Lu knows that he’s a perfectionist. He is aware of the smack talk on the internet when LupE.N.D. became The Great American Rap Album became We Are Lasers became Lasers and the three year delay on the release of his album. He knows that friends and former producers went public about his own obsession with getting stuff right, saying that he was his own worst enemy.
And hell, maybe he is.
But if he’s going to put something on record, if it’s going to exist for millions of people to hear, it’s going to be exactly right. He doesn’t understand doing it any other way.
The need for total perfection in his life is actually pretty healthy, he thinks, but he knows that sometimes, there are times that you have to let go.
“This is not going to work.” Patrick’s voice is flat and Lu grins as he looks at Patrick out of the corner of his eye. Patrick’s hair is all messy and not in that hipster way that he has been affecting lately. It’s just messy because Patrick has been running his fingers through it all day while they put the finishing touches on the radio release of “This City.”
Patrick is a ball of stress in general, but finishing a radio edit always seems to have the same kind of effect on him that releasing an album has on normal artists – jittery, anxious, hard-edged nervousness. And the song isn’t even out yet. Patrick just hovers around the control boards, never telling the producers what to do, but watching so fucking closely that even the most professional of producers wants to scream.
Kris had grabbed Lu on his way out of the studio and ordered him to, “Get Patrick the fuck out of here, please, please, I will do anything.”
Lu almost asked why Kris thought that Lu had some kind of sway over Patrick that Kris didn’t have, but then he remembered the number of times he got Patrick to take a break and go find some sushi or when he could pull Patrick over into a corner of the studio to give feedback on the (still unfinished, total fucking nightmare) cuts for the fourth album. And Patrick even manages to give suggestions in a way that doesn’t make Lu feel like a complete failure who took three damn years to produce one album.
So maybe they have a little bit of sway over each other.
Apparently, there’s enough sway there, because Patrick doesn’t resist when Lu grabs him by the arm of his stupid hipster hoodie and pulls him outside of the studio into the parking lot. He’s glad that he still carries a couple of boards in the trunk of his car even though Elisa teases him mercilessly every time they open the trunk to shove a new Goyard bag next to a couple of grotty skateboards from 1997.
Lu has updated his wardrobe, his luggage, his image, but he can’t bring himself to update his skateboards.
“This isn’t going to work,” Patrick repeats, turning fully to face Lu in a brisk Chicago parking lot. “It’s not! I tried skateboarding years ago and … I’m terrible, Lu. I’m really, really bad. I can’t even remember how to balance, I was that terrible.”
Lu grins back at him, shaking his head.
“Have you ever stuck with trying something that you weren’t immediately good at?”
Patrick shrugs and stares at his feet, and he’s suddenly the dude that Lu had met years ago, all of the confidence built over the last six years fading. “I don’t know. I wasn’t much of a frontman.”
Lu will never understand how mercurial Patrick’s confidence can be. In a lot of ways, he guesses, it might be a result of the weird rapid rise to public attention that they both experienced at an age when most people were having ill-advised one night stands with college students or attending their senior proms. He and Patrick spent those years becoming accidental superstars.
“Yeah, well, some people are naturally frontmen,” Lu says, ignoring an opportunity to compliment Patrick on his performance because that is not what this is about. “Nobody is a natural skateboarder.”
Patrick blanches a little – Lu’s totally right, Patrick hates doing things that he’s not immediately good at. “Do you honestly think that this is making me more excited about this?”
“Just get on.” Lu bumps his shoulder and puts a board on the ground in front of Patrick. It’s his favorite board, the one from when he was 16 and was trying to impress Adeelah from the mosque and he fell hard on his ass trying to laser flip in the parking lot after prayer service. She laughed at him for a good 20 minutes, which somehow made her hotter.
Lu loves that stupid skateboard.
Patrick raises his eyebrow at Lu and gingerly steps his right foot on the front of the board.
“Nah, man,” Lu says, putting right hand on Patrick’s hip, other hand near his waist, and pulling gently to reposition Patrick so that his left foot is forward. “Try regular footing before goofy foot. Most people ride this way.”
“Goofy foot?” Patrick smirks as he scuffs his foot across the grip tape. It’s a good thing that he wears ridiculous shoes, because he was already wearing skate shoes today.
Lu doesn’t get why you would wear skate shoes if you didn’t know how to skate, but at least it’s coming in handy.
“You’d think that all of those years on Warped Tour and hanging out with PWeezy would have let at least a little bit of this sink in,” Lu says contemplatively as he uses the hand still on Patrick’s hip to shift his balance and moves another hand up to Patrick’s shoulder. “No, lean back a little, what is up with your center of gravity, man? And bend your knees. No, more than that.”
Patrick has his arms flailed out and his knees are bent awkwardly in his skinny jeans and his face is very, very serious. He looks ridiculous. It’s awesome.
Patrick gets the stance (more or less) down and is ready for the skateboard to move. Lu steps back and Patrick gingerly puts his foot down and kicks just a little. The board moves forward and everything’s going pretty well … until Patrick oversteps on the back, puts too much weight on the right side, and flips himself directly on his ass.
Patrick looks up and his determined face has faded to incredulity, melting quickly into a grin.
Lu can’t help it, he dissolves into giggles. Fortunately, Patrick is right there with him.
Lu flops on the ground next to Patrick and just leans against them as they both laugh, the sharp cool of the blacktop against their thighs.
Lu thinks about that afternoon for months. Every time he looks over at Patrick on a stage or when they run into each other doing PR crap for one or both of their albums, he overlays the serious look on Patrick’s face with the helpless giggles in a parking lot.
He finds himself thinking more about his hand on Patrick’s shoulder, hip, waist and wondering what it would be like to have his hands there without a skateboard under anyone’s feet.
“Lu?” He starts a little and his eyes flick over to the voice and away from watching Patrick talk to some A & R guy and doing much better at pretending that he cares than Lu has ever managed. Man, this party is crowded.
It’s Pete Wentz. They don’t exactly end up in many of the same places, even at industry events, but Lu had heard that Pete was doing more actual networking (as opposed to drinking with people he already knows and pretending that he’s a DJ) to try to get some support for Black Cards’ album. Which still hasn’t been released.
“Pete.” Lu raises his glass of tonic water and lime and tips it in Pete’s direction. “How’s life?”
Pete shrugs, tipping his newly-shorn head toward Lu like that’s an answer without actually turning his entire body toward Lu. They’re standing the way that people stand in a play to pretend that they’re talking to each other when they’re really positioning themselves for the benefit of the audience. “It’s life, man. I hate this shit, but … here I am anyway, you know?”
Lu knows. He’s never spent a lot of time with Pete, but he can sympathize with album delays, even if they were for different reasons.
“So,” Pete says awkwardly. More awkwardly. “Patrick, huh?”
Lu is grateful that he has a pretty decent poker face as he raises his eyebrows and takes a drink of his tonic. “Patrick?”
Pete turns all the way toward Lu, as if to emphasize that this part of the conversation isn’t for any audience.
“I can see you watching him, dude,” Pete says. “And as someone who basically has a PhD in Patrick-watching, I know that face. I know what that face means.”
Lu doesn’t want to meet Pete’s eyes but he manages to do it, lowers his gaze the couple of inches difference in their heights. If this becomes a test, Lu doesn’t want to be the first one to have backed down.
Pete stares right back and then breaks into a slow, wide grin. It’s a smile Lu has never seen before – not the press face, not the soft smile he used to give Ashlee before everything fell apart, not the blinding grin at Patrick before Patrick would start in on Pete’s words. Something different.
“Oh, okay,” Pete says, putting his hand on Lu’s sleeve and squeezing gently. “It’s like that, huh? Well … good luck with that.”
And then Pete bounds toward Patrick, shouting ridiculous nicknames just to make Patrick scowl.
Lu could pretend that he didn’t know what Pete was talking about, but it … yeah, yeah it’s totally like that. It’s like watching Patrick record the Spotlight video just so that he could see Patrick trying to hold his serious face through an entire music video with the dorkiest premise ever. It’s like raising his eyebrows at Patrick when the little girl starts gyrating her belly just to make him crack up.
It’s like waiting for the break in the moment just to watch Patrick’s face change.
God, he is so screwed.
Lu wanders over to Patrick’s trailer after the shooting wraps for the day – the pogo stick and cups guy are the last two to film tomorrow and then they should be done. Lu always forgets how much work music videos are. Days and days of production for 3-4 minute songs.
The music industry is nuts.
Lu knocks a couple of times on the door as he opens it, calling out Patrick’s name as he heads up the steps.
And stops because that … that is Patrick shirtless, pulling a different pair of ridiculous hipster slacks over his newly-narrow hips. His back is to Lu and all he can do is helplessly watch the curve of Patrick’s ass disappear into gray slacks. It’s only a couple of seconds, the amount of time it takes Patrick to process the knock and his name, but it feels really slow to Lu.
Patrick’s head turns as he tugs a t-shirt over his head, his smile bright as he turns all the way around. Lu is pretty sure that he manages to stifle any sounds of disappointment as Patrick’s small, but still present, belly gets covered by cotton.
Seriously, he is so screwed.
Patrick is bouncing a little with excitement and his hair is still damp from the shower he always takes to get rid of the pancake makeup immediately after wrapping. Lu can’t help grinning back as Patrick flops onto the tiny couch in the trailer, his hair going all askew.
“I think that went well, right? It felt good. I think that this director’s ideas are amazing – it’s mostly about people who aren’t me, but fans can’t say that I was hiding away from the camera …” Patrick is a little bit of a babbler when he’s coming down from post-show or post-shoot endorphins, which Lu is reminded of every time that they perform together. It’s not how most people would ever see him. Lu kind of likes being in the small group of people that ever see this version of Patrick.
Patrick is trailing off like a sleepy kid, only half-finishing the words he’s trying to use to communicate about the shoot. Lu shakes his head and sits down behind Patrick’s head.
They sit together a lot – when you spend so much time backstage, in trailers, and on planes a lot, you lose a lot of inhibitions around personal space. But Lu does not expect it when Patrick shifts back and puts his head directly in Lu’s lap, his eyes closed and his voice soft and scruffy. “… think that it would have been cool to have more women in the video. The nunchucks woman and the skateboard girl are at least doing non-gender-normative things, though, right?”
Lu’s voice catches in his throat as he lifts a hand carefully and places it along Patrick’s hairline to scratch softly at Patrick’s head. “Yeah, that’s good.”
Patrick opens his eyes and shifts his head backward so that he can see Lu’s face and Lu braces himself for … some kind of reaction to two guys basically cuddling on the couch.
Sometimes, he obviously forgets that Patrick spent his formative years with Pete Wentz.
“This is good,” Patrick says, looking straight into Lu’s eyes, no smile anywhere on his face.
“Yeah?” Lu responds, staring back, not sure that they’re having the conversation that he thinks they’re having.
And it’s not until Patrick leans up, holding Lu’s eye contact the entire time, and brushes his lips softly against Lu’s that he gets confirmation. “Yeah,” Patrick says before leaning back in to do it again.