Pete's had some pretty fucking shitty weeks in his life. Drugs, drinks, one-night-stands, depression, insomnia, anxiety—all of these things mix together to create a life that ain't exactly a walk in a rose garden, and Pete's experienced them all, plus some. He knows when to just give up, go back to bed, and let the universe sort itself out on its own.
So why in the hell hadn't he done that this week?
In the past four days—or has it been three? Five? He's lost count—Pete's been drugged, kidnapped, beaten, chased, incarcerated, burned, choked, tied up, and sedated, and that's only the stuff he can remember. He doesn't even wanna know what those crazy-ass kids and those psychotic (yet sexy) leather-clad, anti-music women did to him while he was knocked out. However many times that happened. Fuck. What is his life.
He should've known. When those creepy guys in that sleek black car had pulled up outside his house and handed him a silver briefcase and a pair of handcuffs, saying something cheesy but terrifying like “The fate of rock and roll lies with you now,” he should've just slammed the fucking door in their faces. He shouldn't have accepted the package with childlike glee and scurried back to his living room where Andy, Joe, and Patrick were waiting. They shouldn't have locked it to Patrick's wrist and sent him off to deliver it all alone. They shouldn't have opened the damn thing in the first place, because as soon as they'd seen what was inside...
Now the thing is dented and filthy and covered in blood— Patrick's blood, oh God, oh shit— and this fucking crazy cult led by Courtney fucking Love is intent on destroying everyone and everything in their path to obtain it, and Patrick's got one hand and yellow eyes, and Joe's dead, and Andy's still at the cult's warehouse headquarters, and... fuck!
Pete's life has become a bad horror flick. Only there's no pause button, and the 3D is way too fucking realistic.
He trips on a rock and nearly takes a nose dive into the desert dirt beneath his tattered shoes. He can't stop to think about all the “shouldas” and “couldas” now—he's running through Death Valley for his fucking life because his best friend in the whole world has somehow become demonized and appears hell-bent on tearing Pete limb-from-limb. Or choking him out, like he'd done to Joe. The very thought of his murdered friend sends Pete's stomach into a painful roil, and if he hadn't just thrown up in a bush from dehydration ten minutes ago, it'd probably happen again.
On a whim, he casts a quick glance over his shoulder as he comes over a small hill. Patrick—or whatever messed-up creature is possessing him—isn't anywhere near, so Pete's staggered footsteps come to a halt and he braces his hands on his knees, setting down the (epic) fretboard machete he's reluctant to use. His breaths come in hoarse, choked-off gasps, and he'd give anything for a glass of water right about now.
Or some tequila. Either would do.
Bent over in the hot California sun, Pete tries to focus on controlling his insanely rapid heartbeat. He sucks in dry gulps of air and ignores the beads of sweat that drip from his forehead into his eyes and mouth, praying for some kind of salvation.
As if on cue, shuffling footsteps sound from a few yards behind him. A low, animalistic growl follows, and Pete's stomach drops through his feet.
“No,” he wheezes, but he knows what he'll find when he looks back. Patrick is there on the top of the ridge, dressed in filthy clothes, skin caked with dirt and dried blood. He's standing in an awkward position, probably due to injuries that he's too far gone to feel right now, and the rusty hook where his left hand should be glints dully in the late afternoon haze. Most terrifying are his eyes, though—where warm, joyful green once pooled, now there is only piercing, soulless yellow, burning like concentrated fire as the singer stares unblinking at Pete. Hatred and bloodlust come off of Patrick in waves, conducted by his unfamiliar eyes, and Pete gulps.
“...'Trick?” he rasps, hoping to trigger something in his old friend by using the nickname.
Patrick just snarls, his face twisting grotesquely, and takes three halting steps forward.
There's a road over the next rise, and Pete figures that where there's pavement there's civilization. He turns and follows it west, raising the briefcase over his head to shield his eyes from the setting sun as he runs as fast as he can towards a junkyard in the distance. Dust clouds fly into the air as he sprints, and behind them, Patrick's heavy breathing and uneven gait follow.
Once you start fighting your friends, you've lost. Pete had said that somewhere, in some interview or another years ago. Now more than ever, those words ring true.
The junkyard is full of rows and rows of rusted cars, crouched in the dirt to rot. Pete thinks he sees heads poke up from the broken windows as he runs down the aisles, searching for one to hide in. He picks an old white El Camino—a car that was probably gorgeous at one point in time, but is now a filthy shell of its former self—and hops in, dragging the briefcase and machete with him. He burrows as far as possible into the footwells in front of the tattered seats and holds still, breathing as quietly as he can manage. It's difficult when his lungs are full of dust and his heart is racing somewhere around 180 beats per minute.
Metal creaks as he shifts his position to glance out of a hole in the old Chevy's fender. He can't see Patrick right now, but he was right when he thought he'd seen people in the cars—a dirty young girl with ratty brown hair is hiding out in a Challenger across the aisle from Pete. She looks like something out of The Exorcist.
Suddenly, she snaps her head to the right and meets Pete's gaze head-on. He's so startled that he jolts and nearly shakes his own hideout off its axles. Closing his eyes, he rests his forehead against the rusty frame and takes a few steadying breaths.
He opens his eyes just in time to watch as the girl points towards him, and Patrick comes into view, pissed and murderous and full of dangerous intent. He follows the girl's finger and his empty eyes settle on the El Camino.
Pete doesn't think twice before he's standing up in the car and tossing the briefcase out the window ahead of him. He leaps out, snatches the case up from the ground, and jumps from hood to hood as he tries to escape the gaze of his best-friend-turned-possible-murderer. Patrick follows, moving more smoothly than before; his teeth are bared and his hook hand is held in front of him, ready to strike. He is the picture of evil, Satan with strawberry-blonde hair, and for the first time in his life Pete is absolutely fucking terrified of Patrick Stump.
There's a Podunk little trailer park just outside the junkyard, and Pete heads into the first house-on-wheels he reaches. No one's home, so he stops to rest for a few seconds in the living room, nearly collapsing to his knees from exhaustion. He pauses to reflect on his current situation, and comes to the quick conclusion that he is royally fucked. Typical.
There's gotta be some way to snap Patrick out of this freaky trance. He'd come to after realizing he'd killed Joe, and he'd been fine after that until Courtney's lackeys had taken him from the prison and hooked him up to some weird brainwashing device. From what Pete had seen, they'd shown Patrick images from his past—memories that triggered strong emotions—and twisted them somehow to send him spiraling into mindless rage. The eye thing still confuses Pete, but there's probably some long-winded science-y explanation to that, too.
Strong negative emotions caused Patrick's current condition. So logically, strong positive ones should bring him out of it. At least, it's logical to Pete's dehydrated mind. But how is he gonna cause this twisted version of Patrick to feel anything but seething anger? The very sight of any member of Fall Out Boy triggers the “murder” switch in Patrick when he's like this, apparently, so how is Pete gonna get close enough to him to talk without getting his throat slashed?
There isn't time enough to dwell on this question, unfortunately, because the entire trailer shifts as Patrick stomps into it, no doubt sensing Pete's presence. Pete gets up from the floor and turns to face his attacker, heart in his throat.
C'mon, he thinks, scrambling for words. You're his best friend, his musical partner. Just remind him. Every dog can find its way home if it can catch the right scent.
Patrick rounds the corner into the living room and stops in his tracks when he sees Pete. He squares his shoulders and lowers his chin, glaring at the darker-haired man with unbridled menace. His chapped, yet still plush, lips curl in a hideous sneer.
Then, to Pete's shock, he speaks.
“Kill you.” The once-sonorous voice is now low and gravelly, like sandpaper against velcro with added bass. “Gonna kill you. Rip your heart out. Gnaw on your bones.”
And fuck, if Pete's heart doesn't just shatter right then and there. Patrick's voice has always been one of Pete's favorite traits about him—often times he'd call Patrick in the middle of the night just to hear him speak or sing so he could fall asleep. How something so beautiful could be contorted into something so incredibly ugly is beyond Pete's knowledge.
“Patrick,” he tries, dropping his machete and holding up a placating hand. “'Trick, it's me, it's Pete. C'mon, man, you gotta snap out of it.”
But Patrick's not having any of it. He snarls and charges forward, barely leaving Pete enough time to grab his weapon and push his way out the back door of the trailer. Their feet hit the dirt at the same time and Pete takes off running without a backwards glance, heading for another nearby mobile home to take refuge. He almost trips on his own boots but manages to haul himself up the three steep steps to relative safety.
It takes Patrick barely ten seconds to catch up with him, however, and soon they're in the same position as earlier—facing off in the middle of a small, empty room.
This time, Pete sets both the machete and the briefcase down, watching as Patrick's yellow eyes follow the blood-covered object intently. Pete raises both hands and takes a cautious step towards his friend. “Patrick, please, you've gotta remember. This isn't you. You're not a psychotic murderer—you're a dorky, awkward guy and you're a fucking amazing singer and you sleep in too late and you leave your socks all over the bus and you're the best goddamned friend I've ever had. You're also the only one in the band without tattoos and really, I can't believe you haven't broken down and gotten one yet. Please, Patrick, just—”
“PATRICK ISN'T HERE!”
All of a sudden Pete is on his back, wind knocked completely out of his lungs, and a rusty hook is swinging down towards his shoulder. He manages to lift one of his own hands and catch Patrick's bloody wrist just before it finishes its downward swing. Patrick's breath is hot on Pete's face and his growls are even scarier up close.
“Gonna drink the blood from your throat,” he rumbles directly into Pete's ear as they tousle on the dusty linoleum floor. “Slit it open just like your drummer's.”
Oh. Oh God, no. That means Andy's gone, too. Those bitches back at the warehouse must've—Oh fucking God no.
Grief washes over Pete like a tsunami and he barely has the strength to throw this monster with his friend's face off of him. He scrambles for the briefcase, fighting back tears of sorrow and rage, and jumps out of the nearest window without bothering to go back for his machete. He lands hard on his side in the dirt, wheezing pitifully, and allows himself a single broken sob for his second (third?) fallen bandmate before getting back up and running blindly forwards. He has no idea where he's headed, only that he needs to get there before Patrick catches up to him.
He runs and runs until the trailer park ends, and all that's left is a clearing and a tall barbed-wire fence blocking his path to freedom. After wondering what the fuck the inhabitants of this odd little gathering could possibly need protecting from in the middle of Death fucking Valley, Pete spins around frantically just in time to see Patrick step around the last trailer into the clearing.
Breathless from exertion and hopelessness, Pete only manages to ask, “Who the fuck are you?”
Patrick's face grins darkly. “Your reaper.”
Pete just shakes his head, feeling flecks of sweat fling off the ends of his mussed hair. He's so tired, and every muscle in his body hurts, and he just wants all this to end. There's no way the band could ever be salvaged without Joe and Andy, anyway, so what else is there for Pete to live for now? Patrick's as good as gone, too—the evidence is right here.
The world doesn't really need Fall Out Boy that bad. All Pete has to do is surrender to this yellow-eyed devil, and he'll be able to join Andy and Joe in whatever party Hell they've gotten sucked into. Maybe there's devil strippers there. Satan probably looks like Tommy Lee, with tattoos and a big-ass ring. It doesn't sound so bad.
He just wants to know one thing, one more thing before his lights get punched out. “What's the point of all this, huh?” he asks. “All the killing, the pain? What're you gaining from all this?”
“Meant to kill you. All of you. You're not the last one.” Patrick staggers forwards a few paces, and Pete backs up closer to the fence. “Kill you, then kill myself. Finish off all of you, just like Master wants.”
Okay, so giving up is no longer an option if Pete's death leads to Patrick's. Pete could die somewhat peacefully if he thought there was the slightest chance that his death would bring Patrick back to reality, but if the endgame here is murder-suicide, there's no way he can go down without a fight. The bassist musters up every ounce of resolve he has left and stands his ground as Patrick comes closer, fury-filled gaze fixed on Pete's face.
“You don't have a master,” Pete says insistently, “because you're not a monster, Patrick.” Going against every instinct he has, Pete sets down the briefcase and steps away from it. Thankfully, Patrick's eyes remain fixed on him. Pete tries to think of the most complimentary things he could possibly say, things that usually leave his Patrick blushing and mumbling with self-consciousness. “You hear me? You're Patrick Martin Stumph from Glenview, Illinois, and you wear trucker hats and argyle sweaters and knee-high black socks and you make them look good. You think you're just this ugly, sweaty, bald little guy, but you're so not. You're fucking amazing. I've told you you're cute as a button before, and I meant it. And you can sing like no one else I've ever met—oh, the songs you sing, Patrick; I could listen to them all day. Sometimes I do. D'you remember this one?” Pete's not much of a singer, but he'll try anything at this point to get through to his friend. He clears his throat and croons in a wobbly voice, “'I've got troubled thoughts / and the self-esteem to match / what a catch / what a catch...'”
And—was that a flicker of green? Was that a hesitation?
“I wrote that song after I, er...took a trip to Best Buy, remember?” Pete presses. He braves a step forwards, and counts it as a victory when Patrick stays still, the menace on his face seeming to soften ever-so-slightly. “It was about me, yeah, but it was mostly about you. Because you were in a dark place back then, too, man. But y'know what we did? We helped each other out of it. Because we're Patrick Stump and Pete motherfucking Wentz, and we're the bestest friends the world has ever known."
“Be quiet!” Patrick snarls, but there's less conviction in it than before. He trudges forwards and raises his hook in warning, but Pete continues.
“I'd do anything for you. I'd kill for you. I'd die for you. I'd run across any godforsaken town, naked, in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain, through speeding traffic if you needed me. If you disappeared, I—I wouldn't know how to go on. I'd want to disappear with you, to you. I loved Joe and Andy like brothers, but all along, all through these years, you're the one who always meant the most to me.”
Now Patrick is standing completely still, the yellow in his eyes losing its vibrancy with every second. He's looking at Pete in the dusk light as if he's confused but completely certain all at once. Pete slowly walks up and rests his hands on Patrick's heaving shoulders, leaving them there when they aren't immediately ripped off.
“Maybe...the fans were right,” Pete murmurs, something warm starting to bloom behind his heart. “All along, maybe they were smarter than both of us. They saw what we didn't—that we've always been two halves of a whole, soulmates, meant for each other.”
This—this is the stuff that Pete hadn't thought he'd have to admit. These are his deepest, innermost thoughts, the confessions he hasn't told anyone but his bedroom ceiling. The way he's felt about Patrick has always been played up in public and on the Internet as a joke, pandering to audiences and making them salivate over the “Peterick moments.” The way Pete talks about Patrick, hangs all over him in front of cameras and behind them, was never meant to be anything besides a fun game played for the “shippers” among their fans. Pete ignored the way touching Patrick makes him feel, ignored the effect that Patrick's voice has on him for years, before he finally realized that he's been hopelessly in love with this dork from Glenview since he was twenty-one years old and he walked into this teenager's house for the first time. Pete's completely gone on Patrick, utterly enraptured with him, and it took half the band being murdered and the other half being tortured and demented to make him act on it.
He's gotta find a way to make up for lost time. But right now, that's not his first priority.
Slowly, he steps closer and moves one hand from Patrick's shoulder to the side of Patrick's face, gently caressing a bruised cheekbone with his thumb. The yellow in Patrick's eyes is almost completely gone, and there might even be tears welling in them. He's looking up at Pete like he never has before, like he's seeing Pete for the first time, and it makes the older man grin a little. It worked. It actually worked.
He figures he should just go for broke at this point, since he's got literally nothing else to lose. “I've always loved you so fucking much, 'Trick,” he murmurs, and leans in to bridge the last few inches of space between their lips.
Their mouths press together, dry and dirt-covered, and even in these fucked-up circumstances it's the most glorious thing Pete's ever felt. He can't help it when his eyes slip closed and he wraps one arm around Patrick's slender waist, pulling him close. The singer has yet to respond to the kiss—he's standing stock still, lips pursed and parted but unmoving, and his arms are hanging stiffly at his sides. He's a spooked animal, Pete knows, but if this makes Patrick return to himself, it's worth it.
After several long seconds, Pete pulls back, still holding Patrick against his chest. His eyes flicker slowly open and are met with a glistening, petrified green gaze.
Patrick blinks up at him, and a pair of tears slip down his grubby cheeks. “Pete,” he whispers, voice barely audible, but it's his voice, sweet and soft and downright melodic.
Pete can only smile and huff out a laugh, relief nearly knocking him over. “Hey, Lunchbox.”
“Pete...” Patrick sniffs and his beautiful face crumbles with exhaustion and something like grief. “Thank you. Oh, God, thank you, Pete, thank you.” And he's leaning in, and they're kissing again, and it's even better with both of them participating. Pete barely has time to think holy fuck, he's actually okay with this, we could've been doing this for years before he's losing himself completely in that warm, talented mouth.
Patrick's trembling like a leaf in Pete's arms, so Pete just holds tighter and reassures his friend through touch that he's not gonna let him go. Patrick's hand comes up and presses against the back of Pete's head, shaking fingers tangling in grimy black hair, and his mouth opens for Pete's. They both taste awful and their cracked lips will probably start bleeding from this harsh treatment, but neither of them cares. They're finally fulfilling the destiny that the universe had set out for them from the beginning—they were always meant to reach this point, and now they finally have. It's kind of perfect, just them in the dusk light on the outskirts of this freaky little trailer park, kissing and touching and holding on to the last pieces of their now-shattered lives. Sickeningly poetic, Pete thinks.
This lasts for what feels like hours until Patrick yanks himself out of Pete's arms as though he's been burned. He staggers back several paces, looking down at himself with horrified disgust written all over his features. When he's caught his breath, he glances back up at Pete and croaks, “Run. Please.”
Oookay. Talk about a subject change.
Unfazed, Pete just shakes his head resolutely and walks back up to him. “I'm not going anywhere.”
“No, n-no! Stay back!” The singer holds up his arm as if to shield himself from a blow, and Pete stops. “Please, I-I don't wanna hurt you. Don't wanna hurt you like I hurt Joe, fuck, just stay away from me.” The desperation in his overflowing eyes is almost as painful as the bruise Pete can feel forming on his side from their fight in the trailer.
“You're not gonna hurt me,” Pete says softly, calmly, and continues walking towards his friend. “You're in your right mind now, and you'd never hurt me in your right mind. I know you.” He reaches out with a beseeching hand.
Patrick backs up until he's pressed against the barbed-wire fence behind him, knotting the fingers of his good hand in the chain link and gripping so hard his knuckles turn white. It's almost as if he's trying to keep himself from touching Pete. He looks like a scared kid, and Pete's heart breaks again. “You don't know me anymore,” he all but whimpers. “I'm a murderer. A monster. I killed one of my best friends and I almost killed you, too. You gotta get away from here before I flip again, don't let me touch you, I-I don't know how long I have until—”
“I don't think you heard me the first time, so I'll repeat myself: I'm not going any-fucking-where.” Pete steps into Patrick's space and cups that filthy, pale, gorgeous face in his scratched hands, his touch tender and full of love. He hopes some of that love is showing through in his eyes, where Patrick can see it more plainly. “I almost lost you so many times in the past few days—a few times I thought I actually had—so believe me when I say that I am sticking by your side no matter what for the foreseeable future.”
The look on Patrick's face is one of awe and adoration. His grip on the fence loosens and he carefully brings his hand up to latch onto one of Pete's wrists. For several seconds, the war between desires—the desire for Pete's safety and that for Pete's closeness—is visible in his eyes. Finally, he seems to droop in resignation and clenches the cuff of Pete's jacket sleeve in his fist. “Don't let me hurt anyone again,” he begs, urgency painting his tone. “Don't—don't let me hurt you. If you gotta kill me, then kill me, just, please—”
“Hey, hey, whoa. Nobody's killing anybody anymore.” Pete leans forward and presses a chaste but lingering kiss to the mole near Patrick's hairline (which he's always wanted to do and it's even sweeter than he imagined it would be). He smiles against the salty skin when Patrick leans into the featherlight touch. “I've lost so much already—we both have. No way in Hell I'm losing you too. We'll figure out how to fix you, I swear.”
At this, Patrick breaks. He squeezes his eyes shut and sobs quietly, shoulders shaking, and buries his face in the side of Pete's neck. The bassist just clings to him, cooing quietly, briefcase all but forgotten. Patrick clings back with the minimal strength he has left in his battered and abused body.
“Sorry...'m so sorry...”
“Ssh. I forgive you. Now c'mon, we gotta get you cleaned up somewhere.”
Going to a hospital is out of the question, since they're both running from the police and any APB out on a dirty, tattooed emo and his friend with a hook hand is quite clearly referring to them. So they head out of the trailer park, careful to avoid any and all music lest it set Patrick off, and follow the first paved road they come across. Around ten p.m. they find themselves in a small town about five miles out of Death Valley, and the Motel 6 couldn't have showed up at a better time: Patrick's really starting to feel the effects of his torture from a few days ago; he's walking with a heavy limp and can barely keep himself upright without Pete to lean on. He's also holding his left arm tightly against his chest, wincing at every accidental jostle it receives. Pete can't help but wonder if that particular wound is infected at all—Patrick does feel pretty warm, and there's no way that hook was sterilized before being shoved into his arm.
So, first things first: Patrick needs to be cared for. Fast.
Pete splashes his face with some stagnant creek water before entering a small grocery store beside the motel. He's there for five minutes and buys four gallon jugs of water and a shitload of medical supplies—bandages, gauze, tape, the works. The cashier gives him a suspicious look, but he just smiles and empties the (surprisingly plentiful) contents of his wallet onto the counter before rushing back out to the parking lot and retrieving his Patrick.
They reach the motel and check into the cheapest room available. The bedspreads are fucking tie-dye and the beige shag carpeting is stained mysteriously in various places, but it'll have to do. Pete sets his grocery bags and the accursed briefcase down on one bed and helps Patrick over to the other one, flicking one of the nightstand lights on as he passes. He strips off his jacket and outermost layer, leaving them in a heap in the far corner of the room, and opens one of the water jugs. He takes a slow, savory gulp, then hands it to Patrick, who does the same.
The younger man lies back heavily on the mattress and groans low in his throat, dropping the jug on the ground beside the bed. “'M tired, Pete,” he mumbles, forehead creasing with discomfort.
“I know, but we gotta do this now before any of those gashes start to fester or something.” Pete feels like the biggest jerkwad in the world for keeping his injured, exhausted friend awake only to cause him more pain, but it's necessary. “Lemme help you take off your jacket and shirt, huh?”
Patrick takes a long moment to respond. Finally he nods his assent and forces himself back into a sitting position, leaning against the bed's splintery headboard. His gaze flits up to meet Pete's almost shyly. “They, um...” He swallows. “They cut me up pretty good. I don't want you to, y'know...be too shocked when you see their handiwork.”
“Dude, they chopped off your fucking hand. What's worse than that?”
The leather jacket is pretty much garbage, torn and sweaty and stained with blood and other bodily fluids. The cardigan and crewneck tee are in even worse states. But not even the rank smell of his friend's disgusting clothes makes Pete wretch.
What's under them, however, does.
Patrick's torso is a patchwork quilt. That's the best description Pete can come up with at first glance. Deep, oozing gashes litter the pale, once-unmarred skin, the larger ones held together by strands of thick black thread hastily stitched. Bruises—dark, angry ones that stretch from the top of Patrick's ribcage to the bottom—mottle the skin that isn't colored red from blood or inflammation. Pete knows broken ribs when he sees them, and a pang of sympathy pain courses through his own torso. Patrick's battered chest rises and falls in staggered breaths; it's a miracle he's survived for this long in this condition—his lungs could've collapsed at any point in the past several days, and he'd have been finished right then. The most shocking thing, however, is the symbol carved into his skin right over his heart: a pair of eighth notes in a circle with a line drawn through it—a rough sketch of the symbol of Courtney's cult. No doubt it'll scar. Pete shudders at the sight.
That's not to mention his left arm. The stump where Patrick's hand once was is wrapped in a gross white rag, soaked through with fresh and dried blood, and the wooden spike on the bottom of the hook has been inserted straight into the end of it in a horrifying imitation of a prosthetic limb. It would've been too grueling for even Hitchcock to behold. How Patrick hasn't succumbed to a debilitating blood infection yet is a mystery to Pete.
Patrick notices when the blood drains from his friend's face. “Told you it was nasty,” he intones.
“Jesus, 'Trick...” Pete's hands hover over the patchy skin, almost frightened to touch. The first time he's seen skinny Patrick shirtless, and he looks like something out of a zombie movie. He feels a familiar burning behind his eyes and blinks furiously to keep it in check. “What'd they do to you?”
“Had me belted to a table. I couldn't keep them off me.” Patrick's voice is hollow, haunted. “They had so many blades and probes and scissors...I lost track of the damage after the third time I passed out.”
“Oh God.” Pete can't stop himself. He sits down on the edge of the bed beside Patrick and leans over, pressing their foreheads together and tangling his fingers in Patrick's sooty hair. He feels sick again. “Patrick, shit, I almost lost you. When your hand showed up on my doorstep in a plastic bag, I...I had no idea how close I was to never seeing you again.” He can't start crying now, he can't; he needs to stay strong for them both. Don't lose it now, Wentz.
Patrick only hesitates a moment before slipping his remaining hand under Pete's shirt and resting it on the small of his back, digging his fingers into the soft flesh there. He nudges Pete's nose with his own and murmurs, “You haven't lost me yet.”
Pete opens his eyes again and stares into Patrick's mere inches away. His fingertips reverently trace along the edge of the singer's jaw, running over the beginnings of blonde stubble. “And I'm not ever going to,” he promises, fierce determination burning in his chest. “I'm gonna take care of you, fix you up, make you new again. I swear, I'll fix you.”
A huff of breath is all Pete gets in response. There's fear and trepidation in Patrick's watery eyes, but he nods anyway, curling his lips into a timid half-smile. “I trust you,” he says, and there's nothing but certainty in his voice now.
Pete pulls back a little at this. “You do?”
Patrick nods, pressing his lips tentatively to the corner of Pete's mouth.
Two deep, steadying breaths later, Pete nods back. He's gonna have to get used to the novelty of the fact that he's allowed to kiss Patrick now. “Okay. Let's get started, then.” He disentangles himself from his friend and goes over to the other bed, fishing around in one of the bags for the scissors, rubbing alcohol, and gauze he'd bought. “Lie on your back and put your head on one of those pillows.”
With a few grunts, Patrick obeys. His right hand clenches and unclenches nervously in the vibrant bedspread as he settles himself into a somewhat comfortable position. “Uh...this is gonna hurt, isn't it?” he asks in a small voice.
“Like a bitch.” No use lying to him. “But I'll go as fast as I can. Tell me if you need me to stop for a minute, okay?”
“Yeah.” Patrick breathes in and out as evenly as he can manage. He closes his eyes, resigned to his fate. “I'm ready.”
It's a lie, Pete knows it is, but they don't have any more time to waste. He washes his hands in the bathroom before gathering up his supplies and going back to Patrick's bed, kneeling on the comforter beside him; he tries not to think about the fact that this isn't the first time this week Patrick's been on his back waiting for someone to come at him with a sharp instrument.
There are several smaller cuts along with four deep gashes with slapdash stitches in them—two in Patrick's stomach, one in his side, and one across the right half of his chest. The wounds seem to be healing acceptably, despite the inflamed skin surrounding them, so getting rid of the coarse black thread and cleaning them out is the first thing on Pete's Fix Patrick List. He runs his fingers along the larger one in Patrick's stomach, the worst of the four, trying to ignore the sharp inhale that the action causes. He worriedly notes that the skin is not only reddened, but unnaturally hot to the touch. If it's not infected already, it's going to be very soon if it isn't properly tended to. Pete raises the scissors with a shaking hand and carefully inserts them below the first few stitches. He snips, popping the ragged seams as he goes.
After fifteen tedious, uncomfortable minutes, Patrick's skin is free of thread. But Pete knows that cutting the stitches isn't the most painful part of the process. Neither is pulling them out, even though Patrick winces and bites his lip every time Pete removes a few strands from his skin. It's the cleaning process that's the real agony. Pete sighs as he eyes the large bottle of rubbing alcohol on the nightstand, reluctant to add to his friend's already considerable pain. “You need a break?” he asks.
Patrick swallows and shakes his head, opening his eyes to look into Pete's. “I'm okay,” he insists. “Just get it over with.”
Pete holds his gaze for several seconds before nodding. He gets up and heads to the bathroom, snatching one of the cheap white towels off the rack beside the sink and wetting it. He scrubs the damp fabric with a small bar of motel soap until it starts to foam, then brings it back to Patrick's bed. “I'm gonna have to rub a little to really clean them out. It's not gonna be fun, but it won't take long.”
Patrick nods his assent and closes his eyes again, visibly bracing himself.
The prison personnel had only washed off Patrick's face and arms, leaving the gashes on his torso to fill up with dirt and grime. It's a miracle they aren't oozing pus already. Pete raises the soapy towel and gently rests it on the symbol carved into Patrick's chest. Before applying any pressure, he leans down on impulse and ghosts a kiss over the quivering skin to soothe the pounding heart beneath it. Patrick exhales shakily and shifts his hand to touch Pete's free one, gratitude in the action.
Then Pete presses the towel down and starts to slowly scrub.
Patrick whimpers at the first touch of soap to one of the deeper cuts, presses the side of his face into the pillow he's resting on. Sweat begins to bead on his forehead and his chest heaves with each breath he takes as Pete cleans diligently, wiping away sweat and soot from the inflamed skin. Reflex kicks in and he tries to shove Pete's hands away when they press down too hard on his broken ribs, but his friend guiltily keeps working until his whole torso is as clean as possible, stray soap suds and water running down his sides to soak into the bedsheets.
Wiping his forehead with the back of his hand, Pete sits up and observes his work. Patrick looks awfully uncomfortable, but the important part is his injuries are clean. Mostly. To really get deep down and stop any infections that may or may not be present, the rubbing alcohol is necessary. Pete reaches for the bottle and grabs a fresh towel from the bathroom. When he re-joins the singer, he dumps a generous amount of the caustic solution onto the towel and wads it up in his hand.
“Shit,” Patrick mutters, eying the dripping towel warily, before Pete can say anything. “That stuff stings.”
“Yeah,” Pete agrees, running his hand down Patrick's right arm soothingly. “Just...here.” He links his fingers with Patrick's, giving them a reassuring squeeze. “Don't be afraid to break a few of my hand bones.”
Patrick wheezes a bitter sound that might be a laugh, but his hand is shaking in Pete's grasp. “Give your spoiled ass a taste of what I'm going through.”
“That's no way to speak to the guy who's nursing you back to health, Pat.”
“Don't call me Pat.” The response is so predictable, so scripted, that Pete can't help but laugh himself. It's almost like nothing's changed for a split second, and he soaks it in like sunlight, knowing that he'll be thrust back into the darkness with his next blink.
Of course, the mood changes the instant Pete presses the cold towel to the first of Patrick's cuts. “Fuck, ah!” the younger man grits out between his teeth, back arching off the bed. His hand clenches tightly around Pete's on reflex.
“Ssh, I know,” Pete coos, but continues even as guilt settles like a boulder in his gut. He tries to ignore the gasps and high-pitched whines that issue from his best friend's throat by playing the “America's Suitehearts” music video in his head, but it doesn't work for long. He pauses every minute or so to blot the sweat off Patrick's creased forehead, but he doesn't think the singer even notices, so far gone is he in his agony.
Soon Patrick's almost sobbing, gripping Pete's hand like a vise. The bassist keeps dabbing and wiping each ragged incision and scrape, keeps pointlessly stroking his calloused thumb over the back of Patrick's hand to try and provide him with some form of relief. Every hoarse, pained sound that leaves Patrick's lips puts another crack in Pete's heart and yeah, he's definitely gonna have to go throw up in the bathroom when he's finished with this. He's so fucking disgusted with himself, even though he knows what he's doing is necessary for Patrick's health in the long run.
“Hurry the fuck up,” Patrick whimpers breathlessly. Pete's shocked that he isn't delirious yet.
“Trying, fuck, I'm so sorry,” he replies, applying pressure to the deepest gash in Patrick's stomach. The younger man all but screams as the alcohol seeps into the tender wound and his whole body jerks, nearly throwing Pete onto the ground. It's an expected reaction, but that doesn't make it any less jarring. The anguish twisting Patrick's face is almost enough to make Pete stop altogether, but he knows he can't, knows that his friend's life could depend on this. “You want me to stop?”
There's hesitation before Patrick finally rasps, “N-No. Just finish.” Tears leak out of the corners of his closed eyes, leaving faint trails in the remaining dirt on his face, but his jaw is clenched tight, determined.
Patrick's crying I made Patrick cry I hurt him oh God oh God “No.” Pete takes the towel away and sets it behind him. “That's it. Stop being the fucking tough guy for three seconds and let yourself rest.”
Bloodshot green eyes creak open, confused. “What're you doing?” their owner queries, oblivious of Pete's previous statement. “Keep going, you're almost done.”
“Well you are done. I can't sit and watch you fucking writhing under my hands for another second, God.” Pete scoops up Patrick's hand and presses kisses to the bruised knuckles, like his lips are the balm for every one of Patrick's aches. “I'm hurting you. Can't keep hurting you. Never wanna hurt you again.”
“You're not hurting me,” Patrick replies with a sniff. He touches the side of Pete's face with one finger. “This sucks, but you're fixing me, just like you said you would. Please keep going.”
Pete just stares incredulously, lips still pressed to Patrick's hand. “I knew it. You're a masochist.”
“Does it look—or sound—like any of this is getting me off?” Patrick actually chuckles a little. “I just wanna get all this preliminary shit over with so we can yank the fuckin' hook out of my arm, okay? That's what I'm scared of.” His gaze darkens with dread, and Pete gives his hand a squeeze.
“We'll do that as quickly as possible, I promise,” Pete reassures. “I just...” He presses his face into Patrick's palm and closes his eyes, knowing full well how soap-opera-y it looks. “...I-I've never heard you scream like that before, and...I don't ever wanna hear it again.”
Patrick manages a half-shrug without wincing. “I mean, it's not like I didn't have this coming. After everything I did...” The younger man averts his eyes from Pete's and stares resolutely at the water-stained ceiling above him.
Something clicks in Pete's head, and he gets it now. Patrick thinks he deserves this misery. That explains so much. “'Trick—”
“I...maybe we shouldn't even be cleaning these. Maybe we should just let them fester and wait for me to—”
And that's just—Pete can't listen to that. He's never been able to listen to Patrick putting himself down, but hearing that he wants to let himself—just, no. He has to cut off that sentence with a harsh kiss, because he refuses to hear how it ends.
His tone is vehement when he whispers against Patrick's lips, “Don't you ever for a split second think that any of the shit that's happened this week is your fault.” He nips the dry, plump lower lip he's fantasized about since he was twenty-one, and wishes for the millionth time in an hour that all this had happened in better circumstances, for better reasons. This conversation was supposed to come up at a later point in the evening, but it's happening now. “Those maniacal bitches messed with your head and made you do things you never would've otherwise. Yeah, it's fucked up. Yeah, I’m gonna miss Andy and Joe like hell.” His voice breaks, but he goes on. “But I'll never blame you for any of it. Never. I swear. Because it wasn't you who did it.”
The look on Patrick's face is one of sheer awe and disbelief. He's crying again, face like broken glass. Pete kisses every last fracture.
“I know you'll be seeing your hands at Joe's throat for the rest of your life. But they weren't your hands, not really. You weren't in control. It wasn't you.” Their foreheads meet, deep brown orbs delving into watery green. “And whatever counseling you need to get that through your head, whatever pills or books or fucking yoga DVDs will help you, I'll get them. Because you need to know that you are not to blame for any of this.”
Patrick releases a single dry sob, shaking his head. “I have nothing left,” he whispers brokenly. “It's all gone—I ruined everything—”
“No you fucking didn't.” Pete kisses him again, long and hard and full of insistence. “And you haven't lost everything—you still have me. You always will.” His hands come up to cup the face of the man his heart has always belonged to. “Because the world is blown up, and Fall Out Boy is over, but I'm still here.”
There's a long held breath of silence from both of them, and then...
“I love you.” Patrick says it like he can't hold it in for another second, like it's burning a hole in his chest where he's stored it for too long. He starts chanting it like a mantra, seemingly unable to stop. “I love you. I love you, Pete, I love you, I love you, oh God, Pete...” His voice is trembling and there's tears streaming in rivers down his face and he looks and smells like a week-old carcass, but he's staring at Pete like Pete's the only thing he ever wants to look at for the rest of his life, and the bassist is staring right back, holding his hand, returning the sentiment in full.
But then Patrick wrests his hand out of Pete's grip, grabs Pete by the hair, pulls him down and kisses the breath out of him like they'd both die without it, and that's fucking gorgeous.
He mutters things into Pete's mouth during their brief reprieves for air; things like, “Love you, love you, too good to me, don't deserve you, never deserved you, how are you real, love you so fucking much, don't ever leave me.” All Pete can do is hold on for the ride and try to give as good as he's getting, because goddamn, singing isn't the only thing that pretty mouth should get paid to do. The first-aid session is pretty much forgotten as they mingle together on the bed, Patrick still shirtless and on his back with Pete half-draped over him like a clingy, tattooed blanket. Pete is dying to press every inch of their bodies together, to feel the muscles in Patrick's chest working against his own as they grab at each other, but he knows that Patrick's entire top half is too tender right now for any sort of strenuous activity. No matter how fun said “activity” would be.
They're both (shockingly) stirring to life below their belts, but there isn't anything they can do about that right now. Pete drinks up one last desperate kiss and pulls back, panting. “Oh my God,” he gasps.
“Mm-hmm.” Patrick reaches down and grips himself through his jeans, adjusting himself with a quiet moan. Pete can practically feel his pupils blowing out at the sight. “Can't, though. Gotta get fixed up first.”
“Yeah, I know. But, fuck, want you so bad.” Pete leans in and nudges their noses together, barely restraining himself from kissing the life out of the younger man. He ghosts his fingertips over Patrick's sides, his legs, his chest, and in a fit of boldness, shifts his pelvis to grind down once on Patrick's hip.
Patrick gasps, cheeks reddening, at the feel of Pete's hardness. “O-Oh.” A shaking hand comes up to tangle in Pete's hair again, gently stroking and pulling to the rhythm of their rapid heartbeats. “I know. I wish we weren't...”
Hurt. Fugitives. Broken. Lost. Any of these words are fit to finish that statement, but they remain unspoken.
Pete holds his position for another few seconds, then straightens up, worried he won't be able to control himself for much longer. Without another word, he wads up the alcohol-soaked towel in his hand once more and sets back to work on the final three scratches he has yet to clean.
By the time those cuts are good and sterile, sex is once again the farthest thing from both their minds. Patrick manages to keep from outright screaming this time, but the noises he makes are still nightmare-worthy. Pete does his best to leech them out of his own head as he puts the towel aside again and gets up from the bed. He digs around in one of the grocery bags again and comes up with a massive roll of thick gauze and some white medical tape.
“Sometimes forget how much of a sweaty bitch you are,” he mocks good-naturedly, trying to lighten the mood as he mops up Patrick's skin with a dry towel so the tape will stick.
“You try enduring what I just did and not break a sweat,” Patrick retaliates breathlessly, lines of pain still etched into his face.
“I wouldn't sweat—it would all just come out in my piss later, remember?”
Pete ignores the friendly insult and starts swathing Patrick's torso in white. His fingertips linger over every graze and bruise as he gingerly bandages up each wound, careful not to apply too much pressure when he works over the broken ribs. More than half the gauze is gone when he's finished, and it's not a professional job, but it's acceptable. As long as they remember to change it often enough, the injuries should be healed in a few weeks. Patrick brushes a kiss to the inside of Pete's wrist in thanks as he finally pulls his hand away.
Pete grins, but soon his gaze comes to rest on his friend's left arm and he gulps, knowing that the worst is yet to come.
“Can I just...y'know, pull it?” he asks uncertainly.
“Dunno,” Patrick says and turns his head to look at the instrument replacing his left hand. The circles under his eyes seem to darken as he takes it in, gulping nervously. “When the police did it, they really had to yank.”
“Wait.” Pete's train of thought stops short. “You got it taken out at the station?”
“Yeah. No weapons allowed in the cells.”
“And then Courtney's minions...put it back in?” Pieces are fitting together. Cogs are turning.
Patrick nods. “Don't really remember it, but yeah, they must've when they busted me out.”
“And you didn't, uh, 'have an episode' again until they re-inserted it?”
That's it. That's the key to this whole thing. It was never the music that made Patrick go dark side—it was the hook. The brainwashing machine was just a prop—Courtney's bitches must've laced the hook with something that seeped into Patrick's bloodstream and messed with his brain chemistry. Pete had known it had something to do with science. It's obvious. Clever girls.
“Yeah, we definitely have to get that thing out of you,” Pete says. “Can you sit up?”
He helps Patrick into a sitting position against the headboard. The singer grimaces as his ribs are jostled, but he moves without complaint until he's mostly upright. “So how are we gonna do this?” he asks, voice tight and eyes mildly panicked.
“Um...” Pete pauses for a moment before he climbs back on the bed and carefully straddles Patrick's thighs. The younger man's eyes widen comically, but Pete remains serious. “I'll sit here and pull, and you hold your arm down. If this is the second time it's being removed, it might come out easier.”
Patrick nods, still appearing a bit flustered at their positions. He swallows hard.
“Here.” Pete reaches down and unbuckles his belt, slipping it off with a flick of his wrist. Now Patrick's actively blushing, and Pete wishes to God he could do all the things he really wants to do to him at this moment. He folds the strip of black leather in half and holds it up to Patrick's mouth. “Bite down on this. It's midnight; don't wanna wake anyone up thinking there's a murder going on in room seventeen.”
Patrick obediently takes the belt between his teeth, looking more and more like a frightened child with every uneven breath he takes. His eyes are fixed on Pete's, seeking salvation.
Pete will do everything he can to give it to him.
“Okay.” He breathes in and out twice, shifting backwards a few inches to give himself more leverage. He curls one hand around the actual hook and grips the wooden base with the other, gesturing for Patrick to hold his own elbow down with his own hand.
Patrick looks up at him. His arm starts to quiver nervously.
“Just keep looking at me, okay?” Pete says as his stomach clenches and his pulse accelerates. He really hates doing this to his best friend. No one deserves this kind of agony, no matter what sins they've committed. “Don't look anywhere else but at me. I'm right here. This is gonna hurt, but I'm right here.” He waits for Patrick to give a short nod before he tightens his grip and tenses his arms. “Ready?”
No nod is needed to answer that question. Patrick's eyes, trained like magnets on Pete's face, simply read, I trust you. Help me.
Pete gulps, braces himself, and pulls.
He might be a little guy, but Pete's got some muscles on him. He can hold his own in a bar fight for a good while and hardly anyone's ever beat him at arm wrestling. Andy, who is—was—totally ripped from banging on drums every day, is the only one who's ever managed to take Pete down in that particular competition. So yeah, Pete knows he's strong. But that strength doesn't seem to be earning him any brownie points here.
There must be a fucking harpoon on the end of this thing, because it just doesn't want to come out. Pete yanks and tugs with all his might, gritting his teeth, desperately trying to ignore the muffled wails coming from Patrick's throat. The younger man's face has gone from deathly pale to scarlet in mere seconds from the force of his screaming, and his eyes are shut so tightly that tears can barely escape. His hand digs into his own arm, fingernails nearly drawing blood as he struggles.
The bassist relaxes for a moment and quickly leans forward, pressing a tender kiss to Patrick's forehead. “You're doing so good, it's almost over, I swear, hang on,” he murmurs, though Patrick probably can't hear him. He shifts back to his previous perch and starts straining again, trying to be as quick as he possibly can, but Patrick makes a strangled sound and unconsciously thrashes one of his legs. Pete loses his balance and nearly topples off the bed. “Sorrysorrysorrysorry,” he whispers, running one hand through Patrick's sweat-damp hair even as he keeps tugging with the other. Fucking thing won't budge.
Finally, after a solid five minutes of brutal yanking, Patrick screeches as the hook slides out an inch. Pete sighs heavily and sits back on his heels. It feels looser now. He grabs the cold, rusted metal and pulls again, satisfied when it gives another few millimeters.
The belt falls into Patrick's lap when he opens his mouth in an anguished cry, but Pete can't stop to replace it now. “Please, please, please,” Patrick begs mindlessly.
“Hang on, 'Trick, hang on,” Pete grits out again.
With one final, adrenaline-fueled tug, the hook breaks loose of Patrick's flesh and Pete immediately hurls it across the room. Blood spatters the far wall and Pete idly thinks that neither of them will be able to watch any variation of Peter Pan ever again.
It takes him a moment to register the fact that Patrick is still moaning—probably because there's now rivulets of fresh blood streaming from the old wound onto the tie-dye bedspread. How did I forget about that? “Fuck fuck fuck,” Pete mutters, even more nauseated now that he can actually see the ragged edge where Patrick's hand used to be connected to his arm. Swallowing a sudden uprising of bile, he practically leaps off the bed and runs to the grocery bags again, gathering up a huge wad of fresh gauze with one blood-stained hand. He rushes back to his friend, hastily strips off the filthy rag that's been wrapping the stump for the past week, and presses down hard.
Worryingly, Patrick only whimpers when he does this. Pete looks up at him and his pulse starts to race again when he sees those green eyes flickering open and closed. “'Trick? Hey, Patrick, stay with me.” he says, lightly slapping the side of the singer's face. “Patrick? Patrick!”
“P...Pete?” is the quiet response.
“Hey, buddy,” Pete says with a forced smile. Blood loss blood loss shit fucking FUCK “Listen, I know you're sleepy, but you gotta stay awake for just a few more minutes, okay?”
Patrick's face is getting paler by the second. “'Trick! Don't you dare leave me now, you fucker!” Pete yells, ignoring the thick, hot liquid that's starting to seep through his fingers.
“Sssso tired...” That beautiful voice slurs its words, fading fast. Patrick doesn't even react anymore when Pete doubles the pressure on his arm. His eyes are quickly losing focus.
“I know, I know you are, baby, just don't close your eyes.” Pete barely notices as the pet name slips past his filter. Fuck, the gauze is nearly soaked through. He reaches with one hand for a spare pillow and rips the pillowcase in his haste to get it off. It might not be very absorbent, but it'll still be useful. The cheap fabric tears easily and Pete ties a strip of it it tightly around Patrick's arm near his elbow, a tourniquet of sorts.
The blond head lolls forwards, but jerks back up again after a moment. Now there's redness slowly spreading throughout the white of Patrick's right eye—a burst capillary, Pete thinks. His screaming must've been too much of a strain on his body—not surprising.
Patrick looks down at his blood-covered arm like it's the first time he's seeing it. His reddening eye looks even more terrifying from this angle. “Looks bad.”
Pete can't bring himself to reply, just keeps pressing.
“Looks r'lly bad. Don' feel good...”
“Please, Patrick. Please stay awake for just a little longer,” Pete begs and thinks Why isn't that fucking tourniquet working—“You're almost better now, see? Almost better.” Too much blood toomuchtoomuch he's losing too much
A gasp for breath. “Pete...feel dizzy.” And Patrick goes completely limp, his chin hitting one of the gauze patches on his chest as his eyes slip closed.
“Patrick?” Pete stares at him as a geyser of panic bubbles in his chest. “Patrick. Fucking answer me, you sonuvabitch! 'Trick!” Slaps his bruised face, squeezes his hand, kisses his lips, shouts his name for a full minute, but nothing works. Patrick's pulse is thready and weak, his breaths shallow, and he doesn't wake up.
No. This can't happen. Not after tonight. Not after everything they'd lost, everything they'd just confessed to each other. This can't be fucking happening now.
Hearing is the first sense to come back to him. He picks out a soft voice singing slightly out-of-tune, close to his ear, but he can't remember the name of the song. A few muffled lyrics make it into his head: “In these coming years / many things will change / but the way I feel / will remain the same...” Sniffs and small hitches of breath punctuate each crooned sentence, as if the singer is either sick or trying not to cry. Maybe both.
Then he can smell things—mostly bad things. Sweat, blood, earth, salt, and...raw meat? Has someone been cooking? He realizes that most of these aromas are coming from himself and inwardly cringes. Showering as soon as possible is a necessity, barbeque or not. There's another nearby mixture of smells in the air, too, more heady and warm. Almost comforting. He finds himself trying to inhale as much of it as he can.
Which leads to the return of his sense of touch—his nerves suddenly spark back to life, and they're unhappy. His whole body feels achy and sore, especially when he tries to breathe too deeply. He can't move because his limbs feel like they're trapped in concrete, pinning him to the bed. There's a dull ache that spikes every few seconds near his left hand, but in his right, he can feel fingers threaded together with his own. They're clutching tightly, squeezing every ten seconds or so, and one is drawing light patterns on his palm. There might also be another hand combing through his hair. It's actually very pleasant. Who's doing it?
“Lay us down / we're in love...”
Memory may not be one of the five senses, but all at once Patrick's mind is full of snapshots and sound bytes from the last few days. Each one sends him reeling with a strong emotion of some kind, both negative and positive. He remembers the briefcase, the kids, the women, the hook (that explains why his arm hurts), the hospital ( Joe. Oh God ), jail, the warehouse ( Andy... ), and finally the trailer park and hotel in Death Valley. Most of these images are stained in a yellow haze, and they're twisted grotesquely. In fact, everything tinted yellow is hideous. He almost can't stand the sight of them.
Apart from one thing: Pete's face. Out of all the images flashing before him, Pete's face is the one thing that never changes—it's always properly colored, always familiar and poignant, the most important element of any scene it enters. Even when Pete looks terrified, his face is always sharp and in-focus as opposed to the things around it. And his smiles are just as stunning as always.
He can't taste anything right now, but the memory of Pete's mouth on his is extremely clear. He'd tasted of blood, sweat, and dust, but in the heat of the moment it had been the most wonderful taste ever concocted. Their kisses had been deep, desperate, promising. Everything wonderful in the universe had seemed to become concentrated and fused between their lips, igniting both their bodies with heat and desire and love. Fuck, they're so in love. Have been for so long. And Pete's singing about it.
Come on, Stump. He's waiting for you. Wake up.
Patrick's eyes snap open. He blinks a couple times in the dim lighting of the hotel room and groans hoarsely in the back of his dry throat. Swallowing hard, he waits for the spots to clear from his vision and rasps, “Pete?”
“'Trick?” The bassist's blurry—but still beautiful—face moves into Patrick's line of vision, blocking his view of the disgusting drop tile ceiling. “Hey, buddy, you awake?” The hand in Patrick's hair slides down to the side of his face, cradling it gently.
“Think so,” Patrick manages to reply. He swallows again, and coughs. “Water.”
“Hm?” It takes a moment for Pete to register the request. “Oh, right, okay. Hang on a sec.”
The chill of absence arrives when Pete leaves Patrick's side to retrieve a water jug. Patrick shivers, half-blindly groping around for the warm body that had been so close to him moments ago. “Don't leave...”
“Just getting you some water,” Pete replies. His back is turned as he opens a new jug, but Patrick can see when he brings one of his hands up to wipe at his damp eyes.
Once he's been partially hydrated, Patrick relaxes against the fluffy pillows beneath his head and sighs. Pete's hand is still linked with his. “How long was I out?” he asks, almost afraid to hear the answer.
Pete looks down at their joined hands and squeezes weakly. “About four hours,” he replies. “You lost a fuckload of blood, man. The hook, it...ripped up the inside of your arm when we took it out. Courtney's minions added metal spikes to the wood so it would grip the meat better—that's why we had to pull so hard.” He shakes his head as if he can't believe his own words. “As soon as I was mostly sure you weren't gonna die, I went outside and chucked it into the creek behind the motel. Couldn't look at it anymore. There were fucking chunks of...I had my face in the toilet for almost an hour after I saw it.”
To tell the truth, Patrick's about ready to go puke after hearing all that. “God,” he mutters incredulously, then turns to look at Pete. “Thank you, though.”
Pete meets his gaze. “For what?” he asks, and he seems genuinely confused. “For completely destroying one of your limbs? For making you scream so hard your fucking eye started bleeding? For causing you insane amounts of pain?” His voice is getting louder with every question, and the look in his eyes is almost manic. Patrick recognizes this behavior immediately. It's a pattern in Pete to go through bouts of intense self-loathing when he thinks he's screwed up, even though he's done the exact opposite.
Patrick silently cuts him off by tugging his hand out of Pete's grasp and touching the side of Pete's face reverently. “You're so stupid sometimes,” he says with a small, fond smile. He takes the older man's stunned silence as a cue to continue. “I'd be dead right now without you, asshole. You didn't ruin my life at all—you saved it.”
“Shut up.” Patrick tugs him down and brings their mouths together in a chaste but firm kiss. When he pulls back, Pete appears bewildered. The singer uses that to his advantage and keeps talking. “I wanted to die a few hours ago. I still deserve to. But you showed me love when no one else in the world would have, and you cared for me, and you sang to me, and now...” He pauses, choosing his words carefully. It's true—without Pete, Patrick would've either died from his injuries or slashed his own throat open with the hook. Everything he's done in the past week—every life he's taken, every guitar and record and musical apparatus he's destroyed—would've surely driven him to inconsolable grief. Nothing would have been able to keep him from ending it all. Nothing, that is, except Pete. Because Pete's kept him from suicide before, and he's returned the favor a few times. They understand each other like no one else can or will ever be able to.
Because they're soulmates. And that's how soulmates work.
This thought makes Patrick smile a little, and he finishes his sentence. “Now, I think...I might be able to make it.” He's surprised at how much he means that.
Pete just grabs his hand and kisses it, nodding as tears track down his tired face.
They'll make it together. Whatever happens after tonight, they'll get through it as long as they cling to each other for dear life.
Then again, they've always done that.
“I fucking love you, Patrick Stump.”
“And I you, Peter Wentz. Always have.”
They change their names, head back to Chicago together as soon as Patrick's healthy enough to travel. Pete gets most of his tattoos removed by a close friend to make himself less recognizable—he keeps the keyhole and the thorns, but that's about it. People still call their names when they see them on the street, but the two of them just act like they don't hear anything. Luckily, they're rich enough to “retire” and spend the rest of their lives just...living. They cut all ties with everyone from their old lives in favor of creating new ones, which they eventually do.
Four weeks pass before the gashes in Patrick's chest heal completely and turn into raised, pink scars. Patrick hates them. Pete kisses each one fifteen times.
It takes two months for Pete to genuinely laugh again.
It takes another month for Patrick to join him.
Two more, and they start listening to music again. Patrick almost weeps at the relief he feels when he doesn't see yellow eyes in the mirror after the first guitar chord.
One month more, and they sleep together for the first time. It's slow and deep and hot and they're both in tears by the end of it, knowing that they've finally completed the circle their lives have forever been traveling in. They fall asleep tangled together in the only bedroom of their tiny Van Buren Street apartment, Patrick's head nestled into the crook of Pete's neck and Pete's arms holding him so tightly he almost can't breathe. Not even the rattle and clang of the El trains outside their window wakes them up.
Two years later, they get married in a downtown courthouse. Pete wears his silver ring on his right hand and Patrick can hardly speak for the lump in his throat at the sight.
It takes another three years for the names Joe and Andy to stop making their hearts splinter.
Courtney Love dies from a drug overdose six years after their hellish encounter with her. They head up to Wrigleyville and celebrate like it's New Year's Eve while the news story plays on muted television screens in every bar.
It's not until the year 2023 that they can watch Peter Pan without Patrick leaving the room to get sick. And it's that small victory that makes them realize in the same moment that they've finally made it. Pete does his best (worst) Captain Hook impersonation and Patrick giggles like a child, glee in his no-longer-haunted eyes, and that's that. It's finally over.
Curled up together at 3 a.m. on a threadbare couch in a dingy Chicago apartment, hand-in-hand and heart-in-heart, they've won. Rock and roll is saved in the form of two broken men, and it couldn't be more perfect.