“Daddy!” A small voice squeaked, tiny arms and legs tumbling around the corner and into Pete’s kitchen, a huge grin on the toddler’s face. “Daddy, I drew!”
“What’d you draw, monkey?” Pete set down his coffee and smiled at the dark haired hellion proudly holding up a drawing, which, to the untrained eye might just appear to be scribbles, but it really wasn’t.
“It’s you!” He giggled, holding the picture out to Pete, who took it with a goofy grin and promptly hung it on the refrigerator.
“Bronx, you’re a better artist than I am already!” Pete joked, grabbing the little boy under the arms and lifting him high in the air, causing him to giggle uncontrollably. Pete glanced behind Bronx to see a blonde woman standing in the corner of the room, arms crossed uncomfortably, grey trenchcoat over a simple black dress. “So what’s the verdict, Ashlee?”
“You’ve got him for the week, as usual.” She rolled her eyes. “It’s not gonna change on you now.”
“Good. I think I’ll teach him a gang sign this week.” Pete grinned maliciously.
Ashlee put on her best stern parent face. “You most certainly will not!” She said, glaring at Pete.
“Okay, mom. ” Pete stressed, rolling his eyes with a smile.
“She’s my mommy!” Bronx wriggled in Pete’s grasp, and as soon as he was put down, he charged to Ashlee and tackled her legs in a hug. “Not yours!”
“I know, dude, I was joking with her.” He said, squatting down next to Bronx and smiling. “Why don’t you go find Patrick? He should be in back.”
“Papa Patrick!” He grinned, letting go of his mother and almost tripping over himself in his haste to find his dad’s boyfriend, now of three years.
Pete laughed, standing up to be on eye level with Ashlee as he watched him go. “He’s such a cutie, I can’t get over it.” He said, soft smile never leaving his face.
Ashlee made a humming noise in the back of her throat before she seemingly remembered something and retreated to the hallway. She came back with a tiny backpack and a blanket. “He wanted to bring some things this week.” She said, handing them to Pete. “I hope that’s okay.”
“Of course. Anything illegal in here?” He grinned, winking at Ashlee before shaking the backpack experimentally.
“No, you idiot.” She laughed, tugging at the tie on her trenchcoat. “He’s three, I doubt he even knows what illegal means.”
“He’s three and a half, excuse you, and anyways, we watch a lot of cop shows.” Pete grinned. “I’m sure he knows. He can probably arrest someone himself.”
“I don’t think-“ Just then, Ashlee was cut off by a loud laugh as Patrick rounded the corner, Bronx tugging on his hand in an attempt to get him into the living room.
“Found him!” He yelled, grinning as he held up Patrick’s hand like a prize.
“Good job, monkey!” Pete grinned, holding out his hand as Bronx gave him a high-five. “Do you have anything illegal in that bag?”
“I don’ want ‘rested!” He giggled. “I’m a good boy!”
“Okay, good. Your mommy said you might be harboring a fugitive in there… Like… This teddy bear!” Pete pulled out a floppy black bear with a determined grin on his face.
“Not Teddy!” Bronx laughed, grabbing the bear’s arm and pulling him from Pete, hugging him to his chest.
“Okay, I believe you.” Pete laughed, picking up his son and putting him on his shoulders. “Anything I need to know?” He asked Ashlee. “Doctor’s appointments, play dates, banks to rob?”
Ashlee rolled her eyes as she responded. “He’s got a pediatrician appointment on Thursday at 2, that’s it.” She said, and Pete nodded as Patrick inked it onto their calendar. “I guess I’ll see you next weekend, huh?” She said to Bronx, who nodded and waved.
“Okay!” He squeaked, smiling. “Bye, mommy!”
Pete laughed as Bronx’s bear slipped over his eyes. “Bye, baby.” Ashlee said, reaching up for Bronx to give her a hug, and he jumped from Pete’s shoulders to his mom’s arms.
“Bye-bye!” He grinned, kissing Ashlee’s cheek. “Teddy says bye, too.”
“Bye, Teddy.” She laughed, kissing both of them on the nose and setting him down. She looked up at Pete. “See you Saturday.”
“Yes, ma’am!” He saluted her mockingly, a grin on his face as Patrick came to stand next to him.
Pete never said he liked the week-on, week-off relationship he had with his son. His son, even three and a half years later, it still blew his mind that he was a father. He’d sworn he’d never have kids, because he knew he’d be an unstable wreck half of the time and on tour the other half, but so far, everything had worked out okay, hadn’t been insanely fucked up, and that came as a surprise to all parties involved, except Bronx. The little devil had complete faith in his fathers; he was sure that Pete and Patrick held all the answers to the universe when really, they just held a phone equipped with the power of Google. And damn it, he loved the kid, almost more than he loved Patrick if that was possible, even though he was just a little brat who coloured on Hemmingway and made siren noises during Reno 911. He was a brat, but he was Pete’s brat, and that’s what mattered. He smiled softly while he watched Bronx colour, his teddy bear sitting next to him on the floor, markers strewn over the coffee table and paper on the floor. He knew Ashlee would have a fit if she saw him right now – Marker up to his elbows, a bit of tape in his hair, but that was just the creative process, wasn’t it? Pete probably looked twice as crazy while working on lyrics, let’s be honest, so why shouldn’t Bronx have the same liberties? “What are you drawing, dude?” Pete asked, peering over Bronx’s shoulder.
“You, me, and Papa,” he answered, not looking up from the paper. Pete smiled at Bronx’s name for Patrick, looking down at the drawing that was definitely three people, now that he looked closer.
“That’s super cool, little dude.” Pete smiled, taking the tape out of his hair. “You’re a mess.”
“Yup.” He giggled. “I got marker on Teddy.”
“Good thing he’s black and you can’t see it.” Pete said, inspecting the bear but seeing no sign of the marker stain.
“That’s what Mommy says.” Bronx mused, picking up a green marker and ferociously scribbling grass under the three of them.
“Your mommy’s right.” Pete said, just as Patrick came in the room and sat next to Pete, his blonde hair fluffing up in every direction.
“Papa!” Bronx squealed, jumping on Patrick and giving him a huge hug, leaving marker stains on Patrick’s shirt and a smile on his face. “I drew!”
“You’re drawing more?!” Patrick asked, smiling at the little ball of energy in his lap, whose dark hair was falling into his eyes. Bronx nodded and pushed his hair out of his face, a grin stretching his tiny lips as he smeared marker on his forehead. “You’re a regular Picasso!”
“I’m a Pi… a what?” Bronx asked, tilting his head and making both of them laugh.
“A Picasso.” Patrick said, laughing. “He was an artist.”
“Oh…” Bronx nodded. “What does he do now?”
Pete and Patrick looked at eachother before Pete spoke up. “I think he makes the shapes in the clouds.”
“Ooooh, I wanna do that!” Bronx laughed, going back to his drawing. “I’m gonna draw Pigasi in the clouds!”
“Picasso?” Patrick asked, laughing.
Pete had successfully wrangled Bronx into a bath, then dried him off and got him into pajamas and into bed in less than an hour, which had to be some sort of record. He and Patrick were laying together on their bed, Patrick’s back against Pete’s chest, Pete’s legs on either side of Patrick. A soft smile was stuck on Pete’s face as he watched Patrick work on a set of lyrics in a black notebook, something about dancing like you’re disappointed in the world. “Have you gotten a call back from the record label?” Pete asked quietly.
“Soul Punk is a go.” Patrick smiled. “This is the last song I have to write and record for the album, and then I’ll put it out and start touring.”
“That’s gonna be busy.” Pete mused, carding fingers through Patrick’s hair. “Are you going alone?”
“Maybe.” Patrick said. “I mean, you have Bronx, and I can’t imagine Ashlee letting him out of Illinois without her.”
“True.” Pete said as Patrick leaned against his fingers, sighing softly. “I would still miss you.”
“Of course.” Patrick said, leaning back to kiss Pete. “You could come with me, you know. It’d be just the two of us.”
“What, like a getaway?” Pete asked, smiling.
“Exactly. We deserve it.” Patrick said, head on Pete’s shoulder.
Pete hummed. “I’ll consider your offer, Mr. Stump.”
Patrick laughed, rolling over to be facing Pete, practically laying on top of him. Pete had his hands on Patrick’s hips, hips that finally were regaining some semblance of softness, Patrick’s softness coming back in a way that was making both of them finally happy. “I miss music.” He mused.
“I miss playing with the guys. I miss tour.” Pete admitted. “But, y’know, I’m a dad now, and I have you, and everything’s just really different.”
“Different is good sometimes.” Patrick admitted. “Which is why I want to tour again. I miss seeing all the kids.”
Pete laughed. “You didn’t like it at first, remember?”
“I was terrified.” Patrick admitted, chuckling softly. “All those faces – What if I messed up?”
“But then you won all their hearts over.” Pete grinned. “And mine along the way.”
“Ah, you’re such a sap.” Patrick smiled, rolling off of Pete to lay next to him.
“You love it.” Pete challenged.
“I love you.” Patrick stressed, kissing him softly.
Fall Out Boy was over, at least for the time being, and both of them knew that. It had been the end of an era, but a new one was starting. Pete was insanely happy for Patrick, watching him write and record new material with raw determination on his face was amazing, and he didn’t think he’d ever get over that. I mean, sure, he missed touring with the guys, but he’d poured himself into the work as the executive of DCD2 records, signed a little band called Panic! At the Disco who was fronted by no other than that crazy nurse from his New York City hospital stay, Brendon Urie, and Ryan Your Lovely Receptionist on the guitar. That had to mean something. It did mean something, because even if he wasn’t making music, he was helping people that did, and that was almost as good.
Pete lay awake late into the night, a habit he’d sworn up and down that he’d broke, watching the easy rise and fall of Patrick’s chest in the dim light from the hallway. He really did miss it, but there’s nothing he can do. Fall Out Boy was done. Patrick and Andy have both moved on to bigger and better, and Joe… Well, who the hell knows where he is? Pete was the president of DCD2 Records. They all had new lives, new families, new people to take care of, and even though it was almost two and a half years after they’d disbanded, it still hit Pete as fresh and new. He slipped out of bed, walked to the bathroom and reached under the sink for the hair trimmer that Bronx had named “the bee” because of the sound it made. He plugged it in, letting the whirring fill the small room, and stared at himself in the mirror, letting out a sigh. The end of two eras, he decided bitterly as he touched it to his forehead, pulling it through his hair and watching as straightironed black tufts fell to the floor, as he cut off his last security blanket. Halfway through cutting his hair, he realized this might not have been a brilliant idea at 3 AM, but it just felt right.
Finally satisfied with his work, he set the electric razor down and rubbed his hands through his hair, now only about a half-inch long, and sighed, looking at his new reflection in the mirror. It was crazy – He’d had that hair for years. He supposed it really was time for a new Pete, a new person, and not the punk wannabe with raccoon eyeliner he’d been for the last nine years.
It was time to stop being Pete from Fall Out Boy, and be Pete Wentz, Bronx’s father, Patrick Stump’s boyfriend, and manager of DCD2 Records. It was time to grow up and be the person he knew he could be, not recede into his shell and be the person he’d imagined himself as at seventeen.