It’s November in New Jersey and Patrick is sleeping in the back of a car again, like he’s 17 and not 27. He’s wearing every layer of clothes he brought, but the truth is, he’s just not supplied for this. He needs a sleeping bag, those tinfoil space blankets, something filled with down, at the very least a pair of gloves with fingers. It’s 35 degrees outside, which maybe doesn’t sound so bad? But it feels bad.
It’s just, he didn’t prepare for this. He didn’t realize how low ticket sales would be; how many things could really go wrong and have unexpectedly high, emergency price tags on a small, self-managed tour; how quickly his money would run out; how little of what he invested in the album he would make back.
So he’s got hotel rooms for his band in every city, slightly cramped quarters and shared beds in some questionable motels, but adequate shelter for each of them. That was non-negotiable. And in some cities, well, he’s just gonna be camping out in the parking lot. He’s roughed it before; he can do it again.
(Although: sleeping in backseats is exponentially warmer when you’ve got three or four other guys with you. It’s enough to make a man miss Joe Trohman’s notorious snoring.)
Patrick is just congratulating himself on not being changed by fame during those raucous, dreamlike years of Fall Out Boy that now seem like memories from someone else’s life, when there’s a knock on the window. Patrick startles at the sight of Michael Day, his touring guitarist, partially obscured by window fog.
“Can I come in?” Michael asks through the glass.
“What are you doing out here?” Patrick asks, stalling for time. Michael in this parking lot is--complicated. Michael, period, is complicated. Michael is complicated because of how very, very uncomplicated Michael is.
“Trying to convince you to come inside,” Michael says. “Or, barring that, to let me warm you up out here.”
Patrick knows what will happen if he lets Michael in. He’s known for weeks, now. What he’s wanted. What Michael has wanted too. Patrick’s new lean body burns up the stage, sweat flying, dancing with confidence and brazen sexuality that he was never brave enough for before he lost everything; and he feels Michael at his back, at his side, all the places he’s come to expect a guitarist to be, burning right back. This feels different from--before. Before Patrick timidly glowed, and his counterpoint on stage absorbed, nursing the tiny ember, providing safety from anything that might bank the flame. It was scary because of how it felt like love.
Michael on stage feels like burning alive with no reservations. Like they might as well burn themselves up for fun, because it’ll feel better than it hurts, because there’s no reason to hold back when it’s just bodies. Michael on stage feels like danger, like losing yourself. It’s scary because of what it’s not, not because of what it is.
What does Patrick think he’s been doing all this time on the road, on this inventive ‘it’s all fiction’ album, with this crash diet and new hairdo and custom tailored clothes, if not losing himself? If not layering in miles and memories, lies and life , to insulate himself from all the things he can no longer call his own.
In spite of the things he knows and won’t quite let himself know, Patrick hesitates. Patrick thinks about the last person he fooled around in a backseat with, and he hesitates. Is it silly, for a backseat to feel sacred, holy? To not want to profane it? But then he remembers what he can never really forget: Pete’s not here. Pete’s not even talking to him. The part of his life with Pete in it, with Fall Out Boy in it, is over . Over and not coming back.
Patrick lets Michael in.
The main thing to understand about Michael is this: he’s not Pete.
The other thing it’s important to know about Michael is that two nights ago, in Buffalo, he kissed Patrick backstage, sweaty and spent, pressing his unmistakably hard dick against Patrick’s leg before encore. He hung onto Patrick during those last two songs, pressing the lengths of their bodies together like a dance or like a dare, like he did not want to be misunderstood. His skin burned like a brand through Patrick’s suit jacket, so that Patrick half-expected to find sear marks on himself after the show.
A week before that, on Halloween, he invited glittering exhausted devil-Patrick out for drinks. Then, after a few drinks, their heads drawing closer and closer over their tiny sticky table in the increasingly packed club, he invited Patrick to the men’s bathroom. When Patrick asked why , Michael said only, “You know why.”
And Patrick did know. Michael has made things incredibly clear. There is no ambiguity in Michael, no doubt whatsoever about his intentions or desires. Patrick finds this quality almost overwhelmingly attractive.
Other things that are attractive about Michael: he is tall, at least next to Patrick’s 5’4”. He’s white, pale and freckled and prone to flushing, the thin skin under his eyes and inside his forearms blueing translucent with exertion when they’re on stage. He’s ginger-haired, with bangs that gather sweat and drip into his light eyes. In these ways they match, a logical pair, a twinned set who make sense from the outside. Michael is kind in a straightforward, intentional way. He says what he means, and things don’t come back later once they’re resolved. Michael is thin and angular, quick to laugh, with impeccable taste in jazz. His fingers are long and strong and talented, carrying off the most complex riffs of Patrick’s compositions like they’re basic drills, infusing everything he plays with a signature lively joy. When they face each other on stage and play their guitars, racing through Patrick’s songs, challenging each other to keep pace, it rises up in Patrick’s chest like laughter, like letting go. Michael feels nothing like an anchor. Michael feels nothing like--anyone else.
Patrick wants him.
When Patrick wrote you’re a cheat, cheat, cheat , he didn’t meant for it to be prophecy. He lived his whole life thinking Pete was his one exception, the only place where his judgment failed. But here he is, scooting over on his folded down backseat, making room for Michael. Making room to make mistakes. As if Pete Wentz was only the gateway drug to messy sex, forsaken vows, and heartbreak. As if Pete Wentz was nothing special after all.
Michael smells like heat and hotel soap. His hair’s still wet from the shower. He’s kissing Patrick before he’s all the way inside the car. His lips are hot as flame. At first the contact makes Patrick colder; his whole body shivers and Michael pulls him closer, pressing their bodies together.
Patrick shudders under Michael’s hands, letting his mouth melt open, letting himself be kissed hard and harder. He goes submissive, not pushing, not asking, not angry, just accepting whatever Michael offers him--whatever Michael wants to do. When Michael kisses him, Patrick is unlike himself. He wants wonderingly, and patiently, and explores Michael’s mouth with a slow curiosity. Patrick kisses back like he has plenty of time.
Patrick lets Michael push him down, so big over him, working seriously at Patrick’s mouth like he can lick Patrick’s whole body open if he does well enough. Maybe it’s true. Patrick’s groin throbs like a golden knot, muscles tightening downward, skin going taut and blood rushing to engorge. Michael kisses with careful, insistent devotion. It doesn’t feel like getting away with something, or something stolen, or something deniable. It feels deliberate. It feels like wanting something and just--having it, easy as that.
There is no tension anywhere in Patrick’s body, save for that tightening of his cock. Michael is long and soft above him, one hand firm on Patrick’s jaw, the other fussing with buttons til Michael slips his hand inside Patrick’s shirt, strokes the skin of his stomach, pets his sides, traces his ribs. It is a novel thing, a lover tracing ribs; allowing a lover to bare his stomach, to look at it, to love it. This is the kind of thing that Patrick could never have tolerated, before he remade himself.
It’s a new body, a new skin. A new life. Might as well make some new memories.
At this thought, Patrick lights up with urgency. Michael is rocking their bodies slowly together, a low-tide motion, and Patrick wants quicker, hotter, more. Patrick wants new memories so blazing-bright that they obliterate they old ones. He wants permanent blind spots. He wants to blast certain someones out of his brain.
He wants to use Michael’s body to overwrite sore memories, wants Michael to be the opiate that makes him forget forever.
The important thing about Michael is, he doesn’t care what Patrick uses his body for. He thinks bodies are made to be used.
Patrick arches his back, pressing up into Michael, kissing with more power and more decisiveness. He starts to wiggle out of his jacket, to take off clothes, but Michael presses his hands into the seat, stopping him. “Thought you kept your jacket on because you’re a gentleman?” Michael murmurs into his jaw, teasing Patrick for something he said onstage last week.
“I wasn’t planning on being gentlemanly,” Patrick says.
Michael laughs, rich and vibrating through Patrick’s skin, before pulling Patrick’s shirt open wider and fixing his mouth, teeth-first, onto a nipple. “Let me fuck you with your nice suit on,” Michael says, licking, sucking, knowing that if he asks like this he can have whatever he wants. “Promise I won’t make a mess.”
Patrick in this moment does not particularly care if Michael makes a mess.
It’s cold, nothing like California. They leave most of their clothes on. The windows steam opaque by the time Michael gets their pants off, so there are no witnesses but the two of them and their attendant ghosts when Michael licks deep into Patrick’s hole, pressing him open with a slick hunger. Patrick isn’t doing something secret, really, so he doesn’t bother trying to stifle his moans. He cries out with the kind of eager abandon that would have embarrassed him, in another love. He likes what Michael is doing to him, and he doesn’t feel shy about vocalizing it. What a strange thing, to be with a man and not feel apologetic or ashamed or as if he should hide. What a strange thing, to be with someone who has no need to denounce you or deny the act of love. What a strange thing, to want and to have in a natural sequence.
What a strange thing, to have someone inside him who isn’t Pete.
Michael eats him til he can’t stand it, til his hips buck violent, til he begs. Patrick learns for the first time that he relishes begging, enjoys submission, likes giving up control when he knows it’s only a game, knows he’s going to get exactly what he wants, knows beyond doubt that Michael wants to give it to him. Michael slides fingers into him next, widening his opening, and Patrick grazes against a stomach-dropping feeling, brushes shoulders with sunrise. It’s redundant and unnecessary to say good, yes, there , because no one has hit Patrick’s prostate since Pete, it’s just been buried there in long, patient dormancy, and nothing could feel better, nothing could eclipse Patrick and burn him from the inside out quite like this. He ruts back against Michael’s hand and tongue, whimpering, babbling pleasure, and it isn’t until Michael is finally, finally guiding his slippery wrapped dick inside him that Patrick is struck into silence.
For a man who made his life out of noise, whose voice is everything? It is a hell of a thing to be pushed clean into the enveloping, cancelled-out totality of true and utter silence.
Michael begins moving in him, a rhythm that starts slow and builds quickly. They know how to match each other, like they’ve been practicing for this every night on stage. Maybe they have been. Michael knows exactly how to fuck him, somehow: knows what the edge of too much is, knows how to hit that edge and when to crest over it, when to pull back and let Patrick be subsumed by the whole-body crush of pleasure. He knows when to savor it, when to push for more. He fucks like he was classically trained in more than just guitar.
It feels so good , graceful and riotous at once, the exact obliteration Patrick has been needing--and it feels nothing like Michael is meant for him. Nothing like they are meant for each other. There’s not a single whiff of fate about the whole affair. I don’t love you , Patrick thinks, and comes.
“Fast boy,” Michael says into his ear, and fucks him harder, riding out the hot, tight muscle contractions of Patrick’s orgasm. Patrick’s back to moaning again as Michael expands the pleasure inside him, making these post-orgasm moments almost unbearably full with the richness of sensation. Patrick’s eyes all but roll back into his head as Michael presses Patrick’s forehead down into the car carpeting and finishes with long, thorough strokes that make Patrick feel like every inch of him has been utterly, completely, judiciously fucked .
Michael doesn’t linger after he’s come, growing soft inside Patrick or treasuring the trembling heartbeats, the ones that buy them time before they have to look at each other and choose to either name or deny the thing they’ve just done. Michael has no need to expand the secret space and fill it with love that dare not speak its name, because with Michael, there are no unspoken secrets. With Michael, it is nothing like it was--before.
Michael pulls out quickly, fastidiously cleaning himself up with his own discarded t-shirt, wiping off Patrick next. He shimmies back into his pants and lays on his back beside Patrick, grinning. “That was nice ,” he says appreciatively. It is a moment without fraughtness, without romance. It is just the moment that comes after a mutually enjoyable fuck between friends. It doesn’t mean anything.
This is exactly what Patrick wanted: something that didn’t mean anything. Gratification. Pleasure. Erasure. Michael .
So why is he lying here now, freshly fucked and wanting--wanting the things he has remade his whole life, in order to not want?
“Hey. You okay?” Michael asks. He rolls onto his side, pillowing his head on one hand, and pokes Patrick in the flat belly.
Patrick fits a smile to his face, turns his head towards Michael, puts the i in lie. “You fucked me into a coma, I think,” he says. “That was--you’re good at that.”
Michael leans in and presses a kiss to Patrick’s collarbone, another one of those new excavations of bone that makes Patrick somewhat uneasy. He’s so exposed, without his familiar weight and its solid surety. He gets so much colder, without it. He feels either more or less himself. He can’t quite tell which. “I think I am, yes,” Michael agrees immodestly. “You’re different than I thought you would be.”
That catches Patrick’s curiosity. He pulls his thoughts forcibly out of the past, faces the man in front of him, faces the future. “Different how?”
Michael grins, showing teeth in moonlight. They’ll be chattering soon, Patrick thinks. The heat they brought each other is bleeding off quickly into the winter. “Never thought you’d let me in, to start with. I’m glad to be wrong,” says Michael. “You seem like a person who moves away from what he wants.”
“Used to be,” Patrick says.
“What changed?” Michael asks. He turns his attention to kissing Patrick’s fingertips.
Spacey and fucked to pieces, it’s hard to stop whatever he thinks just pouring out of his mouth. This type of pillow confession, the kind where you slip up and say things you really mean, was poison to postcoital moments with Pete. But the whole point of Michael is that nothing’s at stake. There are no risks, no consequences.
“I lost him anyway,” he says. He trembles under Michael’s touch, the encroaching cold. “Was so afraid of what I wanted that I ran off the opposite cliff. Now I wonder, what was the point of self-preservation, if it turned me into someone other than myself? If it was protecting a self I wasn’t comfortable with, someone I didn’t even want to be.” Patrick lets his eyes close so it’s easier to be honest. “Then everything I was afraid of losing fell apart. Things end, even if you’re doing everything you can to keep yourself from wrecking them. Sometimes things end because you’re trying so hard not to wreck them. And I guess… I guess I just wanted to be more honest this time. Because otherwise what was the point of starting over?”
When Patrick opens his eyes, Michael’s face is directly above his. “Next time, you can fuck me and afterwards I’ll confess,” he says. “I’m freezing. Are you gonna make me sleep out here, or will you come inside with me?”
Patrick laughs in spite of himself. “Wait, why are those the only options?”
“Don’t make me carry you, tiny man,” Michael threatens playfully. “I don’t like to make you feel small.”
Patrick lets Michael wheedle a little more--he likes being convinced almost as much as he liked begging earlier--before they go upstairs together. He’s about to lock the car behind him when Michael says, “Wait. Bring your motorcycle gloves. We might need them.”
Patrick grins in the cold night air. He snaps the gloves on with slow, exaggerated motions right there in the parking lot. Once he warms up, he thinks he could go again. “I fully expect this leather to be sticky and ruined by morning,” he says.
Michael grins back and says, “Oh, let’s not put limits on the things we can ruin by morning.”
Away from the backseat and all its ghosts, the rest of the night is fucking wonderful. It doesn’t remind Patrick of anything.