Patrick spits Diet Coke all over Butch's shiny black coffee table. "What-" he coughs, wiping off his mouth, "What did you just say?"
"Which part?" Butch shouts back from the kitchen, bottles clanking as he searches for beer. "The part where the Island Def Jam are a bunch of controlling assholes?"
"The part where they think you need to be more badass to appeal to a wider demographic then?" Butch interrupts, and Patrick can hear him smiling.
"No, the part with the sex tape." Patrick shouts back.
Butch slides back into view, holding two beers and grinning. "I knew you'd focus on that part."
"I need you to explain," Patrick says, waving away the beer Butch offers him.
Butch presses it into his hand, "You'll want it," he says, settling on the couch and fixing Patrick with one of his Serious Looks.
"Fuck me, you're not joking. They really think this is a good idea."
"Dude, they have no idea how to market you now. They had you pinned down as some kind of adult contemporary jazz bullshit. Truant Wave was sharing a shelf with Michael fucking Buble, and now you're spinning tracks with Lupe Fiasco on Soul Punk and they're losing their shit."
"They're concerned I'm not badass enough for Lupe? Do they have any idea how ridiculous that is?" Patrick cracks open the beer and takes a long swallow. "I still don't get where a sex tape fits in here."
"You were the perfect safe little gentlemen they were selling to their over 40 divorcees and now they're like, 'shit, he's hip-hop,' so they need to like, rebrand you. Dirty you up a bit."
"But a sex tape?" Patrick is aware that he's on repeat, but he's not going to stop asking until he's got an answer.
Butch shrugs, "Sex scandals sell. There's no such thing as bad publicity. Pam and Tommy's tape pretty much re-launched Tommy's career and don't get me started on Paris and the fucking Kardashian girl."
"Those are all straight couples. Island knows I'm gay, I've never made a secret of that."
"So they get the first gay sex tape scandal. It's all win," Butch argues, and fuck if he isn't still grinning around the words.
"But me in a sex tape? Butch, I'm not even dating anyone right now." Patrick's head is spinning.
"They'd find you someone appropriately badass to bang, someone willing to sign a non-disclosure."
"The record label will find me a prostitute?"
"Probably more likely to be a porn star. Be a good gig for someone looking to start their career with a bang. Divine Brown had a pretty good run after the whole Hugh Grant scandal." Butch grins, and really, he's getting way too much joy out of this. Worst manager ever.
"Stop looking so happy about this," Patrick says, pointing a steady finger at Butch's smiling face. "This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard."
"Dude, you're the preacher, I'm the choir. I told them I'd talk to you about it and I have. Duty done." Butch settles back on the couch, looking way too chilled to be having this conversation.
"Wait, so that's it, I don't have to do it?"
"You never had to do it, dude. The label are just doing what they do, you know-"
Butch shrugs, "Trying to sell more records."
Patrick takes another swallow of his beer. It's mostly froth after riding his bouncing knee. He has a horrid thought. "Wait, would something like that actually sell more records?"
Butch gives him a a disbelieving look. "Um, yeah dude. Hate to break it to you, but it totally would. Scandal equals exposure. Exposure equals sales. And the record is fucking good, so the more people hear it, the more will buy it."
Patrick stops to think about that for a moment. Maybe… maybe it would be worth it. If it got his music out to more people.
But no. It would mean his ass would be on the internet. There's no way he's doing that.
When he looks back at Butch, he's watching Patrick thoughtfully. "That nearly changed your mind, didn't it?"
Patrick snorts. "Yeah, no way I'm putting my ass on the internet. What else you got?"
"Don't suppose you'd be interested in an armed robbery or a drive-by shooting?" Butch manages to keep his face calm and serious for about ten seconds before he gives himself away with a grin.
Patrick just flips him off.
Soul Punk debuts at number 982 on the Billboard chart. Patrick had been hoping for something in the top 500, at the very least.
He calls Butch, "Should I be panicking yet?"
"Not yet," Butch says, though he doesn't sound that confident. "There's still a whole lot of publicity rounds to do."
"Not that many," Patrick looks at the schedule of interviews for the coming week. It's pretty sparse, and Patrick knows that at least half of them Butch arranged himself with no help from Island. Usually he'd be pleased to be doing less interviews, but in light of the numbers it feels ominous. He runs a hand through his hair. "They're punishing me aren't they? This is revenge for not giving them some kind of scandal."
"Probably." Butch doesn't even bother trying to spin it. This is why Patrick likes working with him. "But we can still bounce back. The critics so far are saying only good things, it's just not getting reflected in the sales."
Patrick looks at the schedule again - it's a lot of public radio stations with a handful of syndications. There aren't any television appearances at all. "I'm screwed. Truant Wave got more publicity than this and it was an EP. We're supposed to announce the tour in less than a week. With these numbers, no one's gonna even care."
"Patrick, dude, I need you to breathe now. Calm down."
Patrick tries to calm himself, but it's difficult to listen to Butch over the pounding of his own blood in his ears. His eyes unfocus and all he can think of is all the hours spent on this album, every instrument he's played, every note he's sung, every moment he spent producing and mixing… to have it all rest in the hands of some bureaucratic assholes who are willing to give it all away because they don't know which sub-genre to fit him into. It's bullshit of the highest order and he's so mad he can't see straight. He can't let them do this.
"Trick? Did I lose you?" Butch asks, sounding concerned.
"Music was made to listen to," Patrick mutters, more to himself than to Butch. "If no one hears it then it doesn't actually exist."
"Do you need me to come over?" Butch sounds actually worried now.
"There's still time, isn't there?" Patrick asks, not even really believing that he's considering this. "We've still got time to give them a scandal, right?"
Butch makes a choked noise down the phone. "Are you serious?"
"Yes," It's not until Patrick says the word out loud that he realises that he is, in fact, serious. "Yeah let's do this thing. Tell them we're on."
"Are you sure?"
"If I have to put my ass on the internet to get people to listen to this album then god damn it, I will." It's not even the most humiliating thing he's done for his art, if he's honest. Now that he's decided to do it, he feels pumped, adrenaline chasing through his veins as he bounces on his toes. "So what do we have to do?"
"Well okay," Butch says, switching gears without delay, and this is why he's the best in the business. "I've still got audition clips of the initial guys they sent through, want me to forward them over?"
Patrick tries to imagine picking out a sex partner from a bunch of videos and kind of wants to throw up. "Um, no, it's cool. You just pick one for me okay? I trust you."
"Are you sure?"
Patrick's maybe feeling a little dizzy now. It's probably low blood sugar. "Um yeah, sure, you know what I like." He swallows a hysterical giggle.
"Sure, okay Patrick I'll do that, but then I'm going to set up a face-to-face between you and the guy just to make sure you're comfortable. Is that okay?"
"Huh?" Patrick grabs the arm of the sofa and drops down into it heavily. "Yeah, um, that's fine. You do that."
"I'm going to call you tomorrow and get you to confirm you're actually okay with this, and you're not just having a hysterical moment. I'm not going to say anything to Island in the meantime, so you haven't committed to anything yet - cool?"
"Cool." Patrick says, trying to ignore how loud his heart is beating. "I'm gonna go now, I think Judge Judy is on."
"You do that, Trick. Call me if you need me - I mean that."
"Thanks dude." Patrick stares at the screen of his phone for a solid minute after he hangs up, wondering what, exactly, he's just done.
Patrick's always been pretty shy. He's worked damn hard at learning how to talk to people, how to give interviews, and now he can speak well and sometimes he can even be funny - but it doesn't come easy. It's work. Not like music, which is as natural as breathing, something that would leave a gaping hole if it were taken away.
Patrick's shyness extends to his body. He doesn't go around shirtless, or even sleeveless. He sleeps in pajamas. He despises change rooms and locker rooms. He's more comfortable in his body now that he's lost weight, but he's still happier clothed than naked. He's not even sure who the last person to see him naked was. Maybe his doctor at his last check up, which would have been months ago.
So it's a bit of a mindfuck to consider that the guy who's about to walk through the his front door will very likely be next person who gets to see Patrick in his birthday suit.
The knock comes at exactly 3pm. Patrick pushes up off his couch to open the door. He takes a steadying breath before he eases it open and looks out. And up. Way up.
The dude in Patrick's entryway is tall, black, and covered in tattoos and piercings. He's wearing baggy jeans and a hoodie with a baseball cap turned to the side. He flashes a brilliant smile at Patrick and offers his hand as he says, "Hey, I'm Travie."
Patrick belatedly remembers to smile and takes the guy's hand, shaking it. "Patrick," he says, "Stump," he adds, but he's not sure exactly why. "You're pretty tall," he says before he can stop himself.
"You're pretty short," Travie replies with a grin, startling a laugh out of Patrick and doing a lot to break the tension.
Patrick remembers his manners enough to invite Travie in and offer him a drink. He opts for water and Patrick buys himself a few moments of sanity time in the kitchen pouring water into glasses. Travie is not at all what he expected. He can totally see why Island would pick him - he looks exactly like their hip-hop ideal, all tattooed and badass. In fact, if Patrick looked a little more like Travie it would probably make his life a whole lot easier. Patrick presses down that thought and goes back out to hand Travie a glass.
"So, this is kind of a weird prospect…" Patrick opens, "You've ah, you've been briefed on the whole situation, I take it?"
"Yeah, your manager gave me the rundown," Travie says with a nod. "It'd be one video that would get leaked," Patrick nods, even as his stomach drops. Travie continues, "Plus some photo ops to back it up spread over a couple of weeks, then you go on tour and we let it all quiet down and get on with our lives."
"Do you have ah - much background with videos of that… nature?" Patrick tries to reach for his interview persona and fails miserably.
"You mean porn? Oh yeah." Travie grins and nods, seeming to to enjoy Patrick's discomfort. "I've been doing cam stuff for years. I'm a musician, and it's way easier and pays better than other part time shit. Nothing professional though, like, nothing you'd find on DVD, just cam stuff for this members-only website."
Patrick nods and relaxes. The only thing worse than having a leaked sex video would be the public finding out you had to pay a porn star to be in your leaked sex video.
"You're a musician?" Patrick asks. Trust Butch to pick a musician. Well, at least he made an effort at trying to find someone Patrick might click with. "What kind of music do you do?"
Travie smirks at the question and looks down pointedly at his baggy jeans, hoodie and heavy jewellery.
Patrick shrugs. "Hey, for all I know you sing opera or you're a classical cellist - don't judge a book, man."
Travie laughs, deep and hearty. "It's cool man, you can judge this book. I do hip-hop, singing and some rapping. Trying to get a crew together for a more permanent thing, but it's still in amoeba stages. Step by step."
"What kind of thing, like with other singers, or a band?"
Travie gives Patrick a measuring look. "You really want to talk about this?"
"What? I asked, didn't I?" Patrick can't help it if he's curious. Travie seems to take him at his word and they end up talking music for nearly an hour. Patrick doesn't even realise how much time has got away until his phone beeps with a message from Butch.
i'm dying of suspense here
Patrick frowns at his phone. Decision time.
There's no denying Travie is damn good looking, and a nice dude to boot but somehow Patrick still isn't really feeling a spark. He tells himself that doesn't matter - that isn't what this whole exercise is about, after all - Travie fits the bill as far as the label is concerned, and Patrick actually likes him. There are worse ways to get his album heard.
Patrick bashes out a quick, looks ok, will call soon and sends it off.
"Your manager?" Travie asks, glancing at his watch.
"Yeah," Patrick says. "Just checking in." He glances up at Travie, who sticks out a hand for Patrick to shake.
"Real nice meeting you Patrick. Good luck with this thing, hope it works out for you." He gets up and starts for the door, leaving Patrick gaping in his wake.
"Wait, you're just going? You don't want the job?" Patrick is so confused.
Travie cocks his head to the side, "It's cool, you don't have to let me down easy. I can see you're not feeling it. I got thick skin. I'll let you go on to the next guy."
Patrick feels cast adrift. He didn't expect to "feel it". He's pretty sure Travie is the best of what the label has to offer and he's actually a nice person, which is pretty much all Patrick had bothered to hope for. "Um, what if there isn't a next guy?"
"You run out of guys already? Dude, this is a ripe gig, it can't be that hard." Travie takes in Patrick's anguished expression and pauses for a moment. Patrick can practically see the wheels turning. "Okay, hang on. I know this guy, we used to work the cam at Dirty Angels together. He's a writer, slam poetry and stuff. He could use the money right about now. I bet he'd be your type too."
Travie grabs his phone and starts scrolling through contacts. "You got a pen?"
"Tell me good news, man," Butch greets Patrick when he answers the phone.
Patrick sighs. "Yeah, it's a no. From him actually, not from me."
"From him? What the? Well that's just great. You know, we were short on time before, now we're getting close to screwed." Patrick can hear Butch shuffling around before he continues, "Alright, I'm sending you the audition clips from the label. If you pick one like, right now, I can probably still get you a face-to-face tomorrow and we can use the booking we have for the equipment without getting screwed on charges."
"Patrick, I asked you like a million times if you were sure about this, I'd rather you just tell me if you're not instead of dicking me around."
"No, I'm sure, I swear it was Travie's call, though I get what he means. He gave me the name of another guy - can you get the label to run checks on him? I've got a number and an email address, I'll send them to you."
Butch sighs. "You sure you don't want to just look at these other guys? They're already pre-checked."
"I'll have a look, just, could you see about this guy too?"
Butch sighs again, but he doesn't argue. "Only because you're my favourite."
"Thanks man. I promise if you can't get him I'll use one of the label's picks, I just - Travie seemed pretty confident about this one."
"Yeah well, I was pretty confident about Travie and look how that turned out," Butch mutters, but there's no real sting in it. "Call me later, okay? When you've looked at these."
"Got it." Patrick hangs up and opens his laptop.
Looking at the clips Butch forwarded from the label is possibly one of the least erotic things Patrick has ever done. The guys are all good looking in that pumped-up porn star kind of way and they barely speak, most of them just jacking off for the camera, their faces fixed in a serious expression. Patrick tries to imagine himself in frame with one of these guys and all he can think is how small and out of shape he'd look by comparison - all pale skin and no muscle to speak of. His face burns with pre-emptive embarrassment.
Fuck, is he really going to do this?
After looking at 14 clips and being unable to tell most of them apart from each other, he scribbles down the name of the least-imposing guy as his best option. To be honest, he'd still probably prefer Travie. Maybe they could talk him around.
He digs into his back pocket to find the slip of paper Travie gave him. As well as an email address and phone number, Travie also wrote down a login for the Dirty Angels website, with his friend's pseudonym. Patrick opens up his browser and taps in the details. He sighs when he's greeted with yet more naked gyrating images. Maybe this is just all a waste of time and Patrick just doesn't find porn all that interesting.
He types "Peterpan" into the search box in the top corner of the site and clicks the first clip it returns. At first he thinks there's a problem with the video because it's just an empty screen, a bed visible in the background, but then an out-of-focus pair of eyes peer in from the side of the screen and quickly vanish. A moment later a, surprisingly, clothed dude ambles into frame. Patrick can't really tell his height, but he doesn't look tall, he's got shiny brown hair that's seen a flat iron and he's wearing a lot of eyeliner. He's sort of pretty, in a kind of emo way, even if his mouth looks too big for his face.
"So, tattoos," he says in way of greeting, then promptly turns around to face away from camera and pulls off his t-shirt. He's covered in ink. Patrick reaches for the maximise button on the video, just so he can see better.
Pete points at a design on his lower back, "So this was my first one. I was totally underage when I got it and it hurt like a bitch." He turns back around, skimming a hand up his arm and saying something about his full sleeve. Patrick's eyes dance over all the revealed flesh. Pete's got tattoos scattered all over his arms, a circle of thorns around his neck, and something bat-shaped low on his stomach, the bottom of the design obscured by the waistband of his underwear. His torso is bare, and while Pete's not pumped-up and muscular like other guys Patrick's been looking at, he's fit, his skin a warm tone, his nipples dark.
Patrick doesn't realise he's leaning in closer until he feels the press of the edge of the desk against his forearms.
Pete grins at Patrick from the screen, stepping closer to the camera so the focus slips in and out a few times. "This one," he says, raising a hand in front of his mouth and curling his fingers, "this here's my favourite." He takes another step closer and now Patrick can see how long his eyelashes are, the dark traces where his eyeliner is smudged. Pete lifts his hand with his crooked fingers toward the camera, "See that?" Patrick waits for the camera to pull into focus and then he can see the letters etched on the inside of Pete's fingers as he narrates, "Second star to the left. Directions to Neverland. I don't think I'll ever be cleverer than that."
He shifts back, then grins and steps forward again, filling the frame from forehead to chest, the camera cutting off just underneath the circle of thorns he has tattooed on his neck. Patrick's not sure what's going on, until he hears the rasp of a zip and the rustle of clothing. Pete's eyelids flutter and he licks his lips. Patrick turns up the volume and under the hum he can just hear the slide of skin on skin.
"Oh, you're not," he mutters, unable to tear his eyes from the screen, heat flushing down his face and neck.
Pete's eyes slide closed, his head tilting to the side and Patrick can just see the steady movement of his arm on the edge of frame. He totally is. Patrick shifts in his chair, his jeans suddenly way too tight.
Pete straightens his head up and looks into the camera, a hint of a smirk about his lips. "Oh sorry, did you want to see?"
Patrick's face burns, but he still can't turn his gaze. Especially when Pete takes another step back, and then another. He hovers right at the point where the camera cuts off at his belly, the top of his hand just popping in and out of view. Patrick can't help the way he cranes his neck like he can peer into the computer and see what's just out of frame.
Pete grins, his arm slowing as he takes that final step. "Yeah, that's what you wanted, isn't it?" He's not jerking off anymore, just holding onto the top of his dick, pulling it up so Patrick can see the length of it but not the head. He runs a finger up from the base and lets out a moan that sounds a little forced, but still somehow sets Patrick's blood on fire.
Patrick watches, his mouth falling slack as Pete shifts his hand to cup his balls before giving his cock a stroke. He doesn't have a monster cock like a lot of the other guys Patrick's been watching clips of, but it's a decent size. Pete starts to jerk himself off slowly, stopping occasionally to rub his palm over the head of his dick. His body rolls with the motion of his arm, almost like he's dancing. It should look awkward but the heat in Patrick's pants says otherwise and he quickly flicks open the top button of his jeans because he might lose feeling in his legs if he doesn't. He places his hand carefully back on his thigh afterwards.
"You like that, don't you?" Pete says, and it's dirty talk straight out of a bad porno, but it still makes Patrick's fingers clench on his thighs. Pete's eyes look huge with all the eyeliner, and he drops his head back, arching into his own touch. "C'mon, do this with me," Pete urges, lifting his free arm and tucking his hand behind his head, stretching out his torso, all gleaming skin. "Let's get off together."
Patrick seals his mouth shut and holds very still, even as Pete continues to writhe on the screen, cooing, "Yeah, that's good, c'mon."
"This shouldn't be working," Patrick whispers to himself, because he's just watched umpteen porno clips that were far more professional than this one without even a twinge of interest - how is this Green Day reject getting him so hard? Because fuck, he's so hard.
"Yeah, so good," Pete drawls, groping over his chest with one hand as he strokes his dick with the other. He turns side-on to the camera, palms his ass then strokes a couple of fingers between his cheeks and groans, "Fuck yeah," shooting a filthy smirk at the camera.
Patrick forgets to breathe for a moment, his entire focus on the cluster of pixels on the screen that make up Pete's ass. He feels a little lightheaded, but he knows exactly what he's doing when he says "Fuck it," and gets the zipper down on his jeans to shove a hand inside them. Just the touch of his own hand is bliss - he's so fucking hard, his cock damp and leaking, lending slide to his strokes as he starts jerking off straight away. His breath already coming in pants, he focuses on the screen, watching Pete writhe and stroke himself off, pushing between his two hands.
Pete keeps up a steady stream of encouragement as he works himself, mostly just "yeah that's good" or "come on, want you to come" and Patrick has no idea why it's affecting him so much, but it is. He slides forward to perch on the edge of his chair, making room so he can thrust up into his hand. He still can't take his eyes off Pete, watching his movements get messier, his commentary getting more repetitive and breathy as he slowly comes undone.
When he does, it's magic. He turns to face the camera again, a sheen of sweat over his skin as he bucks into his hand. He's lost all words except, "Gonna come, gonna, gonna come," which he repeats, getting breathier and more desperate as his body bucks and his hand blurs. Pete wraps his free arm around his chest, his body bending forwards as he thrusts into his hand growling, "oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck" and comes with a grimace, spurting all over his hand and belly.
Patrick follows him moments later, his own release wordless but for a choked noise as he jerks himself through it, coming all over his jeans. His pulse pounds in his head as he comes down from it, slowly refocusing his eyes on the screen where Pete's saying something with a URL in it and blowing a kiss to the screen, come shiny on his stomach as he walks away.
Patrick sits in the chair, sweat-hot and dizzy from orgasm, knowing he's just gone somewhere he can't come back from.
"So, I have no idea why you chose me, but cool. I'm Pete." Pete sticks out a hand at Patrick and it takes a moment before he can stop staring long enough to take it and shake.
"Um, thanks for doing this. Travie recommended you."
"You met Travie and you still went with me? Dude, I'm kind of flattered and confused at the same time." Pete grins and it's weird to see it in real life after memorising it on video.
There are 35 clips under the name Peterpan on the Dirty Angels website and Patrick has watched them all. Some more than once. Some more than twice. The tattoo vid is a particular favourite. Patrick is starting to worry about chafing his dick; he hasn't jerked off this much since he was a teenager. He tries not to think about that as his palm meets Pete's, tries not to remember all the things he watched Pete's hands do on his computer screen. He already feels like a creeper.
"Sorry about the rush," Patrick says. Pete had been a little tricky to get in touch with and as a result the whole schedule's gotten a little… condensed. Butch wanted to switch to a label-approved guy - who was of course easy to get in touch with and totally available - but Patrick held out, though he had to give up the idea of a separate face-to-face meeting before they shoot. He's got fifteen minutes with Pete right now before they go into the next room and turn on the camera. Patrick feels a little sick.
"Don't worry about it man, I'm used to this. Have to show up ready to rumble, right?" Pete smiles at Patrick again and it's more than a little distracting. Pete's a little more low key in person than he seems on screen, but only a little. He brushes his hands down the front of his jeans, and it occurs to Patrick that maybe he's not the only one a little nervous here. "So um, how do you want to do this?" Pete asks, a furrow between his brow. "I mean, usually it's just me and a camera, do you want to like - rehearse, or plan, or what?"
"Rehearse?" Patrick parrots. Maybe all the jerking off has actually affected his intelligence.
"Well, we're supposed to be a couple, right?" Pete steps a little closer, the back of his hand brushing against Patrick's. "Do you want to like, get a little familiar before we press the red button?"
"Oh," Patrick says, feeling his whole face flood red. He's a little stupid with how much he likes the sound of that. "I guess, um, I guess that would make sense?"
Pete's fingers wrap around Patrick's hand and tug gently. "C'mon,"
He leads Patrick over to the sofa in the lounge area of the hotel suite. Pete sits down and waits for Patrick to join him. The moment Patrick sits down, Pete's gaze falls to his mouth and Patrick finds himself starting to lean in without even thinking. Pete does too, sending Patrick's heartbeat pounding in anticipation. Except, at the very last moment Pete pulls back and says, "Um, so what do you want me to call you? You got a nickname or I could just call you babe? How long have we been dating?"
"About a month." Patrick's already memorised the details. "We're still in the honeymoon phase, I guess."
Pete snickers. "Making bad decisions 'cause we're horny as fuck,"
"Something like that," Patrick says. He can't stop staring at Pete's mouth. There are a million things he should be thinking about right now, but the only thought in his head is how much he wants to kiss Pete. This is not looking good. "Do you mind if we…" Patrick doesn't manage to say the word 'kiss', but he barrels on regardless: "I um, I don't think the first time I kiss you should be on camera. Might look… I don't know, awkward?"
"Oh yeah, sure. Sorry, I should've thought of that first!" Pete grins, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes. He shifts a little closer to Patrick on the sofa, but doesn't make any other move toward him. Patrick can't hear anything over his own breathing, but he swallows, licks his lips, and leans in.
The enormity of the whole thing hits him about a split second before Pete's lips meet his and he leans back again, suddenly struggling for breath.
"You okay?" Pete looks wary.
"Yeah, um, just. Are you really cool with this? Like, with me?" There's a voice in Patrick's head screaming at him to shut up - he doesn't need the answer to this question to make this happen.
"I took the job, right? Sure. I mean, this is what I do, it's fine - like, good even." Pete looks confused.
"Yeah but you took the job without even having met me. Like, are you still okay to do this?" Patrick's face is so warm it's a wonder there's any blood left in his body to keep his heart beating so fast.
"Wait, you mean…" Pete's eyes slips down Patrick's body and back up again. Patrick's mind flashes through a torturous reel of all the other fit, taut porn stars he's been subjected to lately and how far he comes from matching up with them. Pete's eyes linger a moment on Patrick's mouth before they make their way back to meet Patrick's. "Dude, Travie gave you my number for a reason. You are totally, one hundred per cent, my type." He leans in a little closer, until Patrick can smell mint on his breath, his hand falling lightly to rest on Patrick's thigh, sending shivers up his body.
"Yeah?" Patrick asks, the question coming out in a whisper.
"Fuck yeah," Pete answers, then leans in the extra inch to take Patrick's mouth in a kiss that's light and surprisingly gentle. It startles a tiny noise from Patrick and he opens his mouth, pressing closer, deepening the kiss until Pete's tongue finds his. Pete pushes it further, wrapping an arm around Patrick until their chests press, nipping at his lips until Patrick moans again. It's easy to fall into, to forget why they're doing this and just do it. Pete snakes a hand under Patrick's shirt, his thumb caressing Patrick's hip, and fuck, his hands are warm.
"Well this looks promising." Patrick is startled out of the impromptu makeout session by Butch's voice. He glares at his manager as he sits up, brushing his rumpled shirt down. Butch just grins at him from the doorway, looking way too cool and collected. "We're ready for you," he tells them, before blessedly leaving them alone.
"Showtime," Pete says with a grin that Patrick can't manage to match. Pete actually notices and gently grabs Patrick's wrist in a gentle hold as he asks, "You sure you're okay? I mean, you don't actually have to do this, you know."
"Why does everyone keep telling me that?" Patrick asks, exasperation leaking into his voice.
Pete shrugs. "You're not exactly the picture of enthusiasm, dude."
"Sorry, I just. I've never done this before." Patrick shoves a hand through his hair and then gets annoyed at himself for messing it up. "I've never even taken a naked My Space picture, let alone fucked on camera."
"Well, it's a good thing you're with a professional then, huh?" Pete grins at Patrick and slides his fingers down to give Patrick's a squeeze. He glances at the door to the bedroom and back at Patrick and asks, "We cool?"
Patrick follows Pete's look, takes a breath, and makes himself meet his eyes and say, "Yeah, we're cool." He starts to walk toward the bedroom and then remembers there's one thing he forgot to ask. He tugs on Pete's hand until he comes to a stop. "I just have one question."
Pete nods. "Shoot."
"Why are you doing this? Is it just the money, or…?"
Pete turns an assessing gaze on Patrick. "Why are you doing it?"
That's one Patrick already knows the answer to and he instantly answers, "To sell more records."
"But not just that, right? This is about a scandal. You want to be a little infamous? Well, so do I." He leans in and presses a quick kiss to Patrick's lips and it's scary how easy Patrick could get used to this becoming a regular occurrence. "Want to spread a little infamy?"
"Okay," Patrick says, but he doesn't sound all that sure. Pete grabs his hand and drags him into the bedroom.
"So you want to angle the camera this way for the handheld part, and then I've marked a spot to put it when you put it on the table, here." Shane, the camera dude Butch hired to consult on the technical side of the shoot, doesn't seem at all bothered by the subject matter of their shoot. He's apparently managed to adjust the lights in the hotel room to make them more flattering and now he's showing Patrick how to handle the camera. "So, show me position one," Shane says and Patrick and Pete exchange a look before Patrick sits on the sofa and Pete stands in front of him on a spot marked with a tiny piece of white tape. Patrick lifts the camera, a small straight from Best Buy model. Shane peers over his shoulder at the screen and adjusts the way Patrick's holding it so there's less empty space above Pete's head in the frame, muttering, "More like that. Good."
"Okay, position two," Shane instructs. Patrick turns to put the camera down on the table behind him, lining it up with the white tape marks on the table top. Shane walks around behind the couch to check the display and says, "Good, now position three?"
Position three is one that Patrick isn't sure if he dreads or desires. Patrick stays where he is while Pete crawls into his lap, dipping his head in pantomime of a kiss. Shane hums from behind the camera and calls on Butch for comment, muttering something about how the top of Pete's head is out of frame. In the mean time, Patrick has a lapful of Pete and it's a little distracting.
"Hey," Pete whispers, too soft for anyone else to hear.
"Hey," Patrick whispers back, a little charmed despite himself. Pete shifts a little on Patrick's lap, rolling his hips in a way that is really fucking distracting.
"You like that?" Pete asks, with a smirk that says he already knows the answer.
"S'alright," Patrick says, trying to keep his voice level but knowing that his skin already betrays him.
Pete smirks, leaning a little lower, until their lips are a breath apart, but whatever he's about to say is lost when Shane barks, "Position four!"
Pete grins at Patrick and slides down to the floor. He kneels and lays his head in Patrick's lap. Patrick has to concentrate very hard to keep his breathing steady, trying not to think about what will really happen when they hit record. How Pete will suck him off and how the camera will capture it all, perfectly lit, perfectly framed. He closes his eyes and tries to go to a zen place, but Pete's hands are heavy on his thighs and he can feel his warm breath hitting the strip of bare skin between the waistband of Patrick's jeans and the hem of his shirt.
"And now, back to position three," Shane says. Pete tilts his head up toward Patrick and smirks, his cheek laying against Patrick's crotch where he's already obviously hard. Pete crawls up Pete's body to settle back in his lap, heavy and warm against Patrick's straining dick. "Nice to have some appreciation," Pete murmurs with a grin. Patrick tries to smile back but he's not sure if he pulls it off.
"Patrick, can you just show me your hand position?" Cheeks burning, Patrick reaches down, cupping Pete through his too-tight jeans, following through with the final position in the choreography. Pete's warm under his hand, and hard. Patrick bites his lip, thinking about how the next time they do this the camera will be rolling. The next time they do this, Pete won't be wearing pants, Patrick will be touching him for real, skin to skin. Fuck.
"Other hand position?" Shane asks, and Patrick reaches up with his free hand, slipping it up into Pete's hair behind his ear. His eyes lock with Pete's and the cheeky expression falls from Pete's face and for a moment, Pete looks as unsure as Patrick feels. It's strangely comforting, to not be the only one out of his depth. Pete recovers quickly, finding another seductive smile for Patrick, but Patrick holds that moment close.
They run through the positions a few more times. Shane adjusts some lights and shifts their marks until he's happy. Patrick knows Butch would prefer him to stay for the shoot and ensure all the technical things are taken care of, but Patrick can't stomach the idea of another person to be in the room while he does this. He's still not entirely sure he's going to be able to follow through.
After final checks, and final-final checks, Shane gives his blessing to the various setups, shakes everyone's hands and wishes them luck. He sets the camera to record, assuring them there's hours of recording time. Butch presses an encouraging hand to Patrick's shoulder and leaves behind Shane, shutting them into the room. Patrick, achingly aware of the camera that's already recording, asks Pete, "You ready?"
"Whenever you are, man," Pete replies, with a grin that's all confidence.
"Okay then," Patrick says, and picks up the camera. It's surprisingly light in his hand. He clears his throat, trying to get into character, telling himself that he's dating Pete, that they've fucked before, that Pete's hot for him and they do this all the time. He hefts the camera and points it at Pete, finding Position One.
"Hey babe," he says to Pete, watching through the camera as Pete tenses up just for a moment, then relaxes completely. He turns his eyes to Patrick, then to the camera. "Hey," Patrick says, his voice deeper than it was a moment ago.
"You filming me?" Pete asks, lifting the corner of his shirt up to flash the skin of his stomach. "Like what you see?"
"So far," Patrick says, feeling himself settle into character. "Show me a little more?"
"Whatever you want babe," Pete drawls, and pulls his shirt off, just like that. Patrick has trouble holding the camera steady, his eyes bouncing between the glow of the display and Pete's skin behind it, warm and beautiful and real in Shane's carefully set lighting. They should've done a real run through, one where they actually got undressed. It's unfair to do it this way, for Patrick to have to remember what to do and where to point the camera, when all he can think about is Pete's body, on show for him, real and in the flesh.
"Yeah, just like that," Patrick whispers, more to himself than for the camera. "Turn around for me."
Pete does a slow spin, his movements languid, like he can feel Patrick's eyes clinging to every curve, every line. The camera does too. When Pete's facing Patrick again, it takes a moment before Patrick remembers the next part, before he can hear Shane in his head say "Position Two" and he tells Pete, "Come here."
Pete's mouth stretches into a slow, dirty smile and Patrick swallows down whatever is stuck in his throat. He fumbles the camera to its spot on the table, keeping his expression neutral as he does, knowing that this is the best angle of his face the video will show, the one they'll probably capture frames from for newspaper headlines. Fuck, he can't think about that now. He gets the camera situated on its white tape marks, exactly as Shane instructed, then turns back to Pete, who's already moved forward. The moment Patrick's turned, Pete crawls right into his lap, greeting him with a sly "Hi," before dipping his head to take Patrick's mouth with his own.
Patrick's brain disengages. His hands slide up to burrow into Pete's hair immediately, holding him to the kiss. Pete makes a soft noise into Patrick's mouth and grinds down onto him. He's already hard; so is Patrick. He lets one hand slide down Pete's back, slipping his fingers down the back of Pete's jeans, his fingertips just brushing the top of Pete's ass. Pete's skin is hot to touch, like he's running a fever, and his mouth is pure sin. He sucks Patrick's tongue, nips his lips, rocks his hips down against Patrick until he groans into Pete's mouth, hauling him closer, pressing their bodies together until he can feel Pete's heat through the thin fabric of Patrick's shirt.
For a few moments he's able to forget the camera that's capturing every moment of this, and just lose himself in Pete's kiss, in the push of their bodies moving together. Pete locks a hand in Patrick's hair and sucks on his lower lip, rolling his hips so Patrick can feel how hard he is through layers of denim and cloth. Fuck, it's hot. Especially when Pete drops a hand between their bodies, squeezing Patrick's dick as he groans, "Want to blow you, can I?" into Patrick's lips.
"Fuck, yes," Patrick sighs, not even caring how desperate he sounds.
Pete grins down at Patrick, his hair mussed and his eyes half closed, looking like sin itself. He slides down Patrick's body with maximum contact until his his knees are on the floor and his hands are slipping up Patrick's thighs. He makes short work of Patrick's belt, and Patrick has to clench his hands into fists so he doesn't try to stop Pete pulling his jeans and underwear down.
This is the moment of truth. He knows the camera position Shane has set is framed so his dick will be visible, though not the main focus of the image. Pete pulls Patrick's jeans down roughly, but drags his underwear down carefully, lifting the waistband so his dick doesn't get trapped. Patrick has to suck in a breath the moment the cool air meets his dick, has to remember to breathe. Before he has time to panic, Pete's lowered his head, hot breath hitting Patrick's cock, making it jerk towards Pete's lips.
"Fuck yeah," Pete whispers, the words tickling down Patrick's shaft. Pete ducks his head to lick up the base, then takes the head in his mouth, sucking and licking around it.
Patrick moans, his hips hitching up, unable to help himself. It's been so long since he's had this, and fuck if Pete isn't amazing at sucking dick. He reaches a hand down to cup Pete's cheek, feeling the shift of his jaw under his palm, touching his thumb to where Pete's lips stretch around his cock. Pete pulls off, turning his head to press a kiss to Patrick's thumb, before turning back to swallow him down again. The move startles another grunt out of Patrick, his hips pushing up off the couch before he's able to control himself.
Pete doesn't look bothered. He reaches a hand between Patrick's legs to cup his balls as he licks and sucks, his middle finger teasing deeper, touching ever so lightly between Patrick's cheeks. Patrick moans again, feeling his face flood with colour as his fingers tighten on Pete's jaw. It's like Pete knows all his buttons already and is intent on pressing each one as slowly and deliberately as possible. Patrick slips his hand up into Pete's hair and hangs on.
Then Pete goes down, swallowing around Patrick's cock, and if Patrick thought he was being loud before that was nothing.
He gives up any semblance of control and writhes under Pete's hands and mouth. Pete hums around his dick and starts to move his head up and down, devastatingly slowly. Patrick mewls, reaching blindly down to rest his free hand at the back of Pete's head, trying to ride it out. He's so fucking hard, so hot, and Pete's doing everything right. He takes a deep breath and tries to hold on as long as he can, not wanting this to end too embarrassingly soon.
"Ah fuck, Pete, fuck," Patrick gasps, trying to at least put some words behind the noises he can't help making. Pete's opens his eyes and locks them with Patrick's. His eyes are intense and he's still sucking - the sight robs Patrick of breath. He chokes out a noise, his fingers tightening in Pete's hair. Fuck, he's not going to last much longer, Pete's mouth, Pete's eyes, he can't.
"Wait, wait," he whispers desperately, pressing fingers under Pete's chin until he pulls off. A flash of confusion plays across Pete's face - Patrick's ad libbing here, this was never part of the plan, but Patrick has to do something, anything. He leans down and takes Pete's mouth in a desperate kiss, tasting his own skin, his own desire from Pete's lips. Before Pete can even take a breath, Patrick pulls him to his feet, then flips them over so Pete takes Patrick's spot on the couch. Patrick kisses Pete hard as he slides a hand down the warm skin of Pete's torso, mentally recalculating their positions. He and Pete are about the same height, they should both still be in frame. Somehow the thought doesn't do much to calm him.
Pete rolls with the change in choreography easily, putting up no resistance when Patrick's hand finds his belt and unbuckles it. Patrick breaks the kiss to whisper, "Can I blow you?" against Pete's mouth, trying not to tense up as he waits for the answer.
Pete immediately breathes, "Fuck, yes," and wriggles his jeans and underwear down. Patrick can't help the grin his face breaks into at Pete's quick response, kissing his smile into Pete's lips messily.
Patrick slides down Pete's body, mimicking Pete's own moves from earlier. He struggles Pete's jeans and underwear all the way off, and then Pete's naked under his hands. It's glorious. Patrick kneels between Pete's knees and trails his hands down his torso, over his stomach, down his legs, wanting to touch every inch of skin. Pete makes an urgent noise and moans, "Fuck, c'mon, please," and Patrick has to reach down and squeeze his own dick at how good it sounds.
He leans low, breathing out warm breath over Pete's dick and Pete squirms, his hips pressing up off the couch, his cock jerking. "Please, please, c'mon, touch me, Trick."
Patrick freezes for a heartbeat at the unfamiliar nickname, but one look at Pete writhing on the couch has him moving again. He locks a hand around the base of Pete's dick in a firm grip, then brings his head down to taste Pete's cock. He takes it slow, licking around the head before opening his mouth to take in the tip, slowly working his way down until his lips touch his fingers.
Pete groans and Patrick can feel him tensing up, like he's holding himself back from jerking his hips up off the couch. Patrick suddenly wants to be the one to make Pete lose that control, to drive him out of his head until he's bucking into Patrick's mouth, fucking his throat. He starts to move, hand and mouth in synch, sucking and swirling his tongue. Pete immediately starts to fall apart, moaning under Patrick's mouth, shifting restlessly under his hands, a string of rambled curses mixed with Patrick's name dripping from his lips.
His hands find their way into Patrick's hair, gripping without pulling. When Patrick dares to open his eyes and look, Pete is breathtaking. His eyes are half closed and fixed on Patrick, his mouth wet and gasping out words. His body is shiny with sweat as he shifts and writhes, muscles flexing, breath hitching. Patrick works him faster, faster until Pete's are nothing but a desperate keening Patrick's heard before - "Gonna come, gonna, gonna come."
Patrick knows from the throb and flex under his hand that it's true. He doesn't let up until Pete's shaking, his fingers tight in Patrick's hair, his hips shoving up off the couch. Patrick pulls off at the first taste of a bitter flood, letting it hit his chin as he jerks Pete through it, unable to tear his eyes from the ecstasy on Pete's face. He shakes and groans, still twitching in Patrick's hand when he reaches to grab Patrick by the shoulders, hauling him upwards and kissing him hot and desperate.
They're way off-script now and Patrick doesn't care at all. Pete drags Patrick's shirt over his head and shoves his jeans off with his foot. Patrick wasn't supposed to be naked on camera, but somehow that's far from his mind. He straddles Pete and Pete wraps a hand around Patrick's dick, jerking him off messily as he kisses him. He licks around Patrick's mouth, the bitterness of his own release flavouring their messy, hot kisses as he works his hand over Patrick's dick. Patrick's so hard from blowing him, his leaking dick lending slide to Pete's hand, and it's so fucking good Patrick has to break the kiss, panting into Pete's neck as he tries to ride it out.
Pete grabs Patrick by the back of the neck, forcing him to lock eyes with Pete. He's dishevelled, sweaty and gorgeous, and Patrick can't - he can't hang on. It's too much, Pete's hot eyes on him, his hand working expertly over his dick, his body warm and pliant and pressed up against Patrick's. Pete only gets a few more strokes in before Patrick's coming apart, gasping out his orgasm, his eyes locked to Pete's and in full view of the camera lens. He comes hard, spattering both their stomachs in wet hot spurts.
Patrick's breathing hard when he comes back to himself, his eyes closed tight. When he opens them, Pete's staring back at him, his hand still locked in Patrick's hair, holding him there. All the thoughts that didn't have room in Patrick's head when he was racing for orgasm come rushing back at once - what he's done, how much further he went than planned, how much the camera saw. Before any of it has time to sink in, Pete takes his mouth in a slow dirty kiss, sucking his tongue and grinding under him slowly until Patrick can't think of anything but the warm body beneath him and the perfect lips on his. He slumps down on top of Pete, who rolls them onto their sides, down out of sight of the camera.
This time when he breaks the kiss, all the crazy thoughts are still there, but they're not clamouring for attention so loudly.
Pete brushes two fingers down the side of Patrick's face, offering him a soft smile. "Not so bad, huh?"
"Yeah," Patrick says, his voice coming out a little croaky and raw. "Sorry, I kinda went off-script there, thanks for rolling with it."
"No, it was good. Really fucking good. You should always follow your instincts." Pete's still talking in a low voice, like Patrick's a horse who might get spooked at any moment.
"Yeah?" Patrick asks, because there's fucking and then there's fucking someone who does porn for a living. He didn't realise until now just how worried he was about not measuring up.
"Oh yeah," Pete says, wriggling a little closer. "And just between you and me? Naked is a good look for you. I think you should embrace it more often."
Given that Patrick has just blown this guy on camera, it seems ridiculous that it's that comment that would make him blush, but it does. He presses his warm cheek into the couch and sighs. He feels loose and relaxed, even a little sleepy. "We should probably get up and let them know we're done, huh?"
Pete frowns. "We probably don't have to do it right away, like, if you need a minute." Pete's arm is still mostly around Patrick and he's tracing circles between Patrick's shoulder blades with his thumb. It's really relaxing. Patrick doesn't want to move, possibly ever again.
Patrick hums a reply, surprising himself with a yawn. He wonders where the panic he was sure he was going to feel after this has gone. It's probably just waiting in the wings for a weak moment. He's having trouble bringing himself to care.
Patrick's not sure how long they lie there for in the end; long enough that one of his arms starts to feel a little numb. He nudges Pete, who looks near ready to fall asleep, and they peel themselves off of the couch and each other. Once they're both cleaned up and dressed, they hover by the door for a moment, neither one looking ready to open it just yet. They end up both starting to speak at the same time.
"No, you first," Patrick says, because he's not sure what he was going to say anyway.
"This is going to sound really dumb but, I don't know - thanks? I had fun." Pete's smile is a little unsure and while Patrick misses his cocky smirk, shy looks good on him too.
"Me too," Patrick says, because he…actually did.
Pete rubs his hands together and shoots Patrick a small smile. "So that's the hard part done, now we just need to get photographed in a few public places and let the rest… just happen."
"Yeah," Patrick agrees, putting his hand on the door handle with a sinking heart. Somehow he's pretty sure the hard part of this is nowhere near done.
Their asses have barely hit the sofa in the living area before Butch is handing them schedules. Shane disappears into the bedroom and returns with the camera. Patrick starts to blush immediately despite the fact that Shane hasn't even looked at the footage yet. Shane checks the back display and says, "Looks like one nice big file there - you do any restarts, or just one run?"
Patrick tries to answer but somehow manages to choke on his own spit instead. Pete pats Patrick gently on the back while he coughs and tells Shane, "Just the one, dude."
"One take wonder? Well done." Shane pops out the memory card out of the camera and holds it up. "I'm going to copy this file to this computer," he points at Patrick's laptop on the coffee table. "Then I'm going to wipe the card and all the internal memory on the camera and show you it's clean before I leave. You'll have one copy of the file in your sole possession then, to do with as you choose. I recommend you make a backup copy of it, but that's up to you."
Patrick nods, the enormity of the situation settling heavily on his chest.
Luckily, Butch is there to distract them, tapping at the schedule Patrick forgot he was holding. "Okay, so next step is publicity. It'd be good to get you guys papp'ed at least once before the video leaks, but we don't want to make it a setup so I got you on the list for a VIP event where there should be plenty of photogs. That's tonight, so go along, hold hands and be coupley and shit and try to get your faces in front of some cameras."
"When are we leaking the video?" Patrick asks, his fingers clenching the paper too tightly.
"Tomorrow, probably. We're going with a stolen phone story, so leave your cell behind tonight. Pete, you brought clothes, right?"
"As instructed." Pete gives Butch a casual salute. "Always prepared."
"Great," Butch says, and Patrick finds more than a little comfort in his entirely businesslike demeanour. "There's a car coming to get you at eight - be ready. We've got the suite for the night - it's up to you guys, but I'd suggest you both stay here. We're not letting the cat out of the bag just yet, but it would look good if you both leave the hotel together tomorrow."
Pete sweeps an assessing eye around the quite fancy hotel room and purrs, "Fine by me."
"Yeah, that probably makes sense," Patrick agrees, trying to focus on the conversation and not on Shane, who's bent over his computer and very likely looking at video footage of Patrick's ass right now.
Of course Shane chooses that exact moment to look up from the screen and say to Patrick, "You want me to cut the excess from the head and tail of the clip, so it's all action?"
Patrick's stomach tries to turn inside out. "Um, sure yeah, go ahead."
"You want to show me where to start it? You got a preference?" Shane starts to turn the laptop screen to face Patrick.
Patrick all but vaults across the table to turn it back before he can lay eyes on the video. "No it's cool, I trust you. I think you should be able to pick it, it's pretty straight forward."
"I can show you," Pete offers, and goes to sit beside Shane without any semblance of nerves.
Patrick can feel the weight of Butch's eyes before he even turns his head to meet them. "Can I have a word, Patrick?"
Butch waits until they're inside the bedroom with the door closed before telling Patrick, "You can't put this video on the internet if you haven't even seen it."
"I know, I know," Patrick says. He does know, and he even agrees, but. "I promise, I just, I can't watch it with all you guys around. I'll watch it by myself."
"I'm not pressing go on this until I know you've seen it. Are you honestly okay with how it all went? Pete was alright?" Butch's usual business-like expression is coloured with concern.
"Pete was great. Really. He was perfect. He was too good." Patrick's talking too much and he knows it. Seems that instead of having incapacitating nerves during the shoot they're going to hit him now.
"Too good?" Butch asks, carefully. God damn it, he is too sharp for his own good, even if that's why Patrick hired him. "What do you mean, too good?"
Patrick looks down, rubbing his hands together. "We went a little off-script."
"I don't know, we got a little carried away and it went a bit further than the original plan."
"How much further?" Butch asks, his voice carefully neutral in that scary way.
"We didn't like, fuck, just, I don't know - further."
"Did you get naked? Because you were pretty insistent on the whole minimal nudity thing."
Patrick flushes so red he's pretty sure his hair is blushing. "I kind of got naked."
"Patrick! C'mon, don't play me like this. We've still got Shane, the lights, the camera - if we need to reshoot this, we do it now."
"No," Patrick says, shaking his head so fast it makes him a little dizzy. There's no way he can do this all over again. "No, we're good. It's good, it was real. I think, no, I know it's good. I promise, I'll watch it and give you the go ahead. Just give me a cut off time."
"In that case I want to hear from you before hotel check out tomorrow," Butch says. Patrick nods and Butch pauses, considering Patrick for another moment. He opens his mouth to say something but Patrick cuts him off before he can get the words out.
"If you ask me if I'm sure one more time I'm going to punch you in the face." Patrick says, not entirely joking.
"I was actually going to ask what you're wearing tonight."
"Liar," Patrick says, but the smile he gives Butch is a peace offering. "What is this party we're going to anyway?"
"Oh I don't know, some shindig for Jay-Z's dog's birthday."
"You're shitting me. We're going to try to get papped at a birthday party for someone's dog?"
"Not just anyone's dog. Jay-Z's dog," Butch corrects, a twist in his lips that tells Patrick that while it is absolutely true, Butch finds it amusing.
"That's ridiculous," Patrick points out.
Butch shrugs, "It's LA, baby - any reason's a good reason to party."
The party is huge, loud, and exactly the kind of event Patrick would normally avoid at all costs. There's a crowd of fans gathered outside the club behind metal barriers, shouting out at anyone remotely known. Patrick makes an effort to settle his face into something resembling a smile as he and Pete get out of the car and head for the VIP entrance.
Pete's approach to the night is the exact opposite of Patrick's. He's been bouncing with excitement the entire car ride, and his mouth stretches into a genuine smile when he catches sight of the chaos they're about to head into. Patrick has to admit he cleans up real nice; he's in a pair of sinfully tight black jeans that have some kind of a shiny finish and a skin-tight black t-shirt with some kind of artsy design Patrick doesn't understand underneath a tailored leather jacket that looks way too good on him. His hair is ironed straight and super-shiny and he's wearing eyeliner again, which Patrick isn't really ready to admit how much he likes the look of.
Patrick's gone with one of his traditional outfits, a step down from awards night and a step up from charity lunch. He's wearing a charcoal suit with a grey button-down and a skinny tie, finishing the outfit off with a grey flat cap. Pete reaches up to adjust his Patrick's hat and says, "Looking sharp, babe," with a smile that touches his eyes and blooms a little warmth into Patrick's cheeks.
"That's good, right?" Pete asks as they start the walk toward the red carpet. "That's coupley, yeah?"
Patrick can't contain a little snort of laughter. "Yeah Pete, that's good." He reaches down to tangle their fingers, his heart jumping about in his chest as they join hands. He can't help feeling like he's teetering at the brink of a precipice - getting photographed with Pete is going to be the beginning of a scandal that will probably be tied to his name and follow him the rest of his career.
Pete yanks Patrick's hand up and brushes a kiss over his knuckles, plummeting them both over the metaphorical cliff.
They're on the list and get into the venue without incident. They're barely two steps into the disco-lit club, surrounded by pumping bass, when two barely-dressed women with big hair and plastic smiles press fancy ribbon-wrapped bags into their hands.
"Doggie bags," the blonder of the two explains, which only raises more questions. Before Patrick can ask them, they're swept into the club itself. The place is packed and decorated heavily with dog-themed decorations. "Huh," Patrick can't help saying, "Butch wasn't kidding."
"Wasn't kidding about what?" Pete asks, already peering into his doggie bag.
"I think this really is a party for Jay-Z's dog." Patrick never thought he'd have to say those words out loud.
"That would explain the dog-themed mix CD we've got in this bag, and the dog treats." Pete plucks two cellophane wrapped bags out of his bag of goodies. One is marked "dog treats"; the other is marked "human treats."
"Celebrities are so weird," is all Patrick's got.
Patrick scans the crowd, trying to find anyone he knows and comes up empty handed. Pete seems to have more luck. "I can see some photographers over by the bar - shall we go and be that PDA-y couple everyone hates?"
"I guess so," Patrick says, letting Pete drag him across the club by the wrist. Pete's enthusiasm for the whole charade is actually a little surprising to Patrick. He tells himself it's a good thing and probably something he should try to emulate - he's just having a little trouble finding the "fun" part.
There are indeed a bunch of photographers over by the bar, as well as another person Patrick isn't sure he's thrilled or annoyed to see - William Beckett. William's a music journalist, or so he calls himself. He's really more of gossip columnist with a focus on music-industry related gossip, but he'd never admit that out loud. Patrick knew when he agreed to a scandal that he'd likely catch William's focus - he just didn't think it'd be this soon.
"Stump," William greets, with a small nod and an appraising look that tells Patrick he's just mentally rated Patrick's outfit and finds it wanting.
"Beckett," Patrick greets in return, trying to smile, but it comes out more like a snarl.
"Wasn't expecting to see you here, Patrick - what's the occasion?"
"Isn't it someone's birthday?" Patrick asks, deliberately avoiding the actual question because he hasn't actually got much of a reason to be here. William raises an eyebrow at Patrick that says he's not buying it. Patrick's about to try to change the subject when suddenly Pete's beside him, pressing a champagne flute into his hand and dropping a kiss on Patrick's cheek.
"Here, babe," Pete says. "I think it's sparkling pinot, not real champagne, but at least it's free."
As a diversion, it fails completely because William just sweeps his casual but intense gaze over Pete, lingering over his tight jeans and t-shirt, then says, "Oh, I think I just figured it out."
Pete does a great job of acting like he's only just noticed William is there. "I'm Pete, I don't think we've met." He offers William a smile full of challenge, sliding a hand around Patrick's waist in a protective hold.
"That's because we haven't met," William says, the side of his mouth quirking up in an amused smile.
The tension is a little suffocating, so Patrick butts in. "Pete, this is William Beckett, he does the music column in Academy magazine. Beckett this is Pete Wentz, he's my date."
"And boyfriend," Pete adds, invading Patrick's personal space a little further.
It's bizarrely easy for Patrick to wrap an arm around Pete's waist, rest a hand on his hip and agree, "And boyfriend, yes." The words set off bubbles of excitement and nerves in his chest.
"Boyfriend huh? Congratulations." William's eyes alight with interest and Patrick is suddenly certain that their names are going to be in William's next column. He psyches himself up for questions, reminding himself of the backstories Butch had them both memorise this afternoon, but William doesn't ask anything else. In fact, he pushes himself up from the bar and starts to sidle way, leaving just one more parting shot: "Patrick, I had no idea you had such good taste."
Patrick doesn't manage a response before William disappears into the crowd. He doesn't know what to say, anyway.
"Well, he was creepy," Pete says, taking a quick swallow of his sparkling wine. He glances back at Patrick and adds, "That was okay, right? The boyfriend thing?"
"Duh, yes. That's what we're here for," Patrick says, sipping his own drink. He glances back to where he last saw William, trying to figure out where he went, and catches a glimpse of him talking to a guy holding a camera. Looks like Butch will get his wish on the photography front, too.
"What crawled up his ass and died?" Pete asks, his arm still resting lightly around Patrick's waist. It's nice.
"I called him a hack once. He never really forgave me for it."
"You gotta be careful where you say that stuff, it always gets back to people."
Patrick shoots Pete a rueful smile. "I said it in Rolling Stone."
Pete lets out a startled laugh. "I guess I can see why he'd hold a grudge."
"He brought it on himself. He was spinning bullshit about me." Patrick scowls at the memory.
"What kind of shit?" Pete asks. His hand slides up to rest on the small of Patrick's back, his thumb drawing slow circles.
Patrick shakes his head. "He was saying I didn't play all the instruments on my album. That I brought in session guys to do the tricky stuff."
"Um, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that what most people do?"
"Not me," Patrick says, familiar pride stirring in his chest, "I played every note on that album, every instrument - even the ones I didn't know how to play properly - it's all me."
Pete considers Patrick for a long moment. "You're kind of a control freak, aren't you?"
The comment startles a laugh out of Patrick. "I guess you could say that."
Pete grins and eases closer, reaching his arms around Patrick's neck and resting his elbows on his shoulders. "You know, I think I'm going to need you to play me this album sometime."
"Yeah?" Patrick asks, a little surprised that Pete would be curious.
"Yeah," Pete says decisively, before leaning into kiss Patrick soundly. It's sudden enough that Patrick takes a moment to find his groove, but once he does it's a fun, bitey kiss. Patrick wraps an arm around Pete's waist and lets himself get lost in it a little while. He's distantly aware of the shutter clicks of a nearby camera, but he tries to ignore them. By the time they break apart they are both smiling.
"Patrick motherfucking Stump - is that actually you?" Patrick tears his eyes from Pete's to the bemused expression of Lupe Fiasco. Lupe's eyes widen and he laughs. "Holy shit dude, I thought I must've found your twin. What the hell you doing getting kissyface in public, you know they got cameras everywhere."
"Like I care about that shit, Lupe." Patrick pries himself away from Pete, to grab Lupe's hand and get dragged into a hug.
"Usually you do care, you're all about the privacy." Lupe smiles, turning his gaze to Pete. "Someone's got to be influencing you into getting all wild and irresponsible, and that is a someone I'd want to know."
Patrick can feel his cheeks flushing. Just his luck that he has to go from introducing Pete to one of his political enemies to a musician he holds in highest regard. It's panning out to be an eventful night and it's barely begun.
"Pete, this is Lupe Fiasco, he spun some rhymes on my record and is also a good friend. Lupe, this is my boyfriend, Pete." Patrick manages to say it smoothly, but his heart trips over the word 'boyfriend'.
Lupe responds exactly as Patrick would expect, by grinning and crowing, "Patrick, you sneaky dog!" He turns to Pete and adds, "Whatever you're doing, I approve. This guy needs to loosen up more." He nudges Patrick in the shoulder for punctuation. "What are y'all doing at this ridiculous party anyway? This isn't usually your scene."
"I could ask you the same question," Patrick says.
"Oh, they're paying me to be here. I'm spinning the decks upstairs between 1 and 2. You should come and check it out, I've got some great stuff lined up."
"We'll do that," Pete says. "Wouldn't miss it."
"Excellent." Lupe grins at Pete, then at Patrick, then looks between them both with interest. "I'm sensing there's one hell of an origin story between you two and I want to hear it, but right now I need to get back to my date before she gets snatched away by someone more interesting than me." He claps Pete on the shoulder. "Keep doing what you're doing - I've never seen this guy look so happy. Patrick, see you upstairs later?"
Patrick nods and returns Lupe's fist-bump. "I like him," Pete tells Patrick once Lupe's lost to the crowd.
"He's good people," Patrick says, feeling strangely pleased that Pete got Lupe's stamp of approval.
The rest of the night continues in the same vein. Patrick introduces Pete around to friends and acquaintances alike and they find a lot of excuses to get in each other's space and share casual kisses whenever there seems to be cameras around. The act gets easier to keep up as the hours pass and the wine continues to flow. By the time Patrick realises he should probably be counting his drinks, he's tipsy enough not to care. He doesn't drink all that much under normal circumstances and his tolerance is shot from weeks of late nights in the studio, so it hits him hard and fast.
Pete notices. "Should I switch you back to water?"
"Probably," Patrick responds with a sloppy smile. He pauses for a moment, caught by how good Pete looks, his hair a little messed up, his eyeliner a smudged. He is stupidly out of Patrick's league, and Patrick blurts out, "Is anyone really going to buy this? I mean, us? You are way too good looking to be going out with me."
A flash of concern crosses Pete's face before he replaces it with a careful smile. "Patrick, have you looked in a mirror lately?" He eases a little closer, a move that's starting to feel familiar and comfortable. Patrick really shouldn't get used to this.
Pete touches a fingertip to Patrick's chin. "I wasn't kidding when I said you were my type. Anyway, I'm nobody. You play every instrument under the fucking sun. What the hell would you be doing with this bad poet?"
Patrick shakes his head, not believing Pete for a second. He leans in and presses a kiss to Pete's mouth. Somehow, even though they've spent a lot of tonight kissing, this one feels different. There's an edge of intensity, something Patrick tasted on Pete when they made the video, when he lost control of himself. He sinks into it as long as he feels he can, breaking it off before it gets indecent.
He opens his mouth to tell Pete he's talking bullshit, that he's the hottest guy here. Somehow, what comes out is, "Would you show me your poetry? I'd like to see your work."
A heartbeat of agony flickers across Pete's face before he asks, "You sure you want to hear it? It's not great."
"I don't believe you," Patrick tells him, and drops another quick kiss on Pete's lips. "But how about this for a deal? I'll play you my record, you show me your poetry."
"I can't help feeling like I'm getting the upside of this deal," Pete says, his mouth pulling up a little at the side.
"Don't question it, just do it." Patrick seals the statement with another kiss and if he were more sober he'd probably worry about how easily he's falling into the boyfriend role with Pete. But he's not, so he slides his hand into Pete's back pocket instead, steering them towards the stairs. "C'mon, it's nearly time for Lupe's set. I guarantee it'll be good."
Patrick doesn't exactly grope Pete's ass on the way up the stairs, but he does appreciate how the movement of Pete's steps presses his ass into Patrick's hand. Patrick really needs to lay off the wine already. Except somehow once they reach the top of the stairs Pete has magically obtained two more glasses of bubbles and presses one into Patrick's free hand (the one not still firmly in Pete's pocket).
"Should I be worried about my virtue?" Patrick asks, taking the glass.
"Virtue is highly overrated," Pete responds, and knocks back half his glass in one swallow. Patrick's still staring at the bob of Pete's Adam's apple as he swallows when the club speakers spill out some very familiar chords.
So familiar, in fact, that Patrick's fingers are moving over a ghost keyboard just hearing them. "No way," he mutters, turning his gaze up to the DJ booth where Lupe is grinning down at him, one hand on his headphones, the other pointed at Patrick.
As Patrick's vocals for "This City" fill the club, Pete stares at Patrick with dawning comprehension that turns to awe. "Is this you? Is this your song?"
Patrick nods, unable to speak around the grin his mouth has stretched into. He flails a hand in Lupe's direction, not sure if he's trying to signal 'thank you' or 'I'll get you for this.' Before he can even decide, his whole field of vision is filled with Pete's smile, then he's being soundly kissed, or as much as he can be given both he and Pete are smiling too much.
Pete relieves them both of their drinks, then loops his fingers around Patrick's wrists and drags him out onto the dance floor.
"Where are you taking me?" Patrick asks, half-giggling.
Pete fixes him with a serious expression. "Babe, this is your song - we have to dance to it. It's like a rule."
"I'm pretty sure it isn't," Patrick tries to argue, but the music drowns him out and Pete is set on making this happen. Patrick has never been comfortable on the dance floor, but for once in his life he decides it's okay to look stupid and just live in the moment already. Pete isn't exactly a great dancer either - his moves slide somewhere into the land of amateur striptease - but somehow it works on him. Especially when Pete eases himself into Patrick's space, wraps an arm around his back, and starts to grind against him like they're in a Snoop Dogg video.
Pete laughs, his eyes bright and his smile wide, and just for a moment Patrick lets himself pretend things are different. He pretends Pete's his boyfriend, that his record is getting the attention it deserves, and they're celebrating here in front of all these cameras and people. He pretends he's a success.
For three and half minutes of absolute bliss, he lets himself believe it.
The night ends with a whirlwind of camera flashes and a short taxi ride back to the hotel. Patrick thinks he might be sobering up. Pete must be also; he's quiet on the ride back, and though he sticks close to Patrick as they walk through the lobby, he doesn't lean on him, or slide an arm around him the way he has all night. Patrick misses it, but tells himself it isn't something he should get used to.
They're a little awkward when they get back to the hotel room. Patrick isn't sure what to say, or what they're supposed to do. If he was at home, he'd offer to make coffee or tea, but he doesn't really have that ability here, and he's not willing to go near the mini bar. In the end, he goes to the bathroom and pours two big glasses of water, because they probably both need it.
Pete's curled up in one corner of the couch in the living room when he comes back in with the water. Pete takes his with a small smile. "Thanks, probably a good idea."
"We drank a lot of champagne," Patrick says, dropping onto the couch at the other end, leaving a polite amount of space between them.
"Sparling Pinot," Pete corrects, "I think it went okay though," There's a lift at the end of the sentence that turns it into a question. "I mean, I'm pretty sure people think we're fucking now."
"This is so surreal," Patrick thinks out loud.
"I can make it more surreal," Pete says. He digs around beside the couch and coming up with a bag of "human treats" from their bag of party favours and pressing it into Patrick's hand. Patrick giggles at the ridiculousness of it all .
Patrick relaxes, drinks his water and thinks back through the night. He's pretty certain he'll be in at least one or two gossip pages. He knows that's the important part of the equation tonight, but there's something else niggling at him, too.
"I had a good time," he tells Pete. "I mean, I usually hate those kinds of things, but tonight was fun." He glances up to meet Pete's eyes, offering him a smile. "So, thanks. For, you know, making it fun."
"Anytime, Patrick." There's something about Pete's tone that makes Patrick look up, to find Pete smiling at him, fond and a little sad.
"Well, we need to do it a few more times. Though it probably isn't going to be all wild and glamorous parties."
"Oh you never know," Pete says with a smirk. "Maybe Kanye West's hamster is getting engaged."
Patrick laughs so hard he nearly chokes.
Patrick's sitting on the bed in his pajamas frowning at his computer when a tap on the door gives him a much-desired excuse to look up from his screen. Pete stands in the doorway, wearing only his boxers, looking unsure. "Do you mind if I sleep in here? I'm not real good at sleeping alone in unfamiliar places."
"Sure. This bed's so big it needs it's own area code." Patrick shifts a little further toward the edge of the bed, though it's completely unnecessary since the bed really is huge.
"Thanks." Pete crawls onto the bed, all distracting naked skin, and Patrick has to force his eyes away from all those tattoos and back to his screen.
Of course, those tattoos are also on his screen too, a frozen frame in a video window he still hasn't watched. He's tried to press play any number of times, but he still can't quite make himself do it.
"What are you working on?" Pete asks, flopping back on the pillows.
"Nothing important," Patrick says, closing the laptop before Pete can see what's on his screen. He tucks the computer away and crawls under the covers, not at all sure he's going to be able to sleep. Tomorrow the whole world will get to see the tape and they'll lay their judgement on him. He's really not looking forward to that part, and Butch is right, he really needs to watch it first.
Pete switches off the light, and Patrick lies in the darkness, wide awake.
"You've watched it, right? The video, I mean." Patrick immediately regrets the question, but he can't help wanting the answer.
"Yeah, I watched it." Pete rolls to his side, and Patrick can just make out his eyes in the near-darkness.
"You're okay with it, like, going out there? With everyone seeing it?" Patrick asks, because right now? Patrick really isn't.
"Yeah, I am," Pete says, and he sounds really sure. "Are you?"
"I haven't watched it yet," Patrick admits, glad it's dark because his cheeks are burning. "I just-" he tries to find a reason that doesn't sound pathetic and comes up with nothing.
"You should watch it," Pete says, his hand steals across the covers to find Patrick's. "It's good. It's actually really hot." Pete's fingers are a little sweaty, and he hesitates a moment before asking Patrick, "Do you want to watch it together? We could-"
"No," Patrick answers, too quickly; the idea of trying to watch it with Pete is far too humiliating to bear. "No, it's okay, I think I'll just watch it on my own. Tomorrow."
"Well, offer still stands if you change your mind." Pete releases his grip on Patrick's hand and snuggles down into the sheets. "You going to sleep now?"
Patrick lets out a hollow laugh. "Probably not. I'm going to lie here and freak out about the humiliating end to my career."
"That doesn't sound relaxing."
"It probably won't be. Just. Fuck, Pete, what if it's not good enough?"
"No, the album. What if all these people listen to it and they don't like it? What if I go through all this to get it heard, and it's really not worth it?" Patrick doesn't mean to say so many words, they just keep coming.
There's a heavy silence between them, which Pete finally breaks with, "Do you have it with you? The album?"
Patrick hesitates before finally answering, "I have it on my iPod."
"Will you play it for me?"
"What, now? Don't you want to sleep?"
Pete lets out a soft snicker. "I always want to sleep, but I rarely do. And I don't think you're going to be able to right now, so yeah. Get your iPod, we can share headphones like a couple of teenagers."
Patrick isn't sure exactly how he feels about this, but he digs through his backpack for his iPod and cues up the album. It's weird, seeing the little thumbnail of the album art with his own name beside it glowing from the screen in the dark room. Pete takes one earbud and offers the other to Patrick. Some tiny part of Patrick's brain complains about how listening to it this way is going to spoil the stereo effects, but he squashes it down and pushes the earbud into his ear.
He glances at Pete who just shoots him a smile, his teeth shiny in the dark, and says, "Play me your album, Patrick Stump."
Patrick presses play, closes his eyes and listens.
He knows the album by heart already, every note, every drumbeat. He's heard it a million times at various stages - recording, mixing, mastering. This time when he listens to it, he doesn't hear it the way he usually does, as a collection of samples, audio takes, and decisions he's made. Somehow, listening to it with Pete beside him, fresh ears vibrating with expectation, Patrick listens, and just hears the music.
And it's good. It's a fucking good album.
Patrick's fast asleep by track three.
Fake champagne hangovers are definitely the most painful kind, Patrick decides, when he cracks his eyes open and sunlight sears through his brain like a laser.
"Oh god," he mutters, and faceplants the pillow.
"Good morning, sleeping beauty," a voice drawls and Patrick pries his head from the pillow to see Pete, backlit by the windows, smirking at him. He looks dishevelled and gorgeous and Patrick can't believe he slept in the same bed without actually sleeping with this guy. Life is unfair.
"Is it that good? So far 'good' seems too generous a description." Patrick moans into the pillow.
"It'll get better, it's always worst when you first wake up." Pete shifts to get up and the bed… rustles. Patrick peers down curiously and finds that Pete's half of the bed is covered in paper, pages scrunched into balls, and loose sheets covered in messy scrawls. Still half asleep he picks up a loose sheet and stares at the words written on it. He makes out the words 'ginger' and 'fair' before Pete yanks the page out of Patrick's hand with a rushed, "Sorry." Pete shoves the page underneath some others and Patrick wishes he'd caught a few more words before it disappeared. "I kinda got accosted by my muse last night."
Patrick looks at the pile of paper Pete's amassing. "Did you sleep at all?"
"I napped some. Not too bad." He moves some more papers aside and Patrick's iPod appears underneath them. Pete picks it up and hands it back with a sheepish smile. "Thanks for the loan. It's a good album. Really, I mean - it's fucking brilliant."
Patrick takes the iPod back. It still has Patrick's album displayed on the screen, as well as a low battery warning. "How many times did you listen to it?" Patrick asks.
Pete shrugs. "I liked it a lot."
Patrick's phone chimes with a message and he blindly grabs for it. It's Butch, of course.
check your email
Patrick grimaces and pulls out his laptop. He skips to the top of his inbox and there's an email from Butch containing only a web address. He clicks it and it takes him to a page blank but for an upload box.
Patrick frowns at the screen, pulls out his phone, and calls Butch.
"I don't understand," he says when Butch answers.
"Good morning to you too."
"It's not good, so far it's not even polite." Patrick rubs a hand over his face. "Explain it to me like I just woke up and I'm hungover."
"Good night then? There's a picture of you and Pete on Beckett's blog already."
"Mission accomplished." Patrick makes a mental note to check Beckett's blog later. "Now tell me the next part in small words, please."
"The web address I sent you is for a secure upload server. Once the video is uploaded there we've got a couple of tech guys who will leak it onto the popular torrent sites."
"Great." Patrick says, not giving a shit about this technobabble. "Why do I need to know this?"
"I'm putting it in your hands, Patrick. If you honestly want this video out there, you need to upload it to that website. If you don't do it, we don't do it."
"What, you mean we just can the whole thing? What about the label?"
"The label can't do a lot if they don't have a video. Except be pissed off, but that's nothing we can't handle. You're the only one with a copy of the file - if you really want to do this, get the file uploaded."
Patrick slumps down against the bed, the meaning of Butch's words clear as anything. "You're making me do this myself."
Patrick hears the brush of air against the mouthpiece as Butch sighs. "I can't do this one for you, Patrick. You want this, you make it happen. Whatever you decide, I'm not going anywhere."
Patrick bites his lip, hard. "Thanks Butch."
"See if you still want to thank me later. I'm just covering my ass. Call me before you leave the hotel, okay?"
"Got it." Patrick hangs up, and turns back to his laptop. He stares at the upload screen. He stares at the file on his desktop.
He closes the laptop and goes to take a shower.
Once he's clean and dressed, he opens his laptop again and stares at the file on the desktop. He closes the bedroom door, sits down and pulls the laptop into his lap, making himself double click the video file. There's Pete, turning bedroom eyes on the camera, looking fucking gorgeous. Patrick chokes in a breath, his finger pausing over the space bar, but he doesn't press it.
"You filming me?" Pete on the screen asks, lifting the corner of his shirt to flash skin. "You like what you see?"
Warm th spreads through Patrick's skin, Pete's voice sending a spark of heat right to his groin. Fuck, Pete's so good at this. He looks amazing on camera. Patrick starts to draw his hand away from the space bar, ready to watch the rest of the video, when his own voice comes out of the speakers, answering Pete's question.
"So far. Show me a little more?"
Patrick hits the space bar immediately, his hands shaking and his skin burning. Fuck, he can't even bear to hear his own voice let alone see what he must look like on camera. Especially what he must look like beside Pete.
He paces the bedroom, telling himself he's being a pussy. This is nothing. He made the damn sex tape, watching it should be the easy part. He walks back to the laptop and leans down, staring down the screen in challenge, the frozen image of Pete in the video window, all lazy desire and dark eyes.
His hand hovers over the space bar, but he can't bring himself to press it.
Patrick's not sure how long he sits there, staring at those frozen pixels, but eventually there's a soft tap at the door. "Yeah?" Patrick says, loud enough to be heard.
Pete opens the door and slips inside. He's still wearing only his underwear and it's still really distracting. "I ordered room service for breakfast, hope that's allowed. What are you doing?"
Without waiting for an answer, Pete slides onto the bed beside Patrick and peers at the screen, "Oh, did you watch it? I told you it was hot."
Patrick tries to say no, he hasn't, but he's too ashamed to admit it, so he hedges with, "I don't like looking at myself on camera."
"No one does, dude. At least no one normal - I can't stand the way I look on camera, but this is still the hottest movie I've ever made."
"It is?" Patrick is more than a little shocked at the revelation.
"Um, yeah - by a long shot. We did watch the same thing right?" Pete looks genuinely confused and Patrick struggles for a way to answer that doesn't involve admitting he hasn't watched it yet.
"There was only one movie, pretty sure it's the right one."
"So, when does the rest of the world get to see it? Can I start googling now?" Pete actually looks excited at the prospect. The idea still makes Patrick a little queasy.
"Not yet," Patrick admits. "I need to send it through, so they can leak it to some torrent websites."
"Is that what you're doing now?"
Patrick stares at the upload window, still visible behind the video window. "Um yeah, sort of."
"You want me to hold your hand, or like, deliver you some kind of inspiring speech? I've been watching a lot of Game of Thrones lately, I'm getting good with inspiring speeches." Pete grins and Patrick's mouth stretches into a small smile despite himself.
"I'm not sure an inspiring speech is really going to cut it right now," Patrick admits.
Pete's expression turns serious. "You're really getting cold feet about this now?"
"Well yeah, obviously."
"But now? I mean, I thought if you were going to freak out it'd be before the sex, not after."
Patrick gives a little snort, "No, the sex was the easy part. Putting out there for everyone to see, that's the hard part." Patrick's eyes stray to the upload window again.
Pete sits down, rubbing his hands together, "So what do you need to hear right now? Because I can tell you three things: one, the video is fucking hot, two, a scandal like this totally means more exposure for the album and three," Pete grabs Patrick's hand, his tone getting serious, "the album is fucking amazing and totally deserves to be heard."
Patrick meets Pete's eyes, looking for any hint of insincerity, but there's none to be found. "That was actually pretty inspiring."
"Dude, I was just getting started. That wasn't even a speech, that was just cold facts." Pete grins, "Seriously though, this has to be your call. So call it." He squeezes Patrick's hand, and Patrick flashes back to the night before, the way Pete's fingers tightened around his as he listened to the album for the first time, remembering how sure he felt at that moment that it was good, that it was worth it.
"Thanks Pete," he presses the words into Pete's hand with a squeeze of his fingers.
"Anytime man," Pete says and leans in to brush a kiss against Patrick's cheek before slipping out of the bedroom.
Resolute, Patrick turns back to his laptop and clicks through the browser to select the video file. He takes a deep breath and presses 'upload', watching the progress bar slowly fill with a strange sense of calm.
Before they leave the hotel, Pete presses a folded piece of hotel paper into Patrick's hand.
"My website," Pete explains. "You showed me yours, I guess I better show you mine. That was the deal." He gives Patrick a sheepish smile, "I'm chickening out though, so I don't have to be there when you read my drivel."
"I'm sure it's not drivel." Patrick says. Even though he has nothing to go on, he's confident he's right about this.
"Save your opinion," Pete instructs, pressing Patrick's hand into a grip around the paper.
Patrick pulls up Pete's website on his laptop as soon as he gets home, the need to see it even more pressing than checking his own name for search results containing the words "sex tape".
Patrick snorts out a gentle laugh at the website header, chunky block letters spelling out Pete Wentz: Bad Poet. The site is laid out simply, with links to written works, published works, multimedia, and a blog. Patrick clicks the link for multimedia and finds a bunch of videos of Pete doing slam poetry at various venues. He's fierce in his delivery, nearly shouting into the mic, spilling passion from his mouth. His poetry is full of word play and clever turns of phrase. Patrick watches a bunch of videos and then starts clicking through the rest of the pages. The written works are striking, but the place Patrick gets stuck for a hours is Pete's blog.
The blog is even more a torrent of words than Pete's slam poetry. It lacks punctuation and reads like a screed coming directly from Pete's brain. It's also completely amazing. Buried in the lower case characters is love and heartbreak, depression and ecstasy, bitterness and hope. The words lay Pete wide open and Patrick can't imagine exposing so much the cold eyes of the internet. As Pete's words bleed out of the screen at him, he can't help but feel vulnerable on his behalf, in a weird unexplainable way.
He's awake until the early hours of the morning, reading every word.
When he finally collapses into bed, his search history doesn't include his own name even once.
Sex scandals and arranged appearances with fake boyfriends aside, Patrick still has an album and tour to promote. So, rather than sitting at home running google searches and waiting for the penny to drop on his sex video, he's at KBRA radio being interviewed live by Gabe Saporta, the Cobra himself.
"So the new album is killer, and you're on tour in a week and a half - it's all happening for you right now." Gabe grins at Patrick across the mixing desk. He and Patrick have crossed paths a few times before. He seems like a good guy, if a little hyperactive. His producer Victoria seems to be the brains in the operation and is perched on a stool behind him.
"It's busy, yeah. I'm really looking forward to the tour, can't wait to play these songs live."
"Now on the album you played every instrument yourself. I take it that when you're touring that's not going to be possible - or will this actually be a one man show?"
"No, definitely not. I've got a great band I'm bringing with me: Michael Day, Scoota Warner, Matt Rubano and Casey Benjamin." Patrick rattles off the names, glad for some easy questions. He's still pretty on edge, not knowing if the video has surfaced yet. His phone is on silent in his pocket, and Butch has promised to text any news.
Gabe asks a few more questions about the album, and all in all it's going pretty well, right up until Gabe plays his first track and drops the bomb. "So here's the first single of Soul Punk - it's called 'Spotlight,' and I'm really digging it. When we come back we're going to take some caller questions for Patrick, so get your phones out and get ready to dial."
Patrick takes a deep breath and forces himself to stay calm as Gabe recites the phone number. By the time the track is playing Gabe is looking at him with concern and asks, "You want some water or something? You're looking a little peaky."
"I'm fine," Patrick lies.
"Don't worry, they'll vet the callers to get rid of any assholes."
Patrick nods and adjusts his headphones, more than ready for this interview to be over.
The first half dozen callers are easy, some even charming. They ask about the album, the songs, the tour, and one even wants to know what kind of M&M's Patrick favours. He's almost starting to relax when Gabe introduces the next caller with, "Hey so this is Craig from Orange County. Craig, what's your question?"
"Is this video of you sucking this guy's dick is for real? You fucking fag-"
Gabe hits the kill button quickly, jumping in to fill the sudden silence, "Well, that's not very polite. Kids these days have no manners. We'll be right back after these messages."
Patrick's not breathing. He knew this was coming, but actually having to live it - fuck, that's a different thing. He closes his eyes and forces himself to take long slow breaths. He's distantly aware of them going to commercial and Gabe demanding from Victoria, "What the shit was that? How did that guy get through?" He turns to Patrick and adds, "You okay, man?"
Patrick is not okay. He's in a cold sweat and he can barely hear Gabe over his beating heart, but he nods at Gabe and says, "I'm okay, I just need a minute."
His phone buzzes in his pocket and he pulls it out, it's a message from Butch.
looks like the video just dropped
Yeah, Patrick thinks, no shit.
Gabe's in an intense conversation with his producer. She hands Gabe a tablet computer. He looks at the screen and then at Patrick. Patrick can already feel his face burning.
"How do you want to handle this, man?" Gabe asks, handing Patrick the tablet. Patrick looks down at the screen already knowing what it will be. It's an article in TMZ, illustrated with a series of screen captures from the video - tastefully blurred, but still very identifiable.
Patrick stares at the images from the video he hasn't even watched yet and asks Gabe, "Is there time for me to call my manager?"
"I can play some songs and buy you about seven minutes."
"That'll do," Patrick says, reaching for his phone. "Thanks." It's a relief when his voice comes out steady. He's barely holdling it together.
Patrick's conversation with Butch doesn't take long. They're already both thinking along the same lines. Patrick hangs up and tells Gabe, "Okay, when we go back on air, let's make it personal."
"You sure about this?" Gabe asks, and Patrick isn't, not really, but he nods anyway.
When they come back from commercial Patrick isn't even entirely sure what he's going to say, which is a dangerous place to start on a live broadcast, but there's not much he can do about it. Gabe back announces the last two songs and then turns to Patrick, mouthing "are you okay?" silently at him. Patrick nods, then Gabe launches into the next segment.
"So we're here today talking with solo funk hip-hop artist Patrick Stump. He's got a new album out called Soul Punk that is truly amazing and he's about to head out on tour - check his website Patrick Stump dot com for details of when he's coming to your town. So far we've been talking mostly music, but Patrick's given me the okay to get a little more personal. So, Patrick, there's some buzz online happening right now, you want to comment?"
Patrick takes a breath and leans into the microphone. "Yeah, thanks Gabe. I'm really looking forward to getting out on the road and playing these tour dates, but given some stuff that's come out online in the last few minutes I feel like I should try and clarify a few things. You see, I've recently started a new relationship, and y'know, sometimes when you're at the beginning of something awesome, and you're full of passion and excitement for this new thing you're getting into and you maybe get up to some mischief without necessarily thinking about the consequences."
Patrick stops to breathe a moment and centre himself. He's more than thankful when Gabe doesn't prompt him, just lets him continue in his own time. "Anyway, my phone went missing last week and it had on it some rather… intimate video footage of myself and my boyfriend Pete. I was hoping that my phone was just missing, but it looks like it was actually stolen and it looks like whoever took it decided to put that footage on the internet." He has to stop then, because he's a little unsure what else there is to say. He's just confirmed the video as being real. He's just announced the damn video on live radio, so thousands of people who didn't already know about it will now know about it. His hands are shaking under the table.
"That's a pretty unfortunate turn of events," Gabe finally speaks, his voice gentle.
"Yeah well, at the end of the day it's on my head, and I need to accept that. I made the video. I just hope…" Patrick has to stop and reach for the glass of water on desk, his throat aching. He turns back to the mic, trying to remember where he was, trying to find his control again.
"What do you hope, Patrick?" Gabe prompts, and Patrick sends him a grateful smile.
"I guess I just hope that people can see past this. This video is one moment in my life that I didn't mean to share with the world. I have an album that I've slaved over for months and I really hope people can focus on that, rather than this. I know that's a pretty long shot, but a guy can dream, right?"
"It's a really great album and I hope lots of people get to hear it for what it is. Let's have another track from it." Gabe announces "This City" and Patrick slumps back into his chair, letting out a long breath. Once the track is spinning, Gabe turns back to Patrick, "You okay, man?"
Patrick lets out a hollow laugh. "No, not really."
"You did good, dude. That was really classy." Gabe actually sounds like he means it.
"I have to say, 'classy' is not a word I would usually associate with sex tapes."
"That's why you're awesome, dude." Gabe flashes a grin and Patrick can't help returning it. "Though, you've lost your head start, Victoria just told me the place is under siege by by paparazzi."
"Oh great," Patrick says, and calls Butch again.
From that point on, it's a circus. There are photographers waiting outside the radio station at every exit and there's no way Patrick is going to get out without having to wade through them.
"Don't you have a back exit?" he asks Victoria, who's leading the charge down an unfamiliar hallway.
"This is the back exit," Victoria says, stopping in front of a pair of doors.
"Oh." Patrick peers through windows and has to draw back at the scattering of camera fire. "Great."
Butch calls at exactly that moment to tell Patrick he has a car waiting out the back. Patrick dares another glance through the windows, just long enough to see that sure enough, there's a black town car out there, with at least twenty paparazzi surrounding it.
"You can stay here for a while if you like, see if any of them leave," Victoria offers with a sympathetic smile.
Patrick shakes his head, "Thanks for the offer, but I may as well get it over with. Can you thank Gabe for me? I really appreciate him handling it the way he did."
"Gabe can be an ass sometimes, but it's never about the important stuff. Good luck." She calls over a security guard and lays a hand on the door handle. "Ready to run?"
"Let's do this," Patrick says, trying to psyche himself up.
The doors open with a rush of noise and camera fire. Patrick settles his face into what he hopes is a neutral expression and follows the security guard out, doing his best to ignore the paparazzos calling out for his attention. They crowd around him, but the security guard leads the way, creating a path for Patrick to follow. Patrick doesn't try to cover his face, just steadfastly keeps his eyes forward and doesn't dare look at anyone calling his name.
He's a few steps from the car when the back door opens and Pete sticks his head out. The immediate rush of relief Patrick feels at the sight of him is inexplicable but welcome. The smile that his mouth pulls into is genuine and he reaches out a hand to Pete, who grabs it and pulls him into a hug. Patrick closes his eyes against the rapid-fire flashes that he knows are capturing this moment. He sinks into Pete's warmth and suddenly feels a whole lot better.
That's the photo most of the news sites run with: Patrick and Pete, surrounded by photographers in the back lot of KBRA radio. There are a few variations - in some images they've captured the moment where Patrick grabs Pete's hand - but most have run with them in each other's arms. Patrick's expression in all of the pictures is identical: a grateful, relieved smile.
Butch swipes through the various headlines about them on his tablet, the images flipping past, each slightly different but essentially the same. Patrick's stomach turns a little. It's not a bad §picture and he certainly prefers to see it being used rather than explicit screen captures, but there's something unsettling about just how telling his expression is. He wasn't acting at all at that moment.
They're holed up inside Patrick's house, constructing a strategy for the next few days. There were already photographers waiting when Patrick and Pete arrived from the station, and some had followed their journey on scooters. Patrick can't quite believe he's big enough news for such fuss, but he's glad for how good Pete's hand felt, warm in his as they exited the car, camera shutter snaps and shouts of the photographers in their ears as they made their way to Patrick's front door.
Pete's sitting beside Patrick on the couch now, but they're not touching. Pete dropped his hand the moment they were inside. Patrick kind of misses it, though he'd never say so out loud.
The headlines range from tastefully informative to downright lurid, and not for the first time Patrick wonders if he should have considered getting a stage name. There are too many unflattering plays on the word 'stump'.
"We've got a lot of interview requests coming in. I've scheduled the big stuff, and I'm whittling down the rest to just the major news and music sources we'll want to accept. You've already had tweets of support from Lupe, T-Pain, Jay-Z, three out of four members of My Chemical Romance, Darren Hayes, Gabe Saporta, Ellen Degeneres, Perez Hilton and Elton John."
"Elton John?" Pete exclaims, "Dude," he turns to Patrick and raises his hand for a high five, which he immediately slaps so hard his palm stings.
"Fuck. I had no idea we'd get that kind of reaction." Patrick is breathless with awe and a touch of guilt. "Anything bad?"
Butch pulls a face, "Of course. There's been some backlash from religious groups and some parts of the hip-hop scene aren't being very sensitive, though I think that might have inspired T-Pain to tweet. Don't check your @ replies right now, by the way."
"Obviously," Patrick says, his stomach turning at the thought of what's being said about him in 140 character bursts around the world.
"You were a worldwide trending topic for about half an hour. But most importantly, Soul Punk has jumped up over a hundred spots on both the US and UK download charts." Butch hands Patrick the tablet, and there's the numbers on the screen for Patrick to see.
He stares at them long enough to convince himself they're real, then hands the tablet back, flopping onto the couch like a puppet with cut strings. "You mean, it worked?"
"It looks like it's working, yeah," Butch says, far too casually.
"Well, shit," Patrick says, his mouth already tugging into a smile. Before he has a chance to really process it, Pete's hugging him. Patrick hugs him back, holding on tight, his grin smushing into Pete's shoulder.
"They're listening," Pete whispers, and Patrick can hear the smile in his voice.
Patrick doesn't realise he hasn't let go of Pete until Butch says, "Guys. Guys, you with me?"
"Two minutes dude, let him feel the moment," Pete retorts, but the moment's kind of gone so Patrick lets go of Pete and eases back, a little embarrassed.
Butch either doesn't notice or doesn't care, shoving papers at both of them. "Rough schedules for the coming week. Interviews are in green, photo ops and appearances are in orange."
Patrick skims the page. The orange blocks read like a list of Events Patrick Doesn't Want To Go To: movie premieres, brand launches, envelope openings and celebrity schmoozes. Nothing Patrick would usually be caught dead at.
"Oh god, do I have to?" he whines to Butch, "I never usually go to this shit, isn't it going to look obvious when I suddenly start turning up?"
"With all the press that's happening the record is climbing the charts. We need to keep you in the public eye if you want that to keep going."
"I don't mean disappear, but can't I like, go on a date I might actually enjoy?" Patrick knows he's being ungrateful, but he doesn't particularly feel like spending his last weeks before leaving for tour in the company of a bunch of glamorous strangers. "I have no interest in seeing Miley Cyrus' new movie."
"Neither do I. Could we drop a couple?" Pete asks. "Like, swap for something else?"
Butch shrugs. "I guess. These are just the suggestions from the label, nothing binding."
"Great." Patrick grabs up the schedule and runs a line through the Miley Cyrus movie premiere. He waves a hand at Pete's schedule. "Write that one off."
Pete crosses it off on his schedule too. "Can we lose the perfume launch as well?"
"Hell yes," Patrick says, scribbling it out with gusto.
"Guys, you can't just write off everything and stay home and eat pizza. You still have to go out and do stuff that's newsworthy."
"Gossip pages worthy," Patrick corrects.
"Whatever, you know what I mean."
"Chill, Butch, you don't have to use your Dad voice on me." Patrick taps his pen on the page, thinking. "Hey, Joe and Andy's band are playing the Roxy next week. We can go to that instead, right?"
Butch taps it into his tablet, "Fine, I'll get you on the list. What else?"
"I've got a thing we can go to," Pete says, nice and vague.
"Can you be more descriptive than 'a thing'?" Butch glares over his computer. "I need details so we can tip off the press."
Pete makes grabby hands at Butch's computer. Butch surprises Patrick by handing it over with no real fight. Pete turns on the couch so Patrick can't see the screen and taps a bunch of information.
"What, am I not allowed to know where we're going?" Patrick asks, brow furrowed.
"Nope," Pete answers brightly, types in a few more letters and hands Butch back his computer. "It's a surprise."
Butch reads the screen and nods at Pete. "That'll work."
Of course now Patrick is desperately curious, but he's not going to ask again and make it obvious. Pete offers Patrick a bright smile before looking back down at his schedule. "Hey, I thought you said green was interviews. Why do I have green on my schedule?" He waves the sheet at Butch, tapping at something near the centre.
"Oh yeah, I need to talk to you guys about that. They want you on 'Ellen.'"
"Wait, Ellen wants to interview me on her show?" Patrick sputters, suddenly feeling a little panicked. That's a national show. It's kind of a big deal.
"Not just you," Butch explains, "She wants to interview both of you. Together."
"Oh," Patrick says absently.
What he doesn't say out loud is, oh shit.
"Dude, sit down, you're making me dizzy," Pete says.
"I can't be making you dizzy, I'm not going circles, it's a straight line," Patrick points out, continuing to pace the length of the green room. He hasn't been this nervous about a show in… actually he can't even remember being this nervous about a show ever.
"Well then you're gonna wear a track in the carpet or something. Hey!"
Patrick stops pacing and looks at Pete. He's sprawled across a couch in the corner of the green room, phone in one hand, ankles propped up on the arm, the picture of relaxation. Patrick kind of hates him.
Pete swings his legs down off the arm of the couch and pats the cushion next to him. "C'mon, sit down. You're going to make us both nervous."
Patrick considers refusing just on principle, but Pete gives him puppy eyes. Patrick gives in and sits beside him.
"I'm not nervous," Patrick lies, rubbing damp palms down his thighs. "Where's Butch?" He'd left a while back, supposedly for coffee.
"I think if he stayed in this room another minute he might've punched you in the face," Pete says. "You're super wound up."
"Yeah well, I have no idea why! It's only national television!" Patrick's voice pitches up with a note of hysteria. "And it's not like I've got a list of questions she's gonna ask or anything. She could ask me anything." Patrick's feet drum against the carpet. He wants to start pacing again. This is the first post-sex-tape interview he's had to go in blind on. Every other one he's had a list of questions pre-approved via Butch, but apparently that's not the way things work with NBC.
"You know what she's going to want to talk about. Us. The video. Stupid relationship questions. And then she'll plug the album and the tour. It's like a trade off."
"Yeah, but-" Patrick doesn't know how to put the rest in words. The part where they have to fake it on live television, and what if they're not convincing? What if they fuck up the details? He stands up to pace some more, but Pete grabs him and pushes him back down onto the couch, holding him there with a firm hand on Patrick's shoulder.
Patrick can't figure out how Pete is keeping so calm. It's annoying. He tries to stand up again, but Pete just holds him there, both hands on Patrick's shoulders now and asks, "Am I gonna have to hold you down?" The serious note in his voice makes Patrick falter, his brain immediately switching gears to a place that has nothing to do with the impending broadcast and everything to do with the warmth and strength of Pete's hands on him. He lets out a slow breath, his gaze dropping involuntarily to Pete's mouth for a long moment.
"Oh, it's like that, is it?" Pete asks, his voice dropping into a tone Patrick remembers from 35 videos he's watched very closely. He can't repress the tiny shiver that runs through him at hearing it directed at him.
Pete looks at him, thoughtful, one side of his mouth twitching up. Very deliberately, Pete shifts one of his hands from Patrick's shoulder to his jaw, his thumb resting on Patrick's cheek. Then, slowly, he leans in, giving Patrick plenty of time to pull away before their lips meet, but Patrick leans in and meets Pete halfway instead. The kiss is gentle, lips and tongues moving, no rush for more. It's too easy to just fall into it, concentrate on how good Pete's mouth feels on his and forget everything else.
The tension drains from Patrick's body and he reaches up a hand, his fingers resting lightly on Pete's shoulder. He's not sure if Pete's doing this to distract him or just because he wants to but right now he doesn't care. It's too good. They don't take it any further than long slow kisses, warm and gorgeous. Pete's hand remains warm on Patrick's jaw, like a brand.
Patrick's not sure how long they make out for. Long enough that they don't stop until they're startled out of it by a tap on the door and a voice calling, "Ten minutes!"
They spring apart like schoolboys being busted, and it isn't until Patrick's got his breath back that the ridiculousness of the situation hits him. Like it would matter if anyone saw them. Hell, it would be a good thing. He snorts out a laugh and meets Pete's eyes, who loses it as well, until they're both cackling on the couch in fits of giggles which are probably far more than the situation deserves. It does a lot to burn off the tension though, and by the time they're waiting behind the set to be called on stage, Patrick is feeling a lot more calm.
"You ready?" Pete asks, his eyes lit with mischief.
"Nope." Patrick cheerfully admits.
"Yeah, me neither," Pete agrees, and reaches down to take Patrick's hand.
They fidget and listen to Ellen's introduction, then "This City" starts playing and a guy with a clipboard signals them to go. Patrick gives Pete's hand a quick squeeze then they walk out onto the set. The lights are bright and the crowd is loud. Ellen's dancing her trademark awkward dance to Patrick's song and that in itself is kind of amazing. Pete's the first to join in and Patrick even does a little shuffle to the track, blushing and smiling at how silly it is. It certainly starts them off comfortably, and Patrick can appreciate the method in Ellen's madness.
They settle on the couch and Ellen into her armchair, grinning widely at them in a way that makes Patrick unsettled. Patrick kind of just wants her to go ahead and ask the sex tape questions so they can get it over with, but he knows that's not the game.
"So Patrick, Pete, how's it going?"
"Pretty good," Pete grins, looking inhumanly relaxed.
"Yup, can't complain," Patrick chimes in.
"You've got a new record out, you're going on tour soon, your sex life is on the internet-" the studio audience laugh at that, and Patrick forces a smile, even though his cheeks are burning already. "Oops - made you blush!" Ellen grins gleefully and yeah, okay, this is more what Patrick was expecting. He fakes another smile and tries to will the blush from his cheeks with he power of his mind.
Pete giggles on the couch next to him, sounding actually genuine. "Yeah well, you know how it is, Ellen, sometimes something is just so great you need to share it with the whole world," Pete says, as easy as you please.
"Of course, but we're getting ahead of ourselves. Rewind!" She makes a rewinding noise and it's actually quite endearing. "So tell me how you two ended up together."
This one Patrick can answer. It falls easily into the backstory he and Pete have concocted. "Well, strangely enough it was a blind date that kind of didn't work out."
"You two went on a bad date?"
"No, actually I got set up with this guy Travie," Patrick explains. "Really great guy and we got along and all, but there wasn't really a spark? But he's a friend of Pete's and he set me up with Pete."
"Because he knew Patrick was totally my type," Pete jumps in, patting Patrick on the knee. "Though I still have no idea why you didn't go for Travie, man, he is way hotter than me."
Patrick gives an exaggerated shrug. "I guess there's no accounting for taste."
That sets the tone for next few questions. Ellen keeps it light and teasing and Patrick's just starting to relax when Ellen grins and asks, "So Patrick, what's going on here?" and looks up to the large screen behind them where she often projects images during interviews. Patrick tries not to let the horror show on his face as he turns to look, convinced it'll be a screen capture from some not-X-rated part of the video. It isn't. It's the image of him and Pete in the back lot of KBRA radio, one where they're hugging.
"You thought that was going to be a different picture, didn't you?" Ellen teases, looking gleeful.
Patrick lets out a startled laugh, his face burning. "Yeah, you got me."
"You were expecting maybe, this one?" Ellen asks, grinning up at the screen as the picture changes over.
Patrick looks up with horror a second time, but it's still not the video. It's one of him and Pete from Jay-Z's party, making out on the dance floor. Patrick sags with relief.
"Oh look, he's red again!" Ellen giggles and Patrick wants to die a little. "I'm sorry Patrick, but it's really fun to make you blush."
"He looks cute when he blushes," Pete adds, and Patrick makes a note to kill him later.
"Anyway, go back one," Ellen says and the picture switches back to the one at the radio station, her tone getting a little more serious. "So this one was taken right after you found out that a very personal video of yours was all over the internet. How'd that go down?"
Patrick blows out a breath. "Not well." He runs a hand over his face, trying not to get caught up in the panicked memory of the video breaking and just talk. "I was on air doing a radio interview, we were taking questions from callers and this guy just… dropped it."
"He was kind of an asshole," Pete jumps in. "Wait, can I say asshole?"
"No, you can't," Ellen says, and adds, "asshole," afterwards with a smile. "So, prior to this you knew your phone was stolen?"
"I knew it was missing, I didn't know if it was stolen. It was just out there, with this video on it, like a time bomb." Patrick can feel sweat breaking out on the back of his neck. He doesn't want to talk about this anymore, think about it anymore, but that's not an option.
"So was it a relief to finally have it out then?"
Patrick barks out a mirthless laugh. "No, it really wasn't. I think I could have quite happily lived in suspense forever."
"But that wasn't an option, and now everyone knows about it, so what did you do?"
"What could I do?" Patrick swallows down a bubble of hysteria. "I mean, there's no point trying to deny it or hide from it, is there? That's us, on that tape. And it sucks, so much that this happened, that something I really didn't want out there is just.. out there and I have no control over it." He has to stop, take a breath, try to calm himself, because this is all starting to get a little close to home now. Pete's hand creeps across the couch to take his, giving it a squeeze. Patrick holds onto it, probably a little too tightly and forces himself to continue. "It sucks yeah, but at the end of the day it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't made the video in the first place. I need to take responsibility for at least part of it." Pete's hand is warm in Patrick's and when he glances up Pete's wearing his best supportive boyfriend smile. Patrick returns it, and adds, "Pete has to take some responsibility too, of course, I mean, look at him."
Pete shrugs and leans back, hooking one ankle up on his knee. "I can't help being dead sexy."
The audience titters and Patrick smiles at Pete, "You're so humble."
Once mention of the sex tape is out of the way, the rest of the interview is easy. They talk about the album and the upcoming tour, and Pete's poetry and website get a plug too. Mostly, Ellen asks about the two of them. To his own surprise, Patrick finds the questions about Pete are easiest to answer and it has little to do with their memorised backstory. It's feels scarily natural for Patrick to adopt the role of doting boyfriend, and there isn't a lot of fiction involved in talking about Pete's talents with words, or his disarming smile, or how good he looks in tight jeans. The audience eats it up, cooing and clapping at all the right moments, and Patrick starts to think maybe this is all going to work out okay.
Ellen wraps up the segment with handshakes and hugs. Just as Patrick is starting to loosen up, she says, "Look how relaxed you are now, Patrick! You must be so relieved we made it through the whole interview without me putting your sex tape up on the screen! Oh, except—" She throws a glance up to the screen and Patrick's stomach jolts. He knows his pained expression is being captured by cameras as he turns to the screen where no doubt Ellen will have chosen his most embarrassing sex-face.
Except it's not him and Pete on the screen, it's Ellen's wife Portia, wrapped in a towel asking, "Are you filming me?"
Ellen mugs an impressive look of horror and cries "'Wrong tape! You guys, wrong tape!" as the audience dissolve into riotous laughter. Meanwhile, the Portia on the screen says "Stop filming! Ellen, put down the camera!" and the image dissolves to static.
Ellen makes a face at the camera and says, "I'm gonna be in so much trouble later." The audience laughs again and Ellen changes gears, back into host mode. "Let's have a big hand for Patrick Stump and Pete Wentz! Thanks for coming on guys. Patrick will be back later to play us a track from his new album, and after the break we'll return with Channing Tatum!"
Pete takes Patrick's hand, squeezing gently as the audience cheer.
"So how do you know these guys anyway?" Pete asks, as he and Patrick roll up to the Roxy. There's a crowd slowly filing into the front entrance, lots of tattoos and mohawks visible in the sea of black. "They don't exactly look like your kind of music."
"What, I can't like something a little harder?"
"I didn't say that!" Pete counters, defensive. Patrick stops walking and just stares him down. He's learned rather quickly that if he just stops talking long enough Pete will fold. It's a handy trick. "Oh my god, come on, you can't blame me. These guys aren't exactly gonna cite Prince as an influence. One of them was in Anthrax!"
"I actually tried out to be a drummer in one of Joe's old bands, I'll have you know."
That shuts Pete up for exactly ten seconds. "Of course you did. Why didn't they take you?"
"Probably because I was sixteen." Patrick pauses out front of the venue, just under the sign to give the paparazzi a chance to get some pictures.
Pete cottons on immediately and eases closer, tangling his fingers with Patrick's. "Fuck, I bet you were hot at sixteen." Pete looks him up and down, like he's imagining it.
"I was awkward and kind of chubby. I had big glasses and I wore a lot of hats."
Pete grins and twitches his nose in a way that should be unattractive but is actually quite cute. "Sounds like a teenage dream. And you look good damn good in hats."
"Shut your face," Patrick says, but it comes out light. He is way too charmed by Pete and it's obvious. Which is probably a good thing, since they're being papp'ed. Pete hooks an arm around Patrick's shoulder and turns them towards the cameras, giving them a half-assed salute before they both head inside.
The club is warm and loud. The opener must've already started because the screech of guitars is definitely not in-house music. Pete grabs Patrick's wrist and drags him down toward the front of the stage, elbowing people out of the way like an old pro until they're only about five rows of people from the front. It's a little closer than Patrick would usually go, but there's no going back now. The crowd isn't full capacity as yet, but the opening band is acting like it's a stadium show, shouting to the crowd to "bounce motherfuckers!" and they absolutely do. Patrick gets pressed up against Pete's back as the crowd goes nuts. All Patrick can do is hold on to Pete as the motion of the gathered bodies shoves him them together in ways that aren't entirely unpleasant.
The opener is actually good. Their sound is somewhere between emo and screamo and they have more energy than a lot of bands Patrick could name. They have two singers, which is weird, but somehow they make it work, alternating verses and harmonising occasionally. It's a really great, energetic set, and being pressed up against Pete for a full half hour isn't a bad thing either. Patrick enjoys himself.
It's a pity to pry himself off Pete at the end of the set as the pit empties out. They grab a couple of beers by the bar as the roadies go to work on the stage.
"Fuck, that was good. It's been way too long since I've been in the pit," Pete confesses, running a hand through his sweaty hair.
"Misspent youth?" Patrick asks, his eyes lingering on the ink of Pete's full sleeve, shiny with sweat.
"Dude, you have no idea. Being in a band like that was my childhood dream." Pete stares at the empty stage, his eyes getting a distant look.
"What happened?" Patrick asks, genuinely curious.
Pete gives a self-deprecating snort. "Isn't it obvious? I have zero musical talent. Can't play, can't sing. Hard to be in a band when you've got nothing to offer."
"Your poetry is awesome though. Some of the stuff you do is practically lyrics already." Patrick can't help pointing out. He's gotten more than the odd line stuck in his head when perusing Pete's blog, and this isn't the first time he's thought about Pete's words from a musical perspective. "You ever thought of writing?"
Pete shakes his head, suddenly very interested in the beer bottle in his hands, "No."
"Why not, though? The stuff on your blog is better than what I write."
"It really isn't." Pete frowns. "I don't know, it's like… this is going to sound dumb."
"Say it anyway."
"I just… I don't know if I could give my words to someone else like that. I don't know if I'd want someone else to have them, like, what if they get them wrong? But mostly…"
"I'd want to be part of it. Which is impossible because, you know," he shrugs, "No talent."
Patrick finds himself staring at Pete, at his dark eyes with their smudged eyeliner and his too-big mouth. He thinks of Pete's words, and his smile, and his passion, and he just can't comprehend just how much Pete doesn't get it.
"What?" Pete asks, looking more than a little uncomfortable.
"You really don't get it, do you? You just have no idea," Patrick says, a little in awe.
"No idea, what?"
Patrick shakes his head, not sure if he's qualified to put it in words. He pries the beer bottle from Pete's hands and puts it aside, taking Pete's hands in his. "You've really got something. You're talented and passionate and pretty damn awesome."
"You know there's no photographers in here right now."
"Shut up. That's not me making shit up, okay? That's the truth. I don't care if you don't believe it."
Pete doesn't say anything for a long moment. He just stands there, his eyes warm, his fingers wrapped tight around Patrick's. He takes a long breath and says "Trick, I-"
The words get cut off by a sharp squeal of feedback. Patrick glances to the stage to see that it's no longer empty: Andy's taken a seat at the drum kit and Joe's shrugging into his guitar. Keith steps up to the mic, shouting, "Hello LA! We are the fucking Damned Things. Here's a song."
They burst into "We've Got A Situation Here" and the crowd goes nuts, a rush of bodies fighting their way into the mosh pit. Patrick watches, feeling more than a little pride swell in his chest that the guys are doing so well. Pete gives his hand a squeeze and they exchange smiles. The discussion is lost for now, but that doesn't mean Patrick isn't going to finish it later.
For now, he lets Pete drag him into the pit again for another great set.
Three days before Patrick's due to go on tour, Pete finally takes Patrick on his mystery date. Not that he actually tells Patrick where they're going - no, that would be too easy. Instead Patrick gets to throw increasingly random guesses at him as he and Pete wind their way through the back streets of West Hollywood. They wind up outside an old building that looks about ready for demolition, with posters and newspapers covering all the windows. There's a sandwich board outside proclaiming The Only Thing Suicidal Here Is The Door in rough chalk lettering over black paint. Pete grins at the sign and tells Patrick, "This is us," before guiding him up a winding staircase.
The second floor is bathed in red light. The guy at a cashbox recognises Pete and drags him into a hug.
"Dude! I didn't think you'd make this one now you're all famous and shit."
"You know I wouldn't miss it, man."
"Is that-" Patrick hears the guy start, his voice low, but Pete cuts him off.
"This is Patrick, my gorgeous co-star," Pete says. He tugs Patrick forward and indicates his friend with a grin. "Patrick, this is Korean Tom Cruise, he runs this crazy event."
"What is this?" Patrick asks, because he still has no clue. "Pete hasn't told me."
"Don't tell him, man," Pete interrupts, waving a hand in front of, apparently, Korean Tom Cruise. "Keep the mystery. Who's on tonight?"
"Oh you know, something old, something new. Ryan's up first, then Z and a couple of new kids. Should be good. Get in before we run out of chairs." He waves them both in without taking any money, though he's clearly supposed to.
Inside is an interesting mix of people, artsy types rubbing shoulders with hipsters and punks. The space looks like an old warehouse, decorated with graffiti, posters, and a lot of handwriting on the walls. Patrick pauses more than once to read a few lines - lyrical sonnets to angry curses and everything in between. There's a trestle table set up in the corner that's acting as a bar, with a handwritten sign detailing a small selection of drinks. Most of the rest of the space is taken up with rows of chairs, lined up facing a makeshift stage with a microphone lit by a single jury-rigged spotlight. There're some decks up behind the microphone and a single amp.
Patrick considers the setup and suddenly realises he recognises it. It's the same location as some of the videos on Pete's website, the ones of him doing slam poetry. Of course Pete's brought him to a poetry slam.
Pete grins at Patrick. "You just figured it out didn't you?"
"I'm a dumbass, I should have caught on a lot earlier," Patrick confesses.
"It's okay, I won't tell anyone." Pete gives him an exaggerated wink and herds them over to the bar for drinks. In the weird in-between time before the show actually starts, they mill around and socialise. Pete is obviously well known amongst this crowd and it's nice, if a little overwhelming, to have Pete settle his arm around Patrick's waist and introduce him to his crew. Patrick smiles and makes an effort to contribute to the conversation when he can, even if it's only to ask about someone's tie, or shoes, or tattoos.
For a few dangerous minutes, he pretends this isn't all for show. He wonders if this is what it would be like if he and Pete were really dating - if Pete would introduce him to people as "my Trick" or "Pattycakes" or "Lunchbox". If Pete's friends approve of him, or worry that he might break his heart. If he's going to get a talking to from some overzealous BFF of Pete's. It's too easy to slip his hand into the back pocket of Pete's jeans, or fix the collar of his jacket where it's stuck popped up. Pete feels too good, warm and solid beside him.
Patrick's shaken out of the fantasy by a few telltale shutter clicks. He glances towards their source, and sure enough, there's a photographer that the label must have sent. Patrick swallows a sigh and tries to force himself to relax again, but the spell's already broken.
"C'mon Trick." Pete excuses them from the group, guiding Patrick over near the stage area. "We don't want to miss the show."
He gets them a pair of seats down near the front, and as if on cue, a tiny guy wearing a top hat sweeps onto the stage. He takes the mic and announces proudly, "Please leave all overcoats, canes and top hats with the doorman, from now on you'll be out of place and underdressed! Welcome to Angels and Kings, LA's premier poetry slam. We may not be the biggest but we are the best. I'm Brendon and I'll be guiding you through the wilds of the spoken word tonight." Brendon grins and looks out over the audience. "We got any new folks here tonight? Anyone not come out before? Raise your hands."
There's a smattering of hands raised and Patrick's is one of them.
"A few virgins, huh?" Brendon leers out at the audience and sends Patrick a wink. "We get to pop a few cherries tonight, awesome! Okay, we've got a really nice show for you all so don't be shy, if you like what you hear make some noise. Now, our first act is a very close personal friend of mine. Please make him feel welcome, the one, the only, Ryan Ross!"
The guy who takes the stage is extremely thin and dressed like a history teacher right down to his brown tie, but somehow he makes it look vintage instead of tragic. He delivers a fairly wordy piece with lots of fifty cent words and a repeated line about closing the goddamn door. Once Patrick adapts to the somewhat intricate rhythm of his delivery he actually quite likes it. There's something raw and vulnerable about the way he speaks that's less aggressive than what Patrick's seen of Pete's work, but it doesn't have any less impact.
The second act is a pale guy with a mop of black hair and terrible posture whose voice sounds like he's done nothing all day but smoke cigarettes and drink whiskey. He does a piece about vampires that's staggeringly good, if a little disturbing. After him is a pair of girls who look like they've stepped straight out of the sixties, complete with beehive and go-go boots who use a tambourine for punctuation. The rest of the acts are just as varied and Patrick has to admit he's enjoying himself. Pete nudges him in the arm and gives him a smile as they applaud the final act of the first half.
Brendon announces a short break and urges people to patronise the bar. Pete gets dragged off by Korean Tom Cruise and Patrick decides to stay in his seat rather than get another drink. He's watching Pete gesticulating wildly as he tells a story when someone drops into the chair beside him.
"So you're Patrick," says Ryan, somehow managing to deliver the words sans any kind of intonation. Up close he's kind of devastatingly pretty.
"Um, yeah," Patrick smiles, despite feeling suddenly uncomfortable, "You're Ryan, right? I really liked your piece. Your rhythm is so unusual."
"What's the deal with you and Pete?" Ryan asks, and Patrick actually has to bite back a laugh, because of all the people he might have imagined getting the big brother chat from, he never would've imagined someone as delicate-looking as Ryan.
"Why do you want to know?" he hedges, still not sure if Ryan's trying to be threatening or if he's just not great with inflection.
Ryan looks thoughtful for a second, "You're not… I don't know. This isn't his usual thing." Ryan shrugs instead of finishing the sentence.
"I don't get what you mean."
"This isn't date night, right? I mean, you wouldn't…" Ryan frowns, "Pete doesn't just bring people here."
Patrick's brow furrows. "He doesn't?"
A flicker of confusion passes over Ryan's features and he frowns at Patrick again, "Just don't fuck him up, okay?"
Patrick's about to ask exactly what he means by that when Brendon slides into the seat on Patrick's other side. "Don't listen to Ryan," Brendon breezily tells Patrick before turning to Ryan and adding, "Ryan, stop harassing Patrick, it's not polite." He shoves a hand towards Patrick, "I'm Brendon."
"I know," Patrick says, and shakes the offered hand.
"Don't worry about Ryan, he's just protective. Like a bulldog." Brendon grins and slouches back against the fold out chair. It looks like he might tip over at any moment. "So I'm digging Soul Punk, man, 'Run Dry' is like the catchiest song about alcoholism I've ever heard."
"Um, thanks!" Patrick says brightly, struggling to find some way to turn the conversation to a neutral topic. Meanwhile Ryan's glaring at Patrick like he's something he found on the bottom of his shoe.
Luckily, Pete chooses that moment to rejoin them, stealing the focus away from Patrick, much to his relief.
"I see you've met my protege! Hey Ryro, love the new material." Pete catches Ryan's hand in a complicated handshake and then drags him to his feet in an awkward hug. Ryan really is all lines and angles.
Patrick sits awkwardly while Pete catches up with Brendon and Ryan. He's saved from having to contribute to the conversation when Brendon's watch beeps and he shoots them all a smile. "Time to get this show back on the road! Nice to meet you, Patrick." He clasps Patrick's shoulder before making his way back to the stage to announce the start of the second half. Ryan slips away quietly before the first act is over, sending Patrick a weighted glance that he can't decode.
The second round of acts is as varied as the first and the turntables even get a spin. Five acts down, Brendon takes the stage again to a smattering of applause.
"Okay guys, this would usually be my cue to wrap up for the night, but I've just been told we have a late addition to the lineup. Can't say I'm surprised! If you've been here before then you know him, you love him - please welcome to the stage Pete Wentz!"
Patrick's jaw drops as Pete stands up. He sends Patrick a quick grin before sidling through the rows of chairs and up to the stage, taking the mic from Brendon with a fistbump.
"Hey guys, it's nice to be back up here, missed you all." He fits the mic back into the stand and says, "This is kind of a cover. Hopefully the original artist doesn't mind." He sends a skittish look towards Patrick, who's still trying to process that Pete's going to perform - here, now - and Patrick gets to see it live. He grips the edge of his chair and waits.
Pete takes a breath and closes his eyes for a moment and when he opens them again he looks focused. He reaches up both hands to cradle the mic, leans in and says, "Every word's a new regret when you say it right."
The bottom drops out of Patrick's stomach. Pete can't be. He can't be… but… he keeps going, the words as familiar to Patrick as breathing.
"Every wound can be forgotten in the right light," Pete continues, his voice strong and purposeful. "Oh nostalgia, I don't need you anymore."
They're his words. Patrick's words - but hearing them from Pete's mouth is strange. Pete's taken out some of the repetitions, but that's all that's different. Every word is Patrick's, and Pete delivers them like a rousing speech, like a war cry, like a prayer. For the first time in a long time, Patrick just hears the words without the music stealing his focus and the way Pete says them is like a revelation. He makes them sound better - poignant, passionate, raw. It reminds him of why he wrote them in the first place.
"They might tell you how to live your life, but don't forget it's your right to do whatever you like." Pete delivers the words like a promise. "'Cause you can be your own spotlight." His eyes lock to Patrick's and Patrick grips the seat tighter, his heart flipping over in his chest. It's not fair for Pete to to take his words and turn them around on him like this. He can't cope. He nearly shakes out of his skin before Pete gets to the final verse, so worked up over the idea that Pete's learned these words, practised them, that he cares enough to want to share them.
By the time Pete delivers the final "you can be your own spotlight" Patrick has marks pressed into his palms from gripping the chair and his heart is pounding in his chest. Pete drops a quick thank you into the mic before he leaves the stage, his steps hesitant as he approaches Patrick. "I hope that's-"
Pete doesn't get to finish before Patricks out of his chair, grabbing a handful of Pete's shirt and dragging him in for a kiss. He doesn't even register the applause around them as he claims Pete's mouth, kissing him hard and messy until they're both breathless. He just needs to imprint himself on Pete, this moment, this feeling.
Later Patrick will lie to himself that he was playing a part, acting the appreciative boyfriend for the photographer and gathered crowd, but at the time there's nothing in his head but Pete - his voice, his words, his taste.
When they come up for air Pete's grinning wide and Patrick's chest might burst. He mirrors Pete's smile and folds into his embrace. Over Pete's shoulder he catches sight of Ryan, watching them with a gaze that's impassive, but Patrick could swear he sees a spark of approval.
The next day, their episode of "Ellen" airs and Soul Punk leaps into the Billboard top ten. The tour sells out.
Pete touches his glass to Patrick's. It's champagne - for real this time. After all, they have celebrating to do. "To the rest of the world finally figuring out how great you are," Pete toasts, adding, "Looks like you really can be your own spotlight."
Patrick smothers a laugh into his wrist before taking a drink. The words should be cheesy but somehow Pete delivers them too earnestly for Patrick to dismiss.
It's their last date on the label's dime so Patrick's gone all out. They're at one of those restaurants with months-long waiting lists (unless you know someone who can take a celebrity short cut), fine dining, crystal stemware, the whole bit. They're seated down near the front windows and Patrick's peripherally aware of a small clutch of paparazzi outside. Patrick's torn between wishing they'd leave them alone already and being thankful for their presence. As long as they're out there he has an excuse to play his part, to tangle his fingers with Pete's across the table, to send a smile at Pete and bask in the one he gets in return.
Tomorrow afternoon a car is due to collect Patrick at his apartment and whisk him off on his thirty date US tour. The knowledge presses on him like a weight. He's looking forward to touring, of course. He can't wait to play the new songs to an audience, can't wait to get up on stage again, to leave behind this whole crazy farce and just concentrate on the reason he's doing this in the first place, right?
Tomorrow he can leave LA, the paparazzi, the headlines, the scandal—leave it all behind and have his life be his own again. He can go back to his normal, measured existence that's all about the music and not about crazy attention-grabbing antics.
His regular life, without Pete.
He meets Pete's eyes across the table and Pete smiles warmly. Patrick struggles to smile back.
Luckily, their waiter chooses that moment to return and take their orders. Patrick orders the first vegetarian thing he spots on the menu. Pete orders something he can't pronounce and ends up just pointing at it. After the waiter's gone he cracks up laughing and it's contagious enough that Patrick ends up snickering.
"I've probably just ordered like, whale's sperm or octopus tentacles or something," Pete says.
"I'm sure they'll know how to make it taste amazing, whatever it is," Patrick says. The place came pretty highly recommended. Not that he's trying to impress Pete.
"So when they serve me up Cream of something the chef found on the bottom of his shoe vichyssoise you'll try some?" Pete challenges with a grin.
Patrick makes a face. "Yeah, you know I'd love to, but I'm vegetarian."
"Patrick, Patrick…" Pete sighs and reaches over to pat Patrick's hand. "You really need to expand your horizons more."
"My horizons are perfectly fine. I like to keep things that have a face off my plate."
Pete pouts at him. It's kind of appallingly cute.
"Okay, if it really is octopus tentacles I'll split my ratatouille with you."
Pete face lights up when he smiles. "You're a good guy, Lunchbox. Don't let anyone tell you different."
Patrick forces a smile and doesn't think about how no one's going to call him Lunchbox after tonight. That's such a stupid thing to be sad about anyway.
They pass the rest of the meal talking about anything that isn't the tour Patrick's about to go on. Pete's got a million ridiculous stories about his time at Dirty Angels and Patrick can match him with his own tales of studio and celebrity ridiculousness, though there's definitely less punchlines involving jizz in Patrick's stories.
All too quickly the meal passes. They linger over dessert and coffee longer than is probably polite, but Patrick doesn't feel ready to call for the cheque right away. He hasn't had a whole lot to drink, but he's loose enough that doesn't much care about being polite. Loose enough to acknowledge - if only to himself - just how good Pete looks in his dress shirt and good jeans, his hair shiny and straightened, a hint of smoky eyeliner around his eyes.
Patrick's an idiot for letting himself get so hung up on a guy who's being paid to spend time with him. Such a fucking idiot.
Pete finishes his coffee and leans across the table, beckoning Patrick closer with a waved hand. Patrick leans in, close enough to catch the scent of Pete's aftershave as Pete whispers, "I think if we don't leave soon the waiter might kill us."
It's so unexpected Patrick can't help snorting out a laugh. "Yeah okay." He waves for the cheque and the waiter appears with it like magic, laying the leather binder on the table next to Patrick and slipping away. Patrick reaches for it, but Pete snatches it away first.
"It's cool, I got this," Pete says, hugging the cheque to his chest with one hand as he reaches for his wallet with the other.
"Pete, c'mon," Patrick waits for Pete to put the binder down on the table and lays his hand over it. "Let the label get it." Patrick knows the champagne alone would put them over the $500 mark. The only reason he was so extravagant is because he knew they wouldn't be paying themselves.
Pete stubbornly won't let go. He meets Patrick's eyes, looking determined. "I got this," he says again, his voice tight and serious.
"Pete." It comes out harsher than he means it to, but he can't let Pete do this, it's so much money and it's so pointless. "C'mon, you know that's not the deal." He tries to put it gently but Pete still looks like he's been slapped.
Pete takes his hand off the cheque like he's been burned and Patrick immediately regrets it. The waiter returns at exactly that moment, leaving Patrick no option but to throw his credit card down and just get it over and done with.
Pete's twitchy as they exit the restaurant and Patrick feels fucking awful. He takes Patrick's hand, as usual, but Patrick can feel the tension thrumming through him from just that contact. It sucks. Hopefully it's not obvious in the photographs the paparazzi are taking of them as they leave, Patrick's not sure he could cope with "Trouble in Paradise" style headlines right now, even if it fits in with the overall plan of ending the public side of the relationship on tour.
"You want to walk back to my place? It's not far," Patrick offers hopefully. He desperately doesn't want to end their last date on such a sour note. He doesn't want it to end at all, not really, but maybe he can draw it out a little. It's a relief when Pete nods and they walk in silence until they've left behind the busier streets. No one's tailing them, but Pete doesn't let go of Patrick's hand, which gives Patrick a small sliver of hope to hang onto.
Patrick struggles to find the words to explain. "About the cheque… you didn't have to do that."
"I wanted to," Pete says it softer than he usually would. Patrick's still trying to come up with an answer when Pete stops walking. "It's our last date, couldn't you even give me that?"
Patrick meets Pete's eyes, searches his face, he looks so hurt. "Pete…" They stand there on the quiet street as Patrick tries to find the words that will make this okay. He doesn't understand why Pete's so worked up.
It must show all over his face because Pete just sighs and says, "Don't worry about it." He turns and starts walking again, his hand still in Patrick's.
They walk in silence. It feels weird and wrong but Patrick doesn't know what to say. The closer they get to Patrick's front door, the more he realises that once he goes inside, this is over. This is the last time he'll be seen in public with Pete, and when they go inside Pete will let go of his hand because he won't have a reason to hold it, or kiss him, or even look at him anymore. The realisation sparks a hot panic in his chest and every step gets harder. He doesn't even realise he's walking slower until they reach the doorstep and he's tugged Pete to a stop.
Pete turns, and Patrick can feel the weight of his gaze, but he just stares at the door. He can't go inside. He's not ready. Not yet.
Heart pounding in his chest, he turns to look at Pete. Just a little longer, he thinks. There's no paparazzi tailing them, but they're technically in public so he still has the excuse. Pete looks confused, but he doesn't pull away when Patrick reaches up, cups Pete's cheek gently, thinking surely he can have just one last kiss. He leans in and takes Pete's mouth and is filled with a rush of relief and desire when Pete kisses back. Pete's hand flies up to cup the back of Patrick's neck, holding him to it. It starts soft and searching, but gets hotter, until Pete's tongue presses into Patrick's mouth, and Patrick's hand grips at Pete's waist.
It goes on longer than Patrick would've expected, but he can't break it. Pete doesn't either; he just eases closer until their chests touch and fuck, he's so warm pressed against him, mouth hot on Patrick's. Pete's hands cover Patrick's cheeks, angling their heads so he can deepen the kiss, like he means it, like he wants this as much as Patrick does.
They stumble backwards until Pete's got Patrick pressed up against the front door, hard and warm against his front, kissing like they need each other to breathe. Patrick won't stop, can't stop. He's got one hand fisted in Pete's hair and the other on his waist. Pete's leg finds its way between Patrick's, their bodies press tight, and fuck. Patrick's moan gets lost in their kiss as he grinds against Pete.
It's gone a lot further than it should go on Patrick's doorstep, but he doesn't want to risk stopping in case Pete comes to his senses. In the end it's Pete who breaks it, pulling back to meet Patrick's eyes and god damn he looks amazing, his mouth wet, his eyes dark. Patrick's scared he'll end it now, call it a mistake and walk away, but he doesn't.
Pete's panting when he asks, "Can we go inside? I don't want to piss off your neighbours."
Patrick's breath comes out in a rush of relief. "Fuck yes." He smiles and Pete matches it with a wicked grin that makes all kinds of promises. He wraps himself around Patrick's back as he fumbles for the keys and gets the door open. The moment they're inside Pete kisses him again, hands everywhere as he kicks the door closed behind them.
They don't make it upstairs. They barely make it to the couch. Pete pushes Patrick onto it and climbs into his lap muttering, "Fuck, Patrick-" He doesn't finish the thought, capturing Patrick's mouth first, kissing him hard, wet, messy. His hands trace up Patrick's sides, down his chest, fingers playing along the strip of skin between Patrick's jeans and the bottom of his shirt. Patrick shivers and presses into his hands.
Patrick's got one hand in Pete's hair and the other resting on his waist, the hard leather of his belt pressing into his palm. Fuck, Patrick wants Pete out of his clothes already. He wants to lay him out and touch every inch of him, trace the lines of his tattoos with his tongue. He wants it all.
His hands are underneath Pete's shirt before he even thinks about it, his palms gliding over smooth skin, needing to touch more, feel more. He goes to tug at Pete's shirt but Pete beats him to it, unbuttoning and shrugging out of it. The moment it's off his shoulders Patrick leans up, pressing his mouth to Pete's collarbone, tracing his tongue up Pete's neck, latching his mouth to spot under Pete's ear and sucking. Pete groans and arches into Patrick's mouth, pressing closer, writhing in his lap.
"Fuck. Patrick, fuck, fuck." Pete stops moving and sounds a little distracted, "Um. A little help?"
Patrick looks up, a little dazed and Pete flashes him an embarrassed grin and raises his hands, which are still trapped in the sleeves of his shirt. "I forgot to unbutton the cuffs." He looks so ridiculous that Patrick can't help laughing. He slides his fingers into the sleeves and unbuttons them. The moment Pete's hands are free he tugs off Patrick's shirt, leaning low to mouth at his neck as he runs his hands all over Patrick's chest, sides, stomach.
He doesn't hesitate when he reaches Patrick's belt, flipping it open, wrestling with his zipper, and getting a hand inside. Patrick groans loudly as Pete palms his dick through his underwear. Fuck, it feels so good to have his touch again. Pete tips them sideways, laying Patrick out on the couch and climbing on top of him so they're pressed skin to skin down to the waist. Patrick fits his hand to the back of Pete's head and pulls him down, kissing him and tasting his moans.
"Fuck," Patrick groans, as Pete slides his hand into Patrick's underwear, stroking his dick, bare skin on skin. He's so hard he's leaking; he's not going to last.
"Patrick," Pete whispers, his mouth leaving a hot trail between Patrick's mouth and his ear. "Want you to fuck me, want your dick, want your mouth, want everything."
"Sounds like a good plan," Patrick says, sliding a hand down the back of Pete's too-fucking-tight jeans and grabbing a handful of his ass. Pete grunts and rubs down on him, grinding his hard dick into Patrick's thigh.
"Fuck," Patrick groans, trying to get his hands around to the front of Pete's jeans, needing him naked right now. He can't make his arms work properly and the way Pete's grinding on him is getting in the way so he just tugs at the waistband of Pete's pants. "Get these off. Fuck, get them off."
Pete lifts his head from Patrick's neck, his mouth wet and open, his hair messed up and sticking out everywhere, grinning wickedly. "You're so bossy." Fuck, he's beautiful.
Patrick shoves his hand down the back of Pete's jeans again, fingers sliding between Pete's ass cheeks, making him shudder. "The sooner you get naked, the sooner I can fuck you." The words chase the smile off Pete's face and his eyes go dark.
"Fuck, Patrick," he ducks his head, claiming Patrick's mouth in a thorough, biting kiss. "Want that, " he murmurs into Patrick's lips. "Wanted it for so long." He's still got his hand on Patrick's dick, not stroking anymore, just squeezing, and even that's too much sensation.
"Pete," Patrick says weakly. "Pete, c'mon. Naked, I promise it'll be worth it,"
Pete laughs, loud and unattractive and Patrick doesn't want to think about how it's the best thing he's ever heard. He sits up in Patrick's lap, shirtless and stunning, and Patrick watches as Pete undoes his belt, button, and zipper. He shoves his jeans open far enough to get his dick out and give it a few strokes. He catches Patrick's eyes as his hand moves, muttering, "God, look at you."
Patrick can't imagine what he looks like, pale skin, flushed red and sweaty as fuck, but Pete's looking at him like he's beautiful, like he can't get enough and Patrick - fuck - Patrick could take more of that.
Pete lets out a hiss, dropping his hand to the base of his dick and holding on tight. He's so hard, so gorgeous, Patrick's mouth is watering. He's desperate to touch, but if he does they'll never make if off the couch and god, he wants to fuck so, so bad.
Patrick takes a steadying breath, all his control focused on not touching Pete yet. "Pete, get up and go to the bedroom or this is gonna be over so fast."
Pete blinks down at him, looking dazed. His eyes fall to Patrick's dick, which jumps, bouncing off his belly, and Patrick can feel Pete's body tense up.
"Yeah," Pete pants, sounding wrecked, "yeah okay." He scrambles out of Patrick's lap, nearly tripping over his own feet. Patrick watches as Pete shoves his jeans down to his ankles, then has to bend over to undo his shoes so he can get them off. It would be funny if Patrick wasn't so close to the edge. Patrick moves as well, slowly and very carefully toeing off his shoes and wriggling out of his pants.
They finish undressing pretty much simultaneously. Pete turns around as Patrick stands up and suddenly they're naked and so, so close. Patrick wants so badly to press their bodies together, to feel every inch of Pete's skin pressed to his, but if he lets himself touch Pete right now they'll never make it to the bedroom.
Pete makes a noise in his throat that sounds animal and when Patrick meets his eyes he's just… looking. His gaze dances over Patrick's skin like a hot brush and Patrick might shake out of his own skin.
"C'mon," Pete says, his voice rough and wrecked. He grabs Patrick by the shoulders and steers them down the hallway. His hands start sliding downwards before they even get a few steps, teasing over Patrick's chest and nipples. Patrick has to clench his hands into fists so he doesn't reach up and grab them, because if he touches Pete now they'll be fucking in the hallway, until their knees are raw with carpet burn.
When they reach the bedroom Pete walks Patrick right up to the bed and pushes him onto it, climbing into his lap immediately. Their bodies press together, skin to skin all over, and fuck, Pete's so warm, so smooth, so good. Patrick writhes up against Pete, their chests pressed tight, their cocks brushing, and they both groan in harmony.
"Fuck, Patrick, I just wanna-" Pete doesn't finish the sentence, locking his mouth to Patrick's. They kiss hot and desperate, shoving against each other, trying to get closer, closer, until Patrick can't take it anymore. He flips them over so Pete's on his back. He has every intention of turning to grab lube and condoms from the nightstand but now Pete's all laid out under his hands and Patrick gets distracted. He ducks his head, tracing his tongue along the line of thorns around Pete's neck, down his chest and stomach to the bat-shaped tattoo low on his belly.
Fuck, he's wanted this since the first time he watched Pete's video, wanted to taste his tattoos, touch him all over. Patrick leans lower, locking his mouth over the bat-heart, feeling the vibration of Pete's moan under his lips. Pete bucks underneath him, his cock brushing Patrick's chest and Patrick reaches down to grip it. Pete's so hard, so hot under his hands. He can't help but slide lower, taking Pete's dick into his mouth.
"Patrick, Patrick," Pete whispers his name like a mantra, over and over as Patrick sinks his mouth down, wanting to taste Pete right to the back of his throat.
Pete can't keep still, wriggling and writhing under Patrick's hands, his murmured litany getting louder and more desperate. "Fuck, Patrick. Patrick." His fingers tighten in Patrick's hair, tugging upwards and Patrick raises his head, reluctantly letting Pete's dick slip from his lips.
"You have to. I can't-" Pete pants, and god he's so beautiful, mussed and sweaty and undone. "You have to-" he stutters again.
Patrick slides up the bed, leaning on one elbow over Pete, their faces a breath apart. "I have to what?" Patrick asks, suddenly needing - no, desperate - to hear Pete say it. "What do you want, Pete?"
"You have to fuck me," Pete says, voice strangled but sure. "You have to, please" If the request alone wasn't enough, the 'please' pushes Patrick right over the edge.
"Okay," he whispers, lowering his head to claim Pete's mouth again in a hot needy kiss. It's hard to pry himself away from Pete long enough to get the stuff from the nightstand, but he manages it. He's back on top of Pete in moments, slicking his fingers and reaching down between their bodies to find Pete's ass.
"Like that?" Patrick asks, sliding his fingers between Pete's ass cheeks to stroke his hole, gently at first and then with more purpose.
"Yeah," Pete responds breathlessly, grinding down on Patric's hand, so eager. "More, c'mon, please."
Every time Pete says 'please' something inside Patrick comes undone. He presses a finger in, lowering his forehead to touch Pete's as he pushes inside him, so hot, so tight.
"More," Pete says again, impatiently, and Patrick can't help the smile that tugs at his lips. He loves having Pete like this, at his mercy, desperate, wanting. He slides his finger out and crosses two, pressing them both back in slow and careful. Pete makes a desperate, gorgeous noise and pushes himself down on Patrick's hand, riding his fingers.
"Fuck, Patrick," he keens, reaching down to grab his dick low and tight. "Patrick, fuck c'mon. Need you. Need you now."
The smile fades from Patrick's mouth at the desperation in Pete's tone. "Okay," he hears himself say, "Okay, Pete." He eases back, sliding his fingers out and grabbing desperately for a condom. He still hard as hell and a little stupid with it, fumbling the packet open and struggling to get it on his dick with slippery fingers. Pete reaches between them, helping to roll it on, then wraps his hand around Patrick's dick and strokes it until Patrick moans, loud and long.
Too quickly Pete lets go, lifting his legs resting his calves on Patrick's shoulders in invitation. Patrick has to stop and take a breath, just admiring Pete all laid out for him, so open, so ready. Then he grabs Pete's hips and lifts him up to his cock. Pete lets out a long groan as Patrick pushes inside him. Fuck, he's so tight, feels so good. Patrick inches in slowly, his fingers tight on Pete's hips.
"Yes, yeah," Pete sighs when Patrick's in to the hilt, fighting the urge to move, trying to give Pete some time to adjust.
Pete slides a hand up, over Patrick's chest to the back of his head, pulling him down for a fast kiss. "C'mon, let's go," he whispers with a smile, his voice too breathy to be casual.
Patrick catches his lower lip between his teeth in concentration as he pulls out slowly, then pushes back in a little faster. Pete chokes out a needy noise and grabs Patrick's hip, urging him on - faster, more. Patrick keeps his movements slow awhile longer, sweat prickling on his skin, his face and neck hot. Fuck, Pete feels so good, he wants this so much.
"Patrick, please, please, please," Pete begs. Patrick's eyes nearly roll back in his head with how fucking hot it is. He tugs on Patrick's hip urgently, writhing down onto his dick and fuck, Patrick can't. He can't.
"Pete, jesus," the words slip out of Patrick's mouth on a breath as he leans lower, their foreheads brushing as he lets go and just fucks Pete, shoving his hips forwards and going for it.
Pete just comes undone, chanting "Yes. Yes, yes, yes," on every stroke, riding it out, sweat-slick and beautiful beneath him. He's babbling, his hair stuck wet to his forehead, writhing under Patrick. It's fucking gorgeous, amazing, and it's all Patrick can do to not come there and then. He's not going to last long, not like this, not with Pete falling to pieces under him, his body so tight around him.
"Pete, oh fuck Pete-" Patrick collapses lower, knowing he's putting most of his weight on Pete's legs, but Pete doesn't protest. He covers Pete's mouth, kissing him messy and desperate until he has to come up for breath, panting into his neck as he fucks him with short sharp thrusts.
He reaches between their bodies, knocking Pete's hand out of the way and wrapping his fingers around Pete's dick, jerking him with slick strokes in time with the push of his hips. Pete lets out a growl, shoving back, fucking himself on Patrick's dick and into his hand. He grabs a handful of Patrick's hair and tugs his head up, until their eyes lock, both of them wrecked and messy, gasping for breath and groaning into the air between them.
"Patrick. Patrick, I'm-"
"Yes," Patrick grunts triumphantly, quickening his hips and hand. Then he's watching Pete come apart, his mouth dropping wide as his body shakes under Patrick's, squeezes around his dick. Patrick can't look away, watches Pete lose it, the flutter of his eyes, the way his whole body shudders. So fucking gorgeous.
Pete doesn't take even a moment to savour the afterglow, immediately grabbing at Patrick's hip, tugging him forward until he's thrusting faster, faster.
"C'mon Trick," Pete grits out. "C'mon, want to see you,"
Patrick doesn't want to think about what he must look like, but soon he can't think at all. He bucks into Pete, groaning as his hips move fast, faster, and he can feel it cresting, god he's gonna - he's gonna-
"Shit, Pete I'm-" He shudders forwards and comes his fucking brains out.
He's still trembling when he comes to, leaning over Pete. When he blinks his eyes open Pete's smiling up at him, wide and dazed.
"Hey," Pete says, reaching up to rub a thumb over Patrick's bottom lip, his voice tender.
"Hey," Patrick answers, his mouth pulling into a smile, lips stretching under Pete's thumb.
It sucks to have to move, to pull out and deal with the condom, but he manages it as quick as he can and flops back onto the bed feeling buzzed and completely fucking content. Pete presses up into his side and throws an arm over him, clinging like a gross, sweaty limpet, and Patrick can't think of a time when he's felt any happier than right now.
It's on the tip of his tongue to ask Pete what he's doing for the next few months; maybe he can come on tour with Patrick, even just for a while. It doesn't feel like the time to ask though, not with Pete already nosing under his ear, dropping light kisses on his neck. He sighs and curls an arm around Pete. He's not getting picked up until tomorrow afternoon. They can at least spend the morning together, and maybe Patrick can convince Pete he really wants to see the midwest.
Pete rests his head on Patrick's shoulder with a sigh, reaching across Patrick's body for his hand. He interlocks their fingers, their joined hands resting warm and heavy on Patrick's chest. When Patrick hears Pete's breaths slow down to a cadence that means he's definitely asleep, he lets himself follow, already looking forward to waking up beside him.
When Patrick's alarm clock screams him awake the next morning, Patrick is alone in the bed. The sheets beside him are cold. He sits up, groping for his glasses and looking around the empty room.
"Pete?" he calls, just in case. Maybe he's taking a shower. Maybe he's in the living room.
Patrick pulls on some boxers and a t-shirt and wanders dazedly around his house that is completely empty of hot tattooed guys. He goes back to the bedroom, checking the nightstand just in case there's a note that Pete went for coffee. There isn't a note.
He checks his phone as well, just in case there a text message. There isn't.
Patrick drops back onto the bed, suddenly still.
He checks his phone numerous times throughout the day. He gets a text from Butch confirming his pick-up time and a bunch more from friends wishing him a good tour, but none are from Pete. It kind of sucks.
He finishes packing and is ready when the car comes to collect him. He leaves for tour with no word from Pete.
Tour is crazy as usual. Crazy and wonderful and terrifying. Patrick's glad of the distraction, happy to throw himself into shows, belt out the songs he knows so well to an immediate audience reaction. He stamps his foot, claps his hands and sings with everything in him.
It's almost enough to distract him. Almost.
The shows go well and Patrick enjoys them. He's also man enough to admit - if only to himself - that he misses Pete. It's weird how quickly he got used to him being around, to them being stuck with each other. More than once he reaches for his phone to take a picture or tap out a message and send it to Pete, something he'd find funny or appreciate in some way, but then he remembers, and he doesn't ever press send. He can't, not when Pete's silence is so loud.
Whenever he can get any kind of internet he checks Pete's website. Pete's not making any new posts, but that means Patrick just reads the old ones, over and over, until the words get lodged in his head, and find a rhythm, a bassline, a melody.
He doesn't know what he's doing late one night on the bus when he picks up his acoustic and plays with those notes. It's just another thing to do, another way to distract himself from picking up his phone and dialling Pete's number. He doesn't mean to turn Pete's words into a song, but at 3am with a scrawled list of chords in the back of his notebook he realises that's what he's done.
He buries the notebook under a haphazard pile of CDs and books, but it doesn't exorcise the song from his head. He doesn't play it for anyone. There's only one person he could play it for and right now they're apparently not even speaking.
Patrick should be over this already. He shouldn't even need to get over it, since there was never anything in the first place.
Cities pass in a blur of shows, shitty tour food and cramped sleeping conditions. There are appearances to make before the shows and a handful of interviews as well. Butch has obviously pre-approved all the interview questions because none of them are about the sex tape or Pete. Patrick should be relieved, but somehow he isn't. Somehow it just makes Pete's absence all the more obvious.
Butch can control the questions from the media but not the fans. Patrick's at a signing in HMV, his pen poised over a copy of Soul Punk he's making out to "Katrina - with a K" when Katrina asks, "So how's Pete?"
Patrick's glad he's looking down at what he's writing so she can't see him blanch. He finishes signing his name, weighing up what to say. They're supposed to be cooling off the romance in the media now, letting it die down on its own. He should say something like that.
He hands Katrina her CD back and says instead, "He's good, um, I miss him a ton." His cheeks flush warm as the words leave his mouth, and he can feel Butch staring daggers at the back of his head but he can't help barrelling on, "It's hard being apart for so long." It's stupid, so stupid, but Patrick can't help himself. It just feels good to say out loud to someone, anyone, just how much he misses Pete.
Because fuck, he really does.
Katrina takes the CD and presses it to her chest, somewhere near her heart. "I bet he misses you too. Will he come out to see you on tour?"
Patrick smiles, happy to attach himself to the fantasy, just for a little while. "I hope so. We're trying to figure it out, it all depends on schedules lining up and stuff, you know."
"Well, I hope he does," Katrina manages to say before she gets ushered on and Patrick's handed another CD to sign.
After the signing Butch catches Patrick by the shoulder as they're heading back to the buses. "What was that?"
Patrick considers playing dumb, but Butch is wearing his take-no-shit expression, so he just shrugs. "I didn't know what else to say."
A flicker of concern passes over Butch's face but he covers it quickly. "You're going to have to tell them eventually."
"Tell them what?" Patrick is mortified when his voice cracks. "That we're over? That we never were?"
"Patrick-" Butch looks suddenly concerned and Patrick realises he's said too much. Butch is just staring at him, and fuck, Patrick's gone this far, he may as well say the rest.
"Me and Pete," Patrick takes a breath, forcing the words. "What if I"m not ready for us to be over?"
It sounds pathetic even to his own ears and far too telling. It's admitting out loud that he fucked this up, but Butch doesn't call him out on it. He just settles his hand on Patrick's shoulder, giving it a firm squeeze, and says, "I think you're asking the wrong person, Patrick."
He's right, of course. Butch always is, it's infuriating.
Butch's words ring in Patrick's ears as he lays in his bunk that night, too tired to sleep. Every minute of the tour weighs down on him and he wants to be unconscious but right now it feels impossible.
He gives up on trying and pulls out his laptop, refreshing Pete's website for the millionth time, only to find it unchanged once again. He stares at the words on the screen until they blur in front of him, wishing this could be easy. Wishing he could just let go.
Or maybe that's not the answer. Maybe that's the problem. He frowns at the screen, groping for his phone. He doesn't even try to talk himself out of it this time. He's too tired and raw. He taps out a text to Pete, not even hesitating before he presses send.
Am I allowed to miss you?
Once it's sent he pushes his laptop and phone aside, rolls over and falls asleep almost instantly.
The bus is that eerie early-morning quiet when he wakes up gritty-eyed and tired. He checks his phone, but there are no messages from Pete. He frowns at the screen. Maybe this is what he needs, just to know it's over so he can let go.
His laptop is open in front of him and when he swirls a finger over the touchpad Pete's blog appears on the screen. More out of habit than anything else, he hits 'refresh,' not really comprehending as fresh words appear on the screen in front of him.
He blinks, palms his eyes and stares at the new entry on Pete's blog, not quite believing it's actually there.
I'm outside your door
Invite me in
So we can go back and play pretend
I liked you better with your mask on
Even though I cant feel your lips when we kiss
Hold my hand when the cameras flash
Let go when the door closes
I was never more real than when I was faking it
Hiding words written about you on hotel paper
Buy my body for a top shelf price
But my heart is free of charge
Like all the other blog entries it's signed "XO".
Patrick reads the words through once, twice, umpteen times, trying to force his brain to intepret them some other way, any other way than what he obviously wants them to mean. He can't. His breath comes short and his fingers shake where they're poised above the touchpad.
His cursor hovers at the bottom of the screen and he belatedly realises it's displaying not an arrow but a hand. Hesitantly, he lowers his fingers to the laptop and clicks.
The hidden link loads far too slowly, a spinning buffering wheel telling Patrick it's a video site. It only takes him a moment to realise the video that's loading is their video, their so-called sex tape - and it's already autoplaying so Patrick doesn't even have to make the decision to press play.
This time, Patrick doesn't even reach for the space bar. He watches it, wincing at the screen when he hears his own voice, but keeps his eyes on Pete's image in the video. He fights past his own embarrassment and just watches Pete - the way Pete looks at Patrick, the way Patrick responds to Pete. They way they fit.
It's so obvious. His cheeks heat as he watches himself come apart on the screen, his eyes locked to Pete's, Pete's gaze locked to his.
Fuck, Patrick thinks, the whole world saw this before he did. No wonder they believed it.
Their bodies tumble out of frame and the marker on the progress bar hits the end, the screen going black. Patrick's breath comes in rough pants, his cheeks burning and he's so fucking hard right now. He realises absently that he's clutching his phone and he raises it, calling Pete's number before he can talk himself out of it. He's not even sure what time it is.
Pete answers almost immediately, his voice a little rough. "Trick?"
"I lied," Patrick confesses, "I never actually watched it before. This was the first time."
"You watched the video?" Pete's words are careful, "What did you think?"
Patrick lets out a breath on a sigh, his eyes fixing on the video window. He scrolls back through it, flashing up frozen images of the two of them, Pete's hands on Patrick, Patrick's on Pete. He stops on a frame of them kissing and tells Pete, "I think anyone who saw this would think we're in love."
Pete's silent for a long moment before asking quietly, "Would they be right?"
Patrick looks at his computer screen, staring at the words I was never more real than when I was faking it and feels confident to answer for both of them. "Yes."
He hears Pete's rush of breath into the mouthpiece, picturing his wide smile and his heart swells.
"I need to tell you a secret," Pete says, and Patrick was right about the smile, he can hear it in his voice.
"Yeah?" he prompts, his mouth twitching with a grin already.
"I don't think we should break up."
Patrick laughs for what feels like the first time in weeks, loud and satisfying. "Awesome. I don't think we should either."
Pete's giggle on the other end of the line is the best thing Patrick's heard in a long time. "Awesome."
It's hot as fuck in the tiny venue in the Midwestern town that Patrick has to keep checking the run sheet to remember the name of. Either the A/C is fried or they're over capacity or both, and Patrick's already lost his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and undone his tie and top buttons and he's still sweating hard enough to make his eyes sting.
So far, it's a fucking amazing show.
The kids are screaming and clapping, moving in front of him like a human tide and the band is on - tight, perfect and bouncing with energy. Patrick can't keep still, racing around the stage like a madman, energy to burn, vibrating with adrenaline. He belts out the last notes of "Explode" and has to close his eyes and step back, his hands resting on the mic as the crowd roar their approval. He grins out at them, taking the guitar his tech passes him and shrugging it on, waiting for Michael to switch guitars while another tech puts out a second mic.
He sidles up to his mic, glancing down at the playlist with the scrawled "XO" in his own handwriting added at the bottom of the print-out. He settles his fingers on the strings as he tells the audience, "This is something a little new. I guess you could call it kind of a cover." He glances side stage to see Pete nervously bouncing, much like he has been all night, and sends him a smile. "Luckily, we have the original artist here tonight, so why don't we just ask him?" Patrick throws an arm in Pete's direction and announces, "Pete Wentz, everybody!"
Pete grins sheepishly and takes the stage. By the whistles and catcalls at least some of the crowd know who he is. He's donned an outfit that's very much his own take on Patrick's signature style, slacks with suspenders over a tight white t-shirt that shows off his inked sleeves, worn with a grey flat-cap that he stole from Patrick. It's a little more mob-boss than jazz band, but somehow it works.
He approaches the mic with a grin and says, "I'd say this is more of a co-write than a cover. I'm no musician."
"I'd argue that," Patrick banters back, grinning at Pete before turning back to the audience. "So what do you say guys, want to hear it?"
The response is overwhelmingly affirmative. Pete doesn't even wait for the cheering to die down before he takes the mic in both hands, leaning in to belt out words that Patrick read on his blog so many weeks ago.
"From day one I talked about getting out, but not forgetting about, how my worst fears are letting out," Pete delivers the words with as much passion and gusto as Patrick knew he would. "He said why put a new address, on the same old loneliness?" If the audience are confused by the spoken word they don't show it. They're in, Pete's got them. He ratchets up with every line, getting louder, getting stronger and Patrick waits, fingers poised on his guitar strings as Pete slays them with the final line.
"This is you and me, and me and you, until there's nothing left!"
That's the cue. Patrick leans into the mic, fingers moving on the strings as he starts to sing, "I comb the crowd and pick you out, my mouth moves too fast for you to figure it out. It starts eyes closed, to fingers crossed, to I swear, I say. I swear, I say."
The band kicks in then, bursting to life as the song kicks up a gear. Casey pounds the drums as Patrick raises his voice, soaring into the bridge, a brilliant cacophany of sound.
It's the first time Patrick's played this song live to an full audience, and it's such a far cry from his usual style he's more than a little terrified. Still, not quite as terrified as he was the first time he played it to an audience of one, in the back lounge of his tour bus, Pete staring wide-eyed as Patrick sang his words back to him, his fingers striking out the melody he wrote to them.
He needn't have worried. Pete's reaction to the song was the same then as it is now, a mixture of awe and glee. He's still on stage, playing up to the audience, his lips moving in time with Patrick's, knowing every word by heart.
Patrick meets Pete's gaze across the stage, the sound of their music all around him, the crowds' waving hands playing in his peripheral vision as he and Pete sing at each other, grinning around the words. "Kiss and tell, loose lips sink ships."
It's pretty much perfect.