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June 26th, 2009


[info]chaosmanor05:28 pm
Title: Time is but the Stream
Sequel to Heaven is Under Our Feet, as Well as Over Our Heads
Author: chaosmanor
Disclaimer: This is a non-profit, non-commercial work of fiction using the names and likenesses of real individuals. This fictional story is not intended to imply that the events herein actually occurred, or that the attitudes or behaviors described are engaged in or condoned by the real persons whose names are used without permission.
Fandom: Fall Out Boy
Pairing: Patrick/Andy
Warnings: Contains no material that I personally consider triggering. No non-con, dub-con, underage sex, or death.
Kinks: Contains no BDSM.
Word count: 27 750
Betaed by lifeisafight
Summary: “I’ve been feeling like I’ve been swimming in two different time streams at once, ever since this started,” Patrick said. “The ‘now.’ And the ‘then.’ Like being in two places at once. And I think I know why.”

Notes: I’ve opted to use another name and different biographical information for a Real Person in this fic who doesn’t have a public persona.
Andy quotes, interminably, from Walden and “Civil Disobedience”, both by Henry David Thoreau.

Enhanced Content! fanart and fanmixes are here!




Present day

“I hate Wal-mart!”

“Shut up,” Pete shouted back at Andy, from two aisles over. “There is nowhere else!”

Patrick, who could live the rest of his life without hearing Andy’s opinion of Wal-mart’s hiring practices ever again and be very happy, kicked at the wheel of the cart he was pushing and tried not to look at Justin and his fucking videocam.

Andy rounded the end of the aisle they were in, carrying bottled water, and ditched the supplies in the cart.

“Aren’t you cold?” Pete asked, from behind his layers of hoodies and scarves.

Patrick added a random selection of snacks to the cart, ducking automatically as Justin pushed past to pan down Andy’s body.

Andy was wearing flipflops and his inevitable shorts, with a Fuck City hoodie hanging undone over a T-shirt.

“This isn’t cold,” Andy said.

It was cold, in Patrick’s opinion. Cold and miserable, at four in the morning, in some fucking Wal-mart somewhere in Florida, buying food because they were starving and on the road and going stir crazy. Rain was seeping into his shoes and through his socks; and he felt old and chilled and lonely inside, in the middle of the loudest crowd of people ever. And if Justin didn’t stop videoing him, he was going to ram the cam down Justin’s throat.

“I haven’t been cold since the winter of 03/04,” Andy added. “Too poor to turn the heat on, ice on the inside of the windows. Middleclass losers.”

Andy trotted off, Justin following behind him, possibly hoping he’d say something really stupid, and Patrick swung the cart around and headed for a checkout.

“Notice how us middleclass losers get stuck with paying?” Pete said, and Patrick shrugged.

“I’m also not sure what Andy’s net worth is, but I don’t think he gets to bag the middle class anymore,” Pete continued.

“Shut up,” Patrick said. “Please.”

Pete looked at Patrick, and Patrick was not happy with the speculative nature of the gaze.

Back at the buses, Patrick left the others to their epic Halo marathon, and went to his bunk, glad the noise was happening on Pete and Joe’s bus, not his and Andy’s.

Dry sweats and two pairs of socks helped with the cold, and Patrick sat in his bunk, toying with his phone, laptop open. It was too late, or early, to call Claire, and he had no idea what to say anyway. ‘Hi, hon, the past, which by the way I’ve never mentioned to you, just loomed up and smacked me in the face tonight. We should probably talk about this eventually.’

He settled for sending a generic ‘Miss you’ email over the dodgy bus internet and shut his laptop down.

* * *

December 03

Andy pushed his bedroom door closed, and wedged folded-up newspapers under the bottom, while Patrick hugged the hot water bottle.

“Here,” Andy said, taking the hot water bottle off Patrick and sliding it into the bed, under the pile of blankets. “Or we’re never going to manage to get undressed.”

“I still can’t believe you live here without any heat,” Patrick said. “Isn’t it illegal, or something?”

“Are you complaining?” Andy asked, wrapping his arms around Patrick, his laughter hanging in clouds of condensation.

“I don’t complain,” Patrick said. “Not since the gaffer tape incident.” Andy’s fingertips, through his mittens, rubbed at the back of Patrick’s neck, and Andy’s lips were cold and chapped against Patrick’s, kissing slowly.

The edge of the bed was high, when Patrick sat on it, and Andy squatted in front of him, hands on Patrick’s knees.

Patrick glanced around Andy’s room, at the duffel bag that Andy lived out of when they toured, at the battered desk and ancient PC, which Andy emailed Patrick from. A chair beside the bed was piled with comics, with a glowing reading light clipped to the ladder back, and a dusty blanket covered the window.

Andy was waiting, when Patrick looked back at him.

“Do you know why I’m here?” Patrick asked.

Andy’s grin made Patrick want to run around shouting and hugging people, Andy in particular.

“I’m hoping,” Andy said, inching his hands up Patrick’s thighs, “that you’re here because I’ve got a room and a bed, and you want to fuck.”

“A room, a bed, no one sleeping beside us,” Patrick said. “No one pounding on the van door, asking if we’ve finished. Yeah, I want you to fuck me, if that’s what you want, too.”

Andy buried his face against Patrick’s thigh, and Patrick could feel Andy’s teeth scraping against the denim, biting at skin.

“Yeah,” Andy said, and when he lifted his head again, Patrick had to push his hair off his face. “I would love to fuck you.”

Downstairs, Andy’s housemates were talking, their voices drifting up the stairwell.

Somewhere inside Andy’s room, an old-style clock ticked, audible testimony to utilities that got shut off with some regularity.

Andy undid the laces of Patrick’s sneakers, then knelt between Patrick’s knees and unzipped Patrick’s jeans, his fingers rubbing against the ridge of Patrick’s cock, through denim.

“Yeah,” Patrick said, and Andy leaned forward enough to kiss him, tongue against Patrick’s lips.

“Get into bed, before you freeze,” Andy said.

Patrick left his jeans, socks and boxers on Andy’s floor, decided it was too freaking cold to take anything else off right then, and scrambled between the sheets, shivering and hunting for the hot water bottle.

Andy stripped off, proving he had anti-freeze running through his veins, then lifted the bedding where Patrick was buried and climbed in.

“Fuck,” Patrick said, wrapping himself around Andy. “How do you ever sleep here?”

“With lots of clothes on,” Andy said. “Usually.”

“No wonder you never complain about touring.”

Patrick rubbed his feet against Andy’s calves to get some circulation going again, while
Andy undid the zip on his hoodie, peeling off the first layer of Patrick’s clothing.

“I’m not getting naked,” Patrick said. “No way. Don’t even think about it.”

“I think about you naked all the time,” Andy said. “You can’t stop me.” Andy’s palm was warm, and he drifted it up the back of Patrick’s leg while he licked his way into Patrick’s mouth.

“Not so cold now?” Andy asked, when Patrick was gasping against his ear, grinding up against Andy, hot water bottle pumping out heat, Andy radiating body warmth, under friction and heartbeats and worn sheets.

“Not cold,” Patrick said, letting Andy push up his second sweater, then peel it over his head. His T-shirt followed, and Andy pulled the blankets back tight around his shoulders. In the half-light of the room, Andy hovered over him, hair tucked behind his ears, his face serious again.

Patrick waited, because he’d been with Andy long enough to know what Andy would do. This was Andy’s thing, some kind of reflective ritual that Andy did before eating with friends or getting off with Patrick.

Andy traced fingertips over Patrick’s lips, then smoothed the skin on Patrick’s cheek.
“Does this worry you?” Andy asked, sounding distracted, bending forward to brush his lips against Patrick’s ear.

“I just wonder who you’re thanking,” Patrick said. “Since you’re a screaming atheist. And if one day you’re going to forget and eat me.”

Eternity remains,” Andy murmured. “You are my bread.”

Patrick blinked, and Andy stopped nuzzling his neck and reached up to take his glasses off for him, then propped both pairs of their glasses on the stack of comics beside the bed.
Andy’s hands were certain, moving across Patrick’s cock, making Patrick grit his teeth to stay quiet.

“You don’t have to do that,” Andy said. “There’s no one listening.”

“What about…?” Patrick asked, gasping as Andy tightened his fingers, squeezing and sending tingling right through Patrick.

“Thursday evening is meeting evening,” Andy said. “If the housemates haven’t left yet, they’ll be gone in a few minutes. I left my car keys out for them.”

Patrick tucked the bedding tighter around their necks and heads, and closed his eyes when Andy pulled a tube of lube out from under a pillow and pushed it between them, into the body heat.

Andy had touched Patrick’s ass enough times, while Pete and Joe snored in the van, or in shabby motel bathrooms, that Patrick knew he liked the scratch of fingernails and the rub of calluses, spread with spit. When Andy rubbed warmed-up lube against Patrick’s ass with the tip of one finger, and kept pushing, Patrick grabbed at Andy’s arm, swearing and making Andy laugh.

“How am I supposed to go slow, when you do that?” Andy asked, but Patrick had no fucking chance of answering, because Andy was fucking his finger in, and it was like every nerve-ending in Patrick’s body was rerouted, cross-wiring his cock and his ass in a huge neurological mess that made him want to scream and beg.

“Fuck, yeah,” Andy said, his voice right against Patrick’s ear, his cock grinding against Patrick’s hip. “Just let go, touch yourself.”

Andy did something—pushed harder, slid a second finger in—while Patrick jerked at his own cock, taste of blood in his mouth, cold air in the room biting his lungs as he yelled.

“I think,” Patrick said, when he could speak again, “that there’s a reason we’ve never done that in the van.”

Andy moved his fingers gently, the slow slide making Patrick feel like he was being turned inside out, one careful twist of Andy’s wrist at a time.

“Two reasons now,” Andy said. “We can add ‘It makes Patrick scream’ to the list.”

Patrick tipped his head back. “’Kay. Not arguing. Don’t stop.”

Andy’s mouth slid wetly across Patrick’s throat. “Not stopping, promise.” He didn’t stop. He kept going, touching and sliding, twisting his fingers, while Patrick fumbled and dropped the condom, then finally got it rolled onto Andy’s cock. The lube spread across Patrick’s belly and thigh, and they were both laughing too much for Patrick to hold still when Andy climbed between Patrick’s knees.

Patrick stopped laughing, first touch of Andy’s cock against his ass, and Andy hissed as something slid into Patrick.

They both froze, and Patrick remembered to breathe first.

“Yeah?” Andy asked, and Patrick nodded.

Andy pushed in, and it went from being weird-as-fuck to all the blood and heat and oxygen in his body being jammed into his groin. Andy moved, fucking Patrick, and Patrick clung onto Andy, just in case Andy decided to stop again. Fuck, it felt so impossibly good, making Patrick want to climb all over Andy, just to make him keep on doing it.

The bed frame squeaked, colliding with the wall, and Patrick could feel the burning building in his belly, curling around. Patrick wrapped his fingers around his own cock, knuckles rubbing through the lube and come on Andy’s belly.

Andy hitched up Patrick’s hips, lifting his weight, driving in deeper, and they were both gone.

It hurt, it really fucking hurt, to come so hard with Andy fucking him, too much to feel and nowhere for it to go, not until Andy let go of his hips and let them both fall down onto the mattress.

Andy’s breath roared in the quiet room, against Patrick’s ear, only changing when Patrick patted the back of Andy’s neck.

“Hmph,” Andy said.

“Aren’t you supposed to be fussing over me? Worrying I’m not hurt? Taking care of me?”

Andy chuckled weakly. “You've just drained me completely. I don’t think I need to worry about you having a post-virginity-loss freak out. I’m more concerned about my bed surviving the rest of the night.”

Patrick thought about being indignant, then rejected the idea. Outraged prudishness probably wasn’t an option, under the circumstances.

“I’m okay with that, then.”

Without his glasses on, the corners of the room were a vague blur, shadowy and distant. And probably full of spider webs. Some things were better out of focus.

A couple of minutes later, Patrick said, “Does that mean we get to fuck again?”

“Oh yeah. Want to fuck me this time?”

Patrick grinned.

* * *

In the morning, Patrick pulled on his hoodie and jeans to go to the bathroom. The light creeping around the edges of the blanket at the window was muted and pale, and when Patrick lifted the blanket, shivering and curling his bare feet to keep his toes off the floor, ice crystals had crept across the inside of the window.

“What?” Andy said sleepily, from under the layers of blankets.

Patrick let the blanket drop again.

“I think it’s snowing inside your house,” Patrick said, dropping his jeans on the floor but leaving his hoodie on when he slid between the covers.

“You’re exaggerating,” Andy said, wrapping his arms around Patrick.

“I’m not.”

* * *

Present day

Pete had the wild-eyed look that indicated he hadn’t slept and was relying entirely on caffeine and will power to keep going. Patrick had only slept in patches, and he felt like a zombie, so he had real doubts about either of them being in any shape to do an interview.

The radio station slave handed them coffees and smiles, and Patrick showed his teeth to her in an attempt at smiling back around a yawn, while Pete fidgeted with his phone.

“Can’t drink any more without dying,” Pete said. “You have it.” Two coffees might kick start Patrick’s brain, so Patrick drank them both while Pete texted Ashlee and showed him photos from home.

“Want to take bets on the questions?” Patrick asked, his voice low, as the assistant gave them the ‘almost ready’ signal.

“Best song we’ve recorded, musical influences, do we enjoy touring,” Pete said. “For your blue hoodie.”

“When are we retiring, favorite bands, do we miss our families,” Patrick said. “To get my blue hoodie back. A day without spit would be good, too.”

The radio station slave cleared her throat nervously, and Pete let go of Patrick. “Come through,” she said. “Jeremy is ready for you.”

“And it’s Jeremy and Jenny in the morning,” Jeremy said, when Pete and Patrick were settled in the studio.

“With the Fall Out Boys, Pete and Patrick. And we’re taking calls from you all!”

Pete owned both arms of Patrick’s hoodie within three minutes, and Patrick was pretty sure he’d won it back in another two, when some girl with a breathy giggle rang in.

“Hi Jenny. I want to know about the first time Pete and Patrick fell in love.”
Pete stopped looking at the screensaver of Ashlee on his phone, and actually woke up.

“Well, I loved Patrick from the first moment I saw him,” Pete said. “But I think the caller isn’t actually asking that question.”

“I don’t love Pete,” Patrick said. “Just for the record. I kind of hate him, especially when he won’t let me have my own way when we’re writing songs together.”

Patrick kicked Pete under the desk, and he knew Pete was working hard at not swearing on air.

Jenny laughed nervously. “Okay, Pete, tell us about the first time you fell in love.”

“I was seventeen, and she was my first serious girlfriend. I’m not going to say her name because we had such a hideous breakup, but for a while she was everything. I’ve written songs about her.”

Patrick didn’t make eye contact with Pete, who was lying outrageously. Pete’s first true love had been six foot tall, shaved and played wing on Pete's soccer team, and as far as Patrick knew, Pete had never felt the need to write any songs about the guy.

“Patrick?” Jenny prompted. “What about you?”

“I was older than Pete, late-bloomer and all that,” Patrick said. “I fell in love with a philosopher who would read Thoreau to me, and we’d talk about living beside a lake in the silence. I wound up choosing the band over them, which was really sad, but I think of them sometimes, and wish them all the best.”

Jenny said, “Wow, that’s really romantic, Patrick. Let’s take another caller,” while Pete ground his heel into Patrick’s toes, a look of horror on his face.

Outside the studio, Pete grabbed Patrick’s elbow and stopped him from following their security escort.

“What the fuck happened?” Pete hissed. “You have to call Annie now. You can’t call Bob at ass-fuck o’clock in the morning, but you have to call Annie, you’re allowed to wake her up.”

“What?” Patrick asked. “Why?”

“Because you just fucking came out, you idiot. You can play the fucking pronoun game with JeremyandJenny-the-morning-talk-show-morons, but the kids listening are sharp and gonna know what you meant.”

“No one will notice,” Patrick said. “Really. We're in Somewhere Small, Florida and it's six in the morning.”

In the car, Pete slid right across the back seat so he could hiss at Patrick. “No, you have to call Annie,” Pete insisted. “This is going to fucking explode. This is the photos, all over again.”

“It is not,” Patrick said, not bothering to keep his voice down. “Because no one has leaked photos of my penis onto the internet this time.”

Their driver, who was a new face on the team, turned to look at them, and Patrick waved a hand at him while Pete glared.

“You’ve got two hours, then I’m making the call for you,” Pete said. “Unless it’s fucking everywhere before then, in which I case I fucking hate you, too. And I still want your hoodie.”

* * *

Patrick was in his bunk, headphones on, staring at the bottom of the bunk above him and very carefully not thinking about anything, when Pete pinged one of his headphones off and climbed into the bunk.

“Have you called anyone?” Pete asked.

“Fuck off,” Patrick said. “Really, Pete, go and call your dogs again, or something.”

Pete pulled out his own phone and scrolled through numbers, and Patrick dragged his headphones off and tossed them down the bunk.

“Hi, Annie,” Pete said into his phone. “Yeah, we’re somewhere in Florida-Hell. No, it’s Patrick that needs to talk to you or Bob. I’ll put him on.”

Patrick’s look was intended to be pure poison, but he took Pete’s phone anyway. “Hi, Annie. No, Pete’s just panicking about a radio interview we did this morning. No, nothing went wrong.”

Pete wrenched the phone out of Patrick’s hand, and said, “It fucking did. Patrick played the pronoun game.”

Annie was still gasping when Pete shoved the phone back against Patrick's ear.

“He did what?” Annie said.

Annie was their manager, Bob's, assistant. Patrick didn't dislike her personally, unlike most of the management team. There was history, big history, which no amount of money and success could erase, between him and Bob.

“I really doubt anyone noticed,” Patrick said.

“What did you say?” Annie asked. “You'd better tell me.”

“Hang on,” Patrick said, and he looked at Pete. “Annie wants to know what I said, and I can't remember. Can you?”

Pete took the phone back. “He talked about falling in love with a philosopher, and how he chose the band over them. It was really sweet.”

With the phone held between them, Patrick could hear Annie saying, “Is the guy going to come looking for Patrick? Are there going to be searing disclosures about teenage sexual exploits? You were there then, Pete—how bad is this going to get?”

The bus door opened, then closed, and Patrick could hear Andy rummaging around in the kitchen.

“Hang on, let me ask the guy if he’s planning on making trouble,” Pete said. “Andy!”

Annie groaned in Patrick’s ear, and said, “Don’t bother. I’ll assume you’ve got that side covered then.”

Pete handed the phone back to Patrick, and Andy looked into the bunk, carton of soy milk in his hands, his hair dripping rain. “What?”

“Patrick came out today,” Pete said.

“Cool,” Andy said. “Congrats, Patrick.” He toasted Patrick with his carton of soy milk.

Patrick pressed Pete's phone against one ear and covered the other ear with his hand in the hope of screening Pete and Andy out. Whatever Annie had to say would be better than the nightmare playing out on the bus.

“Bet his missus is excited,” Andy said to Pete. “It’s going to be thrilling in here today. Good thing we’re back to planes and hotel rooms after this.”

Pete followed Andy out into the front lounge, leaving Patrick to Annie, who was trying to establish which radio station the interview had been on, why she had never been informed that Patrick and Andy had been together, and why Patrick was an idiot.

“I've got your file open,” Annie said, her voice starting to rise. “And it's not there. I've been with this company for two years, and no one thought to brief me. Do you have any idea why?”

“How do you feel about conspiracy theories? I have to go,” Patrick said to Annie. “No doubt there will be a dozen more phone calls in the next hour, after you've listened to the interview.”

Patrick closed his phone, before Annie could complain any more.

Fuck, Andy. Patrick rolled off his bunk and charged down the corridor, to the kitchen, freezing in the doorway.

“What happened?” Andy asked, emptying half a box of cereal into a gigantic bowl, then pouring what was left of the soy milk over the cereal. He tossed the empty carton at the trash can and missed. “Patrick?”

“Interview went wrong,” Patrick said.

“Patrick hedged his pronouns,” Pete added, “which sounds harmless until someone smart listens to it. This is the consequence of bad decisions about not coming out made years ago, kids, and I’m looking at you, too, Andrew.”

“Fuck off, Pete,” Andy said.

Patrick threw himself down on the couch and handed Pete back his phone.

“Well?” Pete asked.

“She’s going to listen to the interview, and talk to Bob, and work out what to do. I have to call Claire, right now.”

“Go,” Pete said. “Before the reality hits you.”

“It has,” Patrick said. “Believe me. Annie wielded a very large reality bat.” Patrick heaved himself back off the couch, and Pete shared a glance with Andy and followed Patrick back to his bunk.

Patrick didn’t complain when Pete crawled in beside him, just lifted an arm for Pete to slide under.

“Got a plan?” Pete asked, while Patrick stared at his phone without opening it.

“No,” Patrick said. “It’s not like I want exit strategy help. I’d kind of like to not get dumped over this.”

Pete kissed Patrick’s cheek. “If she hasn’t ditched you already, I think you’re going to be fine. You going for full disclosure or a brief outline?”

“I have no idea,” Patrick said. “Now, shut up, and don’t lick me or anything. I’d prefer to maintain the illusion that I make these kinds of phone calls alone.”

Claire answered her phone, her voice work-day smooth and professional. “Hi,” Patrick said. “Can you go somewhere private, so we can talk?”

Pete stayed quiet, and Patrick could hear Claire excusing herself from a meeting, finding an office, closing a door.

“I need to tell you something important, that I probably should have right at the beginning,” Patrick said, his voice unsteady.

Pete buried his face against Patrick’s chest, probably trying to get as close as he could, and be as quiet as possible. Patrick’s heart banged against Pete’s chin.

“Sounds heavy,” Claire said.

“Yeah, I know it sounds heavy,” Patrick said. “It kind of is, I guess. I'm not quite sure how to put this, except to just say my first real relationship was with a guy.”

“What? Sorry? You want to tell me your first girlfriend was a boyfriend? What exactly am I supposed to do with this information? Who was he? Was this a quick fuck, or did you actually date him?”

Claire's voice was shrill, and Pete hugged Patrick, who was hanging onto Pete with his spare hand, fingers digging into Pete’s shoulder.

“Does it matter who he was?” Patrick asked. “It was years ago… I’d had sex with another guy, you know, experimenting. Then dated this guy for more than a year, pretty seriously.”
Patrick could just about feel Pete's curiosity crawling out of him, and having Pete there for support was looking like a stupid idea.

“Was it Pete?” Claire asked. “I bet it was Pete. He's always been out, and you two are joined at the hip. I'm sure he's there with you, listening. And why are you telling me this right now?”

“No, it wasn’t Pete,” Patrick said. “I promise it wasn’t Pete. I said stuff accidentally in an interview this morning, about the relationship, and if anyone goes digging and uncovers it, it’s all there. I wanted to tell you myself, rather than risk you hearing about it from anywhere else.”

“I feel really excluded,” Claire said, her voice rising. “What happened to agreeing to talk to each other?”

“I didn't tell you because that part of my life is behind me,” Patrick said, feeling his patience slipping. “It’s not who I am now, okay?”

He closed his phone and flopped back on his bunk.

“Oh, fuck.”

“She really thought it was me?” Pete asked.

Patrick nodded.

Pete rested his forehead against Patrick’s cheek, and Andy looked into the bunk.

“What happened?” Andy asked.

“Go away,” Patrick said. “I really don’t want to talk about this.”

“I got blamed for something you did,” Pete said.

“Neat,” Andy said. “Can we have that happen more often?”

“I doubt this set of circumstances is replicable,” Patrick said.

Andy went away, presumably to consume more cereal, and Patrick nudged Pete.

“Get off me. I need to sulk in solitary misery. Go and call Ashlee and talk to the dogs, or something.”

“Do I do that all the time?” Pete asked as he rolled off the bunk, into the corridor.

“Constantly. I’m surprised you had time in your phone call schedule for my crisis.”

Pete patted his cheek. “I’ll be around, for when disaster strikes.”

* * *

January 04

The bed in the Travelodge room creaked when Pete clambered onto it beside Patrick, and Patrick pushed Pete’s shoes off the covers. Andy sat on the carpet, leaning back against Patrick’s knees, and Patrick rested his other hand on Andy’s arm, making sure not to touch the tender new ink. Joe threw himself across the floor morosely, forearm across his face, in front of the only chair, which Bob had claimed.

“Please, Bob, don’t make us ever see an image consultant again,” Joe pleaded. “It hurt. ‘Have I ever been arrested?’ Well, only a little bit, and it didn’t really take. Andy gets arrested far more often than me, and no one cares about that.”

“I get arrested for the right things,” Andy said. “Noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good..”

Pete and Joe groaned, and Bob pointed at Andy and said, “Not anymore. No one gets arrested for anything. Andy, stop chaining yourself to slaughterhouses. Joe, sort out your drug purchasing needs or I’m sending you to rehab. Now…”

Patrick closed his eyes briefly.

“You heard what else the nice image consultant said,” Bob continued. “Apart from where she asked Pete to stop breaking things in her office. Pete, Patrick and Andy, you’ve got two options. Choose to be out, and stay out, dealing with all that means. Or make a decision right now to be closeted for the duration.”

“Fuck that for a joke,” Pete said. “I’m not going straight for anyone.”

Joe started laughing, and Andy said, “What you mean is that there are so many photos of you getting it on with every scene boy in Chicago that there’s no point in attempting it.”

“Well, yes,” Pete said. “And I can’t remember all their names or whatever, and if we do become as big as Bob thinks we’re going to, then they’re all going to want to blog about how Pete Isn’t Straight.”

“Patrick?” Bob asked. “How many scene boys have photos of you on their phones?”

“None,” Patrick said.

The room was silent, then Bob said, “None?”

Patrick shook his head. One date, once, with a guy from the record store. And Andy. It was hardly a long list of people, and he didn’t feel the need to go into details with Bob and his band mates.

“Okay,” Bob said. “Everyone, this is the kind of discussion I like to have with bands I manage. Could you all try and behave more like Patrick, please?”

Pete leaned against Patrick. “I’m going to be aggressive and moody, Patrick. Bob told me to.”

“You already are aggressive and moody,” Andy said to Pete. “Without any prompting from Bob. I’ve got a few exes around, but I’m still in touch with all of them, and on good terms. None of them are likely to cooperate with a journalist, just because they all hate the mainstream press. If Militant News or The Radical Times ever do a story outing us, we might have problems.”

“Looks like you two get a choice then,” Bob said.

“I’m refusing to make a choice,” Andy said. “My personal life is my personal life. I will live it as I always have done, by my own code of ethics. Fuck you both, Bob and Island Records, for interfering.”

Joe held a hand up, thumb extended. “You tell The Man to get the fuck out of your bedroom, Andy.”

Bob glared at Joe. “Patrick? You got a message for The Man?”

“I need some time,” Patrick said.

“You’ve got until tomorrow,” Bob said.

Patrick nodded, and Andy tipped his head back to frown at Patrick.

* * *

Whoever Bob had borrowed the office from had left in a hurry—their mug of coffee was steaming on the desk, and a chat program beeped on the screen of their PC.
Bob perched on the edge of the desk, dislodging clutter, and Patrick sat unhappily on the only spare chair.

“We can talk in here,” Bob said. “Island has handlers on staff who are quite capable of dealing with Pete, even for hours at a time. Did you want to talk about yesterday?”

“Yeah,” Patrick said. “Pete and Andy have been on at me, and I can’t work out what to do.”

“It’s my job to get the band as far as I can, and that means I have to tell you difficult things. Island will put up with Pete being out. He’s slick and loud, and can get away with it. Realistically, you and Andy had better be deciding to keep things quiet.”

“How quiet?” Patrick asked.

“How badly do you all want the option deal to hold together?”

The others were loose somewhere in the Island Def Jam offices, playing with memorabilia and sucking up promises about recording schedules, per diems and being able to eat regularly, and Patrick couldn’t bear to think of it all slipping away for them. He really didn't want to think about Pete, and taking Pete's dream away from him.

“Andy is Andy. If he says he’s maintaining his privacy, you can assume he’s taking precautions to avoid the Feds. He also hates you, and everyone else, but that’s not new. I’ve been trying to work out what to do.” Patrick had to stop, take another breath. “I think it’s made it clear to me that that whole thing is a huge mistake. I can’t imagine dealing with anything like what you’re asking me to. It’s not going to work, and I don't know how to make it stop or how to tell anyone.”

Bob was silent for a long pause, and Patrick could hear the buzz of other offices through the closed door, the ringing of phones and the hum of voices.

“Is this because of the queer thing?” Bob asked, his voice gentle. “Or is it part of a larger problem?”

“I can’t front a band. I can’t do this. I’m short and fat and going bald. I’m queer and shy. I want to stay at home and play the guitar, not do any of these things you’re asking me to.”

Bob nodded slowly, and Patrick remembered that Bob had been on the road too, had done things the hard way.

“Do you want to know where I think the weak link in the band is? Do you want to know what I worry about when I can’t sleep? It’s not you, with your low self-esteem and shyness. It’s not Andy, despite his desire to overthrow civilization with his bare hands. And it’s not Joe, though maybe Joe worries me a little. If Fall Out Boy fails, it will be because of Pete. I think Pete is a whole lot less stable than any of you are letting on.”

Patrick looked up, instead of staring at the worn matting in the office.

“Pete?”

Bob held Patrick’s gaze, and Patrick swallowed.

“So, go and find the others. Your job is to sing, play guitar and hold Pete together. If you have to be with Andy to do that, just be discreet. I’m not trying to make you be anyone that you’re not.”

* * *

Present Day

Patrick was numb. He couldn’t make himself feel anything very much except vague panic. Claire had been pointedly angry, and he conceded he probably should have mentioned, at least in passing, that… What?

Patrick groaned, and opened his phone.

“Patrick,” Bob said. “I’ve listened to the download of the interview.”

“Oh,” Patrick said. “And?”

“Situation’s irretrievable. Get Pete to show you the chatter that’s spreading. You’re booked for an interview, in a couple of hours, as soon as we can get someone to you. Just don’t fucking out Andy.”

Patrick thought about throwing up.

“Patrick?”

“What do you want me to say? In the interview?”

“What you did this morning, say all that again. You made Annie cry, when she listened to the download. Let’s see how many more hearts you can break with your story of lost love.”
Patrick hung up on Bob.

Andy was in the front lounge, eating his way through a bag of apples and talking to Matt on his laptop, and Patrick sat down on the couch beside him.

“Hi, Matt,” Patrick said, waving at the webcam. “Can I borrow Andy?”

Matt waved back, the image fragmenting. “Sure, Patrick. Just return him in the original colorful packaging for a full refund.”

The screen went blank, and Andy closed the lid. “Fucked-up day?”

“Worse than you know,” Patrick said. “So, I need to talk to you.”

Andy lifted his eyebrows. “Really?”

“I’m going to give some kind of interview today, in which I come out. I’m going to talk about my relationship with you, without naming you. Kind of like I already did this morning, only in more detail.”

Andy looked at Patrick, and it was not a good look. “Without my permission?”

“That would be why I’m here now.”

Andy smudged a fingertip across the surface of his laptop. “Let me think about this.”

Patrick’s phone rang, in his pocket, and he let it switch through to voicemail, while Andy traced patterns on the metallic finish.

“Okay. If the whole thing blows up, and I get outed, I don’t actually mind. We’ve done our three albums with Island anyway, so the contract is up for negotiation, and I don’t think anyone in my life gives a fuck if I get named as an ex of yours.”

“Bob does,” Patrick said.

“Bob’s not in my life,” Andy said. “I merely tolerate his presence. When’s that contract up for renewal, too?”

“You’re considering a coup?”

“It’s mutiny until it’s successful,” Andy said.

“Andy the Pirate, the only band member with different management,” Patrick said. “Let’s not mention that to anyone.”

“What brought all this up,” Andy asked, not even smiling at Patrick’s attempt at a joke. “Why have you revisited this?”

“You did,” Patrick said. “Last night. You mentioned that winter, and it reminded me suddenly of everything.”

When Andy took hold of Patrick’s hand, his fingers were cool and dry against Patrick’s. “I trust you not to say anything hurtful, and that any untruths will be protective.”

Patrick’s phone rang again, and Patrick retrieved it from his pocket. “Thanks,” he said to Andy. “Hi, Bob,” he said into his phone.

* * *

Andy pulled on a second T-shirt and wandered out into the drizzle, leaving Patrick to his public relations disaster.

He kind of wanted to go for another run, but that would mean finding someone to go with, and there weren’t many people on their security team who wanted to run with him, especially twice in a row. Yet another reason he wanted to be at home, where he could run all the time.

Pete dashed out of the other bus and grabbed Andy’s arm. “I need to talk to you, dude,” Pete said. “Alone.”

“Do you want to go for a run?” Andy asked hopefully.

Pete looked at him like he was crazy. “No. C’mon, into the back lounge.”

Joe was in the kitchen, and waved a sleepy arm at them as Pete hauled Andy down the corridor, to the back lounge. At least there were no dogs on the current leg of the tour.

“What?” Andy said.

“You need to hear this,” Pete said, handing Andy a set of headphones. “Because a large slice of the world already has.”

Pete’s laptop was open at some fan site, with an embedded audio file, and a gazillion comments, and Andy put the headphones on because it was sometimes easier to give in to Pete, especially when Pete hadn’t slept in days.

Stupid radio interview. Boring questions. Pete teasing Patrick about loving him.

Andy took the headphones off and handed them back to Pete, who was waiting impatiently.

“Well?” Pete asked.

“Patrick already talked to me about this,” Andy said. “And about the interview he’s doing later on.”

Okay, Pete didn’t know about that interview. Score point.

“And you’re okay about it?” Pete asked. “I mean, he might as well have just said it was you.”

Andy shrugged. “What’s going to happen? Am I going to be thrown out of the band because I used to sleep with Patrick? You know what? I’d be cool with that. I’d like to go home, not do this tour. I think I’d like to never see the three of you again.”

Andy stomped off, to canvas the staff, because there had to be someone who would run with him, or he was just going to have to go out by himself.

* * *

next part

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