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June 26th, 2009


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05:20 pm
~insert dark mutterings about post size limitations and having been spoiled by Dreamwidth here~

Time is but the Stream



November 2004

It was like Neal was running the fucking mics from inside Andy’s brain, straight to the recording decks. “Don’t like fucking preamps,” Neal said. “They just get in the way.”

The mic set up was clean and precise, and drum set was a bizarre hybrid of Andy’s own kit and borrowed hi hat and snares. The best bit, the sweetest part, was that Neal had sent Patrick into the studio with Andy, to give Andy someone to play against.

“It’ll give you more vibe,” Neal said over Andy’s headset.

Patrick’s laugh cut in suddenly, as his mic went live, then Andy had the hum from his guitar as well.

Yep, there was vibe there. Much better than playing to glass and faces. He just had to remember that anything he said would be picked up by mics.

After the session, Andy tossed his towel in the linen basket in the hall and waited while Patrick slid his guitar into its case.

“Hungry?” Andy asked, pulling a T-shirt over his head.

“Sure,” Patrick said. “We could grab a meal. Got to love a meal allowance.”

Andy adjusted his glasses and dropped his voice. “Wasn’t quite what I meant.”

Mike, the drum tech, pushed past them, and Andy said, “Thanks for everything.”

“The condo?” Patrick asked, sounding dubious.

The condo was a fucking nightmare. Pete’s personal life was exploding everywhere while his girlfriend visited, Joe was crashing in their room, and the bathroom door didn’t lock.

“No, here.”

Patrick nodded. “It’s that or we’re getting a motel room.”

Ocean Studios were civilized, or realists, and the largest bathroom had a shower cubicle. Andy pushed his hand against Patrick’s mouth, muffling Patrick, then backed him against the locked bathroom door.

“I just want to tell you how fucking hot you are,” Andy whispered against Patrick’s ear.

“Okay? Watching you today, in that huge fucking tracking room, and listening to your voice, all I could think about was sucking your cock.”

Patrick made a rough noise, against Andy’s palm, and bit at the flesh.

It was never going to be sophisticated, not when someone could knock on the door at any moment. Patrick pushed Andy up against the tiled wall of the shower cubicle with one hand, while undoing his jeans with his other hand.

Andy had his shorts and boxers down around his ankles in seconds, and braced himself against the shower wall.

“At least it’s not a fucking truck stop,” Andy said. “Floor’s clean.”

Patrick pulled the condom out of Andy's wallet, dropping the wallet and sending it sliding across the tiles. Whenever Patrick was worked up, it took two goes to get a condom on, and Andy only had one rubber, so Andy hoped he didn’t fuck it up and stick his thumb through it.

“Lube?” Andy asked.

“What? You want me to show you a good time, too?” Patrick asked, and Andy laughed.

Patrick spat, and smeared the spit over his cock, then held his hand out for Andy to spit into.

“You’re all class,” Andy said, after he’d spat.

“Ass,” Patrick said. “Like this is going to last longer than ten seconds anyway.”

This was so far removed from what Andy really wanted, from privacy and comfort and time, that if he thought about it he wouldn’t be able to keep going. Better to lean his forehead against his hands, on the shower wall, and let go as Patrick pushed two fingers into him slowly.

“Oh, fuck,” Patrick whispered. “You are so fucking beautiful.”

Andy listened to Patrick spitting again, to one of their tracks from that day echoing from somewhere else in the studio, and to the plumbing gurgling, then Patrick’s fingers dug into his lower back hard.

Andy closed his eyes, blocking out the white tiles and shower fittings, and Patrick’s cock pushed into him.

Saliva wasn’t lube, but fuck, Patrick had used enough that Andy didn’t care, not with ragged sparks running through him and the feeling of Patrick right behind him, breathing life into him.

Andy hung onto the soap dish, steadying himself, trying not to laugh at the noises Patrick was making, winding up to finish.

Patrick smacked Andy, so Andy’s attempt to stifle his laughter hadn’t gone too well, then Patrick was coming, loud and sudden, echoing against the tiles.

He pulled out and staggered back, jeans still around his ankles, while Andy turned around.
Andy watched Patrick pull the condom off and dump it in the toilet, hanging onto the sink while he flushed.

“Your turn?” Patrick asked, dropping to his knees in front of Andy.

* * *

Joe was in their room, on their bed, eating pizza out of a carton and listening to music through headphones jammed determinedly on his head, when they got back to the condo.

Andy moved the pizza carton off the bed, wrinkling his nose in disgust, while Patrick shoved Joe across, making room and unplugging Joe’s headphones accidentally.

“Oh, fuck,” Joe said, scrambling for his iPod. “Why’d you do that?”

“Why are you eating meat on our bed?!” Andy asked.

“Listen!” Joe said.

The three of them listened, and Patrick said, “Oh, that’s not good,” at the noises coming from the other bedroom. “You should have stayed at the studio.”

“I did, but you two disappeared, so I came back here. Please help me.”

Andy’s phone rang, and Andy stuck a finger in his other ear to block out Pete and his girlfriend shouting at each other.

“Hey,” he said. “Oh, hi, Bob.”

“Andy. Not my favorite person. What possessed you and Patrick today?”

“What?” Andy said.

“Ocean Studio staff complains to Neal. Neal complains to me. I complain to you. You’ll note the absence of Island in that sequence. Next time, you might not be so lucky. Please don’t fuck in the bathrooms at the studio again.”

The dial tone buzzed in Andy’s ear, so he put the phone away. “Patrick, we need to talk.”

The sidewalk outside the condo was empty, and Patrick squatted beside Andy.

“What did Bob want?”

“To tell us not to fuck at the studio.”

“Oh, shit.”

“I’ve had enough of this hiding bullshit,” Andy said. “I want to tell Bob to get fucked as soon as the album is done. How would you feel about that?”

“You want to sack Bob?”

“Unfortunately, I think we’re contractually stuck with him. I want to stop lying about us.”

“Fuck, Andy, we’re recording our first album with a major label. Is this the time?”

“No, the time was months ago. I want to fix what should have been done then.”

Andy put an arm around Patrick’s shoulders, pulling him down to sit on the paving, because he looked like was about to bolt in panic.

“I can’t do this,” Andy said, hugging Patrick. “And I’m not happy with a life where I can’t. And I sure can’t do this…”

Kissing Patrick was sheer, fucking heaven. It made Andy want to crawl out of his own skin and into Patrick’s, through some kind of slow osmosis involving their mouths and tongues. It was even better if they’d just fucked, like then, because then Andy could concentrate on what he was doing, instead of the rest of his body taking over.

The sidewalk wasn’t hugely comfortable, but hey, if Patrick was going to climb over Andy, making the whole kissing thing so much easier and better, then Andy could ignore his ass going numb in favor of grabbing handfuls of Patrick and making the most of it.

The occasional honking car horn wasn’t enough to make either of them stop. It was the flick of a lighter and smell of a joint that made Andy lift his face from Patrick’s neck and glare at Joe.

“What?” Joe said.

“We have to share a bedroom with you,” Andy said. “Do we have to share a sidewalk too?”

“You shouldn’t be doing that out here,” Joe pointed out, as Patrick slid off Andy’s lap, his eyes unfocused and gentle.

“Neither should you,” Patrick said.

“I think we’ve all been driven out of the condo,” Andy said, straightening Patrick’s cap for him. “Refugees in Burbank. Patrick and I are considering a motel, but you’re not invited.”

“Please,” said Joe. “I really don’t care if you’re going to spend all night fucking. You two never fight, and even if you did, I’d be able to tell it was fighting not sex. I’d watch TV through headphones, and you could pretend I wasn’t there.”

“Could we force Pete to go to a motel?” Patrick asked. “Then we’d have the whole condo.”

“Can you get his attention for that long?” Joe asked. “I can’t.”

“Excuse us,” Andy said. “I’ve just thought of something we forgot to do.”

Joe sighed, and Andy tipped Patrick’s chin up and kissed him again, slow and deep, while Joe dragged on the joint.

“Uh oh,” Joe said, and Andy caught the quick movement of Joe tossing the remains of his joint over the ornamental wall around the patio of the ground floor condo.

Andy looked up, and yes, the ‘uh oh’ was completely warranted. Island Records had assigned them handlers, sorry, liaisons, an interchangeable set of assistants who were there to make sure they turned up to the studio on time and not shit-faced. Handler Number 3, or perhaps 4, was getting out of the car that had parked right in front of them.

Patrick groaned. “I hate you, Andy.”

Joe stood up, and Patrick elbowed Andy and stood up too. There wasn’t any other option.

“Shall we talk inside?” Handler Number 3 said.

Inside the condo, Patrick threw himself in the easy chair, and Joe and Andy took one of the couches.

The Handler, who turned out to be called Sophia, sat unhappily on the other couch, and the four of them listened to the howling from the bedroom.

“I’ll go get Pete,” Patrick said. “Wish me luck.” Andy didn’t envy him. Just because the doors lacked locks didn’t mean that anyone would voluntarily walk into Pete’s room.

Two minutes later, Patrick reappeared, followed by Pete, who had obviously just pulled on a pair of jeans and a hoodie.

“I’ll be making calls,” Sophia said. “Contact your manager, do some damage control. And get rid of whoever is in that bedroom.”

Sophia left, and Patrick stomped into their bedroom and slammed the door.

Joe and Pete looked at Andy, and Andy shrugged. “I’ll go,” Andy said.

Patrick was lying face down, on the rumpled bedclothes, so Andy sat on the edge of the bed, hand on his shoulder.

“Fuck, if we lose it all because of this,” Patrick said.

“Then Island Records are homophobic bastards and we should go back to FBR,” Andy said. “Who don’t give a damn about us.”

“I can’t do this.”

Andy blinked. “Do what?”

“This. Us.”

Andy’s stomach clenched, like he’d been gut-punched. “But… But we’ve just been… Oh, fuck, Patrick.”

Patrick rolled over, and he was as pale and blotchy as when they’d wrecked the van.
“If we want to salvage anything, this is what it’s going to take.”

“No. I don’t want to be part of that kind of compromise.”

Patrick rolled off the bed. “Let’s vote. Everyone should get a vote on this.”

“Fuck, no.”

Andy followed Patrick back into the living room. He was caught in a fucking nightmare, the worst day of his life, losing Patrick by democratic, majority vote.

Pete’s girlfriend was visible through the open doorway to the other bedroom, shoving clothes into a suitcase. Looked like Pete was getting dumped too.

“We need to vote on this,” Patrick said, and Joe and Pete looked up, Pete putting down his phone.

“On what?” Pete said.

“What we do to rescue the band,” Patrick said.

Andy dropped down onto the other couch, and yeah, he was so close to losing control, adrenalin shakes ripping through him.

“Who votes that Andy and I should break up to appease Island Def Jam, so we keep the recording deal?” Patrick asked, raising his hand.

Andy kept his hand down.

Joe looked from Patrick to Andy, and back again, and lifted his hand slowly.

Pete raised his hand too.

“Done,” Patrick said. “Joe, you’re going to have to rescue your own ass, because I haven’t got an answer for that.”

Pete said, “Andy? Are you okay?”

Andy shook his head and stood up slowly. He walked very carefully to the bedroom, closed the door silently, and climbed onto the bed. The bedding smelled of them, of sex and Patrick and skin. He could hear the others talking, and someone’s phone ringing, but they would have to deal with Bob and Island without him, for a while.

* * *

Present Day

Bob flew in, some PR hack in tow, and Patrick managed to get ten minutes into the briefing from them before he walked out of the back lounge.

Andy, sitting at the table in the kitchen with his laptop, held his hand out as Patrick stomped past, and Patrick slapped his palm.

Sometimes, just sometimes, he completely fucking agreed with Andy.

From outside the bus, standing among the puddles on the gravel, Patrick could hear Bob grumping at Andy, then a moment later, Bob climbed down the steps to stand beside him.

“That was not helpful,” Bob said. “You’ve got an interview in half an hour, and you need to get it right.”

Patrick shoved his hands into his jeans. “Or what?”

“What?”

“What happens if I get it wrong? You can ask Andy if you want to. He doesn’t care if I name him. And I don’t think Joe or Pete are going to mind if I fuck up the interview and accidentally reveal an adolescence of neurotic celibacy and insecurity.”

“Are you trying to sabotage this?” Bob asked. “Is this deliberate?”

Patrick tried not to laugh. “No, really. If I was trying to mess this up, Pete would have helped me plan something, probably involving Gabe and a dedicated web site with its own clothing line.”

Bob smiled, and it was not friendly. “Don’t fuck this up. If you do this right, just like you did the radio interview this morning, this could be the best career move ever.”

“Pity you didn’t let me do it in 2004,” Patrick said. “Get fucked, Bob. I don’t want to talk to you again today.”

He climbed back up the steps of the bus, past Andy who was applauding silently at the top of the steps, and went back to his bunk.

* * *

Locked door. Phone off. Hotel phone unplugged.

Patrick opened up his email, retrieved the draft of the interview, and shutdown his email again without looking at anything else. He did not want to deal with anything, or anyone, right now. Not even Claire.

The interviewer from AP had been sweet, wildly enthusiastic at doing the interview, utterly charmed that Patrick dragged her into Pete and Joe’s bus; and just plain confused when Patrick had installed Pete, Joe and Andy as guards between the back lounge and Bob.

“Consider it an unauthorized interview,” he’d told her. “We’re going renegade.”

Reading the interview was weird, like watching old video footage of himself, or listening to a mono recording of his voice.

Approve the draft of the interview.

Phone on. Send Pete a text, to get his attention.

Pete rang back, a minute later.

“Interview, huh?” Pete said.

“Yes,” Patrick said. “I sound hopelessly sentimental and inept.”

“Accurate then,” Pete said. “Going to send me a copy?”

“In a little while,” Patrick said. “I’m enjoying the last few moments of peace before everything goes wrong.”

“Shit,” Pete said. “That bad?”

Patrick poked at a hole in the knee of his sweats, then hit forward on the email. “Oh, yeah. Copy on the way to you now.”

Patrick listened to the faint clicks of Pete opening the file, the huffs of Pete’s breath, and the whistle and squeak of Pete’s headphones, then Pete chuckled.

“It’s bad, isn’t it?” Patrick said.

“No, it’s fucking perfect.”

“Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

“You might want to send Andy a copy of this, too, so everyone gets past the whole blushing stage before you have to see each other again.”

Patrick groaned. “Oh, fuck. Is that what it sounds like?”

“It sounds like you never got over him,” Pete said. “It sounds like you are still very much hung up on him.”

“Fuck, fuck.”

“Though I think you made that pretty fucking clear in the radio interview, and Andy didn’t freak out at that.”

Patrick clambered off the bed and threw himself across the room, to the connecting door between their rooms, unlocking his side of the door. Pete wouldn’t have locked his side—he never did.

“What?” Patrick said, yanking the door open.

Pete put the phone down and waved at Patrick from the bed.

“Come on in, raid the minibar.”

Patrick closed his phone and tossed it through the open door, in the general direction of his bed, and sighed.

“No, thanks.” He crawled across Pete’s bed, to flop down. “Is there something you need to tell me?”

“I’m naked?” Pete suggested.

“Just don’t move the laptop,” Patrick said.

“I played the radio interview to Andy?”

“That one,” Patrick said. “That’s what you needed to tell me. And?”

“He said that you’d already told him about it. And that he never wanted to see any of us again, only he didn’t sound like he meant it. He sounded kind of smug, actually.”

Patrick sat on Pete’s bed, ignoring his own phone ringing from the other room, through several sets of calls.

“Are you going to go and get that?” Pete asked eventually.

“Not a chance,” Patrick said. “But if you’re over-heating under that laptop, I’ll give you a ten second window to get dressed in while I get my own.”

“Thanks,” Pete said. “Things are getting a little sweaty under here, but I couldn’t tell if you were having some kind of crisis, or just being grouchy, so I didn’t want to deal with it.”

Pete had pulled on underwear when Patrick carried his own laptop back, and Patrick stole two pillows and made himself comfortable. Pete owed him at least a thousand late night sessions, and it was time to cash in one of the debts.

“Who are you sending the interview to?” Pete said, peering over Patrick’s shoulder.

“Pretty much everyone with a vested interest,” Patrick said. “All at once. They can all fucking deal with it.”

Family, they’d be fine. Andy, because Patrick owed Andy that much, and probably a whole lot more. Joe, so Joe didn’t walk into any surprises the next day. Bob and Annie, so they could choke on it. Claire. A handful of close friends.

Patrick put his laptop aside and leaned against Pete.

“Sent it to Claire?” Pete asked, and Patrick nodded.

“Yeah. I don’t think she’s going to be happy.”

“Bet you’re single tomorrow.”

Patrick thudded his head back against the headboard. “Fuck.”

“Because unless there’s something you’ve not been telling me, you’ve never talked about Claire like that. She is going to be one hurt woman. What the fuck happened to start all this off?”

Patrick shook his head, and his laptop beeped.

Email from Andy.

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.

“What?” Pete said, stopping tapping on his keyboard at Ashlee long enough to lean over Patrick’s shoulder. “Oh, wow. No wonder you said those things about him, if he sends you emails like that.”

“It’s a quote,” Patrick said. “That’s all.”

Thirty seconds later, another email arrived, from Pete.

When someone sends you something like that, it’s not just a quote. Buy a fucking clue.

“Fuck off,” Patrick said.

* * *


Justin, cam on his shoulder, bounded back into the dressing room. “You are not going to believe the pit, guys! It’s incredible!”

“What have we got this time?” Pete asked, not looking away from his mirror, where he was painting eyeliner across his face in stripes. “Some loser competition organizer put 400 eight year-old girls on the barrier again?”

“A fucking sea of rainbow flags,” Justin said.
Patrick stopped humming suddenly, when Justin pointed the cam in his face.

“Patrick Stump, and the One Who Got Away,” Justin said, quoting the title of the AP article. “Got anything to say?”

“All bad things, Justin,” Patrick said. “That you’ll just have to edit out. Get the fuck out of my face while I’m warming up.”

“Touchy,” Justin said, in his pseudo-documentary commentary voice. “Pete, a comment from you?”

“I’m looking forward to making out with Patrick on stage,” Pete said. “Every show. From now on. It’s been my greatest wish, and now it’s all happening.”

Patrick tossed one of Joe’s T-shirts at Pete, and Joe looked up from his DS and said, “Hey, not fair. That was mine.”

Justin trailed after Patrick, when Patrick went to find a bottle of water that wasn’t fucking chilled. “How does it feel, now the world knows about your past?”

“I doubt the world knows,” Patrick said. “Just the few thousand people who read AP. And it’s all far too late for it to matter.”

Justin left, and Andy, who had been behind Justin, leaned against the door frame. “I’m questioning my own silence.”

Patrick shrugged. “I can give you the name of the journo at AP, if you want.”

Andy grinned. “Bob would shit himself. It’d be worth it just for that.”

Patrick laughed his warmed-up laugh, and found himself being hugged by Andy. Pete slapped him on the back on the way past.

“That’s how the trouble all started, kids,” Pete said. “Only this time, we’ve got Justin and his cam with us.”

“What?” asked Justin, who was trailing behind Pete. “What trouble? Oh shit, that trouble.”

Patrick pushed at Pete and Justin, making Justin squawk about how expensive his cam was, and went to hide with the techs.

The roar from the pit as they ran onto the stage was so loud that it felt like a wave of pressure, and Justin was right, the pit was full of rainbow flags.

At the first guitar switch, Pete swung off Patrick’s neck and shoved his mouth against Patrick’s mic.

“This motherfucker is my best friend,” Pete shouted, into the mic and through Patrick’s ear piece. “Some of you probably noticed that he came out today.”

Justin and his cam were right at the edge of the stage zooming, the pit had gone fucking feral, and Pete planted a sloppy kiss on Patrick’s cheek.

“I’m so fucking proud of him,” Pete continued. “Are you all fucking proud of him?”

Patrick had to grin, as glowsticks rained down around him and the crowd in the stands roared.

“All I want to know,” Pete shouted. “Is why the fuck his boyfriend let him go?!”

Patrick swung sharply, blinking in disbelief, the monitors buzzing with the clash as the stock of his guitar collided with the strings of Pete’s bass, but Pete was off, out of reach, and they actually had a show to play.

Patrick grabbed Pete, as they came off stage, as soon as the techs had taken their guitars, clutched handfuls of Pete’s hoodie and skin, and dragged him away from Justin and the fucking cam, to find a relatively private corner of a corridor.

“I will maim you,” Patrick said. “I know I’m supposed to be past the stage of hurting you, but I remember how to. I’m still the same person who choked you, that time. I’m still the same person you shared an apartment with. I will slice and dice you, when you least expect it, if you don’t back off.”

“Eep,” Pete squeaked.

“You are making a bad situation so much worse. Are you going to stop?”

Pete nodded.

“Now go and fix things with Andy, or the puppy gets it next time I’m in LA.”

* * *

The email from Claire, when it arrived that night, wasn’t very long.

I’ve listened to the radio interview. I’ve read what you had to say to AP. What I really want to know is what are you not telling me. If this is the public story, where’s the real one?

Patrick called her, from his hotel room.

“Hi,” he said. “I got your email.”

“And?” Claire asked.

Patrick flinched. “Um, yeah. Old secrets, and big ones.”

“I really don’t care that you got fucked in the ass by some creepy scene guy,” Claire said. “Or whatever. You were just a big kid then, and presumably hadn’t worked out what you wanted. I do care, very much, that you still don’t trust me enough to tell me what happened.”

“I think if I tell you any more, you’re just going to break up with me.”

“Wow, way to inspire confidence there. I have no idea what you’re hiding, but it’s obviously huge. No wonder you never told me anything about this part of your life before.”

The bar fridge in the hotel room hummed, distant and discreet. “What if it wasn’t some scene guy? What if it was someone I’m still close to?”

“So you were lying when you said that part of your life was over? I’m coming up with a list of a dozen names, Patrick, that’s all.” Claire’s voice was icy. “And I’m not liking what I’m thinking. And you loved this guy? Really loved him?”

“Yeah. I don’t think I ever told him, because I was young and hopeless, but I did.”

Claire exhaled, sharp and pointed over the phone. “I need to think about what this means.”

Patrick was tired, and completely fed up with other people poking at places in his memories that hurt.

“You know what? Don’t bother. I don’t want to keep talking about this. It’s obvious you don’t trust me and I don’t trust you. Let’s just end it now.”

Claire paused, then said, “Okay.”

Patrick put his phone away.

* * *

November 04

Patrick sat in the back of the car, sandwiched between Joe and Pete, and thought he’d found a new definition of misery. Previous bouts of food poisoning, vehicular breakdowns, Pete’s relationship crises, and sequential speeding fines were insignificant, really.

He didn’t think he’d slept, at least for not more than a few minutes at a time. Pete hadn’t either, kicking and muttering beside him. Joe might have, out in the living room. Patrick didn’t know about Andy. Andy had already gone, when Patrick had crawled out of the bedroom.

“Running,” Joe had said, in a way that indicated exactly what Joe thought of the whole mess.

Bob was sitting in the front of the car, steely-faced and grim, not even attempting to speak to them. He’d arrived twenty minutes earlier, having flown in, and no doubt they’d be billed for the airfare.

At the studio, Patrick slid into the control booth, behind Neal and Bob. Andy was in the tracking room, on the other side of the glass, pounding his drum kit viciously, while Neal scowled at the NEVE deck.

“Stop, Andy, just stop,” Neal said, over the mic. “I’m not getting anything usable out of this. And Bob’s here. Take a break, and I’ll get Mike to check the gear, see if that helps.”
Half an hour later, when Patrick had warmed up and the mics had been tweaked, Patrick made himself stand in the tracking room, in front of Andy, the same as the day before.
Andy nodded at Patrick, his mouth a hard line, and said, “’Dance’, again, same as yesterday?”

Patrick said, “’Kay,” even though he’d rather play just about anything else right at that moment.

One of Andy’s sticks broke, on the second chorus, and Patrick stopped, because every single moment was poison, and someone had better rescue him from the tracking room before one of them started screaming.

Bob’s voice came over Patrick’s headset. “Lounge. Now. Both of you.”

Patrick shoved his guitar into its rest and slammed out of the studio, not hanging around to see if Andy was following.

Bob was waiting, and Andy trailed into the room behind Patrick.

“Pete brought me up to date on what happened,” Bob said. “You two have twenty minutes to negotiate some kind of truce and get your asses back into the studio, or I’m firing Andy and finding a session drummer to finish the album.”

Andy’s face became even more sullen, and Patrick said, “You can’t!”

“Then fix this,” Bob said, opening the door, then closing it after himself.
Scraping sounds in the hall indicated that something substantial was being dragged across the door on the other side.

“I think I have to go,” Andy said. “I can’t stay here like this.”

Patrick shook his head. “This isn’t one of Pete’s breakups. This isn’t shouting, libelous blog posts, abusive phone calls and late night drinking sessions. This is you and me. It hurts like fuck, but we can draw a line around that and put it aside.”

“Fuck, Patrick, that’s a huge thing to ask me to do.”

“Think of the precedent we’ll set for Pete. The high moral ground will be secured forever.”
Andy pushed his hands into the pockets of his shorts. “It’s not just the hurt. What about the rest?”

“If we act like it’s not there, it’ll go away, won’t it?” Patrick said.

Andy shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve never had to keep on working and living with someone before.”

Andy looked so wretched that every broken fragment of Patrick ached to fix it, to say it had been a stupid mistake, to take it all back.

Andy took a deep breath, and said, “Okay, I need to do this, if we’re going to move on. I forgive you, completely. And I let you go. It’s all undone between us. Now I need to get the fuck out of this room for ten minutes.”

Andy popped a screen out of a window with his shoulder, then clambered out into the parking lot.

Patrick sat down, his back against one of the legs of the pool table. He wanted to smash things, expensive things that belonged to Bob, or Island Records, but that would be all kinds of stupid, after everything that had happened.

He didn’t look up when the dragging noises outside stopped, and the door opened again, but it was Pete that crouched down beside him, not Bob.

“Any advice?” Patrick asked. “From a veteran?”

Pete held out his hand and pulled Patrick up, standing. “Write bitter songs, and don’t show them to anyone?”

Patrick grabbed a bottle of water, from the kitchen, on the way back to the tracking room, while Pete poured himself a coffee. “Not taking your own advice then?” Patrick asked.

“No,” Pete said. “Someone has to write the lyrics for the next album, you know.”

Andy was sitting behind his kit in the tracking room, running through drills, while the drum tech, Mike, adjusted the mics yet again, when Patrick opened the door.

Andy nodded to Patrick, and Patrick managed a small smile in return as he picked up his guitar.

It didn’t sound broken, that time, and no one shouted at them.

* * *

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