Title: Change of Scenery
Author: Mistress Kat / kat_lair
Fandom: Bandom, unmarked_place ‘verse
Characters: Bob Bryar, Patrick Stump
Word count: 2,913
Summary: In which Patrick remembers past decisions and makes a new one.
Author notes: This is a background piece, taking place before the events of the ‘verse proper. Please consult the Story Indexes Post to see where the story sits within the ‘verse and watch the community for updates. Many thanks to dreamersdare for her thorough and helpful beta, and as always, to pushkin666 for embarking on this crazy journey with me.
Chicago winter is bitterly cold and the weather matches Patrick’s mood exactly. He gets back from work ten past nine on a Friday night, carefully closing the front door behind him and placing his satchel on the kitchen chair. The flat is quiet, and Patrick can hear his own harsh breathing, coming fast and shallow. He opens a cupboard and pulls out a rarely opened bottle of whisky, his hands shaking so badly it takes him a minute to unscrew the cork.
Patrick pours himself a drink, more alcohol sloshing onto the table than ends up in the glass. He downs the shot in one, coughing as the alcohol burns his throat and hurls the empty glass against the nearest wall. It makes a satisfying crunch, the shards raining down onto the linoleum like bullets.
Patrick is fucking furious is what he is.
Work is... He’s actually run out of derogative adjectives to describe his boss and the shit he makes Patrick produce; talentless manufactured bands that Patrick would actually feel sorry for, if he wasn’t too busy wanting to kill them. The job had been a good opportunity three years ago when he had accepted it, choosing to stay behind in Chicago and concentrate on his career, on music. Now, he’s outgrown it. There’s no challenge and the new manager is a bitter, vindictive bastard – jealous of his skills, Bob says and Patrick is starting to think he’s right.
He runs a hand over his face and wishes he could put his fist through the wall. Or better yet, have someone here to take his mood on safely. Someone to absorb his temper, to smooth out the sharp ugly edges on his anger. Briefly, he considers changing and heading to the local Family club. It’s Friday, there would be no problem finding people willing to play.
But the idea of the same old faces doesn’t appeal. He’s too restless to appreciate the comfort of familiarity tonight.
With a sigh Patrick rolls his shoulders, crouching to deal with the broken glass. It’s a slow job but Patrick can’t be bothered to find the brush, instead carefully picking up each piece by hand. The monotony of cleaning is soothing in its own way and Patrick gets lost in his thoughts.
He remembers being 15, hormones going crazy. The books and health class had prepared him for the wet dreams and inconvenient hard-ons, but neither had mentioned anything about wanting to hurt people; to leave bruises and bite marks and hear the noises they would make. And it had been more than that, worse than that.
There had been this girl in his class that he’d had a crush on for months, but not the courage to ask her out. And then it had been too late. Patrick had arrived to school one morning to see her standing on the hallway, kissing some asshole jock, the guy running his hands over her waist like he had the right, and Patrick had just seen red.
He doesn’t actually remember any of the details, just flash images and fractures of sensation; the feel of flesh under his fists, the girl’s frightened pleading, her small hands trying futilely to pull him away, the copper of taste of his own blood and the overwhelming, unreasonable rage of someone else touching what was Patrick’s even though he’d never laid claim.
The damage he’d inflicted hadn’t been that bad, certainly not as bad as he’d wanted it to be – after all, the other boy had been older and bigger than Patrick – but he had still been suspended for two weeks, for starting a fight.
That had been the worst two weeks of his life. Patrick had spent it inside his room, refusing to come out or talk to anyone. He’d thought he must be evil. Evil or sick. Normal people didn’t fly into blind rage like that, normal people sure as hell didn’t jerk off to hazy images of pushing someone onto their knees or of tying them up. Patrick was a sick fuck who should be locked away.
It hadn’t been until his mom threatened to call a child psychologist, school counsellor and his Aunt Edna that Patrick had snapped out of his rumination. He’d gone down to dinner, made polite conversation with the rest of his family, and spent the rest of night on the internet, doing research.
Typing terms like “sexual deviance” and “adolescent mental health” into the search engine could have led him down dangerous avenues and it wasn’t until years later that Patrick realised how lucky he had been to end up on the Family’s public webpage.
It was the first place that had made sense, that had made Patrick not feel like a freak. There had been no porn, no offers to sell anything or anyone, nothing that screamed ‘illegal, back away now before the FBI comes knocking!’ – just information, some useful links and recommendations for further reading. Most importantly, however, there had been a contact email. It was just a generic one probably meant for people reporting website faults and as a first line of defence for the PR team.
Patrick had stared at that email for a long time before he finally decided to use it. He’d set up a new hotmail account just for that, no way was he stupid enough to send something with his real name attached to it.
He hadn’t really expected anything back, at least nothing substantial. So it had been a surprise when three days later there was a long email waiting for him. It had been polite and reassuring without sounding in any way patronising and that alone had been enough to make Patrick sit up and take attention. Adults didn’t talk to kids like that, not usually, and while Patrick hadn’t put his age in the email (hello, way to invite pedos and other creeps) it must have been obvious that he was quite young.
In addition to all the information already provided on the website, there had been two lists of names, sorted by location. One was of people the email referred to as ‘scene-friendly professionals’; psychologists, doctors, counsellors Patrick could talk to in confidence, even make an appointment to see. The other was a list of names and contact details for The Family area representatives. There was one in almost every major city, including Chicago. It had only taken Patrick two more days to pick up the phone.
And that had been that. At first The Family had kept a careful distance, the contact mostly limited to phone calls and emails – for legal reasons, they explained, and Patrick had understood that. He could have gotten more involved, but that would have meant telling his parents and Patrick wasn’t ready to do that. He had been assigned a mentor; someone to answer his increasing questions, to talk him down from his teenage tantrums and frustrations and to provide support and information.
And the more he’d learned about The Family – who they were, what they did and how they did it, rules, networks, guidance, opportunities, friendship, community, family – the more he’d wanted to be a part of it. Patrick had never felt like he belonged, never thought he would need to, but there was something there that had called to him, something right. So he’d asked.
He’d been told to wait. His mentor became his sponsor, chats became lessons, and emails became homework assignments. Over the next three years Patrick had done a lot of reading, writing and thinking. The research part had been fine – kind of like schoolwork, only more interesting – but the thinking... self-analysis had never been one of his strong suits, and Patrick had found it a struggle at times.
But it hadn’t all been theoretical. After he turned sixteen, and was therefore no longer a minor in the eyes of the law, he’d started to receive invitations to parties and other social gatherings. They had been low key affairs, consisting mostly of young people of his age or a couple of years older, a lot of them Family born and raised. Most of the time it had been just like hanging out with any other group of kids; evenings in or out, filled with junk food and music and gossip. But every so often someone would say or do something that would make Patrick blink, to remind him to look closer.
Patrick sometimes thought it was like one of those 3D images, where you had to train your eyes to see the picture behind the picture. Perhaps the biggest difference was the dating scene; heterosexual monogamy was only one option among many. Things were more relaxed on one hand, yet clearly defined on the other – you just had to know where to look, how to interpret things. That, Patrick had soon learned, was an essential skill to have. Body language was as important as what was said; when a couple or a group sat down to watch a movie, it mattered who sat on the floor and who on the couch, whose feet were casually resting on whose lap, or who got up to fetch the popcorn. Interaction in general was often more formalised, greetings and partings something to be paid attention to. There were layers of meaning in every gesture and touch, and the strongest of them was respect. Patrick had never seen a group of people, kids or adults, so attuned to each other.
That wasn’t to say that things had been perfect – after all, it had still been a group of teenagers – just that they were better than most experiences Patrick had had outside The Family. Internal control had been high, but within the new rules Patrick found the freedom to be himself.
He had learned a new language, words for things he’d thought about but been unable to name. He’d learned to call himself a Top or a Dom, and come to understand what it meant to truly be one. He learned the difference between power and force, the necessity of control (a difficult lesson for a boy with his temper) and the importance or trust and respect and empathy. He’d realised that he liked both boys and girls, and that he didn’t much like to share.
The day Patrick turned 18, his sponsor had asked him if he was still interested in becoming a part of The Family. Turned out that all that time Patrick had been learning about The Family and what they stood for, they had been learning about Patrick; seeing if he was someone they would want to welcome into The Family and if The Family truly was the best place for Patrick to be – it wasn’t for everyone and certainly not a prerequisite for being on the scene or being good at what you did.
But for Patrick it was. He’d said yes. And it had been the best decision of his life so far, right up there with accepting Bob’s offer of being a co-founder of a whole new Family chapter.
Bob. Patrick shakes himself from his reminiscing and glances at the clock. It’s almost ten which makes it eleven in Jersey. Late, but not that late, not for a Friday night and not for an owner of a busy BDSM club.
Patrick debates for a few seconds before picking up the phone. He dials the club’s main office number by heart, figuring he’ll have a better chance at catching Bob there than on his cell.
It only takes two rings before Bob answers. “Unmarked Place,” he says, voice gruff and businesslike.
“What, you don’t even bother looking at the caller ID anymore?” Patrick asks. He knows for a fact that the office has one of those fancy phones that tells who’s calling and that his number is programmed into it, because he did that part himself.
“Who else?” Patrick can hear Bob’s grin across the miles. “How’s things?”
It’s a question guaranteed to get Bob talking. The club and the people in it matter a great deal to them both and Patrick settles in to listen as Bob fills him in on the going-ons at the Unmarked Place. As a co-founder and co-owner, Patrick is kept well in the loop when it came to the business-side of things, receiving regular emails and copies of all the paperwork. However, it isn’t nearly the same as being there, seeing first hand how their little community is developing.
Gradually Patrick can feel the day’s tension draining out of him until he’s slumped on the kitchen floor, his head gently resting against the wall. Calling Bob had been a good idea.
They gossip for a while like a pair of old maiden aunts, Bob updating him on workshops, new hires, changes in relationships, issues of discipline and so forth. From what Bob is saying, it seems that Spencer has everything well in hand and Bob and Patrick spend a minute congratulating themselves again on bringing him aboard two years ago. They do this every time they speak, almost like a ritual, and Patrick chuckles thinking how hard Spencer would blush if he knew how highly Bob speak of his manager and mentee.
“So, what’s the real reason you’re calling at this hour?” Bob asks once the conversation hits a lull. “I can’t imagine you were that desperate to hear what sort of collar Vicky finally chose for Nate.”
Patrick sighs. Bob never lets him get away with things; it was one of the things he appreciated most in their friendship. “Work’s shit,” he says. “Any day now you’re going to find my face on the front page of the Tribune with a headline ‘Junior Producer Murders Boss, Pleads Justifiable Homicide.’”
“That bad, eh?” Bob sounds sympathetic.
“Today he told me to add more synthesizer to the track I was working on, because, and I quote: ‘Disco revival was bound to happen and one should stay ahead of the curve’.”
“Yeah, you can say that again.” Patrick hates the whiny sound of his own voice, but it does feel good to bitch about it to someone too.
“Well, I think the solution is obvious,” Bob says.
“I don’t think the justifiable homicide explanation would actually hold in court.”
“Not that, you idiot,” Bob huffs. “But in case you’ve forgotten, you actually have a place waiting for you here.”
This was an old argument. At first Bob had supported Patrick’s decision to remain a silent partner and stay in Chicago to build his career in the music industry. But as years had passed and Patrick’s job turned from dream to nightmare, he’d become more and more vocal about reminding Patrick that he had other options.
“What would I even do there?” Patricks asks. “You and Spencer have things well in hand. I don’t know the first thing about running a club and would only be in the way.” It’s the same point he’s made before but this time even Patrick can hear his conviction starting to waver.
Apparently, Bob can too as his voice takes on an even more determined edge: “Rubbish. We planned this together, Patrick. We got the money, built the contacts, poured over blueprints, hired the staff and appointed the committee members. This place is as much yours as it is mine, and you know it!”
Bob is right of course, he often is. “Yeah, okay. But...”
“Look, Patrick,” Bob sighs, audibly calming himself down. “I know being a club manager is not your dream job, and I don’t expect you to get involved with that side of things anymore than you want to or already are. You can come here and maybe search for a new job. Or strike out on your own. Mikey and Travis tell me the Jersey music scene is really active; there’s bound to be bands and artists around who would be happy to pay for your skills.”
Patrick has to admit that it does sound good when Bob puts it like that. And it’s not like Patrick hadn’t entertained plans in that direction anyway, it’s just that they’ve always been situated in some undefined point in the future.
“But my flat...” Patrick’s not even protesting anymore, not really, more thinking out loud about the practicalities.
“The top floor apartment is empty,” Bob says. Patrick knows that Bob hadn’t stayed there very long, choosing to keep his work and private life separate and moving out to share a house with Gerard as soon as the offer had been made. “It’s ready to move in today if you want to. There’s a place for you in the committee as well. You’re the co-founder of the chapter and it’s much bigger now than when we started it three years ago. We could use you, Patrick.”
Patrick’s resolve is crumbling fast. “Bob...”
“And it would be good to have my best friend with me again,” Bob finishes, quiet and gruff.
Patrick closes his eyes. Yeah, it would. Fuck, he misses Bob. He misses the club. He misses being challenged, not doing the same thing day in, day out. It’s time to move on.
“Yes,” he breathes, quickly before he can change his mind. “Yes, okay!” Patrick’s laughing a little now, suddenly giddy with excitement. He can’t remember the last time he felt like this and that more than anything cements his decision.
“Fuck, really?” Bob’s laughing too, happy and incredulous.
“Fuck, really,” Patrick agrees, grinning. “I’m moving to Jersey!”