it’s not the view, baby, it’s the company

When Pete was fifteen, he started noticing these *feelings* he got around other people.

Not, like, sex. He figured that stuff out at thirteen and by fifteen had become the master of seven minutes in heaven, spin the bottle, and feeling people up in the passenger seat of his old beat-up car.

But there was this girl who sat in front of him in science class, and when he wasn’t writing shitty lyrics in the margins of his notes on the bonding properties of oxygen, he stared at the back of her head and felt this weird burning in his chest.

At first he thought it was heartburn, but his dad just laughed when he mentioned words like “angina” and “cholesterol” so Pete figured it had to be something else.

He stopped eating fries anyway.

The next person he felt that way about was the bassist of his favorite band of the week, who played like a minor deity and let Pete help wrap the cords and move the amps out to his band’s van. He would smile, and Pete’s heart would stutter in his chest.

That’s when Pete started to figure it out.

But it wasn’t until the next summer, when he asked Michelle Bankman to the movies, and she smiled at him and held his hand and then blew him in the back of Pete’s car; then broke up with him to date fucking Johnny Archer, who was some track-and-field asshole and Pete was so much better than him, better for her, couldn’t she *see* that he really loved her? And he was standing on her porch banging on the door at eleven o’clock at night and Michelle’s father came out, big arms crossed on his chest and a take-no-shit look on his face that Pete realized the burning on his chest was on *fire.* Her dad said, “I think you should go home, son,” and Pete turned and left and spent the rest of the hours until dawn staring up at the stars in the quad of Northwestern and realizing, “So that’s what love feels like.”

Pete got used to it, because it happened, like, all the time. It made a lot more sense now, because he could recognize when it started: the hard thump of his heartbeat and the slow burn up his chest that made him lick his lips at the person who struck his fancy.

Sometimes they returned it; sometimes they didn’t. Pete got better at dealing with it, because if he was going to fall in love with fucking everyone, he had to make sure some part of his stupid, slutty heart would stay intact.

So when he fell in love with Patrick, it wasn’t that much of a surprise. He was in love with Andy and Joe, too; they were awesome, and totally shot him down easy, still affectionate and cool with him.

But Patrick–well, it ended up kind of different, though it wasn’t at first. There was that same familiar burn of “oh, I *like* you,” but when he heard Patrick sing for the first time, something soared up in his chest and he couldn’t contain himself. He had to jump on Patrick and crow in his ear about how amazing, how awesome, how incredible Patrick was, did he know that? Patrick just looked kind of uncomfortable, but smiled anyway, and Pete grinned blindingly back at him.

And really, jumping on top of people and hugging people and holding hands with people and kissing people–Pete did that anyway, so it was more or less normal for him. It just felt a little different with Patrick, a little more special, a little better. After awhile Pete got used to the way his heart would leap in his chest when Patrick would do something like half-sing a lyric at the dinner table, or suggest a back-beat on a song, or, like, breathe.

That was when the normal, burny-chest thing that had kind of changed into the soaring-heart-thumpy thing changed *again* into a low beat in the back of Pete’s brain. It was always there, a quiet, constant ba-bump that Pete knew meant Patrick, running through his veins, making his hands tingle and his smile wider. Pete knew waking up in the morning was worth going to bed at night, just to hear the sound of his heart beating Patrick’s rhythm in his head.

It wasn’t like he didn’t fall in love with other people like normal–there were always girls that made Pete’s lungs stutter and skip for air, scene boys that looked up at Pete in admiration and lust. None of them made him feel like Patrick did, though, and eventually all those other people slid away. Pete’s orbit would lock firmly back onto Patrick, crawling into his lap and shoving away his book to rest his head in the crook of Patrick’s shoulder, reveling in the light, warm press of Patrick’s hands on his hips.

And Pete was fine with that. He had Patrick almost all of the time anyway, and if he didn’t have Patrick the way he secretly wanted when it was just him back at his parent’s house, on a break from the tour, sitting in his old room in his old bed, hand on his cock and the other sucking on his own fingers, imagining it was Patrick’s hand, Patrick’s fingers, well. Nothing was perfect. Pete was happy that he got as close as he did, really.

So it was a complete surprise when Patrick fell in love with him.

He was standing on the tour bus with a plastic tumbler of red bull and vodka (“No glass on moving vehicles!” scolded Andy) staring at Patrick, whose lips were moving but whose eyes were looking anywhere but Pete. Pete kind of wanted to run to the bathroom to find some q-tips, so that he could be certain he was actually hearing this and not, like, making it up in his own head. It had been known to happen before.

“You what?” Pete said, his grip tightening on the cup so much that it started to creak in complaint.

“I’m in love with you,” Patrick said, fidgeting. “It’s okay if you’re not in love with me. I just, I had to say it, because I think if I didn’t I was going to maybe explode, and Joe said he wouldn’t pay for the bus’s cleaning bill this time,” he finished weakly, giving a half-watted Patrick smile.

“You WHAT?” Pete choked out again, the glass slipping from his fingers and falling with an unheard thud to the floor.

Patrick’s face started to turn pissy, and he said, “Look, I’m not saying it again, and I’m not cleaning that up–” But that was all he got out before Pete jumped him and shoved his tongue down Patrick’s throat.

“Mmrph!” Patrick said with something that sounded less like pleasure and more like alarm, so Pete gentled the kiss, framing Patrick’s face with his hands and licking each of Patrick’s teeth carefully, as if to apologize for not figuring out sooner that *Patrick* was in love with *him.* “So you kind of love me too, right? Or am I misreading the signals here?” Patrick said, his hat thrown off and glasses askew, but a beatiful, toe-curling Patrick smile on his face.

“Yes, Patrick,” Pete said solemnly. “I love you more than I love breathing. And I have loved you like that for so long I don’t know how not to love you anymore.”

“Oh,” was all Patrick said before Pete kissed him again, but the way he tightened his hands on Pete was all Pete ever needed to hear in reply anyway.

And the next morning, when they woke up together in Patrick’s bunk, curled up tightly even though it was kind of hot and a little too sweaty, Pete heard the familiar thumping of his heartbeat for Patrick in his ears; but this time, Patrick’s heart beat in counter-time to his own.