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To Take What I'm Given With Grace

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The Wentz Corporation makes plastics. The first million came from aglets. They were the first major company to produce them in plastic, as opposed to metal. From there the company grew, specializing in niche plastic items. Last year they went international and opened the London office. Needless to say, it's a pretty safe bet that if your shoelaces have aglets, they were made by the Wentz Corporation.

Peter Lewis Kingston Wentz III, or Pete, as he prefers to be called, is twenty-four years old. He grew up in Wilmette, Illinois in a large house at the top of a hill. He is the eldest of three children and is expected to take over the family business when his father retires. But Pete has other plans. Even though his parents have never approved, it's long been a dream of his to start his own clothing line. He much prefers fashion to plastics. In a few months he'll turn twenty-five and have access to his trust fund. And then nothing is going to stop him from carrying out his dreams.

Patrick Stump is nineteen years old. He grew up in Glenview, Illinois, in a small house on a suburban street, less than ten miles away from the Wentz residence. Currently, he's attending Columbia on scholarship, majoring in music composition. Patrick lives in an apartment on campus, right down the hall from a practice space and he can often be found putting it to good use. He knew he was taking a chance majoring in music, but it's the only thing he's ever truly been passionate about. He considers himself incredibly lucky to be able to attend Columbia. He could have never afforded it without the scholarship.

The two have never met. This is about to change.

--

A wrench has been thrown into Pete's plans. His lawyer informed him roughly a month ago that they found a stipulation in his trust fund. He doesn't know if he somehow missed it, or if he wasn't quite as subtle with his business planning as he had hoped and his parents threw in an extra hoop for him to jump through when he wasn't looking. Either way, when he gets off the phone with his lawyers, the outcome is the same. He has to be married before he gets access to the trust fund. Not only married, but married for a year. His parents know him too well. He knows his parents have concerns about what he's going to do with the money, and when considers his misspent youth, he thinks they have every right to.

Except for the fact that he's been working for his father for three years now, and he's got more than his fair share of business experience under his belt. On top of that, six months ago his parents took off to set up the London office and then take some time to tour Europe, leaving him in charge of the company. Clearly, they trust him. And it's hardly like he's going to spend it on hookers and blow. He wants to start his own business and they know that. He thought they'd be proud to see he was following through, that this wasn't just some silly idea he was diving into headfirst.

Never mind that Pete and relationships have never gotten along well. So if they were thinking that a marriage would provide some kind of stability for him, well, he can't say that he agrees. After a series of bad breakups, Pete decided the single life was the way to go for him. He's been single for over a year and he thinks this is the most stable he's been in his entire life.

He's spent the past month looking for loopholes, trying to figure out a way to get around this obstacle, but there are none to be found. And his lawyer is fucking crafty. His only option is to actually get married. There's a part of him that is very, very glad he and his parents are oceans apart right now, or he's certain he would be in his father's office, screaming at him as though he were seventeen again and they were taking away his car.

He spends an evening going through a mental list of his ex-girlfriends, wondering which of them he could stand living with for a year, and comes up with exactly zero. He's about to give up and call it a night when he gets an idea. He leaves a voicemail on his lawyer's cell phone several minutes later, asking him to check the terms of the trust fund. He needs to know if there are any other specifics mentioned, like say the gender of his spouse.

He gets the call the next day informing him that the clause is vague in those terms. Basically he can marry whomever he wants. He knows his parents left it vague intentionally. He knows they're not trying to hurt him with this; they know there's the possibility that the one might not be a woman.

He wonders what the odds are of it blowing up in his face if he finds a stranger off the street and pays them to pretend for a little while.

--

Patrick spends Christmas break at home with his parents in Glenview. It's his second year at college, but somehow the novelty still hasn't worn off; he really loves Columbia. He spends a lot of time telling his mom about the classes he plans to take next semester, about how even his core classes are interesting. He even tells her how awesome his roommate, Chris, is, how great it is to live with someone who shares his major and musical interests, and how his friend Sean is starting up a new band.

Her only response is to ask if any of Patrick's friends are maybe more than friends; he just sighs. (That one night stand he had with the drummer from Sean's band does not count.) He learned back in his senior year of high school that coming out to his parents just means they're going drop not so subtle, "Do you have a boyfriend yet?" hints instead of "Do you have a girlfriend yet?" ones.

Patrick certainly wouldn't mind having a boyfriend, but it's kind of a two-person decision, and he can't make someone want to date him if they don't want to. College seems to be the time for ditching the person you dated in high school and hooking up with as many people as possible. And while that was useful for getting rid of that pesky virginity thing when he was a freshman, he hasn't yet found someone who wants an actual relationship. It's not like he minds that much; it gives him more time to focus on school, which is what's most important to him anyway.

The school informs him on January 5th that his scholarship has run out. The woman he spoke to was very sorry, but they lost their funding and there was just nothing else she could do. And Patrick had thought the New Year had started off so well.

--

Jon Walker goes to Columbia with Patrick; he's studying photography and is a shift supervisor at Starbucks. The Starbucks he works at is directly across the street from The Wentz Corporation's downtown office. He also happens to be Pete Wentz's favorite barista.

He met Pete for the first time, roughly six months ago. He'd just gotten promoted and it was his first day at a new location, so of course the third person he waited on had to be Pete Wentz. The Wentz Corporation had been a household name in Chicago for years, but Pete had gotten his fair share of attention, showing up in the tabloids, first for his wild partying as a teenager, and more recently for dating a string of starlets.

Jon had handed him his coffee with a smile and said, "Have a nice day, Mr. Wentz."

Pete had just grinned back at him and said, "Thanks. And call me Pete. Mr. Wentz is my dad."

Jon learned quickly that Pete was much more down to earth than anyone gave him credit for. Plus he always tipped well, and that certainly didn't hurt, given Jon's status as broke college student.

Pete walks into Starbucks on January 6th, and by the time he approaches the counter and orders his usual, Jon can tell that he's in a bad mood. He's not the greatest at reading people, but after seeing Pete three to four days a week for that past six months, Jon had picked up on how to read him.

Jon's still half asleep and not in the best of moods himself. Yesterday Patrick had told him of his financial troubles and demanded to be taken out and gotten drunk. Jon was just thankful for the fact that Patrick is a lightweight and had passed out on Jon's bedroom floor around midnight. Some people have to be up at four am to open, thank you very much.

"Something wrong?" he asks Pete, while he waits for the espresso to finish pouring.

"Hmm?" Pete says. He's distracted, and Jon knows something must be wrong. Pete will usually talk to him about something or other, ask him how school is going.

"You seem bummed."

"Oh. Yeah, I am I guess. I was all set to get started on this...project I've had in the works for like three years. And it looks like I've lost my funding."

"Man, that sucks," Jon says as he hands Pete his coffee. "I mean, how does money just disappear like that, you know? My friend Patrick just lost his scholarship and he doesn't know if he's going to be able to go back to school next semester."

"Really? That's awful." Pete takes a sip of his coffee. "Is he a photographer like you?"

There are only a few people in line and they're being taken care of. Jon doesn't think the others will mind if he talks to Pete for a few more minutes.

"Nope, musician. It's a fucking shame too; he's like some sort of genius. He plays practically everything."

"Oh?" Pete's eyes light up. "Does he play around here?"

"He usually does acoustic stuff at Metropolis Coffee up by Loyola, but that's probably kind of a hike for you." Jon's certain that Pete has better things to do than drive a half an hour out of his way to see a complete stranger at an open mic night, but he certainly seems interested.

"Kind of. I'll try and catch him sometime. Maybe I could offer him a scholarship. We've usually got some extra funds kicking around for that sort of thing." Pete looks down at his watch. "I'd better get going before I start getting angry phone calls from Greta.”

Jon laughs. "Tell her I said 'hi.'"

"Will do!" Pete calls back, grinning as he heads out the door.

--

Greta Salpeter is twenty-one years old. She's been working for the Wentz Corporation since she graduated high school. She walked into the lobby one day, resume in hand, and refused to leave until Mr. Wentz gave her an interview. At the time, there weren't any positions to interview for, but by the time she had left, she had a job. Mr. Wentz said he admired her spunk and hired her to be Pete's secretary. Granted, it was at a time when Pete really had no need for a secretary, but that is neither here nor there. They've gotten to know each other pretty well since then. Greta's pretty sure Pete would be lost without her now.

Pete walks into the office, all smiles. A far cry from the day before when he had done nothing but mope and refused to tell Greta what was wrong.

"You're in a good mood," Greta says.

"I'm in an optimistic mood," he tells her, still smiling. "Jon says 'hi,' by the way."

Greta looks down, trying to hide her blush.

"Here are your messages," she says.

She hands him the stack of post-it notes that had been sitting next to her computer. Three people had already called for Pete while he was taking his sweet time getting his coffee.

"Thanks." Pete sticks the notes to the side of his coffee cup and looks back at her. "He likes you."

"He met me once, Pete. Stop trying to play matchmaker and go do your job, Mr. Millionaire Businessman."

"Alright, alright," Pete laughs as he walks down the hall to his office.

Five o'clock rolls around before she knows where the day has gone. Pete had meetings with four different clients, and only two of them were the nice kind. Greta makes mental notes on all of Pete's clients. They fall into one of two categories. The nice clients get offered candy. The others, who talk shit about Pete behind his back, get coffee, with the addition of her spit.

If there's one thing she's learned about Pete in the past few years, it's that he's genuinely a good person. He cares about people; he's not a cutthroat businessperson who only cares about the bottom line. She may be a little overprotective of him, but she's okay with that. This job is more than just a job to her.

Despite the busy day he's had -- he didn't even have the time to leave for lunch -- Pete leaves not just in a good mood, but looking almost excited. Greta raises an eyebrow at him as he plucks two kisses from the candy bowl on her desk.

"You're up to something."

"Maybe, maybe not."

--

Pete is trying not to get excited. This could all turn out to be nothing after all.

It's just that he spent his lunch hour looking into the qualifications for the scholarship that the Wentz Corporation gives out every two years. They had been so busy starting up the London office and handing over control of the Chicago office to Pete that they'd missed last year. That money is still there, just waiting to be given to some deserving student.

He also called Metropolis Coffee and asked when they have live music. Tonight is one of those nights. Pete has the address in his suit pocket. He doesn't have any plans for the evening and even if Patrick doesn't show, he'll have spent some time relaxing and enjoying live music.

He's willing to admit that bribing someone with a scholarship in exchange for marrying him is one of his less sane ideas. But if Patrick is a friend of Jon’s, Pete's pretty sure he's got to be a halfway decent guy. Or at the very least, not a crazy person.

He hails a cab. What's the worst that could happen? he thinks.

He goes over the possible outcomes in his head on the way over. Patrick says no and tells some shitty gossip rag what Pete did. He has PR people to squash things like that. And as awful as he feels for thinking it, who's going to believe him anyway?

Patrick says no because he's straight. Pete figures there are an awful lot of guys who would be gay for pay out there and Patrick wouldn't have to do that, just some kisses and smiles for the camera when they go out in public.

Patrick says no because he's in a relationship. So far this one seems the most plausible and the most likely to screw up Pete's plans. In his experience, significant others usually show up at these sorts of things to be supportive. They're either the most interested or the least interested. Pete makes a mental note to keep an eye out for any likely suspects before he approaches Patrick with any kind of deal.

And then again, he could be terrible. Jon might not know good music if it hit in the face. Pete very seriously doubts this. On more than one occasion he and Jon have talked about music and Jon has mentioned he's played bass for a few couple bands before. Pete just wants to have all his bases covered; there's no need to be disappointed over an outcome that he forgot to consider.

The cab turns onto Granville and Pete's only a little nervous as he gets out in front of the coffee shop. He orders himself a cup of coffee and slice of chocolate pie on suggestion from the girl behind the counter. Walking past the counter, he finds an area with more seating and a stage against the windows. There's an empty table towards the back that he claims as his own.

He gets a few looks and hopes that they're more because he came straight from work, still in his suit and tie, rather than from being recognized. The type of people who frequent open mic nights are generally not the type who know would recognize him.

First up, there’s a guy on guitar and a girl on a synth. They introduce themselves as being from Pennsylvania, so while they're actually pretty good, they obviously are not who Pete is looking for. They're just finishing up when a guy wearing a bright blue vest and trucker cap walks through the door, guitar case in hand and backpack on his shoulders. Pete overhears him apologize to one of the baristas for being late, as he sets his things down near the stage.

"No problem, Patrick. You're just in time."

Pete fidgets in his seat and sips his coffee. The knot in his stomach that had mostly gone away on the cab ride is back again. Patrick tunes his guitar, adjusts the microphone, and sits down on a stool in the middle of the stage.

"Hi, I'm Patrick," he says to the handful of people in the room. He smiles nervously. "And um, I'm going to play some songs for you."

He starts with a Saves The Day cover and all eyes are on him. Every single person in the room has set down their cups of coffee, put their conversations on hold, and turned their attention to the stage. His set lasts roughly twenty-five minutes and consists solely of cover songs. All Pete can think is that Jon was right; genius is exactly the word he'd use to describe Patrick. The knot in Pete's stomach is gone. It's been replaced by something different, something akin to seeing your crush on the first day of school, but not quite.

Pete is pretty certain that Patrick deserves all the scholarships in the world. Actually, what he really deserves is a fucking recording contract. But -- at least right now -- that's not in Pete's power to give. A scholarship however, he mostly likely can. Patrick just needs to have the right grades, but honestly, with a voice like that, Pete thinks he could probably fudge some paperwork if need be. What do grades prove anyway?

It certainly doesn't hurt that Patrick is really attractive -- atrocious taste in outerwear aside. He's not too tall either; he's probably around Pete's height, maybe a little shorter. Pete can't help but think that they'd look together good in photos. When Pete walks out the door that evening, he already knows he's going to end up asking this kid to marry him. It's stupid and impulsive and there are a million things that could go wrong. But Patrick announced the next time he's going to be playing and Pete's already got the date marked in his Blackberry. He can't wait. He really hopes Patrick says yes.

--

The first time it happened, Patrick was certain he was mistaken. There was no way that Pete Wentz just happened to be in the coffee shop where Patrick was playing. Except that there really wasn't any way you could miss him. He'd stood out like a sore thumb in his suit and tie, briefcase underneath his table as he sipped his coffee. But Patrick had convinced himself there had to be someone who looked remarkably like him there that day, complete with the same stupid haircut.

The thing is -- and normally, Patrick's not this guy -- but he pretty much hates Pete on principle. He doesn't like to judge people he's never met, he knows the media does their thing and everyone has a bad day sometimes. It's just that, it's Pete Wentz. The guy is a fucking douchebag. It's not exactly a secret.

Patrick remembers being fifteen, in the grocery store with his mom the day the news broke. Remembers seeing Pete’s face on the cover of all the tabloids, headlines announcing how he had OD'ed in a parking lot somewhere.

"Such a shame about that Wentz boy," his mom had said, clucking her tongue.

All Patrick could think was how much he despised people like that. People who had everything handed to them but chose to get fucked up because they had nothing else better to do.

Pete hadn't shown up on the covers of any tabloids recently, and the fact that Patrick even knew what Pete looked like these days got under his skin. He always seemed to show up in the Money section of USA Today when Patrick just wanted to get to the Life section.

If someone had told him that not only was Pete there, but there specifically to see him, he would've laughed in their face.

Except that two days later, it happens again. There's no mistaking it, and there's no telling himself that this is Pete Wentz's evil (or perhaps not so evil?) twin. He's sitting at the exact same table he was at the last time, this time without his brief case, and instead of a dress shirt and tie, he's wearing a Smiths t-shirt underneath his suit. As he tunes his guitar, Patrick wonders if even millionaires have Casual Fridays.

Patrick has to go outside into the cold January air and take a few deeps breaths to clear his head before he starts his set. Seriously, one of the richest people in Chicago randomly showing up somewhere that he's playing is a little weird. Said millionaire coming back a second time, possibly for the sole purpose of seeing him, is enough to freak him the hell out.

One of the girls comes out to get him a moment later. He doesn't remember her name but she usually works in the evenings when Patrick plays.

"Patrick?" she says, leaning out of the open door a little, "Are you okay?"

"Um, yeah." He laughs nervously, and he can see his breath. He should really get back inside; this isn't good for his voice at all. "I'm not hallucinating though, right? That is Pete Wentz in there?" She nods.

"Weird, huh? He was here the other night too."

"I noticed," Patrick mumbles as he goes back inside.

He gets settled up on stage, introduces himself as usual, and starts playing. He pretends Pete does not exist. He doesn't even look towards the back of the coffee shop. There's no one special there. He focuses on his singing; it's the important thing after all. This has never been about how many people show up or who they are.

He's able to keep this up all the way until after his set, when he's packing up his guitar. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Pete coming towards him. Patrick's heart starts pounding in his chest and he knows this is one of those life-changing moments that he's going to remember forever. Because Pete Wentz, the goddamn plastics baron of Chicago, is probably about to like, ask him to come play at one of his fancy rich person parties and Patrick will somehow manage to become an overnight success. But that'll only happen if he can just keep his mouth shut long enough and not blurt out that he thinks Pete is a stupid spoiled rich kid and also sort of a douche.

And then Pete stops in his tracks. He pulls his phone out of his pocket and turns back towards his table. From what Patrick can overhear, because it's not like he's eavesdropping or anything, it doesn't sound like a particularly pleasant conversation. Patrick thinks he really needs to stop getting worked up over nothing. He wouldn't be surprised if this whole thing had been some strange coincidence and Pete never shows up at one of his shows again.

--

On Sunday, Patrick plays at a place in Bridgeport; he's never been there before but he likes it. He's admiring the set up of the couches and thinking about how it would be a nice place to come and relax after class, when he sees Pete Wentz walk through the door. He's wearing skinny jeans and a hoodie and Patrick doesn't even recognize him until he pushes back the hood and he can see Pete's face more clearly. Seriously, it's January in Chicago and Pete is wearing a goddamn hoodie instead of a winter coat. It doesn't even look like it's a warm hoodie. It's black with white lettering down one side reading "Love Can't Save You" and it looks like he picked it up at a garage sale, or possibly made it himself. Patrick doesn't know which option is less likely.

He's been less freaked out about Pete showing up since he hung out with Jon, Friday night after his show. Leave it to Jon to not mention that Pete is not only one of his regular customers, but that Jon's gone out of his way to share Patrick's personal business with him.

"It just sort of came up," Jon had said, "Besides, I thought you said you could use all the help you could get."

And well, Jon had a point. Patrick was even less adverse to the idea when he realized that the money wouldn't be coming from Pete personally. It's not like Patrick has anything against The Wentz Corporation. If they wanted to finance his education, more power to them.

Patrick plays a few new songs that night, including some of his own. He's not about to go pulling out all the stops just because Pete's watching (he's come back twice already, after all), but he figures it doesn't hurt to spice things up a bit. Patrick's packing up his guitar when Pete steps up behind him and waits to be acknowledged. Patrick turns around and stares at him. Pete is the one that's been stalking him the past few days; he can be the one to start the conversation.

"Hi," he says, extending a hand, "I'm Pete."

"Yeah, I know," Patrick says before he can stop himself. He shakes Pete's hand and says, "Patrick Stump, nice to meet you."

"Good set tonight. I liked the new stuff," Pete says, grinning. He brushes his bangs out of his eyes and it's only then that Patrick notices he's wearing eyeliner, and hey, that's…whatever. Patrick really doesn't want or need to know what Pete does on his off hours. "Do you have a few minutes? Can I buy you a coffee?"

Patrick nods.

They sit down at a table, Patrick with cup of regular coffee, black, and Pete with something with lots of foam that took six minutes to order.

"So..." Patrick starts, "Jon mentioned something about a scholarship?"

No point beating around the bush. The coffee was a nice gesture and all, but there's really only one reason Patrick is actually sticking around.

"Yeah, I think you'd be pretty much the perfect candidate."

"I don't need to like, apply for this or anything?" Pete shakes his head.

"I can take care of all that."

"I don't mean to sound ungrateful or anything, but it does seem a little weird, just picking a complete stranger on suggestion from the guy who makes your coffee."

"It's not like I just met Jon yesterday," Pete shrugs. "Okay, so..." He shifts in his seat and glances around, like he's making sure there's no one around to overhear. "There is one thing you'd need to do for me." He leans back in his chair, relaxed, and spreads his legs a little bit.

Patrick knew there was going to be a catch. There was no way it could be that easy. Millionaires don't just show up and offer to pay for your college tuition without asking for anything in return.

But this is the part where Patrick is going to have to get up and leave. He doesn't know what Pete had expected, probably for Patrick to be some dumb kid who doesn't know when he's been taking advantage of, but he's not and no alleged scholarship is worth this.

"Look," Patrick sighs, adjusting his hat, "I know you're used to people falling all over themselves to give you what you want, but I'm not gonna like, blow you just so you pick me for this scholarship. I'm not that desperate."

It’s a total lie. Patrick actually is that desperate. He's exhausted pretty much all of his other options and he needs to pay for his classes as soon as possible if he wants to stay enrolled next semester.

Pete doesn't say anything right away. Instead he just sort of stares at Patrick, looking, well, looking like he's just been insulted. Which Patrick figures is probably his fault, but what else was he supposed to think?

"Dude. That is not what I was going to say."

"Sorry," Patrick mumbles.

"God, I know I'm out of touch but does the media really make me out to be some kind of sleaze?"

Patrick doesn't think, "Yeah, they kind of do," is the appropriate response, but he says it anyway. Pete shouldn't have asked if he didn't want an honest answer.

"I guess that's what happens when you date teenagers."

And wow, Patrick is never going to make it in this world if he can't learn to keep his damn mouth shut. Pete just scowls and Patrick thinks, well there goes that opportunity.

"Do you want to hear my deal, or do you want to insult me some more first?"

Patrick can't help himself. "Your hair is stupid."

"Well, your vest is ugly. Are you done?"

Patrick nods. He's a little unnerved by the fact that he's finding Pete kind of charming now that they're actually talking. Now that Pete is a real person, sitting there in front of Patrick, buying him coffee, and making fun of his choice in outerwear, instead of just some face in a newspaper or tabloid next to a headline.

"Okay, here's the thing, I was supposed to get access to my trust fund this year but there have been some complications."

Any goodwill Pete earned himself is gone as soon as the words 'trust fund' comes out of his mouth. Patrick most likely won't be able to afford his next semester's tuition and yet he's supposed to bring himself to care about Pete's financial problems? Not a chance.

"And you need my help because?"

"My parents put in a stipulation that I need to be married."

"Yeah and...?" Patrick waits for Pete to continue, to explain how he fits into all of this, but Pete's just looking at him, expectantly. "No. You can't mean...but I'm a guy."

Pete laughs.

"Yeah, I noticed. That doesn’t actually matter. Anyway, it would only be for a year," he explains. "After that, no stings attached. You could like, I don't know, write a tell-all book about me, make millions slandering my name. So, what do you say, wanna get married?"

Patrick blinks several times in rapid succession. His life has just taken a very surreal turn.

"Are you actually out of your mind?" He asks. Pete flinches a little but doesn't respond. "Did you really think you could just throw money at me and I'd say yes?"

He suddenly feels very justified in disliking Pete for so long without ever knowing him. Because it turns out he was right. Pete Wentz is exactly the spoiled rich asshole Patrick always thought he was. He doesn't want to help Patrick. What he wants is to help himself, and Patrick is just a means to an end.

"Patrick, wait," Pete says, but Patrick's already standing to leave. He picks up his guitar and heads for the door. "Patrick, I just wanted to help. I thought we could help each other."

Patrick turns back before he opens the door.

"You keep telling yourself that."

He doesn't look back after that.

--

Of all the options Pete had considered for why this plan might not work, Patrick finding his offer insulting was definitely not one of them. He’s hit a brick wall. His only option at this point was to wait and hope that Patrick would change his mind. As he lay in bed that evening, the reality of the situation starts to creep up on him. Wondering how many more years he'd have to stay on at the Wentz Corporation was the last thing he should be thinking about before going to sleep. But he's never been very good at keeping away despairing thoughts when he was alone in the dark.

The next morning he thinks about skipping Starbucks all together, but his need for caffeine eventually wins out over any desire to avoid questions from Jon.

"G'morning," Jon smiles brightly when Pete approaches the counter. "The usual?" He asks and Pete just nods. "Patrick said he saw you at one of his shows? You think he's scholarship material?"

So much for avoiding that conversation, Pete thinks.

"Yeah, I already offered it to him actually. He turned me down."

"I can talk to him if you want," Jon offers. "He's probably just being stupid."

"That's not necessary. I tried to help, it didn't work out. No harm done."

And no need for Jon to get involved in this mess. One person knowing that Pete had tried to buy himself a spouse was more than enough.

--

Patrick points an angry finger at Jon when he walks into Starbucks the next afternoon.

"You. We need to talk. Now."

He just spent an hour on the Metra to get there and he doesn't even have a show that night. Jon is going to talk to him and he's going to talk to him now.

"Okay, um, I'll be there in a minute," Jon says as he unties his apron. Patrick watches as he says something to the two girls behind the counter before gesturing for Patrick to follow him back into the break room. Patrick leans against the wall, crossing his arms.

"What's wrong? Pete said you turned him down."

"Yeah, I turned him down. Wanna know why?"

Jon gives him a nervous look, like maybe he doesn't want to know why. And that's too bad, because Patrick is going to tell him, because as far as he's concerned, this is largely Jon's fault.

"Because he asked me to marry him."

"What?" Jon laughs.

"I'm not kidding!" Patrick shouts. Jon is seriously going to get punched in the face if he keeps this up. "There was some bullshit about his trust fund, and I don't know. But that was the deal; I get the scholarship in exchange for marrying him."

"So why'd you say no, dumbass?" Jon asks, still snickering a little.

"He didn't want to give it to me because he thought I actually deserved it! He just wanted to bribe me into helping him. And I'm not going to take that money away from someone who really needs it."

"You really need it, you idiot," Jon says, rolling his eyes. "Didn't you say he went to see you play, like, three times before he offered it too you?"

"Yeah."

"And it didn't occur to you that maybe he thinks you're actually talented? And that he wants to help you out?"

"Not really," Patrick says quietly. He'd been too blinded by his own righteous indignation to think of any possibilities other than: Pete is an opportunistic asshole.

"So...on top of having your tuition paid for, you'd also get all the perks without actually having to like, you know...put out." Jon shakes his head a little. "Dude, I think if you had stopped to think about this for like two seconds, you'd have realized what a sweet deal that is."

Patrick is really annoyed, verging on pissed off, in fact. Jon was supposed to listen to him vent and take his side. He was supposed to offer to start spitting in Pete's coffee every morning, not ask him why Patrick turned him down and try to convince him to do otherwise.

"But I'd still have to marry Pete Wentz." Even Patrick knows he's whining at this point. It was always a pathetic excuse, but it's even more of one now that Jon has put all the factors into perspective.

"Yeah and...? He's a nice guy, Patrick. You could do a lot worse."

Three days and about twelve phone calls to the school later, he finds himself staring at the business card he found in his guitar case two nights ago. He tucks it into his wallet and accepts the fact that he's going to have to call. He goes to bed knowing -- and hating -- that Jon was right.

--

Pete was busy with a client when Patrick finally called on Friday afternoon. He'd been moping around the office all week, slowly giving up hope that Patrick would somehow change his mind, and ignoring Greta's constant insistence that he tell her what was wrong.

The Wentz Corporation had signed a contract last week to produce the plastic noses for the new line of teddy bears for Landlot Plush Toys. Since then, Mike Landlot himself had called back approximately seventeen times to make sure all the specifics were in order. When Greta's voice came over the speakerphone announcing that Mr. Landlot was on line four and he wanted to speak to him, and only him, Pete wanted to put his head down on his desk and cry.

He spends over an hour on the phone. He assures his client that yes, the plastics they use are non-toxic. And no, they are not known to cause any type of cancer after prolonged exposure. And yes, he completely understands Mr. Landlot's concerns. He's only thinking of the children after all. When he finally gets off the phone, it's well after five o'clock and the only people left in the office are Greta and himself.

"You didn't need to stick around and wait for me, you know," Pete says, on his way out. "It's Friday. I'm sure you want to get out of here just as badly as everyone else."

"If I don't wait for you, how else am I going to badger you into telling me what's been bothering you the past few days?" she asks as she buttons up her coat.

"Greta." Pete sighs, because seriously, she's like a mother hen. A slightly strange, sometimes scary mother hen.

"Oh, while you were on the phone with Mr. Neurotic About His Teddy Bears, someone called for you." She reaches back over her desk and grabs a stack of messages.

"Just one someone?" Pete asks.

"Well no, but I'm pretty sure this was a personal someone, not a business someone. He asked for you by your first name." She sifts through the pile and holds out a bright orange post-it note just out of his reach. "New boyfriend I should know about?" she teases.

"I think we both know that's not the case. Come on, gimme." He reaches to grab the note out of her hand and she pulls back at the last minute.

"I think you're up to something again," she says, eyeing his skeptically, before finally handing over the note.

And there it is, written in Greta's swirly handwriting, Patrick Stump, "he knows what it's about," and a phone number. Pete's entire week just got better.

--

Patrick wakes up Saturday morning to the sunlight in his eyes, and the sound of his mother's voice.

"Wake up sweetie, you've got a phone call," she says, shaking him gently.

"Nrrgh," Patrick grumbles as he pulls the blankets up over his head.

"It's someone name Pete."

Patrick sighs and pushes the blankets back. He sits up and rubs the sleep out of his eyes before holding out his hand for the phone.

"Thanks, Mom." He waits until she's left the room and shut the door before putting the phone to his ear. "Hello?" he says, still groggy.

"Patrick? It's Pete. My secretary told me you called yesterday."

"Yeah. I um..." Patrick really wishes he could've waited until he was fully awake and had some breakfast before having this conversation, but apparently nothing in his life involving Pete Wentz is going to be easy. "I may have reconsidered your, um, offer."

"Really?" Pete asks eagerly. It wasn't enough that Patrick had to say it once, now he has to say it again?

"Yes, really."

"That's awesome, Patrick. You have no idea. Are you busy today? Do you want to meet and work out the details?"

Pete sounds like a kid on Christmas morning, one who has had three cups of coffee. Patrick really needs a few more hours of sleep and possibly some pancakes before he deals with this.

"I guess, um, it's going to take me a few hours to get ready and get into the city. I need to look up train times."

"Where are you?" Pete asks. "I'll come to you."

"At my parents' house," Patrick tells him, and then realizing that's not terribly helpful, he adds, "In Glenview."

"Awesome," Pete says again. Why that's awesome Patrick has no idea, he's never thought much of Glenview, but if Pete is willing to drive all the way out there, he's certainly not going to complain. "Do you want to get brunch? I can pick you up in like forty-five minutes."

That should be enough time for Patrick to laze about in bed for a while longer and still have enough time for a shower. He agrees and gives Pete his address. He sets his alarm clock to go off in twenty minutes, rolls over and falls back a sleep. It feels like it's been more like two minutes when he wakes up to the beeping of his alarm. He begrudgingly turns off his alarm and stumbles wearily down the hall to take a shower.

He dresses on the nicer side of the broke college student spectrum -- because god only knows where Pete plans on taking him -- and tells his mom he's going out. She takes note of what he's wearing and gives him the 'I know you're keeping something from me' look.

Patrick feels like crap. He hates keeping secrets from his mom, but he can't exactly tell her the truth. He hasn't even told his parents about losing his scholarship. Which he knows is stupid, but he didn't want to burden them with it if he could fix it himself.

He's trying to stealthily drink orange juice straight from the container while she reads the paper at the table.

"If you're seeing someone,” she says, “I don't want you to be afraid to bring him by the house. I'm not going to embarrass you." Patrick almost chokes.

Well, not on purpose, he thinks,. He loves his mom. She's an awesome mom, but she's going to embarrass him. It's inevitable.

"I know," he tells her.

It occurs to him, as he's putting the orange juice away and shutting the fridge, that at some point in the very near future he's going to have to explain to his mother that he's getting married to Pete Wentz. He doesn't want to think about that right now. Or ever, as a matter of fact.

"Have a good time,” she says and kisses him on the cheek.

"Thanks, Mom." Patrick thinks it's probably not a good sign that he's known Pete for less than a week and he already has to lie to his mom about him.

--

Pete pulls up in front of the address that Patrick gave him and not thirty seconds after he's shut off the engine, Patrick is walking out the front door. Pete gets out of the car and walks around to meet him.

"Um, not to be rude or anything," Patrick starts, "but if you could get back in the car before my mom sees you, that would be awesome." Pete frowns, but doesn't say anything until they're both inside the car.

"Do your parents have some vendetta against me that I should know about?"

"I just, I can't deal with questions right now. There's going to be enough when I have to tell her I'm getting married. I'd like to put that off as long as possible."

"Yeah, okay. Sure." Pete thinks it's a little strange and not entirely healthy, sure, but he's put up with more outlandish requests from people he was actually dating, so he doesn't really think he has any room to judge.

He asks Patrick where he'd like to eat and Patrick directs him to what is apparently his favorite pancake house. It's surprisingly empty for a Saturday morning and Pete asks the hostess if it's possible to get a table in an area that's not so crowded. She seats them in a corner, away from everyone and everything else. Pete would have rather taken care of this in the privacy of his office, but he's trying his best to be accommodating. He's just glad that Patrick called him back; he doesn't want to do anything that would make him change his mind.

"How is this going to work, exactly?" Patrick asks, after the waitress has left with their orders.

"So, you're definitely on board then? You want to do this?"

Patrick nods.

"You're kind of my only option if I want to stay in school and not take out like, a million loans."

Pete takes a deep breathe before he begins. This is just like any other business deal; he's got it all planned out.

"I figured we can tell people that we've been together for six months or so, just keeping it under wraps. You think you can convince your friends and family that you've had a secret relationship for that long?"

"Yeah, I mean, they'll be surprised, but I don't think they'll question it too much."

"Okay, good." Pete continues from there explaining his plan for moving Patrick into his apartment and setting up a checking account for him. He thinks giving Patrick a monthly allowance is fair, since he can't very well keep up a part time job. He asks when exactly spring semester starts, and apparently it's fast approaching.

The waitress brings their food and Pete moves on to the matter of them actually getting married. Obviously he wants it to be as soon as possible, but there's Patrick's school, and probably some other factors to consider.

"Now as for the wedding itself," he starts and Patrick goes a little pale. He knows he's already thrown a lot at Patrick all at once, and this is one thing where a few days one way or the other aren't going to make a whole lot of difference. He just says, "I was thinking Niagara Falls would be nicer than just heading north until we hit Canada."

Patrick relaxes, says, "Sure," around a mouthful of pancakes. "I've never been there."

"Me either," Pete smiles. "We'll make a weekend of it. Get to know each other a little bit."

Patrick nods and Pete is cautiously optimistic.

--

They drive back to Patrick's parents' house and Pete parks across the street.

"I'll call you later on in the week with more details. Do you have a cell phone number I can reach you at?" Patrick shakes his head and Pete wonders how that's even possible. "We're going to have to fix that. And, hmm, I'm going to have to take you shopping at some point, you're going to need some suits."

Patrick looks like he's getting overwhelmed so Pete stops talking. He was mostly just thinking out loud. He's going to have to make some lists when he gets home. This would be easier if he had Greta to organize for him, but right, secret marriage.

"Oh, shit, I almost forgot." Pete reaches blindly into his backseat, feeling around for small black box he picked up from the jewelry store. "This is for you," he says as he hands it Patrick.

He always thought if he ever did this he'd do it right, the whole down on one knee business and all. And maybe one day he still will, but this is obviously not that time, and it's not like Patrick seems terribly thrilled by the idea of marrying him, so.

Patrick looks back at him after he opens the box. The ring is a plain white gold and titanium band with a single diamond. The jeweler had tried to talk Pete into something fancier, but Pete didn't think Patrick seemed like the type.

"This is...for me," Patrick stumbles over the words and Pete doesn't know if that's a bad sign or not.

"If it doesn't fit just let me know and I'll take it back to the jewelers."

"You got me an engagement ring."

"I know we're not to going to be engaged for very long, but I figured might as well, right?"

"Right." Patrick traces his finger over the ring and takes a deep breath. "Call me when you figure out, you know, whatever."

"Will do." Pete promises and then Patrick's out of the car and walking back towards his house, not looking back.

Pete always thought getting engaged would be more exciting than this. More like fun and less like work. But this isn't real. It's business, not romance, so he doesn't know what exactly he was expecting. He goes home, turns on his laptop, and looks up hotels in Niagara Falls.

--

This had all seemed much simpler yesterday when the only thing Patrick had to worry about was saying yes and hoping that Pete hadn't changed his mind. Before there were plans for him to move into Pete's apartment, before Pete was asking him how he felt about getting married in Niagara Falls, before Patrick had a fucking engagement ring in his hands. He doesn't know how to deal with any of it and pretty soon he's going to be married and he's going to have to find some way to explain to his parents.

He pulls the ring out of the bottom of his sock drawer and the tightness in his chest gets worse. He shoves it back in and slams the drawer shut. He just needs to process all of this. He'll find a way to tell his parents. He's got a few days at least. He can do it. Just not right now.

There's a knock at his door.

"Honey, is everything all right?" his mother's voice calls softly.

"Yeah, Mom. I'm just going to take a nap for a little while."

He lies down on his bed, closes his eyes, and tries to forget that he's engaged to Pete Wentz.

--

Patrick thinks he's doing considerably well with the whole dealing-with-getting-married thing. Granted, his idea of "dealing" is more closely related to "not thinking about it at all" but whatever. He's doing fine until he decides to look at the ring again. This ends with him laying face down on his bed, trying to not have a panic attack. And then, in a move that makes Patrick think Pete has some sort of radar for when would be the least opportune time to call, Patrick's mom knocks on the door and tells him that Pete's on the phone. Patrick reaches up, feeling for his phone on his bedside table, never once looking up from his pillow. His "hello" is slightly muffled.

"Patrick?"

He sighs, reluctantly lifting his head.

"It's me. What's up?"

"I booked a moving van for Friday, is that okay? I thought you'd want to get it out of the way before the semester starts. I can tell them to be at your house whenever you want.”

"Friday's fine." Patrick tells him before he realizes what he's agreed to. "Wait, what?" Patrick remembers Pete mentioning him moving in sometime soon over brunch, but he doesn't remember anything about Pete sending a moving van by his house. He was kind of planning on pretending he was moving back into the dorms when the semester started, and then slowly breaking the news to his parents.

"We talked about this, Patrick. I said I could send by some people to get your stuff if that would make it easier for you and you agreed." This is what Patrick gets for zoning out and nodding along without paying any attention to the conversation.

"Right, right, I remember." He vaguely recalls Pete mentioning something about calling him later in the week with details, apparently this is that call. "Friday's fine. Have them come in the morning, I guess." Pete babbles for a few more minutes about the hotels he's looking at and Patrick tries to pay attention but it all just washes over him.

They hang up a few minutes later and Patrick rolls over to stare at the ceiling. He's got until Friday. It's currently Monday. That gives him four days to pack. He's probably not going to take any more stuff with him to Pete's than he would to college. It shouldn't take him too long to get everything together. That's hardly the issue here.

He's also got four days to explain to his parents that he's moving in with the boyfriend he neglected to mention he had. He's rehearsing what he's going to say and imagining his mother's disappointed face when he feels his chest start to tighten. Patrick's never been one to overreact when under stress, but right now as he stares up at the ceiling, he actually thinks the walls are closing in. He needs fresh air and he needs it now. He gets up, throws on a pair of sneakers, barely saying goodbye to his mom before running out the door.

--

Patrick comes home later that evening after a very long walk and an even longer heart to heart with himself. When he walks into the house, he finds his parents waiting in the living room. They're sitting on the couch, looking very somber. Patrick feels a knot begin to form in the pit of his stomach.

"Patrick, could you come here a moment?"

"Be right there." He goes into the kitchen and pours himself a glass of water before joining his parents back in the living room. The three of them sit in silence for several moments and Patrick grows increasingly anxious. He sips his water and waits. His mother takes a breath, unfolds her hands.

"We hope you know we'd never violate your privacy, Patrick."

"Um...okay," Patrick shifts in his seat and tugs on his hat.

"I was putting away some laundry and…I found this." She turns to reach for something behind her back, setting it down on the table as she turns back. "You've been acting so strangely these past few days, and we worry, Patrick. We don't want you to rush into anything."

Patrick feels the blood drain from his face. His eyes are fixed on the tiny black ring box in front of his. He's trying desperately to remember one of the six possible speeches he had prepared for this moment, but no words will come out of his mouth.

"Patrick?"

"My boyfriend proposed to me," he blurts out. His parents glance briefly at each other and then turn back to him, speechless. "Um, also, I've been seeing someone. I maybe should have mentioned that first."

His mom looks like she's going to cry. He thinks about how he was supposed to have more time to prepare for this. He thinks about how unfair this all is. There weren't supposed to be so many consequences. He just needed money for school; it was supposed to be a win-win situation for everyone. But now he's made his mom cry and it's all Pete's fucking fault. Patrick looks down at the floor, can't stand to look his mom in the eye.

"I'm sorry."

"We're not mad at you, Patrick." They don't even need to say the word disappointed, he already knows. "We just wish you had trusted us enough to tell us."

"Any other surprises you have to spring on us?" his dad asks, the annoyance in his voice obvious.

"I'm moving in with him instead of living at school next semester," Patrick says quietly.

His mother looks away and his dad just sighs, rubbing his hands over his mouth.

"I'm sorry," he says again. All three of them are quiet for a long time before his mother wipes at her eyes and sits up a bit straighter.

"It's that boy, Pete who's been calling here recently isn't it?"

Patrick nods.

"It's not like we can stop you if you're really set on doing this, but at the very least I want to meet him before you move in together." She pauses. "So, does this boy have a last name?" Patrick takes a deep breath.

"Wentz."

After that his parents are pretty much back to the speechlessness and the staring.

"This is why I didn't tell you about him before. We haven't told anyone. He was worried about what might happen if the media found out."

"We're not the media, we're your parents," is his father's only response.

"I was just trying to do what I thought was best," Patrick spits back. "And if I've been acting weird the last few days it's because I was trying to figure out a way to tell you." At least that much is the truth. There's another painful stretch of silence before his mother speaks again.

"Are you really sure?"

Patrick looks down at his hands.

"I know this is right," he says seriously. "I just know." His mother stands up and pulls him into a crushing hug.

"We just want you to be happy."

"I am," he lies. Somewhere in the back of his head he thinks he should have tried out for the school play back in high school, because apparently he's a damn good actor.

When he calls Pete the next day, he keeps the conversation is brief and to the point. Pete tries to talk to him about something or other but Patrick interrupts with a quick goodbye before hanging up on him. He knows it's not the best way to treat someone who is technically his fiancé, but he hasn't quite gotten over the ordeal from last night just yet.

He tells his mom that Pete will be by around 7 for dinner and when she smiles at him, he feels a little better. After he helps his mom start dinner and set the table, he goes upstairs to call Jon, and let him know he deserves an Oscar for his performance last night.

--

Pete rings the doorbell at 6:55, a bottle of wine in one hand and a small bouquet of flowers in the other. He hears the sound of someone running down the stairs and a moment later the door opens, Patrick standing in front of him.

"Hey," Pete says, smiling. "This is for your parents," he says, holding out the wine. Patrick takes it and stares at it a moment, seemingly very interested by the frog on the label. Pete holds out the flowers next. "These are for you."

"Oh, um. Thank you." Patrick's cheek are tinged pink as he makes room on a side table and sets them both down. He takes Pete's coat and puts it in a closet behind the front door. "Okay, let's get this over with."

"Wait, Patrick. We haven't talked about..."

"Dude, we'll have plenty of time to talk at dinner." He turns, about to start down the hallway. Pete grabs at his arm and Patrick looks at him, annoyed.

"What?"

"I'm pretty sure your parents are going to have questions and," he runs a hand through his hair, says quietly, "I don't know that I'm going to be able to answer them." The realization that they haven't come up with any kind of story washes slowly over Patrick's face.

"...Shit."

"Also, your mom has been peering around the door frame, watching us for the past thirty seconds, so if you could act like you don't hate me that would be really great."

Patrick glances back and the head that was poking around the corner disappears suddenly. He groans, burying his face in hands and Pete can't help smiling a little bit.

"I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that you haven't brought many people home." Patrick makes a muffled noise and Pete tugs his hands away from his face, observes him for a moment. "You're kind of cute when you blush, you know?"

"Fuck you," Patrick scowls. "My mom almost cried when I told her about us."

"Tears of joy?" Pete smirks and Patrick crosses his arms over his chest and looks even more pissed.

"I really hate you right now."

"Hey, you're the one that hung up on me earlier. We could've taken care of all of this then. What did you think I wanted to talk about?"

Patrick fidgets but doesn't say anything.

"Look, it's okay. We'll wing it. It'll be fine." He puts his hands on Patrick's shoulders, feels Patrick tense underneath him. "I'm going kiss you now, so don't freak out on me."

Patrick nods slowly and Pete cups his face in his hands before leaning in. Patrick's mouth is warm and soft and he slides his hands up Pete's chest as he kisses back. Patrick blushes furiously afterward. He looks down at the floor and stammers out something about dinner being almost ready. He grabs the wine and the flowers and turns towards the kitchen and Pete can't help thinking about how much fun he's going to have making Patrick blush over the next year. He walks alongside Patrick, resting a hand low on his back as they enter the kitchen together.

--

Pete sits catty-cornered to Patrick at the dinner table, and he uses this opportunity to link their hands together as soon as he sits down. He thinks that Patrick's nervousness is probably visible from space. He wishes they knew each other better, wishes he knew what to do to calm Patrick down, to make him relax.

"Everything smells amazing, Mrs. Stump."

"Thank you, Peter."

"You can call me Pete. Only my mom calls me Peter, usually when she's mad at me." He says, grinning. She smiles back and offers him a roll.

The beginning of the meal is filled the sounds of small talk and requests to pass the salt or butter. Despite the fact that Patrick's dad hasn't said more than two words since they sat down, Pete doesn't think it's going too badly so far. Mrs. Stump sets down her fork, dabs at her mouth with her napkin, and clears her throat.

"Patrick still hasn't told us how you two met," she says before looking pointedly at Patrick, who ducks his head, embarrassed. Pete can tell she's not really angry, just pulling out the mom guilt because she can. Pete thinks his mom and Patrick's mom would get along swimmingly.

"Patrick's friend Jon introduced us," Pete says.

"How is Jon?" Mrs. Stump asks, "We haven't seen him around here for a while."

Patrick looks up from his mashed potatoes.

"He's been pretty busy with work since he got the promotion."

"Such a nice boy. Anyway, continue."

"Well, his Starbucks is the one across the street from my office, so I see him nearly every morning before I go in. We got to talking about music and he mentioned Patrick, started talking about this friend he had and how talented he was." Pete glances fondly over at Patrick, notices that Patrick's been watching him intently, probably wondering how far from the truth Pete is going to stray. So far, Pete hasn't even had to embellish a thing.

"Anyway, one day I happened to stop by for lunch, just as Jon was leaving, and Patrick was there, so he introduced us." Pete thinks back to the first time he saw Patrick at Metropolis and he's not lying when he says, "I couldn't take my eyes off him, I was so captivated. I guess after that Jon got tired of me bugging him so he told me where Patrick was playing and I went. We had coffee afterward and…" Pete trails off, gesturing vaguely with his hand. "Six months later, here we are."

Mrs. Stump looks positively charmed and Pete feels very pleased with himself.

Later on in the meal, Pete goes to field the inevitable question about when exactly they plan to get married and Patrick just looks at him with huge, worried eyes. Pete's already gathered that Patrick's parents are very concerned with the possibility of this interfering with Patrick's education.

"We haven't set a date yet," Pete says and apparently that was the correct answer because Patrick looks infinitely relieved. "I know my parents will probably want us to have something large, but I'd prefer something smaller and intimate." He reaches out and runs a hand over Patrick's neck and lets it trail down his back. "Something that's more suited to us." Pete grins and Patrick turns a truly impressive shade of red.

It's towards the end of the meal, when Patrick's father finally decides to chime in.

"So why was it exactly you kept this a secret from us?" There's no way to interpret the statement combined with the tone of his voice as anything other than hostile.

"Dad, please," Patrick says.

"It's okay," Pete says, putting a hand on Patrick's shoulder. "That's my fault. I asked Patrick if he minded keeping things quiet while everything was still so new. I've had, uh…problems in the past with the media attention getting in the way of my relationships before they've barely started. I didn't want to put Patrick through that, especially since I thought…" Pete ducks his head, bites his bottom lip, before continuing. "Since I thought we might be something really special."

Pete has learned over the years that the "I'm desperately in love here and just really hoping you like me" routine usually works wonders with parents. He's never had to pretend before and he's certainly not the greatest actor but he's been in love enough times to be able to fake it. He's pulling out all the stops and he's really hoping that it's working.

"Honestly, though, I had no idea Patrick still hadn't told you about us." Patrick gives him an absolutely murderous glare, like he wants to stab Pete in the throat with his fork. Pete continues on anyway. "I figured once we started getting serious…at any rate I'm sorry for any miscommunication."

Patrick's father doesn't say anything to that, just "hmms" and leans back in his chair. He's not looking at Pete with quite so much hostility anymore, so maybe that did the trick. Mrs. Stump stands to clear the table and Patrick immediately gets up to help her.

"Can I help with anything?" Pete asks.

"No, but thank you," she smiles. "Actually, Patrick, why don't you give Pete the tour of the house? I can finish up here." Pete knows a 'please leave so we can talk about you' excuse when he hears one and he follows Patrick out of the kitchen and down the hallway. As soon as they're upstairs and out of sight Patrick punches him hard in the shoulder.

"I can't believe you did that."

"Ow," Pete yelps, rubbing at the spot. "Did what?"

"'I had no idea Patrick still hadn't told you about us'," he mimics. "Way to make me look like the asshole."

"They'll forgive you, stupid. Where would we be if they hated me on first meeting?"

Patrick just frowns at him.

"Come on, my room is this way."

--

Patrick opens the door to his room and Pete walks in and takes a seat on his bed. It's sparsely decorated. There are a few posters on the walls, a couple of guitars in the corner, some clothes strewn across the floor.

"Is this where you bring all your boyfriends?" Pete smirks as Patrick sits down next to him.

"Oh my god, shut up."

Patrick lies back on his bed, throwing one arm over his eyes, like it's all too much for him. Pete just laughs under his breath and remembers feeling the same way the first time he brought a boy home to meet his parents. He runs his fingers over the ring on Patrick's right hand, thinking he made a good choice - it looks good against Patrick's pale skin. Patrick flinches away, startling him. Patrick props himself up on his elbows.

"Sorry," he mumbles. "I just...I'm not used to being touched so much."

"Nothing I can do about that." Pete shrugs. "You'll come to learn that I'm a really tactile person."

"Yeah, I'm getting that."

"I guess I should get going,” Pete says, looking at his watch. “I've still got some contracts to look over before tomorrow."

"Okay."

They go back downstairs and Pete says goodbye to his parents, getting a hug from his mom and what could almost be considered a smile from his dad. Almost as an afterthought, Patrick offers to walk Pete out to his car. He doesn't seem too pleased about having to put on his coat and venture out into the cold night air.

"I think that went well," Pete says when they reach the end of the driveway.

"I was expecting a lot worse," Patrick concedes.

"Let me know if you're going to be in the city at all during the week. I've got some more things I want to discuss with you. Seriously, I can't believe you don't have a cell phone."

"I've never really needed one," Patrick shrugs. He cups his hands around his mouth and breathes into them. "Anything else? I'm kind of freezing here."

"Yeah." Pete laughs. "Your mom's watching us from the front window."

Patrick sighs and Pete can see his breath in the cold air.

"Kiss me goodbye, so I can leave already."

"What? Why do I have to kiss you?"

Pete rolls his eyes.

"For god's sake Patrick, it's just a kiss. I kissed you when I got here, it's your turn."

"Fine," Patrick says, sounding pissed off. "Get over here."

Pete smirks, taking a step forward and resting his hands on Patrick's waist.

"Make it look convincing now," he whispers.

"I'll give you convincing, asshole," Patrick snarks back.

Pete's still laughing when Patrick slides a cold hand around the back of his neck, pulling him down and pressing his mouth against Pete's. Something sparks in the pit of Pete's stomach as Patrick's tongue slides against his. He wraps his arms around Patrick and tugs him closer.

Patrick nips at his bottom lip, whispers, "Good enough?" before letting go and taking a step back.

"Shit. Yeah." Pete says, trying to catch his breath. Patrick smirks, looking entirely too pleased with himself.

"Goodnight, Pete," he says before turning to go back inside.

Pete glances towards the front window before getting into his car. The curtains shut suddenly. As he drives home he wonders how the hell Patrick was single when he can kiss like that. He decides he doesn't care, just considers himself lucky, and knows he's going to be using the "we have to make this convincing" excuse as much as he can get away with.

--

The remaining days before Patrick goes back to school pass by in a blur. He spends several days packing, then several more unpacking. It never seemed to be this time consuming when he was moving in and out of his apartment at school.

Somewhere during all of that he remembers to call Chris and break the news to him that they won't be living together next semester. Chris is more surprised to hear the reason why than anything else. Patrick's vague about the details and in the end Chris is just glad that Patrick found the money to stay in school.

Pete comes home late Monday evening, several bags under his arms. Patrick's sitting at the kitchen table, messing with a song he's been trying to put together in GarageBand. Pete drops everything down on the table in front of him.

"I hope you're hungry," he says. "Because I got enough food to last a week. I didn't know what you liked."

Patrick is verging on starving, actually. He poked around Pete's kitchen earlier and didn't find much more than peanut butter and stale Cheerios. He looks into a few of the bags and finds that Pete really wasn't exaggerating about how much food he got.

"After we eat, I'm gonna show you all the things I bought you." Pete grins as he pulls a plastic container out of one of the bags. "Do you like Thai food?"

"I...don't know." Patrick eyes the contents of Pete's dish warily.

"Try some of this," Pete says as he scoops something noodley out onto a plate. "There's also a bunch of Chinese and a couple of sandwiches."

"I'm not really that picky; you didn't have to go through all this trouble."

Patrick searches for fried rice amongst the containers and dumps some out on his plate. He spends a couple of seconds looking for the drawer with the silverware in it before Pete laughs and points it out to him. They've gone out to eat every night since Patrick moved in; it's not his fault he doesn't know his way around the kitchen yet.

"Dude, you'll thank me later. My cooking skills are pretty much limited to taking the frozen pizza out of the box and putting it in the oven. And half the time I'm either too busy or too lazy for that."

Pete puts the rest of the food away and clears the rest of the bags off the table so they can sit down. He asks Patrick how the first day back at school was and Patrick just shrugs. The first day's usually boring, mostly handing out syllabi and going over course outlines. Patrick would rather get down to actually doing stuff than talk about doing it and he explains as much to Pete.

Pete rambles on for a bit about…something business related, and Patrick nods and 'hmms' in what he thinks are the appropriate places. After they've finished eating, Pete pulls a box out of one of the bags and hands it to Patrick. It's a cell phone and it is way fancier than Patrick could ever hope to learn how to use. Pete shows him how to text using the keyboard and how to check his email, and Patrick nods along. He doesn't say that showing him how to program in numbers and answer a call would be more helpful and makes a mental note to spend some time with the user manual.

The rest of the bags are filled with clothes: dress shirts, ties, two pair of shoes and a few suits.

"If anything doesn't fit, or you just like, think it's ugly, let me know and I'll bring it back."

Patrick agrees, and drops the bags in his room. Pete has a disappointed look on his face when he comes back out.

"What?" Patrick asks, and then, "No way, I am not trying them on for you, forget it."

"Fine then, spoilsport." Pete sticks his tongue out at him and Patrick briefly wonders how this guy is in charge of a multimillion dollar company. "Oh hey, I keep forgetting. You need to give me your class schedule so I don't make any plans for us when you have classes. How late do you have class on Wednesday?"

"Four, I think."

Pete practically bounces in his seat.

"Awesome, my friend Travis is having his gallery opening that night and I'd really like you to come."

"No problem," Patrick agrees.

--

It takes all of two days after the gallery opening before pictures of Pete and Patrick show up in tabloids. The headlines and captions pay special attention to the fact that Patrick was wearing a ring. It's a few more days before the news gets around to people he actually knows. His phone has been ringing and buzzing with messages constantly and he wishes that he hadn't given his number out to all his friends quite so eagerly.

The worst part isn't even explaining it to his friends; it's the stares from complete strangers as he walks around campus, to and from class. A few of his teachers even ask if it's true and congratulate him. There's a part of him that knows that Pete has been dealing with this far longer than him and so he really shouldn't complain. But then there's the selfish part that just wants to blame Pete, certain he knew this would happen when they went to the opening. The part that's getting angrier at Pete by the minute for not warning him that this was coming. He knows it's childish, but he's had a shitty day and right now he just wants to someone to blame it on.

When Pete asks him how class was over dinner, he snaps.

"Awesome," he says, sarcastically. "Roughly a hundred people stared at me; one of my teachers asked if my wedding was going to interfere with my school work, then told me it was no excuse if it did; and four complete strangers called me a gold digger." He stands up from the table, leaving the rest of his dinner behind as he asks, "Happy now?" before walking into his bedroom and slamming the door.

--

Pete lets Patrick brood for two days before he's had his fill of getting the cold shoulder when he asks Patrick a question, of Patrick spending as much time as humanly possible alone in his bedroom.

Pete comes home from work, changes into jeans and a t-shirt, throws on a hoodie and knocks on Patrick's door. He gets no answer. Instead, the soft music that had been barely audible through the door gets louder. Pete knocks harder.

"I'm trying to apologize here so stop being a bitch and open the door," Pete shouts. He stands outside the doorway, arms crossed for several minutes before shouting again. "I'm waiting."

When Patrick finally opens the door, he's barefoot and in his pajamas, and he looks pissed off.

"Get dressed," Pete says, "We're going out for cupcakes."

"Fine," Patrick says irritably. He meets Pete in the hallway a few minutes later.

"I should have warned you that might happen, I'm sorry," Pete says as they walk outside. "I didn't actually think it would happen so fast. I'm usually the guy the paps go to when the real celebrities aren't doing anything interesting. I thought we'd just get stuck in a little corner somewhere to fill space. Apparently people are still interested in who I'm sleeping with."

"It wasn't just the pictures," Patrick starts. He shoves his hands deep in his pockets as the wind picks up. "It was everyone else. It was everyone at school, people I didn't even know coming up to me like they had any right to comment on my life. That wasn't your fault. It was...just easier to blame you." He looks down at the sidewalk as he mumbles, "I'm sorry too."

Pete throws an arm over his shoulders.

"It's okay. We'll get the hang of this before the year is out," he says in Patrick's ear. He steps away to hail a cab and as one pulls up he grins back at Patrick. "I am going to buy you the best damn cupcake you've ever had."

--

The two girls that Pete's friendly with are both working when they arrive, and as they approach the counter they're greeted with congratulations. Patrick waves awkwardly and says hi to both of them. He tugs nervously on his hat and clearly wishes their attentions were elsewhere. Pete can't resist sliding an arm around him and kissing his cheek.

"He's shy now, but you should hear him when he sings. It's why I fell in love with him."

Patrick, for his part, seems to be adjusting to Pete's fondness for embarrassing him. Instead of the murderous glare that Pete has come to know and love over the past week, all he gets is a look of mild annoyance. One that could probably be passed off as "god, my boyfriend is so lame," if he added an eye roll.

They sit down at a table in the back and Pete picks a board game from the stack. Patrick beats him at Connect Four five times in a row and he's going on his sixth when Pete notices the girls two tables behind them, trying to be stealthy as they take pictures on their cell phones.

"Hey Patrick, say cheese," Pete grins. Patrick looks up from planning his next strategic move.

"What?"

"Camera phone, three o'clock."

Patrick makes a face and is about to turn around and look when Pete puts a hand on his arm.

"Don't look," he says, "You'll ruin it."

"Ruin what?"

"The awesome picture they're going to get."

Patrick looks confused, but before he has time to respond, Pete leans over to kiss him. Patrick makes a startled noise but doesn't push Pete away, even kisses back a little. Pete hears the sounds of fake camera shutters and several teenage girls trying to contain their excitement in the background, and he smiles.

"When that ends up on some blog and eventually in my email, I get to punch you." Patrick says afterward.

"Oh shut up, I'm an awesome kisser. Don't act like it's some sort of hardship."

Patrick makes a face before making his final move, beating Pete at Connect Four for the sixth time, and Pete takes his lack of response as agreement.

"We still need to set a date. Have you thought about it at all?"

Patrick looks up from his cupcake.

"Um."

Pete recognizes the look on his face. It's the one he gave his teachers constantly when he was in school. It's the "I'm stalling so I can come up with an answer that won't make you think I completely forgot about this," look.

"I'm going to take that as a no," Pete says. "How's this -- you don't have class on Friday, right?"

Patrick nods.

"I've already picked out a hotel. When we get home I'm going to book us a three-day weekend for the first available date they have. Sound good?"

"Yeah, I guess. Might as well get it over with."

Pete pokes him in the side with his spoon.

"Don't be like that or I won't put out on our honeymoon," he says, sipping his coffee. Patrick's face flushes pink and Pete grins, immensely pleased with himself.

When they get home, Pete turns on his laptop and makes the reservations first thing, before he gets distracted by something else. The first open date is two and a half weeks from then. He comes out of his office and into the living room and tells Patrick to mark it on his calendar.

"I know you can't wait to be Mrs. Pete Wentz," he says, grinning as he plops down on the couch next to Patrick. Patrick hits him with the nearest throw pillow. "Stump-Wentz then?"

--

Patrick is less than pleased to be waking up at seven in the morning on a day when he doesn't have class. Sleep deprivation combined with spending eight hours in a car with Pete is not the best way to start their three-day weekend. He'd been trying really hard to be excited about the trip, really. He focused on the fact that he'd never been to Niagara Falls before, and how cool that was going to be and tried to keep from thinking about the actual reason they were going entirely. It was obviously way too late in the game to back out, but that didn't mean that Patrick wasn't still freaked out about the idea of getting married at nineteen.

He was noticeably less excited when Pete told him he planned to drive.

"You're kidding, right?" Patrick said when Pete told him of his plans and about the awesome car he'd rented for the weekend.

"Where's your sense of adventure? It's only eight hours. Wedding road trip, how cool is that?"

"You mean to tell me you don't have like, a private jet or something?"

Pete had opened his mouth to respond and then stopped, as though he'd thought better of what he was about to say.

"My sister's using it this weekend,” he said with a smirk. “Sorry."

He couldn't tell if Pete was kidding or not and that only annoyed him more.

Ten minutes after his alarm goes off, Patrick forces himself to get up and get dressed. He slings his duffle bag across his chest and as soon as he walks out his bedroom door Pete shoves a travel mug of coffee into his hand and presses a kiss to his forehead.

Patrick falls back asleep almost as soon as they pull out of the parking lot of the rental place. He wakes up again several hours later, confused for a few seconds before he asks Pete where they are.

"Somewhere in Michigan. We just passed Kalamazoo." Pete grins at him. Patrick gives him a small smile and thinks that having an actual reason to say 'Kalamazoo' is a pretty good reason to be happy. Patrick is grateful for the next rest stop they come to and he takes the opportunity to stretch and walk around while Pete fills up the gas tank.

"You know why people don't road trip to get married, Pete?" he says when it's time to get back into the car and get going again. "Because the actual getting married part is enough of an adventure."

"I hope you're not getting cold feet." Pete fakes concern. "It's going to make the drive back really uncomfortable if you leave me at the altar."

"Just drive, douche."

It's a little after four o'clock when they arrive at the hotel. Patrick waits out in the lobby with their bags, while Pete checks in. He comes back a few minutes later, a worried expression on his face.

"So, funny story," Pete starts as he walks toward the couch Patrick is sitting on. "I booked us a suite with two beds but apparently the girl at the check-in knows who I am? And she assumed it must have been a mistake and gave me one with a king instead."

Patrick takes a couple of deep breaths and tries to keep from transferring his anger onto Pete. It's not actually his fault.

"You're sleeping on top of the covers."

"Oh come on, that's no way to treat your future husband." Pete jokes as he grabs his suitcase and they head for the elevator. Patrick is really, really not in the mood for any of Pete's stupid jokes right now. He gives Pete a look and thinks Pete understands. "Sorry," Pete says quietly. "But seriously, it's not like I'm going to molest you in your sleep."

"Yeah, I bet you've used that line before," Patrick says.

It's not like he thinks Pete is going to try anything. He's not even sure Pete is actually into guys. He's becoming more and more convinced that Pete just likes messing with him for his own amusement. But there's still something about sleeping in the same bed that bothers him. He needs there to be a line somewhere, and this just feels like crossing it.

It's already dark out by the time they get settled into their room. They end up ordering room service and watching movies on pay per view. Pete picks a romantic comedy that Patrick vaguely remembers seeing previews for, and tries to pretend that he's not crying at the end. He doesn't actually make Pete sleep on top of the covers, and Pete promises to try not to accidentally cuddle Patrick in his sleep.

When Patrick wakes up the next morning, he rolls over to find Pete sitting next to him. He's got his laptop set up in front of him, and a mug of coffee in his hand.

"Morning, sunshine."

Patrick groans. He doesn't know what time it is, but he can tell that it is still too early to be awake. "Don't you ever sleep?" he asks.

"Not so much, no," Pete says. "You haven't noticed yet that I live on caffeine?"

Patrick sits up and rubs at his eyes. Pete's wearing a faded Smiths t-shirt and boxers, and skimming the headlines on the front page of the New York Times website. The contrast makes Patrick's brain hurt a little. It's the first time Patrick's ever really paid attention to Pete's tattoos before. If he's not in his work clothes, he's usually wearing hoodies around the house.

"Is that..." Patrick leans a little closer, gets a better look. "You have a Nightmare Before Christmas sleeve."

"Yeah, you never noticed before?" Pete asks, "It's awesome."

He sets his coffee down next to the bed and rolls his sleeve up, holding out his arm so Patrick can get a better look. Before he even realizes what he's doing, Patrick finds himself running his fingers down Pete's forearm, across Jack Skellington's face and over the words that read "Stay Gold" and "Be Free". When he finally looks back up, Pete is watching him almost like he's amused at Patrick's sudden interest. Patrick feels his face get hot and he swallows around the lump in his throat.

"You don't make sense," Patrick says, thinking out loud more than anything else. Pete gives him an inquisitive look and Patrick tries to find the right words to explain what he means. "This...the tattoos, it just, it doesn't fit. Why are even working for your parents? It's so obvious it's not you."

Pete shrugs.

"I wanted to make them proud, I guess. I wanted to prove I could stop being such a fuck up and do something right for a change." Pete looks a little sad as he looks back at his laptop, closing the browser and shutting it down. "I actually tried doing the musician thing for a little while, when I was your age. I used to be in a hardcore band. If you can imagine that."

It's not actually that hard to imagine. Patrick pictures him on a stage, screaming into a microphone, his tattoos visible for the entire crowd to see, messy hair falling into his eyes. It makes more sense than the business suit and briefcase look that Patrick sees on him every day.

"What happened?"

"One day they found out who I was, who my parents were. Let's just say no one wants to hear a spoiled rich kid screaming about his problems. The band broke up pretty soon after that."

"Sorry," Patrick whispers, because he doesn't know what else to say.

"No big loss. It's not like I had any actual talent anyway. Not like you," he smiles. Patrick thinks he's beginning to understand why Pete picked him for this. "Anyway, I booked the chapel for four, so I thought we could order in some breakfast, go get the marriage license and then do the touristy thing for a while before it's time to come back and get hitched. What do you think?"

Patrick ignores the tightness in his chest and just nods.

"Sounds good."

--

As they walk into what feels like the millionth souvenir shop that day, Pete tugs on his arm.

"Hey, Patrick, do you want a wax lion?"

"No, I do not want a wax lion, Pete. I'd like to go back to the hotel and lie down and try to figure out where my life went wrong."

It's crankier than Patrick intends, but Pete has been looking for just the right thing to remember their trip by for the past several hours. Because apparently, his wedding ring isn't going to be enough of a reminder. The falls were breathtaking and all that, but the awe wore off pretty quickly given that it is February and they are in Canada. He was a good sport about standing in the cold for twenty minutes while Pete took pictures from every possibly angle, but now, he's tired and he can't feel his toes and he still has to go back and get married and he'd just like it to be over with already.

Pete makes a face at him and fishes some change out of his pockets. Patrick wanders off to look around. He's not sure why most of the stuff in the store in supposed to be a reminder of Niagara Falls; most of it seems like junk you could find at any Wal-Mart in the U.S. Pete pops out from behind a rack of stuffed animals a second later, startling Patrick so much he almost bumps into the couple standing behind him.

"Here," Pete says, holding out the little orange lion.

"Its face is smooshed," Patrick says.

One of the employees walks by, carrying an armful of stuffed chameleons, and Patrick moves to get out of her way. She stops in her tracks, looking at the wax lion in Pete's hands.

"Big mistake. Those things never shut up," she says before walking off. Pete looks after her like he wants to say something but doesn't.

"I think it gives him character," he says looking down at the lion once more.

He wanders off again, and Patrick ends up watching the video that's playing on a table near the front door. An Indian chief's daughter is about to go over the falls in a canoe and Patrick thinks the whole thing is bullshit. He paid attention in history class and Native Americans never practiced human sacrifice. He picks up the DVD case and reads the title out loud, under his breath.

"Surrender to Destiny." He laughs. "Yeah right."

The same girl walks past him again, this time sans stuffed chameleons.

"Don't even to try to ignore it,” she says. “Never works."

Patrick stares after her as she walks away, wondering what the hell that was supposed to mean. Pete wanders over a moment later carrying a little stuffed donkey with a heart sewn onto the front of its chest.

"What do you think? It's cute, right?" Patrick looks at the toy and then at the girl, who is now back behind the register.

"Can we go back to the hotel now?" he asks, "That girl is seriously freaking me out."

"She has that effect on people," says a tall blonde woman in a business suit. She towers over him in her heels but Patrick hadn't even realized she was there until she said something.

Patrick wonders what is it about this store that makes strangers want to start talking to him. Pete pays for his kitsch and Patrick is only too grateful to finally leave, even if it means they are that much closer to the actual wedding portion of the trip. Pete throws a quarter into the fountain in the courtyard, and as they head back to the car, Patrick wonders what he wished for.

The ceremony is officiated by a woman, probably in her early fifties. She has long gray hair and cat eye glasses, and she seems absolutely delighted to be marrying him and Pete. Their witnesses are either two people from the hotel staff or two people they keep around just in case the happy couple can't provide their own witnesses. Patrick thinks that probably happens a lot with people who are eloping.

When it's all over, after they've both said "I do," they both lean in and Patrick presses a chaste kiss to Pete's mouth. There aren't any cameras around, no one who knows who they are, there's no need to go showing off. Besides, Patrick doesn't think making out is exactly appropriate in a church. Okay, it's a chapel in hotel resort, but still, the sentiment is the same.

"Dude, come on," Pete says, "That was weak."

And then the Minster goes and chimes in with her two cents.

"It is your first kiss as married couple."

Patrick rolls his eyes, but leans in again anyway as Pete curls a hand around his jaw, kissing him slowly and deliberately. Patrick is loathe to admit to himself that it leaves him a little weak in the knees. As they leave the chapel, Pete grins and hugs him hard.

"This is going to be awesome, you'll see," he whispers excitedly.

--

Pete wakes up early the next morning, his internal clock keeping him from sleeping in, even on his days off. Patrick is curled up next to him, one arm lying heavily across Pete's stomach. Pete smiles and shakes his head. Here Patrick had been the one worried about Pete invading his space while he slept.

Patrick makes a few sleepy noises as Pete climbs out from under his arm, but doesn't wake up as Pete heads for the bathroom. When Pete returns, Patrick snuggles up next to him and buries his face between the pillow and Pete's shoulder. His reddish blond hair falls across his face and Pete realizes this is one of the few times he's ever seen Patrick without a hat on.

He can't help thinking about how much he likes kissing Patrick, about what it would be like to wake him up that way. He's got romantic notions in his head, but it would probably end with lots of yelling and an awkward drive home. He has to remind himself that there are a number of reasons why it would be a bad idea to try and start something with Patrick. Most of them being some variation of "thinking with your dick ends in disaster." Pete thinks they've built up a pretty good rapport over the past month or so; it would be stupid to ruin that for sex. It's easily the most ridiculous conversation he's ever had with himself, but in the end he decides he'd rather have Patrick as a friend and sneak kisses where he can get them.

He gets dressed and repacks his suitcase as quietly as he can, giving Patrick the extra time to sleep, before gently nudging him awake. Patrick blinks at him sleepy and confused.

"Time to go," Pete says.

Patrick nods, yawning, and slowly rolls out of bed. Pete turns on his laptop and checks his email while Patrick gets ready. Several minutes later, Patrick stands in the middle of the room, his duffle slung over his shoulder.

"Ready?" Pete asks, looking up.

Patrick nods again. As he's rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Pete notices the wedding band on his hand and it's all suddenly very real. They went through with it. They're married. Pete's torn between brimming with excitement that his plan actually worked, and being absolutely terrified that it didn't. He slings an arm over Patrick's shoulders when they leave, and Patrick makes a quiet grumbling noise, but he doesn't push Pete away as they walk out to the car.

The first thing Patrick does when they get home is announce his need for sleep and promptly lock himself in his bedroom. He doesn't emerge for several hours, and when he finally wanders into the kitchen, still in his pajamas, Pete is setting the table.

"Hey." He smiles. "Have a good nap?"

"Yeah," Patrick says, but Pete can already tell something's not quite right. "My mom called."

"Did you tell her?"

"I kind of had to," Patrick says. "I wasn't going to keep it a secret after that disaster with the ring. And I sure as hell didn't want her to read about it the paper or something. I just wish. It…could have gone better."

Pete wants to hug him, or offer some other gesture of comfort, because that couldn't have been easy for Patrick. But when Pete takes a step forward, Patrick steps back and shrugs.

"I'll deal with it, I guess. What's for dinner?"

--

It's not that Pete means to keep it from his parents. He knows that's impossible. There's a post-it note stuck to his computer monitor at work that reads, "call mom!!!" but every day for the past week he's managed to put it off, doesn't remember until the neon colored note is catching his eye on the way out the door. He thinks, tomorrow, definitely, tomorrow.

And it's not like he meant to tell that reporter that yes, they eloped, before he told his parents. It just sort of happened.

He gets the call at 5am two days later.

"Good morning, Peter. Anything you'd like to share with us?"

Pete groans sleepily.

"Hi mom. I guess you heard the news, huh?"

"The news? About your marriage. Yes. We heard. What we'd like to know is why we didn't hear it from you."

"I didn't want to bother you?"

"Pete." He can hear his mother's heavy sigh on the other end of the line. "This isn't like you. This is behavior from five years ago. Please tell me this doesn't have anything to do with your trust fund."

"No," Pete says bitterly. "We've been dating for six months. Thought with my track record it'd be better if I didn't get your hopes up."

She sighs again. Pete can hear the disappointment all the way across the ocean.

"I hope you know what you're doing." There's a long pause, and then, "Your father wants to talk to you."

His dad lectures him about responsibility and commitment and how getting married isn't something you do one weekend because you're bored. Pete feels all of sixteen when he finally hangs up the phone and goes back to sleep until his alarm goes off. Pete's finally managed to shake off some of the grogginess from being woken up too early and yelled at when he gets a call from his lawyer.

"I've been trying to reach you for the past two weeks, jackass. I hope this kid is the one."

Pete's sure he heard wrong. He pays his lawyer far too much money for him to be calling Pete a jackass within the first thirty seconds of their conversation.

"What?"

"Since you didn't bother returning my calls before you went and eloped, I have this exciting piece of news for you regarding Canada's marriage laws. You can't get divorced unless you're a resident. So, like I said, I really hope this kid is the one."

"Gabe, look, I'm not having a great day so far and this hasn't made it much better."

"This is what happens when you don't return my calls!"

"Just find a loophole or something and call me back when you've figured it out. That's what I'm paying you for, isn't it?"

"The Cobra will find a way. Don't worry."

If Gabe wasn't the best lawyer in Illinois, Pete would be more concerned by his habit of referring to his practice as though it were a single entity. He takes a deep breath. Patrick isn't going to be happy about this at all. Pete thinks maybe, after the day he's had so far, he'd be better off waiting to see what Gabe comes up with before dropping the news on him.

Pete looks up when he hears someone knocking. Greta is standing in the doorway, hand on her hip. Pete can tell she means business.

"We need to have a talk," she says sternly. When the news broke about the engagement, Greta had simply raised an eyebrow at him and said, "I guess congratulations are in order?"

Pete had felt like a bit of ass when he said, "We've been keeping it quiet. Sorry."

She didn't say another word about it and Pete was thankful for that. He knew that she was the one person most likely to see through the bullshit of their cover story. But there's no getting out of it now. Pete can't seem to catch a break today. This one he should have seen coming, but couldn't she have given him ten minutes to catch his breath?

"Starbucks in twenty minutes?" he asks.

She nods before turning and walking away. Pete sets his head down on his desk and sighs. It's going to be a very long day.

Pete buys Greta a latte and a blueberry muffin, and pretends he doesn't notice her obvious flirting with Jon. They take a seat at a table in the corner and Greta sips her coffee very carefully.

When she sets it down, she says, "Now, tell me why you're doing this."

"Doing what?" Pete asks slowly. He was expecting the third degree on where and how he met Patrick and a lecture similar to the one he'd gotten earlier from his parents.

"Pretending that you've been in a relationship for the past six months. Because I know that's a lie. You had me fooled for a little while, I'll admit. But I've known you for too long, Pete. I know when you're getting laid and when you aren't."

Pete pales, and for a split second he's about to try the 'we were waiting until we got married' excuse but that's a little too desperate, even for him.

"What gave me away?"

"Apart from the fact that I hadn't heard his name once until about two weeks before you were engaged? The fact that you eloped. You're the most hopeless romantic I know, Pete. If this were for real you'd want the big wedding with your friends and family there. And probably something ridiculous like, doves being released."

It's scary how well Greta knows him.

"So that brings me back to my original question. Why are you doing this?"

Pete rubs his hands over his face, takes a breath, and explains everything. His trust fund, Patrick's scholarship, his plans to launch Clandestine, everything. When he's finished, he sits back in his chair and sips his coffee. He's a little relieved to have told someone.

"Who else knows?"

Pete gestures towards the counter.

"Jon. No one else."

Greta shakes her head, laughing.

"I can't imagine the amount of shit you got from your parents over this."

"No," Pete says grimly. "You really can't."

--

Patrick has a show tonight at a place in Lincoln Park. He's never played there before, but he's more nervous about the fact that it's his first show since, well, since he got married. It still sounds weird in his head when he thinks about it. He's nineteen and he's married and Pete Wentz is his husband. None of that is ever going to stop being weird.

He doesn't know what Pete will think about him playing, doesn't know if he'll think it's going to make him look bad or something. Patrick hasn't learned all the do's and don'ts yet. He's still picking things up as he goes along. There's certainly no guidebook for this.

Patrick shows up a half an hour early. There's never a whole lot of sound checking or setup involved in these types of shows, especially since Patrick is playing acoustic, but his case of butterflies still hasn't gone away yet. He's hoping being a little extra-prepared will help.

The place is little more than a bar with a stage in the back. Patrick gets his ID checked at the door and two large black X's drawn over the back of his hands. The place is more crowded that Patrick would've expected on a Wednesday night, but he figures it's probably happy hour or something.

That is, until one of the girls from behind the bar waves to him and comes out to talk.

"I hope you don't mind. We made you the last act."

She tells him that the touring band that was supposed to be headlining had to cancel at the last minute, and given that so many people were there to see him anyway, it only made sense.

"What do you mean, so many people are here to see me?"

She points out the two photographers on either end of the bar. Patrick can tell the difference between scene photographers and professionals, and these guys are definitely with some sort of press.

"A bunch of people have asked, too. When they came in." She shrugs. "I didn't think it was that big of a deal."

"But, I only really do covers. I don't know if I can fill that much time."

She shrugs again, as though she couldn't care less.

"Whatever. Just play as long as you can okay? If you have any merch you can set it up over there." She points in the direction of a small table in the corner of the bar.

Patrick heads straight for the bathroom, splashes some cold water on his face, and tries to calm down. Chris and Darren show up in the middle of the second act. When he tells them about the change to the lineup, Darren offers to get him a drink to calm him down.

"God, no. The last thing I need is to be up on stage and drunk in front of photographers. Pete would kill me."

"He's not here?" Chris asks. Patrick scrambles to come up with an excuse.

"He had to work late."

Chris and Darren just exchange looks but don't comment. Patrick thinks he'll probably have to rehearse that better for next time.

And then, all of a sudden it's time for Patrick to be on stage, and any worries he has about his friends questioning his shotgun marriage are put on hold. For the most part, the show goes off without a hitch. Patrick thinks that if he wasn't so nervous he'd really be enjoying himself. The stage is essentially six inches off the ground and tucked into an alcove but it's a step up from sitting on a stool at a coffee shop. The photographers haven't been too terrible either, so at least he’s not being blinded by flashbulbs while he's trying to sing.

When he walks offstage, the crowd claps politely enough and he breathes a sigh of relief. He heads back toward where Chris and Darren have been hanging out, and Darren claps him on the shoulder, tells him it was a good set.

"Thanks."

"Dude, isn't the point of having a rich husband so you don't have to play in dives like this?" Chris asks.

Patrick gapes at him.

"That's...that's not why I married him," Patrick says finally.

"Sorry. Had to ask," Chris says.

Patrick looks back and forth between the two of them, waiting for some sort of explanation.

"It kind of came out of nowhere, you know? One day you were jamming with us at the dorm, and the next you were moving in with your fiancé. It was just weird."

"Sorry."

"We're just glad you didn't sell your soul to the man or anything like that," Chris says.

Patrick feels sick to his stomach and excuses himself, citing an early class the next day. On his way out the door he's stopped by a woman he recognizes from the audience. She'd been taking notes throughout his performance. Patrick really doesn't want to have to deal with this right now, especially if she's only interested in his music because of who he's married to.

"Can I just ask you a few questions?"

"I should really be getting home."

"I understand. But just tell us how you and Pete met."

"We were introduced by a mutual friend," he says quickly, inching closer to the door.

She laughs.

"Come on, you've got to give me more than that."

"No I really don't. I'm not trying to be rude here but I'm tired and I have an early class tomorrow."

"Just one more." She pauses, waiting to see if Patrick is going to stick around to answer. He figures what's the worse she could ask? A few more minutes probably aren't going to make much of a difference.

"What's Pete like in bed?"

"Excuse me?" Patrick chokes out. He's trying his best to retain his composure. His mother raised him right; he's not going to tell off a complete stranger, as much as he might want to. Besides, even if he was the type of person who talked about his sex life, it's not like he could tell her.

"Come on, just settle an office bet. Which one of you, you know, is on top?"

And that does it. Screw trying to be polite. That's it. That is just too far.

"What the fuck is wrong with you? Why would you ask that?" Patrick bites out, gritting his teeth. He's trying desperately to keep from shouting, doesn't want to make a scene, but really. "Do you really think it's okay to go up to complete strangers and ask them personal questions about their sex lives?"

He storms off angrily, hands shoved into the pockets of his jacket. When he gets home, Pete asks how the show went. Patrick glares angrily.

"Fucking fantastic," he says, his voice thick with sarcasm. He slams his bedroom door shut and goes straight to bed.

The next day after class, Patrick is lying in bed, fiddling with his laptop. He's trying to work on a piece for his Composition class, but he's hated everything he's come up with so far.

His phone rings and a female voice that he doesn't recognize says, "Hey Patrick, it's Chelsea." Patrick stalls for a moment, because he's pretty sure he doesn't know anyone by that name. "From Metropolis?" she says after a beat.

"Oh, hey. What's up?"

"We don't have anyone booked to play tomorrow night, so I thought I'd check if you were free."

It's not the first time Metropolis has offered him a spot last minute and Patrick tries to tell himself that this is nothing out of the ordinary.

"Sure, no problem. I'll be there. Same time as usual?"

"Yeah, same time," she pauses. "So...I guess I know why you were freaked out that last time you played. You were trying to keep it a secret, huh?"

Patrick hasn't thought about that day since, but he suddenly remembers that it very vividly. Standing out in the cold, trying to convince himself that Pete wasn't there to see him.

"Yeah. It was definitely...unexpected."

"Congratulations all the same," she says. "See you tomorrow."

They say their goodbyes and Patrick tells himself that Metropolis won't be a repeat of last night. It's an indie coffee shop on the far north side, there's no way. He thinks about how he told himself the same thing about Pete almost two months ago and doesn't hold out much hope.

When Patrick gets to Metropolis the next afternoon and sees not only the same reporter and photographers from the night before, but two more he doesn't recognize, he kind wants to cry. Or turn around and go home. He doesn't do either of those things, though. Instead he plays the show like nothing is out of the ordinary and does his best to ignore the reporters.

He's packing up when the same woman from the other night approaches him.

"Is it hard having a spouse who doesn't support you in your creative endeavors?"

"Yeah, it's awful. I cry myself to sleep every night," he says sarcastically as he zips up his guitar case. He pushes through the small crowd, out the door, and walks towards the el without looking back. It's pretty obvious right then and there that this is going to be the last time he plays anywhere in public for a while.

--

Pete is using his lunch hour to google for graphic designers. He's got more than enough ideas and sketches for the clothing line, but they're just sketches. He needs someone who can clean them up and make them suitable for people to actually wear. He finds a couple of potentials, one of them right in Chicago even, and he emails them all and crosses his fingers. He's gone back to eating his lunch when he sees "Inbox (1)" in his taskbar.

"That was fast," he says to himself.

But when he goes to read it, he finds an email from Greta. The subject line reads: What is the meaning of this? >:(

The body of the email contains only a link to TMZ. It took Pete a long time to learn that it was best for his sanity if he avoided reading the things people wrote about him. Especially when it pertained to his current love interests. He presses the intercom.

"Greta, what is this? You know I don't read gossip blogs."

She appears in his doorway a minute later, glaring.

"Just read," she says sternly.

Pete clicks the link.

Lack of Support Creates Tension in the Wentz Marriage

Trouble in paradise so soon after wedding bells? It seems like it. Blushing bri…, er, groom Patrick Stump played a short set at The Attic on Wednesday night and while he had the company of two male friends, Wentz was nowhere to be found. When asked to comment on his recent nuptials, Stump responded, "What the [expletive deleted] is wrong with you? Why would you ask that?"

Just last night, at Metropolis Coffee, an independent coffee shop near Loyola, Stump was once again without the company of his husband.

He appeared to be in a foul mood after the show, but tension at home may be to blame. On the subject of Pete's lack of support for his music career he did have this to say: "It's awful. I cry myself to sleep at night."

Way to go, Wentz. Just how long until being a workaholic drives a wedge between the newlyweds?

Pete manages to make it to the end before he bursts out laughing. The first thing he does when he can finally breathe again is forward it to Patrick. Underneath the link he writes, "dont cry baby. we can work it out."

Greta is still glaring when he looks up from his computer.

"You let him go out alone to fend for himself against the paparazzi. Seriously?"

"I asked him if he wanted me to go with him! He said no! It's not my fault he doesn't know how to say 'no comment.'" Greta continues to glare. "Okay, fine. I'll talk to him tonight."

The first thing Patrick says to him when he walks through the door is, "You're a douchebag."

Pete was going to try and keep the act up a little bit longer, maybe make an offer to go to couples counseling, but he takes one look at Patrick's pissed off expression, his arms crossed over his chest, and he can't do it. He starts laughing all over again.

"Shut up. All of that was taken out of context," Patrick says bitterly. "It's not my fault they don't understand sarcasm."

Pete wipes the tears from his eyes and says, "Of course it was, Patrick. That's what they do."

"And they didn't ask about our 'recent nuptials' okay," Patrick actually makes the finger quotes around the words. "She asked what you were like in bed. She wanted to know…" He flails a little, gestures wildly, and his cheeks turn a bright shade of pink.

"Which one of us was the wife?" Pete supplies, smirking.

"What was I even supposed to say to that?" Patrick says, exasperated, trying to pretend like he's not embarrassed by the entire situation.

Pete rolls his eyes.

"You say you're not the type of boy who kisses and tells, duh. Which, by the way, I appreciate."

"Well, it's not like I'd know," Patrick mumbles.

Pete's not sure if he was even supposed to hear that, but he doesn't think twice before responding.

"Like you haven't thought about it." He's gotten into the habit of teasing Patrick first, asking questions later. But now Patrick's whole face has gone red, all the way down to his neck even. "Oh my god, you have, haven't you?" Pete grins. Today might actually be the best day ever.

"Oh, like you don't know you're attractive. For fuck's sake, look at you."

Pete just smirks. Patrick makes a flustered sound and disappears into his bedroom, slamming the door loudly. Pete thinks he might have to start skimming the gossip blogs again if the public is going to maintain an interest in the two of them.

--

It didn't take long for Patrick to learn that a rather large part of being Pete Wentz's husband was accompanying him to public events. Pete gets invited to a ridiculous number of events. So far, there had been fundraisers, gallery openings, charity events, awards dinners, even a couple of movie premieres. Usually it's not so bad. They get dressed up, Pete does his networking thing, and Patrick pretends to look interested while doing his best to avoid the cameras.

The movie premieres have been his favorite, and the gallery openings aren’t bad either. Modern art isn’t usually Patrick's thing, but none of them have been too out there. He’s actually surprised at how much fun he's had.

He was even more surprised to realize that anything for charity was the worst. Those events were, more often that not, filled with stuck up socialites who cared more about being seen at the event than supporting any kind of philanthropic cause.

These, of course, are the events that Patrick finds himself going to nearly every other week. After a month, it's old hat and Patrick just grins and bears it.

He gets home on a Tuesday after three classes back to back. It’s not until he opens the door to his room and sees his calendar does he remember the plans he has with Pete that evening. So instead of collapsing onto his bed like he really wants to, he just sighs, drops his books onto his desk, and goes to the closet to pick out a suit. He's not really in any mood to be sociable, but this is after all, what Pete is paying him for. He can at least make the effort.

There's little fanfare when they arrive. This seems to be an event that only those who were invited know about. It's a dinner in support of a charity that Patrick didn't catch the name of. He thinks that's an odd way to go about fundraising, but he's not about to tell other people how to do their jobs.

After the meal, Pete disappears somewhere. Probably schmoozing with other millionaires Patrick presumes. Patrick is left alone at their table with a group of strangers. For whatever reason, the woman next to him decides that Patrick is the one person at the table that she desperately wants to get to know better. If Patrick had to guess he would say she was in her sixties. She also smells like she took a bath in her perfume.

He really wants to kill Pete right about now.

She leads with asking how he and Pete met. Patrick recites the story Pete first told the night he met Patrick's parents. It's fairly close to the truth to begin with, so it's not like he needs to worry about getting details wrong. She looks vaguely appalled at the idea that they were introduced by the person who makes Pete's coffee in the morning. After that, she doesn't ask any more questions about him and Pete.

Instead, she asks him where he's from and what he does and Patrick very patiently explains that he grew up in the suburbs and that he's currently studying music at Columbia. When he's done talking, she gives him that same look she had on her face when Patrick mentioned that Jon worked at Starbucks.

"Oh. Well, isn't that…nice," she says in a condescending tone.

When she excuses herself, Patrick is glad to be rid of her. That is, until a few minutes later. He happens to glance across the room and he sees her gossiping with some other socialite-types. They keep looking back in the direction of his table and laughing to themselves; it's not even subtle.

Patrick has to take a couple of deep breaths just to keep himself from getting up, walking over to her, and telling her exactly what he thinks of her. Where does she get off judging Patrick for what he wants to do with his life? Patrick wonders if she's ever had to work a single day of hers, or if she's just spent it judging those she deemed beneath her. He's trying his best to stay calm, but every time he manages to catch sight of her, he finds himself seeing red all over again. He doesn't think he can take much more of this. Eventually he's going to snap and cause a scene and that is the last thing he needs.

He's two seconds away from getting up to go take a walk somewhere and calm himself down, when Pete comes strolling back over to their table. He's grinning that stupid grin of his, and Patrick kind of wants to punch him in the mouth. He sits back down next to Patrick and throws an arm around his shoulders, kissing his cheek and asking if Patrick is enjoying himself.

"No," Patrick says through gritted teeth. "If I don't get out of here soon, there are going to be problems."

"Come on, is it really so bad?" Pete asks and Patrick just glares. Pete seems to get the hint and doesn't argue anymore, just says, "We'll leave in a few minutes, okay? We can't leave before the speech."

So Patrick begrudgingly sits through it, hoping that at least, if nothing else, he'll be able to figure out what the hell this fundraiser is for. Apparently though, Mr. Important giving the speech has no idea what he's raising money for either. Or if he does, he doesn't want anyone else to know. At that moment, Patrick hates every single person in that room, including Pete. He has to get out of there and he doesn't care what anyone thinks of him.

--

Patrick is out of his seat and walking towards the door the second the guest of honor stops speaking. People are still clapping as Patrick walks right by them. Pete excuses himself as politely as he can. He can feel the eyes on him as goes after Patrick. He's going to be hearing about this for weeks, he's sure of it. He finds Patrick sulking on a couch by the coat check. Pete fishes for his ticket and hands it to the girl behind the counter. He collects his coat, certain that the last thing he wants to do is go back into that room, and sits down next to Patrick.

"Was the speech that terrible?" he asks, trying to lighten the mood.

Patrick looks at him like someone has just kicked his puppy.

"Can we go home now? Please?"

Pete thinks maybe now is not the best time to make a big deal out of the fact that Patrick just made him look like an idiot in front of the entire Chicago socialite scene.

He doesn't even wait for the valet to bring his car around; they always take too damn long anyway. He’ll have someone pick it up later. Once they're outside, he hails a cab and they're on their way back to the apartment. Patrick stares out the window and pouts for the duration of the trip. Pete wants to ask if something happened, if someone said something or did something to put Patrick in this mood. He can't keep it from happening again if he doesn't know what happened in the first place. But he also wants to say, you really can't do that, it makes me look bad. Except in a way that doesn't make him sound like a complete asshole.

Instead, he says nothing. It's complete silence the entire ride home, all the way until they walk through the door.

"Finally," Patrick says, under his breath.

They hang up their coats and start to settle in. Patrick looks through the mail and Pete kicks off his uncomfortable dress shoes.

"So...was tonight a one time occurrence?" Pete asks, loosening his tie.

Patrick looks at him, confused.

"What?"

"Because you know how often we go to these things and I need that to not happen again."

Patrick goes off like a bomb.

He starts yelling about the woman who was sitting next to them, how does Pete stand these people, they don't even care about the charities they are supposedly fundraising for, they just care about gossiping about each other. Pete waits patiently until he's done.

"Welcome to my world," he says, a little sadly.

"Your world fucking sucks."

Pete just shrugs.

"You’d better get used to it."

"Do you like how they're always talking about you? About how you married someone so beneath you?" Patrick asks angrily, pushing at his shoulders.

Pete stumbles back a bit, caught off guard.

"Fuck you. You know that's not why I picked you. Besides, you knew what you were getting into when we made this deal."

He shoves Patrick back, up against the nearest wall, his fists clenched in Patrick's shirt. They stare at each other for a second, both poised for a fight. Patrick is breathing hard, his breath hot on Pete's face. Pete's gaze goes to Patrick's mouth and he thinks, why the hell not? If nothing else it'll get Patrick to shut up for a few minutes.

Pete kisses him roughly, half expecting Patrick to push him away and tell him fuck off. This isn't part of the deal. They've never kissed without it being for someone else's benefit. They've definitely never kissed like this before. He loosens his grip on Patrick's shirt as he leans back. He looks at Patrick, waiting for a response. He hasn't gotten punched yet so that's a good sign at the very least.

Patrick looks him in the eye and lets out a deep breath.

"Fuck."

"Patrick," Pete starts to say.

"Shut up." Patrick grabs Pete by his tie, hauling him back in. "Just shut up," he says again before he kisses back just as hard.

Pete means to say, "Wait," or "We shouldn't," because god knows he's been attracted to Patrick since day one, but he's been telling himself for just as long why acting on it would be a very bad idea. But when he breaks away from the kiss, gasping for breath, the only thing that comes out of his mouth is, "Bedroom?" Patrick just nods.

And Pete thinks, okay, this I can work with. It's not that much of a disaster. He somehow manages to steer Patrick down the hallway to his bedroom as Patrick bites at his mouth, threads his hands in Pete's hair.

Pete is undoing his tie and Patrick is trying to get off his shoes, all the while bitching about how he had to get all dressed up just so stupid old rich ladies could insult him, and Pete finally gets fed up.

"Look, I get it. It was awful, and I'm very sorry. Now shut up and take off your pants."

"Fuck you," Patrick glares at him as he does so.

"Yeah, that's kind of the point," he spits back, digging around his bedside table for lube and condoms. He steps out of his underwear, walks around and sits on the edge of his bed, "Come here."

Patrick walks towards him, hesitantly, and stands between his legs. Pete's not entirely thrilled with the fact that Patrick seems to think they're going to have sex with him still wearing a t-shirt and boxers, but whatever, they're getting there.

He grabs Patrick by the waist and pulls him down, rocks his hips up into Patrick's.

"Come on, are you going to fuck me or not?" Pete asks. Patrick grinds back down hard against him.

"I'm gonna fuck you so hard you're going to feel it for days, Wentz."

"Promises," Pete gasps out. He presses the lube into Patrick's chest, "Hurry up already."

Patrick takes the lube and sits back between Pete's legs. Pete watches as Patrick coats two fingers, and his breath hitches a little bit when he thinks about Patrick stretching him open. This is actually happening. Patrick pushes his legs apart and rubs his fingers over Pete's hole before pressing them in roughly. It hurts more than Pete was expecting and he bites down on his lip, groaning. He shifts and arches his back trying to get comfortable, but it only serves to push Patrick's fingers in deeper.

"Fuck," he gasps.

"You okay?" Patrick asks, sounding genuinely concerned. Pete looks up at him.

"Yeah. It's just been a while. It's good though, don't stop."

Patrick works his fingers in deeper, curls them inside of Pete. It's been so long since the last time he had anyone's fingers in him besides his own, he forgot how good it could be. He doesn't even bother trying to hold back the needy, desperate sounds that are coming out of his mouth. His hips come up off the bed and he presses back hard, fucking himself down onto Patrick's fingers.

It's not nearly enough.

"Fuck, okay, that's enough, I'm ready," Pete babbles and Patrick looks at him skeptically. "Oh god, please don't make me beg."

Patrick just shakes his head as he reaches for a condom.

"God, you’re needy,"

Pete doesn't say anything, just whines and starts trying to tug off Patrick's boxers.

"Jesus Christ, calm down. You're not actually going to die if I don't fuck you this very second, you know."

Pete's not so sure. But then, Patrick doesn't know how long it's been. He bats Pete's hands away, sits back up on the edge of the bed and slides off his boxers. Pete tugs at his t-shirt.

"This too," he says.

Patrick sighs, but pulls his shirt off before crawling back over towards Pete. He sits back between Pete's legs and he's just…staring. Pete's glad that Patrick is enjoying the view and all, but seriously, he might actually cry if he has to wait any longer.

"Patrick, please."

Patrick positions himself and looks back up at Pete.

"Ready?"

"Are you fucking kidding? Do it before..." and the rest is nothing but a groan as Patrick pushes all the way in. He grips Patrick's shoulders and squeezes his eyes shut tight, because, fuck it hurts, and maybe Patrick was right to second-guess him when he said he was ready.

"Relax," Patrick whispers.

Pete lets out a slow, shaky breath, and as Patrick starts to move he wraps his legs tight around Patrick's waist. Patrick fucks him slowly, eyes focused on Pete's the entire time. He reaches out to trace his fingers lightly over the thorns on Pete's chest.

"Did these hurt?"

"They all did," Pete nods. "But they were worth it."

Patrick leans down and alternately licks and kisses at the tattoos.

"I'm going to give you some more marks to hide under your expensive clothes," Patrick says into his chest before biting at his collarbones. He sucks a hickey into Pete's throat when Pete throws his head back and arches into him.

Patrick is still thrusting into him slowly, like he's got all the time in the world. It's driving Pete crazy and he's sure that Patrick is doing it on purpose. He remembers being nineteen. Remembers sex being a frantic rush to get off. If Patrick’s going slow, there’s a reason for it.

He pulls Patrick towards him, as close as he can. If he can't get Patrick to fuck him faster, maybe he can at least get him deeper. He needs more, he needs so much more, but he's not about to actually start begging. Not yet anyway.

Patrick looks up at him.

"You want more?" he asks. He thrusts harder into Pete, just once, teasing.

"Yes. I thought I was going feel it for days."

"You will." Patrick bites at Pete's bottom lip before leaning back and unwrapping Pete's legs from around his waist. He braces himself against Pete's thighs as he speeds up his pace, fucking Pete harder and deeper than before. Pete shift and tilts his hips up just a bit, and-- there's the angle he's been looking for. Finally. Pete clenches his fists in the sheets and groans every time Patrick slams back into him.

"This what you wanted?" Patrick asks, breathing hard against Pete's neck.

"Fuck. Yes. Harder," Pete groans. He reaches down to jerk himself off, but only gets halfway there before Patrick's pushing his hand away.

"No," Patrick practically growls in his ear. "You're going to come from this. When I say you can."

There's an edge to Patrick's voice, but he doesn't care. If this is Patrick's way of punishing him for what happened earlier that evening, he's going find out who it was that insulted Patrick and fucking thank them.

He unclenches a fist from the sheets and wraps it around the back of Patrick's neck, pulling him down for a kiss. Patrick seems surprised, but kisses back, tongue slipping into Pete's mouth. He really hopes that this isn't a one-time fluke. It's the best sex Pete has had in years.

Apparently no one expects him to be the type to like being held down and fucked hard. Go figure. The only thing he wanted is the one thing he almost never got. And well, Pete's not as easy with his affections as the media makes him out to be. He’s gotten a couple of blowjobs here and there, but he hasn't spent the night with anyone since he broke up with his last girlfriend.

He's close, and at this point, totally not above begging.

"Patrick, please," he pants between kisses. "Fuck, please let me come."

Patrick looks at him a moment, like he's considering.

"Okay. You're allowed."

And Pete's done for. He comes, head thrown back, toes curling. Patrick continues to fuck him through his orgasm. He follows a minute later, collapsing on top of him. Pete listens to Patrick's breathing slowly return to normal before Patrick rolls off him, ties off the condom, and throws it in the garbage by Pete's bed. For a second Pete wonders if he's actually just going to get up and leave, but he lies back down and Pete curls up beside him.

"Shit. Why haven't we done that before?" Pete asks, his brain still a little bit fuzzy. Patrick looks at him, way more irritated than a guy who just got laid has any right to.

"For starters, I wasn't sure you were gay until about an hour ago."

"Seriously?" And here Pete had felt like the entire world knew he was less than straight after the paparazzi caught him and Mikey at that book signing in New York a few years back. "I mean, I’m not. Technically. I never gave too much consideration to labels. But did it escape your notice that I married a dude?"

"Did it escape yours that our marriage is a sham? I thought it was just another way of saying fuck you to your parents for putting that clause in your trust fund."

"You know, I don't actually hate my parents. They were just trying to do what they thought was best for me." Pete is silent for a moment. "They're just wrong in this case."

Patrick doesn't respond, and Pete's mind is racing with all the millions of things he could say right now. Like, that was amazing, let's do that again. Or, is this going to make things awkward? Or, please stay, I get lonely in the middle of the night.

He's found, though, that it's best to not overwhelm Patrick with too much at once. And this, all of this, it's a lot. He ends up not saying anything at all, instead just breathing against Patrick's neck and tracing his fingers across Patrick's chest and down his arm.

Pete's almost asleep when Patrick shifts and the mattress dips.

"I should go back to my room."

"Oh," Pete says quietly, lifting his head. "Okay." He sits up, moves out of Patrick's way as he gets out of bed and pulls his clothes back on.

Patrick barely mumbles out "goodnight" as he leaves the room and shuts the door behind him. Pete's too tired and too well fucked to be kept awake by the nagging feeling that everything just got much more complicated. He falls asleep fast, and sleeps well for the first time in a long time.

--

Patrick can't stop yawning all through his eleven o'clock English class. Usually it's the 9am class he has on Mondays and Thursdays that gives him problems, but well, he didn't exactly get much sleep the night before.

Usually he has no trouble sleeping after he's gotten laid, but in this particular instance that's part of the problem. He spent the night staring up at the ceiling, thinking about the fact that he, that he and Pete, that they. It hurts his brain just thinking about it. He didn't mean for it to happen. One second he was yelling, the next Pete was kissing him. Of course they'd kissed lots of times, but never when no one was watching, certainly never like that.

Pete had been pushing his buttons since the day they met. Teasing. Having way too much fun making Patrick blush. Eventually Patrick was bound to push back. But when he did, he expected Pete to back down, maybe laugh it off before they went their separate ways. No one was more surprised then him when Pete dragged him off towards his bedroom and all but begged Patrick to fuck him.

He hadn't been lying when he told Pete he didn't know he was gay. Or whatever Pete identified as. Patrick had let his curiosity get the better of him; he'd googled Pete a couple times, trying to dig up some info on his exes. There were a couple of models, which made for a rather hilarious height difference in photos, and a few actresses, most of whom seemed to be very popular at the time he was dating them. According to the internet, it ended badly with almost all of them. There were rumors, but no actual photos, of any ex-boyfriends. And yeah there was the eyeliner and the skinny jeans that Pete seemed to be rather fond of on his days off, but Patrick had learned the hard way from being involved in the local scene that didn't necessarily mean anything.

But if last night was any indication, Pete had not only done that before, but he very much enjoyed getting fucked.

Patrick didn't exactly have any complaints either. It had been a while since the last time he'd hooked up with anybody. It could have been terrible and Patrick would've still been okay with it. Except that it wasn't terrible. It was nowhere near terrible and was in fact closer to what Patrick might call incredible. Not that he would ever admit that to Pete.

The downside to all this was that he spent several hours thinking and over-analyzing when he should have been sleeping. Which led to him pressing the snooze on his alarm far too many times and only just making it to class on time.

He yawns again while his professor is babbling on about Jane Austen and wishes class would end so he could take a nap before his next one.

"Am I boring you, Mr. Stump?"

Patrick feels dozens of eyes on him all at once.

"No. Sorry. I didn't sleep much last night." He tugs his hat down, embarrassed to have been called out in front of the whole class.

His professor just frowns at him.

"The class doesn't need to know about your extracurricular activities, Mr. Stump."

Patrick knows he said 'extracurricular activities' but it sounded an awful lot like 'sex life' to him. Judging by the barely muffled laughter going on around him, he's pretty sure he's not the only one who heard it that way. He slumps down in his seat, wishing he were anywhere else in the world, and tries to stay awake for the last twenty minutes of class.

--

Patrick meets Jon for lunch during his break. He orders the largest coffee he can get his hands on while Jon talks at him about the ridiculous customers he had that morning and the project he's working on for one of his photo classes. As he sips his coffee, he nods and makes a noncommittal noise, hoping the caffeine will kick in soon. He really doesn't want a repeat of his last class.

"Dude, are you listening to me at all?" Jon says.

Patrick looks up from his coffee.

"Oh, sorry, you were saying?"

"I asked if you'd met Pete's secretary. I've been trying to ask her out for like three months now, but she almost never comes into the store and flirting via Pete is kind of weird."

Patrick tries his best to stifle a yawn. He's actually listening this time, honest, he just can't help it.

"Dude, seriously. That's like the tenth time you've yawned since we sat down. Did you catch Pete's insomnia or what?" When Patrick raises an eyebrow at him and Jon says, "What? I talk to him almost every day and I make his coffee. I know he only sleeps like four hours a night."

"Oh," Patrick says, feeling a little stupid. He probably should have been able to figure that one out on his own. "No, I just. I didn't sleep well last night."

Jon looks vaguely concerned.

"Did you guys have another fight?" he asks, in between bites of his sandwich.

"Um, kind of. We were at this charity dinner last night and we ended up leaving early because of...things." Patrick doesn't really want to talk about the woman from last night. Just thinking about it now is making him want to punch things. "And I maybe overreacted when we got home."

"Yeah, cause you've never lost your temper before." Jon scoffs. "Are you guys still fighting? Because Pete seemed like he was in a pretty good mood this morning."

Patrick can feel his face getting hot already.

"No, um. That all seemed to resolve itself when we had sex." The words spill out of Patrick's mouth before he knows what he's saying. "So, you want to ask Greta out, huh? I met her once, she seemed kind of scary to me."

"Wait, wait. You what?" Jon laughs. Patrick suddenly finds the lid of his coffee cup fascinating. "Oh my god, you're serious." Jon leans back in his chair, clearly not feeling bad at all about laughing in Patrick's face. "You never get to live this down. I hope you realize that. After all your bitching about how much you couldn't stand him."

"Shut up. I didn't...it wasn't...it just happened, okay?"

"So you just tripped and fell on his dick? Is that it?" Jon asks, still grinning. Patrick knows that Jon's right; he's never going to be able to live this down. But at least for now, he can think of one way to get Jon to shut up.

"No," Patrick spits out. "Other way around, douche." It takes a moment before Jon figures out what he means, and then his face falls.

"Why would you say that? I didn't need to know that."

"That's what you get for giving me shit." Patrick feels slightly vindicated.

Jon frowns at him a moment longer.

"Does that mean…are you like, together or something now?"

"What? No." Patrick says, startled. "No, of course not. It was just, I don't know. Just a fluke or something. I'm sure Pete doesn't think…" He trails off, realizing that he actually has no idea what Pete thinks, because they didn't bother to talk about it after it happened.

"Hey, I gotta get to class," Jon says, shaking him out of his own thoughts. "I'll catch you later. Try not to have anymore accidental sex with your husband okay?" Jon grins at him and Patrick flips him off as he walks away.

Patrick spends the next several hours wondering what Pete's lack of response means and silently freaking out while he rehearses the Very Serious Discussion he plans on having with Pete when he gets home. He only manages to get half of his notes down; so much for paying attention in class.

Patrick is pacing back and forth, going over how he's going to broach the topic with Pete when he walks through the door. He wonders if it's better to address the issue head on, or bring it up after Pete's had time to settle in. But when Pete finally does get home, later than usual -- which did wonderful things to Patrick's nerves -- he doesn't act like anything is out of the ordinary at all. He grins at Patrick on his way to his bedroom, asks how his day went, and that's that.

Patrick thinks, Oh. We're pretending nothing happened. I can do that. No problem. No problem at all.

--

It’s been almost a week since they slept together and the world hasn’t come crashing down yet. They’ve gone about their business as normal, no weirdness to speak of. For that matter, they’ve hardly disagreed over anything recently and Pete’s starting to wonder if they got over that rough spot. There’s also a part of him that wonders if the sex had anything to do with it. If it was the break in the tension that they both needed. He pushes that thought to the back of his head because he really doesn’t need to be thinking about sex with Patrick. Any more than he already does.

Patrick gets off the phone with his mom one evening and from the one word responses and the look he had on his face afterward, Pete can tell it was not a good phone call.

"Something wrong?" he asks.

"Oh, um. Yeah," Patrick says, "My dad just got laid off. My mom told me not to worry about it, but it still sucks."

Pete nods sympathetically and Patrick shuts himself up in his room to finish his homework. The next day he calls around during his lunch hour to see if anyone he knows is hiring. He calls the Stump residence that evening with his leads.

It's a couple of days before the plan backfires in Pete's face.

Patrick is waiting for him when he gets home, arms crossed, poised for a fight. Apparently one of the leads came through. Patrick's dad has an interview, and Patrick's mom called to express her thanks. Patrick is not quite as grateful as his mother.

"We might be married but you're not actually part of my family. You shouldn't have gone behind my back like that."

It stings, probably the way Patrick meant it to. He does that from time to time, whenever they're fighting, throws in a comment like that, as if he wants to remind Pete that they're not actually anything to each other.

"I was just trying to help!" Pete shouts at him. He knows this one is technically his fault, but really, he had good intentions. "Maybe you shouldn't be so goddamn proud."

"Fuck you," Patrick yells. "I want a divorce."

Pete can tell he's mostly kidding. One thing he's learned about Patrick's temper is that he just likes to yell until he feels better. And maybe it's not the best time to bring up the little matter of their eventual divorce and how it's not actually possible, but they're already fighting, so Pete thinks he might as well kill two birds with one stone.

"Um, actually, about that," Pete says quietly.

"What?"

"So. Um. I didn't exactly talk to my lawyers before we went up to Niagara. It, uh, turns out that since we got married in Canada we can't get divorced unless one of us is a resident."

Patrick stares at him, as if he's waiting for something.

"You're kidding me right? This is some sort of completely unfunny joke."

Apparently he is. He's waiting for Pete to tell him it's not true. Unfortunately, Pete can't do that. Because it is true.

"It's not that big of a deal, Patrick. I mean, it'll hardly affect you at all. I'll get my lawyers..."

"Hardly affect me?! This was only supposed to be for a year! And now you're telling me we can't get divorced!"

"Thanks for acting like being married to me is the worst thing in the world," Pete says. He doesn't even bother to pretend that he's not hurt. Yeah, he knows he made a mistake, but he's going to fix it. There's no need for Patrick to get so worked up about it, no need for him to be mean.

"Apparently, I'm married to an idiot so maybe it is."

Pete doesn't think before he acts, just grabs Patrick by the shoulders and slams him back against the wall. Patrick, while obviously startled, doesn't say a word. They stare at each other a moment, and Pete sees that look in Patrick's eyes. It's the same one he had just before he grabbed Pete by the tie and kissed him two weeks ago. Pete can feel his face flush as the anger bubbles up inside of him. All he can think is, how dare he? How dare Patrick say these things and make Pete feel like the worst person alive, and then lean in and look at him with eyes filled with want.

He wishes he could find the right words to respond. He wants to able to hurt Patrick with a few choice words the way Patrick just did to him.

Instead, his hands go to Patrick's belt, undoing it and shoving Patrick's jeans down. Patrick does reach for him a moment later, hand curling around the back of Pete's neck. Pete thinks nothing of it as he pushes him away before dropping to his knees.

He grips Patrick by the hips, fingers digging into his skin hard enough to bruise, holds him in place as he sucks Patrick into his mouth as deep as he can. Above him, Patrick is biting back frustrated moans as he tries and fails to thrust into Pete's mouth. Pete looks up at him as he pulls back a bit, sucking lightly at the head, and watches as Patrick shoves a fist into his mouth and bites down.

Pete is tempted to get up right now. To leave him like this, hard and desperate to get off, knowing that it's all Pete's doing.

He won't, because he's not the terrible person Patrick apparently thinks he is. He wraps a hand around the base of Patrick's cock and jerks him roughly as he bites at Patrick's hips, teeth sinking in where his fingers had left little red marks.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck," Patrick mumbles, thrusting helplessly into Pete's hand. "Pete, I need, please, I need." He threads his fingers in Pete's hair and Pete looks up at him once more. Pete swirls his tongue around the tip before going all the way down again, letting Patrick fuck his mouth.

Patrick groans, "Pete, fuck," tugging at his hair to warn him.

Pete doesn't pull off, swallowing when Patrick comes in his mouth a few seconds later. He stands up and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand as Patrick sinks to the ground, unable to keep himself upright in the wake of his orgasm.

"Maybe it's not so terrible being married to me, huh?"

Patrick looks up at him, speechless for a solid moment.

"Pete. I..."

Pete walks away, towards his bedroom. He doesn't really want to hear Patrick's half-hearted apologies right now. He locks his bedroom door and jerks off twice, very pointedly not thinking about Patrick's fingers in his ass or Patrick's dick in his mouth.

Afterward, he shoves his sweat and come stained clothes into his hamper, puts on a t-shirt and boxers, climbs underneath his blankets, and watches TV until he falls asleep.

The next morning he finds a post-it note stuck to the front of the fridge. It's in Patrick's handwriting and it reads, "I'm sorry."

He thinks about leaving one in its place since Patrick is still fast asleep but instead he just takes the note down, folds it in half, and tucks it into the pocket of his jacket. When he gets home that evening, Patrick is sitting at the kitchen table, studying.

"Hi," he says, sheepishly.

"I got your note."

"Yeah, um, about that," Patrick rubs a hand over the back of his neck, looks uncomfortable. "It's possible that I overreacted."

"Don't worry about it. I mean, apart from the money, I know I'm not exactly a catch."

"Pete..."

"Forget about it, Patrick. Water under the bridge."

--

Patrick feels like an asshole. He'd tried to apologize to Pete the other night and failed miserably.

"Order whatever you want for dinner,” Pete said, throwing his credit card down on the kitchen counter. “I'm not hungry," before mumbling something about having calls to make and locking himself in his office for the rest of the evening.

He heads to Starbucks after class. There's a line when he gets there and he wants to talk to Jon more than he wants coffee so he takes a seat in the corner until everyone else has been waited on.

He steps up to the counter and is greeted with a smile from Jon.

"Hey, dude. What's up?"

"I think I'm a shitty husband," Patrick blurts out.

The smile disappears from Jon's face and he blinks several times.

"What?"

"I was an asshole and I think I hurt Pete's feelings."

"So apologize, dumbass. It's not rocket science," Jon says. "And why the hell are you coming to me for marriage advice?"

"I wouldn't have met him if not for you. You're obligated to listen to my marriage woes. Seriously, what kind of friend are you?"

"Is this how you talk to Pete? Because if it is, then you are a shitty husband." Jon maybe has a point. It's just...this whole fake marriage thing is a lot more stressful and a lot more work than Patrick had anticipated.

"Shut up. You're not helping."

Jon sighs.

"Look, when he's having a shitty day he usually stops by for more coffee after lunch."

"Okay. And?"

Jon stares at him, shakes his head.

"You're really bad at this." He begins to do something with pitchers of milk and shot glasses. As he works, he says, "Okay, I am making you three drinks. You are going to give one to Greta so she lets you in his office. Then you are going to talk to Pete and tell him you are the worst husband in the world. And that you are sorry. The 'I'm sorry' part is important."

Patrick folds his arms across his chest and glares a little.

"I'm not stupid, Jon."

"Are you sure about that?"

Patrick leaves Starbucks with three venti vanilla something or others and crosses the street to Pete's office. He presses the button for floor number five, "The Wentz Corporation," and shifts nervously from foot to foot as he waits for the doors to open again.

When he finally steps out, Greta is already peering over her desk, looking to see who is approaching. He really hopes that means that Pete's not expecting anyone, that he'll have a few free minutes for Patrick. Greta's got her arms folded across her chest and she's looking at him with one eyebrow raised as he steps up to the desk.

"You did something," she says, stating a fact. It's like somehow she knows with one hundred percent certainty that this is all Patrick's fault. To be honest, Patrick's a little afraid of her on good days. Right now he's a little worried she's going to cause him physical harm.

"I know," he says sheepishly. He feels badly enough as it is; he doesn't need her shaking her head at him, making him feel worse. "But I'm trying to fix it. Is he busy?"

Greta sighs and leans back in her chair a bit. Patrick picks up the cup of coffee that Jon had specifically instructed was for her, the one with a note sticking out of the sleeve.

He puts on his most apologetic face, hands it to her and says, "This is for you. From Jon."

She takes a sip before pulling the piece of paper out and reading it. A small smile pulls at her lips before she folds it back up and tucks it into a drawer. Apparently Jon was right, because that totally does the trick.

"He might still be on a conference call, but you can go on in."

Patrick knocks lightly on the door before walking in and Pete looks up from his computer screen, surprised.

"Yeah, Doug. I see what you're saying. I have last quarter's numbers right in front of me."

Patrick is lingering awkwardly near the door and wondering if he should just turn around and go when Pete gestures for him to take a seat. On the other end of the call Doug and a couple of other voices are arguing about projected earnings and lost sales.

"I'm going to have to cut this short, okay guys? We'll finish this up tomorrow." They say their goodbyes and Pete looks over at him.

"Hi," Patrick says quietly. "Um. I brought you this." He leans forward and puts one of the cups of coffee down on Pete's desk.

"Thank you," Pete says, taking a sip. "Jon make it?" Patrick nods. "I can always tell. It's not as good when someone else does."

They're both quiet for an awkwardly long amount of time.

"So what brings you by?" Pete says finally. He says it like Patrick is an acquaintance he hasn't seen in a while, instead of someone he lives with.

"I just wanted to apologize again, for the other night."

"Patrick..."

"No, let me finish. It's not just the other night, it's…I've been an asshole, pretty much since we started this thing. And, and I'm sorry."

Pete sighs. He rubs his hands together, and chews on his bottom lip for moment before he responds.

"Patrick, when I asked you do to this, it was because you seemed like a cool guy. Someone I wouldn't mind living with for a while, someone I thought I could probably be friends with."

Patrick's spend the last two months hating Pete for practically no reason and now Pete is telling him all he wanted was for them to be friends. Patrick is actually the world's worst husband. Even by marriage of convenience standards.

"It's pretty clear that you don't see things the same way, so let's just put the past behind us and try to get through the rest of the year without any more incidents, okay?"

He's not sure if by "incidents", Pete means them fighting or them having sex. Or possibly both. The one does seem to follow the other.

"I'll see you at home."

The conversation is over and Patrick gets no further say in the matter. He leaves Pete's office feeling worse than he did when he arrived. He throws his coffee, now cold, in a trashcan as he walks home.

--

Pete doesn't get much work done the rest of the day. He finds himself staring into space, thinking about Patrick, the way he looked standing nervously in the doorway. Pete is only just now beginning to realize what a truly terrible idea this marriage was.

It's not that he doesn't think Patrick's apologies are genuine. He actually really appreciates the effort. It's just unnecessary. Because, while yes, Patrick said some hurtful things that night, Pete knows he definitely didn't help matters by doing what he did.

He realizes that his biggest problem is that he had unrealistic expectations from the start. What they're doing is essentially a business deal; he doesn't know why he expected to be guaranteed a friend once Patrick moved in.

The worst thing was realizing that there was some small part of him that thought the sex actually meant something. It wasn't like he thought they were going to fall in love and live happily ever after. He's not stupid. But Patrick had been different the day after, friendlier. Like maybe somehow he had gotten over whatever animosity he'd held towards Pete. And then, barely a week later, Patrick was standing across from him in the kitchen, telling him he'd married an idiot and well, it was pretty clear to Pete that he had been wrong.

More than anything, he's mad at himself.

As he's leaving, Greta asks what's wrong. She can always tell. He still hasn't figured out if his moods are that transparent or if she's just learned to read him. He shrugs in response.

"Don't give me that. What's going on with Patrick?"

"Nothing," he tells her, trying to sound convincing. She gives him a stern look like she doesn't believe him for a second. "We had a fight the other night. But he already apologized. Several times, actually."

"You're still sad about something."

"Nothing he did." The guy he's paying to pretend to be his husband doesn't like him. Even thinking it makes him feel foolish. There's no way he's going to say it out loud. "Don't worry about me so much," he says as he leaves.

When Pete gets home, Patrick is sprawled out on the couch watching TV.

"Hey," he says quietly.

Pete forces a smile. In a few days he'll probably be fine, this awkwardness will be gone, and they can both continue on with their lives. But right now Pete just wants to be left alone and maybe spend some time feeling sorry for himself.

"I ordered a pizza for dinner. I thought maybe we could eat together for a change? There's a B movie marathon on AMC, if you're into that."

Pete sighs.

"You don't have to do this."

"Do what?" Patrick laughs. "Eat dinner? I kind of do, I'm fucking hungry."

"Patrick, I meant what I said earlier. You don't have to keep trying to make it up to me."

Patrick's easy smile turns into a scowl.

"Maybe I meant what I said, too, did you ever think of that?" he says before storming off into the bedroom and slamming the door behind him.

--

As predicted, a few days was all he needed and by Friday Pete feels a lot less like a moody teenager. It's twenty minutes before he's about to leave the office, when he gets an email from Patrick. He wants to know if they have any plans for the evening. Pete's about to respond when Greta's voice comes over the intercom.

"Mr. Beckett's secretary is calling to confirm your dinner plans for tonight."

"Shit," Pete mumbles to himself.

The Becketts are good friends with his parents and William Sr. had contacted him shortly after he and Patrick were married about wanting to get together for dinner. Unlike Pete, Mr. Beckett was the type of person who actually needed to make dinner plans two months in advance, which was probably why Pete completely forgot about it.

"I totally forgot about that. Let me check with Patrick first. Tell her you'll call her back in five?"

"Will do, boss."

He emails Patrick about the dinner, lets him know he doesn't mind canceling if it's too short notice. He gets a reply a minute later.

No problem. I'm already home, I'll start getting ready.

--

"We can still cancel if you want," Pete calls from the bathroom.

Patrick hasn't come out of his room since Pete got home. They've been yelling to each other through the door. He hears a muffled response but can't quite make it out from all the way down the hall. He adjusts his tie as he walks back towards Patrick's room.

"I didn't catch that."

The door finally opens, Patrick on the other side of it in his favorite suit.

"I did not spend all this time making myself pretty for nothing," he says, adjusting his fedora. "You owe me a nice dinner."

Patrick looks good. He looks really good. Pete is a little ashamed of the part of his brain currently wondering, if I go down on him right now, will that makes things weird again? He forces himself to stop thinking with his dick, because, yes, that will definitely make things weird. And while they're still awkward around each other, it's a level of awkward that Pete can deal with on a day-to-day basis.

"Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you. They're going to act like they want to congratulate us on our marriage, but they're going to be judging you the entire time."

Patrick scoffs.

"Yeah, and how is that different from any other time we go out?"

"William and my dad have been friends since college. He's an alright guy for the most part, but Mrs. Beckett, she's something else entirely," Pete explains. "And I suspect she always thought I would end up marrying her daughter."

"Did you..." Patrick starts, "were you ever together? Because if I'm having dinner with your ex-girlfriend's parents, I want to know ahead of time."

"God no," Pete shakes his head. "We grew up together, but we never actually liked each other much. I don't know how she ever got in her head that we'd be good together, but she started dropping hints a few years ago."

"So basically what you're saying is she'll probably hate me from the get go and there's nothing I can do about it?"

"Pretty much, yeah." He knows it's selfish, but he's really kind of hoping he's talked Patrick into wanting to cancel. It's not as though he's even exaggerating. This is most likely not going to be a fun evening for Patrick.

"Awesome," Patrick says sarcastically. "Let's do this thing and get it over with."

--

Patrick's first thought about the Becketts is that they look like the type of conservative Republicans that would call Pete's marriage a sin, or a disgrace to "real" marriage. They don't though. In fact, the first thing Mr. Beckett says after hugging Pete is that he's glad Pete has finally decided to settle down. Afterward, Patrick goes in for a handshake, and gets pulled into a crushing hug of his own.

Mrs. Beckett is not quite as forthcoming with her affections.

"Congratulations, Peter," she says giving Pete a cold smile. Once introduced to Patrick, she says, "So good to finally meet you." And then promptly ignores him for the next fifteen minutes.

That is perfectly fine with Patrick. It gives him the opportunity to carefully look over his menu, which he can't read a word of because it's entirely in French. Pete is catching up with Mr. Beckett, talking business, and neither of them are paying much attention to their spouses. Patrick just sighs and waits a moment for a lull in the conversation. When it arrives, he runs his hand along Pete's thigh. That gets him Pete's attention pretty quickly.

"I took Spanish in high school," Patrick says quietly, hiding behind his menu.

"You like fish right?" Pete whispers, leaning over enough that no one else will hear. Patrick nods. "I'll take care of it." He presses a kiss to Patrick's temple before turning back to his conversation with Mr. Beckett.

"So, Patrick," Mrs. Beckett says, halfway through the meal. "What is it that you do?"

Patrick's got half a mouthful of salmon and hurries to swallow before he answers.

"I'm still in college."

"Oh? Where?"

"Columbia." Judging by the unimpressed look on her face, he thinks it's the wrong answer. "I'm majoring in music composition," Patrick says.

"Oh, a musician, how lovely." Mrs. Beckett smiles. "We all know how fickle the music industry is. It must be nice to know that you'll have the support of your husband when times get difficult."

Patrick grits his teeth and smiles back, trying his best to let her back handed compliment slide off his back.

"Our daughter, Billie got accepted to Columbia," Mr. Beckett says quickly. "She ended up going to Dartmouth instead."

"Wow, ivy league. What did she study?" Patrick asks.

"Philosophy," Mrs. Beckett supplies, sounding proud.

"Oh," Patrick says. "That's...useful." Pete does a terrible job at disguising his laugh as a cough and Mrs. Beckett looks less than pleased.

They finish their dinner in silence, but Patrick notices Pete giving him small smiles for the rest of the evening.

--

Things have gotten better over the past few days, but Pete keeps giving him these looks. These sad, wistful looks, as though Patrick isn't sitting a couple feet away from him and they can't just get up and talk to each other like normal people. It's stupid and Patrick is tired of it.

He goes to Pete's office on Monday morning after class.

"I'm taking your secretary out to lunch," he says. Pete gives him a confused look.

"You know it's after three o'clock right? She already went to lunch."

Patrick glares.

"Then I'll buy her one of those stupid blended drinks. The point is I'm taking her, okay?"

Pete nods.

"Okay. Fine with me."

Patrick is...less assertive when explaining this plan to Greta. He approaches her desk hesitantly and very politely asks if he can take her to Starbucks so they can talk. She raises an eyebrow at him.

"Please?" He puts on what he hopes is his most charming smile. He's not as well versed in this as Pete is.

"I'll have to check with Pete," she says after considering this for a moment.

"Already did, he said it's okay."

He buys her something with lots of whipped cream and caramel and they take a seat by the window. She keeps glancing towards the door to the back room.

"He's in class right now." Patrick sighs, because she could only be looking for one person, and he'd rather just have this conversation now and get it out of the way.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Patrick rolls his eyes at her.

"Greta. You obviously like him back, just go out with him already."

She crosses her arms over her chest and gives him a stern look.

"Did you really bring me down here just to meddle in my love life, Patrick?"

"Hey, I'm just trying to help out a friend. You have no idea how much time Jon spends trying to get me to talk him up." Her face softens a little at that admission. "And no, I brought you down here because I need your help. With Pete."

"You still haven't fixed it?" she scolds and he recoils in his seat.

"I tried. And I kept on trying after I left that day, but he just wouldn't listen." Dealing with Pete is like dealing with a petulant child. He mopes when Patrick ignores him, but thinks Patrick's pitying him when he tries to be nice. "Why is it so fucking difficult for him to understand that I don't hate him and want to be friends?" he says bitterly.

She shakes her head at him.

"You have to make him understand, Patrick. He'll get wrapped up in his self-loathing bullshit if you let him."

"But...I don't know what else to do." He knows he's whining, but had been hoping Greta would have provided him with a little more insight into how to deal with Pete and his incessant need to make everything as complicated as humanly possible.

"Figure it out," she says angrily.

She gets up, takes her drink, and walks out, leaving him alone to try and figure this one out on his own. He spends the rest of the day trying to come up with something that will be enough. He needs something that will force Pete to stop feeling sorry for himself, to make him pay attention and realize that Patrick isn't just being polite or pitying him, that he's trying to offer something if Pete would just open his eyes and take it.

He's on his way home from class when he sees the sign for SAIC's annual student fashion show. Patrick knows he's not an expert on Pete by any means, but he's pretty certain that if Pete is interested enough in fashion to want to start his own clothing line, he'd probably enjoy something like this. He turns on his laptop first thing when he gets home and does some more research. The fashion show is on a Friday, the weekend before his birthday. There's also some sort of fancy cocktail party the night before that the designers attend and talk about their work at. Patrick figures they could go to that too and he wouldn't even have to miss class. He closes the lid of his laptop when Pete gets home and thinks, this could work.

He calls Greta the next day and explains his plan, waiting for her approval.

"I can move his appointments so he's free both of those days, if you'd like."

It's not the "Yes, that's a great idea," he was looking for but he supposes that's about as close as he's going to get. He tells her to go ahead and buys the tickets as soon as he hangs up the phone.

--

The tickets came on Friday afternoon. Patrick had been holed up in his room, immersed in GarageBand when Pete knocked on his door a few minutes after getting home.

"Something came for you," he said, poking his head into the room and holding out the plain white envelope with Patrick's name on it.

Patrick spent the next half hour trying not to hyperventilate as he argued with himself about when was the best time to give them to Pete. He wished he had a way to get in touch with Greta, so she could tell him to stop being stupid and get it over with already. There were several failed attempts to casually bring up the fashion show in conversation over the weekend.

He ends up knocking on Pete's bedroom on Sunday evening.

"Come in," Pete calls. He's sprawled out on his bed, reading something from the Harry Potter series. "What's up?" he asks, looking up from his book.

"Okay, so." Patrick takes a deep breath. He's got the envelope behind his back and he's fiddling with the edges where it's been ripped open. "I got you something. I don't even know if you wanted to go; it might be stupid, I don't know, but I know how you're really into fashion so I had Greta clear your schedule so you don't have to worry about that and, um...here."

He holds out the envelope, waiting as Pete puts his book down and climbs off the bed, walking over towards him. Pete opens the envelope and pulls out the four tickets inside. He stares at them for a long time before looking back up at Patrick.

"We don't have to go if you don't want to," Patrick adds quickly. "I just thought it might be nice."

"There are tickets for both of us." Pete says and Patrick has to stop himself from saying, way to state the obvious. "You want to go with me?"

Not really, Patrick thinks. It'll probably be kind of boring. But it's something Pete's interested in, so if they'll finally be able to spend time together, then it'll be worth it.

"You just...you wouldn't believe me when I said I wanted to be friends. I know you probably could have just gotten guest listed or something, but..." Patrick doesn't really know what else to say. He knows it's kind of a lame attempt at a grand gesture. Especially since he basically used Pete's money to buy the damn things, but he tried. He tried his best and this was all he could come up with.

"No one's ever..." Pete says, eyes wide, before wrapping Patrick in a tight hug. "Thank you," he says, nuzzling against Patrick a little. He curls his hands around the back of Patrick's neck, resting his forehead against Patrick's for a moment before kissing him softly. "Thank you," he repeats after finally letting go.

Pete doesn't say anything more, but he does glance at his bed before looking back at Patrick. The invitation is pretty clear. Though if he's being honest, Patrick hadn't even thought of that. They aren't actually together, and they hadn't actually been fighting, not really, so it's not like he expected to get makeup sex.

Apparently though, Pete's offering and Patrick is really, really sad about the fact that he has to turn him down. The sex is what made everything so complicated in the first place. They should probably work on just being friends for a while before even thinking about going down that road again.

Except for the fact that it was so good. Patrick really hates his life right now.

"I should, um." Patrick gestures vaguely in the direction of his bedroom. "Early class tomorrow."

"Yeah," Pete agrees. He's not doing a very good job of hiding his disappointment. Patrick tells himself he needs to go back to his own room; it's for the best.

"Well. Um." Patrick pauses awkwardly, about to leave. "Goodnight," he says before he takes a step forward, presses a kiss to Pete's mouth, and goes back to his own bedroom.

Patrick locks the door behind him, climbs into bed, and doesn't even try to pretend that he's thinking of anyone other than Pete when he shoves his hand down his pants.

--

"So I was looking at my calendar today.” Pete says in the middle of dinner the next evening. “And your birthday is next Monday."

"Um." Patrick swallows the mouthful of food he's chewing. "I know?"

"I was thinking I could take the day off, and we could have like, a long weekend together, maybe? Just to hang out and relax…if you wanted." Patrick's silent for a long time and Pete is thinking about what a stupid idea this was. They're spending two nights in a row together and now he's asking Patrick to give him three more days? He doesn't know what ever made him think that was a good idea.

"Yeah, I'd like that," Patrick says finally.

"You don't have to," Pete offers. He wants to give Patrick an out. "If you have plans with your friends or something, it's okay."

"Stop that," Patrick says, irritated. "Stop apologizing for yourself. Guess what, Pete. You're one of my friends now. And when I say I want to do something with you, I mean it."

"Oh," Pete says, taken aback. He hadn't expected Patrick to get so serious about it. "I'll let the office know I won't be around on Monday, then."

"Good." Patrick smiles at him and goes back to eating his dinner.

Pete spends the next few days leading up to the fashion show trying not to read too much into the signals that Patrick is sending him. He hasn't been keeping his door shut as much lately, and they've eaten dinner together three of the past four nights. He doesn't inch away when Pete touches him without thinking. He doesn't say anything other than, "It's okay," when Pete realizes what he's doing and pulls his hand back, trying not to invade Patrick's space.

Everything he does backs up what he said over dinner the other night loud and clear. Yes, I want to be friends with you. No, I'm not going to change my mind. You're not going to scare me away.

But Pete still worries about asking for too much. He doesn't want to push too hard, because there's got to be a line. He came to that conclusion the night Patrick gave him the tickets and Pete not so subtly invited him into his bed. As much as getting turned down sucked, he realized it was for the best.

--

What Patrick explained was "some kind of cocktail party" is called The Walk, and is held on Thursday evening. It turns out to be a cocktail hour, followed by a fashion show, followed by coffee and dessert with the designers and their models. Pete talks to as many people as possible, knowing full well he could be collaborating with them some day. Now is the perfect opportunity for making connections. Patrick has been wandering around, letting Pete do his own thing. The last time Pete found him in the crowd, he looked like he was trying his very best not to look bored.

"We don't have to stay the whole time," Pete says, about halfway through the night.

"Some of this stuff is kind of interesting. I was talking to a guy who only makes clothes out of recycled materials so that everything is completely one of a kind." Pete had actually been talking to that guy earlier in the night. He seemed like a cool dude. "And that chick over there with the pink hair knits scarves in the shape of breakfast foods."

"Seriously? You mean like..."

"Like bacon and eggs." He searches his pockets and produces a business card. "She gave me the link to her website."

"Sweet."

There's something different about the way Patrick's acting tonight, but Pete can't quite put his finger on it. There are times when Pete thinks that Patrick is genuinely enjoying himself, and when he's not he's doing all he can't to keep Pete from realizing it. More often than not, Patrick has no problem making Pete aware when he's not enjoying himself and that he would like to go home as soon as possible, thank you very much.

It's not until the next night when Pete realizes that Patrick is treating this less like work, or an obligation, and more like -- well, like a date. He's been super attentive all evening, making comments about the various outfits as the models walk down the runway. A skinny blonde is sporting a bright turquoise strapless mini dress with neon yellow heels, and Pete raises an eyebrow and considers the color combination.

Patrick leans over.

"Please never make anything like that."

Pete frowns.

"But the yellow would stand out great against the turquoise on a…"

"No, Pete," Patrick says, cutting him off. "It really wouldn't."

A part of him is disappointed that Patrick is shooting down what could be a potential future design idea before it ever gets to paper, but he's too busy being happy about the fact that he and Patrick are having an actual conversation about fashion to care.

When they get home that evening, they're still discussing some of the designs. Patrick stops outside his bedroom, his back against the doorframe.

"Sure, it looked cool, but can you imagine having to wear that thing? I'd have punched the designer in the face if that's what they handed me."

"Sometimes you have to suffer for art's sake, Patrick."

Patrick shakes his head as he starts to loosen his tie. Pete's came off on the ride home.

"I guess I just don't really get the whole 'high fashion' thing," Patrick says, shrugging.

"Me neither, not really. They're not the kind of clothes I want to make, but I like seeing what's out there."

"I'm glad you had a good time,” Patrick says, after a long pause.

"I had a great time.” Pete smiles. “Thanks."

Patrick smiles back, ducking his head a little and Pete can't help being reminded of that 'I don't want this night to end' feeling he always got after a really good first date.

He can't help curling his fingers underneath Patrick's jaw and tipping his chin up before leaning in to kiss him. Patrick rests a hand against his cheek as he kisses back.

"Goodnight," he says softly before he turns away, walking down the hall towards his own bedroom.

--

Patrick wakes up on Saturday morning to the feeling of something very heavy on top of him.

"Patrick. Patrick. Wake up. It's here."

"Nrrgh," Patrick says.

"Patrick. This is exciting news. This is a moment in history!"

Patrick opens his eyes. Pete is sitting on top of him, clutching a piece of paper in his right hand and grinning like a crazy person.

"I'd be more excited if you would get off of me," Patrick grumbles.

Pete climbs off of him, but doesn't get off the bed, instead sitting himself down entirely too close to Patrick's head, bouncing excitedly and pretty much making it impossible for Patrick to fall back asleep.

Patrick sighs, rubs at his eyes, and sits up.

"Ok, what history-making news did I dare try to sleep through?"

"My paperwork came in the mail today. It's mine, Patrick. It's really mine." Patrick gives him a confused look and Pete thrusts forward the paper he's been holding. At the top of the paper is a raised seal, and the words reading 'Cook County Clerk's Office, Illinois Certificate of Trade Name.' His eyes scan further down on the page and he sees Pete's handwriting, filling in the blanks: business name, nature of business, business address.

He reads out loud, "Clandestine Industries." He looks back over at Pete, who is still grinning like an idiot. "That's what you're calling your clothing line, I take it?"

Pete nods eagerly.

"What do you think?"

"Clandestine," Patrick repeats. He smiles. "It has a nice ring to it."

Pete launches himself at Patrick, throwing his arms around Patrick's shoulders, almost knocking him into the headboard.

"It's mine, Patrick. It's really mine. It's going to happen."

Pete's happiness seems to be contagious. Patrick can't help smiling and hugging Pete back when they're both properly upright again.

"I'm happy for you."

Pete smiles, leans forward, and kisses Patrick on the tip of his nose.

"Come on," he says, climbing over Patrick to get out of bed. "Get up and get dressed. We're going to celebrate. I'm taking you out on the town."

Pete's idea of going 'out on the town' apparently consists of pretending to be a tourist and doing all the things that neither of them have ever gotten to do because they're always busy with work or school.

They hit up the 'Real Pirates' exhibition at The Field Museum first and they get some looks when Pete makes a few too many swashbuckling jokes. He buys Patrick some rub-on pirate tattoos in the gift shop.

"We can match!"

Patrick looks down at the few pages of tattoos and says, "I'm gonna need a lot more than these before we match, I think."

"I can make that happen," Pete says, reaching for more.

Patrick manages to get Pete out of the gift shop with only the one booklet of tattoos, but Pete drags him into the bathroom before they leave the museum and makes him put one on right away. When they walk out the door, Patrick's got a skull and cross bones on the inside of his wrist, hidden underneath his hoodie and Pete's smiling like he couldn't be more pleased with himself.

The sun has come out when they get outside and Pete links his arm in Patrick's as they walk down Lakeshore Drive to Grant Park. Pete takes a picture of him in front of Buckingham Fountain when he's not paying attention.

"Let me see," Patrick says, reaching for Pete's phone.

"No. You'll delete it." Pete sticks out his tongue and shoves his phone in his pocket.

A few minutes later he hails a cab and they head down to Navy Pier. Pete heads straight for the Ferris Wheel and Patrick is a little disillusioned by the signs everywhere announcing that it's sponsored by McDonald's.

"It takes some of the fun out of it," Patrick says.

Pete slips his hand in Patrick's.

"We could go on the carousel instead?"

"This is fine."

"It's supposed to be more than fine, Patrick," Pete says, sighing.

He's staring out at the crowd of people down below them when they get to the top, looking a little wistful. Patrick sighs to himself, because he feels like an idiot for what he's about to do, but he knows it'll make Pete smile.

"Hey," he says, and as Pete turns to back to look at him, he leans in and kisses him softly, just before they start moving again. Pete grins.

"Careful. People are going to start thinking you like me or something."

Patrick rolls his eyes.

"Idiot," he says. But he smiles back when Pete threads their fingers together.

They eat and wander around the city, and eat some more until it's too dark and too cold to do much else. It's not until they get back to the apartment that Patrick realizes how tired he is.

"You don't mind if I go to my room and crash, do you?" he asks. Pete shakes his head.

"Not at all." He catches Patrick's hand as he's about to leave. "Thanks for humoring me today."

"I wasn't humoring you." Pete gives him a look. "Okay, maybe a little. But I had fun."

He thinks about kissing Pete goodnight, standing awkwardly in the hallway while he tries to make up his mind. In the end, Pete steps forward to give him a hug as he says goodnight, and then wanders off to the kitchen. Patrick collapses into bed a minute later and falls asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow.

--

Pete lets Patrick sleep in the next day. He figures it's the least he can do after the way he woke him up the day before.

He spends his time waiting for Patrick to wake up responding to a few Clandestine-related emails. He knows this weekend is supposed to be a sort of vacation but he can't help it. He might as well be productive when he can. The paperwork for the trade name was only the first step down a very long road. He's got a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to launch the first collection on time. Even so, he's counting down the days until this can be his full time job instead of working for his father. If he has to feign concern over the fact that they might not get a contract for bottle caps, or fake flower stems, or something equally inane, one more time, he might actually put his fist through something.

He hears the clatter of dishes come from the kitchen around two o'clock and wanders out to find Patrick sitting down at the kitchen table with a bowl of cereal.

"Little late for breakfast, don't you think?"

Patrick leans back in his chair, stretching. "Why'd you let me sleep so late?"

Patrick's shirt rides up as he stretches, exposing a pale strip of skin around his waist. Pete has to swallow hard around the lump in his throat before answering.

"Because you were tired? Would you rather I came in and jumped on you first thing in the morning again?"

"No, not particularly. I don't know if you're aware, but you're kind of bony."

Pete sticks his tongue out at him.

"I was going to make you go see the Hannah Montana movie with me, but I don't really feel like leaving the apartment, so you're spared. For now."

"Hannah Montana, really? I mean, I get that you like them young but that might be pushing it."

"Hey, fuck you." He kicks Patrick underneath the table. "I heard good things about it."

Patrick kicks back and gives him a skeptical look.

"Ow. I didn't kick you that hard. And okay, maybe I just wanted to torment you with a stupid movie." He finds Patrick's scowl oddly endearing, fights the urge to tell him how adorable he is when he's annoyed.

"Anyway, I'm pretty sure I'm going to spend the rest of the day on the couch with season two of The Office. If you're not sick of me yet, I wouldn't mind the company."

Patrick scratches the back of his neck.

"I've got some homework I should finish first, but maybe after that?"

"No problem. School comes first and all that."

Pete curls up on the couch, and he's three episodes in before Patrick joins him. Pete starts to sit up, to make room on the couch, but Patrick just lifts up Pete's legs, settling Pete's feet down in his lap as he makes himself comfortable. Pete stares at the television screen, feeling as though he can completely relate to Jim Halpert at this time in his life.

They're in the middle of Casino Night when Pete realizes it's after midnight. He looks over at Patrick, who managed to fall asleep at some point -- despite Pete's running commentary -- his hands curled around Pete's legs.

"Hey," Pete says softly, "Patrick wake up." He shakes Patrick's shoulder gently and Patrick grumbles a little, shifts in his sleep.

"Patrick. Patrick, if you don't wake up I'm going to spray paint all of your hats bright pink and write Mrs. Pete Wentz on them."

"You leave my hats alone," Patrick mumbles sleepily. "They never did anything to you."

Pete grins.

"Hey, come on, open your eyes. It's after midnight."

Patrick yawns, rubs at his eyes, and blinks a few times before finally looking at Pete.

"Okay, I'm awake. What do you want?"

"Happy birthday," Pete smiles. He leans over and presses a sloppy kiss to the side of Patrick's face. Patrick ducks his head, smiling.

"Thanks," he mumbles.

"Do you want your presents now?" Pete asks, but he doesn't bother waiting for Patrick's answer before he's jumping up off of the couch and running into his bedroom.

It's worth the hours he spent trying to come up with the perfect gift when he sees Patrick's stunned expression as he walks back into the living room, both of his arms wrapped around the large box. He sets it down on the coffee table in front of him.

"Open it."

Patrick just stares at the box. He looks up at Pete and then back at the box.

"You got me something?" he says finally. "You didn't need to get me anything. I mean, I'm not. I wasn't expecting this."

"Of course I got you something," Pete says, his excitement slightly dampened. "What kind of husband do you think I am?"

Pete's got to start thinking before he says these things because the silence that follows is deafening. He can see Patrick trying and failing to come up with something to say in response.

"Come on, open it already," Pete says, trying to pretend like that moment of awkwardness didn't just happen.

Patrick rips off the paper and opens up the box. He doesn't look back up for a long moment.

"Oh my god. You didn't. Pete, this is too much."

"You like it?"

"You got me a record player," Patrick says, incredulously.

"Dude, and the best part is you can plug it into your computer too." Pete reaches into the box and pulls out the instruction booklet. "Oh and you should take a closer look in the box, there's more."

Patrick gapes at him.

"Oh for god's sake," Pete says. He reaches into the box and pulls out the record that he carefully wrapped and slid in along the side of the box. It took him a couple tries before he managed to win a copy of "The Man Who Sold The World" off of eBay, but once Jon told him that Patrick had a weakness for David Bowie, he knew he couldn't give Patrick a record player without something to play on it.

After he's gotten it unwrapped, Patrick looks up at him, eyes wide and shining.

"It's…it's not even opened," Patrick whispers, fingers stroking over the cover.

"I guess that means I did good," Pete says, smiling.

Patrick places the record down gently, stands up, and wraps Pete in a crushing hug. After Patrick thanks him eight or nine more times, and they've said goodnight, Pete is seriously lamenting the fact they're not actually together. He sighs as he climbs into his bed alone and thinks about how if this were real, he would totally be getting laid right now.

--

The plan for Patrick's birthday is lunch, just him and his mom, and then dinner with Pete and both his parents. He tells himself that it's no big deal as he gets ready, picks out a clean shirt and a nice hat, and ignores the butterflies in his stomach. It's the first time Patrick has gone back to visit his parents since moving in with Pete. He usually talks to his mom once a week, but it's not the same as seeing her in person. They talk about a lot of things, but they've never talked about Patrick's wedding, about how he eloped, about how Patrick's mom dropped the phone when she told him. He has the feeling that that conversation has been waiting for him until they can have it face to face.

Pete doesn't understand why he's nervous.

"It can't be as bad as you think it will,” he says on the drive over. “Do you really think they're going to yell at you on your birthday?"

"No," Patrick agrees hesitantly.

"Remember when they met me for the first time?" Oh, Patrick remembers alright. How could he forget? "That went way better than you thought it was going to. I was so charming they didn't know what to do."

"Yeah, well. That's when they thought you were my boyfriend who wanted to have a nice long engagement while I finished college."

"It's going to be fine, Patrick. Take some deep breaths. You should be enjoying your birthday, not stressing out over it." At the next stop light, he reaches for Patrick's hand and squeezes it in his own. "Okay?"

"Yeah. Okay."

The knot in Patrick's stomach loosens a little. By the time they pull up in front of his parents' house, it has all but disappeared. When his mom opens the door and wraps him in a tight hug, he can't even remember why he was nervous to begin with.

They go out to eat, and Patrick realizes just how much he misses this. He misses talking to his mom about school, about stupid little things that made his day better. He misses going out to eat and not worrying if he's going to get harassed by photographers on the way out. Eventually the topic Patrick's been dreading comes up, but when it does it's not the horrible conversation he feared it would be.

"I really wish I could have been there, Patrick," she says simply.

"I wish you could have been there too,” Patrick says. “Everything just happened so fast."

He sighs, a little sadly, staring down at his plate. If he ever gets married for real one day, this will still be hanging over him. He wishes he could tell his mom why it had to be this way.

"It's okay," she says. When he finally looks up, she's smiling. "I remember what it was like to be young and in love."

After they're done with their meal, Patrick texts Pete and he meets them back at the house. At some point, Pete takes the time to make fun of Patrick's sometimes less-than-spectacular fashion sense, and Patrick's mom brings up 'that terrible sweater' he used to wear in high school. Pete shoots him a devious grin.

"That's something I'd like to see," Pete says, "He won't show me pictures from before he was in college."

Patrick's mom spends the rest of the afternoon digging up every embarrassing photo she can find. While she starts dinner, Pete takes the opportunity to mock him for his atrocious fashion choices through the years. Patrick's dad gets home in the middle of Pete teasing Patrick about his marching band uniform. He joins his wife in reminiscing for a while before she announces she has to put the finishing touches on Patrick's birthday dinner and they should all entertain themselves for the next half hour or so. For lack of anywhere else better to go, they end up in Patrick's room, sitting side-by-side, just as they were so many months ago.

"The fringe on the jacket was my favorite part, I think. Or maybe the little hat," Pete says, grinning.

"Just wait until I meet your parents and they tell me all of your embarrassing childhood stories, okay?" Patrick realizes then that Pete barely talks about his parents. He doesn't actually know if he's ever going to get to meet them.

"I'm just glad they didn't decide to cut their trip short to come home and meet you."

"You thought they would?" Pete nods.

"For a while, in the beginning. I'd kind of sworn off relationships, so suddenly getting married was kind of a big deal."

They sit in silence for a few minutes, until Pete takes it upon himself to get up and take a look around Patrick's room at the things he left behind.

"I wish I had known you when you were younger," he says when he sits back down.

"I hated you when I was younger," Patrick admits. Pete laughs.

"You hated me when we met."

Pete's got a valid point, and Patrick looks down at the floor, feeling sheepish.

"Hey, I'm just saying." Pete runs his fingers down Patrick's arm. "I wish we could have been friends back then. Like we are now. We were what? Ten miles away from each other?"

"Not even," Patrick says, curling a hand around the back of Pete's neck, fingers playing with the ends of his hair. He thinks if he and Pete were friends when he was younger, he probably would've realized he was gay a whole lot sooner -- especially if they were the type of friends that they are now.

He feels stupid and nervous when he leans in to kiss Pete, like he's fifteen again and his mom is going to walk in and scold him for not leaving the door open. Pete kisses back, open-mouthed, sliding his tongue against Patrick's. He rests one hand against Patrick's face, fingers stroking lightly along his cheek. Just as Patrick is beginning to entertain the notion of continuing this while laying down, his mother walks in to let them know that dinner is ready.

To her credit, Patrick is pretty certain that she did knock and they were just too busy to notice. They look towards the door at the sound of her clearing her throat and Patrick can't help blushing. He's married to this guy and yet there's a part of him that still expects to get grounded.

"Come downstairs, you two." She smiles. "Pete, can you help me set the table?"

"Sure, no problem," Pete says. He stands up and follows her downstairs, leaving Patrick alone in his room with his thoughts.

--

They get home late, having stayed long after dinner was over, talking and generally having a good time. Patrick's too keyed up to go to sleep right away, so he reads for awhile before finally turning off his light sometime after midnight. He's just starting to drift off when he hears the knock at his door.

"Come in," Patrick says sleepily. The door swings open and he can barely make out Pete's outline in the doorway.

"I can't sleep," Pete says quietly. "Do you think I could just...lie down for a while?"

Patrick nods before realizing, oh right, dark.

"Sure, get in," he says, pulling back his blanket. Pete snuggles up next to him, and Patrick puts an arm around his shoulders as he rests his head on Patrick's chest, one hand over Patrick's heart.

"Did you have a good birthday?"

"Yeah."

"Good," Pete says, nuzzling against his chest. "I like your mom."

"She's kind of awesome. She likes you." Patrick can always tell what his mom thinks of the people he brings home, friends or more than that. Pete won her over within the first five minutes of meeting her, that first night when he came over for dinner. He doesn't want to think about how sad she'll be when this year is over.

"Yeah?" Pete asks.

"Yeah," Patrick reassures, hugging him a little bit to make sure he's gotten his point across.

"We could go visit more, if you wanted. I never asked how often you went home when you were living at school."

"Usually went home every other week or so." Patrick runs his free hand over Pete's arm, down his side, over his hip and Pete makes these little contented sighs. "Mostly to do laundry though."

Pete laughs and Patrick can feel the vibrations against his chest.

"Don't need to worry about that now so much, huh?"

"Not really. I'm getting spoiled. Between that and all these fancy restaurants you keep taking me to." Patrick rolls over onto his side so that he's facing Pete, and slides an arm around his waist, tugging him closer.

"Only the best for you, Patrick." Pete says as he tangles his legs in between Patrick's and slips a hand underneath his t-shirt, rubs at the small of his back.

Patrick kisses him underneath his jaw and suddenly they're not talking so much anymore. It's just light kisses and soft touches all over and finally Pete slides his thigh in between Patrick's legs and grinds against him. Patrick gasps.

"Shit. Do you want to...?" He lets the question hang in the air, unfinished.

Pete just says, "Please. Yes."

Patrick digs around for the lube in his bedside table and by the time he turns back, Pete's already kicked off his underwear.

"I could take care of myself if you want..." Pete mumbles, nervously, like he thinks Patrick might not want to.

Which is just stupid, really. Because right now all Patrick can think about is if that's going to happen, it's going to happen when the lights are on so he can watch. He almost tells Pete this, then thinks, no, one step at a time. Instead he shakes his head and squeezes out some lube onto his fingers.

"Let me," he whispers before he slips a hand between Pete's legs.

Patrick leans in to kiss Pete more deeply as he presses two fingers into him. Pete moans into Patrick's mouth, grabs at his shoulders, wraps his hands in Patrick's t-shirt as Patrick works his fingers inside of him.

A few minutes later, he's panting.

"Okay, okay, now. I'm ready."

Patrick eases his fingers out and rolls over to grab a condom and put it on. When he turns back again, Pete climbs on top of him and straddles his waist. He doesn't hesitate a moment before lining up Patrick's dick and lowering himself down.

"Oh fuck," Patrick groans loudly, squeezing his eyes shut.

Pete's tight around him. He makes a sound that's half sigh and half moan, and runs his hands over Patrick's chest as he starts to move. Patrick takes a deep breath and opens his eyes. He rubs his hands over Pete's thighs, sinks his fingers into Pete's skin as he fucks him. He thinks about how it's even better than the last time, better than he remembers. He wishes this weren't so complicated, hopes this doesn't ruin everything he's tried to build with Pete over the last few weeks.

It's just that, Pete's always touching him, kissing him, not just to keep up appearances, and god, Patrick wants. He wants so badly. He can't help himself. It took every bit of willpower he had to turn Pete down a week ago. It would have been so easy to push him back onto his bed and fuck him through the mattress, but no, it was too soon. He hadn't meant for it to happen tonight, doesn't think Pete did either, but now that it has, Patrick never wants to let go.

Pete has one hand still on Patrick's stomach, the other curled around his dick as he jerks himself off. Patrick loosens his grip on Pete, lets his fingers drift along the inside of his thighs, feels Pete's muscles already beginning to tense. He snaps his hips up, fucking Pete harder, faster, and Pete meets his thrusts, moaning as he arches back.

"Come on," Patrick says, reaching out to run his hands up along Pete's sides, fingers tracing his ribs. Pete whines and bites down on his bottom lip, jerking himself faster.

"Patrick, I..." and the rest is lost in a groan as Pete arches back, coming over his fist and stomach.

As Pete stills on top of him, Patrick forces himself to stop moving, giving Pete the chance to catch his breath. It feels like the most difficult thing he's ever had to do. He's close, so close, thinks if Pete moves at all he'll be gone.

A second later Pete is climbing off of him, peeling the condom off and settling himself between Patrick's legs. He curls one hand tight around the base of Patrick's cock as he wraps his lips around the head. He sucks hard and Patrick loses it. He twists his hands in the sheets as he comes into Pete's mouth.

Pete swallows around him before pulling off, runs his palms over Patrick's hips and leans down to press a kiss just below his belly button. He rests his head against Patrick's stomach and just breathes. Patrick runs his fingers through Pete's hair a few times before Pete looks up at him.

"Come here," he says finally.

Patrick's never been much of a cuddler but with Pete, somehow he doesn't mind so much. Pete crawls up the bed, buries his face in the crook of Patrick's neck and shoulder and Patrick hugs him close. Listening to the sound of Pete's steady breathing is slowly putting him to sleep and he's about to reach down to pull the blankets up over them when Pete sits up.

"I should go," he says quietly, and Patrick is more bothered by this than he expects to be. The word "stay" gets caught in his throat as Pete slips out of his arms. All he can do is nod as Pete reaches for his underwear and puts them back on before getting out of bed.

"Goodnight," Pete says turning back, before he shuts the door.

--

It's a week after finals, and Patrick and Jon are hanging out at Tom and Sean's apartment. Patrick's got his feet up, relaxing, beer in hand. Sean and Tom are working on a new song and Jon is pretending that he's not taking pictures whenever Patrick's not paying attention. Patrick's got a nice buzz by the time Sean puts down his guitar a few hours later and asks if they want to go get food.

They're two blocks from the apartment when he feels his phone buzzing in his pocket. He opens it to find a text from Pete, not asking where he is, or if he'll be around for dinner, but letting Patrick know that his favorite pen ran out of ink. He texts back I'm sorry?. A minute later he gets, dude cna u pick me up a new one on yr way home? in response. It's followed immediately by, has to be purple, u get bonus pts for sparkles. He sighs and looks around, there's a CVS a few stores up ahead on the corner.

"Hey, mind if we stop up here for a sec?" Patrick asks, as they approach. "Pete wants me to pick something up for him." Because there is no way he is telling his friends that his husband has a sudden urgent need for sparkly purple gel pens.

"No problem," Sean says. "You know, sometimes I still can't believe you're married."

"Yeah, you're not the only one," Patrick mumbles under his breath as they pause, waiting for the automatic doors to open.

As Patrick stands in the office supply aisle, he boggles at the variety of the pen selection. Because seriously, it's a CVS, not a Staples or something, why are there so many choices? He grabs the first purple thing he sees, even though there are no sparkles to be found, but Pete will just have to deal with it. He's halfway to check out when he realizes that the pen itself is purple, but the ink is black. He goes back and takes a closer look before he finds a bucket of gel pens, glitter and all. He digs through until he's got an entire handful, and well, if anyone else wanted purple glitter pens, today is just not going to be their day. On the way back up front to pay for his stuff, he cuts through the 'family planning' aisle, stopping from front of the condom display.

He's never actually had to buy condoms before. Student health was so eager to give them away for free that everyone was usually fully stocked. He's not sure, but he thinks he might've used his last condom on his birthday. It's not like he's expecting to have sex with Pete again, but he wasn't exactly expecting it the last two times either. He grabs the turquoise box of Trojans and continues on his way. Tom is buying cigarettes and Jon is waiting behind him when he gets on line. Jon has the same turquoise box in his hand and they just look at each other for a moment. Patrick can see it in his eyes; they're both thinking the exact same thing: "Why are you buying condoms?"

They're barely out the door when Jon opens his mouth.

"Glitter pens and condoms, huh?"

"Fuck off," Patrick says, tucking the bag underneath his arm.

"What do you even need condoms for?" Tom says, absentmindedly. "It's not like you have to worry about one of you getting pregnant."

Patrick blushes and mumbles an excuse about not having had the time to get tested as Jon and Sean just laugh. Jon is still laughing when Patrick punches him in the shoulder.

"Who the hell are you sleeping with?" Patrick asks.

"Greta finally said yes the last time I asked her out," he says, shrugging, like it's no big deal.

"When?"

"Like a month ago, what does that matter?"

"You have me to thank for that, douche." Patrick punches him again. "I can't believe you didn't bother telling me."

They eventually grab something to eat at a pizza place a couple of blocks further down the road and Patrick is thankful to let the subject drop. After Tom and Sean have left for band practice, Jon asks, "So I guess it didn't end up being a one time thing then?"

"Um." It's possible that he really hates Jon right now. "On my birthday. It just sort of..."

"Happened?"

"Shut up. It did." Patrick stares at the ground, kicks at a pebble next to his foot. "Anyway, we haven't since then. I just...wanted to be prepared."

"It's cause his birthday is coming up, isn't it? God, please just don't do it while I'm there, okay?" Patrick gives him a confused look. "At your apartment? Greta invited me to the party, dumbass."

"Oh." Pete said he was just going to invite a few close friends and they'd spend the evening at home. It was easy to be in a room of a hundred strangers, but in the apartment, with just a handful, where he had nowhere to hide? That's something completely different. Patrick actually breathes a sigh of relief knowing that Jon will be there.

--

It’s Pete’s birthday, and currently he’s pretending that he hasn't noticed how Patrick has changed his t-shirt three times and his hat twice in the past hour. When Pete had initially brought up the idea a few weeks back, Patrick had frowned and said, "What if your friends don't like me?" It was so endearing that Pete had to resist the urge to kiss him then and there.

There's nothing Patrick should be nervous about. Pete intends for it to be as casual as possible. They aren't even having a sit down meal. Pete wants a break from the fanfare, so pizza and chips will be just fine for tonight. As they wait for the first guests to arrive, Patrick wanders nervously from room to room while Pete relaxes on the couch with a magazine. He sees Patrick heading for his room again out of the corner of his eye.

"Hey," Pete says softly. Patrick turns around. "Come here for a second." Patrick sits down next to him, looking every bit as anxious as he has since Pete got home and they started getting ready. "Relax. The Bowie t-shirt is a good choice."

Patrick offers him a small smile.

"Thanks."

Jon and Greta are the first to show up a few minutes later and thankfully that seems to ease Patrick's nerves. Pete knows this is the one night he's probably allowed to be a little selfish and only worry about himself, but he still wants to make sure Patrick is having a good time.

When Travis shows up, he slings an arm around Pete's waist and lifts him up as he wishes Pete a happy birthday. Pete's still a foot off the ground when he turns toward Patrick.

"Hey, man. Good to see you again,” Travis says. “Thanks for making an honest man out of my boy, here."

Pete can finally relax when Patrick smiles back, walking over to ask him what he's been working on lately.

Joe arrives last.

"I am here. I have brought the Cheetos. The party can now begin," he proclaims as he walks through the door.

Patrick turns away from his conversation with Travis, and shoots a confused look at Pete. He mouths, "What?"

Pete just laughs.

“I’ll explain later,” he says.

Joe makes a beeline for him, handing him the two bags of Cheetos that had been previously tucked under his arms.

"Happy birthday, dude."

Pete wraps his arms around his friend, somehow managing not to get a mouthful of Joe's untamed hair. After he lets go, he waves Patrick over, throwing an arm over Patrick's shoulders as he introduces the two of them.

"Dude, sweet Bowie shirt," is the first thing out of Joe's mouth. Belatedly, he sticks out a hand and says, "Hi. I'm Joe."

Patrick's eyes light up instantly and Pete knows they're going to get along fine. He leaves them to their conversation, wandering off to the kitchen to set down Joe's offering with the rest of the food. Some time later, he catches a glimpse of Patrick's hands flailing as he talks animatedly.

Pete is talking to Travis about his next gallery opening when he notices the room getting quieter. As he looks up from their conversation to see what's going on, the lights go out suddenly. A moment later Greta is walking toward him with a cake, lit candles and all. Pete can't even pretend that he's not a little bit excited -- this was always his favorite part of his birthday when he was a kid. As they start to sing he can pick Patrick's voice above everyone else's. He quickly glances around the room, finding Patrick walking towards the couch to sit down next to Pete.

"Make a wish," he whispers as the room quiets.

He curls his arm around Pete’s waist and Pete takes a deep breath and closes his eyes, blowing out the candles in one shot. Everyone claps and Greta starts cutting up the cake. Patrick leans over and kisses him, more likely than not because everyone is watching. He can't help feeling a little foolish for the wish he just made, but there's only one thing that he really wants.

After cake, Greta announces it's time for presents.

"Greta, you know, you're not actually at work right now." Pete laughs. "You don't have to coordinate my life all the time."

"That's what you think," she says. She's smiling, but he knows better than to argue with her.

Travis gives him the painting he'd been eyeing up at his last show.

"Guess I know why it had that sold sticker on it now," Pete says as he gets up to hug him.

He opens up a large and heavy bag to find a book he mentioned wanting to read last week and six pounds of his favorite coffee. He's not terribly surprised to find that the tag reads "from Jon & Greta." He saves the small box that he knows is from Patrick for last. When he finally reaches for it, he can feel Patrick fidgeting next to him.

He opens the box and finds a small silver money clip. Engraved on the front are the words, "Clandestine Industries" and underneath, slightly smaller, "Founded 2009."

Patrick says quietly, "Turn it over," and Pete does. He finds "To Pete, From Patrick," on the back. As though Pete would ever forget.

He slides a hand around the back of Patrick's neck.

"Thank you," he says as he pulls him in for a kiss. Patrick doesn't need to know that it's not at all for show.

--

A week after Pete's birthday is the party Pete throws for, as he puts it, "the people that don't actually matter." The guest list is largely filled with business associates and friends of Pete's parents. It's held at Pete's parents' place in Wilmette. Patrick had gone past it more than a few times when he was growing up, so it's a little weird that he's finally able to see the inside. The best part about the party, though, is the fact that Patrick doesn't have to do anything other than be there. He doesn't have to worry about impressing any stuck-up socialites, because Pete is the host of this one. It's his house, and it's his birthday, and Patrick is his husband, and everyone has to be nice to them by default. Patrick wishes that every party he went to was like this.

That is, until a very tall, almost impossible skinny girl wanders up to him, shortly after Pete has left his side. Patrick barely comes up to her shoulder; he actually has to take a step back and crane his neck to look up at her. She's giving him the "I'm judging you right now" once over that Patrick has come to know very well over the past few months. He wonders if she somehow doesn't realize who he is, because that is a look he should not be getting. Not today.

"So," she says, "you must be Patrick. Mother's told me so much about you."

Patrick thinks, Oh god, no. Please don't be who I think you are.

She extends a hand.

"Billie Beckett. Nice to finally meet you."

Patrick hates everything right now.

He shakes her hand and says as politely as he can manage, "Same here."

"You're shorter than I expected," she says thoughtfully and Patrick clenches his hands at his sides. She smiles sweetly. "Not that that's a bad thing, of course. God, it was so embarrassing when I kept getting taller and Pete didn't and our parents still insisted on pairing us up."

Patrick scans the room for Pete, but he's nowhere in sight.

"I'm sure that must've been awful," he says dryly.

"You have no idea. I couldn't wear heels until I was old enough to start choosing my own dates."

"I can't say towering over my dates is a problem I've ever had, especially not with Pete." Her expression sours and Patrick feels slightly vindicated. "Is your date around? I'd love to meet him." Patrick knows that a big reason for the bitterness from her and her mother is the fact that she is currently single while Pete is -- as far as they know -- happily married.

"Oh, I'm not seeing anyone at the moment. I decided to take some time and focus on my career."

Patrick has to resist the urge to ask what career that would be, as there isn't a huge job market for philosophers these days. Pete walks up behind him a moment later, resting his chin on Patrick's shoulder as his arm comes around Patrick's waist.

"Hey there," he says, pressing a kiss to the side of Patrick's neck. Patrick breathes a sigh of relief as he leans back against Pete.

"Hey, yourself," Patrick says, turning to smile at him.

Billie clears her throat.

"Happy birthday, Peter."

"Thanks, Billie." He grins at her. "I see you've met the missus." Patrick elbows him in the chest.

"We were just discussing how you two are the perfect height for each other, actually," she explains.

"Mmmhmm," Pete murmurs. "He's a keeper." Billie frowns and excuses herself, walking off briskly.

"Thanks for coming to my rescue there," Patrick says.

"Anytime," Pete says, squeezing him tightly before letting go.

Patrick spends the rest of the evening enjoying a lot of really good food, and drinking some, okay, a lot of champagne and avoiding Billie Beckett like the plague. He even dances with Pete for a few songs, not caring if he makes an idiot of himself.

Pete leans in close and whispers, "I'm glad you're having a good time."

"Same here," Patrick says. He slides his arms tighter around Pete's waist and kisses him. "I'm glad you married me instead of her. Think about how stupid you guys would look dancing together." Pete rests his head against Patrick's and laughs before kissing him back.

As the party winds to a close, Patrick can't help thinking about how awesome it is that they can just leave and not have to worry about cleaning up. It's just one of those perks of being rich. They get in the limo to go back home, and he watches Pete as he takes off his jacket and throws it over one of the other seats. He loosens his tie a little, and then undoes his cuff links and rolls up his sleeves, exposing the tattoos.

Patrick runs his fingers over the ink on Pete's skin. He hates that Pete has to keep it covered up all the time.

"Hey," Pete says, "What are you thinking about?"

"Thinking 'bout how hot my husband is."

It sounds weird when Patrick says it out loud, but that's how he's been thinking of Pete lately, as his husband. His husband for a year because they made a deal, but still his husband. And it's true: he married this guy. The piece of paper making it legal doesn't know the difference.

Pete laughs and leans against him.

"Mine's pretty hot too. And I think he's drunk."

"There was a champagne fountain, Pete. An entire fountain, just for champagne."

Pete laughs again, turns his head and kisses Patrick's shoulder.

"I know, I was there too."

"Pete, your kisses should be on my mouth. Then I can kiss you back. I like kissing you. You're a good kisser. I like when you do that thing. Why aren't we kissing right now?" Patrick hears himself rambling but he just can't seem to stop. Plus staring at Pete's mouth isn't really helping matters. "Seriously, we should be making out."

He pulls Pete onto his lap and thinks, this is much better. Pete curls his fingers around Patrick's jaw and Patrick tugs him down by his tie until there's barely an inch between them. Pete sucks on Patrick's bottom lip before kissing him, hard and deep.

"Is that the thing you like?" he asks when he leans back.

"Mmmhmm," is all Patrick says before he pulls Pete back down.

He feels his stomach growling, and really, that's just ridiculous, he ate like a million hors d'oeuvres at the party. He doesn't really remember if there was an actual meal that he somehow missed, but all those little puff pastries should have been an adequate dinner.

Pete laughs, asking, "Hungry?"

"Apparently," Patrick grumbles, annoyed at his stomach for killing the mood. Pete leans over and presses a button Patrick hadn't noticed before.

"Bob, there should be a CVS coming up on the corner. Can we make a quick stop there?"

"Of course, sir."

Patrick feels the limo slow to a stop as they park and Pete grabs a bottle of water out of the mini fridge and hands it to him.

"You drink that, I'm going to go get you some munchies, alright?" Patrick nods.

"Don't take too long," he lets his fingers linger on Pete's as he takes the water bottle. For a moment, Patrick thinks Pete isn't going to leave, thinks he's going to lean in and kiss him again. Patrick wouldn't actually have a problem with this, because well, yes, he's hungry, but he's not so hungry that they had to stop all the awesome kissing that was going on.

But Pete doesn't kiss him again.

"I'll be right back. Promise."

And then the door is shutting and Patrick is alone in the back of the limo.

--

Pete grabs a basket on the way into the store, throwing in whatever junk food catches his eye. He realizes he doesn't know Patrick quite well enough to know what kind of drunk food he likes. He also grabs a bottle of V8 for tomorrow morning; his sister swears by it as a hangover remedy. He's on his way to the checkout when his phone rings. It's Patrick.

"Peeeeeeete. Where are you?" Pete laughs.

"You said you were hungry, remember? I'm getting us some snacks."

"Oh," Patrick says quietly, like he'd forgotten. "I am hungry. But I miss you."

Something aches in Pete's chest when he hears those words, and he has to remind himself that Patrick is drunk. Lately there have been times when Patrick looks at him a certain way and Pete thinks maybe, just maybe, this could be something real. That this is more than just some strange friends-with-benefits thing they've got going on the side of their fake marriage.

"I'll be back before you know it. I just gotta pay for this stuff." He's next in line, it shouldn’t be long.

"That's good. Because I really want to fuck you. I've never had sex in a limo before. When you come back we should fix that."

Pete doesn't even stop to think before he's turning around and heading back to add condoms and lube to his basket.

"Just a couple more minutes, okay?" Pete says trying to keep the composure in his voice. "Don't start the party without me."

"I hadn't even thought of that! I am totally starting without you."

"Patrick, come on. That's not cool." Patrick just laughs on the other end of the line. Pete throws a box of condoms into his basket on top of the potato chips and gummi bears. "Patrick," he says, and the only response he gets is some heavy breathing. Goddammit. Apparently Patrick wasn't kidding about starting without him. "Patrick. Listen to me, I need your help here. Do you like KY or Astroglide better?"

"I like the sounds you make when my fingers are in your ass," Patrick answers, his voice low and rough.

Pete never thought he'd have to will himself not to get hard in the middle of a CVS. He grabs both and gets back to the checkout as fast as humanly possible.

"I was just kidding before Pete. I didn't really start without you. But I might if you don't get back soon."

"I'm practically out the door, I'll be back in two seconds."

He pays for everything, and when the girl behind the counter hands Pete his bag, he mouths, "Thank you," before leaving as fast as he can without actually running out to the parking lot.

--

Patrick gets his hands on Pete the second he sees the door opening. He hauls Pete onto the seat next to him, the bag in Pete's hand getting lost in the process. That's the least of Patrick's concerns right now. He kisses Pete messily.

"You need to take off your pants. Like right now. You made me wait forever. I got bored but it wasn't so bad because Bob is a good listener. But you still made me wait and that's not fair. I could have had my dick in you by now."

"Yeah, okay, sorry, sorry.”

Pete kicks off his shoes and shoves down his pants and underwear. He sinks to the floor, now naked from the waist down and settles down between Patrick's legs.

Patrick can't seem to make his fingers work at the moment. It takes way too much effort just to get his pants unzipped, and well, he'd really rather be touching Pete than fighting with his own clothes. Luckily, it seems he doesn't need to worry about how he's going to get himself naked. A moment later, Pete runs his hands over Patrick's thighs.

"Hey, a little help here?" he says and tugs Patrick's pants down to his ankles when Patrick lifts up his hips. Pete kisses the soft skin on the inside of his knees and Patrick sighs as he cards his fingers through Pete's hair.

It's nice, yes, but this isn't what Patrick had in mind. He thought he'd made himself perfectly clear when he was on the phone with Pete earlier. He needs to fix this.

"Why are you down there?" he asks.

"Would've thought that was obvious," Pete says, smiling up at him before he presses a trail of kisses up Patrick's thighs up to the edge of his boxers.

Pete needs to stop doing these things, distracting him when Patrick has other ideas. Though he can't help making a contented sound in the back of his throat when Pete leans up and mouths at his cock through his boxers. He looks down at Pete and shakes his head.

Finally, he manages to make his mouth work again.

"No, you need to be up here." He reaches down to wrap his fingers around Pete's tie, tugging a little bit until Pete gets the idea and climbs into Patrick's lap, straddling his waist. "That's better," he whispers, before tugging on Pete's tie again, pulling him down for a kiss.

"I thought you liked having my mouth on your dick," Pete says between kisses.

"Mmmhmm," is Patrick's only response before he slides his hands over Pete's ass. "I like being able to kiss you more. Especially when you're making those sounds I like, remember?"

He pulls Pete closer and Pete grinds against him. He works a finger into Pete, who bucks against him, groaning, and buries his face in Patrick's chest.

"Yeah, those are the sounds. Want to hear more of them."

"Fuck," Pete groans into Patrick's chest as Patrick works his finger deeper. "Lube...in the bag."

Patrick pulls his finger out of Pete and wraps his arm around his waist to hold him in place as he bends to pick up the bag at his feet. He sets it down on the seat next to them and sifts through it looking for the lube.

"Dude, you got me gummi bears? You're the best." He turns and kisses Pete, grinning. Pete just whimpers.

"Oh right, lube." He pulls out the box of KY, fumbling with it for a second before Pete grabs it out of his hands. He rips open the cardboard, pulls out the tube, and hands it back to Patrick.

"Please," Pete says, voice sounding a little desperate.

"I like it when you're all needy," Patrick says, laughing a little as he unscrews the cap and smears a generous amount over his fingers. He tosses the tube onto the seat and reaches underneath Pete, slipping a finger inside of him easily, followed by a second only a moment later.

Patrick trails his other hand down Pete's throat, before curling it around the back of his neck and pulling him close to kiss him again. He licks into Pete's mouth as Pete fucks down on his fingers, making all the little noises Patrick loves.

When he finally stops to breathe, he rests his forehead against Pete's, puts a hand on Pete's chest, feels his heart beating fast beneath his fingertips. Pete's dress shirt clings to him now, already damp with sweat.

"You ready?" Patrick asks.

Pete doesn't so much say yes as moan it amongst a string of curses, arching his back. Patrick eases his fingers out of Pete, strokes his hands over Pete's hips and looks up at him.

"Gonna have to bear with me okay? 'm still kinda drunk," he says before leaning in to kiss him. Pete nods.

"Yeah, okay."

He climbs off of Patrick and leans back in the seat, catching his breath as Patrick pushes his boxers down, gets a condom on, and slicks himself with more lube. Patrick looks over at Pete and just stares for a moment. His head is tipped back, eyes closed. His shirt is a wrinkled mess and his tie is askew. His cock is flush against his stomach, his legs parted just slightly. It's an image Patrick wants to remember forever.

"Pete, hey, come here," he says softly, reaching for his hand. Pete opens his eyes, a smile pulling at his lips as he looks at Patrick. He crawls back into Patrick's lap, kneeling over him before sinking down onto Patrick's cock.

"Fuck," Patrick groans, sinking his fingers into Pete's hips.

"You feel so good," he says as he thrusts up into Pete. "Been thinking about this. Since the last time. I wanted..." He trails off. He needs to stop talking before he says too much. The alcohol is making him stupidly honest.

"God, Patrick, you have no idea," Pete says. He cups Patrick's face in his hands before kissing him. He moans into Patrick's mouth with every thrust and Patrick assumes he's hitting the right spots.

It's hard for Patrick to learn the specifics of what Pete likes when the only directions Pete ever gives him are 'harder' and 'more.' It makes him feel selfish, like he's just taking from Pete and not giving anything in return. But Pete always comes and certainly seems to enjoy himself. So.

"Patrick, I need..." Pete gasps, mouth next to his ear. "Can you...?" That's enough to startle Patrick out of his own thoughts. Yes, he can, and he will, because this isn't all about what he wants.

Patrick's fingers are still slippery with lube when he grips Pete's cock, twisting his hand around the head. It doesn't take long before Pete is shaking apart, bucking up into Patrick's fist and arching back down into his lap.

They've only done this a few times so far, but Patrick's quickly learning that the feeling of Pete coming, hot and tight around him, combined with the sight of it, is pretty much enough to drive him straight over the edge.

His hips snap up sharply a few final times, his hands clutched tightly in Pete's shirt, as Pete leans into him, breathing hot against his neck. He relaxes back into the seat, letting go of the fabric between his fingers. He keeps his arm wrapped around Pete, though, holding on to him as he comes down. Pete apparently sees no need to move right away, either, and so they both sit there a few minutes longer before they realize the limo isn't moving.

Patrick has no idea how long it takes to get back to Pete's apartment from Wilmette. He's only ever taken the Metra into the city, never driven. He also has no idea how long they've actually been in the limo. For all Patrick knows they could be back in Chicago already, parked somewhere, while Bob waits patiently outside for them to finish having sex.

Pete looks out the window for a moment before climbing off of him and making his way over to the intercom.

"Bob, what's our status?"

"Stuck in traffic, sir. Bad accident."

"Okay, thanks."

Patrick gets the feeling that possibly, they've been sitting in traffic for a while and they were just too preoccupied to notice. He debates whether it's worth it to actually move and pull his pants back up, or just sit there a while longer. Pete sits back down next to him, tentatively leaning his head on Patrick's shoulder.

"We should possibly put our clothes back on at some point," Pete says, making no attempt at all to go get his pants.

"Overrated," is Patrick's reply. "Besides, we're not going anywhere." He reaches for the bag of gummi bears, tears it open and shoves a handful into his mouth before offering the bag to Pete.

He shakes his head.

"No thanks. Hand me the cupcakes, will you?"

Patrick sifts around for a moment before he finds the chocolate cupcakes with the little squiggle of white icing on them and tossing them over to Pete. When they're finished eating Pete sighs and says, "I should actually put my pants back on. I'm getting cold. And I'm sticky."

"Me too," Patrick says. "Too bad someone didn't think to get handiwipes during his little shopping excursion."

"Yeah well, sorry. I was a little distracted," Pete says as he gets up and bends down to pick up his underwear off the floor. "Someone kept telling me how much I needed to get back so he could fuck me."

"That someone had the right idea, I think." Patrick says as he finally pulls his pants back up.

He likes being able to banter like this with Pete. It's comfortable. They've finally fallen into step with one another, are finally able to be friends. The limo moves forward suddenly and Pete, who had been on one foot as it was, falls over. Patrick can't help laughing at him.

"Are you alright?" he asks as Pete sits up.

"Yeah," Pete says sheepishly. Obviously the only thing bruised was his ego.

"Come over here and cuddle with me, stupid. I'll keep you warm."

Pete finishes pulling on his underwear and snuggles up against Patrick who puts an arm around his shoulders.

"This limo wasn't really made for cuddling," Patrick says idly.

"I'll get a better one next time," is all Pete says. They stay like that for the remainder of the trip, not really talking, just curled against one another. It's not until Bob announces their arrival that Pete detaches himself from Patrick's side to put the rest of his clothes back on.

Patrick lost track of the time a while ago, but he hopes it's late enough that the paparazzi aren't lurking around the apartment. It's only happened a couple of times in the past few months, but it's the last thing Patrick wants to deal with when he's coming home after a long day. At present, he's still drunk enough to make dealing with those assholes slightly more bearable, but somehow he doesn't think Pete would appreciate photos of them in their come stained dress clothes showing up in the tabloids.

Thankfully, this isn't one of those nights, and they make it back up to the apartment without incident. Patrick is out of it by the time he gets to his bedroom, less from being drunk and more so from just being tired, though he's still got a nice buzz. He tosses his hat onto his desk and falls back on to his bed promptly after sitting down.

"I don't know if you know," he hears Pete's voice say a minute later, "but it's more comfortable if you actually take off your clothes before going to sleep." Suddenly the room is very bright, even behind his closed eyelids, and Patrick is not okay with that at all. He grumbles and throws an arm over his eyes until he is once again in the darkness.

"Why would you do that?" he mumbles.

"Sorry," Pete whispers. "You need to get undressed though. You'll thank me for it in the morning."

Patrick groans and begrudgingly rolls out of bed. He kicks off his shoes, followed by his pants, and fumbles with his tie a moment before Pete's cold hands are on top of his and Pete's saying, "Let me help with that."

Once the tie is out of the way he goes to work on the buttons of Patrick's dress shirt and before Patrick realizes it, Pete's pushing the shirt off of his shoulders and Patrick is standing in just his underwear and socks. He shivers a little and looks around for the t-shirt he slept in the night before, knows he left it lying around somewhere.

"This what you're looking for?" Pete asks, picking up the t-shirt hanging over the back of Patrick's desk chair and handing it to him. Patrick nods.

"Thanks," before clumsily pulling it on. Pete walks over to the bed and pulls the blankets back for him. Patrick half falls, half sits down on the bed and he hears Pete laughing softly, before he kisses the top of Patrick's head and says, "Goodnight."

Patrick thinks, this isn't right, this isn't where the night ends. He catches Pete's wrist before he has the chance to get away.

"Where are you going?"

"Back to my room." Pete says it like Patrick is perhaps a little stupid. Patrick isn't stupid, he knows where Pete was going. He just doesn't know why. Clearly staying with Patrick instead of sleeping alone is the better option. Clearly. Pete is smart, he really should have figured this one out by himself.

"No," Patrick insists, "Stay."

"Patrick," Pete says slowly, "I don't think that..."

"Well I do," Patrick says. He yawns and continues, "You should you stay and cuddle with me." Patrick is tired and he'd really like it if Pete would stop fighting him on this and get into bed already. Pete hesitates and Patrick says, a little irritably, "Come on, I'm tired."

"Okay," Pete says, "I'll be right back. Let me go get changed."

"Don't think I'm going to fall asleep," Patrick warns, "If you don't come back, 'm coming to get you."

Luckily, it doesn't come to that, and Pete returns a few minutes later, wearing his Spongebob pajamas and smelling minty, like he just brushed his teeth. He climbs into bed and Patrick curls up beside him. Pete's back is pressed against his chest and he slides an arm around his waist and squeezes him just a little bit before relaxing into his pillows.

"This is good," he murmurs into the back of Pete's neck.

He's already half asleep, but he thinks he hears Pete whispering "Goodnight."

--

Pete wakes up the next morning, Patrick's arm still wrapped tight around him and thinks about the last time he woke up next to Patrick, almost five months ago. He wonders how they went from Patrick threatening to force Pete to sleep on top of the blankets out of fear for his virtue, to Patrick drunkenly demanding cuddles from him after having had sex in the limo on the ride home.

He remembers wanting, even back then, and telling himself what a bad idea it would be, resolving to make do with the few kisses he could get when they were out in public. He never would have guessed that this is where he'd end up five month later. Not that Pete's entirely certain where here is, exactly. And he's still not convinced that it wasn't a bad idea.

Given another five months, it's fairly likely that it'll turn out to have been a terrible idea. But as Patrick shifts in his sleep and flexes his fingers against Pete's stomach, Pete thinks he doesn't care. He'd do it the same all over again as long as it means he gets to have this now.

There's nothing Pete would like more than to stay in bed with Patrick and sleep in and have a lazy Sunday morning, but he's got an appointment with his therapist in a few hours. If he didn't need to wash off the sweat, and more importantly, the smell of sex from last night, he'd skip the shower in favor of sleep, but that's just not an option today. He wriggles out from underneath Patrick's arm and makes his way down the hall and into his own bathroom.

Later, as Pete is finishing his breakfast, Patrick stumbles, bleary eyed, out into the kitchen. He sits down at the table next to Pete.

"I think I'm dying," he says miserably.

Pete tries his best not to laugh.

"I told you to drink more water."

"Shut up," Patrick mumbles as he puts his head down on the table. "I hate everything."

Pete runs a hand over the back of Patrick's neck, rubbing a little, before he stands up, grabs the V8 out of the fridge, pours a glass, and sets it down in front of Patrick.

"Drink this." Patrick looks up, eyeing it suspiciously before downing the entire glass. "Do you want some eggs? I'm pretty sure I can't fuck that up too badly."

Patrick makes a grumbling sound in response and Pete takes it as a yes. A few minutes later, Pete's setting down his mostly successful attempt at scrambled eggs in front of him and Patrick eats in silence. Pete doesn't know if they're actually edible or if Patrick is just too hungover to care. When he's finished, Patrick scoots his chair closer to Pete's and rests his head on Pete's shoulder.

"Thanks," he says quietly.

"No problem." Pete puts an arm around him, rubbing his back lightly, "You should go back to bed. I'll be home in a few hours and then I think we should talk about last night."

"Last night? Patrick repeats, and then again when he realizes what Pete means. "Oh. Last night. Um, yeah. We can talk about that."

"Okay. Okay, good." Pete says awkwardly, standing up from the table and grabbing his keys and wallet from the counter. "I'll be back later then."

Patrick nods, heading back towards his bedroom, and then Pete is out the door and on the way to his therapist's office.

Today they talk about how things are progressing with Clandestine, the last conversation Pete had with his parents, and how the new sleeping pills are working out for him. He carefully avoids saying anything that could get them anywhere near the subject of Patrick or how they're doing. He's talked about Patrick before of course -- it would be nearly impossible for him not to -- but Pete's already anxious about the conversation they'll be having once he gets home, he has no desire to wear the subject out with his therapist beforehand.

On his way home, Pete tries to come up with something to say when he sees Patrick, but his mind blanks. He settles on winging it, over thinking can get him into trouble sometimes.

When he gets home, Patrick's door is closed and for a moment he thinks about letting this wait until another time, another day. He knows that this has nothing to do with Patrick possibly being preoccupied and everything to do with Pete chickening out, so he goes to knock on Patrick's door.

"Come in."

"Hey," Pete says as Patrick takes off his headphones and shuts his laptop, giving Pete his full attention.

"You wanted to talk? About last night?"

Pete nods and sits down on the edge of Patrick's bed. He thinks about saying something about the fact that Patrick had been drinking, about letting things get out of hand when he knows they shouldn't have, but the only thing that comes out of his mouth when he opens it to speak is --

"It was really good."

"Um…" Patrick's face flushes almost instantly.

"Shit, I mean, I didn't mean to say that. Not that it's not true, I just. Fuck." Pete's mind is going into panic mode. Perhaps he should have rehearsed this a little bit better.

He takes a breath, and starts again, "I don't want things to be weird. You were drinking and maybe you said some things you didn't mean to, I don't know. I just wanted to give you the opportunity to pretend that it never happened...if that's what you want."

"I didn't say anything last night that I didn't mean," Patrick says, seriously. Pete's mind automatically replays the memory of Patrick telling him how good he felt and his stomach does somersaults.

"Yeah?" Pete asks quietly, maybe sounding a little hopeful. Patrick promptly turns an even brighter shade of red and looks down at the floor.

"It's just," he pauses and Pete waits for the other shoe to drop. "I like being friends with you. I don't want to mess that up."

"Oh," Pete says. So no more sex, he thinks. "Yeah, me either."

He knows that it's for the best. They never should have started this in the first place and if stopping now means gets to keep his friendship with Patrick, well that's the important thing.

"You were right though," Patrick says, after a long moment of silence.

"Huh?"

"It was…really good," Patrick clarifies. He also looks like he wishes a hole would open up underneath his desk and swallow him. "If we could just. You know. Not let it complicate things. That would also...be good."

Pete's not entirely certain that Patrick is saying what he thinks he's saying.

"So you want to...keep things the way they are."

"Um. Yeah."

They stare at each other for few seconds. Pete kind of wants to kiss him, but he doesn't know where kissing falls in the grand scheme of the friends-with-benefits thing that they've apparently just decided on.

“Okay,” he says instead. He pauses for a moment trying to gage Patrick's reaction. Patrick gives him a small smile. "Okay. Awesome. I'll let you get back to what you were working on then." He stands up and leaves Patrick to his music.

Several days later, Pete is getting ready for bed when Patrick walks into his bathroom and presses him up against the sink. He rocks his hips into Pete's.

"This is okay, right?"

"Yeah," Pete all but gasps.

As they fall into bed, Pete is really, really glad they had that talk.

--

When the semester ends, Patrick's days seem as though they are going by in a flash. He’s just as busy as when he was rushing to finish his finals and turn in projects. Pete has to remind him that he is allowed to do things on his own. The paparazzi have calmed down recently, and he’s is unlikely to be harassed, especially if he’s by himself.

Patrick spends the rest of May and the entirety of June catching up with Chris and Darren, hanging out with Jon and Tom, going to see Sean's band every night he can. And on top of that he has Pete's birthday and the planning that went into it; their various other social obligations. The fundraisers Patrick still despises and dinners with Pete's friends and business associates.

By the time July rolls around, all Patrick wants to do is sleep until noon and laze about at home.

It takes two whole weeks before he's had enough of that. He is going out of his mind with boredom. This is the first summer since he was in high school that he hasn't spent working some shitty part-time job and he doesn't know what to do with himself. Everyone else is busy with their own lives and he is stuck alone at the apartment. It’s a great apartment, to be sure, but there’s only so much time he can spent inside before going stir crazy.

Patrick remembers spending summer days in high school, holed up in his room while his parents were at work, jerking off because he had nothing else better to do. And because at fifteen he was pretty much perpetually horny.

This summer is starting to seem oddly similar.

He wakes up around noon one day and lies in bed for a while before finally getting up, showering, and getting dressed. His plans to maybe leave the apartment for the first time all week are dashed when the weather channel informs him that it's in the low 90's. There's no way he's leaving the comfort of the air conditioning now.

He lies back down in bed and stares up at the ceiling. This summer is definitely beginning to feel very familiar. He's hesitant to resort to jerking off, if only because he's no longer a teenager and he feels like he should be able to come up with a better way to entertain himself.

Except that Patrick's never been in any kind of relationship where he could get regular sex before. His experiences in college have mostly been one night stands and casual hookups at parties. The few repeat performances ended because he has the bad luck of being attracted to closet cases. But Pete? Pete is there every night and they just click, fit together like puzzle pieces.

He thinks about the hot, wet pressure of Pete's mouth around his dick and he's already half hard by the time he gets his hand inside his pants.

He strokes himself a few times, thinking about Pete at work, behind his desk, in his fancy suit and tie. He pulls his hand out of his jeans and gropes around his nightstand for his phone, looking at the time. Thinks, Pete should be on his lunch hour about now.

He texts, talk to me. i'm bored. and a second later he sends, and horny.

i think i know now why all those trophy wives cheat on their husbands with the pool boy.

Pete hasn't texted back yet and Patrick reaches down to rub himself through his jeans.

don't worry, i'm not going to cheat on you....we don't have a pool boy.

He can't help adding, besides the sex is too good.

Patrick feels a little braver talking to Pete this way, when he doesn't have to worry about blushing or saying the wrong thing.

He wanted to wait and see if he could get Pete involved before touching himself again, but Pete still hasn't responded and he's getting tired of waiting. He undoes the button and zipper on his jeans and shoves them down to his knees. He's got his phone in one hand, staring at it, willing it to light up, as he rubs himself through his boxers with the other. A frustrated groan escapes his mouth as he arches up against his palm, and he's growing increasingly annoyed at Pete's lack of response.

He glares at his phone for a second and when it still refuses to produce any new messages, he texts, "i guess i'm bothering you, i'll leave you alone."

His finger hovers over the send button a moment before he finally realizes how childish that sounds. He erases it and instead sends "if i were there right now i'd blow you underneath your desk."

He thinks about the surprised look Pete would have on his face if he just showed up in the middle of the day, walked into his office, and locked the door behind him. If he pulled Pete's chair back from his desk and got down on his knees.

Pete's phone goes straight to voicemail.

"Fuck, Pete, why aren't you here?" He groans loudly as he twists his hand around the head of his dick. "I'm gonna do it one day, Pete. I'm gonna show up at your office and get down on my knees for you."

His hips buck up at the thought and he bites back a moan. It's one thing he hasn't done for Pete yet, but he's thought about it. Oh, how he's thought about it.

"You'll have to be quiet so no one else hears. I don't know if you could. I'm good, Pete, I'm really, really good."

Patrick feels himself getting close. He can't concentrate on talking any longer, just pants into the phone, making low throaty sounds as he jerks himself harder. He thinks about pressing his fingers into Pete's hips as he blows him, leaving little thumb-shaped bruises, while Pete struggles to stay quiet above him. Patrick arches his back, groaning loudly as he comes.

"Pete. Fuck." He lies perfectly still in his bed as he catches his breath. When he can finally think again, he whispers, "See you later," before pressing the end button and disconnecting the call.

Patrick pulls his pants back up and wanders out to the kitchen to see what kind of leftovers they have in the fridge for lunch. He heats up some Chinese food and wanders over to Pete's bookshelf. There's an entire shelf of books by Michael James Way, a horror author that Patrick's dad likes. But Patrick's never been a big fan of horror, so he keeps looking. The rest of the shelves are filled with everything from Harry Potter to Kerouac.

Patrick's never read On the Road before. He thinks now is as good a time as any, since it's supposedly a classic and all. As he's pulling it out, he notices the oversized black books lining the bottom shelf. The covers are scuffed and worn, as though they were well traveled. Patrick makes a note to take a look at them tomorrow and settles down on the couch with his Chinese food and Pete's tattered copy of On The Road.

Patrick loses himself in the book, only looking up hours later when he hears the apartment door opening. He dog-ears the page and puts it down on the coffee table next to him, stretching as he sits up. Pete sets his briefcase down in the hallway and walks over towards Patrick, stopping at the edge of the couch.

"Hey, how was your day?" Patrick asks.

Pete gives him an incredulous look.

"What?" Patrick wonders if he's done something wrong.

"I got a fucking pornographic voicemail and then the person who left it refused to answer his phone or respond to his goddamn text messages for the next four hours." Pete throws his jacket over the arm of the couch and loosens his tie. "I have been hard for half of my work day, that's how I've been."

Patrick laughs.

"Sorry. Told you I was bored," he says, only just then realizing that he left his phone on his nightstand when he left his bedroom.

"I couldn't get any work done for the rest of the day," Pete crosses his arms over his chest and glares at Patrick.

Patrick wants to feel bad, really he does. He just – doesn’t.

"I was that much of a distraction, huh?" he asks with a smirk. Pete continues to glare and Patrick just laughs as he says, "Get over here and let me make it up to you, jackass."

"You fucking better," Pete says as he kicks of his shoes and climbs onto the couch on top of Patrick. He groans at the first brush of Patrick's hips against his. "Been waiting all day for this," he mumbles.

"Good," Patrick says. He sneaks his fingers underneath the back of Pete's shirt. Pete seals his mouth over Patrick's and then neither of them is talking any longer as they rub against one another.

This morning, Patrick would've thought he was far too old for shit like this. But afterward, with Pete lying on top of him, his head against Patrick's chest as his breathing slows to normal, he's not so sure.

"Hey," he says as he runs his fingers through Pete’s hair. He’s starting to feel the dampness in Pete's pants seep through to his own.

"Can we just stay like this for a little while?" Pete murmurs.

Patrick throws an arm over Pete and rubs his back, nodding.

"Yeah."

--

Patrick wakes up the next day with the sun shining in his eyes. He doesn't need to look at the clock to know it's too early to be awake. Too early for him, at least. He rolls over and puts on his glasses, glancing at his alarm clock before heading to the bathroom. Nine-thirty. Definitely too early. He feels slightly more awake after showering, and throws his pajamas back on before wandering out to the kitchen to find some breakfast. He might be awake but it is still too early for real clothes.

He flops down on the couch with his cereal and turns on the TV, flipping through nothing but boring morning news shows and infomercials until he gets to the weather channel. Apparently the 90+ degree heat still hasn't broken, so it looks like he's staying inside for another day in a row. Patrick wonders how many more days it'll take before he can officially call himself a hermit.

He watches something mindless on Cartoon Network for an hour or so until he actually wakes up and figures out the number of hours he's got to kill until Pete gets home. While his experiment with the text messages turned out even better than he'd hoped, he resolves to do something more productive with his day today.

Pete's copy of On the Road is still sitting on the coffee table where he left it the day before. He's about to pick up where he left off, when he remembers wanting to take a closer look at the bottom row of the bookshelf. He wanders over and pulls the first in a row of three books off the shelf, sitting down at the kitchen table with it. The first few pages are blank, but Patrick keeps flipping through until he comes across a very familiar drawing, it's drawn on lined notebook paper in faded pencil, taped to the page. Patrick recognizes it instantly. He's seen it more than once in the past few weeks, has traced his fingers over it where it's been tattooed into Pete's skin, just below his belly button.

He's not certain what it means, until he sees that underneath, in Pete's handwriting, is scribbled the word "Clandestine."

Patrick's assumptions are confirmed when he turns the page and sees a roughly drawn outline of a hoodie, quickly colored in black, the words "Love Can't Save You" blocked out in white down the one side. Pete was wearing this hoodie the first time they met. Patrick stares at the page a moment -- remembering what seems like ages ago, but is fact only a few months -- before he finally notices the word 'Front' scribbled underneath. When Patrick turns the page he finds the back, reading, "Only My New Powers Can." He smiles, recognizing the quote immediately. He had no idea Pete was a Star Wars fan. As he continues on, he wonders what else he'll learn about Pete from these pages.

The drawings become more detailed the further Patrick gets into the sketchbook, and about halfway through the book, they're joined by words. And not just the descriptive words, like "blue" or "knee length" that had been showing up previously. Snippets of what Patrick can only think to describe as poetry.

"Stop burning bridges and drive off of them, so I can forget about you," is written dark and angrily in the corner of a page with a sketch of a t-shirt that reads "I ♥ Revenge."

Patrick reaches the end and closes the book, going immediately over to the bookshelf and pulling out the one next to it.

This one, he realizes right away, is very much not a sketchbook of designs for Pete's clothing line. The sketches are mostly abstract shapes and colors, with only the occasional word scattered across a page. "Alone," in a field of blue watercolor. "Liar," amongst some chaotic red and orange brush strokes. And underneath a scribble of a hand reaching out, "Unlovable." Patrick traces his fingers over the letters, recognizing another one of Pete's tattoos.

Patrick closes the book halfway through, feeling as though this is something too personal for him to be looking at. Pete may have left it out on his shelf for all to see, but Patrick's not sure he can handle that much raw honesty.

He pushes his chair back, stands up from the kitchen table with every intention to put the book back where he found it and forget about it, when a small slip of paper flutters to the ground. Instead of simply tucking it back inside like he knows he should, Patrick lets his curiosity get the best of him.

The edges of the paper are torn, as though it had started its life somewhere else before ending up shoved between Pete's drawings. It's folded neatly in half a single time and as Patrick unfolds it and begins to read, he can feel his heart clench.

It begins, "I spent most of last night dragging the lake for the corpses of all my past mistakes," and continues on in one long, seemingly stream of consciousness, paragraph down the page.

The words are both eloquent and vicious and the ache in Patrick's chest grows stronger as he continues to read. He stops halfway and shoves the paper in between two random pages before hurriedly shoving the sketchbook back into its place on the shelf.

Patrick walks straight into his bedroom, throwing on the first pair of jeans and t-shirt he can find. He shoves his feet into his sneakers and grabs a hat on the way out the door. He doesn't care about the heat any more. He needs to get out of the apartment now. He needs space to clear his head. More than anything, he needs to get away from Pete's words.

--

When he gets home later that evening, he's tired and sunburned, but thankfully Pete's words and drawings are the furthest thing from his mind. Pete's sprawled out on the couch watching the news. He smiles when Patrick walks through the door.

"Hey, I was just about to call and make sure you were still alive."

"I'm alive," Patrick says, sitting down next to him on the couch. "Sweaty and gross, but alive."

"And sunburned." Pete presses a finger against Patrick's arm, where the skin is hot and pink, watching the way color disappears and returns.

"Ow, quit it." Patrick flinches away. "Possibly leaving the house without sunscreen was not my smartest move."

"Possibly." Pete turns his head and presses a kiss to his shoulder. "What do you want for dinner?"

"Ugh. I don't care," Patrick groans. "I just want to stop feeling like my skin is on fire."

"I think I've got some aloe in my bathroom. That'll probably help." Patrick nods.

"Need to wash the gross off first." He sighs. Showering is not going to be fun.

"Okay, you do that and I'll order us dinner." Pete leans over and kisses him gingerly on the tip of his sunburned nose, then grins at him before hopping up off the couch in search of the take out menus.

Patrick sighs again before finally forcing himself up off the couch and into his bathroom. He takes a lukewarm shower, very gingerly puts on a clean t-shirt and sweats, and wanders back out into the kitchen. He finds Pete standing in front of the fridge with the door open. Patrick walks up behind him and hooks his chin over Pete's shoulder.

"Hey," Pete says, turning to look at him. He shuts the fridge door and opens up the freezer. He reaches in and pulls out the bottle of aloe that Patrick could have sworn Pete said was in his bathroom. Pete shrugs. "I thought it would feel better if it was cold."

Patrick backs up and stares at the bottle in Pete's hand for a moment, before looking back up at Pete, wide-eyed.

"You're a genius."

Pete laughs.

"Hardly. Come on, turn around. It looks like the back of your neck is the worst spot."

Patrick turns and waits, hears the sound of the cap being opened and a second later feels Pete's fingers rubbing the cool gel over the back of his neck.

"It's not too cold, is it?" Pete asks. Patrick lets out a slow sigh, shakes his head.

"Feels great."

Pete's hands are on his shoulders, turning him back around and he's shaking his head.

"Even the tips of your ears are burned."

He reaches up and takes off Patrick's hat before Patrick has the chance to react. Even though Pete's seen him without his hat dozens of times, Patrick can't help ducking his head. It's an automatic reaction at this point.

"Dude," Pete says, "Stop that."

"Can't help it, sorry," Patrick mumbles as Pete's cold fingers run over the tips of his ears.

"I've seen you naked, dude. You hardly have anything to be embarrassed about."

"Shut up."

Pete dabs some aloe on the tip of Patrick's nose.

"No. I married a hottie. Deal with it."

Patrick rolls his eyes as Pete pushes up his sleeves and rubs some aloe over each of his arms.

"I hate to break it to you, but I think the other millionaires are laughing at you behind your back. You drew the short straw in terms of trophy wives."

Pete just looks at him, shaking his head. He squeezes out another dollop of gel into the palm of his hand before setting the bottle down on the kitchen table and rubbing his hands together. He slides them around Patrick's neck, soothing the red skin peeking out around the collar of his t-shirt.

"Stop insulting my husband," Pete says, no longer teasing, voice very serious. He pulls Patrick forward into what becomes a very wet and deep kiss. Patrick stumbles forward a few steps before regaining his balance and wrapping his arms low around Pete's waist. Patrick's just gotten comfortable having Pete in his arms, relaxing into the kiss when Pete pulls away. Patrick opens his eyes, confused.

Pete just smirks as he hooks his fingers into the waistband of Patrick's sweats, tugging them down and sinking to his knees. Patrick gasps at the first touch of Pete's tongue against the head of his dick.

"We shouldn't – Pete. The food's going to be here soon."

Pete stops licking a moment to grin up at him.

"Guess I better make this quick then, huh?"

He takes Patrick as deep as he can, sucking hard. Patrick tangles his fingers in Pete's hair, tugging when Pete hums around the head before deep-throating him. Patrick comes with a strangled groan a minute later and before he can make his brain start functioning again, Pete is pulling off of him and shoving a hand into his own pants.

"Shit. My dry cleaner is going to start giving me weird looks if we keep this up," he says a moment later. The doorbell rings approximately two seconds later and Pete looks up at him from the floor, says, "Mind getting that?"

Patrick quickly pulls his sweat pants back up and makes his way to the door. When he opens it, the delivery boy looks at him like he's got two heads.

"You're not Pete."

"No, I'm his husband," Patrick responds automatically. It's only in his head that he adds, Dumbass.

The delivery boy looks at Patrick skeptically. Patrick wonders if this kid seriously thinks he's lying. Has he been living under a rock for the past six months?

"Long walk to the door?" he asks.

"What?" Patrick has never gotten so much attitude from someone delivering his food before.

"You're out of breath."

"That's because we just had sex," Pete calls from the kitchen. "Now get the fuck out, Cash."

The kid just stares with wide eyes for a second before he scrambles to hand over the brown bag he's carrying and practically runs down the hallway.

After Pete changes his clothes, Patrick sets the table and they both sit down to eat.

"What was that all about?"

"I've had to complain about him before," Pete says. "He gets here fast enough but he's always trying to goad me into saying something stupid he can run to the tabloids with." He sighs, reaching for one of the containers of food. "Hopefully 'Married Couple Has Sex' isn't news enough to actually make papers."

--

Pete is excited. He and Patrick are going to the premiere of the newest Harry Potter movie tonight. It's times like these when Pete really, really appreciates being a semi-celebrity. It's possible that he's been counting down the hours before he can go home and get ready, and he's been texting Patrick with updates as the clock ticks down. Greta came into his office on her lunch hour to try talking him out of wearing his Gryffindor tie.

"Don't be that guy, Pete," she said.

When he gets home, he consults Patrick on the matter, and Patrick doesn't have an opinion either way. He takes that as a go ahead and texts Greta, patrick said i can wear my tie so ha! on the way out the door.

As the lights go down, Pete is practically bouncing in his seat and Patrick is laughing quietly under his breath. He doesn't complain about any of Pete's running commentary or the number of times he hits Patrick's arm saying, "Oh my god, watch this. Patrick, are you watching?"

A small sound escapes Pete mouth when Harry and Dumbledore enter the cave and he realizes what's next. Patrick holds his hand and doesn't say anything when Pete starts to cry, just squeezes his hand and rubs his thumb over the inside of Pete's wrist.

"Thanks," Pete says as they're leaving the theatre. He wipes his eyes on his sleeve.

"No problem," Patrick smiles.

The photographers are out again in full force as they leave the theatre and head back towards where Bob will be bringing the limo around. Pete puts an arm around Patrick's waist and sighs.

"That was really good," he says happily.

"It was." Patrick nods. A moment later, "You're going to want to see it again, aren't you?"

Pete pauses a moment before agreeing.

"Probably. Yeah."

"Okay." Patrick laughs as he throws an arm around Pete's shoulders.

There's someone in the crowd of paparazzi shouting not too far from them and it takes them both a moment before they realize it's being directed at Patrick.

"Hey! Hey, Patrick! What's the matter, no after parties for you two? It's cause it's a school night, isn't it?"

"Just ignore him," Pete whispers. Patrick nods and doesn't even look back.

"Oh come on, don't be like that. Smile for the camera like a good trophy wife."

Patrick grits his teeth and Pete can tell he's just dying to take the bait and say something to this asshole, but he keeps his mouth shut. Pete soothes his hand over Patrick's back.

"Nice to see you haven't changed, Pete," the guy shouts. "You still like them young and dumb."

Pete can't help himself; he glances back, just for a moment. He turns back to Patrick, because he knows better. He's had years of dealing with this and he's not going to let this douchebag goad him into doing something stupid.

"Guess you had to lower your standards though, huh? With all that money, I would've thought you could buy someone better."

Pete thinks, fuck this. He'll put up with a lot, he doesn't care if they insult him anymore, but no way in hell is he going to stand there and listen to this asshole attack Patrick. He steps away from Patrick and turns around.

"Say that to my face, asshole," he yells into the crowd of photographers. The motion of the crowd stills and one of them takes a step forward.

"I said, I would've thought you could buy someone better." He throws a look filled with disdain towards Patrick, "…than him. What are you going to do about it, Wentz?"

Pete throws the punch without any warning and the crowd scrambles back. A second later, the flashbulbs start going off. Pete just stares, in awe of himself. He looks back at Patrick, who looks just as surprised as he is.

By the time he feels the hand on his shoulder, turning him around, it's too late. He doesn't even see the fist that connects with his jaw and sends him stumbling backward, landing on the sidewalk. He shakes his head and suddenly Patrick is at his side.

"Are you okay?" he asks, helping Pete up.

"Yeah," Pete says, rubbing his jaw. "That hurt like a bitch, though."

Patrick's glaring in the direction of the paparazzi, who are of course still firing away. He looks ready for a fight, like he's about to go after the guy, and Pete puts a hand on his shoulder. He glances towards the street and sees Bob getting out of the limo to come collect them.

"Patrick, forget about him. Come on, let's go home."

"Pete. I can't just – "

"We'll only make it worse if we stay. Come on."

Patrick glances back one last time before he nods and turns to follow Pete back to the limo.

--

"Hold still, will you?"

"It's cold!"

"It's supposed to be cold!"

Patrick makes a frustrated sound. Every time he gets near Pete with the ice pack, Pete flinches away. It's all very counter productive. Pete's sitting on the kitchen table and Patrick's standing in front of him, ice pack in hand. He scowls and crosses his arms over his chest, staring at Pete until he sighs and tilts his head to the side. He places the compress against Pete's jaw as gently as he can and Pete hisses but brings up a hand to hold it in place. Patrick sighs and shakes his head.

"I'm never going to be able to sleep tonight," he says, more to himself than to Pete. He wanders over to the bookshelf to get something to read. He finally finished On the Road, so he needs something new. He picks the first in the Harry Potter series off the shelf because, well, why not. He needs something light to take his mind off of the excitement from earlier. "You and my dad should talk books sometime," Patrick says as he returns, book in hand.

"Why's that?"

"You've got all of Michael James Way's books. My dad loves him."

"Oh. Um." Pete looks down at the floor, as though embarrassed. "I haven't read any of them. I tried once but it gave me weird nightmares."

"Then why do you have them?" Patrick asks. He could understand having one or two, but Pete has even more than Patrick's seen in his dad's library. Pete shifts awkwardly.

"Mikey and I, um. We used to. We dated for a little while. I never had the heart to tell him I couldn't read them."

"Oh." Patrick doesn't know why he's surprised. He doesn't know why the thought of Pete having ex-boyfriends as well as ex-girlfriends never occurred to him. Just because he never found any photos doesn’t mean they don’t exist. "I guess you guys are still on good terms then?"

Patrick doesn't know what that twinge in his stomach is, but he knows it can't be jealousy. That would be stupid. He and Pete aren't anything, there's no reason to be jealous of an ex that Pete's still friends with.

"Yeah. Sort of."

"Sort of?"

"He married one of my ex-girlfriends," Pete says quietly. "So it's not like we ever hang out or anything. But, yeah, we still talk sometimes. He sends me his books."

"Oh," Patrick says again. He's not entirely certain what the appropriate response is to that, other than, wow that sucks. Pete really wasn't kidding when he talked about having a shitty track record in the romance department. "Um, I'm gonna go read until I pass out. Let me know if you need anything, okay?"

Pete nods and hops off the table to kiss Patrick goodnight, before wandering down the hall towards his bedroom. Patrick stares after him and wonders why that twinge in his stomach still hasn't gone away.

--

Pete wakes up the next morning in the middle of an amazing sex dream. He's disappointed to have woken up in the middle of it, but that's the story of his life. He and sleep just don't seem to get along. Still half asleep and groggy, he reaches underneath the blankets to get a hand around his dick and finish himself off. Instead he ends up with a handful of strawberry blonde hair and the realization that, either it wasn't a dream at all or he's still asleep.

As he pushes back the blankets, Patrick lifts his head and grins at him.

"Good morning."

He wraps a hand around Pete, jerking him off slowly while he leans up and bites at Pete's hipbones. Pete can't help when his hips jut up involuntarily. Patrick just laughs.

"You like that?" He drags his teeth over the skin and then sucks a hickey into Pete's hip. Pete moans his response.

Patrick presses a trail of kisses across Pete's stomach before going down on him again. Pete reaches up and clutches at his pillow, bites down on his lip so hard he thinks he might draw blood. He'd forgotten how good this was; it's almost better than getting fucked.

Pete squeezes his eyes shut, knows if he watches it will all be over too soon and that is the last thing he wants. With his eyes closed, all his attention is focused on the sounds, on the feeling. Patrick's mouth is hot and wet, sliding down on him further and further. The soft sucking noises it makes shouldn't be nearly as hot as they are. Patrick keeps making these little 'mmmm' sounds as he bobs his head and Pete can feel them as much as he hears them. Patrick cups his balls, lets his fingers wander back to tease over the soft skin behind them.

Pete opens his eyes and a low groan escapes his mouth. He reaches out to stroke his fingers over the back of Patrick's neck. Patrick looks up at him, hair falling into his eyes and he moans around Pete's dick. Pete's hips come up off the bed and he can feel his dick hit the back of Patrick's throat.

Patrick presses him back down against the bed, one of his thumbs rubbing over the bruise made only minutes ago. He pulls off and says, "Want you to come for me now," and goes all the way back down, taking Pete as deep as he can.

Pete's toes curl and he tightens his fingers in Patrick's t-shirt as he comes with a shout. Patrick swallows and strokes him through his orgasm. When he sits up, he's licking his lips, smirking.

He drags his thumb over his bottom lip and grins, "Told you I was good," before curling up next to Pete.

"Fuck," Pete gasps, still out of breath. "I think I lost a couple IQ points there. Damn." Patrick laughs softly against his neck. "What was that for?"

"You defended my honor," Patrick says sleepily. "I felt like you deserved it."

"So you've, what? Been keeping that mouth all to yourself until I proved myself worthy?"

Patrick shrugs, like he hadn't really given it much thought.

"I guess."

"Fuck," Pete groans. When his alarm goes off a minute later, his legs still feel like jelly. He doesn't want to move, let alone get up and get ready for work. Patrick reaches over to shut off the alarm, yawning. He sits up and shoves at Pete's shoulder.

"Get up. Greta will yell at you if you're late. Then she'll give me shit for making you late."

Pete sits up and rubs his eyes. He still feels a little shaky, but in the best way possible.

"I didn't get to --" Pete says, gesturing vaguely at Patrick.

Patrick smirks, and kisses him quickly.

"Don't worry about it. I'm gonna go jerk off and sleep for another six hours. See you when you get home." He kisses Pete once more and hops off the bed, heading out the door, back to his room.

--

Two days later, Patrick can't stop thinking about the pure rage he saw on Pete's face. Despite the number of times they'd fought over the past several months, Patrick had never seen anything like it. Not even close.

Phrases he'd read days before begin to float back in to his memory. "Let me tear you to pieces" and "I'll teach you a lesson for keeping secrets from me" stick in his mind all day until he can't take it anymore. Like a song stuck in his head that won't go away until he listens to it again. Patrick flips through the pages of the sketchbook, frantically looking for that small piece of paper.

When he finds it, this time he doesn't think twice before setting it down next to his macbook and transcribing the words into a new document.

The line "I could dissect you on this stage" makes Patrick think that this, or at least this passage, was intended to be a song. He remembers Pete telling him how he used to be in a band, remembers how sad he looked when he had to explain how it had ended.

Patrick knows that even if he can never make a career out of music, even if he's never successful, he'll still be composing. It's a part of him as much as his blood or his bones. And now, looking at Pete's words, he knows Pete would understand exactly what he means.

He spends the rest of the day holed up in his room, pouring over the other two sketchbooks, picking out phrases that stand out to him. He comes across "turn off the lights and turn off the shyness," written in large bold letters at the top of a page, "all of our moves make up for the silence" written at the bottom, smaller, more delicate, and he can't help remembering the night Pete climbed into his bed on his birthday. Remembers the longing, how Pete felt on top of him, the sounds he made, loud in the quiet room.

The words conjure up such a vivid memory; he's too distracted to continue until he finally shoves a hand in his pants and quickly jerks off. Afterward, he quickly jots down the melody that had been playing in his ears the entire time. By the time Pete comes home that evening and Patrick finally leaves his room, he's got a word document filled with bits and pieces that he can't wait to sort through and stitch together.

Before shutting down his laptop, he opens up the first document, the one he's saved as "lastnight.txt" -- he always was terrible at titles -- and rereads it before climbing into bed. When he can't sleep he tries to imagine what the words would sound like in Pete's voice. All he can hear is his own voice as he recites them over and over, but eventually underneath he picks out the strains of a new melody. He can already tell that this song won't be as complex as the other one he's started. It's going to be stark and stripped down, just his voice and his acoustic guitar, nothing fancy. The words are powerful enough. He gets up and quickly jots down the notes so he doesn't forget them, before he rolls over and finally falls asleep.

--

Patrick spends another day not leaving his bedroom. It takes him most of the afternoon, and a lot of going back and forth on minute changes, but he when finally gets the finished version exactly the way he wants it, he leans back in his chair and can't stop grinning.

He wrote a song today. A good song. Not a song that could be better if his lyrics weren't so shitty, but a song he'd be proud to sing whether he was sitting on a stool in a coffee shop or standing up on an actual stage.

He's more than a little excited to tell Pete about it. He hopes Pete will be as excited as he is. He can hardly wait until dinner.

"I didn't know you were a writer," Patrick says, offhandedly, as he reaches for a napkin. Across the table, Pete drops his fork; the clatter of the silverware against china is jarring enough to make Patrick turn and look at Pete. He finds him staring back, eyes wide.

"What? How did you...how did you know?" Pete stammers. Patrick's never seen him so unsettled before.

"I found your sketchbooks in the bookcase. They're really good. I mean, all of it. The drawings and the writing."

Pete pales a little and his mouth forms a thin line. Patrick has only seen Pete really and truly angry the one time, with the photographer, but Pete's expression right now is coming dangerously close.

"What? I'm trying to pay you a compliment here."

"You shouldn't have read them," Pete says, voice clipped, "Those were private."

"And I was supposed to know that?" Patrick asks. "Most people don't keep personal stuff on display in their living room, you know."

"I used to live alone, okay? I never had to worry about someone snooping through my things before."

"It's not snooping when you leave it out in the open, jackass. How the fuck was I supposed to know you were going to have a meltdown?" It's not like Patrick meant to invade Pete's privacy. He would've maybe apologized if Pete hadn't acted like such a dick about it. "I'm sorry that the only thing you have on your bookshelf are your ex-boyfriend's shitty attempts at being Stephen King and your stupid scribbles."

Patrick feels bad the second he closes his mouth, because, the thing is, Patrick actually hates being mean. He especially hates being mean to Pete -- even when he deserves it -- because Pete always gets this kicked puppy expression and it makes Patrick want to go over and hug him.

He also knows he has a bad habit of going for the low blow when he doesn't know how else to win a fight. It's problematic when they're having an argument.

"Fuck you," Pete snarls. He stands up and throws his plate into the sink so hard Patrick can hear it shatter, before storming off.

--

As the days pass, Pete's anger eventually dissolves into the sulking that Patrick has become accustomed to. He avoids being in communal areas of the apartment during times when he knows Patrick will be home.

Patrick comes home from class one day and notices an empty space on Pete's bookshelf where the sketchbooks had been, as well as a few other empty spots that he's certain hadn't been there before. He thinks bitterly that if Pete had just had some common sense to begin with and had done that months ago, they might not be in this situation now.

For his part, Patrick decides that not only is he not going to apologize -- he maintains that private things should not left out in public if they are to stay private -- but he's determined to finish the songs he started working on. Even if he never sings them for anyone, he knows he has to finish them. There's something there in Pete's messy scrawl, waiting to take shape. Patrick just has to find it, and he knows he's almost there.

They haven't spoken in over a week and Patrick's in the middle of recording a demo of the song he just finished when he hears the knocking on his bedroom door. He clicks stop and puts down his guitar.

"Come in."

The door swings open a second later, Pete on the other side of it, looking apologetic.

"Hey," he says, quietly.

"You're talking to me again?" Patrick asks.

"Yeah," Pete looks down, scuffs his toe against the floor, "If you want me to be."

"Pete," Patrick sighs, "I never meant for you to stop talking to me over this. I don't actually sit around here all day thinking up ways to hurt you or invade your privacy."

"I know," Pete says sheepishly. When he finally looks up at Patrick he says, "It's just, it was like that naked on the first day of school nightmare, you know? What you read...that's a part of me I usually keep hidden. All of the sudden it was out my control and I didn't know what to do.” He looks back down at the floor before mumbling, “I'm sorry."

"Hey," Patrick reaches out a hand to Pete, who looks surprised, but takes it and lets himself be guided towards Patrick's desk. "Me too." He lets go of Pete's hand, curls an arm around his waist and hugs him, resting his head against Pete's chest.

"So," Pete says after Patrick finally lets go. "Can I…" he gestures at vaguely at Patrick's computer. "Can I hear what you were working on?"

Patrick hesitates.

"Um."

"It's okay if you don't want to," Pete says quickly, but the disappointment on his face is fairly obvious.

"No. It's not that. It's just." Patrick scratches the back of his neck nervously, readjusts his hat. "The thing is, the other night I was trying to tell you something, when I brought up your sketchbooks."

"What?"

"I...used your words. I wrote a song with them. Um. More than one, actually."

"You what?" Patrick cringes a little. It was nice not fighting for all of five minutes. He braces himself for another argument. But then Pete says, "Really? Let me hear. Can you play it for me?"

Patrick can't decide which would be more awkward, playing one of the demos he recorded and listening to his own voice along with Pete, or actually picking up his guitar right now and playing it for him live. He decides it's the former, and reaches for his guitar as Pete takes a seat on his bed, eyes bright and interested.

Patrick takes a deep breath, shuts his eyes and sings.

"You only hold me up like this…"

When Patrick opens his eyes again, he finds Pete leaning forward on his knees, fists curled under his chin. He's smiling at Patrick, looking a little awestruck.

"So," Patrick says, a little nervously. He sets his guitar down. "What did you think?"

"What did I think? Patrick. You turned my stupid insomnia scribbles in an actual song."

"The words are the hard part for me," Patrick shrugs. "Once I had those it was easy."

"Fuck," Pete breathes. "You're amazing, you know that?" Patrick shakes his head.

"You don't need to make such a big deal out of it."

Pete grabs the back of Patrick's chair, rolls him closer to the bed, spins him around, and kisses him.

"Amazing," he repeats against Patrick's mouth.

Pete tugs him up out of the chair and drags him down until they're lying face to face on Patrick's bed. He pushes Patrick's hat off and this time Patrick doesn't flinch. Pete notices. He smiles before kissing Patrick again and Patrick scoots closer, curling a hand around the back of Pete's neck. Pete sucks on his bottom lip and Patrick sighs contentedly.

When they finally stop, they're both out of breath. Pete's mouth is red and swollen, and he's got a small hickey starting to bloom just above the collar of his shirt. Patrick's certain he probably looks just as disheveled.

"Why haven't we done this before?"

"Done what?"

"This. Just. Made out for a while. It's fun." Pete laughs.

"I don't know. I'd be okay with more of it though."

They lie next to each other in silence a while longer before Pete looks at his watch.

"So, I made us dinner reservations at this new place I've wanted to check out, if you're up for that."

"Pete," Patrick laughs. "I know we're married and all but you don't actually have to take me out to a fancy dinner to say you're sorry." He thinks, especially since it was just as much my fault.

"The kissing was enough?"

"Actually, the 'I'm sorry' was enough, but the kissing was a pretty good bonus."

--

Pete can't stop grinning all through dinner. They spent nearly an hour in Patrick's bed, just kissing and cuddling. Every time Pete thinks about it he feels like a stupid teenager with a crush. He knows it's stupid and it probably doesn't mean anything, but every time he looks up at Patrick, he just can't help himself.

Patrick had asked why they'd never done that before, and it took all of Pete's strength not to tell him the truth. Not to say, because then what we're doing is more than just sex. Pete's perfectly content with Patrick living in blissful ignorance if this is what he gets out of it. It's all going to be over in six months anyway, he might as well make the most of it.

When they leave the restaurant, the photographers are waiting. They were hardly the most famous people inside; Pete’s pretty sure he saw Oprah two tables over. He knows the cameras aren’t there for him. They walk right by, unnoticed. It's not until Pete is hailing a cab that someone shouts, "Hey can we get a picture of the happy couple?"

The car pulls up to the sidewalk, but before getting in Pete turns back.

"Sure."

He brings their linked hands up to his mouth and kisses the back of Patrick's hand, grinning at him afterward. Patrick smiles and shakes his head.

"Show off," he says as he leans in to kiss Pete before they get into the cab. Pete leans his head on Patrick's shoulder during the ride home and silently wishes that he could have this always.

That night, Patrick climbs into his bed like he's done so many nights over the past month, but tonight seems different somehow. Pete can't put his finger on exactly how; maybe something in the way that Patrick kisses him as Pete wraps his legs around Patrick's waist.

He slips his hand in Patrick's around the time Patrick is about to get up and leave. He usually only stays and cuddles with Pete for a few minutes. And Pete's almost certain that Patrick doesn't do it for his own benefit. Pete never says, "Stay," but he thinks it every time. He doesn't want to get his hopes up. He gave up on ever having this a long time ago.

Patrick squeezes his hand and Pete waits for him to let go. Pete's not holding him back or anything. Patrick can still get up and leave, just like always. Pete's expecting to hear, "Goodnight," come out of Patrick's mouth, just like always.

"Mind if I stay?" Patrick asks softly.

Pete doesn't trust his voice to answer. He shakes his head as Patrick snuggles up next to him and brushes his bangs out of his eyes.

Pete's still awake long after Patrick falls asleep, and Pete reaches for the notebook he keeps by his bed. He thinks about what Patrick said as they stood outside of the cab and writes, "we'll make them so jealous, we'll make them hate us," before closing the notebook and rolling over to slide an arm around Patrick as he falls asleep.

Pete wakes up with Patrick's arm still around him. He's not sure why, but a part of him expected to wake up alone. Expected Patrick to get up in the middle of the night and come to his senses. To realize that sleeping in the same bed is taking a step in a direction that he probably doesn't mean to.

And yet. Patrick's still there, chin on Pete's shoulder, making little snuffling noises in his sleep. Pete smiles and kisses him on the forehead before getting up and getting ready for work.

Patrick doesn't bother asking if he can stay the next night, he just reaches over Pete to shut off the light. Even so, Pete's still surprised to find him there when he wakes up in the morning. It's a full two weeks before it finally sinks in that Patrick has no intentions of going back to his own bedroom.

--

The day after the altercation with the photographer, the first thing Pete did when he got to work was call Gabe for advice. He explained exactly what happened and Gabe told him that, from the sound of things, he wouldn't have trouble making a case against the guy if he wanted to press charges. Pete said no. Things got out of hand on both sides, but now it was over and done with and he wanted it to stay that way.

More than three weeks later, he doesn't think anything of it when a short kid with dark brown hair approaches him outside of his apartment building.

"Hey, you're Pete Wentz, right?"

“Yeah.”

The kid looks all of seventeen, except that he's dressed the way Pete used to dress when his dad first started making him come to the office with him. He hands Pete a manilla envelope.

"You've been served."

Pete walks through the door, papers under his arm. Patrick's at the kitchen table, working on something for school. He looks up, and immediately asks, "What's wrong?"

"I'm being sued."

"You're what?"

"I have to go read this over, see if I can get Gabe on the phone. You might want to have dinner without me."

Pete spends the next hour reading over the paperwork before Gabe calls him back. Then it's another two hours on the phone with him, in various stages of talking rationally and screaming into the speakerphone. He's on the less rational end of the spectrum when he finally hangs up.

The guy is claiming that Pete started the fight. He’s claiming that he only hit back in self-defense. And on top of that he's claiming damages to his camera. Pete rests his head in his hands and stares down at the paperwork in front of him. There isn't a single word in front of him that isn't a lie.

He feels anger building inside of him that he hasn't felt since he was a teenager. He stands up, fists clenched at his sides, and takes a couple of deep breaths. It doesn't help. He picks his flat screen monitor up off the desk, yanking out the cords, and throws it at the wall as hard as he can. He looks at the mangled plastic and imagines that he had actually done the same thing to the photographer's camera. He feels better afterward; the anger is starting to dissipate. When Pete finally looks up, Patrick is peering around the doorframe, looking nervous.

"Is everything okay?"

Pete looks down at the monitor and then back up at Patrick. He wishes he knew the answer to that question.

"I don't know."

"Hey, come here."

He leads Pete out into the living room and they curl up on the couch and watch a truly terrible movie on the Sci-Fi channel. Patrick doesn't say anything about it, doesn't ask any questions. But for the rest of the night, he gives Pete worried glances whenever he thinks Pete's not looking. When they climb into bed that night, Pete buries his face in Patrick's chest and just breathes. Patrick holds him close and strokes a hand over Pete's back.

He murmurs, "It's going to be okay," into Pete's hair. Pete lets Patrick soothe the tension out of his shoulders and tries to believe him.

--

It’s another night Saturday night and they are at another party thrown by someone Patrick doesn't know and neither of them have any desire to be there. Patrick had suggested staying home more than once, but Pete insisted on coming out. Lately it's seemed like he has been on some sort of mission to prove that he's not going to be shamed into staying home and hiding from the cameras. As a result, Patrick is finding that the open bar is the only thing making it bearable.

Patrick learned his lesson after Pete’s birthday party and since then has figured out exactly how many drinks he can have before he crosses the line from “putting up with these assholes” to “making a fool of himself.” He’s getting his second – and last - jack and coke when Billie Beckett wanders up next to him, empty wine glass in hand.

"So," she says as she hands her glass to the bartender for a refill, "how are things with you and Pete?"

The tone of her voice would suggest that they are old friends catching up, when in reality that couldn't be further from the truth.

It's not that Patrick dislikes Billie. It's just that she's always giving him these looks that say, "It should've been me. I'd fit in better."

Patrick's mostly learned to deal with those. He calls up his most recent memory of Pete writhing underneath him and puts on his best fake smile to give back to her. He finds this works well with most people who look down on him when he's out with Pete. Though sometimes it does lead to him dragging Pete off to a coat closet or bathroom somewhere.

She pretends that Pete is their common ground, a reason to strike up conversation, when Patrick knows she's just trolling for gossip.

It's possible he dislikes her a little bit.

"He's been really stressed over this thing with the photographer," Patrick tells her. He doesn't need to say anymore. The news broke two days after Pete got the papers. Patrick's pretty sure everyone in the room knows.

"Oh come on," Billie says, with the air of someone who clearly knows better. "You married him, you probably know him better than anyone here. You know how he can be a drama queen."

"Yeah, okay. Maybe a little."

"He's probably making something out of nothing." She shakes her head, taking a sip of her wine. "Oh well, I suppose it'll give him something to talk about with his therapist."

Patrick is quiet for a long moment, replaying her last sentence over in his head several times before he speaks again.

"His what?"

"You didn't know?" she asks, surprised. When he shakes his head, she says a little condescendingly, "You never noticed he has an appointment with someone the same time every week?"

He hadn't noticed, because it hadn't been every week, it had been every other week and apparently that had been enough to keep Patrick from putting the pieces together.

"Huh," she says thoughtfully to herself as she eyes Patrick's expression. "Maybe you don't know him as well as I thought."

She walks off and Patrick feels sick to his stomach.

He rejoins Pete at their table a moment later. As Pete greets him with a smile and slips his hand into Patrick's underneath the table, he tries not to think about the fact that Pete's been keeping this a secret for months. They've never been under any obligation to divulge their life stories to each other. It's not really that big of deal.

Still, when he gets home that night he can't help but take a closer look at the prescription bottles in Pete's medicine cabinet. He's noticed them before but never paid any attention to them. They could've been for anything. He recognizes one as a sleep aid, but the others are foreign to him. They could still be for anything.

He curls up next to Pete that night and doesn't say a word about his conversation with Billie, the pills in Pete's bathroom, or the sick feeling he's still got in his stomach.

--

The next morning, Patrick wakes up to Pete's hand in his boxers, the feeling of Pete stroking him. He reaches for Pete before he even gets his eyes open, and they jerk each other off, lazily and barely coordinated, neither of them completely awake.

"The problem with morning sex is I just want to go back to sleep afterward," Pete says, rubbing at his eyes.

"Who says you can't?" Patrick says, "That's why God invented weekends." Pete laughs against his chest.

"I have to get up, I have plans."

He gets up, sheds his pajamas, and pulls on a pair of jeans and a clean t-shirt, lacing up his sneakers.

"Lame," Patrick says sleepily. He's about to snuggle back into his pillow when he realizes that Pete's plans probably include going to his therapist. He forces himself to sit up and address the issue, but by the time he opens his eyes again and sits up, Pete's already disappeared into the bathroom.

"I should be back around 12:30,” Pete says when he steps back into the bedroom. “Do you want to go out for lunch or something?"

Patrick ignores the question.

"Where are you going?" he asks.

"I have an appointment with someone," Pete tells him. It's the same vague answer he's been giving Patrick for months and Patrick's only just now realizing it. What's worse is that he knows he might have never caught on if Billie hadn't said something.

"With who?"

Pete looks anxious. He doesn't respond right away, but instead walks over to his closet, pulls out his favorite hoodie, and zips it up, his back to Patrick. He's stalling.

"I knew this would come up eventually," he says when he finally turns back around. He fidgets, looking away, and tugs at the hem of his hoodie before shoving his hands into his pockets. He finally looks back at Patrick and says, "I see my therapist every other week at this time."

Pete's nervous, like he thinks of it as a secret too -- one he'd been trying to keep -- and Patrick doesn't understand why. It's not as though as it's something particularly shocking. Hell, the business exec who needs to see a therapist to cope is practically a cliché. Except that talking about it clearly has Pete freaked out. It puts Patrick on edge. Makes him think there's something bigger going on here. Something to do with the little bottles of pills in Pete's medicine cabinet.

"Why didn't you ever say anything before?"

"It's not something I like to broadcast. My parents went to a lot of trouble to make sure the world didn't find out that I'm crazy." Pete says the word crazy like it's nothing and Patrick can't help wondering what he means by that. "Besides, you never asked."

Patrick doesn't even know where to start. He has so many questions, but he doesn't know what's allowed, what's off bounds and what's not. The last thing he wants to do is accidentally insult Pete.

"We'll talk about it more when I get home. Okay?"

Patrick nods his agreement. Pete leans in to kiss him goodbye and before he knows it, Patrick's alone in the apartment with nothing but his own thoughts to keep him company. He knows it's going to be a long two hours until Pete gets back.

--

When this started, Pete hadn't seen any real reason to tell Patrick where exactly it was that he went between the hours of eleven and twelve o'clock every other Sunday. Patrick never asked questions. He didn't seem interested in Pete's life outside of the things that involved him. Pete figured there was no point in mentioning it if he didn't absolutely have to. Why make things more complicated when he didn't need to? There were some things in his life he wanted to remain private and it was just easier if fewer people knew about them.

But Pete has always been good at adding complications to his life where they didn't need to be. Once they started sleeping together, he just couldn't bring himself to put a stop to it, no matter how much potential for disaster might be in store. Somewhere along the line it stopped being a fact that he forgot to mention and became a secret he was keeping. Even though Patrick still never asked, just sometimes seemed annoyed that Pete was leaving when he thought they should be sleeping in.

They've passed the half way mark of their time together and Pete has been trying to make the most of it. He doesn't want Patrick finding out about his fucked up brain chemistry to ruin the time they have left.

He's given up trying to lie to himself about it any longer. The way he feels about Patrick is more than a crush, more than just good sex combined with friendship. He's completely head over heels and has been for a while. He doesn't let himself think of what's going to happen when Patrick leaves and goes back to living his own life and forgets about Pete. He knows he's going to have to give Patrick up eventually -- he has the feeling that he'll be seeing his therapist a lot more than once every two weeks when it happens -- but he doesn't want to do it even a day sooner than necessary.

When Pete finally walks through the door of his apartment, he calls out to Patrick, letting him know he's home. He puts on a smile as Patrick walks out into the hallway.

"Hey, so where do you feel like going for lunch?" he asks.

Going out means they won't have the privacy to talk, but right now he's not feeling particularly brave and he's not above being avoidant.

"Oh, I ordered in pizza. I thought it would be easier to talk if we stayed in."

Pete thinks, so much for that plan.

"Oh, yeah, that's...that's great," he says. "I'm just gonna," he gestures towards his bedroom and walks straight past Patrick, into his bathroom, not looking back before locking the door behind him. He splashes some cold water on his face before rejoining Patrick in the living room.

They're sitting on the couch and Patrick is looking at him, waiting. Waiting for him to start talking, waiting for an explanation. But every time Pete opens his mouth, no words come out.

"Hey, if you don't want to talk about it's okay. It's not that big of a deal, a lot of people..."

"No, I..." Pete rubs his hands over his face. "I want to tell you, I'm just. Trying to figure out where to start."

Patrick puts a hand on Pete's back, starts rubbing in soothing circles. Pete wonders if he even realizes he's doing it. He takes a breath and finally speaks.

"I'm sure you heard about my overdose a few years ago."

Patrick nods.

"It...it wasn't an accident," Pete admits. He looks down at the floor as he continues. It happened and he's dealt with it, but it's not something he likes having to talk about, not something he ever really wants to think about again. "I swallowed a bottle of Ativan."

Patrick is silent for a long time. When Pete finally turns back and meets his gaze, his expression is hard to describe. He looks as though someone has pulled the rug out from under him.

"I didn't know," he says finally.

"No one did," Pete says quietly. "That was kind of the point. Everyone always assumed I was partying and doing lines of coke in the bathroom like the rest of the trust fund kids. It was easier to just let them keep thinking that."

"But why did you…?" Patrick stops himself before he finishes the question, like he hadn't meant to ask.

"Why did I do it?" Pete provides.

"We don't have to talk about it if you don't want to."

Pete shakes his head. He's gotten this far. Might as well give Patrick the whole story.

"I was in a bad place at the time. I wasn't trying to – I just wanted everything in my head to stop for a little while. That's all." He looks over at Patrick, waiting to see if he has anything to say. Patrick's face is blank, unreadable, and he stays silent. Pete looks down at his hands in his lap and continues. "They, um. They diagnosed me as bipolar when I was a teenager. I wasn't really a fan of taking my meds back then. I'm better now. Mostly."

He's run out of things to say and he looks to Patrick for a response. Patrick stopped rubbing his back a while ago. Now his hands are resting against his knees and he looks about as uncomfortable as humanly possible. He's still not saying anything.

The silence is getting to be too much for Pete to handle and he's about to start yelling at Patrick just to get a reaction. He needs something, needs Patrick to acknowledge the fact that he just shared one of his most closely guarded secrets.

Pete resists actually saying anything, looks at Patrick expectantly, hoping he'll somehow understand what Pete needs to hear. Patrick hesitates a moment before covering one of Pete's hands with his own.

"I'm sorry," he says.

Pete lets out a relieved sigh. Finally.

"It is what it is, Patrick. Just. I don't want to make a big deal out it. Okay?"

"Yeah." Patrick curls his fingers around Pete's. "Okay."

--

No matter how hard Pete tries, he can't seem to get the cynical part of his brain to just sit down and shut the fuck up. By the time he realizes that Patrick actually isn't freaked out by his past and present mental health issues, the summer is all but over. Once Patrick goes back to school, with Pete getting things together for the launch of Clandestine and Patrick busy with homework, they're back to only spending time together on the weekends. Patrick's taking more night classes this semester and Pete can't help but wonder if it's a subtle way of saying he's sick of going out so often.

He's on his way out the door, stopping to grab a yogurt out of the fridge, when the piece of paper attached to the freezer door catches his eye. It's an article clipped from a tabloid. Patrick has a habit of cutting out the more ridiculous ones. Pete glances at the time; he's got a spare minute to read.

The photo is a couple months old, one of the two of them kissing outside before getting into their taxi. Beneath it, bold letters read "Wentz Still Married."

Pete Wentz and husband Patrick Stump recently celebrated seven months of marriage, beating not only Britney Spears' record-breakingly short fifty-five hours, but also Drew Barrymore and Tom Green's five months and Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman's six. Despite Wentz's recent legal trouble the couple seems to be going strong. Wentz has even been hinting at plans to launch his own business in the coming months. Can they make it to the one year mark? Only time will tell.

Pete sticks it back underneath the magnet, and as he heads out the door he wonders what made Patrick decide to save it. Maybe it had something to do with the vague mention of Clandestine. Pete is releasing a press statement about the company and a tentative launch date for the first line today at twelve o'clock.

At approximately twelve fifteen, Pete gets his first call, wishing him congratulations. But now it's nearly five o'clock and his phone hasn't stopped ringing since. As much as he appreciates the calls from friends and various colleagues, he is choosing to ignore all of them until tomorrow.

Last night, Patrick had told him he was skipping his evening class so they could stay home and celebrate.

 

"It's one class, Pete. It's not going to hurt," Patrick said when Pete frowned and told him not to. Pete's not sure what Patrick's idea of 'celebrating' is, but he can't wait to find out.

When he gets home, he finds out that apparently it means Patrick cooking spaghetti and meatballs and marathoning the three original Star Wars movies.

"Fancy," Pete says, as he sits down to dinner.

"Shut up. It's one of three things I actually know how to make, okay?"

"Hey, I wasn't being sarcastic, okay? This is nice. Too bad we don't have like, candles or something for the table," Pete says. Patrick rolls his eyes at him and proceeds to stab a meatball with his fork.

After dinner, they curl up on the couch and put in the first movie. Patrick sprawls across Pete's lap and shoves a pillow underneath his head while he watches. Pete rests his hand across Patrick's waist and they quote lines back and forth to each other throughout the movie. In the middle of the trash compactor scene, Patrick's phone buzzes loudly against the coffee table.

"Dude. Come on. I turned mine off."

Patrick reaches lazily for his phone and flips it open.

"Jon wants to know what I'm doing. He probably needs someone to get a beer with." Pete watches him punch out his response on the tiny keyboard: celebrating with pete.

A few seconds later, after another text, Pete laughs when he hears Patrick mumble under his breath, "No, that's not a euphemism, dumbass," as he replies and sets his phone down once more.

Several minutes pass before the phone buzzes again. Patrick is giving his phone an annoyed look. Pete is giving Patrick the very same look.

"I'm shutting it off now. Promise," Patrick says. After flipping it open, he pauses, staring at it for a moment and then frowning before he shuts it off saying, "Our friends are jerks." He tosses it on the coffee table and rolls onto his side.

"Why's that?"

"I told Jon what we were doing tonight and he texted back, Greta's laughing at you. And then called us an old married couple."

Pete scratches the back of Patrick's neck and laughs.

"I think that's the first time since we got married that any one has called you 'old', Patrick."

"He's one to talk," Patrick grumbles. "I can barely hang out with them anymore, they're so wrapped up in each other."

--

When Pete gets up to go to the bathroom Patrick texts Jon, what do you mean old married couple?

when was the last time you slept in the same bed?

Patrick doesn't know what that has to do with anything but he responds, last night.

when was the last time you had sex?

It was three days ago, but Patrick still doesn't know why that matters. He doesn't get the chance to respond before Pete gets back. The question hangs in the back of his head for the rest of the night.

It's not until the next morning that it finally clicks.

"Jon, we need to talk. Right now."

"Patrick, why do your emergencies always happen in the middle of my shift?" Jon replies calmly.

"It's about Pete. Me and Pete. We're...together. For real together."

"Congratulations, dude." Jon is shaking his head at him. "You finally put two and two together. Now do you see why Greta's been laughing at you for the past month?"

"This isn't a fucking joke. This is me and my husband and our actual relationship." Patrick's voice is tinged with hysteria. The customers in line behind him are starting to give each other looks.

"Dude, okay, calm down. We're gonna go take a walk, get you some fresh air. Mel, I'll be back in ten."

The girl behind the counter next to him nods and waves him out. They're three blocks away before Patrick manages to get his breathing back to normal. They take a seat on a bench in a bus shelter.

"So," Jon says, staring out at the passing cars. "Is it that you realized you actually care about him, or that you don't and he's too attached?"

"I don't. It's not. It wasn't supposed to be like this," Patrick stammers.

"You do, don't you?" Jon asks like he already knows the answer Patrick can't bring himself to say. "It's not a bad thing, you know. Actually liking the dude you married. Some people might even see that as a bonus."

"And what happens four months from now, Jon? Huh? What happens when the year is up?"

"Um, you stay married? Do you really think he's just going to say, 'It's been fun. Sign here. Have a nice life.' and kick you out. Really?"

"We haven't talked about it," Patrick says quietly.

"Maybe you should. Greta says this is the happiest she's seen Pete in all the years she's known him. Is it that hard to believe that he might want the same thing?"

Patrick shakes his head. Jon doesn't understand at all. It's not that simple. Nothing about this entire thing has been simple from the start. Why would this be any different?

--

Patrick doesn’t go to his afternoon classes that day. He kills a couple of hours at his favorite used record store before finally heading home. When Pete comes home they order Chinese for dinner. Patrick is a vague as possible when Pete asks how his day was. He looks down and stabs at his snow peas.

"Hey," Pete says, sitting up and rubbing the back of Patrick's neck a little. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong," Patrick says quickly. "Why?"

"You just seem, I don't know, tense."

Patrick shakes his head. He wants to relax, watch TV, and not think about his conversation with Jon.

"I can feel it in your shoulders, dude. Come on, talk to me. Is school stressing you out? We can bail on going out this week if you want."

He just wants Pete to be quiet, doesn't want to be reminded about the fact that every part of their lives screams "married" and that it took Patrick until now to realize he'd stopped pretending a long time ago.

Patrick sits up and shakes Pete's hand off of him.

"Can you just leave me alone?" he says, irritably. Pete pulls his hand back like he's been burned. Patrick takes one look at his face and feels even more like shit. He needs to not be around Pete for a while. "I have a headache. I'm going to go lay down."

Pete nods.

"Yeah. Sorry."

Patrick stands and starts down the hall and realizes he's heading for Pete's room. That's probably not the best place to be if he wants to be alone and away from Pete. He turns back around and heads into his own bedroom. As he climbs on top of the blankets and lies down, he feels like he's in a stranger's bed. He thought the darkness and the silence would help, but after barely a few minutes, he's realized it's just making it worse. He grabs his ipod from his desk, puts his earbuds in, and lies back down, closing his eyes and letting the music drown out his thoughts.

The tension in his shoulders has started to ease when he feels the bed dip with the pressure of another person sitting down. Patrick opens his eyes. He hadn't even heard the door open.

"I brought you some aspirin," Pete whispers. When Patrick doesn't move to sit up, he sets the pills down on Patrick's nightstand. Patrick rubs a hand over his eyes.

"Thanks."

"If you want me to leave, I can," Pete says sadly.

Patrick wants to say yes. He wants to be alone with his misery, and he thinks Pete should be able to understand that. But Pete won't understand; he'll get the same kicked puppy expression on his face that he got earlier when Patrick walked out of the living room. Patrick doesn't want to do that to him again.

"No, it's okay," he whispers and Pete curls up next to him. He tucks his chin over Patrick's shoulder and rests his hand over Patrick's heart. Patrick wishes it was making him feel better, like Pete intends it to, but instead all the tension in his body returns full force. Pete can probably feel it, because he eases away a moment later.

"If it was something I did, I'm sorry."

"Not your fault," Patrick whispers. He reaches for Pete's hand and wishes he could say more to reassure him. "I think I just need to be alone for a little while longer. I'll be in later, okay?"

"Yeah, okay." Pete gets up and leaves without looking back and Patrick feels worse than before. He shuts his eyes and puts his earbuds back in.

--

Pete wakes up alone. He's not really surprised. He hadn't really believed Patrick when he said he would be in later. Pete wishes Patrick had told him flat out that he didn't want to sleep in Pete's room anymore. Pete would've understood. It still would've hurt, but not as much as being lied to does. It wasn't like he didn't know this was going to end eventually.

When Patrick doesn't say anything about it over dinner that evening, Pete thinks it's for the best. They'll just go back to the way things were. Pete should start getting used to the idea of Patrick not being there anyway. He shuts his bedroom door that evening and tries not to miss the feeling of Patrick's warmth alongside of him.

After three nights of tossing and turning for hours, Pete has had it. He tells Greta he's not taking any calls unless it's an emergency. He can't deal with people on this little sleep. He naps during his lunch hour and feels like a zombie for the rest of the day. For the first time since she's worked for him, Greta fails to notice that anything is wrong. He can't fault her. From what Patrick's told him, she and Jon are at that stage where they're making other people sick with how in love they are.

It's the end of the week when Greta hops in the elevator with him.

"I've hardly had a chance to talk to you lately. What's new?"

"Not much," Pete tells her. "I haven't been sleeping that well."

"Is everything okay?"

Pete nods. He doesn't want to get her involved. There's no reason to bring down her good mood. She'd only worry.

"Oh! Jon and I were wondering if you and Patrick wanted to go see that new Matt Damon movie and maybe grab dinner sometime. We keep asking Patrick but he can never give us a straight answer about when you guys are free. I figured asking you would just be easier."

Pete clenches his fists at his sides. Patrick never even mentioned it.

"We're probably not going to have a free night for a while," Pete lies. "Sorry. Maybe some other time."

She gives him a concerned look, hesitates before she says, "No problem. Let us know if anything changes."

Pete goes to his favorite restaurant, one where he never gets recognized, and eats dinner alone. Patrick doesn't call or text to ask where he is. It's dark by the time he gets home and Patrick's watching TV in the living room. He looks at Pete, but doesn't say a word.

"I'll be in my office if you need me," Pete says, and Patrick nods. Pete stays in his office for the rest of the night and Patrick doesn't bother him.

Pete can't tell if it's better this way or not. He doesn't know how well he would have handled a clean break, but having to see Patrick every day and knowing exactly what he can't have anymore is a unique sort of torture. Especially since he has to pretend that nothing's wrong when they go out in public.

He thinks it'll get easier with time. It doesn't.

On the bright side, with all the time he's spending holed up in his office, he should be ready to launch Clandestine a month earlier than he planned. The victory seems meaningless and empty without anyone to share it with.

--

Patrick is miserable. He's been miserable for the past three weeks. He and Pete have all but stopped talking entirely while they're at home. It's not something he ever meant to happen; he just needed some space, some time, to figure things out and instead it all just backfired. Instead of telling Pete how he felt, he let the distance grow until it was unmanageable. They can barely pass each other in the hallway without there being awkwardness.

Pete comes home late and locks himself in his office and Patrick knows he's being avoidant more than he's actually working. The dark circles under his eyes keep getting worse. Patrick knows he's not sleeping well. Every night for the past three weeks as Patrick climbed into his own bed alone, he's missed the feeling of Pete lying next to him and thought about how he could just get up and go into Pete's room. He hasn't yet and every night it just gets harder.

It's worse when they have to go out, because they still have to keep up the act. Pete still smiles and slides an arm around his waist as they walk into a room together. He still kisses his cheek for the cameras. Patrick knows it's always been for show, but now Pete's just not there. There's an emptiness in his eyes, and Patrick wonders how long it's going to be before the paparazzi start seeing it too. Before the "trouble in paradise" headlines become unavoidable.

Patrick has just gotten out of class when he gets a text from Jon.

dude where have you been? sbux in an hour.

It's not that Patrick has been avoiding Jon. It's that he knows hanging out with him means hanging out with Greta too. And Patrick is definitely avoiding Greta. Over the past two weeks, Patrick has received a series of text messages from her regarding his relationship with Pete, each one angrier than the last. She threatened disembowelment in the most recent.

He knows it's not fair to let his friendship with Jon suffer because of what's happening with Pete, so he goes. He breathes a sigh of relief when he walks up and sees only Jon waiting for him outside.

"Hey," he smiles.

"Hey," Jon doesn't smile back. "Sorry about this."

Patrick gives him a confused look and then he feels a tap on his shoulder. He turns around.

"Greta. Hi," Patrick says awkwardly. "I, uh. Got your texts."

Greta glares at him, and Patrick thinks the phrase 'if looks could kill' has never been more appropriate. She takes two steps towards him and he inches back instinctively.

"You asshole." Her fist connects with his shoulder and he yelps, flinching away from her. She's small, but she hits hard. Patrick's probably going to have a bruise in the shape of her tiny fist. "You had better have a real good reason why I shouldn't murder you where you stand, Patrick Stump."

Patrick rubs his shoulder and looks at Jon, who just shrugs his shoulders as if to say, she's got a point.

"What do you want me to do?" he asks lamely.

"Fix it!" she shouts. "I don't care what you did. I don't care if you're too chicken shit to apologize. You're going to do it or I'm going to march right up to your apartment and kill you myself. I can't take it any more, Patrick. I can't take watching him come into work every day looking even more miserable than the day before."

"You think I'm happy?" Patrick shouts back. "You think I like that he won't look me in the eye? That he doesn't even speak to me unless we're in public?"

Patrick knows better than to air his personal business in public. That's the kind of thing that gets the gossip hotlines buzzing, but right now he doesn't care. He's angry and he's not backing down.

"You have no idea what's going on. If I could fix it I would."

"No," Greta says calmly, voice terse, "I don't know, but you know what's not going to help? Ignoring it and hoping it will get better on its own. Because it's not going to, Patrick. You need to stop being such a damn coward and take the first step."

--

Patrick has been staring at his computer for the past half hour, trying to make some sort of progress on the paper that he's got due in a few days, but the words won't come. He can't make himself focus, keeps getting distracted by the knot in his stomach, by the sound of Greta's voice in his head, calling him a coward. He shuts off his computer and lays down in bed. No use staying up late if he's not getting anything done. He closes his eyes and tries to relax. It's no use. He's tired, but his mind won't quiet. He knows he's not going to fall asleep any time soon.

After an hour of tossing and turning, he gets up and wanders into the kitchen. He doesn't even know what there is in the fridge; it's been so long since he and Pete actually ate together. There's not much, but he finds some leftover Chinese, scoops some out onto a plate and pops it in the microwave. He's almost done eating, about to go back to his room and try once more to get some sleep, when Pete pads into the kitchen, hair sticking up in different directions like he just woke up.

"Hey," Patrick says quietly, "Can't sleep either?"

Pete looks startled to find Patrick sitting at the kitchen table, and for a moment he looks like he's going to turn right back around and come back when Patrick's gone.

"Nightmares," he mumbles. "Woke me up."

Patrick nods as he pushes back from the table, gets up, and puts his dish in the sink. Pete's still standing on the other side of the kitchen like he doesn't want to get too close to Patrick, waiting for him to leave to he can get whatever it is he came for.

Patrick turns back after he leaves, watches as Pete walks over to the sink and pours himself a glass of water. He wonders how he let it get so bad that Pete can't even stand next to him. He goes back to his room and closes the door. He leans against it, thinking. Greta's right. He's been nothing but a coward for the past month, scared to tell Pete how he feels, scared to try and fix things. He's done with being scared.

He walks determinedly back towards the kitchen, finds Pete about to go back to his own bedroom, and stops, standing in front of Pete and blocking him from going anywhere. They stare at each other for what feels like ages but is probably less than a minute, until Patrick finally opens his mouth to speak.

"Pete," is all that comes out. It seems to be enough though. Pete's expression softens and it seems as though some of the tension is melting away already. He takes Pete by the hand before walking slowly back to his own bedroom. He pulls back the blankets and Pete gets in without a word.

Patrick climbs in next to him, but there's about six inches of space between them. Pete's not moving away, but he's not moving closer either. Patrick has never known Pete to turn down an opportunity for cuddling, and the knot in Patrick's stomach tightens. He takes a breath. Pete wouldn't have followed him if he didn't want to be there.

"Hey," he says, rolling onto his side and scooting closer. "Come here."

That's all it takes. Pete rolls over and snuggles up next to Patrick, an arm around his waist and his cold feet tangled in Patrick's warm ones. Patrick lets out a relieved sigh, as he puts an arm over Pete's shoulders, pulling him closer.

There are so many things he wants to say right now, but he just ends up whispering, "missed you," over and over again, his forehead pressed against Pete's. He strokes his fingers through Pete's hair, down the side of his face.

He leans in and presses a light kiss to Pete's mouth and Pete sighs. He can't stop himself from kissing Pete again, soft but desperate, and Pete's kissing back. He slides his hand up to curl around the back of Patrick's neck and pull him closer as he opens his mouth, deepening the kiss.

Patrick can't help thinking that it feels like some stupid cliché, like breathing after being underwater for too long, or the sun coming out after a storm. They kiss until they're both breathless and Pete buries his face in Patrick's neck, fists clutching tightly in his t-shirt.

"Think you can fall asleep?" Patrick asks, rubbing one hand lightly over Pete’s back.

"Yeah," Pete murmurs against his skin. "Should be able to now."

--

Patrick wakes up to the sound of Pete getting out of bed. He opens one eye slowly and sees Pete looking around on Patrick's dresser before picking up his cell phone.

"Pete, what are you doing with my phone?" He says groggily. "Come back to bed."

"I have to call Greta and let her know I'm going to be late. I overslept."

Patrick can hear the ringing as he reaches up and takes the phone out of Pete's hand.

"Good morning, Wentz Corporation, Greta speaking, how may I direct your call?" says Greta's far too cheerful voice from the other end of the line.

"Greta, it's Patrick. Pete is too sick to get out of bed. Move all his appointments to tomorrow."

"I, uh, okay. Sure thing," Greta says, taken by surprise.

Patrick closes the phone, drops it back onto his dresser, and tugs Pete back down into bed with him. He wraps a tight arm around Pete's waist as he spoons up next to him.

"We're going back to sleep now," Patrick whispers into Pete's neck and Pete relaxes against him. Patrick falls back asleep in no time.

--

When Pete wakes up again, Patrick is coming out of the bathroom, smiling, and climbing back into bed next to him. He slides his arm around Pete, hand slipping underneath his t-shirt and tracing circles across his back. He trails a few light kisses across Pete's jaw before pressing his mouth against Pete's. Pete opens underneath him. Patrick tastes like mouthwash, and it's weird, but Pete's so happy to be kissing Patrick again that he doesn't care.

"Go brush your teeth, you taste gross," Patrick says and Pete laughs before doing as he's told.

"I ordered us breakfast from that place we like,” Patrick says when he gets back into bed. “They said it'll be about thirty-five minutes. That should be enough time, right?"

"Enough time for what?" Pete asks. Patrick kisses him and slides his hand into Pete's underwear, curling his hand around Pete's cock.

"Oh," Pete gasps and Patrick smiles against his lips.

It doesn't take nearly thirty-five minutes and afterward they're both sticky and sated and Patrick has to change his t-shirt before he answers the door, lest he scandalize the poor delivery boy. Pete takes out a couple of plates and sets them on the kitchen table.

Patrick comes back carrying a brown bag filled with their food.

"What are you doing? We're spending the day in bed. That includes meals, come on."

He abandons the plates and follows Patrick back to his bedroom.

--

The next morning, Pete has trouble getting out of bed. He takes an extra long shower before finally heading out to work. He's sore in places he didn't know were possible.

Amongst the missed calls and voicemails on his phone, he finds two from Greta. One is just a general update on things he missed while out. The other is warning him that the client he was supposed to meet with yesterday -- a rep from a novelty pen company in Las Vegas -- was less than pleased about being cancelled on. Their meeting has been rescheduled for today, so Pete gets to deal with that first thing in the morning.

He gets into the office, preparing himself for the worst when he finds his client in the lobby. Thankfully he doesn't seem to be in a bad mood at all. In fact he appears to be flirting (rather obviously) with Brendon, one of the guys from the customer service department.

"Good morning," Pete says as he approaches the two of them.

"Oh! Good morning, Mr. Wentz," Brendon says, startled. "I'll just be getting back. I've got phone calls and um. Yeah." Brendon hurries off down the hallway, looking back more than once before he's out of sight.

"You must be Mr. Smith," Pete says, extending a hand. He's having a hard time believing this is his client. He barely looks older than Patrick. "I'm really very sorry about yesterday. Stomach flu, you understand," he lies.

"No problem. It gave me a chance to see the city."

Pete grins and directs him to follow Pete the conference room.

"You seem happy today, Mr. Wentz," Greta says as Pete passes by her desk. She only ever calls him that in front of clients and it never stops sounding ridiculous.

"Today is a good day," Pete tells her. It hurts to move, but somehow he can't stop grinning.

"You and Patrick?" she mouths and makes a very unsubtle hand gesture once Mr. Smith is out of sight. Pete just laughs.

Later on in the day, when his meeting is over and he's back in his office, Greta knocks on his door.

"We need to go to Starbucks. I want all of the details."

Pete shakes his head and Greta looks concerned.

"I'm not going anywhere, Greta. I can hardly walk." He laughs a little, under his breath. "That should be the only detail you need." A broad smile spreads across Greta's face before she nods and turns to leave.

When he gets home, he curls up in bed next to Patrick, who had the audacity -- or possibly, good sense -- to still be right where he was when Pete left him this morning.

"I feel like I'm going to fall apart." Pete says. "Guess I'm not as young as I used to be."

Patrick shakes his head.

"Nope. Just out of practice." He curls an arm around Pete before leaning in to kiss him. "We set a pretty good record though, I think."

--

Patrick didn't think it would be this easy, slipping back into their old routine, after nearly a month of barely speaking, but somehow it is. He expected that they would talk about it, expected Pete to ask why. But after the first time that night in Patrick's bed, Pete hasn't said a word.

It's a double-edged sword: pretending that nothing was ever wrong. Because if they never acknowledge it, Patrick never has to come clean about why it happened in the first place. He never has figure out a way to tell Pete how he feels. He also never gets to find out what's going to happen when the year is up.

Patrick tries not to think about it too much. Right now he's just appreciating being able to fall asleep next to Pete again, being able to lean across the kitchen table and kiss him during dinner, having his smiles returned when he looks at Pete from across the room.

Before he knows it, November has flown by and his mom is calling to ask what time they're coming over for Thanksgiving. Not going was never an option.

They bring a cherry pie and show up twenty five minutes late to Patrick's parents' house. Fifteen minutes were due to traffic, the other ten were because Pete leaned over to kiss him before getting out of the car and then didn't stop.

Patrick's nervously tugging on the hem of his sweater and hoping his mouth isn't as swollen as it feels, when his aunt opens the door. The knowing look on her face as she greets them tells him otherwise. As he introduces Pete to the rest of his family, he resigns himself to the fact that they probably all know what the two of them were doing only minutes earlier. It could be worse, he thinks. At least they were only kissing.

His mother comes up to him after dinner while Pete's off talking to Patrick's uncle. They both watch Pete for a moment before she kisses the side of Patrick's head.

"I'm glad you're happy," she says quietly.

Pete continues to charm the rest of Patrick's family the same way he charmed Patrick's parents all those months ago. As his mom walks away, Patrick realizes he's going to have to come up with a reason why they're getting divorced. He feels sick to his stomach. Even if he could tell them the truth, he's not sure what that is any more.

Pete sneaks up behind him and slides his arms around Patrick's waist.

"Your little cousin asked me how we're going to make babies," he says. "You have no idea how much I wanted to tell her that it depended on whether or not you wanted to ruin your girlish figure."

"Seriously?" Patrick says, turning his head to look at him. "I think we both know that of the two of us you're the one with the girlish figure."

Pete doesn't answer back with a clever remark like Patrick expects him to. He smacks a loud kiss to Patrick's cheek and just sighs contentedly in his ear.

--

The launch party for Clandestine Industries' first collection is fairly low key compared to other parties Patrick has been to. There are less than a hundred guests present, most of them people Pete knows personally. There are roughly a dozen models are walking around, wearing Pete's designs, and they all look amazing. Well, almost all of them. Patrick's not sure what Pete was thinking when he came up with that hoodie with the fur.

"So, my mom called earlier," Pete says, late in the evening.

"Yeah? What'd she say?"

"Congratulations." Pete grins. Patrick smiles back at him.

"That's awesome."

"She also said they're coming home the week before Christmas, so you'll finally get to meet them." Patrick doesn't even get the chance to respond, before Pete continues on, "And my brother and sister will be home from school too."

Patrick knew that Pete had siblings. He'd mentioned them once or twice in passing, but Patrick never really gave much thought to whether they were older or younger or why he'd never met them.

"Oh, and my lawyer called too. He was rambling on about the magic of New Jersey but I think the general point was that he found a loophole, for our, uh…" He lowers his voice. "Divorce issue. You know, if you still..." Pete stops suddenly.

Patrick feels a tightness in his chest. Are they really going to have this conversation here? Now? He takes a deep breath, tries to make his mouth say the words that are in his head. No. No, I don't still want to.

"If you were still worried about that," Pete finishes finally. Patrick shakes his head.

"Wasn't really," he manages to say.

Pete's eyes light up the same way they did the first time Patrick admitted to Pete (albeit accidentally) that he was attracted to him. Pete's mouth quirks up into a smile.

"Okay then," he say before wandering off.

Patrick doesn't know what just happened, but he feels like he missed out on part of the conversation.

--

Pete's parents come home on the fourteenth. Two days later, his mom calls and invites him and Patrick to dinner for the following evening. He tells Patrick the news as soon as he's through the door that evening. Patrick just looks up from the book he was reading and frowns.

"What? What's wrong?"

"I have my last final tomorrow."

"Oh. Guess I'm going by myself then. It's no big deal." Patrick looks unconvinced. "Seriously, dude, they're not going to hate you because you want to pass your classes, okay? They'll just have to meet you at Christmas instead."

Pete's parents are disappointed to hear that Patrick will not be joining them, but as he predicted they completely understand. It still takes three more tries before Pete successfully talks Patrick out of hurrying through his final to catch the 8 o'clock train out to Wilmette.

After dinner, his mom makes up a plate full of snicker doodles and attaches a note for Patrick that says, "Can't wait to meet you! --Dale."

Patrick's sprawled out on the couch in his pajamas, watching a rerun of The Daily Show when Pete gets home. He pushes Patrick's legs out of the way and sits down, putting the cookies on the coffee table in front of Patrick.

"My mom sent these home for us, but they're mostly for you since I ate about a million of them before dinner," he says. Patrick reaches for the note and looks up after reading it.

Patrick stares at him for a minute and Pete can practically hear the ellipse when he finally says,"…she made me cookies?"

"Told you that you didn't have anything to worry about. She loves you already." Pete sneaks a cookie out from underneath the plastic wrap and shoves it into his mouth.

--

Pete never really grew out of waking up early on Christmas morning to open up presents, but it takes three tries and finally a blowjob before Patrick will actually drag himself out of bed.

He bought Patrick a block of studio time, which wasn't as impressive to wrap as the record player, but he knows Patrick will get good use out of it.

"You didn't have to do this," Patrick says after opening the envelope.

"It's a selfish gift anyway," Pete tells him, "I want more than just demo versions of those songs you wrote."

"Thanks," he whispers. He hands Pete his gift and says, "Hope you like it."

Pete tears the wrapping paper off the box to find three different sized sketchbooks inside, along with an assortment of pencils and charcoals. It's been a while since Pete's had time to draw and it's been even longer since he's wanted to, but he knows he's going to use these.

"They're perfect." He smiles, leaning over to kiss Patrick.

Patrick looks down, fiddling with the envelope in his hands as he says, "I hope you know how hard it is to shop for someone who has everything."

Not everything. Pete thinks. Not yet.

After breakfast, they get showered and ready to go. Pete is fixing his hair while Patrick is doing his tell-tale 'I'm nervous' pacing across the bedroom. Pete pokes his head out of the bathroom.

"Dude, will you stop? I keep catching little glimpses of you in the mirror and it's freaking me out."

"Sorry," Patrick apologizes. He sits down on the bed and smoothes his hands over his pants. When Pete comes out of the bathroom again, he can tell Patrick has been trying to sit still but failing horribly.

"Hey, come here," Pete says, holding out his arms. Patrick stands up and walks over towards him. He wraps his arms around Pete and sighs.

"There's nothing to be nervous about." Pete strokes his hands over Patrick's back, when he leans back he straightens Patrick's collar, adjusts his tie. "You look great."

Patrick covers Pete's hands with his own.

"Thanks," he says before leaning in to kiss him softly.

"Come on, let's go. Don't want to be late."

Dinner goes even better than Pete expected. He never doubted that his family would love Patrick -- he doesn't how anyone with half a brain could not love Patrick -- but Patrick seems to be even better at charming parents that Pete is. The best part is he doesn't even seem to realize he's doing it.

When Pete's dad asks Patrick about school, Patrick's eyes light up. He starts telling them excitedly about all the things he's been working on, which leads into a conversation with Andrew about what kind of music they're into, which turns into Patrick good naturedly schooling Hillary about the merits of Kanye West. For the most part, Pete just listens, but he can't keep from grinning throughout the meal.

After dinner, the two of them are helping Pete's mom clear the table and he overhears her tell Patrick that she's never seen Pete so happy. Patrick blushes and ducks his head; he says something that Pete doesn't quiet catch.

If he and Patrick had been dating for real, this would be the part where Pete takes his mom aside and tells her that he knows that Patrick is the one, and that he's going to ask him to marry him. And she would cry and hug him and they'd both have to pretend that nothing had happened because they wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise. But they skipped right over that part and it's only now that Pete really and truly regrets his brilliant plan.

But that's what he wants. He wants Patrick, for the rest of his life, not just for the next month and a half.

They haven't talked about what's going to happen at the end of their arrangement but lately that nagging voice in the back of his head that usually is telling him things are going to end horribly has turned almost hopeful. What if? What if you could actually have it all?

If he's been reading the signs right -- Patrick's reaction to his mention of the divorce papers, his nervousness to meet Pete's parents, the way Patrick looks at him over dinner, or when they're cuddled up on the couch -- it might not be such a long shot.

The last time Pete asked himself what the worst thing that could happen was, he ended up here. With Patrick. He knows if he doesn't take the risk, he'll lose Patrick anyway.

He thinks about the small gray box he saw on Patrick's desk the last time he was in Patrick's room. And about what it would take to make this real. Not nearly as much as it did to fake it. Just a single question and the right answer. Pete makes up his mind that day, standing in his mom's kitchen, loading dirty plates into the dish washer.

--

Patrick wakes up unusually early Sunday morning and by the time Pete joins him in the kitchen, he's got a stack of pancakes the size of his head prepared for the two of them.

"Why don't I get treated this good all the time?" Pete asks, sitting down.

"Because I'm lazy and would rather sleep in or have sex on Sunday mornings," Patrick explains.

He sets the plate down in front of Pete and gets out the syrup and butter. Pete plays footsie with him underneath the table while they eat. Patrick smiles as he reaches for the syrup, but there's a tightness in his chest that won't go away. It's been there the past few days. Pete hasn't said anything more about the divorce papers, but Patrick knows it's inevitable. They're running out of time and Patrick can't find the words to say he doesn't want this to end.

"You know what tomorrow is?" Pete asks, mouth half full of pancakes.

Patrick, who learned better than to talk with his mouth full, simply shakes his head no.

"A year since we met," Pete grins. "You were kind of a jerk that day."

Patrick is about to defend himself -- pointless really, he was a jerk that day -- when Pete leans over and licks away the syrup at the corner of Patrick's mouth that he was about to wipe away. Patrick turns his head a fraction of an inch and captures Pete's mouth in a kiss. He can feel it when Pete smiles against him.

"Love you," Pete murmurs as he leans back and Patrick feels like he's been punched in the chest.

He looks down, fiddles with the corner of his napkin for a moment. He thinks it's probably stupid to be nervous after Pete went and took the plunge first.

"Love you too," he says quietly.

When he looks back up at Pete, he's smiling, laughing a little even.

"We did this all wrong, you know." Patrick barely has time to look confused before Pete's saying, "Wait right here," and disappearing into Patrick's room. When he returns he pulls Patrick's chair out from the table and kneels down in front of him.

Patrick laughs.

"What are you doing?" Because, sure, they've had sex in the kitchen before, but never in the middle of a meal.

"Dude. Shut up. I'm trying to do it right this time."

Patrick only has a few seconds of trying to figure out what Pete means before he watches him pull a very familiar ring box out of the pocket of his pajamas. Patrick hasn't worn his engagement ring since they got married; he didn't see the need. It was sitting in the corner of his desk, underneath some old papers from school the last he saw of it. And now it's in Pete's hand. And Pete's down on one knee. Patrick's very glad that he's sitting down right now.

Pete opens the box and holds it out. "Marry me?" His voice sounds nervous, but hopeful. Patrick blinks.

"You're…serious."

"Um. Yeah. Kinda thought that was obvious."

Patrick would really like it if his heart would stop feeling like it's going to pound right out of his chest. It's all he can hear and it's making it hard to think.

"You know we're already married, right?"

Pete glares at him.

"Could you stop being a douche when I'm trying to propose?" He gets up off the floor and brushes off his knees. "I'm aware we're already married. But I'm asking again."

Patrick takes a deep breath and swallows hard. He's not going to do something stupid, like cry, because Pete would never let him live it down.

"For real this time, Patrick." Pete reaches out for Patrick's hand and threads their fingers together. Patrick's eyes are on their matching wedding bands as Pete says, "Forever."

He doesn't hesitate before pulling Pete into his lap and kissing him hard.

"Yes. For real," he whispers, resting his forehead against Pete's. "Forever."

--

One year to date after they eloped in Niagara Falls, Pete Wentz, former chairman of the Wentz Corporation and founder of Clandestine Industries, and musician husband Patrick Stump renewed their vows in an intimate ceremony at St Paul's United Church of Christ in Chicago.

"Patrick's the best thing that ever happened to me," says Wentz.

"He's alright," Stump deadpans. "Seriously, I married the guy twice. What else do you expect me to say?"

-People Magazine, February 25, 2010