 'C'mon already'. Patrick smiled. He idly wondered if he'd accidentally traumatise his niece. He'd make sure to stop before that point.

 

"In Franeker, West Friesland-"

 

He heard Erika bristle, and he could practically see her eyes rolling in his mind's eye. Patrick only chuckled quietly; The eye rolls didn't insult him as they once had.

 

"Four children were playing a game." Patrick nodded, eyes growing sober as he recounted the words that rang in his grandmother's voice through his skull. "One was a butcher, one was a cook, one was a baker, and another was a pig."

 

"A pig?"

 

Patrick glanced down to find Erika's amused grin and furrowed brows, "This ain't very scary, Onkel."

 

"Geduld ist eine Tugend."

 

She sighed and nodded, dropping her head but continuing to wriggle in boredom- although, Patrick wasn't sure if the lecture had been to her, or to himself, for getting his story interrupted every three seconds by a witty comment.

 

"They were preparing their kitchen. The cook was scrubbing the pots and pans, the baker was fetching the flour and butter, and the butcher was getting his knives."

 

Erika stilled her wriggling at the words, and Patrick only nodded as he continued.

 

"The cook had prepared the oven, the baker had prepared the dough, but the butcher still hadn't killed the pig." Patrick remembered cowering under the covers with his brother and sister when their grandmother recounted the dark tale on a stormy night.

"'You haven't killed the pig!', said the baker. 'You're not a real butcher- you're scared!', said the cook." Patrick remembered staying up as the sun rose, trembling and comforting himself along with his horrified siblings, all three Stumph children shivering under their covers, promising to never play such dark games together.

 

"'Just wait', said the butcher."

 

Erika's breath hitched, and Patrick considered stopping the story in its tracks. As the long moments of silent consideration filled the room, Erika impatiently tugged on Patrick's shirt, urging him to continue. Patrick exhaled with a small smile; The girl was braver than he'd been.

The story was always a punishment for him- whenever he made a mess, got into trouble at school, or was just generally a nuisance, grandmother Lena- his German, and least favourite grandmother, always threatened him with the story. Hanging it over his head like a dark, promising cloud, Patrick would be jittery and nervous the whole day.

 

"He took his largest knife, and went outside to find the pig. The pig was in the pen, crawling around in the muck and eating apples from the trough." Patrick glanced over around the room, eyes squinting as he struggled to translate the words quickly enough for Erika's short temper.

 

"Without a word, the butcher entered the pen, and slit the pig's neck."

 

Erika gasped, eyes shooting wide as she lurched up in bed.

She stared at Patrick with an urging look, but at the reprimanding stare from Patrick, she pouted and dropped back down. She curled up, and in a quick movement as the German took breath to continue, Erika grabbed Patrick's hand and squeezed it tightly in both of hers.

Eyes wide, foetal position, burrowed in a cocoon of her comforter, and holding Patrick's hand, her ears pricked to catch every word.

 

"The butcher was arrested, and he was taken before the town council." Patrick let his head tip back and his eyes close as he smiled softly, seeing himself back in bed with his brother and sister, with their grandmother's face of stone hovering over them sternly, as she told them the gruesome tale in a dark, low voice.

 

"The pig's parents said he should be hanged, the butcher's parents pleaded for mercy. The council didn't know what to do, the butcher was so young."

 

"But he clipped the-!"

 

"So, a wise old councillor came up with an idea. He took an apple in one hand, and a gold coin in the other." Erika's brow was furrowed as she bristled at the injustice; Patrick had learnt that she had a strong sense of justice, of right and wrong- despite her thieving habits. It only made him impossibly prouder of her.

 

"If the butcher picked the apple- he would prove himself innocent, and he'd be freed-"

 

"That's bushwa-!"

 

"Erika."

 

"Sorry, Onkel- I just-"

 

Patrick chortled at her dramatic sigh of frustration, before he continued as he ran his hand over light hair. "But, if he picked the coin..."

 

Patrick didn't have to finish, Erika understood.

 

"The councillor presented the butcher with the apple and the coin- and the butcher immediately picked the apple."

 

"BUT- HE- HE KILLED THE PIG!"

 

Struggling to hold back a snicker at Erika's outrage, Patrick only shook his head and only kept telling the tale. "One day, the cook and the baker- who were brothers, were watching their father slaughter one of their cows."

 

Erika looked up at Patrick with wide eyes and a gaping jaw, as she shook her head incredulously, already sensing what was to come. Patrick smiled at her shock, and he remembered his sister having the exact same look painted over her features whenever grandmother Lena told them the story.

Erika and her mother; They were identical- in more ways than one. Their eyes, their faces, and their smile was all obvious, shallow and on the crust of who they were. But their strong will, their strong opinions, their straightforwardness- they were the same inside too.

It almost hurt. Almost.

 

"The cook and the baker decided to play slaughtering with their younger brother. So, they took one of their mother's knives, and they cut out his heart."

 

Breath hitching, body tensing, hands cutting of circulation to Patrick's fingers, turning them red under a vice-like grip.

 

"When their mother- who had been bathing her youngest child, heard the screams, she ran outside in a panic." Patrick tilted his head to the side, eyes closed as he saw his German grandmother's face, her eyes dark and her stare even darker, as she warned them about playing such games.

 

"When she saw what the cook and the baker had done to their younger brother, she took the knife from her younger son's chest, and slit the cook and baker's throats."

 

Erika was curled up into a tiny ball under her blanket, and her arms had now moved to squeeze around Patrick's stomach as she gave occasional, shocked shakes of her head, and soft, horrified gasps.

 

"She went back inside, and she found that her youngest child had drowned in the bath. So, filled with grief, the woman took a rope, tied a noose, and hung herself."

 

Erika glanced up, eyes wide and bottom lip trembling, "W-What about their dad?"

 

"Well, he came back home to find his family all dead." Patrick shifted, sitting up further as Erika's head dropped onto his chest. "Overcome with grief, he took the knife from the baker's heart, and stabbed himself in the eye."

 

There was silence, the only noises being soft chattering, and Mona's faint crying, that were coming from somewhere distant in the speakeasy.

 

Erika shifted to look up at Patrick. "T-That's a...bedtime story?"

 

"Ja."

 

More silence, and the girl blinked as she stared into thin air with a wrinkle of her nose and a furrow of her brow.

 

 

"You Huns are real messed up."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"It's all jack. They'll never know it was you."

 

Whiskey eyes that had been previously scanning over the papers on the bar's surface glanced up, wide, genuine, but cautious as he spoke.

 

"Are you sure you wanna do this?"

 

Josh exhaled shakily; Did he? Did he really?

 

He glanced over his shoulder, eyes quickly finding the sight that made rage flare in his chest like a phoenix; Tyler, hunched over in a booth, arms on the table, head on his forearms. Quiet, hands over his ears, blocking out sounds that nobody else could hear.

 

Josh narrowed his eyes, turning back to Pete, Frank, Ryan, and Patrick. His shoulders were hunched, his hands were splayed on the bar's wood, and with a solemn look in his eyes, Josh nodded deeply.

 

"Yeah. I am."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas Caleb Bennett.

 

The assistant doctor during Tyler's surgery.

 

The one who'd held his eye open. The one who'd passed the tools over.

 

His house was nice; Large, spacious, Georgian furniture. Rugs that probably cost more than everything Josh owned, curtains that barely grazed the floor.

 

It was nice. It was exactly what he'd expected.

 

The group of five paced into the living room with quiet footfalls; Gloved hands, coats for the cold, and shoes with sanded down soles for silence.

All of them, in their own ways, had made this possible; Frank had quietened down the police. Pete had dealt with the names, addresses and families. Ryan had put together a clean-up team for the, no doubt gruesome, aftermath. And Patrick...Patrick had taught Josh everything he knew; The most painful spots on a human body, the veins, the arteries. How to drag out a murder, or how to end it in a split second. Mundane, everyday items that could easily become torture devices- Josh was unspeakably impressed, despite the horror that had settled in the back of his mind.

He glanced around at the four men; Ryan had taken to leaning against a doorframe disinterestedly, Pete and Patrick were talking quietly in a language Josh couldn't understand, and Frank was interestedly pacing the room, eyes drifting over anything that looked valuable. Huh. This murder might just turn into a robbery.

 

Josh could never repay them.

 

A cough rang from upstairs, muffled behind a wooden door. All heads turned, eyes locking on the staircase, before slowly but surely, they all turned to Josh.

 

Forcing himself forwards, and trying to keep the boiling lava in his stomach under control, Josh paced forwards with heavy, yet quiet, footsteps, climbing the stairs as his heart thundered in his throat.

 

He stopped at the door, preparing himself. Josh had killed people before. He'd killed around ten, he wagered. But, it'd always been with a gun, from a distance, through the ringing of gunshots. Those men had wanted to kill him, just as much as he needed to kill them.

 

But this was different.

 

He was gonna kill Bennett because he wanted to.

 

He didn't need to, not really; Sure, Tyler deserved to be avenged, but Josh didn't have to do it. He could've asked Pete, or Patrick, or- just about anyone else. They could've sent one of Ryan's guys to do it quick and easy.

 

But instead, it was Josh stood outside of the door.

 

His hand wrapped around the handle, and his mind swam when he felt no thundering heartbeat in his chest, no bitterness in his throat, no trembling in his hands.

 

Josh twisted the doorknob, and opened the door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The screams were the worst Pete had heard since the war.

 

He flinched subtly at every frantic yell for help, at every thud of thrashing limbs, at every dog-like whimper of mercy.

Pete glanced over to Frank and Ryan; They didn't look any less disturbed. Arms crossed, eyes down, but faces pale and fingertips bruising.

The only man in the room who didn't look at all bothered was Patrick. He was stood by Pete's side, eyes locked on the door from which the hellish noises were ringing from. His eyes were blank, but Pete's stomach twisted when he spotted a glint of pride.

It was the pride he'd seen in the baby-blues whenever Pete hammered out roughly pronounced German words, it was the pride he'd seen when Erika was ever particularly kind or smart. And now, that pride was directed towards whatever brutal thing Josh was doing to Bennett.

 

"Bist du in Ordnung?"

 

Pete was shaken from his blank stare by the words, and his heart couldn't help but flutter when newly-soft blue eyes drifted towards him, a small smile curling on that mouth he could spend whole weeks staring at.

 

"J-Ja, es geht mir gut."

 

Patrick's smile remained, although a rueful glow settled behind it. "Es wird bald aufhören." The words only made Pete feel worse, as the writhing in his stomach threatened to make him double over. "Ich weiß das."

 

As though on cue, footsteps rang out down the steps, and Pete noticed that the screams had stopped.

 

Josh marched down the stairs, peeling his gloves off as he turned them inside out, before stuffing them in his pocket, and fishing out another, clean, pair.

The kid said nothing, he only nodded with a stutter, before exhaling shakily, and starting over to the front door.

 

Pete, out of a sense of morbid curiosity, quickly hopped up the flight of stairs, before stuttering to a stop at the open doorframe- that led into an office.

 

Bennett was hanging from the light fixture with a belt, tied into a noose that pressed around his neck. He was so mangled, Pete was sure his own mother wouldn't have been able to recognise him.

However, what had finally ended his screams, was just above the leather that had turned his face blue. A deep, flowing gash in his neck, flesh cut through, like a dagger through melted butter.

 

Pete descended again, joining the others outside as a few of Ryan's fellas moved in to clear up.

 

The four glanced between each other as Josh kept pacing forwards, back stubbornly to the house, and they wondered what exactly they'd allowed to be unleashed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rose Lynch.

 

The nurse.

 

The nurse that had pressed metal plates to Tyler's head. The one who hadn't set the voltage high enough. The one who had tied the straps.

 

Josh had never killed a woman before. He hadn't imagined it would be very different, at least, not at first; Well, before Patrick had taught him the ins and outs of killing women, specifically.

 

He should've been more disgusted than he actually was.

 

Her house was more modest; Nurses didn't earn as much as doctors did, of course. Colonial, wooden floors- painstakingly polished, and a theme of white that settled over the room like a powder, making it look as though the rooms were cakes, dusted with icing sugar.

 

They'd heard her humming a song to herself in the bathroom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pete had never really heard a woman's death screams. He'd heard those of men, he'd heard a lot of them; He'd heard pleads for mothers, pleads for mercy, pleads for children- but all Lynch seemed to say was 'please'.

 

"Es ist komisch. Nicht wahr?"

 

Pete could only nod as four sets of eyes moved over to Josh again; Peeling off dirty gloves, pulling on clean ones, eyes set in a glassy haze- only, this time, his sleeves were a little dark. It wasn't blood- blood always had a crimson tinge behind it, no, no- this was water.

 

Morbid curiosity spiking through his brain again, Pete wandered over to the bathroom with careful footsteps.

 

Lynch was in the bathtub, submerged and drowned in red water that glistened under the lights like wine.

If Pete squinted, he could make out hand prints around her neck, before something bobbed upwards with a gulp. Red, round and wet- Pete's mind registered it as an apple.

 

But as soon as he blinked, his brain put things back in order, shedding truth, shedding clarity, and the apple became a heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alden Best.

 

The lead doctor.

 

The one who'd diagnosed Tyler with psychopathy. The one who'd ordered a lobotomy. The one who'd dug the icepick into Tyler's eye socket. The one who'd given Tyler those voices.

 

The house was the biggest Josh had seen in his entire life. A pool, a library. Rooms upon rooms upon rooms, and Josh was sure most of them were hardly used.

 

They heard Best making a phone call in his library.

 

But before Tyler went towards the double, wooden carved doors, he paced into the kitchen.

He came back with his digits wrapped around the wooden handle of an icepick, that had been neatly sitting in a drawer before it had been disturbed by Josh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pete really tried to swallow back bile at the screams.

 

Frank and Ryan had taken to wandering around the offices, glancing over the interesting collections of antiques Best owned.

Pete and Patrick however, stood in the living room, waiting for Josh to emerge with bloody gloves.

 

"Es ist poetische Gerechtigkeit. Denkst du nicht?"

 

"What the- What the Hell, Patrick?" Pete's eyes were set in a dark glare, but he couldn't stop it softening as Patrick cupped his cheek with a gentle, pale hand.

 

"I know it's hard to...listen to, but-" Patrick inched closer, thumb swiping over Pete's cheekbone in soft caresses. "If...If you, if what happened to Tyler, ever happened to you-"

 

Patrick exhaled deeply and pressed a fond, delicate, yet somehow deep kiss to Pete's lips. The dark-haired man sighed softly, but as his hands went to move to their practiced positions on Patrick's slender hips, the blonde pulled back.

 

"I would be worse."

 

A shudder crawled up Pete's spine, along with a freezing blustery breeze that pushed up into his chest, from where it had been stifled in the pit of his stomach. It spread ice all through his limbs, until it reached his fingertips, cooling them over and making shivers wrack his frame.

 

The double doors clicked open, and both men jolted away from each other; Scratching at necks, forcing blushes and longing stares to die down, and trying to forget the warm, electric sparks on their mouths, Pete and Patrick both glanced up to Josh.

 

Dirty gloves off, clean gloves on.

 

This time when Pete went to investigate the crime scene, Patrick followed, and peeked over his shoulder with dull eyes that showed none of the shock they should've; The shock that was, instead, swirling like a tidal pool in Pete's mind.

 

Mangled, ripped, destroyed.

Best had been stabbed in the eye, and he'd been choked by glistening, golden, old and rare looking metal coins- that had seemingly been part of his personal collection, if the huge, empty, polished wooden case, lined with velvet and gold, with round indents for coins, was any indication. It lay abandoned on the floor, and some coins still remained haphazard in their slots.

The coins that had been freed however, had been stretched into Best's nostrils and had been flooded down his throat, they sheened with bile and spit. The icepick was stuck in his left, green eye, and it was obvious the move had been rough and unpractised, but infuriated, all at once.

 

Patrick's words were the only thing Pete could hear over the ringing that had plagued his ears since the war.

 

'I would be worse'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One. Two. Three. Four.

 

Tyler's breathing was steady, and Josh felt the warm puffs across his own face as their foreheads were pressed together.

Their hands were tangled together between them, and while his were clean now, Josh could still feel the heavy, viscous blood on them, that had only been cleaned away a few hours ago. He could feel bones cracking under the pads of his fingertips. The smell of iron invaded his nose.

 

Josh felt disgusted. But he'd needed to do it.

 

For himself, just as much as for Tyler.

 

It'd been as though some thick, foggy and numbing, clouding his mind, misting his eyes, making everything soft and hazy- as though it were some distant dream, in which he could do anything with consequence.

Now that the haze had been lifted, floating away into the air like clouds, all Josh could hear were screams, all he could feel were bones, and all he could smell was iron.

Tonight, rather than Tyler, Josh was the one shuddering, trembling and sighing shakily into the cold air.

 

"Josh?"

 

His eyes blinked open to find Tyler's inches from his own, both heads sharing one soft pillow.

 

"Yeah Tyler?"

 

Tyler's hands only squeezed Josh's as he gave a weak smile. "Thank you."

 

The joy, the relief, the calmness- everything that pooled in Tyler's eyes made Josh nauseous. Tyler knew. Somehow, he knew.

 

And he was grateful.

 

The bones, the iron, the blood, the screams, the feel of the handle-

 

Tyler's lips were on his, and everything else melted away, puddling on the floor in dark, oily lakes that Josh couldn't bear to look at.

 

It was brief, it was soft, it was loving, but before he knew it, Tyler's face was burrowed into his shoulder, and his arms were squeezing under Josh's shoulder blades, as quiet, muffled chants of thanks, and of pleads for silence, filled his ears- completely blocking out the screaming, as all he felt, all he heard, and all his mind accepted was Tyler. It'd been so quick, Josh wasn't sure it had even happened for a moment; Maybe he was starting to descend into madness, maybe-

 

And then Tyler leaned up to peck his mouth again, before dropping his head into Josh's neck.

 

Just for the night, Josh denied everything else. He denied the bones, the iron, the blood-

 

"Thank you, thank you- Josh- thank you- I don't need- no, I- thank you-"

 

Josh pressed a kiss to Tyler's hair, and he hoped it would calm and silence whatever was talking to Tyler.

 

 

 

"You're welcome, Tyler."

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Mikey paced along the hallway, ducking past Bob, Jon and Patrick- who were chatting animatedly while they rushed back and forth from the storeroom, heaving huge crates of liquor towards the bar, in preparation for would, no doubt, be a very busy night.

 

Mikey was looking for someone.

 

Who exactly he was looking for, he was still undecided. Ray or Gerard? Gerard or Ray? Mikey wasn't sure, and while his brain said Gerard, the swirling fear at approaching his brother after so much time tried to drive him to Ray.

 

No. No, he had to be strong. He had to swallow his pride, and fix things between them.

He and Gerard had been through too much together to just let it all end the way it had; Like that time they'd stolen cookies from their aunt's jar, or like the time they'd teamed up to prank their older cousin.

 

Or like that time Gerard had pulled Mikey out of a flaming barn.

 

Or like the time Mikey had wrestled their last gas mask onto Gerard's face, just as a pale yellow mist had overwhelmed them.

 

Or like the time Gerard had, unbeknownst to his brother, given up his rations for Mikey when the army had been stranded in the mountains.

 

Too much. They'd done too much for each other, sacrificed too much for each other- it couldn't just end on the bitter note of hatred, it couldn’t just end on hurtful words.

 

Ray had coaxed Mikey back to Take This To Your Grave after a few months of moping at his apartment- although, Mikey had made the older man promise that he'd never be stuck behind the bar again.

Ray, with a smile and a fond roll of his eyes, had agreed, and had taken Mikey under his wing whenever he went out to meet suppliers with Pete or Ryan- Mikey had still tried to keep his space from Frank.

 

However, despite working for the place, Mikey tried to spend as much of his time out of it as possible.

He'd arrive in the morning, bundled in a coat and a scarf, before he'd promptly run off to the streets with Ray; They'd spend the whole day meeting suppliers, spreading word, keeping cops placated, and then, they'd make the trip home to Ray's house. No fuss, no worries, and absolutely no interaction with Gerard.

 

But today, he'd change that.

 

After stalking around the speakeasy back rooms like an extremely uncoordinated, and oddly loud , cat, Mikey heard soft chatting from behind a wooden door.

 

He considered pressing his ear to it, eavesdropping on whoever was speaking- perhaps he'd learn something interesting.

 

 

"Is there someone there?"

 

 

Shit.

 

Mikey could only jolt back and plaster an innocent look on his face as the door opened, revealing a slightly confused Frank, who sported a quirked eyebrow that quickly melted into soft shock at the sight of Mikey.

 

The older man looked back over his shoulder, and Mikey tried to crane his neck to see inside the room.

As soon as Mikey had almost caught a glimpse, Frank shuffled out of the room and clicked the door shut behind him, firmly erasing all chances Mikey had of looking into the room. With a slightly nervous smile, Frank sighed and patted a hand on Mikey's shoulder, before leaving him at the doorframe, a little dumbfounded.

 

With a gulp, Mikey tried the door's handle again, opening it easily to a slither, before jutting his head through the narrow gap and glancing around the room before-

 

Gerard was stood next to the desk, eyes wide and posture oddly straight as though he'd been disturbed from something.

Mikey flashed a tiny, queasy smile, that Gerard returned awkwardly, before the younger brother stepped inside and quickly pressed the door shut with a loud, accidental bang that made both men flinch.

 

Subtly inching forwards, Mikey spoke in the lightest, least threatening voice he could. "...It's really nice outside- Spring's coming in, finally, it's-"

 

Gerard's wide eyed stare died into a soft glare, and Mikey's small talk was cut dry and short. He tightened his mouth into a line and nodded, averting his eyes from his brother as they opted to glance around the room instead.

 

Admittedly, Mikey hadn't been expecting this.

 

He'd been expecting Gerard to either, punch him in the face, or for them both to run at each other in slow motion through a field of daisies or something.

 

But this silence, the awkwardness- all topped off by the disturbing lack of tension...God, Mikey just didn't know what to make of it.

 

"Mikey."

 

The voice wasn't lilted in a question, but it was light.

 

Before Mikey had even had the chance to glance up towards his brother, Gerard's arms were around him, squeezing him as though he was going to disappear at any moment.

 

The older brother said nothing, but the younger didn't need to hear anything.

 

He buried his face in Gerard's shoulder, arms clasping around his shoulders as they swayed lightly, simply letting their frustrations, and the ice that had settled between them, all melt away.

 

What felt like seconds, but was mostly likely a good few minutes, passed, and both brothers pulled away from each other with softer smiles that were more heartfelt than the ones they'd worn only minutes earlier.

 

Mikey glanced down at the floor, breaking his eyes away from Gerard's as he searched the slats for what to say. While he'd slightly hoped some fella that had been in his place had scratched the right answer into the wood, Gerard's voice shook him from his search and made his head bob upwards like an apple in water.

 

"I'm sorry, Mikey."

 

The younger man blinked, before chewing at the inside of his cheek as flares of guilt set his nerves aflame; Mikey was to blame too- it hadn't all been Gerard's fault.

And, God, while it had decidedly not been fun to have been stifled for the best part of his adult life, Mikey knew why Gerard had done it.

 

Hell, if their roles had been reversed, Mikey would've probably made Gerard live in an attic or something- just to keep him completely out of harm's way.

 

Instead of ranting about how he understood, and about how he wanted to lock Gerard in a basement, Mikey only smiled and nodded.

 

"I'm sorry too, Gee."

 

He shrugged lightly and avoided his brother's gaze again, "I didn't mean to say those things- I just- I- I got-"

 

"Mikey?"

 

It was a question this time, coupled with a hand on his shoulder. Mikey glanced up, eyes a little wider than normal as he tilted his head at Gerard softly. The older brother only smiled broadly, eyes growing a little red and fully teary as he spoke in a voice that sounded inches away from breaking.

 

"D'you wanna go visit dad?"

 

Visit dad. Mikey knew what he meant. He meant visit dad's grave.

 

Gerard never talked about their dad. Not to Frank, and definitely not to Mikey.

 

They hadn't been to see the gravestone that read 'Donald Way' as much as they should've, and they hadn't been to see their mom as much as they should've either.

 

Mikey was, admittedly, a little surprised. It was a peace offering, an offering of bonding- but, it required another day-long journey to New Jersey, but-

 

He did wanna visit dad.

 

The younger brother nodded with a broad smile and watery eyes to match, before speaking in a voice that was already long gone with trembles of quiet tears.

 

"Yeah. I really would."

 

With no hesitation, Gerard pulled Mikey into a bone-crushing hug, that only took Mikey back to when they'd been young; Back to when dad was alive, back to when Gerard had wanted to be an artist, back to when Mikey had wanted to be a musician. Back to happier times.

 

"I love you, Mikey."

 

Gerard's voice completely broken now, wet and laced with quiet sobs. Mikey's sounded even worse.

 

"I love you too, Gerard."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Tell me a story!"

 

"Well, what kind?"

 

Big brown eyes narrowed in a challenge as a broad, confident smile spread over a pink mouth.

 

"A scary one!"

 

Erika grinned broadly at the dark-haired little girl sat on the polished, sweet-smelling wooden floor across from her.

The blonde girl made a face of mock thinking; One finger pressing and tapping her chin, eyes squinting and head cocking as she hummed in deep thought.

Blue eyes widened as a flicker of mischief burst within them, and Patrick's face dropped.

 

It had been really cute at first- adorable, even; Erika and Mona, who had recently celebrated her second birthday and was very proud of her new status as a two year old, had been sitting across from each other on the floor. They'd been playing Patty Cake, they'd been making improvised shadow puppets (without the actual shadows), and they'd been generally having a nice time.

 

Patrick had been keeping a watchful eye on them from the bar, and he'd roped Pete into checking on them every now and then whenever he had to vacate to fetch another goddamn crate of vodka- they’d been running out far too quickly.

 

"That's it!" Erika's grin only broadened as she snapped her fingers softly, before lowering her head to tell the story with the most atmospheric voice she could muster.

 

Patrick had an inkling of which story she was going to tell the two year old, but he wasn't about to barge between them and stop her without a valid reason, before-

 

"It's called, 'The Children Who Played At Slaughter'."

 

"Erika- Das ist genug."

 

The girl groaned loudly at Patrick’s firm voice, throwing her head back dramatically with a whine of "Aber, Onkel Paaatrickkk."

 

That goddamn lilted tone hadn't changed since she was three years old- but it had just about stopped working on Patrick.

 

"Nein. Wagst du nicht, Wächter."

 

Erika, seeing that frustration hadn't worked, instead pouted and put on the best puppy dog eyes she could manage, before gazing up at Pete instead, with a pleading look.

 

"Papaaaaa?"

 

Pete only laughed quietly and shook his head, "Hör auf deinen Onkel, bearcat."

 

"Ughhh."

 

"Jus- Erika- erzähl ihr eine schöne Geschichte."

 

"Aber schöne Geschichten machen keinen Spaß!"

 

Patrick smiled, despite himself; He'd eventually managed to teach Erika her old language again, but it hadn't come as easily to her as he'd expected it to. The girl had struggled, strained, and even now- her accent was arguably worse than Pete's (who had, admittedly, improved with time and practice).

Nonetheless, whenever he heard her lilted words in her true mother tongue, Patrick couldn't help but feel warm inside.

 

"Come on, don't traumatise the poor kid." Pete chuckled lightly, but the words and sudden break from the foreign tongue, prompted Brendon to poke his head out from behind the bar.

 

"Traumatise what now?"

 

Erika grimaced guilty for a flash, before replacing the tight expression with a wide, angelic beam. "Nothing Mr. Urie!"

 

"Sagen Sie ihr einfach eine nette."

 

Erika rolled her eyes at her uncle's warning tone, and she only dropped her shoulders with a frustrated sigh.

 

"Wie was? Es gibt keine netten!"

 

"Erika- natürlich gibt es!"

 

The girl only crossed her arms, eyes tearing away from the extremely confused-looking Mona, to quirk an eyebrow at Patrick. The blonde huffed and shook his head, quickly wracking his mind for the nice stories their Austrian grandmother, Anja, used to tell them- and in turn, the ones he’d told Erika.

 

"Uh- ' Vom klugen Schneiderlein', oder, 'Die Goldkinder'. Es gibt viele davon, Erika."

 

Erika's face dropped blank as her arms did, and she gave a nod that was stuttered in shocked realization. "Oh. Ja." She chanced a cheeky grin up at her uncle, "Ich habe die vergessen."

Patrick quirked an eyebrow, but he couldn't help the smile that escaped him as he hummed. "Uh-huh?"

With a quiet chuckle, Erika turned back to Mona, and quickly settled into her storyteller's voice as she spoke with a low, dramatic tone, a smart smile, and wide, animated eyes.

 

"There once was a fisherman who caught a golden fish."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Alright boys!"

 

"Really Jon?"

 

"Yeah!" The man glanced between the other three bartenders with a furrowed brow, face quickly falling into a flicker of a frown. "C'mon, it's tradition!"

 

Patrick chuckled, "It's the tradition for a new worker- not for you."

 

"Technically-" Jon held a stern finger to Patrick, "We're all, new workers."

 

Andy only squinted. "...What?"

 

With helpless glances, Jon looked between the other three men with a slowly saddening expression, as he realized he may not get a free shot any time soon.

 

"Like, we're all new workers at this speakeasy."

 

"That's ridiculous."

 

"Oh come on-"

 

Bob quirked an eyebrow, "What tradition? What are you talking about?"

 

Andy, Jon and Patrick all slowly shifted their gazes to Bob; Andy and Patrick looked as though they'd forgotten their kids at the store, whereas Jon's grin only erupted across his face again. "There we go! In honour of Bob."

 

With a sigh, defeat finally ran through Andy, while Patrick only chortled and shook his head lightly as Jon passed out shot glasses to the other bartenders.

He rooted around in the liquor cabinets at the back of the bar as Andy kept muttering to himself as he shook his head, all while Patrick was still sniggering, and all while Bob was curiously watching Jon's movements.

 

An ornate bottle was prised in Jon's hand as he poured out strong-smelling alcohol into their shot glasses, being extremely careful not to spill a drop. "Y'know," Jon screwed the lid back on delicately, before moving to put it back in its rightful place. "I'm glad the cops didn't get their paws on this one."

 

"That's 'cause we were smart."

 

"That's 'cause you had a cop regular."

 

Patrick rolled his eyes, quickly cutting off the bickering words before they escalated. "Okay, okay- let's just drink."

 

There were nods, smiles, and mutters of both 'Cheers' and 'Prost', before all four glasses were tipped back. Shudders ran through them all- albeit, at different strengths; Whereas Patrick, Jon and Andy had grimaced and trembled for a moment, Bob had spluttered into coughing and almost had dropped down onto shaky knees as he caught himself on the wood surface Andy insisted on keeping pristine.

 

The other three laughed and Patrick quickly hauled Bob up to his feet, chuckles still lacing his words. "Bist du in Ordnung, Kumpel?"

 

Bob nodded, blinking oddly before clearing his throat. "I'm fine."

 

The other three laughed again, and Bob quickly joined them, before a booming, announcing voice cut them off from the top of the stairs.

 

 

"ALRIGHT LADIES, DOORS ARE OPENING IN THREE MINUTES- GET READY."

 

 

If Patrick strained his ears just enough, he could hear excited chattering behind the distant door; There was a lot of it, and despite the distance and barriers, it was loud.

 

They all glanced at each other, smiling confidently with reassuring nods, before taking their places and raising their gazes to the door as they prepared themselves for a night of service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pete pulled his shirt off of his shoulders, and chanced a gaze over at Patrick; The German was hunched over reading a newspaper with squinted eyes.

His pale skin almost glowed in the dim light, his hair lay ruffled on his head, and his eyes were lined with bags from a long night of work.

Pete smiled. He could stare at Patrick for years, he was sure of it. The blonde captivated him in a way he could hardly describe, and those soft eyes always made him forget everything that had ever scared him about Patrick.

 

He shuffled over to the bed, settling beside Patrick and nuzzling his face into the blonde's neck as he grinned, nostrils blowing warm puffs of air over Patrick's skin. The German only rolled his shoulders and leaned into the touch, but instead of putting down the goddamn newspaper and fucking cuddling him, Patrick only kept reading.

 

Pete furrowed his brow and propped his chin onto Patrick's shoulder, shifting his eyes to the side and watching the German hum and exhale every few seconds. "Patrick?"

 

 

"Abwarten."

 

 

Pete took that as a challenge.

 

With a shifty glance, Pete shifted his mouth over Patrick's pulse point, finding it almost immediately thanks to the greenish bruise he’d left a few days ago, that marked over the most sensitive expanse above Patrick’s collarbones. Pete lapped at it softly, and smiled as he felt Patrick's shoulders trembling under his chest.

Flicking his tongue over one last time, Pete nipped at the point softly, playfully biting and licking burning stripes onto skin until Patrick collapsed into him with a quiet moan, hands tightening in inked paper and neck pressing impossibly further against his mouth.

Pete smirked as he locked his teeth over Patrick's shoulder bone. He'd won. He was just too good at-

 

"Agh- Gott, Pete- Hör auf."

 

Pete made an indignant noise somewhere between a whimper and a grunt as the blonde jerked away, pulling his newspaper up to his face once again and letting his eyes scan the words.

 

"Patrickkk?"

 

Patrick finally snapped. He turning to the older man with a furrowed brow and an annoyed haze that clouded his words over.

 

"What?"

 

The older man said nothing, instead, only pressing his mouth to Patrick's before the blonde even had time to react.

He felt Patrick sigh, but the German ultimately put down the newspaper, and moved his hands to Pete's jaw, letting his fingertips trace over the stuck out bones with care.

Pete pulled back and quickly shot down towards Patrick's neck, nipping and kissing at his pulse and Adam's apple as the blonde sighed softly, hands moving into black strands.

 

"So," Pete spoke between hot, open-mouthed kisses over the length of Patrick's neck. "What was so interesting?"

 

"Hm?"

 

"Newspaper, Kaiser." The blonde let out a particularly loud groan as Pete dug his teeth into his jawbone; God, that mark would last for days, Patrick was sure of it.

Pete continued his ministrations as Patrick bit his lip and tried words through his sighs. "I uh- It was a- S'a new party."

 

"...Is it a fun party?"

 

Patrick rolled his eyes, and shoved Pete onto his back with a graceful move, before straddling his waist and quickly returning the favour as his mouth trailed over Pete's collarbones. "A political party, Pete."

Pete only hummed, really not concerned with politics since Patrick had started rocking his hips forwards in time to his burning kisses over Pete's chest.

"Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei…" Pete hummed again, hands gripping at Patrick's hair as the blonde pressed the bulge between his legs against Pete's. "They're trying a new plan, want to end the inflation, ally with Austria again- oh but the treaty- they'll have to negotiate-"

 

"Patrick."

 

"Yeah?"

 

"Shut up."

 

Patrick rolled his eyes with a smile and nodded, quickly settling himself back between Pete's legs as he spread the warm-coloured thighs with a soft push, fingertips smoothing over the taut lines on their insides.

The German grinned up at Pete, before leaning down to smooth his tongue over the uncomfortable rise in Pete's pants. The dark-haired man shuddered, head tossing back as he pulled Patrick upwards, and quickly slotted their mouths together again as both men sighed into each other softly, bodies growing lax with gentle, lazy movements.

As deft digits worked on unbuttoning both of their flies, Patrick's gaze glazed over again. "2000 people- around, 100 seats- Hei, they're getting popular- trying to set up socialism, huh-"

 

"Patrick."

 

The blonde only cocked his head, and Pete seriously struggled to hold back a snicker at the adorable gesture.

 

"Stop talking about that goddamn party," Pete pulled Patrick down again as both men finally shuffled out of their clothing, sighing as naked skin brushed naked skin. "Und komm einfach weiter damit. Ich gehöre dir."

 

A tremble ran through Patrick's system, and all thoughts of the party were wiped away, only to be replaced by those of Pete.

 

Patrick’s wide, shaky gaze drifted over Pete’s face- that was a little more flushed than he’d expected it to be.

Grinding his hips forwards, Patrick sealed his lips against Pete’s as he exhaled softly, sighing and arching his back as Pete’s fingernails dug into his thighs.

Everything was lazy, lax and slow; They were both exhausted from the day, and Patrick was sure the final stretch of the day would knock them both out.

 

Patrick’s teeth latched onto Pete’s neck, and as he drank in the older man’s rasped groans, he worked a hand to rest on Pete’s inner thigh, holding it wide and open.
With a glance up at Pete, the blonde began working his trail down the older man; Teeth, tongue, lips- all mouthing along everything from the buds on Pete’s chest to the deep dip between his hip and leg.

Sucking a bruise onto the skin, Patrick kept his eyes firmly on Pete, before dragging his fingers into his mouth and lapping them over quickly, coating them with a sheen.
Pete’s eyes steadily grew darker with each one of Patrick’s deft, and now practised, movements.
Lapping one, hot stripe along Pete’s half-hard shaft, Patrick eased a finger into him- making a point of keeping his eyes on the dark-haired man.

A shudder ran through Patrick as he watched Pete groan, head tipping to its side as he caught his lip between his teeth; Pete didn’t let him do this often, but damn, if he didn’t enjoy it. He only lamented how fucking tired he was, how a yawn bubbled through his throat every few seconds, how he could hardly keep his eyes open to gaze at Pete.

 

“Patrick-” Pete’s voice was gasped as his hand threaded into blonde strands, “S-Stop- just-”

 

Patrick quirked an eyebrow, but obliged, sitting back on his heels with a slight frown and a cocked head. Pete’s chest heaved as he stared up at the blonde from the mattress and with each passing moment of Pete’s sullen stare, Patrick felt his shoulders hunch even further- adding to the pain that was already there.

 

In a quick turn Patrick did not have enough time to process, Pete’s face split into a grin, and he lurched up to press Patrick down into the bed.

 

Patrick could only give a late gasp of surprise as Pete moved between his legs in an instant, and pressing his mouth to Patrick’s entrance with no preamble. The blonde gave a breathy sigh, hands curling into dark strands as his lip caught between his teeth.

With a hum that sent shockwaves through Patrick, Pete pressed his tongue through the pink ring- only coaxing a back arch and a gasp that quickly tumbled into a moan from Patrick. His tongue flicked, lapped, and dragged, and only a few minutes later, Patrick was a panting, blushing mess.

 

“Gott verdammt- agh- Beeile dich, bitte- ah-”

 

Pete pulled away, earning a desperate whine and a hip buck from Patrick. The older man only grinned, with mirth glinting through his eyes.

 

 

“Geduld ist eine Tugend.”

 

 

Patrick’s mouth twisted into an ugly snarl for a moment, before dropping into a dark glower. “Fick deine Tugenden. Ich schwöre bei Gott-”


Pete’s laughter rang out as he moved between Patrick’s legs again, dragging his tongue over the rim again as the blonde’s soft moans filled the air again.

Feeling fingers tugging at his hair, Pete only moved his mouth upwards, leaving open-mouthed kisses over smooth skin that made Patrick give choked groans. Tongue flicking quickly, Pete shifted further upwards, before locking his eyes up on Patrick’s face; The younger man’s lower lip was caught between his teeth again, and his hands were buried in the comforter at his sides.

 

Pete only smiled for a moment, before sinking his mouth over half of Patrick’s cock- that was stood on end, twitching, and flushed with blood. With a mewl that made Pete’s skin bristle with goosebumps, Patrick’s hands moved back into dark hair as Pete consciously relaxed his throat, and sank down further, until his nose was pressing into light blonde curls. Making a significant effort not to gag, Pete began suckling softly, eyes opening wide to find Patrick’s.

 

“Pete- ich flehe dich an-”

 

Pete pulled his lips off of Patrick’s dick, leaving it soaked and shiny with a thick clear sheen. He glanced up at Patrick with an amused smirk on his mouth and a quirked eyebrow. “Alles klar, Liebling.”

With no hesitation, Pete shifted his hips forwards and held Patrick’s cock at its base, pressing the head against his own entrance as he kept his eyes on Patrick’s, not wanting to miss the flutter of his eyelids, the moan that bubbled through his lips, or the arch of his back.

 

At a snail’s pace, Pete sank downwards, hissing at the feeling of being stretched open as Patrick only whimpered like a dog beneath him.

Pete stilled when skin met skin, hands moving to splay beside Patrick’s head as he watched the blonde through lidded eyes. Thumping his head back against the pillow, Patrick panted as he gazed up at Pete, teeth still nipping at his own lower lip every now and then.

 

Pete didn’t move as his eyes refused to move from the sight of Patrick’s teeth scraping that plump, blush pink lip, before-

 

“Das ist Folter. Du quälst mich.”

 

A laugh escaped Pete as he tore his gaze from Patrick’s face, instead burying his face in pale collarbones as he rocked and bobbed his hips. “Du bist so eine Drama-Königin.”

 

“Fick- agh, ah- dich.”

 

Pete chuckled, barely biting back his own groans as Patrick’s head pushed into his prostate three times in a row. “Du bist. Irgendwie.”

“Oh mein Gott-” Patrick only writhed and bucked his hips desperately. Pete clamped his eyes shut and muffled groans in Patrick’s neck- only coaxing mewls from the younger man now.

 

“B-Beeile, ah- agh- dich- oh Gott, bitte- ich bin- agh-”

 

Patrick’s fingers were bruising on his hips, but Pete only moved a panting mouth over a flushed ear. “Komm schon Kleines.”

Hands jumped to pull at dark strands as a pale spine arched upwards, bending impossibly as Patrick’s hips jumped, rutting upwards in raw desperation as he gave a silent scream that Pete watched with lidded eyes.

Hand grabbing at his own cock, Pete stroked himself twice, and with a whine that he quickly hid in Patrick’s neck, he came over his own fist in ropes.

 

“Gott- danke-”

 

“Oh, gern geschehen! Das sind zwanzig Dollar.”



Patrick wrinkled his nose at the sarcasm that lined the words. With a breathy, tired chuckle, Pete slid off of him, before slipping down next onto the mattress, and wrapping an arm around the younger man’s waist, pulling him closer as he nuzzled into blonde hair.

 

“Danke für...die Arbeit machen.”

 

Pete only laughed loudly, eye corners crinkling as Patrick pressed his face into tanned collarbones. “Wir haben nicht in einer Kohlengrube gearbeitet, Gott-”

 

Gott, Pete- Ich habe nur gemeint-”

 

“I get it, Kaiser. Gute Nacht Schatz.”

 

Patrick sighed sternly and shook his head, before speaking with a mumble. “Schlaf gut.”

 

 

 

“Keine süßen träume?”

 

 

 

Patrick sighed. Heavily.

 

 

 

“...Süße Träume, Arschloch.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

"Are you...Are you sure you'll be, okay?"

 

Pete blinked up at Patrick from where he'd been scanning over the morning's newspaper.

The German's eyes were lined with heavy bags that made their light colour stand out against the dark. His hair wasn't much better in terms of exhaustion; It was ruffled, and strewn across his head in odd, random bunches that made no logical sense. Soft stubble, that was slowly shifting into a winter beard, smattered the bottom half of his face; Jaw, chin, upper lip- but the hair was practically lost against pale skin- that had gotten even paler over the past few weeks.

 

He was beautiful, just like he always was, but Pete was worried.

 

The older man smiled softly, praying it didn't look queasy or sick, before reaching a hand across the covers to take Patrick's in his own, smoothing his thumb over the younger man's knuckles.

Shoving the newspaper away, Pete shuffled towards Patrick, pulling the blonde firmly against him and taking a few moments to listen to steady breathing.

 

"I'll be fine."

 

Pete pressed a soft kiss to Patrick's forehead, free hand moving upwards to card through blonde strands. Patrick only exhaled shakily, nodding with no conviction, and he pressed his ear against Pete's chest, listening to the steady drum of his heartbeat.

 

"Do you promise?"

 

Pete, once, would've laughed. Maybe he would've made a joke, maybe he would've put on a sarcastic voice and lightly mocked the blonde. But not today. Not when Patrick's voice was teetering on the edge of shattering. Not when steady breaths became laced with obviously stifled sobs. He couldn't today.

 

"I promise."

 

January 21st 1942. He couldn't today.

 

Pete let his mind wander, as the warm weight of Patrick lax against him calmed the cobras that had insisted on hissing and writhing in the pit of his stomach.

 

When Patrick had mentioned that party all those years ago, Pete hadn't expected it to amount to anything- Hell, he'd never expected to hear anything about it ever again.

 

And then, the news of the Beer Hall Putsch arrived just one year later. The next week, the news of their leaders being arrested.

 

A few years later, and a lot of headlines later, the once-tiny party with 2000 members and just over 100 seats, had taken power of Germany, garnering an enormous amount of members, and of seats. A few years after that- another war had started.

 

And Patrick had been called back to Germany.

 

Letters from the German government- that had, with very minimal information on his whereabouts, managed to track him to Chicago (where one of Ryan's fellas that had remained there passed the letters on), had arrived for the blonde.

 

Letters that had lauded his talent and his achievements during the great war.

 

Letters that had praised him for his strength and will, that had kept him alive in the end.

 

Letters tailored to him, letters written for him; Letters that expressed enormous sympathy for the deaths and abductions of his family in Wernigerode.

 

Letters that had promised him justice.

 

Letters that urged him to return home, that urged him to fight for his people, for his country, for his ancestral homeland.

 

Letters personally signed by Adolf Hitler.

 

 

Patrick had shut himself away for a month.

 

 

That month was the only time Pete had truly hated Patrick's silent footsteps; The blonde would only leave the barricaded room at night, in order to eat or wash himself, alone and without questions or accusations.

Pete, after just catching him slinking back into his room one night, had began to make a point of staying up every night.

His insomnia he'd carried since childhood- paired with the sounds and pictures that shuddered and nauseated him out of sleep, had almost helped him succeed, but he'd always fall asleep at just the wrong time- he'd always just miss Patrick.

 

It hurt, in a way.

 

Pete had truly began to wonder what was going through Patrick's head; Was he ashamed? Terrified at the prospect of war? Or, perhaps, horrified at being surrounded by, what were now, friends of his enemies?

 

Or, was he considering it?

 

Patrick had always been fiercely proud of his roots. Pete would often catch him singing anthems he struggled to understand the words to, telling old stories and folktales from their motherland to Erika, or just, plain relishing in speaking his own language.

Whenever Pete relented, and agreed to converse with Patrick in his natural tongue, there was always a brightness that settled behind the baby blues. A brightness that always lit up everything inside of Patrick- and everything inside of Pete, for that matter.

 

Pete knew Patrick loved him, and he knew he loved the other fellas. He knew he loved Erika, he knew he loved their bar.

 

But Pete also knew Patrick loved Germany.

 

The way he'd spoken about the party, before the war had been launched; The lightness and giddiness in his voice at the employment rates skyrocketing, at the inflation disappearing, at the news of Germans being happy and proud again, after so much time of suffering, after so much time of poverty and shame.

 

Pete didn't know what Patrick was going to do, but, despite all the fears that plagued him- Patrick had stayed.

 

He'd hidden the letter away in the small box he kept his pictures and his medals in, and he'd put it to the back of his mind- and to the back of the dresser.

 

Everything had gone back to normal.

 

Until the day Pete had found Patrick in the corner of the bedroom, reading over the letter from Hitler, and by extension, his government, with wide, soft eyes.


When he'd seen Pete, Patrick had jolted away and had pretended to stash everything away. His shoulders, his head, his eyes- everything had ducked in shame as his fingers had trembled clumsily.

 

 

And Pete had been scared again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The train's whistle was loud and it made Pete's shoulders flinch of their own accord as he turned to face Patrick- and Erika, who was stood beside him, with a nose that sniffed occasionally and eyes that refused to stay fixed in one spot.

The German man had cleaned himself up; The scraggly stubble was gone, his hair was brushed and tamed, but the dark bags had remained, much to Pete's concern.

 

He looked older than when they'd first met on the sunny day at Navy Pier. Twenty-two years. It only felt like five.

It felt as though they'd hadn't had enough time, as though they'd been robbed of their years, as though it would all be over far too quickly. It made something coil venomously in Pete's stomach.

 

Erika stepped forwards first, inching forwards and standing in front of her chosen father with a ducked head.

Pete's mouth quirked into a sad smile; He'd never expected to have a child. Even when he'd been young, it had never particularly interested him. And then, when the war had come, Pete hadn't thought he'd live long enough.

And yet, he had. And despite never marrying, he'd ended up with a daughter. Pete still struggled to comprehend it, but he loved the girl more than himself, and he felt as though that was enough.

 

Erika glanced up, eyes a little redder than she wanted them to be, and lips curled into a broad, yet miserable smile. With no hesitation, she threw her arms around Pete and buried her face in his shoulder. Pete and Patrick shared a watery glance and a smile, before Pete opted to calm the girl down as much as he could with mere words.

"Come on, bearcat. Don't cry." Erika only whined in the back of her throat, shaking her head as her knuckles went pale, fisting into Pete's uniform.

Admittedly, whoever designed the US' uniforms had done a much better job this time; The material was less scratchy, the belts weren't choking the air out of his lungs, the boots came just below his knees (no more pouring dirt out of them after a hike across a muddy field, thank God) and the rucksack was lighter. At least one thing was a little better this time.


Erika hardly spoke, but as her breathing calmed and her grip relaxed, Pete wagered she'd stifled whatever was plaguing her. "I love you, papa."

The voice was muffled, and admittedly, unexpected; Erika had said those words to him before, but they'd usually been in a really high, loud and excited voice, after Pete had overruled one of Patrick's boring parenting decisions.

 

The blonde had never been happy about that last part.

 

She'd also said them half-asleep; Times where she'd slowly been sinking away while she waited for Pete, or for Patrick, to finish working, before she'd mumble the soft words and send both men into broad smiles and teared eyes.

 

Pete smiled at her reassuringly, eyes wide yet squinted as he nodded subtly. Erika laughed quietly at her own tears and wiped her eyes, before shifting backwards and excusing herself to leave the crowded station for a few minutes. Pete and Patrick watched her go for a few moments, before the German turned back to the American with a sheepish smile.

 

God, Pete just wanted to kiss him so hard he'd feel it for the rest of his life.

 

But, alas, they were in public, and anything that wasn't strictly platonic was an enormous risk. The blonde bowed his head, shifting his weight from one foot to the other as he worried his lip anxiously.

Pete only gazed at him, eyes soft, and something deep inside him pleading.

 

"Patrick?"

 

The blonde's eyelids fluttered as he glanced upwards with a final blink. Pete was sure he could watch him do that for days.

 

"Are you...gonna be okay?"

 

Patrick's Adam's apple bobbed as his gaze dropped again, and Pete felt his heart clench.

 

The letters entering the country from an enemy government hadn't gone unnoticed, and they'd put Patrick on a watchlist even Frank or Ryan couldn't get him off of.

So, when the US had fully announced their action against Japan, Germany, and Italy- Patrick, along with so many others that had been called back to their motherlands, had been targeted for something that made Pete's skin crawl.

 

Internment camps.

 

Or, glorified prisons, if you asked Pete.

 

Germans, Italians, and Japanese people that lived in the country were to be put behind barbed wire walls, and to be watched, scrutinised, and judged- all to keep them from serving their own nations. It disgusted Pete, of course it had.

 

Thankfully, Erika had been spared the camp; All due to her husband- Light-featured, bagged eyes, and family from somewhere even colder than Germany. Pete could hardly comprehend such a thing, but the kid had insisted it was the truth, reeling off something along the lines of 'Arctic circle' Pete hadn't really understood.

Erika's husband had left on a train yesterday, a train that had taken him to a ship, and a ship that had taken him to a dock that awaited him across the Atlantic. She'd been quiet since then, only sparing words to Patrick, Pete, and to her young son- who she always prayed would never see a war as a soldier.

 

Patrick, however, hadn't been so lucky. If Pete could've married him, if Pete could've given him the security- he'd have done it in a second.

 

But he couldn't. So, while Pete might spend the war in a trench, or in an army camp- Patrick would spend it in a prison.

 

Pete didn't want to leave Patrick like that. He wanted the blonde to be safe, calm, and as happy as he could be; Not poor, starving and filthy behind a barbed wire fence, being worked to the bone while making munitions and uniforms.

 

 

With a determined glint in his eyes, and an equally stubborn smile, Patrick stared up and nodded deeply. "I'll be fine."

Pete smiled, eye corners crinkling and chest feeling warm; Patrick had refined his English to a sharp, polished point, but sometimes, just sometimes, Pete could still hear the ghost of that butter-thick accent in the shadows of his words.


The older man nodded, scraping the toe of his boot against the floor idly as he tried to think of what to say, of what to do.

He knew what he'd do, if he could- but he was pretty sure it'd get him arrested, so he'd have to abstain.

They'd said their goodbyes properly in the early morning, and the night before...and, every day of the last two week-


Okay, they'd said their goodbyes a lot, and Pete was still achy, dazed, and satisfied from it. It'd be a nice memory to have, seeing as he wouldn't be able to indulge in Patrick for what could be many years.

 

"Pete?"

 

The dark-haired man glanced up automatically; Patrick had him trained like a goddamn dog at this point.

Lip caught between his teeth, Patrick's right hand was buried in his pocket, fumbling and rustling as he squinted in concentration. With a quick, sharp exhale, Patrick pulled a bundle out of his pocket.
It wasn't tiny- wasn't huge either, but it was swaddled in a clean length of fabric, expertly tied and folded to hide any clue as to what its contents might be.

 

With a slightly tentative glance, the pale shaky hand extended the offer.

 

Pete blinked, before taking the bundle as he tried to chase Patrick's gaze, but it only remained out of sight as he began untying the fabric.

The knots fell away, and Pete couldn't help the sharp intake of breath that made his chest and shoulders hunch up.

 

Patrick's Iron Cross. First class. Signed by Kaiser Wilhelm the second.

 

Or, in other words, the most precious thing Patrick owned.

 

"Patrick- I-"

 

"I just thought-"

 

"But...it's yours- you earned it-" Pete's jaw refused to do anything but gape as his eyes bulged. Patrick's sheepishness melted away, as he understood the gift hadn't been rejected, only to reveal a sad smile and a tilt of his head.

His hand twitched forwards, before stilling itself at his side, and Pete wished it had gone through with its urge- that was most likely to cup the older man's cheek and swipe a thumb over his cheekbone; That subtle, soft little move that always melted Pete's heart.

 

"It's lucky." Patrick shrugged lightly, smile broadening as his eyes found Pete's. "I've carried it all this time, and, only good things have happened to me."

 

Pete quirked an eyebrow. "Getting chased out of Chicago was a good thing?"

 

A sudden chortle that made Pete's smile soften, and Patrick shook his head with a splutter, "Well- we're richer now than we were there, aren't we?"

 

Pete blinked, before letting his mouth broaden and nodded deeply, "Very true, Kaiser."

The two smiled at each other, eyes soft and teary, and mouths curled into weak, watery curves, that threatened to come undone at any moment.

 

 

...Hugs are platonic, right?

 

 

It seemed as though Patrick had thought the exact same thing, because as soon as Pete was going to lurch forwards and pull Patrick towards him, Patrick had already flung his arms over shoulders.

Keeping their faces stone to keep tears and desperate kisses at bay, they patted each other's backs with deep exhales and nods.

 

Pete wished it could've been longer.

 

Another train whistle, warning passengers to board.

Both men pulled back, giving each other smiles once again, before speaking their farewells with soft, quiet and low voices.

 

"Take care of yourself, Patrick."

 

"...Come back, Pete."

 

A chill and an overwhelming urge to sob into Patrick's arms crackled through Pete, but he held fast, letting his Adam's apple bob as he nodded with eyes that had finally let tears escape.

 

He glanced up at Patrick. He wished he could hold his hand, he wished he could've kissed the oxygen out of his lungs, he wished- He couldn't. There was no point in wishing.

Instead, his eyes flicked around at Patrick, squinting as warmth leaked from their corners and down his cheeks.


"I will, Patrick." His stare held Patrick's, and he watched clear tears roll down pale skin. Pete wondered if Patrick wanted to run away just as much as he did right now.

 

"Ich liebe dich. Ich liebe dich über alles- ich werde niemals aufhören dich zu lieben."

 

Pete froze at the words, heart thundering and eyes pleading to shift over the crowds that they stood inside of. He couldn't believe Patrick had been so frank. God, if someone had heard-

 

German.

 

Pete smiled to himself. He was glad he'd made the effort after all.

 

With a nod, Pete accepted his inability to sweep Patrick off of his damn feet, and instead, resigned himself to the most raw, heartfelt, and real words he could muster.


"Ich liebe dich auch, Patrick." With tears freely flowing, Pete shook his head lightly. "Es tut mir so leid für jede schlechte Sache, die ich dir je gemacht habe-"

 

"Pete nein-"

 

"Es tut mir Leid. Und ich liebe dich. Mehr als alles."

 

Patrick made no effort to wipe his tears away, and they only multiplied as Pete kept speaking, voice on the verge of breaking into both despairing sobs and rueful laughter.

"Du bist das Beste was mir je passiert ist." Pete's smile was sad, watery and broad, and paired with teary, red eyes, it only made Patrick want to run away from every single responsibility they both had.

 

 

 

"Du bist das Beste an mir, Patrick."

 

 

 

Patrick's words never escaped him, as the sobs choked down all the words he wanted to say, killing and clouding them away- never to be seen until it was far too late to say them.

Another whistle. The third and final warning.

"Ich liebe dich. Und ich komme zu dir zurück. Ich verspreche dir das." Patrick sniffed at the words, the miserable whine in the back of his throat begging for release as Pete ducked towards him, and lay a subtle kiss on his cheek.
Warmth radiated from Pete's lips through Patrick's skin, lighting him up and making everything inside of him calm for a moment.

 

"Ich verspreche, dich für immer glücklich zu machen. Ich verspreche."

 

And with that, Pete tried to leave- before a pale hand grabbed him by the uniform covering his chest. Their faces stopped inches from each others', and Pete had never wanted to break the rules so badly.

 

"Ich werde auf dich warten. Du bist derjenige, den ich will- vergiss das nicht." Patrick let out a breathy huff, laced with something between a sob and a laugh. "Komm zurück nach Hause. Komm zu mir zurück."

 

With even more subtlety than Pete had mustered, Patrick lay a kiss on his dark-stubbled cheek. Pete leaned into the warmth and the softness, but it was gone as soon as it'd arrived, and instead, warm words whispered into his ear.

 

 

"Bleib am Leben. Bleib lebendig für mich. Tu, was auch immer du tun musst."

 

 

A spark of something overwhelming flared in every inch of Pete's system, and with an unwavering glare of thunder, he nodded.


The steam from the train hissed out over the station, coating whole crowds in thick, misty fog. Pete saw an opportunity, but Patrick was already miles ahead of him.


Patrick's lips slotted into Pete's with a breathy whine, that held nothing but desperation as pale hands only driven by pure want gripped at Pete's dark hair. As soon as he'd caught up, Pete's hands grabbed at Patrick's shoulders and hair, pulling and caressing with sporadic shifts between raw want and pure tenderness.

Soft, invisible sighs rang out between them, and as they went to pull back from each other, seeing as their cover would soon lift, but Patrick didn't leave Pete's mouth without muttering words against his lips.

 

"Ich bereue nichts."

 

Pete only smiled as his eyes found Patrick's, and as the mist cleared once again.

 

 

"Ich auch nicht."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Another war- fan-fucking-tastic."

 

"I can't believe this bushwa- fuckin' krauts, I swear to-"

 

"Let's hope we all get lucky again, boys."

 

Pete glanced between the others, head tilting as he squinted at each man analytically- seeing as he had nothing else to do; They'd been waiting to move out for what felt close to seven years.


He was sandwiched between Joe and Andy; All three men were rubbing their hands, puffing into their scarves and bouncing on their toes, as many other soldiers were.

They were trying to fight the cold away as they watched the huge ships that would take them south across the North Sea, towards Germany.


Gerard- who had been keeping his brother desperately close for the whole journey across the Atlantic, had finally relented, letting the younger man keep his place next to Ray.

But Frank, in an effort to calm him down, had edged back next to him, and had made light conversation- trying his best to distract the older man from the situation, and trying to take him back to a simpler time.

 

Brendon, Ryan, Jon, Spencer, and Kenny were stood in a huddle beside them- looking reminiscent of Pete, Joe and Andy, as they bounced on the spot and shook their arms to keep the cold out of their bones.

 

Dallon, however, had a hand on his son's shoulder, as he spoke to him with a soft, calm voice, that was miraculously keeping level, despite the panicky look caught in his wide eyes. If Erika had been a boy- if Pete had had a son...He didn't know if he could've stayed as calm as Dallon was.

 

"You're gonna be okay Knox, you hear me?"


In response, Knox's voice was completely shattered, trembling, broken and high as the cold air and the fear of the enemy firmly and fully punctured his veins. "Y-Yes, dad- I-I-"

A father and a son, stuck in the same war. While he would do it in a split second, the father has no guarantee that he can sacrifice himself. If they suffer a stroke of bad luck, the son could die in their father's arms, and leave the man a shell of what he once was.

 

Pete struggled to watch, and instead, moved his gaze over to Tyler and Josh; The pair were talking to an airforce captain a long distance away- who looked positively enthralled as Tyler nodded, no doubt explaining his experience as a pilot in the first war.

Josh backed him up on every word, and soon enough, the captain had extended a beam and a hand to Tyler.


The pilot took it, shaking with a nod and a tiny smile.

 

Pete blinked away from the sight, it made him uneasy again; Tyler hadn't had an easy time of it as a pilot in the first war, but now...now the planes were worse. Faster, more powerful, and on top of it all- there were more of them. And not to mention, Tyler wasn't as...healthy, as he'd been back then. Sure Josh had helped him regain some of his...humanity, but-


A nudge in his ribs shook Pete from his harrowed thoughts.

 

 

"What d'you think they're like?"

 

 

He glanced up towards Joe, who smiled at him with an old smile he'd remembered seeing before.

With a breathy laugh, Pete dropped his head again, reeling off the words he'd said when he'd been so much younger, and so much more clueless.

 

"I was kinda imagining gorillas with clubs, to be honest."

 

All Joe, Andy and Pete dissolved into quiet laughs, that quickly held drops of melancholy behind them. Andy spoke first, words sober and eyes glazing over in something that suspiciously looked like fear.

 

"I heard they're worse than the first time."

 

"How'd you mean worse?"

 

Andy shrugged and shook his head, toes scraping and tapping against the loose stones on the concrete ground. "Better trained, better tech- stronger."

 

Pete inhaled sea air, before exhaling thickly and letting a rueful smile cross his lips; Patrick had, in some ways, truly erased the fear he felt towards Germans. He'd began to see them as normal human beings- no better, no worse.

 

...On the other hand.

 

Patrick was so ruthless, deft, silent, and just plain talented, that the thought of a better trained version of Patrick made Pete want to run home to his mother.

 

"...We'll make it back."

 

And for once, Joe and Andy didn't argue at Pete's naive statement, and instead, they only nodded, before turning their gazes up to the pebble grey sky, clear of any clouds.

 

Pete only smiled to himself softly, as words that had been burned into his mind rang through his skull- confident, stubborn, and echoed.

 

 

 

'Bleib am Leben'