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2:43 p.m., and it's already been the longest day of Patrick Stump's sixteen-year-old life.

"The newly designated capital of the Confederacy in Richmond, only a hundred miles away from Washington, D.C., made a logical target for the Union army," Patrick's history teacher yammers on in a high-pitched, nasal monotone that has to be against the Geneva Conventions. "But first, they needed to capture an important railway junction in Manassas, Virginia, 30 miles southwest of Washington. Troops set out for Manassas on July 16, 1861."

Patrick stares desperately up at the clock on the wall, with its fat black numbers and its contrary second hand that seriously seems to be stuck. Not stuck like the clock is broken stuck, but like time itself has gotten fucked all to hell. Mr. Silver has been droning on about this stuff longer than the Civil War actually lasted, Patrick is pretty sure.

I'd sell my freakin' soul if someone would take me away from all this high school bullshit, Patrick thinks miserably.

Behind him, Missy Tien and Alix Dorsey are whispering together, loudly enough that Patrick overhears: …fucking killer cramps, and I'm down to my last damned tampon. Kent Olsen and some of the other delinquents from the football team have been waging spitball World War III since class began; a fresh volley of attacks breaks out every time Mr. Silver turns his back to write on the board. Patrick's desk is unluckily situated right in the middle of their battlefield, and he gets caught in the line of fire for what has to be the hundredth time today. He takes his glasses off and wipes away the spitty mess with the sleeve of his t-shirt. Up front, Mickey Stillman lists precariously in his seat, head lolling to the side, making gurgling snores in the back of his throat. Patrick seriously wishes that he were unconscious.

The second hand creeps forward one grudging tick.

Mr. Silver writes: "The Battle of Bull Run." The chalk stutters on the blackboard, making such a high-pitched screech that Patrick's teeth hurt. "Now, let's talk specifics about battle strategy."

Patrick slumps, head on his hand. This day is never going to end.

The one saving grace, the one thing that keeps Patrick from throwing his textbook at Mr. Silver's head and going on a boredom-fueled rampage is that it's Friday. Two whole days ahead without muskets or battlefield maps. At least there's something to live for.

When the bell finally rings, Patrick jumps up so quickly he bangs his knee on his desk. That's probably going to leave a mark, and he doesn't even care. Because he's fucking free. He hurries off to his locker and shoves some books he doubts he'll look at once the entire weekend into his backpack. Every instinct he has screams: Run, run! But he doesn't, because that might get him sent to the office. If he has to spend even one more minute here than is absolutely necessary, he could conceivably die from it. So he walks, very briskly.

Out in the parking lot, he slams to a halt, his sneakers making a rubbery squeak on the blacktop. There's someone sitting on his car. Some guy he's never seen before. On the hood of Patrick's car, which he needs if he's going to get the hell out of here.

The guy is hot, in a not entirely savory looking way, slight and dark, in torn jeans, a glittery purple t-shirt, and a rumpled hoodie. His hair stands on end like he just rolled out of bed. Patrick catches a glimpse of tattoos where the sleeve of his hoodie is rucked up. He's too old to be a high school student, and Patrick fleetingly wonders how he made it past campus security.

"Hey," Patrick says, a little warily.

"Hey," Messy Hair says back.

"So, um…this is my car?" He doesn't mean it to come out as a question, but awkwardness does this to his voice, makes it lilt up uncertainly. It's one more thing to hate about being a teenager.

Messy Hair breaks into a big grin, all white dazzle and overwhelming teeth. "It totally is your car." He slides off the hood, hitting the ground with a thud of his blaring orange sneakers, looking satisfied with the noise and the dust he kicks up. "I guess that means you're driving, huh?" He saunters around to the passenger side.

Patrick is more confused by the minute. "I don't even know you."

"But I know you, Patrick Martin Stump." There's another flash of toothy brilliance. "And I want coffee. So shake your butt, Rickster, and let's get this party on the road."

Messy Hair hops into the car, letting the door bang closed. He puts his feet up on the dashboard, getting his gaudy sneakers all over everything. When Patrick's brother does shit like that, it usually ends with Patrick's fist in his face. Patrick had to run the maternal gauntlet of "I'm not sure if you're ready for such a big responsibility" and "this will just be one more thing for me to worry about" to get this car. If he's a little overprotective of it, well, he has good reason.

Still, he probably shouldn't punch a stranger, at least not where Principal Wilkerson might see him. He stands there, clutching his keys, not sure what to do. On impulse, he closes his eyes, because maybe this is just the most annoying hallucination ever. But when he opens them up again, the guy is still there, parked in the passenger seat, waving his arms at Patrick to hurry his ass up.

Patrick goes ahead and gets in, even though he's pretty sure this is what his mother meant when she gave him that talk about stranger danger back in the third grade. But what else is he supposed to do? It's his car.

"Starbucks?" the guy says, with a hopeful tilt of his head.

Patrick sighs and starts up the engine. Messy Hair pumps his fist ridiculously in triumph.

"So…who are you?" Patrick asks after some seconds of riding in awkward silence.

"Oh. Hey. Yeah. Let me introduce myself." His mouth curves up. "I'm the Devil."

"Uh-huh." Patrick doesn't actually roll his eyes, but his tone makes it clear that he wants to.

"I am," Messy Hair says. "The Devil. AKA Lucifer. Beelzebub. The Prince of Darkness. The Deceiver. The Tempter. The Antichrist. Old Scratch. AKA Peter Lewis Kingston Wentz III. But you, Pattycakes, can call me Pete."

"Yeah, well, you can call me Patrick."

"Not afraid to get mouthy with the Devil, I like that about you." Pete gives Patrick the speculative once-over. "Or, hey, maybe I just like your mouth."

There's a sudden flash of heat in Patrick's cheeks and, more disturbingly, in the pit of his stomach. He clears his throat. "You, uh, don't look like the Devil."

He doesn't mention that Pete does look like some twelve-year-old girl's closet exploded all over him. Let it never be said that he's not a generous kind of guy.

Pete shrugs. "I'm the Devil. I can look any way I want."

Patrick snorts and glances over, his mouth all poised to say, "Cut the fucking bullshit." The words get stuck on his tongue, and his eyes bug out.

Pete has undergone some kind of GQ transformation and is now sprawled in the passenger seat dressed in a black suit, with his hair slicked back, like a male model or a sleazy lawyer on a TV drama. Patrick blinks, and then Pete is wearing a police officer's uniform, complete with nightstick that he fondles in an overly friendly fashion. Patrick scowls at him, and Pete grins. An eyeblink later, he's dressed up like Playgirl Halloween, in a shiny red cape, a headband with horns tilted at a jaunty angle, and a teeny tiny little black thong.

Patrick gawks–he can't help it–until an urgent blare of horn snaps him out of it. He jerks the car back into his lane, keeping his eyes straight ahead, his hands carefully at ten and two, as precise as a Driver's Ed instructional film.

"Okay, Cupcake. It's safe to look now." Pete sounds amused, the bastard.

Patrick doesn't turn his head. This is because he cares about automotive safety, not because he can feel moisture beading on his top lip.

"Pa-trick," Pete says coaxingly. "Paaaa-trick."

Patrick feels Pete watching him, the gaze as insistent as a finger poking at him. He lets out his breath and dares a glance over.

Pete is back to the old outfit, just as ripped and rumpled and glitter-stained as before. "I prefer to blend," he says, without even a hint of irony.

I must have been hallucinating. This is what caffeine deprivation does to a person, Patrick thinks firmly.

"I'm not a freshman," he says. "So you can seriously lay off the hazing."

"I don't know, Lunchbox. You look plenty fresh to me." Pete breaks into a leering smile. "Juicy, too."

Luckily, Patrick is wheeling into the Starbucks parking lot just then, so he doesn't have to figure out a way to respond to that. Pete scrambles out of the car. Patrick follows more reluctantly. Pete bounces impatiently on his toes, waiting for Patrick to catch up. This spurs every contrary impulse Patrick has, and he slows down to the pace of an arthritic turtle.

Pete fidgets, twisting the hem of his t-shirt in his hands. Apparently, three seconds is all it takes for him to get bored. He glances around, kicks at some stray gravel, and then spots a puddle by the sidewalk. His face lights up, and he goes bounding up to it and jumps, landing with both feet. Filthy water splashes up just as a woman walks past. The spray catches the hem of her skirt. She glares at Pete as if she is seriously considering strangling him to death with his own hoodie. He fixes a smoldering look on her and blows a kiss. She blinks, dazed for a moment, and then blushes wildly and hurries on. Pete glances back over his shoulder and winks at Patrick.

Patrick rolls his eyes.

Inside, he starts to get in line, but Pete says, "I got this. You go snag us a table."

Patrick frowns. "You sure?" Pete makes an impatient face at him. "Okay, okay. I'll have a–"

"Grande vanilla extra hot latte," Pete finishes the sentence, grinning.

Patrick scowls at him. "What? Have you been stalking me or something?"

"Or something," Pete says. "So, you know, just for the record, can you confirm that this is in fact your coffee beverage of choice?"

Patrick rolls his eyes. "Yes, that's what I want."

"Your wish is my command, Patmeister." Pete grins goofily. "Be right back."

Patrick really should just get in his car and get the hell out of here and leave creepy stalker Pete stranded where he hopefully won't be able to do any harm. Instead, Patrick stakes out a table by the window.

Pete returns two seconds later, empty-handed. "Oh, hey. You got any money on you?"

Patrick sighs and hands over a twenty. Pete beams and presses a kiss to Patrick's cheek and goes off in pursuit of coffee. Patrick is left to look around frantically for anyone with a camera phone out, because what's more likely: that this is some stupid prank or that he's having coffee with the Devil? Patrick can just imagine the million and one ways his life will suck if a picture of him being kissed by a guy gets spread all over school.

But no one is paying the least bit of attention. The couple in the corner are practically sucking each other's tonsils out. A girl at the table near the bathroom bends over a stack of books, scribbling notes on a pad of paper, looking like she wants to tear her hair out by the roots. An old guy who seems kind of down on his luck stares into space, clutching his cup to his chest, as if he's wondering how it all went wrong.

Patrick glances over at Pete. He's leaning against the counter, placing their order. He ducks his head, letting his bangs fall in his face, and gives the barista a look through his lashes. He says something that causes her to giggle. Patrick makes a sour face. He's not even sure why.

Pete catches Patrick watching and grins and waves. Patrick looks away sharply, heat creeping into his cheeks. Pete grabs their coffee, comes thumping over to the table and plunks down onto a chair. He pushes Patrick's cup at him and takes a big, noisy slurp from his own.

"Change?" Patrick fixes him with a don't think I can't do this math look.

Pete reluctantly fishes a wad of bills and coins out of his pocket and slides it across the table. "So. Let's get down to business, huh?" He takes another slurp of his coffee.

"What do you want?" Patrick asks warily.

Pete shakes his head. "No, Rickster. It's what you want. 'I'd sell my freakin' soul if someone would take me away from all this high school bullshit.' Remember?"

Patrick stares at him, his mouth hanging open. "How did you–"

Pete smiles, and is that a hint of brimstone in his eyes? No, no, there is no such thing as the Devil, Patrick tells himself firmly.

And then he tells Pete, for good measure.

"Oh, there's such a thing as the Devil, Patrick," Pete assures him. "And here I am to make you a deal. Seven sparkly wishes, whatever you want. And all you've got to do is hand over that shiny, shiny soul of yours. Cool, huh?" He digs around in the pocket of his hoodie and comes up with a crumpled, coffee-stained Starbucks napkin. "The contract."

Written in purple Sharpie is:

dear trick,

seven wishes for you

 

your soul for me

 

all you gotta to do

 

is dot some i's, cross some t's

xo,

 

petey

"You're not much on punctuation or capital letters, are you?" Patrick says dryly.

Pete shakes his head cheerfully. "That shit just slows me down. So what do you say? Deal?"

"Um. No," Patrick tells him, with an indignant snort.

"Why?" Pete appears genuinely confused.

"Why?" Patrick repeats. "Because it's my soul."

"Uh-huh," Pete says, nodding. "And you probably use your soul all the time for, like, really important stuff."

"Well–" Patrick has no intention of admitting to Pete that he's never actually given his soul much thought before.

"Look, dude, I'm going to level with you, okay?" Pete says, lowering his voice, as if he's giving away a state secret. "Souls are so a thousand years ago, you know? Totally obsolete. Nobody really thinks about them anymore or cares much about them or nurtures them with, like, a hundred hours of church a week the way they did back in the day. Times change, but the Devil doesn't. Buying souls is my gig, whether it makes sense in the 2000-now or not. Which is good news for you, Pat. Because it means you get seven brand-spanking-new wishes in exchange for something you weren't using anyway. It's totally win-win."

His eyes fasten on Patrick, bright and intense and no sign that he plans on giving up this charade any time soon.

Patrick sighs. "You're just going to pester the shit out of me until I let you pull this stupid bullshit prank on me, aren't you?"

"My determination is one of my finer qualities," Pete says with a winning smile. He whips the purple Sharpie out of his hoodie pocket. "Just sign anywhere."

Patrick rolls his eyes and grabs the pen. He adds his "Patrick M. Stump" to the napkin and pushes it back at Pete. "There. Satisfied? I'm just going to tell everyone that you're certifiable and signing your stupid 'contract' was the only way I could get rid of you."

Pete leans in, so close that Patrick can feel breath on his cheek. "I think you signed it because you don't want to get rid of me." If he looked any more sure of himself, Patrick would have to punch him. "Hey, you know what? We totally forgot to seal the deal."

Patrick assumes this means a handshake, and he's rolling his eyes, because seriously, how dorky is this guy? Pete hooks a hand behind Patrick's neck and pulls him in, and hey! Pete's mouth is getting up close and personal with Patrick's. It's the shock of it, Patrick tells himself, that keeps him frozen in place while Pete plants a big, smacking kiss.

"What the hell was that?" Patrick asks when Pete lets him go, flustered and fighting the impulse to touch his fingers to his mouth. Should his skin really be buzzing like that?

"I'm the Devil," Pete says, as if this explains everything. "I like to kiss dudes on the mouth.."

There's something in the way he says it, the way he's looking at Patrick that seems to suggest this could happen again, his mouth snugged up all warm and firm and mobile against Patrick's. Suddenly there's a fluttery feeling in Patrick's stomach, nervous and anticipatory and too hot. He almost doesn't care that he's going to be tortured for the rest of always once it gets out that he spends his Friday afternoons kissing guys over lattes at Starbucks.

Pete breaks into a slow smile, as if he's been listening in on Patrick's inner monologue. He gets to his feet and leans down to give Patrick another peck on the cheek. "Call me when you want your second wish."

That takes a moment to sink. "Wait. What do you mean? I haven't had the first wish yet."

"Dude. You totally did." Pete nods at Patrick's Starbucks cup.

"You made me pay for it!" Patrick says huffily.

"That coffee beverage was made with extra special loving care, Pattyboy. I had to flirt hard for that."

"You're a cheater!" Patrick points his finger accusingly. He doesn't even care that he's arguing over some bullshit prank. It's the principle of the thing.

"I'm the Devil," Pete reminds him, with a wink.

Patrick has "go fuck yourself" forming on his lips, but suddenly Pete is just…gone. Patrick whips his head around, but there's no sign of him anywhere. He stares at the empty space where Pete last was for an embarrassingly long time, as if he can conjure him out of thin air. Finally, he slumps over his Starbucks cup and pulls his hat down low over his eyes. Maybe he has totally underestimated the mind-numbing powers of the American Civil War, and it knocked him just as unconscious as Mickey Stillman was. Maybe this whole time he's been sleepwalking and sleep-driving and sleep-coffee-drinking and sleep-kissing-a-hot-but-imaginary-guy.

That has to be it. Patrick mainlines the rest of his coffee to fight off any residual effects the Battle of Bull Run might have on him.


The sound is a wall, a force, a living thing. Patrick can feel it seismically shifting beneath his feet, buzzing up his arms as his fingers move on the guitar strings, simmering in his lungs when he breathes in, breathes out, the next line, the next verse. The fact that he is singing at all–much less in front of a blurred, bobbing crowd, lost in the lights, but still so palpably there–is a shock to the system, an electric charge burning him up with adrenaline. He tries to catch the words, but they just seem to float away as soon as they leave his mouth. It doesn't matter, though. Those faceless masses catch the words and send them back, their voices rising in a dull roar. The ground shakes even harder beneath his feet.

He assumes he's alone–just him and the silhouettes out in the audience–but apparently not. There's a stir of molecules, the sense of a presence at his back, the air warm, warmer, hot when there's finally contact: a body, hard and male and plastered swelteringly all over Patrick.

Patrick's fingers burn as he plays, the air sizzles in his lungs with every word. A weight presses against his shoulder, the mystery man resting his head there. Breath stirs against Patrick's cheek, making him shiver, and then there's warmth and soft pressure. Lips. Tracing a trail of fire up Patrick's neck, flirty touch of tongue, edge of teeth. The crowd goes crazy, screaming like they're going to shatter the air. Patrick's cock pushes painfully against his zipper. A smile presses like a promise against his skin.

Time moves weirdly, too slow, then too jagged and abrupt. A blip, and the roar is gone, and the heat of a body against his back has turned to something chill and rough. It takes a moment before he can make out a sofa, newspapers strewn all around, a mirrored vanity. He's backed up against the wall, and that same body from on stage, overheated and enthusiastic, pushes him against the cinderblocks. If Patrick could just turn his head, if he could make his eyes focus he could see who…

"Pete." The word feels like it's torn out of him.

Pete shoves his hips into Patrick's and sucks on his neck. There's a crown of thorns inked over Pete's collarbone. Although technically Patrick has never seen it before, he can feel the shape on his tongue.

"Dude, come on. You're not going to fuck Patrick in the dressing room," a voice says from somewhere. Patrick can't really see anything past Pete's body. "Wait," the voice says more uncertainly. "You're not going to fuck Patrick in the dressing room, right?"

Pete's only answer is to push up the hem of Patrick's t-shirt and stroke his belly.

"Shit," Patrick gasps.

"Shit," the voice says. "Okay, we're just going to–" There's the sound of scurrying feet, and the door bangs closed.

Pete pants roughly against Patrick's ear, "This is how it's going to be, Trick, you and me forever, so fucking epic it's going to burn the world up."

"Pete," Patrick says, almost helplessly, shaking and needy and please.

"Yeah, yeah." His hand moves to Patrick's jeans, flicking the button open, tugging down the zipper.

"Pete."

"Patrick!"

He jolts awake, his belly sticky, his pajama pants damp. There's a residual ache in the pit of his stomach from being too turned on for his own good.

"Patrick, I'm making pancakes. Come down if you want breakfast."

That's his mother's voice, and his boxers are stuck to his body, and this is quite possibly the most disturbing juxtaposition ever. Patrick kicks off the covers and hauls himself out of bed. He grabs a pair of sweats and a t-shirt from the floor, and hustles off to the bathroom to clean himself up.

He's had dreams of being on stage before, but always as a drummer, not playing the guitar, not singing, and most definitely not… His face goes hot as the rest of the scene splashes back at him. He decides denial is his friend. What filthy-dirty sex dream about the so-called Devil?, he thinks firmly at himself as he brushes his teeth.

Patrick thumps down the stairs to the kitchen. He's greeted by a waft of buttery-fried-syrup-sweet, and even better, coffee. Thank God. His mom serves up a stack of pancakes and sets the plate down in front of him. The syrup is still warm from the microwave, the butter soft from sitting out. There are even strawberries. Patrick pours and slathers and digs in. His mom makes a plate for herself and joins him.

"Mmmghrm," Patrick tells her around a mouthful of Saturday goodness.

She smiles wryly. "Glad to hear it."

He nods and spears a strawberry. Life is good.

"So," his mom says, the word hanging there in the air, usually the start of something Patrick doesn't want to hear. "Have you cleaned your room yet?"

"Um," he mumbles and grabs up his coffee, downing a long sip. It's worth a slightly scalded tongue to have a reason not to talk.

His mother fixes him with a look that says she hasn't fallen for evasion tactics this lame since before he was born.

Patrick squirms in his chair. "I'll, uh, get around to it. I swear."

"Good," his mom says. Patrick is just thinking that this was way too easy when she adds, "Because you're not leaving this house until it's safe for human habitation up there."

"But–"

She sets her mouth firmly. Patrick lets out his breath. There's never any arguing with her when she has that particular look on her face. The threat of room-cleaning sours Patrick's pancake experience a bit, but he soldiers on bravely nonetheless. He downs three more cups of coffee and takes a fourth with him. He'll need the caffeinated reinforcement to face the disaster area waiting for him upstairs.

He stalls in the doorway of his room, trying not to despair of ever seeing the light of day again. Every piece of clothing he owns lies scattered all over everywhere. He has a bad habit of tossing his books wherever they land. His leaning towers of CD cases haven't seen the inside of the cabinet where they're supposed to live since, well, ever. Patrick toes at an abandoned, crusted-over plate. The only things neat at all are his instruments, which he keeps lined up against the wall, meticulously, possibly even obsessively ordered.

He figures his chance of making it to Borders today to check out the new CDs is slightly below his odds of being crowned Homecoming King or signing on as the starting center for the Bulls.

He lets out a heavy, persecuted sigh. "I wish this stupid room was clean already. Why can't somebody just do it for me?"

The moment it's out of his mouth, a whirlwind hits the room. Papers go flying. He has to duck out of the way of Roget's Thesaurus as it sails past his head. An instant later everything is pristinely in place–the windows are even gleaming as if they've been freshly Windexed–and Pete is standing there, wearing girl jeans and what looks to be a shirt stolen from a toddler, with a big, infuriating smirk on his face.

Patrick takes a moment to glare indignantly, and then he starts to sputter, "That wasn't– I didn't–"

"You know, Peppermint Patty, for a smart dude you don't learn too fast."

He flops down onto Patrick's bed, and Patrick's eyes bug out. Because, hey, Pete on a bed. There's not enough annoyance in the world to make that any less wet-dream-worthy.

"So. That's two down, five to go." Pete rests his chin on his hand and regards Patrick with big, dark, interested eyes. "What's up for number three?"

"I don't know!" Patrick snaps. "Stop rushing me!"

"Hmm." Pete studies him. "So. Not ready for number three, then."

"I wasn't ready for number two!" Patrick complains, loudly. "Or, hey, for that matter, number one."

Pete shrugs. "'s cool. We can just hang out or whatever." He leans over the edge of the bed, pushing up the bedspread. "You got any porn stashed under here?"

"No!" Patrick smacks his hands away from the bedspread.

"That's okay, Pattycakes." Pete smirks up at him. "If you don't want to share…"

"I don't–" He blusters helplessly, blood rushing hotly to his face.

"Oh, dude, is that a guitar?" Pete bounces up from the bed and bounds the two steps over to the instruments.

"Hey," Patrick tries to protest.

But Pete has already snatched up the Gibson, Patrick's most prized possession. He strums a few ham-fisted chords, and then launches into the opening of "Stairway to Heaven," or at least that's what Patrick guesses it's supposed to be.

"No. Just…no." He takes the guitar out of Pete's hands.

"Trick, I was playing that."

"You really, really weren't."

Pete makes a face at him. "Fine. Be that way. Then you have to play for me."

"Says who?" Patrick starts to put the guitar back.

"Says me." Pete intercepts him, steering him over to the bed.

Pete throws himself down onto the floor at Patrick's feet. He rests his head on his hands and looks up at Patrick expectantly, like a little kid waiting for story time. It's just stupidly endearing, and Patrick scowls, because he's pretty sure you're not supposed to find either the Devil or the pathologically delusional to be cute.

"Any time now, Trick," Pete says, beginning to fidget.

Patrick rolls his eyes. It's like hanging out with a three year old. He starts to play, the first thing that comes to mind, a little something he's been working on. Pete is frowning by the end of it. Patrick is ready to fire off a huffy "bite me" when Pete says, "I don't think I know that song."

"Oh. Yeah. No. You wouldn't."

Pete's usually half-asleep expression goes sharp with interest. "Dude, you wrote that?"

"Uh, yeah." Patrick ducks his head, his stomach twisting with shyness. He doesn't play for people that often, and he's never played for someone who was staring at him like he was the reincarnation of Jimi Hendrix.

"That's fucking fantastic." Pete's face is bright with delight, and Patrick's cheeks go warm, not so much embarrassed as pleased. "I mean, I knew you wrote music, but I didn't know. It's totally perfect. Catchy melody, and I love that little bit of Motown thing you've got going on. All it needs are some words."

Patrick nods. "I've been fooling around with the lyrics. It's not there yet."

"Sing me," Pete says, settling back down to listen.

"Um. No? I'm not really–"

"Sing me, sing me, sing me, sing me, sing me," Pete chants, taking a big breath, apparently not planning to stop anytime soon.

"Okay, okay," Patrick gives in irritably. "Jeez."

Pete breaks into a satisfied smile. Patrick shakes his head. This is what he gets for opening his big, stupid mouth. He rubs his forefinger nervously against the D-string. Oh, well, whatever. The worst Pete can do is laugh, right? Patrick takes a big breath and begins.

When he finishes, Pete is staring at him, looking awestruck.

"You liked it?" Patrick says uncertainly.

"Your lyrics are for shit. But your voice. Patrick. Your voice!" Pete is practically vibrating with excitement. Never has he been less convincing as the Devil.

All Patrick can focus on, though, is the insult. "So you think my lyrics suck, huh? I'd like to see you do better."

"I write," Pete tells him, with a perfectly serious face.

Patrick snorts.

"I have many deep and meaningful things to say!" Pete insists.

"Uh-huh."

"People think just because you're the Devil you don't have any secret pain," Pete complains.

"Anyway," Patrick says, firmly changing the subject. "I'm not a singer."

"You so totally are."

"I'm really not," Patrick insists stubbornly.

"Well, you're going to sing for me, Lunchbox." Pete leans up, kisses Patrick on the nose. "Call me when you want your next wish."

He disappears with a poof just as Patrick's mom calls out from the hall, "Did I hear voices?" She stutters to a stop in the doorway, her eyes going wide as she takes in Patrick's newly pristine and sparkling room.

"Um. I, uh, had some music on," Patrick mumbles. "That must have been what you heard."

"What happened to this place?" she asks, looking no less stunned than a moment ago.

"Uh. I guess it wasn't in as bad shape as we thought?" His voice squeaks nervously, and he's sweating under the brim of his hat. He knows his mother is going to give him one of those oh, please looks of hers, and he's going to break under the strain and blurt out that he made a deal with a sleepy-eyed, messy-haired, tattooed, way-hot devil who caused Patrick to waste one of his seven wishes on cleaning up his room. Then his mother is going to back out of the room very slowly and get him some much-needed professional help.

Instead she breaks into a pleased smile. "See? It's really not that hard to keep your room neat and organized if you put just a little effort into it."

"Um, okay?" Patrick says feebly. "I was thinking about going to the bookstore this afternoon?"

His mom nods. "Just be home in time for dinner." She walks over to give him a kiss on the forehead. "Have fun."

Usually a trip to Borders to check out the new CDs is one of the favorite parts of Patrick's week, but the whole way to the store, he's paranoid and jumpy. Every time a breeze gusts in through the rolled down window, he jerks to look, expecting to find Pete sitting there in the passenger seat, flashing that devilish smirk of his. Pete never is there, though, and that leaves Patrick possibly even more freaked out. He's watched enough Court TV to know how these things work. One minute you're hallucinating that you're playing the guitar for the Devil and the next you're going on a rampage at a mini mall with an ice pick and a rambling, unintelligible manifesto about the dangers of microwave ovens. Patrick so doesn't want to go on a rampage. He really wouldn't do well in prison.

He manages to park and head into the Borders without snapping, at least. The store smells like fresh plastic and lingering coffee, as far from the scent of crazy as you can get. Patrick breathes in a big, reassuring lungful. He feels better already. The crowd isn't too bad today, even though it's the weekend. He drifts down a row of shelves, waiting for something to catch his eye.

Bad Religion, Elvis Costello, Outkast… They finally got in some new copies of Purple Rain, he notices. Of course, Patrick already owns it, but it's the principle of the thing. Any place with a pretense to selling music should have Prince's entire catalog in the house. He stops at the W's. There's the Tom Waits he's been looking for. About damned time.

Snatches of conversation drift over to him: Dude, you have to see them perform live. They totally kill. And the visual thing isn't pretentious at all.

Patrick turns around, and there's a dude with short dark hair in serious conversation with his friend, who's making a dubious face at him.

"Hey, are you guys talking about Neurosis?" Patrick butts in, because, well, Neurosis.

The dark-haired dude lifts an eyebrow in surprise. "Um. Yeah. Actually we are."

"I've seen them live," Patrick says. "They do seriously kill."

"See?" The dark-haired dude elbows his friend.

"I really wish," Patrick starts and then clamps a hand over his mouth.

Okay, so maybe he's just delusional, but then again, maybe he's about to burn another wish complaining about how Neurosis fans give the band a hard time for switching up their sound. He really can't take the chance.

Patrick loosens his fingers just enough to say, "Uh, got to go."

He runs for the door.


Monday does not start well. Either Patrick forgot to set his alarm the night before, or he hit the snooze button a dozen times in a fit of unconscious rebellion. When he opens his eyes, it's way too sunny in his room. He flops onto his side and peers blearily at the glowing orange numbers on the clock and throws off the covers with a frantic, "Fuck, fuck, fuck!" He has all of twenty minutes to get to school. It takes ten minutes to drive there.

There's no time for a shower. Patrick stands in his closet, flailing at hangers, digging around for his favorite jeans. Now that his room is organized, he can't find a damned thing. Finally, he scrounges them up and jerks them on, hopping over to his dresser as he pulls on the second pants leg, digging out a t-shirt and shrugging into it. He catches his reflection in the mirror. His hair looks like it's had electric current run through it. He grabs his trucker hat and pulls it on. After a quick rendezvous with his toothbrush in the bathroom, he grabs his backpack and races downstairs to the kitchen.

"I'm late, no time for breakfast, gotta run," Patrick babbles, grabbing a cereal bar out of the cabinet.

His mother unleashes her concerned look on him. Patrick has gone maybe a little overboard in his paranoia about the whole wishing thing. After the near miss at Borders, he spent the rest of the weekend communicating only in shrugs and monosyllables, so he wouldn't accidentally blurt out something stupid. He darts for the door before his mother can check his forehead yet again to see if he has a fever.

Traffic sucks, even more so than usual, and Patrick turns into the school parking lot with exactly forty-five seconds to get to his homeroom on the other side of the building. He scans the lot, and there's a spot, thank God. Patrick guns the engine and makes a beeline for it, letting out his breath, thinking that maybe his life isn't quite as cursed as he thought. This is practically daring the universe to fuck him over, apparently, because some jerk in a BMW comes out of nowhere and steals his space.

Patrick lays on the horn, two loud blasts, to the rhythm of "fuck you." The jerk with the BMW gets out of the car, cheerfully flips Patrick off, and slings his arm around his girlfriend as he heads into school. Patrick hates humanity. He really, really does. He drives on. And on and on. Out by the edge of the athletic field, which is practically in Wisconsin, he finally finds a spot. He grabs his backpack from the passenger seat and sprints for the door.

He's rounding the last corner to homeroom when the bell rings. He throws on a last-ditch burst of speed, sailing through the door just as Mrs. Florshein starts to close it.

"Mr. Stump." She gives him a severe look over the tops of her glasses.

"Um," he says feebly.

Mrs. Florshein, as everyone in school knows, grew up in a military family, the daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Navy men. Tardiness is a capital offense in her classroom. If you're not in your seat by the time she closes the door, she sends you off to the office to get a pass. This means facing down Mrs. Macey, the school secretary, and her squinty-eyed suspicion of all things teenager. Patrick tends to walk away from trips to the office feeling like a convicted war criminal.

"Please," he says pathetically, taking a breath to launch into traffic and stupid rubberneckers and some jerk stole my parking spot and it's possible that I actually sold my soul to the Devil. Not that he expects this to help. Mrs. Florshein isn't much on sympathy or the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe, though, Patrick's luck is turning, because Mrs. Florshein lets out her breath in a God save me from stupid excuses way. She says very primly, "I expect better from you in the future, Mr. Stump."

Patrick nods, barely holding back the impulse to hug her. He hurries to his desk in the back, slides into his seat and dumps his backpack on the floor at his feet. He's just going to keep his head down and mind his own business and be as Zen as possible for the rest of the day. This is his plan.

It goes awry early and often. After first period, he has to make a pit stop at his locker for his Civics book. He's hauling ass, because his locker and Civics class are practically in different counties. Kent Olsen, Glenview's star quarterback, and some of his football player buddies come pushing and shoving and chasing each other down the hall in Patrick's direction. Patrick dodges and weaves, but Kent Olsen mows him over despite the evasive maneuvers. Patrick gets thrown up against somebody's locker. His glasses go flying, and his hat is knocked askew.

Kent Olsen doesn't stop, doesn't even slow down, doesn't spare a sideways glance at the geek he just flattened against the wall. The jackass grabs one of his friends around the neck, continuing their conversation as if nothing happened, "Fuck you, you fucker, you know I totally fucked up that South Shore pussy when I tackled him after he picked up that ball Jonesie fumbled."

Patrick stares at them as they disappear down the hall, his mouth hanging open. What? Is he fucking invisible or something?

"No horseplay!" he shouts lamely after them.

It's not that Patrick expects any better from someone like Kent Olsen. But still. Not fucking invisible! Patrick stomps on to his locker, grabs up his books, slams his locker so hard it shakes, and makes it to Civics two minutes late. Mr. Kerry takes one look at the pissy expression on his face and spares him the lecture about how punctuality is the key to good citizenship.

Between second and third periods, Patrick stops for a drink at the water fountain, and apparently it's broken, because he gets blasted in the face with water. It goes up his nose, making him cough. The top of his t-shirt ends up soaked through. At lunch, some girl with pink hair and a nose ring knocks into him, not paying attention to where she's going, waving to someone on the other side of the cafeteria, yelling, "Hey, Deenie, save me a seat, okay?" Patrick loses half his tater tots in the collision, but Pink Hair scowls at him, as if it's all his fault for existing. She rushes off to get in line, not even muttering an insincere "sorry." And wow, this bullshit is seriously starting to get on his nerves.

The pinnacle of suck comes in Geometry. Patrick plays his usual game of staring thoughtfully at the proof on the board, eyebrows drawn together in a look of confusion. It's a fine art, paying just enough attention that Ms. Capshaw won't make him go to the board out of spite, but not so much that she'll think he actually knows the answer. Patrick has no desire to demonstrate his deductive reasoning abilities in front of the whole class. Ms. Capshaw turns a searching eye on the rows of students, trolling for her next victim. Despite Patrick's best efforts, her gaze settles on him.

"All right–" she starts and then stops, her mouth open, eyes wide and panicky, her cheeks turning sharply pink.

It takes Patrick a moment to realize what's the matter. His teacher totally just forgot his name!

"Um. Clara." Ms. Capshaw nods to the girl sitting next to Patrick. "Why don't you show us how to solve this proof?" She hands over the chalk.

Patrick fixes a nasty look on her. It doesn't matter that he'd rather have a root canal than be up there scribbling math crap. Ms. Capshaw makes an embarrassed little grimace and turns back to the board. For the rest of the class, Patrick doesn't even bother to look like he's paying attention.

Fifth period is study hall, and it arrives none too soon. Patrick just wants to get through the rest of this no-good, very rotten day, go home and play some Bowie really loudly, and imagine a world in which high school doesn't exist. He settles at his usual table by the windows and takes out his Bio book and stares at the page blankly as if he's forgotten how to read English. Mr. Clayton, head librarian and study hall fascist, walks the rows of tables, hands clasped behind his back, a paunchy general surveying the sullen troops.

Patrick idly flips pages, about as unconcerned as a person can possibly be about the human endocrine system. Still, there is a test coming up on Thursday. He lets out his breath in a defeated sigh and tries a little harder to focus. He's two sentences into The pituitary: the master gland of the human body when a wish wells up, so sharp and insistent it won't be ignored.

I don't want to be fucking invisible anymore.

The more Patrick thinks about it, the more certain he is. He surreptitiously looks around, checking for Mr. Clayton. He's safely on the other side of the library, so Patrick whispers, "Pete?" He waits. Nothing. "Pete!" he hisses louder.

There's no thunder crack, no poof of smoke. Patrick twists in his seat, searching, but there's no sign of Pete anywhere. "Fuck," he says under his breath. He turns back around and startles so hard he nearly topples off his chair. Pete grins at him from across the table.

"Jesus," Patrick mutters.

Pete laughs. "Not even close."

Today, he has his hair slicked down and combed to the side. He's dressed in khakis and a sweater vest over a white button down. There's even a pocket protector to go with the ensemble. Patrick guesses this look is supposed to be…studious? It misses the mark, by a lot. The sweater vest is pink with sparkly strands of silver threaded through the weave. It hugs Pete's chest so tightly that it outlines his nipples, a realization that brings a shot of heat to Patrick's cheeks. The white shirt is unbuttoned all the way down to the vee of the sweater, revealing that necklace of thorns that Patrick shouldn't be familiar with, but can still feel on his tongue. Pete's khakis hang off his hips, exposing a strip of skin and another hint of ink.

"So, what are they teaching you in this school, P. Stump?" Pete swipes Patrick's Bio text. He starts flipping pages, and of course, it opens right up to the human reproduction section and the one naked-people photo in the entire thousand plus pages.

"Patrick, Patrick, Patrick." Pete shakes his head sadly. "I knew you were holding back on the porn."

"That's not–" Patrick sputters hotly. "It's science!"

"Mmm," Pete says in an annoyingly noncommittal way. "Is that what the kids are calling it these days?"

Mr. Clayton comes striding up to the table, glowering. "Mr. Stump, I can arrange for you to spend the rest of the period in the principal's office if you'd prefer. And you, young man." He gives Pete a look up and down, frowning. "I don't recognize you. No loitering in the library unless you're assigned here for study hall. I think we need to go see Principal Wilkerson."

Pete tilts his head, smiling up at Mr. Clayton. "I think we need to stay right here and get to know each other better." His voice dips down into the sexy times octave.

Mr. Clayton freezes, his expression completely blank for a moment, like he's been brainwashed. Then he breaks into a surprisingly filthy smile, little hearts sparkling in his eyes as he stares down at Pete. Patrick has never seen anything more disturbing in his life.

"Just give me and Patrick a minute first, okay, baby?" Pete bats his eyes.

Mr. Clayton nods eagerly, not playing even a little bit hard to get. "I'll meet you over in the 700s. That's arts," he winks, " and recreation."

"A man who knows his Dewy Decimal System is hot," Pete tells him.

Patrick is pretty sure he just threw up in his mouth. Mr. Clayton heads off, tossing a backward glance over his shoulder. Pete blows him a kiss. Mr. Clayton's face goes pink and ridiculously pleased. He gives Pete a little wave.

Patrick whacks Pete on the arm, hard. "Oh my God, stop it. Fucking scarring me for life is not part of our deal."

Pete turns a completely unbelievable innocent look on him. "I can't help it if people find my boyish charm irresistible, Pattycakes."

"Scarring!" Patrick reiterates. "And stop calling me Pattycakes."

"Okay, Peppermint Patty. So, what's up? You ready for that third wish? Or did you call me because you missed me?"

"Um." Was that a trick question? "It was kind of– I mean, I was thinking–"

"It's always about the wishes." Pete lets out a theatrical sigh. "Okay, Lunchbox. Lay it on me. What's your pleasure?" He waggles his eyebrows, and seriously, is the Devil supposed to have the mind of a twelve-year-old who's just discovered the joys of puberty? Also, Patrick is so not blushing. He's totally, totally not.

"I figured out what I want for my next wish," Patrick says.

"Uh-huh." Pete's eyes stray back to the naked-people picture.

Patrick shuts the book with an irritable huff, nearly catching Pete's fingers in it.

"Hey!" Pete complains.

"Pay attention!"

"Yeah, yeah." Pete sprawls back in his chair. "Go."

'So, I'm sick of people treating me like I'm invisible, you know? Today, this stupid jock asshole–" Patrick's blood pressure ratchets up several points just thinking about it, and he waves his hand. Now isn't the time to go off on a rant, not when Pete is here to give him whatever he wants. "I wish I were the most popular guy in school. No, wait. In the whole damned town. I want everybody to know me and want to be my friend. And the chicks are totally in to me. And everybody fucking chokes on jealousy because they're not half as awesome as I am."

Pete has been absently drumming his fingers and making eyes at a girl two tables over while Patrick has been pouring his fucking heart out to him. That is so not cool. Patrick isn't going to have the Devil who bought his fucking soul–not that he exactly believes in that nonsense, but whatever, it's the principle of the thing–treating him like he's not even there, the way everyone else on the freakin' planet has been today. He kicks Pete under the table.

"Ow!" Pete's face goes all wounded puppy.

Patrick refuses to fall for it. "Fucking pay attention!"

"I am, dude! Jeez."

"Yeah?" Patrick fixes him with a disbelieving look. "Then what did I say?"

"You want to be one cool cat. Everybody loves you." Pete ticks the items off on his fingers. "Chicks want in your pants. People would kill to be you. That about sum it up?"

"Um. Well. Yeah. I guess," Patrick says a little sheepishly.

Pete nods solemnly. "One wish, coming right up. If for any reason you want out of it, all you have to do is sing for me, and I'll come get you."

"Sing?" Patrick scrunches up his forehead, and then thinks to ask, "Hey, why wouldn't I want to be the most popular dude in town?"

Pete shrugs. "You know."

Patrick narrows his eyes at Pete suspiciously.

Pete smiles sweetly. "Sing me something pretty, Cupcake."

Before Patrick can spit out the absolutely necessary "fuck you," Pete snaps his fingers, and Patrick's world goes all Wizard of Oz on him. A tornado blows into the library, sucking books and tables and Patrick himself Dorothy-style into the vortex. The last thing he sees is Pete's grinning face.

He's dumped unceremoniously onto the floor, disoriented and with a mild case of whiplash. He looks around, and there's something seriously wrong with his eyes, even more wrong than his usual near-sightedness and astigmatism. He can't seem to focus on anything. His head pounds, and he feels strangely weightless. He pushes up onto his elbows and squints and tries to make out where he is.

He's lying on white shag carpet next to a bed. So he's in someone's bedroom then. It's a round bed with a red satin bedspread and a white fur throw. A hooker's bedroom? On the ceiling is a mirror, and sitting in one corner is the biggest bong he's ever seen in his life. He's definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Patrick grabs hold of the mattress and levers himself up from the floor. He sways on his feet. His head feels like it's three sizes too big and stuffed with cotton. His vision has gone even wonkier than before; all the furniture and other stuff in the room looks flat and faraway and disturbingly like wallpaper.

He staggers over to the dresser, his head spinning, and stares at himself in the mirror. He's pale, well paler than usual, and he looks like the 1970s just threw up on him. He's wearing a shiny shirt, with big, thick stripes of purple and orange and turquoise, too tight across the chest and uncomfortably clingy everywhere, and holy shit! He plucks disbelievingly at one of the sleeves. Is that polyester? And are those bell bottoms he's got on? With a wide white belt around his waist, no less, and a Fort Knox load of gold chains around his neck. His hair straggles past his shoulders, greasy and like he doesn't own a comb. He's sporting sideburns of epic proportions that…he tilts his head, stopping to admire them. Okay, so those actually kind of work.

Where the fuck am I? It feels like he's living in a movie, everything just slightly unreal. It sure as hell can't actually be the 70s. Patrick doesn't need to be sent back thirty years into the past to be cool, and Pete is a fucker if that's what he thinks.

"Baby, where you been?" a high-pitched voice rings out.

Patrick turns in the direction of it, and feels like he's underwater, like the air is resisting him, like gravity isn't holding on to him nearly as hard as it should be. There are two women standing in the doorway. One has Crayola hair, a perfect burnt sienna, ironed straight and falling all the way down to her butt. She brushes it out of her eyes every other second, a nervous tic. The second one has on so much green eye shadow it's as if she's an alien seductress from some lost X Files episode. Her mouth is a perfect strawberry, wet and glistening. Neither of them is wearing what could really be called clothes, micro minis and nearly non-existent halter tops. Patrick's eyes still aren't working right–or maybe he's just a teenage boy–because all he can focus on are boobs and thighs and naked, naked skin.

"You missin' your own party, Stumpy," the one with the eye shadow tells him, her hands on her hips.

Patrick opens his mouth to ask her please not to call him Stumpy. These are his formative years, and he doesn't want to have to spend the next few decades in therapy. What comes out, though, sounds more like, "Rmggrmf."

Crayola Hair's mouth curves into a sly smile. "You already started this party by your own self, didn't you, baby? Should'a known. Come on, now. You gotta share. Gotta give us some sugar."

Alien Seductress pushes out her perfect strawberry lips in a pout. "Yeah, Stumpy, you know we like to party, too."

"Oh, forget it, Raygene," Crayola Hair says with a snort. "He's too messed up to know his elbow from his asshole."

"Guess we're just going to have to help ourselves then, Thelma."

The girls exchange an evil smile, and suddenly they're swarming all over him, hands here, there and everywhere. One of them snakes her fingers into the pocket of his too-tight pants, and whoa! That is so not a party favor she's grabbing.

He tries to ask who they are, what they want, and if they could maybe do that grabbing thing some more, but it sounds like, "Grmgrhmfu!"

"Come on, baby," Thelma coaxes. "I know you got some candy for us."

Raygene lets out a squeal that could shatter glass. "Ooooh, Thelma! Looky here what I found." She waves a plastic bag at her friend.

"Oh, baby, you're the best. I knew you wouldn't forget us." Thelma grabs handfuls of Patrick's shirt and hoists him closer and lays a big, messy kiss on him, all frisky tongue and cheap lipstick.

"Mmmmphr," Patrick says, his hands moving instinctively to cup Thelma's ass, because, hey, maybe he can't see or talk, but he is still alive.

Thelma leans in close to say, "There's a lot more where that came from, baby." She licks his ear.

"That goes for me too, Stumpy." Raygene pushes Thelma out of the way and takes Patrick by the jaw, kissing him with aggressive thrusts of her tongue.

"Hmmphyl," Patrick says, because on the one hand, a hot girl practically molesting him, and on the other hand…well, a hot girl practically molesting him.

Raygene laughs. "Oh, I know what you like. Don't you worry." She squeezes Patrick's dick through his pants. "Can little Stumpy come out and play?"

"Frrmmghr!" It's kind of pathetic, Patrick thinks, that horny desperation comes through loud and clear even in gibberish.

Thelma smacks Raygene's hand away from Patrick's crotch. "Come on now, girl. You know he's got business to do at this party. You can fuck him later." She slips her arm through Patrick's and tells him, "Come on, baby. You got important people you got to go meet."

"I don't know who died and made you his social secretary all of a sudden," Thelma grumbles, but she takes Patrick's other arm, and together, the girls propel him out of the room.

Outside, there's a wrought iron railing, and down below is a large room filled with people. A blast of sound travels upward: music with a low, throbbing base line, a blur of voices, the occasional sharp cackle of a woman's laugh. Thelma and Raygene steer him over to the steps, and when his knees don't quite remember how to hold him up, they catch him before he can go tumbling to the bottom.

"Just lean on me, Stumpy," Raygene tells him.

"Tggghr," he tells her gratefully.

As they're going down, other people are streaming up. Everyone smiles at Patrick as they pass.

"You are one cool cat, Patrick Stump," says a guy in a leather vest, hip huggers and love beads.

Cool cat. The words echo in Patrick's head. Oh shit. He remembers Pete saying that same thing. So maybe Patrick has been transported back to 1970 after all. Pete is just that kind of literalist asshole.

A girl dressed like a daffodil in a yellow dress and day-glo green boots bites Patrick's lip and sticks her tongue in his mouth. "You got something for me later, right?" She tilts her head, giving him a look through some very serious false eyelashes.

Thelma elbows her. "We done told you about keeping your hands off our man, Sunbeam."

Raygene just glares in a "don't make me cut you" kind of way.

"Ermblrmny," Patrick assures them. There's enough of him to go around, and if he has been hijacked by the Devil back to the era of free love, he's damn well going to make the most of it.

Downstairs, everything is lime green as far as the eye can see. Or at least, as far as Patrick can see with this weird tunnel vision thing he's got going on.

"Patrick Stump," all these voices are saying at once. "There he is. There's Patrick."

The air buzzes to life. Suddenly every gaze in the place is turned in Patrick's direction, and people start to press toward him.

"Good times, man, good stuff," someone says.

Another girl kisses him. She's dressed in what looks like plastic wrap. "You always throw the coolest parties, baby."

Raygene shoves her away with a move that could grace a WWF cage match.

"Bitch!" the girl hisses at her.

"Cat fight!" someone starts to chant, and then everyone is laughing.

Patrick laughs, too. Because this is his house. These are his friends. This is his moment. The most popular guy in town. If only his head didn't feel quite so fuzzy, and the air didn't taste like smoke. He starts to cough. "Blnkwng," he complains. It's his party, but all he really wants is to sit down.

Thelma is apparently fluent in gibberish. "Come on, baby," she says and steers him over to the couch. There are three people already sitting there, two guys in matching flame-colored jumpsuits and a girl in a white feather boa and–Patrick's eyes bug out–not much else.

"Ya'll beat it," Raygene says, with a bossy jerk of her chin.

Patrick sinks down onto the sofa. His heart is racing, and sweat pours off his forehead. Thelma cuddles close, running a hand up and down Patrick's thigh. It makes the sweltering feeling in the pit of his stomach that much hotter.

"What you need is some booze, baby," Raygene tells him. "You want the usual?"

"Jmgdf," Patrick says uncertainly. On the one hand, he's not nearly old enough to drink, and his mother will ground him for all eternity if he comes home smelling like alcohol. On the other hand, if it really is 1970, his mother is in the sixth grade.

"Okay. The usual then." Raygene plants a big, smacking kiss on his mouth and goes sashaying off to the bar.

Patrick's head flops back, and he tries to lift it back up, but his muscles refuse to cooperate.

"Oh baby, you come here to Thelma." She grabs hold of him and hauls him in, so his face is smooshed up against her boobs.

This should be a dream come true. Thelma's boobs are…well, boobs. But his eyes droop, and that weird buzz in his head just keeps getting louder. He blinks, trying to stay awake. All around him people are talking, drinking, laughing, dancing, but it seems strangely remote. He sees a group of kids holed up in the corner toking up. On the coffee table are lines of white powder. A pixieish redhead in a leopard print dress bends over it with a straw up her nose. She comes away with a streak of white on her cheek and smiles dreamily at Patrick, her eyes bright and unfocused. Patrick frowns and looks around, and now that he's paying attention, he sees pills everywhere, in vases and candy dishes and spilled on the floor, a pharmaceutical rainbow of colors.

Oh, shit! Patrick thinks in a fit of panic. His freaky vision problems and the reason he can't speak English…it's because he's fucking high. Hell, by the looks of things, he spends his whole damned life on drugs. He probably has brain damage.

"Plfghl!" he tells Thelma desperately. He really can't be high. He's a just-say-no kind of guy.

Thelma pats him on the back. "You hold on, baby. Raygene'll be– Oh, here she is. Finally. Girl, where you been? Our man ain't doing too good. He needs that drink bad."

Raygene flops down beside Patrick, a little huffily. "You try getting that fool Hector to make a Harvey Wallbanger the right way. Here you go, baby." She hauls Patrick up from his spot on Thelma's boobs and presses the glass into his hand.

Patrick manages to hold onto it, which is a minor miracle, but his sense of up and down still isn't worth a damn, and he starts to list to one side.

Raygene wraps her arm around his shoulders to keep him upright. "I got you, Stumpy."

"What's wrong, baby?" Thelma frowns. "Why aren't you drinking your drink?"

Because no one's had a Harvey Wallbanger since the Love Boat docked, Patrick thinks.

"Fuck," someone cries out in a breathy little moan.

Patrick hasn't seen all that much porn, the Internet not withstanding, but what he has watched sounds just like that. He turns to look, because, hey, still a teenager. Across the way, he spots a slim body splayed out on a white faux fur beanbag chair, all golden skin and ink. Patrick shuts his eyes and opens them again, and it's still Pete. Pete holds Patrick's gaze, his eyes wide and ringed with Kohl and bottomlessly black. The only thing he's wearing is a very low-slung pair of jeans. Patrick can see the little indentations made by his hipbones. Sensation twists hotly in the pit of his stomach.

There's a girl stretched out beside Pete. She tosses her hair over her shoulder, bends down and starts to lick at Pete's nipples. Pete throws his head back and arches up. A thought forms sluggishly in Patrick's addled brain: It should be me doing that, me making Pete look like every kind of sin. Pete smiles, as if Patrick said this out loud. He writhes and bucks, grabbing handfuls of white faux fur, putting on a show. A show for Patrick.

"Pete," Patrick says, or tries to anyway.

He doesn't even care that Pete is the Devil.

This lasts all of a second, and then he finds himself staring at some guy with a cratered moon for a face, stringy blond hair and what looks like a dead caterpillar sitting on top of his lip. Patrick tries the old, familiar standby; he closes his eyes and opens them again. It's still not Pete. Stringy Hair's girlfriend smirks at Patrick, as if to say, I see you wanting what I've got. Stringy Hair flicks his tongue out at Patrick like a pornographic snake.

I wished for this shit? is all Patrick can think.

Thelma squirms against his side. "Baby, you into guys now?" Her breath is hot against his ear. "Because that's cool. We could totally have a threesome sometime."

"Bitch!" Raygene reaches across Patrick to slap Thelma. "I think you mean a foursome. 'Cause you're not leaving me out of anything."

"Mmmmphgr!" Patrick insists loudly. No sex will be had with Cratered Moon Face. Absolutely none. The two girls, on the other hand…well, that's a different matter entirely. Raygene smells really nice, and Thelma's boobs have to be one of the wonders of the world, and Patrick is ready to go back upstairs where they can be alone.

Before he can do anything about this plan, the front door explodes open, wood splintering and flying into the air. A veritable army of thugs in black ski masks carrying machine guns comes storming in.

"Everybody get the fuck on the floor!" the head thug shouts.

Patrick stares at him stupidly, because seriously, this can't be happening. Everybody else appears to have much the same reaction. People go still and stop talking, but no one moves.

"Not fucking kidding," the guy says.

He squeezes the trigger, and bullets spray everywhere, blowing out a lamp, tearing chunks out of the wall. Upholstery stuffing and feathers from throw pillows and beanbag guts go flying into the air. All the partygoers scream and drop to the ground.

"Glad I got your attention," the guy says. "Now, where's Stump? We got business with him."

"Right there. He's–" The guy with the leather vest who had called Patrick a "cool cat" only fifteen minutes ago points at him emphatically.

Head Gunman turns his attention to the couch.

Raygene whispers in Patrick's ear, "Sorry, Stumpy."

Both girls get the hell out of there, and the rest of Patrick's so-called friends follow suit. There's practically a stampede to the door. This leaves only Patrick and the ten guys who have guns trained on him. Really big guns.

"On your feet, Stump," Head Gunman says.

Patrick doesn't move, because his motor control still isn't all that hot, and, hey, he's not in any hurry to jump up and get a face full of machine gun.

Head Gunman shoots up the carpet at Patrick's feet. "Still not kidding."

Okay, okay! Patrick manages to swing himself up onto his feet.

"Here's the deal, Stump," Head Gunman says. "We're taking over. Going to be the new you. Now, you cooperate all nice and helpful-like and tell us where the money and drugs are, and nobody has to get hurt here."

One of the other thugs snorts. "Good one, boss."

"Shut up, moron," Head Gunman hisses at him.

Patrick lets out a desperate little squeak. Head Gunman flashes a we're-all-friends-here smile. With the ski mask, it looks like something from a slasher film, right before the chainsaw comes out.

"Take us to the drugs and money," Head Gunman orders.

Patrick shakes his head frantically. "Squamjk!"

"Don't give me that bullshit! You damn well know where it is," Head Gunman snaps, hoisting the gun up.

"Prmt!" Patrick shouts, his heart slamming against his ribs, but Pete doesn't appear, and Patrick doesn't magically return to the library.

"Stubborn jackass," Head Gunman says. "Ain't nobody coming to help you."

Sing, gotta sing, Patrick thinks blearily. He starts to mumble lyrics, "Purple haze all in my brain, lately things just don't seem the same." He sounds like he's got marbles in his mouth, but he doesn't care. He needs to get the hell out of here, so he ratchets up the volume, "Actin' funny, but I don't know why, 'scuse me while I kiss the sky."

"Shut up!" Head Gunman yells.

Patrick keeps singing, his voice cracking, but hey, stupid fucking Pete didn't say Patrick had to sing well. So, where the hell is he?

"Okay, okay, you want to play that way?" Head Gunman says. "Looks like we're going to have to get convincing."

He tilts the gun downward, aiming at Patrick's kneecap. Patrick squawks another line of the song, to no avail.

Before Head Gunman can squeeze the trigger, cops in black riot gear come swarming into the house. "Get down, get down," they shout. "On the floor, on the floor."

"Aw, fuck," Head Gunman says, throwing down his gun and holding up his hands.

He and the rest of the thugs are cuffed and hauled away.

"Tnky," Patrick tells the nearest cop.

The cop yanks Patrick's arms behind his back and clicks a pair of handcuffs around his wrists. "You're welcome," he says, with a sarcastic lilt.

"Hmghr!" Patrick protests loudly, and then desperately calls out, "Prmt!"

But still no goddamned fucking slacker-ass Pete.

The cops drag him out to a squad car and shove him inside. The car pulls off, kicking up gravel in the driveway, the siren blaring.

"We got you now, Stump. You're finally going down." The cop at the wheel meets Patrick's eye in the rearview mirror, his mouth twisted up in a triumphant sneer. "Drug possession. Drug trafficking. Money laundering. Extortion. And that's just for a start."

"With all them charges, Jonesie, old Stumpy here's gonna still be in prison a couple of years after he's dead." He slaps his thigh and laughs, like that's funny or something.

"Prmt!"

Jonesie shakes his head in disgust. "You hear that, Smitty? Already calling for his lawyer, and we're not even at the station yet. Stump here has got some fancy notions. We'll show him how us Chicago cops do things."

Patrick launches into the next verse of "Purple Haze," even more desperate than before.

"Old Stumpy is ready to sing," Smitty quips, snort-laughing at his own dumb joke. "Guess we won't have to get out the rubber hoses after all."

"Oh, we're getting out the rubber hoses. Else where's the fun?" Jonesie flashes an evil grin at Patrick in the rearview mirror.

Patrick's voice pitches up an octave or, okay, maybe two, as he alternately sings and screams, "Prmt! Prmt!"

Suddenly, the car comes to a crashing stop, as if it's hit something, but there are no other cars anywhere close by.

"What the fucking hell?" Jonesie says.

The car, seemingly possessed, starts to shake and pitch, throwing all three of them around like rag dolls. The cops scream, and Patrick shouts, "Fmnk! Fmnk!" And then abruptly everything goes still, and Patrick is intelligible again, "Fuck! Fuck!"

He sucks in a breath and looks around wildly and can't figure out where he is for several long seconds. He feels like he's been hit by a truck, and his synapses aren't exactly firing on all cylinders. Eventually, his befuddled brain sorts it out. That blue thing way, way up above him is, hey, the sky. He isn't lying on a too-hard mattress with a scratchy bedspread. He's been dumped on the ground in a scraggly patch of grass. He manages to turn his head and see that he's somehow ended up on the athletic field and that Pete is stretched out beside him, propped up on one elbow, watching him expectantly.

"Hey, dude," Pete says. "About time you woke up. I thought I was going to have to slap you or something."

Patrick grabs Pete by the shirt. "What the hell took you so long?" He blinks and then frowns. "And what the hell are you wearing?"

Pete shrugs. "I like Hendrix. I wanted to hear the whole song. And this." He glances down at his outfit, a high school gym uniform so skimpy and slutty there's no way it actually exists: red satin short-shorts, a white baby tee, white lace knee socks and silver platform sneakers with glittery laces. "Don't you like it?" He glances back up at Patrick, smiling like the shameless flirt he is.

Patrick is way too pissed to let that distract him, even if Pete does look like he's just begging for someone to skim those tiny little shorts down his tanned, muscled legs and… Patrick scowls. "You fucking tricked me!"

Pete's eyes go wide, as if he's actually startled by the accusation. "Dude, were you or were you not the most popular dude in town?"

Patrick stares at him incredulously. "It was a fucking nightmare!"

"Popularity can be an empty experience," Pete says, with all the earnestness of an after-school special.

Patrick elbows him in the ribs. "Asshole!"

"Ow!" Pete grabs at his side. His bottom lip starts to quiver. Patrick stares in horror, because, oh God, is Pete actually going to cry? God, don't let him cry, Patrick thinks frantically, just don't let him cry. He doesn't care what kind of irony it is that he's bargaining with God over the Devil.

"I did my best, you know," Pete says, sniffling extravagantly. "Everyone thinks it's easy being Satan, but it's so, so not."

He turns those big, dark eyes on Patrick, shimmering and sincere, and Patrick knows he's a chump to buy into it. Knows it. And he can't help feeling bad anyway.

"I, um– I didn't mean it." He takes in a breath and lets it out. "I'm sure you did do your best."

Pete beams, all hint of tears instantly gone. He leans over and presses a kiss, sweet and chaste, to the corner of Patrick's mouth. "I'm glad we're still friends, Trickster. I'll see you when you're ready to try again." He hops up and sashays off across the athletic field.

Patrick can't help staring after him. Pete's hips sway as he walks, those teeny tiny little shorts clinging to his… Patrick drapes an arm across his eyes. He's drooling over the Devil's ass. He is super, extra special going to hell.

"Fuck, look at that geek. He is, like, totally wasted."

Patrick jerks his arm off his face and finds Kent Olsen and half the starting offensive line circled around, staring down at him.

"I wish I was wasted," the center says wistfully.

The right tackle snorts. "Dude, you already spend half your life fucked up."

"Yo, this Saturday, my house," Kent Olsen says. "The 'rents are out of town."

"Par-tay." The right tackle high fives the center.

"You know it," Kent Olsen says.

They walk away talking about how much of the Olsen family bar they can raid without getting caught and taking bets on which cheerleader will be the first to lose her underwear.

Patrick heaves a sigh and trudges off to the parking lot. He's just as invisible as ever. Apparently he missed sixth period, which is going to go down as an unexcused absence. And since he spent study hall on the losing side of a drug war, he still has homework to do. It's just fucking fantastic to be him.


If Patrick had any dignity at all, he'd never dream about Pete again. Sadly, his subconscious does not get that memo.

His eyes snap open and for a moment, he has no idea where he is. Narrow bed and closed curtain and the distant rumble of an engine. Slowly, he realizes: bus. And then he thinks: Oh, holy fuck! There's a dark head bobbing between his legs. This is what woke him in the first place. He reaches down, sinks a hand into thick hair, holding that filthy, perfect mouth right where he wants it. There's a laugh around his cock, and shit, every nerve ending in Patrick's body lights on fire. He's going to come, going to come so hard. He tries to say so, tries to warn, but it's too late. His eyes squeeze shut, and he spills into that hot, amazing mouth.

It's not as if Patrick doesn't know who it is sucking his cock, and yet when Pete stretches up to kiss him, when Patrick sees familiar skin and ink and that satisfied smirk, something electric starts throbbing in his belly. Pete lays a hand against Patrick's jaw and tilts his head to a precise angle and licks his way into Patrick's mouth. Patrick murmurs approvingly and slides a hand around Pete's neck.

"That's the rock star life for you, Trick, waking up to a blowjob." Pete is grinning.

Patrick rolls his eyes, even as he's leaning in to kiss Pete again, even as he's pushing Pete onto his back, intending to return the favor…

Patrick wakes up with his underwear stuck to his body again. His subconscious is such a fucking traitor.


Still, there is nothing quite like getting caught up in a bad 1970s drug movie to teach a person a valuable lesson. Patrick is careful not to wish for anything at all for days. He doesn't even vaguely think "hey, I want some ice cream" or "I really wish it were summer already." Wanting is just…bad. Pete doesn't make a reappearance, and Patrick is beginning to think this whole thing really was a delusion. Maybe he's cracking under the strain of being sixteen, with all its SAT pressure and guerilla zit attacks.

Whatever the case, he vows to want nothing more than to be a normal high school student. He comes home on Thursday, and throws down his books, and yells to his mother in the kitchen, "I'm going to the mall. I'll be back before dinner."

"Patrick." It's her not so fast voice.

He lets out his breath and trudges into the kitchen. "Yeah?"

"You can go to the mall," she tells him, "but first I need you to pick up a few things for me at the market."

"But, Mom–" he starts to complain.

She cuts him off. "What did we say when I agreed to let you have that car?"

He mumbles, "That I'd use it to help you out when you needed stuff done."

She nods. "So. Groceries."

Patrick takes the list and the cash, without even kicking the cabinet sullenly. Apparently, he's growing as a person.

"Thank you," his mom says with a see that wasn't so hard, was it? smile.

The list isn't long, and the store isn't far away. Patrick does the math and figures he can be back home in twenty minutes, still plenty of time to make it to the mall before dinner. He grabs a cart and wheels it over to the produce aisle. He bags up some Granny Smiths and mentally marks off "apples." He needs lemons and heads over to the citrus, bumping into someone by the navel oranges.

"Sorry," he murmurs, without looking up from his list.

"I'm not, Cupcake," a familiar voice says.

Patrick startles so hard he nearly collides with a display of Brazil nuts. "Shit!"

Pete smirks at him. "You're kind of jumpy for somebody your age, you know that, Rickster?"

Pete drifts over to the bananas, perusing them, and finally selects the largest one he can lay his hands on. He holds it curving out in front of him, at crotch level, examining it from this angle and that. He shakes his head. "Nah, I'm much bigger."

"Oh my God, stop it!" Patrick whirls around wildly, hoping no one else was watching. A gray-haired lady who reminds Patrick disturbingly of his third grade teacher casts severe looks at them from over by the sweet potato bin. Patrick grabs the poor defenseless fruit away from Pete and returns it to where it belongs. "I can't take you anywhere."

The worst part, though, is now that Pete has brought up the subject, Patrick finds himself stealing glances at Pete's crotch, wondering. Of course, Pete catches him at it, and actually that is the worst part. Pete grins insufferably. Patrick wants to crawl under the eggplant stand and die.

"I have to shop," he blurts out and heads off toward the dairy section.

Pete, of course, can't be ditched so easily. He nudges Patrick away from the cart with his elbow and takes charge of it. " So, Tricky, I haven't heard from you. You don't call, you don't write." He gives Patrick a big, questioning look.

"I got shot at," Patrick reminds him.

Pete pats him on the shoulder, as if this will make it all better. "Hey, no one's first few wishes work out exactly the way they're hoping. You just have to get the hang of it. Learn to be more specific." He nods at the end of the cart. "Hop on. I'll give you a ride."

"I'm not going to–"

Pete shakes his head sadly. "Have you always been this fun-challenged?"

"What? Am not!" Patrick sputters.

Just to prove Pete wrong, he stomps around to the end of the cart and climbs aboard like he used to do when he was four and coming along to the grocery store was the treat of the week. Pete beams at him, and Patrick sighs heavily. He's played right into Pete's hands. Patrick can see that this is going to be the entire history of their, well, relationship, if you can call it that.

"We need spaghetti," Patrick says firmly, trying to salvage his dignity.

It doesn't work, especially not when Pete lets out a war whoop and zooms the cart down the aisle. Patrick has to cling on by his fingernails, and even then almost goes flying off into a stand of Vitamin Water when Pete makes a hairpin turn into the next aisle. Pete screeches the cart to a stop in front of the pasta, smiling like a puppy who expects to be petted for pissing all over the rug. Patrick jumps down, motion sick. He has to fight off the urge to barf all over Pete's ugly-ass green sneakers, although really it would only serve Pete right.

"I seriously hate you," Patrick says woozily.

"Do not," Pete says, with a certain grin.

Patrick crosses his arms over his chest. "Spaghetti."

Pete slides down onto one knee and declares to the entire world, or at least to everyone who happens to be shopping in aisle 5 right then, "Your wish is my command, Rickster."

"Stop that before I kick you," Patrick tells him, because anything more subtle would surely be wasted on Pete.

Even with the threat of physical violence hanging over him, Pete just bounces up, grinning, and tosses a box of Mueller's into the cart. "Boring," he proclaims, and then his face lights up. Patrick has known him long enough to understand that this is bad news. "You know what we really need? Some of that gooey flattened fruit food that gets stuck in your teeth and turns your tongue orange."

"No one on the planet needs that," Patrick says, but Pete has already dashed off with the cart. Patrick yells after him, "It's not on the list!"

He runs to catch up and finds Pete two aisles over, stopped in front of the fruit rollups, a package in each hand, his forehead scrunched up in concentration as he carefully weighs the all-important decision: Sunberry Burst or Tropical Tie-Dye?

"No," Patrick tells him, because he is not buying the Devil faux-healthy snack food. He just isn't.

"But–"

Patrick takes the scary leather-fruit out of Pete's hands and puts it back on the shelf.

"Fun-challenged," Pete says. "Oh, hey, there's cranberry juice. Isn't that on the list?"

Patrick reaches for it, turning his back on Pete just for a second. When he swivels back around, Pete is whistling and looking innocent. Patrick has never seen anything more suspicious in his life.

"What did you do?" He makes slit eyes at Pete.

Pete's expression crumples theatrically. "Always with the accusations. You're really going to hurt my feelings one of these day, Patrick."

Patrick inspects the cart. There's no sign of stowaway fruit rollups anywhere, but still, he gives Pete a narrow-eyed I'm watching you look.

"Are we done yet?" Pete asks plaintively, fidgeting with the drawstring on his hoodie. Playtime has, apparently, become bored-now time. The Devil has a serious case of ADD.

Patrick rolls his eyes and double-checks the list and takes charge of the cart. "Let's get out of here."

They head to the front to the checkout, and everyone in line #2 just magically decides they'd rather be somewhere else, leaving the way clear for Patrick.

Pete flashes a dazzling smile. "I'm working hard for you, baby. And it's not even going to cost you a wish." His expression is a silent parenthetical: (Because I like you, or, hey, at least I like thinking about you with your clothes off.) That's how Patrick reads it anyway. It's enough to bring the heat rushing to his face.

"Paper or plastic?" the cashier asks, in a bored monotone.

"Paper," Patrick mutters.

The cashier stares at him for a moment, probably wondering why talking about his preference in grocery bags makes him blush. She rings up his items. He hands over some cash and carefully pockets the change before Pete can take a sticky-fingered interest in it. Don't trust the Devil with your money is financial management 101. Patrick hoists a bag in one arm, balancing it against his hip. Pete makes no move to help, so Patrick sighs and grabs up the other bag, as well.

"Thanks a lot," he says sullenly.

Pete breaks into a big, toothy smile. "My pleasure, Pattycakes. Oh, hey, you want?" A package of fruit rollups materializes out of nowhere. Tropical Tie-Dye, Patrick notices.

"Hey, Norm, he didn't pay for that," says the cashier, pointing at Pete, who is busily stuffing as much rubbery fruit-food into his mouth as he can possibly manage.

Norm wears a bright red smock and a nametag that reads "Store Manager." He adopts a fatherly tone with Pete, "Son, you're going to need to pay for those rollups."

"Okay," Pete tells him around a mouthful of Tropical Tie-Dye and then yells right in Patrick's ear, nearly making him drop his groceries, "Run!"

Pete turns into a bright orange streak of fleeing hoodie. Patrick is caught back on his heels, unprepared for this sudden switch to a life of supermarket crime.

Norm's paternal patience has apparently been exhausted, because he glowers red-faced at Patrick. "Young man, if your friend doesn't come back in this store right now–"

Teenaged instinct kicks in then, and Patrick's sneakers make an urgent squeak on the polished floor as he hightails it out of there.

"Hey!" Norm's outraged voice drifts after him as he darts out the door.

The bags bump against Patrick's hips as he races across the parking lot to the car. Pete is lounging against the front fender, smiling encouragingly at Patrick's escape from the long arm of the grocery law. In the distance, Patrick hears a blare of sirens, and oh shit, oh shit!

"You are seriously fucking evil," he tells Pete, panting breathlessly as he scrambles to get the car door open.

Pete puffs out his chest, smiling proudly.

"Fuck!" Patrick hisses, fumbling to get the key into the lock. Those sirens are definitely headed in their direction. "You really are Satan!" He glares at Pete.

Pete nods agreeably. "So let me take you away from all this."

There's a squeal of tires, and an entire fleet of squad cars–for 3 bucks worth of leathery fruit!–turns onto the block.

"Shit!"

"Just say the word, Pattyboy."

"Stop rushing me!"

The corner of Pete's mouth tilts up. "It's not me. It's–" He points.

The squad cars screech to a halt in the parking lot.

"You know what you really want," Pete coaxes. "You're just afraid to ask for it."

"Okayokay," Patrick says in a rush. "I want to own the music scene. I want to be big, you know? Epic. When I walk into a club, I want everyone to say my fucking name. I want them to be waiting just for me."

Cops spill out of cars, drawing their guns. "Throw the rollups down and put your hands up," a no-nonsense voice blares over a megaphone. Patrick shifts his weight anxiously from foot to foot. Come on, come on! He makes desperate eyes at Pete.

"You want it, you got it, baby." Pete hooks a hand behind Patrick's neck. For a second, Patrick thinks Pete is going to kiss him, and his heart starts to stutter in his chest. But Pete draws him in close to whisper in his ear, "You know what to do if you need me."

There's a loud crack like thunder, or–after Patrick's recent experience–possibly a gunshot. Everything goes dark, and he skittishly pats his hands over his body, checking for bullet holes. The lights flip back on a moment later, and Patrick is standing in a graveled parking lot, distant strains of music floating in the air. Something feels wrong. His center of gravity isn't where he left it, and his relationship to the horizon has changed too, as if he's gotten taller. His shoes pinch his toes, and wind is blowing up his skirt.

Skirt?

Patrick glances down at himself and finds a pair of C-cups staring back at him. Confusion swamps his brain. He can't figure out how he can be looking at himself and seeing somebody else's body. Unless… No, just no. No fucking way!

"No fucking way!" he repeats out loud, at the top of his lungs.

A guy in a cowboy hat who's passing by stops to give Patrick an odd look. Patrick glares, a mix of mind your own business and if you suddenly had boobs, you'd be screaming too, dude. The guy ducks his head and hurries on. Patrick closes his eyes and takes a deep, cleansing breath. This can't be happening. It seriously, absolutely, huh-uh, no fucking way can not be happening. But when he opens his eyes again and looks down, damn it, the boobs are still there.

Patrick doesn't know what to do. He can't stand around in this godforsaken parking lot for the rest of his life, but he's not exactly eager to have people see him like this, either. What if he runs in to someone he knows? Oh fuck, how is he supposed to face his mom? Panic leaps all through him. Shit, shit, shit. He is going to fucking kill Pete when he gets his hands on him.

He clears his throat and almost, almost throws in the towel right there. Then it occurs to him that giving up would be giving Pete, that dickhead, way too much satisfaction. Patrick asked to be big in the music scene, and he stills wants that, and okay, so he forgot to specify that he wanted to remain a guy. That was a pretty serious oversight, but he'll just have to deal.

He takes a step and wobbles precariously, nearly turning his ankle. His newfound determination threatens to go right out the window, because, oh my God, he's wearing fucking high heels. No wonder his feet hurt so much.

"I hate Pete Wentz," he says out loud, because it's not something he can keep to himself. "I really, really do."

Patrick lets out his breath and throws back his shoulders and takes another mincing step. He's not going to let a pair of shoes beat him. If girls can do this, he can, too. He struggles along, and it's not just the heels slowing him down, he realizes. His skirt isn't exactly doing him any favors either, a tiny little leather number, so tight it feels like it's strangling his hips. He wonders if all girl clothes are like this, or if this is just another one of Pete's stupid practical jokes.

The closer Patrick gets to the club, the more clearly he can hear the music. It sounds…twangy. He takes a closer look around. The "club" is more of a shack really, low to the ground, weathered and gray, big gaps between the boards, a sign painted on the front, faded and peeling, that reads "Dizzy's." There's nothing else around, not another building in sight, just flat, scrubby nothing in every direction. Stars shine and flicker in the night sky, so clear that Patrick can make out the Big Dipper. In the city, he never sees so much as a faint twinkle.

"Fucking Pete," Patrick curses under his breath.

So, here's another thing Patrick neglected to spell out, that he wanted to be big in the Chicago music scene. Now he's…well, in the middle of hicksville is his best guess. He lets out yet another sigh and totters up to the entrance. He's here, wherever the hell this is. He might as well see what's going on inside.

The bouncer is a beefy yokel, with epic facial hair and an even more epic beer gut. He's wearing a sweat-stained John Deere cap and a jacket that looks like it's made out of the hides of children's pets. He gives Patrick a look up and down, as if trying to see through his clothes.

"Well, if it isn't Lula Belle," the guy drawls. "Got yer name right here on the list, sugar." He thumps his hand against his clipboard. "Not that your name ain't always on the list. Which band is it tonight, darlin'?" He smiles, gap-toothed and sleazy. "Or is it all of them?" He winks. "Just kiddin', sweetpea." He nods toward the door. "You go on inside now, Lula. They been lookin' for you."

Patrick scoots past the guy a little skittishly. He doesn't like the way SnaggleTooth is staring at him, heavy-lidded and reptilian, with a hint of drool at the corner of his mouth. Patrick reaches for the door handle, turning his back. Just before he slips inside, SnaggleTooth reaches out and slaps him across the ass, his palm making a resounding thwack.

"What the fuck?" Patrick wheels around, glaring.

SnaggleTooth throws his head back and barks with laughter. "Oh, you love it, baby. You know you do."

Patrick stomps inside, indignant, and frankly starting to chafe a little from the thong he's wearing. He slams to a stop just on the other side of the door. Straight ahead hangs a mirror, with a tarnished gilt frame, so huge it takes up most of the wall. Patrick gets a good look at himself, and he's…dear God. He has big bubble hair, a stark white-blond that doesn't exist in nature, teased and curling-ironed within an inch of its life, sprayed until it defies gravity. That explains the sharp aerosol stink Patrick has been wrinkling his nose at since he got here.

Patrick's skirt seems even tinier now that he's looking at it straight on, with a slit up his thigh, almost to his… Shit. His boobs are practically falling out of his too-tight, stretchy white top, with only a pair of insufficient little spaghetti straps to hold it up. He's got on black fishnets, and, whoa, are those four-inch heels? No wonder he can't fucking walk two feet without nearly breaking an ankle.

Is it actually possible to kill the Devil? Never mind. Patrick doesn't care. He's totally going to try anyway.

He continues on into the club. Cigarette smoke, wave after noxious wave of it, hits him in the face.

"Lula," a voice calls out, and then others join in, getting louder and louder, until the chant is bouncing off the walls. Every guy in the place is staring at him.

Patrick ducks his head and makes a beeline for the bar. He's so embarrassed it's actually a little hard to breathe. He skirts around a table, but doesn't allow quite enough clearance. Someone reaches out and pinches his ass. He flails around, hands curled into fists, ready to punch somebody in their stupid mouth.

Three rednecks, each one more pimply-faced than the next, sit hunched over beer mugs, all wearing matching expressions of dubious innocence.

"That little girl's itchin' for a fight," says the pimpliest one of all, with a big shit-eating grin. "What's the matter, Lula Belle? Somebody's Aunt Flo making a visit?"

They snort and cackle, and Patrick takes a step closer, the urge to shed blood growing stronger by the moment. Pete isn't here, but Patrick can totally take out his nasty mood on these sexist assholes.

"Come on, honey." A woman with bright red hair, swirled up onto her head like a Tastee Freez cone, puts her arm around Patrick's shoulders. "These jokers ain't worth getting' in a tizzy over."

Patrick lets the woman draw him away. They have to push through the crowd to make it up to the bar, and Patrick gets grabby hands all over his boobs and butt. He kicks out viciously at any shin he can make contact with. He figures they're all assholes and deserve whatever they get.

"What the fuck is wrong with them?" Patrick asks, as he slides onto a barstool.

The woman shrugs. "They're guys."

The bartender drifts over, smiling. "Marvelle. Lula. How you ladies doin' tonight? Ya'll want the usual?"

Marvelle leans across the bar. "You always know what I like, Dizzy." She winks at him.

He grins. "You got it, baby. Lula?"

Patrick nods, because drinking age, what the hell. He's got boobs, and guys are dirty, sleazy, grabby dickheads. He so deserves some booze. Is this what girls have to put up with all the time? Or is this just some special Wentzian hell he's trapped in? Patrick is afraid the answer might be what's behind door number one.

The bartender returns, plunks a disturbingly pink drink down in front of Marvelle, and, thankfully, a beer in front of Patrick. It's a little too warm and tastes like metal can, but hey, it's beer. Patrick gulps down a big swallow and then another and another.

"Honey, go easy there," Marvelle tells him, sipping ladylike at her pink mess in a martini glass. "You know you got the early shift tomorrow. Facing chicken parts with a hangover is enough to make anybody upchuck all over the conveyer belt."

"Chicken parts?" Patrick says and instantly claps his hand over his mouth. He's never thought much about his voice. He definitely doesn't understand that lightning struck look Pete got when Patrick sang for him. But still, it was his voice. His. Now it's somebody else's, kind of breathless and squeaky and jarringly high-pitched, with a drawl the size of Montana.

Also, chicken parts?

"I know, honey," Marvelle says sympathetically. "I can't believe we ended up down at that old plant just like our folks. Knew we should'a gone to beauty school while we still had the chance. My cousin Danielle's friend Rena? She makes a hundred bucks a day somedays down at the Cutting Edge."

"That's, uh–" Patrick struggles for something to say. "Huh. A hundred bucks. Really?"

Marvelle nods solemnly. "We missed that boat, sugar. But, hey," she jerks her chin toward the stage, where the band is starting to come out, "at least you got Randy to look forward to." She whistles softly. "I must say he is lookin' fine in those black jeans of his."

There's only one guy on stage wearing black jeans, with a big, rhinestone-studded "Nobody Messes With Texas" belt buckle, a tucked-in plaid shirt like something Patrick's mom used to dress him in back when he was too young to know better. The guy has straggly blond hair that appears to have been slicked back with a handful of bacon grease. He picks up an accordion.

So, this is the state of Patrick's fourth–his fourth– wish: He's the skimpily clad, chicken-parts-plant-employed groupie of an accordion player. The fact that Patrick is a girl is strangely enough the least of his problems.

The band starts to play, mostly covers of country standards, with the occasional original song thrown in. Patrick has truly eclectic tastes in music. He grew up on his dad's folk stuff, and he loves the blues. He can appreciate the intricate rhythms of bluegrass, and if all else fails, he always admires when somebody can play the hell out of an instrument. And still, he can't find one redeeming thing about this twangified mess.

The crowd goes wild for it. Marvelle sways along to the beat and hoots at the top of her lungs after every number. Patrick claps half-heartedly, trying to be polite. He's the slutty groupie girlfriend of a really bad musician. Stupid, fucking Pete.

Finally, the band finishes their set. Randy puts down his accordion and searches the crowd, hand covering his eyes to see past the lights. Patrick's survival instinct kicks in a second too late, not quite in time to look away before Randy catches his eye. Randy breaks into a big smile and gestures for Patrick to come join him. Patrick shakes his head, because this is so, so not what he signed on for.

Marvelle elbows Patrick. "Oh, honey. Don't be a tease. That man has been lookin' for you all night. He must'a asked me three times if I was sure you were gonna be here."

Patrick makes a noncommittal noise and doesn't budge, but it doesn't matter. Randy is already making his way through the crowd, joking and smiling and accepting congratulatory slaps on the back. He sallies up to the bar and plants his hands on either side of Patrick's body, hemming him in. He leans in, and Patrick barely turns his head in time to get Randy's spitty lips on his cheek instead of his mouth.

"You like the show, baby?" Randy asks.

"Um–"

"Yeah, yeah, it was great, wasn't it?" Randy smiles. "We were really on tonight. So, hey, you want to come backstage? There's something I want to show you."

"What?" Patrick asks, suspiciously.

Randy winks at him. "It's a surprise."

"A surprise, honey," Marvelle squeals with delight. "Go on, go on. I'll save your seat for you."

Randy pulls Patrick by the arm, and Marvelle gives him a little shove, and suddenly Patrick is being carried along by the crowd. Dork that he is, Patrick actually wonders if maybe Randy wrote him a song or something. Not that he'd expect it to be a good song, of course, but they are going out together. It's the kind of thing Patrick would do for someone he liked, especially if that someone was into music.

Patrick follows Randy past the dressing room, where the rest of the band is kicking back with brews and eager fans, through a doorway, and into an empty hallway that leads to the loading dock. Randy closes the door behind them.

"Um." Patrick looks around uneasily. "You said something about a surprise?"

Randy strokes a hand down his fly. "I got it right here, baby."

Patrick makes an "ewwww" face. Seriously, are most dudes this creepy with women? How do guys ever get laid? Patrick really has to wonder.

"I'm, uh, just going to–" He points to the door.

Randy blocks the way. "What's wrong, baby? You came to hear me special." He walks a finger up Patrick's bare arm. "So why you wanna run off all of a sudden?"

"Seriously not in the mood for this." Patrick takes a step around him.

Randy grabs Patrick's arm and yanks him tightly against his body. "You already screwed every guy in every band that's played this shithole in who knows how long. So what? Now you've gone all bashful or something?"

Patrick elbows Randy hard in the gut. He vows never to be a dick to girls. Not that he was planning on it anyway, but he's really, really not going to now.

"Bitch!" Randy spits out.

"Fuck this bullshit," Patrick declares.

He breaks into the first verse of "(You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman," because Pete is just enough of a jackass to find that funny. An amused Pete is more likely to actually turn up. Well, hopefully.

"Is that what this is about? You got some kind of ambition that you're a singer, you stupid slut?" Randy sneers. "'Cause, trust me, you suck."

"Oh, yeah?" Patrick takes a pissed-off step toward Randy, fists at the ready. He figures whatever he's lost in upper body strength he can make up for in fury.

"Let me do the honors, Pattycakes." Pete materializes at Patrick's elbow. He's dressed in the world's ugliest cowboy shirt, shiny and royal purple, with white piping and actual fringe.

"Hey! Get your own piece of ass," Randy tells him.

"Get some manners." Pete's fist connects with Randy's face. Blood spurts everywhere. It's not as satisfying as it would have been if Patrick had done the punching himself, but he'll take what he can get.

"Fuck, man," Randy howls. "You broke my fucking nose."

Patrick seriously hopes so.

Pete waves Randy off, an impatient little beat-it gesture. Randy, moron that he is, stubbornly stays put, hand clamped over his nose, his eyes flashing indignation like a pair of neon signs.

"Seriously?" Pete says. Only it's not Pete's usual hey-dude voice. That one little word rattles the walls and shakes the ground and sends some stacked-up bottles of booze flying off a nearby shelf, crashing to the floor with a violent, glassy shatter. Something flares in Pete's eyes, orange-bright and smoldering. Quite possibly it's the fires of hell.

Randy lets out a terrified squeak and practically throws himself at the door, scuttling back out to the safety of the bar.

Pete turns big, concerned eyes on Patrick. "You okay?"

"Yes! But don't think that's getting you off the fucking hook! Because it's so not. You're still a big, stupid asshole!" Patrick points his finger, nearly jabbing Pete in the nose. So what if Pete is all devilishly powerful? Patrick is pissed off.

Pete doesn't spear him with a flambéed pitchfork or anything, which is always good. In fact, he hangs his head. "I know, I know. Dude, I'm totally ashamed of myself."

Patrick stares, blinking very slowly. He could have sworn he just heard the totally shameless Devil kind of, sort of say he was sorry about something.

But then Pete goes on, completely dispelling that illusion. "It was all sexist and shit of me to, like, assume a groupie had to be a girl." He holds up his hands in mock surrender. "In my defense, though, I was just curious. You know, about what this would be like." He lightly brushes his fingers across the top of Patrick's breast. The strap of Patrick's skimpy top picks that moment to slip down off his shoulder.

So yeah, Pete is still just as shameless as ever, and Patrick's borrowed body seems to really like it. His nipples harden at the touch, and the muscles in his belly tighten, and suddenly he feels all hot and tingly between his legs. Shit! That must be what it feels like to be turned on as a girl.

"Get me out of here," Patrick says, his jaw tightly clenched.

Pete nods, and this time, there's no tornado, no pyrotechnics. Just the next thing Patrick knows he's standing in the parking lot of the Jewel again, which is thankfully free of cop cars. Just as thankfully, he has all his man parts back. He discreetly touches his crotch to make sure.

Pete gives him a long, assessing look. "Yeah, I like you better this way."

"Thanks a lot," Patrick says snippily.

"Hey, don't be like that." Pete bumps Patrick's hip with his own. "So the wish didn't work out. You've got three left. And we can still do something if you want."

Patrick stares at him incredulously. "You think I'm going to hang out with you when you've just spent all afternoon dicking me over?"

Predictably, Pete's eyes go wide and innocent, his mouth dropping open, ready with denials.

"Don't even," Patrick tells him. "You turned me into a girl. And gave me a job hacking up chicken carcasses. And made me a slut with bad taste dating an asshole who was a really crappy musician. That is just low, dude. And–"

He suddenly remembers that his mom is waiting at home for groceries and he dropped the stuff when Pete whammied him. He glances around wildly, but the bags are long gone by now.

"Fuck! And you let someone steal all the food I just bought! I can't even go back into the store now, because I'll get arrested. And my mom is probably going to take my car away and never let me go anywhere ever again. I hope you're fucking happy!" He jabs Pete in the chest.

"Is that all?" Pete says supremely unconcerned, and Patrick totally deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for not lunging at his throat. "I can fix that, Rickster. Just–" He goes to snap his fingers.

"No!" Patrick shouts. "I am not fucking wasting a wish on grocery shopping."

Pete smiles sweetly. "Relax, baby. This is a freebie. Just 'cause I like you." He darts in and plants a kiss on Patrick's nose. "See you after, okay?"

Before Patrick can complain that someone who just made him an accordion player's groupie has no damn right to be kissing him, he's back home in his mother's kitchen.

"Thanks for doing the shopping, honey," his mom tells him, as she reaches up into the cabinet to put away a canister of oatmeal. "That was a big help."

"Um. No problem?" There goes that nervous tic again, and yeah, adolescence seriously needs to be over already.

"While you were gone, somebody named Pete called. He said you two had planned to meet at the mall later, but he wanted to make sure it wasn't going to interfere with you getting your homework done."

Patrick rolls his eyes. Pete is such a fucking brownnoser.

"Is Pete a new friend?" his mom asks.

Patrick really doesn't know how to answer that question. "He's just– somebody I met at school." Technically this is true.

"You should invite him over for dinner sometime," his mom offers. "He seems like a very polite young man."

"Oh, um, yeah. Sure. That would be great," Patrick says, crossing his fingers behind his back. He doesn't like to lie, but there's no way he's bringing the Devil home to meet his mom.

Patrick briefly considers blowing Pete off, because he so deserves it. But a trip to the record store had been Patrick's plan for the afternoon before he got caught up in another devil-made disaster. He's not in the mood to let Pete derail any more of his life than he already has.

So he goes, and there Pete is, standing outside the Shoe Shack, his nose pressed to the glass, admiring what appear to be the ugliest purple sneakers in existence. Patrick thinks about darting behind a potted palm and making his escape through the electronics store, but sneaking away from the Devil is not that simple, of course. Pete whirls around, as if he can sense Patrick's presence–which, hey, he probably can. That is the most disturbing and the most exciting thought Patrick has ever had.

Pete breaks into a smile, the kind that lights up his entire face, not lamp bright, sun bright. Patrick blinks, an after-image of it floating on his retinas for a good three seconds, and then he remembers. He's supposed to be pissed at Pete.

"You're here," Pete states the obvious, with absolute delight. He comes bounding over, looking more than ever like an affectionate puppy.

Pitchfork-wielding puppy, Patrick reminds himself sternly. Why is that so hard to remember?

"I'm happy you're here," Pete says, still beaming. He leans in, slowly, slowly, giving Patrick all the time in the world to, whatever, flip him off or scream for mall security. Patrick doesn't, and Pete pushes his mouth against Patrick's, warm breath and gentle pressure. When Pete pulls away, the expression on his face is soft and filled with wonder, as if kissing Patrick is everything he's ever wanted. "Endearing" should not be a term that describes the Devil, especially not after Patrick's recent girl parts/chicken parts/accordion experience, but there Pete is, a walking dictionary entry for the word.

"You're still a jerk," Patrick says, as much to remind himself as Pete. "I really shouldn't let you kiss me at all."

Pete nods solemnly. "You really shouldn't."

He strokes his thumb along Patrick's jaw and kisses him again. Patrick offers just as much resistance as the last time. Or possibly less, if you count the way his lips slip and slide against Pete's, although that's purely accidental, Patrick contends.

Pete slings his arm across Patrick's shoulders. "So, records?"

Patrick nods, even though he knows he shouldn't let Pete off the hook this easily. "D'Vinyls," he says. "Because–"

"LPs have a warmer sound than CDs," Pete finishes the sentence for him. "I'm totally with you on the whole analog versus digital issue, Stumpster."

They head down the mall corridor, past the Gap Kids and the Bath and Bodyworks to the last little store before the CVS. Despite the blaring, mall-issue fluorescent lights and institutional gray carpet, D'Vinyls still manages to look like it just blew in from Haight-Ashbury circa 1968. Day-glo posters dot the walls: Hendrix and Joplin and The Grateful Dead. Records sit in old-fashioned wooden displays that have been rubbed smooth and shiny over the years. There are actual love beads for sale in a basket by the cash register. A waft of pot smell hangs over the store, probably coming from Dougie, the guy who owns the place.

"Hey, man," Dougie greets Patrick. "Got 'Closer' in. It's here behind the counter. Just let me know when you want it."

"Thanks, man," Patrick tells him. "I'll pick it up on the way out."

"Sure thing, brother."

"Joy Division, huh?" Pete says. "You got good taste there, Stumpster."

Dougie nods approvingly in Pete's direction. This is quite a compliment. Dougie doesn't take to just everyone.

"Hey, you want to–" Patrick jerks his head toward the Rock section.

Pete's smile is warm mittens and little kitties and hot chocolate. "Whatever you want, Pattycakes."

Patrick really shouldn't find warm mittens and little kitties and hot chocolate such a turn on, but apparently that's just what happens when you make a deal with the Devil. He and Pete start flipping through records. Patrick comes across Ziggy Stardust, and curiosity gets the better of him. "So, Bowie or Ozzie?"

Pete snorts. "Bowie. And, dude, just because a few of your wishes haven't worked out the way you wanted, that's no reason to insult me."

Patrick grins hard, because that's exactly how he would have felt if someone had asked him that question. Pete smiles back, little crinkles at the corners of his eyes, and Patrick is completely hopeless at holding a grudge against him. In fact, he finds himself thinking that there isn't one person in the world he'd rather be with right now than Pete–if he ignores that little bit of fine print where Pete's not actually human.

"You know I was there when Bowie was laying down those tracks." Pete gestures at the album Patrick is holding.

"Really?" Patrick's eyes go wide, at first with amazement, and then quickly horror. "Oh my God, you mean you– David Bowie's soul. Don't tell me. I don't want to know." He sticks his fingers in his ears and starts to hum "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" as loudly as he can.

Pete's mouth is still moving, so Patrick closes his eyes in case he accidentally lip-reads.

Pete yanks Patrick's fingers out of his ears. "No, Patrick, David Bowie's best album does not owe its existence to the Devil. Really talented people don't need to wish they could do good work and become famous and have everyone love them. That's just what happens when they are who they are and believe in what they do. Something you might want to keep in mind for the future." He sounds a little angry.

Patrick stares at Pete, a pinch between his eyebrows, confused and kind of flustered. Pete's never been mad at him before. He stutters out, "I didn't mean–"

There's a moment when Patrick can still feel Pete's anger shimmering in the air like heat lightning, and then Pete shrugs, and the weather clears. "I was into the scene back then. I like music."

Patrick nods and thinks that over and then there's something he's just got to ask, because…well, he has to, even if it is going to piss Pete off again. "You didn't really, um, go down to Georgia looking to make a deal or anything, right?"

Pete rolls his eyes. "I hate to break this to you, Patrick, but not everything you hear in a country song is true facts."

Patrick elbows Pete in the ribs. "Asshole."

Pete grins, everything apparently all forgiven now, and Patrick grins back. They return to browsing. Patrick pulls out albums he might need to own, making a stack in the crook of his arm. By the time he's flipped past the last Warren Zevon record, the to-buy pile has started digging into his side, way too hefty for his budget.

"Huh," he says. How did that happen?

"Come on, Von Stump." Pete steers Patrick over to an empty patch of floor space in the back. "Let's see what you've got here." He flops down onto the carpet and tugs Patrick down with him.

Patrick darts a glance at Dougie, who is organizing a stack of tour t-shirts up front. He doesn't appear concerned about the two of them sprawled out on the floor. As long as people show the proper respect for records, Dougie's usually pretty cool about things.

Pete takes Patrick's stack of potential purchases from him. "'Blonde on Blonde.' Okay, so obviously you need that." He flips it into what is apparently the "to keep" pile and goes on to the next contender. "'Reasonable Doubt'? Seriously?"

Patrick snatches it out of Pete's unworthy hands. "Jay-Z is every bit the lyrical genius that Dylan is. The man's a poet and a storyteller. He totally changed the face of rap music. And if people gave hip hop artists even half the respect they deserve…" About three-quarters of the way through Patrick's very necessary defense of Jay-Z, Pete starts to smile, big and goofy. Patrick isn't going to let that distract him, isn't going to, isn't going to, until finally he just can't help it. "What?" he demands.

Pete grins harder and swoops in to lightly kiss Patrick's mouth. "Has anyone ever told you how totally adorable you are when you go all passionate nerd about music?"

Patrick scowls fiercely, because Pete just called him a nerd. At the same time, heat floods his cheeks, because the word "adorable" was also uttered.

"Music nerd is not an insult," Pete says and leans in even closer.

Patrick can feel the heat of Pete's body, warm, warmer, hot, and then Pete's lips slide against Patrick's again. It's nothing like the last time, or any other time Pete has kissed him. Pete's mouth presses firmly, the kiss slow and lingering. Patrick curves his hands around Pete's shoulders while Pete leisurely licks at Patrick's top lip. Patrick takes in a shaky breath, his lips parting, and then Pete is licking inside his mouth.

Patrick has kissed with tongue exactly once before: Becky Mueller, at a lame party in the basement of her parents' house. It tasted like spit and metal from Becky's braces, and felt kind of awkward. Afterwards Patrick wasn't sure if he ever wanted to do it again or not.

He has no such doubts where Pete is concerned. He holds on and kisses back. The way Pete is stroking the roof of Patrick's mouth with his tongue makes Patrick go shivery-hot all over. By the time Pete pulls away, Patrick feels heavy-limbed, almost dazed. He licks his lips, a little bit out of nervousness, a little bit to see what Pete will do about it.

Pete moans softly. "Trick." He rubs his thumb across Patrick's mouth.

Patrick wants to suck on that thumb. He wants Pete to kiss him some more. He wants…there not to be a scary dude in a camouflage jacket glaring at them from the Jazz section, hands on his hips, his expression twisted up with furious disgust.

"Fucking faggots," Camouflage Dude hisses at them and stomps off.

Patrick is happy enough to see him go, but one glance at Pete, at the dark storm brewing in his eyes, is enough to know that the guy isn't going to get off so easily. An instant later, Camouflage Dude goes knocking into a bin of ancient eight-tracks, tipping it over, sending Barry Manilow and The Steve Miller Band scattering across the floor.

Dougie charges out from behind the front counter. "What the fuck is wrong with you, man?"

Camouflage Dude scrambles to his feet, swearing fiercely, his face flushed a deep, heart-attack red. "What the fuck is wrong with you? Letting that faggoty bullshit go on right under your nose. It's not safe for decent people to shop in this fucking store anymore."

Dougie's mouth turns down sharply at the corners, by far the most emotion Patrick has ever seen from him. And he's been coming to D'Vinyls every week since he was twelve. Dougie grabs Camouflage Dude by the collar, catching him off balance, and manhandles him out of the store. Dougie comes back, wiping his hands together, as if to say: Good riddance.

Patrick ducks his head, utterly mortified.

Pete nudges him with his elbow. "We should probably get you home, right? Don't want you to be late for dinner and piss your mom off."

Patrick nods numbly and lets Pete pull him to his feet. Pete gathers up the records and heads to the front, his hand on Patrick's back, protective or possessive, Patrick can't really tell. Pete lays the records down on the counter, all of them, and Patrick pipes up, "Oh, hey, wait. I can't–"

But Pete is already reaching into his back pocket, pulling out a wallet, and who knew the Devil actually carried money? "We'll take the record you're holding for him, too."

Dougie nods, bags it all up and makes change. Pete still hasn't moved his hand from Patrick's back. Patrick feels a warm flush of consciousness at the touch, high in his cheeks, low in his belly. He moves a little deeper into the circle of Pete's arm, their hips bumping. Dougie actually smiles at them. Patrick has never seen him smile before, not once in four years. He wonders fleetingly if Dougie is a closet romantic or if that's just Pete's mojo at work.

They walk back out through the mall. At the exit, Pete stops, and Patrick finds himself clutching the bag of records to his chest. Pete is not my boyfriend, he's the Devil, Pete is not my boyfriend, he's the Devil. This does nothing to calm the disturbing little flip-flop sensation in Patrick's stomach.

"Trick." Pete strokes his thumb along Patrick's jaw.

Patrick thinks Pete is going to kiss him again, and his lips start to buzz, as if he can already feel it.

But Pete pulls his hand away, his expression shuttered. "Enjoy the records," he says, with a tight little smile.

Patrick nods, pretending as hard as he can that he's not disappointed, and turns to go.

"Goodnight." The word drifts softly over to him.

Patrick glances back over his shoulder, but Pete has already disappeared.


A peanut M&M hits Patrick in the head.

He doesn't look up from his computer. "Stop it."

Another M&M grazes his ear.

Patrick sighs in exasperation. "Dude. We're supposed to be working. Writing songs. That thing we do. Ring any bells?"

The only response is yet another M&M pelting him.

"I will kick your ass," Patrick threatens.

A hail of candy flies in Patrick's face.

"That's it." He sets the laptop on the coffee table. "You are fucking going down."

Patrick launches himself off the couch in a flying tackle, knocking the M&M delinquent to the floor. They wrestle around, and Patrick ends up on top. He knows without looking that the body under him is Pete's.

Patrick pulls Pete's arms above his head, gripping Pete's wrists tightly in one hand. holding him down. "Is this what you want?"

Pete's chest rises and falls sharply. He stares up at Patrick, his eyes liquid dark, bright with want. Patrick kisses him, and Pete sighs against his lips.

"You are so fucking distracting, you know that?" Patrick bites Pete's neck.

"Fuck!" Pete arches up, pushing his hips into Patrick's.

"We can do that," Patrick tells him.

He pulls Pete's belt off, whips his jeans and underwear down his legs. Pete whimpers and spread his legs. Patrick kisses his belly.

"Please!" Pete says breathlessly. "Patrick!"

His voice is still rattling around in Patrick's head when he wakes up the next morning. Patrick sighs heavily and stares up at the ceiling. This whole wet dream thing is now officially pathetic.


First period Bio begins with a surprise announcement.

"Class, we're going to take time out today from our regularly scheduled lesson plan for a special unit on sex education," Ms. Byerley tells them. "We'll be splitting up into two groups. Girls will come with me. Boys will stay here, and Mr. Wentz will lead your discussion."

Patrick knows he must have heard that wrong. He has Pete on the brain, and it's causing aural hallucinations. There's probably even a technical term for it squirreled away in some medical tome somewhere, something like devilitis, only with more Latin terminology.

But no. Patrick is sadly all too mentally healthy, because there is Pete, sauntering through the door. He has a Starbucks cup in one hand. In the other hand is a banana that looks suspiciously like the one from the grocery store. An industrial sized box of condoms is tucked under his arm. Patrick stares beseechingly down at the scuffed linoleum floor. It stubbornly refuses to open up and swallow him.

Pete nods to Ms. Byerley. She nods back hesitantly. Her reluctance is not surprising given that Pete is once again dressed to "blend." Finally, Ms. Byerley shrugs, as if to say: Hey, someone thought this guy was qualified for the job. Who am I to question the Board of Education in all its infinite wisdom? She herds the girls out of the classroom and closes the door behind her, leaving Pete in charge. This may well be the most terrifying three-word phrase in the entire English language.

Patrick slumps low in his chair. He wonders what non-fatal health condition would get him packed off to the school nurse, or even better, sent home. He briefly contemplates using his fifth wish on a very mild case of anaphylactic shock.

Up front, Pete puts down the banana and condoms and regards the class with a speculative arch of his eyebrows. "So, sex. Some of you are already hitting that pretty hard."

There's a chorus of nervous titters. Guys dart questioning sideways glances at each other. Is this teacher for real? Is this some kind of trick?

Pete strolls along the front of the room, glancing down the rows at each kid in turn. "And, hey, if you're not getting your nasty on, at least you know what sex is. Well, almost all of you anyway." He shakes his head sadly at Timmy Blake, whose fundamentalist parents sent him to Christian school until his sophomore year. "So, we'll skip the what, even though you're totally missing out on all those awesome drawings of, like, testicles and stuff, and go straight to the important issue of how you can keep your dick from falling off."

He grabs the banana and a condom from the box. Patrick slinks down even further in his seat. He doesn't know why he feels so singled out for humiliation–Pete is embarrassing the entire class with this little stunt–but Patrick can't help taking it personally.

"Repeat after me. No glove, no love," Pete says, a little garbled, since he's opening the condom wrapper with his teeth.

He nimbly rolls the condom onto the increasingly pornographic-looking banana. The entire class stares, as silent as statues, no doubt shocked that they have actually witnessed the be-rubbering of phallic fruit on school grounds.

Pete makes a disappointed face at the lack of class participation. "All right, then. I'll just have to get pedagogical on your asses." He cocks his hip, and his pants, which are already hanging off him, slip down a little farther, revealing more tantalizing ink. He lowers his lashes, and his voice scrapes the bottom notes of the bass clef. "No rote repetition, no love."

Pete's notion of pedagogy is more than a little disturbing, but also highly effective. A chorus of voices repeats "no glove, no love." Every guy in the class joins in, except for Patrick, who refuses to give Pete the satisfaction. No one even looks embarrassed by what they're saying. They're too busy staring at Pete, their eyes full of cartoon hearts with little arrows shot through them, just like Mr. Clayton that day in the library.

Patrick snorts in disgust. Pete grins at him brightly.

"Okay, so everybody gets a turn practicing dick safety 101." Pete tosses the banana and a fresh condom to Ray Devon in the front row. Ray turns about twelve different shades of red. "Meanwhile, who's got questions?" Pete glances inquiringly around the room.

Not a single hand goes up, not surprisingly.

"No? Nobody?" Pete shrugs. "Okay, then. I'll just have to answer the questions you should be asking me."

He starts walking up and down the rows, eyeing each student closely.

"Yeah, dude, you should totally see the doctor about that sore you've got down there," Pete tells Bryan White. "That shit is so not just a pimple." Bryan gapes, his mouth making wordless little fish motions.

Pete moves on.

"I know what she said, but size totally matters, trust me." Pete stops beside Adam Seitz's desk. "She was just being nice."

Adam claps his hands over his face, trying to hide.

Pete tilts his head, regarding Chuckie Meyers with interest. "Nope, not gay if you get off on girls strapping one on and giving it to you hard. But hot. Definitely hot."

"Um," Chuckie stutters. "I haven't actually– I just wondered–"

"Bend Over Boyfriend," Pete tells him, with a wink. "Google it."

Pete continues on down the row, and it's too embarrassing to watch. Patrick can only imagine how much worse it will get when Pete gets to him. You're a normal, healthy boy who's having wet dreams about losing his virginity to the Devil, nothing to worry about there. Patrick sticks his hand in the air, in a desperate bid to keep that from happening ever.

Pete's face lights up. "Trickster. What can I do for you?"

"Can I, um, talk to you? You know, in private?"

Pete winks saucily. "I'm totally available for some one-on-one tutoring."

The class laughs. Patrick scrambles up from his seat and grabs Pete by the sleeve of his god-awful ugly hoodie and drags him into the hall. He stops just outside the door and then thinks better of it. He really doesn't want anyone eavesdropping. He tugs on Pete's sleeve, drawing him further down the hall.

"Hmm," Pete says, looking around. "We need more privacy." He takes Patrick by the hand and pulls him down the corridor and into a handy supply closet.

"Um," Patrick says weakly when Pete shuts the door and they're standing in pitch black.

Pete crowds close, his bony hip catching Patrick in the stomach, herding him backwards until Patrick hits the wall. Not being able to see shifts all of Patrick's other senses into overdrive. He's way too aware of Pete's scent in the confined space: burnt sugar and freshly consumed coffee and the sharp, bright note of fabric softener. Pete leans nearer, bracing his hands on either side of Patrick's head. Patrick can feel the heat radiating off Pete's body, the rush of breath against his cheek.

"Pete," Patrick says helplessly.

"What did you want to talk to me about, Patrick?" Pete presses so close his lips brush the side of Patrick's face.

Patrick trembles, heat coiling and uncoiling in his belly, making him melt, leaving him weak. He wants… He wants this so bad. So much more than any of the things he's used his wishes on.

"Pete," he says again, more urgently. He tentatively curls his hand around Pete's hip, scraping his thumb across denim. The jut of Pete's hipbone fills Patrick's palm. Pete's skin swelters beneath the jeans. Touching him makes Patrick ache, in ways he's never imagined.

"Patrick." It's low and rough. Maybe there's a slight note of warning in it, but the word is breathed right against Patrick's ear. That sends shivers all down Patrick's spine.

Patrick clenches and unclenches his hand on Pete's hip, gathering his courage. He wants to…he's going to…and finally he does. He presses his lips against Pete's neck. Warm, smooth skin, and Patrick can feel the blood pounding beneath it. If he snakes out his tongue, he'll be able to taste it.

Pete's breath catches at the first touch. "Do you know what you're doing?"

Patrick shakes his head, because it's true. He has no idea how he even got here, but he does know what he wants, and right now that's enough. He kisses Pete's neck again, opening his mouth, dragging his tongue and then his teeth over thin skin. Pete shudders, and his fingers dig into Patrick's biceps. Patrick can hear his own heart pounding in his ears. He's seriously contemplating having sex with the Devil in a supply closet; Thursday is proving way more interesting than he would have predicted when he woke up that morning.

But then, shit, the light clicks on, blinding and just…wrong. Pete takes a deliberate step back. Patrick blinks at him like a grumpy mole.

"What?" he says, frowning.

"You've got wishes to make, Pattycakes." Pete's casual smirk returns. "And I've got a schedule to keep."

For a moment, Patrick's lungs won't work, the way that happens when someone punches you in the stomach. The worst part is how stupid he feels. What did he expect? That he and the freakin' Prince of Darkness were going to be some happily-ever-after story?

"I–" Patrick stutters, and then a wish wells up in him, clear and urgent, fueled by disappointment. "I want to leave all this high school bullshit behind for real. I want to be grown up already. Settled down. With someone who loves me. I want to be married, and I want kids. I…I want the perfect life."

Something flickers across Pete's face–something not entirely pleased–but then he smiles blithely. "One perfect life, Trickster. Coming right up."

Patrick takes an anticipatory breath, and nothing happens. Nothing happens.

"Um," he says.

Pete cups Patrick's jaw, his thumb pressing in a little too hard. "Call me when you get tired of perfect."

The floor suddenly falls out from under Patrick's feet, and he's falling. Hell, fucking plummeting.

"Pete," he screams. "Fuuuuuuuck you!"

He glances down and freaks out even harder. The ground is hurtling up at him at an alarming rate. He squeezes his eyes closed and braces for impact and lands light as a feather on a bed piled high with fluffy pillows. A snowy white goose down comforter flutters down to cover him.

"Huh," he says out loud.

The bed is large, four-postered, the room cozy. Sun streams in through the windows, making the soft buttery yellow walls glow warmly. It looks exactly like the kind of place where you could have the perfect life. Patrick smiles.

This lasts all of about a second, and then Patrick goes to move, and it's like trying to maneuver a tank. He reaches for his stomach, and he's palming a beach ball. He throws the covers back and stares down at his belly. Oh fuckfuckfuck, that is so not a beach ball. The edges of Patrick's vision shimmer, and the room starts to fade out. He has this strangely dissolved feeling, as if he's floating up near the ceiling, an out-of-body experience. Unfortunately he's still very much alive.

He has no idea how long it takes him to come back to his senses. Shock screws up his perception of time. Once his brain is at least a little more functional, it occurs to him to wonder what the fuck else Pete did to him. He reaches blindly past his enormous belly and thank God! At least, he still has his dick this time.

The relief fades quickly once Patrick's addled brain pieces together exactly what this means: He is a pregnant dude. He regrets that he ever kissed Pete-fucking-Wentz. He regrets it so hard he sees red behind his eyes. He takes a breath and lets it out and swings his legs over the side of the bed, which proves to be way more of an enterprise than he was expecting. "Beached whale" is a term that comes to mind. He rocks back and forth, building up momentum and finally manages to launch his pregnant bulk out of bed. Time to go see what other Kafkaesque tricks Pete has played on him.

His center of gravity has dropped to somewhere around his knees. He takes one unsteady step and then another. After some effort, he manages to steer himself past the nightstand. Before he can make it any further, the door swings open and in comes a blond Adonis in a tight white T-shirt and cut-off sweatpants, looking like he just dragged himself off the Bowflex. He's carrying a tray of food and sets it down on the dresser with an alarmed look at Patrick.

"What are you doing out of bed, baby?" he asks, with a little pinch between his eyebrows. "You know you need to be careful. Doctor said you really should stay off your feet."

"I just–" Patrick can hardly explain to a stranger that he was trying to scope out just how much the Devil has fucked him over this time.

"Aw, sweetheart," Blond Adonis say sympathetically. "I know you're going stir crazy, but it won't be that much longer."

"Shit!" Patrick hisses under his breath. Not that much longer? What the hell? Like he could go into labor or something? "Shit," he says again for good measure, swaying a little on his feet.

Blond Adonis springs into action, wrapping his arm around Patrick's shoulders. "It's okay, baby. I've got you." He guides Patrick back into bed.

I am so fucking screwed, Patrick thinks hysterically.

Blond Adonis kisses Patrick on the forehead. "How about some breakfast?" He whisks the tray over and sets it down in front of Patrick.

"I'm really not–" Patrick's stomach rumbles. Okay. Apparently he is hungry.

Blond Adonis smiles with delight. "Sounds like the baby wants waffles."

This gets Patrick's attention, because waffles. His favorite. They look homemade, and there's syrup on one half, grape jelly on the other, just the way Patrick likes it. He takes a bite and says, "mmm," around a mouthful of sugary breakfast goodness.

Blond Adonis settles on the bed next to Patrick. "Only the best for you, baby." He bends his head to kiss Patrick's shoulder. "And how is my gorgeous, perfect husband today? Besides a little restless."

Patrick nearly chokes on his waffle. Husband? But there's the evidence on the third finger of his left hand. He just hadn't noticed the slim gold band before.

Blond Adonis–Patrick's actual husband–pats him on the back and offers him something to drink. Eventually, Patrick can breathe again. He wipes his watery eyes with the back of his hand.

"Are you okay?" Blond Adonis touches Patrick's belly protectively. It's kind of intrusive, but the guy's forehead is all scrunched up with concern, so Patrick gives him a pass. "You'd tell me if something felt off, right?"

"Um. Yeah? I guess? But I feel fine." Patrick makes a face. "Well, you know, as fine as I can feel." Which, apparently, is like a balloon that's about to pop.

Blond Adonis smiles and kisses Patrick again, softly on the mouth this time. Patrick pulls away. He's not used to kissing someone he's known about as long as it takes to chew two bites of waffle, even if that someone does happen to be his husband.

"Go on," Blond Adonis tells him, still smiling. "Eat your breakfast. You need your nourishment. Oh, hey," he reaches for a prescription bottle on the nightstand, "don't forget your vitamins." He hands over pills that could choke a herd of horses.

Patrick stares at them balefully. Does he really have to?

Apparently, his husband (and yes, that is still freaky) can read his mind, or translate his facial expressions, or something, because he nods. "Yes, you do have to, but it's not for much longer now."

Patrick sighs and picks up his glass and downs the pills, managing not to gag on them. "Mmm," he says about the juice, orange and grapefruit in the perfect sixty-forty ratio, freshly squeezed.

"I just want you to be happy, baby." Blond Adonis punctuates the declaration with a loud smacking kiss to the top of Patrick's head. "Have I told you lately how much I love you? How perfect you are? How much I'm looking forward to our family?" He stares adoringly at Patrick, a veritable constellation shining out of his eyes, and isn't this exactly what Patrick wished for? Someone to love him?

"You could, um, maybe, you know, kiss me again?" Patrick ventures.

So, he's a pregnant dude. That definitely sucks. But he also has a hot husband who clearly cares about him. That's something worth trying to salvage, right?

His husband smiles conspiratorially. "I think I might be able to come up with another kiss."

He rubs his thumb across Patrick's lips. Patrick's traitorous subconscious splashes up a sense memory, in tactile Technicolor, of Pete doing that very same thing, making Patrick shudder all the way down to his toes. Patrick viciously pushes away the thought and tilts his mouth up for his husband.

"So damned gorgeous," his husband mutters.

Patrick's eyes flutter closed, and he parts his lips, and then he has his husband's breath in his mouth. Patrick brings a hand up to his husband's arm, holding on, and his husband strokes his tongue against Patrick's. It's very…nice. His husband pulls away, wide-eyed and a little breathless. Patrick sits back against the pillows, sadly disappointed. Nice? That's it? Possibly kissing the Devil has ruined him for other men.

"Now, what else can I do for you?" Patrick's husband beams at him. "I know you're getting bored. You want some new magazines? Should I rent you some DVDs? You name it, you got it."

"Well," Patrick says hesitantly.

"Come on, baby," his husband coaxes. "Let me spoil you a little."

"Okay, so I'd like the latest Rolling Stone," Patrick tells him.

His husband nods. "And Electronic Musician, Guitarist, Down Beat and Modern Drummer." These were all Patrick's favorites.

"Wow," Patrick says softly.

His husband kisses him on the nose. "Do I know my Patrick or what?"

Patrick blinks. He's someone's. The idea gives him a thrill.

"So magazines," his husband says, ticking the item off on his fingers. "Anything else?"

Patrick considers. "I guess I could watch some movies. Maybe–"

"A Nightmare on Elm Street marathon?"

Patrick nods, amazed. That was exactly what he was going to suggest.

"Okay." Patrick's husband gives him a quick kiss on the mouth and then gets up from bed. "I'll just be a little while. Will you be okay while I'm gone?"

"Sure," Patrick says. "I'll just–" He picks up his fork. He still has waffles left, and he's always preferred them on the cold side, even though he's been told many times, by many people that that's kind of gross.

His husband presses a kiss to his forehead. "Be right–"

He's interrupted by the phone ringing. Patrick glances around. The base is sitting on the dresser, but the receiver is MIA.

"That's probably work," his husband says quickly. "I'm just going to ignore it."

Patrick frowns. "But it might be for me. Have you seen the–"

His husband shakes his head. "No. No idea where it could have–"

"Oh, there it is." Patrick points at a pile of balled up clothes on the chair across the way. He can just see the phone peeking out from under one of his t-shirts. "Can you–" He stretches his hand out toward it.

"Um. Sure," his husband says, although he doesn't exactly rush to get it.

The phone stops ringing. Patrick glares at him.

"Oh, well," his husband declares with a shrug. "Probably wasn't anything important anyway."

As if on cue, the phone starts ringing again. Patrick holds out his hand, more insistently this time. His husband reluctantly fetches the phone, checks the number on the Caller ID and answers it.

"Yes, Patricia?" he says coolly. "What do you want?"

"Mom!" Patrick calls out, so overjoyed at the prospect of hearing her voice that he can hardly contain himself.

His husband shields the mouthpiece, trying to keep Patrick's mom from hearing. "Yeah, well, Patrick's busy right now, and he doesn't want to talk to you anyway."

"Are you fucking kidding?" Patrick stares at his husband in disbelief. He's a pregnant dude. If there's one person he needs, it's– "Mommy!" He thrusts out his hand desperately.

His husband gets a pinched, unhappy look, but he does finally turn over the phone.

"Mom?"

"Patrick." The word comes out breathless with relief.

"Mom," Patrick says again, just because it makes him feel better. He blinks rapidly. There must be something in his eyes.

"Don't hang up!" his mother blurts out. "I have something I need to say."

Patrick frowns. "I'm not going to hang up."

"Okay. Good." His mom sounds a little shaky. "That's good. I just– I wanted to tell you that I'm sorry. So sorry, Patrick. I never meant to disapprove of your relationship. I swear. And I don't care if you're gay. I love you. I'm proud of you. I was just worried, because you're so young, and this all happened so fast, and I–" She sniffles. "I never expected my baby to be married and having a baby of his own. Not like this. But, please, Patrick. Please. I've missed you so much, and all I want is to be there for you and my grandbaby and," her voice gets tighter, "Jeff too, of course."

Patrick doesn't think he's ever been more confused in his life. "Mom, what are you talking about?"

"Patrick, I haven't spoken to you in six months," she says plaintively. "Every time I call, Jeff tells me you don't want to talk to me, that the two of you don't want me around the baby."

Patrick shakes his head. "There has to have been some kind of mistake. Mom." Mommy.

"Oh, Patrick." She lets out a sob, and oh God, his mom is crying. "Are you okay? Is he being good to you? Don't get mad, but I just have to say this. I worry that Jeff's too controlling. He isn't letting you talk to me. When was the last time you saw your friends? When was the last time you went anywhere by yourself? And I'm sorry, but what kind of man gets a sixteen year old pregnant?"

Sixteen? So much for the grown up already part. Pete is such a fucking fuck up.

His mother lowers her voice, as if she's afraid Jeff will overhear. "You don't have to stay with him if you aren't happy. You can always come home. You and the baby."

Patrick swallows hard. "Thanks, Mom. " He glances at Jeff, who is watching him closely. "I'll, uh– I'll think about it."

He's barely hung up when Jeff starts interrogating him, "So, what did your mother have to say?"

Patrick ignores the question and asks one of his own, "Why did you tell her I didn't want to talk to her?"

Jeff turns an unflattering shade of red. "I didn't–" He lets out his breath. "Okay, okay. I did. Because I didn't want her coming between us. She's not my biggest fan, what with the age difference and all. But we're married now, and starting a family of our own, and it needs to be just us, Patrick."

Patrick's mouth drops open, and he doesn't even know where to start: That's not your decision to make or I'm a dude having a baby, so, you know, I might need my mother, ever think of that? or the tried-and-true Fuck you!

Jeff pats Patrick on the shoulder. "Try to calm down, baby. It's just the hormones talking. When your head gets clear again, you'll see that what I'm saying makes sense."

Patrick glares, his hands instinctively curling into fists, in no mood to be talked down to. If he weren't the size of a barge, he'd knock that condescending look off his so-called husband's smug face.

"How old are you exactly?" Patrick snaps at him.

Jeff's eyes go bright with persecution. "You know perfectly well that I'm thirty-five."

"Thir–" Patrick boggles. "How did we even meet?"

"You want me to tell the story?" The tension eases in Jeff's shoulders, and his smile returns. "I love doing that. Everything was so perfect and romantic the night we met." He sits back down on the bed and takes Patrick's hand. "So, you know, I went out on this date with this woman I met through the personals, this single mom. Worst date of my life. I didn't like her, and she didn't like me, and it was all a big, boring waste of time. But then…"

His eyes light up, and it's kind of creepy, really. Patrick tries to pull his hand away, but Jeff holds on tightly.

"There you were, this beautiful, gorgeous boy, the babysitter who needed a ride home. Love at first sight. I got you in my car and took the long way to your house, through the park. There was this nice out-of-the-way spot, and we parked, and I kissed you." He gives Patrick a sidelong, smoldering glance. "Prettiest mouth I'd ever seen. And you were so adorably shy. You know, because it was your first time and all. But I convinced you it was true love, and we made this miracle in the back seat of the car." He pats Patrick's belly, beaming.

Patrick does his best to squirm away from the touch. "That's our big, perfect romantic story? You knocked up the babysitter?"

"Miracle," Jeff insists.

"Uh-huh," Patrick says skeptically. "So let me ask you this. When was the last time I saw my friends?"

Jeff presses his lips together stubbornly. "We've already talked about that, Patrick. You need to grow up, forget all this teenager stuff, and concentrate on our family. Besides, when the baby comes, you won't have time for that anyway. And, hey, this one is just a start, right? I'm already looking forward to making the next one." He winks at Patrick. "We're going to have the perfect family." His face shines with I want to keep you barefoot and pregnant craziness.

Patrick promptly starts screaming, "Pete!" And then he's just screaming in general, because whatever's inside him suddenly starts lunging, trying to get out. Patrick's brain unhelpfully rolls the appropriate scene from Alien.

"Oh, shit," Jeff says, his face whitewashed with fear. "You must be going into labor."

Patrick screams louder.

In the car, Patrick sings desperately, all twenty-one verses of "American Pie." Pete doesn't appear.

Stupid, can't-be-bothered-to-wear-a-condom Jeff nods approvingly. "That's right, baby. Control your breathing. Just like we practiced in Lamaze class."

"Pete!" Patrick howls between contractions.

Stupid, can't-be-bothered-to-wear-a-condom Jeff frowns. "Who's Pete?"

The next thing Patrick knows, he's staring up into bright lights. He can hear soft rustling noises as people move around him. He shields his eyes and looks. He's in an operating room, surrounded by doctors and nurses in scrubs.

"All right, Mr. Stump," one of the doctors says to him. "We're going to perform a C-section to deliver your baby. Dr. Morgenstern is going to administer the anesthesia now. We need you to count backwards from a hundred."

Patrick shakes his head wildly. "No! No fucking way. No anesthesia. No cutting. No baby. No none of it."

The doctor's eyebrows draw together in consternation. "Okay, Mr. Stump. I understand you're a little agitated right now, but it's all going to be okay–"

"Pete!" Patrick yells.

"Okay, that's really starting to piss me off." Stupid, can't-be-bothered-to-wear-a-condom Jeff puts his hands on his hips. "Who the hell is Pete?"

Patrick sucks in a big breath, ready to scream his head off, when Pete comes sauntering in. Fucking finally. He's dressed in scrubs–well, sort of. They're pink, silk-screened with what has to be the ugliest design Patrick has ever seen. It looks like somebody barfed up a bunch of colors onto a piece of fabric, hardly the best choice for a hospital full of sick people. He has a white doctor's coat on top of that and a sparkly pink stethoscope around his neck.

"Did someone page Dr. Wentzy?" His smile shows off all his stupid teeth.

"Get the fuck over here!" Patrick yells at him.

Pete moves over to the operating table, his hands tucked behind his back, wearing an expression of professional concern. "How's our patient?"

Patrick grabs him by the white coat. "You did this to me."

"What the hell?" Stupid, can't-be-bothered-to-wear-a-condom Jeff glowers first at Patrick and then Pete and then back again at Patrick. "Were you cheating on me? Is that some other guy's kid?" He shakes his head. "I should have known you were a little slut the way you gave it up in the backseat of the car after five minutes of sweet talk."

"Shut the fuck up, you perv!" Patrick snaps at him, and then another contraction hits. He lets loose a stream of cursing. Sadly, it doesn't make him feel any better at all.

Pete nods to a couple of burly interns, built more like bouncers than doctors. "Get the perv out of here."

The doctor-bouncers hook hands under stupid Jeff's elbows and drag him away. He yells as he goes, "You were supposed to be perfect! We were supposed to have the perfect life!"

Pete shakes his head sadly. "You could do so much better than that, Pattycakes." He bends down to whisper in Patrick's ear, "I wish he was right, though. I wish it had been me who got to touch you."

Patrick shivers. "I hate you." He sounds half-hearted, even to himself.

Pete smiles crookedly. "Hey, at least you learned a valuable lesson. Never trust creepy old dudes who have a thing for your pretty young mouth."

"Just get me the fuck out of here!" Patrick glares.

"You know what to do, baby." Pete's smile is a new achievement in mischief. "You know what I want to hear."

Patrick takes a breath, ramping up for a big, indignant "fuck you," but then another contraction slams into him. "Havin' his baby," he squawks, not even caring about the indignity anymore. He just needs the pain to stop. "What a lovely way to say how much–"

A loud crack and Patrick finds himself standing on the observation deck of the Sears Tower. It's after hours, he assumes, since he and Pete are the only ones there. Patrick smoothes a hand down over his belly, which is happily unpregnant now.

Pete rests his arms on the railing and stares out over the city. The wind ruffles his hair, blowing his bangs into his eyes. "Awesome view, dude," he says, as if they're a couple of tourists, as if this hasn't been the most traumatic few hours of Patrick's entire fucking life.

Patrick stares at him. "Why do you hate me so much?"

Pete's devil-may-care smile vanishes, and what's left is tightly shuttered, secretive. "I don't hate you, Patrick. Trust me."

Patrick throws up his hands. "Then why do you have to ruin everything?"

"I don't–"

"You do," Patrick insists. "I asked you for the perfect life, and you stuck me in a remake of Fifteen and Pregnant."

"Why do you keep wishing for things you can get for yourself? Seriously, what the fuck, Patrick? You don't need to make a deal with the Devil to have someone who loves you. You're better than that. You're so fucking awesome– Dude, you don't even know."

He grabs Patrick by the arm and whirls him around, tugging him close, Patrick's back to his chest. "You can have all that." Pete throws his arm out expansively. "Because you're so fucking talented I don't know how all that genius fits into your tiny self. I'm not the only one who's going to think so. And your life is going to be filled with good stuff, not because you wish for it, but because that's what you deserve."

Patrick can feel the rough exhale of Pete's breath on the side of his face, the overheated, wiry strength of Pete's body pressed against his back, and it makes him want to melt, makes him want to give in.

But he's not going to.

"You're the fucking king of mixed signals, you know that?" he says angrily, whirling around to face Pete. "You're flirting with me at the record store and then you're all devil-business at school and then you're throwing a fucking nightmare of a wish at me, don't even try to pretend you didn't ruin that on purpose, and now what? You're my biggest fan? What the hell, Pete? What do you want from me?"

For a moment, the rest of the world seems to stop. The lights of Chicago dim. The wind goes silent. All Patrick can hear is the airy in-and-out of his own lungs, of Pete's.

Pete takes a step back from him, and a chill runs through Patrick from the sudden loss of warmth. "You're right. I'm being unprofessional. So, what's next? I know you know what you want."

Patrick takes a deep, long breath. "Yeah. I do. I want to be a normal high school student. A normal, not-pregnant sixteen-year-old guy. I don't need to be popular, but I don't want to be invisible, either. I want a girlfriend who likes me, and friends I hang out with. I want to go to class and be bored and go to parties on the weekends. I just want to be okay, you know?" He presses his lips together determinedly. "And I don't want you to fuck it up for me this time."

For a moment, Pete looks like he's going to argue, but at last he nods. "All right. But it's beyond even the Devil's power to make you just okay, Patrick." He brushes a drive-by kiss onto Patrick's lips. "You'll always be so much more than that, no matter what I do."

The Chicago cityscape dissolves before Patrick's eyes, and the world slowly draws in again until Patrick is standing outside his high school.

"'Sup, dude?" Kent Olsen claps Patrick companionably on the shoulder as he strides past on his way into the building.

"Yo, Stump. What you doing just standing out here? You thinking 'bout cutting?" Delvon Mays, the football team's starting defensive end, grins at him.

"I wish I was cutting," chimes in the team's center, Chris Stoll.

"You always wish you were cutting," Delvon tells Chris, with a roll of his eyes.

"Hey, Patrick," Kenny Taylor, third oboe in the school band's woodwind section, turns up at Patrick's side. "You think you can give me a ride home after practice today?"

"Oh, sure. No problem," Patrick tells him, keeping an eye on Delvon Mays, in case the wind shifts and suddenly it's beat-up-on-band-geek time.

But Delvon is busy play jabbing at Chris.

A girl Patrick dimly recognizes as their class secretary or treasurer or something like that comes running across the lawn, waving at Patrick. "Oh good, I was afraid I wouldn't catch you before class," she says breathlessly. "We're having a meeting on Monday to talk about the Homecoming dance, and we know you're really into music and stuff, and we were hoping you could help us figure out a band or a DJ or whatever. Please?"

"Seriously?" Patrick says doubtfully, but the girl nods her head, her eyes bright with hopeful expectation. "Um. Okay? Sure. I can do that. I mean, if you want."

"Great!" The girl bounces on her toes. "See you Monday after school in the student government room." She rushes off to rejoin her friends.

Delvon Mays hooks his arm around Patrick's neck. "Come on, Stumpy. Let's go get this Friday shit over with, so we can get our weekend on."

Patrick is carried into school on a tide of assorted jocks and band geeks and school government types, a "We Are The World" moment of harmony that he's certain has never actually existed at any high school in recorded human history. This–more than his involuntary sex change or his miracle male pregnancy–makes him fear the extent of Pete's power.

At Patrick's locker, a girl is waiting for him. Actually, it's the girl with the pink hair from the tater tot incident in the cafeteria. His shoulders go tense, and he's ready to ask what she wants when she leans in and kisses him softly on the mouth. "I was starting to think you weren't going to make it before the bell, baby."

"Um," he stutters.

The girl nods sagely. "Traffic sucks, I know. Come on." She jerks her head at his locker. "Get your stuff, and you can walk me to class."

"Why–" he starts to ask. Why would I want to do that?

A guy that Patrick recognizes from third period English passes by, nods to the two of them. "Stump. Tamara. You guys coming to Kent's party on Saturday?"

Patrick frowns. "Um. No?"

Tamara laughs. "He's kidding. With Kent's parents out of town? We're so there."

"We are?" Patrick says skeptically.

Tamara makes a "duh" face at him. "You ready to go to class?"

"Uh. Yeah. Let me just–" Patrick fumbles with the combination to his locker and yanks out his books. "Okay."

Tamara slips her arm through Patrick's and cuddles close at his side as they head off to homeroom. "So, I know you've got band practice after school, but we can still go out and do something later, right?" Her voice dips down to a whisper, "We haven't had any alone time all week." She giggles. It's a dirty giggle.

Patrick blinks as he processes this information. He has a cute girlfriend–even if she did cost him a few tater tots or whatever–and apparently Patrick is having sex with said cute girlfriend. He can't help wondering what's going to go wrong, when she's going to turn out to be a CIA operative or a psycho with a bunny boiling on the stove somewhere or something too traumatizing in its awfulness to even anticipate. Pete is nothing if not colorful.

They stop outside Mrs. Kingsley's class, where Tamara has homeroom. She lays a big, smacking kiss on Patrick. "Mmm," she says, and then goes back in for some serious tonsil exploration. Patrick somehow manages to hang on to his books.

A group of guys passing by stops to hoot encouragement: Way to go, Stumpy and Dude, you gonna knock her up right here in the hall? and Fuck me, I need a girlfriend like her.

Tamara lets go of Patrick maybe two seconds before he's going to pass out from oxygen deprivation. She rolls her eyes at the other guys. "You losers are just jealous 'cause you're not getting any." She calls into the classroom, "Hey, Deenie, save me a seat." She gives Patrick another quick kiss. "Later, baby." And runs off to homeroom.

Chris Stoll nods sadly. "I am pretty fucking jealous, actually."

"Stumpy's the man." Delvon Mays gives Patrick a good-natured noogie. "Come on, dude. We'd better haul ass, or Mrs. Florshein is going to send us to the fucking office again."

They make it to their seats with a good two seconds to spare. Mrs. Florshein glowers at them anyway. Some things about high school will always suck, and not even the Devil can do anything about it.

Mrs. Florshein takes the roll.

"Here," Patrick says, like a man about to shuffle off to the gallows.

The P.A. crackles, and the principal's voice spills out of it, tinny and unreal sounding. "If I could have your attention, we have a number of announcements to get through this morning."

Patrick stares off into space, ignoring news about bake sales and sign-ups for the muscular dystrophy walkathon. He ponders the fact that he has a girlfriend, no one has looked through him like he's a ghost even once, and in the new-and-improved world of Patrick Stump, apparently he is no longer a virgin. In fact, he is someone who can expect a weekend action-packed with sex. He smiles.

"We'll be having a pep rally this afternoon. So sixth period will end twenty minutes early…" Principal Wilkerson drones on.

The room starts to go wavery. Patrick rubs at his eyes. It doesn't do any good. Everything tilts and whirls, desks and kids and Mrs. Florshein. Patrick himself loses his balance and starts slipping sideways.

"Shit!" he says, entirely too loudly for Mrs. Florshein's class.

No one seems to notice, though, not in the slippery slide of confusion. When Patrick is finally on solid ground again, he's standing outside a house that he's never seen before. He's got on different clothes–his favorite jeans and his second favorite David Bowie t-shirt and his 5o4 Plan cap.

Tamara is nestled in the crook of his arm. She's wearing something short and skimpy that sparkles when it catches the light. Her lips look like cotton candy, and Patrick finds himself wondering if she tastes like it, too. He leans in to kiss her. The gloss is actually more bitter than sweet, but she pushes her tongue eagerly into his mouth, and he tightens his arm around her, his fingers pressing in at her tiny waist. She grabs hold of his shoulders to keep him right where she wants him, taking charge of his mouth as if it's her own personal property. Patrick can only imagine what she's like in bed.

When Tamara pulls away, she's smiling, and she whispers in his ear, "My dad's out of town on business, and my mom always takes a pill to sleep when he's gone. I can totally sneak you into my room tonight."

She takes his hand and leads him up the walk. The closer they get to the house, the more clearly Patrick can hear the sounds coming from inside: music, people talking, laughing, the glass-shattering squeals of young girls. Tamara doesn't bother knocking. She just pushes the door open, and there are people everywhere, lining the hall, spilling out of rooms, lounging on the stairs.

"Hey, Stump," people greet Patrick, bumping fists with him as he and Tamara make their way through the crowd.

"Deenie!" Tamara waves at her friend. "I'll come find you later. Patrick and I are going to go get a drink." She tugs on Patrick's hand. "I think the booze is in the kitchen."

They plow their way through densely packed kids to get there. "'Sup," Kent Olsen greets them. He's standing over a big stainless steel tub of something liquid. "Here you go, dudes." He dips paper cups into the tub and hands them over.

Tamara takes a big gulp.

Patrick eyes his cup suspiciously. "What is it?"

Kent guffaws and thumps Patrick on the back, nearly knocking the wind out of him. "That's what I like about you, Stump. You've got a fucking sense of humor."

"I like that about him, too." Tamara smiles, a dirty, flirty light in her eyes. She kisses Patrick, and it tastes like ten different kinds of alcohol. It tastes like a teenage life that's possibly worth living. She whispers in Patrick's ear, "I know what I told Deenie, but let's go find someplace quiet and make out first." She's breathless and giggly, and it tickles Patrick's ear. It makes his belly feel too hot.

His palm slips nervously against hers as she drags him off in search of whatever privacy there is to be had. Eventually they stumble across an unoccupied futon, tucked into a dark little corner in the basement. Tamara flops onto her back and drags Patrick down on top of her. She bites him playfully on the jaw and slides a hand into his back pocket, squeezing his ass. "If I drink enough of Kent's 'punch,' I'm going to let you take off my top right here and not care who sees."

"Shit," Patrick mutters under his breath.

Tamara smirks at him, pushes up on one elbow and tips her cup back, downing the whole thing.

Patrick feels the need to reiterate, "Shit."

Tamara grins wickedly. Patrick swallows hard. She's delicate as a bird beneath him, all downy skin and tiny bones. His palms go sweaty at the thought of touching her, and his hands, which can pick out the most complicated chord progressions, feel suddenly too large and clumsy. He tentatively draws his thumb along her collarbone, carefully, as if she might break.

Tamara arches up. "Patrick." She slides her hands beneath his shirt and drags her nails down his back, hard enough to make him shudder. He can feel the trail of scratch marks as if they're permanent, tattooed onto his skin. Tamara smiles, showing off sharp kitten teeth. She bites him on the neck. Patrick forgets all about being careful and settles into her warmth, kissing her deeply, running a hand up her bare arm, sliding his body against hers.

"Mmm," she says, hooking a leg around his thigh.

Tamara likes to kiss until she's breathless, and she's constantly moving beneath him, her hands traveling over Patrick like she owns him. So this is what it feels like to have a girlfriend, he thinks. He closes his eyes and hangs on, and it's very…nice.

He has no idea how long they make out. It feels like a couple of years, at least.

A loud snort finally startles them apart. "Dudes." Delvon Mays grins down at them. "Get a room."

Tamara rolls her eyes. "Fuck you, Del. You just want this futon. Don't lie."

Delvon shrugs his shoulders. The tiny little brunette he has snuggled against his side giggles.

Patrick looks to Tamara. "You want another drink?"

She grins. "You just want to get my top off."

Patrick blushes so hard it makes him dizzy.

Delvon high-fives him. "That's my man, Stumpy."

Tamara spills off the futon, laughing. She takes Patrick by the hand and tugs him to his feet and scoops up her empty cup. "Come on. I should probably go find Deenie anyway, before she gets too pissed at me."

Upstairs, the party has gotten more raucous. People pack into every tiny little bit of space. Someone has put on Saves The Day, and the bass line feels like an earthquake beneath Patrick's feet.

"Hey, you like that band, right?" Tamara raises her voice to be heard above the music.

"Oh, uh, yeah," Patrick tells her. "I mean, a lot of their stuff. This is a good song."

"You should play me some more of their music sometime." She smiles at him, and he blinks, to make sure she's not going to disappear right before his eyes. Because a girl who's in to music, who likes Saves The Day…that's almost too good to be true.

In the kitchen, they help themselves to more "punch." Patrick takes a measured sip. It has enough booze in it to take down an elephant. Tamara throws back a healthy slug like it's water. She leans in to kiss Patrick, running her tongue across his lips, trying to lick the taste of alcohol from his mouth. Maybe the booze is lowering Patrick's inhibitions, or possibly he's just learning to relax, because he kisses her back enthusiastically, his hand curled warmly around her hip.

Tamara breaks the kiss. "Deenie! Deenie!" She waves her hand in the air. "Be right back," she tells Patrick.

Patrick takes another sip of his drink and leans against the kitchen counter and tracks Tamara's progress through the crowd until he loses sight of her. He glances around, looking for anybody he recognizes. There's some kid whose name he can't remember who was in his Spanish class last year, and one of the basketball cheerleaders who's staggering around like she's about to fall over, and a whole bunch of people that Patrick has probably gone to school with for the last three years who look about as familiar as if they just flew in from Estonia. Nobody he wants to talk to, and he loses himself in the music instead. He absently wonders if Kent Olsen picked the play list, because if so, he has shockingly good taste for an asshole jock.

And then Patrick catches a flash of familiar ink out of the corner of his eye.

He freezes for a moment. No way, no fucking way. He turns slowly. And it is. Fuck. Pete. Standing off by himself in a corner, cup in hand, surveying the crowd with a roving, speculative gaze. Tonight, he's dressed to stand out, not blend in. Girl jeans barely cling to his hip bones. His teeny tiny silk-screened t-shirt is decoratively torn, showing off glimpses of Pete's chest, more ink and something that catches the light, something that might be a nipple ring. Pete's lips are wet and shiny, and his eyes are smudged with dark liner, making them look deep and unreadable and black as an abyss. Making them look like sex.

Before Patrick even has a chance to think about it, he's charging over, propelled by indignation. "What the hell?" he says to Pete.

Pete nods, as if Patrick is just some casual acquaintance. "What's up, dude?"

"You're not supposed to fuck this up for me," Patrick says, his hands curling into fists. "I was really clear about that."

"Yeah. No. I'm not here for you." Pete doesn't even glance at Patrick. His attention is totally focused on the crowd. A girl in a halter dress and thigh-high boots saunters past. Pete gives her a long, appraising look.

"Oh my God," Patrick says. "You're looking for someone else to–"

Pete shrugs. "Got to get on with business, Rickster."

A kid with a nose ring and a blue mohawk buzzes around, eying Pete with no subtlety at all, fluttering his eyelashes and throwing out simmering glances. Pete turns a come-hither smile on him, slow heat and sleepy promises, reeling him in as surely as if he had an actual hook.

"Hey," Mohawk Guy says, licking his lips, like he's already anticipating how Pete will taste.

"Hey." Pete's voice turns a shade darker.

Patrick may as well not even exist. He finds himself imagining how it would feel to smash his fist into Mohawk Guy's stupid, pierced face.

"There you are." Tamara turns up at Patrick's side. She looks from Patrick to Pete and back again, a pinch forming between her eyebrows. "I didn't know where you'd gone." She slides her hand onto his arm, holding on a little too tightly.

Mohawk Guy tilts his head at Pete. "Dude, have I seen you around before?"

"Don't think so. I definitely would have remembered you." Pete smiles coyly.

Patrick glares, because Pete may be the Devil, but he doesn't have to be a slut. He certainly doesn't have to be a slut using totally gaggy pickup lines. Mohawk Guy stares at Pete with wide, unblinking eyes. If Pete suggested that he climb up on the roof and jump off, no doubt he'd do it. Patrick hopes to hell he never looked that stupid over ridiculous man-whore Pete.

Tamara tugs impatiently on Patrick's arm. "Bored now. Let's go find someplace a little quieter, huh, baby?"

He lets her drag him off, because, really, what else is there to do? This is all just business to Pete, and he's moved on to the next mark. Patrick should feel lucky that he has a great life and great friends and a great girl. There's no need for him to worry about what Pete might or might not do anymore. In fact, he never has to think about Pete ever again. Lucky Patrick. Yep, that's him.

Tamara crowds Patrick back against the wall in the next room and proceeds to see just how far down his throat she can stick her tongue. Pretty damned far is the final verdict. Patrick slides his hands around her waist, rubbing his fingers over the cool sequins on her shirt. Lucky me, lucky, lucky me, he tells himself.

He doesn't mean to search out Pete and Mohawk Guy. There's just a movement that catches his attention, and it happens to be Pete, making one of those big, dramatic gestures of his. He and Mohawk Guy have drifted into this room, and Patrick would like to think that's because of him, that Pete is keeping tabs on him. But fat chance. Pete leans in close to Mohawk Guy, whispering something in his ear. Mohawk Guy goes pink in the cheeks. Pete laughs softly and touches the guy's arm. Patrick has seen the expression on Pete's face before, intent and kind of scarily focused, like nothing else in the universe exists. Patrick liked it a whole lot better when that look was directed at him.

"I'm going to make you so hot, baby," Tamara says breathlessly, working on Patrick's neck, marking "property of" with her lips and teeth.

There is a burning sensation in the pit of Patrick's stomach, but he's pretty sure it has more to do with the way Pete's fingers are casually brushing Mohawk Guy's chest than anything Tamara is doing to him.

She pulls back from the kiss. "Am I boring you?"

Patrick goes all flustered. "No, no, this is really nice." He winces the moment the word comes out of his mouth.

Tamara glares. "I'll show you nice."

She grabs him by the collar, manhandling his second favorite David Bowie t-shirt, and kisses him like she doesn't plan to leave him with a single functioning neuron if she can possibly help it. She runs her hand up and down his fly, and squeezes him through his pants, not at all gently. A girl is touching my cock. Hell, she's totally groping him, and he's not… It's got to be the booze, he tells himself. Stupid booze. Although, now that he's thinking about it, he didn't really have that much to drink. He pushes up into Tamara's hand, and she tugs sharply on his jeans. The fabric drags over the head of his cock. It makes him shiver. It just doesn't make him hard.

Across the room, Pete is drawing circles with his thumb on the little strip of skin left bare by Mohawk Guy's too-short shirt. Patrick's throat tightens, and he feels like he's trying to swallow around something that's threatening to choke him. Big damn jealousy, his mind unhelpfully supplies. And then his eyes fly open wide. Shit! Shit, shit, shit. He never specified that he wanted to be a straight normal high school guy with a girlfriend that he can actually enjoy. Pete is a fucking fucker from hell. Literally and figuratively.

Patrick takes a deep, put-upon breath and pulls away from Tamara, trying not to make it seem like he's rejecting her. Because he's so, so not. It's not her fault–hell, it's not hisfault–that Pete fucked him up so he can't appreciate that a hot girl (who likes music, no less) is enthusiastically fondling his cock. Patrick kisses her softly. "Um. Sorry. I, uh, just need to go take care of something, and then I'll be right back, and we'll do whatever you want. I swear."

He storms over to Pete, elbowing Mohawk Guy out of the way, glaring beat it, loser in no uncertain terms, making it clear he'll happily back up the demand with his fists. Mohawk Guy takes a look at Pete, and then at Patrick, and apparently decides it's just not worth the ball of fury waiting to fly at him if he tries to stake a claim. He slinks away, getting lost in the crowd.

"You turned me gay for you, you fucker!" Patrick accuses, without prelude.

For once, Pete doesn't pull the poor little innocent devil routine. He just shakes his head matter-of-factly. "I really didn't, Patrick."

Fucking insufferable, and Patrick's going to put that whole "the Devil's immortal" thing to the test. He's going to smash Pete in his pretty, made-for-TV face. He's going to… Throw himself up against Pete and kiss the hell out of him, actually. Pete settles his hands on Patrick's waist, pulling him closer, gripping too hard, his fingers pressing against bone, probably leaving bruises. Patrick bites his way into Pete's mouth. There's nothing nice about any of this. Patrick never wants it to end.

"OhmyGodfuckyou!" Tamara peels Patrick off of Pete and takes a slug at him. For a tiny girl, she packs one hell of a punch. Patrick's head snaps back, and he can taste copper in his mouth. "I'm doing everything I can to make you happy, and you're cheating on me like a dickhead, with a guy no less, and if that's not bad enough, you have to go and fuck around with your boyfriend in front of all our friends. Well, I hope you get a fucking STD, you bastard." She flicks a gaze over at Pete, and her lip curls up meanly. "I'd say that's a pretty safe bet."

Tamara storms off, and every pair of eyes in the place is glued to Patrick. Tamara had been practically screaming her head off, and even Green Day isn't loud enough to drown out the sound of a righteously pissed off (ex) girlfriend. Patrick lets out his breath, and realization is another slap in the face. Everything is ruined. All ruined. Yet again.

Pete strokes his thumb in the space between Patrick's top lip and his nose, right where Tamara punched him. Patrick flinches.

To add insult to injury, Pete says, "Wasn't me who fucked it up this time, Cupcake."

"Shut up!" Patrick bats Pete's hand away. He dabs at his nose, braced for it to hurt, but it doesn't. He pulls his fingers away. There's no blood.

Pete smiles crookedly. "Least I could do, Trickster."

Patrick makes a face at him, because, yeah, it pretty much is the least Pete could do. Pete seems to specialize in lowest-common-denominator effort.

"Stump," someone calls out, and Patrick turns around. It's Kent Olsen, in a huddle with Delvon Mays and some other guys from the football team. Kent nods for Patrick to come join them. His mouth is pulled tight at the corners, apparently none too happy to have the live-action gay going on at his party. So much for "We are the World."

Patrick grabs Pete's hand. "Let's get the fuck out of here."

Pete doesn't drag his heels or make a scene or do anything else to turn Patrick's life into a waking nightmare, which is surprising coming from him. They cut through the crowd and dash out the door, letting the screen bang loudly behind them. They jog down the front steps. Once they hit the sidewalk, they all-out run, Patrick because he wouldn't put it past those jock assholes to come after them with baseball bats, and Pete…well, because he just enjoys legging it down the street apparently, if his big goofy grin is any indication.

They put a block between them and the Olsen house, then two, then three. Patrick pulls up, breathing heavily. There's a stone wall fencing off an apartment building, and he drags Pete around the corner of it into an alley so that they're hidden in darkness, shielded by ivy and towering weeds. He has no plan. It's all instinct, pushing Pete up against the crumbling masonry, diving in to him, kissing hard and fast, his hands on Pete's shoulders, clinging like his life depends on it. Pete moans and wraps his arms around Patrick's back, pulling him even closer. It feels strangely like coming home.

"You were going to do this with that stupid mohawk guy," Patrick says accusingly, biting at Pete's lips.

"Fuck," Pete says breathlessly as Patrick moves on to attack his neck, sucking hard, trying to leave a mark that can be seen from outer space.

Can you actually claim the Devil as your own? Should Patrick even be trying to do that? These are probably good questions, but Patrick doesn't give a fuck. He just. wants.

"You think I do this with everyone?" Pete grates out.

Yes, I think you're hot and gorgeous and the fucking Devil. I think everybody who sees you wants you, and I think you'll fuck anyone who stays still long enough for you to get your hands on them. Or, really, even that probably doesn't get in your way. Because I'm sure you can fucking fly or bend the fabric of space-time or whatever. Patrick doesn't say this, but then, he doesn't have to. This is Pete.

Pete hooks his leg behind Patrick's knee, catching him off guard, and flips them around, so that Patrick is the one shoved up against the wall. The rough stone bites into Patrick's back, and the vines feel rough and scratchy against the bare patches of his skin. Pete swelters all along Patrick's front, an inferno from shoulders to chest, hips to thighs. Patrick can't help rocking into that heat. He's only human.

"You're fucking wrong, Patrick." Pete pushes his face into the curve of Patrick's neck, panting harshly. "I may be the Devil, but I've got rules too. Fuck. I've got quotas. And this isn't anywhere in the play book. I shouldn't–" He slides his hands around Patrick's hips and yanks Patrick hard against him, like he's trying to get inside Patrick's skin. "I'm not supposed to want–" He pushes his mouth onto Patrick's, catching Patrick's lip with his teeth, pushing his tongue roughly into Patrick's mouth.

Patrick curls his fingers into Pete's arms, digging in, holding on. You can do anything to me. He's not sure if he says that out loud, but Pete hears him nonetheless.

"Patrick, Patrick," Pete says breathlessly, rutting against Patrick, driving him back against the stones. "You have no idea what the fuck you're doing, what you're messing with."

No doubt this is true, but Patrick lifts his chin stubbornly, kisses Pete as if he's the one who sold his soul to Patrick. He slowly licks his way inside, exploring Pete's teeth and the roof of his mouth. He kisses until his vision is starting to white out from the lack of oxygen and Pete is trembling and needy against him. Patrick may not know what the fuck he's doing, or what the consequences may be, but he sure as hell knows what he wants.

"What am I going to do with you," Pete says, dragging his lips over Patrick's collarbone, pushing his hands beneath Patrick's t-shirt.

Patrick has some ideas, and he rolls his hips into Pete's to demonstrate.

Pete kisses behind Patrick's ear. "Sing to me."

"What?" Patrick says, almost too turned on to know what those words mean.

"Your voice," Pete says roughly against the side of Patrick's face. "I want– It does things to me."

Patrick shivers at the thought of doing things to Pete. "What do you want to hear?" He snakes his hands under Pete's t-shirt, stroking warm, sweaty skin, slender muscles.

"Surprise me." He can feel Pete's smile as he kisses Patrick's throat.

Patrick starts to sing "Let's Get It On," his voice husky on the chorus.

Pete pulls back, so he can look Patrick in the eye. "Thank you." He smiles almost sadly and kisses Patrick's mouth, lightly, sweetly.

The next instant, they're standing outside Patrick's house.

"What?" Patrick says, confused at first, and then angry when he realizes what Pete has done. "Why?"

Pete shrugs. "You sang for me, Lunchbox. Wish is over."

"But–" I don't give a shit about the wish. He throws himself messily at Pete, which would be humiliating as all hell if Patrick were just a little bit less desperate to have Pete's body pressed against his again.

"No," Pete tells Patrick firmly, disentangling himself from Patrick's grappling arms. "You really don't want– Trust me. It's better this way."

Patrick feels his face go violently hot, and if looks could kill, even the Devil wouldn't be safe right now. Fuck Pete, and his fucking condescending bullshit, anyway. Patrick knows exactly what he wants. He doesn't need Pete treating him like he's some stupid kid. He just needs Pete to want him back.

He sifts through whatever vague notions he has about seduction, gleaned from his mother's soap operas and the little bit of soft core porn he's watched. Maybe if he can get Pete somewhere private and then take off all his clothes, a slow striptease, however embarrassing that may be. Maybe if he gets down on his knees right here, in front of old Mrs. Grueberman who is watching nosily from her front window and anyone else who happens past. Maybe. Maybe.

Pete shakes his head, smiling faintly. "You can't tempt the Tempter, baby. Doesn't work like that." He brushes a chaste kiss to Patrick's cheek. "Besides, you're not supposed to trust creepy old guys, remember?"

But the thing is: Patrick does trust Pete. Maybe it's some kind of early onset idiocy or a death wish or something else completely fucked up. But, yeah. He trusts the Prince of Darkness more than just about any other person he can name.

"Here." Pete hands Patrick a card, black and glossy and strangely mesmerizing. If Patrick stares at it for too long, he feels like he could get lost in it, could lose time. Spelled out in type the color of blood is:

plkw3

 

666 Temptation

"When, if you want that last wish, come see me. I'm not going to come to you." Pete meets Patrick's eye meaningfully.

And Patrick gets it. This isn't Pete's business card he has in his hands. It's his own get-out-of-hell-free card. All he has to do to keep his soul is never make that last wish. All he has to do is… Patrick swallows hard. Never see Pete again.

"Goodbye, Patrick." Pete takes a step back, and then another, and then he's gone. Patrick doesn't even get the chance to ask for one last kiss.

He stands there for who knows how long, rooted to the spot, hoping that Pete will change his mind and magically reappear. At last, Patrick lets out his breath and turns and trudges up the front walk to his house.

Inside, his mom calls out from the kitchen, "Hi, honey. How was your day?"

The Devil saved my soul and broke my heart? Patrick doesn't say that, of course. It would just upset his mother, in so many ways.


The alarm goes off at ass o'clock on Monday morning. Time to go back to school. Patrick sighs heavily and throws the covers back, not remotely willingly, and trudges off to the shower. He pulls on some clothes and thumps downstairs. He drinks four cups of coffee and pokes half-heartedly at his eggs.

His mother checks his forehead. "You're not sick, are you?"

He shakes his head. "Bad case of the Mondays."

His mom frowns. Pete would totally have gotten the reference.

At school, kids rush past him. Kent Olsen and his gang rough house their way to homeroom, hollering at one another and throwing elbows and incurring the wrath of Mr. Kilpatrick, who's doing hall monitor duty today. Patrick gets jostled by a cluster of girls who have their heads bent together, gossiping like it's a competitive sport. Down the hall, he hears a familiar voice calling out, "Hey, Deenie, wait up." Patrick was a little worried about possible fallout from kissing Pete at the party, but no one gives him a second glance. Because none of that ever happened, Patrick realizes unhappily. He's back to being invisible again.

Classes drone on. Patrick is barely hanging on by his fingernails by the time he gets to sixth period. Mr. Silver has the Civil War battlefield map out again, hanging like a funeral wreath at the front of the classroom.

"Today, we turn our attention to the blockade of the Carolina coast," Mr. Silver starts up. His drab monotone is as painful as fingernails on a chalkboard.

Patrick leans over and bangs his forehead against the wooden top of his desk, but it doesn't knock him unconscious. He's just not that lucky.

Eventually, the torture ends, and Patrick hurries out of school, actually running the last few feet to the door, not caring if Mr. Kilpatrick sees him. He races around the corner, and the parking lot comes into sight, and Patrick slows down to a complete stop. There is his car, and there is its perfectly empty hood, no sign of Pete anywhere. It's only now–now that disappointment is hitting him hard enough to take his breath away–that Patrick can admit to himself he's spent all day secretly hoping for a repeat of recent history.

He goes to Starbucks anyway, because that's just what he does after school. He orders his grande vanilla extra hot latte and doesn't get it made with extra special loving care, because Pete's not there to flirt with the bored-looking barista.

Finally, Patrick heads home, drags his books up to his room and stares uncomprehendingly at parabolas until his eyes cross. He's not entirely sure he hasn't gone into some kind of coma. He lets out a put-upon sigh and trudges downstairs in search of distraction. He finds his mom sitting at the kitchen table, her glasses perched on her nose, a wrinkle between her eyebrows as she works on the monthly bills.

"Hey," Patrick says, sitting down across from her.

"Hi, honey." Her frown deepens as she peruses the electric company statement. "This is why I hate it when I miss the meter reader. Then they estimate it. Like we'd actually use 1100 kilowatt hours in a month." She shakes her head. "Ridiculous."

"So," Patrick says.

His mom looks up from the bill. "What's up?"

"Um." He doesn't even know what to say. He doesn't know what would make him feel better. "Have any errands you need me to do?" he asks, in a fit of desperation.

She glances around, as if trying to jog her memory. "Not that I can think of right off hand." She gives him a strange look. "Are you okay?"

"Yes!" he says huffily. "Can't I offer to help out every once in a while without you thinking there's something wrong with me?"

His mother raises an eyebrow, which Patrick is pretty sure means, "no."

He sighs. "I guess I'll just, you know, go to the mall or something."

"Okay, honey."

Patrick gets to his feet.

"Patrick?" His mom looks up at him, her expression concerned. "If there's something bothering you– You can tell me anything. You know that, right?"

He swallows hard. "Yeah, Mom. I know."

Patrick grabs his keys and his wallet and drags himself off to D'Vinyls. Dougie looks up from the LPs he's sorting when Patrick comes through the door. He nods, and Patrick nods back.

Dougie asks, "Where's your friend?"

Dejection hits Patrick hard, and all he can do is hang his head.

"Sorry, dude, that fucking sucks," Dougie says, and goes back to sorting records.


If Patrick's subconscious had any mercy at all, it wouldn't torment him with pictures of what he can't have. Patrick's subconscious is a fucking bastard.

The carpet is red beneath his feet. He knows because he's staring down at it, trying not to go blind from all the strobe flashes going off in his face. An arm twines around his waist, and he takes in a breath, lets it out, relaxes a little, leaning into the warmth of the body beside him. He turns to smile, because of course it's Pete. Who else would it be?

Pete smiles and says into his ear, "Told you we were going to be epic."

Then he kisses Patrick, slow and sweet, right on the mouth, right there in front of all those pushy paparazzi waving their cameras in the air. The flashes go off more furiously, excitement rippling the crowd, because something unexpected just happened, and when was the last time anybody could say that?

Voices are shouting: Pete, Patrick, over here, do that again, does this mean you're officially a couple?

Pete smiles softly, and it's just for Patrick. "You and me forever, baby."

Patrick wakes up feeling even worse than when he went to sleep.


Only Tuesday, and Patrick just can't handle doing the whole getting-up-going-to-school-being-bored-out-of-his-mind thing all over again. It's too depressing. He pulls the covers up over his head and hits the snooze button a grand total of eleven times. He probably wouldn't bother getting out of bed at all if his mother didn't yell up the stairs at him, "Patrick? Are you dressed yet? You're going to be late."

He flops onto his back and stares up at the ceiling. He desperately roots around in his imagination, trying to come up with something to look forward to today. He can't think of a single damned thing. Finally, he heaves a sigh and stumbles out of bed. He takes his time in the shower and lingers at his dresser, staring at his band t-shirts half in a daze. He can't decide whether he's more in an angry punk rock mood or a slit-your-wrists blues mood. Possibly the music hasn't been written yet that goes with missing the Devil.

Patrick's mom is waiting at the bottom of the stairs. She hands him his backpack, a granola bar and a folded up sheet of her note paper. "I wrote that you're late because you had a dentist appointment. Not that I'm trying to teach you to lie your way out of things." She gives him a stern look.

Patrick smiles at her crookedly. "I'll do as you say, not as you do, Mom. Promise."

He drags his feet out to his car and takes the long way to school. He's never given hell much thought, or heaven either for that matter. Even when he was busily making wishes, he never thought that he was actually bartering his soul, never truly considered the consequences. Yeah, yeah, fire and brimstone and an eternity of torment, but what does that even mean? What does it look like? Patrick can't imagine. It's all an abstraction to him.

The school comes into sight, and Patrick slows down. A horn blares angrily from the car behind him. Patrick pulls off to the shoulder. He digs Pete's card out of his jeans pocket. It's a little smudgy with fingerprints. He's taken it out to look at it once or twice or a few thousand times since Pete gave it to him. The strange, glossy blackness pulls him in, as it always does. If he stops to think about it, there's a warning there, about how a person can get in over his head and never find a way out.

Patrick doesn't stop to think. He peels away from the curb and stomps on the gas and shoots past the entrance to the school. He doesn't want to waste any more time, not when hell is just an abstract notion, and Pete is so very, very real.

Patrick has a vague idea where Temptation is, and after a couple of wrong turns, he stumbles onto the right block. #666 is a high-rise, all cool, modern glass and steel. It looks like it was picked up from somewhere else and plunked down amidst the prairie-style homes and the stone-faced row houses. This may actually be the case. Pete is the Devil after all, and Patrick can't imagine this building meets the zoning requirements.

He gets lucky and finds a parking spot on the street, locks up and heads inside. The walls look like clouds. The floor is made of some kind of weird transparent tiles. It's like walking on nothing. A doorman sits behind the concierge desk. He's wearing a scarlet coat with gold braided trim and a miner's cap with a headlamp that's turned on.

Patrick wipes his sweaty palms on his jeans as discreetly as he can and goes over to announce himself. "Um, hi. I'm here to see–"

"Top floor," the doorman tells him, nodding toward an elevator bank.

Patrick blinks at him in surprise.

The doorman shrugs. "Heard you might be stopping by." For just a second, Patrick could swear he sees orange-red flames flare in the man's eyes. "Make sure you hold the button down for two or three seconds. Thing sticks."

For a minion of hell, he's surprisingly helpful, Patrick thinks.

He gets on the elevator and pushes the button, making sure to hold it down. The elevator shoots upward, so fast it nearly pitches Patrick off his feet. It slams to a stop, and the doors spring open. Patrick goes flying off, nearly ending up on his face. He takes a shaky breath and straightens his hat. Leave it to Pete to live in a building where even the elevator is a misadventure.

Patrick finds himself in a little vestibule. There's only one door, and he knocks. He waits and waits and waits some more, practicing some deep breathing exercises that do nothing to help him relax. It's quiet inside, and Patrick considers pressing his ear to the door to see if he can hear anything. But then he imagines Pete opening up abruptly and Patrick falling on his face at Pete's feet. He manages to tamp down his nosy impulses. Maybe Pete's not even home, although probably the doorman would have mentioned that, right?

Finally, the door whips open, and there stands Pete. Patrick's mouth goes instantly dry. Pete's wearing low-slung leather pants and a well-laundered white shirt that looks impossibly soft to the touch, unbuttoned, leaving Pete's bare chest on display. Nipples the color of dark pennies, the inky necklace of thorns that Patrick feels like he already knows so well, strong flat muscles of his belly, a bat-heart-skull thing that he's only caught a glimpse of before…Patrick has to curl his hands into fists to keep from reaching out to touch all that skin.

Pete gives Patrick a dark look from beneath his bangs. "I wasn't expecting to see you so soon." Or ever hangs unsaid in the air.

'Uh. Yeah." Patrick shifts his weight awkwardly.

Pete turns and walks away without a word, and Patrick doesn't have any idea what that means. Is he supposed to follow? Is he supposed to fuck off and die? Finally, he feels too stupid just loitering out in the vestibule, so he steps inside and closes the door. The room is enormous, all white, high-ceilinged and empty enough to echo. The only piece of furniture sits in the curve of a floor-to-ceiling bay window, a fainting couch, with contours as shapely as a body, covered in red satin the shade of, well, sin. Patrick stands stock still a good ten seconds just staring at it.

At last, he uproots himself and wanders further into the apartment. He expects to come across Pete any moment now. And doesn't. Rooms open onto more rooms, Tardis-like, defying the laws of physics. It feels like getting lost in the forest, only instead of trees there is the occasional white leather couch and enormous Andy-Warhol-style portrait of Pete smirking down from the walls.

He stumbles across the kitchen eventually. Pete is there, leaning against the counter, an impatient furrow between his eyebrows, as if he's been kept waiting too long. Everything shines aggressively, chrome and steel and freshly Windexed glass. Patrick fights the urge to squint. He can see himself in the high polish of the stainless appliances, a confused blur who's in way over his head.

Pete takes a bottle of mineral water out of the refrigerator and pours himself a glass. "You want?"

Patrick nods. His mouth is so dry.

Pete grabs another glass from the cabinet. The delicate slosh of water sounds enormous in the overwhelming hush of the place. Pete pushes the glass into Patrick's hand. Patrick downs half of it in one gulp. Pete stays stonily silent, sipping his water, regarding Patrick with hooded eyes.

"I, uh, I came to–" Patrick stumbles over his words. "I know what I want."

Pete still doesn't say anything. His expression is as empty as the rooms of his apartment.

"I want to lose my virginity," Patrick blurts out.

At last, Pete reacts, only it's not what Patrick had hoped for. His mouth presses into a thin line, and the dark light in his eyes flares, hard and displeased, a bottomless inferno. This isn't Patrick's Pete. This is pure King of Hell stuff.

Patrick continues anyway, flustered and maybe even a little afraid, but it's too late to turn back now. "I want to lose my virginity to you. With you. I mean, only if– You don't have to." He trails off feebly.

Pete stares at him. Patrick twists his hands in the hem of his t-shirt pathetically. Then Pete is suddenly in motion, two long strides, and he's forcing Patrick back against the counter, taking Patrick's face between his hands, kissing like he wants to devour him.

"Pete." Patrick grabs at Pete's shoulders, trying to hang on. Pete's body burns like brimstone, sweltering everywhere they touch. Patrick pushes his elbows against the counter for leverage, trying to get more of it.

Pete presses his face into the curve of Patrick's neck, breathing in. "I thought you were asking me to– I thought you wanted someone else." His fingers curl uncomfortably tightly around Patrick's hip.

Patrick shakes his head. "You're all I want. You've all I've been wanting."

"Patrick." Pete shoves his knee between Patrick's thighs, bites and licks his way into Patrick's mouth. "'s good you weren't asking me to give you to someone else." He drags his teeth along Patrick's neck, his hands possessive on Patrick's waist. "Because I couldn't have–" His voice sounds like gravel scraping gravel. "I would have fucked up that someone else so bad. So bad, Patrick."

Patrick shudders, and it should probably be because he's scared out of his mind by the Devil with a bad case of jealousy, but that's not it at all. He presses closer and kisses frantically, his hands in Pete's hair. Time and everything else spirals away. The only thing Patrick is aware of is the press of their lips, Pete's fingers inching under his t-shirt, the buzz in his own brain from the lack of air. He imagines Pete pushing him down onto the hard, cold tile floor, stripping his clothes off, pushing his legs back to his chest… He shudders harder.

"Please, please," he says, knowing, or at least suspecting, that Pete can see into his thoughts.

Apparently, he's right, but it doesn't have the effect he'd hoped. Pete freezes. "Wait. No. Hold on a second." Pete disentangles himself from Patrick's demanding grasp.

Patrick lunges, trying to get him back.

Pete plants his palm firmly against Patrick's chest. "No. Listen. I want you to be sure. Because you can still take it back. Still walk out of here. I'll…let you." It clearly costs him to say this.

"I know what you were trying to do when you gave me the card, okay?" Patrick says in a rush. "And I appreciate it. But I've thought about it, and I know what's going to happen to me, but I still want– " He leans in and kisses Pete on the lips.

Pete runs his thumb thoughtfully along the curve of Patrick's cheek, and after a moment, his expression sets. Pete hooks his fingers in Patrick's belt loops and draws him closer, kissing him deeply. "Nothing's going to happen to you."

Patrick frowns, frustrated. "Don't mindfuck me, okay? Just–" He shoves his hips against Pete's.

Pete licks his ear. "I totally lied before, Lunchbox. You tempt the hell out of me. I'm going to have to break every rule there is to keep you."

Patrick's heart thuds against his ribs. Pete wants to keep him. Patrick is going to get kept. Pete breaks into a smile, all big teeth and unlikely sweetness, and here is the Pete that Patrick knows and…well, kind of, yeah.

"We're just going to skip over the preliminaries, okay?" Pete says.

Patrick's forehead scrunches up in confusion, but before he can get out a word, he's lying flat on his back, on a bed that is as white as clouds and seemingly endless. Pete is braced on his arms over him. Beneath the sheet, they're both naked. Patrick's cheeks color spectacularly, he can feel it. He goes from half hard to painfully turned on in 0.6 seconds.

Pete slides his body against Patrick's, and Patrick moans roughly. All that skin. Shit. All that skin touching him.

"You know you weren't very specific with your wish-making, Pattycakes." Pete kisses his throat. "I could do anything to you." He raises his head, and his eyes flash darkly.

Patrick shivers. "Yes. Please. Please."

Pete groans softly. Patrick scrabbles at Pete's shoulders, kissing frantically.

"I'm going to take such good care of you," Pete whispers against Patrick's mouth.

Patrick skims his fingers over Pete's chest, reverently, tracing muscles, following the outlines of tattoos. His dream, the first one he ever had about Pete, blooms vividly behind his eyes, and he wants, he needs. Patrick angles his head and gets his tongue on the necklace of thorns, memorizing the shape on his tongue, so he can think about it later when he's…

"I'm really going to hell," he says in a small voice against Pete's collarbone.

"Sh, sh." Pete brushes back Patrick's hair and tenderly kisses his forehead. "It's going to be all right." He moves against Patrick, pressing their bodies together.

Patrick's cock slides against Pete's thigh, and he gasps. His fingers curl around Pete's shoulders, everything else forgotten. Maybe hell is exactly where he belongs if the Devil turns him on this much.

Pete smiles at him softly. He kisses Patrick on the tip of his nose and then starts moving downward. He presses his lips almost solemnly to Patrick's Adam's apple. Connects the freckles scattered across Patrick's shoulder with his tongue.

"Pretty skin," he murmurs, dragging his lips down Patrick's sternum. "Pretty pink nipples." He rests his chin on Patrick's rib and grins up at him, his eyes bright with mischief. Then he pounces, his mouth closing wetly, hotly around Patrick's nipple.

"Shit!" Patrick arches his back, coming off the mattress.

All his sexual fantasies have been pretty dick-centric, imaging what it would feel like to have someone touch him, suck him, jerk him off. He's never really thought about this, never considered in his wildest, filthiest imagination that someone licking his nipple could burn an electric path straight to his cock.

Pete brings his hand up to rub at Patrick's other nipple. Patrick shudders deeply, squeezes his eyes tightly shut and gulps for breath. If he comes just from this, he might actually die of humiliation.

Pete laughs softly, his breath tickling Patrick's skin. "Not yet, baby. But soon."

He continues licking and sucking a trail south, his tongue dipping into Patrick's belly button, his teeth grazing Patrick's hipbone. Patrick pushes at Pete's shoulders, trying to hurry progress, not even caring if this is a total breach of blowjob etiquette. Pete is driving him fucking crazy.

Pete turns his head to press a kiss to the inside of Patrick's thigh. His hair brushes Patrick's cock.

"Please, please," Patrick says, barely able to breathe.

He feels Pete's smile on his skin. "Well, since you ask so nicely…"

Pete bends his head, and then Patrick is grasping at the sheets, kicking out his feet. Pete licks a hot stripe from the base to the tip of Patrick's cock.

Patrick trembles. "Oh my God."

Pete huffs a laugh at that, the shivery puff of his breath nearly making Patrick's eyes roll back in his head. Pete pulls back to suckle at the head of Patrick's cock, and that's it, all Patrick can take. He whimpers and comes in Pete's mouth. Shortest blowjob in the whole, long history of getting head.

Pete smoothes his hand over Patrick's hip and smiles up at him, with a touch of smugness.

Patrick rolls his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, you made me come. I'm sixteen. It's not like it's that hard to do."

Pete snorts. "Mouthy with the Devil. Still love that about you, Cupcake."

Patrick blushes fiercely at the mention of the l-word. Pete smiles, like this was exactly what he intended, and stretches up Patrick's body, kissing him soundly on his mouthy mouth.

"Mmm," Patrick murmurs, a little dazed, hooking his hand behind Pete's neck to hold him there. This is what Patrick tastes like. What he tastes like in Pete's mouth.

"Can I," Patrick stammers.

"Anything." Pete strings soft little kisses up Patrick's neck.

"I want to look at you," he says shyly.

'Oh, hey. Why didn't you say so?" Pete kicks off the sheet, completely shamelessly, twisting this way and that, showing off. For good reason. He's utterly gorgeous.

Patrick runs his thumb along the outline of thorns, strokes his fingers over Pete's nipples, wondering if he'll like that as much as Patrick does. From the way Pete throws his head back and pushes his chest into Patrick's hands, the answer is yes. Patrick smiles and slides his palm down Pete's side, captivated by the feel of warm skin. He brushes his knuckles against Pete's belly, the taut muscles quivering at his touch. He hesitates only a second before reaching out, hand shaking, to run a finger lightly along the length of Pete's cock.

"You're so beautiful," Patrick whispers.

He curls his hand loosely around Pete's cock and pumps. Pete moans and stretches out next to Patrick. He tilts Patrick's chin with his fingers and kisses him and makes encouraging noises as Patrick strokes his cock more firmly.

"Pete," Patrick says, his voice shaky.

"Turn over for me," Pete whispers in his ear.

Patrick's breath stutters in his lungs as he flips onto his stomach. "You can– You can. He spreads his legs, his heart doing cartwheels in his chest.

Pete kisses Patrick's shoulder. "Next time," he says. "Right now, I just want to touch you." His voice drops down to a husky whisper. "Everywhere."

Patrick makes a desperate sound in the back of his throat and clutches at the pillow. Pete rubs his cheek against Patrick's shoulder blade. He slides his hands up Patrick's sides and brushes his lips down Patrick's spine. He draws his tongue, slow as torture, along the dip at the small of Patrick's back. Patrick moans and pushes his hips into the mattress. He's already getting hard again.

Pete kisses the swell of Patrick's ass, and Patrick draws in a startled breath. Pete drags his tongue along Patrick's cleft.

"I said everywhere." Pete's voice is silky, coaxing, as he urges Patrick's leg up under him.

"Oh God, oh God."

Patrick kind of, sort of knew that people did this. Mostly he thought it only happened in porn. But then, Pete pretty much is porn. He uses his thumbs to spread Patrick's cheeks, and licks teasingly at Patrick's hole, and then curls his tongue deep inside.

"Fuck!" Patrick moans into the pillow.

He squirms violently, trying to get more of Pete's mouth. Pete digs his fingers into Patrick's hips, holding him still, and goes at him, turning him inside out.

"Please, please," Patrick begs, and he doesn't even know what for exactly. Just…more. He humps the mattress desperately, and that's still not enough. He works a hand under his body, trying to get at his cock.

For some crazy reason, this causes Pete to pull away. "No," Pete says sternly. Patrick protests loudly, and he can't even bother to feel embarrassed about it.

Pete turns Patrick onto his side, plastering himself against Patrick's back. "That's mine." He curls his fist around Patrick's cock. "I'm going to be the one who makes you come." He thrusts against Patrick, his cock sliding between Patrick's cheeks, almost, but not quite, like Pete is fucking him. Patrick whimpers at the thought, and Pete kisses Patrick's neck, his hand working faster on Patrick's cock. Patrick bites his lip, pushing into Pete's grip and back against his sweaty chest.

"Come on, come on," Pete chants in his ear.

And Patrick does, eyes flying shut, toes curling, world spiraling away.

"Fuck! So hot." Pete shoves himself against Patrick, hard enough to bruise, hard enough to make Patrick start thinking about the next time. Then there's warm wet spreading between his thighs.

Pete flops onto his back. "Wow." He's breathing hard, and Patrick did that. To the Devil.He smiles up at the ceiling, sticky and pleasantly exhausted.

A washcloth appears out of thin air, one of the benefits of sleeping with Satan. Pete turns toward Patrick, dragging the warm, wet cloth over Patrick's chest and belly and between his legs. Pete perfunctorily dabs at himself and then tosses the washcloth over his shoulder.

"Come here." Pete stretches out his arm.

Patrick scoots over eagerly. Pete wraps him up in his embrace and absently strokes his hand over Patrick's back. Patrick snuggles closer, his head on Pete's chest.

Next time. Pete had said there would be a next time.

"Are you going to fuck me when I'm in hell?" he whispers against Pete's ribs.

Pete's hand goes still, and then after a long moment, he starts stroking once more. "You're not going to hell, Patrick."

"You promised not to mindfuck me," he reminds Pete.

"I'm not fucking with you," Pete says firmly. "It just so happens that there's a teeny tiny, itsy bitsy little loophole in that contract you signed. Deal's off when you make the Devil fall in love with you."

"Pete." Patrick's fingers curl around Pete's arm. "I–"

Pete kisses the top of his head. "Go to sleep, Lunchbox. When you wake up, that shiny, shiny soul will still be all yours."


"Patrick!"

He jolts awake with the smell of Pete all around him, the touch of Pete still on his skin, taste on his tongue, but Pete himself is nowhere to be seen. Patrick blinks, and this isn't Pete's half-empty house. This isn't Pete's made-for-sex bed. Patrick is in his own room at home. He frowns. It looks like a tornado trashed the place. Patrick frowns harder. Or like Pete never used his devil powers to clean it up in the first place.

That thought sends him scrambling up from bed, and sure enough, over by the door he finds a telltale crusted-over plate. He stares at it in confusion.

"Patrick," his mother calls out. "I'm making pancakes. Come down if you want breakfast."

The whole thing has a disturbing air of déjà vu hanging over it.

"Pete," he calls out quietly.

Nothing happens. Patrick sighs and heads downstairs.

The kitchen smells like Saturday, and it's supposed to be Wednesday. Patrick helps himself to a cup of coffee, digging into the back of the cabinet for the largest mug they have, the slightly embarrassing "World's Greatest Grandson" one his nana brought back from her trip to Boca. He buries his nose in the mug, slurping his coffee, which is black and too hot.

His mom gives him one of her maternal hawk looks. "Are you okay, honey? You don't look like you slept very well."

Patrick chokes, coffee coming out his nose, scalding his nasal passages. His mom's frown deepens.

"Um. You know?" Patrick says weakly, once he's able to talk again. The whole thing defies explanation. He doesn't even understand it himself.

His mom serves up pancakes for them both and watches Patrick as he eats. Once it's clear that he hasn't lost his appetite or his appreciation for syrup, she relaxes a little.

"So, I realize you were planning to go look at CDs today, but–"

Patrick nods. "Need to clean my room first. Got it. Do you know what the date is?"

He mother raises an eyebrow at him, as if she's thinking about giving him that "just say no" lecture again.

"I'm, uh, you know, just testing you," Patrick tells her feebly.

She mock glares at him, but tells him the date anyway. Patrick sits there, staring. This isn't déjà vu. It's a fucking nightmare! There's no sign of Pete anywhere, and Patrick is going to have to relive more than a week of high school, which is just cruel and unusual by any standards. And oh yeah, hello, apparently he's still a virgin.

"This totally sucks," Patrick mumbles.

Patrick's mom nods. "That's why it's important not to let the mess get so out of control in the first place."

Patrick slumps his head onto his hand. He wonders if it's possible that the American Civil War has actual hallucinogenic properties.

He trudges back upstairs after breakfast to face his superfund-site of a room. "Pete?" he calls out, hoping against hope. "I wish somebody else would clean up all this shit?"

No one answers. Nothing moves. The clutter stares back at Patrick as if it's mocking him. He heaves a sigh and reluctantly gets to work, half wishing he had a bulldozer. No heavy machinery appears.

Four hours later, he staggers out of his room and downstairs, a kink in his back from picking up pretty much everything he owns off the floor, his nose running from all the dust kicked up.

His mother gives him the narrow-eyed once-over and must decide he couldn't possibly look that miserable if he hadn't actually been cleaning. "Have fun," she tells him.

It's only once he's in the car, half way to the store, that Patrick realizes he's not even in the mood to shop for CDs anymore. Not after, well…whatever that was with Pete, adventure or dream or the beginning of the nervous breakdown stage of Patrick's life. Still, going to Borders had been the script for the day, and he doesn't actually have anything better to do, now that he's back to being a fucking virgin again. He wheels into the parking lot and honks his horn sharply at some asshole who seems to be contemplating stealing Patrick's space. He's re-virginized and seriously not in the mood for bullshit.

Inside, he comes across a cart of CDs with the sign "Drastically Reduced." He digs through the jewel cases and pulls out "Van Halen," marked down to $3.99. He hangs onto it.

Conversation buzzes all around, and Patrick picks up a familiar thread: Dude, you have to see them perform live. They totally kill. And the visual thing isn't pretentious at all. He look around, and there's the same dark-haired dude from before with his friend.

Patrick strides over to them. "You're talking about Neurosis," he says, because, hey, been there, done this before. "And you're right. They do seriously kill live. I just really wish their fans wouldn't get so down on them for switching up their sound, you know? I mean," he waves his hands, "bands have to, like, evolve, right? They can't stay the same forever. And why would they even want to?"

The dark-haired dude half smiles, as if amused. His friend looks like he's trying to figure out which mental hospital Patrick escaped from.

"Um," Patrick stammers, his cheeks turning hot. "You know, that's how I'd feel about it if I was in a band, anyway."

Dark-haired Dude perks up with interest. "You want to be in a band?"

"Well, yeah," Patrick says. Something besides the marching band. He keeps this part to himself.

"What instruments do you play? I'm Joe, by the way."

"Patrick. And–"

Joe's friend rolls his eyes. "Oh, fuck no. I'm not listening to another one of these conversations. I'll be over at the magazines when you're done." He turns sharply and walks off.

"Um. Sorry?" Patrick says.

Joe shrugs. "Not you, dude. He's just like that. So. Instruments?"

Patrick reels off the list.

"Drums, huh?" Joe gets a calculating look. "So, here's the thing. Me and my friend are starting a new band. You want to audition or something?"

"Audition?" Patrick repeats, not quite trusting that he heard that right. "Um. Yeah. Yeah, I do." For once, his voice doesn't turn up like a question. "When?"

"You busy tonight? We could come to you. You've got your own kit, right?"

Patrick nods. "Okay. Yeah. Tonight would be good." He frantically calculates how much time that will leave him to practice. The short answer is: not nearly enough.

"Here." Joe hands him a Sharpie and holds out his palm. "Hit me with your address and phone number."

Patrick scribbles on Joe's skin.

Joe pulls his hand back and squints at it. "Okay, dude. So, see you sometime after supper."

He rambles off to go catch up with his friend. Patrick throws the Van Halen CD back onto the cart and hustles out of the store. He's got some serious practicing to do.

After dinner, Patrick waits in the living room, perched on the edge of the couch, every nerve in his body straining to catch the sound of the doorbell, every muscle poised to leap up and go answer the door. On a scale from slightly anxious to facing down a firing squad, he's somewhere around a seven. He rubs his palms on his shorts. It doesn't help. His hands are still embarrassingly sweaty, and he just hopes it doesn't interfere with his playing. He has a nightmare image of one of the drumsticks slipping out of his grip, flying across the room and whacking Joe in the head. Probably not the way to worm his way into the band.

Finally, finally, the doorbell rings. Patrick reacts like an overstretched rubber band, sailing across the room in one bound, skidding on the polished floor of the foyer. He throws the door open, and there is Joe. "'s up, dude."

"Um, hey." Patrick steps back to let Joe in. "So you found it okay?"

Duh. Joe is standing right there. Patrick fights the urge to roll his eyes at himself.

"Yeah. No problem." Joe steps into the foyer, and his friend follows. Patrick's mouth falls open wide.

"Hey, so, Patrick, this is–" Joe begins.

"Pete." Patrick stares.

Joe looks from Patrick to Pete and back again. "I'm guessing you recognize him from Arma then?" The corner of his mouth lifts, bemused. Clearly, he mistakes Patrick for some awestruck fan.

Patrick has never actually seen Arma Angelus play, doesn't know too much about them, but it's not as if the Chicago music scene is that large. He and Pete have probably crossed paths at some point, and in fact, the harder he stares, the more vague flashes of memory come rushing back: a slight, dark-haired blur caught out of the corner of his eye, a too-loud laugh carried above the dull roar of a packed club, the buzz of a name in the air. Maybe he's had some dim awareness of Pete Wentz–real, actual human Pete–lurking around in his subconscious. Maybe Patrick's imagination deserves way more credit than he's ever given it.

This Pete gives Patrick a look up and down, and then raises an eyebrow at Joe, as if to say: Seriously? Patrick glances down at himself, and okay, maybe argyle wasn't the way to go. But most of Patrick's wardrobe is in the dirty clothes, so sue him.

"We gonna do this thing or what?" Pete says, with an edge of impatience.

His gaze flits from thing to thing to thing, as if it's all too boring to stand. Patrick's heart sinks. More than anything this convinces him that his Pete was just some wishful dream, because his Pete never looked at him like he was anything less than the most important thing in the world.

Still, Patrick does want to be in the band. He pushes aside wistful thoughts of the Devil.

"Let's go down to the basement, huh?" he says.

Pete settles on the ratty old couch, stone-faced, arms crossed over his chest. Joe leans against the wall. Patrick stalls in the middle of the room, as if the ancient and very ugly burnt orange shag is sticking him in place. Pete raises an eyebrow at him.

Patrick swallows hard. "Uh. Yeah. Okay."

He sits down at the drums and starts to play, because, hey, at least that will give him something to do besides standing around awkwardly. He doesn't look at Pete or Joe, not once. For the three and a half minutes it takes to get through the song, his world is all snare and bass and hi-hat.

By the time he's finished, Pete has uncrossed his arms. He's sitting on the edge of the couch, his expression sharp and focused, energy practically vibrating off him.

"Was that okay?" Patrick ventures hopefully.

"Way better than okay, Pat," Pete enthuses.

"Yeah. It's Patrick, actually."

"Sure. Whatever, Pattycakes. Do you sing?"

Patrick stares. "What did you just call me?"

"Sing?" Pete reiterates. "That thing you do with your vocal chords and music comes out?"

Patrick shakes his head. "Not really."

"Not really, huh? I'm guessing that means yes. So go for it, dude. Sing me something."

That eerie sense of déjà vu returns full force, and all Patrick can manage is to stutter, "Um."

"Sing me, sing me, sing me, sing me, sing me," Pete chants, like an obnoxious brat. He's reminding Patrick of hisPete more and more by the second.

This means that there's probably no point in trying to argue with him about singing. Patrick picks up his guitar and launches into the first thing that comes to mind, "Through Being Cool," the song that was playing in Patrick's dream or delusion or whatever that was when he kissed Pete at Kent Olsen's party. He closes his eyes as he sings, because maybe this Pete will have the same reaction to his voice that his Pete did, and maybe he won't, and either way, Patrick just can't stand to watch.

Of course, there's no excuse to keep his eyes closed after he finishes, and reluctantly he opens them up again. Pete is staring, lightning struck. Slowly, slowly his mouth curves up, all big white teeth and crazed enthusiasm. Patrick's stomach does this gravity-what-gravity thing. Just nerves, he tells himself. It has absolutely nothing to do with how much that blinding smile reminds him of his Pete.

"Dude, you are golden." Pete springs up from the couch and bounds over to Patrick, catching him in a hug, mashing Patrick's guitar between their bodies. "Seriously fucking awesome." He looks to Joe. "Am I right?"

"Pretty cool, dude," Joe tells Patrick.

Pete grabs Patrick's arm. "If you tell me you also write music, I will have a spontaneous orgasm right here. No lie."

Patrick's not sure, like, at all what he's supposed to say to that.

Pete squints at him. "You do, don't you? You totally do."

"Well, yeah, actually–"

He's cut off by Pete grabbing him by the jaw and laying a big, smacking kiss on his mouth. Pete's lips that Patrick has had all over his body, in his dreams anyway, and the burnt sugar smell of his skin, and Patrick's face turns so hot, so fast it leaves him a little dizzy.

"Oh, hey. So, yeah," Joe says. "He's, you know, Pete Wentz. He does that. Kisses dudes on the mouth. That's not going to be a problem, is it?"

"Dudes totally dig me kissing them," Pete insists. "Anyway, we were talking about songwriting. So guess what, Trickster? I write lyrics. And you write music. Are we totally meant to be or what?"

Joe makes skeptical eyes at Pete's lyrics-writing claim.

Pete cuts him with a hostile look. "Fuck you, Trohman. I do so write lyrics. I have all this secret man pain that's just waiting to be put to song. Why do all you fuckers doubt that?"

"I think it's mostly the 'secret' part that people are skeptical about." Joe is thoughtful for a moment. "And sometimes when you wear the eyeliner and the girl jeans, you know, possibly also the 'man' part."

"Whatever," Pete says dismissively. "The important thing is that me and Patrick are going to be epic together."

Memory of the first dream Patrick ever had about Pete unfurls in his head in erotic Technicolor, and shit, shit, shit, why did he have to think about that right now?

Pete grins and kisses Patrick on the nose. "Making you turn pink all the time is going to be fucking awesome."

Joe rolls his eyes. "Dude, you think maybe you've traumatized Patrick enough for one day and we should get going?" He directs a never mind Pete, he can't help being an asshole look at Patrick. "We practice Mondays and Thursdays. That cool with you?"

Patrick nods, his heart slamming against his ribs. He made the band! At least…he's 99.99% sure that's what that means.

Pete leans in to kiss Patrick, very sweetly, on the cheek. He whispers in Patrick's ear, "I'm going to keep you if I have to break every rule there is."

For a moment, Patrick can't breathe. At the bottom of the stairs, Pete turns back around and winks. Patrick could swear he sees a flash in Pete's eyes, orange-bright, just like the fires of hell.

Patrick is still standing there, his mouth hanging open, long after Pete has gone. He's not sure what just happened here, whether he has an overactive imagination or Pete actually is the Devil. But there is one thing he knows for absolute certain: his future just got a whole lot more colorful.