The show is called Shut Up and Play!, or SUP! for short, and it’s Gerard and Pete’s brainchild. The story is that they met in grad school after Pete kidnapped Gerard’s gerbil to use in one of his experiments, and when the gerbil returned with significantly less fur than it started with Gerard went looking for Pete’s head, only to end up drinking absinthe and watching Moulin Rouge! and The Last Unicorn for two days straight. (Pete still maintains that’s mostly Ryan’s fault. Ryan is in his hippie-cowboy stage right now, which means he’s wearing hard, pointy boots and everyone else has the common sense not to accuse him of anything.) Anyway, that was when Shut Up and Play! was born, and Pete and Gerard have been fighting about it ever since.
Frank and Mikey write the show – ‘write’ being a bit of an oxymoron and a lesson in futility since Joe changes lines at whim and Patrick sticks in a song whenever he sees the opportunity, and they’re also totally dependent on whatever random concept or storyline Pete decides they should cover that week – but they always manage to punch out a script, even if it gets ripped to shreds. This is in between bouts of making out, but that’s a rampant side effect of working around The Wentz, people have found, and Gerard just tries very, very hard not to twitch every time he thinks about Frank in bed with his little brother.
Pete is an actual, certified child psychologist –
(“Pete’s a child himself,” Ryan sneers, and the next time Pete sleeps over he puts purple dye in Ryan’s conditioner. It suits Ryan, but he has to plan his outfits to coordinate with his hair along with everything else, and even though it would give him an excuse to go on a massive shopping spree it’s just too much for one man.)
-- which no one is really sure if they believe, because it would be just like Pete to print a degree out on his computer and pass it off as real, but as long as corporate is okay with it everyone’s willing to keep Pete around.
Gerard has a degree in art therapy, so while his main job is to help Pete come up with concepts to discuss on the show – in other words, to keep Pete from getting too crazy – he also comes up with all the set and puppet designs himself. The most interesting things about Shut Up and Play! are the lack of bright, eye-bleaching colors and the fact that no one on the show talks like kids are idiots. Kids are smart, Gerard is always insisting, and they’re never going to learn anything if you treat them like they’re stupid.
Brendon thinks kids (and puppets!) are the most awesome things ever, and that’s why he’s the star of the show. He got the job when Gabe found him singing to the puppets one night after work. He and Patrick had just finished up their work on the theme song and Brendon was filled with the spirit of the music, or so he always insisted, and he was just lucky that Gabe looked at him and saw dollar signs instead of a weird little Mormon boy with a bad haircut molesting the puppets.
Anyway, Brendon gets to keep the job because he can relate to the puppets without it being fake or totally, totally creepy. (The first guy they had on the show, Brent? He made even Pete want to go home and take a shower, and that’s saying something.) Plus he has a great singing voice, can sight-read music beautifully, and plays about forty-billion instruments, all of which make Patrick weep with joy. Pete is all about having Patrick weep with joy, and once Brendon gets the Wentzian seal of approval the job was pretty much his, since Pete has Gabe wrapped around his little finger. (Or his dick, depending on who you believe.)
Gabe is the producer and technically everyone’s boss. No one knows where Gabe made all his money. There are rumors – oh boy, are there rumors – but no one ever asks, because if even the tamest of the rumors are half-true they don’t want to know anything.
William is Gabe’s manic personal assistant who occasionally dresses in drag. The general consensus is that Bill is fun, but scary – because let’s face it, there are not many things more impressive than a six and a half foot tall drag queen in four-inch heels, particularly one as touchy-feely and downright horny as Bill Beckett.
Nate and VickyT work with Gabe and Bill to handle the production and distribution side of things, acting as the liaison between SUP! and their parent company, Fueled By Ramen. VickyT handles most of the promotion, always dressed in really sharp suits that make her seem like a hard-hitting and competent yet unbelievably sexy secretary. Nate has been not-so-subtly trying to hit that for two years now, and it looked like a sure thing at the last company Christmas party, but when Pete and Mikey went into the copying room and left behind perfectly Xeroxed copies of Pete’s dick everyone got distracted.
Andy is responsible for the upkeep of the puppets – fixing broken poles and strings, stuff like that – and making new puppets whenever Gerard gets an idea for a character. His workroom is half-creepy, half-cool; filled with puppet-y arms and legs and the really hard plastic eyeballs that are perfect for throwing at people or leaving all over the set because whenever Patrick sees them he screams.
Alex and Ryland are the puppets handlers and Andy’s protégés. They basically live out of each other’s pockets and haven’t been seen more than ten feet from each other since 1997. Brendon is convinced they have their own language. Everyone else is just convinced they’re sleeping together.
Greta and Joe do the voices for all of the puppets. Surprisingly, Joe usually does the girls’ speaking voices while Greta does all the singing, mostly because when Joe’s high he can barely carry a tune in a bucket and he’s high most of the time. He never misses a mark, though, so Gerard just lets it slide. He’s pretty sure Gabe’s on worse.
Then there’s George Ryan Ross the Third – though if you call him that Spencer will probably have to bury your body – the real diva of the set. (Even though Brendon is high energy, his only demands were for Capri Suns and Disney Soundtracks). Ryan is the make-up and costume director, which means that on any given day Brendon is dressed like a circus performer, a hippie, a gay rodeo clown, or any combination thereof. Gerard and Spencer would step in on Brendon’s behalf if it bothered him, but Brendon half-adores, half-lives-in-mortal-terror of Ryan, so there’s only so much they can do. Ryan’s also responsible for making costumes for the puppets. Spencer likes to tease him about never growing out of playing with dolls. Only Spencer. Brendon did it once, and Ryan made him wear chaps on stage. Purple chaps.
(Coincidentally, Nate said his fanmail increased by twenty-six percent that week.)
Spencer is Ryan’s best friend, the kind that would help him bury a body – literally. He does all the camera work for show, and likes to keep Brendon in line by reminding him how easy it is to make someone look fat on camera. He’s also kind of stupidly in love with Bob, even though he’s pretty sure a) Bob barely recognizes his existence and b) Bob is straight.
Bob does the sound mostly, but also helps Patrick whenever he needs an extra hand with drums or the glockenspiel or whatever the hell his artistic spirit decides it needs. (Minus the tambourine, because Bill has a second sense when it comes to that thing and always manages to snatch it away first. Not that Bob cares. He looks ridiculous with a tambourine.)
Last but not least is Zack, the security guy for the building, a nice rent-a-cop type of guy who usually doesn’t have much to do but hang out with everyone else, but sometimes Brendon gets attacked by fans – large groups of preschoolers or, worse, single mothers who’ve spent so many mornings watching him they’ve developed a kind of weird crush – and Zack has to jump in with cookies and juice or a crowbar or whatever else may be necessary.
Then, of course, there are the puppets. Besides Brendon, who’s the only flesh-and-blood person on the show, there are five main characters on just about every day. First off is Ray, who could probably be considered the main puppet, and definitely the biggest one, with wicked yarn hair that Brendon is always braiding or pulling into pigtails and driving Spencer crazy. Siska has hair that’s almost as awesome as Ray’s and a pet llama puppet, which Brendon is also constantly molesting. Dirty is, well, grungy and kind of weird, but he’s also the necessary comic relief, and Pete gets a kick from bringing in different band tees for Dirty to wear. The fourth puppet, Keltie, is the one that makes people either coo or run away screaming – Andy gave her big eyes and perfect long lashes that make her look freakishly lifelike. She’s the center of the exercise part of the program, because Gerard insists that fitness is Very Important, so Ryan keeps dressing her up in tights and tutus and occasionally a soccer uniform because Spencer gets on his case about gender equality when really, Ryan just likes tights. The appearance of the last puppet, Ashlee, changes nearly every week. No one is sure if this is because Pete keeps doing weird things to the puppet or because Andy gets bored.
They put out five shows a week, so they don’t get a lot of time off, but as long as everyone doesn’t decide to run away to Bermuda all at once they can usually find a temp for a week or two – Travis is always willing to fill in, if even to just ogle at Bill in heels. And there are usually specials for July Fourth, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Earth Day (though that’s pretty much all Andy), and
(“The Holiday Season,” Brendon always insists, obnoxious as hell, and Pete always throws something at him, hissing back “what do you care, you’re Mormon,” and depending on how stoned Joe is he might step in to wave the token Jewish flag or he might watch the chaos.)
-- all holidays of which prompt a good amount of violence. One of the things people would probably find most surprising about SUP! is how much violence goes on in the day to day. The other thing would be the homosexuality. The rampant homosexuality. VickyT is straight and so are Greta and Nate, and probably Bob (he’s too huge and scary for anyone to outright ask), and somehow Ryan convinced a girl to go out with him once, but other than that? Gay as blazes. This can be proven simply because Pete has slept with most of the crew. The running count in the break room has Ryan, Mikey, Joe (though he claimed dude exception), Andy, Gabe, and Bill all down as definites, with Patrick, Gerard, Spencer, and Alex-n-Ryland as probablys. (Greta is convinced the Alex-n-Ryland with Pete thing is just a rumor, but they all stumbled into work looking very, very satisfied one Monday morning, and Spencer has a suspicious mind.) Either way, it keeps the rumor mill grinding and the betting pool flush.
In October they get an intern. This is about the same time a rumor starts about corporate sending someone down to keep an eye on SUP!, to make sure everything is ship-shape and soulless and economic, and at first everyone thinks it’s the new intern –
(“A new intern!” Brendon exclaims, flailing so hard he nearly falls off the edge of the sound stage. “Hah!” Spencer just rolls his eyes.)
-- but then he turns out to be relentlessly loveable and makes the best coffee ever and everyone forgets they ever suspected him in the first place. In fact, Pete’s been trying like mad to get into Jon’s pants, but so far he seems to be disappointingly straight.
“Aren’t college students supposed to experiment?” he asks Patrick.
“Maybe you’re too old for him,” Patrick answers reasonably, and keeps tuning his guitar like he hasn’t just stabbed Pete through the heart.
“Too old?” Pete gasps. “Too old?”
Instead of realizing his grievous error, Patrick just rolls his eyes. “Pete, you can’t keep chasing jailbait all the time.”
“He’s not jailbait! He’s… twenty-something. Honest. Or he wouldn’t be interning. Bill’s a stickler about these things.”
Patrick keeps tuning his guitar.
Pete frowns. “Besides that one time.”
“Uh huh.” They try not to mention the Tomrad incident.
Pete crosses his arms and scowls. “Anyway, I’m not old, just…”
“On your way to a midlife crisis?”
“Is this you being supportive? Because normally you’re better at it.”
“Tough love, Peter Pan,” Patrick sighs, and finally, finally puts down the guitar and opens his arms in silent invitation. Pete pulls his hoodie tighter around himself and settles in. “I just thought you were being, you know, your usual kind of stupid. Should I be more worried?”
“No,” Pete sulks. And then suddenly brightens. “I’m just going to have to try a little harder with Jon.”
Patrick pushes him onto the floor.
Pete’s idea of trying a little harder with Jon involves molesting Jon right after he makes coffee in the mornings. Only afterwards, because Pete still wants coffee even if Jon spurns his romantic advances. Once Pete has his hands on his liquid crack it’s go-time.
“Jon Walker,” Pete warbles, “Johnny, Jon, Jon, when are you going to give into my dubious charms and let me have my wicked way with you?” Because, really, he’s on a schedule. He knows for a fact that Nate put cold hard cash on Pete not getting into Jon’s pants for another month. If he scores soon he can split the pot with Bill.
Jon hands him coffee and flashes him an easy smile. “When you get over Gerard.”
Pete almost swallows his tongue.
“So probably sometime next century,” Jon says, still smiling. Smiling like he means it, and, okay, Pete is just going to drink his coffee and hope that things will make sense when there’s more caffeine in his system.
“I… okay,” Pete finally manages to say. And then he flees.
Pete thinks he hides his obsession with Gerard very well, thank you very much.
He’s never even told anyone. Patrick probably knows, because Trick is his best friend and best friends know that kind of thing. And Ryan knows because, well, if there’s one thing Ross is good at its watching people and figuring out what makes them tick. (It’s kinda creepy, actually, but that’s Ryan in a nutshell.) But that’s it. Besides the fact that Jon Walker has somehow managed to figure it out. Maybe Jon’s psychic. That’s a perfectly acceptable and plausible explanation.
Pete gulps down the rest of his coffee and considers braving the psychic wonder for more.
This morning Bob found Pete hiding behind Ray and Siska, clutching a coffee mug and muttering to himself. When Bob tried to say good morning he shrieked at a pitch Bob was pretty sure shredded his eardrums, then tried to sweet-talk Bob into bringing him back a cup of coffee from the break room. Bob told Pete he’d had enough caffeine, and that he should stop molesting the puppets and go to his office and get some real work done. Pete made no promises.
Bob would like to say this was atypical, but it really isn’t. He came in one morning to find Pete and Gabe doing Jello shots with Brendon passed out in a pile of sugar with a fruit roll-up half-in, half-out of his mouth, Joe glued to the underside of the one of the interior sets, Bill trying on Keltie’s outfits with rather frightening success, Nate still locked up in a closet where Gabe had apparently left him, Ashlee and Siska’s noses were switched, and Mikey, Frank, and VickyT pegging puppet eyes at each other from the lighting rafters. Andy nearly blew a gasket because they couldn’t find Dirty for a week after that particular incident. (He was in the refrigerator.)
Sometimes Bob feels like the only sane person he knows.
Other times he just feels left out.
And he knows there are reasons for it. He knows he’s kind of big and scary and intimidating, and it doesn’t help that he never talks much and when he does his brand of humor goes right by most people’s heads. And it certainly doesn’t help that he’s the new guy. Pretty much everyone else has been here from the beginning – either Pete and Gerard knew them in college, like Andy and Joe, or they all came on when SUP! started to take off, like Ryan and Brendon. (Or they’re complete crazies like Bill, who insert themselves into your life whether you want them to or not, but that’s neither here nor there.) Bob’s just a friend-of-a-friend. The old sound guy – Matt? Bob thinks it’s Matt, anyway – ended up getting engaged and moved halfway across the country with his new wife; Frank remembered Bob from high school way back when, and that’s why Bob’s here.
So he doesn’t know the in-jokes, he doesn’t know that Pete and Mikey hooked up for a few months before Mikey and Frank starting dating, or that Gee’s a recovering alcoholic, or that Nate used to live in Gabe’s basement. He doesn’t know that anything left in the break room is unspoken fair game – minus chocolate, because chocolate is serious stuff – or that Ryan is actually allergic to roses, or that for all Gabe’s ass-smacking, leering, creepy-eyed ways Bill would kill him if he even thought about anyone else. He doesn’t know that Andy is the unspoken SUP! therapist, or that Brendon is always available for cuddling (okay, that he might have some inkling of), or that you should never play poker with VickyT. Perhaps most importantly – at least for Bob’s current mental state – is that he doesn’t know if Spencer is seeing anyone.
The last thing freaks him out more than all of the others put together.
There are a few reasons for this:
1) Bob’s pretty much considered himself straight his whole life. It’s not like there’s anything wrong with liking guys – Bob’s known Frank since high school and he was always right beside the little fucker whenever he threw the first punch because some guy called him a fag – but it’s still throwing him for a loop, you know, because he just figures it would have hit him before now.
2) Then again, Spencer can drum like a madman and there are few things that can make Bob hotter – but on top of that, Spencer has hips that could tempt a saint of either gender and a smile that’s the worst kind of secret because he never shares it with anyone.
2-B) Bob recognizes that it’s not just an attraction. He’s pretty much ass over tits, huge romantic gestures, moving to Canada and adopting Cambodian children in love with Spencer Smith.
3) If and when Bob somehow manages to wrap his head around the first two and ask Spencer out, Ryan Ross will probably eat his liver for breakfast. (Ryan is a quarter of Bob’s size but Bob has seen half-rabid dogs back down when Ryan stared at them. He’s wary.)
4) Even if Bob does manage to pull his balls out of their current hiding spot and Ryan doesn’t eat his liver (i.e. Bob crawls out of this alive), Spencer might not even be interested. Bob’s the kind of guy who would rather gnaw off his own fist than draw attention to himself, so he’s not too keen on giving everyone something to gossip about for the next six months.
That said, he’s taken to eating lunch at the soundboard so he doesn’t have to watch Spencer wrap his lips around a straw – Brendon’s always bringing in these ridiculous fruit smoothie drinks to share – even though last week he had Spencer help him carry the instruments back to the locker at close-up just so he could watch his hips.
Bob is only a man, and Spencer Smith is driving him crazy. Something has to give.
Pete spends the whole week thinking about Jon and his freaky mind powers, and chimpanzees, and Gerard, and his potential midlife crisis, and obviously the only person who can fix his fractured thinking is Ryan, who is just as fucked up as him (if not more).
Pete bursts into the dressing room and settles down into the make-up chair. He is not above letting Ryan paint designs all over his face if it gets him the information he needs. “Hey, Ross.”
Ryan doesn’t look up from where he’s applying sequins to the edge of his jacket. “What do you want, Pete?”
“Can’t I just stop by and molest you during work hours?”
“Normally the molestation would have started by now. I sense something more irritating.”
It’s like the whole set was suddenly on psychic pills and no one gave Pete the memo. “What would you say if told you I wanted to sleep with Gerard? Hypothetically,” Pete adds quickly.
“Do you hypothetically want to sleep with him or are you hypothetically telling me?”
“… the second?”
“Right. Well, hypothetically, I’d be glad you’re pulling your head out of your ass.”
“Well, I’ll miss the sex,” Ryan says dryly. “But I’m pretty sure I’ll live.”
Pete grins and smacks him on the ass. “Shut up, fucker, and help me with my emotional distress.”
“You would choose now to develop emotional depth.”
“Patrick thinks I’m having a midlife crisis.”
“That implies you’re living ‘til at least sixty. I’ve got money riding on you dropping before forty-five.”
“Fuck you, seriously. Don’t make me steal your Bedazzler again.”
“I’ll tell Bill you were hitting on Gabe.”
Pete’s eyes narrow. Bill’s heels are fucking pointy. “I’m giving Brendon Red Bull right before he’s due in make-up tomorrow. Just you wait, Ross.”
Empty threat. Give Brendon caffeine and they all suffer. “What do you want?”
“I just. I’m kind of rusty at the dating thing. Sex, no. The part that’s supposed to come before it, yes.”
“You want to date Gerard?” Ryan can’t quite keep the disbelief out of his voice. He can believe that Pete is a little hot for Gerard, but an actual relationship takes a bit more faith, especially after the whole Jeanae thing,
Pete shrugs and leans up against the countertop next to Ryan. “Well, it’s not like I don’t want to fuck him too.”
“Go ask Gabe for some GHB.”
“I’m pretty sure asking Gabe for seduction advice would involve duct tape, a basement, and live video feed. At the very least.”
Ryan tsks. “And Gerard’s kind of shy. I can see your problem.”
“I can’t get him drunk either. I’m pretty sure even my conscience wouldn’t stand for that.”
“All your usual seduction tactics, gone,” Ryan adds mournfully, before smacking Pete upside the head. “You are such a fucktard.”
“You could make a move. Flirt? Ask him on a date? You know how this works, Wentz, I know you watch Degrassi.”
Pete rubs his head and scowls. The thing is, he really does watch Degrassi, but he’s pretty sure he’d kill Ryan before admitting that. (This is unfortunately not an option, because he’s also pretty sure if he killed Ryan then Spencer would come after him – probably with a knife, and Pete wouldn’t even notice because Spencer would use his hips to lull Pete into submission and carve him up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Pete does not underestimate Spencer’s diabolical mindset.) “You’re the one who requested a personal day after Marco and Dylan broke up.”
If looks could kill, half of Pete’s head would be spattered on the wall right about now. The chances of that happening were still pretty high.
Pete inches his way towards the door. “I take it you won’t be helping, then?”
The Bedazzler misses his head by about three inches.
As Ryan obviously will not be helping, Pete has to come up with his own plan. He calls it ‘The Seduction of Gerard Way Through the Cunning Use of Caffeine, Music, and Sheer Sexiness,’ or, for short, THE PLAN. (Patrick outlawed the use of acronyms after Gabe introduced the Complete Organization Boolean Resource Architecture, and the Wireless Integrated Logical Logic Interpreter Array Multi-Interface Systemized Mail Yield Balanced Interchangeable Turbo Computer Hardware. You can’t even say TGIF without Patrick’s eyebrows getting twitchy. And besides, TSGWTCUCMSS is probably a word only in Welsh. Or Comanche.)
“Jon Walker,” Pete drawls. “Feel up to helping me get my man?”
Jon looks up from the storyboards with mild interest. “Just so we’re clear, was that another come-on or are we talking about Gerard?”
“Smartass. Just make with the coffee mojo.”
It’s Thursday, which is close to Friday but not nearly close enough, and right now Gerard needs caffeine like he needs air, only worse, because if he tries to live without air he dies, whereas if he lives without caffeine that’s what happens to everyone else. Plus, Ross has been looking at Gerard like he was a piece of meat all day, and that would put anyone on edge.
So when Pete appears like the fruitiest, most color-blind caffeine fairy to ever flit across the face of the earth, Gerard is thankful, if understandably confused.
“Coffee,” Pete announces cheerfully. “Black as Patrick’s mood when he listens to the Top Forty, man.”
“Uh.” Gerard stutters out, fingers automatically curling around the mug and lifting it to his mouth. “Thanks?”
Pete grins – a full-on, generally only seen when stoned, showing all his freakishly pearly white teeth type of grin – and wanders off again whistling.
Gerard spends a moment in quiet contemplation while Frank snickers behind him. “I’m confused,” he says finally.
Frank grins and takes another sip of his coffee. “Yeah, Mikey was pretty oblivious too.”
This time Frank cackles outright. “Exactly.”
Brendon, contrary to popular opinion, is not a complete idiot. Whenever Bob is around Spencer’s hips go into supreme sexy generator mode. Whenever Spencer is nearby Bob starts to show emotion. Brendon knows exactly why this is happening. He just needs to get them to admit it, that’s all. Brendon is a romantic soul, and he has a not-so-secret weakness for romance and marriage and babies and being a general yenta and pain in the ass.
Which is why he is going to use his super secret ultra awesome tricky Mormon powers to bring Spencer and Bob together.
“I think Bob needs help with the soundboard,” he says one day. It’s totally not even a lie, but Spencer still looks dubious.
“Seriously, it’s been going in and out all day. I totally think it’s the mice I’ve been seeing around set. Little mice nibbling on the wires. Oh my God, Spencer, couldn’t they get electrocuted? Can’t we stop them from nibbling on the wires?” Brendon gives Spencer his best wide-eyed look.
Spencer rolls his eyes and super-sexy-generates his way over to Bob.
Brendon makes sure no one is paying attention before pumping his fist in the air.
Bob’s head snaps up so quickly he think he might have fused two discs together. “Hey.”
Spencer shifts his weight from one foot to the other. The effect on his hips is entrancing. “Brendon said you needed some help with the soundboard.”
Bob might have to worship Brendon for the rest of his natural life. “I, uh, yeah, actually. Brendon’s been getting delay and some weird feedback, I guess.”
Spencer’s bitch-face is only at half-mast, which Bob counts as a win. “Okay.”
“Could you maybe go put on his headset for a few minutes? Thumbs down, thumbs up kind of deal, tell me what you’re hearing?”
Spencer nods and slinks his way across the set. Bob watches and wonders how long he can fuck around with the soundboard and not seem like a complete idiot.
During break Ryan corners Brendon in the lunchroom.
(No, really, he literally corners him, between the fridge and the countertop. The only way out is over the lunch table and they both know Brendon’s not that coordinated.)
“I know what you’re doing, Brendon,” Ryan says, and images of his body chopped up in a gutter flicker across Brendon’s vision.
Wide-eyed innocence, wide-eyed innocence. “What am I doing, Ryan?”
Ryan’s eyes narrow and Brendon sends up a brief prayer to God asking for continued protection from Ryan’s bitchface. “Throwing Spencer and Bob at each other for bullshit reasons is not going to work. Life is not a Disney fairytale, Urie, and you are not some gay fairy godmother.”
Gabe stops poking around in the fridge just long enough to ask, “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”
Ryan pauses. “Possibly.”
“I think that might be three times the gay, actually. The cobra disapproves.”
“Regardless.” Ryan looks like he’s contemplating chopping Gabe up and putting him in the freezer. “Brendon needs to stop.”
Brendon crosses his arms and pouts his very best pout. He practices. He knows it’s irresistible. “Why? At least they’re talking to each other.”
Everyone thinks this over until Gabe pulls his head out of the fridge again, munching on something that looks about three days from becoming sentient. “You know, he might be right.”
“That’s what’s so wrong about it,” Ryan mutters, and he does not – he does not – react when Brendon sticks his tongue at him.
Joe rushes into the lunchroom, clearly panicked. “Gabe, man, what the fuck? Nate said you were you eating my lunch again?”
“Dude, I don’t even know if this is animal, mineral, or vegetable.” Gabe smacks Ryan on the ass as he goes, and Brendon takes this as his cue to escape.
On Monday Pete leaves Gerard a mix he made over the weekend. He calls it “vampires will never hurt you,” and fills it with Quicksand and Morrissey and The Nightmare Before Christmas and even one song from the band Pete was in during college. He’s kind of ridiculously proud of it, and draws little skulls and demented looking hearts all over, and one Bartskull in the margins next to the track listing.
Gerard is still confused, but listens to it on the ride home and then spends the rest of the night drawing.
On Thursday there’s another one, this time called “i brought you my bullets you brought me your love.” The week after that, “the world has its shine (but i would drop it on a dime)” and “its not a side effect of the cocaine i am thinking it must be love.” All of them are disturbingly, perfectly right. No seemingly obvious connection that should tie them together – they just do. Gerard listens to them driving to work and driving home and falling asleep and when he draws or paints and reads comics and – once, seriously, fucking once – when he jerks off.
One Friday Gerard leaves some of the pictures he’s been drawing on Pete’s desk. Like, in thanks. He’s pretty sure it’s in thanks.
Pete, however, has no such scruples, and jerks off thinking about the pictures multiple times.
Brendon is about halfway to the T when he realizes he’s forgotten his iPod in the dressing room. He gasps so loud the people around him instantly gave him a two-foot berth on all sides. Which is useful, really, since he spins around like a madman to run back for it before Zack locks up the building. Even though he’s coming back to the studio tomorrow and he could get his iPod then, well, Brendon’s pretty sure he likes his iPod more than people sometimes. His iPod will always sing Disney songs with him, that’s for sure. His iPod will not yell at him when he dances into things. He can even cuddle up to his iPod, were he so inclined.
And this is starting to get pathetic, so Brendon hurries up and gets back to the studio.
The doors are still open, luckily, so he slips in and hopes he doesn’t get locked up for the night. He’d freak out and have to call Zack and somehow Pete would find out about it – Brendon’s not entirely convinced he doesn’t have taps on all of their phones – and then sneak into the studio to tape Brendon hyperventilating and clutching one of the puppets while waiting for rescue.
When Brendon gets back he has to re-trash his room to find the iPod. And there it is, under one of the sweaters he always insists make him look like Mr. Rogers but Ryan dresses him in anyway, lying still and shiny in all its iPoddy goodness. Brendon clutches it to his chest and tries to decide if he’s more in the mood for The Lion King or The Little Mermaid when he hears the music floating in from down the hall. And the thing about Brendon, see, is that if there were such a thing as Pied Piper he’d be fucked, because music is about the only thing besides Capri Suns and unicorns that can hold his attention for more than three seconds.
Today is no exception.
Brendon prances – yes, seriously, prances. There’s no one around to make fun of him, so why the hell not? – down the hall towards the studios and sound booths. He hears piano, so he peers into Patrick’s studio and sure enough, there Patrick is, clunking away on the piano and singing a little under his breath. When the song ends Brendon starts to applaud and Patrick jumps about five feet in the air.
“Jesus, Brendon.” Patrick puts his hand over his heart just like a little old woman, and Brendon can’t help giggling.
“Sorry, sorry.” Okay, in retrospect, the phantom clapping was probably a little creepy. “What were you playing?” Brendon asks, bouncing down on the piano bench next to Patrick. “Something for the show? Because it sounded way, way cool. Tell me it’s totally one of my songs and not one of Greta’s, because if it’s Greta’s that would definitely make me all emo and I don’t think I can handle any more negative emotion today.”
“Um.” Patrick blinks at him a little. He’s used to a slightly more wound down Brendon by this time of night. “I was composing. It was… I mean, it’s my song.”
Brendon brightens and scoots closer to Patrick, thigh smushed up to thigh. “Really? It was awesome. Patrick, I’m pretty sure it was almost as awesome as Disney,” Brendon gushes, bouncing all over the place, gratified when Patrick laughs. “Sing it for me, sing it for me. I will totally accompany you on the tambourine, since Bill’s not around.”
“It’s not really a tambourine kind of song.”
Patrick punches him lightly on the shoulder. “You’d ruin my masterpiece with cowbell? Harsh, Urie.”
“Hey, I’ve got a fever, Stump,” Brendon snickers, waggling his eyebrows. “Patrick. Hey. Hey, Patrick.” Brendon opens his eyes very wide. “That was really beautiful. And, like, don’t take this the wrong way, but why are you writing songs for a kid’s show?”
Patrick shrugs. “I’ve got a paying job where I get to write music every day, and I get to do it with my friends. Plus, you know, health insurance and a 401k. Always important. It doesn’t really get much better, right?”
“Guess not.” Brendon never thought he would get paid to sing and dance and flail like comes naturally, so there you go. Even if it is with puppets.
“Besides. Kids need songs too.”
“I’m not sure kids need songs like that.” Brendon’s pretty sure there was some sex in there. Some very, very passionate lovin’. “That was a very adult song, Mr. Stump. Marvin Gaye would be proud.” Brendon pauses. “Or Madonna.”
“That’s all I’ve ever wanted,” Patrick says dryly. “Madonna’s approval.”
“Don’t we all? Although my faith in her totally waned after the whole kissing Britney Spears thing, seriously. I’m pretty sure her mouth’s been worse places, but not on national TV, you know what I mean?”
Patrick expression is somewhere between amused and appalled. “Brendon, why are you even here?”
He doesn’t ask in a mean way, so Brendon just fishes his iPod out of his pocket and waves it merrily around. “Dude, I totally forgot Norman.”
“Like you haven’t named your guitar.”
“Okay, point. But Norman?”
“He’s secretly a psychopath who wears his mother’s clothes,” Brendon says seriously. “But he’s got great taste in music. He totally loved your song, for instance. Are you going to use it on the show? Ooh, can I sing it? Don’t give it to Greta, Patrick, please, please, she gets all the fun songs, I want the masterpiece. Let me siiiing it.”
Patrick glances down at the keyboard, obviously uncomfortable. “I don’t know.”
Brendon is crestfallen. “You’re going to give it to Greta, aren’t you? You totally are, I knew it. You think Greta is the better singer and you’re giving her your masterpiece and ---“
“Brendon,” Patrick interrupts, suddenly. “I’m not giving the song to Greta. If I was going to give the song to anyone, it would be you. Not for the show, even, just. I just.”
“I just. I, um,” Patrick continues, blushing, and pushing at his hat. “I write all the songs for you.”
“Oh,” Brendon says blankly, like that’s suddenly the only sound he’s capable of producing. He grins so hard it stretches his face. “Oh, oh, wow.”
“Yeah. I mean, of course I write them for you, you’re the one who has to sing them every day, but I just…”
“No, I get it. I get it. And Patrick Stump,” Brendon nods solemnly, drawing himself to his very tallest five feet and seven inches, “I think this is the part where you kiss me.”
“Yeah?” Patrick says, and blushes pink to the very tips of his ears. Brendon thinks it’s so adorable he might have to suck on them. Thoughts. Tucks that away for later.
“I’ve watched a lot of Disney movies. I have it on very good authority.”
When Patrick starts singing “Someday my Prince Will Come,” Brendon can’t help but giggle like the little girl everyone knows he is. It’s not Aladdin, but Brendon is more than willing to accept it.
When Patrick and Brendon start acting ridiculous around the set – Brendon pouncing on Patrick’s back, Patrick blushing whenever he touches Brendon, both of them humming the same nonsensical tune all the time – pretty much everyone thinks it’s adorable and heartwarming and break into smiles. (Or in Gabe and Pete’s case, try to catch them doing something inappropriate on film).
Everyone but Ryan, that is. And it’s not because Ryan’s one of those guys who hates seeing people in love, or who can’t stand for someone to be happier than them, or anything like that. He likes that they’re happy, really. Ryan likes Patrick. Ryan likes Brendon. He just, you know, likes them. He’s been head over heels for Brendon since the first time he gangled his way onto the set, singing an old Third Eye Blind song. Patrick took a little longer, but it was also a lot easier to get to know Brendon than Patrick. Brendon was vibrant and crazy and absolutely brilliant, right from the get-go, and Ryan is nothing if not a whore for talent. Patrick was the shy, slightly pudgy guy who hid under his hats all the time. Now Ryan knows that Patrick is a shy, slightly pudgy, musical fucking genius who’s got an inferiority complex that Ryan would like to fuck out of him, yes please, but if Brendon and Patrick are together, well, he’s probably not going to get that chance.
(Which is a damned shame, really, considering his main fuckbuddy is currently involved in a grand romance of his own. Ryan has needs – which may or may not involve cuddling. He’ll never admit it either way.)
But he’s happy that Patrick and Brendon are happy. He is. Honest.
(Ryan always makes a point to be honest with himself – because if he isn’t going to be, then who is?)
Patrick spends the first part of the morning going over some new songs with Brendon, then making out in one of the supply closets, because even though it smells a little funky it’s pretty much guaranteed that neither Gabe nor Pete can sneak up on them without knocking something over or breaking a bone. It’s important to have a good alarm system.
Pete bothers Patrick all lunch about Decepticons and Hemingway and good pick-up lines, and even though Patrick walks away with his head spinning it feels good. He feels good.
Right up to the point he finds Ryan standing behind him.
“Just so you know,” he says quietly. “If you break his heart, you’re going to find yourself short a few body parts.”
Patrick can’t help shuddering. While Gabe definitely qualifies as creepy and about ten kinds perverted, Ryan Ross is literally a serial killer waiting to snap. (Mikey has twenty down on a chainsaw during sweeps; Joe on stabbing Brendon the next time someone gives him caffeine.) Patrick knows that Ryan is a great guy – smart, funny in a deadpan kind of way, caring if you earn the privilege, and, okay, sexy as fuck – but he’s also a little more in touch with his anger than most people. Or, you know, a lot more in touch. Whichever. Either way, Patrick’s pretty sure he’d follow through on any threat he made.
Which kind of brings up why Ryan is making any threats at all. He’s not really the type of guy to get emotionally invested – he’d go to the ends of the earth for Spencer or Pete, but Brendon? And then it’s like someone hit Patrick over the head with a clue-by-four, because wham, he gets it. He gets it. Gets Ryan’s strangely un-prickly silences, his constant watching. Gets why he’s sticking his neck out. Ryan is obvious if you know where to look. If he says or does anything at all, there’s a reason for it. So it hits Patrick, and – oh God – he pulls a Pete, with his mouth moving faster than his brain, because before he can even think about what a bad idea it is, he asks, “You love him, don’t you?”
Ryan stiffens up, his fingers curling into tight little fists because he’s one-point-seven seconds from full-on, Ryan Ross certified rage. He doesn’t need that rubbed in his face, and it’s only when Patrick adds softly, “I know how easy it is,” that it all drains out of him, and Ryan wilts a little.
“Yeah,” he says flatly, hiding behind his bangs. “Yeah, it must be.”
Patrick can see the way he curls in on himself and impulsively reaches out and puts a hand on Ryan’s shoulder. (He’d hug him, but he’s pretty sure he can’t live without his arms – he’s willing to risk a hand.) Ryan stiffens again before yielding, slightly, into Patrick’s touch.
After a moment Ryan clears his throat. “Just so you know, I was going to go threaten Brendon right after.”
Patrick melts a little. “Not to mess with your threatening vibe, but why don’t you leave that out for a bit? He’s a fragile little flower.”
And it seems okay.
They’re lying in bed when Patrick decides to bring it up.
It’s been a good night so far – a great night, really. Brendon came over after work with pizza – “It’s, like, mostly vegan-approved, because if I order the meat special the Andy in the back of my head yells at me, but I need good cheese, Patrick, I do, seriously.” – and they watched Aladdin and Rushmore, which they’ve both seen so many times they just made-out through most of both movies, minus the ‘A Whole New World’ scene, which Brandon has to sing along to, and, well, they end up in bed, which Patrick has absolutely no problems with.
But he can’t stop thinking about Ryan. About how sad he looked, how defeated, behind his defiant, perfectly dressed-coifed-made-up exterior, and – god help him – Patrick can’t forget the warmth that seeped out from under Ryan’s shirt to Patrick’s palm.
“Ryan gave me the ‘hurt him and I’ll eat your spleen talk’ the other day,” Patrick says quietly, and the muscles in Brendon’s back tighten under his hand. “I think he’s in love with you,” he continues carefully, the words like pins in his mouth that he has to speak around, and he watches Brendon.
Brendon, who bites his lip like he’s holding in what he’s saying, like he’s actually thinking about it, and that’s almost enough for Patrick right there. “You think?”
“Pretty sure, yeah.”
“Oh.” Brendon goes back to chewing nervously on his lip. “I didn’t… I mean, I thought maybe, but I – I totally want to be with you, you know that right?” He adds hurriedly, “You’re… you’re perfect, Patrick, you’re funny and smart and I want to sing your songs forever, it’s just. I think I… it’s Ryan, you know?” he finishes, shrugging one shoulder in a helpless sort of gesture.
Ryan Ross. Strong, talented, angry, beautiful, broken. A thousand glittering shards held together by sheer will. God knows Patrick can’t help wanting him. Could love him if given half a chance.
“It’s Ryan,” Patrick echoes softly. “I know.”
Mikey sits down on the edge of Pete’s desk. “Here’s the thing.”
Pete just grunts. He has to beat Gabe’s high score on Tetris before the end of the day.
“Gee is pretty much a social retard,” Mikey says bluntly. “I say that because I love him. But seriously. He spent most of his teenage years in a basement reading comics and I’m totally not convinced that his college years were much better.”
“Got him out of the basement, at least.” Pete frowns a little. “Usually. So we could go see, like, X-Men and visit Comicon and shit.”
Mikey resists rolling his eyes. Barely. “See what I’m saying? Social. Retard. And your weird little Wentzian mating dance isn’t exactly the type of signal Gee will pick up on, awesome mixes aside. You need to smack him over the head with it.”
“So, what? Dance around naked in his office?”
“You’ve did that last year, remember? When you found out we were getting Dora’s old timeslot?”
“Ah. Right.” Pete smiles fondly, and Mikey sighs.
“Try asking him out, maybe? Or kissing him, if you have to. I doubt even Gee can fuck that one up.”
Pete looks affronted. “He’d know if I was doing that.”
Mikey isn’t convinced. He sends Pete a look that says ‘I dated you, jackass. I know what goes on inside your screwy little brain, so don’t start with me.’
(Seriously. That’s exactly what it says, including the emphasis. Pete is well-versed in Mikeyway.)
So he takes the advice.
Ryan is having a bad day. Or as he prefers to call it, a clusterfuck of unfortunate events. He slept through the alarm, and he burnt the last of the bread when he tried to make toast, and when he dropped his favorite eyeliner it rolled somewhere under the sink, probably lost forever. On top of that, Jon is out sick today so the coffee’s shit, and Ryan seriously does not want to see Brendon and Patrick make kissy faces anymore. He has reached his tolerance level.
“Hey!” Brendon bounces over, and Ryan thinks about how quickly he can run away. Brendon’s good at finding hiding places, but he’s got the attention span of a goldfish and Ryan is a zen ninja master who can outwait anyone but Spencer. And maybe Bob.
“What are you doing tonight?”
“Um. Nothing, I suppose.” Watching Moulin Rouge! and eating leftover Chinese food, most likely. Ryan likes to live dangerously.
“So, can you come over tonight? To Patrick’s place?” Brendon looks at Ryan with wide eyes and waggles his eyebrows up and down.
And Ryan’s confused, but he nods.
Brendon smiles brightly and bounds off again. The rest of the day passes in a blur.
“Um, Ryan?” Brendon asks, a little panicked. “Ryan? You okay?”
They’re at Patrick apartment. Patrick and Brendon are sitting on the couch because it’s as comfy as sin even if its ugly, and the bedroom just seemed a little, you know, forward. Ryan had taken a seat in one of the armchairs opposite. He was too smart to not pick up on all the undercurrents in the room, to not have even the smallest idea of where this was going to go.
Patrick and Brendon tried to explain, tried to ask, but maybe it didn’t come out quite the way they wanted, judging by Ryan’s face. Patrick grips Brendon’s hand tighter.
“Pity fuck,” Ryan says flatly.
Brendon chokes. “Yeah, sure, Ross. Christ. Take pity on me already. Several times a day, for the rest of my natural life, pretty, pretty please with a Patrick on top.” He pauses. “Or on bottom. Or somewhere in the middle. We’re flexible like that.”
Now it’s Patrick’s turn to choke. Brendon smacks him on the back and frowns a little. “Are you embarrassed? Patrick, dude, we’ve seen you drunk and singing ‘Baby Got Back’ with Gabe. Pete’s got it on video. Actually, I’m pretty sure Pete’s been videotaping all the embarrassing moments in the last ten years of your life, so, really, I’m not sure what you’re worried about right now.”
Patrick is blushing so hard he can feel all the blood in his face. But Ryan looks a little less unsure, a little less like they ran over Hobo, so. Small sacrifices.
Brendon turns back to Ryan, earnest again in a whiplash change that only Brendon can pull off and make sincere. “Seriously, Ryan. We want you here. Not just, like, once either. As long as you want.”
“As long as you need to be here,” Patrick adds softly.
Ryan blinks at them.
“Oh, fuck it,” Brendon says finally, and dives for Ryan’s face. For a second Patrick thinks that something is going to get bitten off, but it ends all right. Ryan’s hands cling to Brendon’s shoulders, like he started to push Brendon off and thought better of it. Brendon pulls Ryan halfway into his lap by the time he’s done.
“Okay?” he asks. Ryan stares at him for a moment. A little shocked, maybe, or confused. “Okay?”
“Okay,” Ryan says. “Definitely okay.” Ryan’s hands curl up in Brendon’s hair, big hands and big eyes. “I get it.” Patrick makes a noise in the back of his throat, a little like strangling. He starts to stand before his knees get too weak to wobble out of here.
“I’m just gonna,” Patrick waves his hand around a little, in a universal ‘I’m going to go jack-off and feel inadequate, you guys have fun without me’ gesture.
Ryan just stares at him for a moment. “Oh my God, Patrick, you dumbass,” he sighs, the sound indecent when it falls from swollen lips, when Patrick is pinned under that dark gaze.
“Wait, what?” Brendon asks, his hair ruffled in a way that makes him look all of twelve, and, okay, even Patrick wants to smile a little at that. “Are you leaving?”
“Oh, wow. You really are a dumbass,” Brendon says, taking the sting out of it by pulling on Patrick’s hoodie, watching him stumble over to the couch. “You really didn’t think we were doing this alone, did you?”
It’s entirely possible all the blood in Patrick’s system just rushed from his face to his dick.
“‘Cause if Pete can have threesomes with Alex-n-Ryland I can totally have them with you two,” Brendon announces. “Way hotter. Plus, I’m pretty sure I’m less likely to get an STD.” Brendon starts unzipping Patrick’s hoodie, taking perhaps slightly longer than it should because Brendon has all the coordination and finesse of a blind man performing brain surgery with a hacksaw even on the best of days, much less when his brain is addled from anticipation of the Big Gay Threesome.
Ryan is pressed up tightly behind Brendon, one hand on Patrick’s thigh, and he rolls his eyes. “And if that doesn’t make you want to sleep with him, I don’t know what will.”
“Shut up, Ross,” Brendon says cheerily. “Time to sex up Patrick!”
Patrick is pretty okay with this plan, all around.
Brendon’s hands are busily working their way through all his clothes when Ryan breathes, “Patrick,” pitched extra-low, and that’s all the warning Patrick gets before Ryan’s lips are on his, Ryan’s clever fingers, Brendon’s giggling in his ears, before something warm curls up in Patrick’s intestines and calls it home.
Spencer doesn’t miss the drums that much. Not the way he misses Vegas, or his family, or the way Ryan used to, like, need him, all of which sometimes hit him like he swallowed a brick right after someone smacked him in the head with it, but every so often he’s just in the right mood to want to mess around and lose himself, to just be in the way his body can move, controlled by rhythm instead of his brain. It makes not thinking a little easier.
Up until the part where Bob comes in.
“Messing around with my kit, Smith?”
Spencer lets his hands fall into his lap, still clutching the sticks. There’s just a hint of a blush in his cheeks and Christ, but Bob is gone. “That okay?”
Bob waves a hand. “Just didn’t know you drummed.”
“A little. Ryan and I used to have a band.”
The corners of Bob’s lips lift. “Yeah?”
“Yeah, when we were kids. Mostly shitty Blink covers. It was just the two of us, so.” Spencer shrugs. “We had fun.”
Bob finds it a little unbelievable that Ryan ever has fun. “I used to do sound for all my friends’ bands back in high school. That’s how I met Frank.”
“Frank was in a band?”
“You don’t have that many tattoos and not end up in a band somewhere along the line.”
Spencer’s nose wrinkles. “Or prison.”
“Or prison,” Bob concedes. “I mean, Pete, right? He probably talks about his old fucking band all the time.”
“Never shuts up about it. Which, I don’t know – he can’t really sing, or play bass…”
“Must be the infamous Wentz magnetism.”
“Or the promise of sexual favors.”
That is a phrase Bob could get used to hearing come out of Spencer’s mouth. Provided he doesn’t start to stutter like an idiot every time it happens.
“I. Um. I.” He finally gives up and just shakes his head. He can’t win this.
“Shocked to silence?” Spencer asks wryly.
“Never figured you for a dirty mouth.”
“You think that’s dirty? Oh Bryar.” Spencer’s smirk is a thing of pure evil. And, okay, it’s also really, really hot. “You have no idea.”
Bob would like to.
Ryan corners Bob in one of the hallways. ‘Corners’ is an odd word to use when you’re six feet tall and being stared down by a guy who could pass as a teenage girl with the right clothing, but Bob feels like a rat in a trap. Such is the power of Ryan Ross.
“So here’s the thing,” Ryan starts. Then he babbles about blood and dying flowers and wounded petals and rose-thorn lovers growing over the shattered windows of souls and basically sounding like Gee whenever he has his yearly existential crisis. The only thing that Bob definitely gets out of it is that if he doesn’t stay away from Spencer he’ll die a gruesome, horrific death and if he loves his mom he’ll hope to stay buried in order to spare her the trauma of identifying his remains.
Bob nods and hopes the terror he feels isn’t written all over his face. When Bill comes prancing down the hall asking if anyone wants to play Twister, Ryan glares at Bob once last time before letting him escape.
There’s a knock on Gerard’s door.
“Yeah?” Gerard says absently, not even lifting his head from the storyboards he’s working on. At least not until he hears the three words dreaded by every man everywhere, but especially – especially – when said by Pete Wentz.
“Can we talk?”
Oh, man, there is no way this will end well. (The last time Pete said “Can we talk?” he was calling from a hospital after his brief and disastrous flirtation with Ativan. He’d needed almost two months to get his head back on straight. Gerard thinks Pete is a great guy, he really does, but that doesn’t change the fact that Pete has problems. Nothing that Gerard will ever, ever hold against him or fault him for – because that’s hypocritical to the umpteenth fucking degree coming from him – but Pete can get kind of fucked up. And that’s just Pete. Beautiful, brilliant, self-doubting, megalomaniacal, flamboyant, manic Pete.)
“Sure,” Gerard says evenly. “Sure, just give me a second to put these away.” When all hell breaks loose, at least they’ll have the storyboards. “What did you want to talk about?”
“I wanted to know,” Pete says slowly, “if you wanted to go on a date.”
Gerard must be hallucinating. He knew Pete was slipping something into his coffee. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, what?”
Pete is looking very carefully at his shoes. “Is that a no?”
“More like a what-the-fuck just happened?”
“I want. To go out on a date. With you,” Pete says slowly.
“You want to date me?”
“Jesus, Gee, do you even understand the English language? I. Like. You.” Pete scowls. “Maybe I should draw a comic about it, then you’d get it.”
Gerard scowls. “You shouldn’t insult people you’re asking on dates.”
Pete stares at him.
Gerard stares back. “Were you… are you serious?”
Pete’s jaw drops. “Oh my God, Mikey was right. I should listen to the fucker more often.” Pete’s frowning now, his emo the-world-is-trying-to-break-my-spirit face of sadness and depression and Gerard gives himself a mental smack in the face.
“No, it’s just. Pete. Pete, I’m your boss.”
“Well, we work together!”
“We’ve worked together since I met you!” Pete crosses his arms. “You can just say ‘no,’ you know. I’ll go get drunk with Gabe and Bill and show up really hung-over tomorrow, and then we can forget about it. How’s that?”
Gerard’s eyes widen and he starts to flail a little. “Pete, no! Just. I’m just.” Gerard sighs. “You don’t really want to date me, all right? I’m antisocial, I’m a workaholic, and I get stuck in my head and come into work wearing Mikey’s pants and paint-stained PJs –”
“Always fetching,” Pete says helpfully.
Gerard ignores him. “… I mainline coffee, I smoke like a chimney, I’d drink like a fish if given half a chance. And I snore.”
Pete blinks. “Dude, are you done?”
Gerard blinks back. “I. Yeah.”
“And I thought I had problems.” Pete leans up against the edge of Gerard’s desk. “Okay, one. You’re not antisocial, you just can’t deal with your average fuckhead. Fair enough, I don’t like them either. Two, we all work just as much as you, you slave driver, so shut the fuck up. Three, you look adorable in Mikey’s pants. Especially when you’ve been painting with red. Four, coffee is the sweet, sweet nectar of the gods, kissing a smoker isn’t like licking an ashtray, so we’re cool, and I almost OD’d on anxiety medication, for Christ’s sake. I sleep like the dead, and, I don’t know, point whatever-the-fuck I’m one now – I like you. You’re a nice guy – ”
“Oh great, thanks.” Next Pete will tell him he’s got a great personality.
“No,” Pete adds hurriedly. “Not ‘nice’ like I can’t think of anything else to say. ‘Nice’ because that’s what you are. You like making people happy, you like taking care of people. You really care.” Pete scratches at the back of his neck. “I mean, I’m kind of a selfish asshole.”
Gerard laughs at that. He can’t help it
Pete laughs along with him. “Yeah, I know. It’s not like I mean to be, I just… I let things get away from me, and I get a little jazzed about whatever and then I run rough over people. And I really don’t mean to, you know, but…”
“It happens sometimes,” Gerard finishes softly.
“Yeah. Yeah, except it never happens with you. So, you know, that’s what I mean by nice. I really… I really mean ‘amazing.’ And hot,” he adds suddenly, leering a little. “Did I mention hot? Because I’m thinking I didn’t, and really, that’s very important.”
Gerard has still not ruled out the possibility of hallucinogens.
“And I flirt with you, like, all the time.”
Gerard gapes. “You flirt with Bob all the time. You flirt with Andy all the time. You flirt with the puppets all the time.”
Pete doesn’t look the least bit abashed. “Okay, point. But people know when I mean it and when I’m just messing around. It’s different.”
“Pete, I’ve known you for ten years. You’ve never treated me any different.”
“Maybe I always meant it.”
Gerard knows that Pete’s ‘maybes’ are protective. Plausible deniability. Pete’s ‘maybe’ means ‘always,’ and that hits Gerard like punch to the stomach.
“I… college? Really?”
Pete shrugs, maybe scuffs his foot along the floor. “All the things you are now, you were then.” Then he flashes a wicked grin. “I mean, you were younger, and usually rockin’ the eyeliner, but other than that.”
“Oh, fuck you,” Gerard retorts, and he can’t help grinning in response. The palms of his hands start itching, like when he sees something he wants. Normally, he just wants to draw it, maybe to paint, but this – this is Pete, and Gerard suddenly knows exactly what he wants. “You couldn’t tell me like a normal person?” Gerard flushes before he even finishes the sentence. “Never mind.”
“Gerard.” Pete takes a step towards him. “I’ve known you for ten years. We’ve worked together for seven of them and had a hit show for four. We work together every day and haven’t seriously tried to murder each other yet. I think it’s safe to say this is already the most stable relationship I’ve ever been in. By far.” He pauses, and starts to flutter his eyelashes wildly. “So, yeah, here I am. Just a boy, standing in front of another boy, asking him to love me.”
Gerard tries to ignore the way his heart melts a little, because if Pete figures that out, it’s seriously all over. “Julie Roberts, Pete? Seriously?”
“Actually, I was cribbing from Date Movie because nothing particularly romantic from The Last Unicorn came to mind. Sorry.” Pete’s grin, almost impossibly, gets even wider. “I’ll be your Lloyd Dobbler.”
“God, shut up.” Never ever get Pete started on his cult favorites. “Just be my Pete Wentz, okay?” Gerard’s not sure exactly when he came to the decision that he was going to date Pete. Probably about the time Pete’s hand snuck under the edge of his shirt.
“I’m really good at that.” Then he frowns. “Seriously though, what did you think all the mixes and the coffee and the inappropriate touching was about? A sudden compulsion to spread the joys of music, caffeine, and illicit sex?”
“I don’t know what I thought. But that doesn’t sound totally out of the question for you, does it? Freak.” Gerard flicks Pete’s ear. Although, in retrospect, all of Frank’s snickering is suddenly making a lot of sense.
Pete retaliates by ruffling Gerard’s hair. “Mikey finally told me to just ask you on a date. Which, in retrospect, a better plan than mine.”
“Not better,” Gerard corrects, absently smoothing his hair back down. “Just… more straightforward.” Getting seduced though music, caffeine, and inappropriate workplace touching was kind of genius, actually, in that always unique Pete Wentz sort of way. “The mixes were pretty awesome.”
“Yeah?” Pete brightens. “This mean I’ve got a date?”
“I think you deserve at least one. Coffee?” Gerard is definitely going to need caffeine by the end of the day.
“I think the more important question here is whether you’re the type of girl who puts out on the first date, Gee.”
“Don’t call me the girl just because I’m pretty, you fuck.”
“Very pretty,” Pete says agreeably, and Gerard remembers why he doesn’t argue with Pete without Patrick nearby to referee. He’s helpless before the Wentzian method of argument. “The prettiest girl on the set.”
Having all the Wentz-certified charm focused on you at once is kind of heady, actually. “I’ll tell VickyT you said that.”
“Victoria? Shit, I’m more scared of Spencer. He’s thinks he’s the prettiest princess around, and am I going to tell him he’s wrong? Fuck no, I value my balls.”
Gerard’s grin is starting to match Pete’s tooth-for-shining-tooth and – fuck, this is getting ridiculous.
“I almost hate to encourage you,” he says, even though he’s not sure that’s entirely true. “But we’ve got fifteen minutes before we need to be on set.”
Pete’s eyes narrow, considering. “How sturdy do you think your desk is?
Spencer makes his move during lunch. Most of the crew is either stuffing their faces or smoking like a chimney outside. Gee’s in his office doing some paperwork, Frank and Mikey are hammering out the final script for tomorrow, and Spencer saw Ryan and Patrick sneak off to the hall closet about a half an hour ago. He figures at the very least there will be no witnesses.
Spencer waits until Bob stops messing around with the board before walking into the sound booth.
Spencer sticks his hands in his pockets before he starts tapping all over everything. “Frank and Mikey were going to see that new Frank Miller movie Friday night,” he says in a rush. “I was wondering if you wanted to go.”
Bob’s about ninety-percent sure that if he goes he’ll do something stupid, like kiss Spencer or declare his intention to adopt Cambodian orphans. He’s also about a hundred-percent sure that Ryan would kill him.
“No,” Bob says. And then cringes. “I mean…”
“You mean?” Spencer asks softly, his hands slowly curling into fists inside of his pockets.
“It’s just, uh. Probably not a good idea,” Bob finishes, wincing even as he says it.
The light in Spencer’s eyes dims a little. Then he nods stiffly and walks away.
Bob is too depressed to even appreciate the hips.
Bob spends the rest of the day being stoic and intimidating. Joe asks if he needs a toke and Brendon tries to give him a hug. Bob considers it for about two-point-five seconds and lets Brendon hang off of his neck for a while. At the end of break he’s still sober, depressed, and now has a crick in his neck.
Ryan, predictably, finds Bob when he least expects it and in the scariest way possible. Bob goes to the bathroom and comes back to find Ryan sitting on the soundboard, pushing buttons and flipping switches every-which-way. Normally Bob would kill anyone who touched his soundboard, but its entirely possible Ryan now has it wired with explosives, so he waits.
“Is there a reason you’ve decided to destroy Spencer?” Ryan asks, the way most people ask how you’re doing, or whether it’s a beautiful day.
Bob twitches a little. “I was under the impression you were going to eat my kidney.”
“If you broke his heart,” Ryan stresses, pitched higher than his usual monotone.
Bob is in deep, deep shit.
“Oh. I. I’m sorry?”
Ryan growls. “You’re going to be.”
Oh god, this is not how he wanted to die.
“I thought you were warning me away,” Bob flounders, desperately. “You’re his best friend, so I figured. You’d know. Spencer is. I wouldn’t.” Back to sentence fragments again. “Spencer’s amazing.” He’s going to die sounding like a thirteen-year-old girl with a speech impediment.
Ryan’s head tilts slightly to the side, looking up on Bob from under his bangs like he wasn’t quite sure what to make of him. It felt a little like Ryan was sizing up which parts of him were weakest but at least he wasn’t dead yet, and for that Bob was thankful.
“Are your intentions pure, Robert Bryar?” he finally asks.
Bob wishes there were a wall nearby to smack his head against. “Cambodian babies are not out of the question.”
Ryan takes his answer in stride.
“Then you better fix him. Or I’m taking advantage of my devoted new boyfriends, because hell if I’m moving your huge carcass alone.”
“So, the thing is,” Bob starts. “The thing is, I’m not very good at speaking Ryan. And from him ‘don’t break my friend’s heart’ apparently sounds a lot like ‘back up off Spencer or I’ll kill you and let Hobo eat the good parts.’ With, you know, lots of flower metaphors thrown in.”
Spencer’s facial expression, which started off as ‘talk to me and I’ll dismember you’ is now somewhere closer to ‘nuclear holocaust,’ so Bob keeps going.
“I’m sorry for being such a pussy and letting Ryan scare me off,” he says simply. “Especially when I really like you. Especially when you asked me out and I turned you down, even though it was like kicking a puppy. For real. I can’t step on people’s toes without feeling like an asshole, so that kind of destroyed me. Brendon spent all break trying to cuddle.” Bob shudders a little. “Which I’m pretty sure only made Ryan want to kill me more.”
That’s potentially a flicker of a ghost of a half-smile. It’s always hard to tell with Spencer.
“And I don’t date much, so that might have a bit to do with it, and I’m the new guy so I never really know what the fuck’s going on, and I didn’t know if you were seeing anyone and whether it was a real date. And. Spencer.” Bob pulls his hands out of his pockets and makes an abortive flailing gesture. “Throw me a bone, here.”
Spencer tilts his head to the side and looks at him. Just when Bob is about to crack and promise a wedding ceremony where Gee could officiate and Ryan be the wedding planner and Gabe and Pete throw the bachelor parties, Spencer smiles.
Bob stops breathing.
“It was a date.”
Bob is suddenly, inexplicably hopeful. “Can I have another one?”
“You did grovel pretty well, I guess. But if you fuck it up again, I’m pretty sure I can’t hold Ryan back.”
“Fair enough.” Bob swallows hard. “Yeah, totally fair.”
Spencer slides his hand into Bob’s. “Want to get dinner after work?”
“Dinner sounds awesome.”
It really, really did.
“Guys! Guys!” Brendon flails his way into the break room. “Andy’s making a new animal character and Gee wants ideas! Pete wants a chimpanzee and I want a unicorn!”
“Seriously, a unicorn.”
“A unicorn named Nantucket,” Brendon continues dreamily.
“Fuck no.” Hell if he’s working wardrobe for a unicorn puppet called Nantucket. Seriously. He’s putting his foot down.
“Ryan,” Brendon gasps, his hands flying up to his cheeks in a gesture of pure horror. “Ryan Ross, you have no goodness in your soul.”
“I want a cobra,” Gabe says suddenly. No one’s sure exactly why he’s making out with Bill in the break room, but who are they to question? “Seriously, these kids need to learn to learn to respect the cobra from a young age, am I right?”
“Gabe,” Spencer says slowly, his extra-serious-stop-fucking-around-face on. “We are not helping you brainwash small children into joining your cult. Sorry, but no.”
Over by the coffee pot, Frank snickers.
“Frank supports unicorns, don’t you, Frank?” Brendon attaches himself to Frank’s hip like some kind of large, strange limpet. “You’ll help me save the unicorns from oppression, won’t you?”
“You should tell Andy you think the unicorns are being oppressed,” Frank says, giggling even as he tries to push Brendon off his leg. “He’d go for that.”
Brendon’s eyes widen. “You are a genius among men, Frank Iero.”
“I know.” Frank pats Brendon on the head. “You should tell Andy that too. Get the fucker to show a little respect.”
Ryan has his best bitchface on. “I don’t think a unicorn is a very good idea.”
Spencer returns with the bitchface supreme. “I think unicorns would be a good idea. Probably win us points with the parents. Symbol of purity, and all that.”
Ryan is horrified. “You’re agreeing with him?” The backstabber. Friends since kindergarten, and this is what it got him.
Spencer turns to Bob and raises his eyebrow incrementally.
Bob puts one hand on Brendon’s shoulder. “Unicorn. Totally a good idea.”
Brendon beams, Bill snickers, and Ryan begins to plot their deaths.
Then he starts to think outside the box.
“Brendon,” he says, voice low and smoky-soft, and Brendon’s jaw drops. “If you let Pete make the new character a monkey –”
“Chimpanzee,” Brendon says stupidly.
“A chimpanzee,” Ryan continues smoothly, taking one step towards Brendon and licking his lip as he goes. “If you let Pete have his chimpanzee, I’m pretty sure we can come to an arrangement.” He punctuates the word ‘arrangement’ with a shimmy of his hips that is probably illegal in most of the continental US, and Spencer figures it’s game over right there. Brendon is as close to a puddle as humanly possible, Gabe and Bill are both leering appreciatively, and even Bob looks a little shell-shocked.
“I. I’m pretty sure I can make that sacrifice.” Brendon stumbles. “Maybe. Maybe we should go find Patrick now?”
“Good idea,” Ryan purrs, and Spencer blindly grabs for Bob’s hand. The back hall closet is the best make-out spot in the building and they’re got to beat Gabe and Bill there, like, now.
They take off like a bats out of hell, with Bill giggling behind them while Gabe throws whatever he can get his hands on.
“Stop right there, fuckers!” Gabe hollers. “I sign your paychecks!”
“You’ve got an office!” Spencer yells back. He and Bob have a head start, and even though Bill has legs longer than most people’s entire bodies it’s also a bitch to run in heels. “With a door that sometimes locks, and sketchy bottle of lube in the bottom drawer!”
There’s a loud skittering sound behind them.
“You get a raise, Smith, for the cool use of logic while horny!”
Spencer celebrates with Bob in the back hall closet.
Mikey walks into the break room to find coffee cups and half-eaten muffins everywhere.
“Where is everyone?”
“You’re not going to want to go into the back closet,” Frank tells him, and then pauses. “Or Gabe’s office. Or your brother’s office. Or Patrick’s studio. In fact, I’d just loudly announce every time you turn a corner.”
Mikey’s nose wrinkles. “Oh, okay. Ew.”
“On the plus side,” Frank says, grinning. “There’s no one in the break room.”