May 28th, 2008
Title: Heaven is Under Our Feet as Well as Over Our Heads
Fandom/pairing: FOB Patrick/Andy
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.
Betaed by: seanlily. Thanks also to mrkinch for assistance.
Authors notes: Those of you who have been reading along at home for some time will identify this as belonging to the sub-class of chaosmanor fic best described as Thoreau!fic.
The van door slid open, letting in the cooler air, along with the smell of the warm bitumen from the car park, and Patrick climbed up the step, rocking the van.
"Need some light?" Andy asked, lifting his head so the caving light on his headband shone across the mess in the back of the van.
"Thanks," Patrick said, reaching for his acoustic, balanced on top of the pile of packs and duffels they lived out of. "Got it, you can go back to reading."
Andy swung his light back onto his book, and Patrick strummed his guitar, humming under his breath. Through the open van windows, Andy could hear the noise from the bar they'd played, shouting and singing, and somewhere in the woods nearby, a killdeer was calling plaintively.
"Why are we doing this again?" Patrick asked.
"Doing what?" Andy asked, fumbling in the dark for the bottle of water he'd shoved under his pillow.
"This. Sitting in the dark, after a gig, while you read and I play Joni Mitchell covers."
Andy looked across at Patrick, the light swinging around, but Patrick's head was down, and yeah, he was playing the chords to Big Yellow Taxi.
"I know why I'm here," Andy said. "Bars bug me, once everyone gets drunk. I hate watching Joe get trashed, I'm not even going to think about Pete, and I sure don't want to talk to strangers. Why are you sitting in the van in the dark?"
"Same, I guess," Patrick said. "I could get drunk, but then I'll think I'm dying tomorrow, and it'll be bad enough in the van all day anyway."
Andy went back to his book, and Patrick played.
"Do you know where we are?" Andy asked, some time later
"Somewhere in Massachusetts," Patrick said, not interrupting his chords. "Want me to check on the map?"
"It was kind of rhetorical. We're in Middlesex County, near Concord."
"And?" Patrick asked.
Andy resisted the urge to explain, and closed his book. "Want to go for a walk? The others won't be back for hours."
Patrick stopped playing. "Um, okay."
The town was closed for the night, or the year, and Patrick scuffed along beside Andy, past the stores and houses. The moon had risen, just past full, edging everything with silver, making shadows inky. Andy went to speak, but when he glanced at Patrick, Patrick's head was down, and he was sub-vocalizing, humming to himself.
Andy didn't disturb him.
This was lake country, and Andy walked downhill, following the curves of the road past houses and barking dogs, nodding to himself when the water flashed with reflection through the trees ahead. Play equipment, beside a car park, with picnic benches on well kept grass--Massachusetts knew how to do middle class prosperity.
"Wow," Patrick said, and Andy nodded. The almost-full moon was high enough to be reflected in the lake water, pewter and black in ripples, and the lights from the houses around the lake shimmered across the water.
"Yeah. I don't know which lake or pond this is, but I'll look it up later."
"Does this all mean something?' Patrick asked. "Concord and the lake?"
"There was a guy who lived beside a lake close to here, about a hundred and fifty years ago," Andy said. "He built himself a hut, and lived on what he could grow or hunt, and he wrote down everything he thought. He found truths, in the ice of the lake, in the trees, and in his bean field while he hoed. I admire him, and his truths."
"Is that what you want to do? Find truths in a bean field?"
Andy glanced at Patrick, who was looking up at him earnestly. "Find truths somewhere, yeah," Andy said. "Maybe not a bean field, but somewhere out there."
"I doubt there're many truths in the van," Patrick said.
"There might be in the music," Andy said. "But there are conflicts here I've not resolved, about how doing something because I really love it might not be enough, and how the compromises I make to be with the band might be taking me further from truths. What about you? I can understand you not wanting to be out drinking when we're on the road tomorrow, but how come you're not out exercising your hormones?"
"Can we not talk about that?" Patrick said. "Ever."
Andy sat down, where the gritty sand turned into lawn. "Okay. Didn't mean to pry."
Patrick sat beside him and tossed something small into the lake, so ripples spread across the black and silver, playing counterpoint with the lines of light already there.
"Not your fault," Patrick said. "It's just a sore point."
"I feel, well, not responsible, but a little protective of you," Andy said. "Seeing as the other two band members are fucking crazy."
"Andy, you live on lentils and tofu. You fucking pray over your food before you eat it, and you've got a plan for when the revolution comes. You're crazy too."
Andy laughed, because, yeah, Patrick was right. "It's not praying, but I can understand why you think you’re the only sane one here."
"Looks like it to me."
They sat, and Andy said, "Did something bad happen to you? Because if it did, I'm going to fucking hurt Pete for not looking after you, and you know how I feel about hurting people."
"Fuck, Andy," Patrick said. "What happened to never talking about it? It wasn't bad, just disappointing and unhappy, and I don’t think that can be Pete's fault."
Andy thought back, over the summer, and he could just about remember, at the beginning, leaving Chicago, and Patrick being optimistic. Then he'd changed, gone quiet, taken to playing Joni Mitchell a lot.
At least it wasn't Leonard Cohen.
"It doesn't have to be like that," Andy said. "I'm not any kind of expert here, being inclined towards celibacy myself, but I've had good times, when I've been with people I've cared about."
Patrick was silent, the hunch of his shoulders indicating profound embarrassment, so Andy blundered on.
"I think some people are fine fucking strangers, people like Pete, with cast iron egos and the kind of interpersonal skills that mean that negotiating safe sex isn't some kind of hell. For the rest of us, we're stuck with making friends first."
"You never talk about what you do in your own life. I don't even know if you have a girlfriend."
"I don’t talk about what I do because people tend to yawn if I start talking about activism or planning for the end of the world, and pouring coffees and wiping tables bores even me. And it's boyfriend, not girlfriend, and I'm not with anyone."
Patrick was silent, while killdeers called across the lake, and Andy said, "Just forget I mentioned it."
"I, um, went with a guy once," Patrick said, and Andy could hear the tremor in his voice. "Last year. He asked me out, at work. I've never told anyone."
"Thank you, for trusting me enough to tell me," Andy said.
"It was, ah…" Andy could hear Patrick swallowing, but he didn't interrupt. The night was quiet, no cars nearby, and the silver darkness seemed to be inviting confidences. "When I, um, went down on him, it was so hot…"
"Yeah," Andy said. "I know what you mean."
"He wanted to see me again, but I couldn't deal with it. I think I regret that, you know. I can't believe I'm telling you this."
Andy glanced sideways at Patrick, but Patrick's face was completely hidden in the shadow of his hat.
"Do you think this is why things went wrong, earlier this summer?" Andy asked.
Patrick's hat moved as he nodded.
Andy wiped the grit from his hand and put it on Patrick's back, settling it gently. He didn't say anything, just concentrated on keeping his hand steady, on keeping his own breathing slow and even.
Patrick sniffed and rubbed at his face with the back of his hand, but he didn't shrug Andy's hand off.
"Why do you think I don't live in Chicago?" Andy said. "Two cities, two lives. I'm not ready yet to be Pete. Even Pete isn't ready to be Pete."
"I'm not ready to be me, either. Can we go back now?"
"Yeah," Andy said.
They walked back, up the hill through the dark town, to the bar and the car park, in silence. Patrick didn't hum.
Joe was sitting with his back against the van door, slumped over, and he waved at them vaguely when Andy unlocked the door. "Bastards," Joe said. "Not here."
"We are now," Patrick said, hauling Joe to his feet and holding him upright while Andy slid the door open. "Go to sleep now."
"Yeah," Joe mumbled, wobbling, and Andy and Patrick had to lift him into the van, and onto his own sleeping bag.
"Good night," Andy said. "I'm going to bed."
"Will it bug you if I play?" Patrick asked.
"It never bugs me," Andy said, undoing his sneakers and kicking them off, then unzipping his jeans.
Joe snored, and Patrick strummed and hummed. Andy slid into his sleeping bag but left it unzipped in the lingering warmth of the day. He didn't have a lot of room, in the gap between the back seat and the drum kit, but he'd shoved a mattress in there, at the beginning of the trip, to cushion both his kit and his skinny ass, so he was better off than the others.
He woke, sometime later, when Pete stumbled into the van, reeking of perfume and sex. He could hear Joe, still snoring, but Patrick was silent, and Patrick breathed heavily when he slept, not a snore, but not quiet either.
Pete zipped his sleeping bag up, and minutes later he was asleep, murmuring to himself.
Andy checked his watch, under his pillow--three o'clock and a long time until morning. Patrick slept on the back seat of the van, by virtue of being the shortest of them, which meant that Andy could poke him by pushing a finger through the gap between the bench and the back of the seat.
Patrick huffed, and the seat creaked, then his face loomed over the back of the seat, above Andy. "What?" he whispered.
"Can’t you sleep?" Andy whispered.
Patrick shook his head. "Bad night."
Patrick stayed where he was for a moment, looking down at Andy, then the seat creaked again. A moment later, he was clambering over Joe, easing himself into the Andy-sized space, while Andy wriggled over, as far as he could against the seat.
Patrick had brought his blanket with him, and Andy pulled it over him and whispered, "Just close your eyes for a while."
Patrick nodded, felt rather than seen, and Andy let his arm settle over Patrick in a loose embrace.
Half-asleep, almost comfortable, it wasn't really a surprise when Patrick moved closer, his breath against Andy's cheek on the pillow. "Andy?'" he whispered.
Andy opened his eyes again, and in the ambient light through the back van window, Patrick's skin glowed faintly.
Andy touched fingertips against Patrick's cheek. "Is this what you want?"
Patrick nodded, then pressed his mouth against Andy's.
His lips were warm, and he smelled of sleep and skin and all the things Andy had been missing desperately himself. Patrick gasped, and his mouth opened, so eager and slick.
Andy kept tight control of himself, sleeping bag between them, his hands safely on Patrick's back and neck, but it wasn't easy, not with Patrick kissing him back, twisting against him, trying to touch him.
"Fuck," Patrick hissed, his lips against Andy's, and he shoved a hand between them, under his blanket. Andy almost lost it, right at that moment, watching Patrick jerk himself off, listening to him moan as he came.
"Go to sleep," Andy whispered, kissing Patrick's cheek.
Patrick nodded, burrowing down, his breathing slowing.
Falling asleep wasn't going to happen for Andy. He was too wired, too jumped up, too damned horny to go to sleep. He also wanted to make sure that he woke Patrick at first light, long before Joe or Pete thought of waking up. He didn't need either of the others finding Patrick asleep with him; he might be up to dealing with the teasing, but Patrick wasn't.
Patrick, asleep beside him… Not something Andy had imagined ever happening, and it made him smile to himself.
He lay back to wait for the sky he could see through the back window to change color.
In the washroom at the truck stop, Patrick leaned against the wall while Andy brushed his teeth.
"Hey," Patrick said.
Andy spat and wiped toothpaste from his face. "Hey. You okay?"
Patrick glanced around, and Andy checked in the mirror too. All the stalls were empty.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Patrick said. "Maybe a little embarrassed."
Patrick was smiling at Andy, and it might be eight in the morning, and they might be in a restroom at a truck stop, but he looked fucking hot to Andy, licking his lips and pushing his hair out of his eyes.
"Patrick?" Andy said, because he wasn't going to hit on a fellow band member in a truck stop restroom without knowing for sure.
"Can we do that again?" Patrick asked. "Preferably when I'm not so fucking horny, because this time, I want it to last more than a few seconds."
Andy nodded. "Fuck, yeah." Then Patrick was sliding a hand around Andy's neck, pulling him down, kissing him briefly.
"Somewhere private," Andy said. "Somewhere that is not a restroom."
Andy had to step back, pull away, shoving the heel of his hand against his cock through his jeans, because damn, he did not have the kind of self control to stop himself if Patrick was going to look at him like that, eyes huge, lips still wet from being kissed.
Joe pushed the restroom door open, and said, "Pete says if you don't hurry up and piss, he's leaving without you."
"Tell Pete to get the fuck over himself," Andy said, stuffing his toothbrush and toothpaste back in his pack.
Joe looked from Andy to Patrick, and frowned. "You two fighting?"
"Fuck off, Joe," Patrick said.
Joe nodded, said, "Yep, you are," and the restroom door closed again.
Patrick started laughing, and Andy grinned at him.
"Somewhere private," Patrick said, and Andy nodded.
Patrick parked the van in the car park at the bar. "Another gig, another parking lot," he said. "I'd do anything for a shower."
Andy unfolded the map of Vermont and peered at it closely. "I've got friends near here. Want me to ring them, see if we can crash there?"
"What kind of friends?" Pete asked, leaning over the front seat. "Are they human?"
"Do they have hot water?" Patrick asked, which was a reasonable question, given some of Andy's friends. "Any water at all?"
"I've stayed with them before, they've got hot water," Andy said. "We might have to chop our own wood for the heater."
"Oh, fuck," Pete said. "They're fucking hippies, aren't they? I'm not staying on another fucking commune."
Andy glanced sideways at Patrick, and Patrick half-smiled at him.
"It's a commune," Andy admitted.
"No fucking way," Pete said, sliding the van door open. "No more fucking composting toilets."
"It's not a dry commune, is it?" Joe asked hopefully, from the back seat.
"No," Andy said. "They've got a crop in."
"I vote we stay there then," Joe said. "Homegrown organic weed is always the best shit."
"Patrick?" Pete asked, from outside the van. "Do you want to spend the night with hippy freak friends of Andy's? There'll be lentils, and no toilet paper, and everyone will want to hug you."
Patrick nodded, and yeah, Andy could see his cheeks were pink.
"You're out-voted, Pete," Joe said. "Hey, Andy, will your friends sell me a bag?"
"I'm sure they will, Joe," Andy said. "I'll go ring Polly at work, make the arrangements."
Pete followed Andy toward the phone box, hands in his pockets, kicking stones and whistling to himself.
"I heard last night," Pete said, once they were away from the van.
"Heard what?" Andy asked, counting the coins in his hand.
"Sex, in the van. Woke up, middle of the night, and there was making-out going on. You know, kissing and rustling and whispering. I'm damned sure it wasn't Joe, because I can rest my feet on Joe, just by stretching out, and he was snoring anyway. That doesn't leave a lot of options."
Andy stopped, clenching his hand around the dimes and nickels. "And?"
"And as much as it pains me to admit it, after a few weeks in the van, I happen to know the distinctive sounds of each of you three shooting, and last night, young Patrick was the lucky winner. I'm impressed that you held out. You're a stronger man than I would have been."
Andy thought about hitting Pete, but Pete had enough survival instincts to drop back, out of easy range.
"Are you planning on making Patrick's life miserable with this information?" Andy asked. "Because I will hurt you, if you do. Then I'll go home, and you can find another drummer to finish the tour."
Pete shook his head, hands up in front of him. "Calm down, Andy, I wouldn't do that to Patrick. I just wanted to let you know that this staying-with-friends bullshit wasn't fooling me, and I know you're just looking for somewhere to fuck."
"Fuck you," Andy said, and he stalked off, toward the telephone box, leaving Pete standing on the sidewalk.
"If you hurt Patrick, I'll kill you," Pete shouted after Andy.
The commune hadn't changed, when Andy parked the band's van out the front of the collection of barns and mud brick shacks. It was still falling down, still wild and overgrown, and still one of the most beautiful places he'd ever seen. With the van's lights off, the darkness was complete, with not a flicker of light showing.
"No one's home," Pete said. "Let's go find a motel."
Andy opened the driver's door. "Shut up, Pete."
A door creaked open in the barn, letting out a sliver of light, and Polly held a lantern up, holding her free arm out for Andy to hug her.
Andy kissed her cheek. "This is Pete, Joe and Patrick," he said, looking back at his band mates pulling packs out of the back of the van.
"Welcome," Polly said, as they followed her into the barn. "You must all be starving."
Pete made a choking noise behind Andy, but Andy ignored him.
"Smell the weed?" Joe said. "Oh, yeah."
The middle of the barn was a paved living area with an open fire in the middle surrounded by sagging couches. Polly pointed at the couches. "Most people are asleep, but I waited up for you. Sit down, I'll bring you some stew, and a pipe, then you can have baths and we can work out where you want to sleep."
"I love your friends, Andy," Joe said, sinking into a couch. "They have pipes with their meals."
Polly carried back bowls of bean stew, and she handed Joe a pipe and a pouch as well. "You're welcome to share our calumet," she told him.
"Thank you, lovely lady," Joe said, putting his bowl of stew down and taking the pipe.
Andy held the bowl of stew in his hands, to feel the weight of the food, the heat of the sun and the stove. The food had traveled a long way, through time, to reach him, and he wanted to reciprocate, to return a little time to the meal, to remember the food.
When Andy picked up his spoon and looked up, Joe was sucking hard on the pipe, Polly perched on the arm of his couch, exhaling smoke. Patrick's gaze was darting from Joe and the pipe, to Andy and his bowl, and around the barn.
Pete, on the other side of Andy, said, "Fucking hell, it's Woodstock," under his breath.
The stew was good, by commune standards, containing ingredients other than beans and potatoes, and Andy ate his happily. Patrick, who was never fussy about food, ate his too. Joe didn't bother, not when he had a pipe and a girl to attempt to pick up.
Pete didn't taste the food; he just hid behind his hair and glowered, until he said, "Please, show me where the hot water is, before this gets any worse. Then I'm going to sleep in the van."
Polly took Pete away, to show him where he could wash, and Joe grinned at Andy. "This is great."
Polly walked back into the living area, shaking her head, and sat down on the couch beside Joe. "Is he always like that?" Polly asked Andy.
"Pete?" Andy asked. "Did he hit on you?"
Polly nodded and grinned. "Fucker," she said, taking the pipe from Joe. "I'll show you your room, Andy."
Joe had the pipe again, slumped back on the couch, his eyes closed as he dragged on the stem, when Andy stood up, and Andy held his hand out to Patrick. "C'mon," he said.
Patrick bit at his bottom lip, but he stood up and took Andy's hand. "Are you sure?" Patrick asked, but Andy just squeezed his fingers and led him along behind Polly, who held a candle up and led them through a kitchen, to a bedroom.
"There's another washroom, through that door," Polly said, handing the candle to Andy and pointing across the hall.
"And Joe?" Andy asked.
"He's cute," Polly said. "I think he'll be comfortable tonight, in my room. Good night."
The bedroom was tiny, with just a bed piled with old blankets in it, the walls painted in a wild mural of trees and mountains. Patrick hadn't moved; he was still standing beside the door, blinking and looking shy.
Andy put the candle on the windowsill and closed the door. "Polly's part of my other life," Andy said, taking hold of both of Patrick's hands. "I told her I was with someone in the band, asked if she could give us a room together."
"Do you think Joe noticed?" Patrick asked.
"I think that, even if he had noticed you leaving with me, Polly has now wiped all conscious thought from his mind. I doubt he'll manage to string a sentence together for several days now."
The washroom was as Andy remembered, with a subsiding paved floor, an ancient stained bath and a chip heater sulking in the corner beside a basin. Patrick grabbed one of the threadbare towels Polly had left for them, off the basin, and said, "As good as a motel…"
Andy pushed the plug into the bottom of the bath and turned on the faucet, and the hot water spat and hissed out of the spout. "Better, because at no stage is anyone going to ask us to pay. Want a bath?"
"Together?" Patrick asked.
Andy considered the bathtub. "It looks big enough, and as long as we don't get stuck in it…"
Patrick was right there, arms around Andy, mouth against Andy's, and he tasted nervous or something, so that Andy pulled back to look at Patrick in the flickering candlelight.
"What is it?" Andy asked.
"With that guy last year… I didn't…"
"No fucking," Andy said. "Not tonight, not in the van, not in a crappy motel somewhere in New Jersey or wherever. One day, you can come to Wisconsin and find me, and we can fuck in my big old bed, and it will be wonderful, if that's what you want."
Patrick nodded, and Andy held his hands against Patrick's face gently, let himself feel gratitude for the path that had brought them together, affection for Patrick, and enjoyment of the warmth that was building in his belly.
"Damn," Patrick said. "That's what you do with your food. Now I feel like I'm on the menu."
"Oh, yeah," Andy said, and he let go of Patrick and turned the faucet off.
In the bath, water slopping over the edges, Patrick floated between Andy's knees, his head on Andy's shoulder while Andy rubbed soft, slippery soap across his chest and down his belly. Patrick's cock bobbed above the water, hard and wet, flushed deep red in the candlelight, and Andy stretched a soapy hand out, brushing fingers down the length.
Patrick gasped, bracing his feet against the end of the bath, pushing himself up, and Andy curled his hand around Patrick's cock, jerking him slowly.
"Oh, fuck," Patrick said, propping one knee on the edge of the bath, and they both groaned when Andy's cock slid along the crack of Patrick's ass.
"Not. Fucking," Andy said, mostly to his own body, because Patrick was probably not listening, not with the way he was moaning and rocking his hips, pushing his cock into Andy's hand.
"Can't…" Patrick gasped. "Oh…"
"Yeah, me too," Andy said, because, oh fuck, this was better than any porn, better than Andy had ever imagined, getting to jerk Patrick off and fucking watch him come across his belly and chest.
Patrick sunk into the water, breathing hard, and Andy couldn't reach his own cock, couldn't do a damn thing except grit his teeth and try not to shout, because he hadn't come for so fucking long, and he was too horny to watch Patrick come twice in twenty-four hours without losing control and coming too.
Andy took a deep breath in, then let it out slowly, his face pressed against Patrick's neck. "Oh, fuck," Patrick said. "That was intense."
"Yeah," Andy said. "It was."
When Andy bent over the tub to pull the plug out, only a towel wrapped around his hips. Patrick ran his fingertips over the tattooing on Andy's back.
"Like it?" Andy asked, standing up and looking over his shoulder at Patrick.
Patrick leaned forward and slid the flat of his tongue across Andy's back, where his fingers had been.
"Bed?" Andy asked, reaching for the candle, and Patrick nodded.
The candle balanced on the windowsill, the flame flickering in the draught around the windowpane, casting shadows across the room, the mural a shifting landscape that lifted and fell in shadow.
Patrick was beautiful, stretched golden across the worn sheet, his skin flushed and perfect everywhere Andy touched, chasing the candlelight into the hollows of his elbows and his hips.
Andy's hair dripped, from the bath, and he licked the water off Patrick's belly, then nuzzled down, into the fold at the top of Patrick's thigh.
"Please," Patrick said, and when Andy looked up at him, Patrick's eyes were wide in the half-light.
It took clambering, on the bed, the ancient springs creaking in the silence of the night, to pull Patrick down the bed and get them lined up, and Andy had to hide his face against Patrick's thigh at the first feel of Patrick's mouth on his cock.
Patrick moaned, around Andy's cock, and Andy bit gently at Patrick's skin, then kissed the bites, just until every nerve ending in his cock stopped screaming at him.
Patrick's cock was rock hard, when Andy sucked it into his mouth, sliding it back across his tongue, dragging the bead of his tongue-piercing, sucking slowly. Andy's thumbs dug into the smooth skin of Patrick's hips, holding him still, because Andy could feel Patrick fighting his body, trying not to shove his cock down Andy's throat.
Except Andy could do that for Patrick, swallow and keep on sucking, so that the feel of Patrick's cock in his mouth mixed up with the slide of Patrick's tongue around Andy's cock, everything in time inside Andy's head, until Patrick's mouth slid off Andy's cock.
Patrick was right there, hanging onto Andy's hip and leg, his mouth across skin, the candlelight rose through Andy's eyelids, and Andy let Patrick ride, his cock deep in Andy's mouth as he came.
Then, before Andy had taken a breath, Patrick's mouth was back on his cock, sucking hard, hand jerking. All the heat in Andy's belly let go, and he came, fingers digging into Patrick's side, leaving him gasping and floundering.
Patrick crawled up the bed, falling onto the mattress beside Andy, and Andy was glad he'd seen Patrick smile like that, even if it was only once.
"Candle?" Patrick suggested.
Andy nodded, and spat on his fingers and reached out to snuff out the flame.
In the dark, faint rustlings hinted at small rodents in the roof, but nothing was going to keep Andy awake, not then.
The creaking of the bed woke Andy, and he blinked in the sunlight pouring through the open window.
"Hey," Patrick said, his back to Andy as he pulled his jeans on over bare skin, looking out the window. "You've got to see this."
Andy found his jeans on the floor, and pulled them on, then leaned against the wall beside the window, looking over Patrick's shoulder at the field of glossy green plants, growing in dense rows.
"What do you reckon the crop is?" Patrick asked.
Andy grinned, sliding his hands down Patrick's shoulders and around to hug him. "Beans."
The door beside the washroom opened onto the yard, and from there, Andy walked out into the bean field. The air was early-morning-cool, tingling his skin, but the sun lifting over the tree line was promising warmth. The damp soil under his feet worked between his toes when he wriggled them.
Andy touched one of the pods, half-grown, hanging from a bean plant, and Patrick said, "You're doing that thing again."
The bean plant smelled thick with life and sunshine, when Andy sniffed his fingers, and he held his fingers out for Patrick to smell too.
"I'll remember that smell," Andy said. "Next winter, when I'm eating beans, I'll remember this morning, standing in this field, and how the sun feels on my back, and the way you're looking at me."
Patrick nodded. "I think I get it."
"Want some breakfast? There'll be oatmeal, at least, in the kitchen."
The central courtyard, between the barn and the smaller huts, was sheltered and warm, and Andy sat on the paving with his bowl of oatmeal. Polly crouched beside him yawning, her hair wild and her skin sleep-creased.
"So, what're the dynamics?" she asked. "I haven't got this all worked out."
Andy fed Polly a spoonful of oatmeal and followed her gaze across the courtyard, to where Patrick and Pete sat in the kitchen doorway, their heads together in what looked like an intense conversation.
"I'm not sure we have either," Andy said. "It's going to be interesting."
"You can come back here, whenever you need to. Bring Joe back with you. I like him."
"I suspect he likes you, too."
Polly chuckled, and it sounded downright dirty. "Yeah, just don't let him operate any heavy machinery for a while."
"Like a guitar?" Andy asked.
"Yeah," Polly said. "Like a guitar."
Polly had broken Joe. He was out cold, on his sleeping bag in the back of van, as they rattled down the access road away from the commune.
Pete clambered over the gap between the front seats, where there was no room at all, right into Patrick's lap, boots and elbows everywhere, swearing steadily while Andy aimed the van for the largest potholes he could find, just for the amusement value.
By the time Andy had turned the van onto the sealed road, heading south for Massachusetts again--who the fuck had drawn up this tour schedule anyway?--Pete was on Patrick's lap, chewing gum and fiddling with the stereo.
"I don't really mind," Pete said. "About you two hooking up. You've just got to understand, from my point of view, it was all a bit of shock. There I was, the only queer one here, and then I find out the two of you are going for it together."
Andy glanced at Pete and Patrick, who seemed to be involved in a skirmish over who sat where on the single person seat. "So what you're saying is that you're annoyed because you didn’t know? If we'd both taken to wearing lip gloss and telegraphing the whole thing clearly, there'd be less sulking?"
"I wear lip gloss," Patrick said. "All the time. No one ever notices."
"No you don't," Pete said. "Stop lying."
Andy was less certain, and he'd been close to Patrick's lips recently. This was something that required research.
"I just don't get why neither of you told me," Pete said. "Fuck, Andy, we've played in bands together for years. And Patrick, you're my best friend, and you never said anything."
"Maybe I didn't feel like your kind of detailed analysis of my sexual preferences," Patrick said. "You would have wanted Venn diagrams, or something. Maybe I just wanted to figure things out for myself."
"I would have helped," Pete said. "Lent you porn, that sort of thing. It would have been fun."
Patrick said, "I would rather have talked the whole thing over with my mother."
"Andy?" Pete asked.
"If this band's rules included full disclosure about sexual activity and preferences, it would have been good to have known that in advance," Andy said. "And unless someone is contractually obliging me to disclose who I'm sleeping with, I'm considering that personal, and none of your fucking business."
"Anyway," Pete said. "It's okay, really. And if Andy does anything harsh to you, Patrick, I'll fucking kill him."
"Fuck off," Patrick said. "Stop being an idiot, Pete."
"No," Pete insisted. "You just tell me. We can always get another drummer. I'll find a gay one for you, so you'll still get plenty. You can help me choose. It'll be like getting a new puppy."
"Getting old already," Andy said. "And we've only been on the road ten minutes."
Pete stopped arguing, and when Andy next glanced across the van, Patrick and Pete were sharing the front passenger seat equitably, if uncomfortably, and Pete had planted his boots solidly on the dash.
Joe woke when they stopped for gas, stumbling out of the back of the van towards the restrooms, then shuffling back from the truck stop, carrying a coffee.
"Why did you take me away?" Joe complained. "I was happy there. Andy? Andy?"
Andy hopped out of the back of the van, water bottle in his hand. "What?"
"Take me back there."
Andy patted Joe's shoulder carefully, so as not to make him drop his coffee. "Polly said you could go back anytime you wanted."
"Now? We don't need to play a gig in Arkansas, or Virginia, or wherever the fuck we're going."
"It's Pete's turn to drive," Andy said. "He's the one you have to convince."
"No fucking way," Pete said, from beside the petrol pump. "I'm not spending another night on some fucking commune."
Pete had gone, when Andy lugged the last of his kit across the car park to the van, stacking the floor tom and the bass drum beside the back door of the van. Joe put his end of the speaker stack down and looked longingly back at the club they'd just played.
"Go on," Andy said. "We'll pack the van."
"Thanks!" Joe said, and he was off, back into the venue, to chase skirt or score--Andy really didn't want to know.
Patrick leaned against the speaker stack he'd been carrying with Joe, the interior light of the van shining across his face. "You and me again, after a gig."
"Thought we might pack the van differently this time," Andy said, hefting the other end of the speaker stack. "So there's more room at the back. What do you think?"
The pair of them set the speaker stack in the van, beside where Pete slept.
"If we do that," Patrick said, shoving the amp on top of the stack, "I might just stop playing Joni Mitchell all the time."
The front door of the share house was unlocked, and Andy called out, "Hi honey, I'm home!" as he peeled off his coat and hung it up, then pulled his boots off.
Cathy called back, "In the kitchen!" so Andy didn't head straight for his own room, and his PC and email. Cathy, in the kitchen, might mean there was something hot to eat, and he was freezing and hungry.
"We need heating," Andy said, pushing the kitchen door open. "I know we…"
Cathy was stirring something in a pot on the stove, something that smelled great, thick and tasty and warm. And Patrick was standing beside her, grinning at Andy, wearing two sweaters and a knitted cap against the stupid cold in Andy's house, looking fucking gorgeous.
Cathy turned her back politely, peering into the pot, while Andy kissed Patrick.
"Are you here for long?" Andy asked, because Patrick was laughing, shining from the inside.
"Until the weekend," Patrick said. "I brought you something."
"Look!" Cathy said, pointing at the corner of the kitchen.
A bushel sack of dried beans leaned against the back door, the top opened already. Andy crouched beside the sack, lifting a handful of the beans out to catch the lingering sunshine in the smell of the beans.
"Is this what's cooking?"
Patrick squatted beside him. "Yeah."
Andy let the beans trickle back into the sack, then ran his hand down the outside, across the coarse bag, to the lettering. Yeah, Patrick had managed to find beans from Vermont too, from a farming co-op by the looks of the labeling.
"Is your house always this cold?" Patrick asked.
"Only in winter," Andy said. He touched Patrick's arm. "I'm glad you're here."
Patrick grinned at him. "Yeah, so am I."