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The "I" In Lie

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“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.

“Yeah!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

Chapter Text

“You cut your hair.” Patrick woke Pete up the next morning by running his fingers through the new short hair that topped his head quizzically, fingers massaging Pete’s scalp and making him sigh contentedly.

“I did.” Pete murmured, rolling over and hiding his head in Patrick’s side. “Didn’t like it anymore.”

“Hmm.” Patrick thought for a moment. “Look at me.” When Pete looked up, blinking sleepily, Patrick broke out in a goofy grin. “I like it. It’s kind of sexy.”

Pete chuckled, stretching an arm out and kissing his boyfriend. “Only kind of? I’m hurt.” He said, covering his heart and falling back on the bed.

“Okay, okay, it’s really sexy. Like, unbelievably so.” Patrick laughed, rolling his eyes. “The sexiest hair any boyfriend of mine has had ever.”

“I’d hope so.” Pete said, gravelly voice grating his throat. “I’m your only boyfriend, dork.”

Just then, there was the sound of a loud crash from the living room, a yelp following it shortly, and Pete shot up and out of bed, eyes wide. “Shit.” He whispered as he pulled on pants, jumping on one foot as he pulled up the second leg on his way down the hallway. “Bronx?” Pete yelled, rounding the corner to the living room, where he found Bronx in the center of a pile of DVD’s that had, apparently, fallen off a shelf. “Fuck, dude, what happened?” Pete asked, kneeling down next to him.

Tears welled in Bronx’s eyes as he looked up at his dad. “Wanted to watch a movie.” He mumbled, wiping at his face with his sleeve before turning back to Pete, staring at him.

“Ask me to get it down for you next time, okay?” Pete asked, letting out a sigh as the adrenaline left his system. “I’ll get it for you any time, monkey.”

“You look funny.” Bronx said, scrutinizing his father’s face. “Where’d your hair go?”

“I cut it.” Pete said, dragging his fingers through the short hair on his head. “How’s it look?

“Weird.” Bronx said, making a face. “Help pick up?”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bronx was set up on the couch now, watching Star Wars with a huge bowl of dry cereal in his lap. Pete and Patrick had retreated to the kitchen, their own breakfasts in front of them as they listened to the squeals and giggles coming from the living room. Pete sighed, chewing a bite of his toast and then looking up to Patrick with a crooked smile on his face. “Four years ago, could you have imagined this?” Pete asked. “This, you and me and especially Bronx, and it all turning out like this?”

“Nope.” Patrick said into his coffee. “I’d have never guessed. Why?”

“Do you know what today is?” Pete prodded.

“What?”

“It’s the anniversary.” Pete said vaguely, looking off to some distant land that seemed to inhabit the corner of his counter.

“Anniversary? It’s not our anniversary.” Patrick looked confused, and then frantic. “Is it? Oh God, I didn’t forget, did I?”

Pete laughed, waving his hand around in front of his face. “No, no, you didn’t forget.” He reassured Patrick, who looked very relieved as he slumped back in his chair. “It’s the anniversary of New York City.”

The pain was welcome, he deserved it, dirty, useless, pathetic thing that he was. With a shaking hand, he opened his suitcase and pulled out a box-cutter blade, holding it to the light and slowly walking to the bathroom, staring at himself in the mirror. He deserved it, he thought. No second thoughts, he held the blade to his skin and pulled. Tears blurring his vision, he couldn’t see where he placed it, could only feel the cold metal and warm pooling blood on his forearm. He sunk to his knees on the bathroom floor as he cried, closing his eyes eventually and just repeating the motion. Suddenly, through his haze, he heard a faint pop . He opened his eyes to see blood cascading to the tile floor, steady jets in time to his heartbeat. His head started to feel fuzzy, warm as the blood pooling in his lap, but still he cried. He cried because his band had left him. He loved his band. He loved Patrick.

His eyes snapped open with the force of that thought, and then closed again dizzily. He did, he supposed. He might love the idea of Ashlee, but he loved Patrick.

“Oh,” Patrick whispered quietly, eyes glancing over at Pete’s left wrist, which, all events considered, had healed up almost impeccably. “Oh, I’m sorry, I…”

“No, don’t be.” Pete had a tiny smile on his face, eyes fond as they fell on Patrick. “It’s the anniversary of the night I realized I loved you.”

The kitchen was quiet for a moment, Patrick staring openmouthed at Pete who was sitting there with a funny smile stuck on his face, watching Patrick process what he’d just said. “You realized that in New York?” Patrick finally managed.

Pete nodded, a chuckle bubbling past his lips. “I had a weird way of showing it, huh?”

Patrick scoffed. “Weird? That’s one way to put it. Next time you want to say you love me, don’t almost die or anything, okay?”

Pete leaned across the table, kissing Patrick. “Okay.” He murmured against Patrick’s lips. “I can do that.”

Patrick hummed softly, stealing one last kiss before Pete sat back down, leaning against the back of his chair easily. They were both quiet for a moment as they ate their breakfasts, and even two years after Patrick had been okayed to eat on his own, without the supervision of Pete or a nurse, Pete still watched every bite he took, every Cheerio he swallowed, but it wasn’t out of caution anymore. Patrick’s eating stood as a reminder of happiness, even if he hadn’t gained all the weight back that he’d had before, even if he was still just on the skinny side of average, he was normal, their life was normal, and Pete loved it. Pete craved it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Pete?” Patrick said, breaking him out of his thoughts. Pete had been sitting on the couch, watching Bronx, who was on the floor surrounded by toys, playing a game that seemed to have a lot to do with flying matchbox spaceships into Teddy and not a lot to do with an actual plot. “Did you hear a thing I’ve been saying?”

“Huh?” Pete looked up, eyes wide. “Uhm, no, sorry.” He laughed. “Guess I spaced out.”

“I just got the call from my manager,” He said, smiling. “I’m leaving in a week.”

“That’s awesome!” Pete smiled. “How long of a tour is it?”

“A month or so, nothing huge. It’s just a US thing.” Patrick said flippantly. “Do you want to go with me?”

Pete pulled out his phone, loading up the calendar app and looking at dates. “When’s it start?” He asked. “Like, the actual date?”

“We’d be leaving on the 14th.” Patrick said, looking over his shoulder.

“I can come for a week or so?” Pete said, scratching at his neck. “I have Bronx the week after, and a meeting with Panic! at the Disco, and then I have to go watch Cobra Starship’s music video and make sure they didn’t do anything that will get me sued.”

“A week is better than nothing.” Patrick smiled easily as Pete turned his phone off, putting it on the coffee table. Patrick lay across the couch, head in Pete’s lap, smile on his face as he looked up at his boyfriend. “I don’t think I’m ever going to be used to you with this hair.”

Pete laughed as Patrick’s hands tried and ultimately failed to fluff his now-short hair. “It’s pretty weird, huh?”

“Really weird.” Patrick affirmed. “How would you feel if you woke up one morning and I changed my hair?”

“You wouldn’t,” Pete pointed out, messing up Patrick’s hair with a sly smile on his face. “You’ve had the same hair since you were, like, five years old probably.”

“Not quite that long.” Patrick laughed as he futilely tried to straighten out his hair. “I changed it when I was eight, I had a bowl cut for a while before that.”

“You what?!” Pete broke out laughing, startling Bronx who gave him a very confused look as he threw his head back, laughing at the image of Patrick with a bowl cut. “Did you think you were from The Beatles or something?”

“Shut up.” Patrick mumbled, making Pete laugh harder, his face turning a dark shade of red.

“Hey, Bronx!” Pete laughed as his son looked up from his toys. “Your papa’s Paul McCartney!”

“Paul who?”

Chapter Text

Pete forgot how much he hated doctors. He’d taken Bronx to his checkup and watched his happy-go-lucky little boy recede into a shell Pete didn’t even know he had and meekly nod at the doctor, answering questions in one-word statements and not looking the man in the eye. Pete didn’t know who this Dr. Cobain was, or his relationship to the late and great Kurt, but he didn’t like him and he didn’t care. All he wanted to do was strap his little dude into the backseat of his car and find the nearest Taco Bell to restore the smile to his face. Bronx without an impish grin was like the sun without light – It just didn’t make sense, and nobody liked it. “Can I talk to you for a second?” The doctor asked, salt-and-pepper hair over a sorry smile.

“Yeah, make it quick, we’ll be late.” Pete rolled his eyes, putting on his ‘I’m-a-rich-rockstar-and-have-better-places-to-be’ face, even if it wasn’t his personality and it wasn’t strictly true.

“Without Bronx?” He prompted.

“It’s about him, he can know it.” Pete said, reaching his hand down for Bronx to hold on to, fingers splayed protectively over his little chest.

“Okay, well…” The doctor glanced at Bronx uncomfortably. “His lack of emotional growth worries me. I haven’t seen him smile, or laugh, or do anything that could be classified as an emotional response since he walked in the door. In other children, I’d say this is an early warning sign of autism, but-“

“He’s not autistic, he just hates you.” Pete cut the doctor off, pulling out his wallet and showing the man the picture of a smiling Bronx that currently resided above his ID in the clear plastic sleeve. “He smiles, he does normal kid shit and talks at least two million miles an hour, and quite frankly, I don’t blame him for not liking you. No offence, Doctor, but you seem like kind of an ass. I taught him that if he hates someone, he shouldn’t hit them or kick at them, he should just not talk to them unless he has to. I mean, I’m sure he’d love to hit you if that’s what you’re looking for?”

Pete felt Bronx wriggle against his hand and looked down to where the boy was holding up tiny fists, his face scrunched up. Pete laughed as the doctor looked startled and glanced between the two of them. “A… Alright, sir, I’m sorry.” The doctor finally conceded. “His next appointment will be in a month, the receptionist will send a text to you and his mother with the date and time.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pete and Bronx sat across from eachother in a booth at Taco Bell, Bronx elbows-deep into half of a quesadilla, and a crunch wrap on Pete’s own tray. “You don’t like that doctor dude, do you?” Pete asked him as he took a bite of his lunch.

“Nope.” Bronx replied, mouth full of cheese.

“Why not?”

“He’s weird.” Bronx said, looking as if he was thinking hard. “He smells funny, and he’s not very nice.”

“Your mom won’t take you to a different one?” Pete asked, confused.

“Nope.” Pete cringed as Bronx wiped his face, smearing sour cream across his chin. “Mommy says he’s the best in our… Our… Our box.”

“What?” Pete looked confused, squinting at Bronx.

“Our box. Our money box.”

“Your price range?” Bronx nodded, and Pete sighed, rubbing at his temples. “Buddy, we’ll find you a better doctor. Your mommy forgets that I have enough money to pay for a thousand doctors for you.”

“I don’t want that many!” Bronx giggled, shaking his head. “Maybe just one, one that doesn’t look weird.”

“We can do that.” Pete smiled at his son as he pulled out his phone and sent Ashlee a text. wut does Bronx mean tht u cant afford a dr whos not this guy? He hates him

It’s not like pediatricians exactly spring out of the woodworks, Ashlee replied back almost as soon as Pete had sent it. Dr. Cobain is plenty competent.

hes an ass. Pete texted back. im buying Bronx a better dr.

Have fun finding one.

Pete sighed, mentally rolling his eyes at Ashlee and putting his phone down, biting into his crunch wrap. “I’ll call some people when we get home, okay?” Pete asked. “We’ll fix this, just you and me.”

“And Papa.” Bronx insisted, biting into another triangle of cheese.

“And your Papa, okay.” Pete smiled warmly at the mention of Patrick.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pete was fed up with doctors. He’d looked up probably upwards of 100 pediatric doctors in the last two hours, and each had been shot down after careful speculation by him and Patrick, or a quick glance-over by Bronx. “Doctors are fuckin’ ridiculous.” Pete griped. “Why can’t the kid just not go again?”

“Don’t be stupid,” Patrick said tiredly. “What if he gets sick?”

“Chicken soup.” Pete answered, setting his phone down and rubbing his eyes.

Pete knew Ashlee wouldn’t let Bronx not go to a doctor for all these checkups that Pete never remembered having as a child, but he sure felt it was unnecessary. The two were quiet for a moment, before Patrick gasped, eyes open wide as he jumped from the couch. “What?” Pete asked, brow furrowed.

“We leave tomorrow for tour.” Patrick said, grinning. “I almost forgot.”

“So we do,” Pete mused, smile creeping onto his face. “Remember the last tour we went on?”

“Like it was yesterday.” Patrick lamented. “I missed this; the anticipation kills me.”

“You wanna know what I miss the most?” A teasing smirk lifted one corner of Pete’s mouth, and one of his hands reflexively went up to move a fringe that was no longer there, instead raking through short hair.

“What?” Patrick asked, regarding him curiously.

Pete’s scandalous smirk grew, spreading across his face as he leaned closer, breathing on Patrick’s neck as he answered. “Before-tour sex.”

Patrick shoved his shoulder lightly, gasping lightly before his face stretched in a bashful smile and he blushed. “Shut up!” Patrick laughed. “Your son is literally thirty feet from us.”

“That’s why I whispered, Captain Obvious.” Pete laughed, leaning back into the crook of the couch. “It’s true, though. You’re always more excited, more vocal. You…”

“Oh my god, Pete, shut your mouth!” Patrick flailed at him with a couch pillow, effectively cuffing him around the head and only cuing him to laugh harder. “You’re terrible!”

“You love me.” Pete challenged, chuckling as he poked Patrick in the side and kissed him. “Don’t even try to play me, Stump.”

“I do love you.” Patrick said, still smiling. “But you’re still horrible.”

Chapter Text

Pete and Patrick had left for tour yesterday, convincing the driver to wind Patrick’s huge bus down backroads to drop Bronx off with Ashlee in the style befitting Pete fucking Wentz’s son. The look on Ashlee’s face made it all worth it, let alone the huge grin on Bronx’s face as he toddled out of the bus, running as fast as his chunky little legs could take him and tackling his mother’s knees, teddy bear clutched tightly in one hand. “Mommy!” He squeaked, grinning and pushing hair out of his eyes. “Daddy and Papa are going tour!”

“Are they?” Ashlee looked up at Pete questioningly.

“I’ll be back to get him in a week.” The corner of Pete’s lip lifted in the approximation of a smile. “Don’t worry, I’m not flaking out on him.”

Ashlee sighed, bending down to be at eye-level with Bronx. “Take your bag inside and go say hi to Justin, okay?”

“Justin?” Pete asked as Bronx waddled to the house.

“My boyfriend.” Ashlee nodded, arms crossed over her chest.

“Oh, okay. A new one.” Pete said, just to clarify, and Patrick thumped him in the arm with a sharp look that read “be nice.”

“Yes, a new one.” Ashlee rebuked sharply before sighing and running her hand over her face. “You cut your hair.”

“I had to grow up someday, didn’t I?” Pete laughed, eyes flitting to Patrick. “It just didn’t feel right anymore, y’know?”

“I get that.” Ashlee mused. “Have fun on tour.”

“Always.” Pete grinned, taking an awkward step back. “See you in a week.”

“One week, no more, no less.” Ashlee reminded him, turning towards the house.

“I’m not a deadbeat!” Pete yelled after her. “I keep my promises!”

“Just get in the bus, idiot, you’re making it worse.” Patrick whispered, tugging gently at the back of his hoodie. “We have to go.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Patrick’s first show was in Cleveland, Ohio. It still felt really weird to Pete to say “Patrick’s show”, or to watch as he got ready to perform without Pete. It almost felt like a stake to the heart in a way, knowing that Patrick was going to go play with another band, even if it were under his own name, even if it were something he loved. Pete wanted to play with him, too, dammit, but he was stuck backstage, jamming along, watching Patrick sing from farther away than he could ever remember being. The sound of the new record was completely different, too – Patrick had added more computerized tracks then Pete ever would have, created something completely different, something that was reminiscent of late 80’s synthpop and dance-punk, something Pete had a love-hate relationship with. He sighed, sitting atop a disregarded amp backstage, watching the lights on Patrick’s face. He really only looked this happy when he was onstage, and Pete craved to be the one causing the look on his face.

But he wasn’t. He had to come to terms with that. He’d come to terms with Andy and Joe’s new band fairly easily, watching them go off and play with this gig called The Damned Things. Hell, he was happy for them – A member of freaking Anthrax was in that band, that was huge. Patrick, however, was something different.

Pete hesitated to say he was jealous, but a part of him knew he was, deep down, when he saw Patrick out there, pouring his soul out into something that didn’t even involve him. Okay, so maybe Pete was jealous, so sue him, but he missed it.

He started to listen to the lyrics in a particularly dance-y part of some song or another, only hearing “When did the punks stop being mad? They penned love songs while we got had,” but that one line was enough to make him stop and think. What punk could Patrick be writing about, besides Pete? Hell, when did Pete stop being mad? Looking back at their last album, Patrick hit it on the head, but still. Still. Pete wondered how many fans would catch that.

Sitting backstage was doing Pete no good, so he left. He didn’t leave the show, he circled around to the entrance and waded through the fans, immersing himself into the crowd and getting a few shocked gasps from kids who were particularly good at spotting their favorite stars without his hair. The girl next to him obviously knew who he was, sending him a knowing smile, bringing a finger to her lips. I won’t tell. Her face read, and Pete appreciated that. He smiled at her, giving her a careless wink, and turned back to watching Patrick on stage.

Patrick’s stage presence had always drove him crazy, the way he could go from a shy little man in an oversized sweater to the king, the king of the stage, the captor of the audience’s hearts. It was even crazier out in the audience – The energy was buzzing, hopping, one living thing with it’s rhythmic ups and downs, moving as one except for that one girl who had to do the hipster thing and move the opposite way. No matter how many shows he played, watching Patrick sing never got old. It blew him away every time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You were amazing.” Pete was sweaty, hot, and out of breath as he wandered backstage, quickly finding Patrick and tackling him with a sticky hug and a sloppy kiss. “Fuckin’ fantastic, I swear.”

“Thanks.” Patrick grinned as Pete kissed him again. “Where were you?”

“With the kids, out there.” Pete gestured in the general direction of the crowd, smiling as he leaned closer to Patrick’s ear. “I get what they’re saying now, watching you perform is super fuckin’ hot. Major turn-on.”

Patrick squeaked, eyes widening as he pushed at Pete’s chest jokingly. “Shut up!” He laughed as he blushed furiously. “You’re so mean, holy smokes.”

“What, am I not allowed to tell you how ravishing you look?” Pete winked as he rolled his ‘r’.

“Not here, gosh.” Patrick whispered, biting his lip to keep from grinning.

“Back on the bus, then.” Pete decided, smiling as Patrick was whirled away by event coordinators and producers. He followed behind them as they led Patrick out to the VIP staging area, where fans were drifting in to have him sign things and smile for after-concert selfies, a few of them looking like they were on the verge of panic as Patrick quickly insisted that no, he wasn’t a god, he was just a sweaty little man with a bowtie.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Patrick and Pete walked back to the bus hand-in-hand, a little less than two hours after the show ended. They were both quiet, listening to the hum of the streetlights above them and the crunch of the rocks below. The cool air felt good, especially after being stuck in the hot, overcrowded venue for so long. Not that Pete was complaining – He never felt more at home then when he was in a concert venue, whether playing or watching, but the reprieve afterwards was almost as amazing. Once back on the bus, they flopped across the bed in the back bedroom, falling together, easy smiles. Patrick huffed a loud sigh, head on Pete’s chest, one of Pete’s arms around his shoulder. “We’re both gross.” He stated, looking down at his performing clothes.

“True.” Pete laughed. “Are you gonna get up and shower, then?”

“Heck no.” Pete snorted at Patrick’s inability to cuss. “I’m so tired, oh my gosh. I’m not getting up until I have to look nice tomorrow.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Pete conceded, resting his head atop Patrick’s. “I love you.”

“Love you too.” Patrick smiled easily as Pete leaned down to kiss him.

“You know,” Pete hummed, face inches from Patrick’s. “We never did have that before-tour sex you promised me.”

“We are on a bus, and there’s people literally eight feet away.” Patrick protested, slapping at Pete’s shoulder playfully. “We can’t.”

“Nah, you’ll just have to be quiet.” Pete winked as the bus started moving, rocking them easily side-to-side.

“Pete, I swear,” Patrick started before he cut himself off with a quiet gasp, Pete’s lips meeting his collarbone as his shirt was unbuttoned. “We- Oh, god – We can’t, Pete, what if one of the guys…”

“Shh.” Pete whispered against his skin. “They won’t, not if you’re quiet.”

Patrick’s response was ultimately silenced by Pete’s kiss to his stomach as he finally freed his boyfriend from his shirt. He closed his eyes, letting his head drop back against the mattress as Pete undid his pants, coaxing Patrick to lift his hips so he could pull them down. Pete’s fingers quickly found Patrick’s hips as he kissed at his stomach, his thighs. “You’re too fuckin’… Too good.” Pete whispered against the pale skin of Patrick’s thigh, kissing his hip. “Too good for me.” He looked up, eyes locking with Patrick’s. “Been thinking about you since we fuckin’ left.”

“O-oh?” Patrick managed, looking down to Pete in-between his legs.

“Mhm. And you know the best part?” Pete’s voice was deeper, huskier, as he nipped at the inside of Patrick’s thigh. “Now I get you.”

Chapter Text

Pete forgot how quiet his house was without Patrick. He’d made it to the New Jersey border before he had to weave his way back to Chicago via borrowed rides and taxi cabs. He supposed he should have thought of a quicker way to get back (He was two whole hours late to get Bronx, shocker, and he doubted he’d ever hear the end of it from Ashlee) but it was okay, he supposed.

With Bronx down for a nap and Hemmingway curled up with him, the entire house was eerily quiet, every single noise echoing on for what felt like forever. He’d left Patrick eight hours ago and already missed him like crazy. He’d asked the bus driver to wake him up at 8 AM (entirely too early for humans to be awake, in his opinion) to steal away back to Chicago, and he had, but Patrick had a love-hate relationship with the man over it. He hated having to leave tour to go back for Bronx, but he loved the little dude so much… Life was complicated.

Hemmingway wriggled in his sleep, pawing at his nose before burying it into Pete’s shirtless side, making him gasp at the sudden cold and bite back a curse. He had to get up and make dinner soon, but he’d rather put it off as long as possible first. He knew Patrick was currently backstage in Hoboken, sound-checking, warming up his voice to that scratchy old mixtape Pete had made him in high school. Patrick didn’t think Pete noticed he still sang to it – but, of course, he did. He noticed everything.

Instead of starting dinner, he wormed his way out from under Hemmy and went to the back of the house, to his soundproofed room in all its mostly-okay-soundproofing glory, leaving the door open a crack so Bronx could find him if he woke up and plugging his amp in, taking his bass off the wall and turning on his iTunes mix, taking a deep breath as plastic pick hit steel strings.

Now, should he have been playing bass instead of making food like a responsible dad? No. Was going out for pizza sounding like a better and better option with every chord? Yes. Problems solved. He sunk into Metallica and old Fall Out Boy songs like they were a second skin, playing almost reflexively as he moshed around his back room.

Halfway through “Wherever I May Roam,” he heard a tinny twang sound from behind him and whipped around to see Bronx standing in the doorway in dinosaur footie pajamas, his tiny guitar in his hands, grinning and headbanging as he pretended to play along. Pete grinned, dropping to his knees and playing right in front of Bronx, making him squeal and giggle, tiny fingers plucking at little strings as he tries to mirror his dad’s actions. Pete laughed as Bronx shook his head, flinging his hair around the same way Pete used to before he cut it, a huge grin plastered to his face.

When the song ended, Pete pressed stop on the recording, grinning down at Bronx who had abandoned his guitar around his neck, tiny skeleton strap holding it up as he used the back of his hand to brush his hair out of his eyes. “I’m a rockstar like you!” Bronx declared.

“You definitely are, dude.” Pete fluffed his hair, making him squeal and try to cover his head. “I’ll have to get you a mini bass or something one of these days.”

“Yes!” Bronx yelled, and then looked pensive for a moment. “Maybe teach me to play, too.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Pete laughed. “You hungry, little dude?”

“Yeah.” Bronx nodded, taking his guitar off of his shoulders and propping it up on Pete’s amp.

“How’s pizza sound?” Pete’s smile became suspiciously sneaky, and Bronx squealed.

“I love pizza!” He gasped.

“Go put on some clothes, yeah?” Pete asked, putting his bass back on its hooks and switching the amp off as Bronx ran out of the room.

He walked into the bathroom, grabbing a washcloth and running it over his face. He eyed his new haircut in the mirror, running his hand through it, really looking at it for the first time since he chopped it off. Granted, it had been a week, but he still wasn’t used to it – Something was still off. Something else needed changed… Maybe he’d figure it out on a full stomach. He exited the bathroom absentmindedly, grabbing the top shirt in his dresser and pulling it on, all just before being tackled by a tiny bundle of energy. “Pizza, daddy!” He grinned, now wearing jeans and a shirt about three sizes too big. He bounced up and down, tugging on Pete’s shirt. “Pizza! Let’s go!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Patrick had just come off stage, sweaty and tired and fucking exhilarated , grinning like a madman. He’d just undeniably shook New Jersey, leaving his crowd screaming and calling for an encore they all knew wasn’t coming. He grabbed a bottle of water, chugging half of it in one go and then turning around, almost smacking a man in the face. “Oh my gosh!” Patrick jumped, hand to his heart. “You scared me!”

“I’m sorry.” The guy laughed, baby blue eyes sparkling in the dim light. He motioned to the guitar case in his hands. “Don’t wanna break your baby.”

“Heavens, no.” Patrick insisted. “That guitar’s been with me through thick and thin, she’s here to stay.”

“I’m David.” He grinned, motioning with the end of the guitar case as opposed to his hand.

“Patrick.” Patrick said rather lamely, and David laughed.

“Yeah, I know, man. I kinda work for you right now.” He laughed again, shifting a massive length of amp cable to rest on the nose of the guitar case so he could run a hand through his hair. “I’ll be seeing you.”

“Yeah.” Patrick smiled after him, before turning heel and wandering towards his manager, waiting to hear just what a “lovely, breathtaking, show-stopping, unbelievable, amazing, perfect, never-been-topped” show he’d just put on, as he had the night before, and two nights before that. No matter how repetitive tour got, he never got tired of it. Being on stage was just as addicting as drugs (not that he’d ever tried drugs – Drugs are bad, kids) and he couldn’t see a future for himself without a microphone in front of his face.

“Patrick, you pure, little soul!” He heard a voice scream from across the room, and before he could look up to see who it was, he was tackled and crashed to the floor in a tangle of arms and legs.

He let out a sharp oof as an elbow was driven into his rips. “Huh?” He stammered, pushing back on the person, trying to untangle limbs, and caught a glimpse of dyed-black hair with the roots showing through, huge grin with all the teeth showing, and sparkling hazel eyes. “F…Frank?” He stammered, looking up at the slowly brightening smile. “What are you doing?”

“Heard you were in Jersey, thought I’d come and visit.” He shrugged. “You still roll with the same security, he remembers me.”

“And he let the midget backstage?” He asked exasperatedly, pushing the other man off of him and standing up with an impressive eyeroll, brushing off his shirt.

Frank shook his head, laughing heartily. “I’m taller than you.”

“Shut up.” Patrick blushed, looking down at his hands.

“By an inch and a half, Stump.” Frank taunted.

“Okay, okay!” He rolled his eyes again. “Still, what are you doing here?”

“Told you, I got wind of you stopping in my state and wondered why you hadn’t called. I’m hurt, dude.” Frank held a hand over his heart, pantomiming dying as he fell into a chair. “I missed you, aren’t I allowed to have friends?”

“I mean, yeah, but…” Patrick stammered, pushing a hand through his still-sweaty hair. “Well, I thought…”

“Think less, drink more. We should go out.” Frank grinned. “Just us. Complain about domestic life, take a few shots, recreate that karaoke thing you did with good ol’ Peter…”

Patrick blushed, shaking his head. “I don’t know, I…”

“Oh, you can do it!” Frank insisted, stopping a man in a tie who happened to be walking by. “Hey, Patrick can go out drinking with me, yeah?”

The man looked taken aback, looking between the two of them for a second. “I mean, I suppose he could, it’s up to him. I’m his manager, not his mother.”

“See?” Frank grinned. “I’ll even buy, dude, c’mon! Gee has been driving me fuckin’ crazy with the kid. Did I tell you we had a kid? Yeah, we got a kid, isn’t that cool?” Frank laughed.

“No, you didn’t!” Patrick’s eyes widened.

“Yeah, she’s so tiny, we named her Bandit. Here, lemme get a picture…” He pulled out his phone, swiping a few times and pulling up a picture of a baby, rather unimpressive except for the mop of dark curls atop her head. Her stormy-blue eyes were staring rather owlishly at something off-screen as she clutched onto a tiny stuffed vampire. “She’s, uh… She’s three months old.”

“She’s adorable.” Patrick grinned, handing the phone back. “Babies are crazy, huh?”

“You said it, man.” Frank sighed overdramatically. “And slippery. Gerard almost dropped her once.”

“He what?!” Patrick gasped.

Frank laughed, waving a hand. “She’s fine, he didn’t actually drop her, it was a little scary though. That butterfingers.” He shook his head, quiet for a minute before he bounced out of the chair like a jack-in-the-box. “Now. You. Me. Drinking until we’re sick. Let’s go!”

Chapter Text

Patrick woke up in a motel room bed, pressed against someone warm and solid. He hummed contentedly, pulling the warm duvet up over his shoulders and burrowing into the blankets, reveling in the way fingers were spread over the soft skin of his stomach. Everything felt right, he thought, well, almost. Something was off, but he couldn’t place his finger on it. He rolled over, intertwining his fingers with tattooed ones as he slowly opened his eyes. He gasped harshly, looking down at the hand in his, “HALLO” inked orange across the top knuckles, the exact tattoo Pete didn’t have, the exact tattoo… Frank. The events of last night came spinning back to him nauseatingly fast and he rolled out of bed, running to the bathroom and heaving into the toilet.

Patrick grinned, laying back a shot without so much as a shiver. He’d lost track of how many he’d had somewhere around 7, and that had been a while ago. Frank was right with him, smile on his face, eyes a little out of it as he leaned against the bar. “You’re… You’re kinda pretty.” Patrick blurted out, watching the way the cheap lighting reflected off of Frank’s eyes. “You’re kinda pretty and I’m… really drunk.” He slurred, giggling. “Really, really drunk.”

“Yeah.” Frank laughed. “You’re sooo drunk, it’s not even silly.”

“It’s pretty silly.” Patrick insisted, running a hand through his hair.

Pete popped into Patrick’s head, one night on tour years and years ago, laughing and telling him how much fun drunk sex was, just to leave and score with a bartender. Patrick laughed again, making Frank turn to him with a question on his lips. “I remembered,” he laughed. “Pete was like ‘Yo, Patrick, drunk sex is like… super fun,’ and then he just ran off once. Funny, huh?”

“Yeah.” Frank laughed, eyes darker. “He just said that?”

“Yeah.” Patrick shook his head. “He… Really liked bartenders.”

“Do you wanna try?” Frank asked.

“What, a bartender?” Patrick wrinkled his nose. “’m… Really gay, Frank. She’s a girl.”

“No, not a bartender!” Frank broke down into a fit of high-pitched giggles, waving a hand in front of his face. “I meant the, the drunk… What’s the word?”

“Sex?”

“Yeah. Drunk sex.”

He’d apparently woken Frank up with his sudden movements, because about 30 seconds later, Frank wandered into the bathroom, black boxers twisted awkwardly on his torso, rubbing his eyes and biting back a curse when he saw Patrick crumpled on the floor. “Patrick?” He asked unsteadily.

Patrick looked up at him, wiping his hand across the back of his mouth and trying to swipe away a tear at the same time. Frank sighed, seemingly coming to the conclusion that last night didn’t matter at this exact moment, dropping to his knees by Patrick and attempting to smooth his hair out of his eyes. “Don’t touch me.” Patrick spat, his hands shaking. “Don’t…. Just don’t.”

“Fuck.” Frank groaned, letting his back slip down the wall while Patrick flushed the toilet and rinsed his mouth, avoiding the sight of Frank. “This is so fucked up.”

Patrick made a noise somewhere an agreement and a sob, shaking as he adjusted the drawstring on his (Pete’s?) grey sweatpants. Pete. What would Pete say? Hell, what would Gerard say? Frank was married, like actually married, they both had families and children and lives and didn’t have time for anything resembling… this. He made his way back to the bed with blurry eyes, picking up his phone with half a mind to call Pete and half a mind to brain himself with it. One Unread Text the display read, and Patrick sighed, trying to read it through his blurry eyes and shaking hands. Bronx goes to preschool today!!! Frst time EVER! Miss you xox Pete’s message read, attached to a picture of the little boy, one hand moving his hair out of his eyes, a shit-eating grin on his face that mirrored Pete’s own, both of them standing in front of a brick building, Bronx with a tiny backpack over his shoulders.

Patrick sobbed, phone falling through his fingers as his head fell into his hands, Frank emerging from the bathroom just as that happened. Frank soundlessly picked up Patrick’s phone, seeing the picture it was still open to. “Fuck.” He whispered, putting it down on the bedside table and sitting next to Patrick. “Look at me, okay? Don’t shut down.” There was a tremor in his own voice, a shake in his own hands, but nowhere near as bad as Patrick’s. “We can deal, yeah?”

“What am I supposed to say?” Patrick got out in between choking sobs. “I… Pete’s gonna be so mad, I can’t believe…”

“I know,” Frank murmured. “Gerard’s gonna kill me.”

“We have families!” Patrick yelled. “Husbands, or boyfriends, and kids! Kids, Frank. Bronx isn’t mine!”

“What about Bronx?” Frank had lost him there, head cocked to the side.

“He’s Pete and Ashlee’s kid, if Pete l...” He stopped, shaking, biting his tongue to keep from whimpering. “Leaves me…” He managed, in a hushed whisper. “If Pete leaves me, I’ll never see him again.”

“Pete’s a good guy, he’ll get it.” Frank tries, running a hand through his hair and letting out a shaky breath. “I… I have to go, I have to see Gerard, he’s gonna… I…”

“Yeah, just go.” Patrick nodded, his voice quiet and squeaky. “I have to tour, I need to get to the bus.”

“Fuck.” Frank said calmly, before mustering more and more anger with each repetition. “Fuck. Fuck! FUCK!!”

They both pulled on clothes, Patrick stuffing his into his duffel bag and Frank wearing his from the day before. “I’m sorry.” Patrick murmured.

“No, dude, you’re the one looking at losing your kid, don’t give me that shit.” Frank managed, wavering smile on his lips. “I should be apologizing, drinking was my fault.”

“I was smashed, not stupid.” Patrick rolled his eyes. “It’s both of our faults.”

“If you insist.” Frank stared at his feet, looking back at Patrick. “Uhm…”

“Go talk to Gerard.” Patrick managed an approximation of a smile, shooing him out of the room. “Bus call is in an hour, I’ll be fine.”

“Okay.” Frank murmured, unusually subdued in a way that didn’t suit him. “Okay.”

With the door shut, Patrick flopped back onto the bed, quiet for a minute before screaming into the pillow, tears re-emerging in his eyes. He was utterly, completely fucked.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nobody came looking for him for an hour and a half, figuring he was just late to call for the first half hour. A pounding on his hotel door woke him up, then a keycard swiping, his manager coming into the room. “Patrick, we have to go.” She said, walking around the corner, just to see him crumpled on the bed, knees to his chest, tear tracks on his face. “Oh, darling, what happened?” She whispered, bending down next to the bed and shaking his shoulder gently. “Patrick, wake up, yeah? We have to get on the bus.”

“Can’t, Lindsay,” He murmured sleepily. “I messed it up.”

“No you didn’t, come on, sit up for me.” She coaxed him, slipping an arm under his shoulder and half-pulling him to a sitting position. “We’ll walk to the bus together and you can tell me everything once we get there.”

“You’re a saint.” He said, halfway falling on her shoulder as he stood.

She grabbed his duffel bag off of the end of the bed, smiling wryly. “Not a saint, just your manager.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Back on the bus, he collapsed into the seat at the eating nook, head in his hands. “I cheated on Pete.” He said into his palms.

“What?” Lindsay asked, craning her head, soft hands trying to get him to take his own away from his face. “I didn’t hear you, Rick.”

“I cheated on Pete.” He repeated, a hitch in his breathing. “With a married man.”

“Oh, baby,” She whispered, brushing dyed-black bangs out of her eyes. “That’s so fucked up, I’m sorry.”

“How am I gonna tell Pete?” He said, oddly devoid of emotion. “I love him, but he’s gonna hate me.”

“That’s silly, he couldn’t hate you.” She shook her head, soft smile on her face. “You’re too cute to hate.”

“He used to hate me, I think.” Patrick whispered. “He could take Bronx from me.”

“Hey, hold up, you don’t even know what he’s going to say yet, just chill out.” She stopped him, a finger to his lips. “Have you called him?”

“He’s in a meeting.” Patrick said miserably.

“When’s he get out?” She asked.

“An hour.”

“Okay, look at me. You’re a strong, independent black woman who don’t need no man. Or something like that, anyways. You’ll call him in an hour, I’ll be here to make sure you don’t chicken out, and you’ll tell him, yeah?”

“Can… Can we cut the tour short?” Patrick asked. “I wanna go home.”

“You really wanna disappoint all the kids?” She asked, cocking her head, knowing smile on her lips. “It’ll all be okay, yeah?”

“I hope so.” He grumbled.

“It will be, I say so, and my magical lesbian voodoo is never wrong.”

Chapter Text

“Patrick, it’s been an hour and a half.” Lindsay sighs, opening the door to his bedroom on the bus. “You have to call Pete.”

“Can’t make me.” Patrick mumbles into his pillow, hands over his head.

“How worried do you think Pete will be if he gets a call from me saying you’ve got something to tell him?” She challenges, hands on her hips, smirking triumphantly when Patrick’s head popped up, eyes wide.

“You wouldn’t.” He gasps.

Lindsay pulls her phone out again. “What’s his number again?” She drawls, voice thick as honey. “it’s 70-“

“NO!” Patrick yells, holding up his phone. “Truce, truce, I’ll tell him.”

“Knew you’d see it my way, darling.” Lindsay grins.

“You’re less my manager and more my little sister.” Patrick gripes, thumb hovering over the contact.

“More like your best friend.” She prods him in the side, sitting next to him. “Call away!”

He took a deep breath, releasing it, closing his eyes, and… Turning his phone off. “I can’t.” He whispered. “When’s my next show?”

“Day after tomorrow, but Patrick, you have to-“

“I know, Lindsay, I know!” He grumbles, standing up, pacing the small distance. “I can’t do it on the phone, not like that. Where’s the nearest airport?”

“What?” Lindsay asked, dumbstruck.

“I’ll get on a plane back to Chicago, and then catch another flight to my next show. I just… I have to do this in person.” He nods, as if he’s trying to convince himself that this is the right thing to do. “Text the driver, tell him to take me to the airport.”

“You’re insane, Stick.” Lindsay rolled her eyes, texting the driver as he asked. Patrick made no comment about the jab, rolling his eyes and pulling on his fedora.

“Just take the bus to the next show’s location, I’ll be there, I swear.” He insisted, still pacing. “I just…I can’t tell him over the phone, he won’t listen.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sure, Patrick’ got strange stares with his hurried boarding of a flight to O’Hare without luggage at 10:30 PM, but he had bigger and better things to worry about than what flight attendants and TSA officials thought of him. He was 99% sure that the old man in the seat next to him was tired of his foot-tapping about 10 minutes into the flight, let alone at the end when Patrick unbuckled and veritably sprinted off of the plane, shimmied his way through security, and hailed a cab back to his house. He just prayed to God that Pete was actually home. Granted, it was nearing midnight by then, but you never knew with that man.

“What’s got you all tied up, love?” The heavyset woman driving him asked, distinctive drawl mangling the words. “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”

“I cheated on my boyfriend.” He sighed, shaking his head. “Not only that, but it was with a married man.”

“That is a lot of trouble.” She nodded. “What are you gonna do about it?”

“I’m going to talk to him. My boyfriend, I mean.” Patrick replied. “He’s got a bit of a crazy temper, though, so Im not sure how this will work out.”

“You want me to sit outside for you?” She asked, eyes narrowing. “I know how bad boyfriends can be, I don’t wanna leave you there and see your face on the morning news.”

“No, no, nothing like that!” Patrick insisted, waving his hands. “Pete would never hurt me. I just flew back from New Jersey to tell him in person, it can’t get much worse. I’m supposed to be in Virginia by the day after tomorrow for my next concert, too, and I don’t know if I’m going to have to cancel that or not.”

“Sounds tough.” She ran a hand through her short hair, the other firmly fixed to the steering wheel. “Tell you what, I’ll leave you my card. I won’t sit outside, but if you need me, you call me, and I’ll be there faster than you can say pizza, yeah?”

Patrick laughed hollowly. “Yeah, okay. Thanks.” He said, shooting her a smile in the rear-view mirror.

“’s my job.” She insisted, waving a hand. “We’re almost there, you sure you got this?”

“Positive.” Patrick said, just as the pulled up to his driveway.

“Okay, sugar, here’s my card.” She handed it to him through the window. “Remember what I said now.”

“I will. How much do I owe you?” Patrick moved to pull out his wallet, but she waved a hand at him.

“No, no, it’s on the house.” She insisted. “If I got into a fight with my girlfriend, I wouldn’t want to have to deal with old cabbies, just go, talk some sense into that boy and beg for his forgiveness.”

“That’s the plan.” Patrick sighed, waving as she drove away.

The walk up his own driveway shouldn’t have felt as foreboding as it did, but a combination of nerves, the dark, and the utter knowing he’d done completely, totally wrong had his stomach doing flips by the time he got to the porch. Tears threatened to leap into his eyes as he stopped and considered if he should ring the doorbell or go in – It was his house, sure, but he’d fucked up so badly he wasn’t even sure if Pete wanted him anymore. He finally settled on just going in, even if it were only on the grounds that the doorbell would wake Bronx. He took the spare key from under the porch mat (Seriously, he was surprised someone hadn’t robbed their house, the mat-key was the oldest trick in the book) and unlocked the door with shaky hands before replacing it. “Pete?” He called softly, opening the door to a dark house. “Pete, are you awake?”

He heard mumbled curses coming from the back of the house, a thump, and then Pete rounded the corner into the kitchen, looking down the hall to see Patrick, show clothes rumpled, hair flat on one side and sticking straight up on the other, lower lip trembling dangerously. “Tricky?” Pete questioned, and that did it. Patrick’s first tear fell, his first sob broke loose, and Pete’s arms were around him as soon as his hands met his face. “What are you doing in Chicago? Baby, talk to me.” Pete murmured, and Patrick batted his arms away.

“You don’t wanna touch me.” Patrick insisted, wiping his sleeve across his face and pushing Pete back. “Pete, I… I messed up, I did something really bad, and you’re gonna hate me for it.”

“I don’t think I’d be very good at hating you.” Pete tried, cracking a lopsided smile. “It can’t be that bad, come on.”

“Can we go in the living room?” Patrick asked, wrapping his arms around himself.

“Yeah, of course, come on.” Pete led the way, sitting down on the couch and patting the cushion next to him. “What’s wrong?”

“I had to fly back and tell you, I couldn’t on the phone, Lindsay told me to but it’s so impersonal, I just hated the-” Pete stopped Patrick’s rambling, shushing him gently. “Right.” Patrick cleared his throat. “I… So, I saw Frank at my show in Hoboken.” He started off, scratching at the exposed skin of his arm. “He kind of tackled me backstage, and was a total spaz the way he is. He suggested we go get drinks after the show, and I wasn’t going to cuz I was tired, but he convinced me to, and we went out, and I was drunk, Pete, I was so drunk, and I was thinking about this one time, years and years ago, back in Kansas or Nebraska or something when you went missing and I had to go find you and you were just as drunk as I was. You kind of leaned on me and was talking about some bartender you met, how drunk sex is awesome, and I laughed and he asked me what I was laughing about, and I told him, and oh God, you’re gonna hate me.” Patrick was starting to hyperventilate, nails digging into his arm. “You’re gonna hate me, I shouldn’t have, I should have said no, but I-“

“Hold on.” Pete was rubbing his eyes, obviously having been woken up by Patrick’s entry of the house. “What are you saying?”

“I-“ He hiccupped. “I had sex with Frank.” He covered his mouth, biting into the palm of his hand to keep from being too loud and waking Bronx up. “I don’t even remember it, but I know it happened, and I shouldn’t have, but I-“

“You had sex with Frank?” Pete’s sleepy brain was slowly catching up, his features schooling themselves into shock. “Iero? Gerard’s husband?”

“I’m so sorry, I don’t know what happened, I just know we woke up and he was naked and I just ran. Oh, Pete, I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have done that, I should have just stayed home!” He was really crying now, tears streaming down his face as his back shook with each sob, and he can do nothing as he watches Pete’s face fall. Pete’s teeth clench, hurt. Stupid, Patrick thinks. Stupid of him to have went out for drinks, stupid of him to have told Frank about his memory, stupid of him to have not said no.

Pete doesn’t say anything for a long minute, going back and forth between glancing at his hands and Patrick’s face. His silence is only broken by Patrick’s quieted crying, a sniffle every so often, the sound his sleeve made over his eyes. “You need to go back to tour.” Pete settles on finally.

“What?” Patrick asks, wiping his eyes and staring at Pete.

“Go finish your tour or whatever.” Pete re-voices. “I need… I need to think.”

“Okay.” Patrick murmurs. It could be worse. “I’ll just, uh… Can I…”

“You should leave now, don’t want to explain to Bronx what you’re doing here.” Pete’s eyes don’t meet Patrick’s. He seems fixated on a scratch in the hardwood, something left behind by Hemmingway’s toenails, or maybe something that had scraped across it, furniture or something.

 

“I should…?” Patrick stops his sentence, eyes wide, and Pete just nods.

“I’ll see you in three weeks.” Pete says, oddly calmly.

“Pete, please.” Patrick whispers.

Pete’s eyes snap up, tears brimming, threatening to spill, a defiant just to his chin. “What more do you want from me?” he asks harshly, quietly to keep Bronx from waking up. “I need to think, Patrick, I need… Your fans need you. Go… Go sing.”

Patrick is quiet, both of them staring at the other before Patrick drops his eyes, standing up. “Okay.” He whispers. “Okay.”

Chapter Text

Patrick’s flight to Virginia was spent slumped in the seat at the front of first-class, notebook on his lap and ballpoint pen in his shaky fist, writing lyrics that didn’t flow and screamed off the page, writing lyrics that he’d undoubtedly end up singing at some point and breaking into tears on stage. He’d been lucky enough to be seated away from the rest of the flyers, on his own in a row, but at the same time, he craved human contact. He found himself lyrically yelling at Frank, at Pete, at himself, at the alcohol he’d had that night, at the flight attendant that kept shooting him pitying looks, anything and everyone was under attack, including his own psyche. When they landed and there was nobody to collect him at the airport, he sat on a bench in boarding and put his head in his hands, staring at his phone, shooting Lindsay a single word text. Landed. He typed out before shoving is phone into toe pocket of his concert jeans, smearing tears across the already-messy sleeve of his concert shirt, and it was only then that he realized his fedora was missing.

He’d left it in New Jersey, he realized, sitting on the table in his hotel room, which meant it was gone forever, which meant he was left in the Richmond airport exposed for all the world to see, no hat or persona to hide behind. And that was terrifying.

Coming 2 get u, Lindsay texted him a few minutes later. Where r u?

ill b by the front gates. Patrick didn’t think he had any tears left to cry as he curled in on himself, watching people drift by, the occasional person taking long enough to give him a pitying glance, one little girl staring wide-eyes until her mother rebuked her. He wasn’t sure whether he preferred the staring or the solitude.

He realized Lindsay would never find him if he wasn’t where he said he’d be, so he collected himself and stood, managing to will himself to go and sit by the front gates like he’s promised. The chilly night air was a welcome distraction from the tumult of his brain, but definitely something Lindsay would scold him for. He sat on a giant concrete planter for ten minutes, twenty, thirty, until a single car pulled to the gate, window rolling down. “How long have you been out here?” Lindsay’s tired voice floated out of the silver Honda.

“A while.” Patrick hopped down, relishing the pain from when he landed on his ankle wrong, and slipped into the car quietly, taking a shaky breath as Lindsay stared him up and down.

“You’re insane, Stick.” She decided, adjusting the zipper on her footie pajamas and putting the car into drive. “How did Pete take it?”

“He told me to finish my tour.” Patrick recited, almost robotically, tiredly. “Told me he needs to think.”

“It could be worse.” She supplied hopefully.

“He would have yelled, but Bronx was sleeping.” Patrick shot back miserably. He rubbed at his temples. “And Pete never yells.”

“Pete always yells.” Lindsay was almost smiling, though it was drained of emotion.

“Not at me.” Patrick mumbled dejectedly. “Never at me.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pete was still sitting awake on the couch when his alarm went off to wake Bronx up for preschool the next day. He almost ignored it, but didn’t want to picture how crushed the little boy would be if he skipped his second day, and that thought alone drove him off of the couch and out of self-pity. He got a drink of water and went to Bronx’s room, opening the door quietly and sitting next to his little bed. “Hey, monkey.” Pete murmured, shaking his little shoulder. “Wanna go to school today?”

Bronx made a tiny sleepy noise, running a hand over his face. He stretched out, blinking his eyes before focusing in on his dad’s face. “I like school.” He said, a smile creeping onto his face.

“Good morning to you too.” Pete huffed a laugh. “I’ll make breakfast, okay?”

“Okay.” Bronx let out a sleepy yawn as he kicked off his covers, sitting up and watching as Pete trailed out of his bedroom.

Pete set to work in the kitchen almost mindlessly, thanking Bisquick very sincerely for shake-and-pour pancake mix as he heated up the griddle and stuck bacon in the oven. This, he could do. This gave him a distraction from… Well, from that: The huge, pressing matter at hand. Patrick. His tour would only last so long, he’d be back in less than a month. And when he did come back, what could Pete say? He’d officially been home from his leg of the tour for three days before Patrick had flown back, a complete wreck, still covered in the sweat and dirt of the show the night before and breaking down into an emotional mess right in the middle of the hallway. Pete had been asleep when he heard Patrick walk in, and his emotions went from pleasant, kind of turned on surprise to dread, fear, and anger in less than two seconds flat. That had to be some sort of record, all things considered, but not one he was proud of. He still wasn’t sure how he felt about it – Shock, probably. All he wanted when Patrick had blurted it out was to yell, ask him “What the fuck?!” and “How could you?!” and all the cliché things that usually came after a confession like that but Bronx was sleeping and Pete may be a lot of things, but he is not the type of father to wake his son up just to listen to his daddies screaming at eachother.

“Dad?” A tiny voice said. “Daddy! The pancakes are smoking!”

“Shit!” Pete cussed, quickly scraping the charred pancake off of the griddle and tossing it onto a plate, a sheepish look on his face. “Guess I messed that one up, huh?”

“Yeah,” Bronx giggled, smiling. “Papa doesn’t burn them.”

“Well, I’m not your papa, am I?” A hint of malice edged its way into his voice, making Bronx’s eyes widen. Pete sighed, running a hand over his forehead. “Sorry, buddy, I didn’t sleep well last night.”

Pete knew that was no excuse, but the knowing look on his little boy’s face almost broke his heart. “Nightmares?” Bronx asked in a whisper, tucking his curly brown hair behind his ear. “I have nightmares sometimes.”

“Something like that.” Pete lamented, trying his hand at making pancakes one more time.

“Well, Mama says that nightmares aren’t real.” Bronx informed him, nodding to prove it’s true.

“Thanks, bud. I’ll remember that.” Pete ruffled Bronx’s hair, making him squeal and rush to fix it with his tiny fingers. Too bad, Pete thought. Too bad my nightmare is real.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Patrick had locked himself in the back bedroom of the bus, notebook in his lap and pen in his fist. All he could think of was Pete – Everything kept leading back to him. Patrick was writing in a black notebook just like Pete’s , he was snuggled into a hoodie he was certain was Pete’s . And, he decided, at 3 PM when he’d probably taken a few too many anxiety pills and written a few too many songs, he was tired of the person staring back at him from the mirror on the bedroom door. He needed a change, not a change of heart but a change of person, and that thought propelled him to his feet and out the bus door, making him end up in some dimly-lit Walmart, wandering up and down aisles looking for something different. He almost laughed at himself for thinking about picking up eyeliner, wanna be like Pete, yeah? , but moved on, shuffling down the aisles with his hood pulled over his head.

From the weird looks he was getting from store employees, he knew he looked terrible. It was Walmart, for Pete’s sakes (pun intended), nobody judged you for coming in at 3 PM looking homeless and vaguely suicidal unless you were super messed up. He shook his head, his eye being caught by brightly coloured boxes on a shelf.

Hair dye, he realized. He looked the colours over with a cotton-filled mind, looking at some of the more outrageous ones and laughing as he imagined himself with that colour hair, until his eye caught on a box that was fairly normal compared to the neon pink it was sitting next to. It was a platinum blond, almost – Not that Patrick knew anything at all about hair colour. The box was labeled something vaguely suggestive sounding, vaguely dangerous and sexy, and he flipped it over, studying it in his hands. It couldn’t hurt anything, he decided, so he might as well go for it.

The woman behind the counter made awful eye-contact the entire time she was bagging the dye, staring at him contemplatively while she tendered his change and ended up shortchanging him, but he wasn’t going to yell over a measly $5. Instead, he stalked to a grubby gas station and went in their bathroom, staring at himself in the cracked mirror. He didn’t look terrible, he decided – He’d definitely been worse for wear in their van days, but you could see the stress in the crease of his brow. He sighed, running a hand over his face and opening the box, reading instructions and setting to work.

No matter how much he loved the dramatics of it, dyeing your hair in a gas station bathroom wasn’t nearly as fun and edgy as it sounded – actually getting anything to work in the small space was nearly impossible, the lighting was terrible, and he really should have considered drying time, but an hour or so later, he emerged almost unharmed with beach-blonde hair wet on top of his head, and his hoodie stained beyond recognition. It didn’t improve his mood nearly as much as he thought it would, but it was better than nothing, he supposed.

Anything was better than nothing.

Chapter Text

Pete woke up to Bronx’s little feet padding around the living room, Hemmingway out there with him undoubtedly licking his face, but he couldn’t force himself up and out of bed. He knew it was going to be a shitty day. The dark clouds he’d just banished from his psyche had come back full-force, blanketing him in thoughts he’d sworn up and down he’d given up the moment Bronx was born. As soon as he opened his eyes, an existential dread washed over him and he sucked in a breath that got caught in his throat. Not fair, he thought, I felt fine yesterday. This is bullshit.

As soon as he had thought it, his mind went violently blank, white noise filling his head as he pulled the blankets over himself and curled into a ball. He wasn’t sure what time it was, didn’t really care, just wanted to spontaneously combust, just wanted it all to end. He had no choice in the ebb and flow of his depression, it hit him like a wall most of the time, and his ceaseless headbutting did nothing to soften it. He’d fought so hard to not give up for years and years, today wouldn’t be any different. He was Pete fucking Wentz, world-famous bassist, and, most importantly, Bronx’s dad, and that was his will to live. You can get out of bed, he prayed to himself. You can do it, come on, just move a little, you can do it. He managed to stretch his arm out, feeling for the edge of the bed. That was a win, he decided. Once he found the edge of the blanket, he gripped it in his fist, digging his fingers into the comforter. After sitting like that for a minute, breaths coming ragged and sharp, he managed to pull the blankets off of his head and winced as the light from the window he’d forgot to shut hit his face.

He felt like his own facsimile, a carbon copy that was identical to his real life self, but fake, surface-deep, angry, lead covered with Pete-colored paper. His arms were heavy, it felt like his skin sat uncomfortably on his body and his hair was wrong, still wrong. He imagined this was a lot like what being a ghost would feel like. He felt infinitely heavy and weightless, hands clutching at his chest. It almost felt like he was staring down at himself from some point above the bed, watching himself struggle with the task of moving. Pete, to put it bluntly, simply could not human today. He wanted to human, he wanted to be alive, but he really only wants what he can’t have, which does explain why he wants to die while doing mundane things, now doesn’t it?

He heard Bronx giggling in the next room, either at something on TV or at Hemmingway, and heaved a breath, trying to force himself up to care for his family. After about a good five minutes of trying, he stood, wandering out into his hallway with a blank expression, and then turned into the kitchen. He went through the everyday motions, popping his antidepressants and then filling Hemmy’s food and water dishes to the top. He grabbed a banana and then walked out into the living room, sitting on his couch and wondering what the hell he was thinking, how could he possibly eat? “Hi, daddy!” Bronx grinned up at Pete from where he was sat on the floor, watching something vaguely child appropriate and probably not approved by Ashlee. “Hemmy licked me.”

“He does that.” Pete smiled at his son, staring down at the banana in his hand. “What do you want for breakfast?”

“Hemmy and I had cereal.”

Pete just now noticed the box of cheerios underneath the coffee table, open and on its side. They had obviously been eating them just moments before. Pete was distantly aware that cheerios probably weren’t good for his dog, but he also didn’t really care at the moment. “That’s good.” Pete smiled. “I slept in pretty late, huh?”

“Yep.” Bronx nodded, eyes on the TV. “Mommy’s coming today, right?”

Pete had forgot that Ashlee was coming. It was Saturday, he realized, and that’s why Bronx wasn’t at school. “Yeah, buddy.” Pete confirmed. “She’ll be here this afternoon.”

“I don’t like Mommy’s new friend.” Bronx said almost dismissively.

“Who?” Pete’s guard instantly went up, and he put the offending fruit on the coffee table. “Who’s mommy’s new friend?”

“Justin.” Pete remembered now – Ashlee’s newest boyfriend, who had moved in just two or three weeks before. “He’s loud, and stinky, and he laughs too much. Can I stay with you?”

It broke Pete’s heart even further to hear his son say that, and to know the answer to his question. “We’ll ask your mama.” Pete informed him. “I don’t know how much she’d like that idea.”

“Okay.” Bronx sighed, getting up off the floor and crawling onto the couch, tucking into Pete’s side. “I love you, daddy.”

“Love you too, Monkey.” Pete rested his head on top of Bronx’s, taking a shaky breath as he held his tiny body to his chest. “Hey, I was thinking, do you want to help me bleach my hair?”

“What?” Bronx lifted his head, looking at Pete cross-eyes. “Do what to your hair?”

“Bleach it. I want blonde hair for now.” Pete replied, and Bronx’s eyes lit up.

“Yeah, let’s do it!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ashlee showed up about a half-hour late, looking disheveled, and Pete had half a mind to remind her of when he was late to pick up Bronx and the fuss she made of it, but he bit his tongue and checked the petty fight at the door. “You’re late.” Pete said simply instead.

“Yeah, I’m sorry, I was grocery shopping.” She shrugged as Pete let her into his house, eyeing his still-wet hair. “Where’s Bronx?”

“In the living room. You’re lucky he can’t tell time yet, he was just wondering where you were.” Pete walked away before Ashlee could say a thing, and turned into the living room, where Bronx was busy smashing two plastic bulldozers together, his back to the doorway. Pete crossed the room, crouching in front of the toddler and smiling. “Hey, monkey, your mom’s here.” He interrupted him, and Bronx crossed his arms, pouting.

“Can you say I wanna stay?” Bronx asked, just as Ashlee rounded the corner, unaware of his mother’s presence. “I don’t wanna leave.”

“Dude, I told you she-“

“But Justin!” He borderline yelled, dropping his toys. “He’s yucky.”

“Hey, calm down, I’m not gonna force you to do anything, but you have to talk to your mom.” Pete tried again just as Bronx’s lower lip quivered dangerously. “Just turn around, there she is, see?” He picked up Bronx and pointed at Ashlee, who had a shocked look etched over her face. “It’s up to her, bud.”

Bronx held eye contact with his mother for a moment before turning and burying his head in Pete’s neck. “Don’ wanna.” He mumbled stubbornly.

“Bronx, we have to go home.” Ashlee said finally.

“No!” Bronx squealed as Pete tried to put him down. “No, don’t make me!” Tears welled in his eyes as Pete managed to extract Bronx off of his hoodie and set him on the ground. He fiercely hugged his dad’s right leg, and Pete looked up at Ashlee, wide-eyed.

“I mean, if it’s okay…” Pete started, and Ashlee cut him off.

“Bronx, no, you have to come home with me. You’ll come back to your dad’s in a week.” She insisted, hands on hips. “Come on, I have groceries in the car.”

“No!” Bronx wailed loudly, causing Hemmy to stand up and whine. “No, no, no, you can’t! I won’t!”

“Dude, hey, look at me.” Pete pulled little hands off of his thigh and kneeled to be on eye-level with his son. “It’s a week, okay? That’s not too bad, huh?” Bronx just collapsed to the floor, crying. “No, shh, look. I’ll take you out to the car, okay?”

Bronx sniffled, and Pete sighed, and Ashlee huffed an impatient breath. Pete picked his son back up again, holding the tearful boy to his chest as they walked out to the car. “I’ll see you Saturday, yeah?” Pete smiled.

“Saturday.” Bronx repeated miserably as he folded in on himself in his carseat. “Bye, daddy.”

“Bye, monkey.”

Pete shut the door carefully, turning around with a melancholy sigh to face Ashlee. “You shouldn’t let him act like that, he’s gonna become a brat.” Ashlee said flatly, arms crossed.

“He’s fine, he just doesn’t like your new boyfriend.” Pete said, eyes shifting between the tires of the car, Bronx’s little face buried into his teddy bear, and the tree on his lawn. He hated having to put his son in the car like that, watch him cry through the window and side with a woman they both knew was wrong. Bronx didn’t like it, Pete didn’t like it, Pete gave him the more stable house, and beside the point, Pete needed him as an excuse to get up in the mornings. The little monster had gotten him up and functioning twice since… the situation happened… and without that, who knows where he’d be, either physically or mentally?

“You’re getting worse.” Ashlee waved her hand in front of his face, snapping him out of his thoughts. “You’re spacing out again. I don’t think the blonde is doing you any good.”

“Yeah, thinking.” Pete replied, shoving his hands in the pockets of the red skinny jeans he couldn’t bear to part with just yet. “I hate this.”

“It’s what’s best for him, he needs both parents.” She said icily. “I don’t like you giving him these ideas.”

“Hey, I didn’t, he’s the one who told me.” Pete protested, half-gesturing with his shoulders.

“He’s three, he doesn’t come up with things like that.” She stared him straight in the face. “Don’t make him think like that or I’ll have to take you back to custody court.”

Pete sucked in a breath, but then steeled his gaze. “If that’s what it takes, I’ll do it.” He said, taking a step back.

“See you Saturday.” Ashlee had walked around to her side of the car, opening the door.

“Saturday.” Pete said. “No later, never later.”

Chapter Text

Tour seemed pointless. Patrick couldn’t keep Pete and the ticking time bomb back in Chicago off his mind, couldn’t bear the thought of leaving Pete but couldn’t bear the thought of having to go back and talk to him, either. He had no ground to stand on – He had cheated, that was it, and there was nothing he could say in his defense. He had no defense, his best option was to explain to Pete what had went through his head and hope for forgiveness, but he couldn’t really remember what he had been thinking in the first place. Alcohol wasn’t an excuse, he knew that. He’d been drinking since he was fifteen, he knew what it did and didn’t do, he wasn’t stupid. Well, yes he was. He was incredibly stupid, but besides that, he was a little bit amazed. Amazed how his entire life could turn on a dime in the course of an hour, everything completely inside out and backwards, facing the wrong way with the wrong feelings and ideas.

However, he still had to perform, smile for his audience and sing songs he knew he didn’t really mean on a stage he’d rather escape from. Lindsay had caught him staring blankly at the wall in the back of the bus a few different times, lost in his headspace, and sat with him for a few minutes as he struggled to make words, to make sense of anything.

His next night of tour was in Houston, and he had to get all the way to Los Angeles before it was over. Fans were starting to notice he was off. They’d only been distracted by his freshly-dyed hair for so long, but after a week or so, they realized something had happened, something had happened and Patrick really wasn’t okay, thank you for asking. He didn’t even stop to pay for hotels, because he couldn’t go into the room without thinking of Pete, or without remembering New York and imagining what he could be thinking right now, or doing right now. He hadn’t gotten a call from Andy or Joe saying Pete was in the hospital, hadn’t seen an AP article about his death, and that was the only good news he’d gotten all week. “Y’know, Stick,” Lindsey said one day, flopped across the bed in the back of the bus with Patrick’s head in her lap. “He’s not gonna do anything dumb. He’s gotta think of Bronx.”

“He had a band to think of and that didn’t stop him before.” Patrick pointed out quietly.

“Kids are different, man.” Lindsey reached a hand up to brush her hair out of her face. “Kids make you think weird, they’re like… So important, you just have to-”

“Live for them, yeah.” Patrick finished her sentence. “Bronx is amazing, I love him so much, and Pete does, too, but…” He drew in a shaky breath, staring straight at the ceiling. “I don’t know, Linds, Bronx isn’t with him this week.”

“He’ll be okay.” She assured him, petting his hair absentmindedly, eyes drifting shut. “I promise.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Patrick knew he screwed up that night. He knew he was going to be the topic of a lot of speculation in AP magazine, he already was on Twitter, and he wouldn’t be facing it. Oh, no; he silenced notifications for the app as soon as he left the stage, before he even greeted Lindsey to hear what he did right and what he fucked up. When he was met with a sorry smile, he knew he’d slipped, and he knew he’d slipped bad. His high notes were flat, muted where they should have been sharp, and he’d been late on a few cues. A few of his fans had undoubtedly noticed, Lindsey had undoubtedly noticed, and he really wasn’t mentally equipped to handle anything at the moment. “Hey, Sticky,” Lindsey called once she was close enough to not have to yell. “Pack up for bus call?”

“I… I want a hotel tonight, actually.” He said quietly. Her eyes widened, unspoken question between them. “I need to slow down, need to think. Running myself into the ground isn’t gonna help me.”

“Good thinking, little dude.” Lindsey patted him on the head, looking over his shoulder and nodding and pointing at roadies. “Hotel night!” She yelled, and was met with a resounding cheer. “Still, back to the bus, yeah?”

“Yeah.” Patrick nodded, looking around for his fedora, finding it on a table and jamming it back on his head, mostly for comfort. “Yeah, let’s go.”

“What’s running through your mind?” Lindsey posed the question on the block walk back to the parking lot where the bus was hidden.

“Everything.” Patrick shrugged noncommittally. “Pete, mainly.”

“Of course.” Lindsey said, her chunky platform heels clicking on the chilly pavement. She tugged at the hem of her skirt, pulling it back around her thighs, and sighed. “Anything you wanna get out?”

“I just want to fix it.” Patrick lamented. “I don’t know how.”

“You were drunk, Patty, there’s not really-”

“That’s not an excuse.” Patrick cut her off before she could finish her sentence. “I was drunk, yeah, but I wasn’t out of control. I can’t blame the alcohol, I know that, and even if I tried, Pete would call me on it big time. He knows what drugs and alcohol do, and so do I.”

“I know.” They scuffed along in silence for a moment before Lindsey spoke again. “What are you gonna do?”

“I don’t know.” Patrick admitted. “I might send him a text, but that’s really impersonal. I feel like this should be done in person, y’know?”

“You say things you don’t mean in person, too.” Lindsey pointed out. “There’s no filter, no deleting messages.”

“There is that.” Patrick admitted, just as they got to the bus. He waited for Lindsey to unlock the door before stepping inside and collapsing down onto the bus’s couch. “It’s super late, though, I’ll do it tomorrow.”

“You and I both know he’s awake, Stick, don’t try to pull that one.” Lindsey had her hands on her hips as she stared Patrick down with her best manager glare.

“I… I’ll think.” Patrick said, waving her off. “I’ll write something out, type it up, and send it to him at the hotel room, or something. You’re pressuring me into this, though.”

“What are friends for?” Lindsey smiled, ruffling his hair as the rest of the band reached the bus, heading for the bunks on their short drive to the hotel.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the hotel room, Patrick had his notebook in his lap, a pencil in his hand, and thoughts buzzing through his brain. Lindsey may be crazy at the best of times, but she had a point. He did have to tell Pete what he had been thinking at some point, and if he wrote it down and either texted or mailed it to him, he’d be curious enough to read it someday. It was that curiosity Patrick was betting on as he sat down to write, sighing heavily as he started it out like a letter.

Pete,
I know there’s nothing I can say that will make this okay. It’s not okay, and that’s just the fact of the matter, and I’m going to have to accept that. It’s bitter, but that’s what it is.
Neither of us are perfect, and neither of us have ever pretended to be, but I definitely made the biggest mistake in the entire course of our relationship. I could say that I was drunk, that the alcohol made me do it, but we both know that’s not the truth. Alcohol just brings deeper issues to light, and it certainly did. I’ve been worried about cheating since that day back at Todd’s, when you got in the fight and I had your back, all the way until I found out I was getting you out of feeling up the other guy’s girlfriend. That was before either of us had really said anything about dating, yeah, but we were both thinking it. It was kind of unsaid. This time, my worry manifested itself.
The truth is, it wasn’t the alcohol that made me do it. It can’t be pinpointed on any one thing. I knew what I was doing, to an extent. I don’t remember most of it. I blacked out, but I was still in control of my actions, for the most part. It was my decision, it wasn’t something I can blame on any one thing. The only way to say it is I messed up. I messed up big time, and I don’t blame you if you can never forgive me. I wouldn’t forgive me. Sleeping with Frank isn’t something I ever intended to do, it’s not something I ever even thought about, but it happened, and there’s not really anything I can say. ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t seem to cut it. I can’t just apologize for breaking your trust. I can’t apologize for doing the one thing that was out of bounds.
That said, it’s also something I can’t stop thinking about. I’m writing this in Houston, and I can’t stop thinking about you back at home, probably curled up on the couch with some TV show on in the background as you stare at the ceiling. You’re probably thinking really hard right now, pretending to be asleep, but we both know you’re not. You don’t have Bronx, so you don’t have to get up tomorrow. I know because you were going to come back out to tour with me today, but I messed that one up. I can’t stop thinking, though, and that’s usually your thing, and now that I’ve done it, I’m sorry I ever mocked you for it. Thoughts are crazy things, especially when they keep spiraling back to the same ideas.
I can’t apologize for sleeping with Frank because that won’t fix it. I don’t expect you to accept an apology, even if one was posed, but all I want you to know is that I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I woke up the next morning. I broke your trust, and if I could fix that with an apology I would, but that’s something I have to earn back. I just hope you give me a second chance. I don’t deserve it, but I also didn’t deserve to be famous, so maybe luck will strike twice. Lindsey said I’m running myself into the ground, but if I tour and don’t stop long enough to breathe, I can’t let my thoughts wander. If I could take the whole thing back, I would, but that’s not how life works. There’s no reset button, even though I’d really appreciate one right now. Everything’s uncertain. Hell, I don’t even know if I’m allowed to come back home after tour. I know Mom and Dad would take me back in until I have my life sorted out again, but that’s not something I want to think about.
I miss you, though. I keep finding myself with half-finished texts I want to send you, but then I realize you probably hate my guts. I hate myself right now, though, so I don’t blame you at all. I’d be happy if you ever talked to me again. So, while this isn’t an apology, this is me hoping. Hoping that you’ll at least talk to me again. Hoping that you’re okay. If Bronx asks where I am, at least tell him something nice, okay? Don’t lie to him, but tell him something nice. I love him, and I don’t want him to think badly of me, but mostly I love you, and I always will. I’ll be back in Chicago in a week – Hopefully I’ll be coming back to a second shot, but I’m not expecting anything right now.
Constantly yours,
Patrick

Patrick sighed, rubbing his eyes. He hated it. He felt cliché, writing Pete letters like this. He didn’t know if he’d send it – He probably would. Maybe he’d bring it back to Chicago and leave it on the counter so Pete had to see it. He didn’t know anymore. He didn’t know.

Chapter Text

Tour was ending, and Patrick dreaded the day he’d have to get on a plane and go home. He hadn’t been able to get the look on Pete’s face out of his head since he left Chicago, hadn’t been able to shake the feelings of uncleanliness and worthlessness. They clung to him, and for the first time, he completely understood Pete’s analogy of grey clouds, and their ebb and flow, or cerebral pollutants. He understood, and he hated that he understood, he hated that anyone understood, because nobody should have to feel this way.

Worthless.

It wasn’t really something that crossed his mind, worthlessness, but it was a repeating theme as of late, and he hated it. He boarded a plane from LAX to O’Hare without smiling, or really acknowledging anyone, and slumped in his seat, not conscious but not really asleep for the whole ride. He’d promised to text Lindsey on the ground, but doing anything right now seemed like such a bad idea, and he’d bet his favourite leather jacket that he wouldn’t want to do it in an hour, either. She didn’t have to worry – He was generally a safe person, and everyone he’d ever ran across knew that. He wasn’t a fan of the rash or the crazy, so he wasn’t sure what Lindsey was worried about. Either way, as he slumped into a taxi and gave it his address, he had other things to worry about, like mentally bracing himself for what Pete would say. He knew Bronx had left a few days ago, so Pete had had the house to himself for long enough to do some serious ruminating on the subject, and that scared Patrick a little. He didn’t like that Pete had probably been ruminating about it for two whole weeks. He didn’t like that he was in this situation in the first place, because god dammit, he loved Pete and he loved Bronx and he loved what they had together, just the three of them, and he’d gone and fucked them all over in a single hour.

It wasn’t even good sex.

There was nothing remotely good about the whole situation, and as the taxi rolled up the street to his house, it began to really settle with him that this was real and that he had to talk to Pete. He paid his fare with shaky hands, sparing a smile for the cabbie as he lugged his suitcase up to the door and stopped. Did he knock? Did he go in? It physically hurt him to have to think about knocking, but he did it anyways. Three small, timid raps at the door, and then he heard footsteps on the other side. He braced himself, but for what, he didn’t know.

When Pete opened the door, he was wearing an old Clandestine hoodie that probably hadn’t seen the inside of a washing machine in months and his red skinny jeans, hair hidden by his hood. He looked Patrick over and took a step back. “You’re home.” He said, stepping out of the doorway to let Patrick in.

Patrick sighed, casting eyes to the top of the doorframe in silent prayer as he stepped over the threshold and dragged his bag with him. They stood inside for a moment, just staring at eachother before Pete slowly nodded, stepping into the living room. “I should probably put this down.” Patrick said quietly, gesturing to his suitcases.

Pete’s lip twitched, an unspoken I guess so , watching Patrick unzip his coat and go towards their bedroom. He leaned the two main cases against the wall in the corner, not bothering to unpack yet, tossing his overnight bag onto his side of their dresser and running a hand through his hair with a nervous sigh. He hated the tension between him and Pete, but was unsure how to address it without making the situation worse than it already was.

“You dyed your hair.” Patrick jumped at Pete’s voice behind him, the other still had his hood up, pulled over his face.

“In a gas station bathroom.” Patrick shook his head, trying futilely to look up and see the ends of his hair.

“I did, too.” Pete almost smiled, emotionless, as he pulled his hood down to reveal his own platinum blonde hair, just lighter than Patrick’s. “Bronx did the sides, there’s a spot he missed that I might touch up.”

Patrick mirrored his smile. “That’s funny we both went with blonde.” He remarked.

“Yeah.” Pete said, shoving his hands in his pockets and walking out of the room, leaving Patrick to finish unpacking in silence.

When Patrick finally left their bedroom, Pete was sitting on the couch, coffee on the table and a notebook in his lap. “Pete, we need to talk about this.” Patrick said in a sudden rush of courage, his voice still coming out small and scared.

“We do.” Pete nodded, but didn’t say anything after the fact, face expressionless as he stared at his coffee. After a moment, he looked up at Patrick. “Did you hear from Frank while you were on tour? After, I mean?”

“No, of course not!” Patrick defended as he sat on the couch across the room from Pete.

“He and Gerard are getting a divorce over this, I guess it’s not Frank’s first time. Cheating, I mean.” Pete said, stating facts but it still felt accusatory. Patrick sucked in a breath, eyes going wide. He went to talk, but Pete held up a hand. “Gerard is wrecked, he’s not doing good. He’s back to drinking.”

“Pete, I had no idea-” Patrick stammered, but Pete cut him off.

“I know you didn’t, that’s the point!” His calm demeanor cracked, anger and hurt jumping into his voice. “You had no fucking clue, did you? No clue what you were doing would wreck Frank’s life, wreck their band, wreck my life?” His voice broke, and he cleared his throat. Patrick just sat across from him, hands in his lap, eyes wide as Pete got up and paced the room, almost yelling. “I don’t even know what to say, Patrick! All that shit for all those years, about it being okay, about you being there for me, was that a lie? Huh? I believed you, I lived for you. I fucking lived for you, Patrick! You are why I’m not dead, and you know? It’s looking awfully fucking tempting again.”

“Oh god,” Patrick sobbed, standing up. “You didn’t do anything, did you? I’m so sorry, I-”

“Of course I didn’t fucking do anything, I have to do the right thing for my son.” Pete spat back, rubbing at his wrists almost absentmindedly. “I don’t know what to do, that’s the problem! What am I supposed to think?”

Patrick just shook his head, staring at his shoes, wringing his hands as he just took the brunt of Pete’s words. Pete sighed loudly, running a hand over his face, spinning in a quick circle and lodging his fist in the drywall next to the kitchen door. “Goddammit!” He yelled, tears springing to his eyes. “God fucking dammit!” He looked down at his hand, blood sprouting from cuts on his knuckles. When he looked back at Patrick, there were tears in his eyes, and he bit his lip for a moment before speaking. “I… I don’t know if I can do this right now.” Pete almost whispered, looking between Patrick and the hole in the wall. “You should, uh… You should just go.”

“Pete, I don’t wanna leave you like this, I’m scared I-” he stopped, clearing his throat, wiping viciously at the tears on his face. “What do you-”

“Just get out of my house!” Pete yelled, a hiccupping sob breaking through, and Patrick froze, eyes wide. Pete took a shaky breath before he spoke again. “Get the fuck out, get out, I can’t do this right now, not like this.”

“Okay.” Patrick whispered, shrinking back, shoulders slumped and eyes wide. “Okay. Give me fifteen minutes, I’ll go.”

Patrick backed out of the room, eyes on Pete where he was standing in the middle of the room, looking down at his feet and trying to regulate his breathing. Once he was out of the room, the first tear fell down Patrick’s face. He didn’t know what he had expected upon coming back to Chicago, but this was definitely worse than he was hoping for. He was glad he hadn’t unpacked his suitcases, he could just bring them with him and wash them wherever he ended up. He threw the things from his side of the dresser drawers into a duffel, picked through as much as he dared in the short time period he’d set himself, and managed to come up with most of his belongings. Grabbing his notebook to leave, the letter he’d wrote Pete drifted out and down to the floor, and he stared at it, the white of the paper foreign against the sandy hardwood. He picked it up, fingering the lined paper between forefinger and thumb before setting it on the dresser, nestled between picture frames, one of all of Fall Out Boy, one of Bronx. Pete would probably see it.

Patrick hoped he would.

He dragged his bags down the hallway, leaving them on the porch before going back in for his guitar case. He picked it up, and it was only then that it hit him – what he was about to do. He was being forced to leave. Pete had asked him to leave. He sucked in a breath, steadying himself as he walked past the doorway to the living room, looking in to see Pete hunched over, head in his hands. “Bye, Pete.” Patrick whispered, voice hoarse in the silence.

Pete looked up, eyes shiny but face set. He didn’t say anything, Adam’s apple bobbing as they just stared, stared until Pete broke the connection and looked back at his hands. “See you.” Pete settled on, cringing at the way his voice broke halfway through.

Patrick walked out of the house, pulling the door closed behind him with a quiet squeak before taking a shaky breath, straightening his sweater and dragging the first of his bags to his piece of shit of a car. He’d never replaced it, never had to, his 1992 Corolla still ran fine and that’s what mattered. Once all his bags were loaded into the trunk, he fell into the driver’s seat and slid the key into the ignition, praying silently that it’d start and letting a small smile slip onto his lips as it did. Thank God for small miracles, even if everything else had fallen apart.

Chapter Text

Pete shouldn’t have yelled. He’d told himself for two weeks that he wouldn’t yell, mentally coached himself through every possible situation, and yet, he’d blown up, yelled at Patrick, and caused a repair bill that he really didn’t want to deal with to the wall of the living room. He’d slept on the couch last night, unable to bring himself to face his bedroom and all the reminders of Patrick that would be inside, staring at the hole in the wall all night and thinking, thinking while he waited for the sun to rise and Bronx to be brought back, at 12:00 on the dot. “What even happened to the wall, daddy?” Bronx asked as he ate a snack, watching the repair men with something like amusement on his little face.

“I guess it kind of exploded.” Pete said, which was technically not a lie. “They’ll be gone soon.”

“Oh, good. They’re loud.” Bronx proclaimed, wiping his hand across his face and fidgeting with his sleeves in a habit he’d picked up from Patrick. “Where’s Papa?”

“He’s… Staying the night with friends, I think.” Pete said carefully. “I don’t know how long he’ll be gone.”

“Mama says I’m too little to stay with friends.” Bronx muses. “Maybe I should do that someday, when I’m big like Papa.”

“Maybe.” Pete sighed, staring at the wood grain of the table. “You should go put your backpack away, yeah? Have you done that yet?”

Bronx gasped, eyes flying wide. “I forgot!” He yelled, jumping off that chair and sprinting for his bedroom as fast as his little legs could take him. “I’ll do it now!”

Pete shook his head, laughing as he watched him run before turning back to picking at the table. He honestly didn’t know what to think anymore, especially about Patrick and the whole dilemma that had arose. He tried to tell himself that he didn’t care where Patrick was, that he didn’t care if he slept in his car last night or not, but that was not strictly true. He doubted he’d ever not care about Patrick. He didn’t think he had it in him to completely forget the man he’d spent a good half of his life loving, whether he was in denial or not. He didn’t want to leave behind all the memories – The pizza place down the road with the booth in the back that still had his nail polish permanently engrained in the wax, that had the entire band’s initials scratched into the windowsill next to it, or the arcade in which he and Patrick had once singlehandedly owned every high score in the place, or the car crashes and the hotel rooms and the hospitals they’d visited, survived, and owned together. He didn’t want to leave that behind, not now and not ever, but what was he supposed to do?

He hated it. He hated Patrick. Well, no he didn’t, but he hated his choices. He had overreacted, granted, but both of them had messed up, and while two fuck-ups don’t make them on equal footing, it certainly did make interesting territory. He was left feeling brokenhearted, brokenhearted and vaguely pissed off, and the two feelings didn’t mix well. He rubbed a hand across his face as he watched his drywall be patched, reliving the moment he’d put the hole there in the first place, the built up anger he’d had, the built up hurt he’d had. He knew he’d scared the hell out of Patrick that night, with the yelling and the punching, and he kind of regretted it, but he hadn’t been able to use words to convey his feelings, and where words failed, actions stood up and voiced the situation.

Bronx came back from his room wearing a Viking hat, and sat down next to Pete with a tiny smile on his little face. “Can we go to the park after the house is fixed?” He asked, pleading blue eyes staring straight up at his dad.

“Sure, yeah.” Pete smiled as Bronx squealed, grinning.

“I love the park!” He declared as he bit into one of his apple slices.

“I know you do, monkey.” Pete watched as the guys finished patching the wall, leaving at least part of the house less rough than it was. “They’re almost done, too.”

“You told me earlier.” Bronx reminded Pete, dipping his apple in peanut butter and wiggling his feet off of the edge of the stool. “Can Teddy come to the park, too?”

“I don’t know, can he?” Pete turned to face Bronx, a challenging smile on his lips.

“Yeah, he can.” Bronx giggled, jumping off the stool all of a sudden and hopping back towards his room.

Pete shook his head, watching him go with the remnants of a smile on his face. If they were going to go to the park, he’d have to get ready as well, which is what he was hoping Bronx had hopped off to do. He stood, stretching his arms and downing the rest of his coffee in one huge gulp, scratching the back of his neck as he went into his bedroom. He stopped at the closed door, laying a fist against the smooth wood and taking a deep breath, bracing himself before stepping inside, bracing himself to see some of Patrick’s things undoubtedly left behind. When he opened it, the room was almost as it had been four years ago, with his pillow the only one on the bed, closet half-empty, dresser drawer askew and jumbled, no fedoras on the end of the headboard. The master bathroom door was cracked, Patrick’s weirdly-expensive soap gone and replaced with Pete’s $1 bar again, the second comb gone off the counter. Pete took a shaky breath, shaking his head and moving towards the dresser, opening his drawer to pull a shirt out and causing a piece of paper to fall off of the top, sitting straight in-between his piles of shirts. He picked it up, staring at it quizzically until it fell open to reveal Patrick’s scratchy handwriting, almost filling the page.

“No,” Pete choked, breath hitching in his throat as he read the first few words. Pete, I know there’s nothing I can say that will make this…

“Daddy, the guys are leaving!” Bronx squeaked from the doorway, making Pete’s head jerk up, eyes wide. The little boy was pulling at his long blonde curls, a smile on his face, Viking hat crooked on top of his head and his teddy in his arms. “Can we go now?”

“Uhm, yeah, just let me…” Pete looked between his son and the note again, pulling a hoodie from the drawer and wriggling into it, shoving the paper almost absentmindedly into the pocket. “Let me get ready, we’ll go.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pete was sat on a park bench, watching Bronx run with the other little kids, hand in his hoodie pocket fingering the paper within. He knew he should read it, knew he wanted to, but wasn’t sure if he should do it now, or at home, or if he should even read it while Bronx was with him. He hated Patrick’s way with words – His lyrics always got Pete turned around backwards, upside down, and vaguely turned on, and he’s sure that the letter would be no different save for the fact that he was still royally pissed off at Patrick, which would just add another layer of dilemma to the problem. He shook his head, glancing down at the paper he had since pulled from his pocket, sighing deeply and beginning to read.

And by the end of the letter, as predicted, he didn’t know what was right and what was wrong, just knew that he missed Patrick, goddammit, he missed him but couldn’t forgive him, not yet, not like this. The possibility of an eventual reconciliation was looking more and more likely, though.

Chapter Text

Patrick never did end up going to his parent’s house. As soon as he was in his car and out of his (Pete’s?) driveway, he was on the phone with Lindsey hands-free as he drove to the nearest Wal-Mart. “Book me another tour, and make it fast.” He insisted. “I need to do something.”

“It didn’t go well?” Her raspy voice spilled through his car speakers.

“No, not really.” He sighed. “When can I be touring again?”

“Give me a week, we have to let time for ticket sales.” She said. Patrick heard her typing in the background.

“Book club shows, small things. I don’t want to wait for tickets.”

And it was with that that Patrick was back on the road, or at least attempting to be. His mind was in overdrive, and he’d finished pages upon pages of lyrics that he didn’t think would ever see the light of day again, and a few that he was planning a new album with. He slept in his car that night, a new personal low but it just sort of happened, in a way that was completely unexplainable and totally not a Patrick thing to do.

That was a Pete thing to do. That was a distinctly Pete thing to do, and he knew it, and he despised himself for it. He had most of his worldly possessions in the back of his car, most of his integrity in shreds, and most of his notebooks filled, and he could do nothing but think about his boyfriend (ex-boyfriend?) and how badly he’d screwed everything up. He figured Pete had found the note by now, figured he’d read it and ignored it or had read it and was taking time to process it, and tried to think of what his mental state would be, but that depended. Depended on how he’d been when he read it, depended on if he’d remembered to take his meds in the proper doses or either abused them or forgotten them, depended on Bronx and whether he’d said anything on Patrick’s behalf. Because Pete had Bronx with him this week, and this was the first on-week since Bronx was born that Patrick had missed. Nothing had kept him away from the little rascal, but this? This did.

He was sat on a park bench somewhere in uptown Chicago, staring distantly off at a flock of birds resting on a telephone wire and contemplating how useless everything was. There was nothing he could do, nothing he could blame, nothing he could try to save. The ball was in Pete’s court now, and no amount of dancing in his would do anything helpful. The one thing he despised the most about this was that it gave him time to think, and oh boy, did he. He had taken to over-contemplating anything, leaving him momentarily paralyzed with the sheer overwhelmingness of everything, but no matter what, his thoughts always strayed back to one question.

Why? Why had he cheated on Pete? Inebriated or not, that wasn’t an excuse, and he’d professed that much, but what was there to say? Nothing in his defense, certainly, but everything was bore from something. He knew it was, but that was the easy part of admitting.

A single bird croaked in a tree above his head, and he sighed, rubbing hands over his face. He shouldn’t be sat out in the chill Chicago air, shouldn’t be in this situation. He just wanted to go home, but he knew Pete wouldn’t so much as talk to him until he was ready to admit to himself why he’d done it. He knew – Oh yes, he knew – but he couldn’t say it, not yet. Maybe eventually.

He also felt terribly guilty for what he’d done to Frank. He and Gerard were finally settling down, they had a baby, and he’d singlehandedly screwed that one up and broken one of his strongest friendships in the process. Not his proudest moment, but then again, none of this was.

His phone rang through a text, but he ignored it. The only person it could be was Lindsey telling him his tiny tour was a go, and he already knew she’d push until he got what he needed. He didn’t need her right now, he needed Pete, or a stiff drink, or maybe both, and only one of those things really looked feasible. Granted, it was 1:30 on a Tuesday afternoon, but he knew several places that were open 24/7 and had debatably good whiskey and debatably better music, and before he knew what he was doing, his feet were carrying him in the direction of Mary Todd’s and it’s endless alcohol.

“What can I do you for?” The bartender behind the counter asked, drying a glass with a small smile on his face as Patrick slumped into one of the stools.

He eyed the man over before sighing and ordering. “Whiskey, neat.” He mumbled, staring at his hands. As soon as it was in front of him, he shot it back, relishing in the burn as it went down.

The man behind the counter filled his glass again without asking, and Patrick nodded his head in appreciation. “What’s eating you?” The man asked goodnaturedly, sitting down opposite him on a stool behind the nearly-abandoned bar.

“Nothing, ‘m fine.” Patrick waved a hand as he picked up his second drink, and the man scoffed easily.

“Nobody comes in to drink in the early afternoon if they’re fine.” The bartender pointed out, setting the glass down and fixing his pale blue eyes on Patrick. “If you wanna talk, I’ve been known to be a good ear.”

Patrick downed the rest of his second glass of whiskey, licking his lips and swallowing one more time before running a hand over his face and sighing, rubbing his temples. “I cheated on my boyfriend.” He said lamely. “He kicked me out, but then I found out that our friends are getting a divorce over this, and I really didn’t want any of this, but it’s gone to pieces now and I can’t do anything about it.”

“Ouch,” The man said sympathetically, filling his glass again and wiping down the counter between them. “That’s a tough one.”

“Tell me about it.” Patrick grumbled, staring at the liquid in his glass, trying not to think about how it was the exact shade of Pete’s eyes, trying not to think about how this was exactly what got him into this situation. He was quiet for a minute. “I need to figure out how to make things right again.” He finally said into his whiskey. “I don’t know what to do.”

“What are you doing?” The man asked.

“Running away.” He scoffed, mentally berating himself for how that sounded. “Going on tour, getting out of Chicago. He told me he needs to think, I wanna give him space.”

“I’m saying this from experience, I don’t know anything about your old man but when my wife ran off and screwed my best friend, I said I needed space and I really only needed about half the space I told her I did. Iffen she’d come back sooner, I’d have been more likely to take her back. Talk to him, or at least try, yeah?”

“I left him a letter.” Patrick admitted. “He’s probably read it by now.”

“There, that’s a start.”

Patrick could feel the warm edge of the whiskey creeping up on him now, and he relished the easy distraction. He sipped slowly on his third glass, knowing flooding his system wouldn’t do anything but make him black out, and studied the grain of the table. The other people in the bar at this hour were lost causes and dejected souls like himself, barely looking up to acknowledge the new presence in their favourite bar. Heads down, eyes vacant, and a look on their faces that frankly scared Patrick with the possibility that it might be mirrored on his own. He slammed a $20 down on the table, standing up and looking around him for a second before facing the bartender. “I… I have to go.” He mumbled, holding up his phone as a lame excuse. The bartender nodded, winking at him as he grabbed the $20 and tendered it before Patrick was even out the door.

Clicking on his cell phone screen as he left the bar, a message was flashed across the top of the screen. One Unread Message, it read.

It was from Pete.

Chapter Text

One text could shatter an entire universe. Hey, Pete’s text had read. U still in town? I think im ready 2 talk now.

Patrick had stared at those twelve words for almost an hour before he had the courage to even think of replying. He was in shock, understandably, in shock and still kind of tipsy but his buzz was leaving fast. Of course. Patrick replied. I can be there in 15 minutes?

ok.

Patrick had never felt more thankful for three characters popping up on his screen than just then. He took a shaky breath and nodded to himself, assuring himself that he could do this before walking the short distance to his car and pulling off down the street. He took the turns back to Pete’s (his?) house almost reflexively, lost in his mind and every possible situation of what could be waiting for him once he arrived. He decided to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, always a solid plan save for the fact that he always tended to be ill-prepared and forever a dreamer, and steeled himself to the possibility he might never see Pete again after this. He counted up to ten and back to one before he breathed a final sigh and turned down their street, parking on the road and shaking himself to get ready. “You can do this, Stump.” He said out loud, stepping out of the car and walking up to the door with a nervous quickness to his step.

He had barely reached the porch when Pete pulled open the door, and Patrick bit back a gasp. Besides the new (was it still new after weeks?) blond being a shock, there were dark circles under Pete’s eyes reminiscent of their days in Fall Out Boy, a permanent frown stuck on his face. It was obvious he’d slept in last night’s clothes – rumpled and dirty, baggy skinny jeans and a hoodie. “Patrick.” He said, voice raw like he’d been screaming.

“Pete,” Patrick replied, voice small as he fidgeted under his gaze.

Pete looked between him and the ground before nodding. “Okay.” He whispered, taking a step back and allowing Patrick in. “Okay. Come in, Bronx is at school. I found your note.”

“I figured.” Patrick said, stepping over the threshold and following behind Pete as he walked into the living room. Patrick sat down on the couch, hands in his lap as Pete sat across from him. Patrick eyed the newly patched wall behind Pete’s head, how the paint over the new plaster didn’t quite match the old and figured that had been bothering the fuck out of Pete since it had been painted. “So,” He said quietly.

“You never did tell me why.” Pete pointed out almost curiously, leaning back against the couch. “Why you did it, and why Frank. What the hell? What the hell and why, that’s what I want to know.” He was calm, which was either good or very bad, and Patrick hadn’t decided which yet.

“I…” Patrick stopped, taking a breath. He was barely ready to admit to himself the real reason he’d done it, let alone Pete, but he told Pete everything, didn’t he? He always had. “I was… afraid.” He settled on finally. “Afraid of cheating.”

“So you did it?” Pete asked incredulously.

“No! Well… Yes, I guess, but not like that. I was afraid of you cheating.” He said softly, fidgeting with his hands. “For all those years, it was you and every girl in whatever town we were in, and then suddenly, it was just you and me. I worried about you-”

“What, tripping and falling into someone’s bed?” Pete scoffed, hurt flashing over his face. “I’d never do that, Patrick.”

“No, I know!” Patrick said quickly. “I know you wouldn’t, but I thought about it, and then I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and it had gone away, I swear, but then I went on tour and I left you alone, and everything was going fine but then I started thinking again…” Patrick trailed off. “You know how my mind gets, with the overthinking.” He said after a minute, quiet. “And then there was Frank, and he got me so drunk, and-”

“You’re not a very thoughtful drunk, yeah. I know.” Pete finished his sentence. It wasn’t the way Patrick was going to word it, but it wasn’t strictly untrue, so he nodded. “You’re a messy drunk, a happy drunk, a cocky drunk, but not a flirty drunk, so what gives?”

“I was thinking about bartenders.” Patrick said. “I think. It’s all pretty hazy. I was thinking about you, and I was remembering… Remembering the last time I’d been to that bar, with you and Andy and Joe, and you’d ran off with some bartender and left me alone in there, and then I said something about it, but, y’know, I was drunk so it came out really weird. Frank said something back, and then… The next thing I remember is waking up.”

Pete was quiet, nodding slowly, eyes fixed on a crayon smudge on the wood of the coffee table. He was quiet for a long time before speaking again. “Bronx asked about you.”

“What’d you tell him?” Patrick asked.

“That you were staying with friends.” Patrick nodded, and Pete continued. “He misses you. Hell, I miss you.”

“I missed you two like crazy.” Patrick admitted truthfully.

“I know.” Pete said softly. ‘You just wanted to come home after tour, but I blew up at you.”

“You had the right.” Patrick said. “I messed up, you’re allowed to be mad.”

“Fuck, believe me, I know. I broke up with Ashlee for this same reason, y’know?” He sighed, running a hand through his short hair. “But you’re different, I… Uh, I wanna make this work, y’know, you and me.”

“You do?” Patrick asked, eyes wide, tension melting off his face.

“Yeah, I do.” Pete nodded, still looking unsure with himself but smiling softly at the look on Patrick’s face. “I feel insane for doing it, but I really fucking love you, Trick.” He laughed, whether it was out of nervousness or the ridiculousness of the situation, neither knew. “That was a shitty thing for you to do, but I still love you. Also, I don’t want Bronx to have to lose his Papa.”

Pete smiled softly and Patrick smiled back. “We’re okay, then?” Patrick asked.

“No,” Pete replied. “But we will be.”

Patrick nodded, half-smile still on his face. “That’s better than nothing.” He said, and Pete huffed a laugh.

“Yeah,” Pete said, scratching the back of his neck and glancing up at a clock. “I gotta get Bronx from school, though – Wanna come?”

“God, yes.” Patrick sighed, and Pete laughed at the relief on his face. It felt amazing to have some semblance of normalcy back, even though it wasn’t and probably never would be back to the same. At least he hadn’t lost his son, Patrick thought.

At least I still have my family

Chapter Text

Pete lay awake late into the night, staring at Patrick’s peacefully sleeping face laying next to him in their bed. His head was propped up on his elbow, just watching the easy rise and fall of Patrick’s chest as he slept, maybe dreaming of their last tour together, maybe falling into an undisturbed slumber. He’d honestly missed it, missed this, missed Patrick, but he couldn’t bring himself to just fall asleep and pretend everything was okay, sling his arm over his boyfriend and just sleep. It felt off, it felt wrong, and there was something about the whole situation that made Pete’s skin crawl. He couldn’t stop imagining Patrick laying next to Frank, dirty black hair splayed over the pillow next to his boyfriend’s peaceful face, tattooed fingers against pale skin. He hated it, hated that he wasn’t the only one that knew how Patrick sounded and felt in bed, hated that out of everyone in the world Patrick had chosen Frank, hated that this was a situation he was caught in.

Patrick let out a small, sleepy noise as he curled towards Pete, pulling blankets up to his neck and settling back down as if nothing had happened. As if nothing had happened. Something had happened, though, and they both knew it. Patrick was just relieved that Pete had decided to give him a second chance, thought that a second chance meant everything was back to normal or something, but fuck all if it ever would be. Pete hated the situation, but he loved Patrick, and the two emotions curled low in his gut in an unsettling way as he lay awake, the clock verging on 3 AM, a Saturday, the day Bronx would be taken back to his mother’s house and there would be zero distractions in the house anymore. Just Pete and Patrick and the guilt that still hung heavy in the air in huge, pregnant pauses, and he’d be flat-out lying if he said he was looking forward to it.

Pete flopped back onto the bed with a sigh, staring at the ceiling in contemplative silence for awhile until he heard a thump, the patter of little feet, and saw the hallway light click on. A tiny figure stood in his doorway, teddy bear clutched in an iron-tight grip as he looked around the room. “Daddy?” Bronx squeaked, voice high and breathy as he tried to be quiet.

“Hey, monkey,” Pete grumbled, his gravelly voice cutting the silence. “What’s up?”

“I had a nightmare.” He whimpered, and Pete stretched, patting the bed next to him.

“Hop on up here, yeah? What happened in your dream?” He asked as Bronx wriggled into the blankets next to him, tiny feet cold on his thigh.

“I couldn’t find you and Papa.” He replied in his squeaky whisper, eyes wide as the hall light clicked itself off.

“We’re right here, buddy, it’s okay.” Pete huffed, almost smiling as the tiny little boy burrowed into his side. “We’re not going anywhere without you.”

“Can I sleep in the middle?” He asked, looking pointedly at the space between Patrick and Pete.

“Sure, yeah.” Pete braced himself for the inevitable knee to the stomach as Bronx crawled over the top of him and hummed quietly as he snuggled into the blankets. “You think you can go back to sleep?”

“Mhm.” He replied, turning onto his side to face Pete. “Keep me safe, daddy.”

“Always.” Pete replied, hugging Bronx to his stomach with an easy sigh. “That’s what dads do, right?”

“Right.” Bronx yawned, cuddling into Pete’s side. Eventually, slowly, the boy’s long eyelashes fluttered shut and he let out a tiny snore, perfectly content and very tired. Not long after the little boy drifted off, Pete found sleep pulling him deeper and deeper, and finally, he was able to shut his eyes and rest, two tiny hands hugging his bicep.

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Pete woke up to the gentle noise of surprise Patrick let out while waking to Bronx’s hand draped on his chest, little fingers splayed almost like he was making sure they were both there in his sleep. He still had one arm wrapped around Pete’s bicep, his hair fallen into his face, small smile on his lips. Pete watched out of half-closed eyes as Patrick took in the scene and relaxed back for a moment, bringing his own hand up to place over Bronx’s with an easy smile. Pete grumbled low in his chest as he forced himself to open his eyes the rest of the way, trying to stretch as best he could with Bronx latched onto one arm. “Morning.” He whispered to Patrick, smiling down at Bronx.

“Morning.” Patrick replied, watching the easy rise and fall of the little boy’s chest. “When’d he get here?”

“Around three, had a nightmare.” Pete slowly worked Bronx’s hand off of his arm and sat up, so as not to disturb him. “Breakfast?”

“Mmm.” Patrick replied sleepily, eyes drifting back shut as Bronx sniffled at the loss of Pete’s arm and instead latched onto Patrick. Pete huffed a laugh and slipped out from under the blankets, reaching into an open dresser drawer for a pair of sweatpants and pulling them on before padding out to the living room.

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“Is Mommy coming today?” Bronx asked later that morning, in between bites of a questionably burnt waffle. His long blonde hair was tucked behind his ears, curls bouncing when he moved his little head.

“She is.” Pete affirmed from where he was concentrating on the waffle iron and questioning why he even owned one in the first place, or how the everloving fuck he was expected to know how to operate one.

“I still can’t just stay with you?”

Pete sighed, running a hand over his face and staring blankly at the waffle iron before turning back to his son. “I don’t think so, buddy.” He said, lips quirking into a frown. “Your mom loves you, you know that.”

“I know.” He said absentmindedly, going back to his waffle. Pete attempted to remove the second (Patrick’s) waffle from the iron before it burnt, poking at it with a fork and hoping it wasn’t burnt on too severely. “Mommy’s boyfriend doesn’t love Mommy, though.”

“What?” Pete nearly dropped the waffle, barely making it to a plate before dropping to one knee next to Bronx to be on his level. “What about your mommy’s boyfriend?”

“He doesn’t love her.” He stated easily, looking at his father weird before taking another bite and continuing to talk while chewing. “’e says it a lot. I don’t think he likes me, either.”

“Why not? Everyone likes you.” Pete said calmly, hair on the back of his neck standing up and blood boiling as he listened to his little boy talk.

“He calls me a brat.” Bronx said around a mouthful of applesauce. “He smells weird, and he doesn’t like dogs. I don’t like people who don’t like dogs.”

“I don’t either, buddy.” Pete said, standing and ruffling his hair affectionately, eyes set, jaw clenched. “I’m gonna finish breakfast, kay? Then we’ll go and talk to your mom.”

“Kay,” Bronx said dismissively, before turning to his teddy bear and resuming their animated discussion on whether normal waffles or blueberry ones were really superior. (Bronx insisted that everyone knew that blueberry was better, but the bear wasn’t so sure.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pete arrived at Ashlee’s house downtown an hour early, just so he’d have time to talk to her before leaving for his meeting with the heads of DCD2. He looked back to the rear bench of his car, where Bronx was buckled into his carseat rather happily, teddy bear in hand, and sighed. “Ready to go in, monkey?” He asked.

“Yeah!” Bronx said, looking down at his buckles and trying to pull them apart, but to no avail. He looked back up at his dad, lower lip curving into a dangerous pout. “I can’t get out!”

“Hold still, dude, I got you.” Pete said, unbuckling and slipping out the driver door before opening Bronx’s door and struggling with his three-point harness for a moment. After about three seconds, the center mechanism popped open and Bronx giggled with glee, jumping out of his seat and into Pete’s arms. “Oof!” Pete chuckled as Bronx knocked the wind out of him. “You’re getting too big for that, dude.”

“Never too big!” He laughed, swinging around onto Pete’s back. “Piggyback ride to Mommy!” He declared, pointing forward with one chubby finger. “Away!”

By the time Pete got up to the door, Ashlee was opening it on the other side. She had a hoodie pulled up over her face, the hallway light off so she was covered in shadow. “You’re early!” She said, sounding chipper. “Thanks for bringing him back on-time for once.”

“Oh, for once. I’m never more than ten minutes late, that’s a miracle with this one.” Pete rolled his eyes as Bronx wiggled on his back, swinging the boy off and watching as he zoomed to smash into his mom’s legs in a tight hug before running for the back of the house. “Can I come in and talk for a minute?”

“I don’t know, I’m pretty busy, Pete,” She said, staring at her hands, hood covering her face.

“Come on, I’ll be quick.” He insisted, studying her carefully. Something was off about her behaviour, she wasn’t anywhere near as confrontational or up in his face as usual. No smiles, whether condescending or not, were spared in his direction. No eye contact whatsoever, now that he thought about it. “Ashlee,” he said lowly, “Is something wrong? Look at me.”

“I have to go, Pete.” She stated, trying to shut the door.

“No!” He stuck his foot in the door, grabbing her wrist, and the unexpected outburst caused her head to shoot up and eyes to widen, hood falling back and limp blonde hair moving out of her face. Her eyes were shadowed, deep rings under both, her cheekbone under her left eyes blossoming with a bright purple bruise, delicate and grotesque against her pale skin. “Ashlee… Did your boyfriend do that?” He asked quietly, rage boiling underneath his skin.

She was frozen for a second, eyes locked on his before she pulled her wrist away and put her hood back up. “No.” She said, voice small, and then cleared her throat. “I walked into a coathanger, that’s all.”

“If anything was wrong, you’d tell me, right?” He asked, eyebrows knit together, concern written over his features.

“I think you need to go.” She said, sighing heavily and pushing him out the door. “I’m fine, thank you, but you need to go.”

Chapter Text

Patrick didn’t even have to be in the same room as Pete to know he was mad when he came home after that evening’s DCD2 board meeting. All the way from the kitchen, Patrick could hear Pete slam the door, could hear how harshly he kicked off his shoes and threw his jacket onto the coat stand, could hear the force with which he threw his keys into the bowl. It wasn’t unexpected – the stress of dealing with Ashlee on top of a board meeting was a toxic combination from the beginning, but even though Patrick had been expecting it, it still came as a surprise. “Pete?” He called around the corner, from where he was stirring a mug of coffee.

Pete grumbled a reply as he came around the corner, walking across the kitchen as he rubbed at his tired eyes. “It’s all fuckin’ bullshit.” He mumbled, words muffled by his hands.

“The meeting?” Patrick asked, turning around to be facing him and studying his expression.

“Everything.” Pete replied, dropping his hands as his eyes search Patrick’s face. “The meeting, yeah, but mostly just everything. I hate this.”

“I’m sorry.” Patrick sighed, hyperaware of what ‘this’ Pete was referring to but ignoring it anyways. “I made coffee, though.”

“You’re a lifesaver.” Pete walked the last distance across the kitchen and reached around Patrick for the grey ceramic mug, bringing them uncomfortably close together in the small space. Patrick looked between Pete and the counter, watched his demeanor change from one of grateful complacency to quiet annoyance in milliseconds. “We need to talk about this.” He said, stepping back and putting a respectful amount of distance between them.

Respectful it may be, but Patrick craved intimacy. He knew Pete did, too, even if he didn’t show it, and that only made the three feet between them sting more. “Yeah,” Patrick agreed. “Should we, like…” He wasn’t even sure where he was going with that statement, but Pete seemed to fill it in, nodding and motioning towards their living room.

Once they were sitting down, Pete set his mug down on the table and faced Patrick, eyes tired. “I can’t stop thinking about it.” He started, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. “You and Frank, I mean… I know it’s nothing and you swore up and down nothing else will happen, but the thought of him touching you makes me sick to my stomach.”

Of course that’s what was eating him. Patrick tried to swallow around the lump in his throat. “Yeah, okay.” He said, nodding sullenly.

“We can’t just treat this like nothing happened!” Pete stresses, looking somewhere to the left of Patrick, eyes flitting around the room. “I love the fuck out of you, but something happened and we can’t just ignore it, you know?”

“You didn’t sleep last night, did you?” Patrick asked softly, catching Pete off guard. Pete blinked, eyes focused on Patrick now. “You stayed up all night thinking, right?”

“Fuck, of course I did.” Pete said tiredly, whole being radiating the tiredness he was never able to hold on to. “You were there, and I, I mean, you were asleep, and you looked so…” He stopped, huffing a breath. “I thought about Frank most of the night, honestly. What he did to you, where his hands had been…” Patrick tried to speak, but Pete held up his hand. “I… I don’t share, Patrick, you know that. I’ve never liked the idea of someone else touching you, I just wanna… Erase it or something, but life doesn’t work like that, does it?”

“It doesn’t.” Patrick said softly, eyes sad.

“Exactly,” Pete sighed, repeating himself quietly. “Life doesn’t work like that.”

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Patrick was woken up in the middle of the night by hands on his skin, Pete’s face buried in the crook of his neck. He managed a mumble of surprise, hand coming up to tangle in Pete’s hair. “Mmh… Pete?” Patrick murmured sleepily, looking down at Pete in the dim light.

“I can’t fuckin’ stand it,” He growled into Patrick’s skin, lips against collarbone. “I wanna know what he did to you. I wanna fix it.”

“What?” Patrick was waking up quickly, trying to halfway sit up in bed only to be pinned by Pete’s weight across his torso.

“Where did Frank touch you?” He asked, sitting up to meet Patrick’s eyes. His hazel eyes were dark as he licked his lips, golden skin dimly lit by the hallway light that never turned off. “Tell me what he did to you.”

“O-oh.” Patrick breathed, staring at the shape of Pete over the top of him. “I… I don’t remember, Pete, I…”

“Tell me.”

His voice was rough, gravelly. Patrick shivered. “He had his hands… Hands on my hips.” He managed through what was left of his fading sleep-haze and his general bewilderment at where this had come from, not that he was complaining.

“Like this?” Pete’s hands were sure, just on the right side of too tight right below Patrick’s hipbones, thumbs kneading into soft flesh.

“Higher up,” Patrick said, pulling Pete’s hands up to rest on top of his hipbones, and he nodded slowly. “Yeah, they were right there.”

“And?” Pete was impatient, eyes flitting over Patrick underneath him as he was sat back on his haunches.

“And he kissed my neck, just by the shoulder, you know the-“ Patrick’s next words were cut off by a soft gasp as Pete’s lips attached to his neck, sucking a gentle bruise into the skin. Patrick’s hands shot up into Pete’s hair as Pete thumbed over his hips, kissing at his neck. “Pete, why are you doing this?”

“I don’t want you to think about him if I do these things,” Pete said, lips against skin. “I want you to think about me. I’m erasing what he did to you.” He delivered a bruising kiss to Patrick’s lips before breaking away, looking down at him with a serious expression. “You’re mine, got that?”

Patrick nodded, swallowing, unable to say anything for a moment. “Yeah… Yeah.” He managed. “I’m yours.”

“Fuckin’ right you are,” Pete mumbled into Patrick’s collarbone, leg sliding between the smaller man’s almost without notice until Pete pulled at his hips, bringing them closer together, his bodyweight a comfortable presence on top of Patrick. Patrick felt when Pete licked his lips, forehead rolling into his shoulder, hair that still smelled faintly like bleach tickling his nose, and then lips meeting his chest that were damp, spit-slicked. He shivered. Pete rocked against him, hips meeting somewhere in the middle, and he let out a heavy breath. “Trick, I… What did he do next?”

Patrick blinked. He’d almost forgotten about Frank, about The Situation ™, and it was brought back front and center crashingly quick. “He kissed my jaw,” Patrick said, barely recognizing his own voice. “And I think… He took off my clothes.”

Pete nodded, kissing up Patrick’s neck and to his jaw, almost directly mirroring Frank’s movements from just a few weeks ago as his hands dipped between them and pulled at Patrick’s waistband, easing elastic over chubby hips, thighs, knees, until he pulled them over his feet, rocking back on his heels and staring at Patrick in the dim light, eyed appraising him as if he’d just been given the best present in the world. Patrick swallowed, eyes meeting Pete’s and watching as he let out a long-held breath. “He… He prepped you next, right?” Pete asked, voice dropped an octave but shaky in a way that Patrick remembered from about four years before. His voice was nearly identical to the first time they’d had sex (Patrick hated how crude that sounded – “had sex” – but “made love” was only worse, too corny for awkward hands and unsteady breaths in the back of a car), all nervous uncertainness, need, a faint power that Patrick could only imagine Pete had used tens of times before but lay all-but-dormant now.

Patrick nodded, not having the voice to answer right then. Pete reached for their bedside drawer, fumbling with the knob before opening it and pulling out a bottle of lube before looking back at Patrick laid out on the bed in front of him. Patrick watched his face, looking for a hint of his intentions, if they were going to continue this or not. Pete seemed to gather himself before flipping the cap on the lube, coating two fingers and bending down to capture Patrick’s lips in a kiss, much more gentle than the first as he reached between his legs and teased at his hole with one finger, slowly opening him up. Pete greedily licked into Patrick’s mouth, trying his hardest and inevitably succeeding in coaxing a moan out of the smaller man as he wrapped his hand around Patrick’s dick. “Mine.” Pete whispered against Patrick’s lips, barely a breath but Patrick heard it anyways. He bucked up into Pete’s hand as he added another finger, squirming under his touch. “Mine.” Pete repeated, pulling his fingers out and wiping them on his discarded underwear, lips against to the side of Patrick’s mouth, his cheek, his nose.

“Yours,” Patrick replied, voice unsteady as Pete pushed in with a moan. He gasped, pulling his plush bottom lip between his teeth. “Yours.”

Pete found a comfortable rhythm, rocking back against Patrick’s hips as he rubbed softly at his inner thighs, a light sheen of sweat covering his brow. Pete’s mouth fell gently open and he licked his lips, forehead rested against Patrick’s shoulder as he let out a shuddering breath. He knew, knew at the beginning of this that he wouldn't last long, that spur-of-the-moment and messy were kind of his calling card and this was going to be all that, but as he felt Patrick's oh-so responsive body under him and heard all the little gasps and pants he was making, it brought to light that he hadn't had sex since the beginning of Patrick's tour, weeks before, hadn't allowed himself to jack off or really felt the need to when Patrick was gone, after Patrick told him his mistakes. Heat was rolling low in his stomach as he reached between them and resumed his slow jacking off of his boyfriend, his boyfriend, and listened to the sharp inhale of breath that his hand caused. Frank didn't know how to do that, did he? Pete thought vindictively. Frank doesn't have anything on me.

He hadn't realized his hand had tightened around Patrick's dick until he heard the other man let out a tiny whimper, and almost immediately dropped his hand away, pressing a kiss to the side of Patrick's lips as an apology before resuming his task. "P-Pete," Patrick whispered, turning his head to push his face into Pete's hair with a shaky breath.

"I've got you," Pete growled against Patrick's lips. He felt Patrick tense under him, just briefly, before crying out and spilling onto his stomach. Pete rubbed his hand up and down Patrick's thigh as he chased his release, following Patrick seconds later with his face pressed against his boyfriend's sweaty skin. Pete sighed, reveling in the way Patrick relaxed for a moment, one of his hands on Pete’s side, the other on his neck. Pete kissed at his skin, lifting his head to look into Patrick’s eyes just to see them squeezed shut, as Patrick let loose a sob. “I’m sorry,” He whimpered, blunt nails digging into Pete’s sides. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,”

“Shh,” Pete whispered, pulling out of Patrick, stroking blonde hair out of Patrick’s face and kissing his forehead, eyes going soft. “It’s okay, shh. Don’t cry.”

Patrick pulled Pete closer, pulled them to where Pete was lying next to him, partially on top of him, their skin flush. “I’m sorry,” Patrick repeated, tears starting to fall. “I messed everything up, oh God, I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Pete whispered, stroking Patrick’s hair and wiping away his tears. “Please don’t cry, it’s alright. I forgave you, it’s okay. I’ve got you.”

Chapter Text

Patrick woke up to an empty bed and distant music coming from the back of the house – A bass guitar, with fidgety, nervous fingers blurring the notes. He could almost visualize Pete without having to leave the bed. He’d be sitting on an amp, or maybe a chair, or maybe sprawled across the floor, his old black and red bass in his hands, the edges of the Clandestine sticker peeling away from the body as he scowled at the strings, as if it were their fault that he had problems making the chords when he was preoccupied. He was playing Metallica, bleeding it into old Fall Out Boy songs before stopping abruptly and going back to Metallica a second or two later.

Patrick sighed, pulling back the covers and padding barefoot to the back of the house, standing in the doorway and watching as Pete played. I was right, he thought distantly. Sitting on an amp.

Pete had bled Master Of Puppets into I Don’t Care twice since Patrick had been watching, making him shake his head and cross the room, placing a hand on Pete’s shoulder. Pete jumped, hitting a string sideways and causing feedback to squeak quietly through the room as he whipped around. “Patrick,” Pete breathed. “You scared me.”

“Didn’t mean to.” Patrick murmured, looking around the room and then back to Pete and his bass. “I missed this.”

“What?” Pete asked, eyebrows furrowed. “Me waking you up with music?”

“You playing music.” Patrick clarified. “I miss playing with you, and touring with you, and being on stage with you.”

“I miss Fall Out Boy.” Pete admitted, staring at his strings and strumming a soft E.

“Me too,” Patrick said quietly. “Me too.”

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Pete was laid out on the couch with Patrick curled into his side, not really awake but not asleep, never asleep, when it happened. His phone rang. That wasn’t out of the ordinary, wasn’t weird in itself. He didn’t feel the need to wake Patrick up for a phone call that was more than likely just Travie or Brendon, so he let it go to voicemail and closed his eyes again.

Seconds later, the ringing resumed. “Mother fucker,” Pete cursed under his breath, trying to surreptitiously slide out from under his slumbering boyfriend to get the phone. “This better be good.” Pete grumbled into the receiver, running a hand over his face and through his hair.

“Mr. Wentz?” A strong voice on the other side said, and Pete’s spine prickled.

“Yeah?” Pete asked, looking around the room, eyes locking on Patrick who was sitting up, rubbing at his eyes tiredly.

“This is Dr. Bailey with the Chicago General. I’m calling in regards to Ashlee XXXXXX, she’s been checked into the emergency room. You’re listed as her emergency contact in our files.”

“Ashlee?” Pete stood up, going to the hallway and sliding into an old pair of bright red skater shoes he couldn’t bear to part with just yet, grabbing his keys out of a bowl on the counter. “Is she okay?”

“She’s stable.” Dr. Bailey confirmed. “Your son is here with us, Bronx Wentz?”

“I’m coming to get him.” Pete said, pulling on a faded blue hoodie and returning back down the hallway, just to run into Patrick. “Give me ten minutes.”

“Okay.” The doctor affirmed.

Pete finished the conversation with nervous glances at the door and fidgeting hands which Patrick tried to calm. Once he hung up the phone, Patrick started in. “What happened?” He asked gently.

“Ashlee’s in the hospital, she… I have to go get Bronx.” Patrick’s eyes widened and he sucked in a breath, nodding and stepping out of the doorway. “I’ll be back soon, I have my phone.” Pete said as he walked backwards down the hall, eyes on Patrick’s until he hit the door, turning around and stepping out.

“Be safe.” Patrick called after him, watching the door swing closed with a worried, perplexed look on his face.

Pete had never made the drive to Chicago General faster than he did with Bronx in mind. Six minutes, generally questionably driving, and no less than three broken or slightly-bent laws later and he was in the parking lot of the huge concrete building, keys slipping into his pocket as he sprinted in the doors and up a flight of stairs, sliding around a corner to an information desk. “I’m looking for Ashlee XXXXXX.” He said breathlessly, chest heaving.

“Are you family?” The receptionist asked, bored. Her generally pig-like face was screwed up with what Pete could only describe as contempt. Pete would have to remember to send shitty vibes her way some time when he wasn’t worried about his ex-girlfriend and his son.

“I’m her son’s dad.” Pete said, internally cringing at how uncaring that made him sound.

“I’ll page Dr. Bailey in children’s psych, he’ll bring up your son.” She said, snapping her gum and typing a code into her computer. Pete at least hoped it was a code, and not just an IM or an email. “Take a seat in the waiting room, he’ll be up shortly.”

“Thanks.” Pete sighed, slumping off to the semicircle of empty chairs on the other side of the room, falling into one and tapping his fingers nervously. He kicked at the beige carpeting, mind running wild as he wondered what had happened to Ashlee, what had happened to Bronx, or where Bronx even was, for that matter. Children’s psych, he thought bitterly. Why would they send him to children’s psych?

“Wentz?” A voice called, making Pete’s head snap up as a doctor rounded the corner, Bronx hidden behind his white coat.

“Daddy!” Bronx yelled, grinning like a madman as he wormed out of the doctor’s grasp and full-on sprinted in a collision course for Pete’s thighs, wrapping his hands around his dad and burying his head in his stomach.

“Hey, monkey,” Pete sighed in relief as he bent down, picking Bronx up and smiling softly as tiny legs wrapped around his waist and Bronx hooked his chin over Pete’s shoulder in a huge hug. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Bronx smiled and Pete felt another wave of relief wash over him. “Mommy had to go to the hospital.” Bronx informed his father seriously, little face falling.

“I know, that’s why I’m here.” Pete told him, turning back to the doctor. “What happened, anyways? Is Ashlee okay?”

The doctor fidgeted with his lapels nervously, looking up from where he had been studying the floor and flipping just-greying brunet hair out of his eyes. “She will be,” He started out, glancing at Bronx nervously. “She’s suffered heavy bruising as well as a fractured tibia, from what we’ve deemed a spousal abuse incident.”

“That fucking dickface,” Pete swore, before looking over at Bronx and making a face. “Sorry, monkey. I didn’t know he was like that.”

“You know the individual?” The doctor asked.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll do the paperwork to get him out of her life, whatever. Is she awake?” Pete asked, peeking down the hallway past the doctor and just seeing rows of closed doors.

“She is. I can ask if she’s up for visitors.” He said, and when Pete nodded, he backed up a step before turning and retreating down the hallway.

Pete sighed, walking back to the chairs and sitting down, Bronx on his lap. “What’s up, doc?” Pete said in his best Bugs Bunny voice, making Bronx giggle.

“Mommy’s friend Megan said we had to go to the hospital.” Bronx informed his dad, kicking his tiny Chuck Taylors against Pete’s leg. “She said mommy was hurt, and that Justin is a… A juice sieve.”

“Abusive?” Pete corrected, and Bronx nodded. “Fuck. He never hurt you, did he?” Pete asked suddenly, looking up and scrutinizing Bronx’s face.

“Why would he?” Bronx looked genuinely concerned. “Did he hurt Mommy?”

“He did.” Pete confirmed sullenly, and Bronx’s eyes widened.

“When I’m hurt, Mommy kisses it to make it better. Papa does that, too.” Pete smiled at the mention of Patrick. “Should I do that for Mommy?”

“When we go back to see her, yeah.” Pete smiled at his son, moving blond curls out of his face. “She’d like that.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ashlee looked worse than Pete expected. When he was led through a door to a nondescript blue-and-white hospital room, he didn’t know what he expected to see on the bed, but not this. Her long, blonde hair that was usually unruly and bright like Bronx’s hung in dull curtains around a gaunt face, a purple bruise blossoming across her cheekbone, a row of hickeys down her neck, and her right arm in a blue cast. The rest of her body was hidden under a hospital-issued blanket, and Pete was semi-thankful, because he didn’t want to see the rest of the damage. “She’s just waking up from surgery, we had to re-set the bones in her arm.” The doctor informed Pete, and he nodded.

“That means be quiet, okay, monkey?” Pete asked Bronx, who just nodded in response. Pete gripped Bronx’s little hand tight and smiled down at him when he got an answering squeeze from the little dude. When he looked up, Ashlee was just opening her eyes, her skin sallow and gaze unfocused. “Hey, Ashlee.” Pete murmured, crossing the room to stand by her bed.

“Pete?” She asked, voice hoarse and confused.

“Yeah.” He replied. “The hospital called me.”

She made a noise of assent, closing her eyes again and coughing weakly. “Hi, mommy.” Bronx whispered from somewhere by her elbow, hands gripping the bedrail as he stood on tiptoe to see her.

“Hi, baby.” She managed, reaching out with her left hand to find him, eventually landing on his hair and ruffling it weakly.

“Daddy said to be quiet.” Bronx said in an over exaggerated whisper, which made Ashlee chuckle and then wince in pain. “Are you tired?”

“I am.” She affirmed, smiling softly.

“Can I kiss your ouchie better?” He asked, big blue eyes staring up at her. She nodded, and no sooner had she done so than Bronx was climbing the bed to sit next to her, kissing the bruise on her cheek. “It feels better?”

“So much better.” She said.

Pete took the opportunity to text Patrick and fill him in on what was happening and why he’d rushed out the door in such a hurry. ashlee’s bf beat her up, she jst got out of surgery. I hav Bronx with me, were in her room rn. prolly looking at gttng custody.

Is she okay?! Patrick texted back almost immediately, making Pete laugh. How he had time for capitalization and punctuation blew Pete’s mind.

I thnk she will be. Pete replied, clicking the button to turn his phone off just as Bronx discovered the IV in his mom’s arm. “You’re plugged in!” He gasped, following the wire up to the IV bag of clear fluid. “What’s that for?”

“It gives me medicine.” Ashlee said quietly, eyes unfocused as she smiled at Bronx. Bronx nodded, squinting at it before looking at the doctor, who was on the corner computer, jumoping off the bed and going to interrogate him about why his mom was plugged in to a “drippy old bag.” Ashlee then looked back up at Pete, sighing softly. “So.” She said.

“So.” Pete replied. “I’m gonna kill him if I ever see him.”

“Pete,” She said in her mom voice, almost as a warning.

“Joking.” Pete replied, even though they both knew what he said was far from a joke. “Why didn’t you call me?”

“Everything was fine until just recently.” She replied, eyes sad.

“Ash, we’re broke up, not on different planets. If you won’t do it for your sake, you should have done it for Bronx’s.” Pete shot back, trying to bite his anger in the bud and keep it from blossoming into the full-on yell he felt coming. “How could you let him do this to you?”

She was quiet, and it took Pete a second to realize she was crying. “I didn’t mean to.” She whispered. “I was going to leave, me and Bronx. He caught me packing…”

“Mother fucker,” Pete swore under his breath, rubbing at his hair. “I should’ve done something, I should’ve known.”

“Don’t blame yourself.” She said weakly. “It’s my fault. You’re the one who told me I have shit taste in guys.”

Pete snorted. “I did, didn’t I?” He said, almost smiling.

She nodded, and they were quiet for a minute. “You should take Bronx.” She said, using her free arm to pick at a loose thread on her gown. “I mean, for a while.”

“Damn straight I’m taking him.” Pete said defensively before catching the look on her face and taking a deep breath. “Get out of the hospital, get everything sorted, and we’ll go back to normal, okay? He needs stability, he’s just a little guy.”

“Lord, I know it.” She replied, attempting to shake her head but wincing when it pulled on the skin of her neck. “Believe me, I know.”

Chapter Text

Pete had never been the ‘responsible parent,’ and Ashlee had made that clear from the beginning. The sudden turn of events had his head spinning, the addition of piles and piles more of Bronx’s belongings to his house and the luxury of a full-time son that he’d never been able to enjoy before. Nothing was different, and yet everything had changed, and wasn’t that just a running theme nowadays? Complete switches, sudden role reversals that were monumental for him but barely scratched the surface of interesting for anyone else involved.

Watching Bronx sleep, little body curled into the arm of the couch, really sealed it for him. He had to be responsible and civil and always there, provide a safe environment for his son at all times and not only for half the year. That wasn’t different, but it was. It wasn’t significant, but it was huge. He couldn’t get the image of Ashlee out of his head – Battered, bruised and defeated, the headstrong woman he’d fallen in and out of love with left a shell of herself in a hospital bed, the only colour in the room coming from her array of bruises and her pale blue cast. What pissed him off most was the fact that this had to have happened with Bronx in the house. Laying a hand on a woman was simply inconceivable in itself, but hitting her with a child in the house? A little kid, who could walk in at any moment, who could hear and realize what’s going on and try to stop it? That made his blood boil. He knew, knew for a fact that Bronx was 100% against violence, the little pacifist he was, and would have tried to stop it. He recalled bruises he’d come over with in the last few months, unexplained besides a shrug and a simple “it was an accident, daddy.” Were those from Ashlee’s boyfriend? Had he ever hit Bronx?

Hands around Pete’s waist scared him back to reality, making him jump in Patrick’s arms. Patrick let out a soft approximation of a chuckle, smiling into Pete’s shoulderblade, not noticing the way Pete had flinched away from his hands, or choosing to ignore it. “How long have you been just standing here?” Patrick asked quietly, fingers splayed over Pete’s stomach.

“A little while.” Pete replied, gently grabbing Patrick’s hands, taking them off of his sides and turning around to face him. “I was just thinking.”

“You’re always just thinking.” Patrick said pointedly, a smile creeping onto baby-soft lips. “It’s late, we should really put him to bed.”

Pete glanced at the wall clock, hands displaying 11:20. It was much past the little munchkin’s bedtime, but he was already snoring away on the couch, fists balled under his chin. “I’ll just carry him.” Pete decided, kissing Patrick on the corner of the mouth before dropping his hands, crossing the room and carefully picking up the sleeping boy. Bronx fidgeted in his dad’s arms, letting out a quiet whine as his mouth twisted into a small frown before he snuggled into Pete’s bicep. Pete’s heart skipped a beat as he looked down at his son, smiling softly. “He’s adorable, isn’t he?” Pete asked quietly, almost shyly.

“Just like his daddy.” Patrick said, smiling as Pete looked up at him with warm eyes. “Need any help?”

“I got him, I think.” Pete answered, stepping carefully over the sleeping Hemingway and taking Bronx to bed. He put him down carefully in the miniature red bed, pulling a quilt with racecars and bulldozers up over his little shoulders and smiling as he curled into it. “Night, monkey.” He whispered as he backed out of the room, flicking the switch on the little nightlight by the door as he left.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pete doesn’t sleep, but then again, could he really be expected to? He was laying in bed, eyes staring vacantly at the ceiling as he concentrated on the soft huff of Patrick’s breath across his chest. The smaller man had fallen asleep hours before, slowly at first and then all at once, and was Pete really enough of a mess to be making John Green references? He sighed quietly, always quietly, afraid to break the silence in his own house as he fought back tears. Why was he crying? What had happened? He felt a curl of bitter anger break free, wreak its momentary havoc on his emotions before he squashed it, deemed it unnecessary. He didn’t know why he was crying, didn’t know why all of his emotions had built up and spiraled out of control exactly now , at 3:27 AM on a Monday morning. He’d have to be up in a few hours to take Bronx to school, to have a conference with Brendon Urie about his newest crazy idea and song lyrics he felt were almost too much for their new album, to deal with life, to feed Hemmy, to face the day, and he just didn’t want to.

Patrick’s hands burned against his skin, hypersensitive to everything in the early morning quiet. He needed out, he needed a break from life, from being alive, from the emotional curveballs that hadn’t stopped being thrown at him this past month, what with Patrick and Ashlee and everything that was exactly and irrevocably what he didn’t need. His therapist saw it, gave him the same knowing smile she’d given him after the Best Buy incident, or maybe before, and said “You’re falling back into it, Pete. We’ve talked about your negative habits, you’re relapsing back into them.”

“It happens sometimes,” she had said, adjusting her glasses. “And believe me, I’m incredibly proud that you’ve made it this far without a relapse before. This is amazing progress, but we have to get you through this, one bump at a time.”

“It just hurts.” Pete lamented quietly. “It’s too much all at once, I don’t know what to do about any of it.”

“Just breathe.” She answered, small hands flitting over her navy blue skirt. “It sounds cliché, but it wouldn’t be said so much if it didn’t work. Breathe and focus on one problem at a time. It’ll all untangle eventually.”

He didn’t want eventually, though, he wanted now. And while that made him sound like an irrational toddler, he also didn’t care. His life had all but ground to a halt, and he’d almost had it fixed again when someone had thrown another wrench in the engine. And now, at 3:27 AM, it seemed as good a time as any to just sit up and think about it, meaning it wasn’t a good time at all. He hated feeling vulnerable, hated feeling insecure about himself and his life choices, hated not knowing how something was going to work out, and really just needed a distraction. “Patrick,” He whispered, fully knowing that the younger man wouldn’t hear him from where he was snoring away on Pete’s chest. “Patrick, I’m so fucking alone.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Pancakes for everyone!” Pete had woke up before either Patrick or Bronx, busied his hands with pancake batter and trying for the life of him to remember if Bronx loved or hated blueberries, because his likes and dislikes were as fickle as the weather. He’d decided to make both, just in case, not wanting to deal with tears and pouting when he was already emotionally on the edge. He was at their dining room table, a huge smile on his face as he gestured to the huge plate of pancakes he’d spent almost an hour making, more than the three of them could eat in two days, let alone just one.

Patrick and Bronx had wandered out just moments before, almost in sync as they both rubbed at tired eyes. “You made all this?” Patrick asked, looking at the food and then back up to Pete questioningly.

“What? I like pancakes.” He defended as Bronx finally noticed the huge stack of food.

“Is there blueberry?” The tiny boy gasped dramatically, hands flying to his moth as he full-on sprinted across the kitchen and catapulted himself at his chair.

“Of course there’s blueberry!” Pete replied, mock offended. “How could I forget?”

“Thank you, Daddy!” Bronx grinned as he pulled a pancake onto his little blue plate. “Come on, papa, Daddy made breakfast!”

“I see that, kiddo.” Patrick smiled, ruffling Bronx’s hair as he shot a questioning look to Pete over the top of the little boy’s head. “It looks delicious!”

“It is!” Bronx replied, mouth stuffed with food.

Pete laughed, brushing off Patrick’s concern and sitting down opposite his son. “You have school today, right, monkey?” Bronx replied with a noise of assent as Pete pulled a pancake onto his own plate and smothered it in maple syrup. “After school, I have a surprise for you.”

“Really?” Bronx squealed, almost dropping his fork as his eyes went wide. “What is it?”

“If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise!” Pete jabbed back, gesturing with a forkful of pancake, managing to drip maple syrup all over the table top.

“Can I have a hint?” Bronx pleaded.

“It’s red.” Pete grinned at the stumped look on the little boy’s face. “And I have one.”

Patrick shot him another confused look. “What’d you get him?” He asked, a smile sneaking onto his face.

“I can’t tell you, he’s right there!” Pete laughed. “If I told you, he’d know too.”

“Spell it?” Patrick suggested.

“I can spell!” Bronx grinned at his papa. “Mama taught me, and Ms. Dorothy at school!”

“That’s a no on the spelling.” Pete snickered, high fiving Bronx across the table. “He’s too smart for us, Lunchbox.”

“Too, too smart.” Patrick poked Bronx’s tummy and laughed. “He’s gonna be a supergenius.”

“No, I’m gonna be a doctor!” Bronx defended, making both of his dads laugh.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“What was that about?” Patrick asked on their way home from dropping Bronx off at preschool.

“What was what about?” Pete replied, eyes on the road as one hand fidgeted with the radio, silently cursing pop stations and looking for anything with either Metallica or Dr. Dre, he hadn’t decided yet.

“This morning, with the pancakes and everything. Are you okay?”

Pete huffed a breath, defensive. “Can’t I make breakfast without something being wrong? Maybe I just wanted pancakes.” Patrick was quiet as Pete rolled his eyes, pulling away from the curb. “Stop reading into pancakes, man. It’s just breakfast.”

“Okay.” Patrick said, sighing into the worn upholstery of Pete’s car. “Where to next?”

“I have a meeting this morning,” Pete sighed, running a hand over his face as he tried his best to keep at least one eye on the slow-moving traffic. “You can crash it if you want, it’s about Brendon’s new album.”

“Sounds interesting, but I’ve got to go shopping at some point. Bronx is gonna need more snacks.” Patrick was tapping away on his phone, sending a text to some person or another, not even paying attention to Pete or his driving. I could swerve into the next lane, Pete thought and he’d never know. “I might meet up with Joe later, too.”

“Okay, I should be done around noon. If not, I’ll just cut out and grab Bronx, make Brendon wait or something. He’d understand.”

“Yeah, totally.” Patrick agreed.

“Joe, though?” Pete asked.

“Yeah, haven’t seen him in a few months. He texted me yesterday, asked what we’re up to.” Patrick replied almost flippantly. “He and The Damned Things aren’t touring, so I figured I’d catch him while I can.”

The Damned Things. Pete had forgotten that Joe and Andy had moved on nearly right after Fall Out Boy, joined a supergroup and gotten back on the road without skipping a beat, without falling and crashing like Pete had. They were still out there living their dream, Pete’s dream , without him. “Tell them I say hi.” Pete said quietly.

“I will.”

Chapter Text

“A bass!” Bronx screamed, hands around the Maplewood neck of a half-scale bass that was still way too big for the tiny little boy. “You got me a bass, daddy!”

“I told you I would!” Pete laughed, smiling at the look of pure excitement on Bronx’s face. “It’s an early birthday present. Now you can play yours along with me.”

“I’m gonna be a rock star!” He squeaked, turning to Patrick, grin engrained on his face. “Papa, I’m just like Daddy!”

“You are, aren’t you?” Patrick smiled, arms crossed over his chest as he watched the little boy struggle with the huge instrument. “Just like your dad.”

“When can I go on tour?” Bronx asked, suddenly all seriousness, one chubby hand struggling to hold up the neck of the bass while the other floundered with the strap.

Pete laughed loudly, hazel eyes sparkling as he struggled to answer. “You… You gotta learn to play it first, monkey.” He pointed out. “And you have to finish school.”

“Oh. Right.” Bronx nodded, looking down at his bass and back up at Pete. “Can I go tour after school?”

“Sure, silly.” Pete shook his head, smiling as he ruffled Bronx’s hair. “You can tour the music room right now, if you want to.”

“Oh, good idea!” He shrieked, holding his bass by the neck and running to the music room as fast as his little feet could take him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Patrick was sat on the couch in their living room, Pete’s head in his lap, idly playing with Pete’s bleached blonde hair, marveling at the way his roots were already starting to show through. Bronx was in bed, supposedly, but Patrick kept hearing noises from the back of the house that were oddly similar to tiny fingers playing a bass that wasn’t plugged in just a tad too roughly, and that made him smile. He didn’t have the heart to get up and tell him off for staying up past bedtime, not when Pete had done the same so many nights of his childhood, not when Patrick had played drums or guitar in his basement, pretending that his mother couldn’t hear him.

Which, let’s be honest, he played drums. There was no way his mother hadn’t heard him.

Pete was on his phone, hands resting on Patrick’s thigh as his thumbs scrolled through Twitter, occasionally reading a post aloud to Patrick, who’d laugh or smile or just shake his head, whichever was the appropriate response at the time. It was kind of sweet, exactly what Patrick had missed – The gentleness of their relationship, whether it be with intimacy or just in general, Pete’s head in his lap and his fingers in his hair, it was the little things that counted. Coming back to that thrilled him, but a little voice in his head nagged him that everything wasn’t fixed, everything wasn’t perfect. There was a flaw, definitely, but whether it was surface-deep or fatal was yet to be seen.

“Fuck.” Pete breathed quietly, bringing Patrick back to the present. Pete had lay his phone down, rubbing at the bridge of his nose with one hand before partially rolling over and sitting up, facing Patrick.

“What?” Patrick asked, voice wavering.

“Trick, fuck.” He sighed, opening his eyes with finality. “Gerard’s getting married.”

“He is?” Patrick’s eyes lit up. “That’s great!”

“Not to Frank.”

Patrick froze, eyes slowly draining of light and cheeks of colour. “What do you mean, he’s not marrying Frank?”

“He married this chick named Lindsey backstage after a show, Mikey texted me. Frank seems really broken up about it. He ran off, wasn’t at the wedding.”

“No.” Patrick breathed. “Did… Did I do that? What about their kid?”

“Hold on, I’ll ask…” Pete said, and then after a poignant pause: “Gerard has her.”

“Shit.” Patrick didn’t cuss, but the situation seemed to call for it. “This is bad, Pete.” He was fidgeting with the sleeve of his hoodie, biting his lip as he looked between his hands, the coffee table, and Pete. “I caused that.”

“No, hey, it’s not your fault, okay?” Pete reached out for Patrick, gently, as if he was afraid the other man was going to break. “We worked through it, they could have, too.”

“I still caused it.” Patrick’s mind was racing, setting him back to the mindset he’d had the first day back at home after The Incident, guilt and fear and sorrow and more guilt crashing over his psyche in waves. “If none of this had happened…”

“If none of this had happened, we might not be sitting here right now.” Pete said mater-of-factly, and whether that was a good thing or a bad thing was left unsaid. It just was. “It’s all gonna be okay, you know that, right?”

“Is it?” Patrick asked, voice small. “They were engaged, Pete, and it’s barely two months later and Gerard’s gone off and got married to someone else.”

Pete was quiet for a moment. “I know.” He settled on, sighing. “Hey, let’s just go to bed, okay? It’s late, and Bronx has school tomorrow and all that shit.”

“Okay.” Patrick said quietly, letting Pete take his hand and help him up off the couch, trailing listlessly behind his boyfriend, going through the motions as they got ready for bed. Patrick had pulled on pajamas without noticing what he’d grabbed, hoping they had some semblance of matching but not super concerned with it. He looked across the room just in time to see Pete closing their curtains, soft tan skin glowing in the moonlight until it was swallowed up by shadows again. “Pete, do you think everything happens for a reason?” Patrick asked.

“Definitely,” Pete replied, slipping under the covers on his side of the bed and patting the empty space beside him. “Everything’s the way it is because it’s supposed to be that way.”

“What if I messed it up?” Patrick asked. “Gerard and Frank were made for eachother, and I messed up their lives.”

“It’ll all be okay in the end.” Pete said, pulling Patrick to him as the other man limbed into bed. “I love you, okay? Focus on that.”

“I love you, too.” Patrick whispered, fingers splayed over Pete’s warm skin as if that was all that was holding him to Earth. He ran his fingers over Pete’s collar of thorns tattoo, nail dragging over each spike and burr as he listened to the easy rise and fall of Pete’s breath.

“I love you.” Pete whispered, smoothing a hand over Patrick’s cheek.

“I love you, too.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pete hated lying to Patrick. Not that he didn’t love him or anything, because fuck, did he love him, but he really did think that Frank and Patrick’s mistake had utterly and royally fucked everything up. Patrick was right – Gerard and Frank was a match made in the stars, and the simple fact that he’d managed to split them up blew his mind. They were everyone’s power couple, blasted to smithereens almost overnight. He hadn’t had the heart to tell Patrick that Frank was found crying behind an amplifier after Gerard’s wedding, hadn’t had the gall to break his boyfriend’s spirit that little bit extra.

Pete cleared his throat, pressing a chaste kiss to Patrick’s cheek and smiling at the way he sighed in his sleep. Their relationship was more than a little messed up, true, but it was still mostly intact. They were sleeping in the same bed, their son a room away, unlike Frank who had lost his fiancé and his daughter all in one blow. Pete couldn’t imagine having all of that ripped away from him – He’d rather die, and probably would, too. He hated to think what must be running through Frank’s mind right now, hated to think how drunk he must be, because when Gerard wasn’t there, Frank turned to alcohol. He always had, and it wasn’t healthy, but it also wasn’t drugs, and there was something to be said for that. “Not drugs, Pete, never again. Never drugs, not after watching what Gerard has been through.”

Did that still hold true now, at two AM on a Tuesday, mere days after his fiancé’s wedding to a woman? Pete hoped and prayed that it did. He hated to think how messed up the rest of MCR’s tour was going to be, with Frank and Gerard trapped in the same bus, on the same stage, in the same hotel. Tour was personal, get up in eachother’s faces personal, and that really wasn’t what Frank needed. Frank was already an angry, aggressive, violent guitar player – how much worse could he possibly get?

Frank was one strong motherfucker, though. Pete believed in him, he really did – Pete believed in Gerard, too, but Gerard also had more to live for. Gerard had Bandit, and Frank had the band. That was it. Then again, didn’t Pete know what it felt like to live only for his next time on stage?

Chapter Text

“This is bullshit.” Pete said quietly over the rim of his coffee cup, staring at Patrick’s back while he made Bronx a PB & J. He watched as Patrick hummed an old Green Day song, swaying his hips ever so slightly in time to the beat that only he could hear. Watching Patrick sing in their kitchen really was bullshit, Pete decided, because that man was meant to be on stage.

And that’s exactly what he said, more or less. “Do you miss it?” Pete asked again, a little louder this time.

Patrick’s humming stopped abruptly as he turned around, jelly-covered butter knife in hand. “Miss what?” he questioned, eyebrows creasing softly as he rinsed the knife. Pete liked watching Patrick make sandwiches – He was so methodical about it. Jelly first, always, because the knife was easiest to rinse off with jelly on the blade. Rinse. Peanut butter last. Every bit spread evenly, every bit spread to the edge. It wasn’t something he usually thought about, but now that it was stuck in his brain, he couldn’t remember seeing him ever fuck up his own little order. “Pete? Earth to Pete?” Patrick giggled, snapping his fingers in front of Pete’s face. “Do I miss what?”

“Fall Out Boy.” Pete said quickly, without thinking. “Touring with me and Joe and Andy, all the kids, singing up there… Do you miss it?”

“Of course I miss it.” Patrick replied, eyes flicking to Pete’s face from the cutting board, upon which he was slicing an apple. “I haven’t done anything else since I was eighteen. I’ve always lived music.”

“Me too. Fuck, me too.” Pete rubbed at his temples. “I wanna tour again.”

“Maybe we will again someday.” Patrick replied wistfully, and Pete scoffed.

“No, I don’t want someday. I want to tour again, Patrick, I want to do it soon. Fuck, we can even bring Bronx – I just miss it so much.”

Patrick stopped slicing apples, closing his eyes and sighing. “Joe and I just were talking about this, too – Tour and all that. He misses Fall Out Boy. The Damned Things just isn’t the same.”

“Is any tour really the same as another?” Pete asked rhetorically, just as Bronx walked into the room.

“True.” Patrick nodded, licking his lips. “True.”

Chapter Text

Patrick took a deep breath, running his hands through his fading bleach-blonde hair as he watched Pete’s chest rise and fall. In an odd turn of events, he was the one left awake long after the other had dozed off, eyes wide as he thought about what Pete had said. Fall Out Boy. He missed it, he really did. Maybe Pete was right, maybe they should go back and tour again. Maybe they should record a new album. He wasn’t sure how they’d work out the logistics of everything, with Bronx living with them full-time and being too young to tour, but they’d figure it out. They always did.

Ashlee had called shortly before they’d went to bed, late enough where Bronx was passed out in his bed but early enough for Patrick not to have yawned himself to the bedroom yet. “I’m out of the hospital now.” She’d said in a soft voice, fragile and broken on the other line.

“Are you okay?” Patrick had asked, worry edging into his voice.

“Yes.” She replied, but not convincingly. “I’m staying with friends, everything should be fine. My arm’s in a sling, my pride’s bruised, but nothing more.”

“That’s good.” Patrick sighed. “Pete was so worried. Bronx too.”

“Did you tell him what happened?” She asked, her voice raising an octave.

“No, of course not.” Patrick said. “If you want to tell him, that’s your place. He’s only three, I don’t want to scare him.”

“Okay.” Patrick heard a rustle on the other line. “Is he awake?”

“Bronx?” Patrick asked, and Ashlee made a noise of assent. “No, he’s asleep. He’s got school tomorrow, you know?”

“Oh. Yeah, of course.” Ashlee replied, vacant. “It’s his turn to bring snacks on Thursday.”

“I’ll remember that.” Patrick replied, leaning back. “We’ll go out and buy something tomorrow.”

“Thank you, Patrick.” She moved on her end, a voice heard in the background on her end. A woman’s voice. Patrick rubbed at his eyes, glad the friends she was staying with probably weren’t of the abusive sort. “For taking care of Bronx, I mean. He really loves you.”

“Yeah?” Patrick smiled. “That’s good, he better. Cuz I love him, too.”

Ashlee ended their call a few minutes later, after repeatedly assuring Patrick that no, she really didn’t want to talk to Pete. She said something about not wanting to upset him, which really did make sense in the grand scheme of things. Having Pete brooding around the house for the rest of the night wouldn’t help anybody. After quiet, hurried goodbyes on Ashlee’s end and questioning goodbyes on Patrick’s end, Patrick was left in the silent house, Pete on the couch in the living room pretending to watch some late-night sitcom with Hemmingway (Cops, probably, or maybe Reno 911) and Bronx long-since asleep. He heaved a breath, walking to the kitchen sink and filling a glass of water, downing it quickly before he went into the living room and lay down on the couch, head falling into Pete’s lap. “That was Ashlee.” He said quietly, looking up at how the blue light of the TV reflected off of Pete’s face. “She’s been released and is staying with friends now.”

Pete nodded slowly, running a hand through Patrick’s kind-of too long hair. “I’m glad she’s safe.” He had said, his voice soft. “I was worried.”

“I know.” Patrick murmured back. “It’s all okay though.”

Now, at 3:47 AM on a Tuesday morning, Patrick lay awake, the quiet of the house suffocating around him, everyone else in the house sleeping peacefully while he just lay awake and thought. He heard Pete shift next to him, not really asleep but just dozing, and stilled his breath. He didn’t want to wake him up – Pete had a hard enough time sleeping, anyways, without all the added stress. Patrick sighed as quietly as he could manage, blinking and relishing in the way that the back of his eyelids were just a few shades darker than the dim light of their bedroom. “Mmh… Trick?” Pete’s sleep-thick voice cut through the quiet, barely above a whisper but startling Patrick all the same. “You’re awake.”

“No, it’s okay.” Patrick replied quickly, quietly. “Go back to sleep.”

“I wasn’t asleep.” Pete turned to be laying on his stomach, slinging an arm across Patrick’s torso and resting his chin on his chest, looking up at his face in the dim light. “What’s wrong, babe?”

Patrick shivered at the pet name – It had been ages since Pete had called him anything like that, ages since Patrick had stretched their relationship past the breaking point and somehow still mended it back together. “Nothing, I’m just… thinking.” He settled on.

“About?”

“I really love you, y’know that?” Patrick asked, voice barely above a whisper. He cleared his throat.

“I really love you, too.” Pete was trailing a finger over Patrick’s bare sides, smiling into his shoulder.

“No, like so, so much…”Patrick stressed. “It keeps me awake sometimes, just how much I love you. It’s insane.”

“You’re Rihanna.” Pete laughed breathily as his fingers hit the elastic of Patrick’s bottoms, trailing back up over his stomach and flattening out on his chest before moving to tracing circles around a nearly-faded stretch mark.

“I’m… What?” Patrick asked, caught off guard.

“Rihanna. Crazy in Love.” Pete kissed his shoulder, his hand finally coming to rest with his fingers below the waistband of Patrick’s pants, tucked snugly around his hipbone.

Patrick shivered as Pete ran his thumb over soft skin almost absentmindedly. “I am. Crazy in love.” He said.

“And you just figured this out?” Pete asked, his voice sleepy but playful.

“No, I just realized I’d never told you.”

“You’ve told me you love me.” Pete halfway sat up, leaning on his elbow to look down at Patrick, hand still held tightly around the younger man’s hip.

“No, I mean yeah, but… I’d never told you how much.” Patrick said quietly, staring up at Pete’s dimly silhouetted face.

“Sure you had.” Pete insisted, leaning back down to press a kiss to Patrick’s lips and then another one to his chest. “You’ve told me so many times. You told me that one time I rented a car and crashed the shit out of it because I was too afraid to admit I was completely, utterly gay for you. You told me the first time we played on the West coast. You told me in New York, when you both figuratively and literally saved my life on the roof of that one hotel.”

“I didn’t say anything about love any of those times.” Patrick insisted.

“That’s the point. You don’t have to.” Pete ducked down to press a kiss to his stomach, making Patrick shiver. “I know you love me.”

“Good.” Patrick breathed. “Because I was thinking about that, and I really, really love you.”

“I bet you I love you more.” Pete said cheesily, bringing a laugh out of the younger man before he ducked his head and kissed his stomach again, pulling at the waistband of his sleep pants.

“Pete,” Patrick said quietly, but Pete shushed him, pulling at his pants and easing them over hips, over thighs, over calves, and finally letting them pool around Patrick’s feet. “Pete, what are you-“

“Shh.” Pete shot Patrick a glare. “I’m trying to suck your dick, you asshole. Shut up and let me.”

Chapter Text

“Daddy, it’s my birthday!” Bronx woke Pete up the next morning by jumping from the end of the bed straight onto Pete’s chest, a huge smile on his little face. “Wake up, it’s my birthday!”

“What?” Pete said quickly, thick-tongued as he sat up. “Happy birthday, monkey! How old are you now, like… twenty three?”

“No way, I’m four, silly!” Bronx laughed, covering his mouth with chubby little hands. “Papa said he’s making cake for breakfast!”

“He’s what?” Pete looked at the smiling little face and then at the doorway, sighing as he swung his legs over the side of the bed and picked Bronx up. “Cake for breakfast? I think your Papa’s gone crazy.”

“He’s only gonna turn four once!” Patrick yelled from the kitchen, his voice just barely heard over the sounds of a Michael Jackson vinyl scratching through the air. “This calls for cake!”

“Not for breakfast!” Pete yelled back, exasperated. Bronx laughed from his perch on Pete’s shoulders, ducking his head so they could fit through the doorway as Pete walked to the kitchen. “It’s at least chocolate cake, right?”

“Red velvet.” Patrick confirmed, an apron tied over his Star Wars pajama pants he’d stolen from Pete, a vintage Bowie tour shirt over the top. “Only the best.”

“I still think we shouldn’t eat it for breakfast.” Pete pointed out, pointing at a variety of other foods on the counter. “We have, y’know, actual breakfast food.”

“Cake!” Bronx yelled, running his hands back and forth through Pete’s hair. “We should have cake for breakfast!”

“No way,” Pete insisted, reaching up to boop Bronx’s nose as he looked in a pantry. “How about oatmeal?”

“Eew!” Bronx scrunched up his nose and Pete laughed, shutting the cupboard.

“Yeah, I know, oatmeal’s kind of nasty. Tell you what – How about you and I go out to eat and leave your Papa here to make cake?”

“Hey!” Patrick laughed, swatting at Pete with a flour-covered hand and leaving a white handprint on his backside. “You’re not leaving me anywhere!”

“Okay, fine, but I really want IHOP.” Pete decided, swinging Bronx off of his shoulders and onto the ground. “Go get dressed monkey, Chicago doesn’t wait for anyone!”

“Pete,” Patrick laughed, leaning on the counter. “IHOP’s a 24 hour restaurant. It literally waits for anyone.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was going on 4 o’clock when there was a knock on the door, followed by the sound of squeaking hinges as it opened. “Happy birthday to my little dude!” A high voice bellowed around the corner, Andy bursting into the room with a huge smile on his face.

“Uncle Andy!” Bronx yelled, jumping up from where he was sitting on the floor with Hemmingway and running to the doorway, tackling the bearded man and almost taking him out at the knees.

“Woah, hey man.” Pete laughed, standing up from the couch and nodding slightly, a smile on his face as he watched Andy bend down and pick his son up, hoisting him into the air with matching grins on their faces. “What are you doing here?”

“It’s this little monster’s birthday, I was in the neighborhood, you know the schtick.” Andy nodded as if this was his final proof. “What kind of uncle would I be if I didn’t bring presents, anyways?”

“Presents?!” Bronx shrieked, making Andy wince at the sudden noise and then laugh. “I love presents!”

“Who doesn’t?” Andy grinned, reaching up to poke Bronx in the stomach. You wanna come out to the car and see what I got you guys?”

“Yeah!” Bronx wriggled from his perch atop Andy’s shoulders, grinning like an idiot. “I wanna see, let’s go!”

“Oh god,” Pete sighed as he got up from the couch, internally rolling his eyes at the ideas of what Andy could have possibly gotten the little monkey. He followed them out of the house and down the driveway until he spotted a white head poking out of Andy’s car window, pink tongue lolling in the air, two little ears standing at full attention as the little beast spotted the trio coming and let out a squeak, practically vibrating with the intensity of its tail wagging. “Andy, you motherfucker,” Pete whispered under his breath, smile spreading as Bronx spotted the pure white puppy and gasped loudly.

“Is that a doggy?!” Bronx yelled, wiggling around on Andy’s shoulders until he was put down. “I love doggies! Is it yours, Uncle Andy?”

“Nope, buddy,” Andy smiled, shoving his hands in his pockets. “It’s yours.”

“MINE?!” Bronx’s eyes widened as he looked between the puppy and Andy. “You’re giving me a doggy?”

“I am. Happy birthday, kiddo.” Andy pressed the unlock button on his keychain as Bronx bowled towards the car, yanking open the handle just to let a ball of white fur and puppy kisses fall out on top of him, knocking him to the pavement with a happy, surprised squeal from both the boy and the dog.

“You bought him a dog?” Pete asked, shaking his head with a smile on his face as he watched his son and the dog roll around on the driveway together.

“Sorry, should’ve asked first.” Andy lamented. “A boy needs a dog, though, y’know?”

“Yeah.” Pete agreed. “I was considering getting a new dog soon, anyways. Hemmy’s what – Eight now? He’s getting too slow to keep up with Bronx.”

“I figured you’d see things my way.” Andy smiled as Patrick came out of the house, wiping his hands on his jeans.

“A dog?” He asked, looking at the squealing boy on the ground and the pink tongue kissing his face.

“Bronx’s dog.” Pete clarified. “From Andy.”

“Of course he got him a dog.” Patrick rolled his eyes. “Andy, this is not what I-“

“Shh, dogs.” Andy laughed, waving Patrick off. “It’s just a puppy, what harm can it do?”

“You can’t just get us dogs and not tell us!” Patrick said, exasperated even though a smile was creeping onto his face.

“Well, I got you a dog, sorry.” Andy shrugged, pointing to where Bronx had successfully wrangled the white puppy into his shirt with him. “I also might have brought pizza?”

“Hey Monkey, uncle Andy brought gross Vegan pizza!” Pete yelled over the sound of Bronx’s laughing.

“Eew! Veggies!” Bronx stopped mid-wrestling to look up and frown.

Pete crossed his arms, nodding at his son. “See, Hurley, that’s a kid raised right.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Patrick and Pete lay in bed later that night, and all was quiet save the sound of distant snoring from Bronx’s room, both boy and puppy tired out and sleeping together on the twin-sized mattress. “He needs a stern talking to.” Patrick said, out of the blue, catching Pete by surprise.

“Who does?” Pete asked, turning to face his boyfriend. “Bronx?”

“No, Andy.” Patrick laughed quietly. “He can’t just puppy us like that.”

“Maybe I need the stern talking to.” Pete suggested, poking Patrick in the side just to hear him gasp, laughing as he got the expected reaction.

“Pete,” Patrick swatted at him, “No way, shut up.”

“What? It might be hot.” Pete laughed.

“Goodnight, Pete.” Patrick drawled, holding back a laugh.

“Goodnight.” Pete lamented, smiling as he shifted under the blankets and letting his smile grow as he felt Patrick drape his arm over his chest.

Chapter Text

“Joe? Hey, it’s me, Pete.”

Patrick listened as Pete made a hushed phone call sometime ungodly early in the morning, the sun barely peeking over the horizon. He sighed into his pillow as Pete’s hushed whispers continued from the adjacent room. “I have a song idea. No, I can’t – He’s asleep. I’m not waking him up, idiot! Yes, I know I woke you up, but that’s different.” Patrick stifled a laugh at the clipped tone in Pete’s voice. “Dude, I know it’s 5 AM and I know we’re not in a band together anymore, but like… We need to be. This is a Fall Out Boy song, man. I can’t give this one away. I can feel it – It’s gonna be great.”

All was quiet for a minute, and Pete sighed. “Yeah, Trick and I talk about it a lot. Andy was here yesterday for Monkey’s birthday and we talked about it a little, too. I just wanted to see where you stood.” More quiet ensued, and he laughed. “Yeah? Okay, so I’ve only got, like, a few lyrics, but it goes like this so far…”

Patrick closed his eyes and smiled, listening to Pete’s distant, muffled singing from the kitchen. “I got those Jetpack blues, just like Judy – The kind that make June feel like September. I’m the last one that you’ll ever remember. I’m trying to find my piece of mind behind these two white highway lines. When the city goes silent, the ringing in my ears gets violent. He’s in a long, black coat tonight, waiting for me in the downpour outside. He’s singing ‘Baby, come home’ in a melody of tears while the rhythm of the rain keeps time.”

A pause, followed by nervous laughter. “Shut up, it’s not gay. Well… Yeah, okay, it’s pretty gay.” The conversation was muffled as Pete stood up, moving rooms and leaving Patrick alone save for the distant hum of his talking. Pete had been awake for God knows how long, writing, just remembering Fall Out Boy and waiting till a semi-acceptable time to call Joe and tell him his ideas. It was almost like the old days, back when the hushed phone calls were between Pete and himself, song ideas and tour ideas and tweaks to guitar lines that weren’t rightfully either of theirs to mess with, all discussed at three AM with just the moon (or, more often than not, the fog and rain) for company.

“Yeah?” Pete said, walking back into the kitchen where Patrick could hear him. “That’s… That’s fuckin’ great, man. Patrick will be so excited.” A pause. “Hell yeah! No, we’ll definitely fuck around some time. Just bring a guitar, our house is, like, literally built for band practice. Okay. Okay, yeah, it’s five AM. I’ll let you sleep or whatever. Welcome back to Fall Out Boy, man.”

With that, Pete’s phone call ended and he slipped back into the bedroom. He sat on the edge of the bed, looking down at Patrick who still had his eyes closed. “Patrick, Fall Out Boy’s back.”

“I can’t wait.” Patrick’s voice was groggy and cracked with disuse.

“Did you hear my song?” Pete’s voice was eager, almost childlike with excitement as he fidgeted with the edge of the blanket.

“I did.” Patrick smiled, blinking to clear his eyes. “I really like it, Pete. That’s like… A prechorus?”

“That’s the beginning, I think.” Pete said, the light in his eyes brighter than Patrick had seen it in a long time, dangerously verging on manic. “I’m not really sure, it’s just a piece.”

“It’s good.” Patrick assured. “But it’s also five AM.”

“Oh. Right, yeah.” Pete nodded, kicking off his old man slippers and tumbling under the covers, an arm instantly around Patrick’s waist. “I really can’t wait, babe.”

“I can’t either.” Patrick grinned, craning his neck and pressing a sleepy kiss to Pete’s mouth. “I’ll be more excited about it in a few hours, though.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Ya know,” Pete said through a mouthful of late morning brunch, “We haven’t named that dog that Andy got you.”

“Sure we did!” Bronx laughed from where he was sitting opposite Pete, the little puppy flopped across the floor at his feet. “I named him Puppy!”

Pete’s eyes crinkled as he held back a laugh at Bronx’s exclamation. “No, dude, like a real name. Like, Hemingway’s name isn’t Fat Old Dog, your name isn’t Little Boy, we gotta name the puppy, too.”

He nodded in understanding, appearing deep in thought. His little eyes twinkled as he munched away on toast with jam, spreading more of it on his face then in his stomach. “How about Berenstein?”

“What? Like the bears?” Pete asked, and Bronx nodded eagerly.

“I love that show!” He grinned. “Berenstein!”

“Berenstein it is.” Pete decided, finally chuckling as the little puppy let out a whine in her sleep. “Have you introduced Berenstein to Hemingway yet?”

“Oh, yeah.” Bronx nodded. “Puppy loves Hemmy. Hemmy’s old and grumpy though, he just wants to take a nap all the time.”

“Yeah, that sounds like him.” Pete laughed. “Tired and grumpy, like someone else I know.” He looked up over Bronx’s shoulder to where Patrick had entered the room, winking devilishly.

“I’m not grumpy.” Patrick groused, a pout on his lips and a sparkle in his eye as he headed for the coffeepot, sandy blonde hair sticking up all over the place. “You’re grumpy.”

“Okay, Grumpy Bear.” Pete shot back, and Patrick snorted.

“Like the Care Bear!” Bronx shrieked, banging a tiny fist on the table. “Papa’s Grumpy Bear, like the Care Bear!”

“Exactly right, monkey!” Pete reached across the table to fistbump his son, who grinned and instantly smacked his little fist up against his Dad’s.

“Papa’s eyes and Grumpy’s fur are the same colour! They’re even kind of fat like eachother!” Bronx elaborated. “Papa, you’re a Care Bear!”

“Hey now,” Patrick laughed, turning around and shaking his finger at Bronx. “I’m not fat, mister.”

“A little bit fat. Like Berenstein! She’s fat too!” Bronx decided, laughing into his toast.

“I like your Papa just the way he is.” Pete settled the exchange, standing up and hugging Patrick from behind, watching over his shoulder as he stirred his half-made cup of coffee. “Even if he is grumpy and chubby and adorable as hell. Even then.”

“God forbid I wasn’t adorable, huh?” Patrick said, turning around in Peteis arms and pressing a kiss to his lips, coffee between them.

“Eew!” Bronx squealed, covering his eyes with chubby fingers. “Daddy, Papa, that’s gross!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Joe came over later that afternoon, curly hair hanging to his shoulders and a broad smile on his face as he knocked on the front door only to open it half a second later. “Hello, Wentz-Stump household!” He called, just to be hounded by a tiny brown ball of fuzz seconds later. Pete rounded the corner into the entryway to see his guitarist on his knees with Berenstein in his lap, laughing as his face was peppered with puppy kisses. “Oh my god, dude, look at this little monster!” Joe made kissy noises at the tiny puppy when she yapped. “When’d you get her?”

“Yesterday,” Pete answered. “That was Bronx’s birthday present from Andy.”

“Shit, I didn’t get him anything that good.” Joe looked up from the wriggling ball of fur. “Where is he, anyways?”

“Uncle Joe!” Patrick and Bronx came into the hallway seconds later, Bronx diving on the man to give him a hug. “This is Puppy!”

“And what’s your puppy’s name, dude?” Pete prompted.

“Oh, uh… Berenstein!” Bronx remembered, grinning. “Like the bears!”

“That’s awesome, little guy! Happy birthday, by the way!”

“Oh, thanks!” Bronx jumped up. “Daddy got me a bass, just like his. It’s red and everything!”

“That’s super cool!” Joe said, finally standing up, brown paper bag in his hand. “Maybe you can play with Fall Out Boy sometime, huh?”

“Daddy said I could go on tour when I’m grown up.” Bronx said solemnly.

“You’re welcome on tour with me any day.” Joe said, ruffling his hair. “Hey, check this out – I got you a present.”

“You, too?” He asked, excited. “Is it another puppy?”

“No, god, your dads would kill me.” Joe shook his head, laughing, and handed Bronx the big paper bag. “Let’s open that up, yeah?”

“In the living room! That’s where we open presents.” Bronx insisted, running as fast as his little legs would take him.

Joe finally got a chance to look up, waving awkwardly to Pete and Patrick. “Hi.” He said finally, smiling. “How’ve you guys been, man?”

“We’ve been good.” Patrick smiled, just as Bronx squealed from the living room.

“Ready to get back to Fall Out Boy?” Joe asked.

“So fucking ready. I miss the life, Patrick’s convinced he’ll make a housewife out of me yet.” Pete joked, poking Patrick in the ribs.

“I never said anything like that!” Patrick protested, laughing.

“A FIRETRUCK!” Bronx yelled, racing around the corner with a shiny metal firetruck clutched in his arms, the entire thing almost as big as him. “Daddy, Papa, look! Uncle got me a firetruck!”

“That’s awesome!” Pete grinned.

“What do you say, dude?” Patrick prompted.

“Thank you, Uncle Joe!” Bronx squealed, running full-force into Joe’s legs with the firetruck, managing to hug both at once.

Joe winced as the metal hit his shins and ruffled Bronx’s hair. “You’re welcome, dude.”

*

Once Bronx had settled down in his room with Berenstein and his new firetruck, Pete, Patrick, Joe, and the newly arrived Andy made their way to the back music room, each toting an instrument case of some sort. “Why the hell do you need three guitars for practice?” Pete groused, glaring at the case in his hands like it weighed a ton (which it didn’t, for the record – bass cases weighed at least double).

“Different tunings, man! What if I need a Drop D, or a half-step?” Joe insisted, biting back a laugh.

“Just tune the other one differently like a normal fuckin’ human,” Andy replied.

“Shut up, you’re a drummer. You don’t know.” Patrick bit back, grinning.

“Oh, so you’re on HIS side, huh?” Pete looked up, eyes wide but a spark still shining deep. “I see how it is.”

It was in that moment that Pete realized how much he’d missed this – This, just bickering with his three best friends in the world, setting up drums and guitars and amps like they had since they were teenagers and bickering between the three of them. A lot had changed, though, not only in looks but in reality. Yeah, Andy had cut his hair and lost the glasses, but Pete had a son, a son, and Joe had a girlfriend and they were all nearing thirty now. They’d been Fall Out Boy for, what, 10 years? Eleven? Pete didn’t even know anymore, but the more it changed, the more it stayed the same. Patrick still had his quirks while setting up his guitar, tuning it to perfection and then playing a full arpeggio as if one single note would be out of tune while the others would be spot on. Andy set up his drums with the toms backwards, Joe messed with his pedals and tested out each one, and Pete? Pete plugged in and played. Pete was just happy to be there, high on the idea that Fall Out Boy part 2 was a go.

“We should probably play through a few old ones to warm up, yeah?” Patrick asked after he’d finished his arpeggios, fingers nervous on his strings.

“Definitely, yeah.” Andy said from behind his kit, nodding and running a hand through his hair almost without noticing he’d even moved. “Get back in the feel of things.”

“Yeah, okay.” Joe nodded. “What… What should we play?”

Pete grinned, fingers finding his second fret, playing a simple progression that everyone recognized instantly. “Dance, Dance!” He mouthed over the sound of his bass, Andy quickly joining in on drums after the first repetition. Patrick hit his mark with the vocals, Joe chasing him in on guitar, and that was it. That was what they’d taken a break from for what seemed like an eternity, and that’s what fit back together so easily. Pete looked up from his hands while he played, watching the looks on everyone else’s faces while they played, watching the smiles and effortless laughs, watching the expressions Patrick made while singing that he’d forgotten about and missed so much.

In that moment, somewhere between deafening drums and discordant guitars, Pete finally felt at home. The last piece to his internal puzzle no longer felt forced, melding back into place and clicking into position. He now had purpose, he now had his band back, and it was like they’d never taken time off at all. Fall Out Boy was slowly but surely returning.

Chapter Text

“How are we gonna tell everyone we’re coming back?” Patrick asked quietly in the early hours of the morning, long after Joe and Andy had left. “I mean, the fans… They’re gonna go crazy.”

Pete had unsuccessfully been trying to feign sleep for hours now, lyrics buzzing in his brain, a ghost of a smile on his face. Patrick had startled him in the dark, making his head whip towards his partner before he relaxed and smiled. “I don’t know, honestly.” Pete conceded. “It’s all sort of screwy right now. I’m just going with the flow.”

“Okay.” Patrick replied, leaving the room in a poignant silence. “Hey… Do you think anyone still remembers us?”

Pete scoffed. “Tricky, we still sign kids’ t-shirts in the store. Nobody’s forgotten your sexy face.”

“I know, I just… I worry.” Patrick sighed, swiping his face with a hand.

“Don’t worry, okay? That’s my thing.” Pete poked him in the side. “We’ll be fine. I’ll blow, like, all of our money on marketing. People that have never heard of us before will suddenly start to remember us.”

“Don’t blow all out money.” Patrick chastised, and Pete laughed quietly. “I’m serious! We still need to put Bronx through school.”

“Bronx is more than fine, I promise you.” Pete decided, rolling over and nuzzling his face into Patrick’s neck. “We’ll be fine, too. It’s just an album.”

“Just an album.” Patrick echoed in the silence of their bedroom, hand threaded through Pete’s hair. “Okay, yeah, just an album.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bronx was sat on the floor, Hemmingway on one side of him and Berenstein on the other as he sloppily coloured a picture of some cartoon or another. Pete had thoroughly lost track of the names of all the cartoon characters anymore – Once it expanded beyond four or five shows, he couldn’t remember all of their names. Whatever it was, it was pink and very important, Bronx decided. It had to be done before lunch, per some four-year-old moral code or whatever it was that contractualized them to have to draw weird monster-creatures before noon. Say Yes to the Dress was on TV, not that Pete would ever admit to actually watching it (for the record, the woman on the show currently had horrible tastes) but it gave him something to space off towards while he listened to Bronx babble to his puppy. “Yep,” Bronx affirmed in whatever conversation he and his puppy were having at the moment. “Peppa Pig would totally beat up Elmo. Elmo’s still cooler, though.”

Pete laughed. Bronx certainly had his priorities straight. “So, uh, Bronx,” Pete said quietly, watching the way the little guy seemed to perk up when he spoke. “What would you think about Papa and I touring again?”

“Like, with Uncle Andy and Joe?” He asked, putting his crayon down and turning to face Pete.

“Yeah, with them.” Pete nodded, almost laughing at the comical look on Bronx’s face.

“Can I go?”

“Maybe sometimes.”

Bronx seemed to think for awhile, looking between his dad and his drawing. “I like it when you make music.” He said finally. “You’re all smiley.” Pete laughed, and Bronx squealed. “Yeah, like that!” He got up and walked to Pete, lifting the corners of his mouth with his fingers. “All smiley-happy, and so is Papa.”

Pete couldn’t keep the grin off of his face as Bronx smiled back at him. “I really like making music.” He told his son honestly, picking the boy up and putting him on the couch.

“I really like colouring.” Bronx said. “Can I be a famous drawer when I grow up?”

“An artist?” Pete asked, and laughed when the little boy nodded. “Yeah, kiddo. Be the best artist. Be a regular Picasso.”

“I don’t wanna be Picasso, I wanna be Bronx.” The little boy decided with a nod, grinning as he patted Berenstein and picked up his crayon, going back to his drawing. “Being me is better than Picasso.”

“Yeah,” Pete nodded, looking at the little boy thoughtfully. “Better than Picasso…”

Chapter Text

“Hey Pete,” A wavering voice played over the answering machine, waking Pete from his early-afternoon nap. He opened his eyes, frozen in place as who the voice belonged to clicked. She sounded defeated, quiet, broken – Not the woman Pete had fallen in love with at all. “It’s Ashlee – I’m all patched up, I guess!” She laughed nervously. “So uhm… Look, I really miss Bronx. I know… I know you might not want him to live with me or anything, seeing as I’ve made some um… not good decisions lately. But I’m living with friends just outside Chicago, and I’d love to see him soon. Can you call me back? Thanks.” There was a pause, Ashlee let out a breath. “I’m sorry.” She said quietly, and then the line went dead, the answering machine ending the recording.

Pete let out a shaky breath as the recording ended. He pictured the last time he’d seen Ashlee – Arm in a sling, tiny body littered with bruises and hickies and probably worse, much worse, hidden under the crinkly hospital blankets. She still sounded so weak, so out of energy on the recording that it made Pete flinch. He really should call her back, but he didn’t know if he was ready to talk to her. It sounded really dumb to be afraid of talking to her, but he was terrified. It wasn’t like he had any reason to be afraid – She was just Bronx’s mother, his ex-fiancé, and that wasn’t scary, right?

He checked his phone. Avoiding looking at the house phone or the answering machine as he walked to the kitchen. Patrick would have already left to pick Bronx up from school, maybe 5 or 10 minutes ago. He was alone in the house, save Hemingway and Berenstein, with maybe a half-hour of time. He really wasn’t going to get a better chance to talk to her. He sighed, opening contacts and tapping her name before he could double-guess himself. “Pete?” She picked up almost instantly.

“Ashlee.” He said, shaking his head silently. “How are you?”

“Okay.” She responded. “Not bad. I moved in with Megan for the time being, working on getting in touch with my sister and seeing if she can put me up somewhere.” Her voice was clearer than on the recording but still shaky. Nerves, Pete decided. Ashlee was nervous.

“That would be good.” He decided, and then they went quiet. “Bronx misses you.”

“Yeah?” She asked.

“Yeah. He’s drawn you approximately 50,000 pictures since he’s seen you last, so be ready.” He said, succeeding in making Ashlee laugh.

“God, I can’t wait to see him.” Ashlee said quietly. “Without him, I’m just…” She took a breath. “Remember when we were talking about emotions and shit, like four years ago? Maybe five? When you said you were grey?”

Pete sucked in a breath, nodding before he remembered they were on the phone and she couldn’t see him. “Yeah.” He finally said. “Yeah, I do.” Grey meant depression clouding everything, an Ativan haze he’d never admit he’d been in, no room for any other emotion besides oppressing white noise punctuated by bursts of sadness, anger, rage, melancholy. Grey meant so many unhealthy things that he hoped to God Ashlee wasn’t experiencing, hoped to God that nobody was experiencing.

“I’m grey without him, Pete.” She said, voice cracking. “I miss my little boy.”

“You’ll see him.” Pete promised quietly. “I’m not going to keep him from you.”

“Good.” She cleared her throat, and Pete could imagine her nodding on the other side of the line, nodding to clear the tears from her eyes and the lump from her throat. She gave a watery laugh. “He’s just getting out of school?” She asked.

“Yeah.” Pete said. “Patrick went to go get him. They should be home soon.”

“How is he?”

Pete sighed. “He’s doing so good. All his teacher ever says is about how smart he is, how much talent he has. I mean, it’s only preschool and shit, but he’s killing it.” They were both silent for a minute, and then Pete said what Ashlee was waiting for. “He doesn’t quite understand the whole reason why you were in the hospital, in case you were wondering.”

“Does he know about Justin?” Ashlee asked.

“He knows Justin’s a piece of shit that hurt his mommy.” Pete said, anger lacing his voice. “That’s all he needs to know, really.”

“Yeah.” She was quiet again, this time for a long time. There was rustling on her end of the line, and then a forced, shaky breath. “I, uhm… I have to go.” She said around a lump in her throat that Pete still hated hearing. “Can you have him call me sometime soon?”

“Of course.” Pete said.

“Thank you.” She said quietly.

“Don’t thank me.” Pete was pacing the kitchen, and only realized it in time to stop himself from doing a sixth lap. “He’s your kid, too. If he wants to call you, he can call you.”

“No, thank you for… For caring.” She said. “I know we didn’t break up on the best of circumstances, but you’re still so nice to me, and I’m… Thankful.” She ended, voice dropping.

“I loved you, Ashlee.” Pete said. “That’s something that’ll never change. I mean, fuck, I hated you for a long time, but I was a shit boyfriend and you were a shit girlfriend. We’re both toxic. We knew it wouldn’t last.”

“Yeah.” She admitted. “Uhm… Can I…”

“Yeah, you have to go. Sorry.” Pete sighed. “We’ll talk later?”

“Always do.” Pete could hear the watery smile on her lips.

“Okay. Bye, Ash.”

“Bye, Pete.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pete and Patrick lay in bed, later that night, the day’s emotions dissolving away as they curled into each other. “Everything’s a fucking mess.” Pete said into Patrick’s collarbone.

Patrick hummed, shifting to look at Pete, fingers playing with his hair. “What’s wrong?” He asked quietly.

“I talked to Ashlee earlier. She’s out of the hospital and everything.” Pete rolled onto his back, wiping a hand over his face. “I dunno, when I didn’t have to talk to her or think about her, everything seemed so perfect. She wants Bronx back.”

“He’s her kid, too.” Patrick pointed out.

“I know.” Pete lamented, watching the light from the hall nightlight make shadows on their ceiling. “I just… I wanted her out of our lives years ago.”

“Not gonna happen.” Patrick replied sleepily. “Bronx makes sure of that.”

“I know.” Pete repeated. “Fuck, I know.”

Patrick kissed the side of his face, turning over to curl into the crook of Pete’s arms. “It’ll all be okay, promise.” He said. “It always is.”

“You swear?” Pete asked, full-well knowing that Patrick couldn’t possibly promise something like that with certainty.

“I swear.” Patrick said anyways. “I love you, Pete.”

“I love you more.” Pete whispered back, resting his head on top of Patrick’s.

Chapter Text

Pete was sat at the kitchen table when Patrick got up the next morning, rubbing his eyes blearily and putting on his glasses as he stumbled into the kitchen. “I’ve been thinking.” Pete said, setting his mug of coffee down on the table.

“Of course you have.” Patrick yawned, picking up the mug and taking a sip before kissing the corner of Pete’s mouth and moving away to make his own coffee.

“No, about Ashlee.” He clarified, and Patrick tensed, splashing creamer on the counter and cursing under his breath. “I was thinking, maybe she could take Bronx while we’re recording this new album and stuff, y’know? It’d be better than having him around the studio.”

“That might be a good idea.” Patrick said, wiping up his spill and moving to sit next to Pete. “He misses her.”

“Yeah, I know.” Pete ran a hand over his face, rubbing at his eyes as he stared into his mug, face unreadable. “I saw her asshole of a boyfriend at the supermarket.”

“When?” Patrick asked.

“This morning.” He sighed. “We were out of creamer. I wanted to… I don’t know, Patrick. I wanted to fuckin’ strangle him, let him know that I knew what he did, but I just…”

“It’s okay.” Patrick ran a hand over Pete’s arm, letting him relax before intertwining their fingers. “He knows you know. The legal battle, remember?”

“I know.” Pete said, taking a sip of his coffee and finally bringing himself to look Patrick in the eyes. “I just can’t stand to look at him and know he’d put his hands on his partner.”

“That’s totally understandable.” Patrick assured him. “That was just… sick.”

“Yeah.” Pete said, and was cut off by Bronx walking into the kitchen, teddy bear in one arm and puppy following closely behind. His Paw Patrol pajamas were buttoned crooked and his hair was sleep-mussed into all sorts of crazy directions. “Morning, bud!” Pete smiled.

“Morning, daddy. Hi, Papa.” Bronx said, sliding into a chair opposite his dads and plopping his bear on the table. “I think Berenstein had a nightmare.”

“Oh?” Patrick asked, leaning closer. “Why do you think that?”

“He was whining.” The boy said, patting the little dog’s head. “And, like, kicking and stuff.”

“Poor boy,” Pete reached down from the chair to scratch the little tan puppy’s ears. “He’s a tough one, though. He’s fine.”

Bronx nodded sagely, looking between the puppy and his dad before he looked at Patrick and smiled. “Can I have eggs for breakfast?”

“Of course.” Patrick grinned, ruffling the boy’s hair as he got up, heading into the kitchen. “Scrambled eggs?”

“Yeah!” Bronx bounced in his seat, a grin on his face. “Berenstein loves eggs!”

“These are for you, not Berenstein.” Patrick laughed, cracking an egg into a bowl and rummaging for a whisk. “Don’t feed them all to the dog, okay?”

Bronx sighed, rolling his eyes. “Fine,” He said, kicking his feet against the chair legs.

“Pete!” Patrick chastised, looking at the other man. “Why’d you teach him to roll his eyes?”

“A boy’s gotta learn!” Pete rebuked, hiding a smile as he high fived Bronx under the table.

 

Pete sat on the couch that night as Patrick read Bronx a bedtime story, cup of coffee in his hand as he vacantly watched a rerun of some crime drama or another, just thinking. He had okayed their new album and recording studio time earlier that day, and then it was official: Fall Out Boy was back. It felt insane to say and even crazier to think about next Thursday, when all four of them would be heading into the newly-renovated recording booth at DCD2 records to record their new album. Pete was, to put it bluntly, fucking terrified. Every instinct screamed that he should down a half rack and write some more questionably shitty lyrics, put a smile on his face, and pretend to be okay, but he didn’t have the luxury. Even if he had alcohol in the house, he didn’t want to be hungover when he brought Bronx to school, and he really didn’t want to face Patrick and explain why he was shitfaced, because honestly? There was no good reason.

So he didn’t. He sat there, pencil eraser absentmindedly between his lips as he stared at a half-finished lyric. He finally let out a resigned huff and threw his head against the back of the couch, looking up. “Patrick,” He called as he heard the man’s footsteps approaching. “I’m out of ideas.”

“Don’t force it,” Patrick said, coming to sit next to Pete. “Never force lyrics, you’re the one who told me that.”

“I did?” Pete asked, looking over at him. Patrick was wearing Pete’s Star Wars pajama pants and a t-shirt that was solidly three sizes too big with a stupid smile on his face.

“Yep. Arma Angelus. We were writing before you ditched it and pulled me into Fall Out Boy.”

“Oh, pulled you into it. You were thrilled.” Pete laughed, shutting the notebook.

“I was terrified.” Patrick grinned fondly at the memory. “I was 17! I didn’t know what I was doing, or how I sung. You were just like ‘Hey, kid, wanna join a rock band?’”

“Hey, you’re the one that said yes.” Pete poked him in the ribs, laughing. “Not my fault.”

“Totally your fault.” Patrick replied. “I was young and naïve, and you were a worldly rockstar with really good hair who everyone in Chicago knew by name. It was an uneven match.”

“Worldly… Tricky, I wasn’t even 20!” Pete guffawed.

“Yeah, But the way you sold it with your emo poetry, you made it sound like we were gonna save rock and roll.”

Pete stopped dead, staring at Patrick. “What?” Patrick stuttered. “Is it something I said?”

“You’re a genius.” Pete exhaled, leaning forwards and catching Patrick’s lips in a chaste kiss before standing and all but sprinting to the back of the house.

“Pete!” Patrick called after him. “Why am I genius? What are you doing?”

“Saving rock and roll!”