Work Header

We're Friends When You're on Your Knees

Chapter Text

It begins how these things tend to. Girl meets boy.


No, wait. That’s not strictly true. Because in this tale the boy is sixteen – almost seventeen, but still, sixteen – and the girl is old enough to know better. Plus, Petra thinks she knows it all, thinks what she likes is tall, dark and asshole. He’s none of those. He’s short, blonde and argyle sweater. “You’re not what I expected,” she says, eyebrows arched in surprise.


“Likewise,” he replies. She doesn’t quite know how to take that.


He’s easy to ignore as anything more than a friend for the first year or so. Just an angry seventeen-year-old frustrated at the high school girls that don’t want to date him.


“Older women,” he says one night as they sit in his room writing endless songs that will never go anywhere. “Yeah, that’s where it’s at. Not fucking girls.”


His eyes glow with something she recognises immediately; he has a crush on her. Her heart flutters uncomfortably and her stomach swoops. This is why his mom glares at her. This is why the bedroom door has to stay propped open. This is conversations over cookies and milk about his best friend Petra and how to get noticed. This is, categorically, not good.


“You sound like an asshole,” she informs him, because he does. But that isn’t unusual, Patrick sounds like an asshole a lot.


“You like assholes,” he counters, neither of them saying anything else for a while. He’s thrown down his gauntlet, he just wants her to pick it up.


“I like adults,” she says, accepting the good-natured punch to her shoulder, the fuck you delivered without bite as he lapses into an argument about a chord progression. He argues like he thinks she’ll object. She barely knows one end of the bass from the other but she recognises the talent in him and she’s not half bad at hooking a stream of confused consciousness into a series of metaphors that almost make sense.


He doesn’t bring it back up.


The band starts to progress beyond basements, beyond half-formed interest and barely polite booing into something palpable, something that shifts with her pulse when they play on stage. Joe tells her to wear short skirts and shirts that show off her tits to draw in the crowds. Joe doesn’t mention it again with bruised balls and a bruised ego.


Patrick still looks at her like he’s trying to frame words he doesn’t understand. But he’s still seventeen and he’s still kind of an asshole which makes him almost possible to ignore. He’s fun to taunt in the back of the van, ticking his nose when he tries to sleep, draping dirty boxers over his face until he kicks his foot straight through their best amp in wordless fury.


Just a kid and acting like one.


He gets drunk on his eighteenth birthday – totally wasted, in fact – spurred on by Joe and Chris and a dozen other people that should have known better while Petra and Andy roll their eyes like they’re the designated responsible adults. But it suits him, in a strange sort of way, the fuzzy softness that steals his attitude problem and leaves his eyes glassy. They sit together on the back porch, sprawled on bone-bleached boards in the moonlight with her head on his shoulder. It might be close to May but there’s still a bite of cold to the air and she shivers in her too-short, too-tight Green Day shirt, the one that shows off her tits though she pretends that isn’t why she wears it. No one dares to comment anyway after the last time. Patrick slips off his denim jacket and throws it over her shoulders, wrapping her in the smell of him; his skin, cheap cologne and the faintest hint of sweat. Fuck, he’s such a sweaty little dude, his palm damp and hot against hers as he takes her hand like the romantic lead in a novel she’s never read.


He begins a monologue of you mean a lot to me, Petra, the kind of thing designed to woo her. But it’s sloppy and childish and slurred thick with cheap beer and, she thinks, maybe a couple of hits from the bong Joe has set up in the basement. It’s embarrassing to listen to him, excruciating actually, and she knows he’ll die of humiliation the next morning. If he even remembers it. She decides to give him something else to remember instead, leaning close and pushing her mouth to his. He squeaks, hand tight against hers as he dives in too eagerly, a clash of teeth and mumbled apologies before his tongue curls against hers as his hands sink into her hair.


He kisses like he thinks she might run away if he stops, like the world will stop turning if their lips part, like she’s the centre of his universe, the axis on which his planet turns, the sun in his sky. His lips are chapped, she notices it absently, bitten raw by nervous teeth whenever he climbs up on stage.


He’s a good kisser – fucking amazing, in fact – fluttering sweet little pecks of his lips to hers, nipping points of pressure with the sharp press of his teeth that makes them throb a pulse that seems to echo between her legs. His tongue is talented, doing interesting things against the roof of her mouth that make her shiver. Petra is constructed of nothing more than molten honey and stardust. She’s an explosion waiting to detonate with hands curled around his neck as he leans into her. And that’s the thing; she knows her weird little eighteen-year-old best friend shouldn’t get her wet from nothing more than a kiss. She should pull away when he takes her hand and presses it down between his legs, lets her feel the hard throb of his cock under the sharp scrape of his zipper. She should stop him when he slips a hand up her shirt and tweaks gently at her nipple, already stiff and she can’t pretend it’s just the cold as she tucks her mouth to the crook of his neck and moans against his skin.


There are voices in the kitchen behind them, questioning cries for the birthday boy that jerk them apart like opposing polarities, eyes dark and hands twitching against thighs as they try to make it look like nothing has happened.


“Later?” He whispers hopefully. She just smiles and hopes he’ll forget about it. She slips away early rather than find out, terrified of how she feels as she turns up the collar of his jacket and breathes in the scent of him. She wears it to sleep in that night, nothing else, just the rough denim against the soft of her skin as she slides her whole hand down the front of her panties. She rubs against the press of flattened fingers, grinding into the ridges of them, face down into her pillow to stop herself screaming as she comes and comes, again and again until she’s exhausted enough to sleep and not think about it.


He smiles at her at practice the next day, that same look lingering like he has something to say. There’s a tiny bruise on his neck that’s almost the shape of her lips. She ignores him and he doesn’t bring it up again.


She catches him sometimes, staring at her wistfully from across the eternity of a basement practice, pretty hands curled in defiant possession around his mic, lips soft with something dangerous. He looks away when she raises her eyebrows, flushed pink and stammering something nonsensical at the toes of his shoes.


Once they get signed it becomes easier to deflect him; the band is serious, they shouldn’twon’tcan’t fuck it up by dragging something as stupid as sex into the room with them. He discovers groupies, has fun, discovers a girlfriend and forgets about Petra at least a little in the haze of brand-new love. She pretends she doesn’t notice that the other girl doesn’t like her, that she doesn’t see the lingering glares, the way she finds a reason to slip between them if a conversation lasts a beat too long. She pretends it doesn’t hurt to see him slip away with her, eyes bright and smile slashed wound-wide across his face.


She pretends she can’t hear them in the room next door of their apartment, the way his girlfriend moans for him. She decides she must be faking it even as she touches herself, even as she hooks up with other guys and has them touch her. It makes her feel ridiculously powerful to see the way Patrick scowls at them the next morning. But he’s her friend and nothing more, a kid – and a dumb one at that – until the day he isn’t.


He goes right ahead and brazenly does that thing that teenage boys do.


He grows up.


She isn’t sure when, exactly, it happens, when he makes that shift from dumb kid who giggles at tit jokes to a man. She sees it one afternoon as they sit in the van, her legs kicked up onto his thighs, his arm slung across the back of the bench, fingers toying with her hair and his eyes gazing past her at the flat Midwest skyline. It’s something in the set of his jaw, in the way he holds his shoulders and the casual flex of his fingers against the upholstery. He’s a man and that means he isn’t safe anymore, a thought that strikes a confusing pulse in her veins.


They share a hotel room that night, always the case when there isn’t enough money to get her a separate room and there aren’t any triples for the boys to share. Twin beds, very proper, even his girlfriend claims she doesn’t mind though Petra hasn’t missed the sour looks the other girl gives her when Patrick slings an arm around her shoulders and slurs drunken declarations of friendship.


“You’re my best friend,” he announces, like anyone is listening, “You’re my… my dude without a dick, yeah, I fuckin’ love you, Peep…”


She refuses to think about the girlfriend as she showers off the van and post-show sweat and grime, as she washes her hair and shaves her legs, runs the razor over her pussy though she has no idea if he likes that. She won’t think about anything, she tells herself, as she reapplies her eyeliner out of nothing more than vanity and slips, completely naked, out of the bathroom.


“You done?” He doesn’t look up from his laptop right away. “I’m pretty sure my crotch is sixty-eight percent ball sweat right now and I…”


He almost chokes on his tongue when he glances up, eyes wide then jerking to the floor as his breathing rasps rough over those petal-pink lips.


“`Trick?” She wonders if she’s misjudged everything horribly, nerves warring with arousal for which can drive her heart rate highest. “Don’t you… I mean, isn’t this what – what you want?”


“Fuck, Peep,” he whispers, fists clenched against the comforter and a voice that stings with accusation. That doesn’t seem entirely fair when he couples it with the nickname he knows only he gets to use. “What the fuck are you doing to me?”


Everything in her wants to slink back to the bathroom, to drag on her pajamas – okay his pajamas but she’s claimed them – and hope he’s willing to pretend it never happened. Because of all the scenarios she imagined as she stood under the lukewarm spray of a shitty motel shower, outright rejection wasn’t one of them. She moves towards him, to where he lies on his back on the bed, laptop abandoned next to him, and straddles his hips, daring him to stop her.


He doesn’t.


“Don’t you want to?” she asks, sliding to grasp his hands in hers and sliding them to her breasts. Callous-rough fingertips find her nipples, tugging and pinching with a flair she’s only seen lavished on his guitar. She’s wet for him, rocking her hips to his as he stares up at her from eyes as dark as midnight. “You always did…”


“I have a girlfriend.” It doesn’t even sound like an objection, just an observation as the hard press of his cock pushes against her through his jeans. “Peep, I – ”


She won’t let him ruin this, she’s already decided, her hands quick and draft against the buckle and zipper keeping her from his dick. For a few moments it won’t cooperate and she begins to seriously consider gaining access via the huge rip in the thigh of his jeans but then he grabs her wrists in both hands, pinning her still as he pants and writhes beneath her.


“M-my hat.” It’s a pathetic objection, if it even is one, she reaches for the trucker hat and sets it on top of her own shower-damp hair. The tension breaks. He laughs and slips a hand between her legs, fingers sliding along her lips as his eyes widen. “Fuck, Petra, you’re so fucking wet.”


And that’s how she finds herself on her back in a cheap motel room with Patrick kissing fire into her throat as his fingers do clever things between her legs. He’s good at it, too, but like the kissing it’s a surprise that he knows what to do. She imagined sweet but clumsy fumbling, the warm buzz of an orgasm she mostly had to provide herself. She doesn’t expect to come hard and gasping with crashing stars exploding in her skull as he teases her clit with a single swirling fingertip. She hadn’t expected him to breathe lust and want into her ear, “I wanna eat your pussy. Can I, Peep? Please say yes…”


She thinks she might be prepared, after the kissing and the fingering, for him to be better than she anticipated. She lies, trembling and chest heaving, as he bites tiny, bruising little kisses to her inner thighs with greedy moans. She tenses, back arched, as he gently licks along her lips, circling where they part around her swollen clit but not quite touching just the right place.


He licks into her, tongue driving right into the core of her as she clenches around him, thighs hugged to his temples as he smirks up at her like he knows a secret. His fingers find her, three pressed inside as his tongue flutters around them, as he raises his head and slowly drags the plush swell of his lower lip over her clit, chasing sensation with hot breath and fired eyes.


The calloused pad of his index finger finds that spot, the one that knots pressure between her legs and makes her buck to his mouth as he teases slow, languid, precise. She thinks she screams, head thrown back, the thud of a fist from the other side of the flimsy drywall a strong indication that she’s pissed off Joe.


She’ll deal with that in the morning.


“Shh,” Patrick soothes, his heavenly mouth – that mouth, Patrick’s irredeemably, eminently, utterly filthy mouth – biting a bruise to her thigh as he orchestrates maddening heat within her with the press and curl of his fingers. “Peep, you gotta shut the fuck up…”


Her reply is delivered in the form of fingers knotted into his hair, his mouth dragged back to her clit as he huffs a breathless laugh over nerve-bright, aching, slicked-wet flesh. The noises don’t stop, embarrassing little whines and whimpers as he curls his tongue around her clit, as he licks and kisses and moans into her with a hum that vibrates straight to her skull. She bucks again, hard and desperate, cunt clenching around his fingers like she can absorb him as he breathes something halfway unintelligible about making her squirt.


He doesn’t, not this time, but the sudden pull of his tongue against the ache of her clit, the way his fingers tease and twist inside of her as he laves a long, slow, wet lick that burns with wanton heat is enough to arch her back from the mattress. Muscles pull and pulse within her, the very core of her being dragging with her heart beat around the invasive press of his fingers as something close to an incendiary explosion races fire through her bloodstream. There isn’t enough air in the room – and what there is slicks sticky and hot in her lungs – as her body throbs, as her vision washes white to gold to endless, limitless red and swirling orange. She rocks her hips, rubbing against his mouth like she can make it last forever, like the world will end if she stops.


He keeps licking, keeps kissing, keeps his fingers still as she shudders around him until the world calms briefly once more. She feels as though she’s on fire, as though she’s drowning, as though there’s nothing but Patrick, warm and solid between her thighs, that stops her from ascending somewhere else.


“God, Peep,” he whispers against her skin, lips and chin wet with his spit and her pussy. “Fuck, just… God.”


She’s never seen so much of him as she does on the motel bed, so much cream-pale skin dusted with red-gold hair. He contrasts to her perfectly, her gold to his pearl, the pretty pink of his lips closed around the tight dark of her nipples, the way his pale hand looks between her legs as he fucks his fingers into her until she cries out. She wants to possess him, to own and taste each inch of him as she feathers kisses everywhere she can reach, legs around his waist as he grinds into her through denim and cotton and she knows the front of his jeans will smell of her tomorrow.


Finally, he struggles out of them, wriggling and kicking until they thump to the floor in a tangle and she can look. He’s got the most gorgeous cock she’s ever seen, thick and pink and curving prettily towards his stomach. He lowers shy eyes, fingertips tracing something onto her thigh – a figure 8 or an infinity loop, she knows which she likes to imagine – her thighs hook to his hips.


“Can I suck your cock?” she asks, her mouth watering at the thought of wrapping her lips around him. He shakes his head slowly. “Can you fuck me?”


“I don’t have any condoms,” he shrugs and her stomach clenches a little. That’s not what she’s imagined so many times, she wants him inside of her, satin skin and the wet reminder of him in her panties tomorrow. She smiles.


“I didn’t expect you to use one,” she whispers, drawing him closer with the wrap of her legs around his waist. There’s a date-marked, foil wrapped blister pack tucked in her bag that says this is okay. “I’m clean, you’re clean, I’m… protected.”


She won’t imagine dark-haired, blue-eyed little poppets. She won’t. She’s already a breath away from an I love you. She’s already placing a bet with currency she doesn’t have. She’s already risking everything they’ve worked so hard on.


“Oh, you mean…” he trails off as he lowers himself to brace over her, knees and elbows taking his weight as he rubs the flushed-thick length of his cock along the flooded stretch of her pussy. She shudders around the nod, bitten nails stained with sharpie sinking sharp into his shoulders. “Right.”


She spreads her legs a little wider, feels him nudge just inside then still, shaking like he’ll break apart with it as he shivers with restraint. Her hands slide to the plush roundness of his ass, pressing and pushing and urging as he sinks into her, as she stretches to accommodate him and he breathes, hot and stale and smelling of stage salt and raw vocal chords, against her neck.


“Are you okay?” he asks like a gentleman, like she’s some untouched virgin corrupted by his cock. She wonders if he was his girlfriend’s first then immediately forces herself not to think about that. She nods furiously and strokes his cheek, his sideburns wet with sweat as he presses a kiss to the corner of her lips. “I’m gonna move, yeah?”


She’s almost sobbing by the time he does, nerves burnt raw as he drags out slowly, circles his hips as he thrusts back inside of her. It’s never been like this with skinny jean wearing scene boys on piles of coats in dark bedrooms at parties. It was never this good on her college dorm bed, in bathrooms or the backseat of cars with anonymous hands and mouths and dicks that didn’t belong to Patrick.


“Do that again,” she begs as he touches that spot inside of her and scores it with a lazy beat against her clit with his thumb. “Please!”


He does it again. Again and again in the steadiest rhythm she’s ever felt. She’s never fucked a drummer before, but she’s not certain she wants to fuck anything else as he keeps that perfect tick-tock back and forth. She wonders if she’s still contained within her body or floating somewhere above it as he breathes filth into her ear, as he tells her of all the things he’ll do to her, the ways he’ll take her, how he’ll make her scream for him until her head rings with the same pulse that pounds between her legs.


Petra comes screaming.


She comes like she’ll die if Patrick stops, like the world is crumbling around them and the flex and push of his shoulder under her greedy, grasping fingernails is the only thing stopping her from drifting to ash. She comes and feels the flood of him inside, the twitch of his cock as he croons her name, sweet and utterly lovely. Her cunt clenches tight around him, drawing each trembling pulse and flutter as he fucks out the last of his orgasm into her until they’re sweaty and breathless. This is it, Petra decides, fingers tight in his hair as she kisses him like she can shotgun the taste of herself that lingers against his lips and tongue, this is everything and all she’s ever wanted.


 He shifts above her awakardly, avoiding eye contact like it negates the fact that he’s inside of her.


“Are we okay?” he asks, unsure and flushed, his hair tufted and messy around his face as he blinks at her uncertainly. “I mean, I didn’t want – ”


“It’s only weird if we make it that way,” she insists with a nonchalance she doesn’t feel. “Let’s… not. Yeah?”


“Yeah,” he agrees, pulling out with a chaste kiss brushed to her mouth.


He showers but she doesn’t. She wants the reminder tomorrow; the fucked sticky sensation and the bleach-musk smell every time she uses the bathroom. She wants the reminder smudged like pearl against her panties – she does a quick recce in her bag for clean ones and sighs – okay his underwear, that she’ll steal and he’ll grouse but won’t actually mind. He curls into the bed beside her and reaches for his phone, squinting at it in the darkness as he scrolls to his girlfriend’s name.


“What are you doing?” she asks, panicked.


“I need to tell her it’s over,” he explains patiently, like she’s an idiot as his fingers comb through her hair. “I thought that’s… Isn’t this what you want?”


No. It’s absolutely the opposite of what she wants. She’s a girl in the scene, a band around her constructed of guys, touring with other guys in other bands, the only pair of tits on a stage filled with cock. She’s seen the way the girls in the crowd divide between the ones that want to be her and the ones that can’t stand her. She’s heard the whispers in smoky club bathrooms, the red-letter shame of being a girl amongst guys. She doesn’t want to fulfil the prophecy, doesn’t want to be the one dismissed for fucking her way into the band – even though she is the fucking band, even though she does everything and more to make sure no one thinks that.


She’s never been sure of anything, a life controlled with prescription pills and time on stage spent screaming her feelings into the abyss. All she’s known is that she doesn’t want average, she doesn’t want to be the prom queen that marries her high school sweetheart and settles for suburban obscurity. The thought turns her cold, shifts her stomach inside out and she won’t go back to it for anyone, for any reason whatsoever, she has to be taken seriously.


She’s been so careful, never wears a skirt on stage, skinny jeans and striped shirts or band shirts, studded belts at her hips and converse instead of heels. She never drifts too close to any of them, never rests a hand to a sweat-damp shoulder or brushes a kiss to a stubbled cheek. She’s girl-next-door not scene queen supernova. How long until the girlfriend talks, until petraisacreep is the LiveJournal they flock to for all of the wrong reasons? Her heart is too big for her chest, pulsing raw and wet and messy as she snatches the phone from his hand and switches it off.


In the darkness he tenses, stuttered confused and awkward with hands that don’t know what to do.


“Just…” she trails off for a moment before sliding a hand around the soft length of his cock. He twitches against her palm, flushing full and thick in a few strokes as he groans out tortured defeat into the air between them, all framed in a weak nod. “Let’s enjoy this, shall we? You can have her at home, this is just… us.”


She’s twenty-four and should know better.


He’s nineteen and in love with her.


She’s got this under control.


She’s got this.

Chapter Text

There are days when Petra feels close to normal. Days when the Zoloft chases artificial, pharmaceutical serotonin through her veins like half-hazed sunrises watched through lakeside scenic viewfinders to skirt just around the edges of the depths of her darkness. She’s not sure if she loves those days or dreads them, if the mellow low is worth the pay-off of the absence of a manic high.


She’s not sure if that makes her more or less fucked up, she just knows it’s the truth.


There are other days, the days the meds don’t take the edge off. Those are the days that Petra feels more ink than blood, the way it seems to trickle from the portrait of personality on her body to drip — drip — drip through cheap pens and onto the faint lines of spiral bound notebooks. Sometimes it makes its way onto a screen, emotions and thoughts and — dare she say it? — poetry poured out to finish with the same question; is petra a creep?


Usually, the number that agree outweighs the pitiful ranks of those that don’t. Sometimes, Patrick pretends he doesn’t read the updates, that he isn’t following avidly from under the brim of the dollar store trucker hat she bought him out in Missouri, mostly because she didn’t believe he’d actually wear a hat emblazoned with I [Heart] Bingo.


Patrick is full of surprises.


Petra is full of antidepressants.


(Everyone has to have something, right?)


It scares her a little a lot how at home she still feels around him, how easy it is to cast off her clothes and let him trace her body with callous-rough fingertips. She supposes, realistically, she’s been baring everything to him for years, every notebook filled with her soul in stanzas for him to dissect and rearrange. So far, he’s always managed to make her ugly into something beautiful, to twist the hard, cold lines of her into something softer and sweeter, something that kids sing back to her like her thoughts may actually be worth a damn. She loves him a little for that.


If they should be nervous that they seem to have severed the sex from the friendship, then he doesn’t seem willing to acknowledge it and she has no intention of bringing it up unprompted. She sits in the back of the bus, her knees tucked up to her chest and hood drawn up, watching him argue with Andy about the TV station as her fingertips dig into the bruise he left on her hip last night. He apologised, he always does, even though she begs him for the rough stuff, measures out her self worth in how hard he can fuck her, how explosively she can make him come.


Isn’t love the fucking damnedest thing?


Raindrops chase memories down the glass to her left. It didn’t rain the whole time they were in touring and it feels like Chicago is welcoming them home in the best way it knows how. She gathers a little of the condensation that catches prisms of light against the window on the pad of her thumb and impulsively sucks it away. It tastes of copper and salt, but that could be the tang of her bass strings and sweat. It’s layered with something mechanical and greasy that makes her nose wrinkle as it’s chased with the chemical sting of unswallowed pills. She tucks her hand back into the cuff of her hoodie as Patrick tosses her a smile over his shoulder and she’s not sure how it makes her feel.


Her fingers itch for her notebook but she’s doesn’t know why. They have an album almost prepared, days mapped in studio time as they pull it together without the frantic rush of the last time. They’ve got all the time in the world, Patrick reassures her every day. But there’s a buzz in her blood like electricity and there’s a freeway under the tires that hums like a lullaby.


She should be elated but instead it feels like everything is closing in around her, the tightening of a noose around her neck as she itches under her skin with unspent adrenaline. Petra is a shooting star streaking bright across the sky, glowing out the heat that sings in her veins and there for a moment until she burns out to nothing. She’s noticed only as long as she’s in view.


“You okay?” Patrick asks like a clap of thunder on hushed words, framed with a smile he can’t possibly mean. He smells artificially sweet, like soda and red vines, the memory of them clinging to his lips and tongue in a crimson caress. It sort of looks like blood and Petra sort of wonders if she’s losing her mind again. She heard him earlier, phone clamped to his ear as he paced the rest stop diner, murmuring the I love you he never says to her down the line just hours after he fucked her through the regulation mattress of another faceless, budget line hotel room.


“Fine,” she lies. She’s pretty good at lying. She’ll be good at pretending it doesn’t hurt to see him take his girlfriend — God, she needs to start thinking of the poor girl by her name, Cassie, her name is Cassie — to his room. She won’t cry until she’s alone and he’ll fake like he doesn’t know why her notebook is smudged. “Good to be home.”


“Yeah,” he says and bites his lip. It springs back from under his teeth, plump and shining and she aches with the need to kiss him. It’s gone in a heart beat as he turns back to the windshield.


When she was younger, Petra used to talk about how it might feel to touch the hot stove, the potential consequences of throwing herself head first onto the smooth surface of the drained swimming pool in the backyard, what it might be like if the airplane she was travelling in just fell to the ground. Those conversations landed her in talking sessions with a therapist who made sympathetic clucking sounds and tapped her pen against her teeth thoughtfully whilst Petra tried desperately to explain that she wasn’t crazy. Then they put her on pills and she figured maybe she was. It’s not that she doesn’t have the thoughts anymore it’s just… she’s learned not to talk about them. Except in her notebook; her darkness never looks so pretty as it does twisted around Patrick’s lips on stage and under lights.


The apartment feels like it swirls with hurricane insanity as they dump bags and race for the shower. Ladies first isn’t a rule they ever invoke with her — in honesty, she suspects they often forget she actually is a girl unless they noticed the tampons stacked in the tour bus bathroom — so she retreats to her room and waits her turn. By the time she emerges, Cassie has arrived and Patrick has disappeared, in his room and pretending he hasn’t had his dick sucked in weeks.


As she shaves her legs (right to the hip, and under her arms, the thin line of hair that would bisect the tattoo under navel if she let it, around her nipples and between her legs) she wonders absently if everything would have been easier if she’d just done the polite thing and emerged with a cock of her own. Maybe her mania would be dismissed as masculinity, her bad decisions nothing more than a well-earned case of boys will be boys.


Maybe then she wouldn’t be quite so infatuated with Patrick. She can’t imagine it, a male her — a Peter, she supposes, given her dad’s vanity of imposing the family name — on his knees for Patrick, sucking down his cock like it eases the ache. It could have been the good parts, the friendship and the affinity, without the complications.


Peter would probably have done the obnoxious thing and been gay, just out of spite.


It’s still so early and she’s faced with the decision of go out and find someone to make her feel a little better — self worth based on how pretty they find her is a double-edged sword but a weapon nonetheless — or lose herself in her own company. She stays home, it’s too much to imagine a man that isn’t Patrick with his hands on her. Instead she rests her head against the wall between their bedrooms and listens to the way Cassie moans for him. Do his groans sound the same as they do when he’s with her? He’s breathless and winded but not like hers, not with the faint crack on the end as she deconstructs him with her body.


She slips on her headphones and closes her eyes and listens to Guns n Roses with the volume cranked until her head hurts.


“Couldn’t sleep?” he asks her at two in the morning, padding on bare feet to fetch a glass of water. She’s moved to the couch at some point, sleep exchanged for enthusiastic infomercials. He’s wearing boxers and a ratty shirt and so is she, like some kind of twisted uniform, her feet tucked up under her on the couch.


“What else is new?” she smiles like it’s lighthearted, he frowns because he knows it’s not. “Care to join? I was gonna watch Ghostbusters.” She wasn’t. But she will if it makes him stay.


“Sure,” he drops to the couch next to her, arm slung along the backrest behind her head as he yawns. “You okay? You’ve been… weird.”


“I’m fine,” she shrugs obnoxiously. “Why wouldn’t I be?”


He hums speculatively for a second before tugging at the hem of her shirt, “That mine, Wentz? You know, it’s a gross invasion of privacy to snatch my stuff from the dryer…”


“I didn’t snatch it from the dryer,” she grins and hauls it up to her nose, breathing deeply; it smells of him, of warm skin and cheap cologne. It smells of a jean jacket thrown around her on porch steps. “I took it from your bedroom floor.”


“You serious?” She’s absolutely serious, his clothes stolen in an endless loop. She’s never understood why someone would take one shirt and keep it, she needs the scent, the illusion of his body heat trapped in the cotton. But he’s looking at her like that might be a little… off. So she lies.


“No, you idiot,” she shoves him away, hand braced to his head as she laughs like it doesn’t matter. “I got it out the dryer.”


“Right.” She can’t tell if he believes her and that terrifies her more than she can explain. If she can’t understand him better than he understands himself then what’s the point in anything? She shuffles around, head in his lap and legs kicked up on the couch as he smooths a hand over her hair. It’s greasy, she knows that, too long since the last time she washed it but it’s such a fucking effort looking like this. Would Peter spend countless hours flat ironing his hair? Clumping the natural curl of it with product until it hangs straight and smooth and acceptable?


She runs a hand slowly up and over his stomach, dragging his shirt with her until her palm is pressed above his heart, the stutter-thump of his pulse speeding under her touch. He glances down, face neutral but eyes engulfed in flame and she wonders if he finds the contrast of her smooth, copper-swirled-onyx skin against the cream-dashed-with-strawberry fuzziness of his quite as captivating as she does. Her mom always tells her she’ll regret her tattoos, that she’ll grow up and grow old and wish she hadn’t scarred herself with pointless pictures. Petra has no plans to grow up or grow old, so it seems kind of immaterial to dwell on it.


She presses a kiss to his stomach, revelling in the way he hitches under her touch, in the way his dick twitches and starts to lengthen and thicken just under the line of her jaw. It’s gratifying, she supposes, that he can have spent the night with his girlfriend but still respond to her touch. If she should worry that she takes her sense of worth from that then she firmly decides to think about it later. He’s still staring at her, eyes slightly narrowed, like he’s never seen her before. His thumb traces her lips, the swell and curve of them like a sweep of lip liner (fitting really, that it makes her feel just as powerful, just as desirable) as his eyes darken and he huffs out something between a laugh and a weak, tortured groan. His thumb smells of her and Petra knows she should pull away.


Petra is not that smart.


“You never say you love me,” she murmurs with a bite of accusation. He’s wide-eyed surprise and a bitten lip as he stumbles for an answer — the right answer, the one she wants to hear. Her brain is buzzing uncomfortably.


“Do you want me to?” he asks, confused. Is it really so puzzling to imagine that she might appreciate a little reassurance now and again? Is she so undeserving of that? “You know I do.”


That still isn’t an I love you.


“You say it to her,” she tries to stop it sounding like a criticism. She’s not sure she manages. “I hear you on the phone, through the wall… I love you, I love you, I love you…”


“I do love her,” he shrugs as though it doesn’t matter then hisses when she leans up and licks over the tight bud of his nipple, teeth a sharp suggestion against the pebbled heat of it. “Shit-fuck, Peep — ”


“It isn’t love,” she says as he frowns. “You and me. If you don’t want to talk about it then it isn’t love.”


“Are we having a conversation or writing an album?” he raises his eyebrows, the silvered scar carved through the right one close to sparkling. She wonders if it’s something Cassie wears. Some teenage powdered body glitter that smells of cheap, artificial strawberry. If it sticks to his skin like a slick of multipack Claire’s lipgloss when he fucks her. “You know what it is, whatever label you feel like slapping on it.”


Sometimes she forgets he’s just a kid.


“You want me to suck your dick?” she tilts her head at just the right angle, he’s the lense of a camera for the MySpace picture she knows looks incredible, all wide copper eyes and fuck-flushed pout. There’s a damp spot on his pale gray shorts that says that’s exactly what he wants.


“God, Petra,” he rakes his hands through his hair, knuckles glowing white in the flicker-flash of the television screen. The VHS is shitty, stretched out and staticy, it flutters shadows across the planes of his face as he stares at her. “What are you doing to me?”


That seems rhetorical so she doesn’t answer, choosing instead to rest her lips gently against that ever-growing damp spot. His hips twitch and he flicks a cautious glance at his bedroom door. The apartment sleeps around them, still and silent other than their breathing and the crackling scratch of the tape in the background. His hand moves down to her hair, stroking softly, his thumb tracing her ear. One of them should get their own place, hiding in plain sight isn’t working out for her. She tugs at his waistband like a question mark, the cotton is soft under her hand, well-worn and well-washed.


“No,” he shakes his head and tenses with her as she pushes back, rushing in with reassurance as though it can make a difference. “I mean, yeah, of course I want you to it’s just — Cassie? I — I haven’t showered and…”


“Yeah, no,” she nods and struggles upright, his shirt dropping back down and the bulge of his cock suddenly seeming more ridiculous than arousing. She tries not to think about the implications of what he’s saying; that he’s fucking Cassie bareback then sliding into bed with Petra to do the same. She doesn’t know why it’s never occurred to her before, he’s been with Cassie for over a year, of course he goes in raw, of course he leaves her shaking, thighs slick with his come. Of course Petra isn’t fucking special. “I get it.”


“Wait.” He comes after her, surging across the couch and pinning her to it, solid and hot between her thighs. He doesn’t even glance at his bedroom door as he slides a hand between her legs, as he drags his thumb slowly across the damp, baby blue cotton of her panties. She kisses over the crests of his cheekbones, along the line of his jaw, feels it shift under her lips as his teeth clench. He ruts against her thigh then presses his face to the curve of her throat, breathing her name over and over as he pushes her underwear to the side and slides his fingers inside.


His fingertip brushes against her clit, scorching heat that pushes out, out, out in ever expanding waves until she’s sure she’ll combust beneath him. He twists two fingers inside of her as he thumbs at her clit, lips mouthing at her neck as their breathing stutters together. She’s soaked, drenching his hand, her thighs, burning from the inside out as her hands fist into his hair and his mouth finds her nipple, stiff and sensitive through her his shirt.


It’s not that she doesn’t care that Cassie is literally in the next room.


It’s just that she doesn’t care enough to do anything about it.


“I’m gonna come,” he breathes, hot and sticky against her chest, and she glows with pride because she’s sure, oh she’s absolutely certain, that Cassie doesn’t have this effect on him. “Oh, fuck…”


“Not yet,” she gasps the words, barely biting off the moan that bubbles up as soon as she opens her mouth. They have to be quiet. She slides a hand down between them, fingers ghosting over her clit as he scrambles to his knees to watch, his own fingers still buried inside of her.


His eyes darken, lips red and wet and soft as he stares, entranced, as she works herself over. She makes a show of it, arching her back and fucking down onto his fingers, her own skating delicately over her clit. She’s so close but wants to draw it out, wants to feel it ache down into her bones. He drops his head, licks right down to the nerve endings in her thighs with a groan muffled by couch cushions and skin. He moves across, his tongue fluttering around her fingers and Petra is seeing stars, dragging him to her as she grinds up to his heavenly mouth.


She thinks she hears him chuckle, dark and dangerous, as he sucks her clit between his lips, his mouth nudging to the frame of her fingers, his tongue teasing gently under the hood. Her hold on reality slips, the scream of his name lost in the clap of his free hand over her mouth. She bites down, sinking her teeth into his skin like she can tear him apart with it, her cunt clenching around his fingers. She wants to watch, wants to see the way she grasps at him, wants to watch him drive his cock inside of her and fuck her weak-kneed and shaking. She’s pulsing around him, each ripple of her body shaking a shudder through him as he stares up at her in from between her thighs like she’s the fucking rapture.


There’s so much blue in the room. Blue static light from the TV, blue panties, blue eyes. She wants to swirl it with gold and make something beautiful.


“Fuck,” he gasps, thumbing hard over her swollen clit just to make her shiver with sensitivity. Just because he loves the way she tightens around his fingers.


“You can come on my tits.” The offer is out before she really thinks about it. She never wanted to be that girl — the one they fuck because it’s like watching porn — but this is Patrick and she’s pretty sure he doesn’t see it that way. She pulls off her his shirt and revels in the way he looks at her, eyes dark and mouth shining, thick lower lip bitten hard until he nods. As though there were any other possible outcome.


He slides to straddle her hips, cock eased from his shorts, thick and pretty as he wraps his hand around himself and begins to stroke. He smells of sweat and sex that isn’t them. Petra’s stomach coils tight as she watches the slick, red head of his dick sliding wet and shining through his fist on each stroke and scores matching ruby trails of possession up his thighs with the scrape of her blunt nails.


Cassie has pretty nails. Manicured with french tips.


He comes fast, eyes closed and head tipped back as the wet heat of it spatters her chest. It’s not the same as feeling it on her thighs, watching his cock twitch in his hand isn’t the same as feeling him pressed deep inside of her. Petra feels cheap. Empty.


She feels even worse when he makes an excuse and shuffles back to his room — detouring past the dryer for fresh shorts — leaving her sticky and alone on the couch. Because she didn’t mean to fall in love with him and she never intended to let him know. It was all so horribly uncontrolled, so recklessly incidental. Everything feels too much and not enough, too much noise in her head and not enough sound in the room. There’s static buzzing in her veins where there should be blood, a fever itch and nightmare shadows looming in the corners of the apartment.


He didn’t kiss her once.


She fumbles for her phone. She scrolls to James. They’re off-and-on and on an off at the moment but she’s pretty sure she can turn it to an on if she just says the right things. He’s pretty, she knows that objectively, tall where Patrick is short, hard where Patrick is soft. He’s handsome and looks good in tight jeans and with her draped over him in pictures. He’s the boyfriend everyone expects her to have and sometimes it seems as though her brand of not-right-in-the-head matches perfectly to his, like she could let go and drift  rather than constantly kicking against the tide until she’s exhausted.


He’s not enough but she’s getting used to that and he’s better than nothing so she calls him, unsurprised but still kind of hurt when he cuts the call off after two rings.


She should go back to bed but what’s the point? All she’ll do is lie awake, counting the cracks in the ceiling and feeling as though her bones are trying to shake their way out of her skin. If she watches the way they tense and flex in the back of her hand, she can almost imagine it, can see the way the muscle might split, the gold giving way to red and washed-clean white. When did she last take her medication? She doesn’t remember. She grabs it from the bathroom cabinet and shoves it into the pocket of a hoodie she thinks is Patrick’s. It’s plain black cotton, warm, soft with wear and smells of his skin around the neckline.


Car keys liberated from the hook, she pads into the hallway and down to the parking lot, chasing shadows on the walls. She wants to scream into the silence of the city, wants the walls to ring with the sound of her voice because she’s not sure she exists, needs the reassurance that she’s real and solid and still breathing. The faux leather upholstery is cool against her thighs, even through her sweatpants, the steering wheel slippery with her sweat and rubbed shiny where a dozen different hands have grabbed at it over the years.


She drives.


She doesn’t pay attention to where she’s going, just intersection after stop sign after red light until she finds another parking lot. She can feel her pulse in her wrists, at her temples, singing behind her eyes as the mutters of impending failure crescendo higher and higher until her ears ring with them. It’s too loud, too much, she slams the heel of her palm into her temple again and again until her head feels as though it’s vibrating and it’s still, somehow, not enough.


She’s not enough.


They stand at a precipice, the band and Petra, and she realises now that she’s doing nothing but holding everyone back. She’s the reason they’ll never be taken seriously, the reason magazines dismiss them as a girl band even though she’s outnumbered three to one. They can jump and soar, or crash to ashes and she knows which way she’ll pull them, the anchor that keeps them weighed down.


She doesn’t want to be crazy, not any more. She doesn’t want a lifetime dominated by insanity and the constant, exhausting rollercoaster rush of never being fully in control. She feels as though she’s been in freefall for over a decade, a youth spent plummeting towards the ground, watching it rush up to meet her and bracing for an impact that never comes. It’s endless torture, it’s never-ending fear as she stares, wide-eyed and waits for the ground to fill her vision, for pain, for silence, for something.


There’s something sour at the back of her tongue, something thick and clagging that makes her gag. Strange, she doesn’t remember taking the bottle from her pocket. She feeds in another pill and prays to something she doesn’t believe in for silence. Leonard Cohen is humming hallelujah on the radio. Ironic.


She should be thinking noble thoughts about her parents and siblings right now, she’s pretty sure of it. She should have left a note, shit, a fucking note. This is the digital age and maybe a LiveJournal post will do but she doesn’t have her laptop, doesn’t have an internet connection, doesn’t have a hope. That’s sort of the point.


“Peep?” She’s feeling a little off-centre, slightly drowsy in a loose-limbed way. She doesn’t remember picking up the phone. “Peep, where the fuck are you?”


“‘S’okay,” she slurs down the line. Poor Patrick, he sounds worried. “‘S’fine. I’ll — I’ll see you some other time, okay? I love you.”


“Where the fuck are you?” he sounds like he’s drifting further away, rushing in and out of focus as she rests her cheek against the steering wheel and closes her eyes. She wonders if he’ll just keep repeating that over and over — is he real or just an echo down a hallway?


“‘S’yellow,” she whispers, the glow of the sign on the wall like a smudge of yellow marker. Tiredness spiderwebs through her. “Best — Best Buy. Did something — something dumb.”


“I’m coming,” Patrick assures her and she thinks that’s nice as her eyes blink closed. “Just keep talking to me.”




The band fly out to the UK a week later, while Petra moves her stuff from the apartment back to her old room in her parent’s house. Her throat is still scraped sore from being intubated, the back of her hand itching where they drove in an IV. Patrick tells her it’s for the best, that there are fans with tickets and an album waiting to drop. He points out that they need the hype, that they can hold it together for a few dates and it all sounds so reasonable, so painfully fucking sensible. Petra just sees them moving on without her.


Chapter Text

The midsummer heat is oppressive, the sun beating down as though it intends to burn up all it touches. Everything absorbs the heat; tarmac, buses, equipment and sweat-slicked skin, drinking it in, internalising and intensifying it until it feels as though the whole amphitheatre is nothing more than a scorched-bright supernova, a red giant set to burn down the world around it. Skin sticks to skin in this heat, Petra knows that, salt staining her fingertips as she slides them down over his chest, his stomach, skirting the edge of his navel.


It’s so fucking hot. Each bead of sweat that forms at her hairline tracks shiver-shocks as it traces down over her spine, caught in the cup of his hands to her hips as she bites her lip and concentrates on the way he feels inside of her. This would be better in a hotel room, better outside, better anywhere that isn’t crushed up in his bunk with the curtains drawn until the air is thick enough to taste. He runs the pad of his thumb over the dark peak of her nipple and laughs, all breath, as she shudders.


He’s close, she can feel it in the way he tenses below her, the way his head arches back in the gloom and he whispers her name. She wonders if it’s the way it tastes that makes everyone so reluctant to say it in more than a murmur. She figures she’s probably being paranoid.


“Do I feel good?” he asks, and she almost wants to laugh at how conversational it sounds.


“Amazing,” she agrees, mostly because she’s learnt that that’s the sort of thing guys like to hear when they’re fucking her. It doesn’t matter if it’s true — although, to be fair, he does feel pretty good — and didn’t she write that the best part of believe is the lie? “So fucking good.”


“Are you gonna come?” he says around a bitten lip, glasses askew. She wonders if she’s fucking him or playing twenty questions but once she gets a couple of fingers on her clit it starts to feel better and she whines with a nod. “Mmm, fuck yeah.”


She’s embarrassed to feel a patch of stubble that she missed trying to shave in the swaying bus bathroom as they rumbled between cities. She really ought to wax but that would mean letting everything grow back in every few weeks and she’s not willing to do that. She ignores it as best she can and concentrates instead on getting off and still leaving herself enough time to shower before their set. She’s lost track of the time and she’s almost certain it would be really fucking rude to glance at her phone right now.


It takes a few more minutes, but he comes with a twist of his hips, his back arched and his eyes closed as he groans, low and breathy. She’s not close enough to get off before one or both of them gets bored but she does a pretty convincing job of faking it, grinding down onto him as she clenches and unclenches her pussy around his cock. He moans a little and stays inside of her, flopped back against the mattress with his eyes closed and his mouth open, his hands curled to fists on either side of his head. It feels presumptuous just to lean down and kiss him, but she does it anyway and he kisses back, his hands in her hair, twisting hard and holding her to him.


“You’re fucking amazing, Pete,” he whispers whilst she wonders if it’s impolite to slide off him yet. She hates that nickname anyway, not that he knows that because, of course, she’s never told him. But still, she’s pretty sure that despite the band and the obnoxious ability to drink most of them under the table, she is still actually female. Technically, at least. He slips out of her, condom already wrinkled against his softening cock. The whole thing seems so much less appealing in the aftermath. “Hey, where are you going?”


He slides an arm around her as she moves to grab her bra, his lips brushed to her shoulder, warm and sweet. Is this how it feels to sort of matter to someone or is he just fuck-drunk and looking for another round? A stolen glance at her phone tells her she won’t have time to shower, that the smell of sex will mingle with the sweat of the stage, that the dust kicked up by the crowds will stick to her skin until everything burns a little.  


“I have to get to the stage,” she smiles, big and bright, all teeth and shining eyes. “Are you coming to watch?”


“Yeah,” he nods, shuffling around as he pulls off the condom. He’s still mostly dressed and she can’t find her panties. “Of course.”


Mikey, in a lot of ways, splits himself between being like James and being like Patrick. He’s tall, slim, looks good in tight jeans and tighter shirts just like James. He wears glasses just like Patrick, is sort of quiet and nerdy just like Patrick. But he emphatically isn’t Patrick and he definitely isn’t James. Maybe that’s why she’s fucking him, why they’re the worst kept secret on Warped Tour when they sneak off together in a twilight, post show haze that paints her just a little more reckless than she would usually be.


(He doesn’t make her come like Patrick does, but he can usually get her off and that’s enough to take the edge off.)


She dresses fast and rushes to the bus, just enough time to play dress up in too much smokey eye makeup layered over the sweat and the memory of the pressure of Mikey’s hands against her skin. She can’t find her deodorant so sprays on some of Patrick’s and hopes it goes some way to covering up the smell of sex she’s sure she can see hazed over her body. She takes a moment to consider her reflection. On balance she decides she looks mostly fine.


For a disorienting minute or two, she can’t place herself in the venue. Is the stage left or right? Did she walk past catering already? Everything feels loose and unhinged and she can feel her temperature rising under the beat of the sun, sweat clouding everything and she’s not sure she can breathe…


“Peep!” her head jerks up at the sound of Patrick’s voice. “You’re late.”


He’s pretending not to scowl, his chin buried in the bandana knotted around his neck. He should look fucking ridiculous — objectively, she supposes he absolutely does — but her stomach still knots as she changes course and heads for them. Cassie is with him, wide-eyed in that way she always is when he invites her along, but those pretty blue eyes narrow when she sees Petra, her hand sliding possessively into Patrick’s back pocket. Petra isn’t sure if it’s jealousy or irritation that’s going to win out as she slips her bass over her head and shoves her radio pack into her jeans. She bites her lip until she’s sure she’ll taste copper, that her teeth will sink straight through, anything has to be better than looking Cassie in the eye and declaring I’m fucking your boyfriend like she wants to.


She’s almost sure it can’t be worth it.


They look good together, she reminds herself, all that blonde hair and blue eyes and smooth, pale skin. A perfect match, a physical embodiment of MFEO.


He kisses her, obnoxious and loud, the wet noise of it uncomfortably close to Petra’s ear as she shifts away. She catches Joe’s eye and grins as he grimaces and mimes a gag, mouths fucking gross, right and waits for their cue. It’s easier not to care when she can still feel the pressure of Mikey’s boney hips on the inside of her thighs.


Everything seems to flow better once she’s on stage, the missing pieces of her puzzle picked up amongst the cables coiled on the ground. She finds gravity in the way she can see the crowd sing along with Patrick and scream along with her as though the words she’s written resonate. Fuck what the critics say, if she wants to scream until her throat bleeds, if it gives her a moment when everything else falls to a crushing silence, she’ll take what she can get.


Unlike the pills — which only leave her numb — it leaves her soaring, tacks like oxygen onto her blood to pound through her system.  


Mikey doesn’t show, the side of the stage crowded with the ever-increasing number of people that have heard about them, that have heard the new album and want a little taste of it, but he’s not one of them. She catches Cassie’s eye without meaning to, the glare she receives is undiluted venom, warning humming between them like shots fired overhead. Petra waits for the bullets to land, to thud to the ground around her as Cassie mouths something that looks remarkably like whore.


But this is the thing; Petra is not a fucking whore. She’s been called many things during her time on the music scene and the time that came before it, insane, talentless, pointless, window dressing but nothing hurts as much as the word whore. A single syllable designed to reduce her to nothing more than a warm, wet hole to fuck. It’s whispered on message boards — the ones she can’t control — the list of people she’s supposedly fucked to get where she is. No one accuses Patrick of fucking his way to frontman, no one talks about the mouths wrapped around Joe’s cock in the back of the bus. Fury glows in her chest, an ember fanned to a flame and raised to an inferno.


Petra is the only reason Cassie still has him, the sole reason she didn’t receive a graceless text in the darkness a year ago. The lack of gratitude is pretty fucking wearing. They’re halfway through Dance Dance, the song she wrote for him and he underscored with the rhythm of his hips. It seems fitting and so, as the song winds on around her, Petra makes yet a another poor life choice.


She maintains eye contact with Cassie even as leans across her bass and presses a kiss to Patrick’s throat, mouthing at his skin as he sings.


He tastes of sweat; salt-bright and sharp on her lips. He’s hot enough to burn as he locks tense, shooting frantic glances from the corner of his eye that bounce between her and Cassie, his voice cracking in surprise. She adds a lick, slides her tongue against his skin and feels the caged-bird-frantic flutter of his pulse as Cassie’s scowl darkens in the split second before she pushes back, through the crowd and to God knows where.


The glow of victory lasts exactly as long as it takes for common sense to crowd back in. She just kissed him — fucking licked his neck — right out here in front of several thousand people. His eyes are impossibly wide as he stares at her, his throat working frantically as he swallows, face flushed as he knocks the peak of his cap down over his eyes and concentrates intently on his guitar.


If there were already sparks of rumours, she’s just thrown down the gasoline and lit a match.


She can pretend it’s all okay for exactly as long as it takes to finish the set, for the crowd to grab onto her as she hurls herself into the pit. For a few moments, she’s weightless, floating above them as though nothing matters anymore. By the time she’s hauled out, security grasping knuckles into the spikes of her pyramid  belt, by the time she’s lifted back onto solid ground, a kiss blown to the crowd from the stage, Patrick has already made his way backstage.


She swears to herself that she won’t feel guilty. She isn’t the one that sets his fatally flawed moral compass, she isn’t the reason he’s made the decisions that he’s made, why he’s done the things he’s done and will no doubt continue to do. Petra is merely the outlet, the vessel into which his bad decisions run and she will not be held accountable.


“The bus,” Patrick snarls from the corner of his mouth, shoulders squared as he appears from the crowd and tosses his guitar to the side. “Now.”


“We’re supposed to go to the signing tent,” she says with vague disinterest barely disguising the irritation that hums in her veins. She is not a kid to be summoned for a scolding. “I don’t think we’ve got time — ”


“If you’ve got time to fuck Mikey,” Patrick turns on her suddenly, alight with fury and something else, something that sets its sails like jealousy, fluttering bright in his eyes, “then you’ve got time for this. Bus. Now.”


They walk side by side but not touching, the same as they’ve always done, the same reason she shakes her head with a smile every time a photographer tries to coerce something more intimate from them. We’re not that kind of band, delivered with a smile and they change their minds, find her some other pose to strike that doesn’t involve draping herself over the guys like an accessory. But if she stretches her hand a couple of inches, their knuckles might brush and, hypothetically at least, that might feel nice.


At the bus, he stays calm as he keys in the code, as he climbs the steps and walks to the tiny lounge and waits for her to follow. Once the door swishes closed behind her, once she joins him on the opposite side of the table, he promptly throws his fist through the nearest panel. She blinks at the hole, ragged edged and imperfect, a scar on the wall that speaks of bad decisions and poor impulse control.


Hers or his?


Does it matter?


“What did you think you were doing?” he asks, icily calm as he nurses his bruise-bloomed knuckles against his chest. She shrugs and tries not to smile; he’s hilarious when he’s angry. “Oh, I get it, you’re not going to answer? Of course not. You’re Petra fucking Wentz.”


He rubs at the skin of his neck like she’s left an itch, as though she’s tainted him with her touch and branded him unclean. There’s a sticky, unpleasant taste at the back of her throat, words tangled there like thorns that threaten to choke her. She spits them out, lets them land on the table between them.


“Oh, come off it, Patrick, I barely fucking touched you,” she snaps. His scowl deepens. “It was just a stupid kiss, it’s not like I dragged your pants down and fucking blew you in front of everyone.”


She leaves it unsaid that she keeps those moments for when they’re alone.


“No, you’re too busy doing that to Mikey fucking Way,” he snarls around gritted teeth. “You think no one knows what’s going on? You think people aren’t starting to talk?”


“I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks,” she points out, internally congratulating herself on keeping her voice level. “If you have a problem with it — ”


“I don’t have a problem with who you fuck,” he stutters, hat snatched off and tossed across the room. A hole in the wall, then throwing his hat, what next? Maybe he’ll call his mom and tell her he didn’t eat any vegetables with his lunch. “Go right ahead, get whatever reputation you want.”


“You’re jealous,” she accuses him, viciously pleased when a flush creeps up his neck, cresting across his cheekbones as he ducks his head, avoiding her eyes in favour of examining his fingernails. “So, let me say it out loud, just so you can hear how fucking pathetic you sound; I can suck your cock when your girlfriend isn’t around, but if I suck someone else’s, I’m a whore?”


“I never called you a whore,” he mutters at the table top.


“And you never said you weren’t jealous,” she points out with a shrug, the injustice of it all bubbling through her veins until she could claw them open, let it flow black and bitter to stain them both. “Go ahead, say it.”


Patrick smiles, small-tight-bitter, fingers laced against cheap formica. Petra waits, breath held and pulse throbbing, for him to speak, to say something — anything at all — to break the silence. Instead, he climbs to his feet, fumbles for his hat and heads for the front of the bus.


Patrick, it turns out, can convey a lot without saying a word.




Patrick fucks Cassie hard that night in the bunk above Petra’s.


She throws the shitty desk fan provided to replace the busted air conditioning from one end of the bus to the other.


She calls it serendipity that no one gets hurt and spends the rest of the night with her notebook, phone propped between her chin and shoulder, the blue-buzz glow if it illuminating her scrawl.




She finds herself alone on the bus the following day, legs crossed beneath her as she flips through potential designs for her dress for the upcoming Video Music Awards. She’s close to settled on something in white, a punked up parody of a knee-length prom dress scattered with the same design that rests beneath her navel. She’ll wear it with black converse, she decides, make the guys wear black and white alongside her. She’ll style her hair and do something pretty with her eye makeup. Maybe she’ll wear her hair up. They don’t stand a chance of winning so they might as well stand out on the red carpet because — as she knows — there’s no such thing as bad publicity.


She sends an email to the designer, approves the designs with a flourish of the keys then slumps back onto the couch and wonders idly if Mikey is free.


A prickle shivers the hairs at the back of her neck, the off-centre sense of a pair of eyes on her as she turns, jumping with a gasp when someone is all too close behind her, lurking in the galley of the bus.


“Cassie?” she calls.


Halfway down the bus, Cassie freezes for a moment, shoulders stiff with unspoken rage. Petra’s not sure if she’s angry she got caught creeping, annoyed she’s been interrupted or simply buzzing with an entirely well-placed hatred for Petra herself. Cassie doesn’t speak.


“Are you looking for Patrick?” she asks, trying to be helpful even though it sets her teeth on edge. She wants to swing her arms wide and declare that he’s not there, that she has no idea where he is, to demand the praise for avoiding a temptation Cassie has no idea she’s battling with. Instead she bites her lip for a moment then continues softly. “Maybe he’s out by catering? Want me to help you look?”


Cassie moves forward, her features no longer contorted by shadows as she steps into the lounge. Her pretty face is twisted, knotted with something dark and unyielding caught in her smile as she leans casually against the wall.


“You don’t like me,” Cassie states.


It’s true, Petra really doesn’t like her.


“I don’t know you,” she answers instead, carefully balanced as she adjusts the way her beanie sits against her hair. Cassie is every girl she hated in high school; polished and pretty and aware of what they wanted.


“You’re fucking Mikey Way.” It isn’t a question, it doesn’t require an answer. Petra, however, is incapable of demonstrating restraint.


“Right now?” she goads instead, eyebrows raised innocently as she looks from side to side with exaggerated slowness. “I mean — I don’t see him here? Do you?”


Cassie laughs, an ugly little noise that Petra echoes, loads it with sarcasm as she drums her nails against the tabletop. This is a dangerous conversation, there’s too much catching on the edges of their syllables, too many unsaid words designed to hurt. But apparently Cassie has cast herself as Bette Davis in this particular picture and moves closer, looms over her and Petra decides she won’t give her the satisfaction of moving. She stays seated, keeps her legs crossed and runs her thumb lightly along the edge of the laptop.


“Cute,” Cassie snarls in a way that suggests she thinks Petra is anything but. “You know, Patrick told me all about you,” Petra won’t react, she won’t, just bites the inside of her cheek until she tastes blood, copper-salt-sharp on her tongue, “he told me the guys on tour had a bet on how many would be able to fuck you.”


It’s a cheap shot, designed to hurt, delivered by someone barely out of high school. Petra knows it’s bullshit, she’s not as ridiculously stupid as all of her critics would like to believe. She breathes deep, in through her nose, out through her mouth and tastes the chemical sweetness of Cassie’s Hot Topic perfume at the back of her tongue.


“Did he? That’s nice,” she examines her nails and wonders if he defends her, in the inevitable arguments that the two of them must have had concerning her, does he fight for her or agree? Besides, she doubts very much that Patrick has told Cassie all about her. Has he told her the way Petra feels around his tongue? The way she looks as she rides him? “You know, I’m sort of busy right now, but it’s been fun — ”


“Stay away from him,” Cassie interrupts her, still smiling, still blazingly insincere. “Just — accept that he’s not interested and stop making yourself look like a desperate whore.”


With that she spins on the heel of her pretty little pink converse, her dress swirling around her thighs as she trips her way delicately down the galley and off the bus. That word again. Petra grits her teeth and counts backwards from thirty — ten won’t be enough — until she’s sure she isn’t about to give chase and make a fool of herself in front of everyone.


Petra sucks Patrick’s cock that night behind the bus while Cassie calls her mom from the bunks. She sinks her nails into his hips and urges him to fuck his way down her throat, his hands fisted into her hair until he fills her mouth with the taste of him.


Revenge has never tasted quite so sweet.




They win the VMA and Patrick crushes her to him. Every ounce of self control she has is gathered, stored and redirected to stop her from pressing her mouth to his right there in front of the cameras.


At the after party, she can’t find him, searching the crowds for his fedora. Someone tells her he left already, swept away in a black car and for a moment or two she thinks about following him. Then Mikey sidles over, full of congratulations and shy smiles and she forgets all about Patrick in the press of a champagne flute to her hand.


It takes him three days to admit to her that the first text he received after the award was from Cassie telling him it was over.


Chapter Text

Petra tries hard to keep the press happy.


She smiles at all of the right times, she wears the right clothes (as though that were actually possible — she’s either a slut with her tits on display or a dyke in an old flannel of Patrick’s as though not being into guys is some kind of insult). She makes sure that she appears in the right places at the right times. She — mostly — keeps her relationship with James off MySpace and in Chicago. In amongst it all, somehow, Petra seems to have forgotten exactly how to make herself happy. All this means is that, apparently, no one is happy.


She isn’t sure this is what she wanted and tells Patrick so as they lie in bed at his place. He smells of own brand shower gel and whispered promises in the back of a beaten up van as he strokes her hair in the darkness.


“I was just thinking,” she begins, in that way she has that she knows makes his eyes roll. “And what if…”


“And what if,” he repeats. Somehow when he says it, it doesn’t sound like a question and she wonders if she’ll ever reach a point where she doesn’t need the answers to everything laid out in front of her. “What if, what if, what if.”


Patrick always knows exactly the right thing to say to her.


“You should get a new bassist,” she sighs, rolling away to face the wall. “Maybe one that can actually play bass.”


He laughs softly as he shifts after her, his thumb tracing gently over the ink and scar tissue at the small of her back. At least she can congratulate the Petra “Class of ‘94” edition for resisting the temptation to scar herself up with the suggestion of butterfly wings to flutter above the waist of her jeans.


“No way,” he says against her shoulder, lips shifting softly. “You’re not running out on us,” he doesn’t say if he means us: band or us: Petra-and-Patrick, “Did you take your meds?”


“You’re not my babysitter,” she snaps, irritated that he acts as though there’ll never been enough secondsminuteshoursdays between them and a Best Buy parking lot, a ghost of the now that could have been lurking over them like city smog. “Or my mom.”


“I know.” He strokes her hair and presses a kiss to her cheek. “Just asking.”


“Well don’t.”


They fall silent and it aches through her.


This seems to be what they are now. An unspoken secret, a hushed murmur of something that she can’t quite pronounce. It tickles the tip of her tongue now and again; the times when he looks at her like he wants to declare her to the world. In those moments, she gets a sense of what it might be like to be with someone who’s proud of her. She’s quick to shut him down, to cut him off, to fill the screaming accusations of inadequacy with dead space and silence. His breathing is soft in her ear, slow and low as he lies a carefully mapped distance away, precise in his quest to ensure that no part of their bodies touch.


“You act like you’re the only one with insecurities,” he whispers hours later, long after she thought he’d fallen asleep. She reaches back and touches his cheek in lieu of an answer, fingertips soft against the scritch-scritch-scritch of his stubble. “I have to deal with the fact that my girlfriend is a solid ten and I’m barely scraping a four.”


“Oh?” she smiles at the patterns carved by the fluorescent glow of the streetlight through the askew line of his bedroom blinds, “Girlfriend, hmm? Is she someone I know?”


She feels the curve of his grin against her throat as he presses close to her back, his arm slung over her waist in casual possession. She leans back into him and closes her eyes and tries to imagine a Petra that could do this without fucking up.


The thing about Patrick — a superficially interesting little factoid, the kind of thing printed in magazine articles — is that he’s an incredibly heavy sleeper. He can sleep anywhere, through anything, hell, she’s seen him sleep standing up, draped over an amp and has the photograph as proof.


That means it’s easy to slip out from under his arm when his breathing steadies, to pull on her jeans and his hoodie and steal from his house while the city’s hum ticks on like radio static. She doesn’t leave a note — although she thinks about it — because what could she say? I’m sorry, my particular brand of crazy flips the fuck out when you treat me like a normal, rational human being? She drives to the lake and spends the rest of the night watching the sky shade from diamond scattered velvet to rose-tinged gold as she writes, notebook balanced on her knees. At just after six, her sidekick chirps from her pocket, accusation spelt out in pixels across a lock screen picture of her and Patrick, side by side in Central Park.


Fuck you.


He doesn’t bring it up next time she sees him. Neither does she.


She almost wishes he would.




“You should let me take you out for dinner,” Gabe leans against the wall, lean legs, dark eyes, dangerous grin. “Seriously.”


A catchy cover of Hollaback Girl has him standing in her office, tight jeans, taut muscle (acres of it, God he’s so fucking tall — Petra is used to standing a couple inches over Patrick, what would kissing Gabe feel like?) and arms folded as he doesn’t even attempt to hide the fact he’s checking her out. From a feminist point of view, she should be pissed off. She’s not.


“You should quit hitting on your boss,” she points out with a laugh, like she doesn’t enjoy the attention. He’s all talk, but it’s smooth talk. “Besides, you couldn’t afford me.”


“You’re breaking my heart, Wentz,” he clutches it for effect. Gabe is a blaze of neon and poor taste, purple hood tossed up over his snapback. “But seriously,” he cocks his head and smiles, “I owe you.”


(Objectively, Petra knows he’s cute. She also knows he’s charming and that he’s hit on the receptionist, two session musicians and a sound tech since he arrived at the office two hours ago. Objectively, Petra is aware that this doesn’t make the doe-eyed glance from under his cap quite as special as he’d like her to believe. Subjectively, he’s exactly her type and she’s almost entirely sure she can stop this from crashing and burning.)


“Damn right you do,” she says hiding her grin in the wrap of the scarf around her neck. “You can pay me in units.”


“I can pay you in Taco Bell. If we go platinum, I’ll make it an Arby’s,” he counters, leaning a little closer, close enough that she can smell peppermint gum and truly horrible decisions. He has beautiful eyes. “Come on. What if we took a stand for love, right here, Petra Wentz.”


“I have a boyfriend, jackass.” She doesn’t. Off-and-on, on-and-off, on an off and she’s not sure she wants to switch it around anymore. Maybe she’s done with crazy and just needs charming. “You waited too long.”


“You fucking wound me,” Gabe says, all puppy dog eyes and dangerous grin. “Girl, I’ve been hitting on you since the nineties.”


“Yeah but you were just a creepy guy in a shitty band back then,” she pauses a perfect beat before raising an eyebrow. “I guess nothing’s really changed.”


Petra’s crazy comes and goes, pulled and pushed like the tide under an ever present moon. Cyclic, but without the predictability, she thinks of it more as an ever-decreasing helix. Once upon a time, the manic sides were far apart, spaced with another gentle twist on the loop down through normal. But they’re speeding up as she plummets and she’s terrified of what’s waiting at the vortex.


But today is a good day. Right now, she’s functioning with the meds buzzing soft through her system and flattening out the hard lines and angles. Gabe is smiling and Gabe is cute and Gabe doesn’t know the extent of just how fucked up Petra can be. Gabe doesn’t know about Best Buy but then, no one outside of the band and a slack handful of executives know. God knows the label worked hard to keep it out of the press, assuring her that the last thing the band needed was whispered gossip about her being “hysterical” or “attention-seeking” or, and this was her favourite, just “premenstrual.”


To Gabe, she’s a blank canvas, she’s fresh blues and candy pinks. She’d like to keep that, at least for a while.


Her sidekick buzzes on the desk — Patrick — she flips it face down and pretends she doesn’t notice the fact that Gabe notices.


“Do you have a band yet?” she asks, chewing on the cap of her pen. “It’s kind of central to what you’re asking me to do here, you know?”


She won’t fuck him. Too messy. But it’s nice to distract herself, however briefly.


“Working on it,” he assures her, with a blinding grin. “Trust me.”


She sort of does.




The doctor changes her meds when she complains they make her feel numb.


She doesn’t notice much difference with the new ones, besides the compulsion to swallow down double the dose each time.




She’s tripped past buzzed and into drunk when she gets the text from James. Words designed to woo, to lower her defences and stop her from barking back with a perfectly reasonable query as to why he’s getting in touch after three months of radio silence.


In truth, she’s lonely. Patrick hasn’t been around as much, retreating into himself since the night she snuck out of his bed like some shady teenager avoiding their parents, and she can’t say she blames him. But it means it’s hard to resist when James says he’ll call her, easy to answer and fall back into familiar rhythms with a familiar voice and the memories of a familiar cock. She’s kicked off her jeans but not her hoodie, hand down her panties as he whispers encouragement down the line and she’s so — fucking — close. She stops, breath sucked sharp through her lips until her teeth are chilled with it.


“You want to see?” she asks, sugar sweet and teasing as his breath catches down the line.


“You mean…” he trails off, leaves it unsaid as she struggles to her feet and to the bathroom, sidekick still clutched in her hand.


The mirror tells her she looks good. MySpace ready in her grey hoodie and plain white panties. Everything pale next to the gold of her skin, the jet of her hair and the kohl-smudged, pink-framed glow of her eyes. The Morrissey poster on the wall behind her makes her grin, slashed wide and silly as she flicks to the camera.


A selfie first. Just her face, framed and caught as she pouts a little for the camera, for James. He’s on speaker, purring noises that sound like he’s still touching himself. The shutter sound is impossibly loud, ricocheting off the walls. Bad decisions, terrible choices, Petra is carved from them.


She eases down the zipper of her hoodie, holds the phone close so James can hear it. He groans something that barely makes sense as she pulls the plackets back, hood still up but tits exposed. She glances in the mirror — fuck what anyone says, she’s got a great rack, caught and framed between the thorns around her neck and the skull below her navel. Her nipples are dark, peaked stiff and interested as she holds out the phone and — click — snaps another picture.


He’s breathing fast and loud; hot, wet breaths that would dew against her throat if she invited him over. She won’t. Instead, she hooks her thumb into the waistband of her panties and eases it down over her hip. Nothing is on display beyond more smooth, taut skin, not yet, but there’s a promise there as she holds out the phone and, with an electronic whir of shutter sound, she immortalises this moment.


“You want one more?” she murmurs, back on her bed and panties kicked aside.


“Fuck, yeah,” he groans. It sounds like he’s biting his lip. Fuck, it’s insane how much control her femininity grants her. She can barely believe she’s ever shied away from it, that she could ever have thought that this level of power over the men that want her was anything but a loaded gun in her hand. She is the one in control. She is the one with the thing he craves.


She presses two fingers into her cunt and reaches down with the phone, legs spread, the flash illuminating the room for a disorienting second. Her tattoo is there, the flourish of a signature against her personal canvas as she hits send. Then, she closes her eyes and lets her orgasm paint the world white.


Once James has hung up, lust-drunk and sweet, she glances through the pictures, finger hovering impulsively over the delete key. She highlights them, calls up a message and scrolls through her phonebook. T is for Trick. She hits send. One picture at a time.


He calls her ten minutes later, his picture painting the screen whilst Life on Mars shivers on shuddering sound waves from the phone. She doesn’t pick up. He follows it with a text two minutes later — I miss you.


Ten minutes later, another pings through — what the fuck are you doing to me?


A half hour after that and he’s at her door, questing hands and searching lips. He tries to fuck her against the wall and it’s almost-sort-of successful, her legs around his waist as he thrusts into her, deep and desperate. Then there’s a stagger, a spill of messy limbs like skittering on ice and they’re falling, falling, falling…


They land and laugh and don’t stop.


They don’t stop.


They don’t stop as they stagger up the staircase for the bedroom, pausing on the fifth step as he pushes her back and thrusts into her once, twice, three times. They don’t stop as they crawl along the upstairs hallway, rug burn glowing ember bright on palms and knees and the top of her feet, his cock in her mouth as he groans with each thrust. They don’t stop as he shoves her back onto the bed and licks into her pussy, wet messy hot, tongue dragging sweet over the swollen sensitivity of her clit.


Petra is reminded in moments like this, in the split second before she comes, that she’s nothing but animal instincts dressed up as something more. He fucks her hard and rough and fast, on his knees between her legs, drenched in sweat and a blazing grin. He smiles like sunlight, dawn-glow and beautiful until he comes inside of her with a moan like something musical.


She falls asleep on top of him, literally draped over him, thighs either side of his hips and lips tucked to the throb of his pulse in his throat.


He tastes of home.




“Fuck, I’ve missed you.”


It’s the first thing she hears the next morning, warm skin, warm breath, hands soft in the small of her back. For a moment, she doesn’t know where she is, barely knows who she is, because someone like her doesn’t get to wake up — makeup smeared like scars across her face, hair a tangled mess and morning breath — and have someone look at her the way Patrick currently is. She feels like sunrise, like the breath of air before flight, like silvered moonlight on darkened lakes.


He makes her feel beautiful.


They stay where they are, spring sunlight filtering through half-closed curtains to dapple their skin golden. She could stay here, she decides, just stay forever under the warmth of his mouth and the touch of his hands on her skin, her fingers pushing through the coarse rub of coppered hair on his chest. He kisses her mouth, her neck, maps the way her ears curve with the soft swell of his lips as he tugs gently on her nipples. He refuses to give her more, twists his hips away from her as he taunts her with his mouth until her lips are swollen and slick under his, flushed raw with blood and bitten with teasing teeth.


Then he starts on her tattoos.


Each line, each swirl of ink is explored like he’s never noticed it before. His lips, his tongue, trace each mark, teeth grazing her collarbone, bruises shaped like his mouth burnt deep into her skin. She’ll get them tattooed, she swears she will, the heat of his touch branded to her forever. Or maybe she’ll just never let them fade, have him bite them to her again and again each time the purple gives way to brown.


“I’ve missed you too,” she gasps insensibly, because it must be an hour since he said it, a rotation of the minute hand of her watch on the nightstand lost to acquaintance, cocooned in cotton sheets.


They spend the morning just pillow forts and playful, wrapped in half-forgotten memories of closeness and one another’s t-shirts. Not strictly true, she steals his; he grumbles and lets it go. Suddenly, life tastes like cookie dough and feels like rainy day movie marathons and she starts to relax, starts to feel at home.


“We could do this,” he whispers into her ear as they watch Batman, her back to his chest. She pushes a couple of dry Froot Loops into his mouth over her shoulder. She doesn’t have popcorn, doesn’t have much, they’re improvising. “I just need to you tell me it’s what you want.”


She hesitates.


She hates herself for it, but she does.


It’s barely a minute as she gathers her thoughts, as she collects them back from shattered glass to a taped up caricature of what they were before. But it’s still whole, jagged edged and imperfect but real. She bites her lip and closes her eyes, prepares to freefall and hopes to God that Patrick can catch her as she twists her lips to frame her response, breath sucked into waiting lungs as she moves to face him.


He’s smiling, soft and hopeful, shy behind his glasses. He ruffles his bangs a little like he can hide behind them as he takes her hand and squeezes softly. Flushed pink like sunset, the rainbow dust of sugared cereal flecking his lips and scratching between their fingers as she reaches up to touch his cheek.


On the nightstand, her sidekick bursts into life like a detonation.


“Ignore it,” he begs. “It — whoever it is can wait. They don’t matter.”


The caller ID reads Bob McLynn and the handset is at her ear before Patrick can stop her.


“We have a serious fucking situation,” Bob informs her. “Do you want to tell me what the fuck you were thinking?”


Petra has to admit that she honestly has no idea. But there’s a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach as half-snatched sentences and run-together words smear through her like a chemical burn. Patrick is pale and concerned, brow furrowed as he mouths questions at her that she can’t answer. Bob keeps talking, throwing out words like damage limitation and fake a leak that barely make sense around the ringing in her ears. Somehow, the best moment of Petra’s adult life has somersaulted over itself to become the very worst in the stretch of a two-minute telephone conversation.


“I need to speak to some people,” Bob snaps. “I’ll call you back.”


He doesn’t say goodbye as he rings off, the line dead as she stares at Patrick with shock-wide eyes and a heart that’s trying to kick its way through her ribs.


“Peep?” he begins softly, hands framing her face as he pulls the phone from her hand and places it down on the mattress. “What the fuck is going on?”


She scrabbles for her phone once more, ignoring him as he fires questions at her. It’s masochistic and it tears at something deep within her chest but she needs to see. She needs to know that it’s real and not just whispered rumours and half-truths.


One website. Two, three, four, dozens, hundreds. Maybe more. Snappy headlines and modesty granted with pixels but it’s her pout, her eyeliner, her pale grey hoodie and her white cotton panties.


Four pictures.


Four moments of weakened loneliness when she just wanted to feel like everyone else. Stupid. She tosses the phone to the side before she can find the other sites, the ones that won’t have feigned modesty with careful cropping and slapped over emoticons. The ones that will show her on display.


Patrick reaches for the phone, cautious and careful, a hand on her arm as he flips through the browser windows and drains to grey. There’s something like cold, hard fury in his eyes, something like hurt in the set of his plump lips. He takes a deep breath and looks up, looks past her, looks at the door as he whispers.


“How did those get out?”


She doesn’t answer, knees drawn to her chest. How can she say it out loud? How can she find the words to frame the thought that anyone in the world could log on to their computer right now and see her bare and wanting? Petra is safe in denial, in the moments before the truth. Petra is an idiot.


Petra is a whore.


“I said — ”


“I heard what you fucking said,” she hisses, because she remembers hearing somewhere that attack is the best form of defence. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s all she’s got so she throws her weight behind it and turns on him. “You’re not my fucking boyfriend, you don’t get to sit there and make out like you’re disappointed in me.”


He reels back like she’s punched him square in the stomach. He’s almost winded, breathing hard and sharp, glassy-eyed like he’ll break if he blinks. She did that. She did that.  If this is a position of power, she’s not sure she wants it.


“Who else?” he asks, already reaching for his jeans. She doesn’t answer, just stares at the wall and tries not to think about what everyone will say about her. She’s worked so hard to make sure she doesn’t become a pair of tits placed artfully above a bass guitar. Fuck James. “I said who the fuck else did you send them to? Because I sure as shit didn’t send them to TMZ and I don’t think you’re that fucking stupid. So, who was it?”


Socks, shoes, he doesn’t ask for his shirt back, just throws on his hoodie and zips it up tight. How bad would the reaction be if he’d done it? If it was his cock all over the gossip sites? They’d laugh, sure, but would they call him a slut? Would they make him less than for daring to display any sense of sexuality? She doubts it and she hates him for it, even though she knows that isn’t fair.


“James,” she spits it like a curse and he flinches once again. “Last night, before I fucked you. I called him, I fingered myself, and I sent him the pictures. They were for him.”


Patrick doesn’t speak for the longest time, hands loose at his sides as he stares at her, head cocked. It’s like he doesn’t recognise her, the morning snatched and torn and shredded away from them as he shakes his head slowly.


“I’m done, Petra,” he mutters, already heading for the door. “I’m just — I’m fucking done.”




xXGabeyBabyXx: Saw ur n00dz P. Look I thnk I spk 4 evry dude in th scn ryt  nw wen I say… wens tht hoodie gng on sale? x


Peepy-Wentz: That rly ALL u hav 2 say bout it? x


xXGabeyBabyXx: Hurt :( u knw im a gntlmn x


Peepy-Wentz: Orly?


xXGabeyBabyXx: Yarly…


Peepy-Wentz: … :o/


xXGabeyBabyXx:  I brly evn ntcd th tits


Peepy-Wentz: Fuck off Gabe


xXGabeyBabyXx:  I stll gt a hoodie ryt?


xXGabeyBabyXx:  RYT????


xXGabeyBabyXx:  P???


xXGabeyBabyXx:  Ur no fn




The pictures quickly become some of the most searched for celebrity nudes on the internet. Crush and Island manage to control the damage, to fake a line about hacked sidekicks and personal data breaches.


She sees some kid bring a copy to a meet and greet, sly smirk and sparkling eyes.


She sees Patrick snatch it away without a word, balling it up and tossing it into the trash before Charlie marches the kid out of line. Patrick doesn’t look at her afterwards. Patrick hasn’t looked at her in weeks.


She smiles at the girl in front of her and loops her signature across a copy of From Under the Cork Tree.


“I love you so much,” the girl informs her in a whisper, hot flushed cheeks and sharpie scrawled fingernails plucking at the pocket of her Clandestine hoodie. “Like, the band is great but you — my brother said girls in bands are pointless but… I started playing bass. You’re like, my hero or something, I guess. I don’t know. It’s dumb. But thank you.”


“You’re welcome,” she grins, although she wants to scream thank you until her lungs ache. “Hit me up when you’ve got a band together.”


The kid spins away as if she’s flying.


It almost makes up for the folder of screenshots she keeps on her laptop, message board threads that remind her, inelegant and ineloquent, that Petra Wentz is a fucking slut.


Chapter Text

Petra hangs somewhere in a void of not knowing and she’s halfway to being okay with that. She moves out to LA — mostly because it makes sense to give Decaydance a base someplace that feels influential — but she doesn’t expect Patrick to follow her. Patrick is full of surprises however, from that first burst of a half-trained voice that Petra saw plated with gold to a condo in Hollywood.

Her place is cosy and old fashioned, slightly out of step with the glamour around it.

He crams his with colour and framed album cover art, kitsch and exciting and bursting with vibrancy.

Is there a metaphor there? She’s not sure anymore. The important thing is that they’ve secured a band aid over the severed limb of their relationship. They’ve covered the cracks and she’s willing to cover her eyes and pretend they’re not lurking if he is. If she feels strangely empty when she looks at him, then she reminds herself that he left Chicago for her. That has to mean something.

Petra is learning. Petra has learnt that there’s little use in chasing the maybes and metaphors that dance demented around the dark edges.

“How did it feel?” Another question posed by another journalist with the same faux sympathy conjured from the make believe narrative where they’re the first ones to ask, serious faces and carefully raised eyebrows. “When the pictures were leaked?”

She has a stock set of answers, emailed to her by someone at Crush, varied depending on the tone of the interview but always apologetic, always rueful, always ashamed. At least that’s something she doesn’t have to fake.

Gabe lingers on the periphery of a life made murky by surrealism, like the distorted reflection in an antique mirror or looking through smoke, it’s hard to make out the details. Is that the fame or the pills? Sometimes, she thinks she never grew up properly, but then Patrick will make a comment about never going to college, about never going to shitty bars and watching shitty shows and she figures it wasn’t for lack of opportunity on her part. It’s just another facet of her that seems fundamentally broken.

Gabe texts her, James texts her, both a step removed from the realities of recording studios and tour buses that smell of old gym socks and day-old sweat. In this halfway house between life and stage they hang intangible and unrealistic, a comfort blanket of the life that could have been and what might yet be to come. James is poetic, half-mad and insincere, a LiveJournal post of pretty declarations mixed with melancholy. Gabe is innuendo and sparkle, shining like diamonds in dirt with a thin veneer of tacky neon and the taste of bubblemint gum. She writes endlessly, an album, two albums of poetic inscriptions that she swears is for both of them, impossible to unpick the highs from the lows.

She knows she shouldn’t forgive James for what he did but Petra is weak and James knows her tender, bruised places. The ones she hides behind smiles that stretch chemical-wide on wound-slashed lips, tucked away in secret places that only her notebook gets to see, underscored by the soft scratch-scratch-scratch of rollerball on paper.

Petra watches the guys together, the way they relax around one another, the way they high five when one of them picks up a girl. She feels sick every time it’s Patrick, each time he smiles and blushes and leads someone away into the dark. It’s like her stomach fills with knives that slash and tear at her from the inside until she’s bleeding into the ink that rolls from the nib of the pen across the paper. More words, more pretty lines and declarations that she’ll hand to Patrick and let him decipher. She told him once that he’s the only one that’s ever helped her to make sense. Like her rosetta stone, he’s the only one with the algorithm to unlock her insanity and make it into something beautiful. Her translator.

Petra is learning. Petra has learnt that to depend on someone too closely is to push them away.

Trapped so close in the studio that she barely recognises where Patrick ends and music begins, it all seems to unfold and decompress. This is what they are, what they’ve become and, as they stand at the crossroads, the sink or swim of a third album, it feels significant that the four of them pull together. Too close, she thinks occasionally, the lack of space to breathe close to suffocating. She makes them her oxygen and lets herself soar.


Late summer finds them playing festivals across Europe. It feels too soon because, in her mind at least, they’re barely a band, just a brush of a hand from garage practices and summer nights sweating heat into the frets of her bass for an audience of annoyed neighbours and suburban preteens watching from sticky sidewalks. But, somehow, that isn’t right. Somehow, it’s been five years, half a decade of fights and friendship.

Patrick comes back around by degrees, frosty silences thawed by broken air conditioning on a tour bus that smells of too many bodies packed closely together. Touring with boys is touring with boys, be it the back of a van or a bus. It starts innocuously enough, just a smile across the table over unfamiliar cereal (she misses Cap’n Crunch, Froot Loops and Lucky Charms like other people miss their relatives), a candy bar picked up at a rest stop. It moves to nights on the couch in the back of the bus, sprawled together watching movies they’ve seen a dozen times or more.

“I’ve missed you,” Patrick murmurs into her hair as she leans, head on his shoulder and hand on his thigh. He smells the same as he did that morning in her bed, that same sharp tang of cheap shower gel and warm skin.

“I’ve missed you too,” she says like she’s taking confession, lips barely parted and eyes on the TV. “It’s not me that walked away.”

“I know.” He bites his lip and she’s close to hypnotised by the way it springs back, lush and full and deliciously pink. “I’m a dick and I’m sorry.”

“You’re forgiven,” she promises him as their mouths drift closer, caught in an orbit they can’t resist, magnetic as full moon tides. She can feel the flutter of hot, stuttered breath against her lips. “But you need to kiss me. Right the fuck now.”

He does, lips soft and hands in her hair, the taste of liquorice sticky-sweet on his tongue. She licks into his mouth like she can absorb him, straddling his hips as the freeway hums beneath them. It’s three in the morning and her insomnia must be infectious, her mania catching like wildfire at the feather-soft edges that make up Patrick. He shoves his sweats down his thighs as she kicks off hers.

His cock — flushed pink and curved up between them — brushes against her stomach, taut tip leaking sticky pearl that catches and glitters against the gold of her skin. He groans a curse like it’s his religion now, eyes closed and lips against her throat.

“Peep.” His hand is under her shirt, the dark peak of her nipple caught sharp between his forefinger and thumb. All heat — all sensation and each misfiring neuron — is suddenly rerouted and sparking like fireworks in a single pathway that jolts directly from his fingers to the slicked-wet ache of her pussy. “Fuck, Peep. You have no idea what you do to me…”

She has a pretty good idea.

He stops talking as she sinks down onto him, moans muffled in skin and sweat. Summer nights, cicadas and warm Dr Pepper, wide blue eyes blown black during post-dark curbside conversations.

Petra has learnt that things are easier with a couple of extra pills washed down each day. The fact that Patrick is pushing inside of her, looking at her like she’s the sum total of his universe and not scowling from under the peak of his cap, well, that just sort of proves it. Petra is okay when she’s medicated.

Petra is fine.

His thumb brushes over her clit, a fluttering tease of half-hummed wishes as he gasps his declarations to her sweat-sticky collar bone. He kisses lower, shoves her tank top up and purses the flushed pink rose of his pout around her nipple, sucking bright-sharp pain that blooms to wildfire sensation. She pulls his hair, feels it slide, silk-soft slippery, through her fingers as she twists down onto him harder, faster, more achingly desperate.

She comes with his name on her lips, buried into the curve of his lower lip and the imprint of her teeth to porcelain pale skin. She comes with her vision streaked technicolour — every colour —  nails sunk sharp into his shoulders. She comes and he falls apart with her, gasping, groaning and muttering half-sung melodies into the sticky-wet air that hangs between them.

She drifts for a while, nibbling kisses to his lips, stroking over his shoulders and following the run of his sweat, mapping routes she’ll trace with her mouth once they have a hotel room.

“We messed up the couch,” he observes, dreamy soft, eyes close to closed and head tipped back. His adam’s apple bobs lazily as he swallows.

“That’s Tomorrow Patrick’s problem,” she assures him.

She wants to ask if they’re okay now, if awkward silences can be exchanged for the brush of hands to warm skin. She wants to know if they can reclaim a day where it all seemed okay but he doesn’t offer and she can’t bring herself to enquire. Asking means he has to answer and she doesn’t want to force him into spitting truths she isn’t ready for.

“Your place or mine?” he asks awkwardly, lip bitten softly like his cock doesn’t smell of her.

“It’s cool,” she assures him, with a shrug that’s approximately ten percent as casual as she manages to make it look. “We’re not doing that.”

She has no idea what sparks in the depths of his eyes — hurt or relief? — but he covers it with a smile and a ruffle of her hair as he whispers his goodnight. They head to their own bunks but she doesn’t sleep, rest exchanged for watching his curtains and imagining the way his eyelids flutter as he dreams.

(Does he dream about her?)

In the morning they arrive at the next venue. In the morning, he smiles at her and argues with her over who gets the last Pop Tart. In the morning it’s the same as it was but he doesn’t talk about what it could be.

They roll through the day like distant planets, spinning in careful orbit like a waltz. She loses an hour to the scratch of her pen against paper. She’s writing an album that she says is for James but she knows — they know — it’s all for Patrick. They sound check, they eat, they go out on stage. He smiles like a security blanket as she talks between songs and she doesn’t know what it means. He touches the small of her back as she shrugs off her bass for Saturday and she thinks she might be beginning to understand.

He leaves with someone else — some girl from the after party who Petra doesn’t know other than to know she despises her — disappearing into the night with a wink from Joe.

Petra is learning. Petra has learnt that no one likes the girl that makes a fuss. She smiles and drinks beer with Joe and Charlie and Dan and fakes it til she makes it. She grabs the first blond-haired, blue-eyed boy and leaves him, wrecked and ruined and red-faced, in the sticky bathroom stall.

It doesn’t feel good. Not exactly. But it feels better than the alternative.


It’s close to Christmas and everything glows with fake fir tree cheer. They’re on the final leg home, flights to Chicago for family and friends, Joe and Andy booked onto their own routes but Patrick insisted on flying with her.

“I wanted to talk to you,” he informs her from across the table of an airport lounge. She hums something non-committal into the depths of her carry on bag, rooting around for headphones. “About us.”

Her head snaps up sharply enough to bloom molten liquid pain through her jaw and into her temples. He looks at-past-through her, at some interesting spot on the wall just behind her head, fingers steepled and butter-soft pout pushed flush to the tips. The peak of his snapback is low, brushing feather-soft hair onto the frames of his glasses. He’s far more beautiful than he’s ever given himself credit for.

“Us?” she repeats, stupid soft and stuttered too fast over disbelieving lips. “What about us? Hey, have they called our flight yet? I was just — ”

“Petra.” His hand covers hers, large and pale with elegant fingers. She stills although she doesn’t want to, vibrating with that under the skin itch that means it’s time for more pills. “Would you let me talk?”

“Someone could hear us,” she argues, picking blood red polish from her thumbnail. There’s a bartskull in the centre that suddenly seems childish; matching her hoodie, matching her shirt, matching the brand on her skin.

“That a problem?” he asks, casually indifferent as he takes a swig of water and gestures to her with the bottle neck. “When did you ever hate publicity?”

“I think it started around the time the world saw my pussy,” he almost chokes on a mouthful of water, “funny what that’ll do to a person.”

They fall silent for a moment or two. It’s surprisingly easy, this drawing of breath amongst the hustle of a pre-holiday airport, a breath of air in a room that seems robbed of it. He takes her hand across the table, casually indifferent, and scores a pattern against her wrist with his thumb.

“You know how I feel,” he says. “You’ve always known.”

She’s not sure she does, did or ever will but she nods anyway. It’s what good girls do, they agree. Her eyes are drawn to her Sidekick standing sentry between them as the screen illuminates with a message from Gabe. Patrick glances down, drawn to the candle flame of buzzed blue light with moth-like devotion. If he pays attention to the name, he doesn’t let it flicker across his face.

“Maybe.” He says it like it’s the only word he needs.

“Maybe?” she prompts, because she absolutely can’t live on maybes any more. He smiles, summer twilight tinged with gold that bleeds from the curve of his lips to the blue of his eyes. She wants to bottle this moment, to save it and store it and pop a shot on the shittier days. “Patrick, maybe?”

“I think they’re calling our flight,” he says, instead of an answer. She seriously considers punching him. “You got your stuff?”

They don’t talk as they walk to their gate, backpacks on shoulders and sneakers scuffing squeaks into streaked beige tiles. He drifts closer and her heart leaps so high into her throat that it threatens to choke her, pounding like bass beats into her ears as his shoulder bumps into hers. His knuckles brush hers, too casual to be entirely accidental, her fingers flex and twitch to twine with his.

He doesn’t take her hand, but for a moment she thinks he might and that almost seems like enough.

Buried beneath regulation, logoed American Airways fleece he holds her close, a private fortress constructed in Row B of a business class red eye from West Coast to Midwest. Petra is once again comet trails, burning blood bright and shining as she listens to the thump of his heart and rhythmic huff of his breathing. He kisses her ear when no one is looking and laces their fingers against his thigh.

“Maybe?” she implores once more, because there has to be more to this, endless drifting hasn’t worked before and there’s no reason it will now. In her head she’s already deleted James’ number from her phone, already planned how she’ll excuse herself from Gabe without things drifting into unprofessional.

“I made you like, a million mixtapes, you know,” he replies, eyes fixed on the glitter-dust of stars through the window. She makes a wish even though none are falling. “Back when we first started hanging out. God, I had such a dorky fucking crush on you.”

“And now?” she prompts. His heartbeat ticks under her cheek, and her own picks up, gathers speed and hurtles for the cliff edge of reason. She’s half-mad with the need to hear him say it.

“Now…” he strokes her cheek with the back of his thumb and smiles, fond and endearing, “I guess I still have a dorky fucking crush on you.”

“So what about the other girls?” Petra is shuddered with uncertainty and hates herself for it, wants to shake the snowglobe around them and watch the world twist to white and sparkle.

Patrick draws a breath that shivers through him, hissing cold and sharp over his lips as he stares at the back of the seat in front as though it can answer for him, “They didn’t mean — ”

“Don’t,” she presses a finger to his lips as anxiety tears at her chest, so many white hot knives driven into places left sore and bruised by past rejection. “I know what you’re going to say and I just — can I have the holidays? Let me think.”

He nods, a mechanical twist of muscle and sinew as he unlaces their fingers and folds his hands into his lap. Pursed-lip pissed off, he hides behind headphones and the inflight meal until the seatbelt sign glows red and knowing above them. As they descend into O’Hare, he makes casual conversation about the holidays with his family. He makes it clear without saying it that she isn’t part of his plans and she throbs with skin-deep, burnt-raw hurt. Half a breath, that’s all she’s asking for, a couple more weeks in the five year train wreck, just a split second to haul everything back into place.

He slips into a cab while she’s calling her mom, gone when she turns back with her backpack and a hopeful smile. It’s cold in just her hoodie, slouching against the wall until the familiar station wagon draws up alongside her.

“No Patrick?” her mom asks and Petra instantly reverts to an irritable teenager, hood drawn up and drawstring stuffed between her teeth as she grunts monosyllabic irritation into the face of parental conversation. Her mom takes the hint by mile five, falling silent but for the crooning crackle of Bing Crosby on the radio.

An eddy of snowflakes buffets the glass like an omen, the sky washed to purple by threatening storm clouds. Petra drags out her phone and taps in a message.

Fuck you.


He texts her in the early hours, just after New Years, her heart bruising her ribs, lungs unreasonably labouring at the sight of his name on the screen.

The album leaked. WTF?

They debate with the label. Lengthy conference calls that reduce that gap between Chicago and LA to nothing more than a ruffle of static on a telephone line. They have three dates in the UK coming up; three countries, three days. They’ll record the London show. All those kids, singing along to lyrics they shouldn’t even have heard yet. It’ll be amazing, she assures herself, assures Andy and Joe and Patrick.

Patrick who somehow switched from lunchtime pizza on her living room floor as they figured shit out to head between her thighs, fucking into her with his fingers while he sucked at her clit until she physically couldn’t come again.

He blinks at her, lust-drunk and half undressed (shirt on, pants off, like Winnie the Pooh) from the middle of her childhood twin bed.

“I haven’t even heard it yet,” he admits with a frown. “Is that weird?”

“Very,” she shoves her laptop at him and leans against his shoulder as he navigates to YouTube. He listens in silence, a smile tugging the corners of his lips.

Halfway through The (After) Life of the Party, he mutters softly, not looking up, “Did you get a chance to think?”

He doesn’t say what about and she doesn’t need to ask.

“It’s a maybe,” she licks over his throat, tastes sweat and sharp cologne as she shrugs off her shirt. “A definite maybe.”


She doesn’t use her bunk, or the hotel rooms booked under her name, as they make their way around the UK then back to the states. Endless promotion, shows and whirlwind media shots that pass in a blur of beige carpets and a single, sweat soaked double bed or cramped bunk. Petra thinks she might be soaring every time he touches her.

She’s so close to saying yes. It lurks in each touch, in each ridiculous text message he sends her from across a sound check stage stained with dust that will mark up her jeans. The maybe drifts from her as the reasons to say no become weaker, as intangible as soap bubbles and her world is a snowglobe of flower petals plucked from the air.

He loves me… he loves me not… he loves me… he loves me not…

He smiles at her in an interview, teeth on show and eyes creased at the corners behind the thick cover of his lenses. He smiles and he covers her hand with his, squeezing softly as his heels drum against the flight case he’s perched on. It’s half a gesture really, nothing to get excited about and it’s not like the radio journalist has a photographer with him waiting to snap the moment and immortalise it with a half-baked, sensational headline.

It’s just a warm hand, rough in all of the right places, enveloping her own. The maybe teeters into a must.

He loves me.

Not yet.

Petra pulls back, just a little, just for a few weeks. It feels like an inhale. Like a breath held hot and stale in her lungs as she waits and bides her time and wonders, second-guesses and ponders on the perfect moment. The theatrical big reveal. She’ll be telling their kids about this one day.

(Kids? Dark-hair-blue-eyes? Daddy’s lips and mommy’s cheekbones. She checks her birth control pill and swallows down a couple of Xanax.)

Listen, this isn’t what Petra had planned, okay? This isn’t the life she imagined when she stood on his mom’s porch and saw him all ugly sweater and knee socks. But plans and reality sometimes refuse to match up and here she is, ugly heart beating on a Clandestine-clad sleeve as she taps out a text message.

I dropped the maybe. It’s all definitely x

Patrick doesn’t reply.

She tries not to panic. She reminds herself that he can go hours without checking his phone. They’re flying out to Paris in a couple days and she concentrates on packing her case. How would a normal 27-year-old do this? Is it okay that she can reduce her life to a carry on bag if she needs to?

The night before they leave the states, she considers calling Patrick, just to invite him over for pre-tour pizza and so they can share a cab to the airport in the morning. The text she sent him loiters, the last in their endless stream of messages and she thinks better of it.

The next morning, he’s not in the departure lounge. A call to Taylor at Crush confirms he switched out his flight the day she text him. There’s a hollowness in her chest, a numb sort of swirl that sits like eating ice cream too fast just beneath her ribs. Petra pulls on her his hoodie, tucks in her earbuds and swallows down a couple more Xanax than she knows she should, strictly speaking at least.

She sleeps all the way to Charles de Gaulle, lost and dreamless.


“You heard, right?” Joe says as they lounge against the wall in the alley out back of the venue in Paris. They share a joint like high school kids, passing it back and forth until she can blame the weed for the way her eyes rim red and damp. “About Patrick? He told you, yeah?”

She wants to tell him that everything she’s heard about Patrick over the past few weeks has come directly from the Fall Out Boy message boards and amounts to the square root of dick. She’d like to point out that Patrick hasn’t looked at her — let alone spoken to her to divulge secrets she’s apparently the last to know — since they arrived an hour ago. She would love to point out that she has no idea what the fuck is wrong with him, what’s crawled up his ass the past few weeks when everything seemed fine before. But that sounds trite and petty so she holds onto the joint for another long draw as she shakes her head slowly.

“He never told you?” Joe arches his eyebrows and folds his hands behind his back, apparently giving up on getting his weed back. Petra waits, stomach tense, for the blow. “He’s got a girlfriend. Have you met her?”

The air leaves the alley, leaves her lungs, leaves her breathless and staring.

He loves me not.


Chapter Text

They tour without talking which works surprisingly well.

She sneaks around after shows dressed in Dre’s clothes, carries out the meet and greets from the opposite end of the table to Patrick and pretends that no one really notices.

“Pick a card,” asks a kid, the tarot cards from the deluxe version of Infinity splayed out in her hands, face down, “go ahead.”

But Petra’s no good at surprises so she takes them from the kid’s hand and flips them over, considers each one carefully then scrawls her name on The Sleepless. Patrick picks without looking, his signature looped over The Brilliant. She spends the rest of the night with Dre’s hoodie pulled down over her hands, falling past her knees, considering the possible meaning behind their selections.

He exchanges nights in her bunk for hiding in the dark with his BlackBerry, whispering promises to a girlfriend Petra’s yet to meet but already knows she hates.

Joe says she’s hot, “Honestly, like, so hot.”

“Describe the hotness,” Petra says, not casually at all. “Like, define it for me.”

“That’s weird. You’re weird. Why do you want to know?”

They’re in London, two shows one after the other but the venues split; Brixton one day and Hammersmith the next so neither of them feel quite right. Petra lifts the blunt from the ashtray at Joe’s elbow and hauls in a lungful. She doesn’t really like to smoke, never did, but she does like the haze it puts on the hurt. If she smokes just the right amount and mixes it with a little vodka and her regular Xanax, it means she can assess the situation from a distance. It feels less painful if she’s looking at it like its someone else’s life.

“I’m curious,” she admits, slurring, “I want to know the sort of thing he’s into these days. Is she like Cassie?”

“She’s nothing like Cassie,” Joe shakes his head and executes three perfect smoke rings into the air above them, “She’s… a little like you. But like, the girl version.”

“Ouch, fucking hell, dude. You want to make it a little less obvious that none of you fucking see me?”

“You asked!”

“Yeah, and you made it pretty fucking clear that you don’t see women as anything more than somewhere warm to stick your dick!” Petra isn’t yelling at Joe, not really. Well, aside from the part where she’s totally yelling at Joe. But she wants to yell at Patrick, which is different. Possibly. “Do you guys even hear yourselves?”

“If you’re mad at Patrick,” says Joe reasonably, because Joe has this irritating habit of being entirely oblivious right until you realize he’s not, “then go scream at fucking Patrick. I’m just saying, she’s like you, but we haven’t heard her fart. That steals the romance, you know?”

“Fair.” It’s not, but the alcohol and weed are blending nicely so she’s not going to labor her point. “Do you think he’s in love with her?”

“What you mean is,” Joe has another of those moments of insight, aided by marijuana and inside knowledge from both sides, “do I think he was in love with you. Which, for the record, is a destructive question when you know he has a new girlfriend. But yeah, he was. Is. Probably always will be.”

Joe finishes up his joint and leaves for his room. Petra, contrary in all of the ways a woman shouldn’t be, exchanges sleep for her journal. The keys feel good under her fingertips, better than bass strings but not quite as good as Patrick, the warm skin feel of him. She types until the Xanax takes hold and she can slump across the table, head on her arms, and snatch a few hours of nothingness.


Patrick falls in love.

It stings, fiercely so, for Petra to watch it happen. It burns her up from the inside and leaves her tear-stained and desperate, aching for him in ways she swore she never would. She wants to intervene, wants to grab him by the shoulders and shake him. There are answers she’s never demanded that suddenly seem important and things he’s never said that she, well, she’d—

She doesn’t know.

Maybe it hurts more because this isn’t how she’s supposed to feel. She’s the poster girl for feminism amongst the girls on the scene, held aloft as their Empress of Emo. Hot Topic has a necklace, she’s seen it, the dog tag emblazoned with WWPWD — what would Petra Wentz do? — a battle cry amongst girls who are trying to figure out where they belong. She’s supposed to be the rational amongst the rage; more than just a ‘got your period?’ joke scrawled on a locker room wall.

The world is made for men. Sometimes it feels like she’ll never catch up.

Layla — the girlfriend — seems nice. This is disconcerting because, honestly, Petra was sort of hoping to hate her. It would’ve been easier with another Cassie, someone new but just the same so she could tell herself it would end. But no, Layla is… she’s nice. She’s the Petra that could have been, dark hair, dark eyes but a personality that shines like diamonds. She’s light and sparkle where Petra’s nothing more than smashed glass with sharp edges and dangerous intentions.

They’re the same until you touch them.

He seems to fall by degrees and, out on tour, she’s forced to watch. It starts with phone calls and ends with fly-by-night visits. Suddenly he’s unavailable to hang out after shows, darting away to call Layla, to hang out with Layla, to fuck Layla.

But it’s fine. It’s absolutely, definitely fine.

Honda Civic is in full swing. Patrick jokes to anyone that’ll listen that they only got the gig because he didn’t buy a real rock star’s car. They’ve got The Academy Is in support, Cobra Starship and Paul Wall. It means they’ve got Vicky which breaks up the sausage fest, gives Petra somewhere to go when she can’t take the fucking testosterone reeking up the Fall Out Boy bus any more.

(Seriously, if she hears one more ‘Fall Out Person’ joke, she’s going to collapse into an endless black hole of screaming from which she may never emerge.)

They’re splitting a bottle of Goldschlager because they’re in Buttfuck, Missouri and can’t find anything better in the gas station by the interstate. Besides, the gold makes it classy.

Petra is drunk. Kinda. More drunk than she probably should be as it mixes with the Xanax and fuzzes her inhibitions.

“I was fucking him, you know,” she says. Vicky’s eyebrows raise but she swallows down her shot like a champ. “Patrick. I — he and I were… fuckin’ knockin’ boots.”

“Babe, that’s the worst kept secret in the music industry,” Vicky says, sloshing more ill-advised booze into Petra’s cup. They broke all the glassware three cities ago — ‘they’ being Dirty — and now they’re reduced to drinking shots from pre-used Sonic cups like animals. “And please promise me you’ll never say knockin’ boots ever again.”

“Won’t need to,” Petra assures her, the cup empty already. She’s close to losing sensation in her jaw, pins and needles spidering across her tongue until it feels like her blood is carbonated. She feels fucking wonderful. “Because, Vicky T, I’m never fucking — fucking anyone ever again. Men are pigs — I’m done with dudes.” A fantastic thought occurs to her. “I — hey! You — we should hook up!”

Petra’s pretty sure she’s joking. Almost positive. But there’s no Patrick by order of his newfound fidelity and no James by order of Petra’s newfound self-respect. Vicky’s cute, gorgeous in fact, Petra could probably think of worse ideas.

(Note: Petra has evidence that she categorically has had, executed and acted upon worse ideas.)

“Oh Jesus fuck, don’t say that,” Vicky implores with a groan. “I swear, Gabe will run through walls if he thinks he’s gonna see us fool around. He's like the fucking Kool-Aid guy for potential bisexual action.”

Petra picks at some chipped nail polish around her thumbnail. “Did — uh, did you and Gabe ever like…?”

“Fuck?” Vicky supplies, topping off both cups again. Petra has no idea why she keeps measuring it out in fingers, they’re three fifths of the way down the bottle now and should probably just let God sort it out. Actually, Vicky’s kind of sober. Petra wonders how many times her cup has been topped off by comparison. “Nah. You? He’s into you.”

That’s not a conversation Petra wants to engage in. Okay, she’s not stupid, she’s seen the looks he gives her, dark eyes burning under the peak of whatever color-clashing New Era hat he’s wearing that day. The flirting is fun, harmless, a way to rile up Patrick between calls to Layla. The truth is, though… the truth is that Petra is hurting, aching sore from the kick to the ribs that Patrick has dealt.

Chin propped on her hand, she stares out of the window. It’s dark, all she can see is her reflection. “He told me not to get involved.”

“Gabe?” Vicky asks, confused. “He said that?”

“Patrick,” Petra clarifies. Vicky frowns and Petra tries to work out what that means. “He said Gabe was — uh, he said he was bad news.”

“Oh, unlike Patrick fucking Stump?” Red nails sink into the cardboard cup, a drop or two of schnapps splashing onto the table as she slams her cup down between them. Petra blinks down at it, cotton-mouthed. “Look, I can’t tell you what to do but like, have you considered fucking a guy who’s not an asshole for a change?”

“That’s not—” What, exactly, is it not? “—I mean, uh…”

Gabe is almost certainly an asshole. With his clothes that never match and his on-stage flirtation with Vicky. With his smile that creeps in from the edges of the room and the way he always seems to be right on hand when Patrick does something particularly painful. Petra’s breath is audible, sticky-sweet with schnapps. Vicky’s arched eyebrow has given way to a sympathetic smile. This would be hilarious if it was happening to somebody else.

“You didn’t realize?” she asks, gently now, like Petra might bolt. Where for? The bunks? Patrick? “He’s like, ridiculously into you, babe.”

“Oh,” says Petra, inelegant and fumbling, mouth slightly open as she curls her hands defensively around her cup. She feels far soberer than she wants to, that electric buzz draining from her as she watches the Midwest roll by the windows. “I thought—”

What she thought is quickly lost in the slam of the lounge door against the wall, the arrival of Patrick heralded by the slap of bare feet against the carpet. He’s squinting in the light, dressed in boxers and a Taking Back Sunday shirt, his hair ruffled around his face and pointing in improbable peaks and spikes.

“It’s three in the fucking morning,” he says, and nothing else, like that’s all he needs to say.

Across the table, Petra and Vicky share a look. She blinks back innocently at Patrick, “Your powers of — what’s it called? — Deduck? Dediddly? Deduction—” she rounds each syllable carefully, “are not to be rivaled, Pat. I wasn’t aware I had a curfew.”

Some of us are trying to sleep.”

“Clearly,” says Petra loftily, “and some of us are trying to drink. Not to like, sour your sunny disposition but you’re totally killing my buzz.”

“Listen,” Patrick snarls and Petra, she widens her eyes and leans closer, just to show how very hard she’s listening, “I don’t know why you decided to act like this—”

“Drinking alcohol? That I legally obtained with my own money from a store with a liquor license? Better call Gawker, there’s — there’s shenanigans afoot!”

“You’re not—”

“Think of the headlines,” and she grabs Vicky into a hug that feels more like a headlock, not that it matters when they’re both helpless with laughter, their faces very close as she gesticulates expansively for each word, “Petra Wentz, drinking with friend! Colleague says she stole his nap time!”

Pathetic in his boxers, he flushes an unattractive shade of red and folds one arm over the other. “Fine, whatever. Do what you want.”

They’re shuddering into a gas station, the bus vibrating under her feet. Petra is a wonderful combination of drunk, hurt and furious as she climbs to her feet and trips her way down the gangway of the bus.

“Where are you going?” Patrick calls plaintively. “Peep, for fuck’s sake, just go to bed.”

“I’m doing what I want,” she yells back. Vicky whoops. “Just like you said.”

The sidewalk is solid under her feet, the first thing that’s felt real since this tour began. Petra sobers in the midnight air that smells of gasoline and impending dawn, shivering into her hoodie as she folds her arms over her chest and watches the lightning bug headlights spidering along the interstate. The Cobra bus draws in behind them and, before anyone can disembark she’s shoving past Ryland and up the steps. She has an idea, only not really, because ideas require thought and Petra has decided that thinking isn’t for her. Not for tonight at least.

She finds Gabe alone in his bunk, down to his briefs with his arm draped over his eyes. He blinks at her as she yanks up the shade and runs his fingers through his hair with a grin. She scrambles up to join him, slithering across his body until her thighs straddle his hips. He’s bedtime warm, her hands cool against the smooth planes of his chest. She hasn’t been with someone this tall, this long and lean, since Mikey. It’s exciting, his nipples darker than she’s used to under her thumbs, his skin as gold as hers, no contrast between them. It makes it so much harder to see the beginning of Petra, the end of Gabe. She can sink inside of him and no one will know the difference.

With Gabe, she can cease to exist.

“Petra?” he asks, already pulling the shade down once more. Under his shorts, his dick is thickening. He’s sharp between her thighs, a lightning bolt given physical form. She reaches back and touches him, pulls the half-hard length of him up against her ass and tastes his gasp against her lips. He curls a large, rough-warm hand around the back of her neck and kisses her. He licks into her mouth tasting sour with sleep and his mouth is so big, so wide and soft. She kisses back, desperate, rakes her nails along the bony valleys of his ribs and hipbones.

If this is what the world wants of her, then so be it, Petra will be the very best at being the very worst. She’ll be what every dude in the crowd, every man with a MacBook and a grudge against female artists, every guy on the street who wolf-whistles and catcalls, wants her to be. She’ll affix the scarlet letter to her tits before anyone else can leap onto the bandwagon. Sticks and stones may break her bones but words don’t show the bruises.

She slides her sweatpants halfway down her thighs and presses his fingers between her legs. She hasn’t done something this rashly impulsive, this invigoratingly exciting since the aftermath left her exposed on the Internet. Between her thighs, his hand is gentle, inquisitive, exploring the wet warmth there without hesitation. He rubs the pad of his thumb around the eager heat of her clit and Petra sees stars.

“Fuck, P. Not that I’m complaining but like, what’re you doing?”

And Petra, she grins against his warm, sleep-swollen mouth and whispers, “What I want.”


The annoying thing about Gabe is this: he’s fucking wonderful.

Petra can categorize her most recent relationships and none of it is pretty. There was Petra and James, a three-ring circus, a technicolor carnival of late-night arguments in public places, of on-again-off-again drama that somehow always seemed to seep, insidious, onto the internet for the consumption of every fan, blog and gossip columnist. Irrefutable proof that Petra was, by order of whomever was looking and in no particular order, a whore, a hero, a martyr.

Then there was Petra and Patrick, for whom the term ‘dirty little secret’ could have been handcrafted, shaped in dark rooms and hidden in bathroom stalls and bus bunks. A roller coaster rumor mill, fueled by social media and fanfiction websites, by those who couldn’t imagine that Petra could ever define herself by anything but a photogenic slice of the maleness that makes up three quarters of the band she drove into the spotlight.

There were others, too, Petra can’t deny that. Actors, pop stars, dudes in bands. Good-looking men seek her out at parties, always have, only now they have Myspace accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers and eyes on the possibility that she can increase their appeal by osmosis of bodily fluid. Mass-marketing via the pussy of Petra Wentz. Going viral meant something entirely different when she first joined the scene. The same old high school fuck boys dressed in designer couture and easy smiles.

Gabe is different. He celebrates the two of them with every touch, every kiss, every beat of his full-to-bursting heart. And Gabe, he loves so intensely, so fiercely and fully, that his heart spills over easily, his affection relaxed and shareable between the two of them. No secrets, no hidden agenda, no fire and fury lurking in Petra’s darkness. He makes her feel luminescent, glowing soul-deep in the pictures of them leaving clubs, parties, hotels together. For the first time in a long time, Petra looks happy in the pixels of Perez Hilton’s website.

(Not that she goes looking. Petra gave up Googling her own name in 2005 for the sake of her own self-esteem, such as it is, and a desire to avoid another midnight parking lot.)

“You’re thinking,” says Gabe against her mouth, minty with morning toothpaste. “What about?”

It’s not technically untrue but Petra shakes her head anyway. “Nothing important.”

They’re caught in a liminal space between one tour and the next, days of golden California sunshine bleeding into one another. In two days, Gabe will fly back to New York and head into the studio. Patrick will be the one behind the mixing desk, headphones around his neck as he pieces together songs that don’t belong to Petra. She hopes it makes him happy.

“All thoughts are important, carina, it’s just a case of figuring out where they sit on the spectrum.”

“Oh my God,” Petra says, rolling her eyes and wrapping her thighs around his hips, “is this what I get for dating a stoner? Are you always this deep at,” she glances at the clock and giggles, “one in the afternoon?”

Gabe raises his eyebrows, his curls falling over his brow thick and dark, his eyes shining luminous, “Dating? Oh, we’re dating now, huh?”

“Don’t be an asshole about it,” she huffs, but his delight is airborne, infecting her nervous system until she’s smiling just as wide as he is, “we go for dinner and to the movies then we come back here and we fuck, you’re here more than you’re not. I don’t know what else to call it. Friends with shared orgasms? Buddies who know the exact location of the condoms in one another’s houses?”

He’s not hard, not yet, but she can feel him thickening up, the interested stir of his cock against her.

Girlfriend seems simpler,” Gabe agrees, and Petra’s gut gives a strange little twist at that, “Petriel,” the way he says it, swirling the r’s sweet as chocolate, stirs something between her legs,Put it on a hoodie, make it official.”

“Did you just combine our names? I’ll put your cellphone number on a hoodie,” Petra threatens idly, “I’ll have the whole scene call you and tell you how very presumptuous you actually are.”

“I’ll disconnect my phone.”

“I’ll add your email address.”

His laughter is bright, his fingers — long and warm between her legs — brighter still. She gasps, pushes up and feels him slip inside, his thumb circling her clit and spreading sweet, velvet warmth through her belly, down her thighs. It feels like the diamonds that scatter her clothing. “You’re good like this,” he kisses her heartbeat in her throat, “softer in a good way. You make me happy.”

The simplicity of it is so refreshing, cold water to the aching burn of uncertainty. She touches his cheek, tilts up his chin and claims his mouth as his fingers slide languid, a drum beat back and forth that matches every fourth beat of her rapidly accelerating heart.

“Hey,” she says, Gabe’s dull, red dick pressed to the crease of her hip, “we should go out for dinner later.”

He pauses, head cocked. “I like eating,” he agrees slowly, “but that’s not exactly the sort I had in mind right now.”

“We can invite Patrick,” she rushes on, Gabe’s fingers sliding out of her. She feels empty but doesn’t stop. “And Layla, like — like a pair of pop punk power couples. It’ll be fun, right?”

Gabe’s eyes, already dark as Turkish coffee, are suddenly impossibly darker. His brows draw. His mouth pinches into a hard, uncompromising line. This — this — is what Petra does to everything, her reverse Midas touch that leaves golden things burnt and blackened.

“Patrick?” he says, bewildered.

Petra nods, she’s committed to this now, “I mean, is that a problem? You know I’m in a band with him, right?”

“Yeah, but like — I don’t bring up Vicky when you’re sucking my dick.”

“It was just an idea,” not a withdrawal symptom; Patrick is out of her system, the ache for his touch does not itch through her veins like the need for opiates, “why are you making this into such a big deal?”

“P,” he says quietly, in a voice that touches the softest part of Petra’s heart, “you’re — you’re into me, right?”

She slides down the bed and presses a kiss to the tip of his cock, pink and plump and just a little bitter-slick. He groans and touches his palm to the back of her head, not pushing. He’s so pretty, all angles and bones and lean, rangy muscle. “I’m into you,” she promises, the taste of latex and last night’s sex shifting from his dick to her mouth, “I’m so into you.”

He’s so warm that he can heat and thaw the coldest parts of her. She gets him off and then she calls the restaurant and makes a booking somewhere showy, somewhere with cameras and headline spinners waiting to see someone worthwhile show up. They’ll have to make do with Petra Wentz.

Patrick agrees with a single letter, k flashing on her phone screen between brushing her teeth and stepping out of the shower. She dresses nicely, wears a dress and flat irons her hair and tries to see the princess behind the glamor. It’s for Gabe, not Patrick. Gabe who holds her hand and then the door and then her chair, who kisses her sweet and chaste at all of the cinematically correct moments, who wears a tie and slicks his hair with product.

Patrick rolls up twenty minutes later — on top of Petra’s fashionable thirty minutes — in a blazer with sneakers that match his hat. He doesn’t know how to grow up, never went to prom, never went to college, never did a formal job interview. He’s more Peter Pan than she’ll ever be.

“Hey,” he says, stinking of sex and smiling slyly at Layla with that curl of his lips that says he just got off in the back of the town car, “we got — held up.”

“Good to see you, man,” Gabe slaps Patrick’s palm, exchanging a complicated bro handshake that Patrick is far too white to pull off as the concierge takes their coats, “how’s it going?”

Two days until they both fly out to New York.

One month until she steps out on stage and lets the world observe her in her gilded cage of record deals and carefully chosen outfits.

Petra smiles politely through the small talk. Then she gets drunk.


The press runs with a picture of Patrick and Layla: FALL OUT BOY FRONTMAN STEPS OUT WITH NEW BEAU IN LOS ANGELES.

Petra snips the picture from National Enquirer and slips it in her dresser drawer.


There are a thousand different kinds of lie and Petra is learning the subtle nuances between each one.

Patrick’s sideburns tickle against her thighs, his breath sweet and warm along the white-gold heat of her cunt. She shivers, arches, waits for him to do something, say something. He looks up, over the flat, gold litheness of her belly and the way her tits slump unattractively into her armpits when she lies on her back. His smile is devilish, his wicked, clever mouth quirked at the corners as he waits.

“Patrick,” she says. It starts as a warning but breaks on a moan.

He tips his head to one side, his bangs falling sweetly into his eyes and murmurs, “God, fuck, I’ve missed this.”

And then his warm, wet mouth meets the soft, hot flesh of her pussy and she’s arching, bucking, crying out into the joint of her wrist. He licks slowly, savoring, testing the hidden parts of her as though he’s trying gelato; slow, unhurried licks that round off over her clit. She is so wet for him, she hopes it soaks his chin, his hands, down over his wrists so he can smell her on him tomorrow, taste her every time he touches his fingers to his mouth.

He parts her with his thumbs, slides his mouth all the way up against her like he’ll never get close enough to absorb her in all of the way he wants to. She has to touch him; a physical compulsion, a hard-wired need. So, she slides her hand to cup the back of his head, to draw him closer. He hums, soft little murmuring sounds against her skin as he flicks his tongue, hard, over her clit.

Fuck!” she screams — screams! — the pillow hauled over her face to drown it out. If he doesn’t stop immediately, Petra is certain she’ll die.

He doesn’t stop. He keeps it up, slow, leisurely, he licks, sucks, flicks his tongue and slides two fingers inside of her. She grinds up and he pushes down, arms braced over her thighs like an anchor. It starts slowly; warmth pooling low in her belly, the tingling rush crawling the length of her spine. He pushes another finger inside, fucking her with half of his hand as he drags that thick, luscious lower lip up and over her clit.

His fingers curl abruptly, they hit that spot hidden deep inside. She cries out, drowning, gasping, as he rubs, presses, licks then pulls his mouth away. “You bastard,” she snarls, “you smug little — shit!”

She gives up, leans back into the sheets and holds on tight enough to make her knuckles ache. She’s overwhelmed, fighting against him to push closer as he curls his fingers against her and holds her steady. The world is a carnival ride, the music nothing more than the throb of her pulse in her ears, echoed down into her pussy as she clenches hard around him and loses a rough, broken sound into the hotel room.

This is nothing like Gabe, she thinks disloyally, and then she comes. She comes so hard her thighs, knees, ankles spasm and cramp. Endless pressured heat and the pulsing grasp of her cunt around his fingers as he licks, thrusts, strokes with maddening precision and pace. When it’s over she slumps, his mouth slow and insistent until it’s not, until he crawls back to her lips, his face wet with sweat and something girl-musk sweet. He kisses her and she tastes herself mixed with the tang of his mouth.

She spreads her legs, lets him push inside of her bare and hot, feels him fill her up until she groans against his throat.

“Told you I’d make you squirt,” he whispers, smug.

“It wasn’t that great,” she lies effortlessly. “Barely even noticed.”

“Won’t do it again.”

“Oh yes you fucking will.”

He laughs against her chest, shuddering through her and down into his cock. He's glowing, like a lantern she lights him up from the inside out. For now, at least.


She lies again, later, Patrick asleep beside her and Gabe’s voice on the line. “Sorry,” she whispers, watching the way Patrick’s chest expands with each breath, “I would’ve called back sooner but we were at some after party…”

Patrick stirs and pulls her closer, his cheek pressed to her hip. She touches his lips. This should hurt more, she’s sure of it. Some functioning not-Petra would hurt sore at the sound of Gabe’s voice lingering over the snuffling warmth of Patrick’s breathing.

Maybe Petra was right all along: she’s a broken thing. Defective. She eyes her Xanax.

There are a thousand different types of liar, Petra knows this. She has no idea when she became the embodiment of each of them.