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The Truth About Patrick

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"Open your email." Mikey's voice interrupts Patrick's intense concentration. Fuck, he's so close to nailing this breakdown.

Patrick struggles to shift his focus past the waveforms on his screen to Mikey, who's staring at him over the top of his laptop screen.

"I'm kind of in the middle of something." Patrick grabs the kickdrum and drags it a few sub-frames earlier. Maybe he needs more reverb?

"It'll just take a second," Mikey insists, "Please?" He turns the puppy dog eyes on Patrick, and that's just unfair. No one can withstand the Mikeyway puppy dog eyes.

"Fine," Patrick sighs, and clicks open his email. There's an email from Mikey with (no subject) as the subject. It's empty, but for two attachments. Patrick dutifully clicks them open.

Two images of Mikey fill his screen, a full-length shot of him slouched artfully in a doorway and a head-and-shoulders shot of him smouldering at the camera. He is unfairly attractive in both of them.

"Yeah, okay. So?" Patrick asks, not sure why he's being treated to this eye candy.

"Which one do you think?" Mikey asks, looking more unsure than he usually would. Patrick has never really thought of Mikey as being unsure; he always seems so effortlessly cool and unaffected.

"For what? You thinking of taking up modeling?"

Mikey shrugs, which is as good as a yes. "Clandestine are looking for catalogue models for the new line. Like, more alternative-looking types. I thought it was worth a shot."

Patrick eyes the photos. Mikey does look really good in them. He has an awkward kind of grace that looks somehow beautiful in the pictures. Patrick could imagine him modeling the too-cool-to-be-trendy hoodies and t-shirts that have made Clandestine so popular.

"They look good." Patrick says. "You should probably send them both in, like, to show different options." Patrick closes down the windows and pulls up GarageBand. He's nearly lost back in drum loops again when he realises Mikey's still standing there. He glances up, raising an eyebrow in question.

"Um, thanks," Mikey says awkwardly, and lopes out of the room.

Patrick listens through the track again, twice. Might be time for a second opinion. He bounces out an mp3 and sends it to Joe.

*

"What the hell did you do?" Patrick's voice comes out a lot louder than he means it to. A lot angrier as well.

It doesn't seem to phase Joe at all. He looks up at Patrick a little blearily from where he's lying diagonally across the living room floor. Even without seeing how bloodshot his eyes are Patrick can tell he's been smoking up. He has Cheetos powder on his chin and his shirt is mis-buttoned. "What did I what?"

Patrick brandishes his phone. "Why do I have an email from Decaydance Records thanking me for submitting my demo?"

"Oh that," Joe says, sitting up, "I figured it would be better to give your email so then if they contact you they get the right person."

That's so totally not the right answer and the resulting rage-surge of blood is still enough to make Patrick lightheaded. "Why the hell did you do that? What did you send them?"

"That mp3 you sent me last week. The Saturday Night one." He hums a few lines, clicking his fingers. "I told you it was catchy."

There are so many things wrong with that statement Patrick doesn't know what to yell first. Joe sent some stranger his music without even telling him? He sent it to fucking Pete Wentz's stupid label of all places, but worst of all -

"It's not even done!" Patrick half-shouts, "I told you it was rough!" He'd only done a first pass on the levels and vocal take was just a run-through, riddled with problems.

Joe shrugs. Fuck him for being so fucking unflappable. "It's a demo, it's supposed to be rough. And if I'd told you I was going to send it first you would've said no, so…" Joe trails off, shrugs again, and even smiles a little. "Now you don't have to."

"No, I am still saying no, but apparently my opinion doesn't matter!" It takes all of Patrick's strength not to throw his phone, even though he can still see the stupid auto-acknowledgement email sitting there, taunting him. He very carefully puts the phone down on the coffee table and sits down. His body is so rigid with anger that bending his limbs is difficult. "Aren't you even going to apologise?"

Honestly, Joe's face is looking more and more like a nice place to plant a fist right now. He could at least pretend to be sorry. "Nope. Why should I apologise for trying to help out my best friend?"

"You didn't even ask me." Patrick's voice sounds so whiny even to his own ears. "You sent my fucking song to Pete Wentz."

"What have you got against him anyway? You've heard his newest band signing, they're great!'

Patrick doesn't agree out loud and he certainly doesn't admit to how Panic! At The Disco's debut album has been on repeat in his car for the better part of a week. He keeps his mouth shut until he realises what he's doing is pouting then jumps in quietly, "I just don't like the idea of some fashion house snob running a music label. He should stick to fashion and leave music to the people who know what they're doing."

Patrick runs his hands down the front of his jeans, unable to sit still. That's totally why he's pissed off. It has nothing to do with his song being out there, that someone could be listening to it right now and hearing every flaw, thinking how mediocre it is, wondering why anyone would bother recording it.

"Panic are number one on the Hitseekers chart, I think he must know something." Joe gropes for the remote, but Patrick snatches it out of his hand. Vile betrayers don't get television privileges. Patrick clicks through until he finds an episode of Iron Chef, which he knows will drive Joe nuts with cravings for munchies in no time. He deserves it.

"Okay, so worst case scenario they don't offer you a record deal and you go on with your life. Best case scenario, they try to sign you and you get to tell Pete Wentz to go jump off a cliff. It's win-win as far as I can see." Joe gropes for the bag of Cheetos and frowns when he finds it empty. Patrick turns up the volume.

"Right," he agrees, "That's totally what I'll do."

At the time, he means it.

*

It would've been easier, Patrick supposes, if it had been an email.

If it had been an email, then Patrick could have read it, possibly read segments of it aloud to Joe in a humorous manner, taken his time writing up a polite but direct reply and sent it back.

Of course it isn't an email. Instead, it's a gchat request. Patrick didn't even know that was a thing, until a window pops up asking if he wants to add "Pete Wentz" to his contacts. His heart does some kind of weird skipping thing, but then he realises it's probably just Joe fucking with him, and really, Joe should grow up.

He accepts the contact request, and before Joe can even make his opening play, Patrick types into the text box.

Patrick Stump: You really need to grow up.
Pete Wentz: people tell me that all the time
Patrick Stump: I mean seriously, this stopped being funny days ago.
Patrick Stump: How stoned are you?
Pete Wentz: i'm not stoned
Pete Wentz: do you start all your conversations like this?
Pete Wentz: i'm pete btw
Pete Wentz: is this all you on the demo? yr not using any vocal fx or anythin
Patrick Stump: Did you actually go and make a whole fake email address just to do this? That's really low.
Pete Wentz: this is my actual email address
Patrick Stump: petewentzrulz@gmail.com is not a real email address, It's an email address a five year old would have
Pete Wentz: look petewentz@gmail was taken ok
Pete Wentz: are you just going to keep insulting me or can we talk about your demo now
Pete Wentz: because yr voice is great and this is catchy as fuck
Pete Wentz: i love it

That's the tell. Patrick takes a very loud breath and steps back from the computer.

Joe pretending to be Pete Wentz for a joke? Patrick can see that. Joe pretending to be Pete Wentz and telling him he loves his demo? That doesn't feel like Joe, it's a little too cruel. Patrick's already reaching for his phone, hitting Joe on speed dial. Joe takes forever to answer and when he does his voice is pitched low.

"Dude, you know I can't talk at work, man. Is something wrong?"

Patrick can hear an in-store announcement in the background, because of course Joe is at work - he always does the afternoon shift on a Thursday. There's no way this can be him. As if on cue, another chat pops up on his screen.

Pete Wentz: u there

"Oh shit," Patrick breathes.

"What?" Joe whispers.

"I'll tell you later," Patrick says in a rush, and hangs up. He reaches for the keyboard, fingers hesitating before he touches the keys. He considers - very, very seriously considers - just closing the chat window and forgetting the whole thing. Except.

Except.

Patrick Stump: I'm sorry I thought you were my friend playing a prank.
Pete Wentz: i figured
Pete Wentz: you ready to talk now

Patrick tells himself to stop being an idiot and puts his fingers to the keyboard.

Patrick Stump: I played all the instruments myself. The vocal track is pretty rough but it's all me.
Pete Wentz: yr voice is phenomenal. can i come see you play?

Patrick has typed the word "no" in before he even realises it. He doesn't hit enter. He very carefully backspaces the two characters out of existence.

Patrick Stump: I don't actually have any live shows scheduled.

It's a stupid bluff and kind of a lie, but the idea of playing live in front of Pete fucking Wentz is a little too terrifying to contemplate right now.

Pete Wentz: u rehearse? I could come watch

Patrick's struck with the mental image of Pete Wentz in his run-down shared living room, with Patrick's music gear crammed in the corner next to the singed sofa that stinks of weed.

Patrick Stump: I don't really have a rehearsal space at the moment.

He's barely hit enter when another chat from Pete pops up. Fuck.

Pete Wentz: meet for coffee then
Pete Wentz: ?
Pete Wenz: I know this great place

Patrick lets out a breath he didn't realise he was holding. Coffee sounds harmless enough. Maybe Wentz isn't as big of an asshole as he comes across. Maybe Patrick can give him a chance.

Patrick Stump: I could do coffee, I guess.
Pete Wentz: great
Pete Wentz: so what do u look like? got a pic?

Patrick nearly closes the chat window on the spot. Of course this isn't about the music. Of course Pete fucking Wentz is only going to be interested in him as a recording artist if he looks good.

Patrick Stump: Why does it matter what I look like?
Pete Wentz: it doesnt
Pete Wentz: just so i can recognise you
Pete Wentz: it doesnt have to be professional photo or anything
Pete Wentz: myspace profile or drivers license whatever
Patrick Stump: hang on

Patrick huffs out a breath and opens his pictures folder. This is such a bad idea. Such a bad, bad idea. He's not a skinny, pretty young thing like the boys in Panic at the fucking Disco. Patrick's self aware enough to know he's no prize in the looks department. He's carrying extra weight, he's got a bald spot he hides under a variety of not-terribly-stylish hats and he's really fucking short.

He clicks through his pictures folder, dismissing each image at a glance - too drunk, too fat, too flushed, double chin, too emo, too sweaty. Fuck, he hates this. Maybe his driver's license photo is actually a good idea, it's nice and small. He pulls it out. No, he looks like a serial killer.

He opens his downloads folder thinking he might find a couple in there and of course he accidentally clicks open one of Mikey's. Suddenly his screen is full of Mikey's slender limbs and bedroom eyes and Patrick curses his weak genetics. Now that's the kind of look a record label wants to see. He clicks back to the photos of himself and sighs. Well, this is going to be over quickly.

He opens the upload box to attach the least-horrifying photo of himself when a couple more chats pop up from Pete.

Pete Wentz: you sound so good on this demo
Pete Wentz: if you look half as good as you sound the girls will be swooning

Something snaps inside Patrick and his blood runs hot.

"Fuck this," he mutters, "if that's what you want, then have it." He navigates through to his downloads folder and clicks "attach" on Mikey's picture. It only takes a few seconds to upload, then Pete's looking at the same image that's on Patrick's screen.

Pete Wentz: wow
Pete Wentz: you really are the whole package

Patrick manages not to kick anything, but it does take effort. So what if he blew it? He was going to blow it the moment Pete saw his face anyway.

A few more chats from Pete fly up on the screen, the name and address of a coffee shop not far from Patrick's; Pete wants to meet tomorrow at three. Patrick sends one word replies agreeing to everything, wishing the whole thing over as fast as possible. He doesn't bother writing down the name or address of the coffee shop, there's no way he's going to show up.

He doesn't even reply to Pete's excited goodbye, just closes the chat window.

Well, that's that then, he figures as he shuts off his computer. It'd be stupid to be disappointed over something that wasn't going to happen anyway.

*

In a perfect world, Patrick would forget about the whole thing. He wouldn't spend one more moment of brain time on Pete fucking Wentz.

Of course, Patrick's life being Patrick's life, he spends most of the following day replaying the entire scenario and trying out different outcomes. What if he'd sent a picture of himself and Pete had still wanted to meet him? What if he'd just said he didn't want to send a picture? What if… ugh, he really shouldn't be thinking about this.

He shouldn't be glancing at the clock at three, wondering if Pete's waiting for him at some coffee house, scanning the crowd looking for Mikey's dark blond hair and skinny jeans. Should he send an apology email? No. No, he's just going to let this die. He even shuts his computer down, just to make sure. He settles on the couch and channel-surfs to the loudest movie he can find, but it's still not enough to distract him from his own head.

He barely notices when the couch shifts and Joe settles beside him. "You okay?" Joe sounds concerned.

"Sure. Why?" Patrick tries to sounds nonchalant but it comes off a little more defensive than he means it to.

"You're watching a Nicholas Cage movie. I'd question anyone's sanity in this situation."

Patrick finally manages to focus on the TV and yes, that is Nicholas Cage. "Oh," he mutters and channel surfs to something else. He ends up staring at someone stuffing a chicken until Joe shrugs and leaves him alone. He's starting to think he should order pizza (if he's really going to sulk he should do it properly) when the doorbell rings. Maybe Joe ordered pizza, or maybe Patrick telepathically wished it here. He trudges over to the door and pulls it open.

Pete Wentz is outside on his doorstep wearing a big puffy jacket and a beanie and looking unsettlingly gorgeous.

Patrick slams the door closed.

"Holy shit," he whispers. This was not in any of the scenarios he'd envisioned. Not one.

There's a knock on the door. Oh, right, Patrick should probably not have closed that. He sucks in a breath and opens it again. "Sorry, sorry. The door um, does that sometimes."

Pete gives him a wide, unsure smile. "Sure it does. Mine does the same thing. Um, is Patrick home?"

"Patrick?" Patrick parrots back, blinking dumbly at Pete.

"Patrick Stump, he lives here right?" Pete asks, "This is the address he gave when he sent me through his demo."

Patrick is going to kill Joe. Slowly.

"Sure, okay. Um, just give me a sec." He nearly closes the door again, but Pete presses a hand to it. "Is it okay if I come in?"

"Oh, oh sure, yeah it's fine." Patrick steps back, totally not sure what to do. This is probably the part where he should tell Pete the picture was a lie. He's suddenly incredibly aware that he's wearing threadbare sweatpants and a stretched-out t-shirt with a chocolate stain on the neck. "I'll just… get him for you."

He starts to head for his room, thinking he should at least change into jeans, when Pete catches him arm. "Hey, hold up a minute. Do you know Patrick that well?"

Patrick stops and turns around. "Um, as well as anyone I guess."

"Here's the thing," Pete winces a little as he tells him, "He doesn't know I'm coming. He was supposed to me somewhere and he stood me up and… I don't know, I shouldn't even be here but, I just couldn't let it go?" There's a crease between Pete's eyebrows and he looks so unsure Patrick feels bad for him. "If he's changed his mind that's totally his business and I should leave it, right? I just." Pete takes off his beanie and runs a hand through his hair, messing it up so it should look silly but it just kind of looks messy-hot. "I'm just kind of in love with his music. You know when something just speaks to your soul? And his voice, god."

Patrick can feel warmth spreading up from his chest. Pete sounds so sincere. Oh fuck it, he's going to tell him. Patrick takes a breath to form the words just as Pete starts to say, "And to top it all off he's fucking gorgeous. He sent me this picture and he's just - wow. Like preternaturally hot, you know?"

The words die on Patrick's lips. This really isn't going to happen for him. There's no way Pete would want to sign him - the real him - not when he's this excited about "Patrick". Fine. That's just fine.

"Let me go get him for you," Patrick says, and heads upstairs to knock on Mikey's door.

*

"Mikey, I need you to do me a favour," Patrick tells Mikey's door, trying to speak loud enough to penetrate the wood, but soft enough that Pete won't hear him downstairs.

Mikey eases the door open. His room is in it's usual state of complete shambles, clothes, magazines and CDs all over the floor. Patrick's never been able to identify what colour the carpet is. He's not even sure if there is carpet. Mikey leans against the door, looking like he just woke up. Of course, where that look on Patrick would mean ruddy cheeks, sweaty hair and deep eyebags, Mikey just looks sexily rumpled.

"Dude, I promise I'll pick up a new toaster, like, tomorrow. It doesn't say anything in the instructions about not putting forks near them," Mikey says sleepily.

"Um, it's not about the toaster," Patrick rushes on, making a mental note not to use the toaster. "I need you to pretend to be me, just for a bit."

Other people would ask why. Mikeyway is not other people. "Okay," Mikey shrugs.

Patrick doesn't bother trying to explain the situation very thoroughly, there isn't time. "Just tell him you're not interested," he tells Mikey in whispered undertones as they head downstairs. "Say you're sorry you stood him up, but you had a change of heart and it's not where you're at right now, okay?"

"Wait, you want me to dump someone for you?" Mikey whispers, but before Patrick has a chance to reply Pete's spotted them.

"Patrick!" He sounds excited, crossing the room to grab Mikey's hand and shake it vigorously. "It's so great to meet you in person."

Mikey blinks at Pete a few times, his glance flicking quickfire to Patrick and back to Pete. "Um, thanks," he says with little intonation. Patrick knows Mikey well enough to see the confusion written all over him, but he's hoping Pete won't notice it. Mikey's pretty hard to read if you haven't known him a long time.

"I'm really sorry to just turn up on your doorstep like this, but when you didn't show at the cafe I was so worried you changed your mind." Pete looks so agonised Patrick actually feels kind of bad.

"I did," Mikey says abruptly. "I changed my mind. Sorry. It's just, it's not you, it's me."

Patrick fights a wince. Beggars can't be choosers when you're getting your housemate to impersonate you.

"I mean," Mikey pauses, as if remembering Patrick's words, "I mean, I'm not ready." Mikey starts to back away, but Pete follows him step for step.

"Look I was kind of worried you'd say that. But really - you are. You're so ready. You're like more than ready. That track - it's just - I can't get it out of my head, and your voice. You have no idea-" Pete breaks off, and Patrick is kind of ashamed at how disappointed he is that Pete's stopped talking. He's kind of desperate to hear the rest.

Pete looks from Mikey over to Patrick. Patrick's heart skips a beat, certain that somehow Pete can tell - it's him, this is the guy who wrote the music - somehow it's obvious. His heart is beating fit to burst.

Pete just says, "Hey, do you mind giving us a minute?"

All the breath rushes out of Patrick's lungs, leaving him deflated. "Of course," he says, awkward and stilted. He catches Mikey's glance - somewhere between sympathetic and confused - and walks away. He starts to head for the kitchen, but decides he can't bear the idea of eavesdropping and goes upstairs instead.

He flops onto his bed, trying to distract himself from the fact that all he's doing is waiting for Mikey to come back and tell him it's done. That he won't hear from Pete Wentz again. Somehow the thought doesn't bring much relief.

He pulls out his laptop and tries to distract himself with some drum loops, but he can't concentrate. He closes out of the session and opens up the session for the Saturday Night track and forces himself to listen through the version he'd bounced for Joe. The one Joe had sent on to Decaydance without even checking first because he's a terrible human being.

He can still hear every flaw. His fingers itch to make changes, re-record and patch in some new vocal, adjust a few levels and he's really not happy with the opening. He bites his lip and really listens, tries to hear whatever it is that Pete's talking about, whatever he thinks is so great about the track, but he can't. He's still too close to it.

There's a tentative knock at the door and Patrick hits the spacebar, silencing his laptop. "Yeah?"

The door eases open to reveal Mikey in all his skinny-jeans-clad disheveled beauty. "Hey, so-" Mikey starts to say, but Patrick cuts him off.

"Sorry about that man," Patrick says in a rush, "Did he take it okay?"

Mikey slides into the room and plops down on Patrick's bed. "Dude, I think he's in love with you."

Patrick doesn't drop his laptop but it's a close thing. "Um, what?"

"He just, he won't shut up about you - how amazing you are."

"Well that's all you isn't it? He'll say anything to get into your pants."

"No, it's not that. I can tell." Mikey's brow furrows, like he searching for the right words. "It's all about your music, your voice. He won't shut up about it. Like, it's kind of pathetic. And the thing is, I think you should give him a shot."

Patrick chokes instead giving of an answer. "What?"

"You haven't even met the guy before today, and you're already saying no. You don't want to at least have a drink with him? Hear him out?"

Patrick sighs and paws at his laptop. "The second he finds out I'm not you, it'll all be over."

"I don't think so." Mikey says, poking Patrick in the leg with one bony fingertip. "You want to prove me wrong?"

Patrick looks up at Mikey, who raises an eyebrow at him - the tiniest challenge. People always underestimate Mikey, they think he's shy, he's lazy, he's a bit slow, but he's got more going on than anyone knows. He knows how to get his own way; it's why he'll always have boys and girls after him. Still, Patrick won't fall for it. "No, I think I'm good."

"What if it was just one drink, and I was there? You come clean, you hear him out, and whatever happens happens."

Patrick fidgets with his function key.

"He really likes your song, dude. Like, intensely. What have you got to lose?"

Patrick doesn't say only my dignity out loud, but he thinks it. He bites his lip and drags his gaze up to meet Mikey's. "Okay, one drink." The words are kind of a relief. "When?"

"He's waiting at Aces and Eights. Put some clothes on, we'll meet him there." Mikey gets up and digs through Patrick's wardrobe, throwing out a shirt and a pair of jeans. "Wear that."

Patrick can't think of a reason not to, so he does what Mikey says.

*

Aces and Eights is the closest bar to Patrick's place. It just happens to be rockabilly themed. When they arrive, Pete is sitting at the table near the giant tiki doll, looking hunched over and small. He hasn't ordered a drink.

Patrick hesitates in the doorway, but Mikey gives him a shove so he heads for the table, one foot in front of the other. Pete spots Mikey and smiles, standing up. He actually has a really great smile. His expression flickers to a heartbeat of confusion when his gaze alights on Patrick, but he keeps smiling and shakes both their hands.

"Gerard, right? Nice to meet you," he says to Patrick, and Patrick doesn't actually choke, but he comes close. He swallows quickly and forces a nod. The moment they sit down Pete doesn't have eyes for anyone but Mikey. He's not rude about it, but it's really obvious the way he turns his body toward Mikey. Patrick's already feeling like a third wheel.

"I'm really glad you changed your mind," Pete says to Mikey, and he just looks so… hopeful. Patrick bites his lip.

"Haven't changed it yet," Mikey corrects him, and Patrick can't help but find something flirty about the way he says it.

Pete doesn't answer that, just looks determined.

Patrick waits until Pete's gone to the bar before turning to Mikey, "You told him my name was Gerard?"

Mikey shrugs, "It was the first name I thought of." Patrick isn't sure if he should be flattered or insulted that his fake name belongs to Mikey's weird artist brother. "Besides, we're about to come clean, so it's not like you're going to stay Gerard."

Patrick bites his tongue so he doesn't tell Mikey it's the principle of the thing.

"Anyway, I'll piss off to the bathroom when he gets back and you can tell him and then you can start talking about your recording contract." Mikey's voice drops low toward the end because Pete is already wending his way back to them from the bar, carrying three beers.

Patrick takes a long gulp from his the moment it's set down in front of him, willing himself to have strength. It can't be that hard, right? All he has to do is tell Pete there was a mixup, he attached the wrong image, but it's him on the demo, it's all him. What does he care if Pete doesn't still want to sign him after that? He never wanted Joe to send the demo in the first place.

Mikey slides out from the table, clunking his beer down, "I've gotta piss, be right back." He turns back, adding like it's an afterthought. "Gerard's got to tell you something, Pete. It's no big deal." Then he just vanishes, leaving Patrick to turn slowly pink under Pete's slightly puzzled gaze.

"Um," Patrick starts, then decides taking another pull of his beer would be a better idea than talking. He takes his time swallowing, licking the froth off his lips. He doesn't even like beer that much, but It was easier to just order the same as Pete and Mikey than trying to come up with something else. "So here's the thing - " he falters, and he's not sure if it's relief or disappointment when Pete cuts him off.

"I know why you're here."

Oh god, he knows it's not Mikey on the tape, he knows I lied. Patrick tries to read Pete's expression, but it's kind of impenetrable.

"It's okay," Pete continues, "I don't mind."

"You don't?" Patrick sputters.

"No, I get it."

"You do?" Patrick asks, shocked. He didn't think it would be this easy. Pete already knows. He already knows. Thank fuck.

Pete smiles at Patrick and waves a hand. "I mean, Patrick doesn't know me from Adam, I could be any old psycho stalker."

"Excuse me?" Patrick stammers, because he's not sure how this fits in with Patrick pretending to be hot.

"I get that you're like, vetting me. That you're here to look out for Patrick, make sure I'm okay. I mean, I'm fine with it, I totally understand."

"Oh," Patrick says, as Pete's meaning kicks in. Because Pete is still referring to Patrick like Patrick's not sitting in front of him, so of course, Pete doesn't actually know.

Pete leans back, waving a hand in the air, his expression a little sheepish; it looks sort of desperately cute on him. "You're a good friend. Doing this for him, I mean. I know it's a really weird situation, but - and not to blow my own trumpet or anything - I know talent. I mean, I trust my gut when it comes to this stuff and Patrick - he's got it, right? His music is amazing and he's so fucking hot. I think if I could get him to sign with me I could really take him places.

Patrick thinks he might have a heart attack from so many mixed responses. Pete talking about his music speeds his heartbeat right up, fills his chest with a bubble of hope, but the second he talks about Mikey's looks the bubble bursts, contracting tight and squeezing his chest in painfully.

"So how long have you known Patrick, anyway?" Pete asks, "You guys close?"

"A long time," Patrick says automatically, kind of dazed. He knows he's supposed to be telling Pete he is Patrick; all this talking about himself in third person is just making the situation that much more surreal.

"What do you do, you a student or do you work or what?"

"I work at Barnes and Noble," Patrick says, vaguely aware that his mouth is forming words, making sounds, but he's having trouble engaging his brain much beyond that. "But mostly I work on music, the book shop is just to pay the bills."

"Oh, you're a musician too! What do you play?"

I made that demo you liked. That song you heard, that was me. The words are right there in Patrick's mind, but he just can't seem to make himself say them. He opens and closes his mouth for a few moments, remembering the appreciative swipe of Pete's gaze over Mikey's body when they walked up to him at the bar. Patrick will never get that kind of reaction. He'll never make this work.

"I play drums," he finally forces the words out. It's not entirely a lie; he drummed for Joe and Andy's band for a while until it became obvious it was less a band and more an excuse for five guys to sit around in Joe's dad's garage and get stoned.

"Oh cool, it's so hard to find good drummers these days. You in a band already?"

"Not at the moment," Patrick admits. His patience with the stoner-fest had petered out pretty quickly.

"Well you should give me your number, I always need good session guys, I could help you land some gigs. If you want, you know?" Pete smiles at him and Patrick kind of desperately wants to believe that Pete's being nice because he's just a good guy, but some wicked part of him whispers that he's only doing this to impress "Patrick's friend" and win over Mikey.

Patrick's read enough of the gossip columns to know about the guys and girls Pete dates. He's out with models constantly. Models. From his own fashion label. Mikey would be right up his alley, it's obvious.

"Um, thanks." Patrick says, "I'll think about it."

Pete laughs, a little self-consciously and Patrick has to fight quite hard not to be charmed by it. "You sound just like Patrick."

I am Patrick. Patrick thinks, but once again he doesn't say it.

Mikey breezes back to the table. "Everything all right?" he asks, glancing between the two of them.

"Totally fine." Pete answers first.

Mikey turns his eyes on Patrick as he sits down, "So you told him?"

"Yeah," Pete answers before Patrick can, "It's really fine, I understand. No problem."

Mikey grins at Pete, and slaps Patrick's arm, "See, told you!" He waves at Patrick, "He thought you'd be all bent out of shape about it."

Pete shrugs, "I don't see why, makes perfect sense to me."

Mikey beams at Patrick for all of ten seconds, and Patrick's just starting to wonder if he'll get away with this, when Pete leans forward and says, "So Gerard was just telling me he's a drummer; quite the musical household you guys have got going on."

Mikey's mouth drops open and he turns to stare at Patrick. Patrick tries to communicate please don't say anything at him without actually moving his mouth. The pause drags on for what feels like forever and Patrick can see something in Mikey's eyes that says he's not heard the end of this. Then Mikey turns back to Pete with a small smile and says, "Yeah well, Joe plays guitar too, so I guess we are."

Patrick's relief is almost a physical blow.

Pete doesn't even seem to notice the stall in conversation, rattling on, "Is Joe as hot as you two? Are you guys some kind of hot musicians commune?"

"Um," Patrick has no idea how to answer that. Surely Pete isn't saying both he and Mikey are hot? They're not even in the same league.

"He's all right," Mikey saves Patrick from having to answer. "He's got this whole rock n' roll fro thing going on."

Pete laughs and says something under his breath that sounds like "and all under one roof," shaking his head and grinning. He taps the table, getting up. "I gotta run to the bathroom, don't go anywhere." The comment is mostly directed towards Mikey.

The moment Pete's out of earshot Mikey turns on Patrick, his eyes daggers. "You didn't tell him."

"I couldn't!" Patrick admits, not even sure he can put more words around it than that.

Mikey hits him in the arm. "That was the whole point!"

"I can't," Patrick admits, his voice going a little shaky, and he's not even sure why he's so bothered by this. It's Pete fucking Wentz. What does he care what Pete Wentz thinks of him?

Except he kind of does. He doesn't want to see Pete's look of disappointment when he finds out Patrick's voice isn't attached to a Mikey-shaped body. He just can't deal with that.

"I just can't, alright?" he says softly, and some of his desperation must come through, because Mikey doesn't push, he just presses his bony fingers around Patrick's shoulder and squeezes.

Mikey's hand is still there a few moments later when Pete returns to the table with three more beers. Patrick pastes on a smile and decides to just get through it.

The problem is, he can't even hate Pete. Pete is actually really nice - admittedly in a kind of nervous, talks-too-much, manic kind of way. He knows a shit-tonne more about music than Patrick ever would have thought. He also actually makes an effort to engage them both in the conversation, even though Patrick can tell he's way more interested and engaged when he's talking to Mikey. Mikey - in his own expressionless way - is clearly enjoying talking to Pete. It's all pretty depressing really, the way the two of them dance around each other. Despite both their efforts to involve him, Patrick can't help feeling like he's encroaching on a date.

He finishes his beer and stands up. "I'm gonna go." Mikey goes to stand up too, but Patrick waves him down, turning to Pete. "It was nice to meet you."

Pete stands and gives him a firm handshake and a smile that looks genuine. "Good to meet you too Gerard, hope I'll see you around."

Patrick shakes off the backflip his heart does at Pete's smile. Pete's just being nice to impress Mikey, that's all. "I'll see you at home, Patrick."

"Wait, I'll go with you," Mikey says, "Just give me a minute."

Patrick waves his hand, "No, stay, you guys are having a good time. I'll see you later." He turns and leaves before Mikey can try to follow him.

About three blocks from the bar Mikey catches up to him. He's puffing a little, like he had to run. "Dude, wait up."

"I told you to stay," Patrick points out, "You guys were getting along."

Mikey falls in step beside him. "Only 'cause he thought I was you. And besides he totally asked for your number."

"He's just looking for drummers. Everyone's looking for drummers." Patrick has a horrid thought, "Oh god, you didn't give it to him, did you?" The idea of Pete calling him and Patrick having to pretend to be Gerard the drummer just might tear his soul into little tiny pieces.

"No," Mikey sighs, "I gave him Patrick's number."

Patrick stops in his tracks and turns to face Mikey. "No, you didn't."

Mikey just grins at him, smug and knowing.

Patrick slaps his arm. "Why would you do that?"

"Ow," Mikey says, rubbing his arm. "It's for your own good," he points out, "he's clearly into you."

"He's clearly into you," Patrick corrects.

"It wasn't my name he kept throwing around, talking about how great you are."

"Mikey!" Patrick says his name in a desperate whisper, not even sure what he wants to say, just… "Shit."

"Maybe it'll be easier to tell him on the phone." Mikey says, and starts walking again. It's a little cold out to be standing in the street, so Patrick hurries to catch up.

"Maybe he won't call," he says, hopeful.

"Oh, he'll call," Mikey says, "Trust me."

Patrick's pretty sure that's how he wound up in this mess.

*

Pete does call. Not the next day, but the day after, like he's following The Rules. Patrick's in the middle of arranging some guitar samples; he's found a weird cool layering thing that's he's fiddling with and his mind is pretty deep in it. He's expecting Joe to call about dinner so he just picks up the phone when it rings without taking his eyes off the computer screen.

"Hey I was thinking we could just get pizza? I'm kind of in the zone here, don't want to break it by cooking. You mind picking one up on your way home?"

"Sure thing, I love pizza," someone who is not Joe Trohman answers.

Patrick pulls his phone away from his ear to stare at the unfamiliar number on the screen. He puts it back to his ear. "Hello?"

"Hi Patrick, it's Pete. Pete Wentz. From Decaydance."

"Yeah, um, yeah of course," Patrick's voice kind of pitches up in an embarrassing way. "How, um, how are you?"

"Oh I'm great." Pete says, "Just chilling out, playing with my dog, listening to some demos. Usual Friday night routine."

"Really?" Patrick says, trying to keep the disbelief out of his voice. "Thought you'd be more of a-" he waves a hand even though Pete can't see him, "more of a party all night kind of guy."

"Oh, I party when I have to, but so often it's shindigs for work and you have to schmooze and be on your best behavior and everything, so it takes the shine off it, you know?"

Patrick thinks of the photos he's seen of Pete in the society pages at various balls and fundraisers in a sharp suit with a spangly model on his arm. "I'm sure it's real hard work."

Pete giggles, and it's unsettling how charming it is. "Yeah, I'm kind of a homebody at heart."

"I find that hard to believe." Patrick says, fiddling with the cord on his headphones. He's got them on upside-down as usual so he doesn't have to take off his hat.

"I find it hard to believe that you're home on a Friday night. No hot date?"

Patrick swallows a laugh, reminding himself that Pete still thinks he looks like Mikey. Somehow the thought doesn't hold as much sting right now. "Never any hot dates. You must have me confused for someone else."

Pete laughs again and it's just as charming as before. "So what's got you in the zone? You working on something?" Pete sounds actually interested, and maybe that's the reason why Patrick answers, instead of begging off the call altogether.

"Yeah. I'm not sure exactly what it is yet. I'm kind of going crazy with some loops and stereo panning. I don't know if it's a song or an interlude or what yet, but I'm kind of digging it."

"Well I don't want to break you out of your zone if you're making your magic. But I do want to hear what you've come up with. Should I leave you to it?"

That's Patrick's way out of this conversation right there. His fingers hover over the mouse. He could just tell Pete he's busy and go back to what he's doing, put off this awkward phone call.

Except, he doesn't want to. He's not ready to. He highlights a section of the track and sets it to bounce out. "Actually," he says, leaning back and watching the progress bar take shape on his screen, "I'm just waiting for a bounce, so I can talk a little."

"Great!" Pete sounds so enthusiastic it brings a reluctant smile to Patrick's lips. "So what would you call your style of music anyway? It's kind of funky, poppy, hip-hoppy but not. Like, it's taking all these cool things about all these cool genres and wrapping them into one. How'd you do that?"

Patrick has to stop moving for a second and just process that. Because, wow, in one sentence Pete has managed to put together everything he's been trying to do. Pete gets it. That… was not something Patrick was expecting.

He's learning pretty quickly that Pete is not the person he first thought.

Talking about music leads to talking about lyrics and poetry and poets. They both share the view that lyricists are the poets of the modern world and end up arguing their favourites against each other. Somehow the conversation spirals to talking about other things - favourite books and movies and Patrick isn't stuck for words even once.

He keeps looking for the right moment to bring up Mikey's picture, and the little charade of two nights ago. He knows this is his opportunity to do it - it's past time already - but every time he opens his mouth to say it, something else comes out. He just… he hasn't had this much to say to someone who's not Joe or Andy or his Mum in a really long time. Pete's smart, and silly, and funny, and Patrick's not ready to ruin this phone call just yet.

His phone bleeps in his ear with a text and he apologies to Pete as he checks it. It's Joe.

crashing at adny's. c u tomoz

Patrick glances at the clock - it's past 9:30; no wonder he's hungry. He sighs and mutters, "No pizza then," and props his phone back against his ear.

Pete must hear him because he says, "No pizza? That's sad. That's a really sad sentiment, Trick."

"Yeah well, my roommate's too stoned to pick it up and the good place doesn't deliver out this far." He could call Domino's he supposes, but they're so overpriced and not really that great.

"I could bring it over? Like, if you wanted." Pete offers, sounding a little meek even through the phone. "Like a pizza date."

Patrick's brain reels to a stop. Maybe this is how he's supposed to do it. He could invite Pete over for pizza and open the door and just say, "oh by the way, I'm Patrick - surprise!" and maybe Pete would at least stay long enough to eat the pizza. Or maybe he wouldn't. The scenario plays out in Patrick's head and it's depressing enough that he doesn't really want to risk it.

"Actually, I really shouldn't be spending money on pizza right now. I bought all this food the other day, I should eat some of it." Patrick holds his breath, waiting to see if Pete will push. If he does, then maybe Patrick should relent, and just get this whole thing over and done with before he gets to like Pete too much.

"Did you shop hungry?" Pete asks. "I always buy too much if I shop hungry. I'll end up with like three boxes of Pop Tarts and no vegetables. I shop like a twelve year old when I'm hungry."

Patrick's mouth curls into a smile at that, and the relieved breath he releases hits the phone on the way out. "I guess I kinda did," he admits, strolling over to fridge and pulling the door open to assess its contents. "I suppose I could make a sandwich," he says.

"Ooh, what you got?" Pete asks, and Patrick thinks he can hear the suction sound of Pete opening his own fridge, "I think I want a sandwich too."

Patrick rattles off a few ingredients and so does Pete. Somehow they end up making matching tuna sandwiches and arguing over their stance on pickles. (Pete is pro-pickle. Patrick is anti-pickle. Pete winds up leaving off the pickle on his sandwich in deference to Patrick's anti-pickle stance, or so he says.)

Patrick settles down in front of his computer to eat his sandwich and notices that the bounce he kicked off ages ago is done. He goes to burn it and accidentally double clicks the file so it plays, sending it blaring out his speakers. He scrambles to hit stop, nearly spilling his sandwich everywhere.

"Wait, what was that?" Pete asks, sounding a bit like his mouth is full.

"Oh nothing," Patrick says quickly, "Just something I'm working on, it's pretty raw."

"Could you play it for me?" Pete asks, his tone a little pleading.

"Um."

"Please, just a little? I'm desperate to hear more of your stuff."

Patrick's hand hovers over the mouse. It's just a little thing he was fucking around with; he's not even sure what it sounds like yet. He shrugs to himself. What's the harm, really?

He clicks to the start of the track and presses play, leaning closer to the speakers so it'll come through clearer.

He's weirdly nervous as it plays, listening intently to the phone, waiting for Pete to make some kind of noise. He doesn't, not until the track abruptly stops when it runs out. Then Pete says, "Wow. That's really cool. I love the layering of sounds. Are you messing around with panning? Because that would really work with that."

"Um, yeah, actually. You can't hear it through the phone, but I'm bouncing it back and forth. It'll sound cool with headphones on." The words rush out of his mouth and he realises he's never really talked to anyone about what he's working on when he's working on it. Not like this; he usually just keeps banging away until he thinks it sounds polished enough, then he might play it to Joe or Andy if they seem interested.

"I think that'd be really cool." Pete says. "No vocal?"

"No vocal yet, but… I don't know. I was kind of thinking of maybe an undertone, like a-" he hums out the tune he was thinking of, a melody that would sit over the top.

Pete is conspicuously silent on the other end of the line.

"Maybe not?" Patrick asks, feeling unsure for the first time since they started talking music.

"No, no-" Pete stutters. "No, I like it. Could you… could you sing it again?"

Patrick does, a little louder this time and instead of just humming he vocalises with ah's and la's. His voice is a little husky because he hasn't really warmed up properly, but he hits all the notes. "I mean, it'd be more polished than that but you get the idea," he tells Pete. Pete doesn't answer. "Pete?"

"Oh sorry, sorry," Pete says in a rush. "I was all, um. Yeah, no it's good. Sorry I didn't mean to go catatonic on you, it's just… your voice, it's so-" he trails off.

"Yeah, I know I'm not warmed up but it's-" Patrick tries to explain, but Pete cuts him off.

"It's incredible. Fuck, Patrick, you're an angel. Do you have any idea what you sound like?" Pete sounds enthralled.

Patrick's not sure what to say. "Um." He tries to put his empty plate down somewhere without dropping it. He's never had anyone get this excited about his voice, ever.

"Could I ask you something?" Pete says, sounding suddenly quite intense.

"Um, sure," Patrick asks, his heart doing a kind of flip-flop in his chest.

"This is probably going to sound a bit creepy and weird but… would you sing something for me?"

"Sing what?" Patrick asks, his fingers clenching tightly on his phone. It's warm against his ear; they've been talking a long time.

"Whatever you like. Something you're working on. Your favourite song. Anything. I just want to hear you sing."

Patrick rubs his hand over his face. His skin feels hot. He's not sure why. "Um, okay?"

"You don't sound so sure," Pete says. "It's okay, you don't have to. Sorry, it was probably a stupid idea."

"No, it's fine," Patrick interjects, "I don't mind, I'm just. I'm kind of stumped on what to sing." He scratches a hand through his hair, trying to think of something he can do a cappella. Maybe Allie. But that'd be better with a guitar. "Hang on," he tells Pete, getting up, "I'm gonna go grab my guitar."

"Dude, it's cool, I don't want to make a big deal."

"I have to walk up, like, ten stairs, it's not a big deal. I'm better when I've got something to beat a rhythm out on." He goes to his bedroom and pulls out his acoustic. He strums a few chords; it's a bit flat. He turns his phone to speaker as he tightens the strings. "Just give me a minute to tune up."

"I feel bad now," Pete says, his voice tinny in the little speaker, "I'm making all this fuss."

"It's not a fuss, I've been meaning to tune this guitar anyway."

He tweaks the chords and Pete doesn't talk while he does it; he must just be listening to Patrick fiddling with the strings. Patrick strums it a couple of times to check it's all fine and tells Pete, "Okay, I'm ready."

"Wow, okay," Pete sounds a little breathless, "Um, I guess I am too."

That startles a laugh out of Patrick and it comes out louder than he expected. "Oh, I guess I am a little nervous," he admits.

"Don't be," Pete tells him. "You're amazing." He sounds like he means it too.

Patrick's fingers find the strings and he lets the muscle memory take over. He sings the track through. It's one of his. He likes it; it's good to do acoustic because the vocals are fun. He sometimes wonders if there's too much vocal trilling and trickery, but it's the kind of thing that he likes to hear in a song, so he doesn't want to change it.

He lets himself go, not forgetting for a second that Pete's listening, but just falling into the music, belting out the words as loud as he likes. He's got the place to himself, he may as well.

When he's strummed the final chord and the room is silent but for his own breathing, he waits and listens for Pete's response.

Nothing. He picks up his phone, taking it off speaker and pressing it to his ear. Still nothing.

"Pete?"

Patrick hears a strangled sounding noise through the phone. "Pete, are you there?"

Patrick knows he is, he can hear him breathing. "Pete, I can hear you breathing."

A few more strangled breaths. Well, okay that's great. Patrick shrugs the guitar strap off his shoulder. "Fine, if you hate it so much then yeah, I guess you don't need to say anything, I'll just-"

"No it's not that!" Pete says in a rush, his words halting Patrick's fingers from ending the call.

"What is it then?" Patrick tries to keep his voice gentle, but there's a little snarl in it anyway.

"Oh wow," Pete says, sounding overwhelmed, "There is really no good way to say this."

"If it sucks so much-"

"No, it really, really, really doesn't, Patrick. Fuck, I'm…" Pete trails off, and Patrick can hear movement, like he's shifting around or pacing. "Okay, wow so um, I'm just going to come out and say this and just please for the love of god don't hang up on me because I know this is like so incredibly inappropriate…"

Pete trails off to silence.

"What?" Patrick prompts, because now he's dying of curiosity. "Seriously, what?" he snaps.

"Okay, so Patrick, the thing is, I'm like, wow," there's movement against the phone like Pete's covering his face or the microphone or something, "Wow, Patrick I'm like, I'm so turned on right now."

All the breath rushes out of Patrick's lungs. That's pretty much the last thing he expected to hear.

"And before you say anything - it's not just that you have the most incredible, amazing voice, and this ridiculous talent with music. It's also like, tonight I feel like I've gotten a glimpse of what you're really like, and you're just so… so, fuck Patrick, you're just pushing every one of my buttons and I'm so sorry this is way too much information, isn't it?"

Patrick hasn't got the words to respond to that. He's still kind of shell shocked. "You - you're… turned on? By my singing? By talking to me?"

"Yes," Pete answers, quickly and very sure. "God, I'm sorry this is way overstepping right now. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything."

Patrick's breath rushes out in a hiss. He has to sit down. He drops onto his bed, trying to imagine Pete, in his house, listening to Patrick and getting turned on. Pete in his living room, or bedroom, listening to Patrick and getting hard. A shudder runs through his body, heat gathering low in his belly.

"You mean, like, right now, just listening to me," Patrick's voice is low, a husky whisper. "Just from listening to my voice."

"Fuck, Patrick," Pete sounds choked. "Yes."

Patrick runs a hand over his face. He should hang up. He should hang up right now. Except he's hot all over and suddenly so fucking hard and the idea that Pete might say something and he won't hear it is too difficult to bear.

Patrick swallows carefully and wets his lips. When he speaks his voice comes out even lower, almost gravelly, "You mean you're hard, right now?" His face flushes with heat as the words leave his lips.

"Yes." Pete sounds even more wrecked than before. "Yes, right now." He can hear Pete swallow, gasp in a breath. "Because of you."

"Fuck." It's barely a whisper, more a rush of breath, but with that one word Patrick gives himself up to whatever's going to happen next. He's in. Whatever the next part is, he's in.

For long moments there's just two sets of rough breathing down the line. Patrick's got his phone gripped tight in one hand, his other hand on his knee, fingers digging into his flesh. He's so aware of his own hard-on and he can't stop thinking about Pete, on the other end of this phone, sweet, funny, cute, charming Pete, getting hard from Patrick's voice, from just talking.

"What-" he stumbles over the word, "What do you want, Pete?"

He can hear Pete's trembling breaths, "Just keep talking. Please, just keep talking."

"I don't know what to say," Patrick admits, his fingers still digging into his knee, fighting the urge to move his hand higher, slide it up his thigh. He tries to imagine Pete, where he is, what he's doing, what he's wearing. "Tell me where you are, what you're doing."

Pete expels another couple of shaky breaths, then says, "I'm in the living room, on the couch, laying down. I'm-" Pete cuts himself off with a sharp breath.

Patrick paints that picture in his head and his brain fills in all the parts he doesn't know, what colour the couch is, how Pete's legs are bent and slightly akimbo, how Pete's got one hand to his ear holding his phone, the other much lower.

"You're what, Pete?" Patrick asks, sucking in a breath to say, "Are you touching yourself?" They're just words, but they still make his whole body sway forward with a dizzying heat.

"Not really," Pete sounds throaty, like the words are a chore, "Not yet. Not unless you-"

"I want you to." Patrick says in a rush, before he can chicken out. The noise Pete makes in response is all need and it goes straight to Patrick's dick. He doesn't try to hold back anymore, letting his hand slide up his thigh to rest over his dick. Fuck, he can't believe he's doing this. He's so fucking hard.

"I'm so fucking hard," he tells Pete. He palms himself through his jeans.

"Really?"

"Yes, really." Patrick would roll his eyes if he weren't so turned on. Instead he rocks into his hand, shaping his dick through his jeans. "Fuck, Pete, what you're doing to me."

"Haven't done anything yet," Pete whispers, then lets out a soft moan, "So much I would though. So much I want to do."

"Tell me, Patrick says, and his voice is too desperate but he can't control it.

"Damn, Patrick, do you really want to hear this?"

Patrick kicks his door closed and drops down onto his bed, already unbuckling his belt. "Yes, I do. I want to - no. I need to hear it." He flops back onto the bed, sliding his hand into his jeans. He's so hard, so fucking hard.

"Want to taste you, want to touch you everywhere. Fuck, Patrick this is so wrong-"

Patrick doesn't need to hear that right now. "We're doing this," he interrupts. "Now shut up and jerk off for me." He finally gets a hand inside his underwear, skin to skin, and fists his dick. He's so turned on it's a little dizzying. He bends his knees, heels digging into the bed as he thrusts up into his hand. His own hand isn't enough, but it's something. He listens to Pete's breathing, imagines what he's doing, what he must look like.

He's breathing loud enough he knows Pete can hear him, but that's not what Pete asked for. He wants Patrick's voice and Patrick can't think of a thing to say. He slips his hand lower, cups his balls before stroking again, catching his calluses on the sensitive underside of his dick. "Wish I could see you," he whispers, like a filthy secret. "Want to watch how you touch yourself. Want to see your face when you come."

Pete groans deep and long and it goes straight to Patrick's dick.

He speeds his hand. "I'm not gonna last," he tells Pete, "Not like this. God, you're so hot."

"Patrick fuck. I'm so close. Keep talking please." Pete sounds wrecked and so desperate.

"God yes," Patrick sighs, his voice breathy and heavy, "Want to hear you. Come on, come for me."

Pete makes a strangled noise and Patrick groans back. God he's so hot, so close. He gives up on words and lets Pete know what he's feeling through loud, musical moans, pushing up into his own hand, his dick leaking with want.

Pete comes first, with a beautiful, gasping desperate moan that ends on Patrick's name. It's all Patrick needs to follow him over, with a gasp and a groan of his own, the wetness of his release almost a surprise when it hits his skin.

Patrick goes boneless after, lying on the bed all messed up, breathing hard.

"Wow," Pete sounds stunned, breathless.

Patrick turns his head, leaning his ear on the earpiece to tell Pete, "That's what I said." Pete's laugh is loud and musical and gorgeous.

"God I'm a mess," Patrick complains, because of course he's come all over his jeans. Of course he would do that.

"You and me both," Pete says, and Patrick can hear the smile in his voice. "Hey, do you mind waiting a few minutes while I clean up? Don't hang up, alright? Please?"

He sounds so hopeful, so careful, Patrick can't help but assure him. "Not going anywhere."

"Good," Pete says, and there's some rustling and the soft noise of the phone being dropped. Patrick lies on the bed listening to the sound of running water and thinks he should probably clean up too. He kicks off his jeans and swabs at his stomach with some kleenex, pulling on some mostly-clean boxers. He should probably be freaking out at least a little about having phone sex with the guy who owns Decaydance music, but he's all post-orgasmic and relaxed; it's hard to stir up any worry.

"You're still there, right?" Pete sounds so unsure it's heartbreaking.

"Yeah, still here. I haven't even moved from the bed." Patrick's voice is all low and relaxed now.

"Good." Pete says, and Patrick can hear movement, like he's pulling a blanket up or curling into his hoodie. "So would it be really forward for me to ask if I could come over?"

All the calm drains from Patrick's body with that one sentence. Pete coming here. Now. Pete seeing he just got off with someone way less attractive than Mikey Way. Pete knowing.

Patrick just wants a little longer like this. Just a little more of this absolute perfection where Pete is into him - really into him - before he has to go back to reality.

"Yeah, that's a little forward," he tries to sound offhand. "So, no."

"But you can talk to me a little more, right? Stay on the line?"

Patrick bites his lip at how hopeful Pete sounds. "Yeah," he sighs, "Yeah I can do that."

They talk about everything under the sun, from childhood dreams, to what's wrong with the American government. He finds himself telling Pete things he's never told anyone before, he's just that easy to talk to. Patrick has to plug his phone into the charger so it doesn't run out of battery.

Hours pass and as much as Patrick fights it, his eyes start to droop. Pete hears him yawn down the phone. "Oh it's like that, is it?"

"Sorry, it's late."

"Need a bedtime story, Pattycakes?" Pete has tried out several equally terrible nicknames on Patrick over the course of the evening. This one's probably the worst. Patrick doesn't call Pete out on it this time, just snuggles into his pillow and wishes Pete could be here in person, without it being an total clusterfuck. He doesn't say as much to Pete. He can't.

"Sure, you going to read me one?"

"Yeah, okay," Pete still sounds wide awake, amazingly. Must be the insomnia. "What have I got nearby, let's see. Um, okay, you want some Hemingway?"

"Yes, please." Patrick's not picky.

Pete's good at reading; he keeps a lovely rhythmic cadence and his speaking voice has a real resonance. Patrick fights to stay awake because he doesn't want to miss a word.

Patrick curls up on his side, hugs his knees to his chest and just listens, wishing they could do this properly, wishing for Pete's fingers carding through his hair, for the touch of his lips to Patrick's cheek as he reads the words. Patrick doesn't really follow the story too closely, he just falls into the rhythm of Pete's words, letting them roll over him and surround him.

"Hey," Pete pauses in his reading, "Hey Trick, you still with me?"

"Yeah," Patrick says sleepily, "Still here."

"Hey so…" Pete trails off. He doesn't sound at all sleepy.

"Hey what?" Patrick says, rolling onto his back, waking up a little.

"You're different on the phone," Pete says. "Don't take that the wrong way, like. I mean, you just, you sound different. You're like, a different person."

Patrick is very much awake now. He grips the phone to his ear, his heart beating far too quickly. "How do you mean?"

"I don't know, you're more…" Patrick can almost hear the shrug, followed by a long silence. "I like you both ways but…"

"But?"

"I like you like this. I like how you're straight with me. No bullshit. I appreciate it."

Patrick is a terrible human being. The worst. He can't do this.

"Pete," he says softly. "Pete, I have to tell you something."

"Tell me what?" Pete asks, sounding so trusting and true Patrick wants to hurt himself.

"It's important."

"I'm listening."

Patrick sits up, and the movement draws his gaze to his own reflection in the mirror mounted on his closet door. His hat's fallen off and his hair is rumpled, his skin flushed red and a little sweaty and the shirt he's wearing clings to the swell of his belly. Patrick looks away. He doesn't want to say it. He doesn't want to spoil this perfect night.

"Tomorrow," he says instead.

"Sorry?" Pete asks, since he's not a mind reader.

"I'll tell you tomorrow. I don't want to spoil it now."

"Spoil what?" Pete sounds confused. "Patrick, did I do something wrong?"

"No, you really didn't. You were perfect," Patrick says, sadly. "I did."

There's a long silence then, and Patrick doesn't know how to fill it. He sits with the phone warm at his ear, feeling miserable and worthless.

"Can I read to you some more?" Pete asks, gentle but eager.

Patrick's already nodding. "Please."

He lies back and listens, eventually dozing in and out, the rhythm of Pete's words surging like a tide through his dreams.

*

When he wakes up the next day he's not even sure if he dreamed the whole thing. Except there's his guitar right where he left it. Not to mention the soiled kleenex on his nightstand and his messed-up jeans.

"Jesus," he mutters to himself and stumbles into the shower.

Today is for confessions, that's what he promised himself. But it can probably wait until after his morning shift at the bookstore, which he's already edging on late for. He pulls on his uniform and is checking under the bed for his favourite cap when his phone rings.

Of course it's Pete. Patrick's heart flips in his chest and he actually considers not answering it… for about a nanosecond. Then he takes a breath and answers.

"Hey," he hopes he sounds natural. He's suddenly shaky as hell.

"Hey, good morning." Pete says. There's some background noise on the call, like he's outside. "It's nice to hear your voice again."

Patrick smiles and ducks his head, feeling his cheeks grow a little warmer. "Yeah, you too. I mean, it's nice to hear from you too."

"So, you were saying last night, you had something to tell me? I'm curious as hell man, I was thinking about it all night."

"All night?" Patrick counters, he seems to remember the sun coming up toward the end of their call. "Did you sleep at all?"

"Not really," Pete says, "I'm not calling you too early, am I?"

"No, it's cool, I had to get up for work." He finally finds his hat and wedges it onto his head, checking his watch. He really needs to get a move on. He hears the door across the hall from him slam and figures Mikey must be home now too. "Which I'm kind of running late for, so, I don't know - are you free in the afternoon? I could meet you." Patrick pointedly turns away from the mirror on his closet. He's not going to chicken out of this twice.

"Sure, I can meet you this afternoon," Pete says, "or you could just come downstairs."

"Excuse me?"

"I'm outside your house right now."

Patrick does not say oh shit out loud, but his heart definitely stops for a moment. He eases over to his tiny window and peeks through the curtains. Sure enough, there's Pete, wearing bright red skinny jeans and a jacket that would be doing nothing to keep him warm in this weather. Patrick pulls back from window, swallowing. Suddenly breathing is a chore.

"Oh. Okay then. So you are." The words come out a little hysterical.

"I'm going to knock now. Will you let me in?"

Patrick leans back against his closet. Maybe he could just stay in his room forever, and eventually Pete will give up? But no, he has to go to work, and Pete probably deserves better than that. It's time for him to come clean. The sooner he does it, the sooner it will be over. And as much as last night was, well… amazing… Patrick probably couldn't keep up the charade that much longer.

"I'll be right down," he tells Pete and studiously avoids the mirror as he walks past it.

He rehearses what to say as he goes down the stairs. It was all a mixup that became a misunderstanding. He attached the wrong file. Mikey was doing him a favour. Patrick will take the blame, it was all his fault anyway.

He gets to the bottom of the stairs and straightens his shoulders, marching across the living room to the front door.

The front door which is already open. Mikey's hand is on the handle, but that's not the part of the scenario that's captured Patrick's complete attention, oh no.

That part would be how Pete is Patrick's living room, kissing Mikey like he needs him to breathe. And Mikey's kissing back. Patrick can't do anything but stare. Pete's hands are locked in Mikey's hair. Mikey's got one hand on Pete's shoulder, fingers digging points into the fabric of his jacket. Pete's got an arm wrapped around Mikey's waist and they're both just going for it.

Patrick's in shock. He's not going to cry. He's not going to hit someone. His face feels hot. His hands are trembling.

"Oh my god." He's not even aware that he says that out loud.

It's enough to make Mikey break the kiss and step back, even as Pete's grabbing for him, saying "Fuck, Patrick, I wanted to do that all night."

Mikey looks over at Patrick, his eyes wild. "It's not what it-" he starts to say, but Patrick cuts him off, babbling.

"I'm late for work," is all he manages as he rushes for the door.

*

He doesn't remember his journey to work and most of his shift is a blur. His supervisor is definitely glaring at him a lot, so Patrick's obviously out of it. He can't help it. He's so angry at himself, not just for getting into this situation, but for daring to hope it could end any other way.

He violently shelves books and asks himself what else did he expect? He's not the type of guy anyone looks twice at. Of course Pete is only going to be attracted to him if he thinks he looks like Mikey Way.

He grabs another stack of travel guides to Zimbabwe and tries to tell himself he doesn't care.

It's a lie, and he knows it.

*

Mikey's waiting for him when he gets home.

"Dude, you haven't answered your phone all day. I thought you were dead."

Patrick gives him his best don't be dramatic face. "Do I look dead? You know I can't answer my phone when I'm at work."

Patrick deliberately walks right past Mikey and flops face first onto the couch.

"Aren't you going to ask me what happened?" Mikey asks, crouching down beside the couch and poking Patrick in the arm.

"No," Patrick says into the weed-scented cushions. Maybe if he doesn't ask he'll never have to find out how Pete and Mikey are in love now, and dating, and Patrick will be alone forever.

Mikey either doesn't listen or he doesn't accept Patrick's answer. He sits down on Patrick's legs - probably because Patrick has taken up the entire couch in his body-flop - and pokes Patrick in the back with his finger until Patrick finally gets annoyed enough to grab his hand and yell, "What?"

Patrick grumbles and flips onto his back - somewhat awkwardly because Mikey is still perched on his legs - and looks up at Mikey miserably. "Fine, tell me."

"Nothing happened. Okay?" Mikey looks at least slightly uncomfortable, which Patrick finds strangely satisfying.

"So I hallucinated the kissing?"

"Nothing else happened."

Patrick wants to believe him, but his eyes actually do work. "You were kissing back."

Mikey shrugs."He's a really good kisser, okay? Sorry. And he got me by surprise."

"So your response to surprise-kissing is to kiss back?" Patrick asks, voice laden with sarcasm.

Mikey just shrugs again. "So?"

Patrick just glares at him. If he just waits long enough…

"Fine okay, so he's a good kisser and he seems like a nice guy and he's pretty good looking, and under normal circumstances I might even be interested - but he has this one personal issue that I really have a problem with."

Patrick raises an eyebrow. "What's that."

"He's totally hung up on you." He punctuates the statement by poking Patrick in the chest.

Patrick slumps back down in the couch cushions. "He's not hung up on me. He's hung up on some fantasy idea of a person that doesn't really exist." Patrick covers his face with his hands. "How the fuck did I get myself into this?"

"I'm never sending you photos of me ever again." Mikey says.

Patrick just groans into his hands, until Mikey grabs his wrists and forces them away from his face. "I have an idea."

"Do I even want to ask?" Patrick says.

"It's a good plan, Mikey says defensively.

Patrick shoots him a cutting look.

"Okay, so it's the only plan we've got." Mikey shrugs.

"Fine, tell me."

"So we go over to his house, get shit-faced and see what happens."

"That's it? That's the whole plan?"

Mikey's mouth pulls to the side. "Well, yeah." He doesn't sound all that sure.

Patrick sighs. "Fine. Count me in."

*

They rock up to Pete's place with a bottle of tequila each. Patrick is pretty sure they won't need the second bottle but Mikey insisted.

Pete's lives in a very expensive-looking apartment complex. He even has a doorman who buzzes them up. Patrick takes a step behind Mikey as they wait for Pete to answer the door, willing himself to invisibility. This is such a bad idea, but he can't pass up the chance at seeing Pete again.

His stab at invisibility nearly works. Pete opens the door and his face lights up when he sees Mikey, inviting him in so fast he nearly closes the door on Patrick. It's a little awkward and Pete clearly wasn't expecting more than one person on his doorstep (obviously, when Patrick texted him he didn't mention bringing "Gerard") but Pete recovers pretty smoothly.

"Hey," he says to Patrick, belatedly, "nice to see you again."

"You too," Patrick responds with a smile that feels forced. He hands Pete his bottle of tequila and goes inside.

Pete's place looks even more expensive once they're inside, but somehow it's got enough of Pete's personality tied into it that it's not off-putting. It has the look of a converted warehouse - high ceilings, exposed brick, industrial-looking fixtures and the walls and surfaces are decorated with an interesting mix of fashion and music themed pieces. There's a framed t-shirt on the wall, plain grey with the recognisable Clandestine bat-heart logo on it, a couple of records from the Decaydance label, also framed, and a whole lot of other weird and interesting knick-knacks scattered over the various surfaces between comfy-but-expensive looking furniture.

There's a massive sound system too, that's currently playing some pretty catchy pop. Patrick hovers by the speakers, listening. It's pretty good.

"Nice place," Mikey tells Pete, strolling through the living room to settle on the couch.

Patrick's glad Mikey said it first. The place is way nicer than "nice"; he's not sure he could've been so casual.

It's awkward for a few moments. Pete hovers in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen and wiggles the two bottles of tequila in a questioning way. "Am I getting mixers for these or…?"

"Let's just drink it straight," Mikey says, the picture of unaffected and Patrick wishes he had the skills to emulate that level of cool.

"Good thing I don't have anything on early tomorrow," Pete says with a rueful smile and turns back into the kitchen. The moment his back is turned, Mikey beckons Patrick over. "Sit down, relax." He pats the couch beside him.

"I just don't think he really wants me here," Patrick admits, as he sits down obediently.

"He doesn't want me here, you're the one he's interested in, he just doesn't know that," Mikey whispers.

Patrick bites his lip, wishing he could believe it. "I should just go home."

"Shut up and drink some tequila until you calm down," Mikey says in a forceful whisper, settling his expression back to neutral just as Pete comes back out with one of the bottles, some shot glasses, lemon and salt. They do the familiar lick, sip, suck routine and as the tequila burns down Patrick's throat he predicts this night could go south quite fast. He's never had good alcohol tolerance.

"Who are we listening to?" Patrick asks, chasing the burn with another suck of lemon. Yeah, that's totally not working.

"Oh, these guys are a Danish band, New Politics. They sent me their demo; I'm considering them for The Decaydance. What do you think?"

Patrick pretends not to notice that he directs the question to Mikey more than himself and answers anyway. "They're good. Need a little polish but the songs are catchy and the vocalist has a really nice voice. I like it."

Pete grins and glances at Mikey. "Do you like them, Patrick? Think you could be label mates?"

Mikey shoots Pete a half-smile that's somehow flirty in an understated way. "Yeah," he nods, "I like them too."

The smile that lights up Pete's face is almost blinding. Patrick's starting to hate being here to witness how many easy smiles Pete has for Mikey. This was such a terrible idea.

Mikey's already pouring them another round, and after that there's another. Patrick starts to go a little fuzzy around the edges. It loosens him up enough to participate in the conversation and pretty soon he and Pete are arguing the differences between emo and neo-punk and whether there's any real value in avoiding genre labels or playing to them. Pete's way smarter than Patrick ever used to give him credit for. Maybe if Patrick had given him more credit from the start he wouldn't have wound up where he is, playing some drummer named "Gerard" while Mikey gets to be Patrick.

Somehow the topic of Bowie vs Morrissey comes up and Patrick loses track of how many more tequilas he shoots as the three of them argue that one out. Mikey is definitely in the Morrissey camp, Patrick in Bowie and while Pete plays both sides, he ends up admitting he has to give it to Bowie if for no other reason than just being "way hotter".

Patrick is extremely surprised when Mikey halts the conversation about Iggy Pop to brandish the now empty tequila bottle. He blinks a few times, focusing on the bottle, and yes, it's empty.

"Now we can really get the party going. We're playing truth or dare." Mikey stands up, only a little wobbly, and clears space in the middle of the coffee table, laying the bottle on its side.

"That doesn't look like truth or dare to me," Patrick points out.

"I think you're getting your schoolyard games mixed up, Pattycakes," Pete says to Mikey with a crooked smile and wow, maybe it's because Patrick is quite drunk, but hearing the godawful nickname directed at Mikey instead of him makes him want to get up and leave.

Mikey must have some kind of sixth sense about these things because he chooses that moment to flop back onto the couch and shove his legs in Patrick's lap like a glorified footrest. "Jersey rules," he says, "We take turns asking, but you spin to see who you get to ask. That way it's more fair, you don't always get the same person. I'll go first."

He leans over just far enough to reach the coffee table and gives the bottle a spin. It lands pointed directly at Pete, who just shrugs and grins. "Truth or dare?" Mikey asks.

"Since we're just warming up, I'll say truth." He smiles, wide and gorgeous and Patrick can't help wondering just how drunk he is. They've had a lot of tequila.

"What is your like number one thing you find irresistible in a person?"

Pete doesn't even miss a beat. "Oh that one's easy. If they can sing. I am such a sucker for a beautiful voice." The way he says it, the smile he gives Mikey, Patrick knows he's saying a whole lot more.

"Oh yeah?" Mikey prompts, totally missing the undercurrent.

"Yeah," Pete shrugs. "What can I say? It does things to me." He bites his lip and fuck if that isn't the sexiest thing Patrick's seen in a while. He can feel his skin heating up because he knows exactly what Pete's talking about, decoding the hidden meaning that's flying right over Mikey's head. He shifts uncomfortably on the couch, trying really hard not to think about Pete's voice down the phone last night.

"Gerard. Gerard?" Patrick doesn't actually realise he's zoned out until Mikey pokes him the side with his foot. "Your turn to spin."

"Oh right," Patrick will never get used to answering to Mikey's brother's name. Not that he wants to. He leans forward and spins the bottle, carefully. Of course it ends up pointing at Pete. "Is this table sitting at an angle or something?" he asks, leaning sideways to take a closer look and immediately regrets the move when the carpet starts to rush up at him. He rights himself quickly, waiting for the room to stop moving. Okay, he's drunker than he thought.

Pete just says truth again, which gives Patrick a good enough excuse to sit back down.

He flops back onto the couch and tries desperately to think of a question. Preferably an intelligent one. He's not sure why it's so important to him that he's able to interest Pete while he's pretending to be someone else, but apparently it is. His eyes flick around the apartment, bouncing from the framed t-shirt, to the framed albums, and back again.

"If you had to give up one thing - fashion or music - and just concentrate on the other, which one would you keep?" Wow, Patrick is quite proud of that one, he didn't even slur that much and he's actually interested to know the answer.

"Ow, way to go straight for the heart dude!" Pete clutches at his chest. "Talk about Sophie's choice." His expression turns thoughtful, one of his hands scratching absently at a hole in the knee of his jeans. "Do you mean like right now, or five years ago, or ten years in the future, or what?"

"Right now," Patrick says, very sure. When he glances over at Mikey, Mikey shoots him a raised eyebrow that shows he's impressed.

Pete rocks back in his seat, crossing and uncrossing his legs and hmm-ing.

"C'mon," Mikey taps the table with his thumb, "we don't have all night."

"Okay," Pete takes a deep breath, "Right now, I'd have to say I'd keep the music. I love the fashion business, don't get me wrong, but I've been around for a long time and gotten to do a lot of what I wanted to do. I'm only just starting out with music and I am nowhere near close to done with that, so yeah. Music."

"Really?" Patrick doesn't even mean to say the word out loud. He's actually quite surprised. "I mean, it means that much to you?"

"It means everything," Pete says, and the way he says makes Patrick's heart squeeze up. "I always wanted to do something with music, my whole life. But I never had the right skill set to make it myself. I finally found a way to get in there, and there is no way I'm giving that up now."

Patrick… kind of wants to kiss him. It's a physical effort to stay on the couch and launch himself at Pete. Luckily, he's not that drunk. Yet. Perhaps he should remedy that.

He waits until Pete's had his spin, which luckily (or unluckily) lands on Mikey, before heading into the kitchen to get the other bottle of tequila.

He gets back just in time to hear Mikey say, "dare."

Pete immediately says, "Sing something for me."

Patrick doesn't drop the bottle, but it's a close thing.

Mikey does a good job of covering up any reaction to the request. He locks eyes with Patrick across the room. Patrick's out of Pete's line of sight, behind him, so Pete can't see when Patrick gesticulates madly at Pete, mouthing, "tell him to close his eyes."

Mikey hesitates only a moment before he tells Pete, "You'd need to close your eyes. He adds in a rush, "I'm shy," with more force than possibly necessary.

Patrick skirts around Pete, glancing back to see that yes, Pete has indeed closed his eyes. He dumps the bottle on the coffee table and sits down next to Mikey, scooting up close so they're nearly on top of each other. Mikey stares at him, a wide-eyed what the fuck are we doing and Patrick stares back, silently hoping he can pull this off.

"Seriously, keep them closed," Mikey tells Pete. "If you open them even a crack I'll stop."

"It's a thing," Patrick adds.

"Whatever you say," Pete says, his eyes staying firmly closed, "Just sing, please."

Patrick opens his mouth and realises he has no idea what to sing. So he just sings the first thing that pops in his head, which ends up being Prince's Raspberry Beret.

He can't take his eyes off Pete the whole time he's singing it. The flicker of a smile that crosses his mouth as he recognises the song, the way he licks his lips as Patrick launches into the chorus. It's freeing to know Pete can't see him, that he can look his fill, not have to try to be polite or discreet. By the time he reaches the part about driving out to the farm, Pete's starting to shift in his seat. Patrick flushes red, remembering what happened the last time he sang for Pete, feeling the swell of heat low in his own belly at the thought.

He knows his face is burning by the time he finishes the song, but he doesn't miss a note. He turns to look at Mikey, to lean a hand on his too-hot cheek and pretend he's been listening to him sing. Mikey looks a little stunned. He meets Patrick's eyes, looking like he wants to say something, but Pete speaks first.

"Christ, Patrick. You're so good at that."

Patrick lets his eyes fall shut for a long breath and pretends Pete's talking to him. He distracts himself from Mikey's breathless thank you by cracking open the new bottle of tequila, pouring a new round of shots. He loses track of the next few rounds of truth or dare. There's some mildly embarrassing questions and Mikey has to cross the room balancing a shot glass on his head. A shot glass full of tequila. His hair and Pete's rug both suffer as a consequence.

The tequila keeps flowing and Patrick gets warm, buzzy and floppy. He winds up pressed against Mikey on the couch and Pete comes over to sit on Mikey's other side, the three of them moving and swaying ever so slightly, bursting into laughter at the drop of a hat. It's a ridiculous, fun kind of drunk, but running underneath it is a awareness that been bubbling since sang to Pete. Patrick can sense it, sizzling between Pete and Mikey and it's terrifying and fascinating.

Mikey spins the bottle, and it lands on Patrick. After some giggling and jibing Mikey nudges Patrick with his shoulder. "So, which one?"

"Dare," Patrick says, because he's run out of interesting answers to the truth questions and it's starting to make him feel like his life is very boring.

Mikey peers at Patrick from under his eyelashes, a smirk playing on his lips. "I dare you to kiss Pete."

"Mi-" Patrick starts, sputtering, quickly changing it to "my goodness!" which has Pete and Mikey in fits of laughter. He tries to communicate a silent what the actual fuck to Mikey, but he's either being ignored or Mikey's too drunk to care.

Pete imitates Patrick, clutching his chest and fanning himself with a hand, "My goodness, Patrick! Such a scandalous dare!"

Patrick can't help it, their laughter is infectious; he laughs until his chest hurts. Then suddenly, Pete's face is very close to his. He's leaning forwards, over Mikey's lap. "So, how about it?" he says with an over-enthusiastic wink, and even though he's kind of messy drunk and giggly, he's still so goddamn charming.

"I never step down from a dare," Patrick counters, leaning in himself. His heart is going crazy in his chest and he can't believe he's about to do this. He slants a quick glance at Mikey, trapped between the two of them, but leaning back against the couch so he's out of the way. Mikey just gives him an encouraging look, a drunken you owe me for this hanging in the air between them.

"Good," Pete says. Patrick meets his eyes again, a smirking kind of challenge lit in them. He is excruciatingly attractive.

Patrick licks his lips and just goes for it, taking Pete's mouth in a brief, smacking kiss.

"Booooo!" Mikey says, obnoxiously loud. "Lame! I meant a real kiss! I want to see some tongue!" Patrick is going to fucking kill him. Slowly.

Pete meets Patrick's eyes, raising both eyebrows in a silent I'm up for it if you are. Patrick nods infinitesimally.

So, okay. It looks like he's actually doing this. He raises a hand to Pete's face, light stubble under his cheek. His breath is coming short and he hopes it's not completely obvious how much of a big deal this is to him. Pete gives him a tiny smile and that's all the go ahead Patrick needs. He leans in and claims Pete's mouth - properly this time.

At first it's just lips touching, then Pete's mouth sighs open and Patrick deepens it, feeling him, tasting him. Then Pete's tongue is in his mouth and Patrick's hand is sliding into Pete's hair and it's all so fucking real and so fucking good.

Pete's the one to break it - Patrick doesn't have the willpower. He leans back, wet-lipped and grinning and Patrick's heart does something acrobatic. Fuck, he's in so much trouble now. Pete's gaze darts between Patrick and Mikey, looking thrilled and mischievous and more than a little turned on.

"Now you two!" he says breathlessly.

"What?" Patrick says, not following this line of thought at all.

"You two kiss - I dare you! I'm not spinning, but I dare you both. Do it!"

Patrick looks at Mikey, a little lost. Mikey just grins back at him, like it's all a big joke. Like it's no big deal - and maybe it isn't. The world doesn't shift on its axis every time Patrick kisses someone. He can kiss for a dare. He can kiss for a joke. He tries not to think about how Pete probably considers the kiss they just shared to be one big joke.

He shrugs at Mikey, who shrugs back, but raises an are you okay? eyebrow at him. Patrick slides closer to Mikey, until they're pressed together on Pete's couch, Pete watching them both with a gleeful expression.

"Hey, um," Patrick starts to say, and doesn't manage to finish because suddenly Mikey is kissing him. And fuck, Mikey is a shockingly good kisser. Patrick almost forgets to kiss back, then Mikey nips at his lips, slipping his tongue into Patrick's mouth and wow. Wow. Patrick is surprised at how into it he is. He gives in and kisses back, trying to give back as good as he gets. Mikey is not someone he ever imagined himself kissing - he's so out of Patrick's league it's laughable - but right now, Patrick's just blown away.

When they finally break apart, they're both breathing heavy and Patrick feels a little dizzy. He's also well on his way to being hard and the way he's pressed up against Mikey it's probably quite obvious. He tries not to think about it. He also tries not to think about the way Pete's looking at them both right now, kind of wild and hot and excited.

Pete fixes his gaze on Mikey, "Must be our turn now then."

Patrick might be sick. Panic races over his skin and he just tries to remember to breathe. Mikey hasn't said anything, he just stares at Pete, looking a little unsure. He throws a glance at Patrick, who tries to fake being casual and okay with this. It's just another game, just another dare.

The moment Mikey turns his gaze back to Pete he's being kissed. Pete takes Mikey's mouth fast and hard and Patrick can hear the little noise Mikey makes, can see the slide of Pete's tongue as their mouths shift. He's not sure if he can cope with this.

Mikey snakes a hand down between their bodies, finding Patrick's hand and squeezing it hard. Patrick wants to get up and leave, but Mikey's firm grip keeps him there. He watches them kiss, miserably turned on.

Pete's the one to break it. He leans his forehead against Mikey's, his eyes closed, his lips wet and used. He looks ruined. "Sing for me again. Please?" he's begging, and he's not even trying to hide it.

A pulse of pure heat rushes through Patrick's body at those words. The idea that he could have that effect on Pete, make him want this so much.

"Patrick, please?" Pete says, and Patrick doesn't even care that he's directing it to the wrong person.

"You should," he says to Mikey, "C'mon." He locks eyes with Mikey, trying to convey - fucked if he knows what - just, please, let me do this. It's not sensible and it's not healthy, but he wants to watch Pete again, wants to see him listening.

"Okay," Mikey says, sounding a little shaky. He skims the his free hand up Pete's arm. "Same rules as last time," he says, as he slides his fingers over Pete's eyes, covering them.

"Yes, whatever you want," Pete says, and Patrick's not entirely sure, but he could be shaking. "Just, please."

Mikey shoots Patrick a look, mouthing are you sure? Patrick nods and slides closer, fitting his body behind Mikey's, his chest to Mikey's back. He leans his chin onto Mikey's shoulder, their cheeks brushing, getting his mouth close to where Mikey's would be.

He's not sure why the song floats into his head, but he grasps onto it. It's an oldie, but slow and easy to sing, and kind of sexy. He sings it, low and husky at first, his voice rising higher and higher.

When you baby leaves you all alone
And nobody calls you on the phone,
Don't you feel like crying… don't you feel like crying…
Here I am honey, come on, cry to me…

Pete shivers under Mikey's hands. Leaning in closer to them both, like he's trying to chase Patrick's voice. Patrick keeps singing, keeps clutching Mikey's hand, eyes devouring every line of Pete's body. He's not even into the second verse when Pete starts to squirm, to writhe closer. Mikey's fingers stay across Pete's eyes, his thumb caressing Pete's cheek. When Patrick's gaze drifts to see him, Mikey's watching him right back, his mouth slightly open, lips wet, his gaze intense.

Patrick drives on, into the chorus, far too aware of Mikey's body, taut against his, Pete's breath hitting his face. Mikey's fingers tighten on Patrick's hand, tugging, leading Patrick's hand across his lap, to skate their joined fingers up Pete's thigh. Pete trembles at the touch, squirming more, pressing even closer. Patrick's voice gets deeper, huskier as he sings, letting Mikey drag his hand further, laying their fingers over Pete's crotch and fuck, fuck he's so hard.

It's so hot Patrick might pass out. It's amazing he doesn't forget the words. His breaths get heavier between the lines of the song; he squirms against Mikey as Pete writhes against them both. Pete's whining softly in his throat, biting his lip, breathing so hard. Patrick firms his hand against the fly of Pete's jeans, against the proof of what he's doing to him. He's never been more turned on in his life.

"Come on take my hand and baby won't you cry to me?" he sings. Pete makes a small, desperate noise, his body jerking against Mikey's, rubbing Mikey back against Patrick. Patrick pushes forwards without a thought, his body moving on its own. As he sings, Mikey's lips find the pulse point at base of his throat, licking and sucking gently, his fingers stroking Patrick's as Patrick's firm around the bulge in Pete's jeans.

Patrick doesn't know what the fuck he's doing but he doesn't want it to end. He throws in an extra chorus, but he's getting breathless and the song can't last forever. He trills out the last line, long and slow and deep, tucking his face into Mikey's neck, not sure if he can bear to watch Pete open his eyes.

He doesn't have the willpower to stay there. He looks up just as Mikey shifts his hands away and then Pete's looking back at them both, his eyes dark with want.

"Fuck, Patrick," he mutters, launching himself at Mikey and devouring his mouth, groaning into the kiss. "That was so… oh god…" he mutters between kisses, "Patrick, you have to…" He's grinding against Mikey, and also against Patrick's hand. Patrick is torn between how hot it is and how fucked up the whole situation is. He watches them kiss for what feels like an eternity and then he just can't take it anymore. He wriggles his hand free, sliding out from behind Mikey, trying to get away.

"Wait, no-" Mikey breaks apart from Pete, grabbing Patrick before he can stand up. "Stay. You have to stay." Mikey sounds desperate. Patrick meets his eyes, taking in his messy hair and well-kissed lips. "Please stay."

Patrick can't help it. He looks at Pete. Pete glances between them, his expression confused for just a beat and then he says, "Yeah, of course. C'mon, it'll be fun." Pete grabs Patrick by the shoulder and kisses him, crushing all their bodies together on the couch.

Patrick gives in to it way too easily, kissing back, his mouth falling open, his fingers reaching up to grasp at Pete's shoulders. Fuck, it would be so easy to give in, just take what he wants right now. He slides his tongue into Pete's mouth, swallows his moan. God, he wants it so much.

"Fuck, Gerard, your mouth is so-" Pete mutters the words into Patrick's mouth, losing them in another hot kiss.

Panic shoots through Patrick as he realizes he can't do this, not with Pete calling Patrick someone else's name. Not with him thinking Mikey is Patrick. It's so fucked up.

It takes everything Patrick's got to break the kiss. He knows he's flushed and sweaty, gross and panting when he tells them both, "I can't. I'm sorry, I just can't." He disentangles himself from the two of them and races for the door.

Mikey catches up to him before he makes it outside. "Wait, wait, wait." He grabs Patrick gently by the shoulders. "I'm sorry," he whispers, "I'm sorry, that wasn't the plan."

"It's okay," Patrick lies. He just needs to get out of there. "It's okay, I just. I can't. Not like this. I have to go."

"I'll go with you," Mikey says, and Patrick knows he means it and that just makes it all worse.

"No, don't. We can't both leave. He's really into you. You should stay."

"No," Mikey whispers, insistent, "No, I'm going with you."

Patrick shakes his head. He slides a hand up to Mikey's cheek and leans in, pressing a soft kiss to his mouth, willing him to get it. "Just stay, okay? Do it for me? Let him have this?"

When he pulls back far enough to see Mikey's face, his eyes are wide. "Please," he tells Mikey, already feeling like he's about to lose it. He has to get out before he does. "Please Mikey," he whispers, his hand already on the door knob.

He barely catches Mikey's nod before he stumbles out the door. He holds himself together, breathing deeply all the way down the elevator and past the doorman.

He doesn't start to cry until he gets outside.

*

He calls Andy from his doorstep, the idea of going home just too much to face. Andy opens the door, looking bleary-eyed. "Patrick?"

"I'm sorry," Patrick says, not sure if he's still crying. He knows he must look a wreck.

"Fuck, dude, are you drunk?" Andy whispers.

"Very. But please don't lecture me. Can I crash here tonight?" Patrick tries to keep the misery out of his voice, but he doesn't quite pull it off.

"Off course, you dick, come inside."

Andy shepherds him into the kitchen and makes him drink two big glasses of water before asking, "Do you want to talk about it?"

"No, I really don't," Patrick is very sure. He's feeling less likely to shake into a million pieces now, but he's still not feeling very solid.

"Do you think you can sleep?"

"I can try."

"Okay, come on then." Andy's fingers are warm on Patrick's shoulders as he guides him down the low-lit hallway to Andy's room. It smells comfortingly of patchouli and hemp. Andy helps Patrick out of his shoes and onto the bed, curling up beside him. "Sure you don't want to talk about it?"

"Not now. Later maybe." He doesn't even believe himself.

"Okay," Andy says, rubbing a gentle hand up and down Patrick's back. "Try to sleep then."

Patrick closes his eyes and sees Pete, trembling. Sees Pete, his eyes dark and full of want. Sees Mikey and Pete kissing. Remembers the feel of Pete, hard under his hand. The way Mikey tasted. The smirk on Mikey's mouth when he dared him to kiss Pete. Mikey's lips on Patrick's neck as he sang.

It takes him a long time to fall asleep.

*

He wakes up to seven missed calls and six new text messages. Four of the calls are Mikey, three are Pete. All the texts are Pete.

im sorry please pick up

is it because I kissd gerard

if it is then im sorry I thought u were ok with it. hes cute n all but hes not you and patrick i want you

i woudl do anything please pick up

love makes u do stupdi things right

tell me how to fix this

Andy must have switched his phone to silent. Andy is a saint. Patrick scrolls past the texts, trying extremely hard not to process the fact that Pete used the word love. He was drunk. They all were.

Patrick frowns at his screen, composing and discarding several messages before just sending I need some time. It's just ambiguous enough to cover him.

Pete texts back immediately can I call u?

Patrick swallows a groan and texts back no. A minute later he adds not yet because it seems unfair for Pete to have to suffer because Patrick did something monumentally stupid. The whole situation is so fucked. Patrick doesn't even know where to start to fix it.

When he gets home the house is quiet. He pushes open the front door to see Mikey asleep on the living room couch. He's still wearing last night's clothes, hasn't even taken his shoes off. He's lying at a weird angle, like he didn't mean to fall asleep. His neck is going to hate him when he wakes up.

Patrick walks hesitates beside the couch. Mikey looks so much younger when he's asleep. HIs glasses are crooked and smudged, and his hair is all over the place. Patrick tries to feel angry with him, to remember how awful he felt last night and direct that at Mikey, but he can't. He grabs the old weed-scented blanket from the back of the couch and lays it over Mikey so he doesn't get cold. Then he goes upstairs to pass out himself.

When he wakes up, Mikey's sitting on the bed next to him. Patrick starts, "Shit, Mikey give me a heart attack!"

"Sorry," Mikey says. He looks tired, deep bags under bloodshot eyes. "I waited up for you, but you didn't come home."

"I crashed at Andy's," Patrick says, palming his eyes and sitting up gingerly. His hangover is still mostly there. "I didn't want to…" he shrugs, instead of saying come home to an empty house.

"You okay?" Mikey asks, looking concerned.

"Fine."

There's a long silence. Mikey picks at the seam of his jeans.

"I didn't sleep with him," Mikey says.

"Okay," Patrick says, wishing he could add that it's none of his business except for how it is.

"We went up to his room and fooled around for a bit, and I won't lie - I liked it, I wanted it. But I couldn't…" Mikey wrings his hands, stares into his lap. "He kept saying your name - Patrick, Patrick… and I couldn't. I couldn't do it. It just wasn't right that you weren't there."

There's a pressure behind Patrick's eyes and a fist tightens around his heart. Patrick looks at Mikey, bent in over himself, hands clenching and releasing. He's not crying but he's blinking a lot. "I shouldn't have done it. I shouldn't have… wanted it." Mikey says, his voice sounding dead. "It's such a fucking sob story…. But guys like that don't go for guys like me and I just… I just wanted to see what it was like. But I couldn't."

Patrick's hand stretches across the bed, tangling itself with Mikey's on his lap. "It's okay, Mikes."

"It's not okay," Mikey's voice breaks a little. "I messed it all up. And he's so into you. He's so, so into you. And I just wanted to see what that felt like. Just for a little bit."

"You didn't mess it all up, It was already messed up, I already did that part." Patrick tugs at Mikey's hand, "C'mere."

Mikey comes, surprisingly willing, rolling onto his side and letting Patrick pull him close, Mikey's head on Patrick's shoulder. Patrick runs his fingers through Mikey's tangled, sticky hair and tries to think of some way out of this mess where no one gets hurt. He can't. "This is so, so fucked up."

Mikey nods into his shoulder, fingers clutching a little tighter around Patrick's chest.

Patrick lies there for a while, running the whole thing through his head from every angle. Every way he looks at it, one thing keeps coming up. "I have to tell him."

"Yeah," Mikey says, words muffled into Patrick's chest. "Yeah, you do."

"Fuck, I really don't want to." Patrick stares up at the ceiling, Mikey a warm weight on his chest. "I wish I could tell him without telling him, you know?" He takes a breath, trying not to think of the disappointment and betrayal on Pete's face when he finds out.

"You'll think of something," Mikey says. Patrick wishes he had that much faith.

*

Pete texts him a few times a day over the next week. Weirdly, most of the texts aren't about that night, or what's happened since. Mostly it's just random stuff, a picture of some funny graffiti, a comment on a story that it's the newspapers. Casual, conversational stuff. Patrick knows it's his way of saying I'm here, waiting, no pressure, whenever you're ready.

In some ways it would be easier if he were being more demanding. Only a few of Pete's texts are questioning, and those ones come in the early hours. Sometimes they'll wake Patrick up, other times they'll be waiting for him the next morning.

tell me what I did wrong

i miss u

Patrick sometimes sends back I'm sorry, but mostly he doesn't reply. It feels so unfixable. He knows he has to tell Pete, but it's easy to put off, to go to work instead, to work on a song instead, to go to sleep and try to forget the whole thing. He wishes Joe were around to talk to, but Joe's still on tour - or rather, Joe's gone to a road trip with his musician friends that will likely involve more weed than gigs.

The decision of when to approach Pete is taken out of Patrick's hands the day he comes home from work to find Pete sitting on their doorstep. He's wearing a hoodie that swims on him and flipping a journal over in his hands. He looks up as he hears Patrick's footsteps approaching, a wild hopeful look that drops to disappointment when he sees who it is. Patrick tries not to flinch.

"Hey," he says, his voice sounding rusty.

"Hey," Pete says with a weak smile.

"You waiting for Patrick?" Patrick asks, feeling weird talking about himself in third person. He sits down beside Pete.

"Yeah. He's either not home, or he's not answering 'cause he knows it's me." Pete says with a frown.

"He might be at Ge- at his brother's place. They're pretty close."

Pete shakes his head, pressing the journal between his palms. "I didn't even know he had a brother. What do I know? He hasn't…" Pete rubs a hand through his hair, messing it up. "He hasn't talked to me since that night, you know? When you left." Pete balances the journal on his knees and clasps his hands together. When he looks up at Patrick, his gaze is considering, "Why did you leave?"

Patrick blinks at him for a few long moments, trying to fight the blush he can feel crawling up his cheeks. He forces a shrug, "Three's a crowd. I know when I'm out of my league." He tries to sound casual, like he doesn't care.

Pete's brow furrows, his mouth pulling to the side thoughtfully. His gaze is fixed on Patrick so long he starts to feel uncomfortable. Finally, Pete shifts to lean back on his elbows, still watching Patrick like he can't figure him out. "You really believe that, don't you?"

"Believe what?"

"You really go through life thinking you're the ugly friend." Pete sounds sad.

"You make it sound so black and white." Patrick pulls at his trucker's cap, settling it lower on his head like it could protect him from this conversation. "I know who I'm standing next to and how I look by comparison," he says quietly.

"You don't know who's looking though, or what they see," Pete says.

Patrick can't argue that. It's not enough to change his mind, not after years of being told what is and isn't desirable, so he doesn't say anything. They sit on the steps quietly for a few moments, then Pete shifts like he's going to get up and Patrick panics, not ready for the conversation to be over.

"What's with the notebook?" he asks.

Pete picks it up, flipping it over in his hands. "I write stuff. It's a way to try to turn off my brain, especially when I can't sleep. Which is all the time." He gives Patrick a small, rueful smile. "Anyway, since I met Patrick, I'm mostly writing about him and I guess I just…" Pete trails off. He's gripping the notebook so hard his knuckles are white. He takes a breath, turns it in his hand and offers it to Patrick. "Would you give it to him for me?"

"You want me to give him that?" Patrick parrots back, a little dazed.

"Yeah. I mean, I tried texting, calling, sitting on his doorstep, I'm kind of running out of ideas." Pete gives a weak, slightly manic smile. "Maybe this'll do it. If it doesn't, I'm all out of tricks anyway. Better he have it than me, or else I'll just sit around re-reading it and moping."

Patrick takes the notebook carefully, like it might catch fire. "You want me to give him this?" he repeats, still not really comprehending. Pete wrote about him?. No, he wrote about Patrick. Whoever he thinks that is. Whatever parts of Mikey and Patrick make up that person in Pete's head. "What do you want me to tell him about it?"

Pete shrugs, standing up and dusting off the ass of his jeans. "Just tell him what it is." He turns around, pinning Patrick with a look. "And tell him I'm sorry. For whatever I did. I'm so fucking sorry."

It's on the tip of Patrick's tongue to spill out the whole mess. You didn't do anything wrong, it was me. I fucked up. I lied to you. I ruined everything. He can't get the words out. He just stares at Pete, who gives him another small, sad smile before he walks away.

Patrick looks down at the notebook in his hands, leather bound and battered, then back up to Pete's retreating figure. Like he can sense Patrick's gaze, Pete turns around, calling out, "and for the record-" he waits for Patrick to meet his eyes and says, "I totally asked for your number."

He doesn't wait for Patrick to respond, just turns back around and walks away. Patrick stares after him, way more confused than he was before.

*

Patrick has a Wild West style stand-off with the notebook for all of half an hour before he finally gives in and snatches it off his desk, opening it up. He reads it twice, cover to cover, then picks up his guitar.

It feels somehow inevitable when his fingers find the strings, marrying chords to the scribbled writing on the pages.

I write stuff, Pete had said, like that was all it was. Like it wasn't laying his soul open on the page. Like it wasn't a love letter, a challenge and dare all at once. Like the words - sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes painful, always true - aren't a gift.

Patrick remembers Pete saying he had no talent for music and wants to shake the words at him, tell him he was wrong. He was obviously wrong.

He stays up all night stitching notes and words together. He knows he can fall down a hole when he's working on music but this is definitely a deeper level than usual. He's vaguely aware of Mikey sticking his head in the door, his phone making some noises, but he doesn't have the attention span for any of that. Not until he has a song.

Of course once he has one, or at least, a sketch of one, he has to record it. He sets up his mic and ProTools and starts laying down vocals. Maybe it's because he's tired, or maybe it's because he cares too much about the song, but he can't get it right. Can't sing it the way he wants. He takes a breath, concentrating. He has to get this right. This song will be an apology and a confession in one. He needs to record it so he can send it to Pete, with an explanation of exactly what happened, followed by Patrick's sincere plea for forgiveness.

But first he needs a song. He drinks some water, takes a few deep breaths, and starts to record again. He's halfway through a take and it's actually working this time, he's starting to find that groove he wants, when a loud crash comes from downstairs, breaking his concentration and thoroughly ruining his recording.

"Patrick! Mikey! I have brought you presents!" Joe hollers, loud enough to wake the dead. "You'll never believe what the state animal of Arkansas is!"

Patrick swears and gets up. Maybe he can get Joe to shut up for just half an hour if he promises to listen to all his tour stories. His timing really sucks.

"Joe, can you give me half an hour of quiet, I'm recording!" Patrick shouts, pulling the door open to look down the stairs.

Where Pete is standing. Not Joe.

"Joe?" Patrick asks weakly, suddenly aware that he's wearing three-day-old clothes and no hat. Pete looks gorgeous of course. If a little confused.

"Also Pete Wentz was on the doorstep again, we really need to stop bumping into each other like this," Joe says with a laugh, walking in to dump his bags at the bottom of the stairs. Patrick can smell the weed from here.

"Where's Patrick?" Pete asks.

"I don't think he's home," Patrick says quickly, and loudly, before Joe can say anything. Fuck, this isn't how he wants to do this. He has a plan.

"He's right there," Joe says, unhelpfully, right as Patrick says, "He's probably at work."

"He can't be at work, I just heard him." Pete takes the stairs two at a time. "I heard him singing."

Patrick pulls his bedroom door closed and stands in front of it, his heart beating fit to burst. Fuck, fuck, fuck, he doesn't know what to do.

"Patrick!" Pete calls through the door, listening for an answer that won't come. Patrick grimaces, holding the door handle. This is falling apart so fast.

"He's right there! You're talking to him!" Joe yells, looking at Pete like he's lost his mind.

"Just let me in." Pete says, and fuck, he's so close they're nearly touching. Patrick can smell him. He wants to touch him so much he has to swallow a whine.

"He's working on something," Patrick offers lamely, "It's not ready yet, but it's for you. Just give him-"

"Patrick!" Pete interrupts, knocking on the door, "Patrick, let me in!"

"Dude, they're both insane," Patrick can hear Joe saying - wait, to who? He looks down the stairs and swears.

Because of course Mikey would get home at this exact moment.

"Oh shit," Patrick whispers, and something about the way he says it must get Pete's attention. He turns around and sees Mikey at the bottom of the stairs, and it's all over.

"Patrick! I knew you were here." Pete rushes down the stairs, leaving Patrick gripping the door handle uselessly and wishing for a do-over.

"Did you get it?" Pete asks Mikey, grabbing for his hand.

Mikey lets him take it, shooting a puzzled glance at Patrick. "Did I get what?"

Patrick slumps against the wall, shoving a hand over his face. This probably can't get much worse.

"I'm so confused right now," he hears Joe say. "You're Mikey, that's Patrick, I swear I am not that high."

"This is Patrick," he hears Pete say, and even with his eyes closed Patrick knows he's talking about Mikey. "What are you on, man?"

Joe, Mikey and Pete all start to talk at the same time and the babble of noise is too much. Patrick yells, "Shut up, all of you!"

When he opens his eyes all three of them are staring at him like he's crazy. Except Mikey, who just looks worried.

Patrick knows this is the moment he has to say something. He has to apologise like hell and tell Pete what really happened. He digs for the words and can't find them, can't find anything. His eyes settle on Pete's confused expression as he waits for Patrick to say something, the way his attention slips back to Mikey when Patrick doesn't.

Patrick watches Pete turn to Mikey, open his mouth to speak. Before Pete can say a word Patrick opens his mouth, takes a breath and starts to sing, loud and strong.

"Why can you read me like no one else?
I hide behind these words
But I'm coming out"

Pete turns back to Patrick, shock written all over him. Patrick can't help but go on, dragging in another breath and giving voice to the words he found scrawled in Pete's notebook.

"I wish I kept them behind my tongue
I hide behind these words
But I'm coming out"

He keeps singing because he doesn't know what else to do, fighting a mounting panic as Pete just stands there, barely breathing, his expression getting harder and colder as Patrick fights through another verse, another bridge, dreading the moment when he runs out of words. He can feel Joe's confusion, Mikey's sympathy, but he only has eyes for Pete, and he can't stop. Not until it's over. Which it is, far too soon.

Think of all the places
Where you've been lost and found… out

There's too much truth in the words as he belts out the final line, the house falling silent but for his own deep breaths. He waits for Pete to say something, but Pete stands mute, glancing between Patrick and Mikey, looking stunned and shaken.

Eventually, Pete's gaze settles on Patrick. "It was you, on the demo. It was you on the phone that night."

Patrick nods miserably.

"You were the one singing, not-" Pete stretches a hand towards Mikey. He stumbles over the words and Patrick has never felt worse in his life.

"I'm sorry," Patrick says, "I sent the wrong photo, because I thought I didn't care and I thought you were being a dick, but you weren't and by the time I figured that out it was too late to tell you and it all got out of control-"

"You're Patrick," Pete says in a rush, cutting Patrick off. "You're Patrick."

Patrick nods. "I'm Patrick."

Pete whirls around to face Mikey. "Then who are you?"

"I'm Mikey, Mikey says, looking equally miserable.

"He's my roommate," Patrick adds, "He plays bass."

Pete still looks incredibly confused. "Who is Gerard?" he asks the room in general.

"He's my brother," Mikey offers, "But it's not really relevant."

"No, it's not really relevant," Pete says, his voice high-pitched and a little wavery, "because you're Mikey," Mikey's name sounds strange on his lips. He waves a hand at Mikey, his voice rising with mild hysteria, "with the hips, and the hair, and the very, very skinny jeans." Pete whirls around, fixing wild eyes on Patrick. "And you're Patrick, with the eyes and the lips and the voice." He stops, his hand still hanging in the air, gasping in breaths that are loud in the room. He stays like that for a long moment, just breathing, barely moving, then a blink later he's in motion, climbing the stairs toward Patrick.

Patrick braces himself for a punch. It doesn't come. Pete comes to a stop one step down from Patrick, nearly eye-to-eye with him. "I'd like my notebook back. Patrick." The words sound dead on his lips.

In some ways it hurts more than a punch in the gut. Patrick nods shakily and goes into his room to get it.

Their fingers brush as he hands it back to Pete, sending an electric shock right up Patrick's arm, but Pete doesn't even seem to register it. He just takes the book, turns and goes back downstairs and out the front door. He doesn't look back.

The door closes quietly behind Pete and Mikey looks up at Patrick, sympathy in every line of him. Patrick doesn't deserve it.

Joe's the one to break the silence. "What the hell was that all about?" His words shake Patrick out of his stupor.

"Shit," Patrick mutters, and runs down the stairs, out the front door. He catches Pete before he makes it off the driveway. "Pete, wait!"

Against all odds, Pete wheels to a stop. He doesn't turn around.

"Pete, I'm so sorry. I honestly didn't mean for this to happen. It was a mistake, to send you Mikey's photo, but I thought you wouldn't take me seriously if I didn't look like that, but you did anyway because you're not the person I thought you were. But every time I tried to tell you the truth I just couldn't." Pete still hasn't turned around; the line of his shoulders is rigid.

"I'm sorry that I lied to you about what I look like. I promise everything else was real. The music, the phone call. Pete, I'm so into you I can't see straight, and I just…" Patrick take a breath, trying to find the words. "I didn't want to lose that."

"And you thought that you would?" Pete asks, his voice thick. He finally turns around. "You really thought that when I found out the voice and the words and the phone call didn't come in some cute skinny-jeans-wearing package that I wouldn't be interested?" Pete sounds furious. "You really thought that would make a difference?"

"No!" Patrick says quickly, "Well, yes, at the beginning I guess I did. I just. I wish I hadn't done it. I wish I'd given us a chance to do it properly from the start."

"But you didn't trust me to give you a chance if you didn't look like him. You didn't trust me to see past that." Pete sounds so hurt.

"I didn't know you then. And then it was too late," Patrick says, on the verge of tears, "I'm so, so sorry Pete. Please tell me how to fix this. I'll do anything."

Pete's mouth screws to the side. He looks confused and sad. "I don't think you can." He takes a step back, shoving his hands into his pockets. "I can't do this right now. I have to go."

He starts to turn around and Patrick catches his arm. He knows it's a desperate move, but that doesn't stop him from tugging Pete in and pressing his lips to Pete's. Maybe if he can't tell Pete what he's feeling he can show him. It's an awkward crush of lips at first, then Pete's mouth softens under Patrick's, opening up, turning it into a real kiss. Patrick's heart nearly beats out of his chest, he's hoping so hard.

Pete's the one to break it, shaking his head, "I can't," he tells Patrick, wet-lipped and sad and so fucking gorgeous. "I'm sorry, I can't."

This time when Pete walks away, Patrick doesn't try to stop him.

*

Patrick finishes recording the track just like he planned. He doesn't know what else to do. He sends it - in all its flawed perfection - as an mp3 to Pete with an email apology.

I can't think of any other way to say I'm sorry, this is the only thing I know how to do.

I can't write these words for you, but I wish I could. I never got to tell you just how amazing your writing is. Your notebook is a million songs I'd want to sing.

I don't expect you to reply, or to ever forgive me, but I wanted you to have this anyway.

I'm sorry I messed it up. You deserve better and I hope you get it.

Patrick

It takes a long time before he manages to press send. When he finally does, and the email disappears from his screen he waits for some sense of closure. It doesn't come. He just feels perfectly miserable.

He sighs minimizes his email. He boots up GarageBand and lays down some tracks until he's thinking more about riffs and melodies than he is about Pete's smile.

He checks his email the next morning, the next day, the next week, but he doesn't hear back from Pete. But then, he didn't really expect to. They've said all they can say; he should get on with his life.

He tries to. He gets up, goes to work, shelves books. He spends most of the time he's not working in front of his computer or his microphone, or with a notebook in his hands. Who would've thought being heartbroken would be so good for his creativity?

After working on not much else after a matter of days - writing, recording, mixing - he has a handful of half-worked songs and one brand new complete recorded, mixed track. A rough demo, but a complete one; he's actually pretty happy with it, for what it is.

It's 3am, he's bleary-eyed and tired when he calls up the output dialogue to bounce out the track to an mp3. If he wasn't so wrung out he might question his actions more, but soon he's staring at a new email to Pete, with the song attached. He types the name of the track into the subject line and thinks what's the worst that could happen? Pete's already not talking to me and hits 'send'.

That sets the pattern.

Patrick keeps working on songs - writing, singing, playing, recording. Most of them are about Pete, or inspired by him in some way. Patrick flits from song to song, working on whichever one makes sense to him at the time. Each time he has a track that feels finished, he makes an mp3 and emails it to Pete. He's not entirely sure why he's even doing it, it's not like he's going to get any replies. It's like some kind of strange therapy for Patrick, not just to write the songs, but to send them to Pete. They're all about him, after all.

Patrick gets so used to not getting any replies to his emails, it's a shock when one day he does. There, at the top of his inbox, a message from Pete in reply to the last track he sent.

Patrick can't breathe. He's not sure if he wants to open the email or delete it on sight and pretend he never saw it.

He manages to hold off maybe ten seconds before he opens it.

It's empty. Patrick scans the email top to bottom, but there's no content. It's like Pete accidentally hit reply without meaning to.

Patrick doesn’t know what to make of that. The only thing it really tells him is that Pete is getting the emails and at the very least opening them.

Of course if he's opening them he might even be listening to the tracks. The thought makes Patrick's heart pound loud in his ears. He's reaching for his keyboard before he even thinks about it, fingers stilling when they hit the keys, not sure what he wants to say.

That's the moment when he glances to the side of his email inbox and notices that Pete's gchat icon is coloured green, "available". Before he can talk himself out of it, he opens a chat to Pete.

Patrick Stump: Do you want me to stop sending them?

It takes him a solid minute to work up the courage to hit enter, and he spends even longer staring at the screen, willing Pete to reply.

The gchat window indicates Pete is typing for a small eternity. Patrick's palms are sweating. It's hard to breathe. He tries to steel himself for Pete to tell him to fuck off, but he genuinely has no idea what to expect.

Pete Wentz: no don’t

All the breath rushes out of Patrick's lungs. Fuck, this is such a big deal. This is the first real contact he's had with Pete since it all fell apart and he can't stand for it to end. He tries to think of something else to type, something, anything to keep Pete on the line.

Pete beats him to it.

Pete Wentz: is this one about me?

Patrick answers without even having to think about it.

Patrick Stump: they're all about you

He stares at the screen, willing Pete to reply. When he doesn't, and the window doesn't even indicate that he's still typing, Patrick panics.

Patrick Stump: I'm working on more songs, at least five more. Should I keep sending them to you?

He takes shaky breaths, waiting and watching the gchat window that shows Pete is typing again. It flicks on and off like Pete is typing and deleting things and Patrick might just lose his mind watching this but he can't look away.

Finally Pete posts.

Pete Wentz: ok

Before Patrick has a chance to reply, Pete logs off.

Patrick sits there staring at the little grey dot next to Pete's name and wonders if it'll ever be green again. Probably not. It takes his entire force of will to resist opening his chatlogs and reading back his old conversations with Pete. That would only end in self hate and misery.

He works on songs instead. More and more of them. After he's emailed twelve complete demos to Pete he thinks maybe it's time to get an opinion from someone who might actually talk to him.

*

"Dude," Joe says, "This is raw."

"Is that a good thing?" Patrick asks.

"It's a really good thing," Joe says, and no matter what anyone says Patrick will always trust Joe's taste when it comes to music. "You got any more?"

Patrick opens up the folder on his hard drive containing the other dozen tracks he's been working on. Joe listens to every one of them.

"Shit dude, you have to open for us," Joe says, totally serious.

"What?" Patrick asks. That was totally not the reaction he was expecting.

"We're doing a show at Aces and Eights next week. You should do the first act, get everybody warmed up for us."

"Dude, you guys are hard rock, this is not-"

"It's nothing major," Joe cuts him off, "It'll mostly be just friends and family and whoever we can get in there, kind of like a test run. It's no big."

"I don't know, man." Patrick hadn't even thought of playing these songs live, to an audience. It was mostly therapy even laying them down.

"Well, I do," Joe insists. "You'll play this show and get some practise playing live, cos shitballs dude, somewhere in that folder is an album."

Patrick is too surprised to even reply.

*

The show turns out to be the best kind of blessing. It gives Patrick something to obsess about that isn't Pete and all the ways he screwed up. Anytime he's not working he's rehearsing, polishing up his songs and practicing some covers to fill out his set. It's easy to forget what the songs are about when he's got the technical and musical side to concentrate on. It's easier to keep his mind busy, distracted, not thinking about Pete.

He might even be getting over it. The thought occurs to him as he washes up his dirty breakfast dishes on the day of the gig, listening absently to the little radio they keep in the kitchen. Joe tends to keep it on the metal station, but when Patrick has a chance he switches over to jazz and pop. He's just reaching to stack his bowl on the sink to dry when the station comes back from a commercial and familiar chords come out of the tinny speakers.

The bowl slips from Patrick's stiff fingers, smashing on the floor as Prince's voice fills the room, singing Raspberry Beret.

Patrick can't breathe. He's possibly even having a heart attack. He grasps onto the kitchen bench to steady himself. He doesn't even realise the music has stopped until he looks up to see Mikey with his finger on the power switch, a sympathetic pull to his mouth.

Patrick pulls in long breaths and tries to calm his heart while Mikey clears up the broken bowl and dumps it in the sink. He grabs Patrick around the waist and pulls him into a tight, bony hug. Patrick closes his eyes and leans into Mikey's warmth, a kind of relief settling over him. It still hurts, but the noise isn't as loud right now.

Maybe he's not as over it as he thought.

*

It isn't exactly crowded that night when Patrick rocks up at Aces and Eights with his guitar slung over his shoulder. Joe was right - the crowd is mostly friends and family with a handful of locals who are really only there to drink. Patrick's still nervous as hell, wiping his sweaty palms off on his jeans and wishing there were some way he could hide under his hat.

It's only terrifying for the first few songs. After a while he even starts to enjoy it a little. He can't quite bring himself to look into the audience, let alone talk to them much beyond introducing himself and every other song, but they don't seem to mind. They don't boo him off the stage, at least. Patrick's surprised but pleased when his own tracks seem to be as well received as the Prince, Bowie and Smiths covers he throws in. (The Smiths cover is a special request from Mikey, naturally.)

Patrick makes it through the set without any major mistakes and thinks maybe he could even do this again. When he leaves the stage, sweaty and flushed, Mikey and Joe are there to catch him in quick hugs.

"I told you you could do it," Joe says with a wide knowing grin, before he races up to grab his guitar and The Damned Things kick off their much louder, much harder set. Patrick drifts towards the back of the bar, saying hi to a few friends but not stopping to talk. He settles in to watch from a distance, happy to see Joe and his guys having such a good time up there.

He feels a tap on his shoulder and turns around, ready to say thanks to another friend complimenting him on a good set. Except it isn't just anyone, it's Pete.

It's Pete. Patrick's heart flips over. What is Pete even doing here? God, he looks amazing. He's even smiling.

Patrick's head is spinning. Before he can even think of what to say, Pete sticks out his hand. "Hey, nice set. I'm Pete Wentz. I run a music label, Decaydance Records, you might have heard of us?"

Patrick can't speak. He can barely breathe. He knows he's staring at Pete, who continues to hold his hand out and smile at him patiently like nothing is weird. Like they've never even met before.

That's when it clicks for Patrick - what this means, what Pete is doing. This is Patrick's chance to start over, take it back to the beginning. He can barely comprehend this is really happening.

His heart beating fit to burst, he raises his own hand to take Pete's, a zing of electricity shooting up his arm. "Patrick Stump," he says, "and um, yes, I've heard of you." He shakes Pete's hand, doing his best to play along, though his hands are trembling and he's probably smiling way too big for a simple introduction. He can't help it; Pete's smiling back, that gorgeous, genuine smile that makes his eyes crinkle up at the corners.

Their hands linger a little longer than they should, fingers tangling for a long moment before they finally let go.

"It's really good to meet you, Pete," Patrick finally adds, grinning around the words.

"It's good to meet you too, Patrick Stump." A smile plays on Pete's lips. "I have a feeling we're going to get along."

 

(end)