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i swallow your words as a placebo for your heart

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He doesn't, contrary to all the romance novel stereotypes, think about sex with Patrick until he actually *has* sex with Patrick - so exhausted he feels high, laughing, not thinking, and fucking hardcore awesome. of course, it's pretty early on in their-- thing. Relationship. Anyway. So maybe it doesn't count.

That's when Joe and Andy and Charlie make the rules about sex and the van, anyway. The universe, Pete decides, is conspiring to even keep his friends against him.

-

Pete knows that Patrick's going to eventually move on to bigger and better thing while he's doing a guest spot on "Dancing with the Stars" or "Celebrity Rehab".  He hates Patrick for it; he's in awe of Patrick for it.  he can't help but adore him more because of it; the larger part of Pete would really honestly trade all of his own success to be able to hear Patrick's voice for the rest of their lives, would gladly let Patrick leave him if it meant the world could hear him sing. Pete honestly can't figure out why it hasn't happened already.

Knowing that somewhere in America Patrick is singing is about as happily ever after as Pete's willing to believe in.

-

"I think you should talk to him," Ashlee tells Pete seriously, over a cup of herbal tea.

Pete blinks, looks up from where he's doing work at the kitchen table that will maybe be theirs one day.  "Who?"  Ashlee gives him a long look, slight frown, and Pete feels panic in his chest, terror.  It'd be better if she was yelling at him.  "I'm not going to leave you alone with this child," Pete says, and Ashlee smiles, says,

"I know you're not."

"I'm not going to leave you," Pete repeats.

The frown is back on Ashlee's face.  She takes a sip, serene, unruffled, and says, "don't make promises you won't be able to keep."

-

When they get big enough for planes but still small enough for coach, Pete gets stuck all by himself in a seat rows and rows away from the rest of the guys.  He sits there with his headphones in, discman out of power, and listens to people's conversations. He writes a poem, entitled "snatches of conversation".

When Patrick sees it, he laughs and laughs and laughs so much that Pete just throws it out.  later, when he tries to recreate it, he ends up with something like:

baby, come on, why are you
shut up, seriously, oh my god
please, can i
don't be like this, come on, come on now
if you don't just shut the hell up
i'm trying to think already
we're landing at LAX in ten minutes

Pete thinks the begging was from a young couple, the girl nearly crying; the shut ups from a mother to a whining brat of a child.  but then, the memory is pretty fuzzy; he's probably remembering it better and less true than it was.  He considers writing a song called 'landing in a LAX position' but Patrick still thinks the lyrics suck; Pete just wants to hear them sung in Patrick's voice, the pleading, the fight, one keening note of longing and anger and perfection.

-

The first time they have sex, it isn't actually sex. Dirty finds Patrick on his knees at sixteen sucking Pete's cock outside a club.  There are puddles on the ground, and Patrick's knees are wet and kind of muddy.  Dirty shakes his head, rolls his eyes, but Patrick doesn't stop sucking - no skill, no finesse, and Pete comes, glancing back from Dirty's ridiculous grin to the top of Patrick's head.

"you know," Dirty says as Pete zips himself up, "when you're famous you're going to have to keep that to the bus."

Pete remembers the conversation, hearing Joe snoring in the bunk above him, and hates Joe and Andy for it.

-

Pete's twenty six years old when he realizes that the only promise he's ever made that he's really kept is one to Patrick.  When they first met - when Patrick was still the drummer, for chrissake - Patrick was awed but Pete was astounded by him.  Pete knows he was probably meant to be gay; his thoughts and feelings, how other guys aren't supposed to astound him like this.  At twenty two Pete promises Patrick the world, everything. At the time he was just using it as a metaphor for fame.

Writing the lyrics to 'hum hallelujah' Pete realizes what he really meant in the back of the van was he'll give Patrick everything of himself, his world.  He's twenty seven when he realizes that Patrick might hate him a little bit for it, hate him for always, always being there, for keeping Patrick to himself.  No one else knows it - at least, he hasn't said it out loud - but that's why he starts seeing Ashlee, and that's kind of why he proposes, like if he's married then maybe he can let Patrick free.

Even Ashlee, she might love him but she knows in her eyes that he's going to leave her for the only relationship that's never soured, never gone stale. the only one he can't fuck up.

Pete remembers how when Patrick read the line about vows in a parking lot, he'd squinted, frowned.  Pete thought that he probably figured it was about some girl Pete used to know, but then Patrick said, "I didn't know you used to listen."

-

because:

The best part about riding around in the van was hearing Patrick warm up on the road, singing quietly in the back seat.  The busses were too big to properly hear him unless Pete specifically sat down to listen, or asked; he didn't get that constant voice as a background to his frenetic head.  One particularly black night everyone but the two of them were asleep, Pete curled in the passenger seat and Patrick driving because he'd finally got his license.  Pete had his fists curled up tight in his lap, in the pocket of his hoodie, half-crazy from lack of sleep - and Patrick glanced over and started singing 'Hallelujah'.

it didn't make everything okay, of course, but it did make it a bit better.

-

"Maybe," and Pete swallows bile.  "I mean, I guess I can't give you. you know. what you want."

Patrick sighs, shuffles around to face the wall.  This is a familiar sight, Patrick's back as he curled on his side to sleep - more this tour than before because Joe and Andy have relaxed their anti-bus shuffling rule so they're allowed to ride together sometimes.  More often, but not enough, never really enough.

In the dark, Pete hears Patrick say, "when have you ever asked what I wanted?"  He can't tell if Patrick's joking, frowning, sad, or just pointing out the truth.

-

"I swallow words like a placebo."

Patrick doesn't look up from his guitar. "I'm pretty sure that line's already been used."

Pete flips over, pauses the dvd.  He leans against the back of the couch, eyeing Patrick.  He chews on his lip for a minute, and asks Patrick, "I've always wondered, a placebo for what?"

Patrick's fingers still on the guitar for a minute, and he looks up.  It occurs to Pete that Patrick has to sing his words all the fucking time.  Patrick's eyes are dark, sad, in a completely different way than Ashlee's.  It breaks Pete's heart.

Finally, Pete says, "what about 'everyone is a placebo for you'?"

"Too obvious," Patrick tells him, but he's strumming again, anyway.  "It's too obvious that everyone's just a placebo for you," Patrick hums.  Pete closes his eyes, and is bitter for four seconds about the unfairness of Patrick being able to write his own love song better than Pete ever could.

"I wonder who you'll write about when you're solo and doing your own lyrics," Pete asks of the air.  There's no point in denying anything to Patrick, even when he should.

Patrick just smiles at that, shakes his head.  "I've got years of your lyrics," he says to Pete, "I'll just keep using yours."

-

The second time Pete and Patrick have sex, Pete gets over not being attracted to cock to put Patrick's in his mouth.  It's in the van, because Dirty pointed out that having any more sex outside a club in a kinda redneck city probably wasn't a good idea.  Despite what Pete tells the media, it's not actually a big deal that he's not attracted to cock, and he doesn't mind it.  That he sleeps with guys isn't a big deal, but who he sleeps with *is*, and he wants to keep the secret for himself. Pete doesn't want to give that away.

Patrick's sixteen and pretty much turned on by everything, so it doesn't take long.  Pete swallows, wipes his mouth.  It's not romantic or great or anything.  Not until Patrick smiles.

-

They're checking out wedding invitations online, in L.A.  "Seriously," Ashlee says.  "You have to talk to him."

"About what?"

Ashlee leans over, closes the laptop, and takes Pete's hand.  Pete can't look at her, because he doesn't want to see the disappointment in her eyes.  "Tell him you won't leave."

"Why did you say yes?" Pete blurts out.  He doesn't want her to answer, really, but his stupid mouth, as John Mayer would say.

Ashlee considers the question carefully.  "I thought.  I mean, I want this child. And I figured maybe I could help. Like. that it."  She stops, and Pete bows his head.  She doesn't say the word 'love', though she does love him; she doesn't say the word 'need' because she doesn't.  Ashlee's marrying him because it's the thing to do, and in a year or two she'll leave him, amicably, and Pete will have broken yet another promise to yet another lover.

-

Pete doesn't speak to Andy and Joe for a day and a half when they tell Pete that he and Patrick aren't allowed to share a hotel room or a bus; like it's a new official tour rule or something.  His anger has no effect on their performances, and Pete still presses his face into the side of Patrick's neck on stage that night, feels Patrick's voice and throat working singing Pete's words, Pete's heart, Pete's everything.

When Pete relents, just up and gives up and asks Joe to play some stupid video game, nothing's changed.  Joe just tells him, "come on, man.  The kind of intensity you two.  I mean, it just needs a buffer, okay?"

Pete scowls and replies, "so you're just throwing yourself in front of the bus, huh?"

Joe stretches, yawns, face inscrutable.  "You have no idea, do you?"

-

"Hey, Ashlee," Patrick says.  Pete glances over to where the two of them are standing in the studio; winces. Continues his call to Ryan Ross about whatever Ryan needs to talk about, and mentally pleads with the universe not to fuck him up today.

The two of them chat, amicably enough.  Patrick's really smiling, too, and not just letting Ashlee talk while he continues to use the sound board.  Ashlee squeezes Patrick's elbow, suddenly, and Pete loses the thread of Ryan's conversation; Pete says, "I gotta-- listen, Ryan, I'm totally not hearing you right now, I'm kinda, I'll explain later, I gotta go," and hangs up on Ryan's constant voice.

Ashlee kisses Pete's cheek gently, but refuses his offer to stick around.  Her heels clack against the studio floor when she walks away.  "What," and Pete swallows, bites his lip.  He asks Patrick, "What up, dawg?"

Patrick shrugs, tired, worn out, shoulders slumped.  That's just studio time for Patrick, though, not Ashlee.  "I'm kind of tired, I might call it a day," Patrick tells him.  "Soon."

"You guys," and Pete flaps a hand around, knowing he's a complete spaz but helpless to prevent it.  He doesn't voice the question out loud, but he doesn't have to.  Patrick's hand stills on the board, Patrick's face is tight and twisted, Patrick's smile is genuine, but strung out and old, too.

Pete puts a hand on Patrick's shoulder, and, "She wanted to say she was sorry," Patrick finally says.  Pete moves his hand to cup Patrick's elbow, like Ashlee did before she left.  Patrick ducks away, starts putting his stuff in his bag.  "Because of, you know."

Pete lets his arm fall to the side, stuffs his hands in his pockets.  "You want to come by?" Pete asks him.  "I'll get you some food."

"My savior," Patrick mumbles, turning around with his backpack slung low.

His eyes have dark circles around them, and they match Pete's hollow exhaustion.  Pete knows that if Patrick comes back to his house, they'll stay up all night watching tv and not sleeping, and if Patrick were to go back to his own place, he might have a chance to sleep.  Pete doesn't care.  He says, "come on. I'll feed you," and tries to feel sorry for being so selfish.

He can't quite feel sorry enough to let Patrick go home, but he does feel guilty enough that later, he forces Patrick to nap on his own couch, feet in Pete's lap, as the strains of MTV and the neon glow of stupid reality television hum in the background.

-

"Why can't we--" and Pete stops. "I mean, it's not like I'd hurt him," Pete says again.  "I text him all night, I call him anyway.  Why can't we just share the same fucking bus already?"

Andy glances up.  "Ever think maybe he'd hurt you?"

"No."  Pete hadn't; people didn't hurt him.  It was always, always the other way around.

Andy studies him carefully. He finally says, "Ever lived with someone you were seeing before?"

"Yes." Pete pauses.  "Well, kind of."

"Yes." Andy waits, but Pete doesn't say any more.  Finally Andy sighs, as if Pete is extremely dense.  "We're looking out for you two, believe me.  Everyone is. Just go with it."

"But--" but Pete has no argument.

Andy gets up to go find someone else to talk to - Pete thinks to himself, someone that isn't quite this dense and needy and crazy, but that isn't really fair because Andy puts up with him pretty well.  On his way out, Andy says, "oh my god, Pete, you were the one that quoted Jack Kerouac."

-

Pete knows that Neal Cassidy died oh so young, that Kerouac died young-- him, his friends, his lovers, his whole life consumed by words too soon.  He didn't mean it like that.  When he complains to Joe, Joe just rolls his eyes.  "Pete," he says patiently, "you just can't have this much, you can't be like this all the time, and not crash and burn."

-

The rules about sex on tour go something like:

1. Touring is different than the rest of the universe, so things has to be forgiven eventually.
2. Sex on tour has to be at least kind of discreet, especially if it could lead to a fight. Everyone has to obey this one, even if they're married to someone who isn't in the band.
3. Indiscreet sex is defined as sex that isn't in the van bus(ses) or in their hotel rooms.
4. Pete and Patrick are not, by default, to share a van seat bus or hotel room if it might lead to a fight with someone else in the band.
5. when Pete and Patrick do share a van seat bus or hotel room, Pete is not allowed to make any promises and Patrick's not allowed to punch his lights out.

They sometimes move around as to which ones are more important to follow, but really, it's obvious to everyone that they're in place mostly to make sure a. none of their fans get a camera phone picture of Pete and Patrick, someone's hand down the other's pants, and/or b. that Pete and Patrick don't have such a spectacular fight/sex/love affair that there'll be nothing left for next time.