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Bill wakes up, rolls on to his side and thinks oh, girl, before going back to sleep.

He wakes up again a little later with Mike banging on the door and yells, "I'm up!", struggling to sit. The blankets fall down to his waist and yeah, breasts, that difference in waist and hips and even before he kicks the covers completely off, he knows what he's going to find. Girl.

He yawns, stretches and gets out of bed, finds his T-shirt from last night, pulls it on and opens the door before Mike can start knocking again. "I'm awake," he says.

Mike's hand is raised and he says, "Yeah, I've heard that befo—Bill?"

"Yeah." Bill rolls his shoulders, scratches the back of his neck.

"You look... different," Mike says. He sounds strange, like he thinks he's missing something.

"Well, yeah," Bill says. He looks at Mike, brows drawing together a little. Is Mike usually this slow in the mornings? "I'm a girl. Woman. I should probably say woman now, I'm in my twenties." He wonders if the clothes he wore last time was a girl still fit. He's probably a different size now. He can't tell if his breasts are any bigger, so he can probably still get away without a bra, which is one less thing to think about.

"You're a girl," Mike echoes. "What?"

Bill looks at him, then reaches out and smacks him on the back of his head. "Hey! You know this is a thing I do sometimes. I told you all, when you joined the band."

"I thought you were out of it!"

Bill rolls his eyes and crosses his arms. "Because that's what people do when they're high, they go around telling people that they might randomly turn into a girl." He frowns at Mike and says, "Tell the other guys what's happened, I'm going back to bed."

He realises later, when Travis jumps on his bed and says, "Hey, show me your tits!" that he should have been a little more specific on what other guys Mike should tell.

"So this happens to you a lot?" Travis asks, taking his hands off Bill's chest reluctantly.

"Not a lot," Bill says. "Twice, including this time. That's not a lot. And I told you about this."

"Dude, we were wasted." Travis's hands go up to touch Bill's breasts again and Bill smacks them away.

"They haven't changed in the last thirty seconds, Travis."

"They might have!" Travis leans back, casual and grinning. "Fuck, man. So, you taken them out for a spin?" He gives a grin that's lecherous and utterly unnecessary because his tone is practically feeling Bill up under the bandstand as it is.

"It's—fuck, it's 10am! I just wanna sleep in." Bill sighs and makes the effort to get his mind awake. "I appreciate you, know, taking this all so well and not freaking out or anything—"

"Not like it's a big change," Travis says.

Bill smiles and says, "If I'd had any problem at all with kicking you in the balls before, I have even less now. Just so you know."

"Bitch." And that's why Bill loves him, because Travis says that exactly the same way he's always said it. He's still kind of vaguely disgruntled at being awake, still in kind of a bad mood, but the kind of bad mood where he can be persuaded out of it. Travis is still looking at him kind of speculatively, and Bill smirks back. It's good and that nice warm feeling twists in his stomach, turns to something familiar, and—yeah. It's been a while since he got laid, longer still since he got laid as a girl, and Travis is there and he's Travis and Bill's pretty sure it'd be a good thing. He kind of knows what to expect, because it's not like it'd be the first time he's fooled around with Travis, and he kind of doesn't, because it's not like he's fooled around with him like this. And he sort of knows what to look for, what he wants and what works when he's getting laid as a woman, but it's got to be different doing this with Travis. It's not the first time he's thought this, felt that same little kick-yourself pangHe should have fucked around more when he was a girl back then, with more people, instead of getting focussed on one.

Not going to make that mistake this time, Bill thinks. He smiles a little at Travis and Travis raises an eyebrow and says, "So you know what I'd do if I was a girl?"

"Try to pick up girls?"

"Fuck, four breasts minimum, yes. But if there weren't any around..." He puts his hand on Bill's thigh and strokes it.

"Wow, I'm flattered," Bill says,. deadpan and flat as Ryan Ross "You make me feel so special." He spreads his legs a little wider, though, leans back against the covers and smiles an invitation, because it's not like hooking up with Travis is ever a bad thing.

Travis looks surprised for a moment, then his smile turns from lech to filthy, and when he reaches forward this time his hands go to Bill's hips instead of his breasts, pulling him forwards slowly, deliberately. His hands feel bigger than usual on Bill's hips, even though Bill knows he's not actually much different in size as a girl. It's a nice thought, though. One he can work with.

Travis laughs and says, "This is so fucking weird. You're you, but you're a girl."

Bill opens his eyes wide and puts a hand to his chest, gasping dramatically. "Travie, you—you do know what to do with girls, right? I just assumed you did, but if there's something you want to—"

"Know more about girls then you do," Travis says, in a low grumble and his hands stretch, edging up and mmm, yeah, good hands.

"I kind of doubt that—" Bill says, then Travis kisses him and Bill feels Travis's hands, his mouth, and oh, still good. He'd forgotten how much he liked this, getting a good slow burn going through every inch of his body before letting it focus. Travis kisses like he always does, which isn't a shock -Bill's seen him kiss women before, seen him kiss men and Travis has a one-size-fits all style of kissing, but man, it works for him. Means that Bill can think, can focus on this as kissing-Travis, not kissing-as-a-girl.

"I love this," Bill says. "I could make out for hours, seriously."

"So you turned into a girl," Travis says. "Or Pete Wentz." He pulls Bill on to his lap and says. "Hey, you know, I could make out for hours. I just choose not to." One hand goes down to the front of Bill's jeans, undoes the top button, and leaves his hand there. You wanna?

It's been a while since Bill fucked as a girl, but Travis is familiar and Bill rolls his eyes and pushes Travis on to his back.









Bill's got a goal here. His plan is to get laid, because he's spent the past three days learning to love himself, but he really, really wants to try it with someone else. He's seventeen and he absolutely refuses to have less sex as a girl than he does as a guy. It's taking a stand for equal rights and also kind of embarrassing if he doesn't. He's not looking for romance, just someone that he likes enough, that his body likes enough, that his first time as a girl shades more to Playboy (or at least Harlequin) than Judy Blume. Meet up, talk for as long as it takes to show that yes, Bill is the kind of girl to put on a first date and wow, what a coincidence, my house is right here.

He's spent about two hours staring at himself in front of the mirror, trying on different outfits. Skirts and dresses because he can, camisoles and halter-necks and babydoll T's, but it's mostly just an excuse to look at himself, to track the differences. It's not narcissism, because like this, as a girl? Bill isn't exactly his own type. He's hot, and it is kind of a turn-on, seeing himself as a herself, but that's because it's him inside there). Maybe it's the way he looks familiar, like one of his cousins, dark hair, hazel eyes, tall.

Not his type, exactly, but still pretty fucking hot, and he's listened to enough girls complain that he's only a little disappointed that he doesn't really need a bra. He's not sure what he was expecting exactly. Him with tits, and he looks like himself, only not. His chin is different and his forehead, and that's weirder in some ways than the rest of it because he wasn't expecting that. He was prepared, knew this was coming and he'd been looking forward to it, and it was still a shock, waking up and finding himself different.

He kind of wishes his parents were here this summer, but he's mostly glad they're not. He's got a credit card, a collection of family stories about What Happened When This Happened To your Aunt/Uncle/Mother/Brother/Great-Grandfather and he's got his own plans. No-one knows if it's a genetic anomaly, some kind of weird gift or a family curse, but everyone knows you make the most of it when it happens.

"Bill, you ready?" Adam says through the doors.

"Almost," Bill says.

"Because Jason says you take as much time getting ready as a girl as you do as a guy, and it's not like you have to try as hard."

Bill would bet money that the last bit came from Adam personally, but it's maybe true. There's more preparation as a girl, but Bill's spent most of his life as a boy. He knows from seventeen years of experience that he can try his hardest and still get a "I don't think of you that way," or "Oh, wow. No." no matter what he does.

But now he has this, a chance to feel it from the other side, to figure out what it's like, how it works.

The ultimate summer vacation







It's kind of tempting to stay in bed, but it's not like the first time Bill turned into a girl. He's got to try and get something sorted out for work and -oh, Tony needs to know if he doesn't already, and someone get the camera away from Jack until they're talked about this and he needs to figure out if he can still sing at his usual range enough to record and make sure Sisky knows not to go into too much detail about Bill's summer of XX-chromosomes, thank god that Sisky's the only one who was around both times, check that Mike's not freaking out too much and—

It kind of sucks to have to deal with this now. Not that he has any problem with this, but he should at least get a day to readjust and ask his mom to send over some of his old clothes. If they still fit. He thinks he might have gone up a size, or down one. Something, because his hips seem more there, and he's pretty sure his breasts were a little smaller.

They call a band meeting, and it takes a while to get the basics out the way; for Tony to stop saying that this never happens with Fall Out Boy or The Hush Sound—which seems unfair, since he doesn't actually know that, it might not have happened in public—and to establish that yes, Bill wasn't drunk or stoned when he told them all about this. Or sometimes he was, but that didn't mean he was lying. Once they've got through all that, though, they get back to the important stuff. Bill doesn't have too much trouble singing at his normal pitch, nothing that can't be fixed in production. It's easier on some songs than others, and it takes more thought than usual, but it's good enough that they can work with it right now, trying out new songs, new arrangements, preparing for the tour.

"We could get Patrick in on this, for production," Mike says. "If you want to keep it in the family."

"In the family? Are we the emo band mafia? Because that'd be kind of cool," Sisky says. "Hey, maybe that can be our next TAI TV?"

It's not perfect. Bill has to fake his normal voice and kick Jack off from behind the camera for a few clips for Buzznet, remind his band and Gym Class that don't tell anyone includes everyone else, yes, that means Joe too, and Bob, and the other Bob, and the other Andy and—of course not Pete, and if you don't put the phone down right this minute— But on the plus side, he's got his band, his people, and Travis is still the same, maybe checking out Bill's ass, but still talking to him about the hot lighting tech chick at their last show. It's not like last time, when being a girl was new and he was sixteen and it was summer, no school, only a couple of friends outside his family that knew, and he could create a whole new him for the summer, no responsibilities or expectations and no need to think about the consequences.

That might be progress or some kind of sign of maturity, because in retrospect, no-consequences was a delusional concept. At least it's happening now and not when they're in the middle of touring. It's just promo work and working on the next record, staying at semi-catered apartments that feel like Bill's mom's friend's timeshare. It's weird, not quite a hotel and not quite a house. Not bad, but Bill likes going with the gang to hang out with Gym Class at their hotel, where they can get room service without feeling lazy and vaguely guilty.

"They're being comped," Travis says when Bill snatches the hotel peanuts out of his hand.

"So? That means I should still let the hotel charge their ridiculous prices for peanuts?" Bill says.

Mike rolls his eyes and throws a pillow at Travis. "Leave it, it's like a moral point with him."

"You lie! My boy doesn't have any morals, right?" Travis looks at Bill, eyes big and is-there-a-Santa-Claus? before putting a hand on his chest, hunching in and looking betrayed. "You do? Bill, how could you do this to me? All this time, you had morals and principles and shit?"

Bill rolls his eyes, because it's stupid, but it is also the principle of the thing and hotels charge stupid prices. "I'm going to the convenience store."

He comes back with peanuts, macadamia white chocolate cookies for Sisky, chips, dips and something with natural blue raspberry flavour, and that so bizarre -natural blue? natural raspberry? does GM stuff count as natural additives? when he gets out of the elevator, walks down the corridor and almost trips over someone kneeling on the floor. He gets out a "Sorry, didn't see you—" before the road hazard looks up and it's Patrick.

He's not expecting it, so his first thought is, "Oh, fuck." Followed quickly by, "Maybe he won't remember me, it's been a while, maybe he won't recognise me." Which is stupid because it's not like he's changed that much and besides, Patrick's expression pretty much says it all. He looks stunned, like someone just hit him over the head with a boulder with nails in, his eyes wide behind his glasses, his mouth open and shocked.

He looks good, too.

"Lily?" Patrick says.

Bill smiles and hopes it looks better than it feels. "Patrick! Hey. What are you doing here?"

"Me? I'm working, I'm in this band and—" he stops, shaking his head and then looks at Bill like he— Oh, yeah, and that's the reason, one of them, why Bill knew it was a bad idea to let Patrick see him, because it might lead to Patrick looking at him like that. Like he can't believe it's Lily, like he's not sure if he wants to believe it's her. He's staring at Bill and Bill's trying to remind himself that he saw Patrick less than a month ago, it's just Patrick looking pretty much exactly the same as the last time he saw him, when they talked about publicity shots and Optimus Prime versus Cyborg.

It's just that Patrick isn't looking at him like he's the guy Patrick tried to convince that he's wrong, all wrong over Starbucks' finest. Patrick is looking at him like—like he's looking at a girlfriend, like an ex-girlfriend. He's looking at Bill like someone's punched him in the gut and he's still winded, like he can't quite believe it His eyes keep tracking over Bill.

"I'm just visiting some friends," Bill says. "Staying here." He holds on to his arm at the elbow because he wants to—it'd be normal to hug Patrick, right? It's more of a thing if he doesn't. Bill should hug him. He wants to, and that's probably why he shouldn't, even though Patrick is right there and he could, he really could, right now when Patrick is still in shock and before he actually starts thinking, except that would probably be a really bad idea. He just kind of stands there and it's like being—no, it's worse than being fourteen again and still awkward from his growth spurt. He shifts his weight from one foot to the other and the silence is the loudest thing ever, so he has to say something. "It's, uh. You look good. Well." And that just makes him wince and wish he'd kept his mouth shut.

Patrick nods, his eyes still locked on Bill. "You, too. Your hair, it's. It's longer." And then there's more of that killer silence, the one that's like holding your hand against a stove in a game of chicken. He looks awkward and there's this space around him, next to him, that Bill should be in. It's wrong to be this close to Patrick and not stand next to him, his hand in Patrick's back pocket. Bill can't do that anymore, but maybe he can just hug him hello.

He goes to do it, but before he gets the chance Patrick kind of explodes without moving. "Lily, what the fuck?" and part of Bill thinks it's familiar, like when they argued before, and part of him is noting how Patrick's voice has changed. He didn't have that range before. It's impressive even if Bill's first reaction is to cross his arms defensively and shove Patrick at the same time. "Did you know I was going to be here?"

Bill fights the urge to yell back and the little voice that's reminding him how much he liked arguing with Patrick before, that's saying it'd probably be cathartic if Patrick pushed him against a wall, good for both of them, because that little voice is a dirty liar who just wants to get laid. So he's trying to think of something to say that isn't, "It's not my fault," or "I'm sorry," or anything that might lead to arguing or making up and will get Patrick to stop looking at him like that. His hands are clenched and his shoulders tense and his mouth right there, and before he can, there's a familiar weight across Bill's shoulders. It smells a little of hotel soap and pot, and Travis is draping himself across Bill's shoulder's like he always does, like no-one could reasonably expect him to stand up on his own.

"C'mon," Travis says. "You're missing the best bit of the movie. Three decapitations down." He notices Patrick. "Hey, Stump! Good to see you, but aren't you in Canada?"

Patrick looks at Travis, then Bill and Bill's not even thinking about how this looks because it's just Travis, just the way he rolls. Except Patrick is looking at them and yeah, it probably does send a different message when Bill's like this. It's just a moment, a second of inspiration like getting the hook for a song, and then Bill's smiling up at Travis and saying, "I'm just coming, baby."

Travis frowns at him, and Bill tries to develop telepathy, which fails because instead of playing along, Travis just goes, "What?"

Bill turns in to him, just a little, and Travis's free hand drops to his hip automatically which is proof that even if he's not telepathic, at least Bill knows Travis well enough to make this work. "I just ran in to an old friend," he says, gesturing at Patrick and pressing against Travis. It's not a hardship; Travis is warm and good to lean against anyway, and he smells familiar and comforting and it's good to be close to someone when he can feel this huge distance between him and Patrick.

"You're. I didn't know you." Patrick pulls himself together and says, "I didn't know you knew each other."

Travis opens his mouth and Bill steps on his foot and says, "Small world, I guess."

"Yeah." Patrick shoves his hands in his pockets and nods, sharp and jerky. "I've got to find my band. They're, uh. Pete said something about balconies and barbecues and I've got to." He shrugs and he's still looking at Bill like he can't stop. "Travis, Lily, I guess I'll see you around."

He turns around and Bill watches his back and it hits him like a sucker-punch, like it did the first time he changed back, that combination of wanting to touch him and being angry that he doesn't get to.

"Lily?" Travis says, one eyebrow raised.

"He knew me before. He didn't know it was me, but." Bill shrugs and folds one arm across his stomach.

"Lily? Is that your girl name?" Travis raises one eyebrow and says, "So he doesn't know..." He makes a gesture that's maybe either jerking off, an hourglass figure or naked octopus wrestling.

"It's not like I made an announcement: 'Hi, I'm the girl formerly known as William Beckett'," Bill says. "I only knew Patrick from around, you know?"

"So you gonna tell him now?" Travis voice is casual, no judgement, but Bill can feel his stomach flip like a Ukrainian gymnast.

"I was thinking not," he says. "I mean, if I tell Patrick, Patrick will tell Pete, and Pete will tell the internet." Which is mean and bitchy and probably not true, but it's as good a reason as any. "It's not a big deal, really. It's nothing."

"Nothing, huh?" Travis says. "So why are we dating?"

"It's just easier," Bill says. "You know, I don't want things to get complicated again."

"Complicated?"

"Not complicated," Bill says. "I just mean, you know. Confusing."

"We've only been dating five minutes and already you're lying to me?" he shakes his head and puts on a wounded expression. "You're a bad girlfriend, William Beckett." He looks at Bill, eyebrows raised, waiting for to explain but willing to let him shrug it off. "Best you'll ever get," Bill says. Travis has his arm around his shoulders and Bill's torn between shrugging it off and leaning in to it. "Fuck," he says, which probably kills his attempt at passing this off as no big deal, but really. "Fuck."








He kind of knows Patrick, like he kind of knows a lot of people, enough that he feels okay with saying, "Hey, can you put your arm around me or something?"

"What?"

"There's this guy who keeps trying to talk to me and I just—" Bill waves a hand at the party behind him. "I just don't want to deal with him right now, because I'm going to come off like a total bitch and I really, really don't want to talk to him." Patrick's still looking at him, so Bill adds, "He's kind of stalking me. Not in a scary way, just in the way where I tell him I'm not interested and he thinks if he keeps asking me, I'll just give in. He's kind of whiny." He leans in. He only recently learnt what his limits are in his old body, and he forgot that they'd be different like this, so he leans on Patrick too. Patrick is nice and sturdy. Patrick is good. "He keeps asking me if I think I'm better than him, and really, I think I am, but I don't want to say that because it makes me sound like a vain bitch."

"Yeah?" Patrick says, and he puts his arm around Bill, like he's trying to keep Bill steady.

"Yeah. Not because I'm cooler or more attractive, though I kind of think I am cooler and more attractive, but that's not why." Bill settles against Patrick, resting his head against Patrick's. "It's mostly because I'm not so selfish I'm going to ruin someone's good time by trying to make her feel like a bad person because she don't want to date me." He rubs his head against Patrick. "You have really soft hair."

"Thank you. I'm Patrick, by the way," Patrick says. He sounds kind of amused.

"I know," Bill says, wondering why Patrick feels like he has to state the obvious. Then he shifts and he feels the shoes, the difference in weight and oh yeah, girl, someone Patrick's never met. "I'm Lily," he says. "Like the song."

"Which one?"

"Any of them. All of them."

Patrick smiles. Bill can see it, even though he's too close to see it properly, and he thinks, good mouth. He lets that thought drift for a while, because normally, he thinks things like that and then, kissing, sucking him off, licking his fingers, on neck, and now he thinks—he thinks kissing, licking his fingers, going down on him, Patrick's mouth on his neck, his breasts. Mmm. His stomach twists, but in a good way, and he thinks about maybe dragging Patrick off to a corner somewhere. It's good, thinking about it. Enjoyable.

Patrick hums something vaguely familiar, and then it turns in to words. "Underneath the lantern, by the barrack gate, Darling I remember..."

Oh. Bill joins in, and it takes him a line or two to realise that his voice is pretty much the same. Higher, maybe, but he has no trouble harmonising at his old pitch. "...the way you used to wait. 'Twas there you whispered—"

Patrick's hand moves, like he's surprised, but he sticks with it for the first verse so they end together. Bill lifts his head and smiles at Patrick, and says, "You're really pretty. I'm thinking of dragging you to a dark room and taking advantage of you."

Patrick ducks his head and he's awkward, his arm around Bill suddenly tense. "Yeah, that's what all the girls say."

Bill frowns, because Patrick sounds like he's trying to joke. "Hey, don't act like I don't know what I'm talking about. I've hooked up with loads of really hot people, so I know pretty when I see it." Huh, that sounded better before he said it. " Do you think I'm shallow?"

"No, I just think you're a little wasted." Patrick's smiling, and he really does have a great mouth, so it's entirely understandable that Bill doesn't register what he's saying at first. It's distracting, smiling at Bill like that, wide and soft looking. Patrick licks his lips and the movement makes Bill pull himself together.(

Bill punches him in the shoulder. "I'm not drunk, I know what I'm saying. Okay, you give me your phone number right now!"

Patrick blinks at him. "What?"

Bill crosses his arms and they fit so nicely under his breasts, and he thinks that this and the hips, are the best part of being a girlt. "I am going to get your number and I'm going to call you tomorrow and prove that I'm not just coming on to you because I've had, like, two bottles of beer and a glass of punch. Punch, Patrick, and that was before anyone got a chance to spike it apart from me."



"I don't. I don't have a pen," Patrick says, looking almost exactly like a bird that just flew into a glass door



Bill rolls his eyes. "How do you ever get laid?" he says, looking around, finding a napkin and digging out a stub of pencil from his pocket. "Here, write it down."

Patrick writes down his number and Bill looks at it for a second, then puts it in his pocket. He feels kind of smug. It's not like he thought it'd be hard, hooking up as a girl, but Patrick doesn't act like he's used to giving his number out, and now Bill has it anyway. It's probably too soon to kiss him, but it feels even more important now not to be the kind of person that worries about that. Bill's almost going to, but he hears a crash from the other room and a familiar voice saying, "But I don't bend that way!" and he winces. "Got to go rescue my boy," Bill says. "It's the curse of being the cool older friend."

"Oh, okay," Patrick says, a little stiffly. He nods and looks awkward, maybe even a little embarrassed.

"Patrick," Bill says, "I really, really want to—"

He leans in, just enough to press against Patrick a bit and then heads back to find Adam. He pulls him from a mass of teenagers, brushing crumbs off him and shaking his head.

"Adam T. Siska, your mom—my mom's gonna kill me if you're drunk," he says. Adam smiles at him and Bill feels irritated and protective and wonders how much is hardwired into the body and how much is Adam's big and dammit, unfocussed eyes.

Adam's hug makes Bill feel Salvation-Army sober in comparison, but he hugs him back and tries not to feel too smug over his first night out as a girl.








Bill's waiting for the piano to drop on his head for the rest of the day, and it still hasn't happened by the time he gets to bed. No Patrick storming in and saying, "You were Bill all along!" No Travis asking awkward questions like, "So what exactly happened between you?" Nothing.

His eyes feel gritty when he wakes, like he's wearing contacts for the Sixteen Candles video. He's not awake, but not tired either. Doesn't want to be up, doesn't want to be in bed and he's going to have to say something to his band before Travis does. Or Patrick.

Or Pete, Andy or Joe, and fuck, how much do they know? What's Patrick said? He gets in the shower and usually , this is fun time for him. Not just him getting off, but because he likes looking at his body, running his hands over his breasts, hips, everything. It's not even always about masturbation, but more that it's just nice to touch. He likes thinking that if he saw himself on the streets, he'd think the girl was hot.

Now, he's wondering what Patrick saw when he looked at him, at Lily. Longer hair, a couple inches taller, maybe. Was Lily nostalgia-pretty in Patrick's memory, hot as an ex or unappealing as a mistake? Or no difference, no change, like the six years didn't happen

Maybe he doesn't even remember. Maybe it's blurred and overwritten with other girls, so there's just something generic when Patrick thinks of him.

Maybe Bill should stop thinking about this before he starts singing that Alanis Morisette song. He gets out the shower, humming, dries off and finds a bathrobe before heading out to the main room. "—older version of me, is perverted like me, would she—We're out of mousse," Bill says, stealing a croissant.

"We—have you been stealing my stash again? Bill, man, buy your own." Mike points at him with a butter knife, less a threat and more a sign of surrender.

Bill shrugs and says, "So Fall Out Boy are in town early. I ran in to Patrick in the hallway."

Sisky looks up and says, "That's... Fuck, Bill. What're you going to do?"

Which is dramatic enough to get everyone else raising their heads and looking at him. Bill shrugs and butters his croissant with moderate flair to help him fake casual convincingly.

"Something you need to tell us?" Mike says.

"The first time round, I sort of dated Patrick," Bill says. He holds his croissant up to eyelevel, surveys the slightly burnt gold, like he's giving serious consideration to if it needs more butter or jelly or something. Nutella. "I didn't want him to find out because it'd make things awkward."

"Nice one," Butcher says, raising his fist to knock against Bill's. "What?" He says when Bill just looks at him over his breakfast. "You did good. If I turned into a girl, Patrick would be in the top ten boyfriends." He drops his fist when Bill doesn't take him up on it and says, "So is there a problem? Did you tell him about you being you?"

"I thought about it, but I've decided to go with not telling him that his high school girlfriend is actually his old buddy, Bill," William says. "That kind of thing always plays out so much better in sitcoms then real life." He puts the croissant down and starts searching through the little jars, trying to decide between apricot-peach and grape.

"Yeah, but if we're gonna be hanging with them—"

"We're not. I'm not," Bill corrects. "You guys can. Just don't mention me."

"But what if he—"

"It's not like he's going to be tracking me down. He's not going to be stalking me," Bill says. He's pretty sure Patrick has no desire to see him again, ever, but he decides to go with, "It was a summer thing. It was years ago," as an explanation instead. And actually, these little jars the jelly comes in are fascinating, and he's reading the label because he really cares about how much fruit is there per ounce.

Sisky says nothing, in a way that makes Bill feel guilty and defensive, so he puts the little jar down a too hard. "What?"

"Nothing," Sisky says. Then, "You were kind of intense. That's just what it looked like to me."

"Everything's intense when you're sixteen," Bill says.

"Yeah, but you were kind of. A couple." And maybe he thinks that he wasn't clear enough, he adds, "Boyfriend and girlfriend."

Some day, Bill's going to have to take Adam T. Siska to one side and explain about how hard it is to pretend that something's not a big deal when people keep telling you how much it is. He probably doesn't have time for that now, so he settles for trying to look off-hand when he says, "It's not like he was the first guy I ever slept with," working to get the right tone of casual disregard.

And then, because his band likes to be smart at exactly the wrong moment, Chizz says, "What about Patrick?" He's got that smile, like he think's something's funny, but he's not a hundred per cent sure. "He wasn't your first, doesn't mean you weren't his."

"You're putting too much thought in to this," Bill says. "Teenage break-ups are not the end of the world."

"It just feels like it," Michael says. "What?" When Bill glares at him. "I'm just saying, first cut is deepest." He lowers his voice and puts on a serious expression. "Bill, did you break that boy's heart?"

It's a joke, but there's still a moment where Bill wants to say something, something like, "You think I meant for that to happen like it did?" or "I wasn't exactly laughing with joy when it ended either." He doesn't, settles for rolling his eyes and reaching for the Nutella.

He gets through breakfast by virtue of moaning, loudly and orgasmically around a mouth full of croissant and chocolate spread every time someone tries to talk to him. They split up after breakfast, Jack and the Butcher doing a TAI TV thing, Mike fleeing Bill's Meg Ryan impersonation. His expression alone makes Bill think that it's a good strategy, one he should definitely use again.

And then, because fate likes to mock him, is sitting up there somewhere pointing and laughing, when they turn on the TV, there's an interview with Fall Out Boy. Recorded last night, maybe. Patrick's wearing the same hat, same sweatshirt. Pete and Andy are getting into it about something, the kind of minor argument that's equal parts petty and grinning, Patrick's looking at them, Joe leaning across his back to get a better view. Bill sits forward a little, looking for signs. Patrick's not as obvious in his moods on TV as Pete is, but—it's hard to tell, but Pete's knee is against Patrick's, Joe's hand on his shoulder, Patrick's hat pulled down at the front, and the little bickering could be Andy and Pete running interference?

The interviewer says something about teenage romance and writing it after the age of sixteen, and Pete bounces it back with something about heartbreak that has her leaning forward and asking about theirs. Bill winces, because it's a familiar question and it still hits too close to the bone. They bounce it off with experience, a personal comment from Pete and then something more general, universal truths of love and broken hearts. It's nothing new, just Pete's usual references to his exes, and then the interviewer says something to Patrick. Pete opens his mouth, but patrick's speaking before Pete gets the chance to deflect the question.

"Probably because it's the first time," Patrick says, "So you've got no comparison and that's what you expect the next time you fall in love, and it really is the most in love you've ever been, it really is only time you've felt that bad."

"Yeah, it's like the worst you ever felt, right up to the next time you feel the worst you ever felt and then you're like, 'Wow, in retrospect that time before wasn't so bad," Pete says. His knee bumps against Patrick's.

It's smooth and easy, and it makes Bill's stomach clench, because Patrick's not sketching out bits from their current single in the air or talking about their latest collaboration, and he's smiling like it's mostly at himself and he's the joke that's funny for everybody else.

Bill's probably over-thinking or maybe even seeing what he wants to see, because as much as he doesn't want to admit it, he doesn't want Patrick to just brush him off. Her. Lily. It's not a nice thought, it's mean and kind of vindictive and prideful, but it's not like the mess was entirely his fault, Patrick was at least half to blame, and he shouldn't get to shake this off either.

It's not the kind of logic you can share with anyone, the kind that'd have Ryan Ross or Pete Wentz calling you on teenage melodrama hypocrisy, but he hasn't let himself think about this for years, not like this, and it's like he's been restarted back to that point. Worse than that, because at the time, he thought he was okay, good, mature, sane. In retrospect, he was stupid or crazy or just really good at being wilfully blind.



"I guess when that happens, you kind of stop trusting yourself? Like, your own judgement." Patrick shrugs and his knee bounces a little, his fingers drumming against it. "I think that's why it's hardest the first time."

"At least until the next time," Pete adds, grinning at Patrick, at the camera.

Patrick gives—it's not even big enough to be a laugh, just a smile and him ducking his head down, while Joe leans over him to the camera, his hand on Patrick's shoulder, and says, "Not that we're bitter or anything."

And oh, that's it. Bill turns around and there's Sisky looking concerned and Michael looking like he's watching a tennis match, heard turning from Bill and the TV and back again. "Phone," Bill says.

"What?"

Bill rolls his eyes, leans over and digs in Michael's pockets, ignoring his "Hey!" and attempt at escape, pulling out his phone and scrolling through for Patrick's number.

"Hey?" Patrick says. "Michael?" He sounds like he's just woken up, like he hopes he doesn't have to.

"It's been—jesus, it's been years," Bill says. "So either you're over it or you're not, and if you haven't got over it in five years, I'm not taking the blame for your issues."

"Lil?" Rustling, the sound of Patrick sitting up and Bill can picture him, bedhead hair and reaching for his glasses. "What—why are you on Chislett's cell?"

"Like you'd have answered if I called you?"

"Why would you have my number? Why would you even want my number." All of Patrick's morning viciousness is there in his voice, but Bill shrugs it off.

"Eight weeks, Stumph. If I got over it so can you, without going on TV and acting like it—like I'm some evil bitch that scarred you for life, especially when I know you dated that girl Rose-something and then Anna and—"

"I didn't—I never said you were a bitch," Patrick. "And I'm really sorry that you find it upsetting for me to—you know, I can't do this right now. You don't get to call me at nine in the morning and yell at me anymore. You're not my girlfriend."

The stupid thing is, Bill knew that, he just kind of forgot, falling back into old habits when it was okay to do this, appropriate for him to phone his boyfriend and yell at him over the phone until they could make up or at least make out. He doesn't say anything. He's painfully aware of the silence and the way it makes every other sound—Michael and Sisky on the couch, Patrick shifting in his bed, his own breathing, and the way it's out of sync with Patrick's. Competing rhythms.

"I'm—" he doesn't want to have to say it, but he closes his eyes and says, "I'm sorry. I forgot—" that we're not still like that. "It doesn't matter, you can say whatever you want in interviews. None of my business. I just didn't expect to see you yesterday."

"Yeah, me too. Look, maybe it was just a couple of months for you," Patrick says. "It didn't—it doesn't feel that way to me." He sighs and Bill doesn't see Patrick as he is now. He's focussed on Patrick then, short hair, glasses and T-shirt off. "Does Travis—how did you..." The words come in short, hard sentences that have the rhythm of their fights, even if the tone is wrong, and then Patrick says, "I don't think I can do this now, I'm just gonna—" leaving only the dialtone in Bill's ear and he pulls the phone away for a second, looking at it.

"Nice move," Michael says. Bill gives him the finger without turning around.








He has a drink in his hand, but he's not drunk. Not even tipsy not yet, so there's no reason for him to be staring. Or maybe that is a reason, maybe if his mind wasn't so sharp it wouldn't be so focussed on the sight of Patrick sitting on one of the chairs by the tables against the wall. He's smiling, and he's just—his skin and his hands gesturing and Bill misses his hands. He's looking across the room at Gabe and Pete having the kind of conversation that only happens if you're wasted or Pete and Gabe, smiling at them kind of fondly. Patrick's wearing his glasses and Bill hurts, not touching him. Not being allowed to touch him anymore. When they were dating, he could sit on Patrick's lap or put his hand in his pocket or under his T-shirt and he doesn't miss it that much only because he doesn't think about it that much. He was kind of a clingy girlfriend, but he loved it, and now he can't. His fingers press into his glass, which is only plastic so he forces them to let go before it cracks, and he walks over and Bill kisses Patrick. He's not even drunk, not really, and Patrick's there, so he thinks, just go for it already. It's the obvious thing to do when Patrick is sitting there and no-one's with him, so he says, "Hey," and when Patrick looks up, he kisses him. His eyes are closed and it's just Patrick's mouth and it's so familiar, and he puts his hand on Patrick's shoulder for balance, and—

And Patrick pushes him away and says, "Okay, so how much have you been drinking."

Bill straightens up and says, "Not that much," knowing what it sounds like. It's not like he was expecting anything different, he thinks. Patrick doesn't kiss boys, even if he lets them kiss him sometimes, and he knew that. Rule number eight of musicianship, just because you let someone lick you on stage, doesn't mean anything when you're off. Stupid to try because you can't go back and he knows that, he does. He just forgot for a moment that Patrick, this Patrick, has never been his.





Part two
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October 2016

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