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June 23rd, 2008


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11:03 am
Part two of three.


Leaving Albuquerque
Part Two: The City's Hollow and I'm a Pebble
[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.



Once Andy had hit the sealed road, the car's headlights flickering though the rain, Pete undid his seatbelt and slid across the backseat, his arm around Suzy's shoulders.

Joe interrupted the chorus of Living on a Prayer that he and Andy were butchering to turn his head around and shout, "Can see you!" over the music pounding out of the stereo.

Suzy flipped a finger at Joe, who grinned at her and turned back to face the front of the car.

Pete's hand touched her chin, turning her to face him, and his mouth covered hers, meltingly gentle, kissing her slowly, fingers drifting down her neck, stroking her skin.

The music stopped, and Suzy was suddenly desperately aware that both she and Pete were moaning.

Pete turned his head and said, "Put it back on. You really don't want to hear this."

"Get a room," Andy said.

"And we've spent years listening to you," Joe said.

The sound of a zip being undone was loud, even over the hum of tires on the road, and the stereo switched back on suddenly.

Pete did his fly back up, laughing against Suzy's neck, before kissing her again.

Andy parked the car in front of the motel, and said, "How about I go book the room? Let's not have Pete-Wentz-and-a-mystery-blond stories starting, not tonight."

"Thanks," Pete said. "I hadn't thought of that."

"I love you," Suzy called out, as Andy got out of the car.

Andy looked in through the open driver's door briefly to say, "If it doesn't work out with Pete…"

"What about me?" Joe asked, looking back over the seat. "Do you love me too?"

"Love you too," Suzy said. "But I'm not sharing you with your missus, no matter how cool she is."

Joe frowned. "The two of you would run away together anyway, leaving me with the rug rats."

Andy came back, room keycard in his hand. "I know the kid on reception, through the band. He would have recognized Pete instantly. Here's your key, go and get funky together, and we'll pick you up at ten tomorrow morning."

Suzy paused in the car park, pack over her shoulder, and watched Andy's car go. "C'mon," Pete said, arm around her waist.

In the bathroom of the motel room, Pete stood Suzy in front of the mirror, looking over her shoulder. "I want to watch your face," he said, sliding her jacket down her arms. "And I want you to see mine." Her shirt fell to the floor, and he slid his palms down her arms, cupping her elbows. "I missed you, every moment you were gone," he said, lifting the bottom of her tank top up, pulling it over her head.

In the mirror, Pete met Suzy's gaze, then he pressed his mouth against her shoulder and slid his hands between them, to find the clasp of her bra. He pushed fingers under the elastic, once it was undone, freeing the band, pulling it off her, and his hands were gentle on her breasts.

"I think…" Suzy said, her voice trembling. "I think you might have seen inside me, right from the start. I think you always knew, about everything."

Pete smiled, and Suzy waited for the self-deprecating throwaway line from him, but it didn't come. "Maybe, but I didn't wait well," he said, instead. "And I didn't come looking for you, like I could have. But we’re here now, and that's enough."

He touched her belly, pressing into the flesh, then undid the button of her jeans, and unzipped them. When Suzy looked up, at the reflection, Pete was smiling at her, and she stopped being nervous. She wasn't trying to pass, there was no need to worry.

Pete pushed her jeans down, so they bunched around her ankles, then knelt down behind her, his breath hot across her lower back. His teeth scraped across skin, and he gripped the elastic of her underpants in his teeth, and pulled them down, fingers hooked into the waist.

The edge of the hand basin was cold, but reassuringly solid, when Suzy grabbed it to steady herself. Pete's hands slid back up her legs, behind her knees, one around the front of her thigh, the other between her legs from behind.

When Pete was standing again, his head against hers, he said, "Talk to me, babe, tell me how to touch you."

The fingers between Suzy's thighs fluttered up, against her labia, and she spread her legs as wide as her jeans would let her. "Promise you won't freak out."

"Not freaking," Pete said. "Promise. Just tell me what to do."

"No feeling in my clit," Suzy said. "The nerve graft didn't take, it's cosmetic only. So, no magic button, it's all a slow build. There're good things, inside me, but I've never been fucked, so I don't know how that all works with someone else."

"Virgin," Pete said. "Fuck. I don't think I've been with a virgin since I was fifteen. What else?"

"Have to use lube. Lots of lube, for everything. And when I come, I, um, get wet."

"Wet is good, and I've got lube with me," Pete said. "Where do you like to be touched?"

"Breasts, belly, thighs," Suzy said. "It made me ache, waking up with your hand on me this morning."

The hand on Suzy's thigh moved, the fingers pressing her pubic bone, the heel of the hand pushing against her belly. "Are you aching now?"

"More than aching, it's burning."

Pete's face was hidden against Suzy's neck, but when he lifted it, and looked at her in the mirror, there was so much desire there that breathing was impossible for a moment.

"Bed," Pete said.

He dragged the bedding off the motel bed, dumping the blankets and sheet on the floor, then piled the pillows at the head of the bed, while Suzy undid her sneakers and pulled her jeans off.

"Sit up there," Pete said, and Suzy propped herself on the pillows while Pete dug through his bag, then pulled his boots off.

He tossed the lube and condoms on the bed, up close to Suzy, then dragged his T-shirt off.

"Aren't you over-dressed?" Suzy asked, watching Pete crawl up the bed, still wearing his jeans.

Pete's hands touched Suzy's knees, parting them. "If you could see what I can…" He looked up at Suzy. "The jeans are guaranteeing I slow down, wait for you."

Suzy touched Pete's cheek, hand trembling.

"If you need to tell me anything, you can say whatever you want," Pete said.

"If you call me by the wrong name, I'll humiliate you in front of the others," Suzy said.

Pete grinned. "Gotcha."

"Is this real?" Suzy asked.

The lips against her mouth felt solid, and Pete whispered, "It better be real."

He knelt back on the bed, sliding his hands up her thighs, leaning forward to kiss her belly, trailing his mouth down.

Gentle fingers, then a tongue, and Suzy closed her eyes and gasped, because it felt unbearably good, hot and taut. The idea that it was Pete, that it was his mouth, was almost more than she could take, scorching inside her head, so she couldn't have stopped the noises she was making, even if they'd been on the bus.

The tightness started, inside her belly, and she opened her eyes and looked down at Pete. "Fingers, oh fuck, inside me," she gasped.

Pete looked up, mouth open, lips and chin shining with spit, and he nodded and grabbed for the tube. Lube, on his hand, and he slid a finger into her slowly. "Like that?"

"More," Suzy said, and she pressed her palm against her belly, pushing down.

The feelings inside her moved, as Pete pushed his fingers up, and she fell over the edge, clamping thighs around Pete's hand, her whole groin pulsing, wetness gushing from her, arching up off the bed, then falling back shuddering.

When she opened her eyes, Pete was staring at her, something like wonder on his face. He slid his fingers out of her slowly and lifted his arm to his mouth, licking at the fluid trickling down his forearm, across his tattoos.

"Oh," Suzy whispered, and Pete crawled up, across her, to kiss her.

"Please?" Pete said, and she could feel his hand between them, undoing his jeans.

"Yeah, want to feel you."

Pete slid off the bed, and peeled off his jeans, then rolled on a condom. "So hard for you," he said, reaching for the lube and kneeling on the bed. "I'm going to explode, just at the first touch."

He grabbed Suzy's hips and pulled her down the bed further, then lowered himself over her. "We can get clever with positions later," he murmured. "I promise."

The head of his cock, cool with lube, nudged against her, and Suzy stared at Pete's face, his tongue protruding between his teeth, his eyes unfocussed. He pushed in, gentle and slow, until he was deep inside her, and she was full.

"Pete?" she whispered, grabbing at his back, pushing down on the feelings, the burning rushing through her.

"What? Does it hurt?" Pete asked, sounding strained.

"No, fuck, no… Quick, it's starting, inside me, again."

Pete groaned, deep and desperate, and pulled back, then rocked into her. "Like that? Is that right?"

She couldn't answer, was only vaguely aware that she was clawing at Pete's back with one hand while pushing the other one against her belly, because each thrust sent a wave of fire through her. She could hear herself yelling, hear Pete too, the bed crashing against the wall, then her body spasmed, blindingly intensely, and she could feel Pete losing control, jerking into her, and hear him shouting.

Pete held her, arms wrapped around her, and he pressed kisses to her face. "Don't cry, Suzy," he whispered. "Please don't cry. Does it hurt? Please, babe, tell me."

It took time, being held, before Suzy could even begin to speak. "Doesn't hurt," she said, against Pete's shoulder. "Maybe a bit raw. I just feel… shattered."

"Good, or bad?" Pete asked, his hand settling on the back of her neck, body warm against hers.

"Good. Yeah, more than good."

Pete sighed, and Suzy could feel tension drop out of his muscles. "Good. I'm not letting go of you, Suzy. Not at the end of this weekend, not ever. If you disappear, I can't just let you go again."

Suzy lifted her head, to look at Pete's face. "What do you want?"

"You, anyway I can get you, and all the time."

He meant it, meant it all, that was obvious from the steadiness of his gaze, and the way his fingertips touched her lips.

"One fuck, and you're certain?" Suzy asked.

"I'm happy to fuck a few more times, if it will help convince you."

Lying in Pete's arms, with him laughing, Suzy could share his optimism, but she made herself think, about the world outside.

"You know what you're asking me, don't you?" she said.

"I thought I was asking you to share long nights of hot sex," Pete said. "At least, that's what's on my mind."

"You're asking me to risk being seen in the one context where I could be identified. Andy had to check us in here, your face is so well known, and we're in fucking Wisconsin. How many times will I be photographed with you before someone says, 'Doesn't Pete's new girl look a bit like that guy that used to sing with him?'?"

"You've stayed invisible until now," Pete said. "Can't we stay that way? I don't have to be a media slut, I can shut up occasionally."

"I'm invisible because I'm ordinary. I live in a one bedroom apartment in New York and catch the subway everywhere. I drink coffee from Starbucks, and fly economy to Chicago to see my mom every few weeks. I buy off-the-rack clothes and watch TV in the evenings. You're…"

"Brash and loud?" Pete suggested. "Conspicuous?"

"I think you're being a little too kind to yourself," Suzy said dryly. "I just don't think it's realistic to think that, even if you start hanging out with me in New York and acting like an adult, you're not going to be recognized, and photographed eventually."

"Do you want to go somewhere else in the world? I've got kids in LA, but we could go to somewhere within an easy plane ride of them, like, um, Panama."

Suzy laughed, she couldn't help it. "Panama? Seriously? Couldn't we go to somewhere sane, like British Columbia instead?"

Pete grinned. "Okay, an island then, near Vancouver."

With Pete's skin against hers, Suzy let herself look at the options, and what might happen if she left her safely anonymous life.

"Give me a little time, okay? There might be another answer, one that doesn't involve moving to somewhere where either drug-runners retire, or it rains all the time."

"Does it still have the sex?" Pete asked. "Because that's important."

Suzy stretched her legs experimentally, feeling the twinges through her hips, along with the deep, buzzing contentment. "Yeah, it does."

Later, Suzy hung onto the faucets of the hand basin, the edge of the bowl digging into her belly, and watched their faces while Pete eased into her from behind. Pete's was twisted with concentration, his eyes half-closed, mouth open in bliss. Her own was almost unrecognizable, flushed, swollen-lipped, dilated pupils, every line softened by happiness.

Then Pete pushed into her hard, making her gasp as heat stabbed through her groin, and he wrapped his arms securely around her ribs and waist, the brown of his skin and black of his tattoos startling against her pink and cream skin.

Pete lifted himself up, on his toes a little, while he was deep inside Suzy, and Suzy would have buckled forward if he hadn't been holding her. "Gonna come?" Pete asked, over the hum of the bathroom ventilation fan and the pounding of blood in Suzy's ears. "Does that make you wanna come?"

Suzy shook the faucets, pinned between the edge of the basin and Pete's body, and Pete moved on the balls of his feet, shoving his cock harder inside her. Suzy's body twisted and pulsed, and she was coming, her moans echoing off the tiled walls of the bathroom, moisture trickling down her thighs.

Pete let go of her ribs, grabbing her hips and lowering himself down, and he fucked her, cock jabbing into her. Watching Pete's face in the mirror while he came, watching him lose control, was almost as good as coming herself.


***

Pete woke Suzy before dawn, kisses against her shoulder, hand on her breasts, then belly. Then he slid into her, moving slowly and carefully, warm and heavy over her, mouth covering hers.

In the dark room, only the digital clock turned to face the wall flickering light, it felt substantial for the first time. This was Pete, and this was her, and they had no need to hide anything from each other. She came gradually, in gentle waves, not fighting her body, then stroked Pete's back and neck while he came.

***

"At least you both don't stink," Andy said, when Suzy closed the car door. "I was a bit worried, having seen the room."

"Showers," Pete said. "I promise we've both had showers."

"Then there was the look on the receptionist's face when I handed back the keycard. I think the kid was trying to work out why I'd driven into town and rented a room to spend the night fucking loudly when I had a perfectly good shack of my own," Andy said.

"Did you really trash the room?" Joe asked, while Andy reversed out of the car bay.

"I wouldn't call it trashed," Pete said.

"It was trashed," Suzy said. "Let me know if the motel hits your credit card for any extra charges, Andy."

"Absolutely," Andy said. "I don't mind paying for the room for you, but if you've ruined the plumbing or something, you can pay me back."

Pete smiled at Suzy. He'd not flushed the condoms, and he'd not left them behind. They were in a plastic bag in his pack, until he could find somewhere safe to ditch them, possibly into Andy's plumbing. Suzy had never, at any stage, had the kind of lifestyle that made it dangerous to leave used condoms in a hotel rubbish bin, and she found Pete's paranoia kind of endearing.

"Now when a motel sends me a damages bill, it's because the kids have put Cheetos into the DVD player," Joe said. "I feel so grown up."

"You could not feed the brats Cheetos," Andy said. "And stick to DVD player friendly-snacks while traveling."

Suzy took Pete's hand, on the backseat. Pete looked half-asleep still, hair damp from the shower, clothes crumpled, yawning to himself. Suzy felt like that too; just-showered, mouth tasting of toothpaste, desperately lacking in coffee and sleep, and so fucking happy.

At Andy's shack, sitting at his kitchen table, coffee mug in her hands, she said, "Can we all talk?"

Andy put the plate of waffles he'd just heated up on the table. "Sure, Suzy. Where's Pete? And Joe was here a moment ago."

Joe was the last to the table, hair dripping from the shower, towel around his shoulders. "Wassup?" he asked, taking a waffle.

"Band meeting," Suzy said.

"Yes!" Pete shouted.

"Shut up," Suzy said. "It's been an intense couple of days for me. Um, pretty much life-changing. I came out here terrified, not even sure that I'd cope for more than a couple of hours."

"I'm glad you were brave enough to stay," Andy said.

Suzy looked at Pete, who nodded. "So, yeah, and I hadn't expected the thing with Pete to happen, but it feels real and solid."

She paused, and the other three watched her.

"Damn," Suzy said. "I love all of you, and that's a yes to the Barn Sessions album, and working out what to do next with FOB."

Pete shouted, right in Suzy's ear, dragging her out of her chair, and Andy picked her up and swung her around, while Joe did leaping spins around Andy's tiny kitchen, colliding with chairs and the fridge, tipping over coffee cups and breaking a plate.

Andy put Suzy's feet back down, and grabbed her hand, dragging her out into the rain, and to the barn, Pete and Joe hauling the doors open, letting watery light in. The kettle drums were uncovered, from the day before, and Andy handed Suzy a set of mallets, and held the other set.

"Go, girl," he said.

Suzy hit the drum in front of her hard, the note booming through the barn, then started a roll, pounding the kettle drum with all her strength. Andy beat the other drum, harder and louder, the noise filling the barn, booming out into the rain, wild and crazy, like everything else that weekend had been.

Andy might be fit and strong, but Suzy could only keep the pace up for a few minutes, before she threw the mallets down on the drum and collapsed laughing and sweating against Pete, who hugged her.

When Andy had finished, and the barn was quiet again, Suzy's ears were ringing, and she had to work not to shout when she said, "I still need to talk to you all, you bastards. And I want more coffee, because Joe spilled mine."

Back at the kitchen table, the cold waffles binned and a fresh batch on the table, Suzy looked at the grins on the faces of the others. "Not meaning to ruin your fun, but this is not going to be easy. The only way to take away the fear of discovery is to come out, and doing it is going to make me a wreck. You can thank Pete for this, because if he hadn't been part of the deal, I would have stayed safe and hidden. But, realistically, that's not possible."

"You know we'll be there for you," Andy said.

"What I'm asking for is a little time first," Suzy said. "It will take a while, to come back here with decent sound gear to fill the gaps, and for me to do production, anyway. I'd like us to put together some kind of press release, ready for the album. Pete? Do you have a PR agent? Someone trustworthy?"

"I'd rather use someone else, separate from my existing businesses," Pete said. "I can look around, find the right person. Suzy, I'm over-whelmed you're doing this. I didn't really want to move to Panama."

Suzy shrugged. "So I have to spend a few days in misery, then I get to be in FOB again, and I get you. I'm considering an induced coma for those days."

"Oh, no, don't do that," Joe said. "Waking up is ugly."

"Medically induced coma," Suzy qualified. "I figured I could lock myself in my apartment, disconnect the net and turn off all the phones, until someone told me it was over. Then never leave the building again."

"You can sit it out here," Andy said. "There's no cell phone reception, and no one will ever find you. We can leave Joe and Pete to deal with the drama."

"Thanks, Andy, I'll do that if I can," Suzy said. "Is this what everyone wants? Do you all want to face this?"

Pete squeezed Suzy's hand, and his eyes were shining with delight. "Fuck, yeah. When we've done the Barn Sessions, I've got four year's worth of notebooks waiting for you."

Suzy looked at Andy and Joe.

Joe grinned. "Hell, yes. Restart FOB, but without the touring? That's perfect. If we were hitting the road again, the missus would be unhappy. But if we're just recording, she'll be delighted. I'll promise her another baby, and something outrageously expensive with my share of Barn Sessions, and it will all be good."

Andy nodded. "I think we've all been waiting for you, Suzy. Just waiting for you to come back."

"Then let's go drain Andy's fancy vanadium batteries, then pour whisky into the generator so we can keep playing," Suzy said.

"No!" Joe said. "Not the whisky!"

"Relax," Andy said. "I bought a drum of ethanol in town. I could just imagine all of you disappearing this evening, having used all the electricity, eaten the food and drunk the still dry, leaving me with nothing, so I stocked up."

***

At the airport, Suzy leaned forward, between the car seats. "Want to let me out here, Andy?"

"Okay," Andy said, pulling the car into the set down area in front of the car park. "I'll, um, just loiter outside the car for a bit then."

They'd dropped Joe at his car, which he'd left in the town closest to Andy's place, so it was just Pete in the car, once Andy closed his door and wandered up the sidewalk.

Pete pulled Suzy close. "I'll see you in New York, end of the week," he said. "We can be ordinary together."

Suzy nodded, and rested her face against Pete's. "I need to go, before this gets any harder."

Pete kissed her briefly, then Suzy pulled away, opening the door and climbing out, grabbing her pack and guitar.

She walked past Andy, towards the airport entrance, but he didn't try and stop her to say goodbye. She'd be back soon enough, carrying the right equipment to record the kettle drums, and he'd understand anyway.

At the airline desk, she took a deep breath and said, "One seat, next available flight to Chicago." Sometimes, the only possible thing to do was to go home to Mom, just for a while.

***

Suzy paused the sequence of bars she was working on and reached for the phone. "Hmm?" she said distractedly. There weren't a lot of options for people that would phone her, and none of them would expect politeness, not during work hours.

"Suzy," Pete said. "Shit, Suzy. I don't know if you want to look or not, but there're photos of us."

"What? When?" Suzy said, pushing her office chair across the room, to her laptop. Her serious processor was isolated from the net, for security reasons, but the laptop was on, for her regular email fixes from Pete.

"Sorry, I'm so sorry," Pete said. "No one seems to know it's you, they're all just blahblah about me and a blond."

Suzy opened up the likeliest site, for Pete-type gossip and photos. "Fuck you, Pete."

The photos were grainy telephoto shots, but there they were, sitting on the porch steps of Pete's mom's house, two days earlier, with Pete's kids running around on the lawn. Suzy scrolled down, and found a closer photo of herself, kicking a ball to one of the kids, her hair blowing across her face and hiding her features. The last photo showed her face, Pete's youngest on her hip, as she and Pete walked to the car.

"Fuck, Pete," Suzy said. "How did that happen?"

"Believe me, if I'd known there was someone there, we would have had one of those painful Pete-hits-a-photographer incidents."

Suzy moved to the next site, and found herself looking at a close up of Pete's smiling face, with some gross text about Pete-finds-true-love-and-happiness. "If they only knew," she muttered.

"Are you okay?" Pete asked. "I'm stuck here today dealing with hysterical ex-wives, demanding to know why I'm letting some stranger near the kids, but I could fly out tonight."

"Oh, fuck," Suzy said. "What did you tell them?"

"That you were an old family friend, and had known my mom forever, and they could ring her to check. Mom will oblige."

"Your mom was remarkably calm, wasn't she?"

Pete laughed, and he sounded genuinely amused. "Oh yeah, but you weren't there for the bit where I explained it all to her. She got a bit freaky at first, then she rang your mom, who bitch-slapped some sense into her. Something about you being far too good for me, and she should be grateful you would put up with me, I believe."

"I am too good for you," Suzy said. "Let's be clear about that."

"Love you, I have to go do meetings and calm down ex-wives and make money and shit."


The phone went dead, and Suzy clicked back, to the photo of Pete smiling. She knew that he'd been looking at her, right at the moment the photo was taken.

"Go, work," she told herself. "Before the world falls apart."

***

It was shock, Suzy told herself. Just shock. She wasn't really hurt, it was just a little cut, she was just bleeding a bit. She could hear Pete, almost hysterical, somewhere outside the taxi, but she couldn't look around enough to see him. She had to listen to the cop, who was pressing something to her face, and talking to her.

"Does you neck hurt, miss?" the cop asked. "Can you move your legs?"

"Just my face," Suzy said. "And I can move my legs, but there's metal or something in the way, and I can't get them out."

More hands came in, through the broken taxi window, and someone slid a neck brace around her neck and fastened it.

"Can you make Pete stop shouting?" Suzy asked the cop.

"Your boyfriend?" the cop said. "Hang on."

He leaned out the other side of the wrecked taxi, and Suzy heard the cop call out, "Hey, Pete, your girlfriend says to shut up."

Pete stopped, and Suzy tried to smile her thanks at the cop, but she didn't manage very well.

"Fire and Rescue are here," the cop said. "They're going to cut you free."

"What happened?" Suzy asked. "I've got no idea, there was just this crash…"

"Someone ran a red light into your taxi," the cop said. "Your driver and boyfriend are fine, and we've arrested the other driver for being so drunk he forgot to get hurt."

A large fireman looked through the window. "Hi there miss. What's your name?"

"Suzy."

"Here're some ear protectors, Suzy, because we're about to make a lot of noise out here."

Suzy pulled the ear protectors on, and slipped the breathing mask over her face. She didn't bother explaining that she'd been in a band for years, and if she wasn't already deaf, her hearing was indestructible.

Five minutes later, several strong hands lifted Suzy out of the wreck, and over the debris, putting her down on the sidewalk, where a paramedic was waiting for her.

The wreck of the two cars was impressive, and if that was what Pete had been looking at, she could see why he'd been shouting.

"Pete?"

Pete pushed past the paramedic, wrapping his arms around her, and she hugged him back.

"Excuse me, miss," the paramedic said. "I really do need to check you over."

Pete pulled back a little, to look at Suzy's face. "Hang on, paramedic guy," he said, without looking away from Suzy.

Pete kissed her, just for a second, and said, "Yuck, you taste of blood."

"Fucker," Suzy said, turning back to the paramedic, and found herself looking at the lens of a professional photographer's camera.

In the paramedic's truck, while the paramedic cleaned up the cut on Suzy's face and stuck the edges together, Pete rang the PR agent he'd hired.

"…yeah, I know," Pete said into his phone. "Believe me, we didn't plan to get totaled in a car wreck either… no, I wasn't driving, we were in a fucking taxi… I couldn't see any logos, so I'm guessing a freelancer… that depends if Suzy has to go to ER. I'll call you back."

The paramedic shrugged his shoulders. "I have to always advise people to seek professional care, so it's up to you. If you pass out, have neck or head pain, or start vomiting, please go to an ER."

A cop looked in the back of the truck. "You folks ready to go? We've got a van here, right beside this one, ready to take you home."

"Let's get out of here," Suzy said. "Right now, a car crash is looking insignificant."

The PR agent, a surprisingly dykey woman called Melissa, stared around Suzy's apartment, at the banks of CPUs on the worktable, the mixing deck, and the rack of guitars, then at the messy kitchen.

"You live here, Pete?" Melissa asked disbelievingly. "After seeing your office, I'm struggling with this."

"While I'm in New York," Pete said. "I save the mansion thing for LA. Come in, and meet Suzy."

Melissa blinked and held out a hand for Suzy to shake. "Um, hi," said Melissa. "Knowing context and everything, I'm pretty much blown away by this."

Pete moved the acoustics off the couch and said, "Sit down, so at least Suzy will before she falls over."

Melissa perched on the couch, and Suzy slumped into the other end of it, while Pete sat on the coffee table.

"Did you find out anything?" Pete asked.

"No one is trying to sell Suzy Monroe's True Identity photos, or any variation on that," Melissa said. "The Pete Wentz Car Accident Girlfriend Photos are for sale, and for a high price, so they must be good ones. The auction listing says they're in color, and that Pete's girlfriend is injured and covered in blood."

Suzy looked down at her blood-stained T-shirt and shrugged. "It was messy," she said. "How long until they appear?"

"Hours, at a guess, unless a print magazine picks them up, then we'll have days." Melissa said. "Do you really think someone will ID you from the photos? Meeting you in person, I would never have guessed."

"Someone will," Pete said. "If they're decent color photos of Suzy, someone is going to realize who she is. We need to preempt with a press release. Right now."

Pete found the draft press release Suzy had printed out, in the mess on the coffee table, and handed it to Melissa. "This is what the four of us wrote last month, but we need professional input, because this has to be right."

Melissa took a pen out of her bag and read through the draft, making corrections and scribbling notes. She looked up and said, "And where're the photos?"

"No photos," Pete said.

Melissa shook her head. "They've got photos of Suzy covered in blood in front of a wrecked car, and playing with your kids. You need to release something better than that, to push those photos out of circulation." She looked at Suzy, and Suzy tried not to flinch. "Rock goddess photos, that's what we need, preferably with the whole band. I'll set up a studio and an in-house photographer, and find some stylists, for this evening. Get Joe and Andy here."

Suzy touched her face, where tape covered the adhesive strips over the cut. "Firstly, my face is a mess. Secondly, I don't do rock goddess. The best I can manage is clean and presentable. Thirdly, no fucking way."

Pete and Melissa were staring at her, when Suzy looked up. "You're joking," Pete said. "You're fucking joking. You are completely a rock goddess."

"And touch up will cover worse things than a cut," Melissa said.

"No," Suzy said. "I'm not doing a photo shoot. You knew that, Pete, right from the beginning."

Pete reached for his phone. "You talk Suzy around, I'll hire a chopper or something, to get Andy."

When Pete had closed the bedroom door, and Suzy could hear him talking to Joe, Melissa said, "Do it. It's the biggest possible statement the band could make, about being proud of you. This is not the time to hide, this is the time to let Joe, Andy, and especially Pete stand up for you."

Suzy shook her head.

Melissa studied Suzy for a moment, then said, "I've only met Pete once before, and I thought he was this slick rock star with a looming personal life PR crisis. Another ordinary client. But, having met you, and seen where he lives, I'm reassessing him. He's not being sleazy, and asking me to cover for him. He's not believing his own spin. He's just a guy who loves his partner, and wants to protect her."

"Not fair," Suzy said. "He's decent, so I have to go through a photo shoot."

Melissa nodded. "Want to give me your measurements, so I can get a wardrobe together for you?"

"I'd rather die," Suzy said.

"We'll go through your closet then, when Pete has found Andy. Why does he need a chopper to get Andy?"

"Andy is, um, eccentric. He lives in a shack in the middle of nowhere, in Wisconsin, with no phone. We recorded the album in his barn. He's also the kindest person I've ever met."

Melissa grimaced. "Shack in Wisconsin? Sounds primitive."

"That's the point," Suzy said.

Pete opened the bedroom door. "Joe is on his way to Wisconsin, to get Andy. They should be here by late-afternoon. Joe's pretty freaked about the car accident thing, and he says Suzy is not to get herself killed by any drunk drivers, not now, because he wants to record albums."

"Good," Melissa said. "I'll book the shoot, get clothes sorted, then I'll find you a hotel."

"Hotel?" Suzy said.

"I walked up to your apartment," Melissa said. "You need better security, at least for a while."

"And Joe and Andy will want to stay," Pete said. "You want to share this place with them?"

"I'm taking the processor and mixing deck with me," Suzy said. "I've got an album to produce."

***

Once the dinner trays were cleared onto the hotel suite floor, Melissa opened the packet of photographic proofs.

Joe put a bottle of single malt on the table, and a stack of glasses, and poured glasses.

"These are un-retouched," Melissa said. "If you choose which shots you want to use, I'll get them touched up, and released."

Suzy couldn't look at the photos; all she could focus on was everyone else's faces as they sorted through them. Eventually Pete handed Suzy a photo and said, "That one?" and she had no choice but to look.

It was the shot where Pete had been hugging her from behind, tickling her and making her laugh and squirm, while Joe and Andy had clowned around with guitar and drumsticks behind them.

"Rock goddess," Pete said. "Look at yourself."

They'd curled her hair, slapped make up on every inch of her skin, and stapled the back of her black T-shirt to draw it tighter across her breasts. It was like looking at a caricature of herself, except the others were made up too, and they still looked like themselves, so the problem must be with her perception.

"Did I really look like that at the shoot?" Suzy asked the others.

"You look like that all the time," Andy said. "You've got this amazingly hot mouth, really mobile and luscious, and your eyes are a gorgeous green sometimes. I can get pretty intense about your thighs too, but that's a personal thing."

Suzy could feel her cheeks burning, and she glared at Andy.

Pete said, "Andrew, are you moving in on Suzy?"

"I'm not hitting on Suzy," Andy said. "But if you're not managing to persuade her that she's about to inspire sexual frenzy in an entire generation of horny adolescents, then I figured I should speak up. Besides, Suzy knows she's never going to have to actually smack me."

"And this one," Melissa said, passing another photo to Suzy. "How do you work with these people?"

"I was one of them for too long," Suzy said, taking the photo. "This is all a huge feminist plan to get revenge on me for collecting porn magazines."

The photo was of just her and Pete, at Melissa's suggestion. Suzy had been pressured into wearing one of Melissa's shirts, something in a pale green, undone halfway down, showing far too much of her bra and breasts. Pete's arm was slung around her shoulders, and while she was looking at the camera, he was gazing at her face, and the look on his face was unmistakably affectionate.

"Are you serious?" Suzy asked. "You want to release this photo?"

"Maybe not today, but I think we'll need it in a day or two, once people get their heads around the idea you and Pete are together," Melissa said. "It's a gorgeous photo, of both of you."

Pete leaned across, and whispered, "C'mon, babe. I want the entire world to be jealous of me. Want to know what I was thinking about when it was taken?"

Suzy handed the photo back to Melissa. "Why the fuck not? It's not like I'm ever going to leave this hotel room again, except to be smuggled to Andy's barn."

"Sweet talking there, Pete," Joe said. "I want to compare notes with you one day. You've got some superior insight happening."

"I will punch you again, Joe," Suzy said. "Bad things will happen to you. Do you want me talking confidentially to your missus?"

"I have a loving and trusting relationship with the good lady," Joe said.

"She knows what you do at Andy's place?" Suzy asked. "Or does she think you just sit around playing the guitar all the time?"

"She might not be aware that Andy distils high-grade wheat-based spirit," Joe said. "Or that he's letting me grow a few plants. I have, however, never given her reason to doubt my fidelity, because she is one fierce woman, and owns my balls."

Melissa scooped up the proofs, with the two they'd chosen at the top. "I'll get the photo and the press release out tonight, and I'll be back tomorrow to keep you briefed. If you don't want to watch the mess, don't switch the TV on, or look at any other press."

Suzy stood up. "I'll be in my room, for the next five years."

"Finish producing the album while you're there," Pete called out, as Suzy closed the bedroom door.

***

It made sense, in an odd way, that they'd be hiding in an hotel room while a media storm about the band raged outside, Pete with headphones on, listening to the almost final cut of one of the album tracks on repeat, while Suzy blew him.

She could hear the beat of the track, the bass guitar, kettle drums and bass drum, even through the headphones, and could feel Pete's fingers flexing with the beat, against the back of her head and her neck. She shifted on her knees, grateful for the deep pile carpeting, changing angles, sliding her mouth further down his shaft, pushing her fingers harder into his ass.

Someone banged on their hotel room door, but Suzy ignored them. The door was locked, and Pete was so close to coming that if she stopped sucking long enough to tell them to go away, he might take it personally.

The track ended, and started again, and the banging on the door stopped, then Pete's hips jerked and he was coming, groaning and shaking.

Suzy knelt back on her heels when Pete lifted the headphones off. "Fuck," he said weakly. "We need to write a track, expressly for that purpose."

"Ravel's Bolero, but three minutes long, and with three guitar parts?" Suzy asked, wiping her hand on the hotel bathrobe. "What do you think?"

"Three minutes isn't long enough."

"No, about the track. You've listened to it a few times now," Suzy said.

"I can't believe you took the barn recordings and did that with them," Pete said. "That sounds like we had a full recording rig there, with a couple of sound techs."

"I had to rerecord Andy's drums," Suzy said. "And of course, he and I did the kettle drums separately. The guitars and vocals are from that weekend."

The banging on the door started again, and Joe's voice, muffled by the door, called out, "Stop having sex, Melissa is here."

"Hang on," Pete called out.

Pete pulled on jeans and a shirt, while Suzy sat cross-legged on the rumpled bed, watching him. "You need to hear this," Pete said. "You really do. I'm not asking you to look at any of the sites or anything, but you're part of the band, and this is band business, as well as personal to you."

"As soon as the TV goes on, I'm leaving the room," Suzy said. "I'll only listen to Melissa, okay?"

Suzy found a pair of her jeans, buried in the jumble of Pete's clothes, and pulled them on, then stole one of Pete's T-shirts in revenge and wandered out into the central area of the hotel suite, combing her hair, taking care not to bump the sore part of her face. She didn't want to look in a mirror to see if the bruising had spread, it felt sore enough already.

Melissa was sitting at the dining table, fat folder of printouts in front of her, and when Suzy slid into a seat, Joe put a mug of coffee down in front of her.

Melissa looked around the table. "Has anyone looked at any media outlets today? Turned on the TV?"

"Suzy asked for a complete blackout, and we've been respecting that," Andy said.

"Ah," Melissa said, looking at Suzy. "Probably a good thing. You've had pretty much saturation coverage. In terms of promoting the new album, you couldn't ask for a better profile, but some of the coverage hasn't been tasteful or kind, as we'd anticipated."

"The car wreck photos?" Suzy asked.

"Do you want to see them?" Melissa asked. "I printed them out, just in case you did."

Suzy nodded, and Melissa slid a printout across the table.

"Oh," Suzy said. The first photo was of Pete, being held back by a police officer, obviously distraught, with the wrecked cars in the background. The next one was an indistinct shot of Suzy being helped from the wreckage. Then there were the close-ups, of Pete hugging her, and of Suzy's face, shocked and blood-streaked.

Pete wrapped his arms around Suzy briefly, and Andy took the printouts from her.

"Not good," Joe said. "I hope you rang your mom and warned her."

"Twice," Suzy said. "Just to make sure she understood I wasn't actually hurt, and that I'd not be answering the phone again any time soon."

"Those photos appeared late yesterday, with a fair bit of splash, and our release hit about six hours after that," Melissa said. "I have a huge number of requests for interviews here, some of the offers with large checks attached. Most of the requests are junk, and we can bin them, but I can show you the serious ones."

"How serious?" Pete asked. "I mean, in terms of respectability, not dollars."

Suzy looked at Pete in surprise, and he shrugged at her.

"Rolling Stone," Melissa said. "Planet Out, New York Times. The big dollar offers are from the glossies, as you'd expect. Oprah's people have emailed, but with no firm offer."

"Oprah?" Joe asked. "Why? Has she ever heard our music?"

"I doubt it," Melissa said. "I'd advise against dealing with her, if you want my opinion. How many sales do you make to Mid West women over fifty?"

Suzy leaned her elbows on the table and studied her coffee. "I don't know. We could make Pete be endearing on her show, and see if we can break into that market. I did live in Albuquerque for a couple of years, and have a healthy respect for the middle-aged women there."

"You lived in Albuquerque?" Joe asked. "Why?"

"These are genuine Albuquerque breasts," Suzy said.

When she looked up from the photos again, Joe and Andy were staring at the front of her T-shirt.

"Albuquerque does good breasts then?" Joe asked.

Andy nodded his head mutely.

Melissa tapped fingernails against the tabletop. "Moving right along. A couple of the pieces of coverage have been so hostile that I'd suggest forwarding the information to your lawyers. There are anti-vilification laws for a reason. If your lawyers aren't able to deal with that kind of civil case, I can recommend specialist attorneys."

"And the rest?" Pete asked.

"A great many before-and-after photo comparisons of Suzy, as anticipated. Some prurient speculation about when Pete and Suzy got together. The occasional report has even noticed that the band has a new album on the way."

"Are we winning or losing?" Suzy asked.

"In my opinion?" Melissa asked. "We're winning. You took control of the situation, and of the information. This was not something that someone else stumbled upon, this is something you did as a group, and with some forethought."

"What would you suggest next?" Andy asked.

"Two interviews, in a couple of days. Ideally, one of them would be Suzy and Pete, but Pete by himself will have to do. And the band for the other. Two different outlets, the band interview about the album and future plans, and Pete's interview a personal one."

"Until then?" Joe asked.

"Dial out for pizza," Melissa said. "Catch up on your reading. Do whatever it is the four of you do when you're locked in a hotel suite together. You must have worked this out over the years, touring together."

Pete's hand squeezed Suzy's thigh, then slid higher.

"I'll be in touch," Melissa said. "Do you want me to take this folder with me?"

"Please," Suzy said, and Pete cut in and said, "No!"

Suzy looked at Pete for a moment, and said, "Okay, but I don't want to hear a thing about it."

When Melissa had left, Pete slid the car crash photos into the folder and pushed it aside. "Everyone awake?" he asked, and the three of them nodded. "Good, because it's time to talk plans."

Joe banged the table with his fist, grinning. "Yes! What's first? The next album, or world domination?"

"I want to release a single, from Barn Sessions," Pete says. "Right now. What have you got ready, Suzy?"

Suzy frowned at Pete. "Nothing. Get fucked."

"Of course you've got tracks ready," Pete insisted. "You've been playing them for me."

"I've had four weeks," Suzy said. "And that included a trip to Wisconsin to record additional material."

"Have you really got tracks ready?" Joe said. "Can we hear them now?"

"I'll go hide the sex toys," Pete said, "and you can play them through the speakers on the mix deck in our room." He bounded into their bedroom, and Suzy could see him rummaging through the mess on the floor.

"Which tracks are ready?" Andy asked. "Which track does Pete want for the single? Do you know?"

"The tracks aren't ready," Suzy said. "Really."

"Room's safe," Pete called out, and Suzy followed Andy and Joe in reluctantly, secretly relieved that Pete had remembered to pull up the blankets on the bed to hide the sheet.

Pete, Andy and Joe sprawled on the bed, while Suzy hooked up the speakers and selected the tracks that were closest to finished.

"I'll be in the main room," she said, and she closed the door to the bedroom behind herself.

Fifteen minutes of boredom, listening to the muted sound of the music playing in the other room. She couldn't put the TV on… The file of printouts was on the table still, so Suzy picked it up to flick through while she sat on the couch. Eventually, she'd need to find out what people had said about her anyway.

The before-and-after photos were kind of interesting, reminding Suzy that she'd never connected with her old body anyway, only ever carried it around like a burden, something to be endured. Then she found someone's poison about Pete.

The guys tumbled out of the bedroom, laughing and shouting, then they went quiet and Pete took the folder and the printouts out of her hands.

"No, babe," he said. "Don't look at them."

Suzy crawled into his lap, on the couch, and she could feel Joe beside her on the other side and Andy kneeling in front of her, hands on her knees.

"I'm not strong enough for this," she said.

Andy said, "You were strong enough to live in Albuquerque for two years, having the kind of surgery that it terrifies me to think of. Then you were strong enough to come back to us, and to come out. You were strong enough to finally get Pete to see some sense--because remember, Pete hasn't got a fucking clue--and realize the two of you belong together. And we've just listened to what you insist are rough cuts of the Barn Sessions tracks, and you were strong enough to make us all sound like fucking geniuses, instead of crazed lunatics in a grubby barn playing on a twelve volt system."

Paper crackled, and Pete said, "Does someone want to grab my laptop, from the bedroom? This shit stops now."

Joe moved, and Suzy could hear him digging through the mess in the bedroom, then he handed Pete his laptop.

"Shift a bit, Suzy," Pete said, settling the laptop on her thighs and opening it.

"What are you doing?" Andy asked.

"Updating my fucking blog," Pete said.

Suzy watched Pete's face, while he typed, rather than the screen, which was at too oblique an angle for her to read. She'd found Pete's blog, after the weekend in Wisconsin, and had been quietly pleased he'd managed to restrain himself to a cryptic post about best weekend ever and true friends. Since then, he'd been low key, for him, managing to only hint at being in love, and at new musical projects, both of which she'd counted as successes in moderation.

"So now you all know what's been happening," Pete read. "We were hoping to keep it to ourselves for a bit longer, until the album was released, but a drunk driver and a fucking photographer ruined that. I've loved Suzy since the first crazy moment I saw her, thirteen years ago, but it takes me a while to work things out (you can ask Andy about that), and it wasn't until she walked into FOB's reunion, a month ago, that it happened for me. If I could have realized this sooner, then maybe FOB wouldn't have broken up years ago, and Suzy and I wouldn't have spent the past four years apart.

"Suzy wasn't hurt badly in the car crash, despite what the photos look like. She's here with me, and Joe and Andy are too, and we're in a hotel suite, listening to the roughs of the Barn Sessions album, and talking about what to do next."

"Pete? Are you sure?" Suzy said, but Pete just clicked the mouse buttons on the keyboard.

When he looked up from the screen, he said, "I've been thinking about things…"

Joe and Andy made noises of derision, and Pete said, "Shut up. We've got five tracks still, from the last studio album, which we never finished. We can't complete the album, and the contract has long been bought out anyway. I guess the options there are discard the songs, release them as an EP, or put them up for free download. Suzy?"

"Can't finish the album, my voice has changed too much, and I'm not happy with the idea of having put all this effort into coming out, then immediately releasing Patrick material."

Andy shrugged. "Free download then? We're not asking people to pay for the tracks, and I guess some completists might want them."

"Joe?" Pete asked.

"Can we sit on them for a while? Let's get some new stuff out there first," Joe suggested. "Then we can think about how important those tracks are to us."

"Did anyone ever do the production on the tracks?" Suzy asked. "Or are they still raw recordings?"

"Still raw," Pete said. "I've got the masters, in my vault. We'll delay dealing with those tracks for a while then. The next issue is the studio album. I can see two options here. The first is that Suzy and I do some intensive first draft writing, then the four of us lock ourselves in at Andy's place, and put together the album."

"Winter is looming," Andy said. "Four feet of snow. It gets cold, and we'll have to run the generator constantly. And live on the bus in the barn."

"Craziness," Suzy said. "But we've done worse. Is there another option, that doesn't involve thermal underwear and trying to have sex quietly for weeks at a time?"

"We do an album of the solo material Suzy has written over the past few years, what she calls her Albuquerque songs," Pete said.

Joe, Andy and Pete were all watching Suzy, waiting for her to say something. "Um, what?" was the best she could manage.

"I've heard the material," Pete said. "It's all like Yellow Girl, all classic Suzy compositions, with some really gut-wrenching lyrics. I know you didn't write the tracks for a four piece outfit, but it could be done."

"I'd have to write additional guitar parts," Suzy said. "Are you serious, Pete? This is not Fall Out Boy material."

"Maybe not old Fall Out Boy," Andy said. "But that was years ago, and we've all changed, you most obviously, so maybe we want to do something completely new."

"You'd all really do an album of my songs?" Suzy asked.

It was Joe who took Suzy's hand. "I'm not sure what's not happening in your head, Suzy, but I think we're all trying to make it clear we'd crawl through broken glass for you. Doing an album of your work will be far more pleasant than anything involving jagged edges, or four feet of snow and being away from my kids. I really don't care what the songs are like, I'm happy to play acoustic for a change, or to go reggae, or whatever--I just want to make music with you."

Suzy leaned forward, making Pete squawk and grab his laptop, and hugged Joe.

***

"What do you think?" Pete asked, crawling in between Suzy and the newspaper.

Suzy nudged her glasses up her nose with difficulty and shook the paper out. "That I can't read with you in the way? That I've not had any coffee yet?"

She lifted her elbow to let Pete out again, and waited until he'd wrapped a towel around his waist and disappeared out into the hotel suite, before turning back to the paper.

She wasn't sure why Pete had decided that telling all to the New York Times had been the right choice, but there it was, in the Magazine section, a page of Pete rambling and the photo of the two of them.

Your personal life has been a matter of public entertainment for years. What's it like, the one time you try to keep it quiet, to have to come out or be outed?

I don't give a damn about the privacy of my personal life, not after all this time. I've not hidden much ever, I'm just too loud and indiscreet. Suzy, though, is intensely private, and always has been. We talked about going away somewhere together, running away, just so she didn't have to go through this public exposure.

Eloping?

Technically, I'm still married to someone else, so that's not an option at the moment. I'd marry her, for sure, if she'd have me. I've proposed to her often enough, usually in some hugely inappropriate way. I think the most recent time was during a show, in Arizona a few years ago, in front of ten thousand people. No, make that in the New York Times. Marry me, babe?

I see what you mean about loud and indiscreet. Tell us about what happened at the FOB reunion.

Andy decided to get the four of us together, for a weekend on his property in Wisconsin. He tracked down Suzy and persuaded her to join us, for the first time since the band had split four years before. Suzy and I had been in touch during that time, but I'd not seen her in person since before she'd transitioned. It was like all the layers of unhappiness had been peeled from her, and she shone from within. It took about three hours, sitting around the fire and playing acoustic, listening to her sing, for me to fall completely in love with the person who'd been my best friend for nine years. Or possibly I worked out I'd been in love with her the whole time.

How'd she feel about that?

The words 'arrogant' and 'superficial' and 'asshole' were used. Not a strong start there. She was right, of course, but I didn't realize how right until the next day, when I heard her sing the chorus to Yellow Girl a capella. There's nothing like discovering one of the best and most heart-breaking ballads of the past few years was written about you to smack a guy down. Once we got past that, everything was wonderful.

Yellow Girl is about you?

It's about Suzy being amazingly strong and resilient. And me being a jerk. I fail at relationships in general, and I can't quite believe she puts up with me.


Pete pushed the bedroom door open, two coffee mugs in his hands.

"I can't believe I put up with you either, and I'm not doing the wedding thing with you," Suzy said. "I don't care how inappropriately you propose."

"Damn," Pete said. "I'll take the jewelry back then."

"You bought a ring?" Suzy asked. "You're fucking with me?"

"Of course I bought a ring," Pete said. "Do you want to see it, just so you know what you're missing out on?"

"Let me finish the article first," Suzy said. "You arrogant, superficial asshole."

You've mentioned Suzy transitioning. What's it like to have someone close to you change gender?

Some of it is incredibly easy. It's like Suzy was always Suzy inside, and that's who I knew and loved, and now her outside matches that too. And her outside is incredibly hot, which is a source of great personal happiness. Then there were the unexplained sadnesses, the small things that showed the old Suzy was struggling with life, and they're all gone now. Some of it can be tricky. The three of us guys in the band sometimes forget Suzy is a woman now, and, yeah, then she complains. And then sometimes we really, really remember she's a woman, like the time she punched Joe for staring at her cleavage too long. I get unlimited cleavage staring rights, so I'm fine.

Were you and Suzy lovers before she transitioned?

No.

Why not?

I'm not very good at being queer, and I know because I've tried it a few times. And Suzy never asked.

Would you have, if she'd asked?

Huh? Of course.

Despite not being queer?

I would have closed my eyes and imagined a woman exactly like she is now.


"How am I going so far?" Pete asked.

"I've not broken up with you yet," Suzy said, taking the mug of coffee Pete held out to her.

And the future?

Suzy is producing the Barn Sessions album at the moment, and we've got plans to shoot a video for the single from the album in the near future. Then we'll be relocating to Chicago for the winter, to put together a studio album. Then another studio album, next year. Just wait until you hear Suzy's voice.


"Video!" Suzy shouted. "What fucking video?!"

"For the single," Pete said. "I was thinking, concept-wise, that to match the album, we should film it on Andy's property, kind of fake-low budget, with lots of shots of the four of us goofing around."

The bedroom door opened, and Andy appeared in the doorway wearing a hotel robe and holding a copy of the paper. "What fucking video? And are you two really getting married?"

"Knock on the door," Suzy said, pulling the bedding up to her armpits. "No wedding. And we're not filming a video."

"On your property," Pete said. "In the barn. With lots of shots of you with no shirt on playing kettle drums."

"Doesn't Joe want to burst into our bedroom too?" Suzy asked.

"He's on the phone to his missus, explaining about the whole cleavage punching thing," Andy said. "Nice one, Pete."

"Shit."

"So where's the ring?" Suzy said. "I want to see what I'm turning down."

Pete leaned over the edge of the bed and rustled through his briefcase, then handed Suzy a jeweler's box.

Suzy opened it up and nodded approvingly. "Nice," she said. "Large enough to say 'shitload of cash' but not so glitzy as to say 'fake'. A single diamond, with a certificate proving it's not from a country that uses child slave labor."

Andy nodded. "Good touch."

"But?" Pete asked.

"Spoil me with collectible guitars, babe," Suzy said. "There are some parts of female social conditioning I've not absorbed."

"If I'd proposed with an immaculate 1963 Gibson Les Paul, you might have said yes?" Pete asked, looking stunned.

"Not a chance," Suzy said, handing back the jeweler's box. "But I would have kept the guitar."

"I'm going," Andy said, closing the door again.

Pete put the jeweler's box back in his briefcase. "Damn. Does this mean you'll never marry me?"

Suzy tossed the newspaper on the floor and rolled over, closer to Pete. "I think we might be talking about two different things here. I'd love to be married to you--"

Pete pushed her back on the bed, mouth jammed over hers, until Suzy smacked his towel-clad ass hard enough to make him stop, though he didn't let her sit up.

"As I was saying, no problems with being married to you. It's the wedding thing I can’t face, because I've already been to one of your weddings, and that was enough forever."

"So what do you want?" Pete asked. "Because, for a while there it was sounding like you were rejecting me."

"Oh, I think you should be rejected frequently, just for your own good. I will marry you, once you're divorced, but it has to be a completely private wedding. You and me, and two witnesses, and you get to tell your mom only."

"What?"

"No diamonds, no rings, no tuxedos, no cake, no photos. I want matching tattoos. No fuss, no mess, no money, apart from a pre-nup. Just you and me."

Pete started to smile slowly. "Do we get a honeymoon?"

"Sure, as long as it doesn't involve a fucking hotel in New York."

"And I can keep proposing to you inappropriately?" Pete asked.

"Works for me. Just remember the collectible guitars."

***

Part Three: Don't Shake the Walls Tonight

(Leave a comment)

Comments:


From:[info]ai_hen
Date:June 29th, 2008 12:22 pm (UTC)
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♥ Pete, inappropriate proposals and all....
From:[info]sarkka
Date:July 5th, 2008 04:02 pm (UTC)
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GUH GUH GUH ! ;)

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