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honeymoons & smoke breaks

Chapter Text

(a perfect soul, a perfect hand to hold, imperfect lonely roads)

Patrick is biting his lip in an attempt to keep quiet; there were people laughing outside his door to drown out the sounds of Pete sucking, but it was more of a warning than it was a relief, always a reminder that someone could hear and grow suspicious (not that Pete had any problems with a little exhibitionism now and then, but well, the situation isn’t so easy). Patrick was squirming underneath Pete, his hips moving in small circles on the bed, but he was silent except for his heavy breathing, which honestly? Only makes Pete try harder to get him to loosen up a little bit. Pete pulls off to swirl his tongue around the sensitive tip of Patrick’s head, tasting salty pre-cum on his tongue. When Pete closes his eyes, he can pretend he and Patrick had run away to a beach in the South and these were salty waves on his lips.

Patrick’s fingers curl around Pete’s hair and they gently urge him down, a small whine finally coming from Patrick’s throat, asking for what he’s unable to say. Panting and sweaty, pale chest blooming pink, lips bitten bloody; this was the wildest Patrick could go, even when Pete’s been trying to drive him reckless for the past fifteen minutes, daring him to make a sound loud enough for the people outside to hear and then gossip about until next weekend (okay, so maybe Pete’s show off tendencies were a little hard to beat, he can admit that).

Pete savors the feel of Patrick filling his mouth, not knowing when he would get this again, if Patrick would still be hot for Pete the next morning in Philosophy 101 or cold until next month when they not so coincidentally run into each other at a house party where they can pretend they’re not there just because they missed each other on their beds. Sometimes, Pete gets this feeling that he’s tired of Patrick being this nasty habit of getting high then going through the withdrawals without him afterwards, but it always seems to fade when there's pounding music in Pete's ears and the smell of smoke and beer and sex in the air, but all Pete can feel is Patrick’s fingers resting themselves on the small of his back, barely even a brush but always a telltale sign, always asking without ever actually saying anything.

But sometimes, it doesn't take a party. Sometimes, all Pete has to do is crawl up the fire escape into Patrick's room, and if the blinds weren't drawn, he'd wait until Patrick let him in so that they could pretend they were something more for around an hour.

“Your hair’s getting long,” Patrick slurs, thrusting up, simultaneously pulling Pete away from his thoughts and pulling Pete’s mouth back into him. Patrick starts a steady rhythm, leaving Pete room to breathe as Pete starts to let Patrick fuck his mouth a little; Patrick’s always this gentle with Pete, always holding him like he’s something important. Pete’s glad for something to fill his mouth just so that he doesn’t have to respond to Patrick. Pete doesn’t want to tell Patrick he’s been growing it out just for him. Pete’s hair is up to his shoulders now and coach hates it, the team’s asked if he were a fag, and Patrick’s called it ridiculous, but Pete knows Patrick likes pulling on it and running his fingers through it when Pete’s mouth is on his; the rest can drown out to background noise.

Pete hears Patrick moan loudly, this sound that rips itself from Patrick’s mouth and Pete looks up to see Patrick looking at him. When their eyes meet, Pete could tell Patrick was close. Patrick’s pink mouth is open in a stuttered, whispered prayer that was only Pete’s name, eyes blown like tiny little explosions, fingers shaking like earthquakes. Pete didn’t now if he was in heaven or a shitty, overpriced university dorm, couldn’t tell the difference, the two places blurring into the same thing when he’s on his knees like this.

Pete doesn’t look away from Patrick’s heavy gaze, he shows off for Patrick; Pete knows he looks good like this: long eyelashes framing deep brown eyes, eyes still shining with tears from when he went down too fast, mouth dark red. Patrick doesn’t back away either, holding Pete’s gaze as he bites down harder on his bottom lip, “Touch yourself, Pete, c’mon, won’t get off until you do.” Patrick manages to whine through his teeth, hips involuntarily pushing up again, his cock briefly hitting the back of Pete’s throat. This time, Pete wasn’t prepared and he chokes a bit. Patrick pulls off and mumbles an apology, gently carding his fingers through Pete’s hair while he mumbled nonsense words Pete couldn’t catch. “Easy, easy.” Patrick says soothingly as Pete begins to suck on the sensitive tip of his head again. “I don’t wanna cum yet.”

Pete shakes his head in a no as much as he can with something in his mouth. Pete pulls off so that his tongue can lick a long trail up and then takes Patrick in again to go faster. To Pete’s disappointment, Patrick’s hands fall away from his hair as he moans and fists the sheets, trying to hold on a little longer. Pete tries to catch his breath, removing his mouth to replace it with his fist so that he could wrap it around Patrick’s cock. When Patrick’s thighs begin to shake underneath Pete, Pete leans forward with his mouth open, tongue hanging out expectantly.

Pete closes his eyes just as Patrick comes on his tongue; the sound of Patrick’s choked moan washing over Pete like waves. Pete feels cum slip to his bottom lip and he licks it off slowly, still keeping his eyes closed, still wanting to show off for Patrick even though Patrick can’t go again so soon.

Patrick whines and he grabs at Pete’s arms to pull Pete closer, opening Pete’s mouth with his tongue, their teeth shoving against each other in a way that would be painful if Pete didn’t crave for this kind of pleasure-pain as Patrick began to slip his football pads off his shoulders, cold fingers dancing on the heat of Pete’s warm chest.

Pete pulls away from the kiss to breathe on their lips, he can pretend that they can live on each other alone, finding oxygen in the space between where their lips don’t touch. Patrick moves slow as he moves his way down Pete’s neck then chest then stomach, pressing quick kisses and bites, tasting Pete’s sweaty, salty, skin. Pete loves this part, the feeling just before Patrick goes down; it’s this sort of pretend intimacy, where in the dark, they can be more than naked bodies and hands against sweaty skin.

(let the tv roam, while my hands are on you, football pads on you, you let me take them off you, just to get closer to you).

When Pete comes, he lets a loud, broken moan spill out of his mouth and Patrick slips two fingers in there to muffle the sounds while Pete rides his orgasm out. Pete is capable of keeping quiet, he’s had to share a room with his brother for several years, of course he knew how, but he’d take any contact with Patrick he could get. Pete licks Patrick’s fingers, rolling his tongue around his digits like he were still sucking dick and Patrick lets him. With Patrick's fingers in his mouth, Pete bites into it, stopping himself from saying all the words and feelings that got stuck in his throat sometimes when everything got too confusing. It happens when the lights are too dim and Patrick blurred beneath Pete's eyelids.

Patrick pulls away just when the electricity from Pete’s orgasm was about to completely fade away. The only things Pete could feel right now was the cold air from the open window and a tingling sensation on his fingers and toes. Pete’s sleepy now, satisfied, he wants to curl up into a ball and just fall asleep here where it’s safe, warm, and smells like Patrick.

Pete falls with his back on Patrick’s bed and refuses to open his eyes, wanting the moment to last a bit longer. His bones are still rattling, his chest still aching, his mouth still bruised with the shape of Patrick’s mouth. The room is quiet and Pete is half-awake when he dreams that maybe this time he could stay, leave a Pete-shaped indent on Patrick’s mattress, leave the smell of his cologne and sweat on the covers, curl up into Patrick when he grabs the blanket off of him and the night leaves him cold because they’ve forgotten to close the window.

“Pete,” Patrick starts gently, already pulling him away from his thoughts.

Pete opens his eyes and sees Patrick was already dressed again like he was the one who had to leave, like this wasn’t his room, his bed that they’ve just fucked in, his sheets that he would immediately change once Pete’s left. Patrick is in the same clothes he was wearing today in class, a polo t-shirt and khaki pants. The sight was painfully sexy; Patrick's mouth was red and there were a trail of hickies down his chest where his collar was unbuttoned, his hair all messed up, and the blacks in his pupils were still blown; he looked completely fucked and Pete did all of that. But— and there's always going to be a but with Pete, Pete can't ever be satisfied with what he had right now— there's a feeling clawing up his throat, the ache, that Pete wasn’t allowed to see Patrick in something intimate and more, like a threadbare high school PE shirt and boxer shorts with holes and fraying edges; fuck the fact that Pete’s seen Patrick naked and fucked over, Pete wanted something else.

Pete opens his mouth, ready to tell Patrick off, this time, he swears he’s going to put an end to this. This time, Pete’s going to ask if he could stay. This time, Pete was going to make Patrick choose. Pete opens his mouth, but his heart betrays him right before the words come out, or maybe, Pete didn’t never really had a chance at all.

“Another round already?” Pete asks playfully, stretching out on Patrick’s bed, trying to leave his smell there, sweat and football, sun on his back, soap, mixed with university dorm’s free laundry detergent. Pete knows he looks good like this, glittering eyes, tanned skin and tattoos, a body that stretches on like an endless highway. Pete knows Patrick loves exploring the road down his neck to his stomach with his mouth like it were one anyway.

Patrick smiles at him, this sweet smile where Pete can count all of his teeth, it’s not a good smile— Pete doesn’t like it, it looks like Patrick knows something that he shouldn’t know. Pete feels a little stupid for wanting this too much, he feels the smile disappear from his own face as it warms up. “Sorry, man.” Patrick says, still smiling. Pete looks away, unable to deal with the embarrassment, he would rather a hole open up and swallow him alive right now. “I have to plan stuff for this project next month.”

“Yeah,” Pete laughs, it feels hollow and too loud in the room, the voices behind the door suddenly going quiet, he suddenly, but understandably, does not want anyone to hear this conversation anymore. “Yeah, I was just— I have some other, uh, stuff to do anyway.”

Pete begins to wear his sweatpants and Patrick politely pretends to clean his room, turning around to give Pete privacy, even though there’s not much he can do in his tiny little studio that was more of a wide hallway than a room. Pete puts his hoodie on and hopes that he doesn’t come out of it crying. Jesus, that would be lame even for him.

“Hey,” Pete taps Patrick’s back and he holds back a smile as Patrick jump a little. “I, uh, lost one of my socks.”

Patrick blinks at him and Pete might be a little hypnotized, feeling a lot like a deer in the headlights. “I,” Pete starts, not knowing how he’s managing to talk when he feels like he’s drowning in the blue of Patrick’s eyes right now. “Just a little heads up when you find one singular smelly sock.”

Patrick laughs at that, this loud laugh that sounds real. It’s this laugh where he throws his head back and his eyes close and there are little laughter lines around his eyes. The first time Pete heard it, when Patrick shoved him against his bedroom wall and all the books on his shelf were knocked off, Pete swore he heard wedding bells in the distance (Pete falls in love way too fast, always ending up with band aids on his knees when he falls into concrete instead of someone’s arms).

“Yeah, I’ll make sure to get back to you on that.” Patrick said with a shrug, gesturing at the mess of clothes littering his floor.

The idea of a future, another time, that this won’t be the last time, makes Pete smile and his insides shift to make more space for the fucking relief that was filling up his chest right now. “Thanks, man.”

(I'm so imperfect, I'm so aware of the fact, that I'll never in this lifetime get the chance to be with you)

Pete begins to climb out of Patrick’s window, blindly looking for the fire escape with his foot because he just wanted to look at Patrick a little longer. When his feet finally land on solid ground, Pete feels himself sink a little, suddenly wishing for those few seconds where he was lost; that’s what being with Patrick felt like. “Tonight was fun.” Pete says, with a grin. This one is the one he reserves just for Patrick, it’s different from the ones he gives to the girls on the cheer team, this one isn’t dark and smooth, this one bares all his teeth and is too big for his face, but he knows Patrick likes it, he’s seen the way his eyes would soften around the edges when Pete smiled at him like this— his eyes are doing the same thing right now. “We should do it again sometime.”

Patrick smiles, pretending like he didn’t know that Pete was going to say that exact line just like he always does, like this was the first time again. “Goodnight, Pete.” is all Patrick says, just like he always does. If Pete could go back to that first time, he’d tell himself to save himself from a year of really good sort of sex and half a year of heartache.

When Pete sneaks into his own room through the window, Andy looks up from his Sociology book to stare at Pete. Andy’s never asked where Pete went sometimes, he must know Pete’s sleeping with someone, but the flicker of interest in his blue eyes shows that he doesn’t know yet.

“Fun time?” Andy asks with a grin, flipping the next page.

“My heart’s broken.” Pete announces dramatically and falls to his bed. Andy just scoffs and shakes his head, his attention already drawn back to the Anarchy, Rebellion, and Revolution in some European country Pete doesn’t know how to spell or pronounce. Pete’s glad that he’s stuck with Hurley as his roommate and not anyone else on the team, the others would have asked for details and Pete’s always been a bad liar.

Pete dreams too much; he’s dreamt of hearing millions of people shouting his thoughts back to him and hearing his own thoughts on the radio, dreamt of Midwestern white-picket fences or pink Los Angeles skies depending on the particular fantasy. It’s because Pete dreams too much that he’s still stuck here in University a couple of years too late, studying with the kids who used to watch his shows, while the rest of his band got actual jobs or got married.

Pete dreams of a world where dreams are the currency, and he’s a millionaire in it, up to his hips with dreams and just making more of it for the sake of it like a selfish, little capitalist machine. But he lives in this one and there’s a drought for them, not just the water which his Environmental Law and Policy professor had talked about earlier today, but on dreams too, though it probably doesn’t matter to anyone but Pete.

This drought on dreams doesn’t stop Pete from dreaming a lot about Patrick Stump though, he could probably power a tiny little city with this energy.

For the past year that Pete’s been messing around with Patrick, Pete’s only realized recently that Patrick might be someone that Pete dreamt up; thinking about Patrick feels a lot like how modern rock feels like (that is, basement shows, sweaty clothes sticking to skin, black eyes from too much love, bloody palms), feels like the euphoric dizziness of a comedown (that is, like how all the butterflies in his stomach were stuck in his chest now; stomachaches to become heartaches) feels like, like, like— Pete doesn’t know anymore, but when he thinks about Patrick, he’s dreaming with his eyes open and when he goes to sleep, all he sees is the naked curve of his shoulder, the fading bite mark Pete left on him, the slope of his neck.

Actually, there’s nothing that can stop Pete from dreaming about Patrick. In Pete’s head, it doesn’t matter that his arms are inked black and he’s a little darker than Patrick for reasons other than a good tan he got from spending a summer in Jamaica with his mom’s parents, doesn’t matter that he’s in the football team like some stupid cliche and Patrick is student council president, doesn’t matter that Patrick is straight and has a bunch of groupies who have ladyboners for pretentious and well-spoken blonde boys who can play the drums (Pete can’t blame them, he’s fallen for it too).

Pete likes the thrill that Patrick gives, creeping up his neck and sometimes down to his thighs, the feeling of lightning making his stomach pool with heat and his toes curl up. It doesn’t matter that dreams don’t mean anything in this world, doesn’t matter when there’s the feel of Patrick’s hips pressed close to Pete’s.

Pete drifts off to sleep thinking about Patrick, but he doesn’t dream of anything.

 


 


The next morning in Philosophy, Patrick’s cold again, immediately ducking his head down to read his Philosophy book once Pete’s arrived. Pete has to hold back a laugh as he walks through the aisles of seats, finding that it doesn’t really sting like he expected it to. It’s obvious Patrick faking it, they discussed that chapter two weeks ago. Pete shrugs it off and slides into his seat at the back of the room, in between the raging, hot blooded testosterone of Andy and Joe who were both already asleep.

When class starts and Pete’s mind begins to drift, Pete doesn’t think about Patrick. Really, honestly, Pete snaps himself back to the discussion and writes notes, digging his pen deep into his notebook and keeping his head down even though he could see Patrick glancing at him from the corner of his eye. Pete’s actually learned about the Ancient Chinese Philosophy that they have apparently been discussing for the past semester instead of making eyes at Patrick and wondering if the little mark near the collar of his shirt was the hickey Pete gave him or a nasty mosquito bite or if someone else had given him that.

The next week, Patrick doesn’t text either. He used to do it, back when this first started, when Patrick was a sophomore and just a little overeager when it came to academics and Pete. Patrick didn’t do it regularly but he still texted, sometimes telling Pete what he was doing, the song playing on the radio, never any I-miss-you’s because Patrick was never like that. Pete used to find it annoying back then, blowing off Patrick’s texts and even sometimes blocking his number, Pete wishes he could go back to that. This one time Patrick got shit faced and had sent a couple of dirty texts and pictures while Pete was asleep. By the time Pete woke up in the middle of the night with a raging hard-on, sneaking out of his room to Patrick’s window, Patrick was shitfaced and asleep in his own bed. Pete still likes to read from time to time. Patrick has strictly not acknowledged those texts beyond apologizing for them.

Now, Pete’s inbox remains significantly empty of Patrick’s presence and, well, life moves on and Pete doesn’t wait outside Patrick’s dorm room or window, hoping Patrick would let him back in. Pete gets high in Chris’s car, hotboxing in his shitty Jeep. The heat sticks to Pete’s skin and the choking smoke makes it feels like summer in there, like Pete’s in a beat up van again and touring through through all of the shitty basements in the Midwest and sleeping in the living room of strangers.

Pete goes to a couple of parties and he thinks he might have seen Patrick in some of them, but they never seek each other out. Pete doesn’t know what’s changed in him, why he can hold back on seeking Patrick’s touch out, but he hopes this time, for his sake, it remains this way.

Pete makes out with Winona from the cheer team, actually remembering her name and not calling her shit like girl with the nice tits or chick with the septum ring. They stumble into someone’s bedroom, falling to the bed with Winona on top of him. Pete wants to step into her skin, make her bones rattle, but he doesn’t fuck her, he doesn’t want to, his dick isn’t into it. Their clothes remain on, Pete’s back is pressed down the thin mattress, Winona is pressed to his chest; he’s right between the hell of falling right back in love with anyone who gave him the time of the day and the glory of getting over some past fuck (that’s all Patrick is, Pete reminds himself).

Winona is thunder when she laughs and Pete’s the one left shaking. See? Pete can romanticize her too. Maybe Pete hasn’t changed all that much after all, but at least he’s moving on.

Chapter Text

After the first time Pete kissed Patrick, sometime last year around this time, when he was perched on his windowsill, hanging on to the edge, feet dangling in the air, looking at the glow of the city underneath his feet, lips still bruised, Pete realized how lonely he was. There’s something about living in a university town, the way it suffocates you, how all the people and the smoke makes it hard to breathe, but then everyone around you is acting like it’s the most liberating feeling in the world and you’re left getting lost in the crowd, feeling left out while everyone's having the best time of their lives.

Being young in the city, that loneliness you feel in your twenties that sticks to your skin the same way sweat does during the summers, it gets to Pete. Sometimes, when Pete’s laughing with the rest of the team, head thrown back the same way when Patrick’s kissing his neck, the laughter gets stuck in his throat; it’s almost choking how Pete could die of fake laughter. Pete’s never been the type to get homesick, but he had to admit, eyes squinting through his neighbor’s curtains to watch the way their shadows danced, that he was looking for something but he didn’t know what.

It all sucks, the routine of making mistakes on a Friday night, passing out until Saturday noon, rinse, and repeat until the next weekend; detox just to retox. Pete’s sure he would have gone crazy if he didn’t climb down the fire escape that night and just walked into the city lights, getting lost without actually losing his way because he’s been here for the past four years of course he’s going to know this place like the back of his hand.

(the city isn’t the only thing Pete is familiar with, Pete probably still remembers the hands and eyes and bodies that he used to sleep around with when he thought that he could find something in there, something there beneath their skin; it was disappointing to find out when Pete bit into it, there was nothing to gain except bruised skin)

Now, one year later, and maybe even lonelier than he was that time by the window, Pete’s walking back to the dorms. It’s late enough for most of the respectable stores to be closed, but the city is still alive; lights glittering so brightly Pete’s eyes sting when he stares too long, the air is still heavy with everything that’s happened that day, what feels like an earthquake when he passes the bars only to realize it’s just people dancing. Pete’s in the heart of it all, this living, breathing thing, this concrete monster that doesn’t need Pete to exist.

While Pete was going up the stairs to his room, Pete feels his phone begin to vibrate in his pocket, the movement jolting him awake, out of this dream world where the shadows moved on their own and how city lights can burn skin, and where he was immune to it all, his loneliness a shield for him. Pete doesn’t know who could be calling; his mom doesn’t speak to him anymore, it could be a girl he slept with a year ago, a group mate ready to cuss him out, it could also be Andy calling to ask if Pete was getting home soon. Pete doesn’t answer the call, lets the phone vibrate in his pocket until it stopped.

When Pete gets back to his room, it feels like he’s been gone for hours and has returned to somewhere new. Pete’s spent so long trying to search through the moonlight and citylight for something different, for something left to love about this place. This used to be fun, back when he didn’t know the city enough yet, when stumbling across graffiti or a new shortcut back home was exciting. In reality, it couldn’t have been more than an hour since he left; his feet weren't aching, but his insides have begun to quiet down.

Just before Pete opens his door, he checks his phone and smiles when he saw it was Andy who was calling.

Andy is on the floor, by the corner doing his night routine of winding down with planks and lunges, his breathing muffled by the towel around his face; that part was new.  Pete’s only half surprised to see Joe on the extra mattress they hide underneath their beds; they were only able to sneak it in because Joe was sleeping with one of the RA’s. It had started out as a dare, but Pete has wondered if Joe loved Marie, they don’t really need any more mattresses in here, but Joe still continues to sneak into her room the same way Pete sneaks into windows. But Pete keeps his mouth shut and doesn’t even try to ask, too scared to know the answer, scared to know that he’s the only one looking for love in places where it can’t even grow.

“Pete, tell Joe he can’t smoke his weed in here.” Andy grumbles, explaining the significant amount of distance between the two of them and the towel around his nose.

“I brought you dinner.” Joe says with a grin, ignoring Andy, lips curled into a smile, knowing he’s already won when Pete’s eyes light up. “It’s from that burger place you like.”

“The one that’s not allowed in our diet?” Andy says, glaring at the joint Joe had brought out of nowhere.

“Tournament season is soon.” Joe agrees, oblivious to Andy, and then in a more serious tone, “Fucking’s also going to be banned soon.”

“Smooth,” Andy mutters at Joe, so quiet Pete almost missed it. Pete looks away from Joe’s blue eyes, suddenly way too intense for Pete's liking, and Pete wills himself to loosen his shoulders and smooth his face into something unreadable, casual.

“Thanks for the burger,” is all Pete says, grabbing the paper bag off his desk and sitting on the chair that was conveniently angled away from them. The oil from the burger has seeped into the bag and Pete could already see the fries were limp and cold, it should be disgusting, but Pete bites into it anyway, suddenly realizing how hungry he was, his stomach humming in pleasure.

“Is that all you’re going to say?” Joe starts, exasperated at Pete's tone. Pete looks up from where he was trying very hard to casually drill a hole into his burger to see Andy throw a warning look at Joe.

“What?” Pete asks through a mouthful of meat, fully aware that he was being childish right now.

“What Joe means is,” Andy says, throwing a sideway glance at Joe, this time it was a look Pete couldn’t understand and pick apart to analyze later. “We’re a little concerned about— whoever you’re fucking.”

“Why? What’s there to be concerned about?” Pete tries not to sound so defensive, but it probably came off as more vicious than he wanted it to be. Pete feels his heart begin to beat hard against his chest, threatening to break through his rib cage and rip through his skin, the beginnings of a headache piercing through his temples, his teeth aching.

“Well,” Andy pauses, his hand in the air as if he was about to touch Pete’s shoulder. Pete ducks Andy’s hand and hopes Andy won’t push it, he might crumble underneath Andy’s touch.

“There’s just been some rumours.” Joe mumbles, suddenly the one who can’t meet Pete’s eyes anymore. Joe’s shifting uncomfortably on the mattress, twisting his hands, and biting on the dried skin on his lips, the unlit joint forgotten on his lap.

Pete laughs and it probably sounds scripted and canned like a sitcom laugh track, god, this really was a teen movie cliche, Jesus. “What kind? I swear I’ve been good; it’s probably just Chris starting shit again, remember that thing with the twins? It was funny, but give me a break. I’m not that trashy.”

There was also the little known fact that he was sucking Patrick’s dick the weekend that particular rumour had supposedly happened.

Joe and Andy don’t laugh with him, they exchange another look and Pete feels his jaw tighten right before he speaks, “Stop that— don’t look at me like that and then look at each other.”

Joe’s face falls, blue eyes dimming a bit, and it’s times like this that Pete remembers just how young Joe was. Joe's claimed he’s seen some of Pete’s bands back when Joe was in high school, Joe could pass as his little brother here in university. Pete’s chest begins to ache because he doesn’t like this, doesn’t like the person he’s become ever since he started sleeping with Patrick; a liar, a coward, a bad friend, whatever you call it.

Pete looks up at Andy and Andy is the same except he’s hidden his hurt more, concern etched on his face in the way his brows are furrowed and the wrinkles on his face deepen; Pete’s made fun of him for it, telling him he’s fucking up his skin and how he’ll get gray hairs earlier with all his worrying, but it’s only now that Pete realizes it’s because Andy’s always worrying about him.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to snap.” Pete mutters, looking down on the floor. “I swear I’m okay.”

Pete watches Joe move closer and Pete lets him wrap Pete in a warm hug, the muscles underneath Joe’s arm shift and curl and Pete feels a little hysterical, feels a little sick that he noticed that. Pete pushes Joe off, shaking his head, still unable to meet Joe’s eyes because he knows that if he looks at them right now, all he’d see was hurt.

“We worry, that’s all.” Andy says, and he doesn’t even ask if Pete’s heard them too. Because of course Pete’s heard the threats underneath all the locker room jokes, he’s seen the way some people’s gazes would linger on him and for once he hasn’t basked in the attention. Pete’s so over university and the people here, he can’t wait to graduate and run away from the spotlight to move somewhere where it’s dark all the time and nobody could see him.

Andy doesn’t ask if any of it is true either, Pete hopes it’s because they don’t suspect anything, there’s always been crazy rumours about what goes on before and after practice, in and out of locker rooms and dorm rooms, but Pete wishes that they didn’t ask because the truth wouldn’t matter to them.

 


 

Pete runs into Patrick at what might be the most awkward of all places to run into your fuckbuddy/the-guy-you've-been-sort-of-in-love-with-for-the-past-half-year.

Pete had just gotten out of the shower, hair still wet and dripping, towel wrapped loosely around his waist. Pete was flexing in front of the mirror, noting the way his biceps curled and bulged, wondering what angle they looked best in and if the dimmer lighting in the dorms worked in their favor more than the harsh bathroom lights. Andy, who’s caught him doing this numerous times, has called him vain, but Pete would like to disagree with that and label himself as appreciative of the arts, thank you.

So when Pete sees the door of the bathroom push forward, he quickly drops the arm he was inspecting and grabs his toothbrush in an attempt to looking innocent; again, it’s because Andy’s caught him doing something stupid way too many times over the years that Pete was an expert in not getting caught by other people anymore.

It might be cliche to say it, but Pete’s heart could have stuttered, skipped over a few beats too fast like it was playing hopscotch on his chest when he saw who it was. Patrick entered the room, head down so he didn’t see Pete, but Pete could see he was wearing a too big t-shirt, the print already fading and peeling off, and a pair of loose black gym shorts; Pete remembered weeks ago when he thought seeing this would be some sort of miracle. It doesn’t feel that way now, but the way Pete’s heart lets a feeble little thump in his chest? Maybe that is.

“Long time no see.” Pete calls over, flashing a small smile, hoping that Patrick falls for it, hoping there’s still some magic in between his teeth, hoping that Patrick’s eyes will still do that thing. It’s been a while, around a few weeks, Pete might not be good at this anymore.

Patrick’s head shoots up and his eyes don’t soften, but they widen in surprise and he hesitantly smiles back to Pete’s relief; the acknowledgement was enough. “Yeah,” Patrick replies, and then adds in a teasing tone, one eyebrow raised. “You’re not stalking me are you?”

“I think your ego needs to take it down a few notches, I was just about to leave.” Pete laughs, and then he lowers his eyes, looking at Patrick from beneath his eyelashes. “Unless you were looking for me?”

“Don’t flatter yourself. I always shower at this time.” Patrick replies with a smirk, but Pete can see the bead of sweat that rolls down the side of his face; Pete chases it with his eyes as it drops down to the jut of Patrick’s exposed collarbone and imagines tracing the road it left with his tongue. Nothing’s happened yet but Pete feels his dick jump when he pulls his gaze away from Patrick’s neck to his heavy eyes. Patrick steps nearer, slowly, almost predatory in the way Pete feels trapped underneath his gaze right now; Pete’s legs suddenly felt heavy and his hands were tingling in excitement. “It’s the best time to shower, nobody ever goes in here.”

“Oh, yeah?” Pete replies, casually, his fingers tracing where his towel was knotted. He catches Patrick’s eyes follow the movement, sees the way Patrick licks his lips before sinking his teeth into his bottom lip. Pete was half-hard now, he loves this, loves the chase even though the both of them always knew how it would end, it’s just a matter of when and how weak they were.

“Yeah,” Patrick replies, but it doesn’t look like he’s bothering to even follow the conversation anymore.  They were chest to chest now, Pete could feel the warm of Patrick’s skin even from beneath Patrick’s t-shirt.

“Are we going to keep this up or are you going to—oh,” Pete cries softly when Patrick finally surges forward to kiss Pete. Pete falls into the kiss, gets lost in the way Patrick bites his way into it. Pete opens his mouth to let Patrick in, hands falling to the back of Patrick’s neck to bring him closer. Pete feels a thrill of excitement when his dick brushes against Patrick’s, heavy and already half-hard beneath his shorts, and maybe he feels a little thrill that he's still got Patrick.

Pete bites down hard on Patrick’s bottom lip, just how he likes it, around the same time they hear a group of people, fucking theatre kids, singing in the hallways. Pete kisses Patrick harder, feeling blood rush down to his dick at the thought of someone opening the door and finding them like this.

“You’re into that, huh?” Patrick asks darkly, hands falling to cup Pete’s dick through his towel. Pete feels his face heat up, blood still rushing, and he squeezes his eyes shut, but he nods anyway, there’s no way to hide how his dick had jumped at the thought, the way his throat constricted as he tried to hold back a filthy moan.

Patrick laughs, quiet and low, but not mean. Patrick rests his palm on Pete’s chest and keeps it there as he gently pushes Pete back into the shower cubicles, the towel slipping off Pete’s waist as he tripped backwards. Patrick kicks the cubicle door shut without looking back, eyes still taking Pete in. Pete feels the cool porcelain on his heated skin and it makes him gasp, or maybe it was the way Patrick was looking at him right now, like he could see through Pete, all of his thoughts and fuckups, and he still saw something he wanted.

“You’re going to have to keep really, really quiet for me, okay?” Patrick says and Pete wants, Pete wants this so bad, but he wishes he could scream out, because fuck, that’s what he’s been doing this whole time, keeping quiet, keeping his head down so nobody found out he liked dick. He was supposed to be himself when he's around Patrick like this.

Patrick begins to sink down to his knees, not breaking eye contact, but Pete’s already decided how this night was going to go. “Stop,” Pete says quietly and pulls Patrick up by his arms, Pete's hands wrapping around the smooth muscle underneath Patrick’s skin. This time, it doesn’t fill him with dread like with Joe, Pete feels a rush of heat pool in his stomach and he sinks his nails in deep to leave little crescent moons on Patrick's skin.

Patrick looks unsure now, blue eyes clouding with fear, “Did— did I misunderstand? Oh my god, I can leave if you want me to.”

Patrick’s face was burning up and Pete could see him shrinking in on himself. Patrick steps back, hands falling down to his sides, eyes unable to meet Pete’s

“Hey, hey.” Pete says soothingly, stepping towards Patrick. “Sorry, I just don’t want a blowjob right now.”

“Consent is important, Pete.” Patrick pouts, the side of his lip threatening to twist into a smile, but he lets Pete grab his wrist and pull him forward anyway, their chests knocking against each other when Patrick falls into him.

“You’re too cute.” Pete shakes his head again and guides Patrick’s hand to his dick, wrapping his fist around Patrick’s. “Sorry for freaking you out.”

“You could have just said so.” Patrick grumbles but his fist doesn’t stop. There’s no sound between them except for the faint chatter of the people outside the bathroom, the sound of their fists on Pete’s dick, and Pete’s hot pants into the space between them.

“This is good,” Pete mumbles when they’ve settled on a rhythm. The sensation of his own warm hand and Patrick’s cold one makes Pete whine and thrust up, even if Patrick still felt a little unconfident and loose around him. “kiss me.”

Patrick’s fist tighten around Pete’s dick and he leans in to mouth Pete’s neck, tongue catching on the drops of water that ran down from his hair, drinking in the taste of Pete. Pete squeezes his eyes shut, trying to hold out a little longer. Pete moans and it echoes around the bathroom; he wants to be embarrassed, wants to be ashamed that Patrick gets him like this, but Pete only feels his dick harden when Patrick mutters, “Thought I told you to stay quiet.”

Pete’s heart begins to beat fast, wondering what Patrick was going to do, but Patrick only turns on the shower. The water falling on Pete’s warm skin feels good, makes the slide around their fists easier and smoother. Pete moans quietly again, sinking into the pleasure, the sound disappearing under the rush of shower water.

“Wanna feel your dick.” Pete mumbles, head falling down to rest on Patrick’s shoulder, mouthing the skin there when Patrick does a delicious twist with his wrist that makes Pete’s toes curl. Patrick gasps back when Pete’s teeth graze over one his sensitive spots, the dip where his shoulder and neck meet.

“Take it out then.” Patrick says and Pete can’t help the moan-laugh that comes out of his mouth. Patrick laughs with him and this is fun, this is easy, Pete’s getting lost in his feelings again, the shower drops falling into his eyes making everything blurry and softer around the edges. Pete removes his hand to start working on Patrick’s drawstrings while Patrick’s hand continues to slowly slide up and down, almost agonizingly.

“Tease.” Pete mutters, finally bringing out Patrick’s dick. Their hips are pressed together, Patrick’s fist still keeping their slow pace while the head of Pete’s dick rubs against his thigh. A drop of precum forms on the top of Patrick’s cock and Pete swipes it wish his thumb, wishing he could taste it.

“You—ah, like me like that.” Patrick gasps when Pete finally brings their dicks together. Patrick interlocks their fingers and they set a smooth and steady rhythm, their fists in perfect unison. The feeling is intense, his dick sliding against the warmth of Patrick’s, the shower water still raining down their backs. Pete can’t take his eyes off the way they looked, his dick was darker and a bit thicker than Patrick’s, but Pete doesn’t mind admitting that Patrick knows how to use his more anyway, doesn’t mind when this feels so good.

A few minutes later, Patrick’s fist begins to stutter, slow down and lag behind. Patrick’s fist catches on Pete’s dick and squeezes briefly by the base which makes Pete moan out. Pete knew Patrick was close before he said it. Patrick rests on Pete’s forehead, panting into the space between their mouths, and Pete feels himself get even harder at the split second thought that Patrick was going to kiss him.

Pete’s mouth was open, ready to drown out the noise Patrick was going to make; this is it, this is the big movie scene kiss, fading to black when the both of them reach climax; it’s not romantic in any way but it’s what they’re allowed to have.

But it turns out, they can’t have it after all. Patrick’s lips only brush against Pete’s as he groans into Pete’s cheek, deep and guttural; anything that comes out of Patrick’s mouth is musical and it’s Pete’s favorite sound in the world, so it doesn’t feel that much of a loss.

Patrick whines again and Pete didn’t even realize his stomach was stained with cum and that he was still holding on to Patrick’s dick. Pete lets go and before Pete could get scared that Patrick was going to leave him like this, hot and hard and desperate, Patrick presses a quick sloppy kiss on his mouth before he flips Pete over. Pete’s chest lands on the porcelain wall and he hisses when his nipples catch on the cool tiles, pleasure shooting up his spine like lightning. Patrick leans into Pete and he feels Patrick’s soft dick rub against his ass. Pete was close now, his stomach was tightening and he squeezed his eyes shut.

“I want you to fuck me one day.” Pete whispers when Patrick presses against his back, the words come out like a challenge when he only wanted it to be a promise.

“Yeah? I’ve thought about it too. ” Patrick groans, speeding up his fists. “I wanna make you feel good. I bet you won't be able to keep your mouth shut, you're going to be whining and moaning and begging for it—”

That was it; Pete was done for. Pete falls backward when he cums, head thrown back so Patrick could kiss him through it while he rode his orgasm out. The feeling blooming in his chest to spread to his whole body, Patrick continues to give him a hand job, loose and slow, knowing just how Pete liked it, maybe he knew just how much Pete liked the mayhem mixed with what could be love.

When Pete’s orgasm fades, the air quiets around them, only to leave the sound of breathing and the shower water hitting the floor. Patrick leads their bodies, still pressed to each other, under the shower and he wipes the cum off Pete’s stomach and fingers, letting the water carry the traces of tonight down the drain. It’s so calm that it was hard to imagine the past few minutes have happened. Maybe Pete had dreamt it all, some sick fantasy he had in the shower because it’s been a while since someone touched him.

(honeymoons and smoke breaks in a minivan, we'd drive through our trouble bubble, screaming at mansions, football pads become a memory)

“You came first.” Pete mutters when Patrick turns the shower off, his voice slurred and thick, still keeping his head there resting on the side of Patrick’s, mouthing any part of Patrick’s skin he could get his lips on. Pete’s still loose from the orgasm; his legs are still weak and his body still hazy like he’s been laying underneath the sun all day. “You owe me an orgasm.”

“You just had to go and ruin the moment, didn’t you?” Patrick replies drily, but to Pete’s surprise, he doesn’t move away or push Pete off. They stay like that, Pete resting on Patrick’s chest while Patrick traced shapes on Pete’s naked hipbone. Pete doesn’t know how long they stay like that, it’s disgusting; all the hot water has been used up, their bodies sticking to each other uncomfortably, their skin threatening to be wrinkled permanently, but Pete wouldn’t mind if they stayed like this forever. This is the first time Patrick hasn’t pulled away, and Pete thinks he could forgive Patrick for the other times he’s done it.

(known you for some time but it feels brand new, try and go forget but we did that too, and I won't ever let you go)

With Pete’s back still stuck to Patrick’s chest, he might be imagining it, but there was the faint feeling of Patrick’s heart beating against his back, this steady and sure beat that makes the blood rush to Pete’s ears, drowning everything out. If Pete listened closely enough, if he focused hard enough, he could hear the sound of himself falling in love with Patrick somewhere between the third and fourth beat.

This time might be different.

Pete is the first one to pull away, but that’s because he’s just thought of a good idea, and listen, he’s good with these things. Pete turns to face Patrick, and he feels his heart soften again, at the way Patrick is looking at him right now, blue eyes so big, Pete could live inside them and never have to go back to the real world.

(we’ve got some problems we could run away from, search for a tree that you could hang on, stay down)

“Okay, I have an idea—” Pete starts.

“Listen, I—” Patrick starts the same time Pete started speaking.

They laugh, Patrick’s face blooming pink and Pete resists the urge to pinch his cheeks or tuck the strand of hair behind his ear; baby steps, baby steps, he could do that in the future, there’s something in Patrick’s eyes that say there will be a next time. Pete always manages to find something there. It’s not like with the city that gets familiar after a while, Patrick is always changing every time Pete meets his eyes and Pete can't ever get tired of it.

“Okay, you first.” Pete says with a grin, giddy with the feeling, with the excitement of tonight, of tasting Patrick’s skin and exploring it to find the something new he’s been looking for. Pete's thinking of rose petals on Patrick’s bed, all the shops have closed, but Pete’s always been determined.

“Okay, speaking of ruining the moment, I—” Patrick says, his face was red up until the tips of his ears. Patrick pauses and he bites down on his bottom lip, the movement makes Pete anxious, impatiently waiting for Patrick finish talking so Pete can finally kiss him. “Um—about what I said a while ago—”

“Are you blushing?” Pete asks gleefully, he couldn’t help but interrupt Patrick, he's just so excited that they’re on the same page. Pete’s already thinking of the playlist, this mixtape titled: Pete and Patrick: A Loss Of Gay Anal Virginity Like We’re In High School And This Is Prom Night. Pete was busy trying to remember if Patrick had a speaker in his room that wasn’t connected to his vinyl record player that he didn’t even notice Patrick stepping a few steps back away from him.

“Shut up.” Patrick says, but he’s laughing as he shoves Pete lightly. “Anyway, I was saying. I just— uh, that thing? I’m not— I’m not gay, alright? I don’t actually want to… Um.”

There’s this infinite moment that happens within that second of a pause where Pete is too stunned to reply. He’s at a loss of words, he doesn’t know if the words got lost somewhere between his brain to his throat, or if his mind just stopped working. It’s like the whole world has shifted underneath Pete’s feet, he’s imbalanced and now he can’t find the right way to stand without falling off; if he does, there won't be anything there to catch him.

Pete stares at Patrick, mouth hanging open and he doesn’t know how to tell Patrick he was going to ask if they could go back to his room, collect that promise before they changed their minds again. He doesn't know how he's going to apologize to Patrick for trying to look for love again when Patrick didn't want it in the first place. Pete feels like he’s moving out of his body, letting years of coping mechanisms and self-preservation techniques take a hold of him when he finally replies,

(watch myself, watch myself watching you, you)

“The— the thing with the—?” Pete clears his throat with a laugh that sounded more like a cry to his ears, “Dude, don’t worry. Me too. We’re not— we won’t. I don’t know what I was thinking when I said that. I’m not gay.”

Patrick laughs with him, blush slowly fading away the same way the idea of tonight was fading in Pete’s mind. Soon, Pete would forget what he wanted to do tonight anyway, forgot all the hope he’s had. “Yeah. Me too. I just wanted to set it straight that I’m, uh, straight.”

“Yeah, same.” is all Pete could say. The air hangs awkwardly around them, there’s a disturbance, a shift in the air, even Patrick could feel it change.

“What about you? What were you going to say?” Patrick asks after a long pause, his voice echoing in the quiet bathroom.

“I—I don’t know. I forgot.” Pete mutters, looking away now. If he titled his head just right, maybe he could let the tears that have sprung in his eyes mix with the shower water dripping down his hair, Patrick won’t ever have to know. Patrick is still quiet and looking at him expectantly, Pete feels something pierce through his chest at the realization that Patrick was still dressed while he was naked.

“I gotta go.” Pete starts, grabbing the towel off the floor and wrapping it around himself tightly like he could use it as a shield. “We’re meeting some girls later and—”

(football pads become a memory, a bad memory)

That was a lie, there were definitely no girls Pete was going to meet after this, there haven’t been any girls ever since this whole thing started, unless one counted the Grey’s Anatomy marathons Pete has sometimes underneath his covers. But whatever, he still had an image to keep even though he was just crying out for Patrick’s dick a few minutes ago.

“Oh yeah! Definitely, I’ll leave you to it. I’m still stressing out about this fundraising thing anyway. Uh, thanks for tonight, Pete.” Patrick replies sincerely.

Pete nods half heartedly without looking at Patrick, dressing quickly, the cubicle suddenly feeling so big, it took forever for Patrick to finally leave and enter a cubicle a few doors down from the sound of it. Pete waits inside his own cubicle, long after he’s dressed, waiting for Patrick’s shower to start before leaving himself. Pete leaves the shower room quietly, letting the sounds of Patrick showering drown out the noises, not even bothering to say goodbye to Patrick. Everything is so quick, time moving way too fast, it feels like Pete is sleepwalking; Pete blinks and he's in the hallways, he blinks again and he's standing outside his bedroom. When he got back to his room, Andy and Joe were already fast asleep; Andy’s eyelids flickering from a dream while Joe snored quietly underneath one of Andy’s thick blankets.

The sight is familiar in the way Patrick is not and it makes Pete's heart ache. This room, this is coming home to something sure and recognizable. It reminds Pete that he doesn’t hate what he has now,  makes Pete wonder why he would ever go off looking for something more when he has all that he needs already. If given the choice, Pete would always go back to this cramped dorm room littered with boys, he could live in this little university dorm room and sleep on a twin mattress for the rest of his life; this is where his heart is strongest.

But then, just before Pete falls asleep, his phone lights up with a number that’s tattooed into his brain by now from all the times he’s spent staring at it, willing for a text that was never going to come. It’s a simple string of words that pulls on Pete’s own heartstrings: we should do it again sometime

Pete doesn’t know if Patrick is being cruel by throwing his words back at him, or if this was a metaphorical olive branch that Patrick was offering to Pete. There's a turf war within Pete's body as he tries to figure out what he's feeling. There's an ugly twist where his heart should be, a drop in his stomach like he's on a rollercoaster, colors are dancing beneath Pete's eyelids, and his mouth is dry, looking for the warmth of Patrick's.

Pete falls asleep not knowing what Patrick wanted from him, his phone clutched in his hand.

(you changed me for the better, i’d do it all again)

Chapter Text

The sky is dark, has been for a while now, Pete’s measured time from the way the sun had slowly sunk down, the way shadows grew longer until they were climbing up the walls and enfluging everything in black. The night is starless and the only source of light on the field is the dim glow of the spotlights; Pete’s eyes have already adjusted to the darkness but it still feels like a whole different world right now. Pete’s alone in the field, it’s been like that for hours, longer than how the sky has been darker. It’s probably past dinner now; everyone’s drinking, studying, or fucking. But Pete’s still here.

(bleachers only hold, thunder only grows, it's all the same at dark, the sun doesn’t care)

Pete’s just finished a lap, he doesn’t know how many he’s had by now, the number lost to him, the circle of the field repetitive enough for Pete to get lost in it; time moves backwards, there’s the faint sounds of chatter from the cafeteria sounding like a whole different language, there’s the feeling of the wind pushing up against his back, a phantom ache of a few nights ago. Pete’s legs are on fire, his thighs burning, his feet aching. He’s completely drenched in sweat and he feels disgusting, but he pushes on for another lap anyway, slamming his feet into the smooth ground.

Pete runs his fingers through his hair, trying to wipe the sweat that was gathering by his scalp, his fingers slipping into air, empty space, out of routine. Pete’s face flushes, blood rushing to his face while anger rushes throughout his whole body as he remembers earlier today: coach looking at him, this time with genuine disgust in his eyes. Shit, it had hurt, because coach used to like Pete, this is the same guy Pete’s thrown back beers with, the same guy Pete’s tried setting up with the older ladies Pete’s known from the scene who worked 9-5 jobs now, the same guy who once carried Pete when he twisted his ankle and couldn’t help but cry because that was actual, fucking pain for once.

Wentz, you need to do something about your hair. I’ve heard the things people have been saying. It’s giving the team a bad image, buddy.

Pete had stared at him, stunned for a moment, because really? Pete would have much preferred if coach had just skipped the pleasantries and called him a slur to his face.

Pete remembers the feeling when coach hesitantly reached out to pat his shoulder, hot shame for something Pete doesn’t understand, something he hasn’t understood hasn’t understood yet because he doesn’t want to think about it. If Pete doesn’t think about it, there will be no words to form into reality; this sort of self-fulfilling prophecy that maybe Pete might be—

Pete stops the thought before it can continue, he’s distracted now, stops in the middle of the field and he combs his hair again, viciously, digging his nails into his scalp until he’s felt that stinging sensation. Pete tugs at the way too short locks with both hands, gripping it tightly with his fists and pulling hard. Pete had stood there, long after everyone had left, scissors in hand, staring at the dirty locker room mirror stained with grit and mud, dirty from the use of teenage boys who couldn’t wait to leave the place. Objectively speaking, the haircut isn’t ugly at all, it was pretty good actually even though Pete had no experience at all with cutting his own hair. Cutting his hair used to be his mom’s job, back when Pete would go home after soccer practice with scraped knees and poetry he made in third-period math when he was ten. His mom still used to stick them on the refrigerator and kiss his forehead when he cried about the bandages.

“I think it’s time for you to stop.” Patrick’s voice comes from behind Pete. The sound makes Pete flinch in surprise, hesitant to face the source. When Pete turns around and Patrick is there, right in front of him, the moonlight is this dull glare that makes him look like an apparition. Patrick’s always been painfully white, but now he glows underneath it, almost cloudy, almost like he would disappear if Pete were to reach out and touch him.  Pete almost asks him if he were real and not just something his brain imagined, Patrick might as well be a ghost, he’s been dead to Pete for a while.

(tripped in the dark, you found me, and boy I'll be back when you're lonely, if you want me to)

“What are you doing here?” Pete asks after a beat of silence. Pete’s voice is raspy, the flicker of pain that shoots up his throat reminds him of earlier, around the first ten laps, when he had screamed into the sky, thinking that it would make him feel better. It did, but not for long, definitely not now when Patrick is here; the feeling is more of a panic attack now, his chest constricting.

“I was just passing by. Security was about to kick your ass, but I said I’ll do it.” Patrick replies, walking towards Pete now, slowly like he was scared Pete would bolt if he made sudden movements.

“Abusing your power, huh?” Pete asks and there’s a bite somewhere there. Pete swears he’s angry at Patrick, all the feelings he’s had for him are gone now. When Pete looks at Patrick, all he feels is tired, bones weary, eyes weighed down, back heavy; everything Pete thought could be love has just left him weak.

Patrick doesn’t laugh, but he smiles. Pete thinks it’s a nice smile, objectively, he could understand how it was something that kept him wrapped around Patrick’s fingers like thread. “You busy tonight?” Patrick asks, bringing car keys out of his pocket and dangling them in front of Pete.

Pete scowls at Patrick and throws him a cold look that he hopes freezes the Midwest over; imagine that, winter in the middle of July. “Sorry but yeah, running laps at nine PM is part of my routine.”

“Sure it is, Pete.” Patrick asks and there’s that smile again. It’s not even mocking, it’s boyishly charming and Pete feels his defenses weaken at the sight.

“I don’t wanna fuck, Patrick.” Pete says seriously and Patrick’s smile flickers.

Patrick looks down, digging his hands deep into his pockets, the car keys disappearing. “I wasn’t planning on it.” Patrick mumbled, eyes fixed to the ground as if the answer would be there.

“It’s going to take a bit more for you to convince me that.” Pete replies quietly, his voice lacking the coldness the sentence warranted.

Patrick raises his head again and his eyes are imploring, blue eyes like the sky in all of the best summers in Pete’s life; those summers where he could have died of a heatstroke, laying underneath the sun and staring into the blue of the sky, so focused on waiting for the future to happen that he didn’t realize he was going to miss that moment now. “Can I take you out for a drive?”

“You’re not going to drive me to the middle of nowhere and kill me, are you?”

Patrick grins at him, the smile not quite meeting his eyes this time, but at least he tries. Patrick gestures towards Pete and then to himself, “I don’t think I can take you in a fight.”

Pete might not be too sure of that. Patrick’s right, Pete’s got the build for it even though Pete’s not that tall to begin with, he’s got a few inches over Patrick, but right now, Pete has never felt so small. Pete’s used his loneliness as a shield way too many times only to find out that it crumbles just a little bit when Patrick gives him those eyes.

“What do you want from me, Patrick?” Pete whispers. Patrick’s face is unreadable, his eyebrows drawn the way they always do when he’s thinking hard about something in Philosophy, his mouth in a firm line like when he’s about to give a speech in front of the student body. But his eyes? His eyes are blue the same way they were when he had first knelt down in front of Pete; pleading, but unable to say it.

“I’m hoping to find out after the drive.” Patrick finally replies after a long pause, voice very quiet.

“Okay,” Pete says without thinking. Pete’s heart had a direct line to his mouth, only ever talking from the heart; words always managing to slip out, the right line at the wrong time.

They walk to the parking lot, they don’t touch, but their shadows do; melting into one body, this thing that was bigger than the both of them. The darkness hides them away from the moonlight and from the eyes of whoever is passing by the field this late at night. Patrick keeps his head down, his hands in his pockets, almost unreadable but bits of his thoughts enter Pete’s mind like broken radio transmissions.

(a broken heart led me to you… "I'm seeing through you"... and this was before I knew you… back when darkness was all I had to hold)

Pete finds out Patrick owns an Audi, a sleek black metal block that Pete would have appreciated when he was younger. The car screams of the suburbian white-picket fences Pete’s dreamt of, of a dog somewhere in the backyard with the BBQ grill, of khaki shorts and light pink polos in the shade of Patrick’s skin when it’s flushed. The car is everything Patrick is not, but it’s everything that’s keeping them separated from each other.

“Is this where all the magic happens?” Pete asks when he gets in the car, it smells of leather and Patrick’s cologne more than the tiny little pine tree air freshener hanging by the rearview. “or does it happen in the backseat? I’m really flattered.”

Pete is trying to be mean, vicious in a way he doesn’t know if he could ever be with Patrick. Pete can’t help but wish for the venom when he spits words out, hoping it catches on an open wound and stings like salt. It’s cruel and it’s not fair to Patrick, but Pete still feels so hollow.

“I deserved that,” Patrick replies quietly, not looking at Pete. “Also, no. I don’t— I haven’t done anything like that with anyone in my car.”

They don’t move. Patrick unmoving and not turning the engine on or anything. Pete unmoving because he’s afraid of what would happen. It’s Friday night, the parking lot is nearly empty, but Pete squints at a car a few feet away from them, wondering if the fog on the windows meant a couple was having sex; it throws him back to a night when he had stared at his neighbor’s curtains and imagined shadows there. Feeling imaginary spiders crawling up his neck, Pete turns to face Patrick who wasn’t looking at him. Patrick was holding the steering wheel too tight, knuckles white, his feet tapping an unsteady rhythm; Pete’s relieved the sound wasn’t musical to him, it just sounded like what it was.

“You know, I can leave if you want.” Pete says, leaving out the fact that this was Patrick’s idea.

There’s a long pause before Patrick replies softly, still not looking at Pete,  “I know how you feel about me.”

There’s a pause before Pete replies just as softly, but maybe more honestly, “I haven’t exactly been hiding it.”

Pete’s surprised that Patrick knowing about everything he’s felt for him isn’t as scary as he thought it would be. What’s so shameful about what Pete is feeling? It’s not something to be ashamed of. The feelings he has for Patrick, they’re all good when they’re good, when they’re together, every time they kiss it’s like Pete reaches a new high in his life.

Patrick shrugs, “I know.”

“So what are you trying to find out after the drive?” Pete asks him.

Patrick is quiet, but when he answers, he doesn’t answer Pete’s question, “Do you still want to ride with me?”

“I’m already getting sweat and mud on your seats, I might as well,” Pete muttered, fingertips tracing shapes into the leather. Pete is still looking at Patrick, unflinching underneath the heavy gaze of Patrick’s eyes. Patrick doesn’t say anything, but then Pete brain picks up on that scrap thought that Patrick’s throwing at him anyway, he’s saying thank you. Pete can read it in his eyes.

Patrick drives slowly, almost crawling at the rate they’re going; if they were different people, Pete would have mentioned how tragic it was that Patrick owned this car. With the calming roll of the motion feeling like waves, Pete feels his eyes drooping, the exhaustion of the past week, the ache in his bones from running all those laps finally catching up to him. They’re still not talking; Pete is still trying to figure out where this was going, both the drive and him and Patrick, while Patrick stays focused on the road. Patrick stays quiet, but Pete thinks he’s speaking to him through the radio anyway.

(I wish I could quit you. I’ve got your name across my chest. I’m still sleeping with the window open, why can't I get you out of my head?)

Pete is rediscovering the city right now here in Patrick’s car. The corner he takes to get to Joe’s favorite pizza place is now where Patrick had almost missed the turn, too busy trying to skip the song just when it started with the bridge (told a lie and I'm sorry. let me make it up to you at the football game, I’ll pick you up in the morning. who was I when I was lonely?) . They stop at the pedestrian crossing where Pete had once stopped in the middle in, imagining a car was there and wondering if he would die if it hit him, the light from the streetlamp falls on Patrick, and he’s temporarily bathed in yellow, if Pete kissed him right now it might be like kissing like sunshine. Patrick is taking Pete apart only to build him up again, all the bad times being replaced by the faint shadow of Patrick in the driver’s seat, familiar to Pete because Pete’s had his face in his hands way too many times now.

When they’re three red lights away from university, it feels like a whole universe away from their lives as they creep into the nearby suburbs and away from the neon lights of a university town. Underneath the glow of the red stoplight, Pete sees Patrick’s hand slowly lift up from the stick. There’s a metaphor for this somewhere there, somewhere here in the darkness, right between the space by the gear shift, maybe Pete will be able to find it if he crosses it to move into Patrick’s space. But Pete stays in his seat and watches Patrick’s hand like it moves in slow motion: Patrick’s hand hesitantly inching to fall on his own, the one resting on his thigh. Patrick doesn’t hold his hand, doesn’t curl it, or interlock their fingers, he just rests it there.

Patrick’s hand is sweaty and the position must be uncomfortable, but Patrick doesn’t pull it away. Not even to turn the wheel, instead struggling with his free hand. Patrick doesn’t remove it, not even when they reach the freeway and this was possibly very very dangerous. It’s so quiet, Pete is afraid to breathe, scared that the magic will be lost and they’ll crash into a truck.

Pete looks at Patrick but Patrick looks straight ahead at the road. Pete watches the way, Patrick’s chewing his bottom lip, face glowing from all the streetlights, it looks like the moonlight is chasing them with every turn they take. Pete is still staring when Pete turns his hand around to twine his fingers around Patrick’s. It feels like everything clicking into place, like locking his door before he goes to class;  holding Patrick’s hand should be casual, should be routine, should be something right.

And it was the right thing to do.

Pete sees Patrick release the breath he was holding and Pete feels Patrick squeeze his hand in his own. The heavy weight of Patrick’s hand in his own is sure and steady, the exact opposite of what they are.

(my hands holding your hands, driving past the sunset, I know I wanna marry you, it's kinda unbearable and that's pretty overwhelming, the feeling is brand new)

They stop at what could be the edge of the city, in some nameless little suburb with families sleeping, unaware of the moment where Pete and Patrick’s hands had touched and it felt like bottle-rocket fireworks shooting into the sky. Pete thinks they might be a little lost and what a thought it is: to get lost in the moonlight and not come back to their real lives, this could be their life now.

(the feeling is brand new and the feeling will never leave, but I still feel seventeen)

“We won’t get arrested, right?” Pete asks warily, peeking out the window and seeing the houses stretch out until the end of the road.

Patrick snorts, a smile forming on his face. “Depends. What do you plan on doing tonight?”

Pete looks at Patrick and he knows his face right now is open, he’s choosing it to be, he wants it to be. Pete repeats what he said a while ago, a harder edge to the words, “I don’t want to fuck, Patrick.”

Patrick sighs and Pete remembers that Patrick’s hand is still holding his, it’s been there for what’s felt like forever, Pete swears that their hands have started to mold into one so that they could be one being.

“I already told you,” Patrick said, voice almost begging right now, the sound crawling up the back of Pete’s neck like it did in the parking lot earlier. “I don’t want to, okay?”

It’s Pete’s turn to sigh, pulling Patrick’s hand along with his when he crosses his arms. Patrick still doesn’t pull away. The movement brings Patrick closer, not enough to touch or kiss, but he’s crossed the space between them, forbidden territory, they can’t go back after this.

“Sorry for being a dick earlier. I just— it hurt, you know?” Pete mumbled. “You know what you do to me. You knew that you were hurting me and that I still always fell back into your arms. It’s not because I like the pain or anything. I just— I can’t stop myself. And I wish that you’d be the one to stop this because you’re the one who can think clearly and I’m the one who’s so fucked for you. But you don’t. You just keep coming back and I don’t understand why.”

“I didn’t mean to lead you on. I didn’t realize— didn’t realize how you felt until a few fucks ago. When did you start—?”

“Around a few fucks ago.” Pete echoes. The honest answer is half a year, but he’s only slept with Patrick a handful of times after the realization, so he’s not sure if it counts. It was somewhere between the time Patrick had laughed into his mouth in February, the feeling like when he drank his first beer at fifteen and a half, the warmth spreading from his mouth to his chest to all over his body, and the time Patrick had kissed Pete’s neck and left a bruise in May, the feeling like when he first got thrown down on the ground in a game, face full of dirt, face aching, a good kind of pain. “What gave me away?”

“The way you kissed. It just felt different from the other times. You would close your eyes and your mouth would get soft.”

Pete lets go of Patrick’s hand, face flushing in embarrassment. Pete’s staring at the house across from them now, wondering who lived there, if it was a married couple, wondering if he would ever get something like that or will he be damned to passenger seats and sneaking into windows for the rest of his life.

“I didn’t— I’m sorry. I just didn’t know what to do.” Patrick says when Pete doesn’t reply, hand resting on the seat, still dangerously close to Pete’s hand. Patrick leaves it up to Pete if he wanted it back or not. “I thought that if I pretended it was nothing, you’d forget about it. And I just got so scared”

“What’s there to be scared about?” Pete asks, and his voice maybe cracks. Patrick catches it, his eyes darting to his throat, but he doesn’t call Pete out on it.

“I’m not— I’m not gay, Pete.” Patrick says, his voice quiet and small, it’s unconvincing even to Pete’s ears, but he doesn’t call Patrick out on it either. “I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, I know. Me too.” Pete muttered, he’s not talking about the first part, he’s just sorry too. “So what now, did you get what you wanted from this trip? Are we going home now?”

“I wouldn’t have driven all the way here if it was just like that.” Patrick answers and he moves to shut the radio off.

(I just want to fly, run away tonight. it's been on my mind, I just want a sign, when will it go right?)

“So what else do you want to know?” Pete asks warily. “Anything else you want to tell me?”

“You tell me something,” Patrick answers, his mouth flickers from hesitantly biting his lip to this shy smile. “what’s up with the haircut?”

Pete laughs and somehow it’s not that hard, he doesn’t know why but his chest is lighter, no more weight on it, all the anger gone. He grins back at Patrick and it gets wider when Patrick blushes, “It’s a secret”

“Tell me a secret then.” Patrick whispers.

Pete doesn’t know why, but he doesn’t even hesitate. “I never went to prom.”

If Patrick is confused, he doesn’t show it. Instead, he rolls his eyes and laughs, “Oh poor you, the big football star wasn’t prom king for once.”

“Soccer.” Pete corrects. “I was a soccer player back in high school.”

“Why aren’t you playing soccer anymore then?” Patrick asks, leaning back on the car door, shifting into a more comfortable position.

“Girls like football players more” Pete shrugs, picking at the strand of thread running down his shorts.

“So you like girls?” Patrick asks with a grin and Pete laughs again; the feeling is different, instead of moans and whines, Patrick is bringing out laughter out of him, he never thought it would feel this way, it makes his mouth feel funny.

“As it turns out, I don’t like football and I don’t like girls, I realized that a little too late.”

“The girls in your room?”

Pete shrugs, “It’s just fun. And I’m in the football team, I kind of have to even if I don’t really want to. I haven’t slept with girls for a long time.

“It’s just that sometimes, we have to do things we don’t want to do,” Pete adds quietly, a little more seriously. “Did that answer your question?"

“Nah,” Patrick’s eyebrows are drawn but he lifts his shoulders easily, “but I’ll take what I can get.”

“Good, because that’s all you’re going to get,” Pete says with a grin and he’s feeling brave when he unbuckles his seatbelt and he moves to rest his back on Patrick’s chest. Patrick doesn’t even flinch, instead, he shifts so that it’s easier for Pete, opening his body up to him. It’s Pete’s turn to have crossed forbidden territory now, not just the space between them, but also the hypothetical red line that read: STOP. DON’T CROSS IF YOU DON’T WANT YOUR FEELINGS TO GET HURT. But there it is again, the feeling of Patrick’s heartbeat underneath his back. Pete whispers, “Is this okay? Can I? It’s dark, we can— we can pretend.”

“Yeah, we can pretend” Patrick replies and then adds in a teasing tone, “I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard you ask for anything without just taking it.”

“Dick, I ask a lot of things from you,” Pete says with a laugh, it doesn’t bite, it’s not supposed to. “my turn, tell me something real.”

“Ask for it.”

“Okay, I’m asking you to tell me something real. Dick.” Pete says, rolling his eyes even though he knows Patrick won’t see it.

“I wish I met you back when I was seventeen.” Patrick replies almost instantly, but so quiet that Pete would have missed it if he wasn’t aware of everything Patrick did.

Pete moves so he could see Patrick’s face. There’s something there in his eyes but Pete won’t say anything about it. Instead he whispers, breath ghosting Patrick’s face, “Yeah? You would have taken me to prom, huh?”

“Yeah, I was kinda hoping that you would have been my date.” Patrick answers, a small smile on his face. “Would you have let me?”

“Only if you’ll put out after.” Pete replies with an exaggerated leer even though it was far from the truth; Pete was a homophobic asshole back then, shoving the softer boys into lockers and calling girls who rejected him nasty slurs. Pete wishes he could apologize to all of them, take all of the pain back, tell them he's trying to be better now.

Pete only feels a flicker of guilt before snapping out of it because of the sound of Patrick laughing, the movement making Pete shake. Patrick laughs and it’s this earthquake and Pete doesn’t know how, but he might be falling for Patrick for real this time. All the feelings and angst he’s felt the past few months? They’re nothing compared to this. It’s like Pete’s meeting Patrick for the first time all over again; this Patrick doesn’t fuck him hard into the mattress and breaks his heart, this one is a bleachers boyfriend who picks him up after practice and they drive and drive and drive.

“You’re disgusting.” Patrick says breathlessly.

“You love me.” Pete answers, the joke slipping out before he could stop himself, he’s still stuck in that dream where they run every red light because Pete’s trying to kiss Patrick. Pete wishes he could take it back, but he also wishes he didn’t have to.

Patrick’s face changes and he looks helplessly at Pete. “I’m sorry,” Pete says quickly, digging himself a little bit into Patrick’s chest when he feels Patrick tense up. “Please don’t freak out. It was a joke.”

They’re quiet again but Patrick doesn’t push Pete away. “This is— this is hard, okay? There’s. I feel something for you. But like, my brain is just telling me to fucking ignore it. Because— because I can’t just— this is hard.” Patrick repeats, his voice so small and quiet, he lets it out in one breath like he was afraid he might not end up saying it.

Pete is the one who pulls away instead and he instantly feels cold without the warmth of Patrick surrounding him.”I get it.” Pete says gently, and really he does. Pete lets his fingers linger on Patrick’s white knuckles for a second before moving back to sit on the passenger seat. “You don’t have to be sorry.”

When Patrick doesn’t reply beyond a small, sad smile that breaks Pete heart in a way he didn’t know Patrick could do, Pete says softly, “I think you’ve figured out what you needed. Wanna go home? I’ll drive, you can sleep.”

Patrick nods, eyes maybe a little bit shiny but they can blame it on the moonlight. “Please.” he replies quietly, almost a mumble, and this time Patrick says, “Thank you.”

Pete races down the highway above the speed limit, looking over Patrick at every red light. Somewhere between the third and fourth one, Patrick had fallen asleep, legs tucked underneath him, cheeks pressed to the window, wrapped up in Pete’s jacket, the sound of his breathing mixing with the music on the radio.

(different than all the highs, my life hit a new high, the harshest of all times)

At the fifth red light, Pete thinks that Patrick might break his heart.

Pete takes a wrong turn because Patrick had mumbled something in his sleep that Pete wasn’t able to catch, and while they’re waiting by the seventh red light that night, Pete is scared Patrick will.

At the last red light, right across the dorm buildings, Pete realizes Patrick already has, at least a hundred times already. But when they arrive in the parking lot and Pete lets Patrick sleep a little bit more because Patrick rarely ever had more than four hours of sleep, always too busy trying to save the student body from like evil professors and overpriced cafeteria food, Pete thinks that he’ll let Patrick crush his heart every goddamn time just in case the ending might change.

“Hey, Trick.” Pete finally says after what feels like forever, lightly shoving Patrick’s arm awake. Patrick’s eyes flicker open and he pouts, underneath the streetlight, when his blue eyes are glittering like some other color Pete didn’t have the words for. With the light on his lips like a spotlight, Pete’s never wanted to kiss him more.

“Fuck you, don’t call me that.” is all Patrick says in reply and then firmly shuts his eyes, his hands balling into fists pulling on Pete’s jacket tighter against himself. Patrick had stolen it in the middle of the drive, and he looked like a real bleachers boyfriend now. In another life, in a high school teen movie, they would have have been the power couple of the whole school; Patrick in Pete’s letterman and Pete’s hand in the back of Patrick’s jeans. Pete lets out an exasperated sigh and begins to push at Patrick even harder, but if he smiles, there’s nobody there to call him out on it.

“Patrick, we gotta get you upstairs, you don’t want to sleep in your car, do you? Imagine the scandal… What the girls would think…”

“You’re the big football star, aren’t you?” Patrick snaps, hiding underneath Pete’s jacket now. “Why don’t you put those big, muscular arms of yours to good use and carry me to my room.”

“You think my arms are big and muscular?”

“I’m definitely not fucking you for your brains, that’s for sure. Jesus, Pete.”

Pete laughs and Patrick’s face finally softens into a smile, peeking out from the top of Pete’s jacket. “Okay, just kidding. I like other parts about you too; like your mouth and your dick, and your cute little ass too, but also, I wasn’t joking about the other part. Carry me up to my room, Wentz.”

Pete does carry Patrick out of the car, holding him in his arms. Walking slowly, Pete’s distracted by the way the night dew catches the light from the moonlight. It makes Pete want to wake Patrick up and make him dance with him right now; his head resting on top of Patrick’s while Patrick moves in sleepy, soft, slow motions, stepping on Pete’s feet but it won’t hurt because Pete will be too busy laughing; no music except for the sound of Pete’s laughter and Patrick’s breathing.

Pete does carry Patrick into the dorm building and it feels like they’re on a honeymoon, the crumbling arches by the dorm the entrance to some fancy hotel in Jamaica in Pete’s mind because of course he would want to take Patrick to where Pete thinks his heart belongs; get him a nice little tan. Patrick pretends to be asleep, casually touching Pete’s chest, his fingers tracing what could be letters but Pete can’t figure out what he’s trying to say.

Pete does carry Patrick to his room and there’s no issue, nobody’s walking around the hallways anymore; if Pete still believed in God, he would have thought that there was a cosmic being up there who wanted this night to work out. It’s a weird experience for Pete to use the door to get in Patrick’s room, there’s no rush of air behind his back, the feeling of cool metal between his fingers, there’s no fear of falling into concrete when he climbs through the window. This one feels safe, it could feel like home.

Pete does carry Patrick to his bed, lowering his arms to let Patrick down gently on his bed, but Patrick’s hand move towards Pete’s neck and holds on tight to bring Pete down with him. “Stay the night.” Patrick says softly, his voice muffled beneath the cotton of Pete’s jacket. “Sleep with me. Please.”

“Patrick,” Pete says warningly, Pete is near enough to see the different colors in Patrick’s eyes, the little greens, the little browns, the gold, and the blue. Pete thinks this must be how worlds could have been created; the green of the earth, the brown earth, the gold of the sun, the ocean and night sky; everything could be made of Patrick. All Pete had to go was give everything up, and the sad thing is, he would.

“There won’t be a freak out. I promise.” Patrick says, fingers curling tighter. “Please, Pete.”

Patrick cuts deep into Pete like carving vandalism into some poor table in high school during detention. Patrick makes Pete feel like he’s being broken down, but everything about tonight was all about fixing everything again. “I’m disgusting,” Pete reasons weakly, but he’s already removing his shoes. “I didn’t shower after practice.”

“Don’t care,” Patrick mumbles, voice thick with sleepiness, his eyes fighting to stay awake, his grip growing weaker. “Used to your smelliness by now.”

Pete lies on top of the covers and Patrick burrows himself in Pete’s chest. Patrick says softly, like he wasn’t even thinking, “I’ve never slept with a boy before.”

Pete snorts, “Really? I never would have guessed.”

“Not just that. I meant like— like this. Just. Lying down together.”

“So what’s the verdict?”

“Feels nice. I— it doesn’t feel like the world is ending.” Patrick says, voice getting softer. “You make me feel brave. Like I can do this. I don’t think I could have done tonight if you didn’t give me the chance.”

"It's easier in the dark." Pete adds gently and Patrick nods twice before he finally gives in and drifts off.

Pete brushes Patrick’s hair out of his face once Patrick’s breathing has evened out, slow and heavy, already lost to sleep and where Pete hopes he dreams of the moonlight touching Pete skin and Patrick’s lips touch Pete’s mouth. In the movies, Pete would say something, tell Patrick what he can’t say to him when he’s awake, and Pete almost does, the words already in his mouth, there’s the hint of a taste of maybe Patrick and magic somewhere there on his tongue, but he stops himself.

It’s not that Pete doesn’t know what to say, well there’s that too, but it doesn’t feel right to say it while Patrick was asleep. Because if Pete makes Patrick brave, then Patrick, the blue in his eyes that might be Pete’s favorite color by now, makes Pete feel safe, and he’s going to need that when he says these words aloud. The words would taste like a love song, they would sound like an anthem, they would feel like the big movie kiss just before it fades to a black screen, but there’s a weight to them too. This time, Pete and Patrick won’t be able to ignore it the same way their voices had cracked and the way lines had been crossed tonight.

Chapter Text

Pete feels himself wake up, but he doesn’t open his eyes. Memories of last night come back slowly to Pete like he’s falling asleep in reverse; flashes of red lights on sleeping pale faces, an upturned smile in the shape of the crescent moon in the night sky that Pete only remembers now, heated fingers tangled together like they were somehow meant to end up together.

Pete’s eyes remain closed, he doesn’t want to open his eyes quite yet, afraid of what he’ll see if he does; there’s a quiet certain safety in the ignorance of it, like it could still be dark, like they can still pretend. Pete remembers Patrick and last night, and it feels like he’s still dreaming. It’s not often that Pete thinks that he’s in the right place or if it’s the right time, or if he’s even deserving of it, but here, with goosebumps on his skin because he slept on top of Patrick’s duvet and the window was left open, it might be fate.

Pete searches for Patrick in the dark (not like there’s any difference when his eyes are closed) with his hands outstretched, fingers hesitantly exploring empty space, searching for body warmth and the familiar smell of Patrick when everything, his sheets and his pillows smell like him and Pete is drowning in it. Maybe it’s because this is Patrick that Pete’s heart beats wildly and all his thoughts jump to the worst case scenario of Patrick leaving him after what happened last night.

But Pete’s hands finally land on something soft and human, not blankets and pillows, and his breathing slows down. Slowly, Pete opens his eyes and is immediately filled with embarrassment, his stomach dropping, his face warming up, when he sees Patrick staring back at him with an amused expression on his face, Pete’s hands splayed on Patrick’s stomach like they should be painted red.

“What were you doing?” Patrick asks, his lips pinched together like he was trying very hard not to laugh.

“What were you doing? Were you watching me sleep?” Pete grumbles, retracting his hand away when Patrick began to laugh loudly, loud enough to fill the room and for the all the hurt Pete’s ever felt to fade into nothing but a hazy memory, laughable in the face of daylight and Patrick.

“I asked you first— hey, don’t do that, c’mere.” Patrick said, worming his way nearer and hiding his face in Pete’s neck, inhaling deeply. There’s still something soft and slow about Patrick and the way he moves and feels underneath Pete’s fingertips, he couldn’t have been awake for more than ten minutes. Patrick wouldn’t do this if he wasn’t just a little too sleep-drunk. The magic of last night still clinging to yesterday’s clothes.

Patrick doesn’t move from the space he’s made for himself in Pete’s chest and neck and Pete doesn’t move away, the hand connected to the arm currently being crushed by the solid weight of Patrick traces idly on Patrick’s back, dragging his fingernails on the rumpled cotton, trying to circle a hole into Patrick’s skin so Pete can step in it and hide there forever.

“What time is it?” Patrick asks softly, his breath ghosting over Pete’s skin; it’s warm and it smells rotten but goosebumps still rise up Pete’s neck.

Pete’s eyes drag themselves around Patrick’s messy room in search for a clock. Patrick’s room is different in the morning. The sun filters through the window, it’s high right now, it’s probably very late, but Pete’s still waiting for it to rise, still waiting for the time it could be right with Patrick. Being this secret is exactly what it feels like it should be, like being kept in the dark, only feeling warmth when Patrick looks at him like that. It’s this push and pull inside Pete’s chest that’s painful but it’s familiar and he’s mostly gotten over it, it’s okay, he can deal with it. Pete is slow to reply, pausing when he notices things he never did before; pop records cluttering the bottom of Patrick’s bed, a Mandarin 101 book with a broken spine, a family photograph with the nuclear family Pete’s always imagined Patrick had hidden behind the digital alarm clock.

“Around 10.” Pete finally says, grateful Patrick didn’t push him for the long pause.

“Fuck, we missed Philosophy.” Patrick groans and his teeth catch on the sensitive skin of Pete’s neck, there, almost where his pulse was beating right now. The feeling starts from the sharp awareness there to spread to Pete’s whole body, warmth rushing down, his cock stirring in his football uniform from last night. Pete feels his face flush and hopes Patrick didn’t notice.

Patrick pulls away and Pete already knows that he has, there’s a glint in his eyes and the way he’s smiling at Pete right now, dirty and with purpose. Patrick should look disgusting right now with his heavy eye bags and his unbrushed teeth, so where is this ache in Pete’s stomach coming from? Like a rollercoaster drop down into the endless pit of Pete’s stomach. The way Patrick is looking at Pete right now, his heated gaze melting Pete into a puddle, Pete doesn’t know how nobody has noticed how much of a sex machine their sweet student council president was. Patrick hasn’t even been bothering to try to hide it these past few times; sometimes, Pete could feel his heated gaze from across the room in Philosophy when there was nothing but coldness from that side of the room before.

“You’re a pervert,” Patrick says, still with a wide grin on his face as the tips of his fingers slowly move their way down, leaving a trail of heat where his fingernails scratch Pete’s bare skin.

Pete shifts underneath him, unable to look at him right now, his cock was half-hard by now and the strain of it was obvious in his football shorts. “Patrick,” Pete says in a whisper, voice high, eyes rolling slightly back when Patrick brushes against the head of Pete’s cock through the thin cotton.

Patrick’s fingers trace their way up again and they pause in the bare skin where Pete’s shirt was riding up, lingering on the space above Pete’s hipbone. “You want me to stop?” Patrick asks as his fingers do broad strokes against his skin.

Pete bites his lip, hesitating, but the heat of Patrick's gaze is so warm and waking up with someone you’ve mostly been in love with is doing something to Pete’s head.

“I’ll stop if you need me to,” Patrick adds, his hand stilling, and there’s a softness in his voice and Pete trusts him that if Pete were to say stop and if he asked if he could walk out of this room, out of Patrick’s life, then Patrick would let him with no bother, no questions asked.

But Pete doesn’t want that, he’s always wanted everything that hurts him the most.

“I want you.” Pete exhales, his breathing stuttering and getting caught in his throat in just those three words.

Patrick smiles and it’s not dirty, it’s the boyish little smile he does where his blue eyes dance and he looks at Pete like Pete’s made up of every single dream he’s ever dreamt of.  Patrick leans in for a deep kiss, his mouth eagerly locking on Pete’s mouth, his tongue skimming through his teeth and tongue. Pete’s hands rest on Patrick’s hips and he pulls them nearer so that Patrick can rest on his lap, the movement makes Patrick open his mouth to whine but Pete drowns out the sound.

Pete loves every second of this, nasty tasting and smelling breath included. He takes in every sigh and sound that slips out of Patrick’s mouth to swallow into his own as his hands begin to wander over Patrick’s warm body. Pete moves from Patrick’s hips to the jut of his shoulders, to the smooth curve of his jaw, to tangling his fingers in his hair, to find their way to the back of Patrick’s ass, squeezing them which makes Patrick huff in indignation as Pete smiles into the kiss.

Patrick is the one to break the kiss, a grin on his face as he leans in for one more shy, close-mouthed kiss on Pete’s mouth which has Pete eagerly moving forward to catch only to quickly meet air again. Patrick moves slowly down Pete’s body and it’s different in the morning light too; Patrick glows, his bare skin a gold hue, the blonde on his hair like a halo. Pete can see the way his muscles shift and the way they stretch and bend as Patrick slides the waistband of Pete’s football uniform off his hips and legs.

Pete wants Patrick in any way he can: under football stadium lights in a better life, underneath yellow bathroom lights, under the light of his deskside lamp, under streetlights and stop lights, even in the dark. But Pete thinks he might love Patrick now, that this sight of Patrick, his mouth pressing small kisses in the insides of Pete’s thighs, his pink tongue peeking out to lap on the skin he’s bitten, this Patrick has ruined every other Patrick for Pete.

Patrick takes the head of Pete’s cock into his lips slowly, not like they were chasing time and classes, circling the crown of Pete’s cock. Patrick takes Pete in like they were somewhere else, other people who didn’t have to hide in the safety of the nighttime darkness. Patrick lowers his head, eyes never leaving Pete’s and Pete is already breathless with the sensation of the tight, warm heat of Patrick’s mouth and the way Patrick is looking at him.

 

“You look so good like this,” Pete whispers and it doesn’t sound like a cheap porn line, it's meant to be soft and earnest, and Pete really does mean it; Patrick is beautiful, he looks like the sun was only made to shine light on him. Patrick shudders and moans around the praise, the vibrations making Pete hiss through his teeth. “Yeah, just like that.”

Patrick’s fingers move to rest on the tight muscle of Pete’s stomach, gently massaging them while Patrick licked a stripe up Pete’s cock. Pete is stretched taut, strained in anticipation and excitement and want; all these words summarized into how Patrick is making him feel right now.

“Relax,” Patrick says pulling off and pausing before he goes down again, hollowing his cheeks to suck hard as his fingers continued to trace Pete’s ugly tattoo, making Pete’s dick twitch which makes Patrick hum in what might be laughter if he didn’t have a dick in his mouth right now.

“Patrick, please.” Pete whimpers when Patrick begins to suck on Pete’s head again, his tongue rolling in a way Pete never knew he could do, catching on all its sensitive spots. Patrick licks teasingly around his head, tongue lapping at his slit which leaves Pete breathless.

Pete groans when Patrick pulls off again way too soon. Even though Pete was desperate for the smooth heat of Patrick’s mouth, his cock grows harder underneath the tight grip of Patrick’s fist. Patrick’s fist is slow, almost teasing, and it sends tiny electric shocks all over Pete’s body that makes his toes curl. Pete thrusts into Patrick’s hand and Patrick frowns playfully at him, “Greedy,” Patrick says in what could be fondness in his voice, his pace slowing down, his touch barely there.

“You’re a fucking tease,” Pete mutters, thrusting up again.

“Can I try something?” Patrick asks, a shy smile on his face like his hand wasn’t on Pete’s aching cock right now, twisting his wrist in a way that makes precum slide down Pete’s dick.

“As long as it ends up with an orgasm,” Pete grumbles. “Which by the way, might not happen. I think my dick is getting soft.”

Pete thinks Patrick was going to ignore him, but Patrick pointedly rolls his eyes and replies, “You’re such a drama queen.”  Patrick then throws a look at Pete that keeps Pete quiet, words getting caught in his throat as he watched Patrick get back to work. Patrick is moving down again, shifting his whole body so his face was right in front of Pete’s dick.

Patrick presses quick kisses and bites on Pete’s thighs again and Pete patiently waits. Pete watches the red of Patrick’s lips closing around the brown of his skin and it’s something beautiful, really. Pete falls and he closes his eyes, letting the sensation of Patrick, the smell of him in the sheets, drown him. Pete’s dick is most definitely still hard, still interested in the way Patrick is nuzzling his balls right now, teasing his tongue along the skin of it.

Pete exhales a drawn-out whine when Patrick sucks one between his lips and the heat of Patrick’s mouth makes Pete whine, unconsciously thrusting up into air this time. Pete is sure that if Patrick could right now, he would have the biggest, eat-shitting grin on his face.

Thankfully though, Patrick’s mouth was doing better things right now, like making their way down lower, the feeling sending a jolt straight to Pete’s dick. Patrick is moving towards forbidden territory as he continued to fondle Pete’s balls, fingernails catching on the sensitive skin. This place that Pete has never even considered or imagined Patrick to be in the vicinity of. There’s a drop in Pete’s stomach, it feels endless, it’s that feeling just before a rollercoaster, before a trainwreck, before a car crash; it’s this feeling of anticipation and not being able to look away, this feeling of still being surprised once it happens.

“Can I?” and Pete feels Patrick more than he hears him, Patrick’s breath ghosting on the warmth of his asshole.

“Patrick,” Pete whines in reply, toes curling again, thighs closing around Patrick’s head momentarily. Pete’s brain has short-circuited, he doesn’t know if he’s fallen into a coma, this is heaven, this is the afterlife, there’s no way this is his life. "whatever you do, just don't fucking stop."

Pete's thoughts halt into a fierce, piercing white when Patrick’s tongue began to circle the edge of Pete’s hole. Patrick’s tongue is wet and unabashed, like he wasn’t even shy about this at all. Pete gasps as Patrick pulls on the back of Pete’s knees and pulls Pete’s legs over his shoulders, bringing his mouth closer to Pete, Patrick’s tongue burying deep into Pete’s hole.

“Patrick, fuck, fuck, fuck.” Pete cries, fingers fisting the sheets, there’s an ache in his stomach again, his orgasm coming close. Pete could feel his whole body vibrating with the effort of trying to hold back.

Patrick doesn’t seem to notice the noise Pete was making, the empty, begging sounds ripping themselves from Pete’s mouth. Patrick only sucks at Pete’s rim and pushes his tongue in forcefully, like he was determined to prove something, but then he pulls away and it’s soft again, lapping quick licks near the entrance.

Patrick teases his thumb, lightly rubbing over Pete’s hole, asking Pete for it, and Pete only lets out a moan. “Please, Patrick.” Pete slurs, his cock growing harder in excitement. Patrick's thumb does two more circuits around Pete’s rim before pressing it in gently. The movement makes Pete’s hips buck and earns a cry from Pete, almost too loud, Pete is afraid the noises must sound like he’s shouting into a megaphone right now with the thin walls of the dorm room and the prying ears of university students with nothing better to do, but Patrick doesn’t seem to care about that right now with the way he settles on a rhythm.

Patrick replaces his thumb with his index finger, pushing it in slowly, farther than he did earlier with his thumb. Pete’s tried this before, closed-eyed and shy underneath his sheets and face red with embarrassment in his parents’ home’s shower, but it never felt like anything more than a finger in a place where it shouldn’t be. But this time, Pete feels tears spring in his eyes from the intensity of the feeling; this is new, this is different, and it feels so, so fucking right.

Patrick still continues to lap on the rim of Pete’s hole, occasionally dipping his tongue in to lick alongside his finger, trying to ease the tension there. Patrick’s knuckles leave a trail of pleasure-pain as they make their way deeper, only to end with this burst of pleasure when Patrick gently rubs on Pete’s prostate. Pete feels shockwaves on his skin and he’s afraid that if Patrick were to continue, Pete would combust in flames.

“Patrick, please, you need to— you need to—” Pete can’t even finish his sentence, his cock was painfully hard now, a thin stripe of precum weeping down its length. Pete didn’t care how Patrick got him off, he just needed to do it now . Pete pushes back against Patrick’s fingers as Patrick continues to hit his prostate with every stroke.

Patrick obediently pulls his mouth off, but he keeps his finger inside Pete, slipping a second one which makes Pete groan from the intensity of the feeling. Patrick slowly moves them in and out as he began to suck on Pete’s head, the pace slow until Pete adjusted to having it inside him.

“Faster, come on, Patrick, please.” Pete whines, feeling like he’s near the edge now, he’s starting to feel out of his skin. Pete shifts his hips down, edging closer to Patrick, trying to chase that feeling.

Patrick was moving his head down, pushing his mouth further down Pete's cock, pushing his fingers deep into Pete and then pulling out again in quick motions. Patrick sets a rhythm that Pete’s heartbeat attempts to copy, as Patrick began to suck and finger Pete in earnest.

(don't leave me on the edge I wanna be yellow)

“I’m going to come, I’m going to come,” Pete is a whining, vibrating mess underneath Patrick; his stomach is in knots, his eyes rolling back, his toes are curled. His orgasm hits him suddenly and it feels like waves and waves of pleasure are attacking Pete everywhere. Patrick’s mouth doesn’t stop as Pete cums, and Pete watches the way Patrick’s throat moves as he tries to swallow Pete’s cum. Patrick rubs against his prostate gently just as Pete’s orgasm was beginning to fade and Pete’s back arches off the bed, the heels of his feet digging into Patrick’s back as he feels one more jolt of electricity shoot up his spine.

Patrick finally pulls away for real this time and he collapses on top of Pete, the cotton of Patrick’s boxers rubbing Pete’s soft dick was almost painful, Pete had let out a hiss of pain.

“Jesus, where’d you learn to do that?” Pete asks, breathless, running his fingers through Patrick’s hair.

Patrick only grumbles in reply, his face buried in Pete’s chest, right there above where Pete’s heart should be. Pete wonders if Patrick could hear the way it’s beating right now, if the sound was broadcasting its way through the room the way it’s echoing in Pete’s ears right now.

“I don’t think I can beat that but I can suck you off if you want.” Pete offers, noticing the strain of Patrick’s cock poking his leg as Patrick shifts his hips.

Patrick pulls himself up to rest on his elbows and he shakes his head, licking his lips and Pete wishes he could go again. “I have class,” Patrick says mournfully, gesturing towards the clock but Pete's eyes were still locked on his lips. “you can make it up to me later, though.”

Patrick is looking at Pete from beneath his eyelashes, biting his lip hesitantly. Patrick is shy again as if he didn’t just have his tongue inside Pete’s asshole a few minutes ago. Pete was getting whiplash from the way Patrick’s mood shifts from sex fiend to sweet Catholic boy, but he loved both versions of Patrick anyway. It reminds Pete of all the shitty 90’s teen movies his sister used to watch on the VHS player while Pete pretended to hate every second of it, it’s like he got the combination of the hot cheerleader chick every guy wanted and the girl next door who Pete doesn’t notice until he’s had his heart broken a couple hundred times.

Pete doesn’t know how Patrick could ever think Pete could say no to him, not when Pete is like this.

“Later?” Pete asks, a smile pulling on his lips and Patrick smiles back at him.

“Yeah, I’ll see you?”

“Yeah, later.” Pete repeats, still maybe a little in disbelief, still thinking that he might be dreaming, still can’t believe this is his life when Patrick laughs, eyes crinkling up, sunlight falling on him and this? This is all Pete’s ever wanted.

“I get it, Pete.” Patrick says, breathless from laughter, pushing him gently off the bed, but this time it doesn’t break Pete’s heart because there is a definite later hanging in the air the same way the smell of sex and want and maybe love was even though that might be the cheesiest thing Pete’s ever thought of. “You need to leave now, I have class and I don’t plan on missing this one too.”

“Yes, yes, I’ll see you.” Pete replies, grabbing his shit off Patrick’s floor. Pete pauses by the doorway and turns to Patrick one last time. “Later.”

Patrick had remained on the bed despite what he just said, stretched out invitingly as he watches Pete from above the covers, his pupils blown, the blue in his eyes, arguably one of Pete’s favorite parts about him, thin rings as his dark pupils surrounded them. The curve of his cock through his boxer shorts is obscene, and Pete thinks he might be thirsty all of a sudden, his mouth dry; Pete wants and he’s aching. Pete is almost tempted to ask for a quickie for good luck but Patrick only grins at him as if he could read Pete’s mind. “Later.” Patrick says, firmly, even though his right hand began to palm his dick through this shorts, his eyelids fluttering as he presses his heel on it “Now, go.”

Pete doesn’t even notice that he’s left through the door this time, but he does notice that this feeling in his chest right now? It doesn’t feel like the other times, it doesn’t feel like he’s leaving Patrick.

Pete thinks that they might finally get their happy ending. It’s not the one he wanted it to be, he’s still someone’s secret when all he really wanted to do was climb up the dorm’s fire escape to the rooftop and shout how he was in love with Patrick. Pete thought that their story could end here, with night drives every few days when they weren’t so busy and stolen kisses in dorm rooms that Pete's going to outgrow in a year, two for Patrick, and they won't know what to do with the future but it would be alright with Pete.

(this song's so yellow, it's bright like yellow)

 


 

“You missed Philosophy earlier,” Andy informs Pete nonchalantly, somehow being able to find Pete in the mess of students that fills the halls after everyone’s noon classes. The traffic is worse than it usually is, the shoving and pushing waves of people desperate for what might be their first actual meal of the day or those who were trying to get to the library for some studying just before it closes. One girl with a thick stack of books in her arms briefly collides into Pete and she throws him a dirty look as they both get pushed back farther away from their destinations: her to the library, Pete an exit route away from Andy.

“Yeah, I’m aware,” Pete replies as he tried to hide his annoyance, gritting his teeth when Andy manages to slip next to Pete again despite how it wasn’t possible there was enough space for him in the tight hall.

“Stump was also absent,” Chris adds, appearing out of nowhere next to Pete and Pete wonders why they even hang out together when Pete hates him 90% of the time, and that’s saying something. The remaining 10% is when they’re both significantly not sober and Pete falls in love with everyone. “In fact, there he is.”

Chris juts his chin out towards the end of the hall where Patrick hasn’t even noticed them, too deep in a conversation with two other girls who were part of the student council as well. They’re leaned against the wall, people forming a half-arc around them, giving them some space like there was an invisible barrier separating them from each other.

Pete watches Patrick silently, watching the way one of the girls leans closer to whisper something in Patrick’s ear that makes Patrick smile, this smile that Pete’s never seen directed at him. It makes something curl up in his stomach, like his intestines have shaped themselves into a fist and now they were pounding the inside of his stomach. Pete catches Chris’s eye and there’s a hard look in them that makes Pete flush in embarrassment. There’s this challenge in Chris’s eyes and Pete knows what this is, this is a test and his stomach drops at the thought of it.

(take a step back and force me to be who you want me to be)

“Hey, Stump!” Chris calls, and everyone passing by seems to have stopped in their tracks as they watched the scene begin to unfold, the traffic disappearing like waves to form a clean road to between Chris and Patrick.

Patrick tears his attention away from his friends and his eyes land on Pete first, blue eyes clouded with confusion as to what was going on, but Pete remains silent and unmoving from his place as Chris walked towards Patrick. Patrick then notices Chris and he seems to understand suddenly, his jaw tightening in a way that Pete wishes he could reach over and kiss right now to smoothen.

“Chris,” Patrick replies cautiously, body tense. Patrick didn’t look afraid, it looked like routine to him the way he didn’t quite look like a rabbit being circled by prey before it attacked, it was more of him trying to slip on wolf’s clothing right in front of Chris. Patrick’s fists by his side curled unconsciously like he was determined to prove something.

“I heard from Tiff that when she blew you, your dick got soft in her mouth.”

Patrick doesn’t reply, just lets Chris continue, “Honestly? I was surprised you would even get it with a girl. I’ve heard things from guys who said they knew you back then.”

“Chris,” Andy mutters next to Chris, flashing Chris a firm look, “this is stupid and embarrassing, this isn’t high school anymore.”

“Shut up, Hurley.” Chris bites and then softly to Patrick, the sound somehow echoing so everyone right now heard it anyway. “You were a bit of a slut back then weren’t you?”

(the righteous calling)

“What do you think, Pete?” Chris calls over, and Pete can’t see the way Chris is looking at him right now, Pete assumes there’s disgust in there, this challenge he knows Pete won’t be able to win. Pete’s too busy looking at Patrick, the way he can’t quite meet their eyes, gaze pointedly staring at his shoes, his ears glowing red with embarrassment. The hallway is quiet now, like everyone had nothing better to do, their breaths held as they waited for what was going to happen next like they hadn’t seen this exact same scene a hundred times before in a movie.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I haven’t heard anything.” Pete says neutrally and he sees Patrick raise his head to glance at Pete with what might be hurt in his eyes. Pete feels what must be his heart be swallowed by the endless, black hole of his stomach.

“What I’ve heard,” Chris says loudly so everyone would be able to hear and Pete wishes he could take back what he said, Pete is desperate, his nails digging into his palms like he could catch the words before they left Chris’s mouth. “Is that Patrick is a cocksucking champ-”

Chris didn’t get to finish what he was about to say, suddenly cut off with a punch from Patrick, an echo of the impact resounding across the hall eve as everyone gasped loudly. Objectively, Patrick had thrown a weak punch, it had barely grazed Chris’s jaw, but it had shut Chris up before he could continue. Chris staggers back, his hand flying to where his lip was bleeding, it was more shock than the pain that kept his mouth shut as he looked at Patrick wide-eyed.

Everything seemed to pause, this calm before the storm where everyone was quiet, their breaths locked in their chests, all eyes either on Chris who was wiping the blood off his face and Patrick who was clenching and unclenching his fist, trying to determine if what had happened was real.

“You fucking faggot.” Chris snarls, breaking the quiet, and Andy quickly moves to try to hold him back by his arms. Pete watches as Chris struggles to fight against Andy’s tight grip and his eyes catch on Patrick tightening his fist and leaning in for another punch while everyone was distracted.

Pete moves quickly across the hall, closing the small space between them, and he feels everything move in slow motion as he shoves Patrick hard against the chest, both his palms making contact, sending Patrick falling to the ground.

“Don’t touch him.” Pete says to Patrick and it must be louder than he wanted it to be because now, feeling everyone eye’s on him, but all he could really feel was the blue-fear in Patrick’s eyes right now.

“He fucking punched me!” Chris cries next to Pete and there’s a wild look in his eyes that shows that the test wasn’t done yet, that Pete needs to do this one last thing to stop everything: the knowing smirks in the hallways, coach kicking him out of Team A, last week when his locker was vandalized, all his clothes vomiting out of it, drenched in muddy water; Pete hasn’t even spent a lot of time thinking about that one, not mentioning it to anyone, barely acknowledging it himself when it happened.

(take a step back and make me breathe how you want me to)

Patrick is quiet, his eyes wide, and maybe there were tears in them as he looked at Pete. Patrick didn’t even look sad, humiliated maybe, but not sad, and definitely a little angry. The thought, the way Patrick’s eyes were slowly thinning into a defensive glare, makes Pete feel suddenly very afraid that Patrick was going to out him in front of everyone, like everything they’ve shared, red lights and stolen kisses, all the hurt and all the things they’ve twisted love into, could be reduced to a trump card when faced with other people. If Chris was testing him right now, so was Patrick and Pete is torn between the two, he’s going to lose either way whatever side he chooses.

“Pete?” Patrick says softly but Pete just looks at him and there must be something in his face right now that makes Patrick keep quiet, his mouth clenched shut.

“You like being on your knees like that?” Pete asks Patrick, and he trips over the words a little but it’s automatic, just like he was back in high school, like Pete hadn't outgrown his soccer uniform or his homophobia or the toxic masculinity.

Pete walks up to Patrick so he was right in front of Patrick’s kneeling form. Patrick’s later is happening right now, but it’s twisted into a remix, a daydream distorted into a nightmare but this is happening in daylight with Patrick’s eyes wide open in surprise.

“C’mon, open up your mouth and answer me. I bet you’ve said some filthy shit.” Pete continues even though it’s him who likes to get mouthy and loud during sex, Patrick has always been the one restrained to gasps and whines like prayers and gospels in the vein of Pete’s name.

Pete isn’t looking at Patrick, not really, because it’s easier to pretend this is someone else that way, so he continues, “I said, answer me, f—”

“I think that’s enough, Pete.” Andy interrupts quietly next to him, Andy’s blue eyes, a different blue than Patrick’s, more like city lights and night skies, are looking at Pete like he doesn’t even recognize him right now. Pete's mouth closes shut and he feels his face warm up in embarrassment.

Pete feels a lot the same, feels like he’s out of his body as well.

Pete looks away from Andy’s hard gaze to behind them, at Chris’s silent form, looking at Pete with what might be pride and relief, and this is a lot more comforting, something more familiar, something that Pete wants and there’s a relieved laugh spilling out of Pete’s mouth even though his insides feel like something has died in there.

“Yeah, let’s fucking get out of here.” Pete says, not even casting a glance at Patrick as they walk away, it’s easier that way, ignoring the way he feels Patrick’s eyes on him, the silence hanging around the hall is heavy and it weighs down Pete’s shoulders.


Pete will make it up to Patrick, there's right now, and there's later. Pete can make it up to him.

 


 

Pete doesn’t get to immediately run to Patrick afterward. There’s still the harsh realities of the real world, of university and the people in there; it’s not dragons and wicked witches, but the coach and the teammates who were treating him a little too nicely today, just like old times. Pete figures Chris must have told them about what happened earlier and had thus proved Pete’s heterosexuality in the form of homophobia.

Pete hated it, but still. He’d be lying if he didn’t say he wasn't grateful for the familiarity of it.

Pete blows Andy and Joe’s invitation for dinner, ignoring the way Andy looks at him like he pities him or whatever, ignores the way the feeling sticks to Pete like glue. Pete only wishes it would dry up and he could peel it off his skin so he wouldn’t have to feel it anymore.

Pete enters his room through the door, only to exit through the window, climbing up the fire escape. He’s back to this life now, but at least he would have Patrick. The night is stinging cold without any wind, but his fingers bite into the metal anyway and it’s painful. Pete wonders what would happen if his fingers were to loosen and he were to fall; if anyone out there would cry for him: the football star who’s failed at most of his life, broken down the hearts of every girl back at home, on the road, in the sorority house,  the one who was trying to get that last shot at a good life by crawling up the fire escape to the only part of his life he ever sort of genuinely liked even though it didn’t seem like it.

(i always wanted someone that could be free, sand between my feet and the distance between)

When he gets to Patrick’s room, his curtains are drawn and his window is closed. Pete knows Patrick is in there because he could recognize his shadow and he could hear the soft plucking of guitar strings inside. Pete knocks on the window, waiting for Patrick to invite him in and they can pretend nothing had happened earlier today.

The cold night is harsh to Pete who’s only dressed in an undershirt and sweatpants, goosebumps rise on his skin and Pete knocks a little more fervently, desperately ignoring the way his stomach was falling and his chest was tightening up right now.

Everything was going to be okay, later is right now and Pete is going to take back everything he’s said earlier. Pete is going to fall on his knees, bury his face in the familiar rough cotton of Patrick’s sweats, fingers curling into Patrick’s hoodie to bring him into a kiss that’s going to make everything okay; it’s not going to be magic, but it’s going to be enough and it’s what’s going to save them from themselves. This is just a small setback, there are always little bumps in the road for every relationship, right?

When it feels like forever has passed, Pete gives up and goes back down the fire escape into his room but he doesn’t stop there, he doesn’t ever know when to quit. Pete walks to Patrick’s room, not caring if he makes a scene right now. He knocks gently at first, quietly but insistently, there’s no way Patrick could miss it, but the sound of the guitar continues without stopping.

Pete is going to kiss and bite and suck Patrick and Patrick will smile down at Pete while he tugs on Pete’s too short hair and it’s going to be the smile he sent to that girl a while ago. Pete needs everything to be okay, he’s not even thinking of an alternate ending to this. Patrick’s going to take him back like he always does. Patrick has to.

“Patrick,” Pete raises his voice, and it’s not like in Say Anything, he’s not John Cusack with his boombox underneath Patrick’s window. All he has is his voice and that’s what he’s offering right now outside Patrick’s door; Pete is so, so sick of windows.

“Patrick, let me in.”

Pete continues to make noise until Patrick finally opens the door, his face livid, eyebrows drawn and an ugly snarl on his face. He grabs Pete and it’s not like the other times, this time it’s painful as he shoves Pete into his room, backing Pete up against the wall as the door slams shut.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Patrick asks furiously, a dangerous edge in his voice that cuts through Pete’s skin.

“What the fuck am I—? I should be asking you that. What the fuck are you doing?” Pete replies incredulously, holding Patrick’s wrists in an attempt for him to loosen up. Patrick only shoves Pete’s hands back to his chest.

“I don’t want you here, Pete.” Patrick says, emphasizing each word with a slight shove.

“Fuck you, you don’t get to do that. You said later!” Pete pushes Patrick back now, not letting himself be cornered by the wall. Pete steps forward and Patrick takes a step back, still looking hysterically angry in the way his fists kept clenching and unclenching themselves like they did earlier. Everything was going wrong and Pete didn’t know how to fix it, didn’t know how to stop himself from making the situation worse.

“Later?” Patrick almost shouts, taking another step back as Pete tried to corner him into a wall. “Pete, you’re still thinking about that? Do you remember what you said to me?”

“Patrick, I had to keep it up, it was in front of Chris and he was going to—”

“And you think knocking at my room, screaming, is not in any way suspicious?”

“Fuck what people think.”

“But not your teammates, right?” Patrick asks coldly, cornered against a wall now but the glare he was giving Pete was heavy in a way Pete didn’t feel like he was winning at all.

Pete pauses, not having the words all of a sudden while this thing in his chest protested, trying to crawl up his throat and die on Patrick’s dirty carpet. It must have been forever until Pete replies quietly, “It’s not— it’s not the same. Patrick, you can’t say it’s the same.”

The anger seems to have dissipated from Patrick, the red slowly fading but now he’s looking at Pete in wide-blue-eyed disbelief when he replies, “Pete, what you did was fucking shitty.”

“You made me feel like shit for stringing me along!”

“I didn’t ask for that! I didn’t ask you to keep— keep whatever fucking feelings you have for me!” Patrick replies in frustration and Pete sees tears spring in Patrick’s eyes again, he doesn’t know if it’s from anger or from sadness, Pete hopes it’s the latter even though he wouldn’t want Patrick to ever be sad because of him.

The sight of Patrick, his blue eyes wet, makes Pete fall to his knees, resting his forehead on Patrick’s stomach even though Patrick stiffens underneath him. There’s so, so much Pete is carrying on his back, the guilt, the pressure, the sadness, the fucking anger at the world that he can’t just be with Patrick.

(if you really love me, you gotta sacrifice it baby)

“Patrick,” Pete says, his voice broken. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what I did. Do you want me to quit the team? I can. Just tell me and I’ll do anything. I just— I just want you. We can work this out, we can work through it. Whatever it takes.”

“I can’t.” Patrick says and Pete hates how he didn't even think about it, didn't even hesitate. Patrick shakes his head and pushes off Pete with a firm grip by his shoulders, his voice breaking as he continues, “I’m going to lose everything, Pete. My friends, my family, student council president. Everything.“

“But you’ll have me.” Pete’s voice maybe cracks when he looks up into Patrick’s eyes and he sees that Patrick isn’t even looking at him, he’s looking at the space behind his shoulder. “Isn’t that enough? Patrick, look at me and tell me you don’t want this.”

When Patrick meets his gaze, the way Patrick looks at him, Pete wishes he could take it back.

Patrick moves down to kneel in front of Pete so that they were face to face and he kisses him. Pete gets it now, what Patrick meant when he noticed Pete started to kiss him differently. The kiss was biting and it hurt, almost bruising like Patrick was trying to leave his mark, find a place to sleep in between the ridges of Pete’s teeth, lay down on his tongue.

(if you really want me, you gotta sacrifice it baby)

Patrick is the first one to pull away, the same devastated look on his face, “I never wanted to end up with you.” Patrick says softly. “You— you make everything feel so difficult. Like sometimes, I don’t know who I am when I’m with you. Pete, this needs to stop.”

“Fuck you,” Pete says heavily. “You— the way you kissed me. There’s something there, you feel something for me.”

“Yeah, I do. I feel so much for you.” Patrick answers and he swallows the lump in his throat. “But we can’t be together, especially after what happened earlier.”

“What do you mean, I—”

“What you did today. You talk about leaving the team, you ask me to leave everything, but you can’t do it yourself.”

“Patrick, today was just— it was different—”

“You’re not my first, you know that.” Patrick interrupts him, looking down at the space between them. “What Chris said was true.”

Pete is speechless, doesn’t know how to reply. Pete doesn’t know if the feeling that had its fist around his neck, choking him, was betrayal or confusion. Unconsciously, he shifts away from Patrick, moving away and when he looks at Patrick, he barely even recognizes him.

Patrick notices the distance between them and nods to himself before letting out a hysterical, bitter laugh. “There were others. I was like a fucking party favor back then to shitty high school boys like you were. I got action in the back seats of their cars, in tiny bathroom cubicles, in their fucking swimming pools. And they all told me the same thing you’re telling me right now, Pete.”

“You think what I’m going through is this— is this— you think you’re my by gay crisis and you’ve somehow figured yourself out and you’re just waiting on me. But Jesus Christ, you don’t even know me.”

“So don’t fucking ask me to fucking leave everything, don’t even ask anything from me.”

“I thought-” Pete starts softly as he tried to stand, taking a step back, maybe he'd see better if he looked at this from far away.

“You thought you can have both the team and me. But it doesn’t work that way.” Patrick explains, hands wringing as he stayed on the floor. “You can't have everything without leaving me with nothing.”

The silence is deafening. Pete doesn’t have the words out of this one anymore, he can’t sleep his way out of this one either. Pete remembers all the times he was so close to telling Patrick that this might be love, even though that word is more of a curse at this point, causing him more hurt than anything else in the english language. Neither of them move, Patrick looks at Pete and Pete can’t read what he’s trying to tell him right now; there’s too much between them, space and hurt, and Pete can’t sift through all of it to understand what Patrick is thinking. Pete doesn’t know if Patrick’s wide eyes are giving him one last chance or not.

“So that’s just it?” Pete asks, voice breaking. “A whole year, gone just like that? After everything we—”

“Where did you think we were going with this, Pete?” Patrick asks, and his voice is maybe a little worn down, rough and tired like this had been a screaming match even though the silence had been louder than their words. Patrick continues when Pete remains silent, “You weren’t the only one who was tired of being a secret. I did— I did everything I could to make this easier for both of us. I thought that— honestly, there were times where I thought that you’d be— you could be the one, you know? But—”

“But today happened.” Pete finished for him and Patrick nods, not meeting his eyes. “Yeah, I did too. I thought I’d finally get it right with you.”

Pete moves to turn away and leave and this isn’t like the movies, there is no soundtrack to his heartbreak, no quirky group of friends waiting for him in his room who would bring him to the bars, no one night stand who would make the sadness go away when Pete tastes the alcohol and neon lights on their lips— this isn’t to say this won’t stop Pete from trying though; all he’s ever known are rom-com movie nights with his sister where they huddle underneath blankets and let the glow of the television pain their faces.

“Pete, can I ask you one thing before you go,” Patrick asks softly, just when Pete’s fists were about to turn the doorknob. For once in Pete’s goddamn life he really means it when he wishes that he wasn’t a masochist, wishes he could save himself from his own choices.

But Pete turns around anyway and his gaze falls on Patrick. There’s no more bite left in Patrick, no more spitting venom in his teeth, no more outstretched fists looking for the contact of Pete’s jaw. He looked smaller than he actually was, still knelt on the floor, arms wrapped around himself like he was protecting himself from whatever pain he was going to cause the both of them.

Patrick takes the silence as a yes and continues, voice heavy and thick, “Why did you say all of that earlier, in front of everyone? Why didn't you fight for me?”

Pete closes his eyes, unable to face Patrick’s face, the way he knows it will look like how the sky darkens just before it rains, “Nothing’s going to hurt more than the truth,” Pete pauses, swallowing the lump in his throat.

“I want the truth.”

Pete’s voice is flat when he replies, trying to not imagine what Patrick’s face looked like, hoping that if he kept his voice neutral, it would hurt less, “I was scared you were going to out me.”

There’s silence and Pete, because he’s impulsive, because his mind is too messy and loud half of the time, because he likes the pain, because he likes hurting himself: he opens his eyes. Patrick’s face was twisted in a grimace like he was in pain, and he lets out a shuddering sob that sounds like it had come from deep within his chest, like there was a physical ache in there that was drawing it out of his throat.

“Patrick, I’m sorry.” Pete starts and he tries to move towards Patrick only to stop when Patrick violently shakes his head, his arms curling tighter against him, falling back to rest on the wall in what Pete realizes is fear mixed with hurt.

Pete doesn’t know how long he stands like that, the sounds of Patrick’s muffled crying and deep inhales like he was struggling to breathe ringing in his ears, Pete was afraid he was going to hear it whenever it was silent. Pete just stands there, helpless, unable to tear his eyes away, unable to cry or say anything. Pete’s really fucked it up this time, he doesn’t have the right way to string words together anymore for this to work out.

“You say you love me, Pete.” Patrick says and what he says next is not a question, it’s a statement, his voice tripping on themselves as he tried to get the words out in between gasps for air. “How could you when you’d think I would do something like that.”

“I don’t think you could ever love anyone, Pete.” Patrick gasps out. “ I saw the way you looked at me last night during the stop lights. You thought you loved me, but it was just how I looked in the light.”

Pete finally turns around, unable to look at Patrick anymore and his hand is on the door, his wrist twisting the knob about to pull. Pete was about to leave the room, this room where Patrick was still crying, this room where just this morning Pete thought that when he left through the door, it meant something. 

“I’m sorry,” is all Pete can say in reply, his voice drained of any emotion as he opens the door.

When the door clicks with a quiet close instead of a bang like it does in the movies, something in Pete clicks too; his body finally choosing flight instead of fight, it’s a weird sensation when all Pete’s ever known are split lips and bruised knuckles, trying until it hurts, until he can’t anymore; there’s still fight left in him, but he just feels a quiet hopelessness now.

And then because Pete understands this now: that Patrick was just sex, someone to keep the other side of the bed warm and someone who could give him the feeling of a thunderstorm on his skin in the form of an orgasm, because this whole thing got out of hand when Patrick was just supposed to be another body, another pair of lips, another pair of blue eyes Pete can find anywhere, Pete can think that breaking Patrick’s heart is something he’s used to doing, the trail of broken hearts and failed relationships that follow Pete around are a testament to that.

Pete should have seen the ending sooner, shouldn’t have muddled everything up like he always seems to do. Pete shouldn’t be trying to take love anymore, he gets it now, love isn’t ever going to be something that’s going to want him.

(if the trees were yellow, that would cure my heartbreak)

Chapter Text

Pete’s panting into the smooth skin of a shoulder, pressing small kisses into the hollow of a neck, inhaling the smell of sweat and this morning’s old perfume, apples and something sweet, it’s not bad— Pete wants to drown in the smell, it’s familiar, smells of Comparative Political Economy every Wednesday morning where he knows, where he found, where he recognized— Pete can’t remember their name, but the arms holding him right now are holding him tightly and maybe he can let himself get lost in the feeling, imagine that he’s fallen and he’s been caught for once.

Pete pulls away and opens his eyes to look into their eyes and is surprised for a second, his heart missing a beat when all his gaze falls on is darkness. There’s a chilling fear that crawls up his body that makes him freeze up, hands falling off from whoever’s hair he was holding to the bed. It was hard to breathe all of a sudden, the air getting stuck in his chest, the little oxygen he was inhaling wasn’t enough. Pete feels like he’s fallen into a nightmare; this nightmare where shadows consume him, phantom hands and mouths and tongues on his body, and a cold body on top of his masked in a warmth that wasn’t actually there.

The realization that this wasn’t a nightmare, that they were just making out without the lights on, comes too late when the body above him pulls away, briefly resting their weight on Pete as they leaned forward to turn a lamp on. Pete winces at the dull brightness, it’s an overreaction, but whatever, Pete keeps his eyes closed. Whoever he was with shifts on his lap and they ask in a hesitant voice that makes Pete wince again, “Um, are you okay?”

The voice— the voice is all wrong. It wasn’t. It didn’t belong here; it’s a weird feeling, like tripping on air, like singing what you thought the next line of a song you swear you’ve memorized by heart but it suddenly goes into the chorus. It’s embarrassment mixed with confusion and now that Pete didn’t believe in magic, he believed in curses: he must be cursed now to slips of the tongue and too heavy feet and a thumb that has a mind of its own, swiping right on Tinder earlier that evening.

Pete grits his teeth and finally opens his eyes, seeing a girl who was only vaguely familiar in front of him. There had been something safe about the anonymous body in the dark, like Pete could mold their soft hips and shoulders into a shape he could fit himself into, but now that the light was shining on her face, it felt like a punishment. Pete rubs his eyes and mutters, “Sorry, I thought you were someone else,”

The girl scowls at him, her face growing dark, and the look she shoots him could have killed him, really. “You’re a dick,” she bites at Pete, roughly pushing herself off his lap. Pete only watches disinterestedly from the bed as she began to pull up her shorts to her waist. “You’re a real piece of shit, Pete Wentz.”

“And you’re just another notch on my bedpost,” Pete replies flatly, throwing her the bra that was resting next to Pete’s head. She doesn’t catch it, watches it fall on the ground between them. She was topless, and Pete would find it concerning that they’ve been making out for— he glances at the clock next to the bed as she continues to mutter obscenities under her breath— thirty minutes and the farthest they’ve gone was like a bit further than second base.

“This is my fucking room and my fucking bedpost,” she snaps as she grabs a sweatshirt from the top of a laundry pile built on a chair, "and I wish that were the case because that would at least mean that I came. Get out of my room, asshole.”

Pete is maybe a little stunned as she began to roughly push him off her bed, the reply had stung a little had cut deep into his skin, it hadn’t actually hurt anything more than his ego, but getting hurt again by someone he was having sex with isn’t really a welcoming feeling. Pete shakes himself out of it before it can bleed into the rest of his thoughts and he’ll be stuck thinking about it forever.

The girl at least has the decency to shove his t-shirt and shoes at his chest before slamming the door in his face, the loud bang echoing throughout the hallway. Girls pass by and they don’t even pause to watch him as he begins to dress in the open hallway, throwing his shirt on and buttoning his jeans; they’ve all probably seen the Pete Wentz show already. Pete is about to slip his shoes on when he realizes his sock was missing, likely having fallen off from the inside of his shoe when she had given it to him.

Pete’s tightly clutching his sneakers at the sudden ache in his chest at a memory, of a better time in his life. But Pete only swallows down the thickness in his throat and is thankful that he’s entering and leaving through hallways and doors this time around, it’s a lot less shameful, a lot less of giving everything of himself up just for one night that became another night that became another night that became a year.

Pete leaves the girls’ dormitories, hiding out in the more isolated stairwell corners where he used to make out with girls in the dark when this was fun, just in case one of the RA’s catch him lurking around at this time in the night. His own dorm building is barely ten minutes away, the walk short and familiar, Pete used to sneak out of bedrooms just as a girl fell asleep; so it wasn’t entirely true that nobody ever stayed the night, Pete was just the same as the rest of them anyway, maybe this was just karma biting him in the ass. Pete passes by the campus chapel that separates the two dorm buildings, likely set up there to ward of teenage hormones, but Pete’s always found himself staring into the shattered glass, seeing his own reflection there, on nights like this.

Pete sees his face cut up into different colors; dull darkness because of the lack of light that usually streamed through them. But he can see his face anyway and it looks like something straight out of a cheap horror film; like something was going to jump out of the glass and aim for his neck or his reflection was suddenly going to smile at him. Pete feels the hairs on the back of his neck rise and goosebumps form at the thought, he stuffs his hands into his pockets and walks faster towards the dormitories; ignoring the way the wind sounded like someone was shouting for his name. Pete’s been on edge for a while now, alright? He knew he was being dramatic and stupid, but he couldn’t help but feel that some planetary being was going to finally punish him for all the shit he’s done over the years; not that he doesn't deserve it or anything, Pete really does, but there's like a hundred other boys who have worse sins than him.

Pete is about to climb into his room through the fire escape, faster and easier, fewer questions asked from security if they were to catch him outside his room past dorm curfew. Pete is clutching the metal in his hands and he pauses before taking a step, looking up into a window a few floors away from his, more out of habit than any other underlying feelings Pete’s trying to convince himself he doesn’t have anymore. 

When Pete catches himself squinting at the window, trying to make out if the lights are on through the thick curtain, Pete tells himself that the only reason why there’s this ache in his chest, why there’s a stinging sensation in his eyes like pinprick tears, is because the whole walk here, he had been aware of every step he had taken without a sock. It’s not because he actually misses Patrick or anything. Patrick was just sex, Pete could find that anywhere, its evidenced in how Pete is always out at nights like this was part of his schedule like it was just another class; Sex 101 in whatever girl’s dorm room; he’s probably failing this one too. Pete falls into the beds of all these random girls, anyone who would take him, like he was touring again, finding himself in the beds of all these strangers, more platonic than anything sexual, but this time it was the latter.

Until this moment, Pete hasn’t thought about Patrick in a while, he can’t remember the last time he had to turn to a different radio station when a familiar song would start to play, this song that makes Pete go through a dizzy episode where flashing red lights and piercing blue eyes glowed beneath his eyelids. It hasn’t been that long since they’ve fought, but why does it feel like so many summers have passed, like the moon has been turning way too fast; days are short and the nights are as long as the shadows crawling up Pete’s walls; why does Pete feel so old all of a sudden.

When Pete thought about it, he wonders when this stopped hurting, when he stopped thinking about Patrick. All these days of hurting that felt like hurricanes in his head have just blended together into one long, drizzle that had slowly stopped and Pete didn’t even notice. It was weird, not being sad anymore, Pete felt— he felt detached by what had happened. There’s something scary about it, the way his feelings can turn around just like that, can just suddenly turn off and fade into a ghost of a feeling, makes him wonder if everything he felt was just because of the moment.

Pete doesn’t know how long they haven’t spoken. Pete thinks this is how he measured time now, he can neatly sort his life into Before Patrick, During Patrick, and After Patrick; Pete’s going to ignore the biblical imagery of it all, old habits and perceptions he got from attending Catholic schools all his life even though he doesn’t really believe in God anymore. But there’s no denying where it comes from: the closest Pete’s ever going to get to whatever heaven exists was that long year of windows and blue bedsheets; even if it had just been sex.

But it’s After Patrick now and Pete is trying to convince himself that Patrick was just sex; this is what the Catholics did after Jesus died: they continued living. Pete’s telling himself that, so he tries to detox Patrick out of his system the only way he’s supposed to. Pete fucks a lot of non-Patrick’s: blonde, blue-eyed, singers, he’s even slept with the girl in the student council Patrick had smiled at, trying to figure out what made her so special (Pete had looked at her face just as she came, the scatter of freckles on her face, her hips, her hands, her mouth— Pete’s still trying to figure out the differences between the two of them). Pete isn’t quite sure how long ago that was, the only way time can be real, the only way Pete can be sure that it has been moving, is because of the different bodies on top of his in the dark.

Pete fucks a lot of non-Patrick’s; or well, he tries to.

The humiliation of tonight makes Pete squeeze his eyes shut in embarrassment even though nobody could see. He grips the metal tightly in his palms again, feeling the cold metal cut into his skin.

“Hey, you,” a voice calls from behind him, someone from security.

Pete turns around, letting go of the metal railings, shoulders slumping in defeat as he’s faced with a crisp white polo and black jeans, the blinding light of a flashlight in his eyes.

“Come on, buddy. I’ll let you off the hook for missing curfew,” security was saying, gently pushing Pete into the direction of the dorm entrance. “just take the stairs, man. That thing you kids do— climbing up fire escapes and into windows is dangerous,”

Pete just shrugs in reply, but maybe he wishes that he would be punished by someone else for once for the things he gets himself into, that it wasn’t his hand that fucks everything up and it has to be the same hand that will demand penance from him afterward.

Pete walks up to his room and it must be pushing 1 am by now, but Andy still wasn’t there; from beneath the thin walls, Pete could make out the sound of laughter and music from the next room over; Joe’s. Pete hasn’t been invited into Joe’s room for a while, hasn’t been invited to dinner after practice in the all-day vegan breakfast cafe Andy insists that they eat in, Pete hasn’t even felt like this was his room in a long time.

Pete hears a louder laugh, echoing throughout the empty room, but instead of knocking or inviting himself in like he usually does, he climbs into his bed, not bothering to change his clothes, and closes his eyes, pretending to sleep until he hears Andy enter the room in what feels like forever.

Isolation: this is his punishment, this gentle act of self-harm that was a better option than unzipped wrists, of arms lined like crooked railroad tracks, of blue bottles in the passenger seat of a car parked outside of a Best Buy.

 


 

More time passes, but Pete slowly finds himself falling into Winona’s bed more than anyone else’s. Probably because Winona is the only girl who still wants him— and Pete doesn’t think it’s because she actually likes him or anything; they both make out in the dark where Pete’s free to close his eyes and pretend someone else was lying on top of him; this time Pete is more comfortable in the darkness, doesn’t freeze up anymore, it’s grown into something familiar to him now.

Right now, Winona is on top of him and Pete likes the sensation of her holding him down, pressing down on Pete’s wrists above his head so that he can’t move. Winona is biting into the kiss, teeth grazing Pete’s lips, Pete is sure that she was trying to bruise them both. Winona shifts on Pete’s lap, once, twice, thrice, and Pete realizes she wasn’t grinding on him, but looking for something.

Winona’s mouth disappears from his with a huff and Pete feels her body pull away as she rolls on the mattress to turn on the light.

“Seriously?” Winona asks and her voice wasn’t mean, wasn’t angry, mostly it was just incredulous, but that might just be because her brown eyes rimmed with smudged eyeliner made her look comically surprised all the time. Winona is beautiful, brown hair that was long and wild, sharp features and a long body that reminds Pete of the cats his younger sister had for a while, her mouth shaped like it were made for Pete’s with the way they locked so easily once they’ve met.

(See? Pete’s still got it in him— he can still romanticize with the best of them, he doesn’t need all those complicated feelings after all)

“What,” Pete muttered dully, eyes fixed to the ceiling; he already knew what she was going to say. 

“Are you even hard— oh my God, you’re totally soft right now,” Winona whines, gesturing at the rumpled denim of his jeans. “like, I know we’re thinking of other people while we do this, but you’re going to have to help me out,”

“Sorry, I can eat you out if you want,”

Winona laughs at that, the same laugh that made something in Pete’s heart twitch a little so long ago, but now there’s nothing there to feel. “That’s so generous of you,” Winona snorts, falling on her back to lie next to Pete. “I’ll have to pass on that offer, though.”

Pete doesn’t reply, doesn’t even look at her and she laughs again, shifting so she was on her side and looking at Pete, “I’m not in love with you or anything,” she starts, “so that means I can say this and you can’t accuse me of anything, but dude, it would be better if you picked someone who was just like you.”

Pete stills at her words, unsure how she meant for it to go. Winona is looking at him critically, Pete’s always thought her eyes were this deep brown color that’s oddly reminiscent of burnt embers, and right now they’re boring a hole into Pete; she’s the anti-Patrick fuck Pete’s been looking for with the way she doesn’t seem to care about how Pete could break her heart, doesn’t even look like her heart could even been broken by Pete.

“If you’re so good at this whole love thing then why are you here trying to fuck me in the dark so you can pretend I’m someone else?” Pete replies sourly, a beat too late for it to actually be hurtful.

Winona just grins at him, unfazed by his reply. “That’s my solution to my problem, I don’t think I’m hurting anyone with it— unlike you,” she shrugs, “which by the way, unrelated, but you know the girls have been talking shit about you, right? Everyone’s been talking about how much of a bad lay you are. I knew you weren’t going to fuck me tonight so don’t get mouthy with me, I just wanted to help.”

Pete doesn’t answer her and she doesn’t say anything, they lie on their backs with the deafening silence ringing in their ears and Pete wonders if Winona will let him stay the night. Pete would take anything he could get; if all she could offer him was her floor and an old t-shirt for a blanket, Pete would take it, he can’t stand it in his own room anymore.

Winona shoves his shoulders, a gentle smile on her face, “Hey, don’t worry about all those rumors. I’ll tell everyone you ate me out and made me cum five times in one night,”

Pete finds himself laughing even though he didn’t find it all that funny, he just misses the company, he guesses, misses the feeling of laughing and feeling light in the chest; Andy and Joe barely even look at him anymore, his dorm room has become this motel where Andy only comes by to sleep while Pete is pretending to and by the time Pete’s actually awake, Andy has already gone.

“There’s that smile,” Winona says, her smile growing bigger and she doesn’t push herself into Pete’s space anymore even though her mattress wasn't that big to begin with. It’s silent again between them, so quiet that they hear the steady rhythm of a bed hitting the wall and soft moans from the neighboring room. Pete feels laughter begin to bubble out of him and Winona giggles too as she climbs on top of Pete, shoving her palms into Pete’s mouth to muffle his laughter.

“Don’t be an asshole, at least she’s getting some,”

There’s a pause, Winona’s fingers still pressing deeply into his mouth like a kiss, she's wild-eyed and panting from laughter; Winona was beautiful, why couldn’t Pete have ended up with her? “How do you do it?” Pete asks softly, the words finding their way out before he could stop himself, speaking through Winona’s fingers.

Winona hums and Pete feels the vibrations, “What do you mean?”

“How do you not— you’re nice to me and we fuck and we talk and we laugh— how are you— how—”

“How am I not in love with you?” Winona interrupts him, sounding like she was politely trying hard not to laugh right now.

Pete feels his face warm up in embarrassment and he looks at the distant spot above her shoulder, “You make me sound like an ass when you put it that way,”

“Because you are, Pete.” Winona says and Pete is still looking at the ceiling, but he hears the roll of her eyes in her voice, “And I haven’t fallen in love with you because I’m me.

“You don’t love me, Pete,” Winona adds a little more seriously, piercing brown eyes gazing deep into Pete’s just before she kisses his mouth with her fingers still there, barely a brush of her lips. “It’s not me you want, I’m not the one you’re looking for,”

Winona removes her fingers and she rests her head on her palm, moving to lay on her side to look at Pete, “Is that what happened?” she asks, her voice gentle. “I know you don’t actually like me or anything, but Pete, talking and laughing together? That’s normal, you’re supposed to get that with your friends—”

“I do,” Pete interrupts her, a little defensively, “Andy and Joe—”

“Andy and Joe,” Winona echoes firmly like it was a point. Pete remains quiet and he begins to nervously tighten his palm into a fist.

“Hey,” Winona starts, pulling away again, resting her back on the ceiling, “this sort of shit happens, Pete. But we’re not in a rom-com, we’re not in some teen movie, this isn’t Sixteen Candles, just because you’ve fucked someone and they make you laugh doesn’t mean they’re the one for you. Getting worked up about someone you were fucking is normal, but you’re going to have to get over it.”

 “But we can be great, when we fuck it's like—”

“We don’t fuck anymore, Pete.” Winona laughs and it’s not mean, “We make out and you sometimes finger me and sometimes you let me suck your dick, but we just lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling for the rest of the night because you hate being alone in your room and I don’t mind because I hate being alone here too. That is not fucking, we’re both using each other because of all our personal issues.”

Winona faces him again and the way her eyes are shining right now, Pete knows she loves him but not in the way he wishes she could. “I don’t have to be in love with you to treat you like— we’re friends, Pete. This is what friends do, well, okay, not all of the things we do, but you need to learn to let people be kind to you; you deserve that kindness.”

There’s this beat of silence and Pete’s face must be completely open right now because Winona laughs again, her laughter drowning out the sounds of sex from the other room, “Oh my God, your face, please don’t fall in love with me.”

Pete smiles as Winona laughs next to him, and he thought it would be painful, the way his skin would be stretched out into a shape it hasn’t formed in a while, a genuine one anyway, and he finds that it’s easy to let something happen when someone else believes in it, even something small like his smile.

 


 

When Pete gets to his room, the lights are already off and he could make out the shape of Andy underneath his blankets when the light of the hallway filled the room. Pete stands by the doorway and he can almost picture all the times he’s come back into this room and felt something near what he felt what being with Patrick felt like, what it felt like to be with Winona.

Pete sees the posters on the wall and he knows that underneath one of those is a hole Joe had made when he had drunkenly punched it, trying to create a door from his bedroom next door to Pete and Andy’s. Pete remembers carrying Joe’s mattress from the girl’s dormitory to here in their bedroom; pausing to take pictures with it all over campus; the ten-minute walk becoming an hour as the two of them struggled to carry it through their laughter. Pete remembers getting his heart broken for the hundredth time and Andy holding his hair back as he puked into one of the sinks in the communal bathroom, remembers the way Andy’s hands had drawn gentle circles on Pete’s back and the senseless, comforting murmurs he made against Pete’s ear. Andy who did that a hundred more times because Pete was always getting his heart broken. He remembers a drunken conversation when they had moved all the furniture to the side, their dresser and tables blocking the door, just so the three of them could lay on their backs while Pete had told them stories about the days he had gone touring, Joe wide-eyed, saying they should start a band some day and all of them laughing at that because it’s what everyone says, it’s like saying they should have their own sitcom like Friends; nobody ever really means it, but sometimes, Pete wished Joe did.

“Pete?” Andy slurs, sitting up from his bed, and Pete realizes that he’s been standing in the doorway for a while now. “You okay? Shut the door, man, you’re letting the light in.”

Pete swallows the lump in his throat; this is the first time Andy’s ever really spoken to him ever since Pete had treated Patrick like shit in the hallways. Pete misses Andy’s voice, misses the comfort it brought him, like some Pavlovian response where Andy meant safety and happy endings and laughter. Pete remembers all the times they’ve walked underneath the city lights and stars in silence, half the time, Pete was convinced Andy hated him, but when they would walk next to each other, silent, chests tired and full from laughter that night, when they would cut through the streets, jaywalking on a highway, just so they didn’t have to walk that extra five minutes even though they risked getting hit by a truck; Pete knew that Andy loved him.

Pete apologizes and closes the door behind him, but Andy had already fallen back into bed. Pete stumbles his way into his own mattress. Pete falls to his back and he waits for sleep to take him, to take him out of here and dream, take him to the next day, but it doesn’t come. 

Pete is breathing slowly, trying to trick himself into falling asleep, counting backward in his head. He reaches fifty when he realizes Andy is awake too; his breathing too quick to be asleep. Pete bites his lip in hesitation, he can’t ever remember a time when he was nervous to talk to Andy, not even when they had first met; Pete had always been unashamed and trusting that this was Andy— he was always going to want Pete, even all the messy parts of him, especially all of the messy parts.

It hurts.

“Andy?” Pete says, quiet enough that Pete won’t feel that bad if Andy didn’t reply, he can convince himself that Andy was asleep.

There’s a beat of silence before Andy sighs, “Yeah?”

“I’m sorry,” Pete says, and the words are easier to say in the dark; like they have no consequences, like neither of them will be able to see the words form and have an effect, like it really was a magic word like Pete’s preschool teachers used to insist.

 “Do you know what you’re sorry for?”

 “I don’t.” Pete admits, “But— I miss you guys. I miss you and Joe. I— I know I did something wrong, but there’s— I don’t— I’m just scared that you guys think I’m a bad person. Like— like you guys never actually— because I’m easy to leave—”

Pete doesn’t know if what he’s saying made sense, but this was Andy, fluent in Pete’s cries of help that were masked as jokes; fragmented sentences like this one, evidence of a brain that’s too messy and feels too much, a brain that doesn’t think before it falls into this hole of depression; the empty, purple prose Pete talks in when he thinks he’s in love.

“Pete,” Andy sighs and there’s a strain to his voice like he was hurt, “What you did to Stump, it was shitty.”

Pete wants to cover his ears and squeeze his eyes shut, wishes he didn’t open his mouth to invite Andy in. Pete gets it— he’s the bad guy in this story whatever anyone says, Pete was always going to be the bad guy; all he does is hurt everyone around him and he can’t even take accountability for it. He knows that, nobody needs to remind him what a shitty person he was, someone has probably already told him so a hundred times before them.

“We don’t think you’re a bad person,” Andy says and Pete realizes he had said it all aloud. “I just need you to know what you did wasn’t alright,”

“I already know,” Pete says feebly, “I know, okay? I know it was shitty because I lost you guys and I lost— I lost— I just want everything to be normal again. I know what I did was shitty, but everyone is so— everyone has been shit to me too, everyone is so against me being happy,”

“You can’t blame other people for that, Pete. You can’t say that everyone is against you, it only feels that way, it’s just in your head.” Andy says a little sternly and Pete is frustrated for a second because Andy doesn’t get it, doesn’t get how much people could be against the idea of Pete wanting to hold another boy’s hand, how hard it is, how this one time Pete isn’t being dramatic, “And you know everything can’t be the same anymore. You’re— you’re a different person now, but it doesn’t have to be bad,”

“I just want to stop hurting, it feels like there’s a hole inside me every night, I can’t sleep,” Pete says, letting it go, and he’s surprised with himself for saying that.  Because it would be easy to say that Pete had forgotten about Patrick. That he was coping, that he was fine without Patrick. It would be so easy to say that Pete been brave, that he’s been strong, but he’s been making out with the lights off and he doesn’t even actually have sex anymore; all those things just make him a coward. It’s easy to say he’s not thinking of Patrick: he doesn’t, lights go down and he doesn’t think of anyone, he’s actually studying for once, keeping busy without consciously doing it.

Patrick's out of his mind, but whenever Pete closes his eyes, he knows he dreams of Patrick.

Andy sighs heavily, but Pete knows he’s not mad, “I’m sorry Joe and I haven’t been around, Pete. It was just hard to see you like that. I just can’t look at you the same way. I don’t know who you are ever since you started fucking whoever you sneak out of windows for”

Pete feels tears prick in his eyes, he’s never been much of a crier; sure, he was soft, but ever since Patrick, everything else about him made Pete hurt, made him want to cry; maybe Andy was right. “It's ended. We— I ended it.”

“I’m sorry,” Andy says and Pete knows he means it even though Andy must hate Patrick for what he’s turned Pete into, “Joe and I, we’ll try to be better. We can— we can go out this weekend, Joe’s been talking about this gig downtown. We can try to make it normal again.”

Pete smiles even though he knows Andy can’t see it, “Normal,” he says and the word fills his mouth with promises and hope and future and something better, “like when Joe talks about us being in a band?”

Andy laughs, and it’s been a while since the room heard anything like that between them, the room feels smaller, the spaces closer, Pete feels closer to Andy right now, here in the dark more than he ever did in anyone else’s bed. “Don’t tell him I told you but Joe still can’t believe that he’s friends with Pete Wentz from Arma Angelus, he asks me to pinch him sometimes.”

Pete feels his smile grow and the warm feeling spread all over his chest, all over his body, his headaches and bad luck turning into butterflies into this chest, “Arma?” Pete scoffs, “when we have our own band, nobody’s even going to recognize Pete Wentz from Arma Angelus,”

Pete imagines the small smile on Andy’s face, “We’ll keep dreaming then.” Andy says, “Go to sleep, Pete. You don’t have to feel empty anymore tonight. You’ve got something to look forward to now. It won't— it won’t fix everything, but it can help.”

It should signal the end of the conversation, and Pete feels warm inside, his chest a little lighter, but there’s still something missing in this moment. Until now, Pete still feels like there’s a missing truth between them, that he's not being completely truthful to Andy. There’s a silence that falls between them and Pete could leave it at that, could leave it at this sort of pretend where they go back to their old lives and convince themselves that everything won’t explode right back at them like the death of all these young constellations; tragic and short-lived, but inevitable. Pete can choose to leave it, leave it to the darkness that won’t fix everything, leave it even though he knows that all ugly parts of him are just going to go rear its head all over again and ruin everything.

Pete can leave it at that, but (and it hurts to think about the next phrase because it reminds him of that night when he felt like he was born again on Patrick’s bed, like he was a little sun and Patrick was the moon reflecting the light of the deskside lamp on his glasses) the darkness makes him a little bit brave.

There’s liquid courage coursing through Pete’s veins that he’s sure is adrenaline, his heart is beating so fast and there’s that rush of blood to his ears that makes him feel like he’s slipping away, going deaf.

“Andy,” Pete says, and he doesn’t know if Andy has heard and Pete is about to pretend he never said anything, when Andy hums softly, “I’m listening, Pete.”

“Andy— I” Pete’s throat constricts for a second. He closes his eyes even though it’s dark, just that little bit of extra protection, this flimsy contingency plan so he can at least say he tried to protect himself from the hurt that was going to happen. “I think I’m— I think I might be bi. Not really, think, I know that I’m bi,”

In the movies, this would be the part where Pete would feel brave and free, but all he feels is shame, sticky on his skin, in his eyes in the form of tiny pinprick tears as he realizes that he wants to beg for Andy’s acceptance. It would be easy to say that Pete wouldn’t care if Andy hates him, if Andy were to move out of their room tomorrow, or even tonight, if Andy were to call him every single thing Pete had called all those other boys all those years ago. But it isn’t like that. Pete is so stupid for thinking that just because Andy had forgiven him and welcomed him back it means that Andy won’t disappear again. Pete is stupid to think that Andy’s generosity is infinite, especially for something like this, something that Pete can actually feel in the way the silence and air cutting between them was pushing them further apart.

There’s a silence that hangs in the air between them and Pete suddenly understands what people mean when they say they’re whole life flashes before their eyes just before they die. Pete sees all these moments with Andy; dancing in their room to shitty pop songs that they’re ashamed to admit they like, of falling asleep on each other’s shoulders and sharing earphones during car rides to whatever city they were playing in, that time they all struggled to open a bottle of wine with a cork opening with everything that wasn't a cork opener; and Pete is suddenly scared that he’s going to lose all of that.

Pete’s eyes remain closed and he’s thinking that if he doesn’t open them, time won’t move.

Pete hears Andy’s exhale way too close to his face and Pete brings up his hands to cover his face, anticipating the feeling of his knuckles on Pete’s bones; Pete should get used to that, it’s destined to happen now that someone knows who he might be. There’s a beat before Pete feels fingers on his own hands bringing his fists down to rest on the bed. Andy is still silent when Pete sees the dim light of his deskside lamp glow from beneath his eyelids, feeling the faint warmth on his face.

“Open your eyes, Pete,” Andy says gently.

And Pete trusts him, trusts the way Andy had said it with care and softness, and he does.

“Thank you for telling me,” Andy says with his warm and gentle eyes, “can I hug you?

Pete laughs and shakes his head, feeling his shoulders loosen a little, “I’ll accept a fist bump right now,”

Andy ignores him and wraps his arms around Pete in an awkward, but tight hug anyway. Pete feels tears begin to form in his eyes; he didn’t know how much he needed this. Andy doesn’t let go, his arms going tighter as if he was trying to shield Pete from the hurt he knows Pete’s going to feel, nothing is ever going to hurt worse than the look Patrick had given him though.

Andy pulls away and his own eyes look a little wet too as he quickly scrubs at them, “I’m sorry— for what I said earlier, I— that thing, where I said you can’t blame Chris and the others for the way you acted. I thought you meant just—”

“—Being a dick?” Pete finishes for him, and Andy smiles, his lips twitching in that small smile he gives Pete sometimes when Pete was being endearingly annoying.

“Yeah, I wasn’t going to say that, but yeah, a dick. But— it’s different when you— after you say that. It makes what you did make sense and I don’t want to blame you for what you had to do,”

Pete shakes his head, “I needed to hear that. I needed to hear that what I did was wrong. I kept— I kept thinking what I did was okay because that was what kept me safe, but now I’m thinking— I hurt people, I hurt Patrick because of what I did. It gave me a reason why I should act that way, but it doesn’t excuse what I’ve done,”

Andy hesitantly nods and Pete is glad that he could see Andy’s face right now, see the openness in it, “You’re still not the bad guy in this story, you know that right?”

Pete sighs and he feels his eyes dampen a little bit, “It’s easy to say, hard to believe,”

“Scooch over,” Andy says, pushing Pete a little.

Pete moves closer to the wall and Andy tries to fit himself in the little empty space left on Pete’s twin size mattress. Pete is acutely aware of the warmth of Andy, his presence, that he was still here. Pete is filled with that same warmth right now and his insides have begun to quiet, have begun to calm down.

They stare at the ceiling, just like all those times when they had stayed up late reviewing for an exam, all those drunken conversations where they talked about Andy’s weird anarcho-primitivism theoretical models and Pete’s feelings of crushing existential loneliness.

“How did you— how did you figure it out?" Pete is hesitant to reply and Andy senses it, “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I don’t-- It’s okay,”

“I’m alright,” Pete shakes his head, his cheek hitting Andy’s shoulder and they laugh, “I guess I’ve always sort of known? But it’s not something that I accepted until recently,”

“Was there someone?”

“There was this guy,” Pete replies and he’s proud of himself for not choking up on his words, “I can’t— he’s not yet out either, it won’t be fair to tell you, but— yeah, we had this thing for a while,”

“How do you know it’s not just a one-time thing? Like he’s just an exception?” Andy asks curiously and then hastily adds, “Sorry, I didn’t think how dick-ish it was going to sound,”

“Just a little bit,” Pete teases and he bumps Andy's shoulder because he sees the worrying furrow in Andy's brow, “I— I don’t know. I thought at first it was just sex with him and that I was okay with the sex, it was just— it was just sex, I didn’t think I would actually fall in love with him. But then I realized that I liked talking to him and that I wished I would spend the night in his room and everything just got so messy, and that’s when I realized it wasn’t about the sex with him, I really could have loved him if the situation had been different or if he felt the same way about me,” Pete finishes softly.

“He didn’t feel the same way?”

“The situation was hard, I can’t blame him. He was just trying to keep himself safe like I was. I just ended up hurting him,

“I think we both just— we both just wanted company,” Pete admits, realizing these now that he had someone to talk to, “I— I kind of— I’m over it. It really was just sex, I just thought it could be more, I guess. It’s like, your first love and all that in junior high where you think the both of you are going to last forever and get married, but you both break up with each other by the end of the summer when you’ve spent all that time apart. And then ten years later you hear this song on the radio that you both sang along to, and you think about what could have been even though it's all because it had been the first time of you felt anything like that,"

Pete feels a little too raw, like his edges have worn down. A lot of what he’s just said, he’s never even thought about before, but they sound right, they’re the truth that Pete’s been too afraid to face until now when he had someone to face them with.

“How— how long were you guys— how long have you known that you were—?”

“I never actually said the words until right now, I never really considered labeling myself. But when I think about it— around— I don’t know. The sex was the easy part, but the feelings? Not so much. We started around a year ago, but it’s only been for a while when I started thinking about my feelings for him and the possibility that I could actually love someone with a dick— ” Pete trails off at the look Andy was giving him, his eyes were definitely shining with tears right now and Pete knows Andy was going to hug him, he doesn’t stop him though.

“You— you went almost a whole year thinking— being scared that we— that I was going to hate you. I felt how you were scared a while ago, I’m sorry for anything that I’ve ever done to make you feel that way, to make you feel like I wouldn’t accept this part of you.”

 Pete feels his heart break and he realizes tears are rolling down his cheeks, “I— I felt so alone, Andy,” he admits quietly, voice cracking a little. “I was so scared that— I was— that I could lose everything,

“I felt so— I felt like I was lying all the time; lying to you and Joe, lying to myself, lying to him ; I just felt so— so restricted and all I ever want to feel is free and I wish I could have told everyone just how much I felt for him because those feelings were good even though I know now that they weren’t real. But— but just because they weren’t real, it doesn’t change how I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone more than I did with him that time I stayed the night in his bed,

It wasn’t real, but we didn’t end the way we were supposed to. It’s not fair, nothing— nothing about us was fair. We were smiling but it was always in the dark, always in secret places. We didn’t even get the chance to realize we didn’t love each other after all, that the feelings we felt for each other, no matter how good and true, was just because of that afterglow after sex. Or— or maybe how we didn't even get the chance to fall out of love and let those oceans of feelings fizzle out. Every straight person is allowed to make stupid mistakes like that except us. I was— we were forced to break apart because mostly everyone here is still stuck in this stupid 1980’s mindset where I can’t even— where I can’t even hold his hand.

But what sucks the most, the part that hurts the most, is that I didn’t get to fight for him. I'm that thing that we're supposed to fight against together, and I— I didn’t, I went against him,”

Pete shakes underneath Andy’s arms, he’s not crying, but it’s hard to breathe, taking long gulps of air like this whole time he had been drowning underneath this ocean of shame and sadness and loneliness. In the dark, the warmth and still there of Andy around him despite everything Pete’s just told him is supposed to make him feel safe, but he still feels scared of whatever else is in the dark. Is this how it’s always going to be? Being surrounded by all these people who love you, but always having that underlying fear underneath it all because sometimes love isn’t going to be enough against fists and bloody eyes and empty words thrown around like they were easy, like they didn’t leave open wounds in Pete’s mouth after saying them.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” Andy mutters and this is like all those other times when Pete’s heart had been broken, but this time it's over a boy, and Pete isn't quite sure if the heartbreak manual Andy's learned all his tricks on would work the same way, Pete doesn't feel the same way as he did before, “It’s okay, Pete. Breathe,”

And Pete does breathe. There are still oceans inside of him that are desperate to drown him, monsoons threatening to break open his throat with their force, Pete’s choking on the smell right before a rainstorm, but he’s breathing. Pete doesn’t know how long they lay like that, Andy holding him tenderly, like there’s still something even just a tiny bit worth it there underneath all the broken and cracked Pete feels. Pete is hiding his face in Andy’s neck and wishing Joe were here. Pete falls into a mild panic attack over that again, the thought of having to do this when it was so hard the first time, how he’s always going to come out over and over for his whole lifetime, but he breathes and he breathes and breathes until the feeling ebbs into nothing but this nightmare he could have woken up from.

“Andy,” Pete says in a small voice muffled by the t-shirt that was probably wet with his tears, “is it always going to hurt this much? Am I going to have to feel so alone every time?”  

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Andy admits as he smooths Pete’s hair, unruly curls that were starting to lose the stiff straightness Pete had ironed them into this morning and Andy says, in a quiet voice, sincere and honest, “but I know that you’re brave whatever you decide to choose to do, and that you’re not going to be alone, Pete. I’ll always be here,”