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Stars When You Shine You Know How I Feel

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Patrick doesn't start off disliking Spencer. Patrick starts off being completely neutral towards the kid. He starts off Hell Week the way he always does, a little excited but mostly serious and businesslike. They never have much time to start, have to make their decisions quickly, have to sort through over a hundred incoming freshman in a single day and cut nearly 90% of them.

Patrick always feels a little bit bad for the kids who don't make the line, but only a little bit because the kids who do make it clearly deserve it. They're the hardest working and the most talented and each one of them has earned their spot.

The cymbals end up being seven freshmen and Pete. That's pretty much how it goes every year. They put one freshman on the snares along with seven upperclassmen. All the basses are returning students. And then there are the tenors.

Patrick plays the tenors. He's the section leader, which, okay, he probably would have been the section leader anyway just because he's a senior, but he's actually been the section leader since his freshman year. It wasn't that he'd actively tried to become section leader as a freshman, it had just happened. Because he was demanding and vocal about his perfectionism and the old section leader had said, "Dude, do you want to be in fucking charge?" and Patrick had said, "Yes, actually, I do." It hadn't really been an offer, but Patrick had taken it anyway.

So the tenor section is Patrick's baby and has been for the past three years. It's him, Andy, Bob, and two freshmen. The freshmen had been a surprise. Patrick had assumed that he'd fill the two empty slots with upperclassmen.

"You're such a dirty old man," Pete tells him gleefully after practice. "Giving yourself the two hottest, blondest freshmen. You're, like, Hugh Hefner."

Patrick, who is used to Pete, says, "Spencer's hair is actually brown. And if you dare compare Greta to a Playboy model I'll stab you myself. She's a precious flower."

"A precious flower I'd like to pollinate--" and then Pete yelps because Patrick punches him.

Andy breaks up their wrestling match a few minutes later, but not before Patrick has gotten Pete's arm pinned behind his back and Pete has cried, "Okay! Okay! You pick people based on talent! Talent!"

So, really, the first day and even all through Hell Week, the only thing Patrick thinks about Spencer is that he's an amazing drummer. Most of Patrick's friends are amazing drummers, though, so it's not like it even gets Spencer noticed.

The first time Patrick actually notices Spencer is the very last day of Hell Week. They've spent six days marching in the heat and the humidity and everyone is exhausted and silly and falling over each other. Only three people had actually fainted, which was good since it meant that the lessons about drinking lots and lots of water, eating decent food at every meal, and never, ever locking your knees had mostly sunk in.

It's the last day, the end of practice, and everyone's dripping sweat, which means that everyone has their shirts off. Even a lot of the girls have stripped down to tank tops or sports bras. Even now when everyone is wandering off the field, putting their gear away, people are still shirtless.

Pete has been shirtless since nine o'clock in the morning, which means that the rest of the cymbals have been shirtless since nine o'clock in the morning because Pete's freshmen worship him.

Patrick is not shirtless. Patrick doesn't care if the temperature ramps up to 120 degrees with 100% humidity, he is not taking his shirt off. Ever. The very first time he'd bloodied Pete's nose had been during Hell Week their freshman year when Pete had attacked him and tried to pull his t-shirt off.

But of course Pete's shirtless, and of course his freshmen are shirtless because of course they're all slim and muscular and a couple of them even have better abs than Pete does. One of them, the one who can actually do flips and cartwheels without using his hands, reaches out for Spencer, tugging on the hem of his t-shirt, and that's when Patrick starts to notice. Because Spencer's sort of pudgy, soft in the belly and the face, and he doesn't deserve the kind of cruelty that perfect-bodied men try to pass off as teasing.

"Spin," says Pete's freshman. "Spin, come on, it's hot."

"You just want to see me naked," Spencer says, pushing his sweaty bangs out of his eyes. He slaps the guy's hand away from his belly. "Brendon, seriously, stop being a dick."

"It's like cookie dough," Brendon says, and Patrick's eyes narrow. "Spin, you are denying me the pleasures of your cookie dough belly."

"Cookie dough!" cries Pete, and he tackles Spencer to the ground, and the rest of the cymbals follow him because that's what they do.

Patrick is horrified. Patrick is furious. Patrick doesn't even bother to make sure his drums are resting upright, he puts them down so quickly and runs over to where Pete and his stupid fucking cymbals are bullying, humiliating, torturing another member of the drum line for--

Patrick stops when he reaches the pile because Spencer's laughing. Spencer has his head thrown back and he's practically shrieking with laughter because both Pete and Brendon have their mouths pressed to his bare stomach and are blowing raspberries against it.

Pete sits up and wipes his mouth, grins at Patrick. "Salty," he says. "Tenor sweat is always the best sweat." He moves forward.

Patrick says, "If you try to blow a raspberry against my stomach I'll break your jaw."

Brendon says, "Ow, ow, ow, ow!" because Spencer's flipped them over and gotten him in a headlock and is giving him a pretty vicious titty twister. His t-shirt is still rucked up over his belly, but he doesn't even seem to care. Patrick's a little envious.

And it's not like that makes Patrick dislike Spencer. It's not like he thinks Spencer should be ashamed of his body or anything. It's just that once Patrick notices, he keeps noticing. He keeps noticing the way Spencer walks, how confident he is, how he doesn't seem to have even the tiniest bit of envy towards the pretty, dark, muscled boys like Pete and Brendon. And then there's his hair. Which is amazing. And his shoes. Patrick starts to notice that Spencer rarely wears the same pair of shoes twice and that every pair he does wear is freaking awesome.

Patrick envies Spencer's hair and his confidence and his shoe collection, but he doesn't dislike him.

Until. Until one day when the drumline is practicing in sections and Spencer reaches over and takes Bob's hand in his and says, "Dude, seriously, stop gripping your sticks so hard. Like this, see?" And he puts the stick in Bob's hand and curves his fingers around so that he's just barely holding it between his thumb and forefinger.

"I'm gonna fucking lose my grip," says Bob.

"You're really not," Spencer says. "I know it's gonna feel weird, but try it, okay? You actually have tons more control this way."

And Bob tries it. And Patrick's furious. Because he is the section leader and Bob's technique is just fine. It's perfect. Patrick's entire section is perfect and if anybody needs their technique corrected, Patrick will be the one to correct it.

Patrick says, "Spencer. I'm pretty sure Bob knows what he's doing."

Bob says, "Whoa, it's like it's gonna fly right out of my hand but it doesn't. It's like...it's like a force field's keeping it in place."

Spencer says, "You're gonna have way less fatigue that way, too."

Patrick hates him.

"Do you really hate him?" Pete asks later. "Or do you hate that you didn't notice Bob's technique was off? Because holding his sticks too tight, man, that's the kind of shit that sends people to the fucking wrist surgeon."

"His technique wasn't off!" Patrick cries.

"I've been trying to get Bob to change his grip for years," says Andy.

Pete snorts because he's twelve. Patrick decides he hates them both and stomps up to his room.

On his way up to his room, Patrick has to step over three empty pizza boxes, Gabe Saporta, and a limited edition studio scale sized model of the Millennium Falcon. He considers stepping on the Millennium Falcon instead of over it, but he doesn't actually hate Joe. He gets halfway to his room, turns and picks the model up off the floor, and returns it to Joe's room before somebody smashes it. Then he stomps to his room and slams the door and hates Pete and Andy and Spencer most of all.

**********

Patrick is used to parties. Patrick lives in a house with somewhere between five and sixteen other guys, depending on the day. Andy, Joe, Pete, and Patrick are the only four whose names are actually on the lease, but that doesn’t matter. Gabe Saporta had moved in sometime during sophomore year and just stayed. And sometimes he was the only one who occupied the attic room and sometimes he had four other people living up there with him for weeks at a time.

Gabe throws a lot of parties. Pete throws a lot of parties. Sometimes Gabe and Pete will throw different parties at the same time, so there'll be a screamo band in the backyard and the top floors of the house will be converted into some sort of European discotheque with strobe lights and music consisting mostly of synthesizers and beats.

Some nights, though, Gabe and Pete will join forces and throw parties together, and those are the night that Patrick usually packs up everything valuable he owns and hides it under his bed or in the trunk of his car. It's not that Patrick's a neat freak or anything. He just hates people touching his shit.

Pete and Gabe decide to throw a party to celebrate the marching band's amazing performance during Homecoming. It had been a Michael Jackson medley complete with Thriller dance. During Smooth Criminal, Brendon had done backflips across the entire stadium with cymbals still strapped to his hands and the crowd had gone insane.

The football team had lost spectacularly but, well, that was par for the course. And everyone knew Homecoming was all about marching band, anyway. Gabe wasn't even in marching band, but that didn't dim his enthusiasm when planning the party. He and Pete booked a DJ and got kegs and ridiculous amounts of hard liquor.

Patrick carefully packs away his guitars and his keyboard and stows them under his bed, hidden beneath blankets and behind plastic tubs full of sheet music. He puts his laptop, his stereo, and his speakers in the trunk of his car, then drives five blocks and parks under a streetlight in front of the Anglican church.

He can't do much about his drum kit. He can disassemble it and pack it away in cases, but it’s a lot of work and he still won't be able to hide it. He does hide the stool so nobody can sit behind it, and he hides all his drumsticks. He pulls out the giant sign he'd made on poster board a year earlier and keeps in his closet for just these occasions. It says, "IF YOU TOUCH THESE DRUMS I WILL CUT OFF YOUR BALLS." Beneath that, in Pete's handwriting, it says, "Patrick you are sexist girls like drums too."

Patrick shuts and locks his bedroom door behind him. He'd installed a deadbolt years before, which usually kept people out. Usually. He suspected that William Beckett was actually a master criminal in the witness protection program and that he liked to pick Patrick's deadbolt just to keep himself in the game.

By nine o'clock, the house is starting to fill with people. By ten it's packed. By eleven o'clock, it's starting to reach dangerous levels and Patrick goes off to find Pete.

Pete is set up in the dining room, the table turned into a bar, laughing to himself as he pours drops and dollops of different alcohols into cups and hands them out to the surrounding partygoers.

Patrick says, "I think the house is over capacity."

Pete says, "'Trick! I'm making a drink in your honor!"

Patrick says, "Seriously. I think maybe the floorboards are going to start caving in."

Pete says, "I'm going to put Barenjager in it because you are sweet like honey. And tangerine schnapps because you are tart. And also tequila because you are saucy."

Patrick says, "That sounds terrible."

The guy next to him says, "His last concoction consisted of rum, whiskey, mint schnapps, Kahlua, and lemon juice. Consider yourself lucky."

Patrick is about to consider himself lucky, but then he notices that the guy next to him is Spencer. Because he's Spencer's section leader, he is polite. He says, "Hello," then, "I have to go. I seriously think there might start to be structural damage very soon."

Spencer looks around at the crowd and says, "Yeah, I totally get that." Then Spencer pushes his way through the crowd, climbs up the outside of the stairs while hanging onto the banister, and shouts, "Cops! The cops are here! Cops everywhere! Run, everybody, it's the cops!" Spencer has a totally loud yelling voice, even louder than Patrick's, and Patrick is loud when he's angry.

People start to run. Furniture gets knocked over. Within five minutes, though, there are maybe only thirty people left in the house.

Gabe, who had taken over the DJ when the DJ had taken of with William, puts down his headphones and says, "Where the hell did my party go?"

"Patrick ruined it," Pete says darkly.

Patrick says, "Wait, how did I--"

"Way to go, Stump," Gabe snaps.

"But," says Patrick, "I didn't, I just said it looked like it was becoming structurally unsound and--"

"I was making you your own fucking drink," Pete tells him. "I make a drink for you and you repay me by running everyone off?"

Spencer's still standing on the steps, on the far side, hanging from the banister. He says, "Pete, shut the fuck up. There were too many goddamn people in this house and you know it. If somebody left that you wanted to hook up with or whatever, just text them and tell them to come back."

Pete looks around at the people still there. He says, "Actually, I think I'm good."

"And you," Spencer says, turning towards Gabe. "What? You're not quality enough to DJ for a small group of people? You need a crowd covering up how much you suck?"

Gabe frowns and says, "No. Fuck you."

"Then drop some fucking beats, asshole. Or is this not still a party?"

Patrick hates Spencer so much he can't even breathe. He stomps up to his room. His door's unlocked. William is curled up in his bed with the DJ. There is a post-coital glow about them, and a post-coital smell about Patrick's room.

"One," says Patrick, closing his eyes. "Two. Three."

"Who is that and why is he counting?" the DJ asks.

"Seriously, Travie," says William. "This is the part where we get dressed really fast and run away before he gets to ten."

**********

"You're not mad at me, are you?" Pete asks, pressing his cold nose to the back of Patrick's neck.

Patrick sighs wearily and just accepts Pete's hug. He says, "Why would I be mad at you? Because every single one of your friends is insane?"

"You're my friend," Pete tells him. "Does that mean you're insane?"

Patrick sighs again. He says, "Probably. How bad is the downstairs?"

"You probably don't want to go down there without shoes on until Joe's had the carpet cleaners through," Pete tells him. "It was kind of an insane party. I think I puked up my entire intestinal tract."

Patrick doesn't want to laugh, but he does. He says, "That's what you get for mixing your liquors."

Pete says, "You wanna go get brunch?"

"I thought you just puked up your entire intestinal tract."

"That was hours ago," Pete tells him. "Now I'm all empty and hungry. Plus pancakes. Pancakes are perfect hangover food."

Patrick agrees to go get brunch with Pete. They walk to the diner since it's not far and since Patrick's car is parked in that direction, anyway.

"I hate Spencer Smith," Patrick says after their coffee arrives.

Pete grins at him.

"No, seriously. I can't even. I don't. There aren't words, Pete. There aren't words for how annoying he is."

Pete raises his eyebrows. "Okay, just a reality check here, but you're best friends with me. You're saying Spencer's more annoying than I am?"

"You're not annoying," says Patrick. "Or, well, not really. I don’t hate you the way I hate him."

"You don't hate him," says Pete.

"I really, really do."

"You can't hate him," Pete says. "Because I think he and Brendon are maybe alternate reality versions of you and me, and you can't hate a you from another universe, Patrick. That would be wrong."

Patrick drinks his coffee and waits to see if Pete can unravel what he just said into something understandable or if he'll just make it into more of a jumble.

"Because Brendon, right, he's in your face all the time and he's always talking and he doesn't even know how to filter his thoughts before he says them. And he's totally desperate for attention and he's always laughing but I think maybe there's something really shitty behind the way he's always trying so hard, you know? So I totally dig him because he reminds me of me which, yeah, makes me a narcissist. That's really no surprise. And Spencer's driven and, well, not quiet, not at all quiet, but compared to Brendon he's quiet and focused and driven and kind of a bitch sometimes and really, really good at everything he does. Only that's kind of where the comparison breaks down because if Spencer's you he should be good at everything, but he's really only amazing at drumming and math. And if Brendon's supposed to be me he should only be good at, like, two things, too, but he's actually good at everything when it comes to music the way you are, so. Yeah. Alternate universe. Sometimes things get switched around in weird ways."

Patrick says, "To me, your brain will always be the most fascinating universe."

Pete grins at him and when their food comes, he steals a slice of cantaloupe off the side of Patrick's plate.

After they eat, they walk towards Patrick's car. Pete says, "Oh! And another thing with the whole alternate universe thing, Brendon's straight."

Patrick says, "Okay." Because he'd assumed that. He just assumes that most people are straight and he's right most of the time.

"Brendon's straight," says Pete, "like me."

Patrick says, "I'm going to throw a parade for the both of you."

Pete snickers and shakes his head. He says, "Patrick, you're not following my train of thought."

"I never follow your train of thought."

"Brendon's me, so he's straight. And Spencer's you, so he's not."

Patrick rolls his eyes. "I don't think you can determine someone's sexuality based on a half-assed theory of alternate universes."

Pete says, "It's not half-assed. And also, he really isn't straight. Like, at all. Alternate realities aside."

Patrick says, "Awesome. Now you get to throw us a parade. Holy shit, did somebody tag my fucking car?"

Somebody had. Somebody had spray painted, "God is Gay!" on the driver's side of Patrick's car.

Pete says, "I kind of like it."

Patrick says, "Motherfucker, I hate the world."

**********

That night, Patrick had a dream where when he went for breakfast, Spencer was sitting in his spot and eating his waffles and talking to Andy about what bands they were going to see play in the next week.

When Patrick went to classes, Spencer was already there and the professors were calling him Patrick and they didn't even notice the real Patrick when he tried to get their attention.

Then Patrick went to rehearsal and Spencer was the section leader and Patrick had been demoted to third-rotation bass drummer, which was a position that didn't even exist, and when Patrick finally got home after his shitty, shitty day, Spencer was sitting on Patrick's bed and Pete was drawing on Spencer's arms with Sharpie and showing Spencer his poetry and Spencer was wearing really awesome shoes and Patrick's favorite hat.

Patrick's not the kind of person who analyzes his dreams. He doesn't even need to analyze that one. He just wakes up and there's a horrible, heavy ball of dread in his stomach and he curls onto his side and realizes that he doesn't hate Spencer at all. He hates himself because Spencer's better than him at everything. Hell, Spencer's even better than he is at being Patrick.

He stays in bed all day with the curtains drawn and the covers over his head. A couple people stick their heads into his room to see if he's okay, but when he says he's sick they leave him alone. Andy brings him spicy ginger tea sweetened with agave nectar and Gabe brings him comic books, but other than that people just let him sleep.

Until Pete gets home from his last class around seven and climbs into Patrick's bed with him.

"I'm sick," Patrick says.

"You're not sick. I'd know it if you were sick. I'd be able to tell."

"I'm telling you right now. I'm sick."

"You're not sick. You're moping. Patrick, this isn't like you. I don't like mopey Patrick."

"Then go hang out with Spencer," Patrick grumbles.

Pete says, "I have the market on non sequiturs. You're not allowed to use them as a conversational device."

Patrick says, "It's not a non sequitur. Spencer's the better, shinier, alternate reality version of me. I'm mopey and cranky and stupid and you should hang out with him instead."

He's not expecting Pete to shove him off the bed, flip him onto his back, and pin him to the floor, but that's what happens. "What did you just say?" Pete demands.

Patrick barely even tries to struggle. He says, "He's a better drummer than me. He's a better dresser than me. He has really great hair and he's funny and he can do math in his head. Compared to him, I'm just pathetic."

Pete shoves Patrick's shoulders harder into the floor. His face is inches from Patrick's, and Patrick's not wearing his glasses so he can't really see Pete's face, anyway, but he can tell that Pete's mad. Pete's angry in a way that Patrick doesn't think he's ever seen before.

Pete slams him into the floor and says, "You're a fucking idiot if you think for one second that anyone, anyone is better than you, do you understand me? You're a fucking idiot if you don't realize that you're the fucking coolest dude on the entire planet."

Then Pete collapses on top of him and presses his face against Patrick's neck.

Patrick says, "Um," because it feels weird. It doesn't feel the way it usually does when Pete hangs all over him. He says, "Pete?"

Pete says, "Give me a minute, dude. I'm working up to something here."

Patrick says, "I don't...this feels really weird." And that's saying something. Patrick's used to waking up to find Pete snuggled up against him at least once a week, and Pete usually sleeps naked.

"Look, if you'll just shut up for two seconds and let me concentrate I'm going to go down on you," Pete says.

Patrick shoves him off and scrambles away.

Pete says, "Way to be homophobic, dude."

Patrick says, "You're not even, you were going to what? You were trying to work up the nerve to what?"

"I thought maybe the speech about you being awesome would sink in better if I sucked you off," Pete tells him. "Orgasms as positive reinforcement or something."

Patrick sighs and says, "Pete. Seriously. We've had this conversation."

Pete frowns. He says, "I want you to be my soul mate. Only, you know. I don't know if I can put a dick in my mouth. I was pretty close just then, I think. I'd almost convinced myself to do it."

Patrick says, "In some twisted way, I already am your soul mate. Only we're not having sex. Ever."

Pete says, "Yeah, okay. That's actually a relief. I was kind of afraid I might gag."

Patrick says, "You're such a fucking douchebag."

"I mean it, though, about how nobody's better than you. And I fucking hate the way you can't see that."

Patrick says, "Can we not talk about this?"

Pete says, "For now. But you know I'm just going to bring it up at some completely inappropriate moment later."

Patrick says, "Yes. I know."

Patrick had actually wanted to sleep with Pete once upon a time. Once upon a time being the first month and a half of freshman year, when Pete had been sparkling and loud and obnoxious and Patrick hadn't been able to stand him.

Patrick says, "Well, fuck."

Pete says, "What?"

Patrick says, "Never mind. I just. I'm really stupid sometimes."

Pete says, "Duh," and then suggests they order pizza.

**********

The thing is, Spencer Smith is attractive. Really attractive. He's hot. Patrick can admit that to himself, now. He thinks Spencer's hot. And that really, really sucks.

It sucks because attractive boys don't like Patrick. Attractive boys like Pete and they only look at Patrick for half a second after realizing that Pete doesn't like attractive boys. And then they look right past Patrick, anyway, once they realize that William and Gabe both like attractive boys a lot and sometimes even like to share.

Patrick doesn't even get Pete's rejects. Patrick doesn't get anyone. Patrick definitely doesn't have a chance with anyone as ridiculously attractive as Spencer. Spencer with his pretty hair and his gorgeous smile and his soft, perfect belly.

Patrick knows he's just going to have to live with the fact that no matter how giant his stupid crush on Spencer is, nothing's ever going to come of it. And it sucks. And it hurts. And he hates it kind of a lot. And he hates the way he is around Spencer now that he can put an actual name to the feeling Spencer gives him, a name that isn't, I feel really uncomfortable so it must be hate.

Patrick passes Spencer and Greta and Brendon and a few other freshman on the drumline spread out on the grass in front of the music building eating lunch.

Brendon is saying, "Yes, okay, fine but my question is this, my question is: can you do backflips while playing the snare?"

Spencer waves and says, "Hey, Patrick."

Greta says, "You have to try one of Spencer's veggie burgers, they're amazing."

Patrick gives them a quick wave and tugs on his hat as he ducks his head down and mutters something about being late for a lesson. Then he sits alone in the practice room feeling stupid because he's hungry and he really would have liked a veggie burger and he can't wait until he gets over his stupid crush on Spencer.

Thankfully about the same time Patrick realizes that he likes Spencer, Pete realizes that he likes a girl in the anthropology department, and the anthropology girl likes him back. He's gone most of the time, over at her house, which sucks because Patrick misses him.

Mostly it's good, though, because Patrick's miserable and when Patrick's miserable he makes everyone around him miserable too. If Pete were around enough to see how cranky and nasty Patrick was being he'd know something was wrong. He'd know something was wrong and he'd poke and pry and prod until Patrick told him what was wrong, and then he'd want to fix it.

Patrick hates it when Pete tries to fix his love life. It has never been anything except a complete disaster.

The next time Joe gets too stoned to put his toys away, Patrick doesn't step over them on his way down the stairs, he just stomps all over Joe's X-wing fighters and feels a sick sense of glee as the plastic snaps and crunches under his heels.

He tells Andy if he were really an anarchist he'd be living in a cave instead of majoring in history and living so fully in the civilization he pretends to hate and when Andy tries to explain himself, Patrick scoffs and says he's a hypocrite and might as well just go join the campus Republicans and admit that he's a sell-out.

The next time he finds William trying to pick a lock, he confiscates William's tools and snaps each tiny lockpick into pieces before giving it back. He tells Gabe he's boring and he forbids any sort of synth-based pop to be played anywhere in the house no matter what time of day it is.

He knows he's being a jerk as he runs sectionals, knows he's being too hard when he yells at Greta for dropping her sticks twice during a new routine. It's a hard one, and they're flipping their sticks almost every other measure, so one of them is bound to lose their grip eventually and Greta's the first one who does. Patrick knows he's being irrational even as he starts yelling at her, and when he sees her lower lip quiver, when she jerks her head up and clenches her jaw and stares him straight in the eye, refusing to break down even though she's so close to tears, he feels like the biggest fucking asshole in the entire world.

He stops yelling at her mid rant and rubs his hands over his face. He says, "Fuck," and turns to leave.

"Asshole," somebody grumbles behind him as he leaves. He recognizes Andy's voice.

He's halfway down the hall when someone says, "Hey," and grabs his arm. He whirls, expecting Bob or maybe even Andy to be there to call him on his bullshit, but it's Spencer.

"The fuck is your problem?" Spencer asks.

And Patrick's temper flares up again, because it's not fair. It's not fair that Spencer can look like that and touch him and Patrick can't touch back. He says, "Leave me alone."

Spencer says, "I want to know if you're going to keep being a fucking asshole all the goddamn time or if you're ever going to get back to caring about the fucking drums."

Patrick blinks at him.

"Because I love the drums, Patrick, we all love the drums, but we don't love them enough to deal with whatever the fuck you're doing lately." His face softens and he looks over at a group of marching band girls watching them out of the corner of their eyes and whispering.

Patrick thinks they're clarinetists, nobody who matters, but he pulls Spencer into an empty practice room, anyway.

Spencer says, "I need to know what the hell is going on."

Patrick shakes his head. "It's nothing."

"Nothing didn't just make Greta cry," Spencer tells him. "Seriously. I know you think I'm just a stupid kid, but I'm not. I've dealt with a lot of bullshit already, okay? There's probably nothing you can tell me that I haven't heard before and I know something's wrong, so just tell me."

Patrick says, "I'm in love with you."

Spencer blinks at him.

Patrick says, "If you could just punch me in the face and then strangle me with my belt, I'd really appreciate it."

Spencer says, "Um. Is that, like, a kink?"

"No. I just think it would be faster than dying of embarrassment. Which I'm trying desperately to do, it's just not working."

Spencer says, "You're in love with me?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"How does that translate into you being a colossal jackass?"

"I'm," Patrick starts. "Look. It just sucks, okay? It sucks knowing that I can't have something I really want. And I hate it and it makes me cranky and mean and then I'm a jackass and I'm pretty sure all my friends want to punch me in the face. Multiple times."

Spencer says, "Why can't you have what you want?"

Patrick leans against the room's battered piano and looks away. He says, "I know I'm not, like. You don't even have to pretend that you'd even be--"

"I am," says Spencer.

Patrick looks up. "You're what?"

"I'm into you," Spencer says. "A lot. I'd probably be making out with you right now, but I'm still pretty pissed about that shit you just pulled with Greta and I'm not really feeling it."

Patrick says, "Oh."

"So you should apologize to her and stop being a douchebag and then you should ask me out," Spencer tells him.

"I should ask you out," Patrick repeats.

"Yes," Spencer tells him. "I like bowling, golf, mini-golf, amusement parks, arcades, and museums."

Patrick says, "Okay?"

"You should pick one of those things and then ask if we can do it together." He leans forward and kisses Patrick quickly. He says, "I like you a lot better when you're not being a jerk."

"Yeah," Patrick says weakly after Spencer leaves him alone in the small practice room. "Yeah, me too."

**********

When Patrick gets home, Pete's sitting on his bed looking serious. Pete says, "This is an intervention."

Patrick says, "I think you're too late."

"I'm sorry I haven't been here. I'm sorry shit with Inga got so intense so quick that I just kind of disappeared on you."

Patrick says, "Wait, her name's Inga? I didn't know that was a real name."

"I know you're hurting," Pete says. "I'm sorry I wasn't here to see the signs at first, but I know you get like this when you're in pain and--"

"I have to plan a date," Patrick tells him. "You have to help me. I have to plan a date and then I have to ask Spencer on it and he's pretty much assured me that he's going to say yes, but still. You have to help me, Pete. You know I'm a massive failure when it comes to romance."

Pete laughs long and hard. He says, "Dude, Patrick, seriously, Inga just actually tried to set me on fire, how the hell am I supposed to be any help?"

"She tried to set you on fire?"

"Well, okay, she threw a lit candle at me. That's totally the same thing."

Patrick sits down on his bed and lets Pete pull him into a hug. "What did you do?" he asks.

"You know that thing I do where I can't sleep and I can't turn my brain off and I need somebody there with me to keep me grounded so I start talking because I need to keep the other person awake, too, so I won't disappear?"

Patrick sighs and rubs Pete's back. He says, "How long has it been since you slept?"

"I don't know. A couple days, maybe."

Patrick stretches out on his bed and rubs Pete's back and says, "Come on. Go to sleep."

Pete shakes his head. "I thought you needed me to help you plan your date."

"Please. Like you're going to be out in five minutes. You're going to talk my ear off for hours before you actually pass out."

Pete yawns against Patrick's shoulder and says, "I'm totally impressed you figured out that you were into Spencer so quickly."

"Don't even act like you knew before I did."

"Of course I did," Pete says.

Patrick says, "Bullshit."

Pete says, "Everyone knew before you knew. There's a betting pool. I think Gabe won."

Patrick says, "You bet on my love life?"

Pete says, "Oh, come on, being gambled on is totally the most action your love life has seen in years."

Patrick feels a little bad about the rug burn Pete gets as Patrick shoves his face into the carpet, but only a little.

**********

Patrick tells Pete and everyone else that he's taking Spencer bowling. He even lets them plan what he's going to wear and give him pointers on bowling etiquette. Then, because he knows the bastards will totally show up at the bowling alley to spy on him, he takes Spencer to the planetarium instead.

"Masterful bait and switch," Spencer says when Patrick mentions it. "I wish I'd thought of it. My friends are over there." He points towards the replica of Liberty Bell Seven.

Patrick turns to look and sees Brendon and another dark-eyed boy huddling behind the replica with a brochure half hiding their faces. Patrick says, "They're smooth."

"I know, right?" Spencer flips his bangs out of his eyes and his hair is so shiny and when he smiles at Patrick, his eyes crinkle at the corners. He says, "Sky show's going to start soon. We should get good seats."

Spencer's idea of good seats is not at all Patrick's idea of good seats. "We can't even see from here," Patrick complains as Spencer finds them seats in the back and far off to the side.

"Of course we can," Spencer tells him. "The show's on the ceiling, Patrick. We can see fine."

"We could see better from the front," Patrick tells him.

Spencer says, "Well, yeah, but it would feel weird making out up there where people could watch us."

Patrick is pretty sure he makes some sort of noise.

Spencer smiles at him as the house lights go down. The show starts, the narration loud. Spencer reaches out to touch Patrick's hat. His breath is warm against Patrick's ear as he whispers, "I'm not taking it off. I'm just moving it, okay?"

Patrick nods as Spencer slowly and carefully slides his hat around so the bill is to one side. Patrick closes his eyes and Spencer's mouth is soft slick against his own. The narrator says, The Andromeda Galaxy is seven point one times ten to the eleventh power solar masses. Spencer slides his fingers through the hair at the nape of Patrick's neck and pulls him closer. He slides his tongue, slick and hot against Patrick's teeth. The sound their mouths make as they part for breath makes Patrick shiver.

The narrator says, Charles Messier was born in 1730 and had a lifelong obsession with comets. Patrick fists his hand in Spencer's hoodie, then lets go and slides his fingers down Spencer's side, seeking the hem of his shirt, seeking skin.

Spencer breaks the kiss as Patrick's fingertips slide beneath the waistband of his jeans just above his hip. He says, "We should, um, watch the show."

Patrick breathes against his mouth. "You started it," he says. He can feel Spencer's smile against his lips and that makes him smile, too.

"I didn't realize how horizontal these chairs were," Spencer whispers. "I didn’t realize how thin the line was going to be between making out in public and public indecency."

The narrator says, One of the most remarkable is the Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters or Messier object 45.

Patrick leans back in his chair and looks up at the ceiling. He takes deep breaths. The moving pattern of constellations makes him a little dizzy.

Spencer drops his hand onto Patrick's knee after a while. His fingers trace the seam on the inside of his jeans. Patrick puts his hand over Spencer's and squeezes gently. He says, "Public indecency."

Spencer says, "Right," and pulls his hand away.

As they leave the planetarium, Patrick sees Brendon and Spencer's other friend pretending to be very interested in the moon rocks exhibit. He says, "Do your friends want a ride back to campus?"

"Probably," Spencer says. "But I'm really tempted to just let them find out too late that the bus stopped running out here an hour ago. They're not really known for planning ahead. Or, you know, thinking. At all."

Patrick laughs and says, "I'll give them a ride."

"I'm going to tough love them both one of these days," Spencer says. "I keep threatening it. I think they're starting to doubt my follow through."

"Oh, hey Patrick," Brendon says once he realizes that Patrick and Spencer aren't going to keep pretending he's not there. "What are you doing here? Hey, Spence. Ryan, did you know Spence was coming to the planetarium today?"

Ryan rolls his eyes and looks at Spencer. He says, "Brendon dragged me here."

Spencer says, "Uh-huh," at the same time Brendon cries, "Ryan Ross you dirty liar this was totally your idea."

Spencer says, "So, the bus stopped running an hour ago."

Brendon frowns.

Ryan says, "Motherfucker."

Patrick says, "I'll give you both a ride back to campus if you tell me Spencer's darkest secrets."

Ryan and Brendon look at each other. Ryan raises his eyebrow. Brendon grimaces.

Ryan says, "Pass."

Brendon says, "We can walk it."

Patrick grins and decides that he likes Spencer's friends.

He drops Ryan and Brendon off in front of their dorm and Spencer sits in the passenger seat as Brendon says, "Hey, Spence, why aren't you coming with--?" and Ryan drags him away, grumbling under his breath.

Patrick says, "You should come over to my--" at the same time Spencer says, "I had a really great--"

They both stop talking. Spencer clears his throat. He says, "I'd like, um. If that was you inviting me over to your house, I'd like that."

Patrick says, "It totally was."

The house is blissfully empty. He gives Spencer a quick tour and skips anything that might be terrifying, like the basement or Gabe's room.

"This is me," Patrick says, pushing his door open. He wishes he'd cleaned more or made his bed at least. He hopes Spencer isn't a neat freak. He says, "Um, you're not a neat freak, are you?"

"I was," Spencer says. "Now I live with Ryan and Brendon, so I'm just happy when there aren't bowls of food going rotten underneath piles of dirty clothes."

Patrick doesn't have any dishes in his room at all since he'd totally cleaned the day before. He's pretty pleased with himself. He says, "I, um," and wonders how he can get Spencer to kiss him again.

He doesn't have to work for it. Spencer just leans in and kisses him and he doesn't have to say or do anything. "This is really nice," Spencer whispers against his mouth.

Patrick says, "Yeah."

"Can we just, like, make out on your bed forever?" Spencer asks.

Patrick nods and kisses him and maneuvers them to the bed and thinks that sounds like an amazing plan. He kisses Spencer until his lips start to feel swollen and he's so turned on that he doesn't even care when Spencer takes his hat off and slides his hands up the back of Patrick's shirt to touch his skin.

He rocks his hips against Spencer's thigh and asks, "Is this too much? Are we going too fast?"

Spencer says, "I'm okay with it, but, um, I actually have no idea how this is supposed to go."

Patrick presses his face to Spencer's neck and just breathes. He doesn't move. He says, "You're a virgin."

Spencer makes a displeased sound.

"Well, fine, okay, if you want to put a label on it," Spencer says. "Technically, yes, but not by choice. I went to Catholic school, okay? It's not like I could be out. It's not like I even had the time to find a boyfriend. I just figured that I'd find somebody when I went to college, and I did, but it was you so, you know. I thought maybe you weren't interested and then I thought maybe you were but then you never flirted with me so I tried to just not think about it. But then Pete sat me down and made me promise that I wouldn't, like, break your heart, and I didn't know what the hell was going on because I was convinced you pretty much hated me at that point, so. Yeah, I could have just tried dating somebody else or just getting laid or whatever, but then I'd think about your mouth and I didn’t want anybody else, anyway."

There's so much that Spencer just said that Patrick is going to have to think about, but he chooses to ignore most of it, especially the part about Pete. He says, "My mouth?"

Spencer says, "Seriously, Patrick, your mouth is indecent. I jerk off thinking about your mouth, like, three times a day."

Patrick says. "Three? And, really, my mouth?"

"And your fingers," Spencer says. "And your thighs, God." He arches his hips up, panting, and grinds his hard on against Patrick's hip. He says, "Patrick," in this desperate, broken tone.

Patrick remembers that he's lying on top of Spencer for a reason. He remembers this because his cock throbs when Spencer says his name like that. He says, "Right. Right. God." And works his way down Spencer's body.

When he unfastens Spencer's belt, he thinks, Nobody's ever done this for him before. He tugs Spencer's jeans down his thighs and thinks, Nobody's ever seen him like this before. He leans down and takes Spencer's cock into his mouth and thinks, Nobody's ever touched him like this before. He likes being the first more than he ever thought he would.

Spencer gasps and all he says is Patrick's name over and over again. He says it like a litany, tightens his fingers in Patrick's hair and doesn't tug, doesn't push Patrick's head down, but he does hold on tight. Then he goes completely silent and his body arches up and Patrick swallows and swallows and does his best to get it all.

"Oh, my God," Spencer whispers when Patrick pulls away. He's trembling, wilted on Patrick's bed like he's boneless. He tries to lift one of his arms, touches Patrick's knee and says, "Do you want me to...?"

Patrick's hand is already on his own cock. He says, "Just kiss me," and Spencer does.

Spencer kisses him and when they part Spencer says, "You taste like me," and Patrick moans and shoves his tongue into Spencer's mouth and jerks off hard and quick and comes with Spencer's fingers in his hair.

**********

When Patrick heads downstairs for breakfast the next morning, he's moving slow. He has aches in muscles he didn't even know existed and he thinks his dick might be chafed. It's awesome.

Andy says, "Why are you limping?"

"Because my life is awesome," Patrick says happily. He sits at the kitchen table and picks up Andy's cereal box. He inspects the contents for a long moment before shaking some out into his bowl. He says, "Do we have real milk?"

Joe pushes a carton of milk across the table at him.

Patrick says, "I'm sorry I broke your X-Wings."

"It was a dick move," Joe tells him.

Patrick nods because it was. He's quiet as he eats, only speaking up every once in a while to offer commentary on the bands Andy and Joe are talking about seeing.

He doesn't go back to bed after breakfast, which is what he usually does on weekends when he doesn't have a game to play at. Instead, he knocks on Pete's door and pushes it open a crack. "You up?" he asks.

Pete's snoring. Patrick takes that as an invitation and crawls into bed next to him. He wants to wake Pete up, wants to shake him, excited like a kid on Christmas, and tell Pete all the amazing things he got to do with Spencer the night before. He lets Pete sleep instead, and even dozes a little bit himself.

When he opens his eyes, Pete's face is inches away from his and he's staring.

"You're staring," Patrick says.

"You always think I'm staring when our heads are this close. I'm not staring, there's just nothing but you in my line of sight."

Patrick says, "Your breath smells like feet."

Pete says, "There's no need to get nasty." He flops onto his back and presses his head against Patrick's shoulder. "You didn't go bowling yesterday."

"I didn't."

"You're very sneaky."

"Thank you."

"Did you get laid?"

"I'm not telling."

"Is that a yes?" Pete sits up and peers at Patrick for a moment, then he grins. "That's a yes. You totally got laid."

Patrick grins back at him. He says, "Three times."

Pete says, "Awesome." They're both quiet for a while and Patrick's almost back to dozing when Pete says, "So why are you here with me instead of in your own bed with him?"

"Because he's not in my bed. I drove him home last night."

"Oh." Pete seems disappointed.

"Not everyone wants to spend 72 hours at a time with the person they're dating."

"I didn't spend 72 hours with Inga," Pete says. "It was more like..." He frowns and counts on his fingers. "Did I really spend every second with her for almost a hundred hours in a row?"

"Yup. I'm assuming you left her alone when she needed to use the bathroom. If you didn't, don't tell me."

"I did," said Pete. "Except for how I sat on the counter and talked to her while she showered. I'm kind of creepy, aren’t I?"

"You're getting better," Patrick says.

"No wonder she tried to set me on fire." Pete yawns and sits up. "Do you want pancakes?"

"I already had breakfast."

"Pancakes are not just breakfast food," Pete tells him. He gets up and shuffles over to his closet, sniffs his armpit before pulling on a clean shirt. "I want pancakes and macaroni and cheese."

"That doesn't even make sense," Patrick tells him.

"No, no, it totally does. Maple syrup and cheddar cheese both come from Vermont, right? So they're meant to be together. I'm totally, I'm going to ask them to put macaroni and cheese in my pancakes."

Patrick says, "I like that diner. Please don't terrorize the waitresses any more than you already--"

"I don't terrorize, I've never terrorized--"

"You were wearing a bear suit, Pete. A bear suit and you wouldn't take your head off--"

"I didn't want to break the willing suspension of disbelief--"

"You can't even eat if you don't take your head off, your bear costume doesn't even have a working mouth." Patrick stops. "Do you ever think that our conversations are not like normal conversations?"

Pete laughs, "I know they're not. Thank God. Come on, Patrick, get dressed so we can get food and you can tell me all about how bendy Spencer is."

Patrick blushes, can feel it across his face and in the tips of his ears. He remembers Spencer's flushed skin and swollen mouth and the way he'd wrapped his legs around Patrick's waist and how his fingers had dug hard into the skin of Patrick's shoulders.

"Pretty bendy, huh?" Pete asks.

Patrick shakes himself and says, "I hate your face. You're not getting details." He gets up and heads towards his room to get ready.

Pete follows him into the hall. "I'm just saying. He looks like you could probably flip him over into some advanced positions."

"Pete," says Patrick.

"What about, like, the wheelbarrow? Do you think he could hold himself up on his hands for that long? He's pretty strong with all the drumming. You could totally nail him in the wheelbarrow position, I bet."

"Pete," Patrick says again.

"Or, ooh, hey, have you ever tried the Norwegian Cross? Does that even work when it's two dudes? Okay, what you do is you get him to lay down on the bed and--"

Tackling Pete that close to the stairs is dangerous, but the startled squawk Pete makes and the fact that Patrick doesn't have to listen to his description of obscure sexual positions makes it totally worth it.