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For You I Was A Flame

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Pete is working in the studio the first time he sees Patrick. It's a boring day, he's just cleaning up some shots from a modelling campaign he did recently; it's easy shit, the kind of stuff he should be giving to his assistant. He sent them on a coffee run nearly an hour ago though and they've not been back since.

The door goes when Pete's about to check in on his assistant, his eyes blurring at the screen in front of him. Pete sits back from his chair and slides out of the back office to the front of the studio.

He spots a very blond, very short guy looking around at the images on the wall. It's city shots mostly; it's what he likes to do best. Pete likes taking snapshots of life in the places he grew up, it's his niche, but it doesn't sell like the glamour shots. It's not like he's soul his soul for commercial work, but it's what keeps the studio going.

“Can I help?” He asks, watching the guy wander around. He leans in close to a print on the far wall before he responds, walking over to Pete with a smile. He's dressed smart, wrapped up in a scarf and coat, but he tucks it beneath his chin as he leans onto the desk.

“Are you Pete Wentz?” his voice is smooth, quite deep, and nice to Pete's ears. He smiles widely, raising his hand to shake Pete's slightly awkwardly.

“I am. Can I help you with something?” Pete goes into businesses mode once his hand is his own again. This guy is pretty cute, but his money is more important to Pete right now.

“I was given your name by Travie McCoy, I don't know if he mentioned anything to you?” Pete tries to wrack his his brain, but the thing with Travie is he's so shit at remembering who and what he's meant to say to anyone, that they generally just end up talking stoner shit.

“Sorry, he didn't. What's it about?” Pete doesn't even know this kid's name, which he guesses would be a bigger help, but he just lets the guy respond for now.

“Uh. I'm not interrupting, am I? I don't want to take up any of your time. I can book an appointment.” He shifts on both his legs, rocking on his heels, but Pete hasn't had a worthwhile consultation in so long, and this guy is cute if nothing else comes out of it.

“Nah, there's nothing else going on. Take a seat,” Pete says, gesturing for Patrick to follow him into the corner of the studio. They've got a consultation area in the corner, out of the back office space, and Pete kicks out a chair. “So yeah. I'm Pete, how can I help?”

“Call me Patrick,” the guy says, finally introducing himself. He holds his hand out again, giving a large smile. The smile is fake, a little awkward, but Pete receives it all the same, flickering back his own.

Patrick explains in a rambling, but endearing way about how he's a recording artist looking for someone to help out with some album artwork. He talks of his recent move to LA that has him craving his home city more than ever.

“I heard you take good city shots – I don't want stock photos. I guess I feel like the streets tell a story, and I don't want them taken by someone who doesn't understand Chicago, you know? I was bitching about it to Travie and he said he'd give me your details, that's you're pretty into Chicago.”

“Yeah. It's home.” Pete smiles briefly. He's tried to live out of it, he even did a stint in LA, but he always felt called home. “Like, are you looking for something new or I have a ton of stuff that you can look through. As long as I'm credited for the image, you can do what you like.”

Patrick looks at him for a moment, before sagging in his seat. “That's it?”

“I-” Pete says. “- I don't know what else to say.”

Patrick leans in.“What's your favorite place in the city? Show me it in person,” Patrick says, and then realizing what he's just demanded, he starts to flush slightly. “I mean, if you're not busy.”

Pete shuts up shop at Patrick's words. He figures this kid's worth taking a whim on, more than his own assistant who still hasn't arrived back from coffee, and Pete figures at this point he's probably a worker short now. Without him it's just Pete – but whatever – he kind of doesn't care right now.

They head out of the block his studio is on and as they walk towards downtown, Pete tries to explain how he feels about his work without turning into a pretentious douche.

“I don't think I have one spot I love most, it's more about the feeling, right? A thousand people could take a photo of the same place, but it takes more than that. I wanna be able to feel the fucking atmosphere in that image, you know? Like, that's what I try and put in my stuff. Without feeling it's just a pretty picture.”

Patrick nods, and sucks his lip in thought. “I like that. I bet a lot of people say it, but I can see it in your stuff. I looked you up online before I came into the shop.”

“Spying on me?” Pete jokes. His eyes keep sliding down to Patrick's mouth, pink and full. Patrick's cute, but not really Pete’s type. He prefers people that generally look like they're going to wreck his life, and Patrick's a neat little picture compared to that. Patrick smiles a lot and his words run into each other all the time; his hands gesticulating wildly, but everything seems well placed and thought out that pete actually takes the time to listen to what he's saying.

“I do my research,” Patrick says, and when Pete’s eyes fall down to his mouth again Patrick just sighs and tilts Pete’s chin up until their eyes meet. “Stop doing that, it's rude.”

“I don't mean to.” Pete cringes at his own idiocy, but Patrick just laughs, shaking his head. “You just have a nice mouth.”

“This is supposed to be about business,” Patrick says, suddenly shifting uncomfortably. “Stop flirting with me.”

“You make it easy,” Pete says back, the words rolling right off his tongue. It's weird, he's the least smooth person ever normally and this isn't great, but Patrick laughing so it's something.

There isn't much ice left to break between them after that. Pete’s already warm with laughter and Patrick's own cheeks have turned to rosy apples, bringing color to his bleached out face. Pete takes him right into the hub of the city, pulling him down the side-street with his favorite pastries, and Patrick takes him on a similar route and they go back and forth to each of their favorite spots for a couple of hours; until their legs ache and their heads hurt from laughing.

“See,” Pete says, “the places you love, the places I love, it's not actually about the place, but how it makes you feel. If you can capture that, that's what makes it good.” Pete feels more than a little lame after that, feeling like his words are too pretentious but Patrick nods his head seriously. This is probably the weirdest consultation he's ever had and yet he's had fun for the first time in forever.

“Yeah, I get that now. So, you'll do it then?” He's staring at Pete, looking more nervous than Pete cares to guess why. Pete gives him a nod and Patrick gives him such a big smile in return that Pete has to look away. It looks completely genuine this time, and Pete just stares down at his feet, too awkward to give back his own.

“When are you headed back to LA?” Pete asks. Patrick's talked about how he doesn't like it much, but it's easier for work. It's made him crave his hometown even more though, and that's why he's so desperate for Chicago to feature so heavily on this album too.

“Tomorrow afternoon.” Patrick follows Pete back into the shop, drifting back over to the prints on the wall as Pete gives one final check to his emails and shuts down his computer. His assistant hasn't left any messages, so Pete assumes he'll be putting another job offer in the paper come Monday.

“I'm done here, so do you want to go do something? Unless you're busy.” Pete tags the last bit on, trying to save face, but Patrick just cocks an eyebrow, tilting his head to the side.

“I am now,” he says, eyes lighting up when Pete does an embarrassing little jog on the spot. Fuck, he's an embarrassment to himself, but Patrick doesn't seem to mind, he just smiles harder as he leads the way out onto street.

They end up at a sports bar at the end of the block from Pete's studio, and they don't fit in at all, but booze is booze and Patrick buys the first round anyway. Pete watches Patrick feign obliviousness to the looks he gets from the fratboys at the bar.

Patrick talks more and more with the frequency of the shots. His words become less thought out and more hilariously anecdotal and he knows some weird people; has some weird stories, but Pete just smiles along and tries not to be distracted by the pale stretch of Patrick's throat, unhidden now the scarf's come away. Pete doesn't get drunk, but he does get tipsy and discovers a fondness of burying his face into Patrick's shoulder when the laughter gets too much.

Pete’s got Patrick's digits by the end of the night, and a pretty big crush, but with a promise to be get in touch about the photos he wants, Pete’s hoping he'll be able to do something it about it the next time they meet.

 

There's something about Patrick he finds attractive that he can't quite pinpoint. He's not anything Pete's ever wanted before; he's not keen on blondes, and he likes fucked up and angry. Patrick's not either of those things as far as he can tell. He's opinionated, quietly so and it's hot. Pete thinks about Patrick a lot when he's in the office, trying to block out his new assistant's constant chatter.

He had a few applicants, but ended up going for this talkative dude from Vegas. His portfolio is decent – the best of a somewhat mediocre bunch – and he seems a nice enough guy, just kind of enthusiastic.

“So what's the party scene like down here?” he asks, waggling his eyebrows in Pete’s direction and spinning on his chair, over and over, until Pete puts his foot out and scuffs the movement.

“Urie, I'm your boss. Go find a club and work it out for yourself,” Pete says, not all that angrily. The kid's fine really, and Pete does know a few spots that he'd eat up like crazy, but he's not a fucking tour-guide, and he can't be a real friend right now.

Brendon turns around, back to his desk at that, muttering something beneath his breath. Pete doesn't bother calling him out on it. He just goes back to thinking about Patrick; his deep voice and his small hands and trying to ignore how hooked he already sounds.

 

They talk a few more times on the phone. It's supposed to be about the artwork, but Patrick always ends up digressing and Pete falls right along with him until it's forty-five minutes later and Patrick's insisting Pete tell him exactly what the weather's like in the city right now.

“I just miss it,” Patrick says. He's homesick and hates LA and Pete’s picked up on all of this. Pete hates phone calls normally, finds them awkward and uncomfortable, but with Patrick's it's different. He feels at ease and he finds it comforting to put Patrick's nerves at rest too.

“The city's waiting for you,” Pete says – and Jesus, he knows how fucking stupid he is – but Patrick just laugh with a slight edge of sadness, like he wishes he was there too.

Pete thinks about him a lot. Way more than he does any other client. He's lonely. It's been months since his girlfriend packed up and left town, and ignoring the really bad idea he had to hook up with his ex-boyfriend a few weeks later, he's had a dry spell in the bedroom too. He's lonely and horny. Thinking of Patrick isn't helping either of those things.

He thinks about Patrick way more that he should. He jacks off to the sound of Patrick's smooth voice, remembers his fair skin and fair hair and jacks off to that too. He wants to peel him from the layers of clothes and see him spread out and naked. He thinks about sucking Patrick's cock, taking it to the back of his throat and pushing Patrick to his knees to return the favor. He thinks about this all way too much. He's just so lonely. He's sure that's all it is.

 

It's maybe a month later when he sees Patrick again. This time he isn't bundled up with scarves and coats, but just a soft gray sweater as he comes into Pete's office. They're supposed to be going through the shortlist of photos he picked out for the album cover.

Pete checks him out unsubtly, seeing Patrick give him a double take before looking away to stare down at the printouts.

Pete tests out the waters before he embarrasses himself. “So hey, you seeing anyone?”

“No,” Patrick says, not looking up from the table. “No one wants to date a workaholic.”

“I wouldn't mind,” Pete says and then watches Patrick's shoulders stiffen. Pete smiles large and fake for a few moments before he snaps out it and shrugs.

“I don't think you quite get what you're asking.” Patrick puts the photos down to the desk and pulls his glasses off. He stares at Pete for a good few seconds. “You're asking for way too much. You don't even realize.”

“Don't realize what? Look dude, I'm attracted to you and I know you feel the same. I make your dick hard, I can tell. It's cool, you make mine too.” That's the fucking weirdest way to put it, and fuck, he hates being that guy, but Patrick just throws his head back and laughs so hard he turns red, then purple. “Okay, it wasn't that funny. I was just trying to pick you up.” Pete shrugs his shoulder, picking up the photos from the desk and trying to stack them neatly to get over the humiliation.

“No, Pete, you really don't understand,” Patrick says again once he's recovered. He puts a hand over Pete’s on the photos and then drops it. “It was the dick thing. It's just-- you don't make my dick hard, but only because I don't have one.”

Pete drops the photos to turn to Patrick in confusion. “What?” he looks at Patrick, scans his face, and then, “Shit. Are you trans? Woah, I had no idea.” Pete sits down, humiliation forgotten as he looks Patrick over; the bleached hair, the smooth face, the flat chest and down to his crotch. No bulge.

“I'm sort of trans, but not in the way you're thinking.” Patrick rubs at his forehead, suddenly looking nervous. “Fuck, I never know how to explain this shit. I was born with a female body, I had top surgery four years ago, but I don't plan on changing anything else. I don't-- I guess you could say I'm somewhere between those two genders, but it doesn't feel like that either. I'm just Patrick. Male pronouns, but I don't consider myself one. I think that's everything covered.”

“I don't get it,” Pete says, desperately trying and pretty much failing.

“I'm 100% at peace with who I am, but I get that this is pretty freaky.” Patrick leans over, putting a hand on Pete’s shoulder and squeezing lightly. “You doing okay?”

“Yeah,” Pete says, nodding his head. “I just thought you were blowing me off. Wait, this isn't you still blowing me off right?”

“I'm far from blowing you off and I absolutely do not have a penis,” Patrick says, looking almost apologetic. “But like, if that's not your thing, it's cool. We can just do the photos and I can leave.”

“No, I like girls too,” Pete says and then groans, dropping his cheek to Patrick's hand that was still on his shoulder. “Not that I'm saying you are one, just--” Pete's words are cut off by Patrick's mouth. It's a little hard and dry, but Pete’s head spins all the same. “Okay,” Pete says when Patrick pulls away uncertainly. “Do that again.”

Patrick gives him a few more kisses, but doesn't explain much more once they pull away. Pete's definitely interested, even if his head feels all weird. Patrick picks out a photo for his record, but Pete can't even think about that. In the end he just tucks it away in a drawer and panics silently.

“It's just weird 'cause I was picturing you with a dick beneath the clothes,” Pete says casually when he closes up the office. They're going back to his apartment to hang out. That's not even code and Pete’s freaking out because he doesn't want to fuck this up; he doesn't want to say the wrong thing and ruin this before it even begins.

“Why were you even picturing me naked? You've only met me once before.” Patrick laughs into his side as they catch the el back to his apartment.

“Shut up, we totally eye-fucked in that bar.” Pete rolls his eyes, but he's smiling too. He knows they're totally rushing this, and he should probably, like, date Patrick or ask him out before they fuck, but he pretty much never does things the right way around.

The atmosphere changes when they get back to Pete’s apartment though. Patrick loses the easy smile, goes quiet, and Pete’s throat dries up. He starts panicking again as he pulls Patrick toward his couch.

“I feel like I'm gonna say the wrong thing now, so just shout at me if I do something wrong.” He starts off, closing his mouth slowly when Patrick just smirks.

“Just treat me like you did before, it's fine, Pete really. Just fucking calm down.” Patrick puts a hand to Pete’s cheek, his fingers cold against his heated skin, but pete just breathes a few times before nodding.

“I'm calming. I think maybe that's what I'm attracted to. It was something I couldn't grasp. Now I feel pretty stupid,” he says, stalling whatever happens next. He has to keep reminding himself that he's met Patrick all of twice. That this isn't some great, grand thing to destroy.

Don't feel stupid.” Patrick sighs patiently. “If this is too much or whatever, we don't have to do anything. I do like you and I think we'd be good friends, so if that's all you want, that's cool too. I just need to know now and not after, because that's when things go sour.”

“That's happened a lot?”

Patrick gives an empty laugh. “Yeah, more than I appreciate. I get that it's different, but it's no fun being left like that. So, friends or not friends?”

“I think you're a lot to handle,” Pete says, catching how Patrick tenses ever so slightly. “But not for the reasons you think.” Pete's not a cool dude by any stretch of the imagination, but he leans in for a kiss anyway. Patrick remains still, before he softens and falls into the touch.

They kiss for a little while, and Pete's hands seek and search Patrick out over his clothes. At first he gets Patrick out of his gray sweater before his hands slide to his shirt, touching the crisp material before undoing a single button. “Is this...?"

“It's fine,” Patrick says. “I'm not delicate and I'm not new to this.” Patrick looks close to rolling his eyes, but Pete perseveres. He figures being overcautious is better than being a full on dick.

“I am,” Pete says and laughs at himself as his hands go back to undoing Patrick's shirt. He stops when he gets to the bottom, tugging the material from where it's tucked into his pants. Pete looks at Patrick, sees he's smiling a little bit. “I'm sorry if I'm making a big deal about this.”

“It's okay. Just calm down. The scars are faded but-” Patrick slides the shirt from his shoulders. His chest looks normal; flat with two pink nipples. “-I was always pretty small so they didn't have to do much. Still sensitive too.” Pete puts his hands to Patrick's chest beneath the dip in his clavicle before sliding it lower and spreading his fingers so he brushes the right nipple. After a few seconds Patrick's nipple pebbles under his touch and Pete drips his head low to taste him.

Patrick's breath hitches as Pete's tongue teases and sucks at one nipple before moving to the other. Patrick's hand slides to the back of Pete's head, tightening in his hair and pushing him down for a rougher touch.

Pete spends ample time lathering attention to Patrick's chest, sucking a red mark directly between Patrick's nipples until Patrick jerks his head up to kiss him. Patrick's tongue is direct, sliding between Pete's lips, catching Pete’s moans with his mouth.

Patrick pulls away and his fingers slide cold against Pete's skin, underneath his t shirt to pull it over his head. Patrick makes similar attention of Pete's body, tongue tracing sensitive spots beneath his ear, teeth dragging down his shoulder as his hands chase Pete's ribs.

Patrick's hands slide down to Pete's belt pulling it straight from the loops and dropping it to the ground with a loud clatter. Pete bucks up enough for Patrick to pull his jeans down as Patrick hums, sliding to his knees, his lips quirking as he wraps his fingers around Pete's cock.

“Knew you'd have a nice dick,” Patrick says. He leans down and mouths at it, lips pressing again his head, eyes staring up at Pete. Pete's trying to hold it together, hands on his own knees, digging his fingers in as Patrick sits between his legs, not sucking Pete's dick but teasing it with his mouth; holding it a little too hard for Pete's pleasure.

Pete takes the control back when Patrick doesn't do anything but smirk at him. “I swear if you don't do something I'll blow my load all of your face.”

“On purpose?” Patrick quirks an eyebrow, moving his mouth away and sliding his hand slowly up and down Pete's cock. Pete grabs his hand and tugs it off his dick, pulling until Patrick straddles him, the scratch of Patrick's denim clad ass against his dick has him bucking a little, but he refuses to apologize.

“I was gonna suck your dick,” Patrick says, but Pete laughs and slides his hands over Patrick's torso. His fingers splay over Patrick's ribs, digging just slightly into the flesh.

“You weren't doing much sucking.”

“I like to take my time.” Patrick shrugs, but he's lost some of the confidence he had as he tucks his head to Pete's chin. Pete smooths his back for a few moments. It's weird that despite how little he's known Patrick, he already feels an odd connection to him.

“Are you gonna get naked?” Pete asks after a few seconds. Patrick laughs against Pete’s neck, before sitting up again and nodding.

“Yeah, just don't freak out,” Patrick says. “Promise you won't.”

“I won't,” Pete says, putting his hands to Patrick's jeans. Pete slides his thumb against Patrick's waistband, but doesn't pop the button until Patrick gives him a nod. Pete slides down the zipper slowly before he tugs at the waist and drops them to Patrick's thighs. Patrick's wearing plain high leg panties and Pete appreciates them with a nod before Patrick lifts up onto his knees, enough for Pete to tug the jeans off.

Pete's hands slide to the panties, pressing his palm flat to Patrick's cunt. He's warm and wet and Pete smiles at him, can't quite believe that they're here doing this. He thought it'd be trippier than this, touching Patrick's cunt like this, but it isn't. It just seems like the right thing.

“You're awesome,” Pete says and Patrick smiles – wider Pete suspects – than he'd like. He's lost his cool, but Pete doesn't mind, he knows they're both at the same level.

“Let's go to the bedroom,” Patrick says, breaking the tense silence. He slides from Pete's lap, and tugs his jeans the rest of the way off until he's completely bare apart from the black panties. He holds his hand out and tugs Pete up, pulling Pete’s jeans and boxers off all the way before he leads him to the bedroom.

When Patrick turns towards the bed, Pete slides up behind him, arms around his waist. His dick presses up between their bodies as his hands slide to the waist of Patrick's underwear, trying to get a hand beneath the material. Patrick pulls away at the last minute, pushing and pulling until Pete's on the bed.

Patrick's smiling at him as Pete stares him up and down from the bed. “You gonna take your little panties off?” Pete asks, and Patrick stares at him unamused for a few seconds before looking down at his own body. Pete licks his lips and watches Patrick's thumbs dip into the waistband either side of his hips before he pulls down the panties, kicking them away from his ankles and climbing onto the bed.

Pete doesn't know whether it's totally inappropriate to stare right now, but he doesn't care. Patrick cocks an eyebrow, but lays down next to Pete on the bed, pushing a hand down his belly before catching Pete's waist and pulling him on top. Pete melts into Patrick, hands going to his bleached hair as he slides a thigh up between Patrick's legs, touching where he's slick and damp.

Pete grinds his thigh upwards and Patrick groans, body arching up into Pete’s. His tongue dips down into the well of Patrick's throat and Patrick's hands suddenly claw at Pete's hair, tugging his head up. Pete leans up but doesn't move his thigh away, just continues rocking it.

“Fuck,” Patrick says, licking his lips and staring down at where Pete's pressed right between his legs. “Want your face down there. Want your mouth on me.” Pete wants that too, so he does as he's told, crawling down the bed until he's level with the one part of Patrick's body he hasn't acquainted himself with yet.

Patrick's smooth and soft save for a patch of golden hair trimmed into a thin line. Pete strokes his fingers through the coarse hair, tracing his nails gently over the smooth skin and Patrick bucks up, trying to get more pressure and more touch.

“Fucking touch me already,” Patrick says, opening his legs and Pete groans, pushing his own hips down against the bed.

Pete spreads Patrick open, looking and looking and then lowering his mouth to taste. Patrick's wet and he's hot and he bucks up into Pete's mouth, pushing on his head and getting him licking right where he wants. Pete presses the palm of one hand to Patrick's stomach, pressing down when Patrick pushes up and up.

Patrick's hand moves from Pete's hair to his clit, pressing and rubbing as Pete pulls away, kissing his hipbones as his fingers slide into his cunt. Pete senses he's not quite getting it right and he twists his fingers harder, curling them upwards and Patrick starts writhing harder, grinding against Pete's hand, his mouth, and his own fingers.

“Fuck, you're good at this,” Patrick moans. Pete lifts his head from his cunt to watch Patrick fall apart, his skin flushed, his body tight, and his eyes closed as he comes. Pete smirks, watching Patrick fall apart. From the little time he's known Patrick he's seemed guarded, but he's so open and vulnerable right now that Pete eats it up.

Pete slides his fingers out as Patrick catches his breath. Pete falls on top of him after a few minutes, pushing Patrick down and curling both hands either side of Patrick face as he kisses him, sliding his tongue into Patrick's mouth and making him taste himself.

They kiss for a little while, Pete’s tongue sliding wet and firm into Patrick's mouth and he holds him down with hard, heavy fingers around Patrick's wrists. He doesn't stay pinned for long though, and soon Patrick's hands are sliding up and down Pete’s back, lightly scratching over and over until Pete’s dizzy for it.

Pete’s got condoms in the drawer, and he finds himself pulling out of Patrick's arms to grab at them. His last girlfriend had been into the flavored kind, and he's really hoping Patrick doesn't mind the fruity scent as he grabs a strawberry rubber.

“You sure do take you time,” Patrick says, hand on Pete's back. Pete laughs, splits the foil with his teeth and rolls it on before turning over to Patrick again.

He shoves Patrick's legs open, looking down to see where he's wet and ready. Pete rolls his cock upwards, rubs it over Patrick's clit; plays with him like that for a few seconds until Patrick grabs Pete’s dick, shifts his hips and all but forces Pete inside him.

Patrick's cunt is delicious as it slides up around him, taking him right to the root. Even through the condom it's intense and it's even better because it's Patrick. It's his hand in Pete's hair and it's his mouth at Pete's neck, and fuck, it's his goddamn pussy wrapped around Pete.

Pete grinds into him; Patrick's lost the tension from his body; he's already come and doesn't look all that bothered about forcing another one soon. Pete likes being able to push his body without resistance, to take his time and fuck the way he wants. He slides a hand up Patrick's smooth thigh and presses his fingers down into the fleshiest part. He knows he's leaving bruises, but he doesn't care. He doesn't think Patrick will either.

One of Patrick's hands moves from roughly gripping Pete's hair to slide between their bodies to touch himself, moving his fingers in fast jagged circles. His head rolls back, and his cunt grips Pete tighter and tighter. When he flops back, Pete shifts, dick hard as ever inside Patrick. He does it a little slower, sits back so Patrick's hips are in his lap. With hands to Patrick's hips, he pulls back slowly just to watch his dick slide out, the condom slick with Patrick's wet. He slides back in harder, watching Patrick's body take him easily. Patrick laughs gently, like this is funny to him, and Pete joins in breathlessly.

He drops his thumbs to spread Patrick open, showing him red and swollen, and if Pete wasn't so fucking deep inside him, he'd drop down to lick his way inside again. He comes thinking about that, more abrupt than he'd like, but it unravels him right from his belly all the way to his brain and down through his dick. Patrick holds him, arms over his body as Pete tucks his face into Patrick's warm neck. It's been a long time since he's been with anyone and it's just nice to be held like this.

 

“Condom,” Patrick says in his ear. “You need to deal with the condom. I don't want any of your swimmers contaminating me.” Pete laughs, but carefully pulls out and deals with the rubber before sliding back into the bed as quick as possible.

“So wait, like, that could happen?” Pete asks, he curls up beside Patrick, settles into the heat of his skin. Patrick's cozy and cuddly and Pete thinks he might never want to leave this bed.

“Yeah, but I dunno if it's something I'd ever want. That would be a lot, maybe too much.” Patrick frowns up at the ceiling for the briefest of seconds and it's only because Pete's so lost in staring at him that he catches it. He doesn't say anything about it, just continues on another train of thought.

“I figured you were on testosterone 'cause of your voice and you get stubble.” Pete lifts his finger to scratch at Patrick's chin. There's barely any roughness, but there's still something there.

“Eh, I used to take it in small doses. I didn't like what it did to me so I came off it, but hair and voice are permanent. This feels like how I'm supposed to be.” Patrick shrugs his shoulder lightly, jostling Pete, but he continues staring up at him.

“Yeah it suits you.” Pete's not sure they should take the conversation much further just yet. Not because he doesn't want to, but they just fucked for the first time, and he doesn't have a clue at all about what Patrick's talking about. He just wants to be with him before he thinks any further.

They nap for a while, before Patrick goes to take a shower. Pete follows, and fucks him against the wall of the bathroom, Patrick's teeth bite down on his own forearm as he braces himself against the tiles, and Pete comes on a quick, rough thrust.

Afterward they just chill out; Patrick scrambles some eggs and Pete picks a movie from the TV listings and they just sit in companionable silence watching it. Patrick smiles at him over their plates, glasses sliding down his nose and his bleached hair messy. He's got Pete's hoodie on from earlier, but no pants and his legs are chilly to the touch. Pete can't stop touching him though, his fingers curling over the closest thigh.

Patrick sucks him off before bed, glasses place carefully of the bedside table as he drops to his knees. Patrick wraps one hand around Pete's base as he sucks, the fingers of his other hand pushed up Pete's ass. He twists his fingers again and again until Pete bucks forward into his mouth, coming with a lack of warning.

“Fuck, that's hot. Everything about today has been hot,” Pete says, flopping on the bed and watching Patrick wash the taste of come from his mouth with a bottle of water from the dresser.

“So like,” Pete starts, watching out of the corner of his eye as Patrick slides into a clean pair of Pete’s boxers and climbs into the bed beside him. “What does this mean? Are you my boyfriend now?”

“I won't ever be anyone's boyfriend,” Patrick says, and Pete rolls his eyes, seeing the teasing in Patrick's eyes before he sobers up. “We can fuck and be friends, but I can't offer you anything more than that.”

“Why not?” Pete frowns suddenly. Because no. He doesn't want some shitty friends with benefits thing. He's seen the movies, he's done it before, and it never fucking works.

“You won't want any more than that, believe me. Sooner or later you'll want someone else, you'll want me to pick a side and I can't do that and I won't do that.” Patrick stares up at the ceiling, looking uncomfortable with the conversation. Pete stares at his soft profile, suddenly wondering where he stands in all of this.

“I can leave if you want,” Pete says, trying to ignore the stinging in his chest, and also ignoring that this is his apartment anyway. He should be the one doing the kicking out.

“I want more than just a one night stand, but I want to be honest.” Pete waits it out, watches Patrick lick his lips before continuing. “People want me for a while, but then the novelty wears off and I end up alone. I won't do that again, I'm not putting myself in that situation again. That doesn't mean I want this to just be a one time thing.”

“Was that a really confusing way of telling me you have commitment issues?” Pete doesn't feel much better about it, but it helps knowing where this is coming from.

“That was my way of saying other people have commitment issues when it comes to me.” Patrick smiles, laughing up at the ceiling before turning to Pete. “I'm in LA a lot anyway, so this could just be a thing we do when we're not busy.”

“What about other people? I don't like sharing, even on a casual basis,” Pete says. It's not a territorial thing, or maybe it is. He gets jealous easily, and he already knows this is going to get messy. Pete’s good at turning every relationship into a huge mess.

“I don't sleep around,” Patrick says. “I don't have the time.” Patrick doesn't say anything else for a while before he looks at Pete, fingers going to Pete’s hairline. “Are you okay with that?”

“Bummed out, I guess. But I want to make whatever we have work. If you can only give me so much that's alright, maybe I just have to work to win you over.” Pete waggles his eyebrows, trying to let go of the disappointment.

Patrick laughs at him though, sounding more like he finds it funny than breathless sadness, and he pushes up against Pete. His warm chest against Pete's side, his peroxide mop tickling Pete’s cheek. Pete smiles with it and tries to let go of the rest of the disappointment.

 

Patrick goes back to LA the next day and Pete goes back to his normal life. He's trying to find inspiration between bookings for a new show, but so far he's come up with nothing. They text a lot; Pete sends him stupid photos that he knows will make him laugh and Patrick talks about the crazy things he sees in LA; the sunburn the heavy sun leaves across his nose.

 

"I'm in the studio,” Patrick says one night on the phone. Pete's sitting on his couch watching home improvement programs, smoking too much, and hating the stagnation of his life. The sound of Patrick's voice though, the excitement running through every word, makes Pete smile.

“Yeah, you having fun?” He asks quietly, muting his TV to give Patrick his absolute attention.

“Yeah,” Patrick says. “This is my favorite part. I'm doing it all myself again like the first album. I'm not bragging, but I love building a song up and putting all of it together myself. When I finally hear the song outside of my own head-- fuck, there's no feeling like it.”

“Sounds awesome,” Pete says, and Patrick stops talking to breathe heavy for a few moments.

“It would be cool if I had someone to document it,” Patrick says, and Pete hears how he's attempting to keep it casual, but he picks up on the questioning tone all the same.

“Yeah? I'm sure there's plenty of photographers down there.” Pete plays along, not wanting to be the one to give in. He fucking wants Patrick to ask, just so he feels needed.

“Don't want them. Come on, I haven't seen you in ages, take time off to come and see me.” There's a demanding pout in Patrick's voice and Pete doesn't want to be that much of a pushover, but at the same time, he really has missed Patrick.

“Just like that?” Pete teases, but he could if he wanted. He's got a meeting early next week, but he could just stay a few days and then head back, offloading the rest of the shit to Brendon.

He's only slept with Patrick once, but they've gotten close on the phone over the past few weeks, and honestly, right now Pete counts him as one of his closest friends.

“Yeah alright,” Pete says, laughing when he hears Patrick cheering down the phone.

 

Pete loves LA even if he doesn't always like the people that inhabit it, and he's excited enough that he can deal with the flight. He's close to downing a few of the anti-anxiety meds he keeps in his bag, but he wants to be sober and clear headed when he meets Patrick. He just does shitty breathing exercises on the flight over and prays for a safe flight.

Pete's fiddling with his camera, sitting on a brick wall, and waiting for Patrick to come pick him up. He's hooked up with people before, but they've never lived states away with weeks between each fuck. He's excited, but anxious too, and he wonders if all the fun they had before was a fluke: whether that was all to do with atmosphere and timing.

Pete jumps from his thoughts when he sees a pair of velcro'd feet in front of him. He looks up to see Patrick standing there, smiling around the aviators snapped onto his face.

“Wow okay,” Pete says, because he is forever stupid with words, but also because Patrick is hot and cute and he's forgotten what it's like in the flesh. “You look good.”

“So do you.” Pete doesn't. He was sweating constantly on the flight and he can feel layers of grease on his forehead, but he appreciates the lie all the same. “Ready?” Patrick asks and Pete nods, taking Patrick's proffered hand.

Patrick's due in the studio right away, but there's a decent washroom for Pete to clean up in and he feels slightly more like himself afterward. He scrubs at his face and attempts to style his hair, but in the end he's just glad he's made it without feeling like a total loser.

He's taken a back when he sees Patrick work. Patrick's kinda goofy really and super sweet, but when he's working he's serious. Pete watches as he talks through every little detail with the techs in the studio. Pete loves to watch, there's something a little voyeuristic in it, but his vocation buys into that. He snaps away with his camera, mostly frames of Patrick writing or in the booth, but also of the pile of notebooks, the laptop screen looking way too complicated and mathematical for Pete.

By the end of the session he has a lot of photos and he's flicking through them, frame after frame. He decides his favorite is one of Patrick bent over a keyboard, hair falling over his face and his jaw twisted slightly up to the camera. He hadn't been aware that Pete was shooting him, and the unconscious smile on his lips confirms that.

Pete stares at it and his breath catches a little.

Someone falls next to him on the couch and he jumps, smiling when Patrick reaches out to steady his hands. “Ready to go?” he asks and Pete nods, dropping his equipment into the bag.

Patrick takes his hand when they leave the studio and Pete laughs to himself gently, catching Patrick's bemused expression. “I thought you'd be against hand holding.”

“Why?” Patrick asks, squeezing Pete's hand a few time and tugging him towards the car. “I want to hold your hand, nothing wrong with that.”

“I know that. But you're so controlled, I guess I thought you wouldn't like people knowing.” Pete shrugs, trying to validate his reasoning, but not coming up with anything that sticks.

“You think too much,” Patrick says, but another smile is quirking at his lips as he unlocks his car. “Get in,” he says, and Pete does as he's told.

As nice as it is being at Patrick's place, it's even nicer having Patrick's mouth on him. He's pushed Pete up against the wall, tongue sliding inside his mouth, one hand shoved down his pants, searching out Pete’s hardness.

“Man, I've missed you,” Patrick says to Pete's throat, and Pete isn't sure if he's talking to Pete or his dick. He doesn't mind either way. Patrick's hand slides around his dick, fingers tight over the head. Patrick's precise with where he presses down, thumb right against the underside. It doesn't take long for him to come, not with Patrick's hand on his dick and his teeth dragging right over Pete's throat.

“Mmm,” Pete says, when he comes back to himself, resting his head against the door of Patrick's apartment. Patrick's wipes his hand off with a tissue he plucks from a box on the coffee table, looking at Pete with flushed cheeks. Pete smirks, walking over to him, arms going around Patrick like he's about to embrace him, before sliding to his knees.

Patrick doesn't smile, but his eyes are hazy, glazing with lust as Pete works his belt loose and pops the button of Patrick's jeans. He drags the zipper down slowly, catching sight of blue lace.

“Wore 'em for you,” Patrick says. “Thought you'd like them.” Patrick grits it out, as Pete tugs his pants down and slides his fingers to the delicate edge of the panties, pulling on the elastic and letting it go with a snap.

“I do like them. They look better down here though,” Pete says, hooking his fingers into the underwear and dragging them down to Patrick's knees. Patrick laughs shakily as Pete's fingers curl around the back of his thigh, his hands finding their way into Pete’s hair as he puts his mouth on him.

It's seriously hot getting to know Patrick all over again. Pete's not sure he's ever going to get over it, having this. It's still a little bit of a shock. They hadn't known each other long before they started sleeping together, but sometimes it's still jarring to remember that Patrick doesn't have the equipment that he expected. It doesn't matter to him though, not in the ways Patrick believes. They don't talk about it much.

Patrick takes him out to an Ethiopian restaurant near his apartment when they've finished fucking and Pete eats enough spicy food to make his eyes water. It's fun and he's loosened up even more now, by the time they're finished at the restaurant it kinda feels like they've been together for longer than just one night; Pete just feels at ease around him. Not many people make him feel that way.

They get drunk on a bottle of Jose Cuervo back at Patrick's apartment and end up stumbling to the bedroom not long later. “I shouldn't be drinking,” Patrick slurs, naked body twisted up with Pete's. You know, 'cause of recording.”

“Sorry I'm such a bad influence.” Pete laughs. He runs his fingers up Patrick's smooth damp thigh, right up to the sensitive dip of his groin before he chases them down again and continues the pattern.

“No, its nice. I was feeling kinda lonely. Kept thinking about you back in Chicago.” Pete thinks Patrick's talking kinda serious considering he's the one that doesn't want things like that, but he's drunk enough not to bring it up right now. “It's scary putting myself on record. Not... I love it, but it's scary, you know. There's a lot people will hate if it doesn't come out right.”

“You scared about what people will say about this?” Pete waves a hand, pointing loosely between Patrick's legs.

“I'm always scared of what people think, but I don't plan on saying anything. I'm a singer not anything else. I've had androgynous thrown at me in interviews, but no one really questions it. I can live with that.” Pete watches Patrick's face close up in drunken thought for a while, but he doesn't seem upset or uncomfortable with the conversation.

“But that's not who you are.”

“Who I am is nothing to anyone else. I'm private – not a coward – but I'm not here to talk about something so personal. There are other people for that.” Patrick frowns at that and he turns his head to look at Pete with blurred eyes.

“That's not something you tell people right?” Pete nudges Patrick with his thigh, feeling warm and content, fascinated in what Patrick's saying. He's always felt like a guy, he can't imagine it any other way, but he wants to understand, even when he's shitfaced.

“No,” Patrick laughs, turning onto his belly. “People I've met that know have been pissed 'cause I use male pronouns and chose a male name, but like it even fucking matters to them. Patrick's a cool name, why wouldn't I want to go by it? ” Patrick rolls his eyes, linking his fingers with Pete's loosely. “People suck no matter what, can't do anything but be myself.”

“I hate being myself. Being myself by myself,” Pete says, because he's drunk. Patrick just snorts ungracefully into his shoulder.

“Nice and poetic,” he says, but then tugs on Pete's arm. “Come here and fuck me again.”

 

Pete could easily get used to it, watching Patrick working the studio and catching it on footage. He lives for the moment Patrick gets lost in the song and is unaware that Pete's catching it. He senses that Patrick's a little self-conscious with him here, so Pete has to get his timings right. The moments when Patrick loses his control and reserve; the large smile when he figures everything out, those are the things Pete wants to catch and they come in brief snapshots.

Patrick finishes one song whilst Pete's in the studio with him and after a lot of um-ing and ah-ing he agrees to play it back for Pete in its finished version.

“Do you like it?” Patrick asks, and Pete's never seen him desperate for validation before. It's weird and makes him a little bit uncomfortable, but Pete won't lie to him about it.

“Love it. It's cool hearing all the parts you were working on slot together.” Pete's got the melody in his head already and he can't sing like Patrick can, but he's pretty sure it's going to be stuck in his brain for a few days.

“I knew it would sound like that in my head,” Patrick says, tapping the side of his temple. “I'm not the greatest, but it's so fucking rad hearing it come to life.” Pete nods, chest rising in happiness. Patrick's excitement is fucking contagious.

“I didn't really need you to take photos, it was just a ploy to get you out here,” Patrick says right before Pete leaves, as if this is an actual confession and something Pete didn't already know. Pete just shrugs at him, steals a kiss and then leaves.

 

Pete feels close to Patrick after that and tries not to listen to the thoughts in his head about how this is tumbling quickly toward love for him. Patrick doesn't want love and he doesn't want serious, but Pete can't help it. He thinks about ending it for his own sanity, to stop the heartbreak before it develops, but then Patrick will text him some stupid piece of trivia about the fucking Bermuda triangle, or a demo of a new song and Pete chickens out. This will be good enough; it will be enough.

 

He's in his studio coming up ideas for his new show when he finally gets an idea. Pete's a narcissist at heart, not a bad one, but ultimately his life does generally revolve around his own feelings, so he figures he'll do a show on that. Twisted photos involving himself, his life, and his love of the city. It needs to be better than that, and he's better than that, but he's pretty sure he can get it to work. People buy into worse shit than that.

He's checking out some of the photos he'd taken of his apartment during a manic bender, thinking of ways to manipulate them further when he gets a call from Gabe.

“Yo shithead, you didn't RSVP,” Gabe says down the line and Pete slaps a hand over his eyes. Pete's been so wrapped up in work and Patrick that he completely forgot that he's due to attend his friend's wedding in a few weeks.

“Shit. Of course I'm coming, like I'd even need to tell you.” Pete bullshits and Gabe snorts like he knows Pete so well. “Seriously dude, I wouldn't not come, you know that.”

Yeah, I do. That's not why I called, I've something I want to ask you.” Gabe's already got his best man sorted, so it's not that, and Pete's nervous before Gabe continues. “Yeah, so basically we want you to shoot the wedding.”

“Wait, what? No, you fucking cheapskate, hire someone else.” Pete looks over to Brendon's desk and sees that he's casually eavesdropping. He throws a pen at Urie's head to grab his attention and then shoos him out of the room with the flap of his hand. He ignores the flabbergasted look he gets and spins in the chair a few times as Gabe tries to talk him into it.

“Please come and help a brother out. Just the ceremony, then you can relax after. You're the best I know, that's why I want you.” Gabe's sweet-talking skills aren't great and Pete laughs drily at his attempts.

“I'm not a wedding photographer,” he huffs down the line. He's not that big of an ass though, and Gabe's really well connected and also his friend. “Fine I'll do it. Can I bring a plus one?”

“Hell yeah, you can bring a plus one,” Gabe snorts. “You seeing someone?”

“You'll see,” Pete says, and then hangs up on laugh.

 

It does take a certain degree of haggling to get Patrick to agree. “Weddings are a big step,” he says, and he sounds both nervous and close to saying no, so Pete desperately tries to works around it.

“I'm just the photographer, but you could be my assistant.” Pete's got Brendon now, but he's not worked with him on a project like this before, and he really doesn't want Gabe thinking he'd actually go for someone like Urie. “Plus it's in LA, so you don't have to travel up here. Come on, it'll be fun.”

“I haven't seen you in a while,” Patrick says, and Pete knows that's basically a yes. He smiles down the phone, jostling his knees. “It would be good to... catch up.”

“You're so dirty.” Pete laughs, laughing harder when Patrick's makes an indignant noise down the phone.

 

There's a reason Pete always hates shooting weddings, they bring out his stress to new horrific levels. He's got friends that do it professionally, and he wouldn't put himself through it in a million years. Gabe's been there for him for years now, though. They've dragged each other up from the dirt a few times, and there's so few things he'd ever deny him in truth.

Pete hires a car when he's at the airport and he drives straight over to Patrick's apartment. He feels nerves racking in his chest at the job he's got today. He's a good photographer, he knows that, but Gabe's his friend and he doesn't want to fuck this up. Wedding photos are there for life; they don't even disappear after divorce.

Pete's still feeling vaguely sick and incredibly nervous about the entire thing when he buzzes the door to Patrick's apartment. When Patrick swings it open with a smile, Pete just stares at him for a few moments, blinking a few times as he stares at Patrick's outfit.

“You're wearing a dress,” he says, slightly baffled and rooted to the spot.

“It's a skirt, actually,” Patrick responds. He's working a two-piece moss green skirt and fitted jacket. A thin bow-tie curls at his neck and Pete looks from that and then right down to the black tights covering Patrick's thighs. It's unexpected, but really, really hot and Pete just kind of stands with his mouth hanging open until Patrick closes it will cool fingers to his chin.

“It's a wedding, right? You dress up at weddings,” Patrick mutters slightly, and his cheeks turn a little dusky. “I have pants if you think that's better.” He offers, but Pete shakes his head.

“No, I love it, I just... I didn't think you did things like that. Just a shock,” Pete says, making his way into Patrick's apartment. It's a mess, just like his own, and it brings a sense of comfort to him.

Patrick shrugs a shoulder. “I wear what I like. I used to wear pants all the time just so I didn't confuse people, but then I realized it's not about them. Not on tour though, just privately.” He brushes thin fingers down the skirt before looking up at Pete with a small smile. “I thought you might like it.”

“I do,” Pete says. “I really really appreciate it. Motherfucking wow.” Patrick's not masculine, but hardly feminine either, and he brackets the lines between both most of the time. Even now in the skirt, there's nothing about it that sticks him into a particular box; he's just Patrick. And that's insanely hot to Pete. He didn't think it was possible to be attracted to something that he can't explain.

“You look nice too,” Patrick says, staring at Pete's tux before lifting his hands to fuss at Pete's tie. “Very handsome.” He pecks Pete's lips, his own tasting a little sweet. Pete pulls back to see a slight sheen on his mouth and he smiles, rubbing his thumb just beneath the indent of Patrick's plump lips.

Pete's other hand slides to Patrick's thighs, tucking beneath the hemline and sliding upwards. “Stockings would be sexier,” he mumbles against Patrick's neck, feeling the waistband of the tights as Patrick laughs against him.

“Step too far,” Patrick says, and then pulls away. “So Pete, what exactly does being a photographer's assistant entail?” He asks, twisting his lips as his hands settle on his hips. Pete just smiles at him and attempts a wink, swallowing away his nerves.

Pete's anxious about the wedding. He always gets that way about shit like this and it isn't even his special day. The fact that he's now working for the couple makes it worse, but at least he has Patrick to calm his nerves – and offer useless facts on performance anxiety – until Pete shuts him up with a harsh kiss.

Patrick sits at the back of the church, guarding Pete's bag during the ceremony, and suddenly Pete gets into his work; making sure every frame he takes is perfect; taking in the flowers twisting around the pews and the ornate pulpit behind Gabe and Erin.

Pete’s finally back to Patrick during the lunch, and he notices how Patrick's appearance seems to unsettle a few people. Though everyone at their table mostly just remains quietly intrigued it's obviously a talking point of the day. Patrick's not shy, but he is reserved, and Pete's surprised to see him challenge people's looks with a smile.

“I bet you cry at weddings,” Patrick says to him, fork fluffing up the stale rice on his plate. He's smiling at Pete, looking like a neatly presented version of himself and it makes his stomach flip into tiny knots. Pete is hooked like crazy.

“Bet you do too.” And then he laughs when Patrick shrugs his shoulders in defeat. Patrick holds his hand beneath the table when the speeches start, dropping it only when Pete goes to catch a few more photos. After that his job is finally done, and Pete can get back to the party and Patrick.

“You're amazing,” Pete says, because he's drunk and sentimental and he likes the smile on Patrick's face; the way he looks in the dim lights of the party. Patrick rolls his eyes, leaning over to kiss Pete on the mouth. Pete sees people watching, but he doesn't give a fuck.

Gabe comes over at one point and Pete can hardly believe he's a married man now, that he ended up with someone as brilliant as Erin. “You get some good shots?” he asks in Pete's ear, his eyes on Patrick, who's knocking back a drink and deliberately ignoring how he's being talked about.

“Yeah,” Pete says. “I'll send you them when I've cleaned them up, but you should get back to your wife.”

“Shit, I have a wife!” Gabe sounds ecstatic and Pete smiles with sincerity at him. “Nice to met you, Patrick,” Gabe says with a wink before leaving. Patrick gives him a slight nod before they both watch him leave.

Patrick pulls him up to dance later when they're both too drunk to know better. Patrick's arms anchor heavily over Pete’s neck as they do a flat-footed slow dance shuffle. It feels a little like prom, if Pete had ever been inclined to attend his.

“Thanks for coming,” he says into Patrick's ear, heavy-tongued but meaning it. “This is probably a step too far for you, but I just want you to know I'm glad you came.”

“Nah, I love weddings. I won't ever have one so I always enjoy them.” Patrick's hands tighten over his neck, his hips rolling slightly in Pete’s grip. “It was nice to be invited.”

“I had ulterior motives and if I'd known you'd wear a freaking dress I'd have found another one to go to tomorrow.” Pete sees a couple grinding explicitly beside them despite Dean Martin's easy crooning blasting through the sound system. He tries to focus his attention back down on Patrick again.

“Maybe you'll see me in one again sometime.” Patrick's thumb brushes just the right side of ticklish and Pete curls his neck into Patrick's grasp, thinking over what Patrick's saying.

“I hope so,” Pete says, and Patrick smirks, leaning up to kiss him on the mouth. Pete tries to deepen it, but Patrick pulls away, shaking his head.

“I'm not doing that here.” Pete digs his fingers into Patrick's sides, beneath his jacket, feeling the solid warmth of his body beneath his fingers. Patrick's mouth slides to Pete's jaw, a brush of a kiss before he starts talking again. “But we could go back to my place and have some fun.”

Pete’s never going to say no to that. He's hooked right into Patrick's grip now, wants this, more than this; probably more than he can give truthfully. He doesn't say anything to Patrick about that, just agrees to meet him by the hire car when he's finished packing his equipment up.

Patrick's already in the driver's seat when he's done loading the trunk and he smirks as Pete makes his way over to the passenger side. He stares at Patrick's soft profile as he tries to figure out where the lights are.

“Figured I was slightly more sober than you,” Patrick says, hand flicking on the lights when he finally works it out. “Safer for me to drive, right?” When he turns to look, Pete simply leans over and turns the lights off again.

“Can't wait,” he says, heart beating fast and tongue loose with booze. “Fuck me here, come on.”

“What?” Patrick makes a concerned face. “Fuck, no.”

“Why not. There's no one around.” Pete looks through the windshield, but apart from a few smokers right outside the building, there's no one in the parking lot. “Come on, Patrick. Let's do it right here.”

Patrick stares slowly from Pete, to Pete’s pants, to outside the window. He taps his fingers on the glass, before he shakes his head on a dry laugh. “Do you have a condom?”

Pete pulls his wallet from his top pocket, folding it open and going through his cards and folds before coming up with nothing. “You're on birth control, right?”

Patrick nods, and for a second Pete wonders if he's going to back out of it, but then he just leans over, squeezing Pete through his pants, teeth scraping the stubble on his jaw. “Get your dick ready.”

Pete unzips his pants, and strokes himself slowly, watching Patrick wriggle out of his jacket first, tossing it into the backseat before he tugs the tights down and off. His panties follow the same direction, and Pete sees the flash of white lace before Patrick tucks them down into the side pocket of the car.

“This is so fucking trashy,” Patrick says, clumsily climbing over until he's straddling Pete’s lap. There's not much room, and Pete pulls the handle until the chair is pushed back farther, Patrick's forehead bumping into his chin before he settles down. “This feels really disrespectful.” Patrick's giggle turns to a moan when Pete’s fingers slide beneath the skirt he's still wearing. He's wetter than Pete would've guessed, but it'll make for an easier ride.

“Thought you were gonna fuck me,” Pete says, sliding his fingers out as Patrick hitches the skirt up over his hips and knee walks as close as he can until he's grabbing Pete's cock and lining it up. Patrick kisses him, bites at his lip until he sinks down slowly, rocking his hips downwards until he's nestled all the way. “Yeah, like that.”

“Mmm.” Patrick's fingers twitch on Pete’s shoulders, loosening the tie to get to his throat. Patrick's mouth is wet and demanding, sucking hard as he grinds back and forwards on Pete’s lap.

He's not fucked Patrick bareback before and it's different; wetter and his dick feels the entire slide of Patrick's tight cunt as he nestles inside. He can barely move with how Patrick's sitting solidly on top of him in an already tight space. They could've moved to the back, but he likes it here; likes not being able to do anything.

Pete claws at Patrick's sides until he's untucking his shirt from where it's pinned against the waistband of the skirt. When released, his nails bite into the soft skin of his hips, squeezing and trying to direct Patrick to swivel in a different direction.

Patrick fucks down onto Pete’s cock roughly. Pete can't really get a good look at him, but he feels sweaty and damp in his lap, his mouth kissing at Pete’s lips and chin as one hand unfurls from where it's clenched on Pete’s shoulder to flirt its way beneath his skirt.

Pete’s not sure if Patrick comes of not, but after a while he simply tucks his head to Pete’s neck and stays completely still. Pete comes, more from the pressure of Patrick on top of him, of having his dick completely tucked up inside him, than the actual movement of the fucking.

Pete shuts his eyes as his breathing recovers, Patrick remains quietly in his lap, face hidden for a couple more minutes. Pete finally opens his eyes when Patrick sits up and his cock slides from his body. Pete watches as Patrick finds a tissue in his pocket and holds it between his legs for a few moments, staring blankly at Pete as he scoops, wipes, and opens the door to toss the tissue from the car.

Patrick falls back over to the drivers seat, turning the lights and engine on to try and clear the steam they've created in the past few moments. Pete tucks himself away, head feeling a little bit clearer now that he's an orgasm lighter.

Patrick is quiet the rest of the night. He hadn't been as drunk as Pete, who mostly sobers up on the drive back, but he disappears for a shower when they get back to the apartment, and he doesn't see him until nearly forty-five minutes later.

Pete’s flicking through the photos he took today, sprawled out on Patrick's couch when he comes back into the room. Pete drops the camera to his chest, smiling when Patrick falls onto the couch beside him, tucked up in pajamas and glasses, his hair flat to his head.

“You seem quiet,” Pete says. Patrick wants to talk about something, Pete can tell from the way his eyes keep drawing away and his lips purse and unpurse quickly. He doesn't push it, just waits for him to say what's on his mind.

“Just thinking about things I don't want to think about,” Patrick says quietly, “but don't worry about it. I had a nice time.”

“Yeah.” Pete turns to look at him, shifting until Patrick's half behind him, his body warm and clean smelling from the shower. “I'm glad you came, I really did need an assistant today.”

Patrick gives a soft laugh. “Yeah, I helped out a lot.”

“You looked hot, seriously Patrick. I was jealous of myself. I wish I looked that good in a dress.” Pete slides his fingers against Patrick's, linking them together and leaning back against him.

“Haha, okay,” Patrick says. “I heard someone call me a chick with a dick when I was leaving. I haven't heard that one in a while.” Patrick doesn't sound all that disappointed by it, he seems more amused than anything else. “I think they got it a bit mixed up.”

“Nice,” Pete says, “it doesn't seem to bother you though.”

“I know when to pick my battles.” Patrick's voice comes out low behind Pete’s ear. “People get mad enough because I use male pronouns, or say I should be using the limited popularity I have to be some kind of spokesperson, but fuck that. People have too much to say.”

“Can't win either way,” Pete says and Patrick nods, wrapping his arm around Pete’s chest and holding him close like a soft toy. Pete lets him do it, gives him whatever he needs right now.

Patrick lets him go after a few minutes, still a little quiet, but Pete starts to show him the photos on the camera, and he gets a little bit more talkative as they scroll through each frame. It's been a long day, and Pete’s got a flight back tomorrow so they head to bed not long after.

“I need to tell you something,” Patrick says, when they're laying together. Normally they'd have fooled around, but it didn't feel right, Pete’s not sure why. But they were laying tangled up and Pete stares at Patrick's profile as he blinks up at the ceiling.

“Yeah?” Pete whispers. He's not sure what to expect; Patrick was touching him and kissing him earlier, but he's been a little more distant since their time in the car. He just watches Patrick take a breath before he starts talking.

“The last time I broke up with someone I went pretty crazy; started sleeping around, drinking and not caring about looking after myself. I just didn't care what happened; didn't use protection or anything and I got into a situation that, you know. I just got into a ...situation. ” Patrick tails off, and Pete lays dead still trying to take it all in, working out the missing words. Patrick pats his stomach briefly and it suddenly clicks. “I got rid of it the moment I found out, and cleaned myself up.” Patrick doesn't sound upset although his voice shakes as he picks at his nails. He looks up at Pete finally, giving a weak smile. “I've never told anyone this, I guess fucking earlier must've triggered myself into thinking about it again.”

“Because we didn't use protection?” Pete asks and Patrick nods. “You should've said something if you didn't want it.” Pete's not that guy, not that one at all, and Patrick's always been vocal about boundaries in every other situation.

“I did want it,” Patrick says, flopping onto his side to look at Pete in the dark. Pete’s a little taken aback. He's always known the possibility is there with Patrick; that his body is capable of sustaining life, but Pete doesn't think of him in those terms at all; it's almost a shock. “It wasn't even your car. It's gross.”

“Everyone does that shit. Live a little.” Pete puts a finger under Patrick's chin and tilts it upwards so he's looking him in the eye. “Thanks for telling me that. If you want to talk about it, you can.”

Patrick just laughs, not a happy one, more that he doesn't have words to respond with. He touches his hand briefly to Pete’s cheek, leaning up to kiss him before moving away. “When I think about it I start to regret getting rid of it, so... I just don't ever want to talk about it.”

“I won't bring it up then,” Pete says, unsure whether his mind will be able to focus on anything else at the moment. Patrick opens his mouth like he wants to say something, but instead nods his head, and then shuts his eyes.

Patrick pretends to sleep, although Pete can't do the same yet. He thinks about what Patrick's told him, the way he held his hand today beneath the table and how they fucking slow danced together. Pete is so head over heels that it's insane, and Patrick plays the part of partner so well that Pete forgets that this is supposed to be some kind of casual thing.

Pete leaves the next day, and Patrick pretends that he didn't say anything personal the night before. Patrick's a little grumpy as he always is in the mornings, but Pete sees him off with a few sleepy kisses and a fresh pot of coffee before he's back in Chicago and back to his normal life.

 

Pete falls back into his life, takes on some more glamor bookings and argues with the directors, knowing he won't be getting called back any time soon. Instead he heads out into the city, tries to find inspiration for his exhibition. He texts Patrick a few times, but gets nothing in response. Patrick's got a run of shows on the west coast though, so Pete doesn't expect much from him over the next few days.

 

“The only thing worse than vegans are ones that run cafes,” Pete says as he stares down at the laminated menu in front of him. “Whatever's the most edible, I'll have it.”

The only reason Pete’s allowed to get away with saying such shit is because he's friends with the owner. The fact that the only way to get hold of Andy these days is to go to his fucking restaurant sucks, but Pete needs to talk things out with someone that can cut through all of his bullshit.

“You're not getting discount,” Andy says, but Pete wouldn't expect anything else. In the end his friend comes back to the table with a vegan burrito and mango juice. “You only ever come here when you want something. What's going on?”

Pete thinks that if someone ever overheard them talking they'd probably think they hate each other, but Andy is his brother. He is the guy he goes to in any crisis, and on occasion, Andy's come to him with shit too. Barring actual family, there's no one in his life he's known longer, and there's no one he trusts as much as Hurley either.

“I'm in love,” Pete says, just when Andy looks to leave. His friend sinks back into the chair, wiping down stray grains of salt from the table as Pete takes a large sip of his drink. “Like in the worst best kinda way.”

“'Worst best?' that sounds dire,” Andy says, giving a flicker of a smile as Pete takes a chance on the burrito and finds it at the very least edible, if not exactly appetizing.

“We're meant to be keeping it casual, but it doesn't feel casual. It's like, he has baggage and I want his baggage but he doesn't want to give it to me.” Pete takes another mouthful of the food. “I feel like an empty luggage carrier.”

“You have plenty of your own luggage to carry.” Andy warns, which three years ago would've been an issue, but Pete’s in a good place these days. He loves life, loves living it even if he's unsure of his own place in the world. He's got fight now and he doesn't want to give in. “Does he love you back?”

“He thinks you can force yourself not to love someone.” Pete laughs when he sees Andy roll his eyes. He's pretty sure their relationship is testament to that not being true. “But I don't know, when we're together he's pretty into it.”

“How? Please keep it PG-13 rated.” Andy looks around desperately, but there's no one else here at the moment. Pete’s got to wonder how he stays in business.

“He told me some pretty personal stuff last time.” Pete thinks back to what Patrick told him in bed last week, and it sits uncomfortable in his chest. He's gone through hell before, but nothing like that, and he can't fathom sitting on shit like that and not telling anyone. “Plus we went to a wedding together. That's pretty big shit right?”

“Absolutely. So what's the problem?” Andy scratches under his chin and Pete’s pretty impressed with the thick orange beard he's grown. He's pretty carried away with staring at it right now.

“I don't know, man. I just need some clarification. He's a musician and he lives in LA and he's flaky but he wants this, I know he does. I just don't want to push him away or anything.”

“You gotta talk to him about this, not me. That's the only way you can figure it out.” Andy stands up, leaning over to squeeze Pete's shoulder. Pete rolls his head, but accepts his fate as the door swings open and Andy leaves to serve the new customer. Pete thinks things over as he finishes the food, over tipping before he leaves.

 

Patrick has a gig in Chicago and it's wild. Patrick's alive on stage, gyrating and bouncing, grinding behind his guitar or throwing himself across the stage to dance his way over to his bassist. Between songs he's a little quieter, more unsure, but the home crowd carry him through it, and Pete has the time of his life.

Afterward Pete finds his way backstage, Patrick smirks as he pulls Pete into the dressing room. He's flushed and sweaty, stage clothes rumpled, but his smile is loose and he's buzzing under Pete’s hands.

“Did you like the show?” Patrick asks, pushing Pete up against the wall and locking the door before his hands creep all over Pete, sliding up his shirt, cool fingers pressing against his hot skin.

“I did, you're fucking hot up there. The way you moved your body, fuck. Had me hard all goddamn night.” Pete takes Patrick's hand and pushes it to his groin. Patrick presses his palm against it, laughing against Pete’s mouth before he pulls away.

Patrick stares at him a few seconds, hand still massaging against Pete’s dick before he drops to his knees. Pete's hands fall to Patrick's hair, through the crunchy product styling his hair as Patrick tugs his jeans and boxers down, fingers pressing down against Pete’s groin as he stares up for a few seconds.

“Just fucking suck already,” Pete says, not a fan of how Patrick drags out his cocksucking. Patrick laughs, but finally opens his mouth to take Pete in. Pete’s hips buck up at the feel of Patrick's mouth taking him down, his hand fisted tight to the base as he sucks hard. Patrick's going for quick and fast, bobbing his head, and teasing the dickhead with tip of his tongue.

Pete’s building up a rhythm, but Patrick doesn't hold his hips down and lets him fuck up into his mouth. Patrick just sucks, makes it as wet as possible, pulling off to jerk it in his hand, scraping his teeth against Pete’s hip, and peeking up at him with his obscenely red mouth.

The next time Patrick starts to blow him again, Pete's hand tightens roughly in Patrick's hair. He's close to coming, even more so when Patrick's free hand pushes up past his balls, between his cheeks and rubs firmly against his hole. Pete comes straight into Patrick's mouth.

Pete recovers against the wall as Patrick washes his mouth out with a bottle of water. Pete helps Patrick out of his stage gear and into his more comfortable jeans and sweater. There's a shower here, but they both want to get out of the building, so for now Patrick just cleans himself down with wet wipes.

“So you've not got any family in the crowd tonight?” Pete asks as they make their way back to his apartment. Pete took a step back when they first left the club, and Patrick spent about twenty minutes with the fans that were waiting for him. Patrick always plays down his popularity, but there's people that cared about him, and Pete’s not really been aware until this point.

“My brother comes to most of the home shows, I think he was probably there, but I don't know. It's hard being around them sometimes. They love me, but they won't ever understand. It's just easier to connect through emails than in person.” Patrick shrugs his shoulder, his fingers twitching against Pete’s knuckles lightly.

Pete nods his head as he opens the door. He guesses that's pretty much true for him too, but only because his mom worries so much. Patrick just fiddles with his glasses for a few moments as they make their way into his place.

“Thanks for the blow job, though,” Pete says, breaking the silence as he pulls two beers from the refrigerator and hands one to Patrick. “Good way to finish a show.”

“Mmm, looked like you needed it.” Patrick takes a sip of the beer and then puts it down on the coffee table. “I hate beer,” he says, but Pete just shrugs, taking a larger gulp of his.

Patrick goes to shower the show from his body, and Pete waits around; finishes his beer and then Patrick's before he goes to wait for him in the bedroom. Patrick appears from the bathroom, rubbing a towel over his body, his skin a heated pink from the hot water.

“Quick question: would it be completely narcissistic for my next collection to be based solely on my own life?” Pete asks as Patrick kneels up on the bed beside him. Patrick stares at him for a few seconds in confusion.

“Depends. It's not going to be as boring as you just made it sound, right?” Patrick says back. Tiny water droplets are dripping from his hair down onto his shoulders, and Pete stares at them and not Patrick's face as he goes to respond.

“No. Sort of...I don't know. It's going to be kinda fragmented and make me look way more interesting than I am. I've got some ideas, I've got some shots that I can play around with and enhance. You think it's a good idea?”

“You're the expert,” Patrick says, his hand playing gently on Pete’s stomach, finger tracing the outline of his tattoo. “I'm not saying I would be in any of them – but if I am – can you not use my face?”

“I'm not using any faces; bodies yeah, but everyone is featureless. I'd want you in one, and I've got some ideas to incorporate our relationship into different shots.” Pete shrugs at the last part, he's booked a gallery for his show in three months time which should give him time to get his shit together.

“Cool,” Patrick says, and then, “I was thinking we could try out that thing we bought last time we were here.” His hands press a little firmer to Pete’s stomach, his lips pulling into a little smile.

Pete's stomach jumps at both the change in conversation, but also at what Patrick's suggesting. “Seriously?”

“Yeah.” Patrick nods, and pushes the towel away from his body. Pete’s used to it now, and Patrick isn't all that shy about being naked around him, but he does sometimes take a step back and remember that, oh yeah, Patrick has a cunt.

Pete gets up from the bed and heads over to his closet, getting out the bag he'd stuck in there from the last time they'd been together in his place. Patrick peeks in the bag and then looks away with a laugh.

“Alright, help me put it on.” Patrick stands up from the bed, already naked, and pulls out the leather harness. Pete goes over to him, straightening out the loops, and gets Patrick's legs into each hole before pulling it up to his knees. “If I was ever to walk around with a fake dick, I'm glad it's a purple one,” he says, slotting the dildo through the hole in the harness and then tugging the straps up over his hips.

“Nice,” Pete says, watching Patrick swing his hips in a jilted circle. Pete’s been pegged before, fucked dudes before, but it's been a while. “I can't believe you've never worn one, don't you mostly date girls?”

“Not everything good involves dick.” Patrick looks up at him in warning. “Don't piss me off or I won't fuck you--Oh God, this is weird.”

“It is,” Pete says, and he slides his hand to the toy. The cool silicone is smooth beneath his touch and he jacks it slowly like it's an actual dick. “Want me to suck it?”

“Okay,” Patrick says uncertainly, but then nods a bit more assertive and slides back onto the bed, opening his legs a little. The harness hugs him beneath each ass cheek, sitting right on the pubic bone and leaving his pussy uncovered.

Pete wriggles right between his legs, smelling the silicone but Patrick's arousal too, and he strokes his fingers up and down the purple length before leaving a kiss on the very tip. Pete opens his mouth around it, bringing it down into his mouth and staring up at Patrick – who looks confused – but turned on. Pete laughs, his teeth pressing against the dick before he pulls away.

“'Least it won't hurt if I use my teeth,” Pete says and Patrick laughs so hard his belly jiggles slightly. He goes back to sucking again, feeling kinda stupid, but also hugely aroused by the entire situation. He moves his fingers to slide into Patrick's cunt, and that loosens him up a bit. Patrick grinds down onto his fingers, and bucks up into Pete’s mouth and after a while, Pete dips his head down; switches between eating Patrick out to sucking on the dildo again before he pulls away for the last time.

“Want me to fuck you now?” Patrick asks, looking red cheeked and sweaty as he lays flat to the bed. The purple toy is slick with Pete’s own saliva and if he looks further down, Patrick's soaked too. It's fucking hot.

Pete goes to the drawer to grab some lube once he's shoved his clothes off and rolls it in his hands for a few seconds. He slicks his own fingers up with it, watching Patrick watch him as he kneels on the bed beside Patrick, quickly pushing his fingers up into his body.

Pete’s not been fucked in a fair while now. Patrick's fingers find their way into his ass during a fair amount of blow-jobs, but they haven't really played around with many toys. Pete works his fingers as best as he can at least until his wrist starts to twinge at the awkward angle.

“What the fuck are you doing?” He asks looking up from wiping his fingers on the blanket and sees Patrick swinging his hips around and jabbing the covers with the tip of the dick.

Patrick looks up, caught in action and just laughs. “Just testing out the equipment. It looks like a lightsaber coming out of my body.” Patrick holds the base of the strap-on and makes a few saber sound effects before Pete shuts him up with a kiss.

Pete takes the time greasing up the purple cock, feeling anticipation in his chest. He has to take Patrick's mouth again and bite at it roughly to get away from the nerves building up.

“Come on, I'm ready,” Pete whines and Patrick laughs gently against his lips, pulling away. His hands are warm and smooth against Pete’s shoulders, squeezing down briefly, looking a little nervous himself.

“I don't--”

“Like this.” Pete gets on all fours, waiting for Patrick to do something. It takes a few seconds before he feels Patrick's hands on his ass, sliding between his cheeks and testing him out with a few fingers. “I've done that part, come on.”

“Sorry,” Patrick mumbles, his hands slipping away. A second later, Pete feels something hard and blunt pressing against him and he takes a deep breath as Patrick pushes forward. Pete would've liked a little more time to get used to it, but Patrick pretty much continues until the base of the harness is against Pete’s ass. “Give me a minute,” he says, trying to get used to the feeling.

Patrick's hands stay on his hips, rubbing soft circles and Pete focuses on that until he's relaxed enough and he gives Patrick the go ahead. The first few times Patrick pulls out are jagged at best and a little too rough on Pete. It's been a while for him, long enough that he's remembering why he doesn't do it too much. He's not always sure the prep is worth the payoff.

“I have no fucking clue what this feels like for you, so just let me know,” Patrick says, moving slower this time. His mouth stays close to the sensitive skin of Pete’s neck, kissing and mouthing in short puffs as his hips thrusts back and forward.

It's harder than a dick would be and pretty unyielding. Pete never loses sight of the fact that it's a toy up his ass, but it's still enough to get him going again, and as Patrick gets more confident in working his hips, Pete starts to feel good about the whole thing.

The stretch of the fake dick inside him is making him deliciously sore and when he pushes up so that they're both kneeling, Patrick's arms slide around his body pulling him close. Pete twists his head so that he can fall against Patrick's mouth and their tongues fold sloppily together as he gets a hand over his own dick.

Patrick's thrusts get more jilted again, but Pete doesn't need much more, the cock in his ass and the hand on his dick enough to get him coming. “Yeah, like that,” he says, as Patrick pushes a little harder on the last few thrusts before Pete loses it all over his hand.

Patrick slides out almost immediately and Pete feels it enough to know he's going to be tender for a while. He flops back onto the bed right away, too fucked out to do anything else.

He opens his eyes to see Patrick tugging the harness off with a wince and climbing into one's of Pete’s shirts from the bottom of the bed. He smiles at Pete briefly before crawling over to Pete’s dresser and finding Pete's half empty pack of Marlboro red. Patrick holds one lightly between his lips, lights it and then heads back over to the bed, grabbing the ashtray and plucking the cigarette from between his lips to Pete's own.

Pete tries to wink in thanks, but it just comes out as a heavy blink. Patrick just nods in response, curling up against him and staying silent as Pete smokes, flicking ash into the tray on his chest.

“Did you get off?” Pete asks, when he's finished his smoke and dumped the ashtray back onto the bedside table. He turns over, feeling his muscles twinge with every movement.

“No,” Patrick says, “but it wasn't about me. Don't really think I was cut out for wearing one of those. Maybe we could just use toys that aren't attached to me next time.” Patrick laughs, lifting the loose hem of the shirt to show Pete the bright red welts over his hips from the harness.

“Shit, I'm sorry,” Pete says, rubbing over the marks, but Patrick just shrugs his shoulders, not looking that bothered.

“It was hot being able to fuck you, just way harder than I figured. Guess I don't have the hips for it.” Patrick tries to wriggle them and Pete laughs, slapping his thigh.

“Come here,” Pete says. He's not got the energy or grace to actually do much work now, but he'll give Patrick as much as he can. “I'll get you off with my mouth, but you're gonna have to do the work.”

“I'm down with that,” Patrick says, straddling Pete’s shoulders and looking at him for clarification for a few seconds. When Pete nods Patrick slowly lifts up and sits himself down over Pete’s mouth.

Pete takes in the heady wetness of Patrick, hands on his hips, and after testing him for a few seconds with nothing but his hot breath, Pete curls his tongue up once, teasing Patrick without breaching his body. Patrick makes a noise, his thighs gripping at Pete’s head briefly before his body loosens up.

Patrick sits up again, giving Pete a chance to breath but then he's tugging Patrick down, sucking lightly on his clit before working his way straight into his cunt. Pete’s never been so enthusiastic at eating pussy as he has been with Patrick, but he loves it, loves sliding his tongue into that wet warmth and listening to the enthusiastic reactions he gets.

Patrick gets into it, riding Pete’s tongue; kneeling up at intervals to give Pete a chance to breathe before he sits back down on his face again. Pete’s ears are compressed by Patrick's knees, and his hands slide on occasion from his thick thighs to curl up over his hips, feeling the indents the strap-on left over his hips.

“Fuck that's good... fucking like that.” Patrick's muttering and Pete only hears half of them; muffled by Patrick's own body. Patrick goes suddenly rigid when Pete’s tongue slides right inside him, one finger slick with Patrick's wetness sliding into his asshole.

Patrick rolls off ungracefully, face pressed into the pillows and moans with content. Pete can feel that his face is wet from the face sitting, but he licks his lips anyway, content to have Patrick's mark on him like that.

 

The next day, right when Patrick's about to leave to meet up with his crew, Pete just pretty much blurts out the one thing he's been keeping tucked up against the roof of his mouth for weeks now.

“I love you,” he says. Patrick looks up like a goddamn deer in headlights. He's wearing one of Pete’s shirts, a flannel one tucked into his own jeans. Pete knows that means something, but once the marble-eyes are blinked back into place, he knows Patrick's going to deny it.

“Don't fucking say that, man,” he says, zipping up his bag and sighing heavily, hands on his hips. “We agreed not to do that shit.”

“Yeah? Well it was time I came clean. This isn't casual, you know this isn't casual. I love you, Patrick. I'm not asking anything from you, we can continue like this, but don't fucking deny that this is anything less than what it is.” Pete knows he probably should've picked a better time than this to say it, but after last night he wants it even more. He can't see Patrick off again for another few weeks without saying anything.

“You're not expecting me to say it back, are you?” Patrick says, not sounding like he wants to hurt Pete, but it stings anyway. Patrick is Pete’s fucking world right now, and he knows he's a decent chunk of Patrick's too. It hurts to have him attempt to deny it.

“No,” Pete shakes his head. He isn't going to cry, even though he feels his eyes dry up. “I'm a patient guy, I can wait for you to say it back.”

“I don't fall in love,” Patrick says weakly, and Pete nods his head, desperately trying to hold onto the idea that it's just huge denial on Patrick's end. “Falling in love fucks me up, and I can't do that. Not when my career is just picking up. Fuck, don't ask me of anything.”

“I'm not asking anything of you, just stating a fact.” Pete licks his lips, feeling a little sick at what's going on. “I'm fucking crazy about you, and I'm going to stay fucking crazy about you. You should know that.” Pete's about to say something else, but Patrick's phone starts buzzing from the table.

“That's the car,” Patrick says, sounding far off and not a few feet away from Pete. “I need to go.”

“Cool. Let me know how the show goes tonight,” Pete says, trying to keep it light even though he feels his eyes glazing over. He clears his throat, picking Patrick's bag up and settling over his shoulders, his fingers tucked between the straps and Patrick's warm shoulders for a few moments. He leans in and kisses Patrick, ignoring how Patrick doesn't kiss back. “Go on, you'll be late.”

Patrick stumbles off, looking at Pete for a few more seconds before heading out of the apartment without another word.

 

Pete works on his photography instead of thinking their last conversation too much. He's over booking glamor shoots; done with it all. He's doing his own thing now; what he wants. He has an assistant that actually wants to be here, and it's fun teaching someone the things he's learned over the years; he didn't know it could be like that.

They text fairly frequently; Patrick tells him more useless trivia and talks about the shows and the fans he's starting to recognize. He emails Pete the completed artwork of his new album and Pete sees the photo he took behind Patrick's name and title. It makes his stomach clench in excitement and he's not quite sure why.

Pete doesn't fly out to LA, but Patrick does come back to Pete’s apartment when he has a free weekend. He's quieter at first, unsure of where he stands, but Pete is desperate to work through this and come out the other side with his heart relatively unscathed.

Pete’s even started following Patrick on Twitter. He's not exactly talkative on it, but they have enough conversations with enough suspicious content that Pete gets a small influx of followers he suspects are keen fans of Patrick. It's a little creepy at first, but he gets used to it.

“So do we just pretend what you said before didn't happen?” Patrick says tentatively one night. They're at a bar near Pete’s apartment, Patrick's got some kind of blended whiskey between his nervous fingers and Pete stares down into the amber fluid instead of Patrick's face.

“No, but I'm glad you know now.” Pete smiles at Patrick until his cheeks start to ache, it's unnatural and fake, but Patrick nods his head eventually, taking a small sip of his drink.

“Whatever this is I don't want it to end,” Patrick admits quietly. “That's not what I want at all. I just don't like where love takes me.”

Pete’s pretty sure by that comment alone, Patrick's mostly in denial at this point and most probably in love with Pete. It doesn't make it any easier because Pete still goes to bed most nights with a shattered heart and bruised ego, wondering why he's not good enough for Patrick to give in and give himself over completely. That's never going to be something he understands.

Still, Pete lets it go and pretends that conversation is over for now, even if they carry it on in the subtle looks they send each other, or how Patrick's flinches for the briefest moment when Pete takes his fingers beneath the table.

They're holding hands by the time they leave the bar. The temperature has dropped and Pete can see their breath in white puffs as they laugh and talk; the warmth of Patrick tucked up against him is the best kind of comfort. They stop short when a girl calls Patrick's name from behind them. Pete turns, twisting Patrick's arm until he spins on the spot and is facing the girl.

“Hey,” the girl says, approaching awkwardly. Her cheeks are pink, but Pete’s guessing not from the cold when he sees how she's got her phone tight between her fingers, poised for action. “Patrick Stump? I'm like a massive fan. Do you think—could I get a photo?” Patrick smiles and nods and she holds her phone out nervously before Pete intervenes.

“Here, let me take it,” Pete says, holding out his hand. She hesitates for a moment before handing over the phone and Pete opens up her settings, changing the lighting to suite the night sky.

“He's a photographer, so this should be good,” Patrick says to her. “I think I put my thumbs over most selfies people want me to take.”

“I don't even know how that's possible.” Pete butts in, smiling when the girl laughs brightly. He takes a photo of that, and then another posed one, with them both smiling and staring at the camera. She says a quiet thank you to both of them before she looks at Pete.

“Are you the guy that did the album artwork?”

“Yeah, do you dig it?” He asks, seeing Patrick stare with easy bemusement between the two of them. She nods her head and starts explaining something to him and they have a brief conversation about how she's in art school and hates it, before Pete realizes he can't actually feel his toes. They end the conversation and Patrick gives her a quick hug which sends her voice an octave or two higher. It's cute, she's cute, and they wave her off until she disappears back into the bar.

“Oh my god, you just stole that fan from me,” Patrick says good-naturedly, looping his arm through Pete’s elbow and walking them back down the sidewalk again.

“I didn't! I'm just better at small talk than you.” Patrick makes an agreeable noise at that. It's certainly no lie. “Is it weird having people come up to you on the street?”

“Just a bit,” Patrick deadpans and then laughs a little softer. “It only really happens back home, but yeah. I don't think it's something I'll ever get used to.”

They talk about it for a little while longer as they head down to the apartment and Patrick rambles on about how weird it is for him, about being recognized and loved for his music. Pete thinks about how the fan saw them holding hands, whether that'll make waves, but Patrick just shrugs his shoulders.

“I think there are worse things in the world than people knowing I'm fucking a guy. So far everyone's been pretty respectful of me being private. She seemed nice.” Patrick shrugs, and then presses in closer for more warmth.

 

That night Patrick opens up to him a bit more. “I never date dudes,” he says, crossed legged on the bed, watching Pete undress for the night. “I had a serious boyfriend when I had top surgery, but he said he couldn't love me after what I did and left the day after I came out of the hospital. Since then, I pretty much only fuck guys if I wanted to self-destruct. I find you all very soul destroying.”

“He sounds like a grade A douche,” Pete says back, rolling onto the bed. He sometimes wonders what it would be like to know Patrick before, back when he would pack his chest down with sports bras and vests. He didn't like binders much, they restricted his lungs when he was trying to sing.

These conversations always make Pete so fucking glad he is who he is. He's fucked himself over enough in life; he knows he'd be a million more times fucked up if he had to deal with a body that didn't feel like his own.

“Oh he was,” Patrick says. “I was finally happy with who I was and he made me feel like no one could ever want me again. That's when I went kinda wild. I slept with pretty much any guy that would take my drunk ass home, but then when I sobered up I never wanted to touch another dude again.”

“I'm a guy,” Pete says. “You touch me a lot.”

“You're different.” Patrick's face softens slightly, and he reaches out, his fingers brushing down Pete’s cheek. “I don't know. It just works with you.” The sad look on his face fades though, and a small smile replaces it. “Tell me about your history, though. You never talk about it.”

There's not much to say, but Pete starts at the beginning all the same. He cuddles up with Patrick and talks about being a rich kid from the 'burbs. How he was a mess for a long time; popping pills – some prescribed to him – but mostly not. He did it for fun, but then when the novelty wore off he did it even more. He talks about the mad desperation to hold onto his youth that drove away nearly everyone he's ever dated.

“I think in the last couple of years I really grew up though.” Pete finishes. Saying it all aloud he realizes just how much of a dick he was and he desperately wants to call his mom tomorrow and apologize for everything he put her through.

He feels closer to Patrick come the time he shuts his eyes. He feels like he understands a little better why Patrick's so closed off about falling in love. He doesn't like it, but it makes it easier, and puts a few things into perspective for him.

 

 

“So basically you're in denial,” Andy says the next time Pete heads over to his vegan joint to explain the new development in his relationship with Patrick. He orders a smoothie and isn't disappointed in how green and thick it is. “That's not really what I thought you were going for.”

“This is actually snot, right?” he looks down at the drink, not sure whether he wants to sip it or not. It looks like it might clog the straw if he attempted, but Andy just gives him the middle finger. “Just kidding. No, I'm pretty sure he's in denial right about now. I told him I can wait.”

“Not if it's gonna screw you over,” Andy says, giving Pete a raised eyebrow. “Come on, man. Don't stick around if he can't give you what you need.”

“He can. He's really worth it, he says he's scared of committing but we're texting all the time, and he flies out to my apartment when he can. Like, this isn't casual, I'm just waiting on him to realize this.”

Andy shakes his head. “Sounds like you're walking a weird and very fine line, but if you're okay with it, I'm not going to stop you. Just be careful and stay healthy.” Andy stands up, but pushes the smoothie closer to Pete. “Drink the juice, it's good for you.”

Pete's stomach clenches, but he does as he's told.

 

Pete’s in LA a few weeks later to hang out with some friends, take some shots, but also to see Patrick. He's not disappointed after the third day in the city when he's finally able to meet up with Patrick. Pete smiles when he sees that Patrick's wearing the flannel shirt he stole from Pete tucked into a black skirt, a fedora balanced on his blond hair.

“Wow,” Pete says. “If I'd known how hot that shirt looked with a skirt I'd have been rocking it months ago.”

“Not with your chicken legs,” Patrick says, pulling Pete down for a hug. Any anxiety from the plane over is soothed by Patrick's warm and familiar body, and Pete knows he's hooked close, that if this does get screwed up he's going to be a wreck. “You ready?”

Patrick takes him to this little diner that sells old fashioned milkshakes and apple pies. They share a vanilla shake in a giant sundae glass with two straws and a cherry on top. It's overwhelmingly tacky, from the cheap pleather booths to the greasy Formica tables, but Patrick looks like he loves it.

“This is fucking kitsch,” Pete says, watching the waitress glide away on a pair of skates. He imagines Andy's face if he ever took him here, and decides it'd be hilarious and something he'll definitely do in the future.

“It's cool,” Patrick says. His bleached hair is hidden beneath his hat, and his glasses take up most of his face, but he's smiling at Pete, looking unashamed and happy. They're smack-bang right in the middle of the honeymoon stage and he doesn't even seem to know it. “I can tie cherry knots with my tongue, watch.”

Patrick holds the cherry by the stalk toward Pete's mouth and Pete takes the cherry, bites down on it as Patrick pulls the stem off and pops it in his mouth. Pete slices the flesh from the stone as he watches Patrick's mouth move for a good few seconds before he opens it and Pete sees the stem knotted on the tip of his tongue.

“Good party trick, I'm impressed,” Pete says, as Patrick plucks the stem from his mouth and wraps it in a napkin, Pete does the same with the cherry stone and then looks up at Patrick with a smile. Patrick tips his hat to Pete briefly before dipping his head to suck at the milkshake some more.

They end up going to Travie's for a house party that night. Pete sometimes forgets that he's the reason they're even a thing right now, and he's still not entirely sure how Patrick even knows McCoy, but it's fun all the same.

Or maybe it's only fun because Pete’s wasted and Patrick's there, because he sure as fuck doesn't know anyone else in the room, but Patrick says he doesn't either. It's fun just being stupid and drunk together, not having to care about what anyone else says or does.

He thinks he sees a few people staring at Patrick in the skirt, but his vision is blurred around the edges by this point, so he can't tell for sure. They're pretty much bundled into a corner for now though, weed thick in the air and giving Pete a slight headache.

“I hate anal sex, but for sure I'd let you do it to me. I'd complain, but I'd let you do it.” Patrick is rambling on and Pete only just catches what he's saying. “My ex was always trying to stick it in there, think that's why I don't like it.”

“We don't have to do it,” Pete says back, thinking he sees someone look over at them in alarm and questions briefly how loud they're talking right now before he shrugs his shoulder. “I like your vagina.”

“Mmm, me too.” Patrick laughs into Pete neck. “And I will peg you any time you want, even if I suck at it.”

Pete laughs at that, loud and wheezy, holding onto Patrick for support. He feels in a kind of daze, spaced out without being high. At some point, he's certain Travie comes over to talk to them and that Patrick slowly tries to explain how they know each other, but Pete can't remember a thing about it now.

 

Pete wakes up in Patrick's bed with what he's certain is a sledgehammer lodged into his skull. He lifts his hand to feel his head, but it's just flat greasy hair. He's certain he can hear the sound of Patrick puking in the bathroom, and when he's able to move his arm around the bed feels empty next to him. It's too early and he's too hungover to care so he shuts his eyes again.

He's feeling only slightly better when he wakes up a few hours later but he gets a quick, slick hand-job in the shower. Afterward he turns Patrick around beneath the spray and fingers him from behind, spare hand rubbing against Patrick's mouth. They both end up feeling a lot better after that.

Pete takes a few photos of Patrick after, and tries to teach him how to take a decent shot himself, but Patrick's pretty much a lost cause. It's fun and even when Pete tells Patrick he loves him again, he doesn't push him away, just stares at him like he's confused.

“You're very persistent,” Patrick says eventually, knee pressed to Pete's thigh, his legs folded under himself. He's not looking at Pete, but down at the floor, biting on his lip.

“Just didn't want you to forget it,” Pete shrugs, at peace with his own feelings, and mostly okay with Patrick's too. Pete’s never wanted to be the stable one in a relationship before, but he thinks he might need to be for Patrick right now. The fact that he's willing to put himself out there like this is testament enough for his own feelings.

“Don't take this the wrong way, but I got you something,” Patrick says a little later. They haven't really moved from the bed all day, but they're on the couch now with the TV on low. Patrick skitters off to the bedroom and Pete watches the curves of his pale legs as he goes. Patrick's wearing another of Pete’s shirts that he's stolen; a black Metallica one that had actually been a favorite of Pete's before deciding Patrick looks better in it anyway.

Patrick comes back into the room, holding something wrapped in tissue paper in his hands. He sits down next to Pete on the couch, one of his legs over Pete's knees. He hands the package over, smiling small as Pete gives him a curious look before opening it.

“Aw, wow,” Pete says with a smile. It's a small vintage camera lens on a silver metal chain, long enough to be worn around his neck. “You got this for me?”

“Yeah. I was at this market recently and I don't know-- I just saw it and it reminded me of you.” Patrick looks down at the jewelery, his ears turning pink. “If you don't like it, that's cool.”

“No I do,” Pete says. He's smiling so much that his cheeks feel stiff and puffy. He takes the chain and undoes it, holding it out to Patrick, asking for his help. Patrick takes the necklace and fixes it around Pete’s neck; Pete just watches the fluttering of Patrick's pale eyelashes as he concentrates on hooking the chain together. When he sits back, dressed in nothing but Pete’s fucking t-shirt and boxers, Pete knows he loves Patrick now more than he ever has.

 

He goes home a day later and works on some freelance shit for a magazine and listens to Patrick's album when he starts to miss him too much. It wouldn't normally be his thing, but he likes that it's a completely different side to the Patrick he hangs out with or the one he fucks. He stares at the album artwork – his artwork – with Patrick's name embossed on it and tries not to think anything into it. Tries to block out the part of him that believes it means something more than it does.

He gets a phone call from Patrick a few days later, the small tour finally over for the time being and Pete smiles, kicks his feet up and listens to Patrick talk about how he totally got propositioned by a girl during an interview today.

“I let her down though, said I had a boyfriend and he wouldn't like me playing away.”

“Did you really just say the b-word, Patrick? I thought you were against labels,” Pete says, mostly as a joke, but he thinks in a really pathetic way that it's an improvement to before.

“Maybe you're my groupie. My one sad solitary groupie. Even the guys in my band get more than that.” Patrick doesn't say anything for a while. “I don't like being labeled, but realistically you are my boyfriend.”

“Your realistic boyfriend, huh?” Pete says, hearing Patrick laugh down the phone. He's glad there's no one to witness his own stupid smile right now. “I like the sound of that.”

“I miss you,” Patrick says suddenly, laughing at the end like he's unsure of himself. “I wish-- no I just would like to be there right now.”

“I'm feeling pretty lonely myself,” Pete says, looking around his dark apartment, and then down at the muted TV. “It's just me, myself and Dance Moms right now.”

“I have to go back to my mom's on Monday. It's her birthday and she wants us all there,” Patrick says quietly. He doesn't talk about his family much; Pete’s overheard stilted conversations to his dad before, but Pete knows he's not comfortable around them for long periods of time.

“You don't have to go if it's gonna suck,” Pete reasons. He's a big enough dick to not turn up at family events and he doesn't have anything like the history Patrick does with his parents. He'd explained it a little more the last time Pete dared to ask, saying, They'd be fine with it if it'd been the neighbor's kid, but it's different because they think they did something wrong with me. Like I'm something that needs to be fixed.

“It's her birthday, Pete, and it's what she wants,” Patrick chides back and Pete winces, feeling like an even bigger ass. “Maybe I'll just stay a day or so. I miss her because she's my mom, but I just don't like going back there. That's the house I grew up in.”

He doesn't need to say anything else for Pete to understand, and Pete hums soothingly down the line. What he wants to do is say to Patrick he'll come with him, stay with him in the house that holds too many memories, but he can't. Pete can only give Patrick so much, and he doesn't want to start forcing himself into parts of Patrick's life that he's kept relatively quiet about.

Patrick breathes heavy through the speakers for a few moments, like he's trying to spit out something that he's afraid of asking, but in the end he just laughs a little breathlessly and tells Pete he'll talk to him tomorrow.

 

Patrick stops into Pete’s studio the day he flies in for his mom's birthday. He sits on Pete’s desk, talking politely with Brendon as Pete touches up some shots for a client due in the afternoon. Pete has half an ear on the conversation and half an eye on Patrick, who looks tired and twitchy.

“I would definitely bone Bruno Mars, wasted opportunity, man,” Brendon says. He's been talking so much that his computer's gone to sleep at this point, and he's possibly the most annoying assistant Pete's ever had, but at least he wants to be here.

“He's a cool guy,” Patrick says, neither agreeing or disagreeing. “A lot of fun to work with.” He fades out of the conversation to stare at Pete instead. He stole Pete’s snapback the moment he came into the shop and he's got it tilted at a slight angle on his head, his eyes shaded only a little. “I need to go now.”

“You gonna give me my hat back?” Pete asks, finally pushing back from his work to give Patrick his full attention. Patrick smiles at him briefly, leaning down from the desk to give Pete a quick kiss. Brendon's finally turned around to his own desk, but Pete doesn't take that as much privacy.

“I'm keeping the hat,” Patrick says as he stands up. Pete follows him from the back office to the front of house where Patrick's tucked his bag into a hidden corner. Pete's lost a bunch of clothing since this thing with Patrick started, and he's spotted them on Patrick at various times. It's hot actually, and he doesn't care as much as he pretends to.

“Alright,” Pete says. He pulls Patrick in for a hug and gets Patrick tight and warm against him. He holds him close for a few moments, close to just asking Patrick if he wants him to come join him today. He could get Brendon to deal with the appointments that afternoon and postpone anything for the next few days.

Patrick doesn't say anything though and so Pete pulls away, kisses Patrick once on the mouth and then tweaks his snapback until it sits correctly.

“Call me if you need anything, Patrick.” Pete watches Patrick nod his head and give a flicker of a nervous smile before leaving through the glass doors.

 

Patrick's only been gone seven or so hours when Pete gets a phone call from him. Pete's back in the apartment after finishing up for the day. He's tired and feeling pretty lonely right now. Love sucks, he knows it does, but he sometimes forgets just how much he hates not getting what he wants.

“Patrick?” he says, dropping the butt of his cigarette into his empty glass of juice. “How's it going?”

“--This is the worst fucking thing, this is why I didn't want to do this.” Patrick cuts in, his words slurring from one syllable right into the other and Pete frowns, only just able to make it out.

“Are you drunk?” Pete asks and then, “No, I know you are, but why? What happened?”

“I hate this, hate depending on someone. People let people down, and I hate people,” Patrick says with a sniff and a bitter laugh. “I hate everyone.”

“No you don't,” Pete says. He's heard Patrick's own lectures enough when he's been on an anti-people tirade to know that's not true. Patrick knows more than most that people are deeply flawed, even if they're decent at heart. Pete sits up from the couch and shuts the TV off. “What's the matter?”

“I didn't want to feel this way about you,” Patrick says quietly, “Fuck, I don't like being needy.”

Pete smiles, but doesn't make a noise. A few weeks ago, maybe even a month, he would've been offended by the first part, but he gets it now. “I like being needed, but you've gotta tell me why you feel like this. Is it being back home?”

Patrick doesn't say anything for a while, but Pete hears him breathing, can imagine the face he's making as he tries to sort through his emotions to get to the point. “I told them about you. They didn't know-- I've never dated a guy long enough to tell them about him, so they-- I guess they assumed... Fuck.” Patrick starts freaking out, and Pete makes shushing noises. “My brother called me the wrong fucking name and then I fucking hit him, and now I'm here, and I don't know-- I haven't felt like this in such a long time. I don't want to go back to that place in my head.”

Pete waits until he's certain Patrick's finished talking until he says, “Do you want me to come and get you?”

Patrick falters, like he wouldn't ever expect that of Pete, and Pete hopes that's more about Patrick's issues than Pete's decency as a boyfriend. “I'm not asking you to do that,” he says quietly, but Pete rolls his eyes.

“No. I'm asking if that's what you want. I don't want to throw my weight around in a situation that you don't want me involved in.” Pete taps his fingers against his forehead. He wants to go and sober Patrick up and fucking look after him, but this is so much more than that. This is families and complications and so much more than what Pete can wrap his head around, and yet he still wants to try. “I can be there in a few hours if that's what you want.”

Patrick says nothing for a while until a simple please come sounds softly through the speaker.

 

Pete feels all kinds of awkward when he finally turns up at Patrick's mom's house. He doesn't even know what they look like, they didn't know about him until a few hours ago but now he's rocking up at their house, totally uninvited. But Patrick's in there, drunk and hating everyone, but he wants Pete; needs him, so Pete’s just gonna have to suck up the awkwardness.

There's a guy around Pete's age that answers the door with a bruised eye and so Pete figures that's Patrick's dumbass brother. Pete smiles faintly, knowing it doesn't come out all that friendly, but he isn't here to make sweet with Patrick's family.

“You here for Patrick?” he asks and Pete nods, pushing his hands into his pockets and trying not to say anything stupid or wrong. “He's upstairs, second door on the left.” Kevin steps back and Pete walks in and straight up the stairs, catching the eye of a middle-aged woman standing in the kitchen. Patrick's mom maybe, but Pete isn't here for her either.

Patrick is sitting on the floor, knees bunched up and his back against the foot of the bed. He lifts his head at the disturbance of Pete and he's wearing his sunglasses; shiny aviators that take up half his face and Pete’s hat.

Pete falls to his knees next to Patrick, but doesn't say anything for a while. He looks around at the peeling wallpaper, darker in large square sections that at one time held posters but have since been pulled down. Patrick drops his head down to Pete's shoulder and he brings him in closer.

“The thing is you're allowed to punch your siblings. It's an unwritten rule,” Pete says into Patrick's hair, running his fingers gently back and forth over Patrick's shoulder. He can smell whiskey on Patrick, but he doesn't see any bottles to hand. “You wanna talk about it?”

“Not really,” Patrick says quietly. “I just get so fucking tired of trying to deal with it. I know it'd make it easier if I just picked a side and stuck with it, but I can't do that. I tried that and it doesn't work for me.”

“We talking sexuality or gender?”

“Gender,” Patrick says. “I'm twenty-seven I should be over crying like this. I just wanted to fucking tell them about you, but the moment I say I'm seeing a guy they think I'm-- that I've changed my mind or-- If I could be normal I would.”

“You wouldn't be you if you were like everyone else. I don't think I have the words to make this better, but you're drunk right now and I don't think that's helping,” Pete says. Patrick just sighs against him. His glasses are digging painfully into Pete's neck, but his breathing comes out in short little gasps. Pete's at a loss over what to say or do, Patrick's always been so cocksure and aware of who he is, even when people have tried to raise a reaction from him. This is new to him, and he's not sure how to go about it.

“I love you,” Patrick says suddenly against Pete’s neck. Pete wants to feel happy about it because Patrick still refuses to say it back. Pete pretty much knows how Patrick feels, but Patrick's such a mess right now; everyone says the wrong thing when they're drunk and he doesn't want to get burned by it.

“You need to sober up. I'm gonna make you a coffee, and then we'll talk about what you want to do after.” Pete pulls himself away from Patrick, leaning him back against his childhood bed. “I'll be back soon.”

Patrick mumbles something, but Pete doesn't catch it and so he shrugs as he leaves the room. It's no less easier downstairs because Pete doesn't know these people, only that they've upset Patrick.

Patrick's mom leaves the room with a quick nod of her head but Kevin stays there, helping Pete out when he asks about the coffee maker and mugs. Pete stands nervously for a while, not sure what to say; pissed off on Patrick's behalf.

“So, you guys been together long?” Kevin asks after a while and Pete shrugs his shoulder. He's not really sure when to say they actually started dating from, and either way it's none of his business anyway.

“A few months,” Pete says eventually.

“I didn't mean to upset him, it was just a shock. I didn't know he even liked guys, and you-- he's always been Patrick to you, right? But for a long time I had a little sister and then a brother and then neither. I love him no matter what, but I don't understand at all.”

“Does it even matter?” Pete asks, turning away to look at Patrick's brother. “It's not your business who he sleeps with so long as he's happy, and so long as you call him the names he asks you to call him I don't see why you can't deal with it.”

“I worry though.” Kevin folds his hands over his face and groans. His coloring is the same as Patrick's, but he's more solid, his features more heavy and masculine.

“He's strong, he can deal.” Pete looks away and down at the drink, trying not to involve himself in anything that Patrick wouldn't want him knowing.

“He wasn't always. He was a mess for years and I worry about him all the fucking time. I love him even when I say dumb things and get attacked for it,” Kevin says and Pete hears sincerity in his voice, enough to give a small smile and a nod. “Whatever he wants to be he's still my kid sibling, so don't hurt him.”

“I get what you're saying, but I'm not the one that's made him feel the way you have. So let's reverse the conversation; don't hurt him or I'll hurt you.” Pete smirks, turning away to deal with the coffee before responding. He looks up, mug in hand to see Kevin shaking his head like he wants to disagree before he puffs and lifts his shoulders in defeat.

When Pete gets back up to the bedroom, Patrick's moved to his bed and is sprawled on his back, hat off but glasses still shielding most of his face. Pete sits down on the edge of the bed and tugs on Patrick's wrist until he sits up.

“Take the glasses off now,” Pete says gently, putting the drink on the side table before gingerly plucking the aviators from Patrick's face. His eyes are red, still damp, and he sniffs and tries to shield them behind his fingers before Pete pulls his hand away. “Don't hide, it won't make you feel better. Drink this instead.”

Patrick takes the coffee and shifts slightly, spilling the black drink over the lip of the cup and down his fingers as he tries to make more space on the bed. Pete just steadies him and settles next to Patrick, hand on his back.

When Patrick's finished the drink he turns to Pete and strokes his cheek with a shaking hand. “I never meant for you to come down here. I shouldn't have phoned you.”

“You needed me,” Pete says, falling back on the bed. It's weird being here, laying on a bed that Patrick grew up in, this bed and his family are all parts of his life that they haven't really spoken about yet. Patrick will talk about the years after college; when he came out as non-binary, but nothing much before that.

“I felt like I needed you before I even hit Kevin, I wish you'd been here from the start even though I didn't want you to meet my family.” Patrick pushes his hand against his forehead and groans. “They make it hard for me to keep it together. I don't know, Pete. You make it alright, and I hate that.”

“I know you do, but you're in a bad mood so that's probably why. I don't think you should stay here tonight, my parents' house isn't far and they're on vacation. We can stay there.” Pete keeps his voice quiet thinking about how rare it is to be the comforter and not the mess for once.

Patrick doesn't respond, just continues to make Pete's neck wet with his tears. It's never nice seeing someone he loves this upset, and definitely not Patrick. He's seen him cry before, but only over shitty movies when he thinks Pete's not looking. This is different in every way.

“Thanks for coming,” Patrick says eventually, sniffing and pushing his hand up to wipe at his tears. “You still didn't have to though.”

Pete rolls his eyes but sits up. Patrick looks grumpy and sad, but more sober than he did before. “Come on, let's go.” Pete tugs on Patrick's wrist and steadies him on wobbly feet. He puts his hat back onto Patrick's head, and slides the sunglasses up his nose before before walking him down the stairs and out to the car. Wherever Patrick's family are right now, Pete doesn't know, but no one comes to see them off.

The drive back to his parents house takes no time at all, and Pete thinks about how close they grew up together. Patrick's a few years younger, sure, but there were times when it wasn't inexplicable that they could have met.

“Woah, fuck. That's a big house,” Patrick says staring up at the house Pete grew up in. He blinks a few times and stumbles before Pete takes his arm. “I know that was inappropriate, but it's true.”

“It is true.” Pete guides Patrick to the house, finding the spare key beneath the plant pot and opening the door. “I was miserable as fuck growing up, but it didn't have anything to do with being wealthy.”

He guides Patrick up the stairs, thankful that he doesn't seem like a hurler at this point. His bedroom remains on the same floor it always was, but it's finally been cleared of all the shit he'd piled into it over the years. Pete dumps Patrick onto his bed, and climbs in after him.

“I figured you'd be more comfortable out of that house. I know I always used to have a hard time coming back here when I was feeling rough.” Patrick rolls into him at Pete's words, hand on his chest and Pete links their fingers together.

“It's easy to be okay when I'm around you or everyone I associate with, but the moment I go home it's like I've gone back in time and I'm that fucking confused kid that no one knows what to do with.” Patrick's mumbling softly, but Pete nods his head.

They talk for a little while, or at least Patrick talks and Pete listens and tries to understand. He knows he won't ever truly understand how Patrick feels, the way his body and mind work, but he accepts it and he loves it, so he thinks it's alright. It seems to work for Patrick.

Patrick falls asleep not long later, face half buried in Pete's shoulder, glasses and hat finally removed. It's nice being wanted like this, and Pete feels a little like a selfish dick for how he's almost reveling in how much Patrick needs him right now. Pete never knew he wanted to be needed like that, he's always enjoyed being looked after and babied by his partners. It's not like Patrick will ever go to the depths he did, but it's still a new facet he's enjoying right now.

Pete must fall asleep in the early hours of the morning because he's stirred awake by Patrick. He groans in distaste at being woken up, keeping his eyes firmly closed, but Patrick shushes him and Pete feels Patrick's hand on his chest, mouth by his ear.

Pete blinks himself awake, his eyes blurred and his body heavy, until finally his sight clears and he can see Patrick sitting over his lap, knees tucked to Pete's hips. It's nice, but Pete would've preferred him more cuddly and less alert.

“You slept it off then,” he grumbles, rubbing at his eyes. Patrick laughs, leaning down to kiss Pete on the cheek. His breath hits Pete's face in minty puffs and so he's obviously found his way to a bathroom. When Pete slides a hand to his hair, it still feels a little damp, so he's taken use of the shower too.

“I'm sorry,” Patrick says quietly. Pete looks at him, looking sheepish with his lip sucked into his mouth, dressed in old clothes of Pete's. “I overreacted to everything yesterday, I shouldn't have pulled you away from work.”

“Nah,” Pete says. He wants to sit up, but Patrick's firmly pressing down into his lap. Instead he runs his fingers up Patrick's thighs, playing over the loose shorts he's wearing. “I'm glad you felt like you could talk to me.”

“I wanted you to come with me,” Patrick admits, hands catching Pete's on his lap. Pete doesn't say anything about knowing that because it'd probably start a stupid fight, and it isn't about that. “I think I went there in a bad frame of mind so I just freaked out at the first stupid thing someone said. I shouldn't have brought you into it.”

“Stop apologizing, Patrick. It's a good thing, it helped put a few things into perspective.” Pete clears his throat, smiling when Patrick tries to hide his vulnerability behind confusion. “Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.”

“You didn't respond when I said it last night.” Patrick eyes him, lashes fanning down and hooding his eyes. Pete wishes he had a camera on him, to take a snapshot of it; a mental one will have to do right now.

“You were drunk and upset last night, and you're exactly the kind of person to say things if you think that's what I need to hear.” Patrick's face sours a little at that, creasing up between his eyebrows and his lips tightening. “I know you've felt that way for a while, I'm not fucking stupid, but it would be really awesome to hear it when you're sober and not depending on me for anything.”

Patrick stares at him a few moments, heavy across Pete's lap and his face still slightly grumpy, but then he just drops all of the attitude and smiles, all teeth; before shielding his face and laughing into his hands.

“I fucking love you, alright.” He pulls his hands away and looks down at Pete with fondness. Pete knows it when it's hidden behind deadpan humor or sly looks, but it's open now, completely bare and it makes him feel giddy and loose. “I'm so fucked.”

“We're both fucked,” Pete says with a shrug. He's never been this kind of happy before. He's not elated, it's quieter than that, a pleasant hum that he feels in his blood and his bones and all the way up in his twisted brain.

 

Epilogue

 

Pete is a gigantic bag of nerves, all twisty and vibrating energy that he can't contain. Patrick stares at him from across the bedroom, hands fiddling with the buttons to his crisp white shirt as he dresses.

“Calm down,” Patrick says, smoothing down the shirt and tripping over a box as tries to dig out one of Pete’s belts to wear. “There's nothing to be scared about.”

“Fuck that, there's a shitload of things to be fucking scared about.” Tonight's the opening night of his new collection, and it's in a fucking gallery downtown. He's never had one there before, he's freaked that his own narcissism is actually selling. A party all about his work; filled with prospective buyers and friends and family is filling him with dread. “Why aren't you wearing the dress I bought you?”

“Because I didn't want to.” Patrick rolls his eyes, focusing more on feeding the belt through each loop than Pete’s pouting across the bedroom. “Plus your parents are gonna be there, and I haven't met them yet. I don't wanna freak them out before you explain to them.” Patrick laughs to himself, but Pete hasn't told them yet. He's not ashamed, but seeing the way Patrick's family handle it, he just doesn't want to ruin anything good going on.

“It's an expensive dress, I got it made special for you.” Pete continues, mostly because bickering with Patrick takes his mind off most things. He fingers the necklace around his neck, he's still not much of a jewelry kinda guy, but he wears the lens Patrick got him whenever he's feeling in need of some good luck. Patrick says that's stupid and it only cost seven dollars anyway, but Pete ignores him.

“Take me to dinner next week and I'll wear it then.” Patrick's voice snaps him back into the conversation, and he smiles up at Patrick, remembering another item of clothing he bought him.

“Promise you'll wear those sexy stockings, the ones with the lace?” Patrick rolls his eyes, but he's laughing as he grabs Pete by the elbows and yanks him up from the bed.

“Maybe, if you're good,” Patrick says, he gives Pete a quick kiss, hands on each side of Pete’s face before pulling away. “Now stop stalling and go get dressed.”

Pete does as he's told, keeping half an eye on Patrick who's going through some of the shit on Pete’s bookshelves and popping them into a box as he waits for Pete. They're moving pretty fast, but Pete sees this lasting and so they've signed their names to a lease together. Patrick's already had the shit from his LA apartment sent over, but Pete’s slow and nervous when it comes to moving.

Along with the opening, everything's gone to shit in terms of organizing and he's pretty much resigned to spending the next week going through it all. Patrick says he's going to the shelter to get a dog whilst Pete packs up. He's not sure when he agreed to a pet; he's more than aware he's the one that will be looking after it when Patrick next goes on tour, but he's lost the ability to say no to Patrick; he's not sure if he ever had it.

 

The gallery looks amazing, Pete can't deny that when they finally get there. It's already pretty full with people; some he knows, others he recognizes by face and the rest completely new. There's still a dozen rocks weighing his stomach down, but he loosens up a bit. Patrick strokes his hair and soothes him with his lovely calm voice in the back room before Pete has to face everyone.

Patrick disappears at one point, Pete knows he doesn't like parties like this; that he's reserved and polite, but not comfortable in these situations, but when he does spot him in the crowd he's laughing and talking animatedly with the curator of the gallery.

Over the last few weeks Pete helped Patrick put together a small blog-post to his fans. Patrick wanted to explain his identity to them. Mostly so I can wear whatever the fuck I want on stage. He'd explained to Pete, but there'd been a serious look hiding behind the loose smile. Now he can wear his stupid moon-boots with his silver skirt and tights without shocking the crowd too much. Pete’s not sure how he pulls off the outfit, but somehow he does.

It's more than that, Pete knows. More than just wearing whatever he wants, but he's not sure if he'll fully be able to understand it himself. He tries though, and Patrick attempts to explain where Pete fucks up.

Pete has to give a stupid talk at one point, which he stumbles in and out of as quickly as he can, but it gets a round of applause, and he's feeling like an accidental success by the time he's had three flutes of champagne and Patrick finds him again.

“So,” Patrick says, bumping his hip playfully with his own. “This is my first time seeing all your work out on display, and I see myself in a lot of them.”

Pete respected Patrick's decision to not have his face shown in any of the photos and the only one that really is implicit is the one Pete took of Patrick in his bed. He's sitting up against the pillows, Pete's plaid shirt buttoned over his chest, but his legs are bare. There's nothing on show, but his limbs are loose and his head is thrown back. Pete flushed the photo of color, keeping it black and white and he scratched out Patrick's face and replaced it with the LA area code and a series of question marks. In the true image Patrick's throwing his head back with laughter, but without that there's a different edge to the photo, and Pete loves it.

The rest mostly just have elements of Patrick; an empty recording studio from the time he captured Patrick writing the album, to the moment he was about to return the hire car from Gabe's wedding and he'd found Patrick's discarded underwear shoved down the side. He took a shot of the white lace against the hire agreements and a corsage from the wedding.

“I feel like a muse,” Patrick says. “A slutty muse.”

“Think of it as my love song to you.” Pete shrugs, he's three glasses of bubbly to the brain so he doesn't care if it's cringe-worthy, only that it's true. He puts a hand on the small of Patrick's back and leans down to his ear. “But you're the singer so where's my love song?”

Patrick pulls back, looking slightly put out. He licks his lips, mostly because he knows Pete loves that and he's sly in that way. “Maybe I've already written you one and you just haven't worked it out yet.”

“Wait, seriously?” Pete asks, going over Patrick's record in his mind, but it's all too metaphorical for his champagne-addled brain and he can't work it all out. “Tell me what one.”

“Nope,” Patrick says, pulling away. “You'll work it out for yourself.”

Patrick disappears at that, off into the crowds of people that have come here just for Pete's exhibition. Pete just stands there, wobbling about because he's terrible on champagne. He can't see Patrick anymore, but he can see Andy staring in bafflement at the hire car photo, and he can hear Gabe's laughter from across the room. He even sees a couple of teenagers looking at him with nervous hysteria. He has a real soft spot for Patrick's fans, even the more exuberant ones.

This whole thing with Patrick has turned his life upside down; he questions things he's never even thought about before. He's not the greatest guy, but he doesn't want to be; he's as good as he can be right now. The fact that that's enough to make Patrick want to stay, to love Pete even though he constantly fucks up, is what makes it worth it for him.