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Ray's got his hand down his pants when the beep of the hotel door tells him he's about to have company. Fucking great. He shoves his half-hard dick back into his jeans and barely gets the button done up by the time to door starts to open.

"Jesus Mikey, you said half an hour!"

Except when the door opens all the way, it's Patrick Stump. He's got a duffel under his arm and a hotel key card in his hand.

"You're not Mikey," Ray says dumbly.

"Yeah, no shit," Patrick says, shifting his bag, "So he didn't tell you then?"

"Didn't tell me what?" Ray asks, then his brain kicks in (hey, it takes a few minutes for him to shift gears out of jerking-off mode). "Oh wait - let me guess. Mikey's crashing with Pete so you're stuck with me?"

Patrick gives him a weak smile and raises his hands in a half-hearted golf clap, nearly dropping his bag in the process. "Well done."

Ray throws an arm out toward the empty twin bed, "Make yourself at home."

"You want first shower?" Patrick asks, tossing his duffel onto the ugly hotel comforter.

"Do I smell that bad?"

"Well, I wasn't going to say anything," Patrick replies with a gentle smirk, "But, you know," he shrugs.

"Fine I can take a hint." Ray grabs his toiletries bag and heads for the bathroom, tossing Patrick the remote on the way. "They've got cable here, help yourself."

It isn't until he gets into the bathroom and catches sight of himself in the mirror that he notices his fly is down, and it's probably obvious from space that he was whacking it when Patrick arrived. Thank god Patrick wasn't a dick about it.

He shrugs it off, shucks his clothes and gets into the shower.

After taking full advantage of the hot water and the relative privacy to jerk off (quietly), he leaves the bathroom feeling a lot more at ease with the world. Not to mention cleaner. Patrick's stretched out on his bed clicking through the channels on the TV that's mounted to the wall. It's not like he's a stranger to Ray, but he's not family like the rest of the guys, so it is kind of awkward to be sharing. Ray makes a mental reminder to tell Mikey off for putting him in this situation with no warning. Of course, he already knows Mikey didn't check first because he didn't want to give Ray the option to say no. Mikey's kind of an asshole sometimes.

"I've narrowed it down to Law and Order or the Food Network. You can call it," Patrick says. He's already changed into worn sleep pants and a sweatshirt so he must be planning to shower in the morning.

"Which Law and Order?" Ray asks, because if it's Criminal Intent he'd rather watch a cooking show.

"SVU," Patrick says, changing over to it in time to see Benson kick in a door.

"That'll do." Ray decides, and flops down on the bed.

"Right answer," Patrick replies with a small smile.

Ray's already seen this one, but so has Patrick so they end up talking over it. Patrick's got theories about the sexual tension between Benson and Stabler. Ray wonders aloud what it would be like to write the music they use as underscore. That's enough to make Patrick pull out his computer and boot up Garage Band. He mutes the TV and starts improvising chords during a chase scene that actually sound pretty good.

"Shit dude, you could totally do this." Ray laughs, because Patrick totally could.

Patrick giggles and adds a polka to the end of the scene. It's so out of place Ray bursts into laughter, reaching across the beds to high five Patrick. "Nice one."

"Everything needs a little polka," Patrick decrees, then passes his laptop to Ray, "Your turn."

Ray takes the computer carefully, and spends a few moments setting himself up. When he's got everything where he likes it, he tries his hand at what he hopes is a pretty decent facsimile of a 70's cop show. Kind of slow, kind of bluesy, kind of --

"Porn! Oh my god it's like 70's porn!" Patrick exclaims, cracking up with an infectious laugh that sets Ray off too.

"I swear that wasn't on purpose," Ray declares, lifting his hands off the keyboard and handing it back. Patrick takes it with a grin, then proceeds to lay down some serious Radiohead experimental tones that would have Thom Yorke creaming his jeans. Suddenly the Law and Order episode is playing like a foreign art house film.

They pass the laptop back and forth a few more times, Patrick surprising Ray with some Zep and Ray coming back with some Prince. They have a lot of shared musical history between them. It's a shame to stop, but pretty soon they're both yawning.

Ray kills the TV and pulls up the covers, trying to think of a tactful away to say "that didn't suck anywhere near as much as it could have."

He's still trying to find the words when Patrick says, "Night Ray."

"Night Patrick."

He's asleep almost instantly.

*

The next hotel night, Ray gets to his room to find Patrick already in it. He's curled over his laptop on the bed, the ends of his hair damp like he's just showered, underneath an enormous pair of headphones. There's reflections of waveforms in his glasses.

He doesn't notice Ray at first, not until Ray walks up and waves a hand in front of the screen. Patrick blinks up at him for a moment, then shoots him a smile as he pushes his headphones down around his neck.

"Shafted again?" Ray asks, by way of greeting.

Patrick just sighs, "Pete is really into Mikey right now, in case you hadn't noticed."

Ray snorts out a laugh, "Dude. Mikey's bunk is above mine on the bus." Ray has heard way more of Pete and Mikey's sex life than he ever fucking wants to.

"I commiserate man, I really do." Patrick emphasises the point with a fist over his heart.

Ray dumps his bag and peers at the screen, "What are you working on?"

Patrick sighs, "I don't know. Could be something, could be a huge waste of time."

Ray doesn't want to pry - he can be pretty secretive about his own music when he's not sure if something's working, but he's curious too. "Well if you want a second opinion, I'm here. Only if you want, though." Ray lifts his hands and starts to turn around, pretty sure Patrick will pass.

"Yeah? You don't mind?" Patrick asks, sounding really unsure.

Ray whips back around, "Yeah, no I don't mind. No problem."

Patrick's smile is huge and it does something weird to Ray's chest. He tries not to let is show and takes the headphones Patrick's offering him, tucking his unruly curls behind his ears as he puts them on.

The section Patrick plays him is really just a sketch, but it's got a nice hook and some body to it already. Ray listens until it hits silence.

"So?" Patrick asks, looking genuinely interested.

Ray tugs the headphones off. "Yeah, you got something there. You could like - I mean, take or leave this if you want - but if it were me, I'd repeat that first section, except end it on an A."

Patrick looks at Ray, a slight furrow between his brows, thoughtful like he's listening back in his head. He makes some adjustments, fingers flying fast over the keys, then unplugs the headphones and plays the section again, this time with Ray's changes.

When he lifts his fingers from the keys he's smiling. "I knew it was something!"

Ray returns the grin. Patrick's focus is already back on the computer, shifting tracks and adding notes. Ray tosses his duffel onto the other bed. It's probably a good night to catch up on comics, leave Patrick to do his thing.

"Wait, can I play you this too? I mean, do you mind?" Patrick asks, and Ray recognises the eagerness in his voice from many of his own writing sessions with the guys.

He plops down on the bed beside Patrick, "Play me whatever you like, man. My ears are yours."

Patrick does.

When the room is lit only by the glow of the TV and Ray's eyes are getting droopy, Patrick asks, "Do you think the Pete and Mikey thing is gonna last?"

Ray chews his lip, considering, "I don't know. I mean, I think it'll last the summer, but what happens after that?"

Patrick scrubs a hand through his hair, "Maybe there doesn't need to be an after that. Maybe they just need this now." He glances across the gap between the beds to meet Ray's eyes.

Ray nods, his hair scratching against the pillow, "Well, nothing wrong with that. As long as they're both on the same page."

Patrick nods, and there's a weird weight to the conversation, like they're not just talking about Pete and Mikey. Ray's sleepy enough that he doesn't bother trying to interpret it, though. "So, why is it always you?"

"Why is what?"

Ray smiles, "You keep drawing the short straw, getting stuck with me."

"Oh no, I volunteer," Patrick says, and something about the way he says it steals the breath from Ray's lungs. Patrick blinks a couple of times and continues quickly, "I mean, Joe and Andy are pretty damn codependent."

"Oh," Ray says, "right."

He maybe doesn't entirely believe him.

*

By the third hotel night, Ray's not even expecting Mikey to show up anymore. He's flipping channels when the keycard beeps and he calls out to Patrick as he comes in, "Hey I found an Iron Chef marathon!"

Patrick doesn't answer. He just dumps his bag and goes straight to the bathroom, pulling the door shut firmly.

Ray stares at the door, "Patrick?"

Patrick doesn't answer. Ray's a little concerned but he won't pry. Privacy is fucking hard on tour, if Patrick needs some time he can have it. Ray considers leaving, going to hang out in Bob and Brian's room, give Patrick some space, but he sort of wants to be there when Patrick comes out, in case he needs company. He'll reassess when Patrick reemerges.

It takes a while. More than one challenger earns the people's ovation and fame forever before Patrick comes out, his hair damp and his eyes red. "Sorry," he says, "I was rude."

"No harm, no foul." Ray says, muting the TV, "You okay?" He shifts over on the bed, making room for Patrick. It's a king room tonight, the hotel was out of twins. It happens a lot.

Patrick nods, then shakes his head, then nods again, trudging over to sit on the edge of the bed. Ray rolls up on his knees, shifting so he can see Patrick's face. "Anything you want to talk about?" he asks gently.

Patrick shakes his head. It's the first time Ray's seen him not wearing a hat, and he looks young and vulnerable.

"Anything I can do?" Ray asks carefully.

Patrick's mouth twitches down and yeah, his eyes are pretty red. "No." He says and sucks in a shaky breath.

That's fine. Ray won't push. He crawls back to sit against the headboard, reaching for the remote to unmute the TV.

"The secret ingredient is taro," he tells Patrick.

It takes Patrick a few minutes, but he eventually slides up to sit against the headboard next to Ray. They watch in silence for a few minutes until Patrick asks, "How does anyone know that many recipes about taro anyway?"

"Maybe it's a Japanese thing."

"Maybe."

Later, when the lights are out, the TV is off and Ray can sleep tugging at him; Patrick reaches across the sheets and taps his fingers on Ray's leg.

Ray blinks his eyes open to Patrick's soft smile. "Thanks."

"For what?"

"Just-" Patrick shrugs, "for being here." He looks sad again, and Ray doesn't like it.

"You sure there isn't anything I can do?" he asks again, wishing for something, anything.

"Not unless you feel like falling desperately in love with me," Patrick says, voice dripping sarcasm, but the words still make Ray's heart trip over. Patrick recovers quickly, "Never mind. I'm being dramatic."

Ray slips his arm out from under the sheets, finding Patrick's hand. He slides their fingers together, brushing his thumb over the back of Patrick's hand. "It wouldn't take much," he admits, feeling blood rush to his face as he utters the words.

Patrick goes still beside him. When Ray nerves himself to look up, Patrick is staring at him, eyes wide and lips parted.

It feels weird to have said it out loud, but Ray's not going to take back a truth. He's still got Patrick's hand in his, and Patrick's made no move to withdraw it. He keeps his thumb moving over Patrick's skin, trying to read his expression in the near-dark.

Patrick looks down at their joined hands and back up at Ray. His breaths are loud in the quiet room. Ray keeps waiting for words to follow the breaths and when they finally do Patrick says, "I don't. Um. What does that mean?" His hand is warm in Ray's.

"Whatever you want it to mean," Ray says, way too aware of how tight his chest feels. "Whatever you need."

"It can't last," Patrick stammers, "It'll just be-"

"Whatever you need." Ray says again, and he means it.

Patrick licks his lips, drawing Ray's gaze down to his mouth. Ray doesn't even realise he's moving closer until they're a breath apart, and he's pretty sure Patrick meets him halfway.

"Okay," Patrick whispers, a moment before Ray kisses him.

*

The next hotel night, there's a knock on Ray's door. He opens it to find Mikey, his duffel under his arm.

"I need to trade back. Pete's driving me crazy."

Ray leans across the doorway, blocking the entrance, "Sorry Mikes," he says, "Already taken."

He closes the door and crawls into bed with Patrick.