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but there’s no preparing for this

Chapter Text

Out of absolutely everything in the Central Chicago Public Library that Patrick was proud of, the number one thing was the erotica section. Was that a weird thing to be proud of? Possibly. But everyone knows librarians are the weirdest people on the planet.

On the other hand, the one thing Patrick absolutely hated about his job was difficult patrons. And the most difficult patron in the existence of difficult patrons was Pete Wentz, a man who had a big mouth and bad opinions about Patrick’s erotica section. Patrick could happily go the rest of his career without seeing Pete Wentz ever again. Like, ever. He had a loud voice and grating jokes and Patrick hoped he’d stay far, far away this weekend when Central Chicago Public Library played host to Kingston Lewis, the best erotica writer this century.

The event was Patrick’s pride and joy, a rare gem amongst a sea of kid’s events—not that Patrick had anything against kid’s events per say, it was more that for every adult event there were at least ten kid’s events and Patrick had been waiting literal years to meet Kingston Lewis and showcase his carefully maintained collection.

And Pete Wentz needed to stay far, far away.

“Can I help you?” he asked. Pete Wentz had the audacity to smirk his unfairly attractive smirk. Patrick counted to ten in his head, then counted to ten again in Japanese.

Pete Wentz, to Patrick’s horror, held up a flyer for the Kingston Lewis event, cocking an eyebrow like he could see the panic on Patrick’s face. Patrick preemptively promised God he would go back to church if Pete Wentz ended up far, far away through some divine miracle.

“I was wondering,” Wentz said, apparently unaware that he had just disproved the existence of God. “About this event. Isn’t this dude an porn writer?”

“It’s called erotica,” Patrick said tightly. Wentz’s smirk grew.

“Right,” he said slowly. “Don’t sound too interested now.”

“I’ll sound however I want, thanks,” Patrick said. “Can I help you?”

He hoped Wentz would take the hint

Wentz did not take the hint.

“Don’t kids come to this library?” Wentz asked. He was infuriating. Not infuriatingly hot, just infuriating. Wentz wasn’t hot.

Patrick was possibly having a stroke.

“We are allowed adult events,” Patrick pointed out. He stabbed a finger at the flyer Wentz still held in his hand. “See? Right there. It says adults only.”

“I can’t read,” Wentz said, the liar.

“You’re a liar,” Patrick said. “I’m gonna ask for the third time. Is there something I can help you with?”

“No,” Wentz said, and the smirk was still firmly in place. Patrick counted to ten in French. It wasn’t very successful. “You answered my question.”

“Fantastic,” Patrick lied. “Then you don’t mind if I get back to work.”

“What work do you have in a library?” Wentz asked, probably to just be a dick. Patrick narrowed his eyes anyway, considering rising to the bait. Wentz cracked a grin that was too amused to be reassuring, and said: “Everyone knows being a librarian is the world’s easiest job.”

Patrick rose to the bait.

“Tell that to the degree you have to have to be a librarian,” he said. “Are you familiar with a degree? It’s what smart people get so I understand if you’re a little confused.”

“Touche,” Pete said, and he still sounded amused, damn it. Patrick scowled. “Perhaps I’ll see you at your porno event.”

“Erotica,” Patrick corrected, but Wentz was already wandering away, letting the flyer fall to the ground like he was raised by wolves or something. Patrick’s scowl intensified and he grit his jaw as he watched the world’s worst patron leave the library, sliding stupid hipster sunglasses on and rounding the corner out of sight.

Patrick felt more than saw someone approach him from behind, leaning against the desk and folding their arms.

“I see you had another run in with your secret crush,” Joe said, and Patrick didn’t even grace him with a look. “That good, huh?”

“Stop leaning on the reference desk,” Patrick said sharply. “Don’t you have the bookdrop to do? Or literally anything else other than bothering me? And don’t ever suggest I have a crush on Wentz again, that is the most offensive thing you’ve ever said to me.”

“Mayhaps,” Joe said. What an asshole. “Andy sent me to give you a break.”

“You can’t break me,” Patrick said, finally looking at Joe’s infuriatingly smug face. Joe looked, if possible, even more smug. “You’re a specialist. Only librarians work the reference desk. So no, Andy did not send you. Try again.”

Joe smirked. Patrick maybe hated him a little.

“I was asked to find a manager,” he finally said, standing back up straight and straightening the frankly ridiculous vest he wore. He didn’t need to wear the vest. Or the tie. Libraries were casual dress. Joe was just a weirdo. “Karen doesn’t understand why she has to pay for a book that looks like it was put through the wash.”

“Is Karen her real name, or just the first white lady name you could think of?” Patrick asked, finally standing and buttoning his cardigan, which was appropriate work wear, Joseph. He clipped his name badge--abandoned as soon as he’d seen Wentz--back on, adjusting it until it was prominent: Patrick Stump, adult librarian.

“Who cares what her real name is?” Joe snorted, and Patrick rolled his eyes again. “Go rip her a new one.”

“I will not be ripping anyone a new one,” Patrick protested, but Joe just smirked and dropped into Patrick’s abandoned chair. “I am not covering for you if Andy gets mad that you’re at the reference desk.”

“I have no fear of the circulation supervisor,” Joe said, probably lying, and Patrick shook his head and walked away. He rolled his shoulders back--he should have prepared better for being the person in charge today, but he was distracted by ordering Kingston Lewis’s new book and Pete Fucking Wentz.

No matter. There was always room in him for managerial tasks, despite not being the manager. He got compliments all the time from the actual manager.

Okay, sure, maybe perhaps Brendon in fact told him his attitude could make the meanest motherfucker run, but that was just semantics.

“Hello,” he said as he approached the lady with the Can-I-Speak-To-The-Manager haircut. She scowled. Great start. “I understand you wanted to speak with a manager?”

“I did,” she said. Her voice was grating. Patrick grimaced, but internally, so he didn’t damage his nonexistent cred. Instead, he smiled at her, that vacant, dead smile of public service workers who just want the day to be over. “I don’t understand why I have to pay for this book.”

She thrust said book up, smacking Patrick in the chest. Patrick’s eyebrow raised slightly as he looked down at the condition of what he supposed he legally had to call a book. True to Joe’s word, it really did look like it had been through the wash. Possibly several times. And then peed on, apparently by an entire herd of cats. Colony? What was a group of cats called?

“That book is damaged,” Patrick said, instead of what he wanted to say, which was are you being deliberately obtuse or are you just naturally this stupid. He reached out and pushed the book away from him with the tip of his finger, hoping his little bottle of pumpkin-scented hand sanitizer was still in his pocket. He was pretty sure about nine communicable diseases lived on that book. “I can assure you we do not allow books in this condition to circulate. Thus, you must have damaged it. Let me know where I lost you.”

“I didn’t damage it,” Karen said. It was a good choice of name, not that Patrick would tell Joe that. It would go straight to his head. “It came like this.”

“This book is still dripping,” Patrick said, eying the puddle the book was making on the brand new carpet. For the love of God. Karen scowled.

“I’m not paying for it,” she declared triumphantly, as if she’d won, and Patrick just shrugged one shoulder.

“Okay,” he said, and Karen faltered a bit. “We’ll see you at collections.”

Karen scowled again, something nasty, like she’d discovered a fly in her french fries or dog shit smeared across her front porch by a group of teenagers, which, to be honest, Patrick would not have been surprised to hear actually happened. Karen opened her mouth but words apparently failed her, presumably because Patrick’s face had his carefully crafted I don’t care, don’t bother expression firmly glued on.

Evidently realizing she was not going to get her way, she dropped the book--Patrick resisted gagging at the wet squelching noise it made--and stormed for the front doors, purse banging against her leg in what looked like a supremely uncomfortable way. Patrick carefully stepped around the book, leaning over the circulation desk and picking up the phone.

“Joe to the circulation desk,” he said, and hung up, smirking as his voice echoed on the intercom. It was a damaged book--Joe’s problem now. Maybe this would wipe that smirk off his face.

“That was kind of hot,” someone said from behind Patrick and Patrick’s heart stopped before kicking into high gear, racing like he’d run a marathon. He turned around and a very unattractive and unimpressive strangled guh left his mouth without his express permission as his eyes landed on the last person Patrick wanted to hear use the word hot in reference to him.

“I thought you were leaving,” Patrick said, once he had his breathing under control. “Things to do. Places to go. Other people to annoy.”

Pete Wentz smiled that very unfortunately attractive smile, stupid sunglasses perched on his head, hands in his pockets, looking like a tool but like, a hot tool.

Except for how Pete Wentz was not hot and Patrick probably had, like, a brain tumor. He wondered if Kingston Lewis would attend his funeral and say nice things about Patrick’s erotica collection. Patrick cleared his throat.

“If you’ll excuse me,” he said. Pete Wentz once again did not take the hint.

“I had a reference question,” he said, and Patrick counted to ten in Spanish, now officially out of languages he knew how to count to ten in. He fixed Pete Wentz with a disbelieving stare, and Pete Wentz had the audacity to smirk. “It’s very important.”

“I’m sure it is,” Patrick said, and it only came out a little strangled. Patrick counted it as a victory. “Let me get back to the reference desk.”

“After you,” Pete Wentz said, gesturing ahead of him. “I’d like to see how well those pants fit.”

Patrick glared at him. Pete Wentz smirked again and then winked.

“Sexual harassment is ground for banning you from the library,” Patrick informed him haughtily. “So shut the hell up.”

“Duly noted,” Pete Wentz said seriously, nodding. “My apologies.”

It was impossible to tell if Pete Wentz was being serious or not, but Patrick refused to ask any further questions to determine either way. Personally he was hoping Pete Wentz would try something so Patrick could be rid of him once and for all.

Unfortunately, Pete Wentz did not try something. He, in fact, followed Patrick remarkably quietly to the reference desk. One sharp look sent Joe scurrying, which Patrick was absolutely going to gloat about later, and Patrick claimed his seat back holding his head up high.

“Okay,” he said, pulling up the secret reference trick he used, Google. “Your question?”

Pete--the full name was getting exhausting--leaned on the desk, like he was gearing up for something Patrick was pretty sure he wasn’t going to like. Patrick braced himself but Pete still managed to throw him off once he finally spoke.

“So I’m trying to do research,” he began, which was surprising for a number of reasons, mostly because Patrick suspected Pete didn’t know what research was to begin with. “And it’s been hard. So maybe you could help me. I get multiple dates when I Google it. When did the corset fall out of fashion?”

The corset? On the long list of things Patrick expected Pete to want him to look up, anything regarding corsets was nonexistent. Patrick’s fingers hovered over the keys for a long moment before he quickly switched from Google to the library’s database on fashion history. He typed in corsets into the search bar and 127 results popped up.

Patrick breathed.

A quick scroll through found an article about the timeline of corsets--corsetry?--that looked promising, so he opened it up and hit print.

The ancient and likely possessed printer booted up and spat out the five pages with entirely more noise than the action called for and Patrick handed the still-warm printout to Pete without a word.

“Uh,” Pete said, glancing down. “This is great. Thanks. Ten cents a page?”

“It truly pains me to tell you this,” Patrick informed Pete. “But reference printouts are free.”

Pete grinned. Patrick hated it.

“Well, thanks,” Pete said again, then nodded his head towards the carefully placed poster for Patrick’s Kingston Lewis event. “Will I be seeing you there?”

“It’s my event,” Patrick said, instead of the horrified you’re coming? he wanted to say. “So yes.”

“Sweet,” Pete said, still grinning. “Thanks again.”

For the second time today, Patrick watched the world’s worst patron walk out of the library onto the busy Chicago street.

Chapter Text

“Absolutely not,” Patrick said loudly from where he was supposed to be relaxed in the break room but was, in actuality, surrounded by work he was behind on. “I am on lunch.”

“Yep,” Brendon said, staring pointedly at Patrick’s work laptop, open in front of him on the table like some kind of snitch. “Really and truly looks like it. I have a phone call for you.”

“Tell them I’m at lunch,” Patrick suggested, even as he stood. “What about?”

“It’s your little author’s manager,” Brendon said, and Patrick began walking almost before Brendon had finished speaking. Was it rude to treat his manager like this? Patrick didn’t care.

“This is Patrick Stump,” he said, picking up the phone and rolling his shoulders back, as if Kingston Lewis’s manager could see him through the line. “How may I help you?”

“Smith,” the person on the other end said, sounding bored. “Spencer Smith, Kingston Lewis’s manager. I wanted to ask you a few questions about the event next week.”

Patrick breathed.

“Of course,” he said, proud of how he didn’t sound nervous at all, pretty much. “We’re still on, correct?”

“Would I be calling otherwise?” Smith said dryly and Patrick felt himself flush. “Anyway, we have some requirements. Kingston wants to make sure you have a way to keep kids away from the event.”

Patrick nodded, even though he was pretty sure Smith couldn’t see him.

“Of course,” he said, once he got his power of speech back. “The forum room has shades and we will have two staff members at the door.”

“Good,” Smith said. “And I assume you’ll have some sort of microphone?”

“We have a PA system.” Patrick felt a little annoyed. What kind of library did Smith take them for?

“Good,” Smith repeated. “That’s all for now. See you in a week.”

Smith hung up without waiting for Patrick to say a single word in response, and Patrick was left half gaping, half scowling at the receiver in his hand. He felt Brendon’s smirk bore into his back and preemptively wiped any displeasure off his face. He fought for this event. He was not about to let anyone laugh at him. Hell no.

“So that went well?” Brendon asked, like the dick he was. Sometimes. Patrick resisted rolling his eyes in a move so heroic there would be statues dedicated to his bravery in the future. He stood up straight.

“All authors are picky,” he said dismissively. “It’s nothing I can’t handle.”

“Right,” Brendon said shortly. “Oh, also-- we got a comment card.”

“I am on lunch,” Patrick protested, but took the offered card anyway, glancing down to read it. “Oh, fuck this.”

“Language,” Brendon said mildly, as if every other word out of his mouth wasn’t a curse word. Manager privileges, Patrick supposed. Still, he shook the comment card vaguely threateningly at Brendon, before reading past the scrawled Pete Wentz in the Patron Name section.

One of your librarians is very helpful,” he read, resisting groaning. “I believe his name is Patrick--oh, he believes, as if he hasn’t been stalking me for months.”

“Tell us how you really feel,” Brendon said. Patrick ignored him.

However, I believe the phrase is ‘service with a smile’ and a smile Patrick sorely lacks. Perhaps he should have a refresher in customer service.

Patrick looked up at Brendon, who looked like he was barely suppressing laughter. He narrowed his eyes.

“This better not affect my performance review,” he said, and Brendon snorted, plucking the comment card out of Patrick’s hand and slipping it into the pocket of his frankly too-tight jeans.

“No worries,” he said sardonically. “A lot more will affect your performance review before this will.”

“Dick,” Patrick said. Brendon grinned.

“There there,” he said. “Weren’t you at lunch?”

“Yeah,” Patrick said darkly. “Before you interrupted it.”

“Sure,” Brendon said. “You know who gets in trouble if the union catches you working on lunch right? It’s not you, in case you thought otherwise.”

“Who is it?” Patrick asked in his best innocent voice. “Andy?”

“You’re on thin fucking ice, buddy,” Brendon said, and Patrick smirked.

“Language,” he said, and Brendon rolled his eyes.

“Go back to your ‘lunch’,” he said, actually making the air quotes like the loser he was. “I will call you if your fanboy services are needed anytime soon.”

“Fanboy is a degrading term,” Patrick protested, but Brendon was already wandering away. Patrick took a second to look him up and down--yep. Dressed like a disinterested teenager being forced to volunteer at the library instead of a twenty-nine year old Branch Manager. Patrick totally could have been a manager. It was totally within his abilities. He just chose not to apply and was now enduring having a manager three years younger than him with the grace of long-dead saints.

Or something.

Patrick sighed and made his way back to the break room. He had a lot to do before next week. This event was going to go perfectly if it killed Patrick.

And if Pete Wentz showed up, it might just kill Patrick.


“Patrick to the adult reference desk.”

Patrick groaned and rolled his head back to glare at the intercom box in his office. He was busy. He specifically said that unless something was on fire and neither Brendon nor the children’s librarian could handle it, he was to be left alone. He’d already dealt with Kingston Lewis’s shitty manager and Karen, his customer service gas tank was running on empty.

He stood, and reconsidered. Perhaps expecting Hayley to handle a branch crisis in her second week was too harsh.

Still. They did have a manager.

He’d managed to find his best vacant smile somewhere in the cavernous depths of his soul and paste it on haphazardly by the time he got to the adult reference desk. He expected a lot of things. More furious patrons. The ghost of Christmas past, disregarding the fact that it was six months late (early?) for that. The Director of the library, come to give him a commendation.

He stopped dead four feet away and his poor, fragile grin dove thirty feet into Hell.

“You called?” he asked, and Hayley looked nervous.

She gestured between herself and that monstrosity as if words genuinely failed her. Patrick watched her struggle for a moment before finding the tiniest sliver of pity he had and offering it to her.

“I know he asked for me specifically,” he said. “Could you do me a favor? Could you move all the Bibles to the fiction section? I’ve just discovered God is a hoax.”

Hayley hesitated and Patrick sighed.

“Kidding,” he said, and he was. Mostly. “I’ll take care of this.”

Hayley gave him a grateful look and all but sprinted away, going around the corner and presumably hiding curled up in a ball in her office. Patrick did feel bad for her. Dealing with The Worst Patron in the World was hard enough for him, let alone a brand new librarian fresh out of her MLIS program.

“How may I help you?” he asked, as diplomatically as possible, and Pete Fucking Wentz offered him the most shiteating, almost mocking grin Patrick had ever seen, and Patrick’s manager was Brendon Urie. Pete Fucking Wentz lifted the book he was holding up by way of explanation.

“You ought to keep the porn locked up,” he said, frowning at Patrick, but the mirth in his eyes was unmistakable. He was, as usual, teasing Patrick. Patrick was not here for it, not today.

“Okay, one,” Patrick began, ticking off each point on his fingers as he went. “That’s erotica and it’s literature. Two, we do not censor things in the public library. Information is readily and freely available to anyone. And three, do you have an actual question, or are you here to bother me?”

“I can’t have both?” Pete asked. He was the worst. “You’re not very happy to see me.”

“I wonder why,” Patrick said dryly. “Couldn’t have anything to do with the comment card yesterday, could it?”

“Take it as a learning opportunity,” Pete said, smirking. Patrick tried not to grimace. He didn’t think he was very successful. “I’m just teasing you, Patrick.”

Patrick had a brief, horrifying realization that he actually liked the way his name sounded in Pete’s voice and he composed a letter to his doctor in his head.

I’m very concerned I have a brain tumor, could I get an MRI or something?

“Cool,” Patrick said, aiming for unaffected and missing so badly he might as well have been a Stormtrooper. “What did you need?”

Pete held up the book. If Patrick squinted, he could see, with slowly mounting horror, that it was one of Kingston Lewis’s books. Folie a Deux it looked like, and Patrick resisted the urge to snatch it from Pete’s gross, annoying hands and brush it off protectively.

He swallowed past the lump of words in his throat instead.

“So this erotica,” Pete said, sarcastic emphasis on erotica, and Patrick knew what word Pete wanted to say. “This is the guy you have coming to sully the good name of libraries?”

“Kingston Lewis is the best in the genre,” Patrick said diplomatically, instead of fuck you, asshole. Progress. Or something. “And we invite authors of all genres to speak at the library. Do you need me to repeat that slower?”

“No,” Pete said with a shiteating grin, dropping the book to the reference desk with a dull thud. “But I would like to dispute your claim. No way is this guy—” Pete picked the book back up, shook it, and pointed at the author's name for emphasis— “the best in the genre. Have you read him?”

It was a question that was not intended to be a come on in any sort of way, and for once Pete didn’t seem to be aiming to make Patrick flustered, but he was nonetheless. He hoped to the nonexistent God above he wouldn’t start blushing. He cleared his throat and stood up straight for absolutely no other reason than to act natural in the most unnatural way possible.

“I’ve experienced his words,” Patrick said haughtily, like a complete idiot, and Pete raised an eyebrow. “The man is coming to speak and I am the adult librarian. Of course I read his books.”

“I have to question your cred as a librarian,” Pete said. He looked like he was fighting laughter. Patrick prayed for Russia to hit them with a nuke. He knew it could happen any time. “If you’ve read this and still think he’s good.”

“Folie is not his best one,” Patrick said, and Pete choked on a laugh. “What? You asked.”

“I did,” Pete allowed. “So what’s his best one, then?”

Patrick pursed his lips and thought for a moment. It was--and Patrick truly hated to admit this--a good question. Which of the five books Kingston Lewis had published (so far) was his favorite?

“My favorite,” Patrick said slowly, and Pete looked fascinated. It was bizarre. “My favorite is Infinity on High but in terms of his actual best work I would have to concede that to From Under the Cork Tree.”

“You have a favorite porn novel,” Pete said, and he sounded delighted. Patrick scowled.

“See, we were having a nice moment,” he said. “And you’ve ruined it.”

“Ruining things is what I do,” Pete said. “I’ll go grab your favorite book, Patrick, and next time I see you I’ll tell you if your taste is still questionable.”

“Lucky me,” Patrick said.

Chapter Text

“No,” Patrick said, as patiently as he could manage. He caught a glimpse of the clock. 10:12 am. The library had been open for twelve minutes and Patrick was already considering quitting. It was a record, for a Monday at least. Patrick couldn’t quit. Not until Saturday. He could meet Kingston Lewis and then quit. He had to wait. “I cannot fill out the application for you. I am happy to assist you in opening the web page. But unfortunately—”

“It’s asking for an email,” the patron complained. It was possible Patrick wanted to throttle this man. “I don’t want to give them my email. It’s just another way for the government to spy on us.”

“They need your email to contact you,” Patrick said. It was remarkable that he hadn’t throttled this man already. Honestly. The next time Brendon commented on his temper, Patrick was going to tell him about this conversation. In detail.

“Can I use yours?”

Patrick took a deep breath.

“No,” he said calmly. As calmly as he could humanly manage, that was. “I cannot give you my email to use.”


“Jesus Christ dude, if you’re so afraid of technology go live in a cave. The nice librarian has been explaining this to you for ten minutes. I’m not a nice librarian. Leave him alone and get busy.”

Both Patrick and the patron turned to face the speaker. Patrick felt a very peculiar wave of hot and then ice cold shoot through him as none other than Pete Wentz gave the patron a very dirty look, newspaper tucked under his arm, looking at them both over the top of his sunglasses that he of course was wearing inside.

The patron huffed.

“The nerve of some people,” he muttered. “Are you going to help me or not?”

Pete’s gaze burned holes into the back of Patrick’s neck and Patrick made an executive decision. Arguing with Pete seemed massively more productive and enjoyable than standing here another minute, trying to explain technology to a boomer. He took a step back.

“I don’t know that I can help any more than I already have,” he said, and the patron scowled. “You have to use your email to apply online and you can’t use mine. Any other questions?”

“No,” the patron snapped. “I guess not.”

“Terrific,” Patrick said, and fled back to the reference desk, knowing in his heart of hearts that Pete was definitely following him and also probably laughing at him. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly once he was safely seated behind the desk and turned his attention to a very amused looking Pete Wentz. “Wentz, Peter. How may I help you?”

Pete set the newspaper on the reference desk, spread open because of course Pete would, and rummaged in a bag Patrick hadn’t noticed at his feet. He emerged, triumphant, gesturing with a familiar blue and white book, and Patrick felt that weird wash of hot and cold all at once again. He swallowed past a dry throat as Pete laid Infinity on High in front of Patrick with a lot more care than he’d handled Folie.

“I read it over the weekend,” Pete said.

“Yeah?” Patrick asked hesitantly. Pete cocked his head.

“What do you like about it?” he asked, which was not where Patrick expected Pete to go at all. Patrick frowned and Pete raised an eyebrow. Still surprised and a little suspicious, Patrick sat back in his seat, crossing his arms and staring at Pete.

“What do I like about it?” he asked, and Pete nodded, leaning against the desk and watching Patrick intently but with a surprising lack of amusement. Like he actually did care. “Okay. Well. I appreciate that it’s gay erotica. Do you know how hard it is to get any gay erotica, let alone something decent and not for the hetero gaze?”

“I can imagine,” Pete said gravely, nodding. “What else?”

“What else?” Patrick repeated, taken aback. Pete nodded again.

“You’re a librarian,” he said, gesturing to Patrick as if he was afraid Patrick may have somehow forgotten that fact. “You have to have more reasons than that.”

“Please,” Patrick said dryly. “Tell me what I have to have.”

“Sex, clearly,” Pete said, and Patrick flushed. Smirking, Pete prodded on. “You’re wound up so tight I’m surprised you can enjoy erotica at all. Come on. What else? You said this was your favorite.”

Patrick sighed. Choosing to ignore the sex comment, like a professional and not like he felt hot just thinking of the word sex anywhere near Pete Wentz, he gave in.

“Fine,” he said. “The main character.”

“Martin,” Pete said promptly. At Patrick’s raised eyebrow, he rolled his eyes. “I told you I read it.”

“You did,” Patrick allowed. “Okay, fine. Martin. I’ve read lots of books, okay, and I’ve never read a character as well developed and heart wrenching as Martin. Like, even non erotica. He’s just real and so emotionally devastating in a good way? Like, I like the plot, I love it even, but this would still be my favorite book even if the plot sucked because Martin is just so incredible.”

Pete had looked steadily more surprised the longer Patrick word vomited and by the time Patrick shut himself up, ears hot and probably red, he looked downright impressed.

“Damn,” he said, and there was no trace of the teasing tone. “That’s surprisingly passionate.”

“Surprisingly?” Patrick asked. Pete nodded.

“I gotta admit, I thought you were just defending it to be contrary to anything I said,” Pete said, and Patrick grinned without meaning to in the slightest. “But I think I like you having actual opinions more. Why is the other one better if this one’s your favorite?”

Patrick sighed again.

“It was just,” he said, then started over. “It was better received. Probably because it followed the bury your gays trope, which thankfully Lewis has abandoned. And it was his debut, so that’s usually the highest rated regardless, which is bullshit but I am sadly not in charge.”

“I think I’d like it better if you were in charge,” Pete said, and Patrick all but gaped. Pete gave a wry grin and picked Infinity on High back up, looking at it for a long moment like he was, for once, searching for something to say. “Maybe I see your point. Maybe this isn’t just trash.”

“I honestly don’t think much literature is trash,” Patrick said honestly. “With a few notable exceptions, I just think any literature is good literature.”

Pete smiled at him, no trace of teasing at all, just a genuine smile before he looked back down at the book.

“Maybe I’ll come with an open mind, then,” he said. “To your event.”

The event. For the first time in forever, Patrick had forgotten entirely that he was hosting his favorite author at his library. The nerves returned in full force and Pete gently patted Patrick’s hand.

“It’ll go fine,” he said, reassuring, and it even sounded like he meant it. Patrick blinked up at him, a little panic making his mouth dry and his heart race. Pete patted his hand again. “I’ll try his others and come back. Sound good?”

Patrick nodded and Pete smiled at him again, making something burn a little in the pit of Patrick’s stomach. Patrick couldn’t decide if it was a good burning or not. Apparently aware that Patrick was at the limit of his ability to have a conversation, Pete walked away after looking Patrick over with a soft gaze.

Patrick watched him go and tried to breathe, tried to make sense of what the hell just happened. He had a ...normal? Conversation? With Pete Fucking Wentz? Was that a thing? Was that even possible? Had Patrick been punched by the difficult computer patron and was now violently hallucinating before he would slip into a coma and possibly die?

None of that seemed logical but neither did the fact that he’d evidently talked to Pete for longer than a minute and hadn’t wanted to deck him. That was the strangest fact of all.

Patrick exhaled, reaching for the newspaper Pete had abandoned and beginning to fold it up, mind still racing.

Chapter Text

“Phone for you,” Hayley said hesitantly as Patrick once again grouched out of his office. Could he possibly have one uninterrupted hour at his desk to do anything at all, or would he just be pulled in one million directions all day every day until Saturday came and he melted into a puddle of embarrassment as everything humanly possible went wrong?

Patrick thought he was only exaggerating a little.

“Central Chicago Library, this is Patrick,” he said, instead of cussing out whoever was on the other line.

“Hello,” Smith said, crisp and short. Patrick once again stood up straight, the ridiculous urge impossible to ignore. Hayley looked at him oddly but then scooted away to give him room. Hayley was his favorite. He made a mental note to tell Brendon that Hayley was his new favorite. “It’s Spencer Smith, Kingston Lewis’s manager.”

I know was what Patrick thankfully refrained from saying. Instead he nodded, then remembered that Smith couldn’t actually see him.

“Of course,” he said, then winced. Of course. Of course what, Stump? “How may I help you, Mr. Smith?”

Smith gave a disapproving noise, somewhere between a “hmmpf” and a sniff but didn’t make a comment, choosing instead to forge onward.

“Will you be the librarian in charge of the event?” Smith asked. Patrick nodded again and resisted the urge to punch himself.

“I will,” he said, thankfully sounding nice and normal and not like he was three seconds from panicking. Because he wasn’t. He definitely wasn’t. For Christ’s sake, he was talking to Lewis’s manager, not Lewis himself, and if he fell to pieces talking to Lewis’s manager he was not in any way, shape, or form going to hold it together when the author himself was in Patrick’s vicinity.

“Kingston wants to offer a book signing,” Smith said. How he managed to sound bored every time he opened his mouth was awe-inspiring, but Patrick didn’t dwell on that. He was too busy internally freaking the fuck out because a book signing? A book signing? On top of a talk from a New York Times bestselling author? “Would you be able to accommodate that?”

Would Patrick be able to accommodate that? Would Patrick be stupid enough to say no?

“Of course,” he said, glad his voice remained warm and librarian-like, and not like a starstruck fan, because Patrick was most definitely a star struck fan. “We would be honored.”

“Great,” Smith said dryly. “I will pass it along and call you back with more details.”

Once again, Smith did not wait for a reply, just hung up the phone with a note of finality. Patrick sighed and did the same, glancing over at Hayley, who was hovering. She looked like she had a lot to say but didn’t know how to say any of it, so Patrick sighed and stepped to the side, allowing her to take her seat back.

“I need to talk to Brendon,” he said, successfully stalling any attempts to ask him a damn thing, and turned on his heel to walk away.

He did not, however, go to Brendon’s office. Shocker of the year. Instead, he ducked into his own office, buried his face in his hands, and screamed quietly. He had too many emotions and not enough outlets and it was either do this or go unplug the computers while people were in the middle of doing things, and screaming into his hands in his office was probably the better choice.

Simple man with simple needs, that was Patrick.

He straightened back up, rolled his shoulders back, and left his office again, this time intent on actually going to Brendon’s office and informing him that their event just got bigger.

Your event, Brendon’s voice pointed out, like it did every time Patrick miscategorized the Kingston Lewis talk. Patrick rolled his eyes at Brendon’s voice and made the fatal mistake of crossing the main floor of the library as a shortcut instead of taking the long, secluded backroom path.

“Excuse me,” someone said, and Patrick considered once again the benefits of quitting his job. Did he love what he did? Absolutely. Did he love dealing with patrons? Absolutely fucking not.

He turned, pleasant smile haphazardly stitched over his resting bitch face, to face a man who was wearing...rubber gloves? In the library?

Patrick roughly estimated this conversation to be a 9 on the Weird Conversation Scale Joe had come up with and hoped his expression didn’t give away his thoughts.

“How may I help you?” he asked, instead of the obvious question. He avoided looking at said white, probably latex, surgical grade rubber gloves, choosing instead to focus on the man’s face.

It wasn’t better. The man had a stare that could only be categorized as creepy and he seemed bound and determined to stand entirely too close to Patrick for Patrick to be entirely comfortable with this situation. Patrick tried to hold his breath.

“There are too many kids in there,” Latex Gloves Man said, gesturing with one accusing finger at the Children’s Area. Patrick stared. Latex Gloves Man seemed to misinterpret Patrick’s stare and gestured again. “Children. In there. Being loud. Do you see them?”

“Yes,” Patrick said slowly, taking a slow step back. “That is the Children’s Area. Where the children’s books are. Hence, it would make sense for children to be in there.”

“There’s too many,” Latex Gloves Man said. “It’s against the fire code.”

There were three children in the Children’s Area. Patrick counted them, then counted them again, then took a deep breath.

“Why don’t I show you to my manager’s office,” he suggested, crossing his fingers behind his back. “And you can relay your concerns to him?”

“Fine,” Latex Gloves Man snapped, hands on his hips, eyes narrowed. “I expect something to be done about this.”

“I will leave that in the exceedingly capable hands of my manager,” Patrick said, with so much false warmth in his voice it would melt a snowman. “Right this way, sir.”

He apologized to Brendon profusely in his head the entire time he crossed the floor, right up until he knocked on Brendon’s office door and glanced through his window to see Brendon with his feet up on his desk, throwing a stress ball up in the air and catching it over and over again.

“I’m in a meeting,” the lying liar shouted. Patrick opened the door anyway. “I said--”

“This gentleman would like to speak to the manager,” Patrick said, and Brendon looked like he wanted to commit homicide right there where anyone could see. Patrick could relate. “Goodbye.”

He turned and walked away without another word, leaving Latex Gloves Man and Brendon to conduct what Patrick was sure was about to be a very annoying conversation, but that was why Brendon got paid the big bucks. He could go back to doing approximately nothing once he was done. Patrick smirked.

“That was mean.”

Patrick’s smirk slid right off his face. He turned, preparing one million different caustic responses, but all the words in the English language, along with all the handful of words he knew in any other language and some he didn’t even know but had heard once dissolved in his brain like acid on...on...something gross, or something. He tried not to gape.

“I’m sorry,” he said, brain on autopilot and eyes on the oh-so-slight bulge of arm muscle Patrick could see poking out of the truly heinous and should-be-disqualifying Hawaiian print shirt Pete Fucking Wentz was wearing. “What?”

Pete Fucking Wentz looked Patrick up and down with a critical expression over the top of his hipster sunglasses that had obviously been some sort of giveaway based on the ugly branding on the side. Pete Fucking Wentz snapped his gum in the exact way Patrick hated before speaking again, sliding off the ugly branded sunglasses and sticking them in the pocket of the unfortunate Hawaiian shirt, and there was so much happening in front of him that Patrick should be forgiven for not being as caustic as he normally was to the World’s Worst Patron.

“You okay?” Pete asked, sounding genuinely concerned, and Patrick hoped he wasn’t gaping like a fish but figured it was probably a lost cause.

“Um,” Patrick said intelligently. Pete raised an eyebrow. “Yes?”

“Was that a question?” Pete asked. He sounded amused now. Patrick resisted attempting to melt into the floor. This carpet was new. He didn’t want to be liable for replacing it because he doubted bodily goo came out easy.

“No,” Patrick said, sounding miraculously normal. “Do you, like, have a job?”

“A job?” Pete asked, as if he was unfamiliar with the entire concept. Patrick swallowed and nodded, grabbing onto the tail end of that interrogation for dear life. “Why?”

“Because you’re always in here,” Patrick said. “At weird times. When people usually work.”

“I’m self employed,” Pete said.

“Of course you are,” Patrick said. “Why am I not surprised?”

“I’m taking that as a complement,” Pete said. Patrick scowled. It was definitely not a complement. “Are you saying you don’t want me in the library?”

“Libraries are for everyone,” Patrick said, through gritted teeth, and Pete gave him a shiteating grin. Patrick resisted groaning. “I was just curious.”

“Were you now?” Pete asked, looking positively delighted. “A cute library boy, curious about me?”

“I’m a librarian, not a ‘library boy’,” Patrick said, making a face, before his brain caught up and he froze, staring at Pete’s entirely too smug expression. “What did you say?”

“I can’t remember,” Pete blatantly, blatantly lied, smirk still firmly in place. “I have a question.”

“About?” Patrick asked faintly.

“Your event,” Pete said, pointing unnecessarily at the poster on the wall behind the information desk. Patrick didn’t need the poster to know just what event Pete meant. “Will there be refreshments?”

“Refreshments?” Patrick asked. “What is this, a church social?”

“Is that a yes, or…”

“It’s not in the budget,” Patrick said. “Also we don’t want to give any potential protestors ammunition. Literally.”

“Protestors?” Pete asked in interest. “People are protesting the porn writer?”

Erotica,” Patrick stressed. “Please don’t call it porn.”

“Whatever,” Pete said. “Who’s protesting?”

“The Chicago chapter of One Million Moms,” Patrick said. Pete laughed.

“I heard that organization has, like, one hundred thousand moms total,” he said. “What’s their issue? It says ‘adults only’.”

“Some people aren’t happy unless they can control the sexual decisions of others,” Patrick said. Pete nodded gravely, then split into a smirk.

“Bet you anything they wouldn’t be protesting if the books were het,” he said, and, against his will (Patrick wanted to make it perfectly clear that this was entirely against his will) Patrick laughed.

“Fool's bet,” he said. “But yeah. No refreshments.”

“Do you think they’ll actually show up?” Pete asked, looking positively thrilled. Patrick narrowed his eyes.

“Why?” he asked. “I am actually, literally begging you to not start dramatic shit. I got enough blowback planning this event.”

“Who, me?” Pete said, in a tone of voice that suggested yes, him. “I would never.”


“Sure,” Patrick said, then pointed at him. “I will kill you.”

“Pretty sure threatening murder is against library policy,” Pete said. “Don’t make me fill out another comment card.”

“Peter Wentz,” Patrick began, and Pete smirked.

“I’m messing with you,” he said, somewhat condescending but mostly teasing. “I won’t cause a scene at your event, I promise.”

“Good,” Patrick said, for lack of anything else to say. Pete winked and saluted, like some kind of soldier, and Patrick tried hard not to roll his eyes. He was marginally successful.

“I’ll let you get back to passing patrons to your manager,” Pete said. “But if you need me, here’s my card.”

“Why would I need you?” Patrick asked, even as he took the business card Pete brandished in his direction. “Hello? Why would I need you?”

“You never know what the future holds,” Pete intoned, and began walking away. Patrick stared after him, business card in his hand, completely and utterly lost for words.

Chapter Text

Patrick stared at the business card.

It did nothing, laying with all it’s faux innocence on the reference desk. Patrick narrowed his eyes.

“You aren’t a pyrotechnic,” Joe pointed out. “You can’t set it on fire with your mind.”

“You’re thinking of pyrokinesis,” Patrick said, and considered. It wasn’t a bad idea, in all honesty. Unfortunately, Patrick didn’t seem to possess awesome mind powers that could set things on fire, as evidenced by the business card and Pete Wentz’s continued existence. “What are the chances this will kill me?”

“The small square piece of paper?” Joe asked in disbelief. “Uh next to nothing. Why do you hate it so much?”

“It’s Pete Wentz’s,” Patrick muttered. Joe lit up like Patrick had told him he could tell two patrons to fuck off just this once. “Do not.”

“Do not what?” Joe said, and grabbed the card up from the desk. He looked down at it eagerly, then cackled. “Oh my God, he’s funny! Patrick, take the stick out of your ass and date him.”

“Date him?” Patrick demanded, making an unsuccessful grab for the card. “He’s a patron.”

“Dude,” Joe said witheringly. “He gave you his number.”

“His business card.”

“With his phone number.”

“That is irrelevant,” Patrick said firmly, finally succeeding in snatching the card away from Joe and his grubby circulation specialist’s hands.

Patrick did not have a librarian complex. He did not.

“Killjoy,” Joe muttered. Patrick very charitably ignored him.

“I don’t understand why you think he’s funny,” Patrick said. He shook the card in Joe’s direction, as if Joe had forgotten about it in the time since it had left his hands. Patrick was fairly sure Joe had a firm grasp on object permanence, but he supposed he could be wrong. “Nothing on here warrants it.”

“He doesn’t even have his name,” Joe pointed out. “It just says ‘P.L.K.W.’. What kind of person puts their initials on a business card instead of their name?”

“Why is that funny?” Patrick asked. “Seems a little ‘serial killer’ to me.”

“Dude, you need to get out more,” Joe said firmly, then scrambled to a fully seated position, lacing his hands in front of him on the circulation desk, back ramrod straight.

Patrick smirked.

“Hi, Andy,” he said, without turning around. “Joe was just showing me what an excellent job he’s doing here on the circulation desk.”

“Whatever he’s doing, it’s wrong,” Andy said dryly. Patrick laughed and turned around, leaving Joe still sitting perfectly still, eyes straight ahead. Andy looked amused, arms crossed in front of him. He was wearing what one would expect a circulation supervisor to wear: jeans and a t-shirt that said no one knows i’m a nerd. Also known as nota button up, tie, and vest, Joe.

“What’s up?” Patrick asked, leaning against the circulation desk like he owned the place. Andy’s amused look grew.

“Brendon is looking for you,” he said, and Patrick winced.

“Great,” he said, standing back up and slipping the ‘business card’ into the back pocket of his jeans. He leaned over and deliberately untied Joe’s tie before patting him on the head and nodding at Andy. “It was nice knowing you.”

“I don’t think he’ll kill you,” Andy said. “But, based on his expression, he might ‘seriously maim’ you. I hope you have sick time saved up.”

“Thanks,” Patrick said, and walked away, across the floor of the library and towards his stupid manager’s office. The door was closed, a stupid, self-aware comic about libraries and free information taped crookedly on the door just below his nameplate: Brendon Urie, Branch Manager. Below that he had a whiteboard tacked up, with The manager is IN! written on it in Brendon’s near-illegible scrawl.

Patrick took a deep breath, braced himself, and knocked.

“What?” Brendon shouted through the door, sounding annoyed. Stellar customer service on that one.

“You asked to see me, my lord,” Patrick called back. Brendon made an unintelligible noise and Patrick took that as an invitation to come in, so he did. Brendon glared at him from behind his frankly unnecessarily wide oak desk, looking like the third understudy to the world’s worst Bond villain, and Patrick curtsied.

“Close the door,” Brendon said, and Patrick did before dropping into the seat opposite Brendon and surveying him critically. “What?”

Patrick shrugged.

“You called me,” he pointed out. “You look tired. You okay?”

“Fantastic,” Brendon said shortly. “I love getting divorced.”

Patrick winced.

“It’s really happening?” he asked softly, and Brendon grit his teeth and nodded. “I’m sorry.”

“Not why I called you in,” Brendon said. Patrick let it go. “A few things.”

“Yay,” Patrick said.

“One,” Brendon began, as if Patrick hadn’t said a word. “Don’t shove the weird customers onto me.”

“Why was he wearing latex gloves?” Patrick asked. Brendon ignored him.

“Two,” he continued. “For your little event. There will be press there, which is the good news. The bad news is that there officially will be a protest, which is why the press will be there.”

“Do I need to call it off?” Patrick asked, heart sinking. Brendon emphatically shook his head.

“It’s not the first time a library has been protested,” he said. “We’re not in the business of censorship. I just wanted you to be aware so you have a plan in place in case things get out of hand.”

“Isn’t that your job?” Patrick asked.

“I’m delegating,” Brendon said. “What’s this I hear about you asking a patron for his number?”

“I didn’t ask,” Patrick said, a little outraged. “He just gave me his business card.”

“With his phone number,” Brendon said, evidently undeterred. Patrick scowled.

“You’ve been talking to Joe,” he accused. Brendon smirked--a faint impression of his usual smirk, but still a smirk--and Patrick narrowed his eyes.

“Call the police,” Brendon said. “I had the audacity to talk to members of my own staff. The horror. The outrage.”

“About me,” Patrick stressed. “You’ve been talking about me.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Brendon said, the liar. “Now shoo, I want to know what your backup plan is by the end of the day.”

“The event’s in four days,” Patrick protested, standing.

“Okay,” Brendon said. “Good point. I want it by lunch.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Patrick began, and Brendon stood and began pushing Patrick towards the door. “Hello?”

“Bye,” Brendon said, and shut the door once all of Patrick’s limbs were out of the way. Patrick took some quality time to glare at Brendon’s nameplate, whiteboard, and stupid comic before huffing and turning on his heel, marching back towards his office with no intention of stopping anywhere.

So, of course, he got stopped.