|Rock And Roll Don't Give Her Nothing But Bad Dreams
A couple of weeks after Cannes, Vince flops onto the couch one morning, finally looking like his mood is less black than it's been since they left France, and says, "I want to meet Fall Out Boy."
Turtle immediately says, "What do you want to meet them for? Their music sucks."
Eric says, "Shut up, Turtle," and, "I think they're touring, Vince."
"They do suck," Turtle says. "It's all pre-fab pop. Not even real punk."
"What do you know about real punk?" Drama says.
"More than fucking you," Turtle says, and Eric says, again, "Shut up, Turtle."
Then he says to Vince, "I didn't know you liked them." Which is fine, which is fair, it's not like when they were in high school listening to tapes in Vince's mom's old Chevy or sharing CDs between their discmans -- Eric doesn't ask what Vince has on his iPod and that's okay. But it's still sometimes a shock to hear that he doesn't know something about Vince.
"They're okay," Vince says, shrugging, and he doesn't meet Eric's eye at first. But then he looks up and smirks and says, "And the bass player's really fucking hot, you know?"
There's about a million things that go through Eric's head just then -- you're not gay, he's not gay, if he is gay I think he's fucking his lead singer, why didn't you just say you wanted to fuck the bass player from Fall Out Boy to start with -- but he doesn't say any of them. He and Vince have history, more than just the kind that all the news articles talk about, and if they stopped fucking around when Eric moved to L.A., stopped fucking around for the benefit of Vince's career, that's something Eric chose to give up. He's got a say in Vince's life, but not the way he used to, and Vince on the cover of a tabloid with the guy from Fall Out Boy will probably distract at least a little from the disaster that was Cannes.
So Eric says, "Okay," and gets up from the couch and goes to call Ari, to get Ari to get Lloyd to call Fall Out Boy's manager and set something up.
Behind him, Turtle says, "I bet the bass player sucks, if you know what I mean," and Vince just laughs.
It turns out that Fall Out Boy -- more specifically, Pete Wentz, the really fucking hot bass player -- is just as interested in Vince as Vince is in them (him), but it takes a month before their tour schedule lets Wentz get back to L.A., and that month is a constant string of conversations that Eric really wishes he'd never had to have.
The first thing Vince does while they're waiting is make Eric go out and buy all their CDs -- the ones with the extra tracks, E, okay? -- and Turtle listens to them more than anybody else, just so he can complain about them. "Their lead singer sucks," he says. "And their drummer sucks, and they're overproduced because they have to cover up the sucking."
"Fuck you," Vince says, laughing. Eric thinks they're pretty good; the lead singer doesn't sound anything like he looks in pictures, short and shy with hat pulled over his eyes, but he's got a great voice and Eric understands being second to the more famous, prettier guy in your group of four.
Two weeks in, Vince's phone rings with an unfamiliar number and he answers it hesitantly, hovering close to Eric's side in the club in case he has to pass it off, but after "Hello?", Vince's face goes relaxed and happy in a way that Eric hasn't seen since Cannes, and he disappears with the phone pressed to his ear for almost an hour. Eric gets stuck talking to the manager of some soap opera star he's never heard of, and he's drunker than he'd meant to be by the time Vince gets back, grinning for real, the way he's only ever smiled at Eric.
"Who was that?" Eric says.
"Pete," Vince says, and Eric has to flip through his mental rolodex before he fails to come up with a Pete, any Pete, that he or Vince knows. He shrugs. "Pete Wentz," Vince says, still smiling, his phone pressed tight in his fingers.
"Oh," Eric says. He's glad Vince is happy -- he's glad that somebody's making Vince happy, but he's not sure he wants it to be Pete Wentz, who Eric knows from Google and BuzzNet is the poster boy for bad life decisions despite having a couple of platinum records and an apparently healthy relationship with Ashlee Simpson. But then again, he doesn't really know the guy and he does know Vince, and it's been a while since VInce has grinned at Eric like he's grinning now. "What's he got to say?"
"Here," Vince says, extricating a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket. The words on it are in English but they don't mean anything in combination, not to Eric's eyes. "These bands are on his label, right? He says we should go get their albums."
So Eric goes out on Monday morning and buys CDs by Panic! At the Disco ("They suck," Turtle says, "and what's with the fucking exclamation point thingy?", and Drama says, "They sing about whores, and I like that in a band.") and The Academy Is ... ("They suck, and with the fucking periods, too," Turtle says, and Vince says, "The lead singer is fucking hot.") and Cobra Starship ("How come we don't have a basement?" Drama says; "They suck," Turtle says) and Gym Class Heroes ("They suck," Turtle says, but he says it resignedly, like he wishes he was the one who had discovered them, and then he goes and gets high and listens to the CD again).
Vince's phone rings more and more after that, all hours of the day and night, and it's not a cheap house with thin walls at all, but Eric's room is right next to Vince's and he's not sleeping well, so he hears it ring at 4 a.m., at 6 a.m.. And he hears Vince's voice, low and happy, and he hears Vince padding downstairs, and he hears Vince opening the back door to walk outside. The one time he rolled over and crawled out of bed and peered through the shades, Eric saw the relaxed length of Vince's back, sitting on the edge of the pool with the L.A. sunrise spread out in front of him.
Something about that sight made Eric even queasier than he already was, about Medellin and the future and all the money they stood to lose, so he just went back to bed and put his pillow over his head, but Pete Wentz kept calling.
A month after Vince decides he wants to meet Fall Out Boy, Pete Wentz shows up on their doorstep at exactly 7:18 in the morning, according to Eric's cell phone, shadowed by a short guy who Eric blinks at sleepily before deciding he's got to be the lead singer. Pete's rung the doorbell about 15 times but they were out last night, schmoozing with someone who turned out not to have any script at all, much less one Vince would want to consider, and Eric thinks he finally fell into bed sometime after 4. "Hi," Pete says cheerfully. "I'm Pete."
"He's been up all night," the singer says. Eric struggles for his name, gives up because it's ass-early-o'clock in the morning and he's still wearing a dirty t-shirt and pajama pants and the only other person who's up (and long gone) is Drama, who started shooting again this week. It means that they're on their own for breakfast most days and Vince burns the coffee and sometimes Eric goes to the office not to actually do work, but just to get out of the house, because otherwise he's going to worry himself into a coma over whatever this thing with Vince and Pete is. Not to mention all the other stuff Eric's got to worry about, but right now he's got to worry about Pete Wentz, grinning and bouncing and really fucking pretty on their doorstep, and Pete's lead singer, standing behind him, wearing an expression halfway between amused and annoyed. The guy's wearing a baseball cap pulled down low over his face and he looks like Eric feels, like he isn't quite awake and probably hasn't showered.
Eric likes him already. Pete Wentz, that jury's still out.
"Well, come in, I guess," Eric says. "Vinnie's still sleeping," and he starts to say, normal people were still sleeping, but Pete's shoving past him, shouting up the stairs for Vince, hey, Vince, come on, man, get up, get up. The singer stays on the doorstep for a long minute while Eric's holding the door open, his eyes flickering between the wake of the hurricane that's Pete Wentz and Eric's face.
Then he steps inside and lets Eric shut the door and lean heavily against it. "I'm Patrick," he says, and Eric thinks, okay, yes, Patrick, Patrick Stump.
"Eric," he says. "Eric Murphy. Can I get you -- I don't know, a cup of coffee, a shower, a spare bed?"
"Could you take Pete for a couple of weeks? I promise you don't have to walk him, and he's mostly housebroken," Patrick says sleepily, twitch of a smile at his mouth, followed by a conspicuous biting of his lower lip. "Sorry, that sounded ... it's just, like, too early for anybody human to be up, and Pete jumped on my back an hour and a half ago when I was in the middle of a really good dream."
"Okay, so, coffee, then," Eric says, and Patrick smiles at him for real, broad and bright in the dim morning light.
Upstairs, there's thudding footsteps, a couple of doors opening and shutting, and then the startled noise of Vince being woken up from a sound sleep by, it seems pretty likely, a divebombing Pete Wentz. Then there's laughter, and more thumps, and Turtle, sounding groggy, shouting, "Shut the fuck up, you assholes!" and then, "Your fucking music sucks!"
Without thinking, Eric shouts back, "Shut up, Turtle!" Patrick winces at his voice and the laughter gets louder and then suddenly quieter, like the laughers found something better to do with their mouths. Eric doesn't want to think about that. "Sorry," Eric says. "It's ... this house."
Patrick shrugs, sliding onto one of the tall chairs at the counter and scrubbing a hand across his face. "Touring's the same. You get used to it, I guess. I keep telling myself."
"You guys have been out all summer, right?" Eric can't work Drama's expensive espresso machine but he can make a pot of regular guy coffee, or at least he can stick a mug straight under the drip until it's full, and then replace it with a second, before he finally sticks the pot underneath it. It's too early to wait around for a full pot of anything.
"Most of the spring, all summer, and it starts again in October," Patrick says. "New album. But don't tell me spending three months in Colombia's not the same."
"It's what we do," Eric says. The coffee pot gurgles loudly.
Patrick grins again, sharp and quick. "It's what we do, too."
"You music doesn't really suck," Eric says. "Turtle's just a jerk."
"A couple of platinum records can't be wrong," Patrick says sarcastically, cupping his hands around the mug Eric slides in front of him and looking grateful. Eric likes this guy already, likes the way he takes things for what they are. Likes the way he clearly loves his best friend, even when love is mixed with a healthy dose of annoyance. Eric gets that.
Patrick takes a long sip of his coffee, and there's a thump from upstairs, followed by more laughter, another thump, and then the sounds of somebody's feet on the stairs. Turtle stomps into the kitchen, glares at Eric, glares at Patrick, and says, "Your music sucks, too."
"It's the same music, Turtle," Eric says, and Patrick hides a grin behind his coffee.
"It all sucks the same, too," Turtle says. He grabs Eric's coffee and stomps right back out of the kitchen.
"That's Turtle," Eric says, and Patrick just grins at him. "He's down on the music industry right now."
"Sounds like he's down on us," Patrick says.
Eric shrugs and the coffee pot gurgles to a stop. He pours himself another cup and slides onto the stool next to Patrick. "He's down on pretty much everything he doesn't find first, and also pot. You guys are just the latest."
Patrick sets his mug down and Eric watches the muscles in his arms flex under the skin. The guy doesn't look very imposing, but he's sustained a tour schedule for years now, and he's probably spent a lot of that time corralling Wentz, who's probably a good guy, but Eric could see the wildness that hummed right under Wentz's skin, just like Vince. He's got to be a hard guy to keep up with, a hard guy to work with. But Fall Out Boy's made it and if the interviews that Eric read are all the truth, the relationship between Wentz and Patrick is like his with Vince, only without so much arguing. Patrick's got to have a core of steel (or a big heart, or maybe both) to keep up with Wentz.
It's like Patrick voice -- listen to the records and Eric would have never guessed a voice like that came from a guy like this, but Patrick's deceptive. Deceptive, and with a killer smile.
Whereas Eric's just a sucker who loves his best friend too much to let him go yet.
"So," Patrick says, and he startles Eric, who'd been staring into his coffee cup like it had all the answers. "You're the sidekick, huh?"
Eric snorts. "Turtle's the sidekick," he says. "I'm the manager. And you're the frontman, but he's the famous one. I knew who Pete Wentz was before Vince wanted to meet you guys, but I didn't know your name until you said it."
"I wanted to play the drums," Patrick said. "I love singing, I love my guitar, but I wasn't supposed to be the lead singer. I just wanted to write music."
"I used to manage a Sbarro's," Eric says, and Patrick laughs again, twisting toward Eric and smiling over at him. "Some days I can't even figure out how I got to my bedroom from the bathroom the night before, much less how I got here."
"I don't put up with as much as Pete does," Patrick says, suddenly serious. His thigh's pressed against Eric's, and it's been a while since Eric actually got laid, instead of just watching Vince fuck everything in sight. He doesn't know much about Patrick, doesn't know if Patrick fucks men, doesn't know if he can make that jump in logic just because he and Vince used to fool around and they've got the same kind of relationship as Patrick and Pete, doesn't know if Pete and Vince are actually even upstairs fucking or if they're just braiding each other's hair and knocking the furniture over.
"Out of the spotlight," Eric says, because even if Vince gets the girls and Eric gets the unintentional comedy with suddenly appearing ex-girlfriends and movies that are going to tank and ruin all of them, at least Eric's not on the covers of the tabloids much. He's suddenly, desperately glad that Vince and Pete didn't insist on meeting somewhere, a club somewhere, because at least this way the paparazzi hasn't got as much of a shot at them.
"Different kind of spotlight," Patrick says after a minute, thoughtful. "If I wanted to, I could get away with more than Pete can, because nobody's looking at me to do the stuff they'd like to nail him for."
"Oh, yeah?" Eric says, and it isn't until the sentence is out of his mouth that he realizes that it sounds like a come-on -- or a challenge, or maybe both. He's lived with Vince, and Turtle, and Drama, for so long that he can't have a conversation like a normal person anymore. It's all mixed metaphors and double entendres and single entendres, and Ari calling him a fucking cocksucker on the other end of the phone.
When Eric cuts his eyes over, though, Patrick is smiling, a tiny crook at the corner of his mouth, and he swivels in his chair and reaches a hand out, fingers callused against Eric's wrist. "Yeah," he says, and there's maybe a thump from upstairs or maybe that's just the sound of Eric's heart in his ears when Patrick leans over and presses his mouth against Eric's. Vince is maybe-probably fucking the bassist for Fall Out Boy (who's supposed to be straight, supposed to be dating Ashlee Simpson) upstairs, and Eric's sitting in the kitchen with his coffee going cold, getting kissed by the lead singer. Patrick's mouth is soft and he tastes like the coffee Eric made, and when he licks along Eric's bottom lip, Eric's hands let go of his coffee cup of their own free will, one pressed against Patrick's knee and the other curling along his jaw, the tips of Eric's fingers just along the edge of Patrick's hat.
When Patrick pulls away, Eric blinks at him stupidly, his fingers still touching Patrick's hat and his thumb pressed to the pulse point on Patrick's throat. "No?" Patrick says, and Eric shakes his head, blinks a couple more times, and leans back toward Patrick, whose hand is still warm and solid against Eric's wrist, like Patrick's thigh is warm and solid under Eric's hand. "Pete," he says against Eric's lips, and, "They won't -- " but Eric hasn't kissed somebody he actually liked in a really long time, because there hasn't been anybody he's actually liked in his life, except for Vince, in years, and Patrick shuts up pretty quickly when Eric strokes his tongue into Patrick's mouth.
Back in the day, before Vince left New York and before Eric followed him, it had always been a challenge, always somebody twisted up the wrong way because no matter what Eric did he was never going to be tall enough to kiss Vince without stretching, but Patrick is just his height, perfect angle and wide, wet mouth. Eric is suddenly, blissfully pleased that Vinnie wanted to be best friends with the crazy, hot bassist from Fall Out Boy, because the house is almost empty and almost quiet for once, and Patrick Stump is a really good kisser.
Turtle could wander into the kitchen, Vince and Pete could wander downstairs from whatever it is that they're doing upstairs, but Eric doesn't care -- Patrick is kissing him slow and kind of dirty, lots of tongue and teeth along Eric's bottom lip, and it's been a long time since anybody (since any guy) kissed Eric like that. So when he slides off the chair and down to his knees, he can't hear any of the noise from upstairs, if it's still happening, he can't hear anything but his own heart pounding in his ears and Patrick's breathing above him. Eric puts his hands on Patrick's thighs, kneeling in between the open v of Patrick's legs, and says, "Yeah?"
Patrick blinks down at him, slow and with his pupils blown wide, and says, "Yeah, yeah, Jesus Christ, yes."
Eric puts one hand on Patrick's hip and pops the button on Patrick's jeans with his other. Patrick's hard under Eric's palm and his hips jerk under Eric's hand when Eric reaches for the zipper. "Pete," he says, breathing heavy, and one hand comes down to rest against the back of Eric's neck. His fingers are rough against Eric's skin, guitar player calluses catching against the curve of Eric's shoulder, under his t-shirt. "Pete," he says again, like he can't quite remember why he said his bass player's name. "Pete doesn't get to have all the fun."
Eric can't help but smile, ducking his head and pressing his mouth against Patrick's thigh, and Patrick shudders under the tough. Eric tugs the zipper down blindly, and Patrick shifts, sliding forward on the chair and hooking his ankles around the legs of the chair. It's an awkward angle, and it's been a while -- Eric's knees already hurt and he's getting too old for this, except that he's not, not at all, because when he slides a hand into Patrick's jeans, into his boxers, and wraps his fingers around hot, hard flesh, Patrick gasps, something hot and breathy and caught in his throat, a noise that never makes it to any of their albums. "Fuck," Patrick says, and when Eric slides Patrick's dick free of his jeans and wraps his mouth around it, Patrick's fingers tighten on Eric's neck and he groans.
Eric casts his eyes up and Patrick's staring down at him, lip caught between his teeth and eyes huge. Giving a blowjob's not like riding a bike, because Eric's gag reflex is a whole lot stronger now than it used to be, and his knees ache against the tile of the kitchen floor, but Patrick just stares down at him like Eric's the only person in the world he wants to be seeing right now.
He runs his tongue around the head of Patrick's dick and Patrick groans, fingers caught in Eric's hair and his thumb rubbing a tiny circle against the spot just below Eric's ear. The internet told Eric that there are a whole lot of girls out there who think Patrick's sleeping with Pete -- who think Patrick's having a great platonic love affair with Pete, who think that Patrick and Pete are soulmates -- but there are people who think that about Vince and Eric, too, and it's not that easy to explain. Eric can't shake the thought, though, Patrick on his knees in front of hyperactive eyeliner-ed Pete Wentz, and it's a surprisingly hot thought. He tightens his fist on the base of Patrick's dick and swallows down far enough to press his lips against his own fingers, and then slides back up, slow and with the drag of his tongue against the hot skin, and Patrick twitches, thigh tensing under Eric's other hand. "God," Patrick says, and Eric's never going to be able to listen to one of their albums again without thinking about how Patrick Stump sounds when he's getting blown.
Eric might be rusty at giving head, but he's gotten blowjobs in the last six months, and when he applies himself -- well. Patrick groans again, noisy in the silence of the house, and Eric shifts, sliding his hand from Patrick's thigh into his own pajama pants and pressing his palm against his own dick, and then wrapping his fingers around it and matching the speed he's got going on Patrick's dick with his own strokes. Eric's hard but not close to coming, but it's only a couple of minutes before Patrick groans lower, hips jerking up and fingers digging into Eric's scalp, and says, "Fuck, fuck, Eric -- " and comes against the back of Eric's throat.
He swallows, once and then twice and on the third time he chokes, Patrick's come dripping out of the corner of his mouth and along his chin, but he can't stop his hand from moving on his own dick and Patrick's fingers slide from the back of his head to his chin, wiping the come away and then sliding off his face. When Eric looks up, Patrick's got his fingers in his mouth, cheeks hollowed and eyes still way too fucking wide, staring down at Eric's hand in his own pants. "C'mere," Patrick says, muffled around his own fingers, and the hand that isn't in his mouth reaches down and tugs at Eric's shirt, pulling Eric up to his feet and into the crook of Patrick's legs. Patrick tucks one foot around the back of Eric's calves and pulls his fingers out of his mouth with a slick popping sound. He tugs at the elastic in the waist of Eric's pants, sliding his still-slick hand into them and up against Eric's, fingers rough against the back of Eric's hand. He tucks his other hand against the small of Eric's back and leans forward, off-balance and almost sliding off the chair except for where Eric keeps him anchored, to kiss Eric again.
Patrick hums against Eric's mouth, something indistinct and maybe not even music but definitely happy, and the slide of his hand on Eric's dick is better than Eric's own, the rough spots on his fingers catching and dragging in a way that Eric didn't know could ever feel good, except that it does. Eric tries to remember how to kiss, tries to remember how half an hour ago he was just standing in the kitchen making coffee for a guy he'd never met before, but all the blood in his body feels like it's pooled in his dick and his brain's almost shut off completely. He leans against Patrick, who seems happy to take his weight, fingers on Eric's back moving in the same rhythm as the fingers on Eric's dick, which is what Eric gets for letting a musician stick his hand in Eric's pants, and keeps his eyes closed tight, mouth pressed tightly against Patrick's.
When he comes, it's almost a surprise, the feeling of release and the sudden hot-wet-god of his orgasm sweeping over him without warning. He bites Patrick's lower lip when he comes, and Patrick's hands keep moving, pulling every shudder out of Eric's body, and gentle and relaxing against his back, stick and hot and gentle against the skin of his hip.
The whole world goes white and quiet for a long minute, and Eric blinks back into consciousness with his forehead against Patrick's shoulder and Patrick's smile, broad and satisfied, three inches from his mouth. "Thanks," Eric says.
"Um, you're welcome," Patrick says, and Eric realizes that probably wasn't the best thing he could have said. But Patrick's still smiling, and Eric smiles back, grins like an idiot, and then he closes the gap and presses another kiss, chaste and close-mouthed, against Patrick's smile. Patrick keeps smiling.
"You should," Patrick says, waving a hand at Eric's pants, when Eric levers himself up onto his own two feet. "Go, uh, change, I guess."
Eric's suddenly really cold and really sticky, but this seems like it should be embarrassing and it's not. "Yeah, a shower wouldn't be bad."
But that makes him a pretty shitty host, except Patrick just laughs and says, "Yeah, at least I got a shower before Pete dragged me out of the house. There's coffee, I'll survive while you shower."
So Eric showers, and thinks about Vince, wide-eyed and destined for success even at 16, and about Patrick, on tour in a van with Pete Wentz at sixteen, and he'd probably have jerked off again except he's getting old, getting older, and even with Vince's broad smile layered over Patrick's in his mind, Eric's dick is having none of it. When he's clean, he puts on jeans and a t-shirt and pads downstairs, past Vince's room and quiet laughter behind the door, past Turtle's room and thumping bass, and Patrick's curled up on the couch with a terrible script Eric read two days ago and another cup of coffee. He looks up, eyes shaded behind his hat, when Eric walks into the room, and says, "This is really bad."
"Yeah, I know," Eric says, because it was seriously, totally awful.
"At least I don't have to listen to bad music," Patrick says, and Eric loses track of time, then, listening to Patrick tell him stories about the horrors of producing, the joys of playing, and then vice versa. Late in the afternoon, the sun already slipping toward the horizon, Patrick falls asleep in the middle of a sentence. He's tucked against one corner of the couch, socked feet pressed against Eric's thigh, and just drifts off in the middle of a story about somebody named Gabe and a case of Milwaukee's Best. Eric lets him sleep, just reaches over to the table and picks up a script and appreciates the warmth of somebody else's body against his own. Patrick probably needs the sleep. God knows Eric does.
It's almost dark out when Pete and Vince finally tumble down the stairs, followed by a still grumbling, possibly unshowered Turtle. Pete shakes Patrick awake, his face pressed up against Patrick's neck and when Patrick blinks awake behind his glasses, his eyes slide right over Eric, unseeing, before they focus directly on Pete. Pete says something, and Patrick smiles, a tiny private smile, and Eric understands completely. He still looks for Vince first in any room.
Patrick straightens his hat when Pete moves away, stretches amiably and gets up from the couch. Vince is leaning in the doorway, rumpled and happy looking, and Eric gets caught in Vince's trap, the one he's been caught in all his life -- VInce is the person he looks for first, the person he can't look away from. He jumps, startled, when Patrick leans over the back of the couch and says, low and for Eric's ears only, "Thanks." He gives Eric another tiny smile, a different sort of private, and ambles out of the room behind Pete, who's got a hand tucked against the waistband of Vince's boxers and is towing Vince steadily toward the front door. Eric gets up from the couch and follows them, sketching a salute at the steps when Pete wrestles an obviously still exhausted Patrick into the passenger seat before climbing into the driver's seat and revving the engine.
"E, did you fuck the lead singer from Fall Out Boy?" Vince says. He's still got bed-head, or maybe it's post-sex hair, and he hasn't bothered to put a shirt on all day. Pete Wentz drives like a maniac out of their driveway, and they watch him nearly smash head on into Drama's car before turning around and heading inside.
"Fuck off," Eric says. "Did you fuck their bassist?"
"Yes," Vince says, and, "You totally did."
"Their music sucks," Turtle says.
Eric and Vince turn in unison, say, "Shut up, Turtle!"
It's not such a bad life, being the sidekick. Eric's got good company, at least.