Jae (jae_w) wrote in popoffacork,
Jae
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popoffacork

This Year's Apologies (Pete/Patrick)

Title: This Year's Apologies
Recipient: fueledbysquee
Author: fanplankton
Band: Fall Out Boy
Pairing: Pete/Patrick
Word Count: 11k
Rating: PG-13
Summary: In which sometimes love is not enough, sometimes it is, sometimes Patrick Stump is an idiot, and John Cusack always gets the girl.
Notes: Writing this fic helped me get through my least favorite time of year, and became something that I couldn't love more. It strayed from the original prompt a bit, and by a bit, I mean a lot. I still hope you like it, fueledbysquee, because I absolutely adore it and could not have had a better time doing this. Thanks so much for the support, patience, amazing beta-ing, and super immense (uncharacteristic) helpfulness from the ryan ross of fruit punch, nexttwentylove.



Joe is the one who introduces them.

Patrick and he aren't friends, exactly, but since Patrick started working at Borders, Joe's been showing up pretty often. At first, it actually is just to buy CDs or books for his lit class, but after a couple weeks, he starts coming in mostly to talk music with Patrick. At some point, probably embarrassingly long into their acquaintanceship, they realize they go to the same school, have the same math teacher (different periods, though) and are in the same chemistry class. The next semester, their chem teacher pairs them as lab partners, and after a while, they start hanging out not in class and while Patrick's not on the clock. Sometimes they go to shows, sometimes they jam, and sometimes they just hang around playing video games.

Patrick's not a loner, and he'd like to think he's not a loser, but he's never really had friends that he just hung out with before, and Joe's cool. He and Patrick can talk music for hours, and that makes Patrick's shifts go by faster. The guy knows his stuff, and plays really fucking well, and it's nice to have him rocking out a melody while Patrick plays the beat on his kit. Joe doesn't even seem to care when he accidentally stumbles upon Patrick's collection of skin mags, and, since most of them feature dudes, that's pretty cool of him. Joe's pretty cool in general, though.

Then he brings in Pete to Borders.

From what Joe had said about him before, Patrick was expecting a tidal wave, or a whirlwind or, well something. But Pete just says, "Patrick?" and when Patrick nods slowly, Pete nods back, looks him shoes to hat and says, "Alright." He starts sipping at his overpriced coffee drink and stays silent, but his eyes don't leave Patrick's face while he and Joe shoot the shit for a while. At first Patrick is kind of freaked out, but then he gets distracted by the conversation at hand, and he almost forgets Pete's even there.

The next time Pete comes, the very next day, he's Joe-less and it becomes immediately clear that the day before was a one-off; the subdued, silent Pete is not the one who bounds over in jeans tighter than should be anatomically possible and a band-shirt that's at least two sizes too small to pull Patrick into an overly-familiar hug. Patrick thinks maybe Pete's crazy, and he hopes Pete's not actually sniffing his neck, but he doesn't protest because, okay, he's a teenage boy and there's five feet of hot guy pressed against him. He's in no position to complain.

---

It's like Pete decides that it'll be his mission to make friends with Patrick as fast as possible. He installs himself in any and all part of Patrick's life he can squeeze into. He loiters at Patrick's work, demanding his opinion on the different novels he's shelving or the CDs he's stocking. The latter is much easier to deal with, and Pete's older and cooler, so he shouldn't be so pleased when Patrick explains his opinions on the influence 1920's jazz had on the current hardcore scene. But he is, and Patrick soon grows accustomed to Pete's giant, wolfish grin and the heat of Pete's body against Patrick's side.

On Patrick's days off, or the rare day Pete doesn't show up, Patrick feels his absence more tangibly than he thinks the situation warrants, and so he distracts himself with Joe or homework or fucking around on Garageband. Two weeks after that first time they met, Pete bullies and begs Patrick's cell number out of him. Patrick was reluctant to share it before, because Pete comes off a serial texter, his sidekick clutched in his hand as ever-present as the manic gleam in his eyes, and Patrick's plan only allots him six-hundred texts a month.

Pete blows through 157 of those texts in the first six days, and Patrick thinks they need to have a talk.

Unable to text constantly, Pete starts inviting himself to dinner at Patrick's house, and Patrick's mom catches on quick and starts setting another place at the table. The nights it isn't filled are rarer than those that it is, but Patrick's mom doesn't mind the extra work or the lack of leftovers; Pete, for all he can be rude and uncouth, has manners instilled in him, and if there was a question as to where Patrick got his blush from, the color of his mom's face after the fifth time Pete exclaimed over her macaroni casserole is enough to dispel it.

Patrick feels kind of bad, though, because his mom had gotten used to Patrick not really having any friends, always being home for dinner and never going out on the weekends, save for the rare marching band field trip or something. Then she got used to Joe and his sporadic presence in their home, and Patrick's occasional absence, spending the night or having dinner at Joe's house. And now, well, Pete is hard to get used to, even for Patrick, and he can't tell if his mom actually likes Pete, or if she's just glad Patrick finally has friends. Her smile seems genuine, though, and her 'yes' is ready enough when Pete asks, earnestly and with an air of seriousness that implies marriage or death, if Patrick can spend the night at his place one long weekend in December.

Pete's place turns out to be a disarmingly nice apartment closer to downtown than Patrick's ever lived, or known anyone to live. It takes him an hour by bus to get there, with Pete chattering into his ear the whole time. He explains, as he waves to the doorman (and, seriously, a doorman), that he meant to clean up, but he got distracted and he had to get the words out and that it's only been a week or two since he took the trash out, so it's shouldn't be too bad.

"We can change the sheets if you really want to," He says, punching the up button for the elevators at least eight times, like the excess will make it arrive faster, "I might have some clean ones somewhere."

Once inside, he hits the number fourteen a couple times, trying to get the doors to shut, and he giggles, half manic, half strangled. "The building doesn't have a thirteenth floor, you know? It's silly, because it does, and I live on it and everything, but they refuse to admit it. Like skipping the number skips the bad luck. Is that how it works? If I spray paint a black cat orange, will it void the superstition?" And he looks at Patrick like he knows the answer, like he can put Pete's mind at ease and Patrick falters; he's never been looked at like that before, and maybe his breath catches and this, this was a bad idea.

Because, Patrick maybe has a crush, and, like Pete and his 13th floor, ignoring it doesn't make it go away. Patrick figures eventually his hormones will learn that Pete is a friend and not something more, not something to get all stupid over and not someone whose face should be burned into the inside of Patrick's eyelids when he wakes up, mouth sour and sheets sticky. His crush on Pete isn't a shock, because Patrick still remembers the way his insides squirmed when Pete hugged him that first time, and every time since, with increasing enthusiasm, and Pete's hot, okay, and Patrick. And Patrick's always been hypothetically gay, but he's sixteen and not that attractive and he's never had a boyfriend, or anything like Pete; there's never been so much so close to him. So yeah, it's natural that his brain latched on to the hot older dude who's latched on to him. It's just inconvenient, because now Pete's staring at him like he's the answer to everything, and Patrick's going to be trapped in an apartment with the guy 'til tomorrow morning, and he doesn't know how he's going to get out of there safely.

Patrick opens his mouth, wets his lips, and still doesn't know what he's going to say. The elevator dings, doors slide open, and he closes his mouth with a snap, sighs in relief and waits for Pete to lead the way.

---

The apartment is a mess. Not just a mess, a disaster, and Patrick spends the night cleaning it up, because the alternatives are him leaving early, going home and crawling into bed like a little kid, or breaking down and begging Pete to fuck him, which Patrick wouldn't even begin to know how to do.

So. He cleans. He cleans Pete's entire apartment, because he doesn't know where to start. It takes five hours, two entire bottles of 409 and half a gallon of bleach to do it, and sometime after ten, Patrick sends Pete out to get a new pack of sponges, because the one decrepit washcloth Patrick found under the sink has literally disintegrated in his hands. Patrick utilizes his absence to do some guerilla laundering because Pete seems to have something fundamentally against clean clothes. He also maybe takes advantage of the fact that Pete's not there to mock him for it when he stands in slack-jawed amazement at the state of the laundrette in the basement. The walls are painted a dark swanky purple, and there are black leather couches and bar stools spread out around the space, along with three giant flat screen TVs. Pete never mentioned being rich, nor did he warn Patrick that he lives in the most expensive apartment complex in the city.

Beneath all the mess and grime, Pete's place is incredibly nice, painted a clean light gray with red accent walls and contrasting black furniture, and even the band posters and gig fliers are nicely matted and framed, arranged artistically around the rooms. The kitchen is state of the art and practically untouched, and Pete's bed could easily fit twelve of him. There are two spare bedrooms, one with a futon and entertainment system, including a TV even bigger than the ones in the basement, and the other has been turned into an office, the walls lined with bookshelves and most of the space taken up by a huge writing desk with an expensive computer sitting half-closed at an angle on a stack of papers.

They've been spending practically every day together for almost three months, and most of that time Pete spends running his mouth about any and everything, so if Pete failed to mention that he was rich, it had to be on purpose. Which is fine, it's not like Patrick cares, not really, it just maybe stings a little that Pete couldn't trust him with that information. The only secret Patrick has from Pete is his stupid crush, and that's only out of necessity. They've only known each other a few months, but Patrick's never had a friend like Pete; never known anyone like Pete. He knows Pete's secrets, and Pete knows his, and if they're both hiding something from each other, that's fine. Pete can have his money, and Patrick can have his crush and it'll be fine.

Pete comes back within an hour with Chinese food and four movies, all staring John Cusack, and all fucking classics, Patrick, come on. He has the sponges too, but he refuses to hand them over until Patrick eats the lo mein and watches Say Anything. Patrick's already seen it, but Pete's smile is doing that genuine thing it sometimes does, rather than the manic wolfish thing, and Patrick can't really resist that.

---

Patrick puts his foot down before Grosse Point Blank, says they'll watch it when they finish, if Pete helps. It's already a little past one o'clock, and most of the apartment is clean, but Patrick still has Pete's room to clean and he's getting a little too comfortable on the couch, Pete leaning heavily on his shoulder, huffing into his neck when he's amused and guffawing enough to shake both their bodies when something funny happens. So, Patrick sets Pete up with the three baskets of laundry and tells him to get to folding, and he heads into Pete's room armed with a trash bag and fresh bottle of 409.

Patrick had stripped the bed before doing laundry, and the clean sheets are folded in the basket Pete's sitting in, so Patrick decides to save the bed for last, starting instead on collecting trash and cleaning all the surfaces to within an inch of their lives. He moves on to the en-suite bathroom, having already cleaned the other ones off the living room and hallway, respectively, and seriously, Patrick's mother's house has less bathrooms than this place. It's surprisingly clean, for a bathroom used by Pete Wentz on a frequent basis, and Patrick scrubs the sink and wipes the mirror before noticing the trail of bluish toothpaste splattered behind the faucet and up into the medicine cabinet. A giant glob is hanging down over the ledge, so Patrick opens the door and wipes up the toothpaste.

He doesn't mean to look, but his eyes find the bottles of pills lined up on the shelves; one for depression, one for insomnia, one for anxiety, and that's just what Patrick recognized. He thinks of Pete, and his sharp grin and self-deprecating laugh, what he'd warned the second time they met, I'm kind of fucked up, accompanied by a grimace that Patrick hasn't seen since. It's not pity what Patrick feels, because he doesn't feel sorry for Pete. He hurts for him, though, and Patrick puts down his cleaning supplies and walks back to the living room even though he's not yet done with the bedroom.

When Pete puts the DVD in and presses play, Patrick sits next to him on the couch, close enough that Pete doesn't have to move far to press up against him. Patrick cuddles back, and when Pete eventually falls asleep on his shoulder, nose pressed into his jaw and breathing wetly on his neck, Patrick is so fiercely glad that Pete can at least sometimes sleep without taking any pills that he doesn't even bother trying to squirm away, he just puts a protective arm around Pete's shoulders and quietly says Martin Blank's lines along with him.

---

It's ironic, in a way, that Patrick decided to forgo cleaning the rest of Pete's room that night. Or, at least that's the thought running through Patrick's mind as he sits on the ground with his back against Pete's bed not two weeks later, a box of porn scattered on the floor in front of him. There's one skin mag face down on Patrick's thigh, the upside-down covering featuring a pretty naked boy with a sparkly star over his naughty bits. The titles reads Twinks! in pink bubble letters and Patrick is. Patrick's a little beside himself.

Because, okay, it was nice, in a way, that Patrick could always console himself with the fact that Pete just doesn't like boys. Having no chance because he has a dick is drastically preferable to having no chance because he's too young, or too ugly, or too weird, or too much of a loser. (The last two seem unlikely, given that this is Pete, but Patrick's self esteem knows no rationality in cases like these.) It was easier, not knowing, because it's somehow less creepy to have a hopeless crush on your straight best friend than it is to have one on the older gay dude that you hang out with a lot, and whose porn you accidentally stumbled upon while looking for your lost left shoe.

It's like the rich thing, in a way. Patrick didn't know Pete liked dudes, just like he didn't know Pete was loaded, but he knew practically everything else. So if Pete didn't tell him this, either, he must have meant not to and as much as the he actually doesn't like me, not just my gender realization hurts, the fact that Pete couldn't trust him hurts even worse. And Pete's not dumb, when he invited Patrick over the first time, he'd have of course known Patrick would figure out the size of his bank account based on the building he lived in. It was roundabout and kind of lame, but he did tell Patrick, in a way, eventually. This? Patrick doesn't know if he'd have ever found out were it not for his missing sneaker.

The magazine is well-read, pages creased and corners ripped and Patrick probably shouldn't be skimming through it, but he kind of can't help himself. The next one in the box is vintage, from the 70's and older than Patrick is. It's pretty cool, Patrick thinks in a detached way, that Pete's collection of porn spans the decades. The fact that the porn is used is kind of gross, now that Patrick thinks about it, and he should probably put it the fuck down, but at least half the guys have these big mustaches and Patrick doesn't know if he's going to be able to look at his Queen poster the same way ever again, without thinking about Pete, legs splayed open, hand fisted around himself, thinking about the skinny Freddie Mercury lookalike on page 23, and god is that not a mental image Patrick needs right now. It's possible he's a little hysterical, and he needs to breathe, because that's what people do when they're freaking out, right? Breathe and calm the fuck down. So he breathes, and starts humming Bohemian Rhapsody despite himself.

And that's how Pete finds him, surrounded by porn, Pete's porn, and singing Queen. It's a little fucked up, and more than a little funny, and Pete's grin slips off his face when he processes exactly what he's seeing. Patrick can't even imagine what he must look like, and his face feels like it's literally on fire. He tries, "Pete," but Pete just talks over him, saying, "Yeah, no, yeah. I'm gay, I like cock. I hope that's not an issue." And his face hardens, eyes going steely and challenging in a way Patrick has never seen before and Patrick feels ashamed, even though judging Pete is the last thing he's doing.

"I... I gathered." And it's not meant to be a joke, but after a long minute, Pete laughs his stupid laugh, but it's harsher than normal, still on edge. Patrick's still thinking about the look on Pete's face, the word cock in his voice, but he's talking anyway, saying, "Seriously, Pete, do you honestly think I care? What kind of douche do you think I am, I mean, seriously." It would be protesting too much if it weren't true, but it is and that seems to be enough for Pete. He sits down on the ground next to Patrick, plucks the magazine out of his lap and starts flipping through it.

"Yeah? Yeah. It doesn't have to be, like, a thing, or anything, you know?" Pete looks nervous, and more like the guy Patrick met that first day than he's ever looked since.

But Patrick is stuck on the fact that Pete's sitting next to him reading porn, and his mouth is still on autopilot, so it takes a minute to process when he hears himself say, "Yeah, totally. Like, I am too, but that's never been... No, not at all, don't worry."

Something flashes across Pete's face, and Patrick has no clue what it is, but Pete recovers before Patrick can get a hold on it. Standing up, he grins, and if Patrick were more in his right mind, he'd see the sharpness and where it's fake around the edges. "Oh man, this is awesome. I can be your Big Gay Mentor. I found your shoe, by the way. I must have put it in the fridge on accident. It's clean and everything, right?" He takes a break to breathe, offers his hand to Patrick, and continues before he can answer. "I rented Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Anastasia. Which do you want to watch first?"

---

Pete's idea of being a Big Gay Mentor seems to include lots of John Cusack movies. Lately they've branched out into Robert Downey Jr. and Bruce Willis too, and it's just like normal, except with Pete's added commentary.

"See, John McClane is totally the hottest Willis character, but he's almost as good in Armageddon." Pete talks through a mouth of generic cheese puffs, and when he laughs ("Yippie ki-yay, motherfucker," Bruce says on screen.) orange dust gets all over his knees where they're pulled up to his chest. Pete has weird taste in actors and in snacks and Patrick shouldn't find it endearing, but fucking everything about the dude makes it harder and harder not to keep falling for him. It's a vicious cycle; the harder he falls, the cuter things are, and the cuter things are, the harder he falls. Patrick thinks it'd be easier if he got some breathing room, but being a Big Gay Mentor also means attaching himself to Patrick's side, and Pete is taking his role Very Seriously.

Except lately, Patrick's been thinking of Pete in a different way. He's still best friend and still hot guy hugging me and he's mostly idiot but now he's older gay dude more and more often, and it's like. Pete has this thing where he wants the best for Patrick. He always gets him home in time for dinner, and doesn't spend the night on school nights. He'll only pick Patrick up from class, never drive him to it. And it's sweet, but it translates to him not looking at Patrick that way. Being a Big Gay Mentor does not include talking about sex, apparently, real or hypothetical, beyond the first awkward, stilted, "Have you ever..." and the even more awkward "No! I... no." It's like he refuses to ever even give Patrick ideas about the two of them, but Patrick's had ideas since the beginning and it's just. It just sucks.

---

Patrick comes out to his mom, and Pete sits on the porch during the conversation. His mom cries, not because she's disappointed or angry, but because her baby just told her that a huge percent of the world is going to hate him based solely on the fact that he's gay, and the injustice of it is tragic. Her words, not his, and he pats her back consolingly. She asks about Pete and, as if on cue, he storms through the door, and says "I'll take good care of him, ma'am."

From then on, she has the wrong idea about the two of them, but Patrick never bothers to correct her.

---

When they finally hook up, when it all comes to a head, Patrick is taken completely by surprise, but Pete says he planned the whole thing. His eyes are wide, though, shocked, when he kisses Patrick and Patrick kisses back.

Patrick's been sick for a week, some epic flu bug attacking his system, and his mom orders lots of bed rest and fluids. He's fucking miserable, and Pete ditches his classes at the university to play nurse all week. Before the fever breaks, Patrick gets the chills something awful, and Pete crawls into his bed to wrap his sweltering heat around him. It feels amazing, and even after Patrick's through with the cold flashes, Pete keeps climbing into bed after him.

It's Friday, and Patrick's cold is down to the sniffles and a pitiful cough, but he's still exhausted. He's drifting in and out, one side comfortably cool where the blanket is covering him, and the other is stiflingly hot where Pete is laying on it. Pete's been telling mindless, confusing stories about the shapes he sees in the freckles on Patrick's face, connecting the dots with his fingers and brushing the pad of his thumb over Patrick's eyelids and cheeks. Patrick regains consciousness slowing, and Pete's touch straying down his nose and tracing around his lips wakes him up fully in an instant. He opens his eyes and thinks of something witty to say to prolong the awkward moment in which Pete notices Patrick's fucking thundering heartbeat, but the first syllable is all he gets out before Pete's mouth seals over his.

Both their eyes are open, and Patrick's lips are chapped and his nose is snotty. Pete looks scared, and again Patrick sees the guy from Borders, so he presses up, and when Pete's eyes blow with shock, Patrick's probably mimic them, fluttering closed and savoring the moment in case it's another one-off.

Pete kisses him again, and again, keeping them short and chaste and almost reverent. "I didn't know." He says, "I should have known." and "You never told me.".

Patrick hides his smile in Pete's neck and says, "You didn't either."

Pete tilts his head down and mumbles, "Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid," into Patrick's mouth, and he doesn't really know if Pete means himself or Patrick or both of them, but he can't seem to care at the moment.

---

Dating Pete is a lot like being his best friend had been, except for how it's not. More of Patrick's time is spent with Pete's tongue in his mouth and less is spent being self-pitying and pathetic. Patrick buys four tubes of chapstick in one month, and Pete only accidentally puts one of them through the wash. Pete's apartment stays clean, and Patrick's bed is made more mornings than not since he's spending practically every night at Pete's place. Patrick's mom gives him the Talk for the first time in four years, and then again for the scond time when he comes home two weeks later with his neck covered in hickeys. She buys him a box of condoms that sits unopened in Pete's bedside table because, while they do everything else over the next few months, Pete wants to wait. They have sex on prom night, because Pete's a fucker who loves cliches and Patrick isn't gonna argue when it's something he wants too.

Pete says "Love you," teeth set into Patrick's shoulder and legs shaking, and afterwards, Patrick says it back once his breathing has regulated. Pete brays out a laugh, buries his face in Patrick's neck and falls asleep.

---

Patrick gets accepted to the University of Chicago with a scholarship and graduates from high school. His mom co-signs for the student loans he needs to cover what his scholarship won't, and he turns down Pete's offer to loan them the money himself. He and Pete spend the summer in Pete's apartment, air conditioning blowing full blast, having sex and playing music. Patrick reads and watches movies, still works part time at Borders, and Pete writes his manuscript. They hang out with Joe a lot, and Pete's friend Andy moves down from Minnesota and crashes at Pete's place for a week 'til his own housing arrangements are worked out. Patrick's cousin gets married, and Pete goes to the wedding as his date. The wedding photographer gets a picture of them in their tuxes and, in Patrick's case, fedora, and Patrick's mother gets two prints of the picture framed, one for her mantle and one for Pete's bookshelf. Patrick meets Pete's parents and siblings and after, Pete assured Patrick that everyone loved him.

Patrick is happy, and it's the best summer he can remember having.

Pete's happy too, Patrick can see it; his smiles are brighter and fewer grins look like glass, and his bad days are few and far between. Pete says Patrick makes things better just by being around, and maybe that's true. Patrick doesn't fix things, he knows that and he doesn't think he ever can, and that kind of hurts. But, on the bad days, when Pete hates everything and refuses to leave his apartment, Patrick comes over and they watch Better Off Dead, Pete laying with his head in Patrick's lap, and Patrick's fingers in his hair. Patrick will sometimes look down at Pete looking fragile and weak, mouthing along with the movie, and he'll just think Oh. So this is what all those songs were talking about.

---

Patrick starts college in the fall, majoring in music and minoring in business. It's a little too far to commute from home, and his scholarship covers room and board, so Patrick moves out with the help of Pete, Andy and Joe, but Pete hinders more than he helps and halfway through, Andy banishes him to a corner of the tiny dorm so he won't get in the way. Patrick's roommate isn't supposed to get there 'til the next day, so that night, Pete and Patrick christen the tiny university-issue mattress, and Joe hotboxes the bathroom.

Patrick's roommate turns out to be a 16-year-old kid from Vegas who graduated early, got a scholarship and moved out of his house to come here for college. He's double majoring in music and education and he plays more instruments than even Patrick does, but not by much. He doesn't talk about his family and he freezes up whenever anyone mentions religion, but when Patrick takes him home for dinner with his mom one weekend, they gorge themselves on Patrick's mom's vegetarian casserole and stay up 'til noon the next morning geeking out on Patrick's instruments and Garageband and Patrick suddenly has a new friend.



Their friendship is based on music, the most important of common interests, and they're both smart enough that when they argue about artists or composers, it's more like an educated debate and it always ends in the winner buying coffee for the loser. When Brendon wins, they get shitty coffee from the cafeteria because he can't afford Starbucks. Patrick can't always either, but on the days his wallet is too light to allow him to pay, he calls Pete who treats them all. This immediately endears Pete to Brendon, and Patrick is happy to find that, even without the coffee, they get along well, both tiny and bouncy and weird, and Brendon's looking more relaxed than he did when he first showed up.



Patrick enjoys college, makes friends with the kids in his music classes, earns the recognition of his professors and falls harder for Pete. They still only have sex at Pete's place, or when Brendon is out. Pete spends more time ditching his classes than he does in them, and he tells Patrick that any time not spent with him is spent writing. Patrick worries, Pete is barely sleeping, but Pete assures Patrick he's always had this much insomnia. Still, Pete bribes Brendon with a Starbucks giftcard to let Pete spend the night more frequently. The bribe is unnecessary, Brendon says, as long as they don't have sex where he can hear and/or smell it. He takes the card anyway and insists on treating for coffee even though he lost the debate on Morissey.



For the anniversary of their first year together, Pete insists on a romantic dinner the night before and an anniversary party the night after, and it's ridiculous and sappy because it's only been twelve little months, but Pete is more earnest than Patrick's ever seen him, so he caves. He composes Pete a song as a present, and he performs it at the party for their eight guests and then hands Pete the physical copy he and Brendon recorded at the studio in the music building, blushing furiously. Pete's gaze flashes between Patrick's face and the CD for a minute, jaw slack and eyes huge, before his mouth turns up in a wolfish grin and he tackles Patrick to the ground, laying kisses over every exposed inch of skin he can find. There's a lot of clapping and a very loud catcall that sounds suspiciously like Joe, and Patrick is so red he must look like a boiled lobster, but he's laughing too, and he grabs Pete around the middle and kisses his temple firmly before standing them up and jamming his hat lower over his face. Pete gets Patrick a guitar, a vintage Fender Stratocaster, and Patrick can't really find the words to describe how much he loves it, how much he loves Pete.

---

Over the summer, Patrick technically moves back home, but he spends more time staying at Pete's apartment than he does at his mother's house. He makes sure he eats dinner there at least four times a week, but Pete's house doesn't really have food and there's only so much take-out a guy can eat, so he's over for dinner a lot. Pete comes too, when he's not busy writing or out with other friends, and Brendon comes over frequently; he's staying in Pete's guest room (he was going to rent an apartment, but as Pete had said, "It's empty anyway," and "I get lonely.") and even he gets sick of Chinese every night. Joe and Andy sometimes join them and his mom is cool with it, because they always do the dishes afterwards. Patrick ups his hours at the Borders from part time to full time, much to Pete's annoyance, and after the first week of commuting on the bus for three hours a day, he requests a transfer to the new store near the University.

The summer ends with all of them pounds heavier from Patrick's mom's cooking, Pete's manuscript finally finished and Patrick's savings account sizably larger than it was in June.

---

Patrick and Brendon room together again, and while Patrick spends the year studying, Pete spends it looking for publishers. The ones who don't meet Pete after reading his manuscript find it too obscure and the ones who meet him prior to reading it are charmed into a false sense of marketability. There doesn't seem to be a happy medium until spring, when Pete finally finds someone willing to publish his book. He comes to Patrick one night after a huge marketing test and shows him the contract, and the check for a large advance. He's beaming and bouncing and Patrick loves him so much it hurts, in that moment.

Pete wants to spend the advance on a beach house in Oregon, but Patrick talks him out of it, seeing as Pete's never been. Instead, Pete spends the advance on the down payment to an apartment, and he tells Patrick he put his name on the deed too. It's a giant step, but they're ready and after the semester ends, Patrick packs up his old room and moves in with Pete.

The apartment is big for just two people, but it's not as big or as nice as Pete's old one. It's in an older part of town, and one side of the apartment is exposed brick. It has high ceilings and big windows and Pete turns the spare bedroom into a music room for Patrick's birthday. They don't really decorate, but Patrick puts up some posters and Pete puts up some art and Patrick's mom gives them a set of dining ware as a housewarming present. Neither Patrick nor Pete are offended that it's plastic.

---

Pete's book sells, and it sells big, and Pete is an overnight celebrity. His picture starts showing up in magazines, and Patrick is with him more than not, in life and in print, and the media makes a huge deal about Pete being open about his relationship with a man. He does interviews with literary journals and newspapers and one weekend in October, Pete and Patrick fly out to New York so Pete can do Larry King. It's kind of surreal for Patrick that, during the day, he goes to school with Brendon and in the afternoons he works at Borders, but at night, he's the boyfriend of the new It-Boy Author. Patrick doesn't handle the attention well, but Pete does, and he was already a cocky bastard, so it's not a real change when his big head is somewhat justified.

Pete starts going out of town more and more frequently, and Patrick is home alone because he can't miss school. Their first real fight ever is about it, the first fight which isn't solved when Pete just admits he was being a douche, and Patrick maintains his education is more important than keeping Pete company, and Pete maintains he loves Patrick too much to go so long without seeing him. They make up and Pete leaves town, and when he comes back, the stress on their relationship isn't very noticeable, and Patrick loves Pete as much as ever, so it's all fine.

Pete's book stays on the Top Twenty list for eight months, and gets translated into nine languages. In support of the international re-release, Pete's publisher schedules a book tour that hits all the English-speaking countries in the world, as well as those which speak the nine other dialects. It'll take ten months, and Patrick doesn't really know what he's going to do in that time. He hasn't been away from Pete for more than a week in over four years, and ten months is a lot of time. Pete voices the same concerns, hands Patrick a bunch of flowers and asks Patrick to go with him.

"Patrick," Pete says, eyes serious and earnest like they rarely are, "I want you to come with me."

"Pete... No. You know I can't." The I'm sorry goes unsaid, but Patrick knows Pete knows, and he knows he heard it.

Pete's grin fades into a scowl and his "What? Why not?" is laced with petulance.

Patrick sighs and lifts his hat up enough to rub at his hair. "It's my senior year, I'm about to graduate. I can't just take a year off, my scholarship would be voided."

"But, 'Trick," Pete's mouth curves up hopefully and Patrick flinches at the nickname, "You can! There's no rush to finish school, and my take from this tour alone is enough for your tuition twice over. I can keep you pretty and comfortable and you can keep me company. Come on, Patrick, come with me." His eyes are so big and so earnest and it's kind of amazing that he can look so good to Patrick while being a stubborn bastard and ignoring everything Patrick's saying.

"Pete, no." Patrick's never told Pete no before, not about something like this, but Pete needs to listen, and Patrick needs him to understand. "It's not about the money, it's about the fact that I still have an actual life and an actual education to receive, and I have my family and my friends and I can't just put everything on hold because you might get lonely."

"Oh." Pete says, "Oh." and his voice has turned steely and he looks mean around the eyes. "Right. Because it's not like school and your mom and Brendon won't still be here when you get back." His glare is cold, hollow, a that look has only ever been directed at Patrick once and something in Patrick maybe snaps, okay, because it's not fair that Pete can look at Patrick like that and make him just want to give in and give him everything.

"Jesus Christ, Pete!" Patrick yells, "The whole goddamn universe doesn't revolve around you!"

"Patrick--" Pete tries, but Patrick's not having it.

"No, no, Pete, you can't just come in here and tell me to just drop everything to follow you around the world for ten months!"

"Oh yeah, Patrick, right," Pete screams back, the sarcasm in his voice biting, "I want you to follow me around the fucking world because the whole universe revolves around me. Exactly." He grits his teeth and looks Patrick in the eye, says, "You know what, Patrick, why don't you just fucking admit it? You clearly don't want to go with me, so just fucking say so, instead of making shitty excuses we both know aren't true!"

"That's not it at all, Pete, and you know it." Patrick is surprised to hear that his voice is level even though he's so angry it feels like something is breaking.

Pete's grimace flattens out, and his face looks blank. His voice is matter-of-fact when he says, "If you love me, Patrick, you'll come. If you don't, well. That's it."

Patrick laughs harshly and disbelievingly, but stops when Pete's only reaction is to flinch. "Are you kidding me with this right now?" Pete doesn't say anything, he just stays silent and Patrick scoffs, unwilling to believe Pete is actually serious. But after a minute, it becomes apparent that he is and Patrick shakes his head, says, "Fuck you, Wentz." and storms out of the apartment.

Later, Patrick thinks that maybe his heart might be broken.

---

He spends the night at Joe's, and when he gets back from class the next day, Pete's not home, and most of his clothes are gone. His cell goes straight to voicemail and Andy tells Patrick that Pete left this morning. Patrick calls Brendon, who comes over and pretends he doesn't notice Patrick crying while they watch TV.

Patrick waits two weeks, and when there's no word from Pete at all, when Patrick can no longer stand being in the apartment that he and Pete fucking own together, he packs his things and moves into Brendon's apartment 'til he can find his own, leaving his and Pete's home stark and empty and lonely. He ends up spending the rest of the semester on Brendon's couch, and the next he spends on an air mattress in Brendon's room. He graduates college, hugs his mother, and finds himself a new place. He has enough money saved up to live on for a while, but his free time is spent thinking only of Pete, so Patrick works as much as he can so he can think as little as he can manage. He obtains business loans and finds a building, and he opens the music store he's always dreamed of owning.

He names it In Common Time and offers lessons along with repairs, trades and sales. He hires Brendon, and the two keep the shop alive and well for the time it takes to convert the connected warehouse into a studio and practice space, at which point Patrick turns producer, helping up-and-coming bands get their start. They have open-mic nights bi-weekly, and talent scouts show up every couple months. He moonlights as a studio musician when he has time, but never finds himself a band to play with. It's a good life, simple and easy like things never were with Pete and if Patrick feels a little empty every morning he wakes up and every night he goes to bed alone, it's just because Pete left a spot vacant and Patrick doesn't have the time to fill it.

---

Brendon is the one who introduces them, but Jon has served Patrick his coffee every day for the past three years, even if they never exchanged more than formal pleasantries. Brendon pushes Patrick into Jon's space at a party one night and retreats to flirt shamelessly with a pretty guy in a secluded corner. Jon is short, but taller than Patrick, and he has a scruffy beard and strong arms and his clavicle shows through his white v-neck.

"Hey." Jon says easily and then his eyes light up and he says, "Hey! Strawberry Vanilla Frappuccino!"

"Hi, um, it's Jon, right?" Patrick says in return, and Jon laughs a scratchy, quiet sound.

"Why Strawberry Vanilla Frappuccino, are you stalking me?" And his smile is infectious, so Patrick grins back and shakes his head.

"Name tag," he says, and he laughs when Jon pats his chest where his name tag is usually pinned.

"You don't wear one, so I called you 'Hat Guy' in my head 'til Brendon told me your name." He grins sheepishly at Patrick through his bangs. "I asked him to introduce us."

They both look over to the corner of the room where Brendon is standing very close the pretty guy from before, talking. "Well," Patrick says, "He hasn't exactly done that."

Jon laughs, "No, he hasn't. But I still know your name, and you know mine, so now I can ask you out for coffee."

Patrick colors, not used to Jon's bluntness and asks, "Coffee? Don't you ever get sick of it?"

"Patrick Stump," Jon says seriously, "One can never get sick of coffee."

---

Jon is everything that Pete's not; he's laid back and chill and adorably naive in some ways. He can sing, but he can't dance and his smile is easy and natural. Patrick likes him, and over time, he knows he could grow to love him. Jon doesn't fit in the hole Pete left, but he fills it well enough that the mornings Patrick wakes up missing Pete like a lost limb start to come less frequently. They still happen, sometimes, but Patrick's been waking up with Jon in his bed more often lately, and it's better than being alone, even if sometimes he rolls over expecting to see Pete's dark eyes and tattoos and gets Jon's clear skin and chocolate irises instead.

Which is not to say he's not happy, because he is. Jon is amazing, and sweet and he makes Patrick laugh and he makes Patrick think and he's just so nice. He knows everyone in the local music scene like Pete did, but unlike Pete, they all like him. He does photography for Patrick's bands for cheap and helps teach kids guitar when Brendon and Patrick don't have time, all of Patrick's friends adore him and Jon's friends are cool too. Patrick gets a few new clients from Jon's connections, and when Jon's best friend Tom leaves his old band and starts a new one, Patrick gives them time in his best practice space free, because no one makes Jon laugh like Tom.

---

Patrick wakes up to his cell phone beeping, and he wiggles himself out from under Jon's arm, laying a kiss on his bare shoulder on his way, and scrounges around on the bedside table to find it. The screen says Pete and for a brief, terrifying moment, Patrick's heart stops and his stomach squirms, thinking Pete has finally, finally decided to talk to him. But then he sees the calendar icon and Patrick's disappointment is second only to his nerves. Today is the day Pete gets back from his book tour and Patrick completely forgot.

Patrick goes about his day like normal. He sells some instruments, restrings a few guitars and teaches a kid to play Amazing Grace on the clarinet. It's Brendon's day off, but he comes in anyway, looking uncomfortable and fidgeting even more than he normally does. Patrick takes the box of guitar picks he's fiddling with out of his hands and raises a questioning eyebrow.

"Um. Pete came over." He coughs and looks at his feet, gaze flicking between the ground and Patrick's face as he talks. "He said your apartment was empty. I mean, your as in plural, yours and his. He was confused and worried. I didn't know what to tell him."

"I..." Patrick falters. He closes his eyes for a second to calm down, but he just sees Pete's face burned on the inside of his eyelids. "He's the one who fucking left, Brendon. He's the one who didn't call for ten months." The shop is empty, the only customers a young garage band in one of the sound-proof practice rooms, the counter vibrating in time to their bass line, so there's no one but Brendon to hear Patrick yell. "We fought and rather than act like a rational adult, he ran away and just left me and it's been ten months, Brendon." His indignation and anger deteriorates with each word, and by the end, he's practically pleading. "I thought he'd be there when I got back. I thought we could fix things."

"Patrick," Brendon says, eyebrows furrowed, and he puts a hand on Patrick's arm soothingly, "Pete probably thought the same thing when he walked into that empty apartment this morning."

And Patrick, Patrick didn't think of that. When they first fought, when Pete left, Patrick was so blinded by his righteous anger that he didn't think of his feelings at all, not in any rational sense. And then there was work, and Jon, and Patrick's tried so hard to avoid thinking about Pete that now he has no idea what to do or say to him. He's scared of how he'll react when he sees Pete again because he knows, even if he's refused to acknowledge it, that he's still in love with Pete. But there's Jon, who Patrick loves too, and who loves Patrick without hurting him.

"You should talk to him, Patrick." And sometimes it sucks when your friends know you so well, because Brendon knows how Patrick still feels about Pete and he even knows that Pete's the reason Patrick won't ever call Brendon his best friend, because Pete, selfish prick that he is, still holds that title.

Patrick's not a hugger, but Brendon is, so Patrick walks around the counter and throws his arms around him, holding on a little too long, savoring the comfort. Brendon clings, and agrees to cover the shop 'til close. Patrick thanks him, promising coffee the next morning, and goes to find Pete.

Pete is stupid and predictable, so Patrick finds him on his first try, at the Borders they met at, sitting on the ground in the children's section, reading Ferdinand The Bull. Patrick remembers clearly why he loves this idiot and when he sits down next to him, Pete stops, and looks at Patrick like he always has, like he's the answer to every question Pete's never asked.

---

It's not easy, being friends again. It's awkward, and hanging out is hard, because Pete looks thinner, gaunter, and Patrick hurts for him. Pete's medicine cabinet is even more full of pill bottles, but it's also smaller; Pete moved into a new, modest one bedroom, leaving their apartment empty and untouched, unspoken of. Patrick sees Pete struggling, sees him trying to hate Jon, but no one can hate Jon Walker, and when Pete acts like a pissy bitch towards Jon, all Jon does is laugh, and tell a story about his cats so adorable that even Pete's smiling by the end. But Pete's almost as stubborn as Patrick, and when he sets out to do something, he does it, and it seems to be his mission to dislike Jon. They argue a couple times about it, and at one point, Patrick yells, a little too much and too similar to the fight that ended things, and they both go quiet, until Patrick apologizes and Pete accepts and they watch Ocean's 11 curled together on the couch, with slightly more room between them than there might have been previously.

Patrick tries and Jon tries and Pete tries, and Joe tells Patrick that Andy's trying not to kill Pete for being such a self-pittying asshole all the time. Brendon tries to understand why Patrick doesn't just break up with Jon, because it's obvious that he loves Pete, but Patrick tells him that he loves Jon, and that Pete missed his chance. Brendon calls him a stubborn dick and that's the end of the conversation.

Jon takes Patrick to see Must Love Dogs one night, and the next, Pete shows up at Patrick's door, ready to go see the same film. Patrick flushes, tells him he's already seen it and the way Pete's face falls still breaks something inside Patrick's chest. Pete scuffs his shoes and pastes on a fake grin, says Serendipity is better anyway, and they watch the movie together like everything is normal.

But the next morning, Pete shows up at the store and tells Patrick he's gonna be out of town for a while, and that he'll see him in the new year. It's August, and that's five months away, and for the second time, Pete walks out of Patrick's life, and for the second time, Patrick's heart breaks.

---

When Jon catches on, it's only been three weeks. His smile is sad when he kisses Patrick, and it feels like goodbye. He says he always thought it was inevitable, says, "I know I'm not the one, Patrick. And maybe you were mine, but I'm not yours, and there's nothing either of us could do about that." He smiles, but it's a pale imitation of his usual grin. "It's okay, really," he says, even though his voice is all gruff like it is at the end of Old Yeller and he's not looking Patrick in the eye. "We'll still be friends. Brendon and Spencer wouldn't let us not be." That smile is more real, and when Patrick kisses him again, they both know that this one really is goodbye.

Patrick throws himself into his work, as is customary, and by December, his favorite project has half an album recorded and a small tour scheduled for the next spring. They call themselves The Hushies, and Brendon thinks they're adorable, even if they're older than him. Patrick sings back-up on one of their songs, and Brendon and their singer Greta teach each other to dance, and Patrick laughs like he hasn't in weeks. It's a good night, and afterwards, the studio closes for the rest of the year, In Common Time becoming strictly an instrument store for the Christmas season. They run an ad in the local newspaper, Music: The Gift That Keeps On Giving it says, and it draws a lot of business. They close on the 20th, giving Brendon enough time to fly back to Vegas with his boyfriend Spencer and Spencer's best friend, and Patrick goes home to spend some time with his mom.

She's redone his room, and now it's a guest bedroom suitable for an adult. His old navy blue carpet has been stripped down to the wood floor, the light blue walls painted cream, and his old twin bed has been replaced by a queen. It's nice, cozy, and Patrick's favorite recliner is still there, but it's not his anymore, and Patrick feels a little lost. Without his hideous wallpaper border to keep him company and without work to distract him, his thoughts stray towards Pete, as they always do, every night before he falls asleep, every morning he wakes up, and every break he takes at work. It's why he's kept so busy, so now he tries to distract himself with other things, but cooking and cleaning don't do the job and he's missing Pete more by the day. The entertainment news shows Patrick's aunt watches all the time talk about Pete, how he's been sighted canoodling with Ashlee Simpson in LA, and Patrick's mom immediately changes the channel every time, even though the shows only ever have a picture of the back of Pete's head.

Patrick is tired of it, though, and he misses Pete so much, even the gossip shows are welcome. He wants to be somewhere that makes him think of Pete, and where his old memories aren't painted over in new colors like in his bedroom, or where the disuse and abandon surround him like in their apartment. He spends Christmas with his mom and their family, but the next day, he gets a flight to Oregon, rents a car and drives out to the beach.

Pete never used any of his book money on a house on the beach, but he always talked about it, and though they never went together, the smell of the ocean and the gray sky and gray water make Patrick think Pete so strongly, he's almost sure Pete is there with him, and not completely missing from Patrick's life. He rents a cottage right by the ocean, close to the water and far from everything else, except one other cottage a couple hundred yards up the beach, and a larger house almost a mile down it on a small peninsula. He spends his days playing music, singing songs, reading books and sleeping. It's harder to be lonely when he's actually alone, and the neighbor's constant presence in their house is a comfort. The old truck in the drive never moves, and the only sign of life is the mail arriving each day, and the lights on all night each night. Patrick loses track of time, both in an immediate sense of spending hours staring at the sea, and in a larger sense since he doesn't look at his phone but one every couple days, despite its constant presence in his pocket. But, like clockwork, every night at 11, Patrick will get up and take a walk on the beach. It's freezing, because it's fucking Oregon in December, but Patrick's from Chicago and has been colder, and he always runs himself a hot bath after. He likes the way his voice carries over the water on clear nights, and likes the way the drops swallows it whole when it rains. He sings the song he wrote to Pete most often, even though it's lyrically inferior and doesn't sounds as great without Brendon playing the cello in the background.

He's singing an old poem of Pete's that he'd set to music when they first met, a harshly sweet song about love and loss, when he hears the footsteps, muffled by the sand. He doesn't turn around, because it's almost midnight and it could be anyone, but when Pete speaks, Patrick somehow feels like he knew it was him all along.

"I thought I dreamed you. You were singing, and I thought I was dreaming." His voice is wrecked, scratchy for not being used in months and gruff from the emotion there. "I've always thought I dreamed you. You're too good to be true, Patrick. Always have been." Still facing the ocean, Patrick hears Pete take the last few steps, hears him sit down in the sand next to Patrick. He can feel that familiar heat radiating off Pete's body and the salty sea air tastes like home, in that moment. "You've always been too good. I'm fucked up, I told you when we met. I didn't tell you how much, though, or how much of a fuck up I am. I should have, it was never fair. Too good." And Patrick doesn't know if it's the surreality of the situation that's inciting such honesty, or if Pete really thinks he's a dream, but he's grateful either way.

"Pete." he says, and turns to look Pete in the eye through the dark, searching for the words to say. But words have never been his thing, so instead he says, "I miss you." And when Pete looks up at him, eyes unguarded and hopeful, Patrick kisses him, slow and chaste and lets it say everything he can't.

Pete pulls away, but leaves his hand on Patrick's cheek, staring into Patrick's eyes like they hold fucking everything, and he mumbles, "Real..." before turning away. He's silent a minute, and it feels like longer, Patrick spending the time counting Pete's breaths and drinking in every detail of his appearance, how he's changed. When Pete speaks, his voice is quieter than Patrick's ever heard it. "I didn't think you'd come. How did you find me?" But he doesn't wait for Patrick to answer, just keeps talking and flatly asks, question is void of inflection, "What about Jon."

It takes Patrick a second to find his voice, and it still sounds wrong when he says simply, "He broke up with me." Pete's intake of breath is fast and surprised and when Patrick looks at him, his eyes are recklessly hopeful for a moment, before becoming carefully guarded once again. Patrick continues before he can ask, says, "You. Because it's still you, and always will be, Pete."

"'Trick..." Pete breathes, but Patrick continues.

"I am sorry. I never meant to break his heart."

"I never meant to break yours, Patrick." Pete says, and grabs Patrick's hand. The point of contact is grounding and familiar and Patrick's chest still feels tight, but just a little lighter. "It's funny, because they tell you that love is all you need, but that's not true, is it?" He laughs, but it's humorless. "I've missed you, Patrick, so much. I don't. I don't know if I can lose you again."

"You won't," Patrick says, and of this, he is sure. "I've got you back, Pete. I'm not leaving again."

"Never?" Pete sounds like a kid, scared and small.

"Never ever." And when Patrick smiles, it feels like the first real one since Pete left again, and Pete smiles too, a sharp, broken thing, like he's still unwilling to believe what Patrick's saying. So Patrick kisses him, and kisses him, and kisses him. When Pete breaks away for air, Patrick nuzzles up his jaw and says, in as serious a tone as he can muster when he's so damn happy, "But wait. What about Ashlee Simpson?"

Pete laughs, and pushes Patrick to the ground, kisses him and laughs into his mouth and doesn't stop even though there's sand in their hair and a seashell under Patrick's back. But then Patrick's phone jingles, breaking them apart, and when Pete kisses down his neck while Patrick checks it. There's a text from Brendon: Happy New Year!! The clock on the display switches to midnight, the date to January first, and over the ocean in the distance, way to the south, someone sets off fireworks. Pete kisses him again, laughing against his mouth. "Happy new year, 'Trick," he whispers, and laughs again because Pete, the stupid fucker, loves a good cliche.

Epilogue

When they get married, it's in a parking lot, because Pete lost a bet and is a man of his word, or at least, he is when it makes Patrick turn all pink and sputter around. Pete does a lot of things to make Patrick turn pink and sputter around, so, he figures, why should their wedding be any different? Joe officiates, because Pete lost another bet, and Andy is Pete's best man and Brendon is Patrick's. All of their friends are there, and their families, most of Patrick's bands and Pete's editor and publicist, all clustered in a group a few yards away from where Joe, Andy, and Brendon stand, waiting for the grooms. Jon is even there, and Pete invited him himself, and would have even if Jon and Tom hadn't sorted their shit out and weren't happily, stupidly in love because Jon Walker is a cool guy, and Pete can see that now that he poses no threat.

When Pete lost the bet, Patrick decided that, for his mother's sake, it was going to be the classiest wedding to ever take place in a parking lot. Brendon suggested they get Spencer to organize it, and Pete accepted, because Spencer Smith is a classy fellow. He took the position very seriously and Pete's kind of amazed that Spencer managed to make their wedding so beautiful, but Pete knows that he could marry Patrick in a Wal-Mart and it'd be the most amazing ceremony ever, simply due to Patrick's presence.

The day of the wedding is overcast, but not gloomy, and just breezy enough that Patrick's hair ruffles out from under his fedora. Spencer had made everyone park their cars in a circle around the area the wedding was to take place, leaving two gaps through which Pete and Patrick would walk, to meet in the middle of the clearing and get married. Pete is standing hidden between a Bronco and a Chevy, laughing as Andy checks his watch impatiently and Brendon bounces on his toes in excitement. Their guests are mingling, and Pete can see his publicist try and network with a few of Patrick's more successful bands. Pete can't see Patrick from where he is, but he tries, going as far as to climb on top of the Bronco's bumper to get a better vantage point. But then the choir (composed mostly of Patrick's former vocal students, and some of their singer friends) starts singing and the crowd laughs when they recognize the song. It had been Patrick's idea to walk down the aisle to In Your Eyes because, no matter how much he claims Pete is the sentimental and cliche one, Pete knows the truth. The song is punctuated by Pete's mom's sniffles and when the chorus swells, Pete steps out from between the cars, eyes locking on Patrick's face immediately. Patrick smiles at Pete, his skin flushed and eyes sparkling and Pete is so fucking glad they're getting married. He starts laughing and he knows he's grinning like a douche, but it's his wedding (to Patrick! That will never get old) so he can be as big of a douche as he wants, Patrick'll love him anyway.

When they reach each other, they clasp hands and walk the rest of the way together. Patrick looks at Joe, Andy and Brendon, then at his mom and their friends and Pete knows he probably should too, should probably smile at all the people who came out there for them, but he's never really been good at letting Patrick out of his sight, not when he has full permission to stare. Patrick's blush gets deeper when he notices, and Pete's smile gets wider, and by the time they reach Joe, Patrick is beet red and Pete is beaming so much his cheeks hurt.

In his speech, Joe makes them all laugh, and maybe cry a little, and then laugh again before he asks, "Patrick, do you take Pete, douchebag that he is, to be your husband forever and ever?" Patrick smiles voices his consent, and Joe turns to Pete, says, "And Pete, do you take Patrick, crabby little koala he can be, to be your husband forever and ever?"

Pete looks Patrick directly in the eye and says, loud and clear, "Fuck yes."

---

They meet their baby's mother through an adoption agency. She's 20, four months pregnant, and a first year med-student. She has pretty green eyes and pretty black hair and she's smart, stable and healthy. They agree to pay all her expenses, and she agrees to keep them updated and Pete spends the next five months swinging randomly between excited and petrified. Patrick stays in a near-constant state of worry, afraid she'll change her mind and keep the baby, and Pete soothes him as well as he can, even if he doesn't fully believe Patrick's fears won't come true.

But they don't, and Fred Tempest Stump-Wentz is born on November 20th, screaming and bawling, ugly, red and dirty and absolutely perfect. They sign the adoption papers, fill out the birth certificate, and Patrick stays up all night singing to Fred in the nursery; Pete stays up all night watching them. The next day, they bring their baby girl back to their apartment, not as big as it had seemed when Pete first bought it with his advance, and now it's baby-proof, the spare bedroom converted to a nursery, but it's almost as much Pete's home as Patrick's arms are, and when they walk in, Pete drops their bags by the door, leading Patrick and Fred back to the master bedroom, where he plucks Bronx from Patrick's arms and lays her gently on the bed. Pete lays on one side of the baby, and Patrick on the other. They kiss over her head, slow, familiar, chaste and perfect, and when they part, Patrick lays a kiss on Fred's tiny little head.

Pete says, "Welcome home, baby."
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