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fire alarms (and losing you)

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It's only been a few weeks, which is why it catches Pete off-guard when Andy pops his head in and says, "Patrick's warming up on Gym Class."

"What, already?" he asks, pausing in straightening his hair while he does some mental math.

Andy shrugs. "Maybe he was just in the mood for it," he says, and Pete tries to hope he's right.

When he gets to the green room, though, Patrick's singing "Clothes Off" and pacing restlessly. He's holding a bottle of water, stroking his thumb along it in a way that probably isn't supposed to be suggestive.

"How're you feeling, Trick?" Pete asks, cautiously. Patrick can be kind of touchy about this; Pete's learned to take the indirect approach.

Patrick just turns to him and gives him a blinding grin. "Great," he says throatily. "Gonna be a good show tonight."


If there was any doubt left in Pete's mind, Patrick erases it pretty quickly once they're on stage. He's wild out there, headbanging with Joe, jumping and spinning around with Pete, flirting with Andy. Pete still sometimes has trouble believing that shy kid with the sideburns and the stage fright is the same one out there working the audience into a frenzy. Then Patrick skips off into the wings stage left and comes strutting back on stage, hips jutting forward against his guitar, eyes cast down on his fingers playing it, looking for all the world like he's jerking off on stage. Pete thinks, shit.

When they play “Grand Theft Autumn” Patrick rolls his head against Pete's shoulder, dragging his nose along the side of Pete's neck that's turned away from the audience and inhaling deeply. He looks drugged, heavy-lidded and intent, when they step apart again.


After the show, Pete's downing a bottle of water, his shirt in tatters around his neck, when Patrick presses up close behind him. "Told you it would be a good show," he says, his voice low and hot against the back of Pete's neck. Pete shivers; Patrick knows about his neck thing, he's doing it intentionally. Which means he's feeling... aggressive is maybe the wrong word, but then, Patrick's fisting his hand in the remains of Pete's shirt, pulling it tight against his neck, and grinding against Pete's ass.

So maybe not the wrong word, really.

"Okay!" Pete forces a laugh, prying Patrick's hand off his shirt. "Let's—why don't you go get cleaned up," he says, and then, lower, "Look, I'll meet you back at the hotel, okay? Just. Not in front of the kids, right?" He jerks his head toward Andy and Joe, who are very studiously not noticing anything happening on the other side of the room.

Patrick stares at him and for a minute, Pete thinks he's not going to go, that he's going to grab Pete and fuck him right here in the green room, in front of Joe and Andy and anyone else who happens by. But then Patrick's face softens. He smiles at Pete and says, "Yeah, okay, I could use a shower," and just like that he looks less like Patrick’s lecherous evil twin, and more like Pete's best friend.


When Pete gets back to their hotel room, Patrick's still in the shower. He putters around the room aimlessly, ostensibly putting his things away and getting settled for the night. Really what he's doing is trying to buy himself some time, distract himself from the reality of what's going on here.

He'd told Patrick, when they first started touring, that he could do this, that it was no big deal, he didn't mind. Anything to help a friend, he'd said, and he'd meant it. He'd meant it, and he's not going to back away from that now, and he's not going to make it weird for Patrick, no matter what—no matter what, that's all.

Patrick comes out of the bathroom in a cloud of steam and a hotel towel, and Pete can't really help staring. Patrick is so covered up most of the time, hidden away from the world and from Pete. And then every couple of months, all those layers are peeled back, and Pete gets to see this Patrick—gets to see him naked, needy and demanding, wanting.

Patrick steps in close to him, reaching for the button on Pete's jeans. As he opens the fly and slips his hands inside, sliding them around to cup Pete's ass and pull them tight together, he bites at the curve of Pete's neck and sighs, "God, I missed this so much," into the soft skin behind Pete's ear.

Pete stiffens, freezes even though he'd promised himself he wasn't going to let this get weird. It's just, Patrick gets wrapped up in this, he says stuff he doesn't mean. And Pete just has to be a grownup about it and remember that.

"Hey," he says, "hey, let's get you unwrapped, huh?"

Patrick grins sharply at him and pulls back, folding onto his knees and tugging Pete's jeans and boxers further down. The towel gapes open along Patrick’s thigh, revealing even more of his pale skin. "Yeah, in a minute," he says, breathless and playful. "I, oh god, Pete. Let me suck you. Please?"

Pete bites his lips and reminds himself that it's an honor that Patrick trusts him like this, that if Pete can't take it Patrick will have to give this part of him to yet another person, and Pete knows how much Patrick would hate that (almost as much as Pete would), so he swallows and rasps out, "Yeah, Trick. Come on," and twists his fingers in Patrick's hair and doesn't say a fucking thing.


Maybe it’s because it’s only been a few weeks since the last time, or maybe it’s just normal (if anything about this can be considered normal) variation—god knows Pete has no idea how this shit works—but it doesn’t last as long this time. The first night is as frenzied as always; Patrick keeps Pete up all night, sucking, fucking, jerking him off—at one point, Patrick rubs off on Pete’s hip while Pete’s still half-asleep, drifting in and out of a dream where he’s looking at new designs for Clandestine with Marcy and Patrick’s fucking him in the office.

The next night they’re on the road again and Patrick doesn’t even bother with his own bunk, just crawls in with Pete and whispers, "You’re not sleeping anyway," and, "Pete, yes, here, no, like this," and after Pete stretches him open with slick fingers, fucks himself on Pete’s cock, little hitching movements because that’s all they can really manage, all they have room for in the cramped space. Pete lies there, staring up at Patrick’s face, eyelashes fanned out over flushed cheeks, sweat curling the hair across his face, and thinks, "This is enough—yeah. It’s enough."

When Patrick comes, gasping out Pete’s name and digging his fingers into Pete’s ribs, Pete knows—it will never be enough for him.

Patrick seems to be satisfied, though, and he falls into a restless sleep, kicking the blankets off the bed and then burrowing under Pete, cold feet pressed up against his calves, hands like blocks of ice on Pete’s back. They’d probably both be more comfortable if Pete got up and retrieved the blankets, but screw it, Pete thinks, Patrick was right—he’s not sleeping anyway.

He dozes off eventually—he almost always does when Patrick’s sleeping next to him—and wakes up somewhere around dawn with Patrick’s mouth on the back of his neck, Patrick’s fingers curled around his hip. "Pete," he whispers, hot and needy against Pete’s ear, and Pete rolls onto his belly, hitches one leg up and moans, low and open, as Patrick pushes into him.

Patrick fucks him slow and easy, and it’s perfect, it’s exactly what Pete wants and he hates it, because it means that Patrick’s getting control back, that he’s getting back to normal and that means Pete’s going to have to give this up. He’ll have to remember not to touch Patrick, have to sleep without Patrick wrapped around him, have to go weeks without hearing Patrick moan his name, wild and desperately aroused.

The thought makes Pete frantic, makes him impatient with Patrick’s languid pace, and at the same time he wants to go even slower, to drag this out forever and just keep Patrick here with him. He slips one hand up and threads his fingers through Patrick’s, clutching their hands against his pillow. Patrick’s hips stutter, and he presses his face against the back of Pete’s neck. "Pete," he moans, "Pete, Pete, Pete. Fuck. I, oh god, I can’t—I need you so bad, Pete."

Pete knows better, knows that it’s not him Patrick needs, it’s just this, but fuck it, he can give Patrick this, he can do this for him, and nobody else can. "Patrick," he gasps, and bites his lip against the words that want to spill after Patrick’s name.

"Yeah, baby," Patrick says, breathless against Pete’s skin. "I’m here, I got you. I’m here."

It’s the only thing Pete has been wanting to hear and it hits him like a blow to the chest. He cries out wordlessly and the sound is echoed by Patrick as he comes, collapsing onto Pete like his strings have been cut. He doesn’t move for a minute, just lies there panting and blowing his hair out of his eyes. And then he grabs Pete’s hip with his free hand, rolls them onto their sides without letting go of Pete’s hand, and reaches for Pete’s cock.

Pete whimpers as Patrick wraps his long, slender fingers around him, stroking firmly. He’s not teasing, just trying to bring Pete off, and it’s not going to take long. And then he presses a kiss behind Pete’s ear, says, "Come on, come for me, baby, let me—" His voice is rough and throaty and Pete is gone for him, pressing his face into the pillow and carefully not calling out Patrick’s name as he comes.

Patrick falls back to sleep pretty quickly, but Pete's done for the night, and he lies there watching Patrick in the pre-dawn light. Patrick's skin looks soft and luminous and Pete aches to write his name up and down Patrick's arms, to draw the bartskull on Patrick's hip, to scrawl lyrics across Patrick's belly. He wants to leave marks on Patrick, something permanent, something to prove that he was here, that this was his, at least for a little while.


Patrick is awkward around Pete the next day, and Pete knows that's it, that it's over for another month or so. If he just gives Patrick a little time to pretend nothing weird happened, they'll be okay. But nothing's that easy, and Pete is not that guy; he can't pretend it didn't happen and he can't leave Patrick alone. He spends the day needling Patrick, getting in his space and making passive-aggressive little comments about Patrick being too good to spend time with Pete now that he's not—which is about when Patrick chucks a coffee cup at him and storms off to hole up in his bunk. Pete turns an incredulous face to Andy and Joe, but Andy just looks at him reproachfully while Joe sweeps up the shattered mug.

"You shouldn't fuck with him like that," Andy says, and Pete wants to scream, wants to throw his own coffee cup, because what about him, what about the way that Patrick is fucking with him? But he volunteered for that, and it's not fair to blame Patrick if Pete can't handle it.

The problem is, Pete can't end it, either.

He's anticipating and dreading the end of tour in more-or-less equal parts. At first, after Patrick and Anna broke up, Pete had thought maybe then... But then Evan had come along, and nothing changed; Patrick still came to Pete when they were on tour and went to Evan when they were home. After Evan it’d been Jamie and then Christina, but Patrick and Christina had broken it off just before leaving on this tour. And now that tour’s winding up... Pete doesn’t have it in him to ask, but he assumes Patrick has made some kind of arrangement or, or whatever, Pete doesn’t know, he doesn’t want to know, and he isn't disappointed. And if he happens to get a little moody, a little morose at the end of the tour, well, whatever. He's allowed.


Things are okay when they get home. Pete's stopped needling Patrick and Patrick's forgiven him—he always does—and they settle into the easy routine of being too busy to hang out much, keeping in touch mostly by text and the occasional rushed lunch squeezed between meetings and tapings and studio time. Pete misses Patrick, but it's manageable, he misses him for a reason, and he can handle that.

Pete doesn't keep track—it's too close to acknowledging what's happening, and it's never been regular enough for that to be really useful, anyway—but he has a vague sense of when it's about time for Patrick to disappear for a couple of days. Usually he finds a way to distract himself—schedules a business trip, or drops in on Travie, or flies home to check out some baby bands in Chicago. Whatever he ends up doing, it’s usually enough to mostly keep his mind off Patrick, to keep him from thinking about where Patrick is, who he’s with, what he’s doing.

Pete doesn’t know what Patrick’s doing this time. Pete, unfortunately, is doing nothing—Travis is in the studio with Gym Class, Gabe is visiting his grandmother in Uruguay, and things are really quiet with both Clandestine and Decaydance right now. He’s at loose ends, and he’s mostly sitting around watching t.v. and trying not to think about Patrick.

He's definitely not expecting Patrick to show up on his doorstep on a Wednesday night, flushed and clearly agitated.

"Trick? Everything okay?" Pete asks, ushering Patrick inside. He doesn't look angry—Pete really hopes he's not getting sick.

"Yeah, I just—" Patrick is distracted, rubbing his hands together like he does when he's about to go on stage. "Can we...?" He gestures to the living room and Pete nods, follows him in to sit on the couch.

"What's up, Patrick? You're kind of freaking me out," he admits, looking up at Patrick, who's pacing between the couch and the coffee table.

Patrick blows out a deep breath, shoves his hands into his hair, knocking his hat onto the floor, and spins to look at Pete. "Don't send me away," he says. Pete's never heard such a beseeching tone in Patrick's voice, not since—

"Patrick?" he says, hesitantly. "Are you..."

Patrick moves quickly, straddling Pete's legs with his knees on the couch. "I know it’s not what we agreed to," he says, "but I haven’t—since Christine—don't make me go to someone I don't—someone I don't even know." He's leaning deep into Pete's personal space but he's not touching Pete anywhere, holding himself back with a tremor, waiting on Pete.

And Pete's never been able to say no to Patrick, not when it matters, and now that he knows what's going on... "No," he says, sliding his hands around Patrick's waist and pulling him down into his lap. "No, Patrick, of course not, you don't have to go. You don't have to go anywhere."

Patrick grabs Pete's head between his hands and kisses him frantically. "Sorry," he says against Pete's mouth, "Pete, I'm so sorry, I can't, I can't anymore," and Pete can't take it. He reaches up and kisses Patrick, running his hands up over Patrick's ribs.

"It's okay," he says, gasping as Patrick presses his face into Pete's neck and licks at the pulse he finds there. "Don't be sorry, Patrick, it's okay, you don't—you can come to me. Okay? You can come to me."

"Pete!" Patrick whines out his name and grinds his hips down into Pete's lap. Pete feels Patrick's teeth scrape across his shoulder, right where the thorns cross it. "Please, please, please," he's chanting into the curve of Pete's neck, "Pete, please, come on."

Pete's not ashamed to admit he's having a little trouble keeping up; ten minutes ago he was watching ESPN classic and thinking idly about jerking off before bed. Now he's on his couch with Patrick writhing and begging in his lap—in his living room, and it occurs to Pete that they've never done this in his house before. Hotels, buses, venues and the odd airport bathroom, but never in his home. "Please what," he manages. "What, Patrick, what do you need?"

Patrick reaches one hand down and rubs it, hard, over Pete's dick. "Fuck me," he gasps out, "Please, Pete, I need it, you've got to, fuck me, please."

Pete's already pulling at Patrick's clothes, fumbling with buttons and zippers before Patrick's finished talking—begging—and he tugs at Patrick's jeans, frustrated. "Get up," he says, "just for a second, come on, Trick, you gotta let me get these off."

Patrick stands on unsteady legs, kicking off his jeans and his shorts, and he stands there, naked, watching as Pete shucks his own t-shirt and shoves his jeans down off his legs. "Here," he says, as he moves to climb back into Pete's lap, "you'll need this." He hands Pete a little tube of slick from the pocket of his jeans, and Pete thinks about Patrick carrying it over here, coming over knowing exactly why, exactly what he was after, and he bites Patrick's mouth, hard, kisses him again and runs his tongue over the teeth marks.

"Lift up for me," he says, flipping open the cap, and Patrick does, straightens his legs just enough that Pete's able to reach behind him and slide two fingers inside him. Patrick groans and Pete kisses him again, twisting his fingers and stroking them over the ridge of Patrick's prostate.

"Pete," Patrick moans, "Pete, please, don't, you know, you know I need—come on, Pete, stop fucking around!" He's like this every time, the first time, desperate and demanding and it always makes Pete obstinately deliberate, makes him want to tease Patrick open and keep him on edge for hours.

Something about tonight feels different, though; whether it's Patrick in his house, or begging Pete not to send him away, or the fucking lube he brought with him, something makes Pete feel almost as frantic as Patrick is, and he's pulling his fingers out and bracing his hands on Patrick's hips, shoving his cock up into him fast and rough, careless in the way Patrick only appreciates on nights like this (but oh, he does appreciate it).

"Yes," Patrick hisses, "fuck, Pete, harder, yes, fuck me, come on, good, good!" He's not moving himself, just bracing his hands on Pete's shoulders and letting Pete hold his hips still and thrust up into him at his own pace. "Yeah, yeah," he says, "you know, yeah, you make it so good for me, fuck, know exactly how I need it, Pete."

Pete bites down on what he wants to say—yes, yeah, I know how you like it, I make it good for you, make it good like nobody else can, because I know you better, I know what you like—and instead he just twists his hips up, pushing deep into Patrick's ass. "Mmm, take it," he murmurs against Patrick's ear, and Patrick lets his head roll back and does just that.


They're quiet, after, for a while, Patrick warm and heavy in Pete's lap. Pete hates to move him—hates to let go of him, to be honest—but he knows they'll be more comfortable if they relocate. "Hey, Trick," he says, nudging Patrick gently. Patrick grunts and makes no effort to shift himself whatsoever. "Patrick," Pete says, "come on, dude, work with me here." He shakes Patrick's shoulder and then pushes him back, rolling his limp, unresisting form to one side. Pete stands up and tugs Patrick to his feet and they do a drunken sleepy waltz toward Pete's bedroom. Pete deposits Patrick in the bed, tugging the blankets up around him, and goes to brush his teeth.

Pete stands in the bathroom for a long minute, staring blankly at his reflection in the mirror. In the end, there's nothing to say he doesn't already know. He cups his hand under the faucet and splashes his face with cool water, wipes it mostly dry and goes back into the bedroom.

Patrick wakes him up, as expected, a couple of times in the night. The first time, Pete wakes up when Patrick crouches over him and presses kisses from one shoulder to the other, down to his navel, murmuring his name in between them. When Pete picks up his head and says, "Patrick?" in a sleep-muddled voice, Patrick smiles at him and licks Pete's cock, goes down on him like he's dying for it. It's not the worst way Pete's ever been woken out of a sound sleep.

The second time, Pete barely even wakes up, drifting up into semi-consciousness as Patrick's rubbing one out next to him, spattering Pete's chest with a grunt. "Dude," he protests, and falls asleep while Patrick's still laughing at him.

The next time Pete wakes up, it's early morning, dawn light leaking in around the blackout curtains. Patrick's still asleep next to him. His mouth is slightly open and his lashes fan softly across his cheeks and something in Pete's chest clutches hard at the sight of Patrick, asleep in his bed. He reaches out and pushes Patrick's hair out of his eyes, traces across his forehead and down over the curve of his cheek, and tries not to think about how Patrick's face is familiar and precious to him but totally new in this context. He's seen Patrick's face in so many different lights—seen him angry, grieving, ecstatic, longing, seen him fat and thin and ten years younger, seen him with sideburns and without (and once with a beard, oh god, no), with glasses and with contacts. Pete's seen Patrick terrified and playful and he's seen Patrick in love, but he's never seen Patrick like this, and he doesn't know what to make of it. Patrick came to him—to him, when he didn't have to, and that has to mean... something.

Patrick's breathing picks up and he turns his face into Pete's hand with a self-satisfied little hum. Pete gives him a minute, and then whispers, "Hey," very quietly. He knows Patrick's awake already, it just feels wrong to break the quiet of this morning.

Patrick opens his eyes and blinks hard a few times, trying to get them to focus on Pete's face. When he manages this, he smiles and reaches out a hand for Pete, sliding it over his ribs. "Hey," he whispers back, and his voice is rough and throaty. "Watching me sleep?" Pete gives him a half-smile and nods. "Creeper," Patrick says fondly.

Pete opens his mouth to make a snappy retort and realises he can't say "You're the one sneaking into my bed in the middle of the night." Hell, it's not even true, Pete had dragged him in here. Instead he just shrugs. "Hey, you know me," he says. "You had your chance to run years ago. Too late now." He manages not to flinch at how true that is for him.

Patrick watches him for a minute, his expression some combination of affection and... something Pete can't quite name. Finally he grins and shakes his head. "Do I look like I'm running?" he asks. Pete has to admit that no, he doesn't, especially as Patrick rolls over on top of him and pins his wrists to the bed above his head. Patrick leans down and bites Pete on the corner of his jaw, just below his ear. "I'm not going anywhere," he whispers, "and neither are you."

And god, Pete's so tempted to let himself pretend that's true. He pushes up against the firm pressure of Patrick's hand on his wrists, and lets himself feel Patrick holding him down, keeping him there. But that's never been the problem, he knows, and the reality of it is, nobody's holding Patrick there; there's nothing to stop him leaving in a day or two, as soon as this latest cycle is over.

Patrick squeezes Pete's wrists and slides them together, transferring them both to one hand and running the other down Pete's side. His fingers are light on Pete's skin, barely touching, but Pete can feel the ghost of them all along his ribs. He wants to feel them everywhere, like his skin is hungry for Patrick's touch, like it feels the loss of him already, before he's even gone. Pete's breath catches in his throat—not quite a sob, but close—and he squeezes his eyes shut. He's never had this much trouble before, keeping the lines clear in his head, remembering that they only do this because it's easier for Patrick, that Patrick comes to Pete because he's convenient, not because he wants Pete.

It's something about Patrick here when they're not on tour, about waking up with Patrick in his bed. It's Patrick saying "I'm not going anywhere" and all of Pete's careful boundaries are getting smudged, blurred and indistinct and when he tries to tell himself to stay within the lines, for the first time since this started, he doesn't know exactly where those are anymore.

Patrick lets go of Pete's wrists and something wild and terrified kicks in Pete's chest; whatever it was that pushed up against Patrick's grip with satisfaction is now loose, unmoored and drifting, and Patrick's hands braced on his waist don't do anything to make Pete feel grounded again. He reaches for Patrick's shoulders, needing to hold him there, and Patrick casually reaches up and presses his hands down onto the mattress again. "Shh, no," he says, "hold them there."

Pete does, ignoring the way his arms are shaking, because he's just being stupid, this is stupid, and he just needs to get his head on straight again, and this will all be fine.

Patrick, of course, is oblivious to all of Pete's bullshit drama, caught in the fevered haze of whatever this thing is that grips him and makes him need this, makes him need Pete, however temporarily. He's rubbing circles over Pete's hips with his thumbs, pressing kisses across his collarbone, his chest, bending to lick one of Pete's nipples and then bite it, just hard enough to pull a soft noise from Pete's mouth. Patrick looks up at that, intent expression on his face, and says, "You should get them pierced again."

Pete blinks, because—what? He can't, that's not... that isn't something Patrick should be asking for, that's more than scratching a fucking itch, that's. It has implications. "What?" he asks stupidly.

Patrick presses his tongue flat against Pete's chest and sucks hard at his nipple. "At least one," he says, "let me play with it. I know you'd like it. Me, too; it was hot. Distractingly hot."

Pete feels abruptly like he's going to be sick. He sits up, shoving Patrick off of him, and grabs for his t-shirt and shorts from last night, needing suddenly to be dressed.

"Pete?" Pete can't even look at Patrick; he can already hear the hurt and confusion and concern in his voice.

Pete scrubs his hands over his face, presses the heels of his hands into his eyes. "You can't—you don't get to ask me for that," he says desperately. "That's not what we agreed to, Patrick, and it's not fucking fair."

Pete feels Patrick's hand on his shoulder and he can't help it, he flinches away. There's a pause, and then Patrick says, very quietly, "I didn't mean—"

"I know!" Pete interrupts. "I know, Patrick, you didn't mean anything by it, but you keep asking for more, you keep crossing these lines, and I can't—I just can't do that, Patrick." He keeps his face covered, needing whatever distance he can get from Patrick while they're sitting on Pete's bed together. "I'm sorry, I thought I could, but I can't."

Patrick is up and pacing now; Pete can hear his feet scuffing across the carpet. "No," he says, "no, Pete, you don't, you have nothing to be sorry for. I'm sorry, I'm the one—I'm sorry." His voice breaks on the last word, and Pete looks up to see him ducking out the bedroom door. It isn't until he hears the front door close and lets out a deep sigh that he realises he's been holding his breath.


He's still lying on the bed an hour later when he gets a text from Joe.

Dude. What the hell?

He doesn't answer. An hour after that, he gets up and strips the bed, throws the sheets in the wash, and slumps down on the couch. He flips through channels distractedly for ten or fifteen minutes before he gives up and leaves it on Discovery.

Eventually, he pulls out his phone and texts Andy.

did you know a praying mantis only has one ear

It only takes a few seconds for Andy to reply.

Leeches have 32 brains.


Google that shit, Andy replies, and then before Pete can, want to talk about it?

not really, Pete sends, but the phone's ringing before he has a chance to put it away.

"You could just call," Andy says.

"I said I didn't want to talk," Pete protests, but it's half-hearted.

"Yeah," Andy says, "and think of how much time we'd save if you could just man up and admit that you need to talk about your feelings in the first place."

"Fuck you, Hurley," Pete says without any heat to it. "Joe call?"

"He texted," Andy admits. "You wanna give me your side of the story?"

"Same as always, I freaked out over Patrick and fucked everything up." It's a disturbingly familiar situation, actually, from a long line of girlfriends who'd liked Pete just fine, but weren't quite prepared for his immersive, all-encompassing version of love.

"Why'd you freak out?" Andy's tone is matter-of-fact, carefully non-judgmental, and Pete appreciates that even as he hates feeling like he's being "handled."

"We had a deal," he says, and even as vague as that is, it feels like a betrayal; he's never talked about it this explicitly with Andy or Joe—hell, he's barely ever talked about it this explicitly with Patrick. "We had an... arrangement, and we were both clear on what it was, and what it wasn't, and then I—he went over the line, Andy."

Andy sucks in a breath at that. "He didn't—are you okay?"

Pete barks out a bitter laugh. "Not really, no. But no, he didn't hurt me or anything, it's all in my fucked up head, as usual. I just—it was supposed to be a favor. And now all of a sudden he's in my bed and he's talking about—he's asking for more, for long-term stuff. And I thought I could handle it, but I can't. So I flipped out on him and he took off."

Andy's silent for a long minute; they've had variations on this conversation enough that Pete knows to just let him take his time and figure out what he wants to say. Still, he's getting antsy when Andy finally says, "Pete... I hope you went easy on him. It's not surprising that he let a little of that bleed through after all this time. You know he's always been half in love with you anyway; this can't help with that."

"Jesus Christ, Hurley," Pete says, his voice ragged with desperation. "I'm not talking about the stupid crush he had on me when he was too young to know better. I'm talking about me, I couldn't handle being his fuck buddy because I was fucking falling for him, and as long as he played by the rules I could keep lying to myself about it but now I can't, and—"

Andy cuts him off. "Seriously, this is getting ridiculous. Have you tried actually talking to him about this? No, of course you haven't, why would you try that? Do you think you could, though, as a personal favor to Joe and I, maybe sit down with him and tell him exactly where you're at with this?"

"Yeah," Pete says, "I don't fucking think so. Be the creeper who goes after Patrick and begs him to keep pity-fucking me? Sorry, not happening."

There's a long-suffering sigh on the other end of the phone line, and then Andy says, resignedly, "Alright. I still think you should talk to him, but. Whatever, it's your problem. Just... don't let it be the band's problem, okay?"


The thing is, Pete had no intention of letting this be the band's problem. So he lets it go, he formally and consciously decides that everything is going to be totally normal between him and Patrick. Except he doesn't see Patrick for over a week; Patrick hides out at Joe's and doesn't answer phone calls and sends cursory replies to texts, and he doesn't make an actual, in-the-flesh appearance until their writing session on Tuesday.

Pete's thrilled to see him; he can't help it. Awkwardness aside, this is his best friend, his favorite human in the whole world, and he's missed Patrick. He slides up to Patrick and slips his arms around him for a hug, pressing his face against Patrick's neck—and Patrick gives him a quick pat on the back and steps back, what the fuck? Since when does Patrick even know how to brohug? Pete backs off, stung, but he watches Patrick carefully all afternoon.

Patrick isn't ignoring Pete—if anything, he's going out of his way to be polite—but he's weird and distant and... formal? Almost as though he's performing Being Friends With Pete to keep everyone off the scent. But he's definitely holding Pete at arm's length. And Pete can take a hint; he took it too far and made it weird. Fine, that's on him. So he backs off a little, lets Patrick have the space he needs to deal again.


Things are still strained between them a few weeks later, though, when Pete walks into the studio for an interview and photoshoot with Rolling Stone, and finds Patrick noodling on his guitar, singing a slow jazz version of "Stereo Hearts." Pete freezes, unable to think what to do in this situation. He's still standing there when Patrick looks up; he stares at Pete, looking just as stricken as Pete feels, and then flushes and says, "I—I have to go. I don't feel—" he doesn't even bother to finish, just shoves his guitar into the rack and rushes out of the studio.

Pete stands in the middle of the room for a minute, clenching and unclenching his fists. He wants desperately to throw something, to pick up a chair and slam it against the glass over the mixing board, to snap the neck of his guitar and put his foot through Andy's kit. Instead he just stands there, focuses on his breathing, tries not to think about anything, until Joe comes in and asks, "Dude, what's up? Where's—"

"Interview’s canceled," Pete grits out, and he's gone before Joe can respond.


Pete sits at home that night, brooding. He’s called the photographer, and the interviewer, and the band’s publicist, offering apologies all around and taking the blame squarely on himself. Now he’s picking at noodles that have long since gone cold, pretending to watch the news. He's trying to focus but all he can think about is Patrick. Patrick should be with him tonight—would have been, last month—but Pete screwed that up for him. Pete took away that option, which means Patrick has to go somewhere else. Apparently Pete is in a masochistic mood, because he starts thinking about where somewhere else might be, about who someone else is.

Patrick's staying with the Trohmans, but Joe's probably too straight for what Patrick needs, and Marie's not that type of girl. Which makes him think about Breezy Weekes, who is definitely that type of girl, but Patrick would never—except what if he had to, right? Because the whole problem here is that he can't go to Pete anymore, so he has to go somewhere. Brendon, maybe? He'd always had a thing for Patrick when they were kids, and Patrick likes Brendon. Brendon is totally Patrick's type.

Maybe he went to one of Andy's hippie sex freak friends. He could tell those assholes "Hey, once a month I need to fuck like crazy for a few days, it's pretty much uncontrollable, want to help me out?" and they'd probably tell him he was, like, one with the universe and tapped into the cosmic yoni or some shit.

Or maybe—maybe a total stranger, someone Joe hooked him up with, or someone who saw him flushed and sweaty in a club, who didn't know anything about Patrick but liked the way he looked, who saw him and thought, "Sure, why not?" And somehow that's the worst possibility—that Patrick's had to give this much of himself to a stranger, that it's Pete's fault. Patrick hates being vulnerable with strangers, has always been so much more private and possessive of his inner life than Pete has; it's been hard enough for Patrick to let Pete in, to share his secret with him alone. To have to explain to a total stranger... Patrick would hate it, and Pete hates himself for making it necessary.


Patrick shows up to a meeting four days later looking wan and tired, and Pete feels sick with guilt. Every time he's around Patrick he opens his mouth to ask who it was, who Patrick was with, who he let see him desperate and needy and helpless with want—whether it was a stranger, or Brendon, or someone else Pete hadn't even thought of. But every time he thinks about it, Pete wants to throw up, so he never asks. Patrick has always been the brave one.

Patrick never mentions it either, though. He's not quite as formal with Pete as he was before, but he feels... diminished, somehow. He shows up to rehearsals, he writes and plays and sings and argues, but there's something missing. Not like he's going through the motions, quite, but more like he's a half-step off, and he can't find the beat anymore.

They limp along like this for a few more weeks. Pete drives himself crazy trying to talk to Patrick, unable to do it, and Joe and Andy approach him, separately and together, asking him to get his shit together so he can help Patrick get his shit together. Old habits die hard, and Pete finds himself snapping at Joe defensively, "Patrick is fine, he doesn't need any help, least of all from me." It's not true, though, and they all know it. Things are falling apart; Pete has no idea how they can keep going like this. How can they be a band if they can't even be in the same room?


The next time Patrick begs off from a writing session, Pete heads to Travie's place. Travis takes a long look at him, then pulls him in for a hug, long arms wrapped tight around him. "Hey bruv," he murmurs against Pete's ear, "you look rough as hell." Pete laughs and sniffs and shoves his face into Travis's chest. Travie smells like oranges and smoke and a little like dog, and Pete doesn't know why he hasn't come here sooner. He squeezes his arms tight around Travis's waist, and Travis laughs. "Oh, like that, is it? Come on, let's get you right," he says, and drags Pete inside.

Pete explains the whole sordid situation to Travis. Travis doesn't interrupt, doesn't look shocked, doesn't offer judgment. He just sits quietly, nodding and smoking and, at one point, stepping into the kitchen to grab them a couple of beers. Pete winds up his story, drinks deeply from his beer and steals a hit, letting it out slowly while he waits for Travie to say something.

He doesn't, for quite a while. Pete doesn't push, though; Travis likes to take his time and roll stuff over, look at it from all the angles, before he makes any kind of judgments on it. It's one of the reasons Pete values his advice so much, and he'd be stupid to rush Travis at this point.

Finally, Travis blows out a lungful of smoke and turns to face Pete. "Shit," he says, simply. "You got yourself in a hell of a situation, huh?"

Pete laughs. "Uh, would you believe me if I said it seemed like a good idea at the time?"

"Nope," Travis grins back at him. "Known you for too long. You knew it was a bad idea from the start; problem is you never met a bad idea you didn't like."

"Not true," Pete protests. "I turn down bad ideas all the time!"

"Yeah? How often do you turn down Patrick?" Travis's voice is kind, like he knows how much this is costing Pete already.

Pete snorts. "Fuck you, man," he says. Travie smiles and bumps his shoulder against Pete's companionably. "Fine, never, okay? I never—I've never told him no before."

"Big step for you," Travie says philosophically. "What's got you so twisted that you're telling our boy no? You finally go ahead and fall in love with him?"

Pete's stomach clenches and all of a sudden he can't breathe. He's dimly aware of Travis's hand on his back, rubbing soothing circles between his shoulders, pressing him forward until he's bent in half, head between his knees, and Travis is talking to him, even if Pete can't make out any of the words. Finally, his lungs unlock and he drags in a deep, shuddering breath, again, again, until he's doing something resembling normal breathing.

“So that’s a yes,” Travis says quietly, and Pete barks out a laugh.

“Yeah,” he says, breathless and shaky. “yeah, I guess it is. Oh, shit.”

“And I guess you haven’t told him this.”

“No!” Pete scoffs, then says, “Well. I tried—he was asking for—like, he showed up at my house, we weren’t on tour or anything, and then he’s talking about piercings and—I told him I couldn’t do the buddy-fuck thing if he kept pushing boundaries like that, and he got all weird and he’s been weird since then. And now he’s avoiding me.”

Travis sits on that for a minute, then says, “Well, that’s rough.”

“Yeah, thanks,” Pete says, and Travie pulls him into a one-armed hug.

“Come on,” he says, “let’s get you stupid drunk and play some Mario Kart; I’ll even let you win a couple times.”

“I’ll let your mom win,” Pete mutters, and Travis shoves him off the couch.


After two days with Travis, Pete heads home for a shower and a clean pair of jeans. He finds a handful of chores to keep him busy—the dishwasher needs to be unloaded, he's got laundry to put away, and there's a stack of bills on his desk he's been meaning to pay—but eventually he has to admit to himself that all he's really doing is waiting for Patrick to call.


After three days of that, Pete calls Joe.

"Where is he?" he snaps when Joe picks up the phone.

"Wow, uh, hi Pete," Joe says, and Pete's just not interested in this shit.

"Not in the mood, Joe," he says, "I just—" he pauses, and when he speaks again, his voice is softer, sadder and a little scared. "I just need to know that he's okay. Please. Is he there with you? Or is he—did he go somewhere else, during? Who did he go to, Joe?"

Joe doesn't answer for a long time, and Pete thinks he might actually have to yell at Joe, might have to fight with Joe about this, and then Joe says, "Just... give him a couple days, Pete, okay? He's—he doesn't feel well. Give him a couple of days to recover."

"Did he—" Pete starts, but Joe interrupts him immediately.

"The rest of it's probably none of your business; it damn sure isn't any of mine and I'm not getting into this shit with you two. Work it out between you, just give him a couple of days first, okay?" Joe doesn't sound angry, just tired and frustrated, and Pete adds that to his list of shit to feel guilty about, that Joe and Andy have gotten caught up in this after all, that Pete and Patrick have been having their little drama and the guys have been there all along, forced to watch it all play out.

"Joe," Pete starts, and then just says, "I'm sorry."

"Yeah," Joe says. "I know."


By Sunday Pete is absolutely out of his mind. It's been a week and there hasn't been any word from Patrick, let alone an appearance. Andy keeps telling Pete to give him space, and Joe has been doing his best to run interference, but enough is enough, Pete decides. Either they're okay, and they're going to be okay, or they're not, and it's all over, but he can't keep everyone hanging in limbo like this. It's time to confront Patrick, and his own feelings, and his fears, and—he pulls into a Starbucks, drinks a caramel macchiato and has a tiny panic attack—and he's not putting this off any longer. Pete pushes back from the table, chucks his cup in the bin, and heads to Joe's house.

He rings the bell and Joe opens the door, staring out at him through the screen. Neither of them says anything for a minute, and then Joe sighs and says, "Andy's going to kick my ass."

"Probably," Pete says, shrugging apologetically. "I'll tell him I forced my way in if you think it'd help?"

Joe shakes his head. "Nah," he says, and Pete gets a good look at him, dark eyes round and deep in his pale face. "I'm only letting you in because I'm shit-scared right now," Joe explains, and Pete's heart just stops, falls right out of his body. Joe is leading Pete deeper into the house, one hand resting lightly on his wrist, and Pete turns his hand over and grabs Joe's wrist in his fingers.

"Joe," he starts, but his voice breaks on a note he hasn't hit since puberty. "Joe, is he—tell me he's okay."

Joe just shakes his head again. "I don't know, man," he says, and Pete has to strain to hear the rest over the buzzing in his ears. "He doesn't look good to me, but he says he's fine." Joe leads Pete back into his bedroom and gestures through the open doorway.

Joe's bedroom is dark, even in the middle of the day, with curtains drawn and little rays of light sneaking in around the edges of the blinds. Patrick is in the middle of the rumpled bed, looking even smaller than usual and pale as hell.

Pete approaches slowly, cautiously, like Patrick is a horse or a rattlesnake he might spook. He can't even see Patrick breathing until he's standing at the side of the bed, but when he does spot the shallow movement, something inside him goes loose and he collapses down onto the bed, sitting next to Patrick and floating his hand just above Patrick's forehead. "Trick?" he whispers, in the world's smallest, shakiest voice. He's terrified that Patrick won't hear him, won't wake up. He's equally terrified that Patrick will.

What actually happens is that Patrick opens his eyes and looks up at Pete. He smiles weakly and says , "Hey," like Pete had just stepped out for coffee or something, and suddenly Pete can breathe again.

"Hey yourself," he says, and he drops his hand to cup Patrick's cheek, to reassure himself that Patrick is real, that Patrick is there and safe and as soon as Pete touches him, Patrick groans like he's been burned.

Pete snatches his hand back, apology already forming on his lips, and Patrick actually starts crying. Pete is at a total loss; he has no idea what's going on, what to do, he needs some fucking guidance, and that's what he ends up saying: "Patrick, I'm sorry, I don't know what to do."

Patrick blinks away the tears and says, "Please, Pete, I'm sorry, I thought I could make it without it, but I can't." Pete looks up at Joe for an explanation, but Joe's gone, slipped out discreetly while Pete's attention was focused elsewhere. And now that there's nobody else around, Pete thinks, to go between them, maybe now they'll actually be forced to talk to each other, like they should have in the first place.

"Did you—you didn't go to anybody?" he asks, not quite sure how to feel about that.

Patrick just shakes his head and says, "Please."

Pete knows that this is one of those bad ideas Travie was talking about, but he also knows he's not going to say no, not to Patrick, not like this. He kicks off his shoes and pants and pulls back the blankets and wraps himself around Patrick. Patrick doesn't resist, doesn't have the strength to, so Pete gets as much skin-to-skin contact as he can, stripping off their shirts, wrapping his arms around Patrick's torso, pressing his face into Patrick's neck and twisting their legs together. They lie like that for a while; Pete lets himself sink into Patrick, the warm smell of his skin, the steady (and growing stronger) beat of his heart, the bitter salt taste of sweat and illness.

It's Patrick who breaks the silence, finally. "You shouldn't have come," he says, and his voice is so weak still that Pete can only be angry.

"Shut up," he says, "how can you—shut up," and he kisses Patrick hard, like he can stop Patrick saying such stupid things if he can only keep his mouth otherwise occupied. "Don't say that," he begs, between kisses, "don't tell me not to come for you."

"I'm sorry," Patrick says, voice stronger but breathless now, "I'm sorry, Pete, I won't, I promise, ah!" Pete presses a kiss onto the bite mark he's just left on Patrick's neck.

It's angry, almost violent at first, kissing and biting and clawing, not a punishment but a need to leave reminders, to make sure Patrick doesn't try to do this again, to remind him that he can always turn to Pete. As time passes, though, their touches become gentler, kisses slow down, and instead of fighting they're coming together ("reconnecting," Pete thinks, and immediately wishes he hadn't).

Pete has absolutely no intention of taking this any further—not when Patrick's so weak, not when they're both so upset, not in Joe's bed—but Patrick slides his thigh up to press against Pete's dick and all of Pete's best intentions fly straight out the window. "Oh, fuck, Patrick," he gasps, "Patrick, no, are you sure? I don't want—you're sick."

"I'm not," Patrick argues, and there's definitely a rosiness to his complexion that was missing before. "I'm better, it helps, you know it helps. Pete, please," he cries, and that's twice he's asked Pete for this, twice Pete has known he couldn't say no.

"Let me," he says, and twists onto his side, sliding one thigh up between Patrick's legs, stroking his foot down the back of Patrick's calf. "Like this, Patrick, come on, let me see," he says, and he doesn't close his eyes, doesn't even blink as Patrick ruts against his thigh. Pete doesn't want to miss one second of Patrick's face, not ever again, not if he can help it.


Pete manages to get them into the guest room at some point during the day, for which he thinks Joe probably would thank him, except that it's not like they took the time to change the sheets on Joe's bed. Whatever, call it even, he thinks. He's pretty sure that Joe is at Pete's place, anyway, no doubt drinking the good coffee and eating the last of his Cheetos. Pete figures it's an acceptable trade, to be lying here with Patrick, safe and happy in his arms. He drifts off to sleep for the first time that week, humming softly to himself.

When Pete wakes up in the morning, Patrick is peering at him from two inches away, clearly waiting for him to wake up. "Morning," Patrick says, then flips Pete onto his belly and throws himself on top of him. "Gonna fuck you now," he murmurs in Pete's ear.

Pete smiles and rolls his hips against the mattress and says, "Well, I guess I didn't have anything better planned." It feels so good, to be able to joke with Patrick again, to be comfortable together. It's almost better than the sex. Patrick, for his part, is bright and playful and so obviously feeling good that Pete starts to realise just how badly he must've been feeling yesterday.

Patrick reaches forward and rifles through the nightstand drawer, and then Pete feels his fingers, slick and warm, probing at his entrance. Patrick pushes inside and Pete groans at the stretch of it. Suddenly he's impatient, as if he's the one under the compulsion; he wants Patrick fucking him and he wants it now, wants to feel it later, doesn't want to take his time and let Patrick open him up. “Patrick, now,” he gasps out, “come on, I don't want to wait.”

Patrick growls against his ear and Pete shudders underneath him. He knows that Patrick has more self-control than he seems to during these episodes, but there's something promising about that sound, that hints at the abandon roiling under Patrick's skin. “You want it that bad, huh?” Patrick asks, mouth pressed to Pete's ear, and Pete shivers again.

“Yeah,” he says, because he does. “Yeah, Patrick, I want—don't hold back on me.”

Patrick makes a wordless noise and pulls his fingers out; they're almost immediately replaced with his cock and Pete catches his breath, has a moment where he thinks, wait, no, I take that back, and then Patrick slides completely inside him, and Pete feels his body clench down around Patrick's cock. He feels surrounded with Patrick, filled with him inside and covered with him above, and it's overwhelming in the best way. Patrick starts to move, and Pete lets himself get carried away on Patrick, Patrick, Patrick, warm and content and healthy all around him.


After, when they're lying side-by-side, catching their breath, Pete turns to Patrick and says, "Was that because of me? I mean, because you didn't—because you didn't have anybody to go to? Is that why you got so sick?"

Patrick turns his head away. "I don't think—I could've found somebody. I didn't want to."

Pete pushes. "But that's why you were sick." Patrick nods, barely acknowledging it. "Over—Jesus, Patrick, you could've died," Pete fumes, "and for what? Because I got my stupid fucking feelings hurt?"

"Oh, because everything is about you," Patrick snaps, rolling his eyes.

Pete rolls his in return. "What are you, my therapist? No, not everything is about me, but we had a good thing going, Patrick, you were all set, and then I freaked out and you stopped and yeah, that was about me!"

Patrick's face is bright red, but Pete's never bothered to heed warning signs where Patrick's concerned. "It wasn't about your feelings, you asshole, it was about mine," he snarls, and Pete's so confused, because he just explained to Patrick why he was right, and then Patrick continues, "Fuck, maybe I didn't want a relationship that I had to fucking guilt-trip you into!"

"Oh don't be fucking stupid," Pete says, "you know as well as anybody else I've been in love with you for as long as I've known you. It has nothing to do with this—thing!"

"You've never known me without this 'thing!'" Patrick yells. “We’ve been doing this for years, Pete. Of course you think—but it’s just, it’s like Stockholm Syndrome. It’s not real!”

"Oh what the hell, Patrick," Pete yells back, "you don't spend years fucking someone as a fucking favor. You had to know—"

"Get out," Patrick says, voice cold and quiet. He looks up at Pete, frozen mid-word. "Get the fuck out," he repeats. Pete has had years of practice fighting with Patrick; he's got every angry word, every frustrated gesture down to an art, and he knows that this look on Patrick's face, this quiet fury, means do not push, means that if one of them doesn't walk away, they're going to do some actual damage.

“Alright,” he says, “alright, I'm going to—go home. But I'm coming back, Patrick. And we're going to talk about this.”

“Just go,” Patrick says. The anger is gone from his voice and he sounds small and miserable. Everything in Pete screams out to touch him, but when he reaches out his hand, Patrick flinches, and Pete sighs.

“Okay,” he says, “I'll see you later.”

Patrick doesn't answer; his silence follows Pete down the stairs and out to his car.


As expected, Joe's on his couch when he gets home. "What the fuck, dude," he says, "I thought you fixed him!"

Pete snarls at him. "Yeah, well, now that he's fixed he doesn't want me again. So fuck off."

"Woah," Joe says. Pete flops down on the couch and glares at the wall. After a minute or two of silence, Joe confesses, "I'm probably too stoned to help with this one, bro."

"Trohman," Pete says, "it's like. Ten am. What... oh, nevermind."

Joe's already on the phone with Andy, who arrives twenty minutes later and says, "I told you to stop fucking with him."

Pete sighs. “Hurley, I keep telling you, I'm not—hell, maybe I am, but I didn't know I was fucking with him.”

Andy snorts. “Yeah, of course,” he says, “what's the harm in being casual fuckbuddies with someone who's been totally gone for you since he was a kid? How could that possibly go wrong?”

“You know what, fuck you,” Pete says. “It’s not like he’s the only one, okay? You know I fell for him the day we met.”

"Wait, so," Joe interrupts. "So what's the problem, you're both fucking stupid for each other, you've been fucking since he was sixteen, mazel tov, assholes."

Pete sighs. "Well," he says, "for one thing, seventeen. And for another, he kicked me out of your place."

Andy frowns. "Why? Did you guys argue again?"

"I don't know, kind of?" Pete hedges. "But I don't even know why, I don't know why he—"

Pete's little rant is interrupted by the doorbell. Joe and Andy raise their eyebrows at each other, and Pete rolls his eyes and turns to go answer the door. Before he's taken two steps, he sees the lock turn and the door open, and Patrick steps inside.

"Uh, hey, guys," Patrick says, looking slightly sheepish and charmingly pink in the cheeks. "Uh. Could we, maybe, um. I was kind of hoping to talk to Pete? And. Maybe we could have some privacy?"

Andy and Joe are up and out the door in record time, and Pete spares a moment to be grateful for them. They can be a real pain in his ass at times, but they're decent guys and they do have his best interests at heart. Mostly.

Patrick clears his throat and Pete startles. "Um," he says. "Look, Patrick, I don't know what—"

Patrick grabs Pete by the t-shirt, pulls him close and kisses him, hot and messy and frantic. He's tugging at Pete's t-shirt, unbuttoning Pete's jeans, and Pete is just as frantic, biting at Patrick's mouth and kicking off his shoes. "Fuck yes," he says against Patrick's mouth, then pulls back. "What made you change your mind, wait, I don't even care," he decides, leaning back in for another kiss.

"Shut up," Patrick says, finally getting Pete's t-shirt off, "shut up, nothing's changed, just—shut up."

Pete pushes Patrick back, holding him at arm's length and staring intensely at him. "Oh, hell no," he says at last. “If nothing’s changed, then what are you doing here?”

Patrick’s frowning at him, looking frustrated and uncomfortable. “It doesn’t have to—look, it got weird, but we can still do this, Pete. It’s worked for us for years, that doesn’t have to change.”

Pete shakes his head. “Yeah, that ship? Has sailed. No more freebies. If we do this, we're doing it. No favors, no buddies, no sex pollen or pity or whatever you're telling yourself in your head this is," Pete insists. "Just you and me, Patrick, no bullshit."

Patrick closes his eyes and whines desperately. "Pete," he says, "Pete, come on, I need this."

"Yeah," Pete says, "I know you do. So do I. But you don't need it so bad you'd take it if you didn't want it, do you?" Patrick bites his lip and doesn't respond. "Patrick," Pete says softly. "All I'm asking for—I just want to know that I'm not your last resort."

Patrick opens his eyes and Pete's heart aches at what he sees there. "God, no," Patrick says, "Pete, you have to know that. There's nobody—nobody I'd trust, nobody I'd rather—it's just you, Pete. It's always you."

Pete can feel his whole face curl up in a grin. "Oh, well," he says, "You could've said something." Patrick barely manages a glare before Pete's falling back onto the sofa, pulling Patrick down with him to land in Pete's lap. Patrick twists, trying to turn around and straddle Pete's legs, but Pete pulls him back against him, Patrick's ass snug against Pete's hips, his shoulders against Pete's chest. "Let me have you like this," Pete murmurs against Patrick's ear. He drags his hand up over the swell of Patrick's belly, catching the hem of his shirt and pulling up on it. Patrick whimpers and nods his assent, helping Pete pull his t-shirt over his head. Pete sucks a mark onto the side of Patrick's neck while his fingers slide back down to unfasten the button on Patrick's jeans. He pulls the zipper down slowly and pushes his hand against Patrick's cock, hot and hard through the thin fabric still separating them.

"Pete, you asshole," Patrick gasps, laughing. He arches up his hips and shoves his jeans and shorts down, kicking them off his feet and under the coffee table. "Don't tease, damn it."

"So impatient," Pete says, mock-rueful, wriggling out of his own clothes. Patrick shifts and stretches to help him, but doesn't stand up out of Pete's lap, which Pete appreciates. He reaches for the end table and hooks the drawer open, pulling out the half-used lube left in there the last time Patrick showed up in his house and fucked him on his couch. Pete's determined that this time will end differently.

He slicks his cock and pushes into Patrick, letting him stretch slowly open around him. Patrick is gasping, tiny little noises like musical notes, and Pete wants to hear so much more. He thrusts up faster, fucking Patrick just a bit harder, and Patrick cries out and digs his fingers into Pete's thighs. "More, Pete," Patrick begs, "please, come on, I need more."

Pete wants everything Patrick will give him, everything he can take from Patrick, everything he can give to Patrick. He slows down, rolling his hips up into Patrick steadily, and flicks open the cap on the lube again. He squirts some into his right hand and wraps slick fingers around Patrick's dick, stroking firmly at the same pace as his thrusts. Patrick moans and drops his head back against Pete's shoulder, going loose in Pete's embrace. Pete grabs Patrick's left hip with his other hand and does everything he can to push Patrick over the edge. It's hard to keep any sort of rhythm going, but Pete doesn't think Patrick's going to be too critical on that point, if the moans and whimpers he's making are any indication.

Pete looks up and catches just the edge of movement in the hallway mirror. He bites his lip, then leans forward to speak against Patrick's ear. "God, I wish you could see yourself," he says, breathlessly. "You look so amazing when I'm fucking you like this, Trick. Gonna have to fuck you in front of a mirror so you can see yourself looking all needy and desperate—"

Patrick cries out and arches into Pete's hand, splattering white across Pete's fingers, his own belly. "Pete, god, Pete," he's begging, and Pete turns him just a little, so that they can face each other, and kisses him softly, hands cupping his face like something precious and fragile.

They spend the rest of the day rolling around in bed, laughing and teasing and bringing each other off with hands and mouths. Patrick passes out some time before dawn, and Pete drifts off watching him sleep, arms and legs tangled together.


The next morning Pete wakes up with a familiar sadness in his chest. It takes him a little while to place it, but as he lies there staring at the ceiling, listening to Patrick breathe, he manages to pin it down. Patrick's... cycle, or whatever—it's over. Which has always meant Patrick slinking off home as soon as he wakes up, avoiding Pete for a day or two, and then practiced denial until the next time.

Pete doesn't want to do that again. He's hopeful, after last night's conversations, that he won't have to, but he's not as certain as he'd like to be. Patrick can be kind of slippery.

He can't bring himself to wake Patrick up, but he also can't make himself get out of bed, in case it's the last time he gets to lie here with Patrick. So he lies there, watching the early morning sun move around the room, until he hears a hitch in Patrick's breathing and feels him jerk awake. Pete takes a deep breath and holds it until—

“Hey,” Patrick says softly, slipping one hand across Pete's chest as he rolls onto his side to face him. “Been up long?”

Pete shakes his head and looks at Patrick for a minute. He's smiling sleepily, his hair exuberantly ridiculous, and his eyes are only half-open. “You gonna hang around today?” Pete asks, aiming for casual and missing by several miles.

“I might be persuaded,” Patrick says, and reaches up for a kiss.

The morning fades into afternoon in a hazy glow of slow, warm kisses, friendly groping, and light-hearted conversation. They finally get hungry enough to get out of bed and Pete orders Chinese from the vegetarian place Patrick likes. They shower while they wait for the food, and only the knowledge that the delivery is unusually fast from this place keeps Pete from going to his knees and sucking Patrick off under the spray. As it is, they spend too much time trading hungry kisses, and Pete is still half-dripping, tugging an old pair of basketball shorts on and shouting, "Just a second!" over Patrick's laughter when the doorbell rings.

Patrick strips the bed while Pete pays the kid at the door, and throws the sheets in the washer while Pete dishes out food. They eat tofu stir fry and vegetable lo mein and watch Ferris Bueller's Day Off in that half-assed way you watch a movie you've seen a million times when there's nothing else to distract you. Except... there's Patrick, well-fed and well-fucked and drowsy on Pete's couch. He's plenty distracting. Pete turns his attention to Patrick, tracing the curves of his neck and shoulder with his fingers. Patrick turns and nips at Pete's fingers, and Pete lets him, letting his teeth and tongue play over Pete's fingertips. They make out languidly on the couch, trading lazy, unhurried kisses and sliding leisurely fingers under pajamas. Pete has his fingers twisted in Patrick's hair and is biting his lower lip over and over again when Patrick abruptly sits back and says, "Hang on."

"What?" Pete protests when Patrick makes to stand up, grabbing at his wrist and tugging him back down onto the couch.

"The thing, it's the—the thing is going off. Lemme go do the... laundry. In the dryer." Patrick is half-explaining and half trying to extricate himself from Pete's grasp (a losing proposition even with his full attention), so it takes Pete a minute to realise that he can, in fact, hear the buzzer from the dryer going off. He releases Patrick's wrist and watches him walk out of the room. After a few seconds, a thought occurs to Pete, and he follows Patrick through the kitchen and into the utility room.

Pete's laundry basket is on the floor next to the dryer, full of fluffy, mountain-breeze-scented sheets and towels. Patrick is cleaning the lint trap and singing "Danke Schoen." His hair is standing up at several improbable angles, and Pete absolutely has to touch him.

Pete steps in close behind him and takes Patrick by the hips, fingers sliding a little on the worn fabric of his boxers. "Hey, hey baby," he murmurs against the back of Patrick's neck, "I got an idea."

Patrick laughs and says, "Oh, do you now?" turning around to face Pete. He grins, leaning back against the machine, and twists one finger into Pete's hair. "Fancy," he says dryly.

"You should talk," Pete tells him. "Hey. Patrick. Do you remember that photoshoot, that one shoot you did?" Patrick rolls his eyes and gives Pete an exasperated look. "The one on the washing machine," Pete says, more patiently than he feels. He's going somewhere with this, damn it. "You know. Where you don't have any pants on."

To his eternal delight, Patrick flushes. "What about it?" he asks, a dubious look on his face.

Pete gives him a wicked grin, pushing his hips forward against Patrick’s. “That was always a favorite of mine,” he confesses, his voice low and suggestive. “I used to think about it sometimes.”

Patrick’s cheeks are still red, but that doesn’t stop him. “Oh yeah?” he says, coyly. “Like when?”

The truth—that Pete thought of Patrick whenever Patrick was off with Anna or whoever—is still a little painful for the moment, so Pete just says, “All the time.” He tightens his grip on Patrick’s hips and says, “Up, come on.” Patrick gets it right away, puts one hand on the washer for leverage and gives a little hop; Pete’s boost gets him up on the machine and he scoots back onto the lid.

“Hey,” Patrick says, reaching for Pete, pulling him close between his spread thighs and kissing him deeply. He sits back after a minute and chuckles wryly. “Not sure we thought this through,” he laughs, indicating his shorts still on, the disparity in their relative heights, the general absurdity of the situation.

“Fuck it,” Pete says, “we’ll make it work.” They always do. He tugs at the legs of Patrick’s boxers, and Patrick rocks back and forth from one leg to the other, squirming and laughing on top of the washer until Pete has him naked from the waist down.

“Now what, big man?” he asks, laughing still. Pete can’t help but laugh, too; the whole thing is ridiculous, and it feels good to be having fun with Patrick like this, with the urgency lessened and the implicit deadline gone.

“Shit,” Pete says, “I think I need a stepstool.”

Ten minutes later, after a little trial-and-error, a lot of laughing, and more cursing than the laundry room usually gets, Pete has Patrick sprawled on his belly, sideways across the washer, with his right leg hooked up and dangling off the edge. Pete himself is bent over the side of the machine, one hand pushing against Patrick’s right thigh. He’s sliding the fingers of his other hand in and out of Patrick’s ass, his tongue slipping between them to tease at the slick hole.

Patrick is cursing him, but he’s still laughing, every time he shifts and his skin squeaks across the washing machine. It’s messy and silly and nowhere near as sexy as Pete’s fantasy, but it’s better, because it’s Patrick and it’s real and Pete couldn’t dream of more than that.


They fall asleep watching Jimmy Fallon and Pete wakes up sometime in the blurry area between night and morning to an infomercial for something that his brain insists is called the "titty bear." He decides against waking up enough to decipher that particular mystery, turns off the television and rolls over, curling up with his back pressed against Patrick's front. Patrick grumbles something that sounds suspiciously like "fucking bears," wraps an arm around Pete's waist, and snuffles into the hair at the back of Pete's neck. Pete lies there for long minutes, listening to the traffic outside, with a line from the infomercial echoing in his head: "the cute little guy that gets rid of all the problems!" When he finally drifts off again, he dreams that he's driving, and his brakes don't work. "Watch out," dream-Patrick tells him irritably, and shoves him. "Pete, watch out for the bears!"

Pete opens his eyes again and he's disoriented; he's not in a car, he's not curled up with Patrick, and his brain takes a minute to click all the cues into place. In bed, had a dream, Patrick is—Patrick is sitting on the side of the bed, wearing last night's t-shirt and underwear, right foot crossed over his left thigh and ticking rapidly, hands alternating between raking his fingers through his hair and pushing his glasses up on his nose. Nervous Patrick, Pete realises—he's easily recognisable even if Pete sees a lot less of him these days.

"Hey," Patrick says, smiling tightly at Pete. "You slept late."

Pete glances at the clock on the nightstand—it's well after eleven. "Jesus, I guess," he says. He can't remember the last time he out-slept Patrick. He scrubs a hand over his face and yawns, and Patrick looks at the door. "...Patrick?" Pete asks, "What's wrong? Is something—"

"No, no!" Patrick says. "I'm fine, everything's—I just, maybe I should go? Not that yesterday wasn’t—but I don’t want to wear out my welcome, you know?" He says it like he's not sure, and Pete thinks maybe he's not running off, really. Maybe he wants Pete to tell him to stay.

Maybe he doesn't, Pete thinks. Maybe he is trying to run and Pete's going to put everything on the line and Patrick's going to walk away from him again.

He thinks it's probably worth the risk.

"Is your house on fire?" Pete asks.

"Is my—what?" Patrick gives Pete a sharp, irritated look. "What are you talking about?"

Pete ignores him. "Is your car double-parked? Did you actually leave the oven on?"

"No," Patrick says, forgetting to be nervous in his irritation, "of course not, I just, I'm trying to—"

Pete does not care. "Yeah, no," he says. "I can't think of a single reason you should go. Get your ass back in bed, Stump," he commands, patting the mattress next to him.

Patrick huffs and rolls his eyes. "Not one single reason, really?" But the corner of his mouth is pulling up and Pete knows he's won.

"Not even one," he confirms. He reaches out and grabs a handful of Patrick's shirt, pulling Patrick over on top of him. Patrick comes willingly, putting his arm out to catch himself, balanced above Pete and gazing down at him with a soft smile.

"You're an idiot," Patrick tells him. He leans down and presses a kiss to Pete's forehead. "I mean that."

"I know you do," Pete says, and he can feel his smile stretching wide across his face. "I know something else, too, though."

"Oh yeah?" Patrick kisses Pete's eyelids, rubs their noses together. "What do you know that's so important?"

"You like me," Pete tells him confidentially. "I'm your favorite."

"Yeah?" Patrick challenges. "Prove it." There's laughter in his words, and he's scraping his teeth down Pete's neck. Pete feels invincible, like he's finally got everything right, like he has all the answers.

"Easy," Pete says, "You're here, aren't you? I don't see you making up some crazy story about going into heat or something to get Joe naked, or climbing into Andy's bed once a month."

Patrick lets out a sharp, hysterical laugh against Pete's collarbone. "Oh, you asshole," he says.

"Too soon?" Pete asks, all innocent sincerity. "Not ready to laugh about it yet?"

Patrick bites Pete's shoulder, leans in and rests his forehead on Pete's. "It's always going to be too soon," he says. "It's not funny, Pete. I basically strong-armed you into—"

"Yeah," Pete interrupts. "That's for sure. Jesus, what a god damn hardship this has all been for me. It's not like I wanted you the minute I first saw you. I haven't been in love with you for years or anything. I definitely only did this because you forced me to, against my will, and now I'm trying to let you off the hook just to be nice."

Patrick is laughing now, rubbing his face against Pete's like a cat. "Alright, alright," he concedes. "It's possible I've been a little stupid about this."

"I did not say that," Pete points out, dragging his hands down Patrick's back to cup his ass.

"Mmmm, and I appreciate that," Patrick says, pressing back into Pete's hands. "I'm trying, okay? You might have to remind me now and then."

Pete smiles and pulls Patrick tight against him. "Of course," he says, kissing him quickly. "Anything for a friend."