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June 23rd, 2008


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10:58 am
Here's part one of the hugely indulgent bandfic I wrote while hospitalized for ten days. I blame the fever, the sleep deprivation and being cyanotic.

Leaving Albuquerque
Part One: The Collective Noun for Me Has Been Left Behind
[info]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


Notes: Out of politeness to the newer people reading this journal, I feel obliged to make some general statements about the content. I will tell you what's not in the fic: no non-con, character death, violence, incest or underage sex. Apart from that, it contains some material that people sometimes want to be warned for, but I think that will be clear well in advance of the actual scenes.

Lyrics of Yellow Girl belong to me.




Andy was waiting, at the airport gate, when Suzy walked through the exit, and if there was any surprise in his eyes, it was immediately replaced by delight, and he hugged her quickly.

"Hey," Andy said. "So, long time, huh?"

Suzy hugged Andy back, and found herself grinning as well as blinking hard. "Fuck, yeah. You haven't changed a bit."

Andy laughed, slinging an arm around Suzy's shoulders, his easy affection enough to stop her from changing her mind about the whole thing. "Can't say the same for you. Let's go find your luggage."

At the baggage carousel, while she grabbed her guitar case and pack, Suzy asked the question that had been sitting heavy in her mind, on the flight from New York to Wisconsin, and through every day since Andy's letter had arrived. "Are the others coming too?"

"Joe's here, he drove up early this morning," Andy said. "Pete's flying in later tonight. You didn't really think they'd miss this, did you?"

Suzy shrugged, settling her pack on her back more securely. "It's been a long time. It might have been too long."

Andy's car was an all-terrain monster coated in dirt, the paintwork battered and scraped. Suzy tossed her guitar and pack on the back seat and swung herself into the front passenger seat. "This is kind of excessive, isn't it?" she asked.

"The car?" Andy said. "You haven't yet seen where I'm living these days. Besides, it's modified to run on just about any fuel, as well as batteries. I've got a still, in theory to power the car and the back-up generator, though Joe likes to drink the output."

"Have you really gone off the grid?" Suzy asked. "Like you always wanted to?"

"Right off," Andy said. "I drive into town once a week to check snail mail and email, and I could skip that if I had to. What about you? What are you doing?"

Suzy waited while Andy negotiated his way through the traffic craziness outside the airport, then said, "I'm still making music. I compose for a lot of people these days, but do it all through third party cut offs, a manager who hides me, that sort of thing."

Andy looked at Suzy, and she turned her head to look out of the passenger window. "Fame burned you that badly?"

"Guess so," Suzy said. "Yeah, it did. What about you?"

"I'm still playing a bit, with a local band. It's enough to satisfy the cravings, but not enough to escalate the habit. Joe's got kids and a partner, and he does responsible stuff most of the time. And Pete…"

"I know what Pete's up to," Suzy said. "Amusingly, his label releases my songs occasionally. I sometimes wonder if he knows."

"Pete hasn't got a fucking clue," Andy said. "In fact, we could have that emblazoned across something substantial, like a bridge, or a mountain, because there are no circumstances under which it doesn't apply."

Suzy laughed, and Andy grinned at her.

"Are you bitter?" she asked. "About what happened?"

"I don't do bitter," Andy said. "I do fucking aggrieved. I'm still sure that it's all his fault somehow."

"Not mine?"

Andy glanced at Suzy. "I don't see that you had a lot of choices."

"I can't believe I'm doing this," Suzy said. "Opening these doors again, with no idea what's on the other side. This is scary."

"It's us, and while I agree that used to be scary sometimes, remember we were all friends for years, and that won't have changed."

"Maybe I have, too much," Suzy said.

Andy shook his head. "I'm still seeing the same soul."

The track into Andy's property wasn't even really a track, and both the all-terrain nature of the car and the damaged paintwork made a lot more sense once Andy had plunged the car down creek beds and across gullies, barreling across fields where the wild grasses were taller than the car, then through an abandoned orchard.

"Where are we?" Suzy asked, when Andy rattled the car to a halt beside a barn covered in solar panels, a windmill ticking overhead, with a decrepit bus parked beside it.

"Welcome back to the future," Andy said.

Joe leapt out of the rear bus door and dragged the car's passenger door open. "Suzy!" he shouted, and Suzy found herself jumping out of the car into Joe's arms, then being swung around.

Joe kissed her cheeks and put her back on the ground, and then pinned Suzy in the middle of a three-way hug, between himself and Andy.

"Fuck, guys," she said. "That's not fair."

"What did you expect?" Joe asked. "It's been four years, and you turn up with a fucking ponytail and a hot rack."

Andy said, "Wow, tactless, Joe," and Suzy extracted herself from the tangle of arms.

"It's okay," she said, fighting the urge to cross her arms across her breasts. "Someone was always going to say it, and at least it's out of the way now."

"Well, you were always cute, and now you're really cute," Joe said. "And I can say that this time without having to defend my gender preferences."

Andy had the look he always used to get when Pete was being particularly atrocious, like he was trying to work out whether to call the cops or just go and hide to avoid the impending brawl, and Suzy nodded.

"You can say it, both of you. You knew me before, so I'm probably not going to freak out if someone points out that I used to be Patrick."

Andy nodded, and Joe grinned. "So, about your rack…" Joe said.

"No!" Suzy said. "You cannot even think about my breasts. The closest you'll come to them is if I whisper to you how much they cost."

"They're not real?" Joe asked, sounding disappointed.

"Fuck," Andy said, grabbing the back door of his car and pulling it open. "I'm sorry, Suzy. Not everyone is an idiot, honest." He held out Suzy's pack and guitar. "Want to put your stuff on the bus while I do something to make Joe stop?"

"You live on a bus?" Suzy said, when she climbed up the steps. "You're still living on a fucking bus?!"

"Actually, I live in that building mostly," Andy said, pointing through a bus window at a shack. "The bus is guest accommodation. I drive the bus into the barn for the winter, and move into it if the shack gets lost in the snow."

Suzy put her guitar and pack on one of the bunks and sat down on the edge of it. "I can't believe that we're back on a bus again."

"At least it's not the same bus," Andy said. "Toilet is there, beside the barn. There's a shower in the barn. Hot water is only reliable during daylight."

"Electricity?" Suzy asked. "Or do we all have to go to sleep when the sun goes down?"

"Vanadium batteries," Andy said. "They put out a decent twelve volt supply. I've got some amps and speakers in the barn, so when we jam, we're not restricted to acoustic."

"Excellent idea," Joe said, but Suzy looked up at Andy, and fuck, she wasn't doing a good job of keeping her feelings off her face.

"Jam?" she said. "Andy, you bastard. I had no idea you were intending to do anything as intense as an amplified session. I don't think I can do more than bash an acoustic around a fire."

"We've all got our agendas," Andy said. "I have no idea what Pete's is, or what you want, but Joe and I were hoping for a chance to make some loud music with a couple of our favorite people in the world."

Suzy pushed past Andy, and off the bus. If she stayed, with the two of them and their painful optimism and good memories, she was going to fall apart completely.

Paths led off from the clearing, into the ramshackle orchard, and Suzy plunged down one of them at random. She kept going, through the gnarled apple trees and weeds, until she was sure that no one was following her. Andy wouldn't, but she had to be sure he'd stopped Joe…

The weeds and grass were good cover, when she pushed off the path, and Suzy felt safe enough to sit down. Overhead, the sky was translucent blue, heading into late afternoon perhaps, the shadows deepening. Birds sang, alien sounds, from so long ago, and cicadas hopped from grass stalk to grass stalk.

It was wild and beautiful, and Suzy couldn't remember the last time she'd been anywhere like it, with space, instead of brick walls, between her and the rest of the world.

She sat there long enough to hear Andy's car rattling off, presumably to collect Pete. If seeing Andy and Joe again had been hard, then facing Pete was going to be a thousand times worse. He'd been her best friend, for all those years, until she'd stood trembling in Pete's kitchen, with Andy, Joe and Pete watching her.

She'd walked away from Fall Out Boy, and from all three of them, that day. She'd dumped their partially recorded new CD, thrown away the best fucking job ever, and left the person she loved most in the world, in four minutes in Pete's kitchen.

She'd gotten on a plane, disappeared out of sight completely, and sat for a year in an apartment in Albuquerque, of all the places, and waited. Then she'd written to Pete, and tried to explain. As if she could ever hope to explain something like what she'd done.

When the sun had fallen beneath the trees and the mosquitoes were swarming, Suzy walked back to the clearing.

Joe was sitting beside a lit fire pit, playing his acoustic to himself, but he looked up at Suzy.

"So, I'm an insensitive bastard," Joe said.

"I'd noticed," Suzy said, and she went into the bus and found a sweater and her acoustic.

It felt damned good, sitting out in the open beside a fire and playing Ramones covers with Joe, like it was something they'd done a thousand times before, except Suzy was sure they never had, not with the sky a huge bronze and black dome overhead, the sparks from the fire rising into the darkness.

Andy's car rumbled into the clearing, its headlights swinging away from them, lighting the orchard for a moment, before the engine stopped.

The passenger door exploded open, and Pete threw himself out, into the clearing.

"Suzytrick!" Pete shouted, and Suzy put down her guitar and stood up.

Pete hugged her, squeezing her hard, and he just kept hugging her, so she hung onto him, crying against his shoulder, knowing the wetness on her neck was from him.

"Dinner, Joe, now," Andy said, and Suzy heard a door close a moment later.

"Oh, Suzy," Pete said, pulling back enough to look at Suzy in the firelight. "I've missed you."

He touched Suzy's face, rubbing at the moisture on her skin, then cupping her cheek.

"Wow," he said.

Suzy nodded, managing a wobbly smile. "You look old."

Pete's hair was buzz cut, and even in the firelight, his face had the same haggard look as all the recent publicity photos Suzy had seen.

"I am old. Too old for dramas like this. You don't look old," Pete said. "You look like a fucking princess or something."

A door squeaked, and Joe called out, "Can we come back now? Or are you both still crying?"

"Asshole," Pete called out. "Bring beer." His voice dropped, and his hand pressed against Suzy's cheek more firmly. "Don't disappear without giving us a chance to talk, okay?"

Suzy nodded.

***

Pete put the blanket around Suzy's shoulders and sat beside her, leaning toward the glowing embers of the fire.

"Joe's asleep, and Andy has promised he'll keep his headphones on," Pete said. "If you feel up to talking."

Suzy held her glass up, so the light from the embers shone through the dregs of Andy's home-brewed paint stripper.

"Yeah," she said. "Not so drunk I'll forget the words, or so sober I'll freeze up."

Pete clinked his glass against hers. "I'm glad I'm not keeping Edge, for exactly that reason. When I got your letter, I freaked out. How could I not know this about you? How could you not trust me enough to tell me? I felt like I'd failed you. I had failed you."

"Do you still feel like that?" Suzy asked.

Pete lifted Suzy's ponytail gently, twirling it around his palm and knuckles. "Perhaps. I mostly can't quite believe it's you though. I guess I was still expecting you to look the same, you know, trucker hat and all."

Suzy turned to look at Pete, pulling her hair out of his hand. "I was always like this inside, it's just that no one knew."

"I always thought you were beautiful, just not beautiful like this."

Pete's hand was on Suzy's neck, his fingers rubbing against her skin slowly, and Suzy had to swallow, just to keep breathing.

"I've been so scared of seeing you again," Suzy said. "I guess I was worried you hadn't forgiven me for leaving, or that you hated me."

"You had every reason to think I hated you. I'd made no attempt to find you, not even after you wrote to me. What kind of asshole does that make me? You couldn't have gone far, since Andy found you immediately, once he decided we should have a reunion out here."

"He wrote to my mother," Suzy said. "Enclosing a letter for me. She sent it on."

"See? I'm an asshole for not doing that."

"No, Pete, you're an asshole for not identifying the songs your label has released over the past few years that were written by me," Suzy said.

Pete jerked his hand away from Suzy, staring at her in the firelight. "Oh, fuck. Yellow Girl, you wrote that one. Play, that has to be your guitar riffs. Deep End, too. Fucking hell, I'm clueless."

"Short song titles," Suzy said. "The perfect disguise."

Pete shook his head. "You've paid for my divorces, and I'd like to thank you for that."

"Paid for my surgery too."

Pete swallowed. "Oh. Have you…?"

"I've had facial feminization and my breasts done," Suzy said. "And I've had full reassignment."

"I can't believe you'd do that."

Suzy put her arm around Pete's shoulders. "What you mean is that you're so attached to your own dick, you can't imagine parting with it. Mine was only ever inconvenient. If you want to hear the gruesome details, I can explain how the skin was inverted…"

Pete's mouth was open, horror on his face, so Suzy stopped.

"Or not," she added. "You probably don't want to hear about that."

"No," Pete said. "Just, no. You might be the love of my life, but I can't take that kind of detail."

Two beats of silence, and Pete said, "Fuck."

"Pete?"

Pete was off, away from the fire, stomping across the clearing, rubbing at his hair and face. Suzy reached for the bottle of paint-stripper Andy had left them and poured herself another glass. She filled Pete's glass, too, and carried both glasses over to where Pete was leaning against Andy's car, looking like he wanted to bang his head against the animal rights stickers on the dirt-caked back window.

Away from the fire, the only light was from the stars, and Pete's face was in shadow, but he took the glass Suzy held out.

The grain alcohol was rough, burning Suzy's throat and making her eyes water, but fuck it, her eyes were already watering, and she wasn't up to dealing with the raw truth of how she and Pete felt about each other without something to cauterize the wounds a little.

"I've always loved you like that," Suzy said. "So, you know, don't torture yourself over it."

Pete emptied his glass, gasping a little, then set the glass on the bumper of Andy's car.

"So," he said. "How long have we known each other? How long has this taken us?"

Suzy put her glass beside his. "I make it thirteen years, give or take a bit. But we've not spoken for the past four, so they might not count."

"During those four years I've married again, divorced one and a half times, and had more toxic relationships than I can bear to think of," Pete said. "And you've changed gender. Are you with someone?"

"No," Suzy said. "Resolutely single, apart from brief forays into lesbianism."

Pete groaned. "This is not helping."

"Helping with what?"

"With me feeling like I'm waking up from a four year nightmare," Pete said. "With trying to work out how Patrick, who I loved and adored and kind of wanted, but never pursued, because, fuck no, has turned into someone I'm having major lust issues over, someone I'm throwing myself at."

"Fucker," Suzy said. "Maybe I'm still straight… lesbian, whatever. Maybe I think you're an arrogant, superficial asshole. I'm going to bed, because I can't take any more of Andy's home brew or your craziness."

Whatever emotional crap she'd expected, and she'd played through a stack of scenarios in her head before deciding to accept Andy's invite, she hadn't even considered this one.

The alcohol was buzzing inside her head, when she clambered onto her bunk in her sweats, and she let it take her away, numbing her to sleep.

Someone woke her, stumbling against her bunk, and she groaned and turned her back to them, dragging her blankets with her. Pete, of course, just like whenever they'd been on tour and he'd been feeling bad.

He slid under the blankets behind her, curling up against her. She thought about pointing out that they weren't on tour, and that right then, she didn't want to deal with how Pete was feeling, but it was late, and she was tired.

Pete was warm against her back, his arm around her waist.

She woke again, sunlight streaming into the bus, Pete's hand under her sweats, resting against her belly, his fingertips on her skin sending sparks rushing through her blood.

She rolled onto her back, and found Pete watching her, propped up on one elbow, his eyes unguarded and clear.

"Hey," he said, his voice low, and his hand moved, his fingers spreading out, his palm pushing against her stomach.

The sparks turned to tingles, because fuck, the skin on her belly was hypersensitive.

"You groping me?"

"If I was, I'd be more pro-active about it," Pete said. "I could show you, but you might strangle me or something."

"Confined space, only one of us has testicles," Suzy said. "You do the math."

"Okay," Pete said. "Hadn't thought of that. I won't make any sudden moves, at least not until I find out if you still think I'm a huge ass."

In the daylight, the creases around Pete's eyes were obvious, and Suzy touched the deep groove beside his mouth, making him smile.

"Huge ass," Suzy said. "But, nothing unexpected there, because you always were."

Pete lowered his head, and whispered, "Have you forgiven me for saying that now you're smoking?"

"Always forgive you," Suzy said. "You know that. Does it work both ways? Can you forgive me for what I did?"

"Dearest Pete," Pete said in a whisper. "I'm going to try and explain, if you'll listen to me. You remember right at the beginning--"

Suzy put her fingers on Pete's mouth, stopping him. "You don't need to recite the letter to me. Do you think I don't remember every word I wrote to you?"

"Listen to the words," Pete said. "Listen to what you said to me."

Suzy nodded, and Pete closed his eyes, his lips moving as he recited Suzy's words back to her.

"But an idea wasn't enough, just like nothing else was enough. I had to leave. I talked to therapists, over and over, but it was always the same. Change, or lose the ability to feel anything except pain. Change, because not changing was not living. Change, or die. This is the last time I'll ever sign my name…Patrick."

Suzy could feel the moisture leaking out of her eyes, and Pete's lashes were clumped together when he opened his. So many years of aching and longing, in one paragraph, and she'd do it all over again, in a second.

"How could I not forgive you?" Pete said. "How could I not let you go?"

He kissed her, brushing his lips against hers, and Suzy grabbed his shoulder, stopping him from pulling away, holding their mouths together.

"Fuck," Pete whispered, then Suzy opened her mouth, because this was Pete, and her heart felt like it was about to explode with joy.

It was impossible to breathe, or think, or do anything except kiss Pete back, tongues sliding together indecently, Pete's fingers digging into her ribs, his thigh over hers.

When Pete lifted his mouth, licking his bottom lip, Suzy moaned.

"Yeah. Notice, I'm still not groping you," Pete said. "Please notice this."

Pete's hand had moved from Suzy's ribs, and was pushing hair off her face, stroking her forehead, sliding the hair behind her ear.

"I think you could, under the circumstances," Suzy said, because her belly was hot and tight, and her groin ached.

Pete blinked. "I don't, oh damn, want to break you, or this. If I only get one chance every four years, I don't want to mess it up."

"I've pretty much told you how to find me, idiot," Suzy said. "And what I'm doing for work. How hard would it be?"

"Or you could just walk into my offices," Pete said, grinning.

"Where any number of people might recognize me, and there's a whole load of issues I'm not ready to think about. Are you going to let me out of the bunk?" She had the feeling that if she didn't get out of there soon, things were just going to escalate.

"Reluctantly," Pete said, rolling onto his back. "Wanna crawl across me?"

Suzy maneuvered herself up, onto all fours, and slid one knee between Pete's thighs, Pete's hands working under her sweats at the back, finding bare skin. Suzy shuffled her knee across, so she was astride Pete, then lowered herself back down.

Her crotch ground down on Pete's cock through their clothes, and her breasts were squashed against Pete's chest. "Oh, babe," Pete whispered.

"How does that feel?" Suzy asked, because Pete wasn't the only one who could push a little.

"Give me one good reason why we're still dressed."

"Because I'm a virgin, and this is one complicated piece of machinery, and I'm not teaching you to drive it while other people are listening," Suzy said. "And that's two reasons, or possibly three."

"Virgin?" Pete squeaked.

Suzy kissed Pete quickly, then clambered off the bunk, and out into the corridor. "I need a shower and some coffee. You need some quality alone time."

Joe and Andy were sitting on the weeds in the morning sunshine outside the shack, and Joe said, "Coffee's on the stove. Andy might be some clean-living purist, but I brought supplies."

"I was going to shower first," Suzy said.

"I'll show you how to make the shower plumbing work," Andy said, standing up. "Is Pete still asleep?"

"Nah, he's jerking off in my bunk," Suzy said.

"Kinky masturbation sex games, just like the old days," Andy said, pushing the barn door open. "What every band reunion needs."

Suzy stood in the barn doorway, nodding in approval at the contents of the barn. Andy had some serious speaker stacks, and a full drum kit under plastic. "Nice, really nice," she said.

"Wait until you see this, from one drummer to another," Andy said, grabbing the edge of a tarpaulin draped over a mound of… something.

He pulled the tarp aside, and Suzy gasped at the sight of two huge kettle drums. "Fuck, Andy, what do you do with these?"

"A little drumming," Andy said. "There're no neighbors to complain. You want to make some noise later?"

"That jam session I was freaking out about?" Suzy said. "Fuck that, we are going to tear this place apart. This will be the Fall Out Boy gig that ruins our hearing permanently."

Andy grinned. "Sorry, did you say something? Your lips were moving, but I couldn't hear you. So, this shower, you've got ninety seconds of hot water at the most. Don't hang around."

He pushed the stall door open, and pulled a lever, up the wall, making the plumbing gurgle.

"Ninety seconds?" Suzy said. "I can do that."

When Pete eventually emerged from the bus, Suzy was sitting in the sunshine outside the shack, drinking her second mug of coffee, while Joe braided her hair, which apparently he'd had to learn to do for his three year old daughter.

Pete blinked, and disappeared into the shack, coming back a moment later with a mug of coffee.

"Fuck, Suzy," Pete said, crouching down in front of her. "You'll have to excuse me while I objectify you for a moment."

"I did that, and she punched me," Joe said. "I reckon you can get about three seconds staring at the cleavage before she smacks you."

"Fuckers," Suzy said. "Don't make me button my shirt up before we play."

"We're going to play?" Pete asked, looking up from Suzy's cleavage for a moment, to where Andy was hacking slabs of bread off a loaf.

"That's the plan," Andy said.

"I only brought an acoustic," Suzy said. "It's got pickups, but it's hardly going to be a classic sound."

"I brought two electric guitars," Joe said, wrapping an elastic band around the end of Suzy's braid.

"Breakfast first," Andy said, holding out a slab of bread and peanut butter to Suzy. "Then Suzy and I are going to tune the kettle drums."

"Yes!" Pete said. "Kettle drums! You got a recording rig here, Andy?"

"No," Andy said. "Twelve volts. Everyone remember that. It all runs on twelve volts and transformers. When we drain the batteries, we have to stop while they recharge from the panels."

"I can hot wire something to record," Suzy said. "I've got a laptop with me, already set up for multiple inputs, and it's all only data anyway. I'll have to massage the life out of it all later though, to get anything solid out of it."

Andy stood up, bread in his hand, and he was grinning. "Let's go torture some drums."

The barn was dusty, with the morning sun shining through the open doors. Tuning the kettle drums was great fun, involving guess work with the tuning screws, then Andy rubbing the mallet across the skin and listening to the harmonics of the note.

When the two drums were both tuned, Andy handed one set of mallets to Suzy, and took the other for himself.

She let him go first, a rolling beat, building in volume, then picked up the beat behind him, following along, letting her gut tell her when the frequencies were right, and the beat was throbbing between the two drums, and between her temples, right inside her head.

They held it for a few bars, then Andy dropped out, and Suzy halved the tempo, banging the skin hard, getting the sound to resonate in the barn, then letting it fade, before damping the skin with her hand.

"And that is why Fall Out Boy has two drummers," Andy said, hugging Suzy.

When Suzy looked up, Pete and Joe were standing in the door of the barn, backlit by the morning sun, and Joe had his arm around Pete's shoulders, hugging him.

"Tune guitars," Suzy said, pointing at Joe and Pete. "While I work out how to get my laptop to talk to at least one of these antiquated amps. And if anyone points out that Andy just used the present tense for FOB, I'm going to lose it."

No one stopped Suzy, when she went to the bus to retrieve her laptop, and she sat in the front lounge while it booted, trying to get her head, and her heart, around what was happening. If she was going to stop the process, it needed to be right at that moment, before she found herself in another kitchen, shaking as she broke four people's dreams.

"Suzy?" Andy said, and she looked up at him, where he stood in the bus doorway. "I've been delegated to say that we don't have to do this. If you just want to hang around and talk, or make out with Pete, or whatever, we're all fine with that, especially Pete for the bit that involves him. This was never supposed to be about FOB, it was supposed to be about the four of us as people, but especially about you."

"But?" Suzy asked.

"But for the three of us, FOB never ended, and the dream of you coming back has always been with us."

"Can we do this, with no other expectations?" Suzy asked. "I really want to play with you all again, but that might be all that ever happens."

Andy nodded. "I'll go tell the others."

Suzy set her laptop up a respectable distance from any of the amps, and she and Joe spent a few minutes splicing cabling, running multiple inputs from the amps, while Andy and Pete persuaded mikes to stay on stands and, in Andy's case, kicked the amps in the right places to get them to work.

"Andy?" Suzy called out, watching the rhythm guitar sound check on her laptop screen.

"What?" Andy said, bent over his drum kit, tuning the skin of the floor tom.

"You're wealthy, right? Like the rest of us? You didn't sign some shitty contract at the beginning that only gave you five percent of the take?"

"I am a man of considerable personal fortune," Andy said. "Why? Do you need a loan?"

"No," Suzy said. "I was just wondering why you'd never bought anything useful, like, oh, a roll of gaffer tape, or a pair of needle nose pliers."

"I had gaffer tape once," Andy said. "Then I covered the barn in solar panels. What do you think is keeping all the panels up?"

"Everyone, send Andy essential sound gear supplies for his birthday," Suzy said.

Pete, who was crawling around in the dirt in front of the drum kit, trying to seat a mike, said, "The Sex Pistols stole all their mikes from David Bowie. Who would you like me to steal yours from, Andy?"

Andy stomped the pedal for the bass drum, right beside Pete's head.

"Ow!" Pete said. "Just for that, you're getting Celine Dion's."

Joe adjusted the gain on his amp, and Suzy held up her hand at the next check. "You're done, Joe. Isn't Celine Dion dead?"

"Yes, and she's still playing Vegas," Pete said knowledgeably. "The rumors are divided evenly between 'zombie' and 'vampire'. I'll raid her sound gear next time I'm out there."

"Okay, Andy, let's see how useless the mike is," Suzy said.

Pete scrambled away from the kit, just as Andy launched into his test drill, crouching down behind Suzy, watching the screen over her shoulder.

"Hi there," he said, against her ear. "Is there a mike around here, or can I talk dirty to you?"

"There's a mike behind you," Suzy said. "I'd keep it only moderately filthy. Let's not scar Joe's psyche any more than it already is."

"I'm not looking at the screen, I'm actually checking out your breasts," Pete whispered. "I can see right down…"

Suzy moved, rounding her shoulders a little so the tank top under her shirt gaped, and Pete whimpered. "Fuck, I can't believe how hot you are."

Suzy turned her head, so her mouth was against Pete's cheek, stubble rubbing her lips, and Joe said, "Either sound check, or go and have sex, okay? Don't try and do both at once."

Pete stood up and rearranged himself. "So, Andy, does the nearest town have a motel?"

Suzy hid her face in her hands, and Andy said, "Sure. Just let me know, and I'll drive you in. Joe and I can heckle all the way through the drive. Right, Joe?"

"Absolutely. I've been waiting thirteen years for you two to hook up, and I'm not missing out on the preliminary embarrassment. The suspense is killing me, and I'm not one of the people getting laid. I might need to sleep with Andy, just to celebrate."

"No chance," Andy said. "If I was ever going to make that mistake, I would have done it when you were young and pretty."

"Sound check?" Suzy said hopefully. "Please?"

"Voice check for you?" Pete said, and Suzy looked up at him. Damn, that was a mistake, because Pete still wore his jeans painted on, and while she'd spent years ignoring him wandering around with a hard-on under denim, this was the first time she'd put it there.

"Okay," Suzy said, and if her voice was higher than normal, then only she knew.

"What's your voice like?" Pete asked, while Suzy adjusted the mike stand, lowering the mike.

"Range is the same, but the upper notes are much clearer," Suzy said. "Timbre is different. In general, not touring for four years was a good idea. No more Tom Waits covers for me, but I do a classy Carole King these days."

Suzy switched the mike on, and Pete crouched in front of the laptop. Joe was tuning another guitar, presumably for her, Andy was fussing over his kit, and it was just like every other sound check they'd ever done.

Only it wasn't.

"I'm not your sunshine," Suzy sang, closing her eyes. "I'm not your moon in the sky. I'm not the daffodil, not the petal, not the pollen, can't you see? I'm a yellow girl, another yellow girl, hiding in the crowd. I'm a yellow girl, because that's all I can be."

When she'd finished the chorus and opened her eyes, Pete, Andy and Joe were all standing and staring at her.

She stepped back from the mike and switched it off, and Andy said, "Um, wow. You sing it better than Charyis does. Pete, sack Charyis from your label."

"Levels?" Suzy asked Pete.

"Not a fucking clue," Pete said. "Sorry, having something of an emotional crisis here."

Suzy rolled her eyes and knelt down to check the laptop screen herself. "That was fine. The other guitars next?"

Andy stood beside Suzy, sneakers scuffing the dirt. "I'll do yours, if you want to take Pete outside and apply some kind of first aid, because he's not getting it together."

Suzy stood up and looked over at Pete, who hadn't moved. "Okay."

He let her lead him outside, blinking into the daylight. Suzy leaned against the side of the barn. "Not dealing?" she asked.

He nodded. "I can, um, tell you the first week sales for Yellow Girl. And the total sales to date. I can break them down, too, into US, total North American, and international; and download versus third party sales. I can tell you how the numbers split out for all the earners, and how many plays the video clip has had on MTV. I can tell you what the marketing plan for Charyis is, how we're packaging her album, where she's appearing for the next month. I can tell you we're using Yellow Girl as the call-waiting tune at the office, at the moment. And that it was written, lyrics and music, by some genius called S. Monroe, who's also provided four other tracks for the album."

"And?" Suzy asked.

Pete looked at her. "And I had no fucking idea what the song meant, not even last night, when I realised you'd written it. Not until you sang the chorus."

Suzy wound her arms around Pete's neck and kissed him, and she could hear Joe playing chords, and Andy swearing at the amp. "One day, I'll tell you about the Albuquerque songs. Not now, because we've got two minutes, at the most. Want to see how far we can get in that time?"

"We can get to paradise in two minutes." Pete pushed her against the barn door, making it clang against the barn, his mouth jammed against hers, his knee between her legs, thigh rubbing her crotch, and Suzy kissed back hard, her lips stinging.

"C'mon," she said, when Pete moved his mouth to her neck, sucking at the skin. "Gimme more."

"You want more?" he rasped, and his hand pushed under her shirt and tank top, up across her ribs, to her bra.

"Oh, fuck," Suzy whispered, and Pete's hand cupped her breast, through lace, squeezing gently, lifting the weight, his thumb rubbing at her nipple.

Pete's mouth moved to her ear. "Fuck, you're perfect… I'm going to fucking come in my jeans like a kid… Wanna fuck you, wanna slide my cock into your pussy… wanna eat you out, make you come so hard… wanna see you sucking my cock…"

Suzy ground against Pete's thigh, gritting her teeth at the abrasion, jamming a hand between them to find the ridge of Pete's cock through denim. "So turned on," she whispered. "Fuck, want your mouth on me… Want to--"

The kettle drums boomed, slow and steady, and decidedly impatient.

"Fuck," Suzy said, banging her head back against the barn door. "I think that's a message for us."

"They can wait. Do you think they've got the sense not to go looking for us?"

Suzy flicked the top button of Pete's jeans undone. "The drums are a good sign. Against Andy's car?"

Pete nodded.

With Pete leaning against the far side of the car, Suzy undid the fly of his jeans, and he pushed them down his hips far enough for the hard length of his cock to be visible through his underwear.

"I've not done this before," Suzy said, as she dropped to her knees. "Just so you know…"

Pete touched her cheek. "Oh, don't worry. All it will take is looking down at your face."

Pete's breath caught, when Suzy pulled his cock free, and he said, "Yeah," with a sound of deep satisfaction at the first touch of her mouth.

It wasn't difficult, letting his cock slide into her mouth, sucking it as he pulled it back out again, with his hands in her hair, guiding each stroke. Once she was sure that she wasn't going to choke or retch, she looked up, and he was staring down at her, mouth open as he gasped.

His fingers on her scalp tightened, and he held her head still, pulled back so just the head of his cock was in her mouth, and he was coming, hot and almost-sweet, making her swallow hard and keep swallowing.

He slid down onto his knees, pulling them both down into the dirt, rolling Suzy onto her back, kissing her and pushing her tank top up.

"Just for a moment," he said, and Suzy nodded.

Pete's hands were reverent, stroking her belly, where the flesh curved, then moving up and pulling the lace of her bra aside, exposing the milk-white skin of her breast, full and round, and her deep pink nipple.

The feel of Pete's mouth on her nipple, licking, then rubbing lips across the skin, made her gasp.

"Oh, fuck," Pete whispered, looking up at Suzy. "Can I make you come like this?"

Suzy shook her head. "You can make it up to me later."

The kettle drums had stopped, and Suzy poked Pete in the shoulder. "Let's go play."

Pete tucked himself back in, then did his jeans up, grinning. "Just like the old days, a blow job before rehearsal."

He stood up and held a hand out to pull Suzy to her feet. Suzy arranged her breast in her bra, and straightened her clothes. "Maybe in your universe, but I never scored like this."

Pete shrugged. "Take a tip from a veteran then, and brush off the knees of your jeans."

"Fuck you," Suzy said, but she wiped the dust off her jeans.

Suzy walked back into the barn and said, "Pete found his equilibrium. You wouldn't believe where he keeps it." She shrugged off her shirt and tossed it onto an amp, grabbed the bottle of water she'd left beside her laptop, and set the laptop to burn.

"So, what does everyone remember the chords for?" Pete asked, as Suzy slid the strap of Joe's spare guitar over her head, and lifted her braid out of the way for Pete to shorten the strap.

"Everything," Suzy said. "Every song."

The gear was set up in a circle, facing inwards, with Suzy buffering the amps and laptop from Joe and Pete's more extreme exertions.

"You call," Pete said.

"Sugar," Suzy said, and Andy beamed and twirled his sticks, launching into the intro, Pete behind him on the bass. Suzy and Joe were there, perfectly in synch, and it sounded so fucking good, then Suzy sang, "Am I more than you bargained for…"

The speakers put out more than enough sound, and Joe and Pete were throwing themselves around the barn while Andy thrashed his kit. Suzy sang, hard as she could, letting her new voice do what it wanted, higher and clearer than she used to, but she could hear how true it all was, how much they all belonged together.

They played for an hour before Andy's home made electrical system ran out of juice. Suzy shut down the laptop, saving the session, and sat under the awning beside Andy's shack, beer in her hand, watching Joe and Andy pour home brew into the generator that was Andy's winter back-up power source.

"Don't use it all," Joe said. "We're going to need some tonight."

"We can play again sooner with the generator running," Andy pointed out. "So give me the fucking drum. You can buy some liquor when we take Suzy and Pete to their honeymoon."

Pete sat beside Suzy, on the grass. "Andy's so damned efficient. How come we never knew this when we were touring?"

"We did," Suzy said. "That's why he was in charge of mornings, and gas money, and things like that."

The generator hummed, finally, and Andy sprawled on the grass, Joe collapsing beside him a moment later, beer in his hand.

"Beer is warm," Joe complained.

"Batteries were drained," Andy said. "Means the fridge shut down for a while. Stop whining."

"So?" Pete said. "How do we sound?"

"As good as we ever did," Joe said. "Unpolished, of course, but we're all better musos now, or less trashed, in my case. Why?"

"Fall Out Boy, The Barn Sessions. Limited Edition, no images of the band on the packaging. I'll underwrite, Suzy can produce. Go on, think of This Ain't A Scene, with kettle drums."

"Pete?" Suzy said. "What happened to 'no pressure'?"

"You sound fucking amazing," Andy said. "Better than you ever did before, which is saying something. I think Pete is getting carried away with that, and that you should lean over and smack him."

"It can't happen. Patrick doesn't exist anymore," Suzy said. "How are you going to get around that?"

"Doesn't exist?" Pete said. "Where are your FOB residuals going then?"

"There's a Patrick Stump incorporated body, for financial purposes, but there's no person behind it now. If you do anything to make someone poke at my legal status, you threaten my privacy. Are you not getting this, Pete? I didn't disappear completely for four years on a whim."

"I won't be part of anything that Suzy isn't comfortable with," Andy said. "Which deadlocks the vote, if we take this to a count."

Suzy flashed a smile at Andy, who grinned back at her.

"Name your terms, Suzy," Pete said, resting a hand on her knee. "Like Andy said, you're better than you've ever been, and I'm just an obsessive label manager who'd love to share how we sound now."

"This is terrifying," Suzy said. "Can you imagine how scared of discovery I am? It's taken me four years to get secure enough to be able to face the three of you, how the fuck am I supposed to face the world?"

"With dignity," Andy said. "With the three of us solidly behind you--Pete in the dirtiest way possible, of course. A simple, restrained press statement, not written by Pete or Joe, saying you're now Suzy, but that we're still FOB. Fuck the world."

Joe nodded. "Yeah. Like that."

Pete laid his head down in Suzy's lap and looked up at her pleadingly. "No touring, no public appearances, just a studio band. Or a barn band, at the moment."

Suzy touched Pete's hair, ruffling it the wrong way, so it stuck up even more. "I'm not making that kind of decision in a hurry. Let's just play, and find out if we can still do this."

The first nuzzle of Pete's mouth against Suzy's belly was gentle, then he nipped at her skin through her tank top, making her shout and smack at him. He bit harder, and she toppled backwards, pulling him with her.

Pete was taller and stronger, and pinned her down, kissing her, and Andy said, "Well, I could check to see if the batteries have picked up some charge."

"I was going to watch," Joe said. "It's kind of hot. Trouble is, then we have to put up with the whole ugly Pete-has-an-erection thing."

"Makes me a little nostalgic," Andy said. "Do you remember when Pete lost his only pair of jeans to that girl?"

"How could I forget?" Joe said. "I still can't believe that the cops--"

"Enough!" Pete said, twisting his neck to glare at Joe. "Or we'll talk about the time you got a bad batch of weed, and we had to cancel the show."

Suzy shoved at Pete, dislodging him and sitting up. "Go and check the batteries, Andy, quickly, before we revisit What Went Wrong in 03."

"No way do I want to talk about that," Andy said, scrambling to his feet. "I was driving."

***

Part Two: The City's Hollow and I'm a Pebble

(Leave a comment)

Comments:


From:[info]ai_hen
Date:June 29th, 2008 09:37 am (UTC)
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Just not checking in for a few days and look what's there. This is hot, mayor hot but also touching and scary and they are all so vulnerable it takes my breath away. How can they ever be FOB again and how can they not still be FOB together.

And now I really really have to go and mow the lawn, do my laundry and start making dinner, damn, I want to read it all in one go. There are not enough hours in my Sunday.
From:[info]sarkka
Date:July 5th, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC)
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I had no need for the warnings and this was just WOW ! It made me remember little bit of Wheel of the year.

I adore the way Suzy is dealing with this...

"Suzytrick!" *loves*
From:[info]stepps.livejournal.com
Date:August 17th, 2008 05:24 pm (UTC)
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i should be commenting on the last piece, but I came back here to bookmark, so. I really liked the progression of this, the steps that they all went through to get back to who they were, and that it was so easy for them to be together with Suzy, that she and Patrick were so similar, despite obvious changes, both physical and emotional. I loved that Suzy did things she thought she wouldn't/couldn't for Pete. I loved Andy and Joe. I loved Suzy's songs, and stupid reporters, and filming videos. Just all so very nicely done.
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From:[info]chaosmanor
Date:August 18th, 2008 09:45 am (UTC)
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Thank you for your kind words.

I usually write with one eye on the audience, so it was something of a treat to write this just for myself. I'm still surprised that other people like it too.

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