Ashlee knows the tour was her choice--knows she needed it, staying in one fucking place was killing her--but she misses Bronx. She makes a face at herself every time she thinks it, because, ugh, she's getting old and boring and more like a mom than a popstar, but she does. She misses the noise he makes when she picks him up and the smell of his hair--even when it's dirty--and the whole out-loud inner monologue thing he's had going on for the better part of a year now.
When she talks to Pete he makes sure to have Bronx, and they'll sit in front of the computer so that she can see both of them.
At some point, Pete tells her, "The first month's the worst."
She gives him a smile and a nod, and doesn't point out that he has three of his best friends to distract him.
He asks her, "You want us to come visit?"
She does, she really fucking does, but it feels like giving up something, like becoming some girl she promised herself she would never be, so she says, "Nah, I'm fine, I used to do this all the time." She just wishes she remembered how, exactly.
On stage she's good, because hey, she has fun with her music, but nobody expects very much from her up there, not really. So long as wardrobe has found her something that shows off all the right spots and she makes it through her tracks without any glaring mistakes--the kind even twelve-year old girls will talk about the next day at school--well, she's fine.
She knows that for Jess it's always more, that Jess is, like, a singer, but even when they were kids it wasn't so much like that for Ashlee. Mostly, she just wanted people to pay even half as much attention to her as they always were to Jess.
She just needs people to look, to see, even if they're only seeing the parts she puts on display. Pete's like that, too. It makes it easier, because she never has to explain why she does the things she does, says the things she says, in the places she does and says them. She would worry about it, worry that they're kidding themselves, only she knows all the parts of her that Pete sees, and several of them are things she's never shown to anyone. That makes it easier to remember that this thing is real. She's real.
Pete shows anyway, with Bronx, and for all of a second she thinks about bitching him out, except he says, "We missed you," earnest and sincere and smiling in that way that tells her he expects to be thoroughly reamed, and she admits, "Yeah, me too."
Still, "I have an interview this morning, and I need to meet with--"
Pete kisses her. "You're a businesswoman. I know. I can be your babysitter."
She rolls her eyes. "Kinky."
He grins. "Thought you had an interview."
She runs before he can catch her. Pete is a sneaky, convincing bastard.
She talks about them during the concert that night. She doesn't usually, not more than a mention here or there, if something notable has happened, but that night she talks about them being there, and how they took a nap together in the afternoon. She tells the people who just want her to wear the right shade of lipstick and have a danceable hook that she likes carrot baby food better than peas, because it smells better.
The audience laughs and she catches a few confused faces and she thinks, "Don't worry, I'll sing some more in a second," but just for that moment, she lets herself be and she notices, odd expressions or no, nobody looks away.