(destiny is calling me) open up my eager eyes:
Ashlee comes out of Patrick's room on the bus and leans on the wall. Pete looks up from Mario Kart and raises his eyebrows at her hesitant expression--squinty eyes, bitten lip, knees turned together.
"What's up?" he asks. He hopes Patrick didn't say anything horrible to her. Pete asked him to help with the stuff she's writing, but sometimes Patrick interprets "help" as "fix," and "fix" as "frown, shake head, swear a lot, start from scratch."
She shrugs and comes closer and sits on the couch opposite him. "So," she says, twisting her fingers in her lap. "I know we have our deal, um."
"Yeah," he says.
"But I think sometimes there are people we should talk about, you know, case-by-case or whatever," she says and looks at him with wide eyes.
He tries to think whom she could be talking about and her hands twist palm up over her knees and she glances to her left, towards Patrick's closed door.
"Patrick?" he says, possibly a little louder than necessary.
"Shh," she hisses, and rolls her eyes.
"Patrick?" he whispers.
She shrugs and blushes. "He's pretty awesome," she says.
"Well, yeah," Pete says. "I kind of fucking know he's pretty awesome. I think I fucking invented Patrick being pretty awesome when you were in like middle school."
Ashlee rolls her eyes again. "Whatever," she says. "I didn't, you know, do anything. I wanted to talk to you first."
"Thanks?" he says. He's kind of pissed off, by what he's not entirely sure. It might be her presumption that he could ever be okay with her fucking his best friend, or her presumption that his best friend would be okay with fucking her, or it might be--it might be that the two best people in his life really shouldn't each be aware of how awesome the other is, because they might realise they're better off being awesome together instead of with him.
"He probably wouldn't even want to," she says, flippantly serious, and he's an asshole for the whole thought process he just had. She pulls her skinny legs up on the couch and crosses her knees. She's so hot when she contorts herself like that. "It would probably be really weird, and he's pretty smart about, you know, relationship stuff, so."
"Yeah," Pete says.
She waves her hand and picks at a tear in her jeans. "Not that I'm even, like, anywhere near his type."
"Patrick doesn't have a type," Pete says.
"Smart," Ashlee says.
"Jesus Christ. You're smart, shut up," Pete says. "Sometimes I could murder your fucking dad in his sleep, you know?"
"Don't," she says, dismissively; they've had that conversation a hundred times. "So not the point. The point is: would you be okay with me asking Patrick if he wants to fool around?"
For a moment, Pete thinks Patrick must have overheard her; Patrick is going to come out of his room and--something weird will happen. But the door doesn't open; the bus is silent while Ashlee waits for Pete to answer. She starts biting her thumbnail, staring at him apprehensively. He's about to point out that it's kind of stupid to be having this conversation ten feet from the guy in question, but the front door opens and Andy comes up the stairs.
"You're still here," he says to Pete. "Hey Ashlee."
"Hi," she says, and smiles like she's totally not nervous, or in the middle of a relationship re-negotiation, or contemplating fucking one of Andy's friends. One of Andy's friends who's not her boyfriend, whatever. Pete kind of loves her various poker faces.
"Did you set fire to your bus?" Andy asks Pete. "Because you've been over here since we stopped this morning--"
"We're leaving, we're leaving," Pete says. He gathers his DS and phone and economy-sized bag of Chex Mix. "Let's go," he says to Ashlee.
"I was working with Patrick," Ashlee says to Andy and shrugs with a sweet little grin.
"Oh," Andy says. "Cool, sorry, you can stay--"
"What, we can't just hang out?" Pete says. "We have to be productive?"
"Pretty much," Andy says.
"Fuck your bus anyway," Pete says. "Come on, Ash." He just wants to go, because if he starts going back and forth with Andy, Patrick is going to come out of his room and either want in or want to watch, and Pete really--he doesn't think he can look Patrick in the eye right now.
Ashlee laughs and grabs up her Be-Dazzled My Little Pony totebag and kisses Andy on the cheek. Pete jumps down the stairs out of the bus and she follows.
The show that night is pretty good. By the time they get to the high five, Pete can look at Patrick, can make eye contact and touch him and everything. Whenever he's close enough on stage to talk to Patrick, he keeps thinking: my girlfriend wants to fuck you. He doesn't say it; he might mouth it against Patrick's shoulder, but Patrick probably doesn't even notice, because it feels just like "we sing the blues and swallow them too."
After they've properly trashed the dressing room and gotten back on the road, Ashlee pulls the heavy curtains in their room closed against the weak, encroaching dawn, and lies down on her side beside Pete. She tucks her arms between her chest and his arm and curls her legs up so her knees are poking his thigh. She's really, really warm and smells faintly like popcorn.
"Did you have popcorn?" he asks.
"They had some in the dressing room," she says. "You didn't notice?"
"No," he says, disappointed. He's not technically supposed to eat popcorn with his retainer, but still. If he had a dollar for every time he's done something he's not supposed to--actually, he probably does.
Ashlee pokes him in the ribs. "So," she says, drawn out and expectant.
He frowns and shifts restlessly against her.
"You can just say no," she says, and he can tell she really means it.
"It would be so weird," he says. "So fucking weird. Even if he didn't, you know."
She nods against his shoulder. "Probably especially weird if he didn't."
"Seriously," Pete says.
"Okay," she says resolutely. "I won't."
"No," Pete says, because he didn't mean to dissuade her. He wants to give her everything she wants, because she never really asks anything of him, and even when she does, she never takes advantage. "I think--you were right. I think he'd be fine, you know, whatever. Or, I don't know, I'd be weird, maybe. Yeah. Probably just me."
"I'm not going to ask him," she says. "Stop worrying about it." She rubs her skinny fingers between his eyebrows, across his forehead, and he sighs.
"Ask him," he says. She exhales hard against his neck, annoyed, and he shakes his head. "I'm serious."
"Pete," she says.
"I'm serious," he says again, and turns his head to look at her. The angle is funny and strains his neck a little until she gets up on her elbow and stares at him.
"Really?" she says, smiling, and he knows she can hide her hopefulness, but he's glad she doesn't feel like she needs to hide it from him.
"Just ask," he says. "What's the worst that could happen?"
Two days later, Pete passes Patrick in the labyrinthine halls of some venue or another.
"Yo, dude, you're not lost, right?" Pete asks desperately. "Because I'm totally fucking lost."
Patrick doesn't answer, just takes Pete by the arm and pulls him into one of those tiny empty rooms every arena has conveniently located right around the next corner.
Patrick shuts the door and stares at him. Pete stares back.
"Ashlee," Patrick says. "You--what the fuck?"
"Oh," Pete says.
"She said it was okay with you," Patrick says, bewilderedly. "She asked if I'd like to have a drink sometime, and she said it was okay with you. And I think by 'have a drink' she meant 'have sex.'"
"Um," Pete says, and wow, Ashlee is really bad at hitting on people. "Yeah, probably."
"Explain," Patrick says, and he doesn't look confused anymore.
"We," Pete says. "You know about Ashlee and I--"
"Ashlee and me," Patrick says automatically.
"No, seriously," Pete says. "We've had this fight nineteen million times and you might be a musical genius but you're an idiot about grammar and I am not fucking kidding, it's Ashlee and I. Our deal, you know it."
"Yeah, but," Patrick says. "Me."
"It's okay," Pete says.
Patrick's forehead scrunches up and he peers closely at Pete. "You're serious."
"Yes," Pete says, and he totally means it.
"I don't--she's your. Dude," Patrick says. "She's your fucking soulmate or whatever, you think I want to get messed up in that?"
Pete rolls his eyes and doesn't point out that Patrick is his soulmate too. "You've seen Chasing Amy, right?"
"Shut the fuck up," Patrick says. "You cannot honestly think there was a single healthy thing about that movie."
"Well, no. But the principle," Pete says. This isn't going how he would have imagined it, if he'd imagined it. Which might be the problem. Patrick takes a deep breath and leans forward and Pete puts his hands up to ward off the invective he knows is coming. "Dude, relax," he says. "Don't strain your throat."
Patrick frowns. "Don't tell me what to do," he says, in an even, measured tone.
"If you don't want to mess around with her, don't," Pete says. "It's not a big deal."
"It is," Patrick insists, flushing. "It's a big deal that you even thought it would be okay for her--for me. It's a pretty big fucking deal."
"She likes you; she's liked you for a while," Pete says. Patrick shakes his head and crosses his arms. "She likes you, dude, and I." He waves his hand and gives the first excuse he can think of. "You need to get laid."
"Fuck you," Patrick says. He jerks open the door.
"Just tell her no," Pete says. "Just tell her you don't want to."
"I never," Patrick says, frustrated and honest. "I never said I don't."
"Okay then," Pete says.
Patrick adjusts his hat and leaves his hand on the back of his neck. "Okay," he says. He gives Pete one last, inscrutable look, and leaves.
The show is dangerous that night. Pete's hand stings from Patrick's high five. The stage seems too small, the kids too excited, almost feral, and Pete jumps every time a pyro goes off, thinking he smells scorched flesh and hair. He can't seem to give Patrick enough room; they keep brushing against each other and Pete actually gets into a head-on collision with Joe at the end of "XO."
Pete lies on his back for a moment after it happens, eyes closed, listening to the reverb and the screaming crowd, feeling the vibrations of the stage.
Something nudges him in the side and he opens his eyes and looks up at Patrick.
"Did you just kick me?" he shouts.
Patrick smiles and reaches down to help him up. The crowd noise rises to deafening and Patrick thumps him on the back a few times. Two security guys are valiantly trying to climb on-stage; Pete waves them off.
"Dude!" Joe yells, laughing and smacking his hands together, illustrating the accident.
"No stitches!" Pete yells back, and gives him thumbs up.
Andy waves from his riser, shrugging and gesturing expansively. Pete gives him thumbs up too and Andy makes a circular motion with his sticks, like: if nobody's dead, let's go.
Joe goes back to his mic and Pete turns to do the same, but Patrick puts his hand on Pete's shoulder, on his face, brushing up under his shaggy bangs, eyes concerned.
"I'm fine!" Pete shouts. "Let's go!"
Patrick shoves him away with a sharp smile, and is back on his mark for the beginning of "Sophomore Slump."
On Friday, Pete has three interviews in a row in a little suite at a hotel. He walks out of the last one with his hands clapped over his mouth to hold in the vomit, curses, snarls. Down the hall, there's a little chaise lounge where Ashlee had camped out while he was busy. He'd left her alone with a book two hours ago, but now Patrick is sitting beside her and they've got two sets of headphones plugged in to Patrick's iPod. They're smiling at each other and bobbing their heads in unison.
Pete drops his hands to his sides, shitty interviews forgotten, and watches them. They're sitting tight together, thighs and shoulders touching. The fine black-on-black pattern on Ashlee's hoodie cuts sharply against Patrick's white jacket. They're both wearing red and white sneakers, though Ashlee's are Pumas and Patrick's are some weird-ass Japanese brand. Patrick's left foot is propped on top of his right foot. Ashlee is leaning forward with her elbows on her knees, pigeon-toed.
The sight of them makes Pete's chest contract, like he's exhaled really hard, and he feels a smile twitching at the corner of his mouth.
"I like the bop-bop-bop part," Ashlee says, loud so Patrick can hear her, and Patrick nods.
"Yeah, totally," he says. "Wait, here, listen." He runs his thumb around the iPod's menu, pressing gently to select things, and Pete knows Ashlee is watching that digit just as closely as he is. Pete swallows, but his tongue and throat stay dry.
He walks away from them, further into the hotel, and buys forty dollars of junk food from a vending machine that takes Mastercard. When he comes back to the chaise, the headphones are off and Ashlee is talking and gesturing with her book--Francesca Lia Block or something--and Patrick is nodding, his head tilted. He looks bored by the topic, but interested by the speaker. Pete knows that look very well.
"Twix?" Pete says as he approaches them, his arms full of chocolate bars and Jolly Ranchers and little bags of chips. "I think I have seven?"
Patrick looks up, and then Ashlee, and they smile at him.
Back on Patrick and Andy's bus, Patrick and Ashlee share a Twix, Pete eats two, and Joe eats the other four.
"Seriously, you guys," Andy says. He's generally exceedingly awesome about people--Pete--eating garbage around him, but there's always been something about the smell of milk chocolate that just pisses him off.
"Go play Xbox on my bus," Pete says and Joe perks up from his chocolate-caramel-cookie-induced daze.
Andy scowls. "I'm not being driven out of my home by your fucking--"
"Call of Duty!" Pete says.
Joe jumps up. "I call Pete!"
"Matt and me will kick your asses," Andy says, successfully distracted.
"Matt and I," Patrick says, and smirks at Pete, and Pete bursts out laughing.
Ten minutes later, Pete is being borne down the stairs by two grown men bent on blowing the shit out of pixelated French towns.
"We're going to work on some stuff," Ashlee says, nodding at Patrick.
"Oh," Pete says. "Yeah."
Patrick is pink. He adjusts his hat and pushes his glasses up his nose.
"I'm not playing you on the Bayonne map," Joe says.
"Because you're a fucking pussy," Andy replies.
"Bye," Pete says to Patrick and Ashlee.
"Have fun, baby. Bye," Ashlee says, and smiles. Patrick waves a little.
Joe grabs the back of Pete's hoodie and pulls him out of the bus.
Joe disowns Pete an hour later. Pete apologises for his shitty play.
"Just get the fuck out and give Ron your controller," Joe says, disgusted, and Pete does as he's told. The noise of his friends follows him outside until he shoves the door shut.
He looks across the quiet parking lot at Patrick and Andy's bus. He fishes his phone out of his pocket to see the time. They have to be inside for soundcheck in half an hour. He decides he should probably remind Patrick.
He goes up into the bus and it's quiet. One of the TVs is playing CNN at low volume. Pete doesn't know why he'd thought they would be on the couch or something. Anybody could just walk in. He stands between the bunks, a foot from Patrick's door, and thinks: anybody did just walk in.
He reaches for the knob, then decides to knock, and right before his knuckles touch the wood, he thinks if he really wanted to remind Patrick of soundcheck, which is a ridiculous notion in the first place, he could just call him.
Except that he knows, he knows, that Patrick turns his phone off when he's getting laid. He's a polite guy, Patrick. Pete compares it to turning off your phone while you're at the movies. He would never, ever say such a thing out loud. He's not dumb.
He knocks, tap-tap-de-tap-tap.
A long moment later, the door opens a crack and Patrick says, "Tap tap. Hi."
"Hi," Pete says, over-bright. "Soundcheck in twenty minutes."
"Thank you. I always have trouble remembering, since I'm the one named Pete Wentz," Patrick says dryly. He's a little flushed, a little damp around the edges, but his hat is on and he's--Pete looks down quickly--he's wearing clothes. Patrick sighs. "Dude."
"Oh my god, Peter," Ashlee calls from inside the room. "Are you serious?"
Patrick opens the door and there she is in the middle of the bed, zipping up her hoodie, looking amused.
"I just--" Pete says, and stops. He sighs and shrugs, holding himself very tightly.
"Come here," Ashlee says, and Patrick makes room for Pete to pass, so Pete goes. He crawls onto the bed and up to her, settling his head on her shoulder. She pats his head and runs her fingers through his hair and he closes his eyes so he can't see Patrick watching them from the door.
"We were working," Ashlee says softly. Pete scoffs. "Until about fifteen minutes ago," she says, and laughs quietly.
Pete squeezes his eyes shut tighter and wraps his arms around her waist. She doesn't seem to fill them up. He rubs his nose against her neck and he can smell the faintest trace of Patrick's sweat on her. "I'm sorry--"
"Shh," she says.
Patrick clears his throat. "I'll--I'm going in," he says. "Soundcheck. You guys--take your time, whatever."
"See you later," Ashlee says, and she doesn't sound apologetic or disappointed. She sounds like she'll see Patrick later, but she's seeing Pete right now and she's really totally satisfied with that.
"Yo, Patrick," Pete says. He opens his eyes and Patrick is half out the door, looking over his shoulder.
"Yeah?" Patrick says, lightly.
Pete unwraps one arm from Ashlee and holds it out. "C'mere," he says, just as lightly.
Patrick looks pained. "Dude," he says.
"Dude," Pete says. "I need a fucking hug."
"You're getting one," Patrick says, and gestures at Ashlee. "Enjoy it."
"I need a bigger one," Pete insists. "Come here."
Ashlee pats the bed on her other side and beckons Patrick. He frowns deeply. "You guys," he says. "I don't--"
"Shut the fuck up," Pete says.
"It's just a hug," Ashlee says gently.
"No, seriously, fuck the coaxing shit, get your ass in the fucking bed and give me a goddamn hug," Pete says.
Patrick bites his lip and looks like he wants to pull Pete out by his leg and beat the shit out of him.
"Grow flowers, not guns," Pete says randomly.
"Oh, fuck you," Patrick sighs. He stalks to the side of the bed and sits down stiffly.
Ashlee giggles and slaps her hand over her mouth when Patrick shoots her a withering glance. He pulls himself over until he's sitting beside Ashlee, his back against the headboard. Ashlee puts her head on his shoulder. Pete tries to reach him and can't.
Patrick shrugs. "Oh well," he says apologetically. He pats Pete's arm.
Pete's attached himself to getting a bigger fucking hug. He's committed to the idea. He wants Ashlee and Patrick around him at the same time--he wants to feel on the outside what he feels on the inside all the goddamn time.
"Your first mistake," Pete says, "was opening the door." He clambers over Ashlee and uses his elbow to get between them.
"Fucker," Patrick spits, but he doesn't leave or hit anybody.
Ashlee laughs and says, "Ow," when Pete kicks her accidentally.
Pete adjusts everyone's body parts until he's wedged under Patrick's arm and Ashlee can lean her head on Patrick's shoulder again. Ashlee and Patrick put their free arms around Pete and Pete holds on to Patrick because he can feel the discomfort thrumming through his clothes.
"This is nice," Ashlee says.
"I know," Pete says. "I knew."
Patrick sighs and relaxes, mostly, and presses his face to the top of Pete's head, not quite a kiss.
"Love you, baby," Ashlee whispers.
"Love you too," Pete says. He squeezes Patrick briefly. "Love you, Patrick."
Patrick hums an affirmative, and yawns, and finishes relaxing.