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Headers and Bonus Content
Part one
Part two

It's not a long story, not really, and Bill should have known that by the fact that he'd managed to tell every member of his band while drunk, high or both. It takes three sentences to actually explain it, and Bill undigs his nails from his palms and thinks this is going to be okay, this going to actually, maybe be okay. He's sitting next to Patrick on the bed and maybe Patrick's staring at the floor, but Bill's doing the same, so it's not a bad sign, right?

He catches sight of Patrick's hands in the corner of his eye, locked together and the fingertips pressing into the back of his hands hard enough that Bill can see the tips go pale. And then Patrick says, "So who else knows?"

Bill shrugs and says, "Sisky, his brother. My band, it's not the kind of thing you can keep from them."


"Yeah, I—I get a little chatty when I'm drunk, you know?" Bill laughs, kind of hoping for Patrick to smile, share the joke.

"But not me," Patrick says. He's still looking at the floor and Bill can see the tendons in his hands, the muscles in his forearms tensing. "Were you ever going to tell me? Or, wait, I guess I know the answer to that. Okay, different question, aside from Sisky, how many people know about..." He pulls his hands apart and Bill's relieved, some part of him worried about Patrick's fingers if he kept them clenched like that. "That you were my girlfriend."

"It's not—I mean, it's not like anyone knows details," Bill says, a little too quickly. "Sisky knew already, and I had to tell them something, but it's not."

"And I'm not." He says it flat, like it's not in question.

"You are!" Bill says, reaching over to curl his fingers around Patrick's wrist. "You're—fuck, you are my friend, just not about..." He tries to find an end to that sentence just ends up with, "This. That stuff, you know, then."

Patrick nods and Bill realises his hand is on Patrick's wrist. It should look stranger, he thinks, but then no, he's probably touched Patrick more as a guy, an arm across his shoulder, a hand on his arm. Casual and light and really, really fucking inappropriate right now. He pulls his hand back and puts it in the bed between them and feels awkward, like he hasn't since he had his first growth spurt.

"Why me?"

He almost doesn't hear it, Patrick's speaking so quietly. "What?"

"Why me? Why..." Patrick shrugs and he looks awkward too, like they've both regressed to sixteen.

"Oh, fuck," Bill says. He leans back on his hands, looking at the ceiling. "I—what would you do if you turned into a girl, you know?"

"No, I get that," Patrick says. "But you're not answering my question."

The ceiling isn't really yellow, Bill notices for the first time. It's cream, with some kind of speckled effect. Butcher would know the name for that, probably. And Patrick's still there, still waiting for an answer. "I liked you," he says, focussing on the slightly uneven colour of the ceiling. "I thought you were hot, I wanted someone I... I don't know, I just wanted you. I never meant for it to go as far as it did. The dating and—it was just meant to be, you know. Fun. Simple." And, because he never got a chance to say it, not the way he wanted, Bill says, "You're kind of a heartbreaker." It comes out more bitter than he meant it to.

Patrick's shoulders are moving and Bill raises his head to look at him. "Patrick?"

Not crying, laughing. Kind of. "I'm a heartbreaker! You didn't once think of saying hey, no point trying to get me to meet your friends, hey, maybe we shouldn't plan past August? No, you just let me think it was something real when it was just you going through your experimental phase and using me as the guinea-pig!"

Bill is up and on his feet, hands clenched and it'd be so much fairer to hit Patrick now, when Patrick could hit back. "You think I wanted to end it? I couldn't exactly tell you. Either you wouldn't believe or you—yeah, the 'Hey, I'm actually a guy!' thing doesn't always go down so well."

"So you didn't tell me because you thought I'd freak, that I'd think you were a freak? Wow, it's great to know how much you think of me, Bill." Patrick glares up at him through his glasses and his T-shirt is on back to front.

"Yeah, I can see how wrong I was when you're reacting so well." Bill says. "Fuck you, I didn't want to risk losing a friendship—"

"We weren't friends!" Patrick says. "You were just someone I knew from around, you wouldn't—"

"I would have!" Bill says. "I wanted to have you as a friend, even if you didn't know who I was! I didn't want you hating me or treating me like a freak every time we met."

"All this time, you've had this—you knew me, you knew my stuff, personal stuff I'd told you because I was sixteen and stupid and." Patrick stops yelling, then says, "In love. You let me tell everyone, my friends, my family—"

"I'm not responsible for—" Bill starts to say.

"You didn't stop me! You knew how I felt, Bill. I didn't exactly keep it secret."

Patrick's looking at him and it's not a good feeling, knowing that Bill was right all along, because it's exactly how he pictured it, if Patrick found out.

"No," Bill says. "You didn't." The heavy lead weight in his stomach is probably justified, pay back for every time he let Patrick say, "I really like you," or put his arm around his waist, every time he stayed close when he should have left early.

"I've got to go," Patrick says. He stands up and looks around, not really seeing anything. Bill sits back down on the bed and tries not to breathe in too deeply. He catches sight of Patrick's hat on the bedside table and wonders if he should try and give it back.

A few seconds later he hears someone scramble at the handle and the door opens before he can get up to help.

"Hey, Bill! You're Bill!" Travis says, high and happy.

"Yeah," Bill says.

"S'cool. I missed your dick. Not a lot, but some." Travis nods, and then frowns. "So was that Patrick I just saw in the hallway?"

Bill nods and grimaces. "Yep."

"Well, fuck," Travis says, loudly and sincerely.

Bill winces and starts to laugh.

Bill's not sure what he's expecting, the first time he picks up a girl after turning back into a guy. For it to be easier, maybe, like he'll be in on some secret code, like he'll know exactly what to say because he's been one of them.

It isn't. It's easy the way it always is, because he looks good, because he can pull off acting cool, or the more socially acceptable kind of dork. Because he can legitimately say that he's in a band and he plays guitar and sings.

It's comfortable, falling back into this and he's maybe a little relieved at that. He doesn't have to think about it, he just has to do it. A little, fun conversation about the Simpsons and South Park, the kind of thing that's mostly an excuse to make sure that they're on the same wavelength.

Abi's all warm, comfortable curves, weird, dark purple lipstick, and he really, really likes her tight jeans and the way he can see her bright blue bra-straps when the straps on her tank top start sliding off her shoulders. "Not just the Simpsons," she says. "Futurama too."

"That's kind of cheating," he says. "There's two more seasons if you use Futurama too. Someone bumps into her and he catches her and lets his hand go to her hip and she stays there, right in his space. It's good, but it's also oddly strange.

It's just because he's used to it being Patrick, to being taller, but not by as much, to paler skin and fewer curves and that's all it is, habit.

They find a nice corner and he has to bend way down to kiss her, but it's worth it. Warm skin, the taste of lipstick and punch on her mouth, the slightly scratchy feel of her lace bra when his hands go under her soft cotton tank top. She pushes back against him and his jeans get uncomfortably tight and she says, "So I hear this place has bedrooms."

Abi is really, honestly, fucking hot, even more so when she's pulling her tank-top off and he can see her really, truly, amazing breasts, her soft, pouty belly and he has a little pang of jealousy because he definitely wasn't built that way as a girl, and then his mind points out that he doesn't need to be thinking right now, because there she is, half-naked and there. He moves forward and she falls back so he's on all fours over her.

He missed this, he thinks. Missed women and that edge of someone-new excitement, and finding out that touching her there makes her moan like that.

It makes him feel nicely smug, when he finds the zip on her jeans and she presses her hand against his, because he knows what do to. Her grin and gasps and he thinks about going down on her because he knows he's better at that now and—

—it's just a moment, a flash of Patrick going down on him, a combination of his am-I-doing-this right nervousness the first time and growing confidence all the times after and—

Bill pushes it back and undoes her jeans and oh, all that time with Patrick (two months, he has to remember that, it just feels like longer) and now here he is again, and it's familiar and different when he touches her, tastes her. His dick is hard in his jeans and he's absorbed in this, and it hits him right before she comes that right that second, he's not thinking about Patrick and then he realises he is.

He pulls away, a little shaken, and moves up the bed to lie down next to her.

"Good boy," she says, sounding a little dazed. She kisses him and she must be able to taste herself there. "That was—"

"My pleasure," he says. "Uh, so can you—"

"I suppose it's fair," she says, and slides down the bed. "You got a—"


He closes his eyes when she goes down on him and oh, fuck, it really has been too long. She's not fancy, but she knows what to do and she doesn't seem to mind. He's grateful that he drank enough not to totally embarrass himself now and he risks picturing it, her mouth and that purple lipstick, wrapped around his dick.

He gets it then, the sort of image that's strong enough that it should be a memory, Patrick right where this girl is, his short hair and perfect mouth and—

Fuck, he tries to push it back. It's wrong or rude or something for Patrick and him and the girl and never going to happen, and he can't get rid of it and he barely manages to warn her before he's coming.

He keeps his eyes close and he can hear her shift and feels the movement when she gets off the bed. He opens his eyes and she's standing there. her jeans are still unzipped, but he recognises the awkwardness of someone trying to politely leave a drunken hook-up.

"I'm gonna—" she says, gesturing over her shoulder at the party. "It was, uh, nice meeting you."

"You too, Abi," he says, and he's relieved when she doesn't tell him he got the wrong name.

"I'll, uh. See you around?"


They both give the same, polite smile of no, you won't.

Mostly, the reaction to Bill showing up as a guy again is pretty positive.

"Oh, thank fuck," says Mike. "I'm calling Tony, we can finalise the tour schedule and—this is gonna stick, right?"

Bill bites back something snarky and just says, "Yes, Mike. Yes, my cock is here for the duration. You'll probably go another five years without seeing my breasts."

"Aw," Butcher says. Bill smiles at him, but Mike still looks relieved. Bill wonders if he should feel a little offended by it, but Mike's been anxious about touring anyway. "Well, Billvy, I'm gonna miss the—" Butcher sketches the shape of Bill's breasts, a little more generously than he should, "—But I'm pretty fucking glad we won't have to deal with the Wentz Revenge squad anymore. Seriously, we spent any more time with you and..." He shakes his head. "It's a good thing Pete's blog is pretty much unreadable anyway."

"Right," Bill says. "Well, I mean I still need to—"

"Bill, I mean this in a nice way, but fuck your teenage romance," Mike says cheerfully. "We need to go over the stage show."

Cobra turns up the next day, which Bill had forgotten about, or maybe just repressed. It's a relief at first, the chance to get out of his hotel room and away from everyone else who knows. Bill even has a story prepared to explain his mini-hiatus, but he kind of forgot that of the many people he told while wasted, Gabe was the one most likely to believe him.

"So I hear you've been having fun?" Gabe says, staring at him from the doorway of the hotel suite. "Don't say anything, I'm trying to picture it." He ignores Bill crossing his arms over breasts that aren't there anymore and nods approvingly. "Nice. Can you teach me how to do that?"

"Sure just give me a time-machine and five minutes with your mother," Bill says. He pushes past into the room. The rest of the band look at him, eyebrows raised in sync in a way Bill thinks they probably rehearsed. "Who told you?"

"You did. And my whole band. And my cousin, but I don't think he believed you completely. You want to keep something like this a secret, you probably shouldn't share it with the world every time you get a few shots of Jack in you." He sits on the couch, squeezing in between Victoria and Ryland, and says, "But I figured it happened again when Travis started talking about your rack. So what's this about you being the girl that did wrong by our Patrick?" Gabe shakes his head. "Give you a pair of X chromosomes and you us that as an excuse to start breaking hearts?"

Vicky T holds up a hand like she's in class. "Wait, you broke Patrick's heart? Because I'm not sure I'm okay with that."

Bill shrugs. "I kind of broke mine too, for the record."

"Yes, but. Patrick." She gives an uncomfortable shrug.

"So my heart's worth less?" Which is actually kind of insulting and Bill wonders if this is how catfights get started, then remembers that technically, it wouldn't count as a catfight anymore.

"Not less, just... It's Patrick. You know." Another shrug and a meaningful look that makes Bill cross his arms tighter and look back. He knows it was Patrick; Patrick was his fucking boyfriend. Victoria doesn't get to be like that over him to Bill.

"Catfight?" Gabe says, hopeful tone in his voice, looking between them.

Bill sighs and rolls his eyes the same time as Victoria does, but Vicky's close enough to follow it up by elbowing him. "You do get that I'm a guy again? Because I'm not taking my dick out to prove it."

"We appreciate that," Victoria says. "Well, I do. And Nate does as well, probably. Don't know about the rest of the guys."

Nate, Ryland and Alex shrug and give the exact same "eh, maybe" expression and Bill knows they definitely rehearsed that one.

"I really missed him," Bill says, uncrossing one arm to push his hair back. "It just—it sucked." He doesn't say that he went by Patrick's school after and watched him, doesn't say that Patrick was hunched in on himself and it hurt not to go over there and just touch him.

He catches the way they look at each other before Gabe hugs him and says, "Yeah, it's never easy breaking up with a guy because you've got your dick back."

Bill's not sure he wants the sympathy, but he likes the hug anyway, especially when Gabe says, "Sorry to hear you guys broke up. You would've been cute together on prom night."

"We'd have looked ridiculous," Bill says. "I was like a foot taller then him." He tries not to think about it, Patrick in a rented tux and then realises what he's doing. It's such a habit, trying not to think of Patrick like that and so pointless now. He doesn't have to worry about slipping in front of his friends or worse, Patrick, because it's all out in the open and—

And if he doesn't stop himself, he's going to be telling three-fifths of Cobra Starship about the first time he and Patrick had sex, their first fight, about trying to convince himself that it just made more sense to keep seeing Patrick and not anyone else.

"No, you'd have looked fucking adorable," Gabe says. It's the sympathy that gets to Bill, because Gabe says it like he means it, like it's not just a joke. "I know it's years too late for this, but you broke up with your boyfriend. Let's get you wasted."

"The thing is," Bill finds himself saying later, "he was really, he was—you know how Patrick is? He was like that, only he knew it even less than he does now." His glass looks suspiciously empty and he picks it up and tips it to check and—yeah, empty. Dammit.

"Aw, poor baby." Victoria pets his hair and he leans against her chest for a moment. She's wearing a low-cut top, but he can't even appreciate it right now. Not as much as her breasts deserve.

"This, this is what it was like," he says lifting his head up. "Just like this, because I couldn't even—" Wait, that didn't come out right. "I mean, I could, no problems with there, but I didn't want to because it wasn't him. He fucked up my whole casual sex thing with that relationship. I mean, he thinks it was all about his heartbreak, but I was there too."

"Poor Bill," she says. "Billia. Bilamina."

"Lily," he says, straightening up and looking for Gabe. Gabe went to raid the minibar, but he got distracted by the TV , and what the fuck? This is his relationship memorial drinking and Gabe's watching pay per view? "Jerk. Asshole."

"Patrick?" Vicky says, sounding kind of surprised.

"No, not Patrick," Bill says, trying to get Gabe's attention. "Patrick wasn't a jerk." He hesitates and then says, "Okay, sometimes he was, but not like a jerk-jerk. He, uh." He turns to look at Vicky and in the dim light, she looks a lot like the person he saw in the mirror two days ago. "He was a really good boyfriend." It's all there, everything he couldn't tell anyone before, on the tip of his tongue, but the thought of saying any of it makes his stomach twist. He's been holding it all inside, keeping it as secret and private, and the thought of having it exposed feels wrong. It's been his for so long, something locked down and held in the back of his mind, and he's not sure what will happen if he lets any of it out.

"Yeah, I bet he was." Vicky elbows him. He knows she's trying to lighten the mood, but it doesn't quite work.

"I really fucking missed fucking him," Bill says. He waves a hand. "Or, you know, getting fucked. Whatever. He just. He had this way of looking at me, like I was—"

"Oh, William Beckett, you don't want to be telling me this," Vicky says, her voice soft and sympathetic. "You'll regret it in the morning. You don't know me enough to be okay telling me this."

"Yeah," Bill says. He looks at the coffee table and traces the grain of the wood with his fingertips. "I'm gonna find Gabe."

He gets up, a little wobbly, and contemplates heading on to the dance floor, but heads toward the exit instead.

It was easier to get over it last time, when all he had to do was forget and repress and ignore that it happened. Except that's complete and utter bullshit, and fuck, he just wants to go back to his room and get wasted. Wasteder. Whatever.

'Hey!" Gabe says, coming up behind him and smacking his hand on Bill's shoulder. Gabe's not noticeable taller than him, but he's expansive in a way Bill really doesn't feel right now, larger than life. "Leaving so soon? We could hit a club. Fifth stage of a break-up is getting down."

"Yeah, that's your solution for everything," Bill says. It kind of is and Gabe does mean it, so Bill smiles and shrugs. "Just not in the mood."

"I can get..." Gabe pauses to calculate, "four-fifths of my band to shimmy for you. Well, maybe three and a half, but..." He nudges Bill.

It's not that it's not tempting, but—" I'm still in stage two," Bill says. "Alcohol and brooding alone in my bedroom, you know?"

"It's been six years, Bill. You should at least be on to four."


"Sex with inappropriate people."

"Yeah ,I'm working the stages out of order," Bill says. He's more drunk than he thought he was and the ground is less stable than it should be. "Come on, Gabe. Walk me back to my room?" He flutters his lashes at Gabe and Gabe laughs.

"Using your feminine wiles on me, William Beckett?"

"Like I need to," Bill says. "You're easy, Gabe Saporta."

"Yeah, you wish," Gabe says, but softly and he lets Bill lean against him. Bill's head is heavy and he leans against Gabe's sweatshirt. There's a Bartskull logo right under his nose. Gabe starts walking, steering him outside.

"I should've stopped after the first time," Bill says. "Shouldn't have kept..." He gestures and it almost tips him off balance. "I didn't mean to do it,' he says.

"Break your hearts," Gabe says, like he's not paying attention.

"No, date him. It just kept happening." They get outside, and the cold air should sober him up, but just makes him shiver. "Not all my fault." If he was a different kind of person, he'd call Patrick up right now and tell him exactly that, but he's not and anyway he's not sure where his phone is. He rubs his nose into Gabe's sweatshirt,

"—get over it," Gabe says from somewhere above him. There's at least half a sentence missing from that, but whatever it was, it was probably true.

Bill nods in agreement and almost trips over a can.

When he gets back, there's a message from Patrick on his cell.

Bill kind of wishes he was doing this when he was still drunk. Yesterday when he got the message, waiting until he was sober—at least until he could lie flat on his back and not still feel like he was falling over- seemed like a good idea.

Now, he's thinking he should have got it all out the way last night instead of waiting until he was sober, until the hangover had been beaten back with the use of painkillers, french-fries and diet coke, so he'd have something to make him feel less nervous, less focussed on Patrick sitting on the chair in his hotel room.

Patrick's fingers are tapping against his thighs slowly and Bill says, without thinking, "We were halfway through Warped before I could actually tell you I knew when you were wondering if you should say something."

Patrick looks confused.

"You do that when you've got something you don't want to say. I figured that out on our second date or something." It went on the list of things Bill was careful not to mention until they'd been friends, on tour and in each other's pockets and vans enough for it to be reasonable for him to notice.

Patrick lets out this little huff, not quite laughing. "Okay. I—if we're being honest, the truth is." He rubs the back of his neck. "When you dumped me, I wasn't really surprised." He sounds weird, almost guilty. "Devastated, yes, unprepared, and—but not actually. You know. Surprised."

Bill's not sure what his expression says, but it makes Patrick adjust his glasses and say, in a rush, "I thought you were out of my league, that there was no way a girl like you would be interested in a guy like me, and then I was right." He frowns, looks down again at his hand where it's tapping against his leg. "Pete was—you know how Pete is with his friends. He told me that I was being stupid and insecure, that I was in a band and fucking awesome and..." he rolls his eyes and Bill can fill in the blanks, Pete's extravagant praise. "And Joe was the only that actually met you, and he said I was being dumb, that anyone could see you liked me, that some girls just had strange and bizarre tastes..." he half-smiles and Bill can practically hear Joe say it. "So when you didn't introduce me to your friends and didn't let me take you home or want to go out, like outside much, I just. I told myself that I was being stupid for thinking there was something wrong, and then after I told myself I was stupid for not admitting something was."

"Patrick, that's dumb, why—"

"Can you—" Patrick starts to say, then stops and bites his lip.


Patrick shakes his head. "Forget it, it's stupid."

"I'll add it to the list. What?"

"Can you not say my name? It's—you say it like Lily did and it's. It's, uh. Strange?"

"I said it like I always do," Bill says, crossing his arms.

"Yeah, but now it sounds..." Patrick gives up the explanation. "I said it was stupid."

"Okay," Bill says when he can't think of anything better. "Why do you think I went out with you or stayed in with you if I was—if I thought you were..." he trails off because all the words at the end of that sentence seem too harsh, wrong.

"Entertainment?" Patrick says. "It only made sense at the time because I thought you, you know. Liked me. After, I thought I should've known better. That I did know better, really. It made sense if you never cared about me at all, that explained why you broke up with me by text and let me think we were—you know, that it was mutual."

Bill folds his arms across his chest and says, "You know, you weren't that easy and I wasn't that bored, I mean, I had other options, you weren't the last man on earth. I could've—" he uncrosses his arms to gesture at the past. "I could have spent the whole summer just hanging with the Siskas and playing computer games and getting myself off in front of the mirror." Patrick looks down at the last and flushes and Bill feels himself almost do the same. "My point is, it was a lot of work if it was just entertainment."

"It makes more sense now," Patrick says, then makes a kind-of gesture with his hand. "Or it doesn't make sense, but in a different way."

"That's helpful," Bill says. "Or really not."

"Okay, what I mean is that I get," Patrick says, adjusting his hat, "That you had good reasons for leaving me. I don't—" He shrugs. "I guess I don't know what my reaction would have been. It's not something they cover in health class. "I don't know why you started with me. I never really got that, and it makes less sense if I think that you're..." he gestures at Bill. "I'm not your type."

"Not—I didn't pick you up and that's exactly what I did Patrick," Bill says before Patrick can interrupt, "I came on to you at a party and deliberately picked you up, but I didn't do it because you were a type, I did it because..." And the reason is simple, which doesn't make it easy to say. "I liked it," Bill says. "Being with you. I didn't plan on it, I had—" he drops his head and laughs because it's all those things that seemed so logical back then just look cheesy and juvenile now. "I had a list of things to do, change in the girl's locker rooms at the pool, get into a club without having to wait, get laid a lot." He's trying for the same casual voice he used telling the guys about this, and he's aware that he probably failed at it then, too. "I wasn't going to be around long enough to break through the glass ceiling or, I don't know, try out for cheerleading or women's volleyball or anything real. It was going to be a few weeks, a few months max, like a vacation or an exchange trip or something, and I was seventeen, so. Sex."

Patrick shakes his head, like Bill's missing the point. "I was... Bill, me back then? We both know you could have done better." He holds up a hand when Bill starts to speak and says, "No, shut up, seriously. This isn't me being insecure, this is high school and the fact that I didn't have a clue what I was doing. You were my first girlfriend and you know you could have had someone more attractive and less—" He shrugs. "Someone who knew what he was doing, you know?"

"I was working on instinct," Bill says. "You just. You appealed," he says, flailing a little. He honestly can't think of a better way to put it, that combination of instinctive like and the way his brain had chimed in with reasons—he's cute, musician, it won't matter if you're not great first time round because he'll be so fucking impressed at getting laid anyway, his voice—and the way Patrick had just been good, had been good to touch and lean against and listen to, talk to. "You were there, you know I was too demanding to have faked anything. Which would have been completely stupid anyway, since the whole point was to enjoy it."

"Pushy," Patrick mutters, the old joke. "In a good way."

"Right." Bill smiles at him and there it is, that feeling of things falling back in to place. "I wasn't honest, but I didn't lie. Apart from about my name and past and..." He tries a half-smile, and yes, judging by Patrick's returned smile they are at about the place to make jokes like that. "Maybe I should have told you. Not that you would've necessarily believed me, but I—" He pauses and pushes his hair back with one hand. "Honestly, it's not just that I didn't know if you'd believe me and I didn't think you—- I knew you wouldn't get homophobic or—I just, I didn't want to break up with you. Which, in retrospect, doesn't actually make a lot of sense."

"It kind of does," Patrick says, but Bill can't tell if he means it or if he's just being kind.

Bill shrugs. "I didn't want you to look at us and think, freak. Or that it didn't count."

"I never thought it didn't count," Patrick says. "I sometimes wished it never happened, but—"

"I didn't," Bill says. "Just for the record, I never wished that."

Patrick holds his arms out from his body, a little awkwardly, but Bill accepts the gesture and the hug. It's strong, brisk, because Patrick gives good hugs for a guy, with a guy, and it lasts for exactly 28 seconds, not that he's counting. It's not the same as when he was Lily, not the same attempt to wrap themselves up in each other, but it's the kind of hug he's used to from his friends, and that's pretty good right now. Bill can feel Patrick start to shift a little, so he pulls back first.

"We're good?" Bill says.

Patrick nods and Bill recognises that nod, that expression. "We're good," Patrick says, which means, not yet, but I'm determined and we will be.

Bill lets himself smile properly, relief wide across his face and leaves his hand on Patrick's shoulder. "That's—come on, let's go find the others before they start freaking out."

Patrick nods and Bill waves him through the door first and then takes a deep breath and looks at his hand. There's a ghost sensation, the way it still wants to follow the exact curve of Patrick's shoulder, but he clenches it into a fist and walks briskly out the door.

"Hey!" Bill says. His heart fucking stutters, he can actually hear it skip a beat. He wasn't expecting this, he needed to be prepared and braced and—he's smiling too brightly.

"Hey," Patrick says, looking slightly confused. "William Beckett, right? You're a friend of Alex's?" He looks good, he looks happy, sweaty coming off stage, but good.

"Yeah, that's me," Bill says. He could move back, there's space behind him and this really isn't the kind of bar to pick up boys in, but. It's just chance, running into Patrick like this, but it's the kind of chance that's lucky, that's opportunity. He's wearing a baseball cap and he has to adjust the brim slightly, and he's shorter or Bill's taller. Whichever.

Someone coming off stage pushes into him and he stumbles forward, bumping against Bill. Bill's hands go up to brace him and one hand is curled around his upper arm, one on his chest. He can feel the warmth and the T-shirt's damp which isn't exactly nicely, but it sets up a vivid sense memory, a rush of Patrick hot and sweaty and against him almost exactly like this.

"You're here for the show?" Patrick says, moving back just a little. Bill resists the urge to follow him

"Yeah, I'm filling in for Kevin, he had that—you know." Bill rolls his eyes and Patrick laughs, head going down a little and Bill grins at the top of his head.

"Is he still doing that? Because seriously, I—"

"Patrick!" Pete Wentz jumps off stage and catches himself on Patrick, one hand curling round his neck. Patrick staggers, but braces himself and looks up at him. He's smiling and it's fond, affectionate and real. "What the fuck? I turn my back for one minute and you're sneaking out with strange guys when we should be getting our stuff together."

"Well you weren't and the rota said it was my turn," Patrick says, deadpan. "And this isn't a strange guy, this is William Beckett, he's standing in for Kevin."

"Hey, any friend of Patrick's," Pete Wentz says. Bill straightens up slightly. It's weird, because he knows who Pete Wentz is, of course, and he's seen him on stage a few times, but Patrick had been trying to get them to meet and know they are and it's. It's just weird This is Pete Wentz, who's made albums, who Bill's seen in real shows at real clubs and is someone, a recognised name.

Pete smiles at Bill and then his smile deepens a little and his eyes dip. It's not a come-on, not quite, but he's definitely checking Bill out, that little extra look that's more about recognition than actually hitting on someone.

It's the fact that he is that makes Bill realise that Patrick isn't, not even a little. He's smiling at Bill, friendly the way you do when you meet someone you kind of know and don't have anything against. There's nothing more to it.

Which is fine, it's not like Bill was expecting Patrick to have some kind of instinctive reaction, like pheromones or some subconscious recognition. Bill's just some guy he sort of knows from around.

"Jesus, Stumph, you're fucking drenched," Pete Wentz says, lifting his hand off Patrick and then trying to wipe it on Patrick's T-shirt, like that's any better. Patrick defends himself and Pete backs off, giggling and Bill knew they were friends, but he thought they were different friends, not the kind that Patrick's so easy around.

Bill angles himself in a little, pushing his hair back off his face in a way he knows looks good, looks casual and meaningless. Starting from scratch, maybe, but it's not like Bill hasn't done this before, like Patrick's a guy in a club. "You guys looked good on stage." And then, because he knows Patrick, "that riff, how you opened up the second song? With the sharp, the kind of dadadadadum thing?"

"Yeah? That was Patrick's idea," Pete says, He puts his hands on Patrick's shoulders. "All grown up and thinking of his own intros."

"Cool," Bill says. He sticks his hands in his pockets and it shoves his waistband down a little, shows him off.

"So we've got to pack up, but I guess I'll see you around some time," Patrick says, and he smiles at Bill. It's not a bad smile, but there's nothing more to it and Bill fights down that mixture of disappointment and embarrassment that covers up the loss. He hasn't done anything, and Patrick's not rejecting him or anything, he just hasn't noticed, so.

So he should probably just stop this and—or not stop, exactly, but they have stuff in common, they could be friends, hang out in the same social circles even if they're not hanging out together or anything. He just needs to adjust to it, to Patrick's lack of reaction.

"Sure," he says. It's easy. He was never Patrick's boyfriend, never really got introduced to his friends.

It's not like there's anything to miss.

Part four
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June 2017

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