Actions

Work Header

Take This To Your Grave

Chapter Text

“Monoamine oxidase A, or MAOA, is a gene that works with our mitochondrial enzymes to regulate our dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin,” Patrick says, clicking to another slide. He looks out to his students and tries not to chuckle at some of the glazed over expressions. It’s an eight am class, so he gets it. He wouldn’t be up here talking if Northwestern didn’t pay him the big bucks. 

He steps away from his podium to walk around and wake himself up some more. “When there’s a mutation, it can cause various psychological concerns, such as antisocial behavior,” he continues, then pauses and glances out to the crowd. “Any guesses why we’re talking about this gene today?”

He waits to see if anyone is even paying enough attention enough to raise their hand, then he notices some shifting at the top of the stadium seating near the door. He sees a flash of a grin in the dim lighting and rolls his eyes. Fuck, he was not awake enough for that. “Um, so, we’re interested because there’s theories that people who have low activity in this gene are more aggressive when they’re provoked. It’s nicknamed ‘the warrior gene’ for a reason.”

He’s trying not to pay attention to where he can see Pete’s horribly tacky sweater--he’s pretty sure there’s sequins. He doesn’t even understand how he’s able to wear what he does at work, but then again the fact that he’s Pete Wentz sorta is an answer for everything. Enough that Patrick tries not to dwell on his rationality for too long or he’ll end up with a headache. 

He walks back to the podium and looks up at the clock. He could end the class now, give them all a break and talk to Pete about whatever he’s here for. Pete hasn’t been up to the university since they stopped working cases together and it’s unnerving to see Pete standing in the back of his lecture hall. And Pete probably knows it’s putting Patrick on edge. But the annoying part of it all was that Patrick knew Pete wasn’t being vindictive about it, that it was just their weird little game. A game that they had been playing for years and Patrick wondered if there would ever be a winner. 

So he stretches out the class a bit longer, bringing up the Waldroup case from 2009 where the defense team used the Warrior Gene to get his death sentence reduced down to a thirty-two year sentence. He hears Pete scoff at that and decides, “Alright, that’s it for me. See you guys Friday.”

He smiles a bit at the murmured appreciation of getting out of class early and jots down his notes so he knows where to pick up next class. He feels Pete getting closer, hears his stupid shoes clicking on the tiled steps and making their way near him. Patrick holds up a finger, signaling him to wait and he holds back the grin that’s threatening to form when he hears Pete sigh in annoyance. 

Patrick’s just fucking with him at this point, jotting down what he needs to get from the store later. 

“You know I’m trying to stop serial killers, right?” Pete drawls. 

It’s the attitude that goes straight to Patrick’s childish impulses, and he shrugs. “I waited forty-five minutes,” he reminds him, “you can wait a few more for me to finish my notes.”

Pete huffs and Patrick keeps his head down as Pete leans over to rest his forearms onto Patrick’s podium. “You’re never going to let me live that down are you? At least it was a nice restaurant and they had good bread to munch on.”

Patrick bites his lip to keep from snapping at him about how fucking embarassing it had been, but he shakes it off because it doesn’t matter anymore. That ship has sailed, he reminds himself. And no matter what, he’s not going to put himself in that position again. Not with Pete. Even if he does smell like home and the heat coming off him makes Patrick want to lean in and curl into that ugly sweater. 

 “You’re not even writing down anything important”--he says, leaning over to read what Patrick is writing-- “ is that your shopping list ?”

His lips quirk up a bit, but Patrick keeps writing. He needs to get more fish food for Shamu and he’s definitely out of trash bags. 

“I’ve got a case I need your help with,” Pete says. 

“Oh?” Patrick feigns innocence, “You weren’t coming by just to say hi?”

“You stopped answering my phone calls,” Pete points out, “I tried, you’re the one who slammed the door on us.”

“Pretty sure there is no us,” Patrick says, forcing his voice to resemble an indifferent cadence. 

“Trick--” 

“I’m sick of doing your job for you,” Patrick cuts him off, just to throw in another punch. Patrick’s been imagining how things would go down when they undoubtedly ran into each other again. He’s thought about various scenarios ranging from Patrick slapping him to them falling into bed together. 

“Trick, please,” he breathes, and Patrick looks up at that tone. Because it sounds like Pete’s exhausted and now that he’s up close, Patrick can see how whatever case he’s been working on is draining everything good left of Pete. 

Great. 

Patrick closes his notebook, hating himself for caving to Pete again, and motions for him to follow. “Come on, let’s go to my office.”

Patrick tries his best not to take in the way that Pete’s changed since the last time he saw him. His hair is shorter, his outdated emo hair gone and Patrick feels a little twinge of worry in his heart. There’s a beginning sign of wrinkles working their way around Pete’s eyes and on his forehead. The ones around his eyes are from smiling, Patrick notes, then tries to push away the knowledge that the ones on his forehead are from worry. 

He can feel Pete’s eyes on him when he’s not looking. Can feel that he’s doing the same thing and surveying the changes in Patrick’s appearance. He wonders what Pete sees there, if he can tell the last year has been an ongoing battle for him. 

When they get to Patrick’s office, Ryan is sitting at the side desk with a stack of papers that he’s helping grade. “Ryan, this is Agent Wentz,” Patrick says, waving in Pete’s direction. 

Ryan looks up, looking a bit dazed and not that impressed. Ryan’s Patrick’s new teaching assistant, who Patrick doesn’t hate necessarily. Patrick just doesn’t like other people touching his stuff, especially his work. But he was the last professor without a TA and the students who apply for work study need to have somewhere to do their assistantships. And really, Ryan isn’t awful, he’s just sorta spacey and Patrick has to explain every task to him a couple of times before it sticks. 

“Nice to meet you,” Pete says diplomatically, and Patrick narrows his eyes at that. 

Ryan stares at Patrick, like he’s a little put off that Pete’s here. Patrick grins like I know the feeling , before saying, “You mind if we have the room? Pete has something he wants to discuss.”

He nods, gathering his papers and heading out without meeting Pete’s eyes. 

“Cute kid,” Pete mutters, sitting down in front of Patrick. 

Patrick shrugs. “I always get stuck with the weird ones.”

Pete snorts. “I liked Spencer .”

“No, you wanted to fuck him,” Patrick snips back, unlocking his computer and opening up his email so he has something to do while Pete gets to the point. He doesn’t get jealous about who Pete’s fucking, he doesn’t . He just sorta prefers that he doesn’t hear about it, and would like it very much if Pete kept his dick away from people he had to work with. 

“Your opinion of me really hurts sometimes,” Pete says, but Patrick hears the smile in his voice, so he knows he really didn’t hurt Pete’s feelings. 

“What’d you have for me?” Patrick sighs, annoyed that he doesn’t have any new emails to answer to. He just clicks around to make it look like he’s busy. 

“We’ve been trying to keep it out of the news,” Pete starts, which means that this case is pretty fucked up, so Patrick sits back in his chair to give Pete his full attention. “There’s...we’ve called him The Gravedigger. He’s kidnapping men, blonde men”--Pete looks pointedly at Patrick’s recently bleached hair-- “And buries them alive. He’ll ask for a ransom and if he doesn’t get it, he waits until the victim dies before giving us their coordinates.”

“Jesus,” Patrick whispers, leaning forward and bracing his head into his hands. 

He hasn’t been on a case in a year, and he used to have thicker skin about these sorts of things. Or, more accurately, he was better about not showing how much they bothered him. He’s been face to face with countless killers, been able to get inside their heads and imagine horrible scenarios that would give motive to kill. He’s been in some of the darkest places that someone just shouldn’t be. But he had been able to handle it. 

At least for a while.

“I need you on this one,” Pete says quietly, like he’s almost embarrassed about it. He leans forward so he’s leaning over Patrick’s desk. “Look, I wouldn’t ask you to get back into profiling if I weren’t out of options.”

Patrick groans and lifts his head from his hands. “You're asking me to get into a pretty fucked up brain. Burying people alive?”

“I know,” Pete murmurs, “It’s been keeping me up at night too.”

“You’re always up at night,” Patrick notes, leaning back in his chair again and trying to find some composure. 

But Pete’s looking at him like he can see right through him. Like he sees the fear percolating behind Patrick’s eyes. And it’s unnerving, even if it’s Pete. Or maybe, especially because it’s Pete. 

“It won’t be like last time,” Pete promises, “We’re both in a better place.”

Patrick scoffs and crosses his arms. “Are we?”

Pete grins mischievously, and for a minute Patrick feels like he’s twenty-one, fresh out of his undergrad and getting roped into a case with the wildcard that is Pete Wentz. Pete’s always had a smile that brings Patrick to an easier time. To when all he worried about was what trashy trucker hat he was going to wear that day. 

“Well,” Pete says, sitting up and folding his hands, “You haven’t thrown anything at me yet.”

Patrick feels his lips quirk upward into an almost smile. 

Fucking Pete Wentz. 

“It’s still early.”

*

It’s hard focusing on his afternoon class, even harder to focus on any of the articles sitting in his inbox waiting for him to review. His mind keeps drifting to Pete and the fact that he’s going to be on a case again. 

Because while he’s been terrified of diving back into profiling, he misses it. He misses the thrill of connecting the dots, of forming a personality of who they’re looking for. Of making something abstract become more concrete and obtainable. 

It used to freak Pete out when they first started working together. And if Patrick was being honest, it sort of scared him too. It was terrifying at first, being able to slip into those dark minds and predict their motives, to feel around and find the shape of their personalities, their wants and dislikes. How they saw themselves and what they wanted to present to the world. 

But Patrick was fucking good at what he did. He could look at photos of crime scenes and start to paint the picture in his mind, could find the story in just a few details. And he was even better when he was paired with Pete who would bounce off his ideas, who would take him seriously and work off his theories. Who fucking knew him inside and out, and could fill in the blanks that Patrick didn’t communicate. It was almost like Pete could slip into his brain, or more that they shared one brain sometimes. That they could sit in a room working on a case and find a lead without even speaking. 

He’s never had that kind of working relationship with someone before. 

Of course, that was when they weren’t at each other’s throats. After the newness of having a real job out of college wore off, Patrick started finding friction between his and Pete’s personality. Patrick just had a certain way he liked to do things, and he wasn’t really open to suggestions. And he knew that people thought the profiling he did was all about impulses and gut feelings, but Patrick had a system. He had steps he followed and there were reasons for what he did. Pete? Pete was a fucking loose canon. One that exploded all over Patrick’s carefully built focus, and would often lead to Patrick losing his temper. 

Patrick parks next to Pete’s old Honda with the faded paint job and takes a deep breath, trying to remind himself that he’s in control of this situation. He’s not going to let things get muddled like they had been last time. Now he knows where Pete stands with him, and there’s no danger of Patrick trying to reach out again. He did that already. He put himself out there and Pete shot him down. 

So the feelings won’t get in the way, he tells himself. That should make things easier.  

And Pete’s going to watch his back this time. He’s not going to let anything happen to him with this case, he’d promised. Pete may be immature and too carefree for Patrick’s liking, but Pete never broke the promises he made. 

When he gets out of the car, he keeps his head down as he goes inside. He hands over his university ID and gets scanned through the metal detector before being given permission to continue. It’s weird how much the field office has changed in just a year. He doesn’t recognize the security officer manning the metal detector, can’t remember there being a vending machine near the stairs. It doesn’t matter , Patrick reminds himself as he goes up the stairs towards Pete's division. He pauses outside the door, before realizing he’s just being dramatic, and goes inside.

Immediately he’s got a grin on his face because he sees Joe and Andy bickering at each other like they’re an old married couple. Partners who’ve worked together as long as they have are practically married, Patrick knows, and it sorta hits him in the chest everytime. Affection like that, having someone watch their back and bring out the goodness in another? Patrick’s not a sap, he’s really not, but he fucking aches for that. And maybe it’s because it’s been dangled in front of him for years, almost within his grasp, but always pulled away. 

“Patrick!” Joe yells, dropping the candy bar he was holding and rushing to hug Patrick. 

Andy’s not far behind and wraps them both in a group hug. “Pete said you were coming on for The Gravedigger case, but we sorta didn’t believe him.”

Joe wiggles so Andy will release them and he looks sheepish, “We had a wager that you wouldn’t come.”

“How much money did you lose?” Patrick muses. 

“You owe me a nice dinner,” Joe says, sitting back in his chair and throwing his boots up on the desk. 

Andy rolls his eyes. “We’re glad you’re here.”

“Yeah, Pete’s about to drop dead from over working dead ends,” Joe mutters, exchanging looks with Andy.

Patrick frowns at that, feeling a little guilty that Pete felt like he couldn’t come to him until it had gotten that bad. “Well, hopefully I can help.”

Andy throws an arm around him and Patrick leans in, feeling like he might cry or something equally embarrassing. Which is silly since it was Patrick’s choice to stay away from the guys. He just hadn’t trusted himself to be around them, had needed the space to breathe and heal from everything that had happened. And being near anything or anyone that reminded him of Pete would have just been picking at the scab. 

He hears Pete clear his throat and looks up to see him leaning against the doorway to his office. “How come you’re never that nice to me?”

“Because they haven’t fucked me,” Patrick says with just the perfect amount of bite and pulls out of Andy’s hug. 

“Um, we’ve got that thing…” Joe says, gathering his belongings. Andy’s right behind him and Patrick shakes his head fondly.  

Pete’s staring at him with dark eyes, but his lips are twisted into a smirk and Patrick really fucking hates that look. Things never end up well for him when he’s on the receiving end of that look. 

“Come on,” Pete sighs, nodding towards his office. Patrick follows, feeling a sense of coming home when he walks though the door. Patrick pokes around his office, taking in the chaotic pile of papers strewn across his desk, the collection of used coffee mugs, and the various knick knacks that Patrick knows some of the stories behind. Patrick picks up a picture frame and turns it, smiling a bit at the old photograph of them at a Cubs game. “Summer of 07, right?” Patrick asks. 

“Yeah,” Pete says, almost fond but Patrick hears the edge of caution there. 

Patrick feels a heat of embarrassment in his chest and mentally kicks himself. He swallows and sets the photograph down before hopping up to sit on Pete’s desk, kicking his feet a little since they don’t reach the floor. “So?” Patrick prompts. 

Pete grabs a file out of his desk drawer and hands it to Patrick, “Alright, what we know is that he’s male--”

“How do you know that?” Patrick interrupts, opening the file and scanning the first crime scene report. The tech who wrote it has shit handwriting, and Patrick has to turn the page a bit in his hand to make out some of the notes. 

“It’s a male’s voice on the phone calls,” Pete answers. 

“He leaves messages?”

“Yeah, it’s how we get the ransom amount.”

Patrick shrugs, not really that impressed. “Could be a voice distortion software.”

“Our previous profiler said male,” Pete says, and then Patrick sees him wince out his prorifery. 

For good reason. “Pete,” he says, dropping the file on the desk and crossing his arms. 

Pete rubs at the back of his neck. “Yeah, I know.”

Pete .”

“You’re not stepping on any toes,” Pete insists, tilting his head a little to catch Patrick’s eye, “I fired him because he was an idiot.”

Patrick glowers at him, then, “I don’t like to work off someone else’s notes. You know that.”

Pete doesn’t say anything, like the year apart has given him some lessons in patience. Patrick gives him a minute to see if he’ll crack but then says, “Give me all the evidence, I want to start from scratch.”

Pete nods and grabs some more files from his desk and hands them to Patrick. 

Patrick tucks them under his arm and hops off the desk, heading towards the door. 

“Wait, that’s it?” Pete asks, getting up and following him out of his office.

Patrick keeps walking towards the exit. “The quicker I solve the case, the quicker I get rid of you.”

“Oh, baby, you know I don’t do anything quick.”

Patrick hears snickers from some of the agents sitting around and he sees red. His hand lands on a stapler, then he’s turning and chucking it at Pete’s head. 

Pete dodges it easily. “And we were doing so well.”

“You’re pushing it,” Patrick grits out, turning back towards the door.

Pete lets him leave this time.

Chapter Text

“Fucking asshole,” Patrick’s still muttering as he gets out of the car, slamming it behind him.

The whole time he was driving home, he felt like he was going to burst, like one of those cartoon characters that blow steam from their ears. And he knows he shouldn’t let Pete get to him. It’s not like he even did anything that horrible, at least by Pete’s standards, but it was just the shock of seeing him and the annoyance that Pete still had this hold on Patrick.

“Fuck!” He gripes as he notices that his suit jacket is stuck in his car door. He sees a family walking down the sidewalk and the dirty look they give him. “Sorry,” he mutters, opening the car door to free himself before hurrying inside. He’s not exactly a favorite among his neighbors. He doesn’t show up for block parties, he doesn’t give a rat's ass about the homeowners association, and he doesn’t even buy candy for trick or treaters.  

He doesn’t try to be rude, he’s just not that great about making small talk, it’s pretty much the bane of his existence. Despite this, Patrick still thinks he’s sort of a people person--kinda has to be in order to be a psychologist--but he doesn’t like to bullshit. Or, if he was looking at this objectively, he’d say that he works with people and their psyche all day, so obviously he doesn’t want to have to do it in his personal time. 

But really, Patrick just doesn’t like pretending to give a damn about the new mailbox height regulations. 

Patrick’s house is pretty much next door to the neighborhood he grew up in. And part of him sorta hates that he never left his hometown, but another part feels comforted in the fact that coming home at the end of the day really does feel like coming home. He sets his briefcase down on the counter with his keys and starts to poke around the house like he’s going to do anything but open the case files. He wants to prove to himself that it’s not going to be how it was last time. He’s not going to let working on a case completely overrun his life like it used to, won’t let things end up that bad again.

But he just manages to pull clothes out of the dryer and set them on the bed before he finds himself digging through his briefcase for the files. “Time to see if I still got it,” Patrick mutters to himself, sitting down on his couch.

He shakes his head at Pete’s disheveled filing system and pulls all the papers out, sorting them into an order he can work with. The photographs of the victims make Patrick pause, his fingers tracing over the features that are similar to his, shifting them in the light and frowning. “They’re not natural blondes either,” he thinks out loud when he notices that most of them have dark roots growing out. Weird. 

He sets those down and reads through the statements. All of the men The Gravedigger went after were intelligent and held higher positions. Most of them were in academia with a few in medicine or hard sciences, which Patrick finds interesting. “Could mean he either admires them or is intimidated,” he thinks out loud, then frowns, “or even jealous?” 

He lays the photos of the men side by side and looks at them, focusing and adopting the idea that he’s jealous of them. He feels the clenching in his heart, that sour envious taste bubbling up in his throat, but it doesn’t feel right. When people ask how Patrick is able to do what he does, he explains that working towards a killer’s profile is like trying to open a door with a bunch of different keys. He’s got to try a few before finding the right one to swing the door open. It’s always a process at the beginning when he doesn’t have a strong point of reference. 

Putting those aside, he looks at the crime scene photos, particularly the ones with the victims still in the coffins. The first few times he had done this, he had to excuse himself to the restroom before losing the contents of his stomach. He hadn’t been able to look past the victims, past their faces and the fact that they’d never wake up. But now he has the experience to take in the details that tell a story.The coffins look handmade, though Patrick can’t see anything significant about them. But then he looks closely at the victims and frowns at the material they’re bound in, pulling out a crime scene report to double check and then dialing Pete once his suspicion is confirmed . 

“Miss me already?”

He looks at the victim photographs and tries another key. Almost. “The victims are part of his revenge,” Patrick says, “I think our guy was rejected by a lover or someone he admired.” Patrick frowns a bit, because that doesn’t seem quite it either. But it’s closer. 

“So we’re going with the theory it is a man?” And Patrick rolls his eyes at the smugness in Pete’s voice.

“There aren’t any tire tracks in the ground near the sites, not anything that would operate a crane anyway. Unless this is a very muscular woman--which it very well could be--I think a man’s physical build makes more sense,” Patrick rationalizes. 

“You know I don’t think you’re sexist, right? You can just say--” 

“Do you want my help, or do you want to keep interrupting me?” Patrick huffs, trying to remind himself that this is what Pete does. He gets under Patrick’s skin. And Patrick hasn’t had anyone pushing at his buttons in awhile, so it’s leaving him more worked up than it used to.

Pete laughs, “I’m almost at your place, I brought Thai.”

“I didn’t invite you,” Patrick snaps, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose. 

“I got extra spring rolls,” Pete sing songs, clearly ignoring Patrick’s tone. Pete’s got ammunition though, he knows that Patrick is a slut for spring rolls. 

“Fine,” Patrick sighs, as if he really had a choice, “You still have a key, right?” 

There’s a pause, then,  “You never changed your locks?” 

Pete sounds irritated, and Patrick doesn’t feel like having an argument on the phone when they’ll just have it again when Pete gets to Patrick’s place, so he hangs up. 

He gets up to go feed Shamu, cursing himself for not stopping at the store because he really is running low on fish food. Then he goes to fold the laundry he left in the basket on his bed, trying to keep himself busy so he doesn’t think about Pete being in his house again. Tells himself that under no circumstances is he allowed in the bedroom.

When the door opens, he hears Pete shuffle through and slam the bags on the counter. 

“Still mad then,” Patrick says under his breath, folding one last towel before going out to the kitchen. Pete’s unpacking the take out, dumping a carton of noodles for Patrick into a bowl. It’s weird watching Pete move around his kitchen like he lives here, odd to see him pull out dishes without really looking in the cabinets, as if this was all second nature still.

It’s moments like these that hit Patrick in the gut. The ones that scream ‘what if’. Because in all the ways that matter to Patrick, they work together. Pete fits into Patrick’s life like a puzzle piece he’s always been looking for. As if his life had been missing a Pete shaped hole, but Patrick just keeps trying to jam the piece in wrong. They work, they’re supposed to fit, Patrick just hasn’t gotten the angle right yet. 

“Extra crispy tofu,” Pete mutters, holding out the bowl. 

“Thanks,” Patrick says, almost shyly even though he’s got the home base. 

But Pete’s just got this way of taking over everything in Patrick’s life. And he knows that’s not healthy. He’s a fucking psychologist, he knows what a bad relationship looks like and can spot unhealthy communication methods, codependent behavior, areas of insecurity from a mile away. But the years of practice just never seem to apply to his own life. 

Pete defies all of Patrick’s rules. 

“I’m getting you new locks tomorrow,” Pete says, still dishing out food. He hands Patrick a small parchment bag of fried spring rolls. 

Patrick’s really not sure he can handle talking about what went sour last time this soon. He knows that it’s probably best to hash it all out in the beginning so that they’re not carrying that baggage into this new case, but Patrick’s confidence is still shaky. 

“Thought we were working on a case,” Patrick says instead, watching the way Pete is holding his shoulders tense like he’s ready to fight. Patrick looks at the bag of spring rolls he’s been handed, then frowns, “I can’t eat all of this.”

“I wasn’t asking, Trick,” Pete says, and Patrick feels his tone down to his toes. 

They haven’t done that in a long time. And it shows, especially with the way that Patrick wants to fall to his knees right here in the middle of the kitchen. 

Pete arches an eyebrow, like he can tell the effect it had on him, but he doesn’t say anything. 

“Come on,” Patrick says, feeling a little dizzy from the whiplash of emotions he’s having, “I’m set up in the living room.”

Pete sits on the opposite end of the couch, and Patrick is both relieved and annoyed by the space between them. But then Pete kicks off his shoes and swings his legs up on the couch, pushing his brightly colored sock covered toes into Patrick’s thigh. 

“I’m eating, asshole,” Patrick bites without any real venom. 

“Why do you think our guy is a scorned lover?” Pete asks, ignoring Patrick’s attitude. 

“He’s wrapping them in silk,” Patrick says, “It’s uh...it’s a fetish thing.” 

Pete pauses mid bite and tilts his head. “Fetish thing?” 

Patrick turns red and squirms, trying not to pay attention to how Pete’s touch feels like it’s searing into his thighs. 

Pete chuckles, “Oh come on, you know you don't have to be embarrassed about that shit with me.” 

The image of Pete standing above him floods Patrick’s senses. As does the memory of how the carpet in his bedroom rubbed against his bare knees, how Pete’s fingers felt threading through his hair. The echo of Pete’s low and sure voice telling Patrick, “Good, you’re doing so good, baby.” Patrick is almost suffocating from the swell of gratification expanding in his chest at those words. Even in memory they pack a punch. 

“Yeah, well,” Patrick coughs, pushing the memories away and pointing towards the photos, “You can tell it’s with care, he’s not binding them just to keep them still, he’s taken care to pick silk of all material. If he wanted to keep them still, he’d just rope tie their limbs, right? Erotic mummification--” 

“Sorry, what?” 

“Don’t kink shame,” Patrick huffs. He hates that. Absolutely hates it when people don’t have open minds when it comes to their sexuality. Patrick doesn't understand people who have an issue with consenting adults exploring the darker parts of their psyche, of getting vulnerable and finding power in that trust and intimacy that’s given to a partner. 

 “Ok, it’s a fucking serial killer--” 

“I’m talking about--”

 “--yeah, ok, fuck, fine. You know I don’t give a shit,” Pete says, eyebrows drawn together and his shoulders tense. 

“Stop doing that,” Patrick hisses. 

“Doing what?” 

“Reminding me that you're a good guy for putting up with me.” 

Pete’s expression softens. “Trick, baby--” 

“And you don’t get to call me that,” Patrick says, picking up his bowl and bringing it into the kitchen. Because he can’t do that with Pete. He can’t just go back to how things were after what happened. He can’t handle Pete being soft and sweet with him if he’s not going to be all in. Not this time. 

“Patrick,” Pete says, following him. Patrick keeps his back turned to him as he sets his bowl on the counter and looks outside his kitchen window. He feels Pete’s warmth coming up from behind him. 

“Stop,” Patrick says, turning to press his hands against Pete’s chest. “You can’t do this. I’ll work with you, but I’m not jumping back into...whatever it was we were.”

Pete reaches out for him, but then stops when Patrick turns his head away. “I didn’t mean for things to happen the way they did,” he says quietly, but the words still ring in Patrick’s ear as if he’d shouted them. He’s really not ready for this conversation. But just because he’s keeping his mouth shut, doesn’t mean Pete will. “I just wasn’t ready for what you wanted.”

Patrick stares hard at his kitchen cabinet and notices some splashes of oil or something that he needs to wipe off, and really, when was the last time he cleaned his cabinets?

“Patrick,” Pete sighs, “Don’t shut down on me. You’ve frozen me out for a year and--”

“I needed space,” Patrick says, still not meeting his eyes. 

“I know,” Pete’s voice coats him in warmth, and Patrick thinks it’s so unfair for him to have that ability. To be able to comfort him even when he’s the source of the ache. “But I...I wish it hadn’t happened the way it did.”

Patrick shakes his head. “Don’t. I don’t want to talk about him.”

Patrick can feel Pete lean in closer, feels his breath kissing his cheek when he says, “I know you don’t. But you’ve talked about him with someone right? You’re not keeping this boxed up?”

He snorts. “I’m a psychologist. I’m no stranger to therapy.”

“It’s different when it’s you though.”

Patrick looks down at his feet and thinks that his plain white socks look boring next Pete’s neon ones. He wiggles his toes to make them look more alive. “I’ve been handling it.”

That’s a fucking lie. Because what had happened, what Patrick went through, was too shameful to admit to anyone else. He hardly liked Pete knowing, much less anyone else. 

“You didn’t change the locks,” Pete points out. 

When Patrick shrugs, Pete sighs, “You know we’re going to have to talk about this eventually, right?” Then before Patrick really has the chance to answer he adds, “And you have never been just someone to put up with.”

Patrick wants to believe that, he really does. But it doesn’t overwrite the embarrassment of Pete standing Patrick up after being pushed into something he wasn’t ready for. Doesn’t erase the memory of Pete finding the letter taped against Patrick’s door. Doesn’t change the fact that Pete had slept in his car outside Patrick’s house for weeks after. 

“Even when you’re throwing things at me,” Pete teases after Patrick hasn’t said anything. 

Patrick presses his lips together to keep from smiling, he doesn’t even want to give Pete that. 

Pete exhales loudly. “I’m sorry,” and it sounds like he really means it, sounds like he’s apologizing for more than what he said in the living room. 

Patrick finally looks up at him, then immediately regrets it. Because Pete’s always been so expressive. Patrick liked to tease him about the fact that Pete was in bands off and on when he was in high school and the academy. Joked that he was always going to be the tortured artist, even if there was a title in front of his name now. 

He looks tortured now. Like the year apart has suddenly shown itself in Pete’s usual warm brown eyes. They’re cold now, hardened and desolate of any comfort that Patrick hadn’t realized he gave. He misses Patrick’s company is all, he tells himself. Nothing more. Well, maybe a warm body to press against when the nights got too lonely. But not someone to plan long term with. Not someone to explore “what ifs” and “some days”. 

But it’s Pete, and Patrick has a hard time saying no to him. He crosses his arms so he doesn’t reach out to hug him. “Let’s go sit back down and talk about the case.” 

“Yeah?” Pete asks in that boyish way that Pete’s never fully grown out of. The kind that Patrick used to fall victim to and mistakenly believed Pete could be innocent. 

Patrick nods. 

“Grab your food,” Pete says, pointing at the bowl that Patrick’s set on the counter, “You’ve gotten too thin.” 

Patrick rolls his eyes, but follows Pete back to the living room. He’s not willing to pick another fight with him. It’s best to space them out if Patrick plans to get anything done tonight. 

*

“I thought you gave up profiling to focus on teaching,” Brian frowns, but Patrick’s learned that Brian is almost always frowning. Especially when Patrick’s in his office. 

“I know, this is just a one off,” Patrick promises, and he tries to not analyze the way his heart sputters at that. Because part of him, the annoying part, wants to go back to working with Pete on a more regular basis. “I’m just helping them out this one time, then I’ll be back full time,” he reiterates, but that might be more for himself. 

Brian sighs. “Is Ryan up to teaching the classes you’ll be missing?”

Patrick pauses at that because Ryan had turned a shade of green when Patrick mentioned it to him. And then he tripped over his own feet and sent the stack of papers he had been grading all over Patrick’s office. “Yes,” Patrick says, wincing a bit, “It’ll probably be good for him.”

Brian frowns at him. “Fine. But check in a bit, huh? Ryan seems a bit…”

“Are you trying to find a nice word for spacy?” Patrick muses. 

“Your words not mine,” Brian says, gathering some papers and swearing at the time, “I’ve got a meeting. A pleasure as always, Stump.”

Patrick can practically bathe in the sarcasm dripping off his words, so he assumes that’s his cue to leave. He takes his time walking the halls back to his office. He loves working for the university, loves to be able to use its facilities for his research and dive into his work as much as he pleases, but as he passes a group of his colleagues without getting even a nod of recognition, he’s reminded that it’s not the same as working for Pete. 

He gathers his things from his office and snaps his briefcase shut before heading towards the parking lot. It’s weird driving back to the field office. He used to make the trip loads of times, and when things got really tense with a case, he’d just stay at Pete’s. 

When he passes the cafe that he and Pete used to always take turns grabbing drinks from, he slows then mutters, “Fuck it,” and pulls into the parking lot. It’s just to establish that they’re on good terms for the case, he thinks, it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he’s feeling sentimental. But that theory is sorta nixed when he adds the double chocolate chip muffin to his order because Pete’s always had such a sweet tooth, especially when he’s stressed. 

He’s hoping that none of the agents will give him shit about it when he walks in, but that’s pretty wishful thinking. Especially when Pete’s supervisor, Gabe Saporta, walks out of his office. As soon as they lock eyes, Gabe mutters, “Fuck, you’re here again?”

Patrick grins. “Oh come on, Saporta, you must have known I’m not that easy to get rid of.”

Gabe crosses his arms. “Just stick to Pete’s case this time.”

“I’d like to point out that you only caught Farro because of me,” Patrick says, not putting much effort in keeping the smugness out of his voice.

“After you undermined my authority in front of my agents,” Gabe grits. 

“Your authority doesn’t really matter much to me,” Patrick says, “Especially when it clouds your judgement. I’m in the business of catching killers, not stroking your ego.”

FBI politics never made much sense to Patrick. And, sure, maybe Patrick has a bit of a problem with authority, at least in a workplace setting. He just doesn’t understand how ranks outweigh intelligence. And he was pretty bad about making that clear in the worst ways, if Gabe’s increasingly red face was anything to go by. 

“Lunchbox, whatcha got there?”

Whatever Gabe was going to say next disappears as Pete hurries over and throws an arm around Patrick’s shoulders, leading him away from Gabe’s wrath. “How many times are you going to get into a pissing contest with my boss?” Pete asks, but he’s grinning because it’s apparently amusing to watch Patrick go at it with Gabe. 

“When he stops getting threatened by my brain,” Patrick grumbles, pushing the bag with Pete’s muffin in it to him. 

“It’s a pretty brain,” Pete agrees. He squeezes Patrick’s shoulder, then lets him go and leads them into his office. “One of those for me too?”

Patrick hands him his sugary coffee. “You know you’re supposed to cut back on the sugar when you’re stressed, right?”

“And yet, here you are enabling my bad habits,” Pete says sitting down and pulling out his muffin. “I’m thinking that maybe we should hit up a few clubs to talk to some DMs about our guy?”

Patrick shrugs and watches Pete cut the muffin in half. He smiles and takes his half before saying, “Yeah, it’s not that popular of a kink. It would stand out.”

Pete takes a drink of his coffee and smiles a little, like maybe he’s surprised Patrick remembers how he takes it, “Do you think he’d be a regular?”

Patrick pauses at that and looks over the file in his head, sees the photos in his mind again and nods. He always loses his grip on reality when he does this, even more so now since it’s been awhile. But he can picture the bodies in front of him and traces over the silk wrapped around them, how they’re expertly done. They’re snug and immobile, but not so tight that it’d be uncomfortable. He took the care to do this right. “Yeah, his technique had been perfected somewhere. And he wouldn’t waste his victims on practicing. He’d try it out at the clubs or parties.” 

When Pete comes back into focus, he looks a little unsettled and Patrick remembers that it’s been a bit since Pete watched him go away like that. “Sorry,” he murmurs, looking down at Pete’s desk, but he doesn’t feel the least bit judged by Pete. It’s more that he doesn’t want to feel Pete worry about him any more than he has.  

The clank of keys hitting the desk in Patrick’s line of vision makes him jump and he looks back up at Pete. 

“Keys for your new locks,” Pete says.

Patrick takes the set and removes one before tossing it to Pete. “Alright, I’ve got an idea of where we can start.”

Chapter Text

When Patrick gets out of Pete’s car, he pulls his long sleeves over his wrists to hide the bruises that a Dom left on him the other night after using cheap handcuffs and tightening them too much. Patrick gets pretty annoyed with Doms who use more force than necessary throughout a scene, but he never says anything. Well, he’d of course safeword out if things got too much, he’s not an idiot. But it’s almost too much of a hassle to correct them, especially if the problem isn’t them, it’s Patrick. Because Patrick’s sort of gotten a reputation lately in the scene. He had thought the term ‘Goldilocks’ was given to him because of the blond hair, but he quickly learned it was because he was picky. Or, not picky even, just looking for something that he fucking knew he wouldn’t find in a club or play party. So he doesn’t complain much when he gets into scenes that don’t really do it for him, but he doesn’t come back to them. He hasn’t had the same Dom since Pete. 

“I haven’t been to one of these in…” Pete trails off as they’re walking up to the club. Yeah, Patrick knows when the last time he was at one of these. “Do you still know all the DMs?”

Patrick nods, not going to give into Pete’s not so subtle question of if Patrick still does this. He doesn’t look at Pete as the answer hangs in the air, but he feels Pete’s eyes assessing him. “Don’t flash your badge in there,” Patrick says. 

Patrick looks over then to see Pete’s grin. “Wanna go undercover?” He asks, wiggling his eyebrows. 

Patrick rolls his eyes and goes up to the bouncer, Jeff. 

“Hey, Patrick,” Jeff says with a nod then extends his hand for Pete’s ID, “Tyler was looking for you earlier.”

Patrick shrugs. Tyler was pretty mediocre with rope, and he liked humiliation too much for Patrick’s liking. He gets that it gets some people off, but Patrick’s not really doing this to get off. Submitting is a way for him to shut down his overactive mind for a bit, to let it go into sleep mode since it never gives him a break at night like it’s supposed to. 

“Oh?” Pete asks, “Does our Patrick have an admirer?” 

Patrick grits his teeth and thanks Jeff stiffly before walking inside with Pete on his heels. Walking into these places always has an effect on him, like it slightly takes the edge off his senses. His sight gets a little fuzzier, his hearing a little softer, and the air on his skin doesn’t feel as sharp anymore. 

He inhales shakily when he feels Pete’s warm hand come to rest on the small of his back. It’s a subtle move, nothing too possessive or demanding, but Patrick can imagine that the look on his face makes it clear to everyone here that he’s been claimed. 

“Just in case Tyler comes looking for you,” Pete murmurs by his ear. 

“We’re here for work,” Patrick reminds him, but his voice is softer than it would have been ordinarily. 

Pete doesn’t remove his hand, and Patrick’s ashamed that he’s glad about that. It’s helping him stay grounded, and he wonders if Pete’s still got that annoying habit of being able to know exactly what Patrick needs. 

Patrick scans the room and takes the time to look at all the different scenes going on, something that he doesn’t usually do when he comes for himself. And he knows that he’s not going to see anyone practicing erotic mummification, knows that once their guy had perfected his skill he wouldn’t come back. “He’s smarter than that,” he whispers, letting his eyes drift shut for a moment. Because he can imagine how nervous he had been at first. Can tell that his hands would have shook when he first came to a place like this. This wasn’t his kink, Patrick realizes. This was something he read about or something a lover told him he wanted. This wasn’t his realm of knowledge. 

He feels Pete’s hand rub in slow circles, gentle enough to not interrupt Patrick, but enough that it reminds him that Pete was still there. Like an anchor, keeping him in this body instead of wherever his mind drifted to. 

“He came here to learn,” Patrick says, opening his eyes. The room looks dimmer than it had when he first walked in, and all the faces he catches glimpses of look blurred. He takes his glasses off and rubs at his eyes. “He had to learn from someone.”

“You said he would have come to a club like this to practice,” Pete reminds him quietly.

“The first few times,” Patrick says, pressing his fingertips against his eyelids. “He was submitting.” Patrick can feel his hands shake as he pictures walking to a bench covered in red plush leather. Feels the stiffness of it under his back and how the material sticks to the sweat on his back. He can’t differentiate the face that’s above him, it’s blurred and dim and the voice that comes out sounds distorted, as if he was underwater. And he’s scared, Patrick realizes, his heart is hammering in his chest and he’s thinking that he can’t do this. But he doesn’t move, he doesn’t get up because he has something to prove. And when the first pass of silk slides over his bare skin, he gasps. 

“Trick,” Pete says, his hand moving up to the back of Patrick’s neck now, “Hey, time to come back now.”

Pete’s voice sounds far away, but it still cuts through the imagery dancing across the stage of Patrick’s mind. Patrick follows it, trails after the soft repetitions of his name until he’s able to climb out of their killer’s mind and find his way back to his own. Until he’s settled enough into his own body to open his eyes and remember where he is. 

Pete’s hand tightens and he brings his other hand up to shift Patrick so that he’s turning and facing Pete. “So we’re looking for someone who taught him?”

“It’d be a good place to start looking for an ID,” Patrick says, eyebrows drawing together when his words stick together like his tongue had been covered in molasses. 

“Take your time,” Pete says gently, pressing his thumb into the tense muscles of Patrick’s neck and rubbing. Patrick isn’t a touchy feely person, but touch always brings him out of these spells. 

He keeps his gaze soft on Pete’s sweater, traces the small knits that are knotted down the center, a few of the threads coming loose from obvious wear. It looks so soft, Patrick thinks, and he wants to just lean forward and press his cheek against it. Wants Pete to draw him in and wrap his arms around Patrick’s shoulders so he feels warm and safe. 

He is safe, Patrick reminds himself, there’s nothing threatening about the situation he’s in. 

“I want to talk to some of the DMs,” Patrick says, clearing his throat. 

Pete reaches for the glasses Patrick is still holding. Patrick lets Pete take them from his hands, his fingers releasing as if Pete was in charge of his body here. Maybe it’s being in this place with Pete and maybe it’s the way his mind gets so malleable after he’s been digging through someone else’s, but Pete doesn’t take advantage. He rubs at the lenses with the edge of his sweater then slides them into place on Patrick’s face, twisting them a little when they tilt to the side. He smiles reassuringly and drops his hands. “Want to split up or stay together?”

“Together,” Patrick says quickly, and he appreciates that Pete doesn’t shoot him a grin for that. 

He just nods and puts his hand on the small of Patrick’s back again and says, “Lead the way.”

Patrick leads them through the main room where most people are still mingling. He recognizes a few of the faces, but none of them are people that Patrick really wants to talk to. He catches eyes with a DM that’s been around the scene for a long time. 

“Let’s talk to Mistress Kaitlyn,” Patrick says quietly to Pete, “She’s pretty well known in the scene.”

Pete nods and pats Patrick’s back in a gesture that Patrick knows means I’ll take it from here . Patrick is all but willing, glad that Pete seems to understand that Patrick just wants to hang off to the sidelines here. And it’s not that Patrick is normally one to let Pete do all the work in questioning. Sometimes, probably more often than Pete likes, Patrick takes over the line of questioning without realizing it. But here, in this place that smells like leather and sweat, surrounded by the sounds of moans and slaps against flesh, where he can still feel Pete’s hand on his back, Patrick can’t help but slip into another state of mind. 

“Mistress Kaitlyn, is it?” Pete addresses her. 

Mistress Kaitlyn is an intimidatingly beautiful woman with dark hair spilling over her golden shoulders. Her glittery lined eyes glance at Patrick then shift to narrow at Pete as she quirks a perfectly arched brow up in question.“Yes?”

Pete pulls out his badge even though Patrick told him not too and he rolls his eyes internally. “Special Agent Wentz, I’d like to ask you a few questions if you don’t mind.”

Mistress Kaitlyn purses her red glossed lips and looks around. “Sure, let me get someone to cover for me.”

Patrick watches her walk into another room, but his attention is brought over to a couple who are in the corner of the room. Patrick watches the young woman kneeling in front of her Dom, her arms secured behind her back with rope knotted into an intricate design. She has her eyes drawn down to the floor, her head slightly bowed and shoulders back to create the perfect posture of trust. Her Dom is speaking to her, too low for Patrick to hear from where he’s standing. But from the way her shoulders slowly sag, he knows that she’s slipping beautifully into subspace. 

Pete clears his throat and Patrick looks away from the couple to see that Mistress Kaitlyn has returned and she’s smiling knowingly at him. “It’s been a bit since I’ve seen that look on your face,” she notes. 

Patrick feels his cheeks flush and he looks at Pete, wanting him to just lead their conversation back to the case. But Pete is looking at Patrick with curiosity as well. Patrick stares back, raising his chin a little as if daring him to say something about it. Pete smirks a bit at that, eyes dancing at the small defiance and Patrick knows that this place is affecting him too. He had wondered if sceneing together had been something that Pete just humored Patrick with, but the look on his face suggests that maybe he missed it too.

“Is there a quieter place we can go to talk?” Pete says, eyes lingering on Patrick before looking to Mistress Kaitlyn. 

She nods, “Yeah, let’s step out back. I need a smoke break anyway.”

Patrick keeps his eyes down as they move through the club and take the back entrance out to an alley where all the smokers are gathered. Patrick half expects Pete to drop his hand from his back now that they’re outside, but he keeps it there until Mistress Kaitlyn has brought them away from the crowd. 

Pete waits until Mistress Kaitlyn has lit a cigarette before asking,“What do you know about erotic mummification?” 

She blows out smoke and an amused laugh. “They teaching BDSM at the FBI now?”

Pete flashes her his charming smile that always appeases people he’s questioning. “We’re working a case with a suspect who was into that sort of thing.”

“That sort of thing?” She muses, raising an eyebrow. 

Pete’s cheeks tint pink a little and Patrick steps in, “Our victims have been found bound in silk.”

Pete shoots him a look, but Patrick ignores it. He knows that he’s not supposed to give much detail about the crime when questioning someone, especially at this stage of the case. But he knows this scene and he knows these people, so fuck the procedure. 

“Oh my,” she breathes, then takes another drag, “Um, well it’s not a common kink.”

Patrick nods. “Have you seen anyone practicing in the scene? Someone who was new, who may have only been around for a bit before leaving?”

She frowns. “There’s a lot of people who just try this lifestyle out for a bit before deciding it’s not for them. You know that, Patrick.”

Patrick purses his lips, trying to think of a way to narrow this down more for her. “He would have had a preference. Blonde men.”

Patrick watches her face for any signs of recognition, and he’s about to give up when her eyes focus and she gasps. “Yeah... oh, fuck, I knew --”

“Do you know who he is?” Pete asks, pulling out his small notebook he keeps in his back pocket. “A name?”

She frowns again and Patrick shakes his head. “Not everyone gives their real name, especially when they’re still trying out.”

Mistress Kaitlyn nods. “And there wouldn’t be a record of him coming to play here. We value everyone’s privacy.”

“What about their safety?” Pete grits. 

“Could you tell us what he looked like?” Patrick asks, to ease Pete’s frustration. 

She nods. “Yeah, I think so.”

“Would you be willing to come to the office and work with a sketch artist?” Pete sighs, stuffing his notebook back into his pocket. 

“Sure,” she says, flicking away the butt of her cigarette, “I’m free tomorrow afternoon before my shift.”

“Perfect,” Pete says as if it’s anything but.

*

Pete slams the heel of his hand onto the steering wheel when they get in Pete’s Honda. 

Patrick frowns. “Hey, it’s fine. You weren’t going to get a name tonight anyway, that’s not how the scene works.”

Pete starts the car, but makes no movement to pull out of the parking spot they’re sitting in. Instead, he pinches the bridge of his nose and leans back against the headrest. 

Pete’s about to drop dead from over working dead ends , Joe had said and Patrick can see it on Pete’s face now. He knows that the unsolved case that Patrick last worked on with him is still hanging above his head, that he still blames himself for what happened to Patrick.  

“Hey,” Patrick repeats, a little softer, and he reaches out to set his hand on his shoulder, “Pete--”

Pete reaches down in the pocket of the door and pulls out an orange prescription bottle, opening it and throwing back a pill before shifting the car out of park.

Patrick narrows his eyes and drops his hand. “How long has that been going on?”

Pete shrugs and mumbles, “It’s just a headache.”

And Patrick can practically taste the lie on his tongue. “ Pete .”

Pete sighs, all dramatic like he’s really put off, and tosses the pill bottle to Patrick. The thing about Pete though, is that he acts like he doesn’t want anyone to care about him but he really, really does. And Patrick knows it’s partly due to the toxic masculinity that was pushed on him during his time in bootcamp, one of the many scars that Pete still carries from that experience. But he also knows it has something to do with them, that Pete’s got it in his head that since he carries around the badge, he has to be the one doing the protecting. 

Patrick turns the bottle in his hands and mutters, “Pull over,” when he sees the label. 

“It’s fine, Trick,” Pete says, turning down the main street back to the office. 

“You’re not driving after you took a fucking Xanax,” Patrick says, “You’re legally under the influence right now.”

Pete’s jaw clenches, but he puts his blinker on and pulls into a gas station parking lot. “Fine.”

Patrick gets out of the car, maybe slamming the car door a little too harshly. He can’t help it though. For one, he’s pissed Pete is trying to self medicate because that worked so well last time. But he’s not just pissed at Pete, he’s mad that he’s going to have to be paying Mikey Way a visit for prescribing him fucking Xanax. 

“You’re being a bit dramatic,” Pete says once they’ve resituated themselves in the car. 

Patrick sits back in the driver's seat and sighs, “I don’t blame you for what happened. You know that, right?”

Pete turns his head to stare hard out the windshield. “I thought you didn’t want to talk about that.”

“It’s going to come up,” Patrick says, “There’s things I still don’t want to--”

“You mean the letters?” Pete grits, and Patrick sees his hands ball up in fists. 

Pete looks like the spitting image of that night when everything fell apart. Tense, hurt, and helpless. He looks so young like this, Patrick thinks, he looks like he has no idea what he’s doing. And it makes Patrick want to laugh and cry at the same time, because neither of them know what they’re doing. He still feels like he’s playing make believe some days, just trying to keep up the ruse long enough that he makes it to the next day. 

“Yeah,” Patrick whispers, “I mean the letters.”

“It shouldn’t have happened to you,” Pete says, voice thick and heavy. Heavy like the failure that’s been suffocating them for the past year. And Patrick wonders if it’s the failure of the case or their relationship that hurts the most. 

“It wasn’t your fault,” Patrick reminds him. 

“Still shouldn’t have happened. Not to you. I was supposed to--”

“Pete,” Patrick says softly, and Pete’s mouth snaps closed. Maybe because Patrick is always yelling-- always wound up and grumpy, put off and annoyed-- so the softness is deafening. 

“It wasn’t your fault,” Patrick repeats, pocketing the pills and shifting the car into drive. 

“Make a left here,” Pete says quietly after a while.

“You think I forgot?” Patrick muses, turning. 

“Been awhile,” Pete points out, and Patrick notes the hint of bitterness. 

He doesn’t say anything to that though, doesn’t want to start another hard conversation for them to half ass their way through. He’s tired of stumbling through the hard stuff with Pete, tired of assuming things and trying to tiptoe so neither of them get hurt. 

When Patrick pulls into Pete’s driveway, Pete asks, “Want to come in?”

Patrick’s hands tighten around the steering wheel. Coming inside would mean that Patrick would walk into something he wasn’t ready to deal with yet. That he’d let himself get comfortable on the couch that he and Pete used to spend Saturday mornings watching old school cartoons and eating sugary cereal. Knows that if he goes in, he’s going to find more photos of them on the walls because Pete’s sentimental like that and he likes to hurt himself by holding onto dead relationships. He knows that if Patrick doesn’t just drop Pete off and go home, he’s going to fall into bed with Pete. 

And it’s not even a sex thing, but Patrick doesn’t want to grow dependant on Pete again. He doesn’t want to get used to having him in bed next to him. He can’t grow reliant on having someone there to keep the nightmares away, to keep him warm when the day has left him cold. He doesn’t want to wake up in a bed that smells like the both of them, doesn’t want Pete’s face to be the first thing he sees. He has to be strong enough to get by without him, like he’s been pretending to do all this time.

“Maybe next time,” Patrick says, giving him a reassuring smile. 

He knows Pete sees right through it, but he still says, “Alright. It’s an open invitation. You still know the code to get in the garage.”

Patrick rolls his eyes. “And you gave me shit for not changing my locks.”

“The difference is that I know how to protect myself,” Pete chuckles, undoing his seatbelt. 

“I can protect myself!” Patrick insists. 

That just makes Pete laugh harder. “You forget that I sat in on your self defense class,” he says, and it makes Patrick squirm in embarrassment, “And there’s a reason we don’t let you take a gun in the field.” 

“Yeah, yeah,” Patrick mutters, “Get out of here and get some sleep.”

Pete’s still chuckling a bit when he leans in and presses a soft kiss to his cheek. And then he’s getting out of the car, leaving Patrick with a tingling cheek and wavering self control. 

Chapter Text

Patrick knows that it’s probably time to go to bed, but he’s just going to toss and turn if he tries now. So, he opens the email that Pete had sent him with all the recordings of The Gravedigger’s ransom messages. The recordings are definitely made with distortion software, but he can see why Pete’s first profiler thought The Gravedigger was a man. Still, there’s no real assertiveness in the tone, especially given the context. He almost sounds like a kid trying to sound tough on a playground, Patrick can hear the wavering of his voice beyond the effects of the software. Can hear when he swallows shakily before speaking again. 

Why is he doing this if he’s afraid? 

Patrick lets the recordings play on repeat, and imagines being the one to pick up a phone and dial a number. He closes his eyes and lays back on his couch, settling in and focusing on the recordings, on the cadence of The Gravedigger’s voice. He notices how he pauses before saying the victims’ names, not because he forgot who he was talking about, but because the words feel heavy on his tongue. And when he addresses the person the message is for, he says it with an air of disdain. The Gravedigger must stalk his victims in order to know who to call, he has to know their routines enough to tell who shows up the most in their day. Patrick needs to remember to get the phone records of who The Gravedigger called, if they were lovers or family members. Maybe a combination of both. If they’re lovers, Patrick thinks, this could match up with the jealousy theory. 

But he doesn’t sound jealous on the phone, Patrick notes. He sounds unsure and nervous, and the more Patrick hears the recordings repeat, the more he thinks that he sounds like someone making a big gesture. Patrick’s been there, he knows the voice-wavering, shaky-palms feeling of putting yourself out there. That’s what The Gravedigger sounds like, Patrick realizes with almost an audible click echoing in his mind, he sounds like he’s putting everything he is out there for someone to notice. 

Patrick shifts on the couch, fidgeting like he’s the one getting worked up over this. Like he’s the one who needs to be worried about getting caught. Or, no, that’s not why he’s scared, Patrick thinks,  face contorted in confusion - and if Pete were here he’d make some joke about his face sticking that way -but, he does feel scared of messing up. 

And it’s getting harder to breathe, which doesn't make sense because there’s no reason to be nervous. He’s done this before, he tells himself as he unravels the white silk in his hands. Patrick frowns at his grey hands, like all the life has been drained from his fingertips. He doesn’t know where the silk came from and he’s not even sure how he got here. He tries to look around, but nothing is familiar. Everything is in shades of grey, muted against the cacophony of colors in Patrick’s frantic heart.

He kneels down and circles the silk around the pale ankles before him. He makes sure to keep the silk snug, but not so tight that it cuts off circulation. He’s learned that there’s a fine line between tight enough to feel safe, and so tight that it inflicts fear. He doesn’t want them to be afraid, that’s not the point of this. When he gets the silk wrapped up to the neck, he allows himself to look up at the face before him. 

He smiles, reaching out to caress the face. If you wish to see Patrick Stump again...

Patrick screams and sits up, blinking and holding his hand up to shield his face from the sun leaking through the windows. Just a dream he tells himself, it was just a dream. 

His shirt is soaked through and he’s cold, freezing as if he really had been standing outside in the cold Chicago night. He rips his sweat-covered shirt off his body and tosses it to the floor before shifting so that he’s sitting hunched over the couch with his head in his hands. The recordings are still running on a loop and Patrick reaches out to slam his laptop shut, blanketing the living room in silence. 

His phone chimes from the coffee table and Patrick groans.He still has to pick Pete up for work. 

He sends him a quick text to tell Pete he’s leaving now and gets up to quickly get changed. He doesn’t look in the mirror as he brushes his teeth and splashes water on his face. He hovers over the sink for a moment, letting the water slide off his face. You’re Patrick , he reminds himself, you’re standing in your bathroom about to leave to get Pete . He’s not The Gravedigger, not standing outside in front of a body. He’s safe and in his own head. Everything is fine. 

“Right,” Patrick breathes, swiping the hand towel over his face and walking out. 

He’s still shaken up by the time he reaches Pete’s house and he knows he needs to get himself together or Pete will notice something is up. It’s not like he’s a stranger to nightmares, it’s sort of an occupational hazard. But, it’s been awhile since he’s had one of those kinds of nightmares, the ones where he forgets who he is.

He used to be able to keep them at bay, used to have a much better hold on his mind, but he’s out of practice now. And it’s fucking frustrating. Patrick feels a headache coming on, feels his stomach turn on itself and he has to remind himself that he just needs to get through this car ride. All he needs to do is hold it together long enough to get Pete to work and then he can have a little breakdown and move on. He just needs his body to stop betraying him for a little bit, he can do this . Profiling is what he’s good at. And maybe there’s a slight edge to his rationale, a tremble of a doubt in the back of his mind, a flash of inked taunts that remind him he’s not good enough. Not brave enough. Not smart enough. Not--

“Hey,” Pete says, sliding into the passenger seat, “You look like shit.”

Patrick jumps a little but then pretends he was adjusting his seat before putting the car in reverse. He can feel Pete’s eyes on him, assessing him. 

Patrick tries to reign in the agitation, but still bites out, “What?”

“Wanna stop at our cafe?” Pete asks, flashing an innocent smile. 

Patrick ignores the way his heart sputters at ‘our cafe’, and shakes his head then looks at the time, “I can’t, I have a meeting.”

Pete frowns. “I thought you were all mine until the case was done.”

Patrick rolls his eyes and says, “I still have to make an appearance on campus occasionally. I can’t just throw Ryan to the wolves and not check in on him. Plus I’ve got some things I need to go through at my office.”

Pete peers at him. “Are you being vague on purpose?”

Yes. Patrick also has a meeting with Mikey Way this morning, having texted him as soon as he got home last night. Of course, ‘meeting’ might be a stretch. Mikey didn’t really agree to see Patrick, Patrick just sort of told him that he was coming by and he’d camp out in the waiting room if he had to. 

“Not everything revolves around you,” Patrick says, turning into the office parking lot. 

Pete pouts. “Kaitlyn is coming by this afternoon for the sketch artist. Are you going to be back by then?”

“Shoot me an email,” Patrick shrugs, parking and getting out of the car. He tosses Pete his keys over the car. “I really got to go, I’ll check in later.”

“Sure,” Pete says, clearly looking put off by Patrick’s brush off. 

Pete’s still standing there, giving Patrick a knowing look as he backs out of the parking lot. Pete was always too good at reading Patrick and he knows that he’s going to hear about it later. 

“Fuck,” he mutters when he sees the time, he’s going to have to push back his mini breakdown until after he talks to Mikey because he really doesn’t want to give him any more ammunition than he already has. 

Mikey Way has been a pain in Patrick’s side ever since Pete started seeing him. He’d like to think it was just a bit of professional competition, that Patrick’s school of thought often clashed with Mikey’s. But then again, there was a reason Patrick never went down the counseling path. For one, he was never great at talk therapy. Probably because he’d find it hypocritical of himself if he asked patients to delve into the darkest parts of their mind when Patrick had issues confronting his own. And he wasn’t a big fan of the apparent knee-jerk reaction some psychiatrists have to prescribing a pill to make a patient shut up about their problems. 

But as much as Patrick likes to tell himself that the only reason he and Mikey clash so much is because of professional differences, it’s really because of Pete. 

Patrick walks into Mikey’s lobby just as he’s opening the door to his office. He sees Patrick and it probably bothers Patrick more than it should that Mikey doesn’t roll his eyes or wince. Patrick is used to getting a reaction out of people. “Great, you’re here,” Mikey deadpans. 

“Told you I would be,” Patrick says, “bright and early.”

“You’re lucky my eight o’clock cancelled,” Mikey says, letting Patrick into his office. 

Patrick makes himself at home on Mikey’s ugly paisley printed couch while Mikey drapes his coat over the coat rack and starts to unpack his bag. 

“So what couldn’t wait?” Mikey asks, settling into his chair with a traveler’s mug.

“You prescribed Pete Xanax,” Patrick states, crossing his arms, “And I know you only went to Rutgers for your Masters, but I’m sure even they taught you not to prescribe a Benzodiazepine to a former addict.”

Mikey has this annoying quality where he doesn’t really show his emotions well, and Patrick thinks that maybe that gives him the advantage as a therapist. But it’s still really fucking annoying. “I’m not talking to you about my clients,” he says in an apathetic tone.

Patrick scoffs and leans back against the couch. “You know he has a problem.”

“Had,” Mikey corrects, then before Patrick can argue, “And you don’t know what he was like after the last case the two of you worked on. He needed something to get him through the day.”

Patrick shuts his mouth and lets himself feel the burn of shame. Because if Patrick hadn’t been so wrapped up in how everything that happened affected him , he could have been there to help Pete through it too. It wasn’t fair to assume that only Patrick got burned with that case and the fallout of everything else that had happened. “We’re working together again.”

Mikey nods like he’s put that together himself, but he still sighs like he’s just aged ten years. “Fuck.”

“Yeah,” Patrick agrees, “So I need to know where his head is at.”

Mikey sips his coffee and shakes his head. “I can’t, you know that.”

“Oh don’t give me that professional bullshit,” Patrick bites, “Not when you used to fuck him.”

“I never fucked him,” Mikey says, “If you don’t want to believe that, that’s between you and Pete. But I do like my job, so I’d appreciate it if you stopped saying I slept with my client.”

It was an old fight that Patrick and Pete had countless times, and he’s not really in the mood to rehash it at the moment. Not that it matters now anyway. “I just…” Patrick trails off, and the weight of the nightmare and the way Pete had looked so broken last night makes the words stick in his throat. 

Mikey shifts in his seat and takes pity, “It’s not as bad as 2005.”

Patrick shivers., He hopes it will never get to that again. He still remembers that phone call like it was yesterday. Sometimes the smell of hospital disinfectant still burns his nose out of nowhere, like a reminder of what he could have lost. “Just because it’s not Ativan doesn’t mean it’s ok.”

“Trick, let me do my job,” Mikey says softly, “I care about him too.”

“Don’t call me that,” Patrick says almost involuntarily, shifting in his seat and trying not to blush in front of Mikey. It’s a Pete thing, Patrick realizes, and it sorta bothers him that there’s things so ingrained in him about Pete that he doesn’t even realize it on the surface level. Only Pete is allowed to call him that. 

Mikey fixes him with a knowing look and nods, “Patrick.”

Patrick pulls the pill bottle out of his jacket pocket and sets it on Mikey’s desk. “Lower the dosage at least, he’s been taking them during the day when he still needs to function.”

Mikey huffs out a laugh, shaking his head a little, but he takes the pills. Patrick starts to get up but Mikey asks, “What about you?”

Patrick frowns. “What about me?”

“Have you been seeing anyone to help with what happend?”

“I’m fine,” Patrick says. 

“If Pete needs help to get through the day, I can only imagine what’s going on in your head,” Mikey says quietly, “Especially if you’re working another case before you’ve had the chance to have closure after the last one.”

“Mikey, I’m not your patient.” 

“Thank God for that,” Mikey grins, “I don’t think I’d live through treating both you and Pete.”

Patrick cracks a smile at that and sits back down, picking at a hangnail on his thumb. “I get a little lost in the cases sometimes, that’s all. I’ll be fine after we catch the guy.”

“You never caught the last one,” Mikey reminds him, “You can’t put your mental health on hold until you win. Patrick, you’re not a superhero, you’re a person. A very gifted person, sure, but you’re still going to lose on occasion.”

“I didn’t lose,” Patrick points out, “Pete kicked me off the case.”

“Because you were a victim,” Mikey says, in that annoying empathetic voice they must teach in counseling clinicals, “You couldn’t be objective anymore and Pete wasn’t going to be able to focus on the case if you were--”

“He still didn’t focus on the case,” Patrick says, getting agitated again, “He let those stupid letters cloud his judgement. I was fine. Nothing ever happened to me.”

Mikey leans back in his chair. “Well that’s not exactly true, is it?”

Patrick pinches the bridge of his nose. The headache that was brewing earlier starts to become more prominent now. “They were just letters.”

“Letters that for some reason made you doubt Pete,” Mikey says, “Something in them made you think you had to cut him out.” 

“Did Pete tell you what they said?” Patrick asks, because Patrick never even wanted Pete to know what they said, much less anyone else. 

“No,” Mikey says after a while, “But he really didn’t have to, that’s not the point. The point is how they affected you both. Pete’s been working through it and they weren’t even about him, so I’m concerned that you’ve just been keeping all that bottled up inside.”

“I’m handling it,” Patrick says tightly. 

“Getting tied up in a club isn’t handling it,” Mikey points out. 

“Are Pete’s sessions about Pete or me?” Patrick bites out. 

Mikey grins a bit. “I know you don’t realize it, but you’re a big part of who Pete is.”

“That’s not healthy,” Patrick grumbles, looking at the time, “I should get going, I’m sure you have an appointment soon.”

“Avoidance isn’t really healthy either, Patrick,” Mikey says, scribbling something on a sticky note. “But I don’t have to tell you that.” Mikey peels off the sticky note and hands it to Patrick, “She’s really good at PTSD stuff, you might want to look into giving her a call.”

“I’m a psychologist, I think I’d know if I had PTSD,” Patrick rolls his eyes, getting up again.

“Eh,” Mikey says, shrugging like they’re talking about the weather, “It looks different when it happens to yourself. Can you tell Jessica out there that I’m ready for her?”

Patrick hates being dismissed, but he doesn’t really want to embarass himself just to have the final word, so he heads back out to the waiting room and tells the middle aged woman, “Dr. Way is all yours.”

*

When Patrick gets into his office at the university, he’s surprised to see Ryan standing over Patrick’s desk with both hands full of paper and a confused expression etched across his childish features. 

“Ryan?” Patrick asks, shutting the door behind him, “Everything ok?”

Ryan’s head snaps up. “Oh! Sorry, I was looking for your notes on Brunner syndrome.”

Patrick frowns. “I sent it in an email with all the material you’d need to finish out this semester’s class.”

“Right, right, sorry,” Ryan says, still looking confused. 

“Aren’t you supposed to be in class now?” Patrick notes, looking up at the clock. 

“Shit!” Ryan exclaims, dropping the papers and darting out the door. 

Patrick shakes his head and tries to make sense of the mess on his desk. He remembers his first year of student teaching, so he’s willing to cut Ryan some slack. He had been a nervous wreck as well, not really having the confidence in his intelligence that he does now. He knows that Ryan will get there, and part of that is just letting him make mistakes now while Patrick is still able to fix them if need be. 

Still, Patrick’s a little put off by the state of his desk. The tray he has sitting on the edge of his desk is overflowing with interdepartmental mail and his class notes are strewn across his desk from Ryan’s search. 

He sits down and pulls out the sticky note Mikey gave him with a Dr. Hayley Williams scribbled in sparkly ink. He stares at the phone number under the name, but decides against calling. He really doesn’t need anyone poking around in his head while he’s still on a case. He’ll deal with the fallout later. 

Instead he opens up his email and drafts a message to send out to the Doms he still has contact information for. They might have scened with their guy, though he doesn’t remember any of them seeming like they’d be into erotic mummification. Most of the Doms he’s been sceneing with aren’t that elaborate. They don’t take the time to build up a scene, they aren’t Pete. 

“Knock, knock.”

Speak of the devil. 

“This sketch looks like every young white man in Chicago,” Pete grumbles, tossing the paper onto Patrick’s desk, and it makes Patrick cringe because it’s just another thing out of place. 

Patrick holds up a finger, and keeps typing out his email.

 “I hate it when you do that,” Pete mutters, dropping into a chair. 

“And I hate it when you assume your time is more valuable than mine,” Patrick snips back. 

“I’m trying to stop people from getting murdered. I think your little intellectual pissing contest isn’t as important.” 

Patrick snorts and leans back in his chair after hitting send. “I was emailing a few of my past Doms to see if they’ve run into our guy.” 

Pete blinks then says, “Oh.”

Patrick watches like he did last night for that bit of information to sink in. Pete looks like he wants to say something, but he just shrugs. Patrick knows he’s still on edge from the nightmare, annoyed with his conversation with Mikey, and agitated by the headache that’s still persisting. So, he knows better than to start another fight. But then again, he wouldn’t be Patrick if he didn’t take the fucking bait.  “Oh?” 

“I mean, it was pretty obvious after last night that you still--”

“Yeah,” Patrick says, raising an eyebrow in a challenge, “It’s not like it’s a phase.”

Pete rubs at his face, already annoyed with the conversation. And Patrick knows he’s laying the sass on pretty thick, but he just can’t help it with Pete. “I didn’t say it was, I just wasn’t sure if that ended after you and I did.”

“We never started,” Patrick points out. 

“Trick, Jesus, just because I didn’t give you my letterman jacket and ask you to go steady doesn’t mean we weren’t something,” Pete says. 

Something ugly ignites in Patrick’s belly and he knows if he opens his mouth, he’s going to say something really nasty that’s going to hurt Pete and the case. So he just clenches his jaw and looks at the drawing. Pete’s right, it doesn’t really offer them much to go on. 

“Maybe one of your Doms will give you something more,” Pete says, and Patrick doesn’t miss the bitterness there. 

“I was listening to the recordings last night,” Patrick says, opening the email he’d been working off of last night. “Did you send me the victim’s bank statements?”

“No, why?” Pete asks. 

“The ransom amounts are never the same,” Patrick says, “And they’re not very outrageous.”

“You don’t think he’s doing this for the money?”

Patrick shakes his head, “No, it’s about control.” Patrick says, thinking about the victims' photos seared into his mind. And he thinks back to the recordings, of the scared voice that leaked through the speakers. The money is just a front to get people to take him seriously, to give him an apparent motive. "There hasn’t been a survivor?” 

“No, the FBI doesn’t encourage ransom payouts,” Pete huffs, crossing his arms.

Patrick hates the stupid buracracy, hates all the rules and their little power trips. “That’s fucking stupid. He’s making it easy for them,” Patrick says, feeling his blood boil and his vision go spotty. 

And it’s not usually this bad so quickly, he notes with a hint of fear. He usually can separate his agitation from the person’s head he keeps spending time in. But it’s like he’s back in his nightmare again. He feels like he’s still there somehow, that the chill is still clinging to him and the silk is still in his hands. He was so careful with them, and no one noticed that. No one is noticing how careful he’s being with them. No one is trying for him. “He wants them to win. He just wants some effort. Whoever fucked him over made him feel like he wasn’t worth it, like he’s not valued. He feels unappreciated after taking the time to really care for them, to treat them with--” 

“Trick, take a breath,” Pete says, reaching out to take his hand. 

There’s a split second where Patrick almost crumbles and lets Pete pick up the pieces, but he sits back in his chair so that he’s out of Pete’s reach. “I’m fine.”

Patrick rummages through his desk drawers for a bottle of aspirin he could have sworn he had in here, and the longer he keeps looking, the more he feels Pete start to worry. He hears Pete get up then sees his hand wrap around Patrick’s wrist, holding him still. “Look,” he says quietly, “I want you on this case, but I’m not willing to risk your wellbeing for it.”

“I said I was fine,” Patrick growls, trying to yank his hand free. 

Pete tightens his hold, and it’s perfect. It’s the exact amount of pressure to make Patrick’s cells sing out, awakening after being neglected for so long. He just wished Pete would grab his other wrist. He makes a show about looking irritated and yanks open another desk drawer with his free hand, then tries to hide the smile when Pete restrains that wrist as well. 

“You’re not fine,” Pete says, coming to stand behind Patrick so his mouth is right next to Patrick’s ear, “You look exhausted and you’re being more bitchy than normal.”

“I’m not--”

Patrick .”

Patrick’s jaw clenches, but he doesn’t say anything else, so Pete continues, “If this is going to work, it can’t be like last time. You can’t hide things from me again.”

“That was different,” Patrick insists. 

“Different how? You didn’t tell me that fucker was leaving letters on your doorstep,” Pete says, his voice growing rougher like he’s reliving the memory. 

Patrick is really sick of talking about the letters today. It’s hard to keep what they said locked away in the part of his mind that can’t hurt him when people keep talking about them. He can’t ignore what happened when Mikey and Pete want to shove it in his face and make him face them all over again. “Pete, please stop,” he says, sounding more broken than he meant to. 

Pete hesitates, like he’s considering pushing Patrick more, but then he just says, “Promise me that you’ll tell me if something is wrong this time.”

“I promise,” Patrick says, “I’m fine, seriously. I’m just getting used to all this again.”

Pete lets go and taps on the sticky note that has Dr. Williams’ number on it. “Call her, Mikey always has nice things to say about her.”

Patrick scoffs. “I’m not calling a therapist. I’m perfectly equipped to--”

“That wasn’t a question,” Pete says, in that tone. 

Patrick swivels his chair so that he’s facing Pete and arches an eyebrow. Pete stands his ground and Patrick almost wants to grin at how ridiculous they must look in their little standoff. But he can’t laugh, because the fucking tension between them is making Patrick’s heart ache. Because he wants so badly to give in to Pete the way it feels so second nature to do, but that prideful part of him is shouting that Pete doesn’t have the right to do this anymore. He threw Patrick away, didn’t give them a fighting chance before he just left Patrick to stew in his embarrassment. 

But because Pete has always been Patrick’s weakness, he settles for, “Maybe.”

Pete smiles like he’s won. 

Chapter Text

Patrick usually has a rule about not doing a scene in his own home, but the idea of going to a club makes his skin crawl. Especially with him being in such a vulnerable and suggestive state. He knows that The Gravedigger isn’t going to be at any clubs, it wouldn’t make sense now that he’s gotten what he needs out of them, but still. 

At least that’s the logic Patrick is going with as he lays out his supplies on the coffee table. He’s trying to appease the part of him that’s shouting this is a very bad idea by keeping them out of the bedroom. He purses his lips as he sets down the long whip that he bought on a whim once. He’s really not huge into impact play unless it’s gotten pretty loud in his head. He picks it back up, debating, but then sets it back down when his doorbell rings. 

Jake hasn’t changed much in the few months since he’s seen him, but he grins widely at Patrick when he opens the door. “Oh wow, I love the hair!”

Patrick reaches up to tug at his bleached strands. “I need to touch up my roots.”

Jake shrugs. “You pull it off.” There’s an awkward pause before Jake smirks, “You going to let me in?”

Patrick feels like his bones are vibrating with anticipation. It’s the only reason why he’s agreed to let Jake come over. When he’d gotten his message, Patrick had been frustrated that he, like the other Doms he had emailed, hadn’t scened with anyone who requested erotic mummification. But then Patrick read the last part of the email where Jake offered to meet up for a scene and Patrick hovered over the reply button before finally caving in. It’s because it’s been awhile, he swears, because the case is at a dead end right now and he’d be a lot more helpful if he worked out whatever had his mind twisted in knots. 

“Oh,” Patrick says, opening the door wider so that Jake can step inside, “Right, sorry.”

Jake follows Patrick into the living room, taking his jacket off and setting it on the back of one of Patrick’s arm chairs. “Safeword?”

Oh, right to it then. Patrick fights the urge to frown because he’s not even near the right headspace for this yet. He had been getting there when he was getting out his supplies, but something about Jake being in his living room is putting him on edge. Still, he says, “I use the traffic light system.”

Jake nods. “Ready?”

Patrick feels the words on his lips, let’s try this again another time , but he says, “Yes, sir.”

“Undress,” Jake says, going over to the coffee table where Patrick has laid out blind folds, rope, handcuffs, a gag, and various impact play tools. “You want to get hit, Patrick?”

Patrick’s fingers stutter on the buttons of his shirt. “Yes, sir.”

Jake makes a “huh” sound and Patrick watches him turn over his forty stranded flogger. From what he remembers, Jake knows his way around a flogger pretty well. Patrick’s breath feels shallower as he kicks off his jeans and he hesitates when he sticks his thumbs into the waistband of his boxers. 

Jake looks up at him. “Go on,” he says, “Off.”

Patrick swallows thickly, wondering why he feels so nervous. This isn’t the first time he’s done this at all, but he feels like he has no idea what he’s doing. Normally he gets vulnerable and needy when he subs, but this is different. This is uncertainty and something sickening twisting in his gut. 

Patrick slides his boxers off then falls to his knees and looks down at the floor. He listens to Jake set the flogger down and pick something else up. Jake doesn’t talk much when he’s in a scene from what Patrick remembers. And he likes that because he can fall into his own mind, but he also hates it because he feels like he’s just floating aimlessly. He tries to ground himself by counting Jake’s footsteps to him, tells himself to relax because soon he’s going to feel so much better. 

When cloth covers his eyes, Patrick sighs in relief and leans into the darkness. It’s so much safer here. 

He doesn’t even jump when he feels Jake’s hands on his wrists, wrapping something soft around them. It’s not his rope, Patrick notes, then he gasps when he realizes what it is. 

“Silk,” Jake confirms, tying off the knot, “Thought you’d appreciate it.” 

Patrick can see a traffic light in his mind, sees the bright red light illuminated. But then he takes a couple of deep breaths as Jake takes a step back. You’re safe, it’s ok , he tells himself. He feels Jake’s hands on him again, combing through his hair and Patrick sighs appreciatively at that, the tension in his shoulders easing as he sinks into the touch. 

Pete always talked him through scenes, would make sure to check in and praise Patrick when he did something he liked. Patrick tries not to compare his Doms to Pete, it makes the scenes less fulfilling, but it always happens at some point. He’s been trying to just accept it and move on so he can get back into the scene. But, as Jake pets his hair, Patrick really wishes he’d say something sweet to him. 

Patrick settles into the silence though, the same way he did with the darkness, and just lets himself float as the soft touches in his hair grow fuzzier until he’s not really sure where his body ends and this sensation begins, when his mind starts to shut down and he’s nothing but his body. 

Jake must see the shift in his body, because it’s only then that Jake gently tilts Patrick forward so that he’s laying across... oh, is that a pillow?  

He’s shifted so that his cheek is pressed into his soft decorative rug and his ass is propped up by the pillow. The warm, fuzzy feeling starts slipping and Patrick feels his cheeks flush at the feeling of being so exposed. But the feeling is quickly pushed away when he hears a loud slap and then feels a hot stinging sensation bloom across his ass. “Fuck,” Patrick breathes, shifting. 

It’s always hard for him to settle into impact play at first. He loves the shock of it, how it pushes whatever had been on his mind out with a force. But it takes him a bit to get over the fact that it jesus fucking christ hurts , before he feels washed in the sensation. He jumps each time Jake’s hand lands on him, and it’s worse because he knows this is just his warm up. 

When he hears the creaking of the floor and Jake’s heavy boots moving then coming back, he braces himself for the blow. Jake chuckles and reaches down to stroke down Patrick’s spine, “Shh.”

Patrick waits a few more rotations of Jake rubbing his back before he lets his muscles relax. As if Jake had anticipated it, the second Patrick loses the tension, an intense hit lands on his ass and he muffles his cry into the rug. Yeah, that’s definitely the flogger. 

Jake doesn’t even give him a count to focus on, and the rhythm is too erratic for Patrick to anticipate the next hit. At first he’s not sure he’s going to be able to handle this and that he’s going to safeword out. But then the pain starts to blur together until it just becomes a heavy blanket weighing him down. 

He knows that he must still be shouting, but his voice sounds like it's echoing inside a cave. He’s starting to lose focus of where he even is, if this softness under his cheek really is his rug. If the cold air is really from his fan, or if it’s something more sinister. 

The silk against his wrists is suddenly all he can focus on, how it’s deceptively gentle and cradling him into submission. He’s not floating aimlessly anymore, he’s plummeting into flashes of sensations that don’t make sense. The smell of disinfectant, the feeling of paper ripping open under his fingertips, the sound of Pete begging Patrick to let him in the house, the chill of standing over a grave. 

He flinches when he feels a hand on his angry skin, rubbing soothingly like the touch can take the bite out of the blows. “You’re done,” Jake says gently, and Patrick waits for him to tell him how well he did, that he’s proud of him. But it doesn’t come and Patrick swallows that weird sour-tasting rejection down. 

Jake unties his wrists, pushes off the blindfold, and wraps a strong hand around his chest, lifting him up slowly onto his knees. Patrick sways a bit, but Jake lets him lean against him. Patrick rubs his cheek against his soft shirt and presses his nose into the fabric. He smells all wrong, Patrick notes, something too chemically like cheap cologne. But it keeps him in this room instead of where his mind wants to take him. 

Jake strokes the back of his head and Patrick settles into this feeling. This is nice, and he could probably fall asleep in this warm false sense of security, just for a little bit. 

“Hey,” Jake says quietly, “This was fun.”

Patrick feels himself smile like a dork against Jake’s chest at the pitiful praise.  

“I’ve got to run though,” he says, “You seem better now. Not so tense.”

Something...Patrick isn’t sure what this feeling is, but he doesn’t like it. Doesn’t like how it makes his chest feel hot and too stuffy but his stomach cold and hollow. He squirms uncomfortably, knowing he’s going to have to let Jake go now. He sits back up on his knees and then lets Jake help him up off the floor. 

“Do you have some sweatpants?” Jake asks. “You probably don’t want jeans on right now.” And it takes Patrick a minute to fully process the question, to string the words together then feed  them through his mind to find  the answer. But it’s sorta like Dial Up and Patrick laughs a little to himself about that, an image of him sitting frustrated at his computer while waiting for MySpace to load popping into his brain. 

“Hey, Patrick? Sweatpants,” Jake says, snapping his fingers in front of Patrick’s face. 

Patrick frowns when Jake sighs and walks down the hallway. His chest tightens when Jake goes into his bedroom and Patrick doesn’t understand why that bothers him so much, but it does. 

Pete. 

Patrick frowns at that. It’s not like Pete was the only person who’s been in his bedroom, but he was the last. So maybe that means something. But the thought is gone before Patrick can really hang on to it. 

“Here,” Jake says, holding the sweatpants down and gesturing for Patrick to step into them.

Patrick stumbles a bit, his legs and brain apparently not connecting like they should be, but he gets clothed and then is led back to the couch by Jake. He grabs the remote off the coffee table and puts it in Patrick’s hand before leaning down to kiss the top of his head. “See you around.”

And then he’s gone. 

Patrick blinks at the door, trying to find the energy to get up and lock it. He knows that Pete is coming over later to talk about the case and he’ll probably get mad about the door being unlocked. But his ass and hips hurt and his muscles are still shaky from being tense for so long. Maybe being laid out on the floor was a bad idea. He usually likes to get bent over something, draped like fabric, so he doesn’t have to hold a position. 

He knew Jake wasn’t a good person to scene with, but fuck, at least his head isn’t as prickly as it had been. No,  that's not quite right either, and Patrick’s a bit pissed about that. Because this is how he turns off, this is his safe space. But it’s like he can’t even trust his own mind to be safe anymore. Can’t fall into it like he usually does in these scenes where he goes to a corner and curls up like a lazy cat. 

“I should get a cat,” Patrick muses, but then he frowns. Wait, he’s allergic. There’s hypoallergenic cats though, right? Or maybe he can get those naked ones. 

He lays himself gingerly on the couch, hissing when his inflamed skin rubs against his sweatpants and he turns to lay on his stomach. Much better. 

He needs to get one of those couches that turn into a bed. His mom would say that adults don’t own those, only college kids find couch beds cool. He snorts at that. His mom hasn’t even been to his house so the chances of her criticizing his couch bed  are pretty slim. At least he doesn’t have a water bed like Pete wanted to get when Patrick helped him move into his new house. Pete’s too infatuated with the eighties.

“Trick?”

Patrick opens his eyes, not even remembering having closed them. The television is still off and the remote is laying on the floor next to the couch. He lifts his head and sees Pete standing at the door, shutting it and locking it behind him. “Why the fuck was the door unlocked?”

Something frantic fills Patrick, and he’s scrambling up to get off the couch.  Pete is safe, he just needs to get to Pete. And he doesn’t really understand why he’s scared,why he thinks there’s something wrong. He was just laying on his couch. But he knows that this place isn’t impenetrable from the bad stuff. Like the letters. 

Patrick gasps and then Pete is there, wrapping his arms around Patrick and holding him up. 

“Trick, hey, Patrick, what’s…” he trails off and holds Patrick’s chin and stares intently at him. “Hey, focus for me.”

Patrick nods dramatically, slowly and it feels like he’s moving through jello. He can tell that he’s shaking and he’s sure Pete is putting together what’s going on. 

“Yeah, ok, let’s get you to bed,” Pete says, leaning down to hoist Patrick up in his arms. His forearms hit the back of Patrick’s thighs and make him yelp. Pete pauses. “Are you hurt?” 

Patrick just presses his face into Pete’s neck and mumbles, “Pete.”

“Alright,” Pete murmurs, carrying Patrick to the bedroom. “I’ve got you.”

He feels him pause by the living room, no doubt seeing the supplies still on the coffee table. “Jesus, Trick,” Pete breathes. 

“D-don’t,” Patrick manages to get out. 

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Pete says softly, hugging Patrick tighter and pressing a kiss to his temple. Patrick latches onto him, wants to burrow under his skin and nestle against his heart so he can keep it where Pete can never take it from him again. 

“I’m going to lay you down,” Pete warns, lowering Patrick. Patrick’s fingers aren’t working yet, though, and won’t let go of Pete’s shirt. “Let go, baby, I’m not going anywhere.”

Pete gently unfolds Patrick’s fingers, digging his thumb into Patrick’s palm and it shouldn’t feel as good as it fucking does. Pete squeezes Patrick’s fingers and it puts the feeling back into them, before laying his hands on Patrick’s chest. “Alright, I’m going to get you some water,” Pete says, reaching down to stroke Patrick’s hair, “I’m not leaving, I’m just going to be in the other room for a moment, ok? Patrick, answer me.”

“Yes,” Patrick says, biting his lip before ‘sir’ slips out. 

Pete gives him a smile, something he can hold onto before walking backwards out of the bedroom. Patrick tracks him with his eyes, but once he’s gone that weird feeling sets back in. The one where he’s cold but sweating at the same time, and he doesn’t like that he’s laying on his back. He's too vulnerable and on display, all the brokenness visible to anyone who just glanced at him. 

No one likes broken toys. 

Patrick’s stomach lurches and he tries to listen to the sound of Pete moving in the other room, focusing on the sound of the cabinets opening and the facet running. He’s in there. Patrick’s not getting any letters tonight, that’s over. They don’t mean anything, don’t have a hold on them. 

“Hey, can you drink this for me?”

Patrick blinks and notices Pete standing above him. He nods and pushes himself up to a sitting position, smiling a bit at Pete’s hand that’s outstretched for Patrick to take if he needs to. Pete holds the cup up to Patrick’s lips. “All of it, ok? Slowly.”

The part of Patrick’s mind that’s still trying to find something to submit to latches onto the order eagerly. He obediently opens his mouth and lets the cool water coat his tongue then slide down his throat. He focuses on the simple act of swallowing, pays attention to the way the muscles move in his throat and how Pete's hand is cupping the back of Patrick’s head. 

“Good boy,” Pete whispers and Patrick’s eyes fall shut at the praise as his whole body feels like it’s being filled with warm light. He hums as Pete presses a kiss to his forehead. “Almost done.”

Patrick keeps swallowing until Pete takes the glass away, and he does feel better, a bit clearer and solid. 

“Did he do any sort of aftercare with you?” Pete asks, an edge of anger sharpening his voice. 

Patrick frowns and looks away, but Pete takes his chin gently and turns his face back to look at him. 

“I’m not mad at you,” he says gently, “I just need to know what you need. What did you guys do?”

Patrick leans into Pete, tucking his face into the curve of Pete’s neck and he inhales. Much better, he thinks. This is who he needed this whole time. Home. 

“Yeah, you’re home, Trick,” Pete says, sounding a little amused, “You’re in your bedroom and you’re safe.”

Pete doesn’t ask anymore questions or push Patrick away for a long time. He keeps a loose arm around Patrick’s back and rubs the back of his neck with his other hand. And this silence is nice, not like the one with Jake. This one still feels like it’s holding Patrick in place, that it’s not going to let him flail around aimlessly. He’s got...there’s something between them. Something that leaks out of them and fills this room with cotton. Something that lets Patrick feel like he’s supported on all sides, that he’s not going to fall and be left alone. 

It takes a while for Patrick to blink and pull himself back together. He’s not sure how long Pete holds him, but the fuzziness is clearing out of his mind and he’s starting to be able to take inventory of his body again. His muscles still feel achy, but what’s most prominent is, “My ass hurts.”

Pete snorts. “Yeah?”

Patrick pulls away and nods, wincing a bit when he shifts on the bed. 

“Lay down on your stomach,” Pete says pressing another kiss to Patrick’s forehead and for a moment, Patrick wonders if Pete is sneaking in as many kisses as he can while Patrick is being soft and sweet towards him. He grins a bit at the thought, then stretches out on his stomach, laying his cheek on the pillow. 

He watches Pete go into the bathroom that’s just off the bedroom and then come out with a tube that he knows is Arnica. “You ok with me putting this on you or do you think you can manage on your own?”

Patrick weighs his options. He doesn’t think he’d be protecting his pride if he fell over with his pants around his ankles as he tried to take care of himself, so he says, “You, please.”

Pete doesn’t say anything, just nods and comes over to sit on the edge of the bed. He sets the tube down next to Patrick and then carefully pulls Patrick’s sweatpants down his thighs. “Jesus, Trick, what the fuck?”

“Bad?” Patrick asks. 

“You don’t know?”

“Sorta blacked out there at the end,” Patrick says, then wonders if he can keep his mouth shut until he gets his filter back. 

“He should have been able to tell that you couldn’t take more,” Pete mutters, taking the tube and uncapping it. 

“Pete, don’t,” Patrick sighs, unable to get as angry as he really wants. He still feels a little too liquidy, but Pete’s hands on him are helping him shape back up. 

The first swipe of the lotion on his punished skin makes him flinch. “Easy,” Pete soothes, rubbing more gently. Patrick’s muscles relax and he lets himself sink into the mattress. 

Pete pulls the wadded pants around Patrick’s ankles all the way off and then he pulls the sheet up and over Patrick, rubbing his back over the soft material. “Try to get some sleep, Trick, I’ll stay out on the couch tonight.”

Patrick closes his eyes and hums as Pete’s hand comes up to comb through his hair. He’s always been self conscious about his hair, but he loves it when Pete plays with it. “Can you…” he sighs and swallows what pride he’s been battling about letting Pete back into his life, “Can you stay? In here.”

“Sure,” Pete says easily, like it’s not the big deal it really is. 

“You’ve still got clothes here,” Patrick tells him before snuggling into the pillow. 

Pete huffs a breathy laugh, “I’m surprised you didn’t burn them.”

Patrick doesn’t tell him that sometimes he still sleeps in Pete’s sweatshirt, the one that's from a soccer team Patrick doesn’t know of and is soft from years of wear. Instead he says, “That’s bad for the environment.”

Pete laughs loudly this time, but it doesn’t startle Patrick. 

It sounds like the most natural thing in the world. 

*

Patrick knows as soon as he wakes up that it’s going to be a rough day. 

For one, his ass and the backs of his thighs are still pissed at him, and apparently he’s getting to the age where he needs to stretch before a scene because his hips are pretty upset with him too. But a sore body he can deal with — sometimes he even revels in it because it’s something for him to focus on throughout the day. No, the reason he’s pretending to still be asleep is the fact that Pete is laying next to him in his bed. 

And it’d be one thing if they had hooked up last night or something. It would be so much easier to just brush off a one night stand and deal with the awkwardness it’d put in their relationship. But what happened last night is so much worse. Because everything that Patrick had been doing, all the hard work he had done to make sure Pete didn’t see any weakness, just went down the fucking drain. Patrick knows that Pete isn’t going to let this go. That he’s going to give him shit for letting a Dom treat him the way he did last night. That he’s going to say Patrick isn’t taking care of himself. He’s going to get all high and mighty as if Pete never fucking hurt Patrick in the first place. As if he hadn’t done so much worse. 

“It’s too early to be thinking that loud,” Pete grumbles. 

Patrick doesn’t move. 

“I know you’re awake,” Pete sighs. 

Patrick opens his eyes and is met with a grumpy looking Pete Wentz, shadows under his eyes and a grim line stretching his lips. “Morning.”

Pete arches an eyebrow. “Really?”

Patrick shrugs and sits up, holding the sheet up to his chest when he remembers he’s completely naked. Fucking great. Because he wasn’t already embarrassed and vulnerable. 

“Can you turn away or something so I can get dressed?” Patrick asks in a tight voice. 

Pete smirks. “You do remember that I rubbed lotion on your ass last night, right?”

Patrick cheeks burn and he feels his stomach flip then try to jump out of his throat. “Seriously, Pete, please.”

Pete smiles a little, fond even though he’s clearly still mad at Patrick. And he knows that he’s still going to hear it, but it takes the sting out of it a little to see Pete smile at him like that. He sits up and on the edge of the bed with his back to Patrick. 

Patrick slips out of bed and walks over to his chest of drawers, pulling out some underwear first. 

“So,” Pete says conversationally, “What happened last night?”

Patrick rummages through his pants wondering if he could get away with wearing sweatpants because jeans are seriously not going to work out for him today. “I did a scene.”

“No shit,” Pete deadpans, “Come on, Trick. You were...I didn’t like what I saw.”

That makes Patrick’s stomach turn sour, but he pulls on the sweatpants because if he’s going to be ashamed today he might as well be comfortable. 

Pete must read Patrick’s silence because he turns around and fixes Patrick with a look. “Hey, not like that. It’s his fault, not yours.”

“You don’t even know--”

“He didn’t do aftercare with you,” Pete says, “That’s not ok, don’t defend him.”

Patrick shrugs. “It’s not his thing.”

Pete narrows his eyes at him. “You’ve scened with him before?”

“Yeah, he’s one of the Doms I emailed about our case,” Patrick says, then shivers internally when he remembers how Jake wrapped his wrists in silk last night.  He wonders if that’s something he should bring up to Pete. But gauging by Pete’s glowering expression, maybe not. Or at least not right now. “He offered and it’s been…” Patrick trails off with another shrug. 

“You told me, you promised, you would tell me if things got bad,” Pete reminds him. 

Patrick huffs and pulls out a Northwestern hoodie. “Look, nothing bad happened. I wanted to scene and he offered. End of story.”

“Why would you go back to someone who doesn’t treat you right?” Pete asks, voice dripping in venom. And it almost, almost , makes Patrick see his point. Patrick blames it on the night he'd had, on the fact that he’s always emotional after doing a scene, because Pete sees Patrick’s reason written all over his face. Pete’s anger slips from his face and morphs into something worse. “Baby,” he says sadly, taking a step towards Patrick. 

Patrick takes a step back, “Don’t.”

Pete stops and crosses his arms, his jaw clenched. 

“You don’t get to do that,” Patrick says, looking down at his bare feet because he can’t bear to look at Pete in the face. Because the armor he’s been wearing has cracks in it now, and Pete has always known his weakest points.

“Why?” Pete demands, huffy like he’s been keeping this inside and now he’s done playing pretend. 

“Because you’re Pete,” Patrick says, and he fucking knows that sounds stupid, but he doesn’t know how else to explain it. He doesn’t know how to tell Pete that he can’t swoop in and be his savior when Patrick is still trying to convince himself he doesn’t need Pete. He can’t have Pete being so gentle and sweet with him when Patrick is trying to resist him. He’s trying to protect his heart and Pete is worse than a wolf in sheep's clothing. 

“What does that even mean?”

Patrick reaches up and tugs at his hair, shrugging frustrated and says, “I don’t know, ok? I don’t know what we are and maybe that’s the problem.”

Pete’s eyebrows pinch. “What we are? Patrick, we're friends. We’ve been friends for almost ten years, how could you--”

“Stop making me sound hysterical,” Patrick huffs, pulling out another drawer angrily and grabbing socks. And he knows he looks ridiculous, it’s hard to be taken seriously when he’s hopping on one foot while putting on socks. 

Pete breaks and snorts. 

“Oh, shut up,” Patrick mutters. 

Pete holds out an arm and Patrick begrudgingly takes it so he can get his socks on without falling on his face. When Patrick tries to pull away, Pete takes his arm and keeps him from running away. “We’re friends, Trick. And I’m sorry if I made you think we weren’t,” he says, and it sounds like his voice has been shredded by razor blades, “If you think you can’t talk to me about--”

Patrick is a strong person. He’s had insecurities like everyone else, and maybe there’s some days that knock him on his ass, but he doesn’t break when he needs to stay solid. He works fucking homocide cases, he’s been threatened, been shot, and he’s been doubted by every authority figure he’s come in contact with. He’s always been strong, he’s had to be. But he loses it with Pete, because Pete is always the fucking exception, and pulls him into a hug, cradling the back of Pete’s head when he presses his face into the curve of Patrick’s neck. 

“I miss you,” Pete says quietly, in that small voice Patrick hasn’t heard in years. The one he thought Mikey and the pills had scrubbed clean from Pete’s throat. The one that used to turn Patrick into a protective monster, snapping at anyone who came near Pete. So it fucking hurts to know that he’s the one who brought it back. 

Patrick doesn’t say that he misses Pete back, doesn’t tell him that he’s here and they’re going to fix things. Patrick’s never been great at words, not when they matter. Put him up in front of a classroom and Patrick can talk all day long. But here, in front of Pete? He can’t get the words out, it physically hurts to try and say the things he wants to. Things like I trust you with my life and I’m the wrong one here, not you and I love you, I love you, I love you.

So, he just hugs him tighter and smiles when Pete exhales like he finally remembered he had lungs.

Chapter Text

When Patrick walks into the office the following afternoon, he checks his phone to make sure Pete hasn't called him, because clearly he’s missed something. There’s people rushing everywhere, the phones are constantly ringing, and there’s a frenzied energy in the air that makes Patrick’s hands shake.

He’d been at the university checking in on Ryan and helping him grade some papers. He had prepared himself to read utter trash, that his students weren’t retaining anything from this semester and that he’d have to drop the case so he could step back in. But Ryan’s been doing a shockingly phenomenal job, even if he seems frazzled all the time. And Ryan had practically beamed when Patrick told him so.

He sees Andy rushing past him and he reaches out to grab his arm. “Andy, what the hell is going on?”

Andy’s face is grim and he rushes out, “Gravedigger,” before he hurries off.  

Patrick lets the fear snake around him for a moment, let’s himself fall into that pulse-quickening, bone-chilling sense of dread before he boxes it up in his mind and sets it off to the side so he can get to work.

He marches over to Pete’s office only to find it empty, so he tries Gabe’s office next. The door is shut, but Patrick can see Pete through the window. He looks like he’s aged ten years since he saw him just last night, and he’s practically vibrating with nerves. Because this isn’t just about catching the guy, Patrick realizes, it’s about proving something to himself. Pete’s confidence is shaken, just like Patrick’s, and they really need this win to find their balance again. 

Patrick pushes through the door and Gabe’s head snaps up, his eyes darkening when he sees it’s Patrick who’s interrupted them. 

“Play me the recording,” Patrick says, because they don’t have time .  

Gabe chuckles darkly, “Pete, get your profiler out of my office.”

“Why aren’t you letting the families pay the ransom?” Patrick demands. 

“Because it’s just a fucking scam. You want to leave them broke on top of losing a loved one?” Gabe challenges with his eyebrows raised. 

“He needs someone to pay attention to him, ignoring him isn’t going to work,” Patrick stresses. And he knows he’s getting worked up because there’s a billion other words bubbling up to his lips, his hands are sweating and all he can think about is that they don’t have time to be arguing. Not when there’s someone breathing their last hours of air. 

Pete puts a hand on his lower back. “Trick, hey, wait for me in my office.”

Something instinctual tells Patrick to calm down, that Pete will handle things and he can relax. But Patrick just sees red and growls at Gabe, “You’re going to get someone else killed.” 

“Now,” Pete says in that tone, and it makes Patrick give Gabe one more withering glance before he walks out, making sure he slams the door nice and loud.

He gets a few stares for that, but Patrick doesn’t pay any attention as he storms to Pete’s office, slamming that door just as hard. He knows he’s acting childish, but he hates the way Gabe treats him sometimes. He gets that he’s the captain and that that apparently means something here, but Patrick is valuable to this case and he deserves to know what the fuck is going on. And he knows that Pete’s going to catch him up and he knows that he’s just a consultant, but Patrick often thinks of this place as his second home. So it fucking hurts when he gets pushed out of conversations. 

So maybe he’s being a little emotional about it, he thinks as he logs into Pete’s computer and opens Solitaire just so he has something to keep his mind busy. His clicks are shaky and he keeps making stupid mistakes, but it’s helping. 

Pete comes in some time later with a cup of tea and gives it to Patrick, “Here,” he says, “Drink that and talk to me when you’ve calmed down. I’ve had enough people yelling at me today.” 

Patrick feels a tinge of guilt, but he’s still pissed at Gabe. “Who’s the victim?” Patrick asks. 

Pete sets down two photos and says, “Victims.” 

Patrick looks at them and winces, “Fuck.” Because one of them looks so much like him it’s almost like looking into a mirror.

“Yeah, kinda want you to dye your hair back,” Pete mumbles, reaching out to tug on Patrick’s bleached hair. Patrick nods slightly, then frowns at the second picture who is a brunette man. He doesn’t fit in with their theory. But Patrick doesn’t think The Gravedigger’s preference has changed, he wouldn’t change the rules now. 

“Play me the recording,” Patrick says. 

Pete nudges Patrick, “Trade me spots,” he says. 

Patrick gets up and is about to sit on the desk, but Pete just pulls him down to sit on his knee. It’s not the kinkiest thing he’s done by any stretch of the imagination, but the roaring of his mind dials back to an almost bearable hum. And this, Patrick thinks, this is what no one is able to do for him. 

 “The call came in just before you got here,” Pete says, slipping the headphones over Patrick’s head and hitting play, “So we’re not behind by much. He gave us twenty-four hours again.”

Patrick feels a chill run down his spine as The Gravedigger’s distorted voice blooms over his ears. He sounds breathless, like he’s rushing and there’s an edge there, more so than before. This isn’t about worrying if anyone is paying attention, this is him worrying he did it wrong.“This is different,” Patrick says to Pete once the recording is over, “He sounds rushed.” 

“Is he worried about getting caught?” 

“No, more like...this wasn’t right, and he’s trying to get to the next one so he can get back on track. He didn’t mean to grab two. But he’s still bound by his rules,” Patrick says, hitting play again and closing his eyes. Listening to the recording again, Patrick can tell he’s mad at himself for messing up, for messing this up for him. He deserves better. If he’s not good enough, he’s not going to want him. He’s not going to be impressed, and all he wants to do is be impressive. All he wants to do is show him how good he can be, how he’d take care of him. 

“Trick,” Pete scolds, but he sounds really far away. 

Patrick’s visualizing holding the silk again, how it feels cool and comforting in his hands. He’d be so good for him, if he’d just get the chance. 

“Patrick.” 

And Patrick’s having a hard time differentiating his feelings from The Gravedigger’s. Because he knows what it feels like to get rejected, how it burns inside you. So bright that it feels like there’s going to be this void burnt through your heart forever. And he’s never going to heal from that, there’s no balm. Nothing but this shaky feeling, always feeling unsteady and questioning his every move. Wondering if he’s doing this right, if he’s going to ever be right. 

“Jesus, Patrick, come on,” Pete growls against his ear. 

Patrick blinks and he’s back in Pete’s office with the headphones draped around his neck. Pete holds the tea in Patrick’s hands because Patrick can’t seem to get his fingers to close around the cup correctly, like his brain can’t comprehend its shape. Everything feels blurred and slightly skewed, and it feels too much like being put under and then left on his own to sort things out. It feels like how it did when Jake left him on his couch. 

“Hey, drink your tea,” Pete says gently, but it’s still in that tone that means it’s an order. Patrick’s grateful for it, attaching to it and letting his instincts just take over so his mind can take a break. 

“Would coffee be better?” Joe asks, and Patrick didn’t even notice him coming in the office, “He looks exhausted.”

“Caffeine makes it worse,” Pete says, holding the cup of tea up to Patrick’s lips since his hands are still shaking too much. Patrick sips obediently, his mind finding that comfy place where all he has to do is what he’s told. He doesn’t need to think about anything, just do what Pete says. 

“I don’t know why this one is so hard,” Patrick breathes after he’s gotten halfway through the cup. 

“Are you kidding me?” Joe asks, sitting down in one of the chairs opposite them, “They look like you.”

“Joe--” Pete warns. 

“Am I wrong? I know we’re all thinking it,” Joe says. 

Patrick can hear his heart pounding in his head, can see that nightmarish image of himself laying in the coffin, grey and lifeless. “I’m next,” Patrick says, “I’m going to be one of these--”

“Alright, let me take you home.” Pete cuts him off, standing up and pulling Patrick to his feet. 

“No, I want to work on this some more,” Patrick says, setting the cup of tea on the desk. He can’t get benched again, not on this case. He’s got to catch him before Pete’s fear catches up to him. “I think we need to go over who he’s trying to reach.” 

“What do you mean?” Pete asks, still staring intently at him, and Patrick tries not to squirm under his gaze. 

“I mean, we’re not the ones he’s trying to get the attention from. These are like love letters, he’s trying to show how good he can be,” Patrick says. 

Pete swallows thickly, but it’s Joe who says, “That’s fucked up.” 

*

 “What are you doing here?” Pete demands. 

Patrick turns from where he’s sitting in the lab, looking through dirt samples so he can try and figure out where their new victims might be buried even though Pete told him he had it handled. It’s not like Patrick doesn’t trust Pete’s forensics team, he’s just one of those people that has to see for himself. Which is probably why he’s sitting alone in the lab right now. Not everyone is on board with Patrick helping himself to other departments. 

It’s been driving Patrick up a wall trying to figure out what each crime scene had in common. They were seemingly in such different locations each time, nothing was clicking to Patrick right away. And he knows that he might be wasting time looking at fucking dirt, but Patrick couldn’t just go home and sleep like Pete had wanted him to do. Not when they only had hours left to find their victims. 

“I know that there’s something linking the places he’s burying them. It’s not at random, that doesn’t make sense for him. He’d choose their final resting places with purpose,” Patrick explains.

“Not that you’re not awfully adorable in those goggles,” Pete says with an amused expression, “But I think you need to leave the experiments to the scientists.” 

“I’m a scientist,” Patrick points out. 

“Soft science,” Pete counters, then frowns and looks around, “Where is everyone?” 

“Hiding from me,” Patrick says simply, turning to look back under the microscope. “I think this is dolomite.” 

Pete sits down next to him. “Come again?” 

“Dolomite,” Patrick repeats, adjusting the microscope and motioning for Pete to take a look.

“Yeah, I heard you. Just because you say something with an air of finality, doesn’t make it mean anything,” he says, but looks into the microscope. 

“It’s a mineral typically compounded with limestone. Very high calcium and Chicago is a pretty rich place for dolomite.” 

“Why do you know this?” Pete muses, sitting back and staring at Patrick with an odd expression.  

Patrick clams up and mutters, “I read, Pete.” He looks back into his microscope so he doesn’t have to look at the way Pete is smiling at him. He knows he’s smart, but it’s never going to stop making his skin crawl when people point it out, especially Pete. Because when most people tell Patrick he’s smart, it’s with a bitter taste of jealousy or it’s heavy with annoyance. But Pete tells Patrick he’s smart like it’s another reason why the Earth revolves around the sun, it’s magnetic and necessary. 

“Ok, so how does this help us?” Pete asks. 

“It narrows down where he’s burying our victims. Dolomite isn’t that big of a deal, but dolomite this pure makes me think it came from a quarry, which limits the locations he’s burying them.” Patrick backs up from the microscope to pull out his notes, trying to make visual Xs on the map of the Chicago area. 

“Trick, when did you get up this morning?” Pete asks carefully. 

Patrick doesn’t actually remember what time he got to the lab. He knows that it was still light out and that the evening air hadn’t chilled Patrick quite yet as he walked across the parking lot. He had still felt foggy after being in Pete’s office, and the fog hadn’t really lifted until he started to pour all of his energy into a task. 

Of course, that usually means that Patrick would fixate on a task and lose sense of time or people around him. He knows that the reason not many people stick around him isn’t just because he walks around here like he owns the place, it’s also because he’s just so damn intense. And he’d tried to work on that, back when he humored his mother by going to therapy when he was still in college. But in the end, Patrick knows what works best for him, and if that doesn’t work for everyone else, it’s not really his issue. 

“I didn’t,” Patrick says, “I’ve been here since last night.” 

Pete sighs and reaches out to brush his fingertips under Patrick’s glasses and stroke gently at the dark circles that are probably dragging his eyes down, “Insomnia’s my thing.” 

“We’ve got five hours left, Pete,” Patrick answers, as if Pete’s own eyes weren’t weighed down by the same exhaustion.  

“I know,” Pete mutters, dropping his hand and looking at the map. “Alright, where are we digging?”

*

“I really didn’t want you to come with us,” Pete sighs, buckling the bulletproof jacket over Patrick. 

They’re standing in Pete’s office. Outside the door, Patrick can hear the chaos erupting from potentially catching The Gravedigger. Patrick knows he’s not going to be there, but no one is really listening to him now. They’re just zeroed in on Gabe’s orders. And Patrick gets it, it’s probably better to over prepare than get caught off guard.

“I’m always careful,” Patrick reminds Pete, watching him frown and tighten the straps a bit more. Pete’s hands are shaking just enough for Patrick to notice, but not enough to get benched by Gabe.

Pete hums and shakes his head. “Summer of 2006.” 

Patrick rolls his eyes, “That lady was an idiot and she just shot me in the shoulder, I hardly have a scar.” 

“Still shot you,” Pete says bleakly, like he’s reliving the memory. Patrick remembers how loudly Pete had shouted his name. How he could still feel Pete’s hands on him even through the pain, and how Pete didn’t leave his side until Patrick was finally released from the hospital. “Alright, let’s get going.”

Patrick doesn’t say anything about the hand Pete places on Patrick’s back. It’s not the same gesture as it was at the club. This isn’t claiming, it’s grounding. And Patrick suspects it’s more for Pete’s peace of mind than Patrick’s.  

He feels dizzy when he climbs into the van next to Gabe. And maybe it’s the lack of sleep from the past few nights catching up to him, coupled with the fact that he hasn’t had anyone put him under in the way he needs in a long time. The scene with Jake just made him feel more spread thin, it made his skin feel tight and his mind itch. And for a moment he gets this horrible image of himself peeling back his scalp and breaking his skull in half so that he can scratch at his brain. 

“Are you alright?” Gabe asks, sounding genuinely concerned, “You look ill.”

“He’s fine,” Pete says confidently, scooting closer to Patrick so that his side is pressed against Patrick’s. Patrick focuses on that feeling, on the way it feels like they’re melding together. He inhales and holds in the scent of Pete’s cologne, the one Patrick got him for Christmas, waits until Pete discreetly taps on his wrist, then exhales slowly. It startles him at first, because it’s a call back from when they used to scene together.

Pete taps on Patrick’s wrist again, and Patrick inhales. And Patrick doesn’t let himself think too much that this is like doing a scene with Pete, doesn’t let himself pay attention to anything but the feeling of his lungs filling with and emptying of oxygen, and the soft taps of Pete’s fingers against his wrist. 

When they get to the site, Pete gets out first and pulls Patrick behind him. It’s too sunny, Patrick thinks, too nice of a day to dig up bodies. It should at least be overcast, somber and dark. 

He lets Pete scan their surroundings before wandering off from the group. He watches the dogs sniff around and then settle on a spot to dig. It’s going to take them a bit, so Patrick walks the perimeter of the site with forensics. But he’s not looking for shoe prints or forgotten tools to catalog as evidence, he’s trying to build the story. He sees the shoe prints of a hurried man, the partial prints meaning that he was running, moving too quickly to settle the dirt around his feet. He didn’t want to leave a mark. 

Which doesn’t feel right to Patrick. The Gravedigger wants to be noticed, but everything about this site is different from the rest. He was sloppy, and Patrick doesn’t understand why he seems so scatterbrained. 

When Patrick hears the dogs barking, he looks up at Pete who is watching Gabe get down into the gravesite with an electric screwdriver so he can get the top off the coffin. Pete’s face is schooled into indifference, one that Patrick hasn’t been able to perfect since his first crime scene. 

“Here,” Pete had said when Patrick threw up after seeing his first corpse. 

Patrick took the napkin Pete had extended and dabbed at his mouth. “Sorry,” he muttered. 

Pete had shrugged. “It happens to the best of us,” then he grinned, “First time?”

“How can you tell?”

“Well you look like you should still be in high school for one,” Pete said, then pointed to Patrick’s feet, “And you’re standing on evidence.”

Patrick scrambled away and looked down at the blood that was coating the bottom of his shoes. “Fuck.”

“S’okay,” Pete said, “I just hope you’re not too attached to those shoes, because we’re going to need them now to rule out your prints that are going to be all over this place.”

Patrick had been practically pouring sweat and he pushed his trucker hat further down his head as if he could hide from Pete and all the other agents that were looking at him in amusement or annoyance. “Sorry.”

Pete grinned. “You said that already, how about you just tell me your name and we’ll call it even.”

“Oh, right,” Patrick said, “Um, Patrick.”

“Pete,” he had said, even though Patrick already knew who Pete was. Everyone knew who Pete Wentz was. But he still shook his hand, because even back then, Patrick knew that it was important to make Pete feel understood rather than just seen.  

The dogs start barking again, pulling Patrick out of his memory, and he expects to see agents reaching down to help the men out. They’re early, Patrick found the right location with two hours left to spare. But Pete kicks at the dirt and turns around, his hand coming up to press over his lips. 

No. 

Patrick’s head swims, because this doesn’t seem right. This isn’t…

“He didn’t account for the two of them,” Patrick says, and Pete turns to look at him with wide, watery eyes, “They ran out of air at the twelve hour mark.”

Gabe comes storming at  him. “I thought you said he was careful! That these were love letters . You’re so full of shit, none of that means anything. He’s just a killer wanting to kill. There’s no reasoning--” 

“You should have listened to him! I told you to listen!” Patrick yells, marching right back at Gabe. He feels Pete pulling at his arm and saying his name, but Patrick just sees red. I’m right , he tells himself, I didn’t get this wrong. I didn’t mess this up . But the guilt is still burning down his throat like this is his fault.

“This is what happens when I listen to you,” Gabe bites out, “Your theories don’t make sense. You have no evidence, you just look at pictures and come up with a story you want to see. You just make up bullshit --”

Patrick shoves at Gabe hard, enough to make him stumble and then Gabe is laughing maniacally and it just makes Patrick angrier, makes him shove him again. 

“Push me again and I’ll have you fucking arrested,” Gabe bites out. 

Pete hauls Patrick away, one arm snug around his waist and the other pushing on his shoulder to get him moving. Patrick fights with him the whole way, and it doesn’t make any sense. Patrick gets angry, sure. He yells and throws things, but he’s not violent like this. But Patrick doesn’t even feel like himself, he feels like someone reached inside him and scrambled his molecules, made him unhinged, twisted him into someone that Patrick never wants to see. 

Patrick doesn’t even realize they’re heading to the car that Andy and Joe took until he hears Andy say, “We’ll head back with Captain, just get him out of here.”

And it makes Patrick want to curl into himself. He hates it when people talk about him like he’s not there, like he truly is just an object, just a tool to be used and then put away when no one needs him. Stop , he scolds his mind, you’re only thinking that because of what he wrote. The letters are lies. You’re good, you’re good. But the words seem like sticky artificial sweetener, something that’s just going to make him sicker. 

He feels Pete pushing him down into the passenger seat, and Patrick snaps at that. Like he’s a fucking rubber band or something, he just breaks apart and slaps at Pete. “Let me go!” 

Pete restrains his wrists in one hand and grips his chin with another. “Keep it together until I can get you home,” he says calmly, eyes boring into Patricks, “and then I can take care of you.”

At those words, Patrick’s fight dissolves instantly. 

“Promise?” He whispers, only slightly hating himself for sounding so broken and desperate. 

Pete leans in and presses his lips to Patrick’s forehead. 

Chapter Text

Patrick feels like he’s taken a step back in time when Pete pulls out his key and opens Patrick’s front door, ushering him in before shutting and locking  the door behind them. But then Patrick sees himself in the mirror that’s hanging above his couch, sees his bright blonde hair and Pete’s tired expression behind him, and there’s no doubt that this isn’t like the old times. There’s something fractured about them, something that Patrick isn’t sure he even knows how to fix. 

He turns  to Pete and is about to tell him he’s fine and that Pete doesn’t have to do this, but Pete’s demeanor is already changing. He melts into it so easily, and Patrick wonders if Pete was itching to slip back into this role too. If maybe he needs this just as badly as Patrick. 

Patrick watches Pete shrug his FBI windbreaker off and hang it neatly on Patrick’s coat rack before he starts to unbutton the cuffs of his work shirt, rolling the sleeves up slowly. He looks up at Patrick and Patrick almost drops to his knees right there from how dark his eyes are. “Do you want this, Patrick?” Pete asks calmly. 

Patrick nods quickly and Pete’s serious facade breaks momentarily into an almost shy smile. It’s what makes Pete such a great Dom for Patrick. He doesn’t let the power go to his head, he doesn’t stop being Pete as soon as they start a scene. “What do you need?” 

“You,” Patrick is quick to answer, and when Pete grins, he adds, “Sir.”

Pete hums and kicks off his shoes. “Go into the bedroom. Undress to what you're comfortable with and kneel away from the door,” he instructs, the smile gone from his voice, but Patrick still feels the soft fondness caressing him, “Wait for me.”

Patrick’s shaking with anticipation when he gets to the bedroom. He makes quick work of his shirt and jeans, feeling like the fibers are weaving into his skin and making him crazy with it. He gets his shoes and socks off, but then stops there when he’s standing in the middle of the bedroom with just his boxers on. Of course he’s been naked in their scenes before, but something in him tells him that they shouldn’t jump head first into this again. They need to build back up to where they were. 

He turns his back to the door and lowers down to his knees, almost sighing at the feeling of the carpet against his skin. He’s knelt for Doms at the club, but the feeling of sanitized matts under his knees while waiting for a stranger pales in comparison to this. This is all so much more personal, tailored to his needs and comforts exactly. His bedroom, his Pete standing outside the door making him wait. 

Patrick’s too giddy to really settle into a pretty position. He tries to bring his arms behind him, to stretch out his arms and create a soft curve of his spine, but he keeps shifting. He starts to lower his head, but then his eagerness makes him turn and look back at the door. 

He knows that’s why Pete is making him wait. Either to let him work himself up more, or to let him work out his nerves before Pete comes in. Patrick isn’t sure which is more likely, but he does know that if Pete doesn’t come into the bedroom soon Patrick is going to march out there and drag him in himself. 

“Fuck, you’re so pretty,” he hears from behind him, and Patrick’s shoulders sag in relief. 

He drops his eyes down to his thighs and tracks the sound of Pete walking around the room to Patrick’s closet where Patrick has his supplies. He wonders what Pete’s going to pick, if he’s had a scene in mind for a while or if he’s just coming up with something on the spot. Either way, Patrick needs him to hurry up and do something. The blissful comfort of kneeling is starting to fade and he feels that same tightness in his skin that he felt when he got in the van earlier, “Pete--”

“Shh,” Pete says, shutting the door to the closet and walking over. 

“Please,” Patrick says, his voice hoarse and broken. But that’s ok, Patrick doesn’t mind falling apart in front of Pete when they’re like this. He’s supposed to fall apart, shatter into pieces so Pete can put him back together in a shape that’ll hold. 

Pete doesn’t say anything, and Patrick is about to beg again when Pete’s hand comes up to Patrick’s throat. Not to choke or restrain, but to hold him there, just to remind Patrick that he’s there. It makes him feel grounded, like his knees take root into the floor and he can sit up a little straighter without thinking he’s going to fall over. “Good,” Pete whispers into his hair, pressing a gentle kiss there and using his other hand to stroke down Patrick’s cheek, “Safeword?”

They’ve always used the traffic light system, but Pete asks for Patrick’s safeword at the beginning of each scene. Sometimes it annoys him because Patrick hates repeating himself, but other times it helps him find the right mindset. Patrick knows he needs to settle down, but it’s just been too damn long and he can practically taste how good it’s going to be. “Red.”

Pete hums and rewards him with another kiss to his hair, “And if things need to slow down?”

“Yellow,” Patrick replies quickly, then, “Pete, I, fuck, you’ve got to do—”

Pete taps twice on his throat and Patrick falls silent. “Good boy,” Pete whispers, stroking his throat. Pete’s hand slides from his throat and Patrick is about to complain until he remembers that he’s not allowed to speak again unless it’s his safeword. He wonders if Pete is surprised that Patrick’s remembered his non-verbal cues, something that Pete likes to do a lot. And it makes him smile a little. He wonders if their exchange in the van reminded Pete of how much power he still holds over him.  The thought hangs above Patrick's head a little, before he realizes he’s not scared anymore. Not like this anyway.  

“Stop,” Pete says, “I can practically hear you thinking.”

Then do something about it , Patrick thinks, biting his lip to keep the words in his throat. Pete chuckles anyway, as if he can read the words on Patrick’s face. He feels Pete kneel down behind him, reach forward to take Patrick’s wrists and bring them to rest at the small of his back. 

“I was going to use one of those fancy cuffs you’ve got,” Pete murmurs against his temple, “But there’s something about seeing you in mine.”

Patrick jumps a little at the clicking sound of the metal cuffs closing around his wrists. Pete keeps them loose enough not to hurt, but snug enough for Patrick to feel secured. He hums happily and closes his eyes so he can focus on the slight stretch of his arms, settles into the ache that’s starting to bloom in his shoulders. 

He hears Pete pick up something that rattles, and it has Patrick furrowing his brow in confusion. He always likes this part, where he’s given hints and pieces of a puzzle but not asked to solve it. He just lets the clues dance around his senses and then he lets them go. And it’s incredibly freeing, to give up that control he struggles with every day. 

Pete’s hands slide down his chest, creating friction like he’s trying to warm Patrick up. It feels delicious after the cold nightmares, feels like Pete is giving each nerve attention, coaxing them all awake to participate in whatever he has planned. Patrick sinks into the feeling of just Pete’s hands on him, shaping and molding him, turning him back into the man he used to be before everything got dismantled. Turning him back into someone that Pete could love. 

Patrick doesn’t mean to let out a shaky breath, too close to a sob, but it slips out and Pete’s hands still. No, don’t stop , he begs silently. 

Pete’s cotton covered chest presses against Patrick’s back, the buttons making indents into his flesh. “Easy,” Pete murmurs into his hair, his hand curving around Patrick’s jaw, “We’re going to take this really slow this first time, ok?”

Not the first time , Patrick wants to sneer, but Pete hasn’t released him from his silence yet. 

“Just some easy directions for you to follow,” Pete tells him, and Patrick feels something in his mind click into place, “Something for you to focus on.” Pete’s nose brushes against Patrick’s temple and then slides down as Pete says against his ear, “You want to be good for me, don’t you, baby?”

Pete taps twice on Patrick’s throat, so he answers, “Yes, sir.” His own voice sounds muffled to him, and he hadn’t even noticed the effect Pete was having on him already. Now that he’s noticed, he can’t stop feeling as if everything is getting smaller. When Patrick had been in the car on the way home, he couldn’t help but feel like the world was too big. Couldn’t help but feel like there was so much stacked against him. But now he’s not sure anything exists beyond the bedroom door, isn’t sure he’s supposed to do anything other than what Pete tells him. 

Two more taps on Patrick’s throat tell him that he’s supposed to be silent again and Patrick leans into that order. He feels caught by it, by the fact that he doesn’t need to be afraid to mess up since Pete’s set the boundaries for him. He’s not playing a guessing game, this isn’t a case that he has to analyze every angle. This is simple. Be silent. 

“Good,” Pete whispers, “You’re always so good for me, Trick.”

Patrick smiles loosely at the praise, and feels his body melt into something pliable for Pete to hold. Pete hums appreciatively and slides the hand that was on Patrick’s throat, up to his jaw and tilts his face up so he’s looking up at the ceiling. 

“Just like that,” Pete tells him quietly, “I don’t want you to move from this position. If you do, I’ll be disappointed.”

Patrick is grateful for the few minutes Pete holds him in the position, keeping him where he wants until Patrick’s body settles and Pete can move away without Patrick falling out of it. He keeps his head turned upward towards the ceiling even after he hears the rattling again. It’s not as loud as it had been before, it sounds more like echoes from above the surface of a pool and Patrick keeps sliding further underwater.

A shock of cold brings him back up to the surface, has him sputtering like he was actually sinking. 

“Easy,” Pete murmurs, and the cold slides up to Patrick’s clavicle, “It’s just an ice cube.”

Pete traces his collarbone with the ice, letting Patrick’s skin melt the ice until it’s turned into cool water sliding down his chest and pooling into the waistband of his boxers. He jumps when the next ice cube is pressed to the side of his neck and Pete chuckles, “What did I say about moving?”

He’ll be disappointed , Patrick thinks and a sinking feeling gathers in his chest. He straightens back up and tries to separate his mind from his body, tries to search for that place that lets him float dreamily. 

“There you go,” Pete says, sliding the ice cube up to Patrick’s jaw. Patrick doesn’t flinch this time, instead he just acknowledges the cold and lets it drift away somewhere else so it doesn’t clog up his mind. 

The next burst of cold is at the top of his spine and Patrick bites his bottom lip to keep from moving. He’s rewarded with a kiss on top of his shoulder before the ice cube slides down his spine. “Don’t move,” Pete reminds him as the urge to coil away from the cold gets strong again. He keeps his back rigid as the ice cube trails down to his tailbone. “Good boy.”

It feels like hours of ice being pressed into Patrick’s skin, of his muscles tightening to keep still, and he’s close to crying from how tense he is. He’s cold and the icy water drying on him makes his skin feel extra sensitive. 

He almost loses his focus when he feels the cold press against his lips. “Open,” Pete whispers, nudging the ice past Patrick’s lips. He opens his mouth and lets Pete place the cube on his tongue. Patrick doesn’t suck on it, just lets it melt into cold water down his throat. 

When he feels warmth against his icy neck, he has to fight the urge to moan and lean against Pete’s hot mouth. But he doesn’t, he stays still and lets Pete’s lips trail over the paths the ice took across Patrick’s body. After the chill, the warmth makes him feel like he’s floating. Like Pete is turning his skin into fuzzy, soft cotton and he can drift asleep against it. Like he’s wrapped in the safest blanket, but it’s just himself. Pete makes him feel safe, makes him find a peace within himself that Patrick always forgets exists. 

The bedroom shrinks to just Pete’s mouth and where it lands on Patrick. Patrick isn’t even sure he knows where his own toes are, just where his skin comes into contact with Pete. As if he doesn’t exist where Pete doesn’t. And it’s just so fucking relieving, to not have to be anything. Patrick can finally breathe without feeling the responsibility to do so, he just does. 

He just is. 

“Trick? Baby, time to come back up now,” he hears. 

He’s still staring up at the ceiling, but the angle is off. He blinks and turns his head a little to see Pete looking down at him. He smiles and then there’s a warm hand against his cheek.

“There he is,” Pete says softly.

It takes a bit for Patrick to realize he’s laying on the floor with his head in Pete’s lap, but Pete lets him take his time. He strokes Patrick’s cheek, then into his hair and scratches his scalp to bring the feeling back to Patrick’s body. Patrick turns his head and rubs his cheek against Pete’s jeans to feel the rough denim against his still tingling skin. 

He feels his arms get manipulated by Pete and he wonders when he missed getting uncuffed, but Pete is moving his arms to work out the stiffness. He rubs at Patrick’s wrists even though the cuffs didn’t irritate him or leave a mark, then sets both his hands to rest on his chest. 

Pete taps twice on his throat, “Are you with me?”

“Yeah,” he croaks, then clears his throat and repeats, “Yeah.”

Pete chuckles at him, “I forgot how pretty you are when you go under like that.”

Patrick rolls his eyes, but still feels his traitorous cheeks blush. “Whatever.”

“Gotta film you one time,” Pete says. 

“Not going to happen,” Patrick grins, too blissed out to feel the irritation he normally would. 

Pete keeps looking down at him and strokes his cheek with the back of his hand. “Think I can talk you into moving to the bed?”

“You make a good pillow,” Patrick says, nuzzling against Pete’s stomach. 

Pete hums, then tries again, “Patrick, stand up.” And Patrick’s still malleable enough to follow the direction, leaning against Pete when his legs wobble like he’s made of jello. Pete pulls the blanket back and guides Patrick onto the mattress, coaxing his head to the pillow. “I’m going to the kitchen, I’ll be right back.”

Patrick nods and feels his heavy lids close. He feels like he’s floating, drifting instead of plummeting from some place up high. That’s the difference. Pete brings him up slowly, talks him through each part of the journey and supports him when he missteps and needs to try again. And then when he’s at the highest point, when it’s nothing but bliss coursing through his bloodstream, Pete helps him take slow steps back down to the ground. 

“Hey, don’t go to sleep yet,” Pete says, rubbing a hand over Patrick’s shoulder. 

Patrick opens his eyes and sees Pete standing there with a bottle of water. He sits up slowly and takes it, smiling when Pete moves over to Patrick’s chest of drawers and pulls out the drawer that’s still Pete’s. He drinks his water slowly as Pete exchanges his jeans for a pair of sweatpants before he comes back and climbs into bed next to Patrick. 

Patrick sets his water down and sinks back down into the mattress, curling into Pete and laying his head on his chest. Pete reaches up and runs his fingers through Patrick’s hair, making him hum happily. “Feel better?”

Patrick grins, and a giggle slips out before he looks up at Pete and nods. Pete smiles back at him, his face more relaxed than it’s been since Patrick came back to work with him. He reaches down and traces the upward curve of Patrick’s lips, which only makes him smile more. Pete chuckles a little at that and leans down to kiss his forehead. 

“Do you feel better?” Patrick asks carefully, his words still feeling too big in his mouth. 

“Yeah,” Pete says, almost like he doesn’t believe it, “I forgot how much it...helps.”

Patrick makes a sound of agreement in the back of his throat and lays his head back down on Pete’s chest, reaching up to trace the design on Pete’s shirt. His head still feels empty, but the good kind. Or, maybe not empty, stuffed of something soft and cozy. It makes his eyes droop and feel like he could actually sleep without falling into a nightmare. 

“I was thinking about getting a cat.”

Pete snorts. “You’re allergic.”

“They have hypoallergenic cats, don’t they?” 

Pete laughs harder and presses a kiss to his hair. “What about Shamu?”

“They can be friends,” Patrick says, rubbing his cheek against Pete’s shirt. He smells like spice and oranges. “You still have that cologne I bought you.”

“You’re free associating everywhere, aren’t you?” Pete muses, rubbing his back. Patrick arches into the touch, feeling like all his nerves are trying to attach themselves to Pete’s hand. “You don’t need a cat, you are a cat.”

“I don’t do furries,” Patrick says, moving up to nuzzle against Pete’s neck. 

Pete giggles and squeezes his shoulder. “Don’t kink shame,” he teases. 

Patrick grins against Pete and hums happily, and he has to bite his lip because he doesn’t have much of a filter now and he knows he’s so close to saying things he can’t take back. Things he’s been keeping inside for too long. 

Pete reaches down to pull the blanket up them and tucks Patrick in against him. “Get some sleep,” Pete whispers, brushing his lips against Patrick’s temple, “I’ve got you.”

Patrick doesn’t know how Pete knows these things. How he just fucking knows Patrick and what he needs. He’s not sure if Pete really knows that Patrick has nightmares, if he knows that he hasn’t had a decent night's sleep since he started the case. But he sinks into that belief, that Pete knows Patrick more than he knows himself, and closes his eyes. 

Chapter Text

Walking into the office the next morning probably should have made Patrick feel like he was going to throw up, but he feels fine. If he wanted to push it, he’d even say that he felt good . And he’d like to chalk it up to the fact that he slept almost ten hours yesterday with Pete, only waking up when Pete reheated leftover pizza he found in the fridge, but he knows it’s more than that.

This blissed out state started when he got up this morning and heard Pete in his shower, knocking over all the bottles of soap and cursing at the noise. Patrick didn’t even get pissed that Pete left his wet towel on the floor of the bathroom like he always did or got toothpaste all over the vanity of his bathroom sink. He just smiled to himself and felt that warmth settle in his chest, like it was telling him this was how it was going to be from now on. 

And Patrick was in too good of a mood to really question that. Neither of them talked about what happened last night, and it seemed like Pete didn’t want to jinx it either as he came out of their cafe with a bag of muffins and a cup of tea for Patrick. All he said was, “They have that apple spiced tea you like again.”

So Patrick wasn’t going to rock the boat. Not when he already has to tread lightly around Gabe. Which sorta sucks because Pete’s been in Gabe’s office all morning going over what forensics found at the scene yesterday. Patrick tried to be good and not go meddling in other people’s cases, but he just couldn’t help it when he passed Agent’s Carden’s desk on the way to get some more tea. 

“I still think it’s the brother,” Carden says to Beckett and Patrick peered over Carden’s shoulder to look at the crime scene photos. 

He scoffed. “Oh, you’re way off.”

Which is how he wound up leafing through their case file and saying, “No, you’re looking for a younger woman. The person you’re looking for doesn’t have a lot of experience and she’s pissed. See those blood smears? Rookie mistake, and definitely done in a haste. Probably a crime of passion, so I’d prep your attorney for that.”

“Can’t really be a crime of passion if it’s scattering state lines,” Carden points out. 

Patrick shrugs. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

“Tell me about it,” Carden mutters, which makes Beckett laugh sympathetically.

Patrick’s interest piques. “Trouble in paradise? You know you should invest in some good rope and--”

Pete’s arm comes around Patrick’s waist like a hook and then he’s being swept away from Carden’s red face and Beckett’s booming laughter. “So how many times have we talked about not giving sex advice in my office?” Pete asks conversationally.

“You know better than anyone that BDSM doesn’t equate to sex,” Patrick grumbles as Pete brings him back to his office and shuts the door. 

“Not everyone gets that,” Pete says, plopping down at his desk, “Especially after that hundred grey shades movie came out.”

Patrick rolls his eyes, but he can’t help the grin warming his face as he sits on Pete’s desk. “Don’t act like you don’t know the title, I know you checked that book out of the library. You always use my account.”

“I lost my library card years ago,” Pete says, pulling Patrick’s feet into his lap and absentmindedly rubbing at his calves. “They always make you jump through hoops to get a new one.”

“Not true at all, but whatever,” Patrick says, “The fact is that BDSM is more than just sex. I wasn’t sexually harassing anyone.”

“Yeah, Trick, I know that,” Pete says with a fond smile, “But it’s not the same thing as telling someone to go try a yoga class for stress.”

“Why not?” Patrick asks. “The endorphins are better.”

Pete smirks. “If you’ve got a good partner.”

There it is again. That warmth in his chest, melting away the icy year he’s had. And Pete just smiles at him, lifting up his mug of coffee like there’s absolutely nothing wrong. As if Patrick’s stomach isn’t doing somersaults thinking about last night and how right it all felt. 

“Forensics came back with their reports,” Pete says, flipping through a file. 

Patrick makes grabby hands at the file, but Pete holds it out of reach and fixes him with a look. “So here’s the deal,” he says, and Patrick wants to take back every nice thing he thought about Pete today, because he knows he’s about to play dirty. “I’ll give you this file if, and only if, you promise not to get obsessive about it. I don’t want a repeat of yesterday.”

Patrick flinches a little at that. Pete of course catches it, of fucking course, and sets his coffee down along with the file and wraps his hands around Patrick’s calves. His hands are warm and gentle, not holding him as much as grounding him with touch. 

“I meant you attacking Gabe,” Pete says quietly, glancing over at his shut office door. 

Patrick’s heart is hammering and he doesn’t know why. He and Pete have slept together for fuck's sake, getting rubbed down with ice cubes should be nothing, but everything feels charged between them.

“What we did last night…” Pete starts, but he looks like he’s having a hard time finding the words too. 

So Patrick puts him out of his misery and says, “It was a one time thing. It’s fine. I get it, I was...I needed help, and you helped me.” Patrick keeps his face neutral and he feels the warmth starting to slip out, but Pete squeezes his calves and huffs.

“I hate it when you do that.”

Patrick crosses his arms and starts to pull away, but Pete keeps his hold firm. And it’s stupid, because he’s not holding Patrick in this position. He can pull away if he really wants to, but Patrick is weak and he doesn’t really want to go. He’s tired of running from Pete, and he just wants another taste of that everything-is-right-in-the-world kind of peace he felt last night. He wants to slide down to his knees and lay his head on Pete’s lap while he works. Patrick just wants to fucking rest.

“I like being that person for you, Trick,” Pete says, his voice sounding like melting ice cream. As if the warmth got to him too and now he’s all sticky-sweet. “You can let me in again, I promise.”

Patrick leans forward, too immersed by the cadence of Pete’s voice, by his touch, by the topic of this conversation and the pulse of this is safe still coursing through his veins from last night. Pete smiles and leans forward until they’re resting their foreheads against each other and Pete lets go of one of Patrick’s legs to cup the back of his neck. “You’re my best friend,” he whispers, “I’d do anything for you.”

And the tone is there, the touch, the fuzzy tension engulfing them--but not the words. Patrick gets fixated on “friend”, the warmth slipping out of his chest and the heavy weight of ice and desolation creeping back in. 

Patrick leans back. “Yeah, we’re friends,” he says carefully, “Can I have the file now?”

 

*

 

Patrick really hates going out. 

He hates that he has to change his clothes because he really doesn’t want to put in the effort to soak his blazer after some asshole in a muscle tee spills vodka redbull on it. He can’t wear his real leather shoes or they’d for sure get ruined, and don’t even suggest that he lets his broadcloth fabric shirts go anywhere near those sports bars that Pete always seems to drag Patrick to. 

“Hey, lighten up,” Pete teases, “You’re supposed to be having fun.”

Patrick eyes his watery drink and the soggy wings sitting in front of him. “I’m having a blast,” he says in the most deadpanned voice he can muster. 

Joe snorts and tosses a curly fry at him. “You work too much. Both of you do.”

Andy steals one of Joe’s fries and sticks the end up Joe’s nose. Pete snorts in laughter and that uncomfortableness shifts a bit and Patrick tries to settle in. The problem is that the warmth he had this morning is gone and the coldness of the case has taken its place. 

“They were drugged,” Patrick had said, looking over the autopsy reports. 

“All the victims have been drugged,” Pete countered. 

“No, not like this,” Patrick said, staring at the needle prick scar on the neck of the blond victim. 

Patrick scratches at his neck now, shivering a bit at the memory of the photograph. Pete leans in and says, “Want a different drink?”

Patrick blushes a bit and nods. “Yeah, thanks.”

And Patrick knows he’s going to hear it when Pete presses a quick kiss to his temple before getting up from the table. Joe fixes him with a look, but it’s Andy who says, “You two seem better.”

Patrick rolls his eyes. “Don’t.”

“I didn’t hear any yelling today,” Joe adds. 

“Or doors slamming,” Andy grins. 

Patrick sighs and downs the rest of his watery cocktail. It’s not that he’s embarrassed by his and Pete’s odd relationship, he just doesn’t really want the whole office to know. Though, it’s sorta his fault for losing his temper in the middle of the office or on crime scenes. Everyone knows how emotional Patrick can get, and they know that Pete’s the only one who can really reach Patrick when he gets like that. 

Like yesterday. 

“How pissed was Gabe about yesterday?” Patrick asks, chewing on the straw of his drink. 

Joe shrugs. “No more than normal.”

“Honestly, he was more concerned than anything,” Andy says, which could be the truth but Patrick knows that Andy softens the blow a lot. Patrick must have that disbelief written all over his face because Andy adds, “I mean, after he was pissed we missed the victims in time. But he was worried about you.”

Joe nods, and won’t quite meet Patrick’s eyes. 

“What?” Patrick asks, frowning a bit. 

Andy looks at Joe, who is still staring at the fry in his hand intently, then back at Patrick and sighs. “You’re too close to this one. I don’t know, this...you’re different with this case.”

While Patrick is emotional, he’s good at hiding things that matter. Things that Patrick knows to keep close to himself and away from others. Things like how he can’t close his eyes without seeing himself in a grave, or how he feels like his bones aren't holding him together anymore-- some days Patrick thinks he’s just going to turn into a puddle in the middle of Pete’s office. He thought he had it all under wraps pretty well, though, apart from yesterday’s freakout on a crime scene. Fuck. 

“Yeah,” Patrick sighs, picking up his cup and sliding an ice cube into his mouth. It makes him think about the scene from last night and he tries to hold onto that. He lets the ice melt on his tongue and remembers the way Pete’s hands felt around his jaw as he held him steady, held him together. 

“Look who I ran into,” Pete says, making Patrick look over his shoulder where Pete is standing with his ex, Ashlee. 

Patrick turns back around and clenches his jaw at the sour-acidic feeling pouring down his throat. If Mikey Way made him feel insecure and jealous, Ashlee sent Patrick into an envious rage. Because while there was an obvious attraction between Pete and Mikey, they apparently hadn’t slept together, and Mikey really did have Pete’s best interest in mind. Ashlee, well, he knew they fucked and she had this hold on him that Patrick never understood. 

It’s probably the long fucking legs and bright, sparkly eyes. 

“Here,” Pete murmurs, leaning over Patrick’s shoulder to set down a whisky soda. 

Patrick mutters a thanks and takes a long drink as Ashlee makes herself comfortable at the table. Joe and Andy exchange a look that he’s sure Pete notices, but it’s Patrick who says, “Hey, how’ve you been?” because Patrick’s mom would probably pop up somewhere and scold him for being impolite or something. 

It’s not like Ashlee is a bad person, she’s just not a good person for Pete. And Patrick really doesn’t want a repeat of Pete laying on his couch for weeks eating nothing but takeout burritos and binge watching MythBusters . So, Patrick’s glad when Andy and Joe take over the conversation and ask Ashlee about her new basket weaving business. Patrick is a firm believer in second chances, just not with people who hurt Pete. 

Patrick is too aware of Pete sliding back into the chair next to Patrick, of his arm pressing against his accidentally. And it’s so stupid to be getting caught up in this shit again. It’s what he told himself he wouldn’t do. He wasn’t going to get back to their same old routine of being on an emotional rollercoaster. Because it would always start off so fucking good. Pete and Patrick would be on that same wavelength where it felt like each breath was shared, that their hearts were on the same beat and every one of Patrick’s thoughts ran through Pete’s brain first. Patrick would get used to Pete burning dinners in his kitchen and his laughter filling his living room, he’d be completely at ease with being fully consumed by Pete. 

Then Pete would casually say he’s got a date and Patrick would feel his insides constrict but force himself to say, “That’s great, of course you should go.” And it’d be weeks of Pete parading around with someone new, of Pete coming over to Patrick’s house smelling like someone else. It wasn’t like Patrick could say anything about it though, they were never together. They’d sleep together, sure, but they weren’t a couple. There was a careful line that Patrick had to walk along. The one that would let him have those this-is-my-person moments without falling head first into the rejection Pete would no doubt give. 

And he’d promised himself he wouldn’t do that to his heart again. Not this time around. 

“I think I’m going to go,” Patrick says, cutting into whatever conversation was going on.

Pete frowns and puts a hand on his shoulder, “Wait, what? Why?”

“I’m tired,” he says, dropping his shoulders a bit to try and look worn out though he’s sure he probably doesn’t have to try too hard. Even after the full night’s rest from last night, he still won’t look at himself in the mirror. That and everytime he does, he sees things in grey like his nightmares--keeps seeing another victim’s photo to add to Pete’s file. 

“Let me drive you home,” Pete says, standing up. 

Patrick shakes his head and throws some money on the table to cover his drinks that Pete got for him and the food they went in on together. “It’s fine, really. I’ll see you tomorrow,” he rushes, pulling his jacket on and turning away from the table. 

He catches Ashlee’s eyes as he turns, sees her knowing expression and it just twists the knife further into his stomach. He pushes through the crowd that’s started to gather in the hour they’ve been in the bar and makes his way outside, breathing in the cold air with relief. 

Until he hears, “What the hell, Patrick?”

Patrick sighs and turns. “You didn’t need to follow me. I’m just parked down the street.”

“You had a few drinks,” Pete counters, coming closer, “Let me drive you home at least.”

“I had a cocktail that was mostly water and one whiskey soda,” Patrick corrects, “You’ve had just as much as me, if not more.”

“I’m sure Andy won’t mind giving you a--”

“Pete.”

Pete sighs and brings his hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose. “There’s a killer out there who likes to go after guys like you.” Patrick stiffens and he’s about to give in, but Pete just has to push, “And why are you leaving so soon anyway? Is it Ashlee?”

Patrick scoffs and turns to start walking towards his car. Pete reaches out to grab his arm, but Patrick swings around and bites out, “Stop. You’re not my Dom and this isn’t a scene.”

Pete blinks and takes a step back, eyes widened a bit. Good , Patrick thinks bitterly. “Patrick, what the fuck?”

Maybe it’s because he’s had a taste now. Maybe it’s that Patrick’s let his guard down and Pete’s found his way to Patrick’s heart again. Maybe he never even left. But whatever the case, Patrick is tired. Not just physically; this exhaustion isn’t the kind that can be soothed by a dreamless slumber. This is an ache so deep that Patrick isn’t sure it’ll ever heal, he’s not sure if this bone-weary, emotionally drained feeling will ever leave him. 

He’s stupid for letting himself be weak in this moment, for whispering, “I’m so tired,” because Pete’s there in an instant. His hands are all over Patrick, caressing his cheek, running down his spine, gripping the edge of his jacket--and then they’re moving. Patrick lets Pete take the lead and moves fluidly as Pete braces him back against the brick of the bar. And then his hands are moving again, one up and around the back of Patrick’s neck, the other tilting his jaw. 

And then they’re kissing. 

Patrick thought that the next time he felt Pete’s lips on his, it’d be intense and completely unhinged, but Pete’s careful with him the same way he is with everything he does with Patrick. He brushes his lips against Patrick’s, once, twice-- as if making sure Patrick is ok with this-- before really kissing him. It’s the kind of kiss that reminds Patrick of sliding into warm sheets fresh out of the dryer, sheets that have been worn over the years and instantly feel like home. A place for him to rest his weary body and just settle in this soft warmth.

His hands slide up Pete’s strong chest, pausing over his heart to feel it thumping sure and steady. And that’s what really makes Patrick’s knees weak, the fact that Pete’s so sure in this. In Patrick. 

“Come home with me,” Pete murmurs, kissing down Patrick’s jaw and sliding his hands into Patrick’s jacket so he can hook his thumbs under his dress shirt. Patrick doesn’t want to answer just yet, so he turns his head and kisses Pete again. Pete hums, smiling a bit before, “Trick, come home with me.” 

If Patrick was a hundred percent sure that things would be different, he’d say yes. If he knew that waking up in Pete’s bed tomorrow morning would mean something, he’d take Pete’s hand and let him lead the way. But he remembers this happening all the time in the past. One morning it’d be him in Pete’s bed, and then a couple mornings later it’d be some pretty blonde with long legs. 

Patrick pulls back and braces his hands on Pete’s chest, pushing just enough for him to take a couple steps back and frown. “Trick?”

“Not tonight,” Patrick breathes, clenching his hands into fists at his sides so he doesn’t reach out for Pete. 

Pete sighs and steps forward to Patrick again. Patrick eyes him warily, but Pete holds his hands up in surrender with a playful smile tugging at his lips. He bites his lip as he zips up Patrick’s jacket and then leans in to kiss his forehead. “Let me at least walk you to your car.”

Chapter Text

Patrick wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and leans against the tub, trying to keep the nausea to manageable waves instead of the full blown tsunami he’d been hit with when he woke up from a nightmare twisted in sweat-drenched sheets. 

They’re getting so much worse, crossing into night terrors territory, and Patrick knows it’s because he and Pete are onto something. It always happens whenever they get close to cracking a case, like his subconscious is trying to burst through the filter he usually has when he's awake. It always knows more than he does, and it likes to taunt and twist him around in horrible images of what could happen if he doesn't try harder

It's not fair, being a prisoner of his own mind. And it bothers him so much because a lot of the time, it's where he finds solace. His intelligence was always something he could lean into, something that he could rely on. But it always seems to come with a price too. 

Patrick slowly gets up off the floor and leans over the sink, turning the water on to splash some on his face and rinse out his mouth. He braces his hands on the vanity and tries to take in slow breaths. 

He should just call Pete. 

The problem is that he feels like they’re finally getting close to being on the same page in their relationship. Pete’s a great partner at work, someone who challenges him without questioning his intelligence, pushes him just enough to get him to the next step, but is careful enough to reel him in whenever Patrick goes too far into his mind. And it’s just so fucking nice to have that saftey net, to know that if he jumps, he’s got someone sturdy who’ll catch him. Someone who knows him. 

And he’s got his friend back. Even after the kiss outside the bar, they seemed to have found a good rhythm. Pete’s been coming over to just hang out, bringing over a movie and take out, or helping Patrick make pasta since it’s the only thing he knows how to cook without burning. They’ll stretch out on the couch and recite the lines from the movie under their breaths and laugh at the same parts. Pete will grab the box of tissues whenever they watch Armegedon or The Sixth Sense because they both have a thing for sad Bruce Willis movies. 

So, he’s not really sure why he’s hesitating going to Pete for help with this. He promised that he’d let Pete know if things got bad again, but he just…there’s something different about this. It’s one thing to cry over Bruce Willis together on the couch, but it’s an entirely different thing to go running to Pete because he has nightmares. Because one thing is them being friends, while the other is asking Pete for emotional support. Patrick can’t ask Pete to be that person for him, not again. 

But Patrick feels another wave of nausea wash over him at the thought of having to go back to his bedroom and battle his nightmares alone, so he rubs at his eyes and goes into the living room to find his keys. It’s almost second nature to get into his car and drive to Pete’s house, he feels like he’s on autopilot. 

He pulls into Pete’s driveway and cuts the engine, sitting in his car for a moment for a bit of an internal pep talk before going inside. He sees the time on the dash, and it’s the fact that it’s already two in the morning that makes him get out of the car and go up to Pete’s garage so he can key in the code to open it. Once inside, he kicks off his shoes and sets his phone, keys, and wallet on the kitchen island. 

He hasn’t been to Pete’s house in a long time. Pete usually comes to Patrick’s and he knows it’s because Pete’s aware that Patrick needs the home field advantage. Pete has photos all over the place, mostly of them at various stages of their friendship, and little knick-knacks covering the surface area of his bookshelf and side tables. Patrick pauses at a photo of them just a couple Christmases ago. Pete’s wearing a baggy sweater that has the tackiest embroidery Patrick’s ever seen, but what makes Patrick pause is himself in the photo. His cheeks have color in them, his hair is golden and he looks like he’s just fucking glowing or something. He’s radiating happiness, the smile on his face genuine and full of joy, and Patrick knows it’s from Pete’s arm around him, from the laughter spilling out of Pete’s smile as his mother fumbled with the camera to take the photo. It was something so innocent, something so carefree and it makes Patrick absolutely ache for that day. 

It’s ultimately what makes him cross the hall and open Pete’s bedroom door. 

Pete sits up and Patrick has just enough time to blink before he’s got a gun pointed at him, and then Pete’s lowering it and pressing a hand to his chest. “Jesus fucking Christ, Patrick .”

Patrick’s still a little in shock, frozen at the door from having a gun pulled on him, the thought of what could have--

“Fuck, what are you…” Pete trails off and then sets the gun back into the holster he’s got secured under the bed. He extends his hand and says softly, “Hey, Trick, come here. What’s wrong?”

Patrick can still hear the shakiness in his voice, but it’s firm in the way he needs it to be to get his feet to move and lead him across the bedroom and to the bed. Pete lifts up the covers and pulls Patrick into bed, wrapping him up in the blanket once he lays down and pulling his back to Pete’s front. “I’ve got you,” he murmurs, “You’re safe here.”

It’s exactly what Patrick needs, his body already relaxing in a way he hasn’t felt since before the case began. His eyes are drooping as he sinks deeper into Pete’s hold. 

“There you go,” Pete whispers, hugging him closer. “Just go to sleep. Tomorrow we can talk about why you shouldn’t…” he trails off, but Patrick can fill in the blanks. Yeah, he’d been stupid. How many times had Pete been threatened by suspects before? Or by law officials who were pissed that Pete called them out on their bullshit? Of course Pete would have thought the worst when his front door opened in the middle of the night.

“I’m sorry, I just--”

“A phone call, Trick,” Pete says, “All you needed to do was call and let me know it was you coming over.”

“If I called, I would have talked myself out of it,” Patrick admits. 

Pete sighs and nuzzles against the back of Patrick’s neck, tickling the baby hairs there. “We’re going to drop it, ok?” He says, “Because if I keep thinking about it, I’m going to have nightmares.”

“Sorry,” Patrick yawns, his eyes closing. 

“Shh,” Pete says, “Sleep. I’ll yell at you in the morning.”

Patrick chuckles, and the ease of it is so starkly different from how this night started. “Can’t wait.”

 

*

 

The problem with working with people other than Pete is that they don’t really understand how Patrick does things. He catches a lot of eyerolls when he presents his theories about The Gravedigger, but he tries to shove them in the back of his mind and remind himself that he’s good at this job, no matter how he does it. 

Gabe had waltzed into Pete’s office this morning while Patrick was in one of his profiling spells, staring at the markings on the victims. 

“He’s practicing,” Patrick had whispered, rubbing at his own neck as if he’d felt a needle prick. 

“Practicing what?” Gabe had asked, and it made Patrick frown, because that was all wrong: the tone, the question itself, even the voice. It made Patrick want to curl in on himself and hide, but then Pete took Patrick’s hand and squeezed his fingertips to keep him grounded. 

“What’s he practicing, Trick?” Pete reiterated Gabe’s question. 

“He’s going to take someone,” Patrick mumbled, feeling ice going up his spine, “I don’t know. Something’s changed.”

“What’s changed?” Pete prompted and Patrick hadn’t been able to pinpoint it, getting frustrated until Pete rubbed his arm and said, “It’s ok, Trick. You did good.”

It was enough to bloom warmth in his chest, chasing out the ice he’d felt during the process. Pete reached over to take the tea he had ready and pushed it into Patrick’s hands to warm up his fingertips. 

“I think it’s time we bring in some reinforcements,” Gabe had sighed, “I want everyone on this case now.”

And it made Patrick’s heart sink, because more hands in the pot was just going to muddle things. But Pete had just nodded.

“Well is it just a sex thing?” Someone asks now, smirking a bit when Patrick looks over at the agent who spoke up. This was another reason why he didn’t want to bring anyone else in on the case. Everyone knew Patrick was into the BDSM lifestyle, but not everyone was open minded about it. And of course, there were some who were just assholes about it. 

Pete straightens up and crosses his arms. “A sex thing?”

“The whole, whips and chains thing,” the agent continues, “It’s supposed to be extreme. How do you know this isn’t just--”

“Because BDSM isn’t like that,” Patrick growls, his grip tightening on his pencil. 

Pete’s eyes flash over to Patrick’s and they warm in sympathy before going back to the agent and saying, “It’s not a scene. These men are being captured and--”

“I know these people are sick, maybe they get off on it--”

“It’s not--” Patrick starts.

“Trick,” Pete cuts him off, raising an eyebrow at him like I’ve got it handled , and Patrick’s jaw clenches in frustration. He feels like he’s being pulled taut, like he’s a rubber band ready to snap. “That’s not the direction we’re going, please stick to the notes Patrick gave you.”

The agent mutters something under his breath, but looks back down at the packet that Patrick had spent all morning putting together. 

Patrick excuses himself from the two agents he was working with so he can go into the break room to get more hot water for his tea. Pete always keeps chamomile tea in stock for Patrick and he’s grateful for it today. His head is pounding and the emptiness of his stomach mixed with the nerves of working with people who aren’t completely on board with him leading them in an investigation is making him ill. 

He hovers in the silent room, holding the hot mug in his hands and sipping slowly. 

“Don’t pay attention to him,” Pete says, coming into the break room and going to fill up his coffee mug, “He’s an asshole who spends most of his time on desk duty.”

Patrick feels his lips twist up into a smile, but it doesn’t feel natural. Pete purses his lips and sets his mug on the table and walks over to him, “Why don’t you go home early? Or you can go crash at my place if it makes you feel better.”

They haven’t really talked about why Patrick showed up at Pete’s house in the middle of last night, though Pete did give him another tongue lashing this morning about sneaking in like he’d promised. But Patrick knew that Pete didn’t want to rock the boat, not when Patrick was coming to Pete for comfort. 

“I’m fine,” Patrick sighs, “I just want to catch this guy, but I feel stuck. I don’t know--”

“You’re helping so much,” Pete promises, reaching out to push the hair that’s fallen in Patrick’s eyes. He smiles fondly and says, “Your roots are really coming in now.”

“Yeah, I’m thinking of dying it back,” Patrick says. At first he’d been against it even though he looked too much like the victims. Part of him had been defiant, but he’s been getting scared lately. Ever since the last two victims they lost, Patrick feels like there’s an hourglass somewhere and it's running out of sand. He feels this sense of dread, as if he doesn’t have enough time. 

“I think that’s a good idea,” Pete says, turning back to grab his coffee, “Alright, let’s get back in there.”

Patrick follows Pete back into the squad room, opting to sit with Andy and Joe as Pete goes into his office to grab some more files. 

“Did we want to bring Mistress Kaitlyn back in for questioning?” Joe asks. 

“Why?” Andy sighs, flipping through the statement that Patrick took, “She didn’t offer much.”

Patrick feels his stomach tighten at that. It wasn’t anything personal, Patrick knows, but he’s just a little defensive of his lifestyle right now and everyone involved with it. 

“It’s a confidentiality thing,” Joe says, biting into an apple loudly. 

The noise is affronting to Patrick's ears. It makes him shrink into himself and he doesn’t know why he’s so sensitive to everything right now. Even the fluorescent lighting in the room is making his head pound. 

“Are you ok?” Andy asks. 

“Yeah,” Patrick mutters, “I just need an aspirin.”

He jumps at Pete’s office door opening and catches his concerned look. 

“You shouldn’t take too much aspirin,” Andy says, and Patrick rolls his eyes because he’s really not in the mood to listen to Andy’s spiel, “Have you tried willow bark?”

“No,” Patrick grits, rubbing at his temple as that rubber band feeling inside him grows tighter and tighter. 

“Well, that or some good breathing exercises would help, I’m sure it’s mostly stress related and--”

“Fuck! Andy, I don’t need your help. I just want a goddamn aspirin!”

The room grows quiet and Andy’s eyes go wide. Patrick feels like a fucking asshole, but his blood is still boiling now that he’s let the top fly off on his temper. He wants to throw something, wants to fight against something, wants to scream and yell and--

“Patrick,” Pete says in a stern tone that makes Patrick look up instantly. Pete’s eyes narrow on him and he beckons him with his pointer finger, “Come here.”

Patrick’s aware of eyes on him as he stands and makes his way to Pete’s office. He feels a bit like he’s been called to the principal’s office, but he’s ready to go inside and yell at him for making him look stupid in front of everyone. Maybe he can get another chance at throwing a stapler at him. 

Once Patrick crosses the threshold of Pete’s office, Pete shuts the door behind him and locks it. Patrick’s about to say something snarky about it, but Pete’s got him turned and pressed face down onto his desk. Patrick bucks back against him, but Pete’s stronger and he gets Patrick’s hands back behind him. 

“What the fuck--” Patrick starts, then stops when he feels Pete’s handcuffs fastening around his wrists. 

“You need a timeout,” Pete says, firm but gentle and the tone hits Patrick right in his chest, emptying out his lungs and leaving him slack against the desk. Pete hums in approval and rests his palm flat between Patrick’s shoulder blades, “Do you want to be good for me, Patrick?”

He’s asking for Patrick’s consent. Even though he’s already got him in handcuffs, Patrick knows Pete would free him instantly if Patrick told him he wasn’t in the mood for this. All he’d have to do was tell him no, but Patrick needs this. He needs to be put under so he can’t feel all wound up over the case and too many people reading his notes, his thoughts--leaving him open for their judgement. 

“Trick? Baby, I need an answer.”

“Yes, sir,” Patrick answers quickly, “I want this. I want to be good for you.”

Pete rubs the hand on Patrick’s back in a slow circle. “Good,” he murmurs, “If you want out, just say your safeword, ok?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good boy,” Pete whispers, then he chuckles, “Well, you were an asshole to Andy.”

“I’m sorry,” Patrick whispers back automatically, already slipping to a mindset where it's easier to breathe, and feels the guilt wash over him. 

“I know,” Pete says, “You’ll apologize to him later.”

Patrick nods, then waits for Pete to do something else. He knows that they’re limited here in the office, but Pete’s gotten pretty creative before. He wiggles against his restraints and pushes up against Pete’s hand on his back. 

Pete lets go of his hold on Patrick and leaves him laying against the desk, handcuffed and frustrated. He turns his head so he’s resting on his chin and he huffs so that Pete knows he’s annoyed. 

Pete chuckles. “What? You’re in timeout, it’s not supposed to be fun.”

“I’m not a fucking toddler,” Patrick growls.

“Yeah? Stop acting like one then,” Pete fires back. 

Patrick bites back a groan of frustration and tries to settle into the position Pete’s put him in. It’s hard to find a quiet place in his mind though. He can still hear the agents talking outside the door. The light in Pete’s office still is offensive to Patrick’s eyes and his skin feels like it’s buzzing in anticipation for something that’s not going to come. 

“Do you need help?” Pete murmurs, hands rubbing up and down Patrick’s arms, “Ask me for help, Patrick.”

That’s worse than the time out. Patrick would rather lay here frustrated than give into the part that he's been trying to ignore. The weak part of him that needs Pete still. 

“I did last night,” Patrick whispers. 

Pete’s hands pause on Patrick’s arms. “No, you didn’t. You came over, yeah, that was a good first step. But you never admitted that you needed my help.”

It’s true. Pete had taken that burden from Patrick last night by lifting up the blanket and offering his bed without any questions. Patrick had to just show up and Pete knew what Patrick needed. “And the last time we did this, you didn’t ask me to either,” Pete continues, “I decided that for you.”

“I agreed--”

“Not the same, baby,” Pete chides, “Ask me.”

Patrick huffs against and shifts, trying to rub the cuffs against his wrists so he can feel the bite of the metal. Something to get him where he wants, but Pete catches on and wraps his fingers around his wrists so he’s still. Pete doesn’t say anything else, doesn’t prompt him or scold him when Patrick tries to move again. He just waits, and it’s what gets under Patrick’s skin enough for him to sigh, close to tears and ask, “Please?”

“Please, what?” Pete pushes. 

Patrick squeezes his eyes shut and lets himself submerge in the fear that’s been plaguing him long before this case. He sees the nightmares flash behind his eyelids and plunges into the guilt of not finding those two victims sooner. Patrick gives into the fact that he’s hit a wall with the case, that he’s frustrated and tired. That he can’t do it all on his own. He takes a deep breath and when he exhales, he lets out that last shred of pride he’s been hanging on to and asks, “Can you help me, please?”

Pete’s hands grip Patrick’s hips and he gently lifts and shifts Patrick up so that he’s standing straight again. Patrick keeps his eyes down to the ground, something that’s so ingrained in him when he’s in this headspace even if it’s not something Pete’s asked of him. 

Pete’s hands come up to Patrick’s throat, stroking down and then tugging at the knot of Patrick’s tie. He slips it out of the collar of Patrick’s shirt then circles behind him and slips the fabric over his eyes. “Better?” Pete asks against his ear, kissing him there.

Patrick nods and leans into the comforting darkness, relieved that he’s enveloped in something safe. He lets Pete lead him forward, and he tries to remember the set up of Pete’s office to pinpoint where he is right now. He hears the squeak of Pete sitting in his chair and then the scrape of the wheels against the plastic carpet protector as Pete moves the chair.

Then he feels Pete tap twice at the back of Patrick’s thighs, so he sinks down to his knees. Pete must have laid down one of his chunky cardigans or something soft to cushion his knees and it makes Patrick smile a bit at the fact that Pete always thinks about these little things for Patrick.

Pete’s fingers slide into Patrick’s hair, weaving them through his strands comfortingly before tugging a bit to let Patrick know he wants him to tilt his head forward. His cheek meets the soft fabric of Pete’s ridiculous sweatpants that he managed to wear to work today. 

“There,” Pete says quietly, stroking his hair again, “Stay just like that.”

It’s easy to find the safe space in his mind now that he’s got Pete supporting him in case he slips and falls somewhere scary. Patrick focuses on the way Pete’s fingers feel in his hair, of the slight ache in his knees from kneeling, and the pull of his muscles from keeping his arms behind his back. All the sensations circuit through his nerves, soar through his bloodstream, until he’s almost numb from it. Until he’s slipping away and finds the silence he’s been craving.

He’s not sure how long it’s been when he feels Pete’s hand cup his jaw and coax him up. Patrick feels heavy and like he’s going to fall over, but Pete keeps a steady hand on him as he moves around Patrick to release the cuffs from his wrists. When Pete moves his hand up to pull the tie from around Patrick’s eyes, Patrick whispers, “Wait.”

“Do you want to stay blindfolded a bit longer?” Pete asks, fingers moving away from the fabric to run through his hair again.

“It’s safe,” Patrick explains quietly. 

“Can I move you?” Pete asks. 

“Yes,” Patrick answers, trying to stand up to help but his body isn’t really connecting with his brain at the moment. 

“No, no,” Pete warns, “Let me.”

Patrick stays limp as Pete slides his hands under Patrick’s arms and lifts him up into his lap as if he was a toddler. And it makes him giggle a bit, reminded of the way Patrick had insisted he wasn't a kid earlier. 

“Much better,” Pete says, a grin evident in his voice. Patrick would feel bashful, ashamed even, for his earlier behavior, but he’s so comforted right now that any inkling of negative emotion just vanishes before it reaches his heart.

Patrick feels Pete rest his cheek on top of Patrick’s head and wrap his arms around him. He feels completely secure, so safe that he thinks he could actually fall asleep. 

“We’ve got some things to talk about,” Pete says after a while. 

Patrick sighs, a little put off because he just doesn’t want to talk right now. 

Pete chuckles, clearly able to feel Patrick tense. “Not now,” Pete amends, “Right now I think you can sneak in a nap while I catch up on some reports for Gabe.”

Patrick grins loosely, “Slacker.” 

Pete hums and tucks a kiss in Patrick’s crazed hair. “We’ll talk tonight, ok? I’ll come over and we can order take out.”

“Same as usual,” Patrick notes, his voice still sounding like it’s going through molasses. 

Pete snorts. “Only we’re actually going to talk about what’s been going on with us.”

“Us?”

“Yeah, like why I had to handcuff you to get you to ask for help for once,” Pete says, “Or why you haven’t been sleeping. Or why you got jealous over Ashlee the other night. Why we’ve been walking on eggshells around each other when--”

“Lots to talk about,” Patrick sighs. 

Pete chuckles and says, “We can order in dessert too.”

“I’ve got to go to campus for a bit,” Patrick yawns, snuggling into Pete’s hold. 

“That’s fine,” Pete says easily, “I’ll wake you in a couple hours, you’ve got time.”

Chapter Text

Pete lets himself into Patrick’s house, setting his keys on the table before shrugging off his jacket and hanging it on the coat rack. He’s not surprised Patrick isn’t home yet, he knows how he gets when he’s in the zone at work. He’s just glad that he got Patrick to take a nap this afternoon, he looked a lot better when he left the office to go to campus. 

Gabe wasn’t all that thrilled that his two leads were missing for the afternoon, but Gabe also knows that Patrick is only their greatest asset when he’s not overwhelmed. Pete’s been noticing the gradual decline in Patrick’s demeanor as the case wore on, how Patrick's face seemed to grow more pale and weary, his shoulders slumped further, his feet all but dragging when he walked. And it fucking killed Pete to see him go through whatever Hell Pete couldn’t see, to be completely powerless to help because Patrick wouldn’t let him in. He didn’t even know what Patrick was battling, though he had some ideas. It just...it really wasn’t a good thing to ever assume anything with Patrick. He’s learned that the hard way over the years. 

Pete glances down at his watch and decides to give it another twenty minutes before he orders food. He doesn’t want it cold by the time Patrick gets home, so he goes over to where Patrick keeps Shamu’s tank. He stoops down to the cabinet underneath it and pulls out the fish food and sprinkles some into the tank, watching the goldfish come up and nibble at the flakes. Patrick’s had this stupid fish since Pete won it for him at the fair a couple years ago. Pete’s honestly surprised he’s still alive. 

When he grows bored of watching Shamu, Pete goes back into the kitchen and decides to unload Patrick’s dishwasher. It hits him sometimes that he’s been friends with Patrick for a huge chunk of his life, and it always makes him get introspective and try to imagine what his life would look like if he didn’t have Patrick in it. He can’t do it, he can’t see what existing would look like without Patrick. The closest he’s gone was this past year when Patrick needed a break from cases. But he still had little reminders that Patrick had been a part of him. Photos on his walls, tea packets in his pantry, Patrick’s clothes in his closet. 

He knows how it looks. His mom is always on his case about Patrick, that she knows they’re not just friends and Pete always replies, “Yeah, I know.” It’s just fucking complicated. Maybe it’s because they’ve been friends for a better part of Pete’s life, he just can’t risk ruining that. It's not like he has the best track record with relationships. He doesn't need to fuck up his friendship with Patrick by mixing in all the bullshit that came with dating and the expectations that Pete would never meet. It's better to just stay clear of that, and it wasn’t like Patrick is pushing it. So it worked for them.

Or, it had been. At least Pete thought it had. 

Pete braces his hands on the kitchen sink and takes a slow and measured breath, the way that Mikey showed him to do when things got scary. Because Pete thought he knew him and Patrick. Against everything else-- against the uncertainty of his work, of the cases, of the fucking world in general--Pete knew him and Patrick. That was always supposed to be a safe and sure place for him to rest in. 

And things had never really been all that cut and dry with them. He knew their relationship didn’t make sense to anyone else. But it worked for them. At least, fuck, up until the last case probably. Then everything got shot to hell and they’re still dealing with the fallout. And maybe that means that they can’t go back to how things were. Not really. 

Pete just needs to talk this out with Patrick. He’s the rational one. He’ll put it in a perspective that Pete can understand, because Patrick just knows how Pete’s mind works even if Pete doesn’t. He’ll make Pete understand. He’s probably just overreacting from the stress of the case and the shakiness of healing his and Patrick’s relationship. He’s looking too much into things. 

That feeling he had earlier in his office, it didn’t mean anything. That intensity he’d felt, seeing Patrick give in so beautifully and lay his head on Pete’s knee with all the trust in the world, that was just a scene. They always felt like that. And Pete’s only ever scened with Patrick, but he assumes that’s how it always is. Why else would Patrick keep doing it, even after he and Pete stopped?

But the intensity lately, it's not just because they’ve done a couple of scenes again. He feels it when Patrick is just sitting in his office going over notes. He feels the room charged with energy, the air waves rippling when Patrick leans forward to grab a pen off Pete’s desk. He feels it when they’re bickering, something that Pete thought he wouldn’t really miss but then found out he really had. He loves the friction between them, likes the build up and likes to see Patrick’s eyes bright with passion, his cheeks flushed. 

But the quiet moments lately, those almost get to Pete more than the hard-to-breathe moments. Like last night when Patrick let himself into Pete’s house and curled up against him in bed. It’d taken Pete a long time to go back to sleep, he was too worked up over seeing Patrick’s sleepy soft expression. He couldn’t stop watching the way his face twitched from whatever dream he was having, how he’d squeak whenever he shifted in his sleep, and how he instinctively curled closer and closer to Pete until his face was tucked into the curve of Pete’s neck.

They really need to fucking have that conversation before Pete loses his mind or does something stupid. He leans down to close the dishwasher then pulls his phone out of his back pocket.  

It takes Patrick a couple of rings to answer, “Yeah?”

“Are you coming home soon?” Pete asks, “I’m going to order food now, but I didn’t want it to get cold.”

“Yeah,” Patrick says, sounding distracted still, “I’m wrapping up things, then I’ll be on my way. Give me like half an hour.”

Pete grins, “Yeah, ok. I get to pick the movie tonight.”

“No Terminator,” Patrick says, “We need a break from the Terminator movies.”

Pete snorts and says, “No promises,” before hanging up. 

He orders their take out, keeping it simple and ordering pizza since it’ll give Patrick leftovers to keep in his fridge. His fridge has been looking really depressing lately. Pete goes and grabs a beer out before sprawling out on the couch and putting on some trashy reality show to zone out to. 

As soon as he settles into a comfortable position on the couch, he feels his eyes start to droop. He hasn’t really been sleeping much either. It seemed like every time he tried to call it a night, he’d think of something else he wanted to check out with the case, another question to scribble down in his notes to ask Patrick, a file he needed to pull from his desk. And if it wasn’t work related, it was Patrick. Questions about why he left Pete alone for a year, why he’d hid the letters, why he’s keeping Pete at arms length when he’s clearly hurting. 

Or, on a good night, he’d reminisce about his favorite memories, like the time Pete took Patrick to the beach for the first time when they were in California for a case, how Patrick’s nose still turned pink even after Pete coated him in sunscreen and his hair curled a bit from the salt of the ocean water. And sometimes, if Pete was really getting ahead of himself, he’d let himself dream of things that could happen. Things like arguing about what color to paint their kitchen or if they should put in a vegetable garden in their backyard. Things that solidified a future with Patrick, one where they would always be in each other’s lives.

The doorbell shakes Pete out of his daze and he gets up to answer the door. After he pays the delivery guy, he pokes his head out the door and frowns when he doesn’t see Patrick’s car pulling up. Pete sighs and goes back inside, setting the pizza box on the counter and grabbing his phone again. He frowns when Patrick doesn’t answer, but Pete knows that sometimes Patrick doesn’t answer the phone when he’s driving, especially at night. So he sits back against the couch and waits another fifteen minutes before trying him again. 

And then again. 

After the third time, Pete grabs his keys and gets in his car. 

It’s fine , Pete tells himself. Patrick probably got distracted at work again and he’s just going to find Patrick in his office with his nose pressed into a book. Or he’s going to be grading papers because he’s worried Ryan isn’t doing it correctly even though Patrick had told Pete how impressed he had been with Ryan. Patrick has a hard time letting anyone touch his work. He’s always been like that and Pete would have hoped that some time away from a stressful work environment would have broken him of some of his bad habits. 

Logically he knows he’s getting worked up for no reason, but there’s something gnawing at him. Something that never quite healed from their last case when Patrick became one of the victims. It was always a risk, Pete knew, as he and Patrick started working more and more cases together. And the more enemies Pete made, the more worried he got for Patrick’s safety. And of course that crazy asshole never considers the danger to himself. Of course he didn’t tell him about the letters when they first started showing up at his door. 

Pete presses the gas pedal a bit harder at the memory of that clusterfuck.  They'd been tracking a rapist who would stalk his victims. He’d learn everything about them, the people in their lives and their routines. And he’d learn their weaknesses. He’d gather all this information and then taunt his victims with letters left at their doorstep. He’d find the darkest parts of their minds and write them out on the stark white pages so that they’d have to face it. So they’d think that they weren’t worthy of help, that no one could love someone as sick and twisted as them. This would go on for weeks until their victims were broken down with fear and shame.

When Pete came to Patrick’s that night he stood him up at the restaurant--he hadn’t meant to, really he hadn’t--he saw the letter sitting there at his doorstep. Pete had been prepared to talk to Patrick, explain to him that he got it muddled in his mind and thought the dinner meant a date. He had been freaked out and thought Patrick wanted to morph their friendship into something Pete wasn’t sure they were capable of, something he wasn’t capable of. But all that went out of his mind when he saw the envelope with Patrick’s name scribbled out in the same penmanship he’d been studying the past couple months. 

Patrick had lied . He’d freaked out when Pete confronted Patrick about the letter, it was...Pete’s never seen Patrick that afraid in his life. He was like a fucking wild animal or something, attacking him to get to the letter before Pete could read it. But Pete had to, it was evidence. And Patrick was a victim. 

When Pete gets to the university, he’s not relieved to see Patrick’s car. Not yet at least, because the one thing that’s still seared into Pete’s mind is the way those letters always ended. 

I’ll be seeing you soon.

Pete doesn’t even turn his car off, he just bolts out of his car and hurries inside. He takes the stairs two at a time and races down the halls until he gets to Patrick’s office. He opens the door and finds it empty. 

He could have…

Pete takes a deep breath and walks down to the restrooms that are on the floor, but he finds them empty as well. He walks on shaky legs back out to the parking lot, circling Patrick’s car before opening the driver’s door. It’s unlocked. 

Fuck. 

Pete pulls out his phone and calls Joe. “I need a team at Northwestern University.”

“Pete?”

Pete swallows and squeezes his eyes shut, trying to calm himself enough to explain, “Patrick’s gone.”

 

*

 

“We haven’t gotten a phone call yet,” Andy reminds Pete, pushing a bottle of water into his hands, “If Gravedigger had him, he’d have called us by now.”

“It might not be him,” Pete says, clenching the bottle so that no one can see his hands shake. He’s still has to lead his team, he can’t afford to have them distracted by Pete’s state. He needs their focus on Patrick, not on him. “That last case me and Trick worked, we never caught the guy.”

Joe crosses his arms and frowns. It wasn’t a good reminder for anyone. Joe and Andy had taken their turns driving by Patrick’s house too, just so that they could sleep at night knowing that Patrick was safe. “Has he gotten any more letters?”

“No,” Pete says, “Not since we dropped the case, but he always threatened Patrick that he would--” 

Pete can’t say it, but the two of them understand. 

“Should we break into different teams so we can follow both leads?” Andy suggests.

Pete is about to agree, but Gabe strolls through the squad room and pins Patrick’s photo up on the whiteboard at the front of the room. It’s a photo from Northwestern’s directory and it feels all wrong. That’s not the Patrick Pete knows. Pete has plenty of photos of Patrick that’s more him than this shitty one Gabe printed off a website. He’s not sure why that pisses him off so much, but it does. It really does. 

“No one is going anywhere,” Gabe says, “We don’t know what we’re dealing with and like you said, there’s multiple possibilities. I don’t want us wasting resources on maybes.”

“So we’re going to do nothing?” Pete demands, clenching the bottle so tight it might burst open.

“Pete,” Joe says, uncapping the water, “Drink some water and sit down. We’re going to find him.”

Gabe nods and says, “Right. Let’s think everything through before we jump to extremes. We can't rule out the possibility that he went to meet someone. I know you think the two of you are close, Pete, but he might not be telling you everything. A lot can change in a year.”

“He wouldn’t just leave,” Pete says firmly, shaking his head, “His car was left at the university parking lot, and it was unlocked. It was like he had hit his keyfob to open it when... he was about to leave, he told me on the phone that--”

“You talked to him?” Gabe interrupts. 

Pete nods. “Yeah. I was at his house, I ordered pizza and asked when he’d be home.”

“What time was that?”

Pete pulls up the call log on his phone and says, “Eight-forty.”

Gabe nods and writes it down on the whiteboard and asks, “And he said he was on his way home?”

“He said he was just wrapping up some things in his office.”

“Did we get the surveillance videos yet?” Gabe asks, turning to the other agents he must have called in at some point. Pete wasn't paying attention to anything not immediately related to Patrick's disappearance.

“Yeah,” Carden says, walking up with a laptop. 

Pete jumps from his chair, fumbles setting his ignored water bottle on the table, and hurries over. Carden plays the video and Pete sees that the timestamp is just fifteen minutes after Pete got off the phone with Patrick. Patrick is walking to his car, and Pete watches the headlights of the car blink as Patrick unlocks it just as Pete suspected. And then there’s a figure, definitely male, dressed in dark clothes and with his face turned away from the camera, coming up behind him. Pete holds his breath as he watches Patrick try to fight him off, but his hits are landing all wrong and Pete curses himself for not making Patrick retake that self-defense class. He feels bile rise to his throat as he watches Patrick’s attacker wrap a hand around his throat and push an injection into Patrick's neck. Pete turns away before he has to see Patrick go limp on the screen. 

“Is this a...what is it, a scene?” 

Pete whirls around to the agent who said that, and it’s the same asshole from earlier in the day who spouted off bullshit about BDSM. “Get the fuck out,” Pete growls. 

“Pete,” Gabe warns, stepping in front of Pete, “It’s a valid question. Patrick’s been upfront with his lifestyle. Are we sure this isn’t a scene?”

“It’s not a fucking…” Pete starts, but then he bites his tongue so he doesn’t completely lose it and why the fuck were they talking about this when they needed to be looking for Patrick. 

“If we’re considering the idea that Patrick is another victim of Gravedigger, then the injection thing isn’t his MO,” Gabe continues, “I’ve heard of--”

“This isn’t some non-consensual fantasy,” Pete bites out, “And if you bothered to listen to Patrick, you’d know that he said Gravedigger...oh my God…”

“Pete?” Joe asks softly, putting a gentle hand on his shoulder. 

Pete swallows thickly and moves to take a seat before he passes out. Because Patrick had told him this was going to happen. He’d said that Gravedigger was practicing with the injection to take someone who wasn’t a partner. Patrick said that he’d be next, he kept having nightmares... and that’s all Pete thought they were. “He knew he was going to get taken,” Pete whispers, thinking how unhinged Patrick had been getting, how terrified he seemed. 

“We’re going to get him back,” Andy says, putting the water back into Pete’s hands, “Take a couple of sips and just breathe. We’re not going to let anything happen to Patrick.”

He wants to tell him that the worst has already happened, but he can’t even talk because his eyes are growing hot, and if he talks he knows it’s going to come out as a sob. He absolutely cannot cry right here in front of Gabe and the rest of the squad room. But he can’t focus on anything past the fact that his Patrick is gone

The telephone rings, and the room goes still. 

It rings again and Pete goes to answer the phone, but Joe picks it up first, “Hello?”

Pete strains to hear what Joe is listening to, but then he sighs and hangs up the phone. “We’ve got twenty-four hours.”

The room erupts into movement at that, bodies move past Pete in a blur, and all the shouting and orders being barked out swirl into echoes growing farther and farther away. Pete doesn’t even feel like he’s in the room anymore, and for a moment he wonders if this is how Patrick feels when he goes into one of his headspaces. If this is what it’s like to slip out of his mind and float aimlessly. 

A sturdy hand on his shoulder brings him back and he blinks up at Gabe. “I think you should go home, Pete.”

The numbness leaves him in a flash and is replaced by boiling hot rage. “You want to bench me? Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Pete--” Andy starts. 

“You’re too close to this,” Gabe says, cuts Andy off, “You’re too close to the victim and it’s clouding your judgement.”

Pete grits his teeth and he feels his whole body vibrate . “His name is Patrick . It’s fucking Patrick! You just saw him a few hours ago. He’s not just some unknown victim!”

“Come on, Pete,” Joe says, pulling Pete up out of the chair. 

Pete’s still trying to get to Gabe, and he understands now how Patrick wanted to rip Gabe’s face off. All Pete wants to do is dig into him and make him hurt the way he’s hurting. And it should scare him, Pete’s never been malicious towards anyone before, but he just wants him to understand how painful this is for Pete. 

“I know,” Andy says gently, helping Joe pull Pete into his office. 

Joe shuts the door and says, “Alright, where are Patrick’s notes?”

“You’re not benching me,” Pete grits out, “I need--”

“We know,” Andy says with a smile, “You know Patrick better than anyone. We need you to find him. Now where are his notes?”

Pete fucking loves his friends. 

He goes to his desk and unlocks the cabinet, looking past the folder that still has the letters in it and grabbing the files that contain Patrick’s notes they're not working on at the moment. “His other stuff is at his house but--”

“We can start with this,” Andy says, taking the files and handing some to Joe. 

Pete stares at Patrick’s handwriting and asks, “How much was the ransom? I’ll just pay it.”

Joe shifts uncomfortably. “There wasn’t one.”

Pete’s eyebrows furrow as he sinks down into his chair. “That doesn’t make sense. The whole point of this was to be in control.”

“Maybe it wasn’t,” Joe suggests, flipping through the pages of his stack of files. 

Pete exhales loudly and leans back in his chair, closing his eyes. He’s trying to remember what Patrick told him. This isn’t fucking fair, he usually has Patrick to bounce ideas back and forth with. Patrick is the one who leads him to the answers, the one who fills in the gaps that Pete doesn’t even realize he’s missed. 

But Patrick is not here. It’s all on Pete and if Pete doesn’t figure it out then…

“Patrick said The Gravedigger was getting inconsistent,” Pete says, eyes still shut and trying to picture Patrick in this office with him. What would he do? “All the previous victims were exactly the same except for our last two. They defied all his rules.” Then Pete remembers, “Except the location.”

“So you think Patrick is being kept somewhere else? Something not tied to the quarries?”

“Yeah,” Pete breathes, because that makes it harder. Gabe’s team is going to be searching around the quarries again. Pete’s got no idea where to start to look for Patrick. 

“Patrick said Gravedigger was trying to get someone’s attention,” Andy says, “Are the victims connected somehow? Maybe they all know this person Gravedigger is trying to reach out to?” 

Pete nods, “Yeah, maybe..” but he’s not sure. He doesn’t know who Patrick would have gotten mixed up with to get attacked like this. 

“Unless they took Patrick because he was getting close,” Joe suggests and then Andy hits him in the back of the head. But Pete already feels the twinge of guilt at that. It’s all his fault, again. The only reason Patrick even got the letters in the last case was because they were getting close to figuring it out. He’s always putting Patrick in danger, and he’s tried to keep him safe before but it just never works. He’s never good enough to protect Patrick.  

“Would he be making an example of Patrick then? It’d explain why there’s no ransom this time.” Andy suggests after they've allowed the weight of it all to set in. 

“His usual gravesites wouldn’t make sense,” Pete says, frowning, “Which means we’ve got no leads on where to start looking.” 

Joe bites his lip. “Look, Patrick would have caught something, even without realizing it. He’s fucking smart, man, it’s got to be here in the notes.” 

Pete swallows and nods because there’s nothing else to do, and Pete would rather die than give up now. It’s not even an option, there’s nothing in Pete’s bones that’ll let him roll over and surrender. 

Time seems to speed up as they sit in Pete’s office going through Patrick’s notes. Every time Pete looks at the clock he’s lost another hour, and he’s growing restless. How long is he going to sit here in this room while Patrick loses more oxygen? It’s starting to grow light outside, and Pete isn't sure what day it even is anymore. 

They take turns passing notes between them, trying to get multiple eyes on Patrick’s writing to pull out something, anything . The problem with Patrick’s notes is that a lot of it is stream-of-consciousness, and Pete hates reading him slipping deeper into Gravedigger's headspace. It gets fucking creepy. It’ll always start off with theorizing, using the suspect's name and pronouns, but by the time he gets to the end of the page, Patrick’s switched to using first person pronouns. 

“Um, so this is kinda creepy,” Joe says, echoing Pete's thoughts unknowingly, as he sits up, “‘I need to bury my secrets so they can’t judge me. Only he can take away the guilt, only he’d understand. But he’s not paying attention. I could stand right in front of him, but he doesn’t see. Could keep the secrets in his backyard and they’d stay safe.’” 

Andy shakes his head, “Fuck, how does Patrick sleep at night?” 

Pete thinks, he doesn’t , before saying, “You said something about his backyard?” 

Joe scans the paper, “Yeah that’s what he says, but we don’t know who--”

“Call Gabe, I want a team at Patrick’s house.” 

 

*

 

The drive to Patrick’s house has never seemed so long. Pete’s made the trip almost every day since he and Patrick started working together again. He’s got the route seared into his mind, but today he feels like he has no idea where he’s going. The surroundings look foreign, and he’s scared that they’re going the wrong way. He’s terrified that he’s wrong and they’re going to waste precious time, waste the air Patrick doesn't have enough of. 

Pete feels like the longer he’s in the car, the further he sinks into this illusion of time. This thing, this intangible thing, that he’s fighting and has no way of winning. He’s never wanted to slow time more than he does right now. There’s been times over the years where he’s wished he could freeze the moment. His favorites, if he had to pick, had to be the ones where nothing really happens. Those lazy Sunday mornings where Pete wakes up and finds Patrick still asleep next to him. Because when they weren’t working cases, you couldn’t pay Patrick to get out of bed before noon. And Pete would just spend all morning running his fingertips down Patrick’s bare spine and smiling at the way he’d twitch in his sleep out of instinct. Or how he’d make the cutest sounds when Pete leaned in to kiss him, how he’d pretend to be grumpy when he shook off the magic of half awake kisses. Those moments, Pete wanted to freeze. He wanted to go back to where Patrick would wake up and his eyes would focus on Pete, wanted to stop time and capture those rare moments where Patrick hadn’t put his walls up again, where everything was written on his face and Pete could see how much he mattered to Patrick. 

It’s just Andy and Joe in the car with him, so Pete hunches over and presses his face into his knees. Andy’s hand comes up to Pete’s back, like he’s telling Pete he’s got him if he needs to fall apart here in the safety of the car before he needs to put on a brave face for Patrick. 

And it’s like it lets down the floodgates. All the rage at Gabe for not understanding Patrick, at the agents for giving Patrick a hard time, at Patrick for shutting him out for a fucking year . The sorrow of finding out Patrick had been getting those letters, of never being able to catch the fucker for Patrick, of watching Patrick wilt away in his fear during this case. And the shame that envelopes all of that, the same shame that's been  whispering into Pete's ears that he’s not good enough for years now . It all mutates into  some twisted monster in his heart before clawing its way out of his throat and making him scream like he’s a wounded animal. 

He feels the jerk of the car signalling Joe’s surprise, but Andy’s hand comes up to squeeze the back of Pete’s neck,steady and firm. “There you go, just let it out.”

Pete’s screamed himself hoarse by the time they pull up to Patrick’s house. He’s wrung out, but seeing the flashing blue and red lights bouncing off Patrick’s house spurs him into action. He ignores Patrick’s neighbors standing on their porches and runs to the backyard where there’s a fresh gravesite nestled near the back of the property line, right where Pete helped Patrick put in those rose bushes a few springs ago. 

Gabe’s team is already digging, but Pete can’t wait for them to finish. He vaguely hears Gabe ask him what is he doing here, but Pete ignores him and falls to his knees at the edge of the gravesite. He shoves his hands into the dirt and starts to dig. 

“Stop, he needs to do this,” he hears Joe say, and he keeps digging like he’s possessed. He knows he’s probably in the way of the agents who actually have shovels and are making progress, but there’s something in him that tells him he has to be the one to pull Patrick out. He has to see Patrick with his own eyes, he has to touch him, feel his breath and know he’s still alive. 

He has to be the one to save him. 

When they reach the coffin, Pete pulls at the lid. “Trick? Patrick, I’m going to get you out of here,” he promises, pressing his lips to the wood. Then he’s tugging at the lid, ignoring the way the wood splinters and digs into his fingertips. 

He hears the screw driver, but he still tugs--too impatient to wait for the screws to be taken out. When the wood scrapes across the metal screws and lifts, Pete shoves it off to the side and loses it. He knows he’s crying, that all the screaming and ‘letting it out’ in the car did nothing to prepare him to see Patrick so small, and tied up, in a fucking coffin

Patrick must still have something in his system, because he blinks groggily a few times before realizing that it’s Pete in front of him. Then it’s like something in him snaps too and he’s thrashing against the silk bindings holding him. Pete digs his fingers into the fabric and tears, shivering at the way the rips mix with Patrick’s sobs. 

Pete’s chanting something but he can’t hear what it is, he just knows that his mouth is moving. A silent prayer maybe, whispers releasing out into the universe for saving this man for him. For not taking the only good thing in his world, for not taking the sun away from him and leaving him in a starless night. 

And then he’s got Patrick in his arms and it feels like he’s got his heart back after having it missing for what felt like an eternity. He breathes in, smells the lingering scent of the shampoo Patrick had used yesterday, and feels like he’s got his full lung capacity again. Like all his organs are waking back up now that they’ve got their reason to work returned to them.

“I’ve got you,” Pete rasps, pressing his face into Patrick’s soft, wispy hair. 

He squeezes his eyes shut and just focuses on Patrick in his arms and not on the fact that he’s sitting in a coffin that was built for Patrick. 

Or the fact that they’re embracing in a gravesite.

Chapter Text

Patrick blinks at the brightness. 

The angle doesn’t really make sense to him. It reminds him of that time he and Pete spent all Sunday in the park. He can still remember how the chilled fall air soothed his summer burnt skin, lulling him to sleep. And when he had lazily opened his eyes, Pete had been staring back down at him, just like he is now. 

But he doesn’t understand why Pete is crying. 

Instinctively, he reaches out to wipe his tears. But Patrick can’t move. And the prick of a needle, the cold metal table underneath him, the silk wrapping his flesh— it all comes pouring down his senses like acid rain, withering him down to nothing but corroded bone. 

He needs to move. He needs to get free. He needs out. He needs, he needs, he needs...

He hears ripping at the same time he feels a sob tear from his throat, and he wonders for one demented second if he broke his vocal chords. Pete’s hands replace the silk, and he’s being lifted. 

Pete is warm. He’s warm and his hands are gripping Patrick, keeping his skin on his bones. 

And he’s telling Patrick, “I’ve got you.”. 

 

*

 

Patrick doesn’t understand what’s happening to him. 

It feels like every time he blinks, he’s somewhere else. 

He’s in Pete’s arms, feeling the wood of the coffin still underneath his knees. Pete’s hands are stroking down his back, his lips pressed to his hair and he’s whispering but Patrick can’t hear what over the sounds coming from his own throat. 

And then he feels the prickly tickle of grass under his bare feet-- he’s in his backyard. He looks up and sees the rose bush that Pete argued with Patrick about years ago. Something about the fact that Patrick didn’t get the right soil, or maybe it was that Patrick’s yard didn’t get enough sunlight. The flowers have all dried up for winter, leaving nothing but darkened thorns. 

“...hospital to get checked out...Wentz, you can’t drive...”

“Take him...faster than…not letting him go.”

Patrick blinks and he’s looking down at his grave. His grave. Not a dream. Not this time. But it all looks the same. His throat tightens when he stares at the white silk that had been wrapped around him. The dirt surrounding the coffin looks so dark it’s almost black. And Patrick has to blink rapidly to remind himself he’s not dreaming, he’s still in color. 

And he’s staring at red nails holding out a white plastic band. 

Patrick recoils when the red nails circle his wrist and he feels Pete’s chest behind him, keeping him steady. “Can I put that on him?”

Pete’s warm hands replace the nails, and he presses the band together. 

Patrick’s name stares up at him and it reminds him of that time when he got drunk for the first time at some high school party. He couldn’t feel his face and he had stared at himself in the bathroom mirror, repeating his name over and over until it didn’t sound like a word at all. The letters on the band blur together, they twist and coil around like they’re not really words either. 

 

*

 

“Trick?” Pete asks from outside the small bathroom. The door is kept open, and Patrick can hear Pete flipping through the paperwork they gave him to fill out. “Are you doing ok?”

He’s staring at his clothes crumpled up on the floor. He’s got a hospital gown on, the cotton thin and smelling like disinfectant. He’s always taken comfort in his clothes--had hid in too big hoodies when he was unhappy with his weight, pushed hats over his eyes when he was shy, put on tailored suits when he wanted to feel confident. Fabrics mattered. Patterns and colors could impact his mood. 

And this pale, cheaply made hospital gown means something too. 

“Easy,” Pete says, suddenly against his ear. His hands come over Patrick’s and he gently pries Patrick’s fingers away from the fabric. He hears a zipper being pulled undone and then Pete is draping his FBI windbreaker over Patrick’s shoulders. Patrick turns to face Pete and takes in the way his eyes get a little lighter as he zips Patrick in the jacket. 

Pete’s eyes flicker to the clothes on the floor and he swallows thickly before saying, “Come on, you’re supposed to be resting.”

Patrick wants to tell him that he really has no interest in laying down, that he’s scared it’s going to feel too much like laying in that coffin again. But he wants that haunted look off Pete’s face, so he goes to the hospital bed and sits on the very edge of it. 

Pete takes the pair of hospital issued socks and brings up a chair to the edge of Patrick’s bed. He lifts Patrick’s feet into his lap and carefully rolls the socks over them. They’re pale blue with rubber soles and remind him of the socks he used to wear as a kid so he wouldn’t slip on the hardwood floors at his mom’s house. 

Pete stares at them for a moment, maybe thinking the same thing, then crumples over and lays his head in Patrick’s lap, creating a mirrored image of the last time Patrick saw Pete before all this happened. 

Patrick reaches down and strokes his hair.

 

*

 

“Joe and Andy are packing up your house,” Pete says. He’s sitting in a chair pressed up to Patrick’s hospital bed, one hand holding Patrick’s hand and the other holding his phone. “Is there anything in particular you want?”

Patrick frowns down at his socks, trying to think if there’s anything in his house that could chase this feeling away. He’s never been a particularly sentimental person, but now he really wishes he was. He’d love to have something old, something from his past to press his face against and smell his childhood home. Something that reminded him of the apple spiced pies his mom used to bake in the fall or the crisp smell of linen drying out in the backyard under the sun. 

He wishes he had taken those school yearbooks from his mom’s house when she offered them, because he’d love to remember the person he used to be before the darkness of these cases leaked into him. He wonders when he left that kid behind, and why. Because he used to be really fun. Or at least he remembers having fun. He used to love music, and if he thinks hard enough, he can remember the heaviness of piano keys or the bite of guitar strings under his fingertips.

“Trick?” Pete asks, squeezing Patrick’s hand. 

Patrick knows that he’s supposed to say something, but nothing comes to mind. And that sorta fucks with him. That in a moment like this, he’s got nothing to show for his life. He doesn’t remember if his life flashed before his eyes when everything went dark after that prick of a needle in his neck, but he thinks that it must not have been a very long flashback. 

 

*

 

There’s a knock at the door and then Carden is walking in with Beckett. Pete turns to face them, but doesn’t remove his hand from Patrick’s. “No.” 

“I know,” Carden sighs, “But we need to go over what happened.”

“He’s still in the fucking hospital,” Pete bites out, standing up and pulling Patrick forward to cradle him against his chest. 

Patrick turns his face into Pete’s sweater and lets the softness soothe his hot and stinging face. He doesn’t even remember when he started crying, but he wonders if maybe he hasn’t stopped since Pete pulled him out of--well, since Pete saved him. 

“Look, let’s make this quick and then--”

“Out,” Pete demands, taking one hand off Patrick to point to the door. “Now.”

“Fine, but Gabe’s going to--”

“I don’t give a fuck, Carden, I really don’t,” Pete says, nodding towards the door, “When Patrick’s ready, I’ll bring him into the office.”

Patrick isn’t sure he’s ever going to be ready to talk about what he’s gone through, but he doesn’t say that. He turns his head slightly so that he can see Beckett standing awkwardly by the door, looking like he’d rather be anywhere but here. 

Patrick understands the feeling. He’s been on enough cases to know that the best time to question a victim is right after the incident so they can get all the raw details while the memory is still fresh. He can’t help but feel guilty for not being able to help with the case. And then he feels disgusted with himself, because how many times had he pushed a victim into talking after they’d been through something horrible? He’d coax them into talking, let them know that they’d get closure after they caught the bad guy. 

But Patrick can’t see his own closure within reach. He can’t see anything past this hospital room right now. 

 

*

 

Pete has to hold Patrick when they stick him with a needle to take his blood. 

“Shh,” Pete soothes against his ear, rubbing his back in slow circles, “They’re just running some tests to make sure you’re ok.”

Patrick wants to tell him that he’s not ok. Something is really wrong with him, but Patrick can’t even find the words to explain it to himself, much less anyone else. Even Pete. Pete, who is supposed to just know Patrick. And that makes him want to ask Pete to explain it all to him. He needs Pete to tell him what’s going on with himself, because he’s not sure anymore. 

When the doctor comes in to ask Patrick questions, Patrick just looks at Pete with pleading eyes. So, Pete holds Patrick’s hand and keeps his gaze intent on Patrick’s face as he answers all of the doctor’s generic questions about Patrick’s medical history and if he’s on any medication currently. When the doctor starts to ask about what he went through, Pete hesitates until Patrick taps on Pete’s wrist. 

“Did you hit your head?” The doctor asks. 

Tap.

“No,” Pete replies. 

“Are you having any issues with your eyesight?”

Tap. 

“No.”

“Any dizziness?”

Tap, tap.

“Yes,” Pete says, reaching out with his other hand to tuck a strand of hair behind Patrick’s ear. “That could just be the shock, right? Nothing with his head?”

Patrick blinks. Shock, oh right. Patrick is in shock. That’s why everything seems so disjointed. It’s why he can’t string his thoughts together, why he can’t get those thoughts down to his vocal chords and his mouth to open. It’s why he feels both numb and terrified, all bundled up into a confused shell of a person. 

“We’ll run some tests just to rule out anything scary,” the doctor says gently. He’s an older man who sort of reminds Patrick of the librarian at the university. He always holds Patrick’s books on reserve longer than he’s technically supposed to. “I’ll put in the order, just sit tight.”

Patrick looks up at Pete, who forces a fake smile that Patrick assumes is supposed to be reassuring. 

 

*

 

It’s just after noon by the time Patrick walks through Pete’s door wearing scrubs borrowed from the hospital. Patrick’s nurse had tried to give Patrick’s clothes back, but Pete refused and asked if they’d give him some scrubs to go home in instead. It took a minute, but once the realization hardened in her eyes, the nurse whispered, “I’m sorry, of course.”

Pete keeps a hand on the small of Patrick’s back as he walks him back towards the bedroom. “You should rest.”

Patrick just shakes his head. 

“The doctor said--”

“Can I use your shower?” His voice is hoarse, and somewhere in the back of his mind he acknowledges it’s the first thing he’s said since he’s been taken. 

Pete makes a noise of sympathy and steers him towards the bathroom. He turns on the small space heater and goes to the shower to turn it on, adjusting the temperature before turning back to Patrick. “I’ll wait outside for you.”

Patrick nods, but the idea of being left alone--even if it’s in Pete’s bathroom--makes him feel sick to his stomach. And Pete must see that all over Patrick’s face because he says, “I can stay, it’s ok.”

He just nods again and starts to undress. Pete turns his back to give him privacy and to grab a clean towel out of the linen closet he’s got in the bathroom. Patrick steps into the shower and lets out a long sigh, leaning forward to press his forehead against the tiled wall. 

The shock must be wearing off now. His body feels like it’s going to drop at any minute, but he knows he’s not going to be able to sleep for a long time. The last thing he wants is to remember what happened, but his mind isn’t playing fair. It keeps showing him images he wishes he could scrub clean too. He’s back at his car, seeing the shape of someone standing behind him in the reflection of the driver’s window. He’s laying stretched out while cold silk wraps around his ankles, slowly making its way up his legs. And it makes Patrick reach for Pete’s shower gel and squirt a large amount in his hands, scrubbing erratically at his skin. 

That was never something he really considered when he was profiling the case. Somehow he failed to notice how absolutely violating it would feel to wake up to someone else’s touch on his skin, unwanted and foreign.  It feels like his every nerve is screaming out in agony, protesting, but Patrick needs to wash him off. He needs to remove any trace of what’s happened off him. 

He scrubs at his hair, feeling the soap lather up in his hands and it’s so satisfying to feel something clean in his hands--to feel like he’s able to do something, even if it’s small. He moves to stand under the warm water, looking down at the drain to watch all the suds slip away. 

But the itch is still there, so he repeats the process and scrubs harder. He can feel his skin getting irritated and turning red, but it feels so much better than the numbness he had felt in the hospital. When he stands under the water this time, he turns his face upwards to feel the warmth on his face, bringing the life back into his cheeks and lips. 

He goes for a third cycle, but Pete’s hand comes into the shower to turn the faucet off. “You’ve got it all,” he says softly, like he knew what Patrick was doing the whole time. 

 

*

 

It would make Patrick laugh, if he was sure his laughter wouldn’t morph into sobs, that Pete is treating him like he’s got a cold. Pete’s never been very great at emergencies when it hits too close to home. At work he’s great, able to compartmentalize all the scary bits in order to get the job done. But when something happens to him or his family--which apparently includes Patrick--Pete sorta short circuits. 

He’s got Patrick sitting on the couch, wrapped in a bunch of blankets while he’s in the kitchen heating canned soup on the stove. They have The Fellowship of the Ring playing on the television because Pete has determined now was the perfect time to finally rewatch all of the Lord of the Rings movies. And that loosened something in Patrick’s chest, knowing that there wasn’t a timeline for all of this. Pete wasn’t rushing Patrick to shake off whatever it was he was feeling and get back to work. 

There’s a part of Patrick that really wants to get back to work, that thinks he’d feel a lot better if he got off this couch and put on a nice shirt and tie before going into the office with Pete. He thinks that it’d help if he put his mind to work and tried to solve the puzzle. But anytime he starts to think about The Gravedigger, his breath feels shallow like he’s back in the coffin, and his hands shake. So, he’s willing to wait it out on the couch and let Pete heat him soup. 

“It’s still really hot,” Pete says unnecessarily as he carries in a steaming bowl of tomato soup. Patrick sees that he’s also made some grilled cheese sandwiches that look a bit on the burnt side. 

“Thanks,” Patrick says, watching Pete set everything down on the coffee table.

“Do you want more tea?”

No, Patrick wants to say, but Pete’s already hurrying back to the kitchen. Patrick sighs and looks at the soup and sandwiches that he’s sure he’s not going to be able to stomach, since  the mere smell of the acidic tomato soup is making his stomach turn over. 

But Pete comes back with a new cup of tea and a hopeful smile as he eyes Patrick, then the soup. Patrick frees a hand from the blanket cocoon so he can take the spoon. 

“It’s good,” Patrick says when he’s gotten a couple bites down without too much fuss. 

Pete looks relieved, like this was a test of some sort, and settles back against the cushions of the couch. Pete’s hand comes up to rest on Patrick’s back, and it helps anchor him to this living room, to somewhere safe. 

Which is momentarily shattered when he hears a knock at the door. 

Pete’s face shifts into the same hard expression he always wears when they’re about to make an arrest. But when Pete asks who’s at the door, they hear Joe say, “It’s just us. We’ve got Patrick’s things.”

Pete gets up and opens the door, wavering a bit when a fish tank is shoved into his hands. Joe and Andy walk in with a couple bags in each of their hands, and they set everything on Pete’s kitchen counters. 

“Hey,” Joe says, looking a bit like he’s not sure what to say. 

“You brought Shamu,” Patrick says, looking at his fish swimming around in the tank that Pete’s holding. 

“We figured you’d want him with you,” Andy says, smiling. 

It’s stupid, and Patrick is so sick of crying, but for whatever reason, that damn fish in Pete’s hands is bringing him to tears. That, and the fact that his friends were able to figure out what mattered to Patrick even when he couldn’t.

 

*

 

It’s cold. Patrick’s shivering and it feels like his mind isn’t even connected to his body. Everything is swimmy and he’s only getting flashes of sensations. It smells sterile, like everything has been wiped down with bleach. It’s dark and it makes his heart pound that he can’t see what’s happening to him, that he can’t take in his environment. All the training that Pete had put him through is useless if he can’t see what he can use to get out of here. 

A hand on his leg makes him scream. 

Then another hand, gripping his arms, pinning him down. Patrick claws at them and he feels a twisted satisfaction when he hears a howl of pain. 

Patrick!

There’s more hands, shaking him this time, and Patrick’s eyes fly open. Pete’s holding him by the shoulders, his eyes wide and chest heaving. “Hey, are you with me?” He asks, his voice rough. 

Patrick nods weakly and Pete’s shoulders sag. “Holy fuck, Trick. You scared the shit out of me.”

Pete’s hands tug at Patrick until his head is cradled against Pete’s chest. Pete’s heart is thumping rapidly, but he takes deep and slow breaths. “Hey, you’re ok,” he murmurs into Patrick’s hair. 

But he’s not. Patrick knows he’s not, he’s not even fucking Patrick anymore. Not the Patrick that he’s known all these years. He’s not the kid that everyone thinks is going to be a musical prodigy. He’s not the smartass student that’s graduating with honors and landing a job with the FBI. He’s not even Pete’s Patrick, who is brave and strong, the man Pete turns to solve his toughest cases. 

Patrick is a victim. 

“Trick, breathe. Hey, calm down,” he hears Pete says, rubbing his back. “Just breathe for me.”

He says it like it’s easy, and if Patrick could spare the air, he’d laugh. Because something that’s supposed to be so automatic and instinctual is proving to be the most difficult thing for Patrick to do right now. He should be gulping in the stuff after nearly suffocating in a fucking coffin . He should be greedy about it, but his lungs are being stubborn. His body is not connecting to the part of his mind that’s saying, stop being pathetic!

“Patrick, breathe,” Pete snaps. 

And it’s the tone, sharp and dominant, that cuts through the fog and hugs the part of his mind that is craving an order to follow. The part of him that needs to lean into Pete so he doesn’t have to think about anything else right now. And Patrick is aware that he’s not going to be able to do anything intense yet, and it might be a very long time until he can. But he needs something

Patrick can practically hear the realization snap in Pete’s mind and he whispers, “Oh.”

Pete shuffles them on the couch until they’re both laying on their sides with Patrick’s back pressed against Pete’s chest. Pete is careful not to restrain him with his arms, but he presses a hand against his chest. Patrick feels something damp and sticky, and he looks down to see that Pete’s arm across his front has four ugly scratches  going down from elbow almost to the wrist. The blood is smeared, and Patrick's eyes flit to the slightly darker spot on the front of his own sweatshirt, and it steals his breath again. 

“Breathe in,” Pete instructs with a firm tone, but Patrick still hears the lingering trembles of Patrick’s nightmare in his voice. 

He can’t tear his eyes away from the scratches, and his head starts to swim. 

“Patrick,” Pete says in a sterner voice, “breathe.”

Patrick inhales and holds it until Pete tells him to exhale. They do a couple cycles of that until Patrick has stopped shaking and is able to close his eyes again.

“Good,” Pete says, like he always does.

But it sounds hollow this time.

 

*

 

Pete’s mom comes over even though Patrick had told him not to tell anyone outside of their team what happened until he’d gotten a better handle on himself. There were a few times over that first couple of days where he’d wanted to go home. And he means home home. He wanted to sit at his mother’s kitchen table while she made them a pot of coffee and talked about nothing important. He wanted to listen to her talk about the new plants she put in her garden over the summer, how she’s planning on painting the upstairs bathroom one of these days, and that her hair stylist’s daughter got into the Air Force. He just wants to hear her voice and pretend that he’s a kid again and that it’s someone else’s job to take care of him. 

And Patrick doesn’t really blame Pete for calling his mom, because it’s not fair to put all of this mess on Pete. Of course he told his mom, Pete’s stopped being able to lie to his mom ever since he got out of that rebellious phase in his twenties. Of course he’d spill everything when she called for her weekly phone call. 

Any sense of betrayal that Patrick had felt when he saw Dale come into the apartment with a bag full of groceries disappeared when he saw the tension leave Pete’s shoulders. That relief turns into gratitude when she’s able to push the boys through a seemingly normal routine for the day. 

For the last couple of days, Pete had bent to every whim Patrick had. He hadn’t wanted to go to sleep, scared of the nightmares he was sure were waiting for him, so Pete stayed out on the couch with Patrick and kept putting in movies, losing track of hours as the days blurred together. Pete slept, but only in spurts. His insomnia had gotten better over the years, but Patrick knows that the stress is triggering it all over again and he feels immensely guilty. 

Dale made them get off the couch and took Patrick down to the basement with her while she sorted through the laundry and talked Patrick through putting the clothes in the wash and what settings on the machine  to use before pouring in the detergent and fabric softener. He knew how to do laundry, he’d been doing his own since he was a teenager, but somehow having the instructions was helpful. They let him sink into the task he was doing instead of letting his mind wander to more sinister thoughts. 

And then Dale taught Pete and Patrick how to make lasagna from scratch, even the noodles. She divided the tasks up and made them use their hands to work the dough mixture, something that makes Patrick think of those sensory sand mixtures that he sees therapists use sometimes. Dale is a really smart woman. 

And when the sun starts to set outside, she goes to turn out all the lights, but Pete follows her and turns them back on. “We need to keep these on.”

Patrick absolutely wants to disappear from embarrassment because he’s a grown man who should not be afraid of the dark. But Dale doesn’t call Patrick out on it, instead she pats Pete on the shoulder and tells him to call her if they need anything else. 

 

*

 

“Tilt your head back a bit,” Pete instructs. 

Patrick does and grins when Pete leans down to kiss the tip of his nose. His heart does a little somersault and he has to remind himself that the affection is just because Pete was still basking in the relief that he hadn’t lost his best friend. 

The plastic gloves Pete’s wearing crinkle as he rubs in the hair dye he’s been depositing on Patrick’s strands. “Want a haircut too?”

“Like I’m trusting you with scissors,” Patrick says. 

Pete scoffs. “I used to cut my own hair all the time.”

“Exactly,” Patrick deadpans and then squirms with a squeak when Pete wipes a globe of dye on his nose. 

“Asshole,” Patrick mutters, reaching for a tissue to wipe it off. “If I have a brown spot on my nose, I’m shaving your head.”

“Like I’d trust you with the clippers,” Pete retorts back. 

“I know where you sleep,” Patrick points out. 

Pete snorts and runs his fingers through Patrick’s saturated strands. “You should, it’s been next to you lately.”

Patrick can hear the slight tension in his words because Pete has tried everything to get Patrick to sleep through the night. He’s made him endless amounts of sleepytime tea, got Andy to bring over essential oils to rub on Patrick’s wrists and forehead, and used the bubble bath his mom swore put him to sleep when he was a baby--but nothing’s worked. It’s not that Patrick isn’t tired--he’s exhausted and he’s ready to drop at any moment, but he stubbornly keeps himself up as much as possible. 

He’s willing to do anything to keep from those nightmares. 

“Alright,” Pete murmurs, holding the hair dye box in his hands, “It says we need to let this sit for twenty-five minutes.”

“Sounds good,” Patrick says thickly, slumping into his chair. 

This last week feels like it’s taken them years to get through. Patrick’s not sure if it’s because Pete’s mom broke him out of his somewhat chatonic state, but now he feels like he’s nothing but a frenzy of nerves. Pete has tried to soothe them in any way he could. He’s ordered a stack of sudoku puzzle books and those stupid theraputic coloring books so that Patrick could start working his mind again. And he overheard Pete on the phone with Gabe, telling him that they needed more time before Patrick was ready to talk about the case, which did help a bit. So did Pete getting blackout blinds so that Patrick would stop worrying that someone could see into the windows. It was one of those irrational fears that snuck up on him, something he knew could happen to people who’d been through traumatic events. He was trying to find something he could control, something he could personify his fears into and manipulate it so it couldn’t hurt him. He could block everyone out of the house, he could make this place a fortress and never leave. 

Except, that was sort of starting to be a problem too. 

There’s nights--when Pete finally goes to sleep--when Patrick realizes he hasn’t left this house in days. He can’t remember the last time he had been shut inside that long, can’t remember when’s the last time he didn’t work for over a week. He hasn’t taken a vacation in years, not since that summer when he and Pete went to Mexico for Pete’s birthday one year. And Pete had all but packed for Patrick and drug him onto the plane to get him to go. 

He hasn’t slowed down for years and it’s starting to get to him. It’s coiling around his mind and squeezing tight, making him feel claustrophobic both in his mind and in this house. 

The timer going off on Pete’s phone startles him, and he wonders how he’d checked out for that long without realizing it. He looks up at the mirror and catches Pete’s gaze. He’s staring at Patrick with concern, but doesn't comment on it, just pats his shoulder and says, “Let’s rinse your hair out.”

Patrick lets Pete maneuver him so that he’s leaning over the tub then jumps when he feels cold water on his scalp. 

“Sorry,” Pete chuckles, moving the detachable shower head until the water warms up more. When he brings the water back over Patrick’s hair, he asks, “Better?”

“Much,” Patrick says, closing his eyes and letting the warm water run over his scalp. There’s something really healing about this, something that Patrick thinks means he’s taking a bit of his back. And it’s just hair, it’s nothing drastic--but Pete’s eyes had lit up when Patrick told him he wanted to dye his hair. So, Patrick’s pretty sure it is a big deal in its own way, at least to them. 

And it probably means a lot that Pete’s the one doing it, that it’s his fingers running through his hair and rinsing out the dye. That he’s the one who's covering up the bleach job that Patrick had done himself when he was trying to distance himself from Pete--when he was trying to be someone other than Pete’s partner. 

When Pete turns the water off, Patrick opens his eyes and watches the last of the dark water swirl down the drain. Pete tosses a towel over his head and helps him to his feet. He muses Patrick’s hair dry before positioning in front of the mirror and pulling the towel away. 

Patrick looks like himself again, more so than he has in a year. There’s dark circles under his eyes, and his face looks a little gaunt, but that’s him . Not a Gravedigger victim. 

Pete looks like a huge weight has just been lifted from his shoulders and he leans down to press a kiss to Patrick’s cheek. 

Patrick turns the same time that Pete leans forward and then he’s kissing Patrick, desperate and shaky. Pete’s fingers weave through Patrick’s damp hair and tilts his head up so that he can kiss him the way he really wants to. Pete’s always been so consuming. He kisses like he’s trying to devour all of him, and it makes Patrick both want to laugh and cry because how could Pete not realize that he already has all of Patrick? 

Patrick digs his nails into the back of Pete’s neck as he feels himself being hoisted up onto the bathroom sink, and he maybe falls just a bit more in love with Pete for knowing not to take him to bed-- for knowing that that’s not what Patrick is asking for right now. 

He just needs to feel alive. Needs to revel in the way Pete scrapes his teeth against Patrick’s bottom lip to bring the blood to the surface, the way he presses firmly down on Patrick’s pulse point in his neck, the way he keeps bringing out sighs and gasps from Patrick just to remind him he’s still breathing. 

Pete’s mouth trails down Patrick’s neck and he pulls Patrick’s hips forward so that his back is braced against the mirror as he pushes his shirt up and nibbles his way down his chest. He pulls Patrick’s hands down from the back of his neck so that he can suck and nip at his fingertips, so that he can lick at the pulse points at his wrists, and whispers, “You’re here.”

Patrick inhales sharply as Pete gazes at him and says, “Say it, Trick.”

“I’m here,” Patrick exhales.