Beta read by ephemera_pop. Any remaining mistakes are mine and mine alone.
Hours of driving and they finally pull over, parking up on a dirt road that skirts endless fields.
Behind, Joe and Andy sleep on the floor, tucked small and close, Joe's bare feet against a pile of boxes, Andy's glasses hanging from one ear. As soon as they stop, Patrick uncurls his fingers from the steering wheel and shoulders open the van door.
Pete follows him.
They walk off the stiffness, stumble to the field of corn that ripples like an ocean, the sweat that's pooled at the small of Patrick's back cooling in the breeze.
Eventually, when easy silence has eased travel-fueled frustrations, they walk back, sit close to the van, lie in the brittle grass and the ground is hard under Patrick's thighs. He can feel stones digging in but he doesn't move. Just listens to the sound of crickets, looks up at the night sky. Pete is lying close by, his hand an anchor. A solid point of contact against Patrick's side.
"You should get inked," Pete says, unexpectedly.
Patrick shrugs, keeps looking up at the stars. "Maybe."
"I'd help you pick," Pete says. "Something meaningful."
"Right," Patrick says. He shifts a little, winces as something digs painfully into his hip. He imagines being tattooed, thorns across his chest, a cross on his shoulder, words scrawled across his back. Black ink against pudgy pale flesh.
"Don't," Pete says. He moves his hand, curls his fingers under the hem of Patrick's t-shirt.
"I'm not," Patrick says, knowing what Pete's thinking, but he's too tired, too worn down for another round of protests about perceived self image. He tracks constellations, sighs softly at the feel of Pete's hand, calloused fingers and warm skin pressed against Patrick's stomach. "I'm not you."
"I know that."
Patrick looks from the stars to Pete. He's propped up on one elbow, a wash of grey and shadows, watching his own hand as he increases the pressure, fingertips digging into Patrick's skin. Patrick looks back at the stars, his attention thrown outwards, distracting himself from the intensity of Pete's attention.
"Maybe a star," Pete says. He eases off the pressure, moves his fingers a fraction of an inch, argues with himself within seconds. "No, you need something to signify how brilliant you are, a star's not enough. A super nova's not enough."
"I'm not really a star person." Grass tickles his side, and Patrick grabs hold and pulls. He lets the blades drop to the ground. "I'm not a tattoo person at all, really."
And he's not. It's Pete that's the frontman, needing and demanding attention. Patrick's content to lead from behind.
"You just need to find the right one." Pete's hand moves again, tracing patterns on Patrick's skin. He stills suddenly, his fingers tense, and Patrick can feel as the idea takes hold, blooming as Pete surges to his feet. "I'll show you."
He goes to the van, and there are scrabbling noises, flutters of pages and then Pete's back, straddling Patrick's thighs. It's a casual intimacy that months before would have left Patrick floundering and red-faced. Tonight it's just Pete. Pete who's smiling wide, his happiness obvious as he gets caught up in this latest plan.
Patrick looks and can't help but smile in return.
"I thought, a comet. Brilliance brought to earth." Pete holds up a Sharpie, licks along his bottom lip, pushes up Patrick's t-shirt until it's rucked around his chest.
Patrick feels exposed, stripped back and on display, but it's only Pete. Pete who looks like he's seeing something wondrous, his attention rapt as he carefully draws. It tickles. Ink and pressure and the heat of Pete's touch. Patrick looks along the line of his body, neck tilted at an awkward angle as he watches the design appear. A crude comet. Its star-trailed tail. Streaking over the swell of his belly, the body on his ribs.
"Or something representing us, the band."
Patrick's expecting their logo or something obvious like musical notes, but Pete's chewing on his lip as he entwines his fingers with Patrick's lifting up his hand. Slowly, Pete begins to write, the words blocked from elbow to wrist A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.
"You all sing for me," Pete says. He squeezes Patrick's hand, then grins. "Just some of you sound better than others."
"True, thankfully you're good at other things." Patrick grins in return and turns his arm so he can see better. Black words that feel etched into his skin.
"I am a fantastic singer," Pete says. The seriousness of his statement belayed by the curve of his mouth. He squeezes Patrick's hand again, brings it to his lips and kisses their joined fingers. "No more distractions." He taps the end of Patrick's nose with the Sharpie then settles back, accessing Patrick's exposed body.
Fingers curled, Patrick rests his hand on the grass and resists the urge to grab his t-shirt and tug it back into place. He listens to Joe's snores, mentally goes through the contents of his bag, the t-shirts that can be used again, the ones that are a lost cause.
All the while Pete sits, motionless, caught in his own thoughts.
"This one represents you." Pete leans forward suddenly, weight shifting, making Patrick bite back an involuntary verbal response. He jumps at the first touch of the pen nib against his chest, but this time he doesn't watch. Just breathes and waits until finally, when Patrick's skin seems thick with ink, hot from each new touch, Pete sits back and says, "look."
Patrick does. There's a fantasy-style castle, a mountain range, a dragon flying with wings outstretched, one of Patrick's nipples used as an eye. It seems simplified for Pete, who tends to think in concepts and hidden meanings. Patrick runs his fingers over the dragon, tracing its fiery breath. "My temper, yes?"
Pete frowns and shakes his head. "You've got it the wrong way round." He points at the castle, and it's only then, when Patrick cranes his neck, that he sees someone in one of the windows. A small face, its smile wide. "You're in the castle, safe."
"And you're the dragon I suppose." Frustrated, Patrick sits up fully. He grabs the Sharpie, brandishing it at Pete. "I don't need to be kept safe. Tugging off his t-shirt, Patrick throws it to one side. "To put it in ways you apparently understand. This is you," he says, and then draws a simple heart over his own. "Get it?"
Pete leans in close, presses a kiss over the heart, and when he looks up, he says simply, "Yes."