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there's a hole where something was

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When Patrick and Pete finally start dating, midway through a tour of the UK, there’s really nothing more to it than that. Their shows are only a maximum of three hours away from each other, so almost every night is a hotel night, and they have tons of time for sightseeing. Patrick likes the spa towns, always has, and when they have a day off, Pete takes him to this place called Bath, which is Roman and quaint and totally different to every city they’ve played in, with its streets and streets of golden buildings, and the lack of industry, and all the trees and the water making it seem cleaner and calmer than anywhere else Patrick could imagine in that moment.

It’s not just day trips and lazy mornings though; they’ve got years to catch up on, and after the first time, tangled in a mess of arms and bed sheets, Pete wraps his arms around Patrick’s chest to pull him closer, so he can nuzzle against the top of his head. When he speaks, Patrick’s voice is thick with sleep but not groggy, crystal clear if a little deeper than usual.

“We could have been doing this all this time.” As he says it, he turns on his side so Pete’s arms go slack, and instead puts his head on Pete’s chest, his soft cheek feeling the vibrations when Pete replies.

“We can still make up for it,” he murmurs, tracing vague letters on the arm Patrick has thrown across him. “Like, now.”

And that’s pretty much how it goes – sex, driving to the venue, sound checking, playing, more sex, with the occasional day off to check out a new town or sleep all day. Until they get home, that is. They’ve only got two weeks to recover before they tour the States, but their UK tour had plenty of rest days and only lasted three weeks, so no one’s tired, except for jet lag. The first night back, Patrick calls Pete in the middle of the night, having just woken up expecting it to be morning but opening the curtains to see it’s still pitch black outside.

“Hey,” Pete chimes as he answers the phone. “Can’t you sleep?”

Patrick doesn’t know how Pete knew it was him, but he doesn’t question it either. “Just woke up, but I’m not tired. What time is it?”

“Dude, like, 3.15. You should sleep, y’know, you didn’t sleep on the plane.”

“Only because you’d decided the best position was with your head on my arm rest and your feet on my belly.”

“Yeah, well,” Pete hums, then pauses for a second and says, “Can I come over?”

Patrick tries to muffle an embarrassingly wide grin, even though Pete can’t actually see him. “If you wanna. I might fall back asleep, I dunno. I’m just on the couch.”

Maybe it’s a good job he hid his grin after all, since Pete’s frown is audible when he answers. “You should go to bed, Patrick, it’s not good for your back. Leave the door open, yeah, I’ll let myself in.”

But Patrick just laughs him off. “You’re so worried about the state of my back you’d rather have me leave my front door wide open in the middle of the night?”

Patrick can hear from the older man’s tone that he’s rolling his eyes. “Your neighbourhood’s safe as anything.” He’s about to say more, but Patrick interrupts him.

“Are you even tired, Pete?”

“Uh, no. Slept all afternoon, actually, I’m a little more out of things than usual. Y’know, like, with the times, and...”

He trails off. “I’m not, actually,” Patrick says. “Just, like, docile. Kinda achy.”

“That’s what you get from sleeping on the couch,” Pete retorts, in his best told-you-so voice, but Patrick doesn’t have chance to put together a reply because there’s a banging at the door that scares him for a second. What the hell? Pete just said his neighbourhood was safe, and now there’s some kind of Purge happening outside by the sounds all the banging, which by the way hasn’t stopped.

“Pattycakes, told you to leave the door unlocked.”

Patrick lets out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding, his hands tingling as the adrenaline subsides. “What the hell, is that you? And don’t call me that, you know I hate it.”

He doesn’t hang up, but he dumps his cell on the sofa and goes to unlock the door for Pete, who has finally stopped trying to break it down with his fists. “Hey,” he says half-heartedly, before Pete actually picks him up and swings him round, so that he even ends up on the doorstep with Pete. He lands a little dizzily, dazed from the spinning, but Pete keeps two hands on his arms so he doesn’t fall. Patrick’s just surprised Pete can even lift him.

They’re both still on the doorstep, bodies pressed together and Pete’s grip on Patrick firm and warm. “I thought, since we’re not tired, trying to sleep would be, like, a total waste of time.” Pete is bouncing now, and Patrick reaches a hand out to catch his arm, to calm him down. It only half works; he’s still rolling the balls of his feet back and forth as he speaks, and seems way taller than the inch and half he actually has on Patrick when they’re this close. “I thought we should maybe go out.”

“Where?” Patrick sounds confused and more tired than he feels. It’s 3am: it’s dark and nowhere Patrick would want to go is open.

“The beach?” Pete asks, and Patrick rolls his eyes but shuts and locks his door anyway. Pete scoffs at him, and Patrick raises his eyebrows in question but doesn’t speak.

“I’m thinking of buying a new house,” Patrick says as they walk, Pete’s hand snaking round his waist and looping his thumb through the belt holes on Patrick’s jeans. He bumps their hips together before he answers.

“Uhuh? Where?”

“LA, still. Somewhere more, like, private. With a studio, and everything.”

Pete raises his eyebrows and bumps into Patrick again, skipping every other step but keeping his pace relatively slow. He doesn’t want to drag Patrick there.

“Open plan, too, with, like, a skylight.”

“Like a glass roof?”

“Yeah. And a bath. A hundred baths. I hate not having a bath on tour.”

Pete smiles at Patrick, who’s studying their feet as they walk together, and bumps their hips together again.

Patrick’s eyes light up almost dangerously, and he looks up at Pete, finally. “If you do that one more time, I swear to god-” But he’s laughing with it, with Pete, so it’s all good.

It’s not so dark now that they’re on a main street, and there are clubs and restaurants and adverts on the sides of buildings giving off light. The street that leads to the beach is lined with streetlights, but it’s not so bright that the moon is blocked out by all the pollution, like it is in most parts of town. The beach is deserted as far as either of them can see, since Pete’s brought them to a part that’s less popular with barbeques and parties because it’s kind of hidden away. Pete collapses onto the sand, dragging Patrick down with him so they’re both laying down facing the sky. After a while, when his eyes adjust, Patrick can make out some stars, and he nudges Pete to show him, but the other’s eyes are already fixed on where he’s pointing to.

“I like it here,” Patrick murmurs, maybe only to himself. “I like it here at four am.”

Pete rolls off his back and moves to straddle Patrick’s hips, leaning back against the legs the younger man conveniently has bent right behind where he's hovering, excited.

“I like you better,” he says, just as quiet. “I like you best at four am.”

Patrick tugs his gaze away from the sky to meet Pete’s eyes. He shifts his legs so that Pete is properly resting on them, and drums on Pete’s knee, which is just within his reach. His other arm is behind his head, propping it up a little, and when he moves it to lie down flat, his shirt rides up a little.

“Actually,” Pete murmurs, furrowing his brow, “I take that back.”

Patrick’s eyes widen in lieu of him asking for an explanation, and Pete leans forwards so that he’d be lying right on top of Patrick if he wasn’t holding himself up.

“I like you best,” Pete begins, breath feathery against the other man’s neck, and then he pauses to appreciate the micro-distance between his hot lips and Patrick’s thrumming throat.

“What?” Patrick asks, turning his head so that his lips are almost touching Pete’s.

“I like you best naked and in the sea with me. Especially at four am.”

Pete dips his head minutely, so their lips brush for a second, but then pulls back, away from Patrick completely, looming with his hands outstretched towards him. After a minute, when Patrick makes no move to get up, he starts making grabby hands at him, and even waggles his eyebrows a couple of times. Patrick rolls his eyes but lets himself be dragged upright by Pete, who in almost the same motion pulls off his shirt and manages to get the button of his jeans undone before Patrick bats away his hands, instead focusing on getting Pete’s jeans off so they’re even. Once they’re discarded on the sand, Pete closes the distance between them and hooks his thumbs under the waistband of Patrick’s boxers so that his hands are splayed out against the small of his back. He rests his fingers there for a second, then traces underneath the waistband until his thumbs meet at the front and he pulls them down. Patrick’s hands are on Pete, then, dragging his underwear down onto the sand, and then one of them closes the space in between them and Pete’s hands are all over Patrick, hurriedly memorising the planes of his skin. He’s so warm, and soft, and he smells of the same cologne as always and he’s just so perfect, so Patrick and he has to fight to stop so that they can actually get in the water and Pete doesn’t just end up fucking him here. Patrick has his eyes closed and his head resting on Pete’s chest, and he takes some nudging to start walking down to the water with Pete.

Pete thinks he’ll be hesitant, but he walks right in until it’s up to his chest, and grins at Pete, calling for him to come in too. The water’s a little cold, but when his hands find Patrick, he’s warm enough to make up for it, and Pete clings onto him, fixing his legs around Patrick’s waist so that Patrick is treading water and Pete is just laying his head on his soft shoulder. He moves to start kissing it, his mouth moving across his collarbone and up to the base of his throat. He bites, soft, and Patrick moans, moves his hands to Pete’s back to hold him exactly where he is. He licks his way up Patrick’s neck until he’s biting gently along his jaw, toying the flesh between his teeth without hurting him. At this point, Patrick’s not even sure he could feel any pain anyway over the firmness of Pete’s body, the lean muscles and tattoos and tan skin and his smell, like sandalwood and pine maybe, all musky and sweet, now that he’s clean and cool and not cooped up on a sweaty bus.

Pete’s teeth stay at Patrick’s jaw, inching closer to his mouth but not touching it yet, teasing, and his hands fall to graze Patrick’s sides, thumb digging into the extra flesh above his hipbone, until he’s practically kneading it, needing to feel the give it has, the warmth, which is when Patrick turns his head and catches Pete’s open mouth with his tongue, impatient but still perfect. His hands slip away from Patrick’s sides, moving up to cup his cheeks instead, to keep his face locked where it is. However, it’s Pete who pulls back first to breathe, turning a little so his cheek is level with Patrick’s mouth. He kisses the base of Patrick’s neck again, and when the younger man gasps, he locks his mouth to it, kissing and biting and sucking a bruise there. Pete still has his hands cupped around Patrick’s cherub cheeks, and he pulls himself up a little to kiss along his cheekbone. Again, Patrick moves his head so their mouths meet, but Pete only kisses him once before he pulls away a few inches and drops his hands to hanging loosely around Patrick’s neck.

“Wanna,” he slurs, then blinks and makes steady eye contact with the younger man, trying to compose himself, but he’s hard and the only thing he can focus on is his boner digging into Patrick’s thigh. “Wanna fuck you,” he whispers, voice hoarse like he’s been talking for hours, and all Patrick does is lean his head so it rests in the curve between Pete’s neck and his shoulder. He feels breathless, but not too tired or too hot.

“Turn around,” Pete hums, loosening his grip on Patrick even more to allow him to do this, but Patrick stays still, shaking his head where it lays on Pete’s shoulder. He smiles sloppily into Pete’s skin; he feels drunk.

Pete pulls him out of it, though, finding his dick in the water and running his fast fingers along it, so Patrick groans, loudly, and holds his head up straight.

“There are germs,” he explains, eyes fixed on Pete’s lips, “In the water.”

Pete frowns at him. “Germs? So what?”

But Patrick hums and nods almost aggressively, like Pete just agreed with him. “Like bacteria. It’s not clean.”

“You’re not clean,” Pete scoffs, but rolls his eyes when he sees Patrick isn’t going to relent and leans forward to kiss him on the mouth. It’s supposed to just be quick, and soft, but Patrick’s mouth is so hot and his tongue is just everywhere at once so Pete isn’t left with any options that don’t include kissing Patrick back, hard, for as long as he can manage without turning blue and passing out. Which is shorter than he’d like, actually, but once he has to breathe, he pulls back from Patrick, both men gasping, and half-swims, half-walks back to the beach, Patrick not far behind. Once Patrick is halfway out, the calm waves bobbing around the centre of his abdomen, he looks unsure, but Pete is naked on the beach and waiting for him, sitting with one leg crossed and the other bent upwards, watching Patrick with a look that could almost be scary. He looks like he maybe wants to eat Patrick, but all that does is spur him on out of the water, his nakedness not really bothering him with Pete’s hands grab his and pull him down so that they’re both kneeling, facing each other, only maybe eight feet away from the tide that’s creeping in.

“Fuck,” Pete sighs, tracing Patrick’s hairline, his eyebrow, down his cheek with his middle finger. “Fuck, goddamnit, come here.”

The sand keeps sticking to them because they’re still all wet, but neither of them cares. Pete crawls on top of Patrick, pushes his chest until he’s laid completely flat, and then he leans back to straddle his hips, closing his eyes to soak up the moment then opening them to see Patrick looking up at him, practically fidgeting with anticipation, and wondering why he would ever shut them in the first place. He sighs, and stands, jogging up to where they left their clothes and then running back, palming himself when he sits back down so he doesn’t go soft. Patrick’s doing the same, precome leaking a little onto his stomach, and Pete thinks it might just be the hottest thing he’s ever seen.

Pete stretches Patrick fairly quickly, trying not to rush but encouraged to go a little faster than usual by Patrick’s “God, just- God, God, get a- hurry, God, hurry up would you-” After that, the faster pace doesn’t stop: he starts of quicker than he usually would, and he comes embarrassingly quickly; at least, he would be embarrassed if Patrick didn’t come less than a minute into the blowjob. He’d been holding back for a while, apparently.

When they’re done, they lie there for a few minutes, Patrick curling in on Pete and Pete trapping one of Patrick’s legs between his, carding his fingers through his own hair and breathing deep. It’s early autumn, so Pete is surprised when the black sky he hasn’t noticed turn navy blue starts to turn red.

“Fuck,” he mumbles into Patrick’s forehead, sniffing his cologne as he does. It smells like calm, peace and quiet and that grounded feeling only Patrick can give him, tinged with the salt from the sea. “How long have we been here?”

Patrick shrugs into Pete’s chest, his fingers idly shifting through the sand. “God, uh, I dunno. We should, y’know, get cleaned up, probably...”

Pete smiles down at Patrick, even though Patrick can’t see above his own head while he’s lying like this, tucked together with Pete.

“Guess so,” Pete sighs, but it’s a happy sigh, although he doesn’t make a move until he notices water splashing around his calves. It’s the same temperature as before, like the coolest it could be without being cold. “Shit,” he says, jumping to his feet. “We could have drowned.” He exaggerates the last word too much, playfully or not, for Patrick to take him seriously.

“You didn’t notice it?” the younger man asks, pulling himself upright and smiling at how Pete could be so astute about barely tangible things and so oblivious to the most obvious.

Pete doesn’t answer, just presses his face against the place where Patrick’s shoulder and neck meet. He’s warm, always.

They spend a few minutes in the water, cleaning off but mostly kissing, and then go back to their clothes (which Patrick must have moved without Pete realising, because they’re still dry), shaking the sand off them and pulling them on. Patrick says it’s kind of gross, wearing yesterday’s underwear, but Pete says he technically already had it on today, so it’s fine, and then he wraps his arms around Patrick’s waist and fastens his jeans flies and button for him, like he can’t do it himself. Patrick doesn’t mind: he likes the heat, the sturdiness of Pete’s toned arms, and he holds Pete’s arm where it is, tracing the outline of his tattoos. But Patrick’s stomach growls, and Pete laughs, kissing the top of his back where his t-shirt ends and letting go of him.

“C’mon, I’ll buy you breakfast,” he says cheesily, and Patrick rolls his eyes but follows obligingly.

They take the long way, quickly crossing the tiny obscured beach they’d been on to reach one of the main parts of the beach, the sand seeming to go on for miles and miles. The first people are arriving, but the beach is mostly empty, except for a few surfers and people taking early walks. Pete walks the long way round, eventually leading Patrick back up to the streets, which are much busier. They easily find somewhere to eat, this diner that neither of them has been in before. It’s half full, mostly with people on their way to work and not on their way home, but there’s an empty space in the window. Patrick puts his chin in his hands and stares at the sun rising above the sea, while Pete keeps talking about whatever he’s been talking about for the last twenty minutes.

When their food arrives, he finally stops, but only because he’s hungry. He starts talking again anyway, something about how they should come here again, should do this all the time, and where does Patrick wanna move to? Patrick’s only half listening though, concentrating instead on his own breakfast. Pete’s right, it’s delicious, and at first he eats with as much enthusiasm as Pete does, but he slows down about half way through his full English, starting to feel full. Pete leaves half a pancake and goes back to his coffee, and talking about Patrick’s new house without any input from Patrick (not that he notices; he’s totally wrapped up in it) but the younger man doesn’t want to leave it – years of being told to finish his plate, and it tastes good, and they paid for it.

After Patrick (painfully) swallows the last of his breakfast, Pete drops his monologue about living near the beach vs having a recording studio in your house and says, “Hey, I don’t really feel like going home to an empty house.” He calls the waitress over with his hand and when she arrives, asks her for the bill.

Patrick doesn’t answer yet because he’s tired and full and feels like he’d be nauseous if he wasn’t in so much pain: all he wants to do is take off his jeans. Pete pays, stands in front of Patrick’s booth and offers him both his hands and waits. Hauling himself up, Patrick finally replies, “Are you trying to get yourself invited over?”

Pete shrugs, grinning at Patrick who didn’t accept his help upright (he’s not that needy). “It’s closer.”

Patrick chuckles and immediately regrets it because it hurts, everything hurts, he is too heavy to move but he has to keep following Pete to the door. The older man holds it open for him, but Patrick can’t go through it, walk in front of him, because he’s practically limping. Even that is using more energy than anyone should have to put into walking, so Patrick is convinced there’s no way he could act normal without dying. So he just stands there, and when Pete looks at him, he looks down and admits, “Uh, I feel kinda full.”

Pete’s eyes widen with something like understanding. “Hey, no worries, we can walk slow. It’s not that far.”

Pete wraps an arm around Patrick’s waist, and it’s sensitive so he’s about to protest, but when Pete starts rubbing tiny circles where his hand rests on Patrick’s side, he shuts his mouth and just keeps walking.

The walk home isn’t as bad as Patrick thought it would be, mainly because Pete’s fingers above his hip feel electric and it’s hard to concentrate on anything that isn’t the soothing pattern he’s ghosting over Patrick’s skin. He feels exhausted, though, he realises when he tries to take his key out of his smallest jeans pocket but can’t get his fingers to work properly, like he’s half asleep and his muscles are protesting against everything. His head feels heavy, and he leans it against Pete, who fishes Patrick’s key out himself and manages to get the door open, dragging Patrick through it and placing him as gently as he can on the sofa.

Patrick groans when the movement causes his chub to kind of fold over the waistband of his jeans. There’s no way he can keep these on. “Gonna, gonna go and put my pyjamas on,” he says shakily, pulling himself up and walking like he’s drunk all the way to his bedroom.

In the meantime, Pete swallows hard and thinks about the sensation of having Patrick’s full stomach beneath his fingers, the drum, sensitive skin sticking out a few inches more than usual. It’s weird because Pete was never into this before, with anybody else, or with Patrick either. He knows that Patrick isn’t skinny, never has been the whole time he’s known him, but that’s never turned him on or bothered him before. It’s just how Patrick’s body is, a part of him, like Pete has his tattoos. Now, though, while he’s standing in Patrick’s living room thinking about all this, he couldn’t imagine Patrick without it. He can, however, imagine Patrick bigger, his stomach distended like this every night from eating a little too much, or a lot too much. Patrick’s tummy getting bigger, softer, covered by a hard fullness after a big meal he really shouldn’t have pushed himself to finish. The jeans Pete fastened for him on the beach not being able to close, even if he lies down and sucks his stomach in as much as he can. His extra flesh pooling over the sides of his trousers, his ass threatening to split the seams. He imagines Patrick eating more, going back to that diner for breakfast and him ordering three times what he did today and finishing it. He imagines what all the extra calories would look like on his short frame. He swallows, hard, again, and goes to the kitchen to make them both some tea. But Pete’s like this, once he’s onto something, he can’t stop thinking about it at all until he does it.

All the time Pete’s known Patrick, he’s stayed a pretty similar weight, gaining a couple of pounds here and there and then losing some to stress or running around too much. If he’s gonna get any bigger, the way Pete wants him, outgrowing his clothes and eating so much, then Pete’s gonna have to do something to make it happen. He stirs their tea and even finds saucers for the mugs, biding his time while he thinks, and then finally deciding he’d be able to think better if he was with Patrick, so carries the mugs to his room to think of a plan.

He finds Patrick standing in a pile of clothes, wearing a Fall Out Boy hoodie that Pete remembers him taking from a merch stand to sleep in last winter when they did a tour of Europe. Pete smiles, keeping it soft and calm, not wanting to scare Patrick or anything, and puts their tea down on either side of Patrick’s double bed. The hoodie is way too big for him, the sleeves dropping almost to his knees and the curve of his belly well disguised. Pete pulls Patrick into him, kissing his forehead, so he can feel the flesh if he can’t see it. Patrick squirms a little but doesn’t protest, his arms hanging limply by his sides. Still pressing Patrick against himself, Pete takes the sleeves and rolls them half way up Patrick’s arms so he has use of his hands again, and Patrick pulls Pete to the bed. Pete lies right by him, so there’s no place Patrick’s left side isn’t touching Pete’s front, and places his arm over Patrick’s belly, resting his head gently on Patrick’s chest so he doesn’t hurt him.

Patrick fidgets under the pressure, not because it hurts but because he doesn’t want Pete to know how much he ate, when really he should be on a diet because has he seen himself, he’s not skinny like Pete and he thought that was okay but when he thinks back to last night, his skin was too soft and pliable against Pete’s flat stomach, and Pete just probably doesn’t want to ask him to go on a diet but secretly wishes he would. He’s chosen this hoodie because it hides his round stomach and the tops of his chubby thighs, but also because none of his pyjama pants were comfortable. His skin itches where his jeans and boxers have left deep red lines, and if he’d stuffed himself like this before he put them on, he bets he wouldn’t have been able to fasten them. It’s disgusting, he’s disgusting he thinks with an unsteady breath, and he’s going to sleep this off and then go on a diet, and by his birthday he’s going to be able to share Pete’s clothes.

Pete with his toned stomach and firm arms, which are now both on him, his right arm holding Patrick down over his curved stomach and his left cupping his cheek, stroking it in circles that would make him sleepy if he wasn’t so upset.

“Are you tired?” Pete breathes into the fabric of his hoodie, wishing he would take it off because really, it’s not cold at all, and he didn’t have any problems being naked a couple of hours ago.

“Uh,” Patrick says, his train of thought dispersed by Pete’s voice. “Uh, kinda.”

Pete sits up, keeping his arm pressed over Patrick’s tummy. “Are you cold?” he says, feigning concern and raising an eyebrow. He moves his left hand to Patrick’s forehead, as if he’s checking for a temperature. “You’re not getting sick, are you? You might have been right about bacteria, I dunno.”

Patrick shakes his head. “I’m not cold,” he says, furrowing his brow in confusion before he realises his mistake and quickly corrects himself, “This is just comfy, y’know?”

Pete nods, his hand still resting on Patrick’s forehead. “You’re pretty hot though. Don’t you have anything comfy that’s a little less, uh, arctic expedition?”

Patrick clenches his jaw, because anything cooler probably wouldn’t fit comfortably, rubbing the marks his clothes left or carving its own, and it definitely wouldn’t cover his bulging stomach, but Pete obviously doesn’t understand this, because Pete never has to worry how he looks in his clothes or if they’ll even fit him.

“Surely you’d be comfier in, I dunno, just with the duvet. It’s pretty warm outside.”

Patrick looks hard at Pete. “No, I’m not in the mood-”

Pete cuts him off. “I wasn’t suggesting anything. Just don’t want you to get, like, heat stroke in bed. And really, I’m all for you being naked, so it’s like, a win-win s-”

Patrick cuts him off then. “Not right now, Pete,” he hisses. “I feel, I dunno, I just want to sleep. Okay?”

But he’s made a mistake and he knows it; there’s no way he’s getting any sleep until Pete has an answer to his question now. “Feel what?” is all Pete says, and Patrick sighs, closes his eyes and thinks of how to answer it, because he knows he has to.

“Um. A little ill, maybe. I think you’re right.”

Actually, Patrick feels self-conscious as anything, and now he’s lying down his belly really hurts. But he’s not going to say either of these things because they’re embarrassing.

“If you’re ill, it’s probably because you’re too hot,” Pete answers stubbornly, the hand he has on Patrick’s belly becoming painfully obvious. It didn’t hurt before, and now it does, and Patrick asks him to move it.

“Your tummy hurts?” Pete asks, both his eyebrows raised but not sceptically. “Come on, then, let me help you.”

Patrick doesn’t see the point in lying anymore. As long as Pete doesn’t see him, and then soon this will all be sorted and he’ll never be in this situation again. Maybe Pete’s going to fetch him some tablets and then not touch him until he’s thin. That would be nice.

But Patrick has no such luck. Pete sits up, maintaining contact with Patrick, and pulls the younger man a little so that his head is resting on Pete’s chest and not the pillow, their legs tangled together. That’s not so bad, but then Pete puts both his hands on Patrick’s, god, his pretty big stomach, and starts to softly rub.

“F- Pete, what the hell are you doing?” Patrick’s voice is shrill with panic, but he can’t move to either side because Pete’s arms are holding him still. He tries moving forwards and hisses when it hurts. Pete’s eyes are full of concern when Patrick looks up, blushing, after the older man has gently put him back in place.

“Just lie still, this will help,” he promises, leaning to the side to get Patrick’s tea and offering it to him. He’s upright enough to be able to drink it as Pete carries on.

And god, Pete’s having the best time. Beneath the tautness of his gut, he can feel the small, squidgy tummy he’s used to, the one that’s just visible through his shirts that makes him look a little round. While he rubs, Pete wonders how he can make it bigger without creeping Patrick out. They have a tour coming up, and it’s pretty easy to eat badly on tour because the kitchen on the bus is too small to cook on, and breakfast and lunch at least are usually from a fast food place. He’s got exactly two weeks before the tour starts, and Pete greedily wonders how much weight Patrick could gain in that space of time, maybe without even noticing it. Pete could start cooking more, taking Patrick out to eat and stuff. It shouldn’t be too difficult, he smiles to himself.

He moves his hands lower down, to just below where he guesses Patrick’s bellybutton would be if he could see it, and though his touch is still soft, Patrick jumps and yelps, spilling tea on his hoodie. Patrick’s eyes are open now, and he sees that Pete’s pulled the comforter up to Patrick’s waist, and is rubbing just above it. God, it hurts, and it’s not from the fullness but from the grooves that his clothes left on his stomach. Pete takes the drink off him and stands up, dumping the cup and walking to Patrick’s side of the bed. He throws back the duvet and motions for Patrick to move, but Patrick just lies his head back on his pillow and crosses his arms on his chest. “I’m fine,” he says determinedly when Pete tries again to get him out of bed.

“Well, you at least have to change,” Pete sighs, gesturing to his hoodie. “It’s soaking.”

“It’s just a little damp,” Patrick frowns, but Pete’s more stubborn than he is so he’s already lost. Eventually, Pete just grabs the underarms of it, and pulls so that Patrick’s arms are forced above his head and the thing comes off over them. His mouth hangs open, and he pulls the covers up almost all the way to his neck, narrowing his eyes at Pete. Pete ignores him, stripping to his boxers and trying to get in the bed, asking Patrick to budge up. He does, leaving them both on Patrick’s side, but when Pete’s hand touches Patrick’s stomach, he turns onto his other side, away from Pete.

“Don’t,” is all he says, and Pete frowns, pressing himself to Patrick’s back.”

“Why are you mad at me?” he asks, kissing the back of Patrick’s neck but keeping his hands to himself.

“I’m not mad at you,” Patrick finally admits, but leaves it there. After Pete probes, voice soft and sweet, Patrick sighs, “I’m mad at myself,” but doesn’t explain any further.

“Hey, do you want me to go home?” Pete asks, even though he knows this isn’t the problem.

“No.” Patrick sighs again. “Just don’t- god, I just.” Another sigh. “Just-”

He stops, and Pete keeps kissing, all the way up to the curve of his shoulder.

“I just, kind of, I think I’m gonna, like, go, like, like, diet,” Patrick rambles, nervous even about that, like saying this will make a previously oblivious Pete realise how fat he is and want to leave him.

Pete just taps Patrick’s shoulder until he turns around; he still doesn’t face Pete, but settles on his back.

“Why would you do that, huh?” Pete asks, and Patrick looks up at him with his meanest stare. “Why would you wanna do that?”

“Cause I’m fucking fat, Pete,” he answers, and after his double-take at Patrick swearing, Pete moves on top of Patrick, his knees either side of Patrick’s hips and his hot lips on Patrick’s.

It takes a while for Patrick to kiss back, but he eventually does, sighing miserably into it. Pete stops then, pulls back, and Patrick wishes for his hoodie even though he’s covered by the duvet.

“The last thing you are is fat,” Pete says earnestly, and Patrick almost wants to believe him. “I’m not gonna pretend like you’re stick thin, but that’s not bad, that’s not your fault: lots of people aren’t skinny because they’re just not meant to be. People have different body shapes, right? Like some girls are curvy and some are skinny. It’s just the same.”

Patrick looks Pete dead in the eye. “I’m not goddamn curvy, Pete, I’m just... Well, you know. You’ve got to know.”

Pete shakes his head slowly. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re perfect.”

Pete doesn’t mention how he thinks he’d be even perfect-er with a couple more pounds on him. Maybe a couple more after that, too.

Patrick frowns, looking up at Pete’s chest piece, the flat plane of his abdomen. It’s not fair.

“Hey,” Pete shushes, like he’s crying, which makes it worse because the last thing he wanted was pity. “Hey, it’s okay. Besides, I love you. That’s the only thing I care about."

Patrick’s getting pretty uncomfortable under all the attention, and he doesn’t meet Pete’s eyes. This time, it’s Pete who sighs as he ducks his head to kiss him, then rolls over so he’s lying beside him, not on top of him. Under the covers, he sneaks a hand to lay flat over Patrick’s stomach, which he initially tries to suck in but realises he’s too full for it to have an effect. He gives in, letting Pete draw shapes on it because, actually, it does feel better when he does that.

“You’re impossible,” he whispers, but it’s fond and not exasperated so Pete grins, tucking his head into the crook of Patrick’s neck.

Chapter Text

In the end, Pete’s plan works out better than Patrick’s. It’s just that Patrick’s self control is nothing to boast about – nothing at all, actually, it’s pretty much inexistent – and Pete seems to know all the best restaurants in LA. Patrick could exercise, and he would, he really would, but all of his free time seems to be spent in bed now, sleeping off a meal or more commonly with Pete. And that’s exercise, but not as much as he needs, not while he’s eating three cooked meals a day and sleeping for ten hours. Pete tries to tell him that this is good, he needs the rest, and Patrick has never been good at saying no to Pete.

In just two weeks, this change is noticeable on Patrick’s body. Maybe it’s just because he gets to see him naked every day, but Pete can tell that his stomach’s gotten rounder. When they watch TV, he’ll lay his head on Patrick’s chest so he can hear his heartbeat, his arm across Patrick’s middle and his fingers slipping under the hem of his shirt to feel the yielding skin. When he straddles him, he likes to drift his fingers up and down Patrick’s belly, and even Patrick doesn’t complain because it feels good. Pete swears his cheeks are softer too, and when they kiss, he always holds Patrick’s face in his hands, pinching slightly on his chubby cheeks.

The change in Pete’s actions would be noticeable too, except he’s always been this touchy-feely, even before they were dating. So when Pete hugs Patrick from behind, pushing his hands up underneath Patrick’s shirt, or when Patrick bends over and Pete squeezes his love handles, or when he digs his hands into the extra flesh of Patrick’s thigh, the younger man doesn’t think anything of it: at least, he doesn’t think it’s any stranger than when Pete kisses his ankles or nibbles so hard on his earlobe it’s surprising it doesn’t bruise.

So Pete notices Patrick getting a little chunkier thanks to his basically moving himself in and making breakfast every day, and going to the beach or the park to eat out for lunch, and going to expensive restaurants every night, but Patrick doesn’t notice this change – at least, he never says anything about it – or what’s causing it. Not until the night before they’re due to go on tour.

They’ve both packed, a process which was lengthened considerably by Pete’s incessant stroking and squeezing and kissing everywhere, and Pete is ordering pizza since they’ve agreed to have an early night. Patrick is supposed to be trying out his stage outfit, which he bought a couple of months back. It consists of super skinny jeans that he thought were kind of slimming, and this button-down shirt that was on sale, even though he doesn’t really need to worry about sales anymore. Anyway, when Pete walks in, Patrick’s sitting on the bed in the shirt and his boxers, staring at the floor.

“Trick?” he asks cautiously, because Patrick isn’t the one who stares into space and has breakdowns and doesn’t speak for three weeks. That’s him.

“What?” Patrick snaps, which is kind of a relief to Pete because at least he’s responsive.

“What’s the matter?” he asks in his normal voice, going to sit by Patrick but not touching him. He doesn’t want to scare him or irritate him or anything.

“What does it look like?” he asks morosely, all the anger seeping away.

“I dunno, Trick, did you lose all your pants?” he asks, trying to lighten the tense atmosphere, but to no avail.

“They don’t fit,” Patrick says quietly, keeping his eyes fixed on the floor and his hands crossed in his lap. Pete budges closer so their legs are touching and the denim of Pete’s jeans feels rough on the other man’s knee, so he starts bouncing it up and down to create friction, heat. He’s cold.

Pete frowns, not that Patrick sees it. “Hey, maybe they shrunk in the wash. Or maybe you bought the wrong size. Did you try them on in store?”

Patrick moves his eyes from the floor to the wall, still not looking over at Pete. “Maybe I’m just f-”

Pete shushes him. “How many times do I have to say it, perfect flawless darling Patrick? You are not.”

Patrick’s eyes move across the wall and meet Pete’s, staring sullenly. “You don’t get it, Pete. This stuff never happens to you.”

“Stand up,” Pete orders as soon as Patrick shuts his mouth, his glance hard but not angry, because he's not having that 'you don't get it' shit, not from an adult who is supposed to be capable of keeping it together, and not from someone he loves. “Here, c’mon,” he adds, softer, pointing to the space directly in front of him. Reluctantly, Patrick does as he says.

“Now,” Pete continues, pulling at the bottom of Patrick’s shirt. It looks good on him, the colour, and it’s not too tight at all, (disappointingly) concealing his tummy. “Turn around.”

Patrick does. The wardrobes behind them have mirrors on the door, and they greet Patrick’s eyes when he turns. He’s too busy examining his reflection to notice Pete stand up behind him; he doesn’t notice this until Pete’s quiet voice is suddenly at his ear.

“What do you see?” he asks, his breath tickling Patrick’s neck. “Hmm?”

Patrick shrugs. This is stupid.

“No, go on,” Pete pressures, but his tone of voice is warm and gentle and Patrick wishes he was using it to say something else.

Patrick shrugs again. “I dunno. Myself.”

Pete hums, not moving his face away from Patrick’s but not touching him anywhere else, either. Patrick misses his ever-present hands on his skin: he feels cold and exposed and kind of empty and he just wants Pete to kiss him, and he gets that Pete is trying to make him feel better but nothing ever will, not about this, and he was stupid for ever saying anything, he should have just acted normal and picked a pair of jeans that fit him. It’s just, well, they’re all fitting a little tightly at the moment.

Pete wonders if he should give up. It’s obviously not working. So he changes tactics.

“You know what I see?” he asks, his voice more rushed but just as kind. “I see the person I fell in love with. I see the person I want to get old and grey with, Trick, and when I die, I wanna die in your bed. I love you, not your body, not even your voice or your mind. I love your, I dunno, your heart. Your soul.” Patrick sees his smile in the mirror, all white teeth and bashful. “You make me smile when there’s nothing to smile about, and you give me things to smile about, and you make me wanna wake up in the morning, and you make wanna live forever as long as you live forever as well.” He jolts upright, and Patrick misses the way Pete’s rough stubble rubbed on his jaw while he was speaking.

“Does that mean nothing to you?” he says, and Patrick turns around to face Pete, because why would he say that, what does he mean? That’s got nothing to do with any of this.

Patrick wobbles a little, having spun around too fast, but Pete catches him, keeping his hands pressed to the small of his back while Patrick lets his dangle awkwardly at his sides. Seeing the confusion in his eyes, just like Pete expected, he explains: “What other people think about me, say about me, it doesn’t matter, not if you don’t think that. As long as you think I’m great, I’m great. As long as you love me, I’ve got no reason to hate myself. Y’know, last year, a little before Christmas, I was thinking about Christmas when I was a kid, and about Christmas now, and my family, and all..all...I dunno, I was just, just thinking about Christmas and my family, and how I’d tried to – y’know – and how my family all knew that, that the public knew that, it was a public thing, that people know that about me. And I was thinking that anything I did would be kind of worthless, any song I played or word I wrote or thing I said because people knew that about me, knew I was – well, like I was – and knew that I couldn’t even do it. I’m not saying I wish I’d done it properly, I wish it had worked or anything, I’m just saying. Well. At that moment, I was in my bunk, and I was just thinking I should do it, get it over with properly, like I’d wanted to do so many times and like I should have done in my car, and I just, I wanted to do it so much. It was all on top of me, it was like the bed above me had collapsed and it was on top of me, and so was the bus, and so was the whole fuckin’ world, I dunno.”

Patrick keeps his face still: he’s used to this, kinda, of having to talk Pete down sometimes, get him to calm down, get him to give some pills over, get him to go to sleep, but it hasn’t happened in a long time, and Pete is never this calm or rational, looking straight into Patrick’s eyes and standing still and talking pretty steadily. It’s unnerving, and Patrick doesn’t know what to do, really.

“So,” he begins, but Pete takes it as a question.

“So,” Pete repeats back to him, “You came in. You came in the bunk room, and you were carrying these two mugs of, like, camomile tea, I think, some kind of tea, and you saw I was awake and said you’d thought I was asleep but you’d brought me this tea in case I wasn’t or you woke me up or something. And you sat down on my bed and waited for me to sit up before you gave it to me, and all I remember was that it was too hot but it stopped my throat from hurting, and I hadn’t even realised my throat was hurting until the pain stopped. And I didn’t tell you what I was thinking, but I stopped thinking it like as soon as you gave me this mug, because it was so...so tranquil and just, just okay. You came in and you made it okay and you gave it a meaning – I don’t know, don’t know what I mean, really, it was just like you brought this clarity of thought with you, like an aura of meaning – and it was like the end of a storm. When the rain finally stops and there’s just this weird silence and puddles and vacant dripping from gutters, but it’s so perfect and it’s such a relief. And I used to think of you as my, I dunno, like, the eye of the hurricane, like you could calm me down in the middle of a storm. But now, now I’m calm all the time because you’re always here and it’s always okay, and I can see things better now, and it’s like, it’s just like you’re not the calm in the middle of the storm, you’re the calm and the end of the storm. Because the storm stops completely when you’re around.”

Patrick has his head pressed against Pete’s shoulder, and Pete is still holding the small of his back, talking so quietly the younger man has to strain to hear him.

“I know I’m rambling, Trick, but I’m just saying that I’m always gonna love you, bald or 600 pounds or half fish. And what anybody else thinks of you doesn’t matter. They don’t know you like this.”

Patrick doesn’t know what to say, because he knows Pete is bad at voicing his feelings, which probably explains the whole long speech thing, but he did anyway, he found a way to say it and now Patrick doesn’t know what to say, what he’s even feeling except love that he couldn’t put into words anyway. He leans up to kiss Pete’s cheekbone, right on the sharp angle, and aggressively doesn’t think about how his cheeks aren’t angled like that. He drops himself back down, putting his head back under Pete’s chinning and kissing whatever skin he can find, lips soft and brief and a tickly kind of wet.

The only thing he can think to say is, “I guess, I guess I can buy some more jeans before the show.”

Chapter Text

The next time they have a hitch like that is in New York City, and this time, just like the good old days, it’s Pete and not Patrick having a meltdown. They have two full days here before their show, but Pete’s head feels blocked like his nose with a cold, but he knows he’s not sick. Not like that, anyway. He aches all over and he can feel cold in all his joints, but it’s not the flu. It’s not anything, not anything, he’s not anything and Patrick is so far away.

Patrick is actually Christmas shopping with Joe and Andy, as well as about a dozen of their tour crew. In fact, Pete’s pretty sure he’s the only one anywhere near the tour bus, especially because the next three nights are hotel nights, so he’s got no reason to be curled up tight on the sofa, which smells like weed and cigarettes and Chinese food, his face pressed into the arm and the silence ringing in his ears. This room is meant to be full of his friends playing video games and making jokes before they go on stage and do Pete’s favourite thing in the whole world, with his favourite people in the whole world. But they’re not here; they’re not in walking distance, he can’t drag himself off the sofa and easily find someone to cuddle up to, whether they’re in bed or making supernoodles in the kitchen or doing something in the backroom. Patrick isn’t here with his warm, soft skin to curl up with, his slow, steady heartbeat to calm Pete’s rampant one down. He should have gone with them, but he felt so empty and low, like he’d been run over by a steamroller somewhere in Alaska and it had snowed over him and he was cold and lonely. If he’d told someone this, they’d probably have stayed with him, maybe Patrick could have made it better by kissing him and letting Patrick hold his perfect cherub cheeks in his unsteady hands, maybe he would have gone shopping and out to eat with his friends like anyone normal. But it’s too late for that now, they’ve already left and he’s pretty sure they have a few blankets kept somewhere, but he doesn’t have the energy or the will to get up and look for them, so he just stays shivering on the couch.

Pete tries to sleep, but he is too sad. He thinks about where they might be, wonders if they stayed in a group or snuck off to buy presents for each other. He wonders what time it is, if they’ve eaten yet, if they’ll maybe decide to go to the movies or for a walk or to see a show while they’re out. He wonders if Patrick misses his skin as much as he misses Patrick’s, he wonders if Patrick’s fingertips are aching with lack of use like his are. Pete’s lips are dry and chapped without Patrick attached to them, and he feels small without another person to wrap around, to overpower. Not that he likes overpowering Patrick, just lying half on top of him and feeling the slight squidge and the heat.

After a while, his head still pressed to the arm of the sofa in the most uncomfortable position, both his legs asleep the way his brain can’t be, he hears his phone ring, but he has no motivation to answer it, doesn’t even know if it’s in the room with him. He needs to piss if that’s any indication of the time, and the room is dark with all the curtains open and none of the lights switched on. He wonders if he’s been lying here for days, if he’ll soon start to decay before he even dies, or if he’ll just die, of thirst or starvation or the goddamn cold, if moss will grow over his corpse and he’ll start to blend in with the sofa so that no one notices his body until they sit on it by mistake. Maybe they’ll find him before he dies but all his limbs will need removing because no blood got to them: his head is resting on both arms, and they ache ache ache, and both his legs have stopped tingling and are just numb now. He would like them to remove his head while they’re at it, because it’s not really doing him any use slow and sleepy, but sleepless anyway, like this.

His phone rings again, he thinks, maybe two or three or ninety five more times, but he’s pretty out of it from exhaustion, like that time he caught a plane from Brazil to Spain and didn’t sleep on it, didn’t sleep between landing and playing a show, and then went to the after party and ended up fucking some girl or boy he didn’t know, but leaving that hotel to go back to sharing his room with Patrick in some other hotel. He’d been awake maybe 48 hours and he passed out when he finally got to the hotel lobby. They called Patrick down and he drag-carried him to the elevator where he woke up and wouldn’t stop making out with Patrick’s leg. He only remembers all this because he remembers everything when he gets like this.

Everything.

Pete’s pretty sure it’s been a week now, but he doesn’t even feel bad about missing the show, because feeling isn’t a strongpoint of his at this moment in time. He figures they’ve got someone else to play bass and write the dumb words he can’t really say, that Patrick is falling asleep in someone else’s bed now and Andy is arguing about the dairy industry with someone else. They probably even bought a new bus so they wouldn’t have to shift him off this one, and they’re just going to leave him to rot in this parking lot for all eternity.

Maybe he’s already dead. He wishes he was already dead. That sparks something inside of him, right in his chest, and this fire starts to swell in him until he can no longer fight the urge to get up, get up, find some pills razors rope a knife a gun take the bus and crash it set fire to himself find some matches break his neck crack his skull open on the kitchen sink the toilet bowl anything will do anything

He rolls off the sofa and winces when every muscle in his body protests, his legs tingling again, so painful he can’t actually walk. His hissing noises and his frantic plotting (a note, what about a note, who should he write it to should he even write one i mean they never came to save him) are louder than the sound the door makes when it opens, so he never hears footsteps or low voices. Patrick’s low hum is one he would recognise anywhere, if he was paying attention to his surroundings and not his death, but the person he’s talking to is just quiet and male. He remains oblivious until something warm is pressed to his back. He’s curled on all fours on the floor by the couch, breathing heavily and sporadically. Patrick swallows hard.

“Hey,” the singer tries to say, but his voice sticks in his throat and manages to crack part way through the syllable. Pete isn’t hearing anything anyway, but he can feel Patrick’s hand on his back and instinctively arches it towards the mysterious source of heat. Patrick tries talking some more, but Pete doesn’t respond, so he kneels right by Pete and pulls the older man into his lap, holding Pete’s head to his chest and sifting gently through his hair, putting his other arm across Pete like a seatbelt to keep him held in place. Unconsciously, Pete lets out a moan muffled by Patrick’s shirt, which he notices smells like outside, because even his fingers feel warm on Pete’s throbbing scalp. As always, Patrick picks up on this and strokes across his temples a few times, soothing.

Pete understands now, and he tries to say Patrick’s name but it doesn’t work how he wants it to, his jaw slack from not sleeping last night, either, because yesterday he was dangerously hyper and he should have seen this coming; Patrick realises this too, and kicks himself for ever leaving Pete alone. Anything could have happened, and he doesn’t know what he’d turn into if there was no Pete to kiss his neck and call him golden and piss everyone off by running wild like a little kid on days like yesterday.

He always crashes after days like yesterday, and Patrick knows this but it didn’t cross his mind before he swallowed Pete’s excuse of a ‘headache’ and left him with a glass of water at the side of the sofa. At least Patrick didn’t leave any painkillers to go with it, he supposes.

Pete didn’t know his eyes were open, he sure wasn’t seeing much, but harsh white light floods the room and he squeezes them shut, moaning and wondering if this is it, the light he’s meant to step into, and then he decides that he’s not going anywhere he doesn’t know Patrick’s going, so he’ll wait here another eighty years if he has to.

Maybe he’s already been on the sofa for eighty years. Maybe’s he’s an old man.

Patrick shushes him, reminding him he’s not there anymore (he’s not alone anymore) and Pete finds the energy to squirm around until his ear is pressed against Patrick’s heart, the drumming a little faster than he’s used to but still even and still the sound of home. He tries to tell Patrick thank you for making him a home in the middle of nowhere, on the edge of New York City or the backseat of a grubby van or a hospital bed he really doesn’t want to be him, but his words turn to mush like his tongue has been removed. He checks, and it hasn’t, so maybe he’s slurring for some other reason. He can’t remember being drunk recently, and he’s very good at remembering bad things that happen to him, so maybe he’s had a stroke. That supports the old man theory for sure.

He moves his tongue around his mouth, letting energy build up slowly but surely, like refuelling on a video game. When he finally mumbles into Patrick’s shirt, the younger man misses half of it but can’t exactly ask him to repeat it.

“Was waiting forever, Trick, I’d wait again.”

Patrick sighs and lets go of Pete to scrub a hand through his hair, hating himself for allowing this to happen. He hasn’t been this bad in years, but how many times has he been alone when this has happened? Totally alone, without anyone even outside for him? Patrick’s afraid that he’s never been completely alone like that while he was on tour, so maybe the last time he had no one to turn to was when he tried to

“Help me get him on the couch, Mike.”

Pete feels himself start to fold in, like origami, like his chest is a black hole pulling in the rest of his body. He tries to warn Patrick not to get too close, to go back to his spaceship, but maybe his lungs already got sucked in because his chest is tight like he’s only allowed to breathe in so much air and it’s not enough and now that Patrick is with him, assuming he’s still here, he doesn’t mind dying like this.

-

Patrick called Pete’s cell when they got to the restaurant, wondering if he maybe felt better and wanted to eat with them. He called it again when they left the restaurant, and when they got to the hotel and Pete wasn’t in Patrick’s room, or any of the rooms they’d booked, Patrick swayed and actually nearly vomited, apart from Joe gripping his arm to keep him upright and Andy’s hand on the small of his back keeping him grounded. They tried Pete’s cell a few times, even tried calling people they knew he wasn’t actually going to be with, but still hoping, and then kept on trying Pete’s cell. It was ringing before it went to voicemail, which meant it wasn’t turned off or dead, and also meant it wasn’t at the bottom of a river with Pete-

Pete.

His voice was quiet and fast, like a mouse’s heartbeat, as he worked through various possibilities where Pete could be safe and alive. He could have stayed on the bus where they left him and still be asleep. (The phone would have woken him up). Unless he was in a coma. Or he’d tripped and knocked himself out. Maybe he’d tripped and died. Unless he left the bus, maybe to go and find them. (He would have called). Perhaps he’d gone out, maybe to get something to eat, and left his phone on the bus. Maybe he’d tripped and died outside, or in a restaurant. (They would have contacted him by now. If he was dead, he’d died alone.)

Maybe he’d. Maybe he’d killed himself. There were pills on the bus because Pete was never left alone on the bus so it was okay. If for some rare reason the rest of the band weren’t with him, there were always some crew members hanging around. There were painkillers, stuff like that, some prescription stuff too. Definitely enough to kill someone, if they took it all.

Dying like that took time though.

Pete was dramatic. He’d leave a note, and not just a scribbled thing on some crumpled paper. It would be something that took time.

Patrick said all of this in about a minute.

“He didn’t try to leave a note last time.”

That was Joe. Patrick ignored it.

“He could just be wandering round. Maybe he really was just sick, maybe he’s a little delirious or something. He might have gone for a walk, I dunno.”

Andy. None of them believed a word he was saying.

Patrick decides to take Mike with him to the bus, not wanting too many people there if Pete is a mess. A living one or a dead one. Joe and Andy get the taxi right behind them, deciding to look around the outside of the bus in case he wandered out. The rest of their group decide to wait at the hotel in case he gets there somehow, and they call his cell every ten minutes. Like suicide watch.

Maybe it’s too late for that.

Patrick finds him. At 00:04 Patrick finds Pete in an exhausted heap that can barely speak and doesn’t know where he is. But he’s alive – hyperalive, almost, his pulse racing and each breath hitched and coming too soon after the last. He’s sweaty, but shivering, and when Patrick holds him, scared of holding him too tightly and hurting him, as if he’s a baby, his hair is caked with dirt and his hands are damp and cold. His forehead, on the other hand, is about four hundred degrees. Mike calls Joe first, then back to the hotel, and then he goes to flag a taxi. Patrick carries Pete out of the bus on his own, wrapping him in three blankets and picking up his cell from the bunk room. Andy and Mike decide to stay on the bus for a while, trying to figure out what Pete was up to while he was alone. Patrick and Pete share the back of the cab, Pete laid out the whole way without his seatbelt on, feverish and mumbling something with his eyes still closed.

Patrick’s cell rings and it makes him jump.

“All the pills are where they should be. We even counted how many were in the bottles. He doesn’t need a hospital, or anything.”

Patrick’s sigh of relief quivers, and he cards through the hair on Pete’s feverish head in his lap.

He’d thought Pete was okay now. Thought he’d fixed him for good.

“You sure he doesn’t need a doctor, at least?”

Patrick doesn’t really want to take him to a hospital, not when there’s paparazzi and the chance they might keep Pete forever locked away and dozy on meds, like when he got to hospital that day and Pete was so not-Pete-

“It’s probably just his headache, it must have turned into something.”

Mike butts in. “Call a doctor to the hotel if he gets worse. Or stays the same, I dunno.”

Patrick nods even though they can’t hear that, and hangs up so he can focus on soothing Pete with his hands. He takes Pete’s fingers in his, worried that touching his forehead is just making him hotter. Pete opens his eyes about halfway to the hotel, but he doesn’t speak the whole way.

“You okay back there, Stump?”

Joe’s voice surprises him, shattering through his dazed thoughts. He nods, then shakes his head, and Joe leans his arm back to squeeze Patrick’s shoulder.

“He’ll be okay, Trick.” Joe’s voice might be the softest he’s ever heard it. “He always is.”

Chapter Text

When Pete wakes up, there’s a breeze coming from the window or a fan, and he is warm under an ugly hotel comforter. Patrick is sitting up in bed reading, but perceptive as always, he has Pete’s head pressed to his chest. The first sound he hears is Patrick’s heartbeat, and his hands are near his head. He slides one down to duck under the hem of Patrick’s shirt. He is soft and warm and healthy and whole, and Pete breathes in his scent and smiles to himself.

Home.

Patrick lowers his book, raises an eyebrow at Pete. “Awake?” he asks, and Pete nods into his chest, writing out the word ‘awake’ on the part of Patrick’s belly he has a hold of. It yields under his fingers and Pete wants to kiss him all day.

“Hungry?” he asks, and Pete dips his head to the flesh he’s revealed above Patrick’s waistband and starts to nibble it softly. Patrick’s hand flutters to the back of Pete’s neck, which still feels pretty hot, and says, “Do you want me to order breakfast?”

“What time is it?” Pete hums, his teeth relenting and turning into a kiss. Patrick can’t feel self conscious when Pete is kissing his belly like that...when Pete’s not here is a different story all together.

Patrick didn’t eat last night. When Joe and Andy went to lunch, he took the opportunity to get their presents, and when they went to a sushi bar at night, he said he’d eaten without them and still wasn’t hungry. He doesn’t know why he lied, but it was a rush – not from lying, but from getting away with it, not eating. No matter what Pete says, Patrick knows that Pete would prefer him thin. Nobody looks good fat. And nobody can really feel good fat, either, which is why he wants to get skinny. Not just for Pete, but for himself, so he can feel his ribs like he can feel Pete’s and, like he thought the other month, so they can share clothes and he won’t be the ‘chubby singer’, he’ll just be the ‘singer’, and people won’t wonder what the perfect Pete Wentz is doing with some fat loser.

“Sure,” Pete hums in response to his earlier question. “What are you having?”

Patrick moves his hand up to stroke Pete’s greasy hair. “I already ate, I went down to the restaurant,” he lies smoothly, in case Pete picks up on the absence of any dishes. “I can get you room service, unless you want to get up.”

Pete shakes his head aggressively. He doesn’t want to get up.

“Can I have eggs? And pancakes. With syrup. And fruit. Watermelon and peaches.”

Patrick laughs, and Pete watches his belly, hidden under an old t-shirt, crease as he sits up. “Sure thing,” he nods, padding over to the phone and placing the order. There’s a coffee machine in the room, and Patrick makes them both one, Pete almost jumping up to get his.

Patrick puts his own drink on the bed side table, propping Pete’s pillows up and getting him to sit up in bed, covering his legs with the blankets. He gets his coffee and sits cross-legged in the middle of the bed, his knee touching Pete’s and their eyes meeting. Patrick’s expression is serious, and Pete wonders if he did something bad yesterday. All he can remember is aching cold and dark for hours and that he was going to do something important, but he can’t remember what it was.

“I’m sorry we left you on your own yesterday,” Patrick says, making sure to keep looking at Pete even though he feels more like talking to the coffee. “It was stupid, and I should have known something bad would happen. I should have known you were...sick. And I should have stayed with you. And I’m sorry, and I’m so glad we got to you, and I’m so glad you’re okay because I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you.”

Pete’s eyes sting but he doesn’t cry. “You didn’t do anything, it’s my own stupid fault for-”

“Don’t even try to blame yourself.” Patrick sounds uncharacteristically angry, and it shuts Pete up. “Don’t even try. I love you,” is all he says, but he looks like he wants to say more than that.

“I love you,” Pete repeats, and he looks at Patrick’s book. It’s an old one of Pete’s, but he can’t remember the story, only that it has a happy ending. “Read to me,” he says quietly, and Patrick looks confused before he picks up the book.

“From the start?”

“From wherever you were, Trick. And come here.”

He opens out an arm for Patrick to crawl into, and he lies on his side next to Pete, trying to ignore how his belly swells out in front of him to touch Pete, while Pete tries to ignore how hot that is. When Pete’s breakfast comes, he eats it in the window seat looking out onto the city, and decides he wants to go out. Pete tries to get Patrick in the shower with him, but the younger man says he needs to get ready and that he had one this morning so he’s good. That part’s not a lie. They go to this vegan cafe for lunch, and Patrick lies that he doesn’t like anything on the menu, and for dinner they meet Joe and Andy at the hotel restaurant. Patrick orders something he knows he doesn’t like so he won’t be tempted to eat it when it arrives, and explains why he’s just pushing it around the plate by saying he’s not hungry. Pete looks at him strangely but doesn’t comment, thank God, and Patrick spends the rest of the meal thinking of something he can say to Pete to stop him getting suspicious.

-

“We could go to subway,” Pete says, flopping on the bed as soon as they get back to their room. It’s 11:46 and Patrick doesn’t want to think about where he was this time yesterday, even more so where Pete was. He’s recovered so quickly, it’s weird. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as he thought after all.

"McDonald’s. Pizza Hut. Starbucks? Panera. Burger King, KFC, order a pizza or a Chinese or room service or-”

“Are you still hungry?” Patrick asks dumbly, sitting in the chair in the corner of the room.

Pete looks at him like that was the stupidest thing anybody ever said. “I meant for you, dumbass. You haven’t eaten since breakfast.”

Since breakfast yesterday, Patrick thinks proudly, but his stomach rumbles at the thought of yesterday’s breakfast, bacon and pancakes, so he fixes his mind on the present.

“I’ll eat when I’m hungry,” Patrick frowns. “I went to the Starbucks downstairs while you were getting ready tonight,” Patrick lies. He was with Joe, but he hopes Joe never mentions this. “That’s why I wasn’t so hungry at dinner.”

“I watched you, Patrick, you didn’t eat anything.”

Patrick frowns. “Don’t be a creeper, Pete,” he says playfully, but when Pete doesn’t smile, he adds, “I ate at least half, anyway.”

Pete feels his head start to rush, everything blurring a little at the edges. Having Patrick (and his meds, but mostly Patrick) with him all day has kept him calm and stopped everything from turning the wrong way and spiralling away from him like it did yesterday, but something is coming on again. When he thinks about it, his head throbs, and he winces, then pats the bed.

“Come lie down, Pattycakes,” he sings lowly, and Patrick rolls his eyes but complies, kicking off his shoes and sandwiching Pete’s legs in between his. Pete turns onto his side, towards the heat, and presses a sloppy kiss where he can feel Patrick’s pulse at his throat. They fall asleep like that, still in their clothes and tangled up in each other.

-

Pete doesn’t sleep well that night (when does he ever?)

(When Patrick is with him)

He figures if it’s this bad with Patrick’s soft arms pulled around him, his cold breath on Pete’s sweaty face, he’d be just about dead without Patrick, who always seems to be the answer to whatever he needs. Pete’s sure this means he’s right, this whole thing is right, Pete and Patrick are meant to be together, as cliché as it is. He just hopes that equally, he is the antidote to whatever is poisoning Patrick, because something’s wrong, and maybe something’s always been wrong and he just never noticed it because it wasn’t as demanding as his own problems.

If Patrick’s not eating it’s because he feels bad about himself, and Pete intends to change that. Not even because he likes his chub so much, finds the weight pressing on top of him so sexy and the softness of his body so comforting, but because this is Patrick who he loves and who deserves to be happy with everything in the world, including how he looks. Pete plans on breakfast in bed, which he can’t exactly get out of, and making sure Patrick knows how loved he is. Words never seem to be enough for him, but then again Pete’s just bad with words.

Pete is therefore surprised when bony fingers press into his side and wake him up. He snaps his eyes open, jumping away from the contact like he’s being attacked. Patrick is in the bathroom and the door is open and Pete can see him brushing his teeth. Their tour manager is standing over Pete.

“You’re the last one up, Wentz, and you need to be sound checking in ninety minutes. You can do that?”

Pete nods, throwing himself out of bed and pulling off his crumpled clothes from last night, replacing them with the only clean t-shirt he can find and a pair of shorts, not caring if the other man is still there. It turns out he isn’t, and Pete heads to the bathroom, wrapping his arms around Patrick’s middle and hugging him from behind. The younger man just keeps brushing his teeth, and he spits and rinses and turns round to face Pete, glad that the bassist’s inked fingers are now pressed to his back and not his belly, but Pete missing the pliancy.

“Afternoon, sleeping beauty,” Patrick smiles lazily, squinting up at Pete as he kisses the top of his nose.

“Afternoon?” Pete repeats, frowning. “I guess I was more tired than I thought. Did you sleep well?”

“Yeah, except for all your squirming. Could feel your bony elbows and your knees all night, Pete, gonna get you back for that sometime soon.”

What was that supposed to mean? Pete decides to let it slide, moving his hands to Patrick’s chubby sides and squeezing ever so slightly, kissing him on the mouth this time. Patrick wraps his hands around Pete’s neck, but as soon as the kiss is over, he moves them back down to cover Pete’s and manages to slide out of his grip.

Not for the last time, Pete mourns the loss of the extra flesh from under his fingertips.

Pete doesn’t shower or do his hair or eyeliner or anything, just spends ten minutes in the bathroom then picks up his cell and a book and motions for Patrick to follow him out the door. They sound check at 5:30, and afterwards Pete showers and blow dries his hair and reads almost the whole book before he starts to get antsy, or at least finally gets too antsy to be able to handle it anymore.

He plays some dumb zombie game with Joe for awhile, but that gets boring so he tries arranging all the items on their rider in size order, then colour order, then alphabetical order, then from his most to least favourite, but after he’s (accidentally) smashed two bottles of whiskey, Patrick throws a ball of paper at his head and tells him to stop. He makes out with Patrick behind the couch for a bit, too, so the other guys can’t see them (they can still hear them, ew) but Patrick’s not in the mood for Pete’s hands grabbing at his love handles all the time so he pushes him off and lets him lie in his lap instead. Pete’s hair is soft and jet black and Patrick strokes it, singing to him without really noticing it. Pete purrs, nearly goddamn purrs, and he’s so close to sleep when there’s a knock on the door that ruins everything. Especially because Patrick is the one who gets up to answer it, leaving Pete sprawled out on his back on the cold floor.

It’s just Brian telling them that the first band have gone on now, and Pete decides to shower again, drying and styling his hair in the bathroom and then doing his eyeliner and getting changed in front of the full length mirror in the main dressing room. He drinks nearly half a bottle of whiskey before Patrick tells him to stop.

They had mac and cheese for dinner, and having had his bottle confiscated, Pete picks around everybody’s leftovers, but he can only find a few stray pasta tubes left. Patrick pulls him down onto the loveseat, wrapping his arms around his shoulders, and when Pete basically lies on top of the shorter man, he presses a kiss to the inside of Pete’s wrist. Pete’s pulse is rapid under Patrick’s hot mouth, and he kisses all the way down his arm trying to get it to slow down, not realising he’s the reason for the increase.

Pete sighs happily, content for now, and when they get the 15 minute call he leaps up, glad he’s finally going to be able to burn off some energy. He feels pumped full of it like he might burst any minute, but running around the dressing room makes him feel a lot better even if it irritates everybody else. Nobody says anything though, because two days ago they were discussing how he might have tried to kill himself.

Right before they go on stage, Pete catches Patrick’s shirt collar in two tense fists and clutches on to it, dragging him into a long, enthusiastic kiss. After his surprise dissipates, Patrick starts kissing back, pulling Pete in by the shoulders, overwhelmed by the need to touch, have, hold, keep, possess, take. They know they have to play, so they do, but Pete spends at least three quarters of the show leaning on the singer, sitting by him and pining at his leg or singing the words into the crook of his neck or using Patrick’s microphone instead of his own to shout things into the audience. Patrick feels happier and more whole than he has in what feels like weeks, because Pete is happy and whole and on top of that, here he is, in New York City, singing his favourite songs with his three favourite people. Everything feels good to him, and everything should be right with the world because it must be impossible to feel this amazing while anything bad is happening somewhere else. It’s hard to believe anywhere except this arena exists right now, that there are people who aren’t crammed into this room out there somewhere.

After the last note of the last song of the encore, Patrick beams into the audience, “Thank you guys so much, goodnight!” and Pete shouts something similar, the four of them standing at the front to bow. Once the lights go out, Pete is on Patrick again, his hands reaching out to stop him from going anywhere, like offstage, and then his mouth is on Patrick’s and never mind there being no one who isn’t in the arena, Patrick feels like there’s no one who isn’t Pete on the earth, because Pete is everywhere and everything all at once. Pete is everywhere under his hands, his tongue fighting Patrick’s, his sweat-cologne scent the only thing Patrick can smell, his quick breaths the only thing Patrick can hear, his salty lips the only thing Patrick can taste, so there’s no evidence that anything other than Pete exists. Pete’s hands are all over Patrick’s stomach, underneath his shirt in a second, one sneaking behind to feel the sweat starting to pool at the base of his back, and fuck, Patrick is so hot and so /hot/ and Pete wants them both naked, right now, but someone is clapping to get them to move, and Patrick, the goody-two-shoes, drags them off the stage but doesn’t let go of Pete, his teeth sinking into Pete’s lower lip as Pete wedges his hands between the waistband of Patrick’s jeans and his pudgy sides.

Patrick groans right into Pete’s mouth, but then his stomach rumbles, because all he ate today was maybe a third of his serving of pasta, and Pete is all of a sudden on his knees, unbuttoning Patrick’s shirt from the bottom but going for his belly, not his trousers, kissing frantically and sucking a bruise directly underneath his bellybutton. Patrick twists his fingers into Pete’s hair, matted with sweat and gel, and it should be disgusting but it’s the best thing he’s ever felt. God, Patrick should feel disgusting, with Pete kissing his /fat/ like that, but nothing can feel bad right now. When Pete bites down, Patrick stumbles backwards until he hits a wall, Pete digging his hands into the fleshy sides his mouth can’t reach. Patrick focuses on the texture of Pete’s black hair, and the sound of someone walking past them, maybe more than one person, and he starts to tug at Pete’s wrists, signalling for him to get off, get up off the floor and back to the dressing room and so they can stop acting like a couple of horny teenagers, even though they both feel like horny teenagers and Pete was just about to go for the flies of Patrick’s jeans.

He moans wistfully when he feels Pete’s hands there, but gets it together enough to say, “We gotta move Pete, not here-”

“Fuck,” the older man interrupts, letting Patrick drag him to his feet. They make it to the dressing room to find Andy and Joe showered and changed already, about to go out and meet the fans that have stayed behind. The singer and bassist tell them to go ahead, saying they’ll be out soon, but as soon as the door closes on them, Pete’s pushing Patrick down onto the sofa and straddling his thighs, and spreading his hands as wide as he can across his belly, trying to feel for the softness he loves. His fingers still sink into the excess flesh, but Pete knows Patrick is thinner, even if he’s only dropped five or six pounds, he can feel the loss. Fuck. He slides his hands up to Patrick’s shoulders and starts kissing his jaw, feeling the line more defined beneath his wet lips.

Moving to Patrick’s mouth, finally, Pete worries about the younger man, wondering what’s triggered this to happen – he’s been self conscious before, but never stopped eating – unless he has. Pete tries to think of every single minute he’s spent with Patrick, if he can remember this happening before. Patrick’s arms are looped around Pete’s neck, and he lifts his hips towards Pete, trying to get some friction. Pete tears away from Patrick’s mouth, his lips travelling down his chin and his neck and all the way down Patrick’s sternum, his hands meanwhile unfastening Patrick’s jeans and sliding down his underwear, fervently tracing the thin pink line his boxers have left around his hips before leaving a kiss on it and moving down. When they’re finished, Patrick, still panting a little, goes to return the favour, but Pete shakes his head.

“Shower, fast. Go outside. I can...I can wait, we’ve gotta go, so I can wait and I guess you’ll just have to make it worth waiting, right?”

Pete knows exactly how Patrick can do that, and he grins wickedly, turned on just thinking about it. Patrick smiles down at him and shakes his jeans and boxers from around his knees, not taking off his shirt until he gets to the bathroom.

“Hey!” Pete calls, scrambling to his feet. Patrick freezes, giving Pete time to get to him and wrap his arms around his waist, kissing the back of his neck. Patrick can’t stop looking down, so he concentrates on Pete’s dark inky skin contrasting against his own pale stomach, instead of the fact that Pete’s hands are on his stomach.

“Where are you going without me?” Patrick can hear the puppy-dog-eyes in his tone, so he doesn’t put up a fight. It’s faster like this, anyway. Pete lets go of him to undress while Patrick turns the shower on and gets in with his back to Pete. And, god, Patrick didn’t know he had it in himself, to be honest, but Pete sucks him off again before they’re out of the shower, greeting the remaining fans with wet hair and sloppy smiles.

Chapter Text

Usually, Patrick loves meeting fans, especially after shows when he’s still a little overexcited and they’ve been stood in the freezing cold just to get something signed. None of this would be possible without them; they’ve made him, and all they want in return is his autograph on a CD or a sweaty photo with him. Tonight though, something is different: he’s happier than usual, which he never even thought was possible, but it’s tinged with weird annoyance and impatience, like he doesn’t want to be anywhere but surrounded by these teenagers but he also wants them all to just not exist so he and Pete can have this parking lot to themselves. He takes a deep breath, talking to some kid about their shirt, about one of their shows or the singer or something, he can’t focus, and feels Pete briefly squeeze his hand, simultaneously taking a selfie with a group of girls. Patrick signs the kid’s arm, gets a photo with them and moves towards Pete without consciously realising it, taking the phone from him so he can take their picture instead, but then one of the girls pulls his wrist so he’s bobbing down in front of her, all of them crammed into the shot. They can’t fit everybody in, and Pete laughs, and Patrick turns over to look at him and can’t stop staring, so the photo they eventually get has everyone looking at the camera, sort of, except Patrick who is smiling at Pete like he has a secret.

When they finally get away, Pete pulls on a hoodie he didn’t notice around his waist until now, and flags a taxi, crawling into the back and, when the younger man just stands awkwardly in the street, dragging Patrick in behind him. He leans forward, and asks for Times Square, then falls back onto Patrick, forcing himself right under the younger man’s arm, trying to get warm.

“You’re freezing,” Patrick chides, wrapping both arms around the other man. “Should have brought a coat.”

Pete doesn’t point how much like his mom Patrick sounds, just plays along, saying, “It wasn’t cold when we left, though.”

Patrick kisses the top of his head and looks out of the window, frowning. “We aren’t going back to the hotel?” He sounds disappointed. Very.

“Nah uh, not yet. I’m starving.”

Patrick’s frown loses all its confusion in favour of dread. “So where are we going?”

“Well, I thought we should eat. The catering wasn’t nice,” he adds, hoping that giving Patrick an excuse will make him more willing to eat something. “And, y’know, it’d feel a little seedy if I didn’t take you to dinner first.”

“Shut it, Wentz.” Patrick’s smiling now though, which is all Pete wanted. He overpays the taxi driver by a lot and pushes Patrick out of the car, taking his hand and then dragging him around in a circle as he tries to work out which direction looks most promising for somewhere private to eat. He figures it out after a couple of spins, and stops moving so abruptly that Patrick almost falls. Pete moves his hands to under the shorter man’s elbows, and tells him which way he wants to go.

First, though, he pulls Patrick closer to him (he never seems close enough). His hands cup Patrick’s familiar cheeks and he kisses the bridge of his nose first, breathing softly over the younger man’s face, then his lips meet soft expectant ones and Patrick is still not close enough, not close enough, but there’s nothing he can do to make them any closer.

It doesn’t matter. Patrick’s the first one to pull away.

He’s breathing quietly but quicker than usual, his head going to rest at the base of Pete’s neck. They’re both pretty cold, but neither one tries to move away, instead just watching the haze of New York, all the lights and the people and the adverts flashing and shopping bags and yellow cabs, and listening to each other’s comparatively tranquil breathing.

“Let’s go eat,” Pete says eventually, but Patrick doesn’t move, so Pete turns, hooking an arm around Patrick’s waist and leading him out of Times Square. “If you’re not hungry now, you will be when we get there.”

Pete actually does a pretty good job finding them a restaurant, except that Patrick doesn’t really want to eat. Anything. Anywhere. Still, he orders a salad if only to keep Pete happy, and when it comes topped with chicken and bacon and sauce, he does his best to eat around them, picking carefully at the lettuce with his fork until Pete stops talking and sighs long and loud enough for Patrick to nearly break his neck, he looks up so fast.

“What’s up?” Patrick frowns, setting down his fork all together.

Jesus. Maybe this is worse than Pete thought. He can practically hear the cogs ticking in his brain as he tries to figure out what to do in this limited space of time...he can’t confront Patrick, especially not here, because that just won’t end well: so what should he do?

Lie. That always works out well for him.

Besides, it’s not like Patrick hasn’t been lying a lot recently.

“Nothing,” Pete says easily, lips slipping into a smooth smile. “Just full. You want some?” He gestures to his half-eaten veggie burger, and watches as Patrick’s eyes linger over it. He’s considering it, Pete can tell. He must be hungry by now.

But Patrick’s being learning, lately, that self control has less to do with how much self control you actually have, and more to do with how much you want something. You could be the most disciplined person in the world, but if you don’t really want to lose weight, you won’t. Patrick’s never been particularly disciplined, but when he googled himself, the second suggestion down was Patrick Stump fat. And he’s never wanted anything like he wanted to see that disappear. He doesn’t think it, but he kind of unconsciously knows it, that maybe he wants to be thin more than he even wants to be with Pete. At this point, if he had to choose... Well, he’s not doing much to save their relationship. He’ll lie straight to Pete’s face if he thinks he can lie himself thin. And that’s exactly what he thinks he can do.

“Nah, I’m alright. This salad’s really good.”

Chapter Text

When Pete looks back, it’s not just on this phase, if you like, of his life – it’s on his whole life. Patrick is curled into his side, their legs tangled, with his lose fist resting on Pete’s chest, mirroring his heart, even quivering like a pulse as the older man breathes tightly. His lip has been bitten bloody, and now he’s moving onto his nails, gnawing right down almost to the knuckle.

He doesn’t know what to do, but he needs to do something. He needs control, and he has none. He thrives off control, but here he is, completely lacking control, with not just their relationship or their band, but Patrick’s whole life hanging in the balance.

Pete has no way of steering Patrick’s life one way or another. All he can do is bite his nails and hope. Wait.

Patrick stirs in his sleep, his pink lips part and a shiver goes through his whole body, passing into Pete’s like an electric shock. The cold stays with Pete, fills his creaky joints so they’re stuck stiff, haunts his bones, numbs him. He moves one rigid arm to wrap it around Patrick, pull him closer, and finds the other man just as chilly through the hoodie he’s sleeping in. Pete pulls the duvet high over both of them, wriggles down so he’s curled into Patrick, so they’re almost symmetrical, held together but curving away from one another, yin and yang.

 

Patrick wakes up first. Pete never gets to sleep, but his brain is dead, whilst Patrick opens his eyes feeling alert, despite the smoky layer of grey that seems to constantly cloud his vision now, even with his glasses on. Patrick slides an arm over Pete, settling his cool fingers where the older man’s spine meets his neck, and uses it as leverage – not to pull them together, but to pull himself into Pete, like if he was strong enough he could end up inside the other man’s skin. Their hip bones crash on impact, and a warm wave of accomplishment floods through Patrick, down his throat and into his feet, pooling at his now protruding hips. The feeling of bone on bone is delicious, beautiful, and if this is his first hit then he’s addicted. His other hand snakes around to run its way down Pete’s chest, picking out the planes and the ribs he can half feel, and in a guilty rush of excitement he imagines their ribs colliding, how the grind of that would feel, even imagines his ribs sticking out visibly, like a beautiful bird cage, imagines himself being thinner than Pete, being the smaller one all round.

He weighs nothing next to Pete. A strong gust of wind could blow him away. His clothes hang off him: flap around in a breeze like a flower opening. Light, beautiful, perfect, controlled, strong in his daintiness, like a ballerina, angelic and not cherubic, more a poem than a person. He remembers Pete murmuring to him... in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me...your slightest look easily will unclose me...i and my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly...nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals the power of your intense fragility...

nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.

It’s much easier to fall in love with somebody small, tragic, somebody lesser than you. A flower, the rain... or somebody who reduces you into a flower or the rain.

Pete opens his sleepless eyes to Patrick quietly reciting e e cummings, and he squeezes them shut and then opens them again. Patrick is so close to him that his face is difficult to make out in the bland blue light of the early morning, with the curtains closed, it could be any blonde man, and with those cheekbones, it couldn’t be Patrick.

But his breath tickles the base of Pete’s throat like a feather, like only Patrick’s could. It’s not that Patrick’s body has changed that’s killing Pete, it’s that his mind has. But that doesn’t change anything about them together. Like he said all those weeks ago, it isn’t Patrick’s mind or his body that he really loves; it must be his soul.

That doesn’t make this any less painful. Pete swallows hard, and decides not only that he has to do something, but he has to do something now. Impulsive as he is, he’s tried to be careful about this, but he’s run out of time to wait or to waste.

Patrick’s voice is frail but bold, Patrick as a person has become a complete juxtaposition.

“Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.”

Chapter Text

It’s the last night of the tour, and three weeks after Pete’s episode, it could have never happened. His teeth are white, his smile is wide, and his eyes glisten like magic as he looks into a camera.

It’s been two weeks since the shift in Patrick’s thoughts: when this stopped being about escaping his negatives and instead turned into running towards his positives. Through his shirt, he can feel his collarbone, and he sits in a chair behind Pete, drumming his fingers on it.

He stretches his other hand out in front of him, watching the skin stretch across the bones. He wants to be a skeleton. Today, he has eaten nothing.

Pete does the talking; Patrick just looks down, at the floor, at Pete’s feet, at the interviewer’s knees. Andy and Joe aren’t even there, but Patrick, when he comes to think of it, can’t actually remember where they are. He makes a mental note to sleep for four or five days when they get home: his memory always fades when he doesn’t get enough sleep.

The interview wraps up without him even noticing, the short, snappy questions and dull replies dwindling into the distance until the guy behind the camera snaps it off loudly, startling Patrick into looking at Pete: the eyes he meets are already focused on him. Both men take a tense breath, for different reasons pouring from the same source.

For Pete, tonight’s the night. He knows Patrick’s been avoiding him – consciously or not – and he knows Patrick’s ribs are sticking almost painfully far out; he knows Patrick hasn’t eaten breakfast once in the last three weeks, and who even knows about lunch or dinner.

A person can live for three weeks without food, if they have water. Compared to his constantly increasing heartbeat, that’s a long time - but compared to his heartbeat grinding to a halt that day on the tour bus, time is running out.

He decides the best time to act is lunch. That way, if he fucks it up, he still has dinner. But, really, how much more fucked up could this get? So as the interviewer packs away his cameras, Pete stands and offers a hand to Patrick, pulling him to his feet with less effort than should be needed. The younger man leans into him as they walk, and Pete’s heart squeezes tight in on itself, contracting and not wanting to relax again in case the expansion is too much and the whole flimsy thing collapses.

Patrick presses his face into Pete’s shoulder so hard that his glasses budge and he can only half-see out of his left eye. Still, he squints up at the older man, smiling at the warmth of Pete’s hand resting on his hip, holding them together at least physically, and says, “I think I might skip on lunch. I’m not so hungry, and I wanna find Andy and Pete.”

Pete squints right back, confused. “I’m Pete. You’ve known me for years?”

Patrick blinks in return, startled. He giggles. “Sorry, sorry, Joe, obviously. Anyway, I should go look for them...”

He starts to pull away, admiring his own slick excusal from eating. He’s good at this. So, so good at this. He could have been doing this for years.

“Hey, I don’t think so. I saw you skipped breakfast: the last thing we need is you passing out on stage.”

Pete’s playing oblivious, calm, and Patrick has to mirror that. He almost wishes Pete would get angry, so he could afford a little panic without being the overreactive one.

He rolls his eyes to buy himself time, comes up with, “Well I’m gonna eat at dinner, obviously. I-”

“We’ll skip catering; I’ll take you out,” Pete says into Patrick’s hair, dragging him back under his arm. He seems to have so much more than an inch on Patrick now. “We can get breakfast, or ice cream, or fruit or something,” he shrugs, “I’m not that hungry either. But I haven’t been alone with you in ages...”

He’s pining, no, he’s irresistible and even if Patrick can refuse any meal, his self control in other areas has not improved.

“Sure,” says Patrick, “Fruit sounds good. Fruit sounds great.”

If Pete’s face was cloudy, it’s just cleared, and he smiles like a sunbeam, unable to control his pure, unadulterated happiness. Baby steps. This is a start. It’s a start.

As long as he’s tactful, this whole thing is going to be easy.

 

Even as he watches his best friend, his lover, his golden ticket pick around a slice of watermelon, Pete’s confidence doesn’t waver. Those sparkling teeth, at home over Patrick’s jugular, bite down on his lip in an attempt to cover the smile he can’t keep off his face. He hasn’t been so happy in all of his life, he’s sure: you could walk up to him and announce his death was imminent, and all he’d be able to do is laugh out loud. Nothing can dampen his mood.

He’s going to heal Patrick. Patrick’s going to...go back to normal. No, Pete’s going to make Patrick normal again.

Maybe he’ll even turn out better than he ever was before, with less occasional stage fright and bouts of self-consciousness. He hasn’t taken a single bite the whole time they’ve been here, but in Pete’s mind, Patrick is already cured of whatever either of them fails to recognise he actually has. Or had.

Pete’s phone found them this market. He’s eating some strange burger, ostrich he thinks he asked for, and Patrick has this huge slice of melon he’s just pulverising with his fingers and stealthily dropping onto the floor. Pete’s glittery eyes can’t see anything that isn’t wholesome, good and kind.

Looking at Patrick right now, he might as well be blind.

 

They stay out late, and Patrick gets tour gifts for his parents, deciding to go and visit them soon. They stay out so late that by the time they’re back at the venue, catering has packed away all together and all that’s left on offer is drinks from the rider. Patrick doesn’t bother with alcohol: empty calories. He’s half-drunk all the time anyway, low blood sugar making his head spin and ankles falter. Pete’s so giddy Joe offers to share his spliff, just to calm the older man down, and Pete starts demanding cheesecake just as they get their cue.

If he’s a little tipsy half the time, Patrick is wholly gone now, pissed, mashed, sozzled, fucked, bladdered, sloshed, completely gone. His head is somehow spinning vertically and horizontally, in front of his face and the whole way around itself. A little like Pete, there are stars in his eyes, so thankfully it’s blind, stoned Pete and not Joe or Andy who takes on the role of carrying Patrick on stage and dumping him in front of his mic. Pete picks up his bass and goes to stand right beside Patrick, knowing even now that the singer might need something to hold himself up as well as the mic stand. You’d expect Patrick to faint on the last night of the tour, the kids to find out, an ambulance to be called, and doctors, and shrinks, a supportive Pete and a crying family surrounding Patrick’s hospital bed as he comes to realise his error and slowly but surely is guided through recovery. And a couple of times, he nearly does collapse, but with Pete there, enabling more than saving, he just stays as still as he can, lets the crowd do most of the work, and leans heavily on Pete. When the lights go out, the curtains fall, Patrick shuts his eyes and cascades, more rock than water, right into Pete’s core.

He’s strong. He catches him. They could go on their own version of ‘fine’, which is completely not fine, catching a plane tomorrow morning, Patrick driving up to see his mom and dad, Pete finding something else to occupy a weekend while he waits for Patrick to drive back. A new band, producing, writing, drinking.

But as Pete mentally schedules the upcoming week, he drags Patrick offstage and into the wings. Not the dressing room. Patrick might be done, but the show is not, and when Pete lets go of him, thoughtless, the singer crashes onto the black floor.

But Andy forces him back to his feet, dusts him down, tries to make eye contact and fails. Whatever, try again later, now is not the time for concerns or questions. The audience are ready, the lights are ready, the confetti is ready, and the show must go on, even if it’s starting to look like the show might last longer than some of the players.

 

The encore is supposed to be Saturday followed by Dance, Dance, but as Andy takes Patrick to his stand, his anxious frown feeling like it’s carving a permanent trench in his face, they don’t look likely to get past the first verse. But probability never considered Pete, who reclaims his place next to Patrick, happy to act as any inanimate object the singer might need him to be. Mostly he’s a handrail, supporting a deathly still vocalist who seems to have forgotten how to play guitar – Joe covers for him, as much as he can – and misses notes everywhere, but does get through the first verse.

And the chorus. The rest of the song. His head lolls back, his eyes will not focus, his knees buckle, but gripping the mic stand desperately and forcing the words, second nature, he gets through the next song as well. It’s the luckiest kind of coincidence that the black gloved hand closes over his open eyes just as the last note rings out, and if he falls the split second before the lights go out, and people see, it could still be a million times worse. On the bright side, Andy and a tech carry him offstage before the lights come back on so people can come home.

They leave him on this navy blue couch in the middle of their dressing room, like an oasis in the centre of all the bustling people around him. The band are showering, helping to get stuff moved, eating and drinking, and everyone is too preoccupied to notice Patrick doesn’t manage to lift his head onto the arm of the sofa until his fifth attempt, but when he does, he swings his legs around and curls up, his chin on his knees, his thighs and his stomach resting cold, flat against each other. He wishes he was a paper doll, two dimensional and easier to carry around.

Chapter Text

In the airport the next day, Pete is even more hyperactive than he was the night before. Cracking only half-coherent jokes, giggling at other people’s grumpy faces, touchy-feely with anyone who even slightly lets up their personal space defences for a second. Mostly he’s hooked onto Patrick, “hooked on you, baby,” but his wandering hands know no bounds as he latches his ankles around Andy’s, pulls back to rest his head on Joe’s chest.

The other two men had actually been intending to talk to Pete today, they’ve both been trying for a while, and last night, when Pete was making out with a mildly responsive Patrick, less holding him up against an alley wall and more just holding him up, they finally got together, both relieved that they weren’t just worried over nothing, and then both even more anxious as it became clear that something actually was going on. And Pete was doing nothing to stop it. This morning, Pete had happily slid into Patrick’s lap and whispered hurriedly, conspiringly, into the younger man’s throat for the whole time he was supposed to be eating breakfast. Patrick didn’t even have to excuse himself, or go to the bother of pushing food around his plate. As Patrick got worse, Pete seemed to get more oblivious.

But there’s no time to get around the problem, because the traffic means they’re nearly late to the airport, and once they’ve rushed through security and Pete’s hurriedly dragged them all around the duty free, buying almost anything they let him get close enough to touch, there’s no way of getting him, even pretty much useless in his half-frenzied state, on his own to talk. So they sit, stoic, watching as Pete easily loops his fingers around Patrick’s wrist, like a grim measurement.

Their plane lands. They board. It’s a five hour flight, and they get food, which Patrick unsurprisingly doesn’t eat, just lets Pete pick at his leftovers. ‘Leftovers’ might not be the right word, because he didn’t exactly start eating it, but Pete is happy to ignore that fact, seeing the world through some skewed glowing perspective where Patrick just doesn’t like the plane food and will obviously eat something else when they land, because that’s what people do. They eat when they are hungry.

Patrick sits by the window with his arms resting on his table, his head tucked into the lowest curve of the window as he sleeps through most of the flight. When he wakes up, his arms and his legs have all gone to sleep, and for a second he doesn’t know where he is or why he can’t feel anything. Pete kisses his cheek and grounds him, and he decides to go wash his face or something, wake himself up. He thinks it’s kind of weird how he’s hit a wall and even weirder how the wall is made of carpet, but then Pete and an air hostess defying gravity by walking straight up the wall towards him makes him wonder if it is really a wall at all. Andy is asleep, but Joe nudges him awake, half-standing himself, stuck between helping and not wanting to crowd.

Pete pulls Patrick upright in one swift movement, the younger man looking ever frailer as he leans into Pete completely, and the girl’s concerned squint widens with recognition as she quietly gasps, “Oh my god, are you-”

Patrick cuts her off by gagging into Pete’s shoulder, which would be completely disgusting if his stomach wasn’t completely empty. Pete smiles apologetically at her and pushes past to get Patrick into the bathroom he was trying for earlier, while Andy shoots Joe a worried sideways glance.

Maybe it shouldn’t be Pete they get on his own, maybe it should be Patrick. They could split up. Joe can take Pete: he’s known him forever, and Andy can talk to Patrick, because he’s way more reasonable; nobody argues with Andy.

Nobody’s arguing with anyone as Patrick spits up stomach acid into the toilet, his head spinning and his arms flailing weakly in an attempt to balance himself against something. Pete’s crouched down, one hand on Patrick’s back, one on his forehead pushing back his fringe, but he moves to settle Patrick’s hands against his own lap, and they ball into fists inside Pete’s warm tan fingers. He feels woozy, his stomach is cramping in the weirdest way, and he tries to tell Pete he has appendicitis but then his arms are going slack and his head is crashing onto the toilet seat and everything is red and navy blue spots, until there is no longer anything.

 

He knows he was hovering over the toilet, so what’s weirdest of all so is that he is now in the opposite corner, his neck bent in the most uncomfortable position to fit into Pete’s lap. Pete is frowning deep and from this angle, his teeth look big biting his lip, and Patrick tries to drink in as much of his surroundings as he can (which is a funny phrase because it feels in his chest like he’s been underwater for a little too long now) before he’s under again

 

Pete drags him upright a little so it’s his belly not his neck bent awkwardly, and he puts both his hands on Patrick’s face, stroking his cheek, carding through his hair, tracing his bottom lip. He doesn’t actually know if there’s an official doctor on the plane, but there’s bound to be one, probably even one in first class. He could just stick his head out the door and ask – and then what? Hospital, for sure. Pete’s biting his lip so hard it’s impressive his teeth don’t sink the whole way through, and he feels sick and a little giddy. Maybe this is just Patrick getting worse before he gets better. He could just get someone – the cabin crew must know first aid – just get someone to quickly look at Patrick, check he’s okay, then have him off the plane and safe at home. That’s what they do: they look after each other, that’s what they always have done.

Andy knocks on the door at the same time as Patrick groans and blearily opens his eyes, so Pete quickly unlocks it and shushes into Patrick’s forehead. He kisses him high on his cheek, just below his left eye, and Andy pulls the door closed behind him, standing in the corner.

“Do you want me to get someone?” he asks calmly, “Or some water or something? Joe says he has some pills...”

Pete looks down at Patrick, squinting a little, wondering why he’s the least practical one (albeit not the one on the airplane bathroom floor) and Patrick hisses and folds in on himself, trying to get to his stomach.

“Lie down,” he says, which at first sounds like a command but Pete thinks it must be a request. It’s lucky he’s not any taller, because Andy just manages to get the younger man’s legs stretched diagonally across the room, his back flat on the floor and head resting on Pete’s thigh. He turns, as soon as they let go of him, lying on his stomach with his mouth pressed into Pete’s knee. His shoulders relax a little, so it must be working for him.

“Please,” Pete catches from him, his voice muffled by Pete’s jeans, and then he says again, croaky but clearer, “Tylenol, please.”

Andy goes to get it for him, and Pete smoothes both hands through his blond hair, bouncing the leg that doesn’t have Patrick drooling on it. It’s Joe who comes back with the Tylenol and water, and he doesn’t even try to disguise his worry, bobbing down by Patrick’s head to brush some of the hair out of his eyes. Patrick forces his eyes into focusing and sits up to get it, shuffling into Pete’s space so that the older man can wrap his arms around his waist. Patrick moves the hands up to over his chest and gratefully takes the pills, wincing at the way the water sloshes in his empty stomach, but otherwise much better. He must have bitten his lip when his head gave way: it’s swollen a little, painful underneath the cup. Pete watches him like a parent, the crease in his brow only deepening.

“You good to go?” Joe prompts as Patrick rises to his shaky feet, Pete quickly following to catch him by the elbows. Patrick nods, smiles, and that’s that, he’s fine, with his bloodshot eyes and his trembling hands and his two bandmates in tow, they make it out of the bathroom and back to their seats without anyone even paying attention.

Andy nods and Patrick smiles back, and when they’re sitting down again, Pete leans over and asks, “You are okay, aren’t you?” Another smile and nod satisfies him, and then Patrick gets to lie back in his seat with no more questions until they land.

Chapter Text

As soon as the front door’s shut behind him, Pete is grabbing Patrick by the jaw and pushing him up against the glass pane. Patrick leans as far into Pete as he can get, hooking one leg around one of Pete’s knees, and then Pete is lifting him, holding him up against the door, one hand sliding down to underneath his thigh for better support. He gets in between Patrick’s legs, moving around the kiss to get some friction from the singer’s jeans, and all at once Patrick is moaning deep and dropping his head to Pete’s shoulder, rushing his fingers around the neckline of Pete’s shirt, trying to make some room for his mouth. Patrick’s head is in the perfect position for Pete to bite lightly at his jaw, the bone thick cut and jutting out now, and then he uses his free hand to in one smooth action unbutton Patrick’s jeans and lift up his t-shirt as much as he can before arms start to get in the way.

Arms that quickly move down, slicing away Pete’s hand and pulling back down his shirt. Pete angles his body so Patrick can’t reach where he was kissing, waiting a beat until the younger man lifts his head up, looks down at him.

“What?” Patrick asks, his voice scratchy from the flight or the tension. His lips stayed parted, full and pink, and they look out of place on his comparably small face, drained of colour.

“I’ve missed you,” is all Pete says, and when Patrick opens his mouth wider to protest, the bassist gently drops him to the floor so that he’s back to looking down, not up, at him, and kisses the shorter man’s temple.

He moves down then, his mouth getting hotter and more determined. “Miss you. Wanna see you.”

Patrick squirms under the arms that Pete tightly snakes around him, leaning his face away from Pete and then straight back towards him, catching his lips so they can properly kiss. He frees his arms from being pinned to his sides, fixing them evenly on Pete’s face and pulling back for a breath.

“Missed me,” Patrick repeats, slow and a little dull. His voice falls flat in the entrance hall, and he looks from the staircase to the other doors to the plants scattered around the hall, swallowing thick and licking his lips, thoughtless, his foggy head miles away.

Pete’s hands on his thighs drag him back to the present, and he tilts upwards so their hipbones are touching, grinding, and Pete has better access to his jawline. His breath comes in little starts, and Pete’s eyes are a little too frenzied, but nobody’s complaining. Pete even carries Patrick bridal style up to the master room, and Patrick lets Pete take off his shirt, and nobody’s complaining.

 

Pete isn’t so much of a hugger as a clinger. He wraps himself around Patrick, still naked, following the curve of the younger man’s back with his own body, catching Patrick’s right leg in between both of his own. His hands inevitably find their way to Patrick’s stomach and he strokes, long and lazy, over the flat expanse.

“Miss you,” he laments into the singer’s shoulder, pressing his skin as close to Patrick’s as he can get without passing through it. He doesn’t say anything else though, and Patrick rolls over onto his other side, so that he’s facing Pete but with his head tucked into Pete’s neck, no eye contact.

“I’m right here,” Patrick argues, acting like he doesn’t get it. He wants to not have to get it. He wants to have always been thin, thinner than he even is now. It’s embarrassing there was ever any weight to lose, so wrong and humiliating he could just about set on fire with all the heat pumping close to the surface of his skin.

Pete just hums noncommittally, happy to instead be tracing the small of Patrick’s back. As he moves his fingers the other way, he can feel Patrick’s spine – not that he couldn’t before, only now he doesn’t really have to feel for it, it’s like it’s already there feeling Pete, reaching out of Patrick’s back to touch him.

Then Pete throws himself over Patrick, accidentally dragging a white sheet messily in between them when it gets caught on his foot, his knee. He holds himself just moments away from Patrick, but then stretches out his arms to put some distance between their faces, so he can really look into Patrick’s eyes.

And Patrick looks back.

So Pete stays there, holding himself over Patrick half-covered with this sheet, and for the first time he feels a huge disconnect, not just from himself or from Patrick but like from everything, like whatever soul he had filling his body has retreated to one fiery point at the pit of his stomach, and he doesn’t know what to do with his arms and his legs and his head, his mouth or his teeth or where to put his eyes.

He focuses them on Patrick’s, which are clear and calm, swallowing anxiously. Patrick leans up to stroke at his hairline, and Pete realises he’s sweating. With one part reluctance and the rest relief, he lets himself sag onto Patrick, resting his head on the younger man’s chest with his feet hanging off the bed. His arms kind of dangle awkwardly beside him, pressed against the mattress, and Patrick takes his hands.

“It’s gonna get better,” Patrick says, quietly, and Pete could believe him, already does believe him, would believe anything Patrick said, but his ribs are digging into the muscle of Pete’s chest almost uncomfortably, and still something just doesn’t sit right.

Pete can feel a blackness swelling inside of him, a storm starting up in a sea, but for all the waves are crashing, he just wants to sleep until he feels whole. It’s like some of his insides have been scooped out; it’s like he’s cut himself open and dished his organs out to somebody else, but he doesn’t know who and he can’t get them back. Just lying here is almost too much effort for him to bear, and he rolls over so he’s on the mattress wedged into Patrick’s side, tucking his legs up and under Patrick’s, trying to make himself smaller. For the most part, it doesn’t work, but this doesn’t make any sense. None of this does. They’re home from tour, Patrick is right with him, Pete should be feeling anything but this.

A kind of numbness had been descending like a film of dust over Pete, but as Patrick shuffles on the bed, Pete’s cheek is literally nearly sliced by the younger man’s shoulder, and a feeling slams into him with sudden and almost uncalled for ferocity. It can’t be called an epiphany: it isn’t a penny dropping, it’s a penny falling from the top of the Empire State Building and landing right on his head. This hurts, this crushes his chest, this, this

Patrick’s voice is honey-like, smooth, thick, a little too sweet. Pete knows when he is being handled, knows the tone people use when they’re trying to placate him. What- what? He feels like he’s underwater, like he’s breathing but it isn’t working like it should, like he can get his fingertips to the surface but not pull himself back up. Even his ragged breathing, torn from him, sounds distant, blood pounding in his ears like the ocean. There is something...something...he needs to get a hold of... This is frustrating, irritating, his skin crawls and his bleary eyes itch but... But...

Patrick almost jumped upright when he heard Pete start to choke, and after pulling the older man upright he is sitting opposite him, almost on his thighs, frantic, still gripping Pete’s shoulders half for balance as his head spins, vision blurs into oblivion around the sides. Squinting, he can still make out the terror in his lover’s eyes. Pete’s mouth is open in a pout and his chest is heaving, sagging. Patrick feels a little like he’s going to throw up and a little like he might pass out, but he can do this. For Pete. He can stay upright, stay awake, stay okay. One of them has to be whole.

“You’re okay,” Patrick lies, gently pulling Pete into the crook of his neck and rocking slowly, not really deliberately either. “We’re good. It’s all good. We’re fine, yeah?”

Pete makes no attempt to answer, but his breathing starts to slow a little. Patrick tries to radiate calm vibes, but all he can focus on is Pete’s arm wedged against his abdomen and how disgusting he feels.

His hand finds its way to the back of Pete’s head, holding it there and making sure to keep his breathing steady so that Pete has something to work towards. It’s difficult, though, for Patrick to concentrate on anything, or to breathe properly, so woozy and so desperate for nothing identifiable. As Pete’s fingers squirm around, settle on Patrick’s hips, clarity seems to ebb around him and he calms a little, enough to focus on copying Patrick’s even breathing, enough for him to recall the realisation responsible for this.

And- oh. That’s it. Of course that’s it.

Of course that’s it.

Of course that’s it of course that’s it of course that’s it of course that’s it ofcoursethatsitthatsitthatsitofcoursehowstupididiotiditothatsitpatrickidiotidiotidiotidiotidiodtioditoditidoito

His breath hitches and Patrick shushes, but Patrick’s hips are like knives under Pete’s trembling hands, and, oh. How did he let this happen? Foolish bumbler living in some fantasy land, letting this get so far, letting this happen to the one person he was never supposed to let anything like this happen to-

No, he can’t, he can’t go back, he can’t fall into that trap of breathlessness and comforting blind panic again. He takes one, two, five deep breaths a pulls back a little so Patrick lets go of him, then leans forward so he’s whispering, almost silent, into Patrick’s neck.

“Patrick, man. We need- We need to talk.”

But, of course. Of course of course, nothing could work out: there could be no reasonable, healthy, pleasant conversation, no quick cure or dismissal, no reassurance that he’d just been anxious, overreacting, that Patrick was fine or instantly repairable.

“Patrick, man. We need- We need-”

It’s lucky they were sitting on the bed. As Patrick’s eyes slid shut like funeral curtains his mouth closed so sharply he bit down hard on his tongue, and Pete wasn’t holding him to stop him from falling right backwards. His legs were left at an awkward angle, almost painful to look at. He’d have smashed his head if they’d been sitting on the floor.

Chapter Text

It’s not that Patrick ever sat down and decided to come up with any rules for himself. In fact, if he had, he’d probably have broken them in the first couple of days. They just- kind of happened – first it was calorie counting, the go-to, the obvious, but as Patrick’s idea of how many he should be eating decreased, and his idea of how many were in certain foods increased, other factors came into play. It isn’t even like they struck him, like epiphanies or eureka moments or anything. If anything, it’s entrenched and he kept digging and digging and never once looking up to see how far he’d descended into the pit. And now he can’t see the sun or eat food people haven’t offered him or sugars or fats or carbs or finish a plate of anything, because it all tastes the same; one bite should be enough to sate anyone. No need to be greedy. Right?

A clock-cold piece of toast and a half empty cup of tea sit in front of him, as does Pete, across the table, picking at the crusts from his own breakfast. The older man has opened and then quickly shut his mouth into the double figures now, and ‘figures’ makes Patrick think of something voluptuous, something like a double bass, a person that shape, with legs, and ‘double’ makes two of them, dancing together, these stupid giant cellos with ridiculous legs-

“We’ve got to talk about this.” Pete’s throat sounds dry. He’s keeping all emotion carefully removed from his voice, leaving it barren, and the drought manifests like dehydration, makes Patrick’s head throb. He wishes Pete wouldn’t be so careful about this, he wishes there was no ‘this’ and Pete would reserve his voice for nice words, keep his mouth for kissing Patrick, preferably after the younger man was slip-through-your-fingers sized...

But there is a ‘this’ and it’s making his head throb and he can’t sleep or concentrate or anything yet all he does is yawn and think and take medicine for his headaches that just won’t go away and now Pete thinks he’s fucked up and Pete is hurt and Patrick is supposed to be the stable one, the whole one (in every way) and this is all so wrong

“I don’t know what you mean,” Patrick says lamely, not even bothering to raise his own voice over a murmur because he knows what little effect it can have. He hears the sound of Pete’s closed fist on the table before it really happens, and a white plate and brown toast crumbs make a mess on the floor. The tea in the cup Patrick’s nursing quivers in time to the waves of sound. Tempest in a teacup.

Somehow Pete is standing and by the kitchen cupboards, impossibly far away from Patrick on the other side of the room. Patrick things he should get used to this distance, because he has fucked up – maybe he was fucked upalready and now Pete has realised, too late to save himself – and there’s no way he can walk over there. His chest would collapse if he had to do that. If only he could break off his arms, porcelain doll, make himself a little smaller, take up less arrogant airspace in his occupied chair with the toast looking back up at his wide, wide eyes.

“Earth to Patrick?”

The younger man rolls his eyes half-heartedly at the cliché and musters up a cough in lieu of any dignity. “What did you say?” he asks weakly, skirting around pathetic but only a tightened throat away from it.

Nothing is making sense but this time he catches Pete’s lips moving. He’s never tried to lip read before.

“What?”

Pete sighs, walks so he is opposite Patrick directly but still not at the table, leaning on the kitchen counter with his arms folded. He’s wearing clean cut jeans and an old t-shirt and this is how you can tell from looking that he’s a winner.

“I said, I think we should talk about hospitals. T-treatment. Uh, centres. Drips, IV. Therapists...” Clearly, his third time saying this is less confident than he presumably started as, but Patrick is glad that his voice stays hard like glass and doesn’t get gentle because Patrick is not a child and he can handle splinters if it comes to that.

“You’re crazy,” Patrick says resolutely, voice equally marble hard and beautiful, hoping that Pete doesn’t hold faith in this diagnosis now or any time in the future when this painful discussion is history and maybe everything is different. “The future,” Patrick says without realising, and then he says, “I’m fine. Things have been difficult but I am fine.”

Pete finally comes to sit back down, thankfully not angry or spitting or, worse, crying. He doesn’t make Patrick hurt over hurting which is all he can do for the younger man in this second, but the beauty is that he isn’t trying, he’s just golden in these muddy circumstances.

He rests his chin in his hands like a princess in wait. “These...things...don’t...go away, like, on their own. You need...I don’t know if I can give you what you need.” Cutting Patrick off before he can even get started, Pete continues, “You need. Help. Like...professional...I know people, who, uh, well, y’know me, I know people who...”

“It’s different.” Now Patrick’s voice is like the sharp side of metal; the cut it threatens is gross. “I’m not suicidal, Pete. I’m not bipolar and I’m not depressed and you can’t cry illness when I’m just-”

There’s heat in Pete’s voice but no fire. “Patrick, you are not ‘just’ anything. You are only ever extreme and you are the polar good while I’m the bad, you’re the white, the heaven, whatever, alright, and you were totally fine before me and I wanna know how to get you back to that-”

“Fucking- fucking don’t make this about you, Pete. Don’t make this about you.”

He sounds like he’s going to cry, but in truth he isn’t even close. A chair scrapes the tiles, nails down a chalkboard, and Patrick thinks he’s tipped Pete over the edge to leaving until he himself makes contact with the doorframe and stops short. He turns around because there is nowhere else to go and Pete is looking at him with something unreadable in his eyes.

“It’s not set in stone,” the older man says, wrinkles around his mouth in this light that Patrick’s certain weren’t there yesterday. ...Yesterday. “You don’t have- Well, you don’t have to do anything. Only, we need to do something. If this isn’t my fault then you- you need me, and, and I’m here. For better.”

“Not worse?” Patrick quirks an eyebrow, willing himself to be cocky despite his ankles feel like they’re not really doing their ankle duties effectively. He read a magazine article once about a ten-year-old kid who damaged his legs, or something, being overweight, and had to go to school in one of those motor wheelchairs.

Pete’s smirk is somehow sad. “Could it be worse?”

Patrick takes a deep breath. When he stretches out his hand he can see all of the bones in it, something he didn’t even know was a ‘thing’. His wrists are sharp and smaller than ever, his collarbones poke nicely through when he sits up straight. But it’s not enough yet, and he knows it’s not enough yet. He’s not thin yet. Not small or delicate or lovely yet, not toned or firm or sexy.

With one finger, Pete beckons him back to the table, and their fingers entwine over the splashed tea and bitty crumbs.

“There’s, a, there’s something I should tell you. Should have told you. Never said and it’s too late now, never said and it caused problems, never said like, like, I-”

Patrick cuts him off by squeezing his fingers, closing his eyes tranquilly like drifting asleep on a summer’s day. “I wanna know.”

“I don’t think you could understand,” Pete says morosely, and Patrick’s heart squeezes and he’s thinking it will stay contracted and stony forever as Pete continues, “Because it’s you. About you. And you don’t understand that right now.”

Pete plays with Patrick’s bony fingers, a kid with its hands in a plug socket, while he waits for the younger man to say something. Finally, weakly, he manages, “Make me understand, then. You always do. You got me singing.”

Something feels ironic or backward or broken but Pete can’t bring himself to laugh, not even stiffly or bitterly. “Do you know what you look like?” he asks, and Patrick winces, slides out of his grip like he’s been shot, almost collapses back onto the chair except for Pete grabbing his hands, trying to press some of his own warmth, some of his life into them. “I mean, I mean...I’ll do you a deal, huh?”

Patrick’s eyes are dead and drained but he still looks up at Pete.

“You, you have to like- I, I don’t know. There’s.” In, out. In, out. Remember what you rehearsed with Andy. Remember. Breathe. In, out. In. “Patrick, you need some help. I can help you, we can help you, or we can get you someone else. You could go stay with your parents, with anyone, you could go to a...like, a, a centre. Not like a hospital. Not like doctors or anything awful, just, like, people to talk to, and people like you – I don’t understand. I want you to make me, but right now I don’t. I want this to stop but I don’t even know what’s wrong.”

Anorexia nervosa. Not like he didn’t know about it before, just that now he knows every intricate detail. All he did last night except finally pick up his phone when it called was research about this. He’s even got a list of places, or hospitals, or ‘retreats’. Treat, huh.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Patrick mumbles, for once being honest about this.

“Sorry,” Pete says bashfully, like he just stood on Patrick’s foot and not...this. “I mean, Patrick. There is something wrong and I, I know what. And I know it can be helped, stopped, cured, whatever, but it’s like- I don’t know! It’s like, as much as I love you, you on your own can’t make me...well. I have therapy, pills, whatever. It’s like that. I can help but you have to let me. And I don’t know how much I can help.”

“Help. What? Help what?”

“You know... You know what I’m talking about, Patrick. You keep passing out. You keep skipping meals. You keep avoiding everybody and you keep losing weight and I might be oblivious and crazy and the last to notice but I am not going to let you kill yourself.”

If Patrick’s heart was still before, now it’s hummingbird; can’t stop won’t stop beating. Every cell in him throbs along with it, stuck in a car going too fast and he knows crashing is inevitable but he doesn’t care enough to fish around for the brake.

It’s somewhere underneath him.

By now Pete has perched himself on the edge of Patrick’s chair (because it’s not like he’s taking up much space on it) and has two warm strong hands on Patrick’s quaking shoulders. Somewhere ugly between hyperventilating and sobbing, Patrick leans forward and gets his head into the crook of Pete’s neck, letting the bassist shush him to little avail. He feels like a child. He grew up too fast. He wants his mom.

His mom must never see him like this. He sniffs even though there are no tears, burrowing into the neckline of Pete’s shirt. “I don’t know what I’ve done,” he admits softly, like that can make it any better. Like it’s a step.

“Patrick, it’s, it’s okay.” Pete doesn’t let go of him though. “It’s gonna be okay.” Honestly, he’s not sure if it’s an addition or a correction.

Patrick leans back a little, his hands holding onto Pete’s hips. “Didn’t you say something about a deal? I wanna- I wanna know. I wanna know it, whatever it is.”

Pete smiles into Patrick’s hair, pulling him closer, kissing his forehead. “I’ll tell you, baby, you just need to- to help yourself a little. To get better. You can do that-” he cuts himself off because it’s starting to sound more like a question than reassurance.

Patrick’s hum is content nonetheless, and his shoulder smells vaguely of vanilla and sweat. He hasn’t showered in two days. Hasn’t- eaten in longer.

“Shit,” Pete jumps up, Patrick nearly falling off the chair, banging his elbows and wrists against the back of it as he steadies himself. Trust him to get caught up in talking, no action. Thinker not a doer? Too much of a talker? Doesn't know what to do so stays still? “Breakfast, then,” Pete smiles forcefully, chaotically, a suburban mom hiding a midlife crisis, certain that breakfast can cure everything.

Patrick balks but doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t want to make out like there’s a problem. Wait- he didn’t, he didn’t do that, did he? Did he already do that? Today? Did he say he wanted help? He- he can’t- can’t remember- He’s standing by Pete, by the kitchen cupboards-

There’s fruit in the fridge. He can’t eat, he’s- Well, he can’t eat. He can’t not eat, Pete will think he is fucked up and take him somewhere that will make him- Well.

The can of peaches seems problematic, because if he eats the whole can he’ll look greedy. Ridiculous. Equally it’s all that would be expected of him – of Patrick – of this of Patrick - that he is. If he only eats half of it, he might look like he’s trying to lose weight. Pete might think there’s more wrong with him than there really is. And losing weight on purpose is only admitting it’s there. If Pete thinks that’s what he’s been doing, now is the time to cover that, excuse it. He was sick, he was tired from touring, he wasn’t hungry.

“I haven’t been hungry in ages,” he half-laments, taking the olive branch of a tin opener that Pete offers. “I’m starving now,” he continues breathily, the words thick and fat in his mouth. Oh, god. He has fucked up. Why would he say that? Why would he-? His eyes go straight to his- to his t-shirt. Baggy, disgusting. Hiding but not enough. He bites the side of his tongue; he can’t eat now.

So...plan b. What’s plan b?

Meanwhile, Pete can barely contain his glee in a mere smile, his teeth and eyes bright. He was just worried too much, overthinking. Everything is fine; Patrick was just a little sick, tired from the tour. It’s all gonna be fine now they’re home.

The can lands on his foot and it hurts. Patrick is running to the bathroom gagging, not turning to the kitchen sink, because if he did that Pete would see him trying to tickle the back of his throat with the three fingers he managed to force down it on the way.

Chapter Text

It’s all for nothing. First of all, Pete’s not stupid, he understands it’s unlikely that Patrick, fine before, would just suddenly run to the bathroom and throw up when faced with breakfast. But, like – he so badly wanted to believe that Patrick was fine, he’d just gotten sick, from tiring himself out, or from someone else on the plane, and surely if Patrick was throwing up this had to be the case? But he’d had Andy on the phone last night: he knew that basically everyone on tour, half the fans online, even, had figured that Patrick had...something up with him. Hell, he’d seen it firsthand. He just didn’t want to see it. So maybe he wants to trust that Patrick had the flu and not, like, oh my god, like, anorexia. It all feels surreal; this cannot be happening.

But, secondly, he totally catches Patrick’s hand in his mouth as he leans over the toilet bowl. That’s what does it. Patrick’s sick; Patrick’s sick, in whatever sense of the word. A swelling wave of need hits Pete’s chest, or maybe comes from within Pete’s chest – to go to Patrick, to help him, to rub his back or kiss his forehead or brush his hands over Patrick’s knuckles. Patrick’s knuckles scraped from his front teeth.

And that’s it. He can’t. He cannot do this.

The entrance hall is all blurry but it’s easier to blame that on stupid spinning walls than a spinning head. Pete’ fine. Pete’s fine. Pete is walking right out of the door, leaving it swinging open behind him, down the road, his head a few yards behind his feet in terms of knowing where he’s going. Still, his eyes make everything look a little like a van Gogh, but he manages to keep to the sidewalk and only walk into one person, who curses him, one dog, whose owner curses him, and one railing, which he curses. Of fucking course he ends up at the beach from all those months ago, like a sick mirror of post-tour, preceding a –high or a –low. Last time he was at this beach was so clearly the former, Patrick laughing and teasing and, yeah, naked.

This time he is crying and he doesn’t even realise it until a nice lady comes and touches him on the shoulder and asks if he’s okay. Pretty redundant enquiry, but he removes his temple from the palm of his hand to look at her, noting the dry-wetness of his face, tear tracks like rivers in a drought, and the impossible heat of his head, how it always gets when he sits too long in the sun.

She lets him use her phone, to call not Patrick but a taxi firm, and when he finally gets into the car, the dashboard reading 13:11, he doesn’t ask for home, but his own house.
His own house is no longer home, after all.

He calls his mom off the landline, just to talk, and after that he feels much calmer even without telling her everything that’s going on right now. Maybe because he didn’t have to tell her everything that’s going on right now. Either way, he feels better – well enough to dial his own cell number, still somewhere in Patrick’s house. Their house. The house.

He goes from like, a wobbly 7 to around a -50 when Patrick doesn’t pick it up. Too shaky to try Patrick’s cell, so he calls Andy instead. By some blessing he gets the words out through his erratic breaths, and Andy manages to get him breathing deeply, slowly, and tells him to stay where he is, give Patrick some space, and that he’ll go see the younger man instead. When he hangs up the phone, this seems like a good enough idea, but twenty minutes later he’s frozen to the kitchen tiles, stony hand wrapped around a can of fruit. He doesn’t even know what fruit it is; it doesn’t matter. It’s thirty before he’s eating dry cereal out of the box, and then he goes to lie down on the couch, but that’s not really cutting it for him, so he goes to bed at four pm and doesn’t sleep at all.

The next time he calls his own cell (it feels less like calling Patrick than actually calling Patrick), Andy answers on the forth ring.

“Yeah, he wants to see you,” Andy says in lieu of hello, and whatever Pete was going to say dissipates as his head lolls back. There are so many answers swimming around his head, he’s not sure he articulates one, but in ten minutes he’s succeeded in showering though all his toiletries are at...the other house, brushing his teeth with a spare brush and no toothpaste but some cold water, and getting the metro to Patrick, exactly like he did last time he couldn’t sleep after they got back off tour, only this time he’s got no idea what will greet him when he arrives.

Andy answers the door, and though he can hear Patrick in the kitchen, for some reason Pete is guided quickly up the stairs.

“I’ve, uh-” Andy begins, and then immediately stops. A hundred years pass. “I’ve talked to him...seems like you already did most of the talking. Anyway, he has an appointment, so...”

“An appointment?” Pete asks incredulously, scrunching up his brow. “An...appointment?” His brain has gone to mush and in a way this is preferable.

“Yeah, for a- y’know, for a, like, consultation. With his doctor. So he can get connected right – the right therapist, the right n-nutritionist, whatever.” Pete doesn’t know when Andy developed his incoherent stutter way of communication but he doesn’t notice it enough to comment.

“You’ve. You’ve booked him an. A doctor’s appointment. He’s going to the doctor’s?”

Andy nods. Pete kicks the wall only because his hands are in his pockets. Then he runs so fast down the stairs his shoes slip on the edge of every one, but the adrenaline hardly has any effect.

“Patrick?” he asks tentatively, talking to a small child, a skittish animal.

Patrick’s standing in the middle of the kitchen like an island, drinking a glass of milk with his back half to Pete. He turns around slowly, his face unreadable but definitely not good. Not anywhere close to angry, though – it’s an inward not-good. Naturally.

Patrick swallows, and then swallows again, loud and unnecessary, but doesn’t say anything. His other hand is in his pocket, bruised knuckles practically a myth. He’s standing upright, he’s dressed, he’s wearing enough warm layers that he could be disguising tentacles and you wouldn’t come close to suspecting anything amiss. In fact, he’s the exact opposite to the image Pete has melted onto the back of his eyelids – tiny, almost animal, fingers down his throat and tears imminent. That’s what Pete did to him. And in 24 hours, this is what Pete leaving has done to him.

He turns on his heel, out the kitchen, out the door, leaving it open exactly like before. He’s creating new contrasts now, new memories and new issues. This is undeniable, this is huge, this is most definitely all Pete’s fucking fault.

Chapter Text

The waiting room has an awful energy to it, blue carpet mimicking the pattern that appears when you press too hard on your eyelids and two potted plants sucking the life even further out of the place. Pete is forty minutes early for Patrick’s appointment, thirty minutes early for meeting Patrick and Andy, and the receptionist has told him three times now that he needs to throw his coffee out, and Andy isn’t answering any of his texts.

To be honest though, it’s lucky Andy didn’t go straight back to Chicago, just like it’s lucky Pete looks pitiful enough that the receptionist doesn’t ask him again. The cup is actually empty, it’s just something to stare into once the plants and other patients lose their novelty value. Pete’s actually about to give in and put it in the bin just for something to do when he hears two painfully familiar voices following the squeak of the glass door.

“-early, Andy-”

“It’s fine, Patrick-”

Andy heads over to the receptionist to announce Patrick’s arrival, but as soon as the younger man catches sight of Pete, he freezes to the hideous carpet, breath visibly hitching, and then slowly heads over. At first, he’s gonna leave a seat between them, but then he thinks that might be kind of pathetic so just sits silently and tries to portray indifference through his body language. All it takes is for Pete to breathe in, though, and Patrick’s falling almost involuntarily into the mass of golden skin and golden words. Pete’s arms are bare and warm, and Patrick shivers in his hoodie, not even from being cold.

“Missed you,” Pete whispers into Patrick’s hood, kissing it like it’s his hair. Andy comes to tell them that only one person can go in with Patrick, and he looks surprised when Pete starts laughing after he asks to take Pete’s cup. He hands it over though, and Andy sits on the other side of Pete after throwing it, picking up an information leaflet to flick through like a magazine. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease Pete catches, pulling Patrick’s skinny shoulders closer into his chest.

Adrenaline’s rushing Pete’s veins by the time they have to go, so he can only imagine how Patrick feels. At first, the younger man ignores all stimuli to move, and then he actively refuses to stand up. As a last resort, he makes some frantic facial expressions hinting at Pete helping him escape, but Andy has started to stare along with the receptionist and two toddlers, so Pete chooses that moment to grow up and grab both Patrick’s hands, rubbing little circles while dragging him upright. He throws his arm around Patrick’s shoulders, keeping hold of his other hand, and murmurs, more intimate than secretive, that it will all be fine. It’s a bit late for that, but Pete’s been reading a lot online and he’s taken the exact right amount of his meds at the exact same time every day since he heard about Patrick’s appointment, and. This is it. Showtime.

Patrick makes Pete walk in the office before him, but then he doesn’t want to trail in behind so Pete has to step back out the door and push Patrick through it like a stuffed animal, like one of those weird dead tigers rich people have in rooms they don’t use or foxes with glassy eyes they have in antique stores. The doctor doesn’t seem to mind; he stands up, extending a hand to shake, but Patrick goes straight to sit in a chair so Pete has to awkwardly take it instead, gesturing towards Patrick and introducing him.

The doctor’s smile is plastic but not entirely fake, and after asking if Patrick’s sure he wants Pete there, adding he can ask for more privacy whenever he wants, he gets to asking what the actual problem is. Pete’s certain Andy already explained this on the phone, but maybe the doctor wants to hear Patrick say it himself. Pete definitely doesn’t.

“I, uh, ah. Um.”

An exceptionally long ten seconds pass before the doctor appears to decide to move on, saying, “Well, okay. How about we discuss how you’re feeling, first?”

Patrick shrugs, petulant, and Pete wonders how exactly Andy got the younger man to come here, and also if Patrick fully consented. Thinking about consent makes his stomach churn violently though, and he has to swallow back bile and step out of the room. Conveniently the disabled toilet is empty for him to throw up in, and once regular breathing seems attainable again, he flushes, washes his hands and his face, and wishes there was a mirror to pep talk himself in, or just to check there’s no puke on his clothes. He’s nervous to go back in the office, but what else can he do?

It’s locked, but he knocks, and after being told to wait in reception, he hears Patrick murmur lowly, and the door opens to a greying doctor mid eye roll.

“Mr-?”

“Wentz,” Pete supplies with an easy smile. “Sorry about that, uh...food poisoning. Um, food poisoning, yeah. Anyway, I think I’m good, does Patrick want me to-”

The door opens wide before locking again, and Pete sits back in his chair, watching Patrick on the bed watching the doctor snap on a pair of gloves.

“We were just going through some vitals first,” the doctor explains. “Mr Stump reacted rather adversely to the suggestion of being weighed, so that’s maybe something you can work on at home; it is necessary to properly assess the situation. ”

“Uh, uh, right,” Pete says, parent in the principal’s office, trying to ignore Patrick staring mortified at him like he’s just been betrayed. “So, what do you think will happen from now?” Pete asks, trying to impress the doctor with a hint of maturity.

“Well,” the doctor considers, taking a step back to look at Patrick like a museum exhibit. “Most likely, Mr Stump will be referred to a therapist as well as a dietician. He’ll also have to regularly attend appointments here, either with me or a nurse. It won’t be necessary to be referred to a specialist unit as an in- or out-patient unless it is found to be necessary – or, I suppose, if he requests to be.”

The rest of the appointment flies, Pete’s heart wrenching at Patrick trembling on the table, the snap of the plastic gloves, the clinical tone of the doctor. He’s not sure if the doctor’s really done a very good job of, like, making Patrick not terrified, but he doesn’t know if that comes under the job description anyway. Either way, Patrick is silently traumatised when he steps out of the office, and Pete makes sure to keep his arm around him, trying to pull him in so tight they might fuse, or he might be able to keep Patrick safe inside of himself somehow. Like he’s a safe place to be, all fucked up on love and want.

Andy stands up to greet them, grimacing at the looks on their faces. Keeping Patrick tucked into him, Pete waves a Temporary Meal Plan at the drummer, as well as the leaflets the doctor gave them and a handwritten link to a documentary about male eating disorders. Tentatively, Andy takes them, then pulls a sympathetic frown-smile down at Patrick.

“How’d you think it went, Stump?” he asks, but Patrick just shakes his head, his eyes briefly fluttering shut like feathers falling.

“It’ll only get better from here,” Andy supplies, and Patrick makes the special effort to smile at him. He’s scared to ask, but he musters up the courage as they’re making his follow up appointment.

As soon as the door is closed behind them, Patrick clearly states, “Um, are you, uhm, coming back to, to, um, our, uh, my, um, um, my, like, my um, well our, or my, uhm, house?”

Pete swears he heard something, but he glances down to find Patrick’s face fully pressed into him. “What?” he asks, and then Andy asks, “Are you staying with Patrick?” and Pete nods vigorously, almost ridiculously, which sorts that out.

Andy gets a separate taxi, lets them get the first cab that comes, so with all the papers back in his hands, Pete slides into the middle seat next to Patrick. “What do you wanna do now?” he wonders, biting his lip when he thinks it might sound foolish.

Patrick hasn’t properly met his eyes the whole time, but he shrugs towards the car floor and lets Pete pull him in closer. The older man’s overheating a little, with the windows closed to the LA heat and Patrick’s sweater pressed perpetually to his side, but Patrick’s still managing to shiver just like all the websites suggest.

He could have seen this sooner. Should have. From the very first bad thought, he should have seen.

To fill the time, Pete starts to read the leaflets. Every word is familiar to him, but he still focuses, not wanting to miss anything. Sickened, Patrick turns away, closes his eyes against the headache that’s starting to rage. Pete jostles him in turning a page, and it intensifies; his head feels hot, suddenly, and it’s sporting a sheen of sweat already, but this is that awful, inescapable heat: his face is going to turn red, like a summer day trapped on a bus when the AC breaks. Pete nudges him again, and he exhales upwards, trying to cool himself down, or calm himself down, or something. He should say something. He doesn’t know how. All he’s aware of is the heat, and the gooseflesh from the cold on his arms, and how his bones aren’t at home in his skin, and he isn’t at home in his skeleton, and he has headache. Headache again. He gets them a lot like a sudden shock from one point, but this is worse in a way, pulling off a plaster slowly so each second burns worse than the last: it’s all over, a slow build. He can tell it’s going to get worse.

Chapter Text

The morning they’re scheduled to visit the dietician, Pete wakes up at 5am, two hours before his alarm. At first he’d thought the banging was maybe Patrick’s alarm, because the younger man has a habit of setting an excessive number of them unnecessarily early given his apparent inability to wake up without being forced to. When it doesn’t stop, Pete heads to the master bedroom and finds it empty, damp sheets tossed and crumpled and a pile of clothes on the floor. He swallows, sick.

The banging is less frequent now, but just as daunting, and briefly he wonders if Patrick’s being kidnapped or something. It’s most definitely coming from inside the house though, so he stops, stunned, a disgusting feeling bubbling in his gut. Something is wrong and he doesn’t know what and he doesn’t know how to stop it – and this is all too familiar to him now.

His heart leaps, stops, at the next bang, and he follows it to the bathroom. The light isn’t on but the door’s ajar, and he can feel a draft from outside like the window’s open.

He switches on the light before even walking in, like a cop searching a house, but maybe in reverse. He doesn’t know. What he knows is that Patrick is standing with his back to the door in at least two hoodies and pyjama pants. The elusive banging is the younger man rifling through the medicine cabinet, a dozen pill bottles and boxes scattered on the floor and the rest lopsided and rolling around in the cupboard. From the way his shoulders are shaking, he’s either crying or hyperventilating; Pete shivers against the cool night air.

“Patrick?” he tries, voice soft and...scared. Patrick stills, and when Pete’s feet pad on the bathroom tiles, he drops his arms to his sides and turns halfway around. Pete walks to face him, heart pounding from not knowing exactly what he’s gonna find.

There are tear tracks drying on Patrick’s face, and red rimmed eyes like he’s high on no sleep and no peace. More red mottles his washed-out complexion in the form of what looks like nail marks around his jaw, like he was digging his fingers into his face. He’s panting, but not crying anymore, and that’s about as positive as it gets.

“Patrick,” Pete murmurs just as cautiously, a little wondrously, “What’s the matter?”

The younger man just goes back to searching through the cabinet, on his tiptoes, one hoodie riding up to reveal another, bigger one underneath. “Gotta find something,” he explains breathlessly, “Like, I gotta find it.”

Subconsciously Pete scrunches his eyes up in confusion. “What do you need? It’s, like, 5am, what woke you up?”

With a final sigh, Patrick knocks everything off the top shelf of the cupboard and resumes his disordered search on the floor. Like dealing with an ignorant toddler, Pete crouches in another attempt to get some attention off the medicines and on himself.

“I’ll help you look if you tell me what you want,” he offers, although he’s still puzzled and doesn’t even know what kind of medicine Patrick could be after. His cabinet’s pretty vanilla: weak painkillers, some less weak painkillers, anti-flu and hayfever tablets, some nasty liquid stuff for his throat. Pete didn’t even know he had as many containers as are laid out on the floor.

“I just,” Patrick pants, giving up momentarily to sit back cross-legged. “I just want something to make. To make it stop.”

Pete’s heart leaps to his mouth, drops to his stomach, drops out his body and onto the tiles. His brain freezes over, mammoths make a home in his head, synapses collect frost like dust.

“Make what stop?” he asks drily, sandpaper throat cutting up all the words trying to get out of it.

“The, the buzzing. The sickness. I don’t know if I have anything for it, don’t know what it is, but I need to look.”

So, what? He. He doesn’t want to hurt himself? Or he does? He did?

“Patrickhaveyoualreadytakenanything” Pete blurts out too quickly for any tone to be assigned to it.

Like he doesn’t know the trouble he’s causing, Patrick throws his pale hands up in innocent exasperation. “There is nothing! Help me look,” he begs.

And, oh. The relief. He’s safe. As safe as is possible, at least. Not as safe as he’d be if he’d never met Pete. If Pete had never touched him, the ink on his hands scarring Patrick, ruining him if just a little.

Patrick would be so safe if it wasn’t for Pete. Pete breaks everything he brushes past, pulverises what he loves.

But he can’t leave. He can’t leave Patrick on his own, not now, and besides, he doesn’t do too well alone either.

“What do you want, baby?” he asks softly, like if he keeps asking he might get a straight answer out of Patrick. It’s 5am: his head hurts.

“I think,” Patrick murmurs, voice as soft as Pete’s, like a child, “I think I wanna sleep. Can I sleep?”

Patrick’s frame presses against Pete like a literal skeleton. Well, what else is he? Pete’s heart is flying like a mouse’s, and he swears he can feel Patrick’s too, racing in his chest, a bird in its cage. Hummingbird, mockingbird. It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. Patrick only ever did what Pete wanted, and now look. Look, he tells himself, glancing down at the elbows and knuckles. It could be a stranger. Pete doesn’t care about that so much as the inside, as Patrick’s head. Not because he’s sick, but his blue eyes are like puddles and really, it could be a stranger. Pete doesn’t know what’s left in him to love.

“Sure, baby, if that’s what you want. You want anything else?”

Patrick shakes his head, leans into the crook of Pete’s neck, and then the crook of Pete’s neck gets wet and he sighs huge and closes his own eyes.

“Come on, Trick,” he shushes, not knowing if he’s trying to stop him from crying or just get him out of the bathroom.

“Come with me? You never sleep with me anymore,” Patrick counters, and for all the abuse Pete’s internal organs have been through this morning, he really thought they couldn’t take anymore, but there they all go and leave him hollow and dying. He hasn’t been in Patrick’s room, their room, that room, whatever, since he came back...home...just because it didn’t seem right. It’s not like they were touching much, and Pete didn’t wanna go ahead and fuck him up, and it hardly seemed right when Pete started this mess from his own selfishness and then proceeded to do nothing to properly ever stop it. It’s like he cut Patrick open and stood with bandages in his hands and watched him bleed. It’s like he did every wrong thing he ever could’ve. It’s like he ruined the only good thing he’d ever grasped.

“I’ll come with you, Patrick. I love you. Come on.”

Pete shuts the door on all of the spilt medicine and sets his alarm for 6.50 so he can clean it back up. He doesn’t know if they are gonna go to Patrick’s appointment later, he doesn’t know if Patrick’s gonna get better, he doesn’t know if Patrick will love him if he does. He definitely doesn’t know if he can ever tell Patrick the truth. It’s the least he deserves but he knows it will end them; he worries it will also end Patrick.

The bedsheets are cold with Patrick pressed under them, but Pete lays half on top of him and kisses the base of his throat and wishes this is a nightmare he’s having somewhere far away from Patrick.

"You sure you didn't take anything, baby?" Pete hopes his voice is warm enough to quell the goosebumps he feels when he lifts Patrick's hoodie to hold his wrist, but either the younger man is already asleep, or he's pretending to be.

"See you in the morning, then."

Chapter Text

It’s not a cold night but a stuffy early afternoon in Chicago when Pete calls him. It’s been maybe 36 hours since he slept; the room is too small and Pete is too big, the room is too cold and Pete is burning up. His throat is dry and his head aches and his eyes feel like lakes covered in ice, unclear and cracked and generally unsafe. He’s not in a fit state to croak out a response to Patrick’s cheery “Hello,” but it doesn’t matter so much as soon as Patrick realises the silence on the other end of the line is Pete.

“Pete, man, where are you? I’ll come get you, where are you?”

In hell. In purgatory. On fire. At the bottom of a lake, buried under the sand, a million miles from Patrick. In his own medicine cupboard, underneath a shrink’s couch, at the back of a schoolbus trembling, his friends too much for him. Too much and not enough Patrick. PatrickPatrickPatrick

He doesn’t know what he says, but Patrick says he’s coming. Pete hopes he is fast enough, but maybe a little hopes he’s not.

This is exactly like a thousand times before and a thousand more to come. He hasn’t taken any pills but only because he can’t move off the ground. He hasn’t tried to hurt himself but he would if he could. If he had a gun; if he had anything but this guttural hollowness...

Patrick gets to him faster than should be possible. He brings the Chicago wind in with him, the breeze rustling Pete’s hair and making his eyes water. That’s totally why his eyes are watering. The younger man – boy, really – is standing over the bassist, but not for long: he crouches by Pete’s face so the older man is looking straight at him without having to move his tilted head, he sits and pulls Pete off the floor into a mess of a hug.

The strawberry blond is murmuring soothingly into the crook of Pete’s neck, his double sweater-clad arms circling Pete’s trembling frame, and the older man finally closes his eyes. What was his problem before? He’s vaguely dizzy now where he was spinning out of control before. He’s back breathing oxygen now when he was out of the atmosphere, at the depths of the seabed, five minutes ago. PatrickPatrickPatrick – it’s all too much, not enough. He wants to seep into his best friend’s cosy skin. He wants to kiss him. He wants, wants, wants and warming up and calming down, he feels more than ever like the time will come and it’s safe to just be content for the meantime.

Pete’s ice block arms turn out to be a little more human than he’d thought, and he wraps them around Patrick’s thick waist. He feels human. Human. Patrick smells like Patrick’s house, whatever faint but specific scent it always seems to have, or maybe it’s just the atmosphere of wholeness Pete is always prickled by when he goes there. He shifts properly into Patrick’s comfy lap, and he tastes bitter, like days old aftershave, when Pete sucks briefly at his neck.

“Thanks,” he breaths hoarsely eventually, and Patrick shrugs, his soft cheeks and soft eyes hinting at nothing but kindness. Pete feels blessed to even know him; he must have been a real good guy in a past life to deserve this last five minutes. Never mind the freezing hours beforehand. Patrick has a knack of making Pete forget about anything that isn’t, well, Patrick.

“It’s no problem,” the singer insists, a blush rising on his cheeks, like strawberries in cream or something equally as achingly cliché and cheesy and gross as Pete wants to be when he looks at Patrick. He can look but not touch, he feels, he can breathe him in but not let his own black lungs tarnish this golden kid.

Pete shakes his head into Patrick’s warm shoulder, tightening his grip around the man’s torso. He wants to be Patrick he loves him so much, he wants PatrickPatrickPatrick in a way he cannot comprehend, cannot write down, cannot express in anyway except inadequately in quick kisses. That’s what best friends do. Just bros ‘mancing. Nothing extra.

“Don’t know what I’d do without you,” Pete sighs, as if he’s trying to see just how obvious he can make himself while Patrick still doesn’t acknowledge, or catch on to, Pete’s feelings. For him. “You are everything. Everything to me. In me.”

Pete wakes up to Patrick leaning over him to turn off the alarm on his phone. “Morning, Trickster,” he hums, an arm sliding across his face and above his head in a stretch. He aches.

Patrick curls up small, tucks himself under Pete’s other arm. “Hey.” His voice is like a little girl’s; so is his body. His stubble scratches against Pete’s skin and it feels good; the older man doesn’t think about why Patrick’s now not shaving. Why should it have to mean something? Why does everything have to mean something?

Squeezing Patrick in a one-armed hug, Pete sits and surveys the room. The clothes that were on the floor have gone, Patrick is dressed in shorts, a t-shirt and a jumper, and cold and hostile on Patrick’s pillow lie the leaflets from the doctor’s office.

“What time did you wake up?” Pete frowns, voice still gruff from sleep. He reaches back for Patrick’s hand, wrist, suddenly needs to touch him. Hold him down, maybe.

The younger man just shrugs though. “Like an hour? I had, like, a nightmare, and it was too cold to go back to sleep.”

Pete’s frown only deepens. “Should have woken me,” he mourns. “I wouldn’t have minded.”

Patrick’s shaking his head before he even finishes. “It was fine, I was fine. Just a dream. Not like, anything bad.”

Pete coughs, shakes his head, lies back to gather Patrick half on top of him. He tangles their feet, presses his forehead down against Patrick’s. “You have to tell me things, Trick.”

Patrick’s feeling all hot and tight, like Pete’s trying to suffocate him with the wrong kind of love. It’s too protective; it’s too much. It’s like a panicked mother, not someone who understands him. Still, how could Pete understand? He hates himself for hating it when Pete looks so hard to be trying. Yet he can’t explain to Pete that he’s doing it wrong; he can’t hurt Pete or he might leave. Patrick closes his eyes like that will stop the thoughts: he knows if he gets any deeper he’ll be wondering why Pete is here at all, with someone so pathetic.

Pete is here, that speaks for itself, he tells himself, and focuses instead on how it does actually feel good to be held.

“It was fine, it was fine. But I wanna talk to you.”

Here it comes, Pete’s worse half cackles, lost in the dank fear that Patrick is going to get rid of him now. Patrick doesn’t need him, Patrick shouldn’t want him, and Patrick will not be able to forgive him if he finds out the truth.

But maybe he should just tell him, quicken the inevitable. If Patrick wants to break up, like properly, Pete would prefer to just explain himself and go than have to suffer Patrick trying to dump him kindly. He doesn’t deserve kindness, especially not from this ghost of Patrick. At the same time, he knows he needs to stay, needs to protect him. It’s just that Patrick is so different every time he gets a glimpse into him: he’s like a diamond under the light, all different and weird facets Pete can’t hope to claim.

Realising he still hasn’t answered, Pete coughs out something somewhere between a yeah, an okay, and an oh shit.

“I...I’ve been thinking...about...”

Pete’s mouth opens as if to finish that sentence with what seems the inevitable us, the beginning of the end of their togetherness, romantic and all, but Patrick continues obliviously:

“About me? Uh, myself. I...I know it isn’t how most people try to do it. But I, I just had to. Had to, like, to do it, I mean. With the band...more the press? The magazines; the fans. Also you. I wanted to be good for you. But like, I don’t know, I wanted it to be fast, and to be subtle. I didn’t want interviewers or you guys or my parents or anyone crowing that I’d...lost weight. I’m not even trying to find euphemisms; I’m trying to be frank here.” Pete nods like he understands but his head is rushing at a million miles: not for the first time, it feels like a whole universe, but for the first time it feels like one supporting suns and planets and people and failing in its selfish relentless spinning. “It’s just, it’s difficult for me. I can’t... It’s embarrassing, Pete. I just wanted to be thin quickly and, like, I guess so quickly it was in the past. I felt like a taboo, I guess. And now I’m an even worse one.”

Pete’s head tries to catch up, but in his bones he knows he’ll be paying for this later. “So... You what? You don’t wanna do it anymore? Patrick – you’ve gotta know, you were beautiful before...I thought you were beautiful before,” he tries to edge on the end, but Patrick cannot stomach it. Stomach.

“Pete, I’m saying to you, I don’t know if this is like a perpetual epiphany or a moment of clarity, but I’m just trying to explain myself while it doesn’t ache as much as usual; I love you. I love you and I just thought it would be happy here.”

“Where?” asks Pete, agape, so clueless as to the immediately deep conversation and the snooze beeping on his alarm.

Patrick turns that off, as well. “Thin,” he shrugs, playing with the duvet like he’d pull up grass from the soil. “I think I’m thinner, but not thin enough. But right now, I don’t know if it’s worth it. I don’t know if I look flatteringly on myself out of pity or if I’m deluded like those anorexic characters you see on TV. I guess I don’t even know where I am.”

Pete’s hand traipses across the bed to Patrick’s hip where it curves around the bold bone easily. He feels like the other man is a toy; like he could snap him if he really wanted. He feels like he’s broken him like he always feared – knew – he would. Names are too painful right now.

“Do you...remember what I was gonna tell you that time? Or that I said I would? Like, didn’t I say it was a deal? I can’t remember what you were supposed to do, but saying it out loud sounds manipulative and murky anyway; I think I should just tell you. But I think you’ll leave if I do.”

Without his explicit or subconscious permission, Patrick’s lower lip is trembling. His hand quakes on the bed. He tries to stutter out, “What?” all soft and genuinely, fragilely curious, but there is no sound left in him apparently. It all went with his introspective verbal pity party.

“I. Thought,” says Pete, like that’s not a huge understatement, like it’s somehow a rare occurrence and not the actual human condition, “I thought, you were...perfect how you were. Specifically how you were.”

Patrick’s eyes narrow, not nastily though: he isn’t capable of bad feelings directed at anyone but himself. Even when he thinks of all the people that ever made food for him, he can’t bring himself to blame them.

“Do you still think that?”

“Obviously,” Pete rushes, urgency flooding his bloodstream until his fingertips tingle. “But...I’m just saying it so I don’t have any secrets...I think you won’t like it. I think I’m to blame.”

“For me... For this?” asks Patrick, all childish, all rabbit in the headlights.

“Not... You’re not a bad thing, Patrick. You just have an illness that’s gonna get better. I don’t know how to say it though; I am euphemising. I think...I thought you were cute how you looked.” Patrick’s eyes show no sign of recognition, though for all Pete’s obscurity this is mostly the consequence of Patrick’s stubbornness; confessions or not, he still wants to act like he was never anything but nicely skinny.

“All curvy,” Pete says, the two breaker words. “I liked you that way too.”

Patrick lets his head fall back onto the pillow; he wishes it were concrete so it would crack.

“I don’t wanna talk right now,” he sniffs, like his head is buried in the pillow and not faced with a bare naked ceiling he wishes was the roof of hell, because he wishes he was in hell, because he wishes he was dead and burning, anywhere but here.

Pete is someone unsurprised and simultaneously devastated. “Come on, Pattycakes,” he hums, lowering himself so his mouth is pressed into Patrick’s shoulder: when he speaks it tickles the younger man’s skin. He keeps his words in whispers to further the effect.

“It wasn’t a bad thing,” he repeats, entirely different just a few minutes later. “I loved you, love you. Just like always; like I’ve always said. You know I’m no good with words of the spoken kind. You know I’ve no pleasant state of mind. But you are the best thing that’s ever happened to me; the catalyst of every good thing that’s happened to me since I was a kid. That transcends what you look like, who you are, even. And I love who you are. And I love what you look like, now and then and any other time. I just wanna be with you but I only act to self destruct – to get rid of you from my life, I mean.”

Patrick’s eyes narrow again but Pete doesn’t see it happen, akin to a tree falling in a deaf forest. “You’re acting like I’m a plot device in the great tragedy that is your life. I’m a person besides being yours.”

The tone of the words is warm but Pete’s skin chills with an icy sweat. It’s just like a nightmare only he has to be conscious through it. It’s just like the worst thing that’s ever happened to him.

“What were you gonna say?” he whispers, reverent against Patrick’s skin as always. The younger man does not move away and Pete for the sake of his sanity swears this is significant. “What were you leading to?”

Patrick shrugs, deciding it’s easier to answer the question, to act like Pete’s sugary-said interlude into his shoulder didn’t just occur. “Just that I...I don’t wanna be like this. I thought it would be better but it isn’t. I wanna be confident like everyone else is but I don’t know how. But I do know it’s not this way. I know what I felt when you called me, sick, I know how it was for me when you wanted to die, Pete. I don’t want to put you through that, I don’t wanna become that, and I don’t wanna die. Not like this, in my early twenties, for the sake of a headline or a sideways glance.”

Pete’s eyes fall closed with a slow command like he’s just found god. He kisses the arm he’s still got his mouth pressed to, kisses Patrick’s protruding, once oh-so desirable, collarbone and kisses the side of his mouth. His lips seem like a privilege he has to earn back. Patrick’s pretty sure as long as he forgets Pete liked him looking so disgusting, enjoyed him sub-human in his lack of a right to exist, due to his sheer unattractiveness, irrelevance, that he will be able to forgive Pete. If he simply forgets there will be nothing to forgive. It’s easier than anger. He still doesn’t feel entitled to any kind of anger; he wonders if he was rational, he would even mind. He wonders what the last few critical (condition) weeks would have been if Pete had told him before. After that, he doesn’t wonder. He’d kiss Pete on the lips himself if he had the confidence.

They’re not like a couple. They’re like the beauty and the beast. They’re like the beast and the wilting flower.

He loves me, loves me not. He loves me, loves me not.

“Trick,” Pete breathes eventually, eyes fluttering open only to close again. Every bad experience he’s ever had seems to be flashing behind his eyelids and that’s a show he just can’t miss. It’s like his adored nightmares without troubling himself to fall asleep. It’s really great. “We need to go soon. Come on, baby.”

Chapter Text

They fuck in the bathroom at the dietician's office. It's just one toilet, no cubicles, a sink at the far end - and Patrick's breath all rushes out of him in relief when he finds there's no mirror. He's panting, and Pete pushes him up against the wall but it's no fun when it's so easy to dominate the younger man. He pulls down Patrick's shorts, belt and all, and strips him of his jacket and holds his jumper and t-shirt high up his back, so Patrick can move his arms but they'd only flop about redundantly if he tried.

His fists bang into the wall, though, quivering in a slap and clenching when Pete ducks, moving his force to the small of Patrick's back, and bites hard on his ass cheek. Patrick hisses. With one hand, Pete forces him to the tiled ground, using his own jacket to tie Patrick's upper arms together and getting him on his elbows and knees.

Now with two hands free, Pete spreads Patrick's cheeks so wide it must hurt on its own and kisses from the small of Patrick's back to his ass. It's not gross, it's not gross. Neither of them speaks but they are breathing heavily and together. Pete takes another bite, then another, then sucks a bruise into the still pliant flesh, the only area that's not flat except maybe the thighs that have a little plushness despite the slight gap between them and Patrick's tiny belly that filled out when he agreed to eat some strawberries this morning.

"More than strawberries, now," Pete pants, and sucks another bruise, and then stretches Patrick's cheeks apart even further to tease with fleeting wet licks that each have Patrick squealing. Pete would even say like a pig, but, well.

He leans over, puts his weight on Patrick's back, forces the younger man to ruck up with little strength in his spindly tied arms. He manages and Pete grins, hot breath by the younger man's ear. "You stay quiet, you hear me?" he whispers, just so it sounds more sinister. Patrick hesitates before he nods and Pete gets back to where he was at. Patrick's whole body trembles at the loss of the weight.

There's no lube, unsurprisingly, so Pete just tongue fucks him and at some point adds a slicked up finger, Patrick hissing and bowing his head. Pete growls, low, pulls on his boyfriend's hair - hard - to pull him back into place. Patrick whines again, knows better than to twist his head to alleviate the pain like he wants to, shivers and grins into it when he has to swallow.

"I'm gonna come," he murmurs, forgetting he's supposed to be quiet, but apparently so does Pete.

"Baby, baby, this is all about you. All about you." He tries to stick in another finger, then moves to stick his hands through Patrick's thighs, which the singer is clenching together as much as he can now but not enough to stop Pete getting through. He jerks Patrick once, twice, and that's enough. There's come on his tiny tiny belly, Pete's hand, the floor. The back of Patrick's upper arm, even, which is freed when Pete undoes the knot and Patrick collapses forward, letting the jacket fall in front of him. He gets more come on his stomach and Pete lays on top of him, hand squeezing his bare ass to illicit a moan. Fingers moving fast, he unfastens his jeans and pulls them down along with his underwear, taking less than a minute to come on the back of Patrick's thighs. The skinnier man is blissed and buzzed out, still breathing shallow, creamy white on the off white tiles and covered in come. Pete wants to take a picture, and he does, on his phone, a few with and without the flash. Eventually Patrick turns is head, mouth open, and that's Pete's favourite snap.

"Gorgeous, baby," Pete pouts, and gets some toilet paper to start wiping up the mess. It's scratchy and he wishes it were softer; he wets it and then wishes he'd used the hot tap. Eventually, he dabs a warm messy cloth onto Patrick's thighs, then gets him to lean against the wall to clean his stomach. It's significant, obviously; they make the kind of eye contact that doesn't need talking and blessedly both of them are aware of this. Both of them are too aware of themselves and not quite enough of the other, and too worried about the other and not enough of themselves. If all four relationships - Patrick on Patrick, Patrick on Pete, Pete on Pete and Pete on Patrick - were composed of the same tender values they'd be making love in some downy bed instead of this.

But this is what they have and they take it. Pete pulls up his pants and smooths down his top and hair. Then, he crouches like to a child, pulling up a cooperative Patrick's shorts and pulling down his jumper. He kisses below his belly button just before the fabric covers it and Patrick could scream like a flustered teenager or like a threatened soul.

Pete stays crouched in the space between Patrick's open legs, his hands under Patrick's underarms pressed into the wall. "I think we should make lunch together," he whispers like sandpaper into Patrick's hair, and Patrick wilts as his lungs collapse.

But he lets Pete pull him to his feet, and they check the bathroom's clean and walk out holding hands and heads down, like a photo from a tabloid magazine.

Chapter Text

They make chicken burgers with cheese and lettuce, on whole grain bread with roasted peppers on the side. It's Pete's idea, like a big gemini baby crashing into everything, but it's on the plan and Patrick helps season the peppers and accordingly counts the calories in a way Pete thinks he's ensured is not too obsessively.

800. More than .......

More than a lot of things. It doesn't matter now.

Patrick changes into pyjama pants and a different t-shirt and sweater combination, then adds a hoodie and opens all the windows and turns the AC on. Pete doesn't mind, padding around in his shorts with bare feet and tongs in his hands.

"We should have a barbecue in the summer, Pattycakes. I forget when that is in this weather, but we should."

"Remember when we first got together?"

"You have to add seasoning or they taste like pure oil, baby."

Pete is ruefully happy to his heart, and Patrick really can't say that he isn't.

"Darling. This is good cooking. We could have a TV show if you get bored of music."

Patrick's eyes flash from across the table. They've just sat down. This is the room they had their worst arguments, maybe, their riskiest ones, and Pete doesn't want to be in the thick air anymore so he holds his breath.

And breathes out: "Not that we'll stop playing ever, obviously, I was just joking baby. What if we didn't write?"

Something strikes him, and he truly breathes out this time. "Did you write? I mean, do you? About this?"

For Patrick - which is maybe, really, actually all that matters - 'this' is not a painful euphemism but a simple pronoun. He's not sure if it's a pronoun or not-

"Demonstrative," Pete nods around a mouthful of chicken, which Patrick's certain he didn't used to eat - he also didn't know he'd been thinking aloud. "It's good," he smirks sheepishly, gesturing to the food to emphasise that Patrick so far has only cut up his meal, and the younger man takes a bite just because he can't decide if he likes that look on Pete.

"Looks aren't everything," Patrick asserts around a tiny mouthful, and swallows. He has black coffee because he didn't want water, and Pete is letting that happen.

"Sometimes you're dominant and sometimes not," Patrick says, running out of air a little at the end of his sentence but posing it as a question. He shrugs. "I like both. It's hard to think about, though."

"What's hard to think about?"

Patrick drops his burger back to the plate and Pete stares at it.

"Sex? Naked. Um, you, seeing me. Me being seen. I think it's because I don't see you on my front and so you get more than I do."

"We can do anything you want. It was a new power today, in the office..."

"Tell me," Patrick says, picking up the burger almost unprompted. He's eaten half before Pete responds.

"Like...I guess it's like what I told you this morning. The second time we woke up, baby. Like...not like that at all actually, but like...instead of that? I think...I, really, I... Babe. You're so good for me, and so good to feel, and be around, and you've the heart and soul of an angel and your physical presence is intoxicating and I like to have it in my hand, you know? I like to hold you. That's all sex with you for me has ever been. I want it to be like your birthday, or something."

"With cake-?"

The question is half there in Patrick's dry voice, and Pete laughs.

"It's..." Patrick pauses, chokes on something that's not meat. His shoulders drop and he keeps eating until it's two thirds gone and he's had all his peppers and coffee. He plays around with his napkin; Pete's never been anything but certain he would continue his sentence.

“Like... It’s weird, I guess. And, like, maybe I told you. I could have been drunk since we got back off tour, I don’t know. I’m saying...today, I don’t know, it’s not so bad. Maybe because you’re more than me,” he means Pete’s eating more than him, but he can’t say that, obviously, not like that, “Either way, I look at people, you know, and I think like ‘I hope I don’t end up like them’ even though I know it’s disgusting and evil and- And there’s nothing wrong with these people, Pete! I’m- I’m. I’m saying, like – and I know I’m going to regret saying this, but right now it’s coming – so I just think it’s shameful. Like I don’t know how people can do it,” (eat), “Because it is so shameful. Or maybe it’s guilt, because there are so many people starving. I don’t know. I don’t know. I wanna shrink out of myself for talking about it and it will only get worse and I think that’s because I can feel my small self inside this body.”

Pete looks at the tiny body, shoulders and cheekbones and fingers, and crosses the table to sit in Patrick’s lap, then hates it and swaps them round so he’s rubbing Patrick’s belly while he leans his head on Pete’s flat chest. Pete expects it to be a Bad Move, only does it to push, but Patrick doesn’t get upset, so Pete does push, working his fingers into the something-nothing where there used to be clouds, pillows, give. It makes him sugar-spun dizzy like too much cotton candy; his brain is candy floss and his ears burn.

Patrick lets it happen because he's dozy and absolved of any guilt - shame - today, apparently. It feels...good. Maybe just neutral. His stomach gurgles, even, in Pete's hands, and he rests his bony chin on Pete's collar bone and wishes it wasn't so bony, for just a flash of a second, like the feeling of deja vu with no pictures in your memory to go with it, just knowing it deep within your skin.

He thinks about a movie he watched when Pete was gone, about a school shooting. Only because there were four girls in it eating in the canteen, and he remembers a conversation about shopping and he's half sure one of them had an eating disorder as a minor facet of the plot, but they weren't in it long and he doesn't know if any of them died or if the shooters even died or about any recent deaths; he hasn't watched the news at all. He thinks about Pete's up and down and round artist-grasp, cliff edge and mountaintop perspective on the same thing Patrick saw as a chore, then a surprise gift, then a challenge he should have found easier than he did. The sea is immense and Pete had wanted to make love with him in it and they've slept together on the beach before, in all senses of the word. He's dreaming before he's even asleep, warm sensations and texts he's forgotten to reply to in the last few weeks and friends he'd call if he could get up now and the midday sun and being tied up on a bathroom floor.